Review: Diane Mae Robinson – Sir Princess Petra’s Mission

Sir Princess Petra’s Mission
Diane Mae Robinson

Princess Petra’s life is complicated. She’s totally up for doing any adventure that comes along. The only problem is that her royal father really hates the idea of her staying knighted… And will come up with any mission he can to stop her.

28329659There’s not much I can really say here, it is such a tiny little volume. I snaffled it up in around a half-hour. The action is fast-moving, and tries to keep your attention that way. I did drift off at points, but I think that’s just me.

I haven’t read the first novel, or the second, but this read perfectly well as a standalone.

Now this, this is good fiction for kids. Easy to get into, has some nice jokes (that aren’t too adult in nature) and to me, I think it’s readable for younglings. I’m giving it 3 stars, just because it wasn’t THAT amazing, but it was pretty darn good. How could I not give at least 3 stars to a book with a dragon in it?


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?


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.


Review: Lucy van Pelt – How to be a Grrrl!

How to be a Grrl!
Lucy van Pelt

This is a super slim volume of selected comics by Schulz that have Lucy van Pelt playing a leading female role! The comics aim to have something good in each one that proves a point about girls being awesome!

26056077I’m not certain what kind of audience this book is aimed for. Maybe for a tween girl? Someone who just wants to dip into a book, be inspired, then come back out. It took me maybe 5 minutes to read it, and I wouldn’t see myself buying the book myself.

I’m not even going to star this, even though its technically a fiction book. How can I judge Charlie Brown?!?

Review: Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl

Charlie is a little boy starving to death, with delicious chocolate smells assaulting him every time he walks to school. With four grandparents to support, and only one toothpaste-lid-tube-tightening father, it seems like things will never look up. But as we all know, Charlie is going to have the experience of his life inside Mr Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

109089So you’ve seen the movie six dozen times (or maybe seven dozen, if you’re my age and it played on the weekend TV every week). But the book is the best, and the two movies don’t do justice to Roald Dahl’s world. Something that this novel has over the films is that you get to see illustrations of the four other children after they have been returned to their approximate original selves.

I own this in both a larger, modern size (pictured) with illustration, and an older, dirty copy. The older dirty copy is the one I read as a child, and it shows it. After finishing this novel I was told by my listeners that they needed to hear the second book immediately. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a copy of it Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. From what I remember, it’s a bit of an odd book, so I don’t expect them to love it as much as the first.

How could this not be 5 stars? It’s a classic, and a proper should-be-loved-by-all-people-classic at that. None of that Jane Austin business, Roald Dahl is where it is at.


Review: Matthew Reilly – Troll Mountain

Troll Mountain
Matthew Reilly

Raf’s only family has come down with a fatal disease that no human knows how to cure. The secret rests with the trolls of Troll Mountain – the very animals that killed the rest of Raf’s family. When the authorities of his tribe fail to make progress on helping Raf’s sister, he sets out on a quest.

21882602While at first glance things in society seem very simple, the questioning voice of Ko and Raf’s quick learning expose universal truths. Adults will probably see most things coming, but younger readers will appreciate the unveiling of the potential ugliness of society. It also seems as if Reilly is having a quick stab at the current state of politics (but it’s not intrusive).

This is a novel of the journey, the plot, the scenery and lastly the characters. Raf undergoes character development, but it’s really just a side effect of the journey. It certainly isn’t enough to drive the story. But the plot is swift and doesn’t let the reader or Raf catch their breath, ending up in a short read for me that took around a half hour.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this novel, but I don’t think it was what I expected from knowing about some of Reilly’s more popular works. I expected a gritty, heavy fantasy novel suitable for long-time converts, and instead got an accessible novel for all ages.

This novel was originally published in successive chapters as an ebook. I have to say, I probably never would have picked them up. I’m not very patient, and although each chapter wraps itself up nicely, and doesn’t form too much on an impatient cliff-hanger, I wouldn’t be good at remembering to keep reading it. I received this novel in a beautiful hardback from Macmillian. I’d suggest buying it for your young person in your life though – I think it would be worth reading and discussing. 3.5 stars from me.

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Review: Diana Wynne Jones – House of Many Ways

House of Many Ways
Diana Wynne Jones
‘House of Many Ways; is another sequel to ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. Similarly to ‘Castle in the Air’, Howl and Sophie feature less prominently and the novel is about a new character – Charmain ‘Charming’ Barker. More after the jump…

3267466Charmain has so far lead a sheltered life, going to the most respectable school, keeping her hands clean and reading many books. So when she finds herself ordered to look after her sick Great Uncle William’s house, she finds herself a bit lost – even with his unearthly directions. Charmain finds herself going in every dimension, but then things are complicated further by the arrival of Peter and a Lubbock.

