Review: Wolf Hollow – Lauren Wolk

Wolf Hollow
Lauren Wolk

Annabelle is a quiet sort of girl, happy to travel along in life with her friend Ruth, going to school and being educated. Once Betty comes to town though, everything changes. Betty isn’t nice, or kind – she seems set on killing someone. When she disappears, somehow it becomes Annabelle’s job to keep the local loner alive.

Let me start out by saying that the cover did not fill me with joy. I can’t resist reading any words that come past my nose, so I fully expected that something good would come from it. Instead, despite being promised that she would ‘earn her keep’, her role turned out to be useless.

Annabelle is ok as a character, and her actions in her relationships with her parents are believable. However, I had problems with the way she treated the bullying because it was clear that bodily harm was going to occur. If she had spoken up quicker, a lot less misery would have occurred.

This novel was far too slow to keep my interest. I struggled to pick it up, and it was far too easy to put it down again. Although the pace sped up in the last couple of chapters it was too late to redeem the novel for me.

Although I was erring on the side of 3 stars after finishing the novel, writing this review has crystallized it as only 2 stars. I just couldn’t love it, or Annabelle. Others have compared this to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ but I think this is weaker by far.

Penguin Random House | 3rd May 2016 | AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Simon Holland – A Miscellany of Magical Beasts

A Miscellany of Magical Beasts
Simon Holland

Discover the spellbinding stories of sixteen favorite mythical creatures from around the world. Dragons and griffins through to mermaids and giants, this lovingly illustrated novel will be for you.

With gorgeous illustrations and catchy little bits of story about mythical creatures, this large format children’s book is going to suit a range of fantasy enthusiasts. Perhaps you aren’t ready to read a big book of mythology? Perhaps you just want to have a taster of it? This is the book for you.

Of course, my favourite part was bound to be about dragons, and there wasn’t enough detail here for me. But for a beginner, it’s a nice introduction.

This has got to be the perfect gift for the younger someone who wants to know more about mythology past JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’ll be giving it to a 7 year old beginning reader who is simply going to love it.

Bloomsbury | 20th November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

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Review: Richard Roxburgh – Artie and the Grime Wave

Artie and the Grime Wave
Richard Roxburgh

Artie is always being bullied, along with his rather unfortunately-named pal, Bumshoe. While a shout of ‘Rabbits’ often distracts his dumb tormentors, this time it seems like Artie has gotten into more trouble than he can cope with. With Mary, Funnel-Web and Budgie on his tail, he needs to make things happen… fast.

31927285In the tradition of ‘The Day My Bum Went Psycho’ and ‘The Adventures of Captain Underpants’, this novel contains bums, snot and disgusting boys! If you have a reader that is into that kind of thing, they are going to love this novel.

The action is fast-paced, and the characters such strong caricatures that they will leave some sort of impression in your mind. If you have a weak stomach, and aren’t fond of snot or poop, this probably won’t be for you. There’s bodily fluids flying everywhere!

Honestly, it’s not my kind of novel at all, I didn’t request it to my knowledge. I wouldn’t have read this when I was younger, and the only reason I read this was because I knew my brain would be dead and incapable of digesting good literature after a hard day at work.

Let’s give it 3 stars, and know that there is a deserving audience out there that will enjoy this novel.

3star

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2016| AU $16.99 | Paperback

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Review: Michael Adams – Skyfire

Skyfire
Michael Adams

DARE to dream. Seven recipients on seven continents have just won the experience of a lifetime (and 1 million dollars). They’re leaders as teenagers in their fields – math, crime fighting or marine biology! Little do they know that something more sinister might be going on.

27804000I really liked the nifty symbols and I think the author had a lot of fun coming up with them. It likely took a bit of research on his behalf, and it shows nicely. I’m loving the Signmaker and I think lots of teenage readers are going to be able to get into this novel.

This reminds me strongly of The Last Thirteen (reviews of #2 and #3 here). These novels are designed for reluctant readers, particularly teenage boys. They are designed to be full of action, plot driven and with cliff hangers to encourage the reader to get the next. I’m not sure how I feel about the concept myself – committing teenagers to buying six more novels after this one.

If you are looking for something with a bit more substance to offer your reader, might I suggest the Alex Rider series? Now those have a stronger plot line and some character development that you can sink your teeth into.

I’m giving this novel an official 3 stars from me, but I think for the intended audience it would be 4 stars. The intended audience seems to be 12 year old boys – I’m certianly not one of those, nor have I ever been one!

3star

Scholastic | 1st September 2016 | AU $7.99 | Paperback

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Review: Katherine Rundell – The Wolf Wilder

The Wolf Wilder
Katherine Rundell

Feodora is a trainee Wolf Wilder – someone who retrains wolves to understand living in the wild instead of being pampered pets of the nobility. Unfortunately the wolves she and her mother rehabilitate are too good at going wild again – killing farm animals gets them into trouble with the Tsar, and Feo’s mother is taken away for sentencing to death.

