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: Alex Gino – 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.


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.


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

Review: Lizzie Wilcock – 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.

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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: Alexander Key – Escape to Witch Mountain

Alexander Key

Escape to Witch Mountain

Tia and Tony have been different all their lives. With abilities that seem to only get them into trouble, and branded as aggressors and thieves, Tony and Tia are alone in the world with only each other for support. When someone from their past comes looking for them, they know it is time to move into the future.

6576481I only picked up this novel because its listing in my digital borrowing app from my local library said it was a ‘blindingly brilliant piece of sci-fi’. I thought it couldn’t be that bad. And it wasn’t horrific, but nor would I recommend it.

Everything is completely see-through. Tony and Tia always have to succeed, even as it seems like they will be ruined forever. It’s a children’s fiction book as far as I am concerned, and that makes it all the more likely that everyone will escape without a scratch.

The reader on this one (and perhaps Tia’s character) drove me mad. Ugh! I hated the way Tia spoke, and the way she was all ‘don’t make me tell the hurty things’ Tony. Suck it up princess! I could barely listen to her. Tony wasn’t much better, and Father O’Dey could have done with a deeper and more commanding voice (especially since he’s the priest that adds validity to their claim that they aren’t the devil’s work).

What redeems this novel? None of the ideas are new. Or they aren’t new now. As another reviewer said, this feels like a predecessor to Harry Potter! If there is a child in your life, and you think they might be ready for some ‘gentle’ sci-fi, let them have this novel. There’s nothing offensive, the good God remains prominent, and it fits in nicely with tales of UFOs.

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Review: Darren Simon – Guardian’s Nightmare

Guardian’s Nightmare

Darren Simon

Charlee Smelton has just moved to San Francisco. She hates the city, she hates her school, and she doesn’t fit in at all. To make things worse, her dad just dragged home the most un-cool bike she’s ever seen. That bike is going to make trouble… and then maybe save her from it?

22246835Charlee is an unlikely heroine that embodies all of the things that make school bullies nasty. She likes soda, she couldn’t care less what she wears, and she’s just a little bit ‘odd’. To me, she’s a convincing character that despite being scared, like we all are at times, she still confronts her fears, and tries to do the best thing she sees at the time – even if that gets her into trouble!

So the setup was a bit transparent, and the rate at which common people accepted the oddities happening in San Francisco was unrealistic, but the characters themselves felt like they had stepped right out of childhood. And that made their problems relatable, and their characters something that a reader could empathise with.

This is not a simple ‘good guy wins, bad guy loses’, ‘good triumphs over evil’ story. Charlee can still get hurt, real people can get hurt, people lie for the worst and best reason, and it’s all perfectly normal! Apart from that odd bike…

I did have a small problem with the artwork on the novel’s jacket. The sideways Pegasus didn’t do anything for me, and made me think that the book was produced at a low cost. Additionally, the blurb left me wanting something more – but didn’t make me want to read the book. Once I got into it though, it wasn’t so bad 🙂

Ugh. Some of the reviews by other reviewers do not give this novel enough justice! It’s a middle-grade novel, you shouldn’t be expecting something that is too lengthy or depthy (that should be a word!). Giving a novel a positive review, yet low stars, is what upsets me about GoodRead’s scoring system. I enjoyed this novel, and if I was in the target age group, I’d for sure give it a 3-4 star rating. So that’s what I’m giving it – an above standard middle-grade novel that was enjoyable, but not perfect. I would certainly recommend it to middle-grade readers.

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Review: Anthony Horowitz – Snakehead

Anthony Horowitz
Twists, turns and family dramas. Alex Rider is embroiled in another job that is custom made for him. I often wonder what will happen to him when he grows up… or whether he ever will. Hit the jump for more.
1821571If the bad guys ever learnt not to gloat, and to shoot first, then Alex Rider would be in trouble. Instead they like to create creative ends for him, which he always manages to wriggle out of. It’s pretty close though, as a reader I’m almost always on the edge of my seat. I’m both hoping and dreading reaching the end of the series, as Alex’s luck could finally run out!
Alex has abandoned any attempt to be normal, and seems to be finally embracing the spy life. He’s not a patriot, he’s doing it only to find out what has happened to his mom and dad. Little does he know that he’s doomed from the beginning, and almost everything he trusts is a lie.
Something that fascinates me is Horowitz’s  realistic settings, and the effort he puts into being international. This is the first time he has really included Australia, which is totally typical of most writers. Australia is more of a destination than an explored place. Horowitz is very creative in the way he kills off the characters. It’s a mark of the research he obviously puts into his writing – I really appreciate it, after reading such things as ‘Twilight’ where things aren’t really thought out.
Thrilling, in fact I’d say it was one of the better books of the series. It was a little longer in length (or it felt that way). Horowitz puts his trademark twists in, as well as some gadgets, and some very nice disguises. What the reader thinks is a simple job, really never is.
I’d recommend this for teens who enjoy action. At this point in the series, I think it is essential to have read the books that came before. This book picks up straight after ‘Ark Angel’.

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Review: Anthony Horowitz – Ark Angel

Ark Angel
Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider just can’t keep out of trouble. Recovering from a chest wound in hospital is never easy when you need to save your mate next door. Another gripping tale from Horowitz. Hit the jump for more…

94319Alex has been sniper shot when leaving MI6. He vows to himself that he will go home, rest and recover. He makes a friend in the hospital though, and when he seems threatened, Alex finds himself in action. Once again Alex must try make a case against a powerful man who has the potential to destroy the world.

Alex doesn’t seem to have many gadgets this time, although he ends up working with the CIA, it is his favourite pal at MI6 that brings him the gadgets he can use. For once there is another agent undercover with him who is able to save his skin when he gets into trouble!

Horowitz makes the book end on a cliffhanger – totally predictable to the canny reader by now. But he does make an effort to change up the plot, bringing in different spy elements. Alex is again likable, but I didn’t see that much change in his character from Scorpia. Sure, Alex wants to go home and is longing for the easy life – but this is Alex, he never does things the easy way.

I’d recommend this book for teenagers. If they have read the rest of this series, the conclusion won’t be much of a surprise, but it will leave them hankering after the next book in the series.

I have to wait now until I get my hands on the final three books… I didn’t order them in my last 10% off offer I took advantage of, and now I have to wait!

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