While elements of this novel are funny, I wouldn’t have said it was up to the standards of Jones’ usual masterpieces. Charmain is engaging, but you feel like she’s too much of a lazy idiot (despite her interjections to the contrary) to be too likeable. This isn’t a fault with Jones’ characterisation – indeed Jones has said that the characters often write themselves, so she has done the best she could with what she had. The narrative builds similarly to the other two books in this series, but it is certainly not formulaic in any kind.

I’d recommend this novel again for teenagers, and older children. At times it can be quite scary for a young child, so I would advise supervised reading.

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Review: Diana Wynne Jones – Castle in the Air

Castle in the Air
Diana Wynne Jones

‘Castle in the Air’ is officially a sequel to ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, however to me it is more like a loosely connected novel in the same world. Sophie and Howl play minor parts as themselves, although they do feature in the text playing interesting roles.


The novel concerns Abdullah, a young carpet dealer who spends his time daydreaming about a princess. Much to his surprise, he finds himself one night floating on a magic carpet to the castle (and princess) of his dreams. Some laughter occurs, as the princess accuses him of being a female. However they both sort out their differences, and things are going along smoothly until Flower-in-the-Night is snatched away.

The narrative builds quickly, and the reader finds themselves enjoying Abdullah’s relationships and personality more as the plot progresses. This is a fast paced narrative that crescendos to a satisfying finish with many unexpected twists.

This novel is likely to suit younger readers for being read aloud to, and for teenagers. I’m not so sure of its appeal to adults, but if you enjoyed ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ it’s probably worth reading.

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Review: Diana Wynne Jones – Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle
Diana Wynne Jones
I am so glad I got this book, and gave into the temptation to read it. The movie, which was made by Studio Ghibli, is one of my favourite movies of all time. It seems to pick the most important and interesting elements from the novel, and merge them into a seamless whole. Normally I’m disappointed with movies made from a book (like the Harry Potter franchise), but this one is good in its own right.

Howl'sMovingCastle_B_PB‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ concerns Sophie Hatter, the eldest of three daughters. While technically she should have been an ugly sister (the youngest sister is the product of a second marriage), instead she is just boring, and bored with her life. The whole town fears Howl, the resident ‘wicked’ wizard. Sophie goes out to visit her sisters, and meets Howl. The required ‘baddy’, the Witch of the Waste, takes a dislike to Sophie and casts a spell on her. Sophie isn’t the kind to give up easily, and she chooses to chase Howl instead.

This book is great. Ok, sure, it’s aimed at younger readers, but the characters are so engaging and funny that you’d have to have a stone heart to not enjoy it as a teenager and adult. I’d probably suggest it for independent reading 10 years and up, and for younger readers who are being read to.
Do yourself a favour, and buy this book and watch the movie. It’s something you won’t regret.

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Review: Diana Wynne Jones – The Chronicles of Chrestomanci: Volume 3

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci: Volume 3
Diana Wynne Jones
I have to say that by the time I got to reading this book, I was getting a little sick of Jones’ style and was dying to read something else. Probably just me though – younger readers will probably love it.

2141877‘Conrad’s Fate’ concerns Conrad Grant, a boy with a horrible fate that is ordered by his uncle to go and destroy another person who is purported to be causing all Conrad’s bad luck. This is complicated by the presence of multiple other magics in the mansion where he finds himself serving as an Improver (footman). Conrad and Christopher Chant (from ‘The Lives of Christopher Chant’) explore the mansion and the changing possibilities, often with quite humorous results. As usual, the Chrestomanci must step in at the end of the novel to save the day.

‘The Pinhoe Egg’ was really very enjoyable – who doesn’t love griffins? I empathised with the main characters, and enjoyed the struggle of the various witches vs enchanters. I found it a bit confusing to read straight after ‘Conrad’s Fate’, but by around half way through the book I started following on again. The ending could be seen as a little ambiguous and disappointing – but only because you longed to hear more about Cat and Marianne Pinhoe.

Having now read all 6 books in a row (I’m waiting to get my hands on ‘Mixed Magics’ a book of short stories set in the same world) I’d have to say I would have preferred to read them in strict chronological order. The order I would suggest (and will reread them myself in this order) is:

  1. ‘The Lives of Christopher Chant’
  2. ‘Conrad’s Fate’
  3. ‘Charmed Life’
  4. ‘Witch Week’
  5. ‘The Magicians of Caprona’
  6. ‘The Pinhoe Egg’

Books 1 and 2 are about Christopher Chant, Books 4 and 5 have only a secondary role of Christopher Chant as Chrestomanci and Books 3 and 6 involve Cat (Eric) Chant.

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