30234552This is told in the style of a fairy tale, which I appreciated. The novel is bookended by short sections that tell us what happened when we aren’t looking from Feo’s perspective. There is a hint of Russian culture, although there could have been more of this. I honestly can say I’m interested in Russia and it has a unique environment that I like (maybe it’s the snow?).

In a way, this reminded me of Dog Boy. This is of course, more of a children’s book, but I enjoyed it because of the way humans and animals like dogs and wolves can interact. There’s something about wolves that just excites me, perhaps because they are wild in a way that other things aren’t. You can’t tame those teeth!

Some other reviewers have complained that the story is boring and predictable. But I’m thinking that they have forgotten what age group this is aimed at. There’s hints of rape, which older readers will pick up, and certainly some blood, but it’s suitable for younger readers. I’d say it’s no worse than a Grimm fairytale! And it’s written in a modern way which works.

For what this novel is, I will happily give it 4 stars. I wasn’t bored, I enjoyed the writing and I find it hard to say no to a novel about a plucky (although somewhat sometimes stupid) heroine and her wolves.

4star

Bloomsbury | 1st October 2016 | AU $12.99| Paperback

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Review: Hamilton Hill – Legend of the East Road

Legend of the East Road
Hamilton Hill

Peter has just entered the world of Luhonono. Magdalene and Gimbo are waiting for him there, ready to start adventures in an unseen world. Setting out to find a princess and instead finding evil makes this novel roll forward.

26115925This novel was slow. Very, very slow. The first half of the novel happened, and nothing had happened. The princess they set out to see isn’t all that exciting. I thought she might be in peril! And additionally, 2/3 explorers already knew who she was.

I felt overwhelmed at all the detail, often I just wanted the story to happen more quickly! I couldn’t have cared less whether it was Peter or Gimbo who had the fastest eyes – their rivalry didn’t seem real. The relationships did develop, but it was in an awkward manner.

This novel was written by someone who had a real love of African culture and traditions, but wasn’t able to merge it seamlessly into an exciting read. There was so much potential here, but it just didn’t make it in. Chopping out some more dialogue or trimming down the perspectives would make this novel stronger.

For example, a simple discussion of a cubby house is stretched out over multiple pages to include a snake sighting (Chapter 6). I think a simple paragraph with the mysticism of the place would have done a far better job of setting the scene, and there was no need for all the internal dialogue by Mags.

The ending was a disappointment. Just as the pace picked up and things became slightly more enthralling, very quickly they were over and the sorcerer was dealt with. I did finally feel vaguely like reading it at that point, so that meant I could give it 2 stars (I finished it after all).

I’ve seen various things that have proclaimed this a ‘young adult novel’ or the back of the book which says it is ‘middle grade fiction’. Middle grade fiction is what this is. I’m not sure there were any deeper themes explored. However, I’m not sure if it common to middle grade fiction to start talking about the attraction that boys have for girls. Please correct me if I am incorrect – this isn’t usually my genre of choice.

All I’ve seen elsewhere are overwhelmingly positive 5 star reviews, and it seems strange that I can only give this one 2 stars. It’s not the fault of the intended audience, I loved the Dragon of the Month Club. Did I somehow not read the same novel that they did?

2star

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Review: Iain Reading – the Dragon of the Month Club

the Dragon of the Month Club
Iain Reading

Ayana and Tyler meet as unlikely friends in a library. Together they stumble upon a book to summon dragons – with the only catch that you have to have specific materials in order to summon some kinds. After an experiment goes slightly awry, Ayana and Tyler will have to use their individual twirks to get things back to normal.

25033448The synopsis might not set you on fire, but I’d advise jumping right in anyway. The front cover might make you feel like it’s just for cutsie little kiddies, but really it isn’t. There are real issues being explored, it’s just that the backdrop is of fantastic dragons!

This novel manages to inform the reader about a range of other novels, which might whet the reader’s appetite for other novels. I was certainly interested to go check some other ones out! This is a novel written by someone who just loves books.

Some of the dialogue and imagery were a bit clunky, but I think that is just the formula of a middle-grade novel to an extent, to help support beginning imaginations. Certainly the others I have read in this area are heavy on the details. This one (rather than the one I am reading right now) gets the balance almost perfect.

Oh no. Ooooh no. I just went to GoodReads to get my hands on a copy of this cover, and found out that the next novel in the series isn’t even written yet! And that the author has a bunch of other things to write instead (which I already knew from the interview with him I did awhile back). I finished reading this one and immediately wanted the next one.

This is a 4 stars from me, and for the right audience (ie. younger than me), I would give it a 5. There’s enough magic and some literature and some friendship, and a little bit of everything actually so that something will appeal to everyone.

4star

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Review: Alex Gino – George

George
Alex Gino

George has never seen herself as anything other than a girl. That’s just a small problem when she has been assigned as a male at birth. She doesn’t even like what’s in between her legs, and wishes she could play games with the other girls. When a chance to perform might give her the chance to be herself, she will take anything she can to be in it.

24612624For the first chapter of George you don’t actually know what’s happening in the story. George could be a girl or a boy’s name. Instinctively the problem is that George knows that she is a girl, it’s just explaining it to other people. Sometimes it is the least likely of people that believe.

There’s a bit of George concerned with understanding different adults, but it doesn’t seem too packed in. Especially poignant is George finding allies are in unexpected places and sometimes feeling the joy of being just herself without fear.

This book is a great intersection between children and teenage transgender literature that I don’t think has been properly explored in fiction. I think it’s accessible to primary school level (I think Bridge to Terabithia is just as moving, and that was a primary school novel for me), especially since the characters within it are all in grade 4.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t reread this. But I can see it as a definite reread for a young person questioning their sexuality, gender or anything else not ‘normal’. This novel makes those things accessible, and suitable for a school library. Get out there, buy it for your young person.

5star

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Review: E.K. Johnston – A Thousand Nights

E.K. Johnston
A Thousand Nights

A desert girl gives up her life to save her sister, promising herself in marriage to Lo-Melkhiin, who had killed 300 girls on their marriage night. Instead, she tells stories every night, and continues to survive despite the odds. When she discovers she can see magic, and that Lo-Melkhiin might not be who he seems, she is even more determined to save the man she thinks she might love.24820300

This novel felt quite shallow, but at the same time it was a really enjoyable retelling of a fable. If you were looking for something new and exciting, I’m afraid this wasn’t it. But in its style, it was good. Far better than Book of a Thousand Nights, which I was disgusted with.

Magic. It makes fantasy worlds work, and in this one the author has effortlessly used it to change the story and make it more interesting. It is not just her storytelling ability that saves her, it is her strength of will. In fact, I don’t even remember her name, but I can remember the way it felt to be inside her head.

The idea that magic can push talents forward, yet also warp them is an interesting one. I’d love to see more of this discussed, perhaps in a separate story. The world-building in this one made me want to read more. The detail to the costumes, all of it came through as a properly interesting and realistic Arabian novel.

How many stars do I want to give this? Maybe 3. It’s hard to decide. It wasn’t as gripping as I might have desired, but I did keep reading it.

3star

Thanks to the lovely folks at Macmillan Children’s Books who gave me a proof copy to read.

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Review: Lizzie Wilcock – Thirst

Thirst
Lizzie Wilcock

Karanda has passed through 5 foster homes, and it’s not exactly clear why. But the thing is, her behaviour has been getting worse over time. She’s snarky and completely wary of people – so when she gets the desert all to herself, it seems like the best thing for her. Sol is used to being abandoned – in fact, if you were to count foster homes, he’s been through more than her! But he craves human contact – and Karanda is all he has left.

24866854There is a lot of ‘Auzzie’-ness in this novel that is going to appeal to locals and overseas people alike. Who doesn’t love cute possums? Something that I felt was an inconsistency was how Karanda’s blood lust rose and fell. Is it just the environment, the challenges, allowing her to cry? It doesn’t seem like something she does very often.

Even as their lives entwine, Sol and Karanda have a past together that only one of them knows. The thing that got me going was that I didn’t know what colour their skins were – I assume Caucasian – but it didn’t matter to them. The adversity exposes their secrets, even if all the reader usually hears is from Karanda’s perspective.

It urked me that the author kept referring to Sol and Karanda as ‘children’. Both of them have seen enough of life to no longer be considered children in my mind, and most of their behaviour was as adult-like as it could be in the situation. Otherwise they simply wouldn’t survive.

The ending was very satisfying, right in line with the rest of the novel. What I enjoyed best was that things were never predictable. I fully felt that one of them could die at any point, they could starve, they could die from infection. It adds a bit of spice to a novel which could otherwise because just another bush-survival tale, just pointed at children.

Did I think it was coincidence about the helicopter coming at that point in time? No. Now that I think about it, it’s obvious that it is the natural events going on, not the two kids.  And the car? I don’t even know.

Was I blown away by this? Not really. But for the right audience? For sure. It’s pleasurable, light reading. 3-stars for adult readers, a generous 4 for it’s designated audience of younger teens.

Find it on:
goodreads_icon copyAmazon-Icon-e1335803835577-300x294 copybookdepository_icon copy4star

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