Archive for the ‘Children's’ Category

Title: The Bellamy Bird

Author: Clare Havens

Genre: Adventure/Children’s/Mystery

Opening line: Nina Bellamy carried the heavily laden laundry basket down the narrow stairs.

Blurb: Almbury Manor is the ancestral home of the Bellamy family who own a priceless heirloom, a golden statue known as the Bellamy Bird, a gift from an Indian Prince – solid gold and encrusted with precious stones, the Bird is quite priceless. On Midsummer’s Eve in 1931 the statue is stolen, causing the downfall of the Bellamy family and the loss of Almbury Manor. Modern day siblings, Freddie and Jamie, descendants of the Bellamy family, go back in time to try to prevent the robbery and secure their family’s future with the help of some mischievous schoolboys, a group of sailing-mad children and boat called Lapwing.

My Thoughts: I first heard about THE BELLAMY BIRD when a group of online buddies were discussing it avidly – words being used to describe it such as Famous Five, Hercule Poirot and the Swallows and the Amazons were being bandied about in very positive ways. When author Clare Havens offered the book for a review I jumped at the chance. The story opens in contemporary times where Nina and Tom Bellamy along with their two children Freddie and Jamie all live in London in a tall thin house with many staircases. The family are struggling financially and when Tom comes home to say he is going to be laid off the conversation turns to cost cutting. Great-grandma Violet also lives with them and this night she tells them how the family fortune had been lost in 1931 when the Bellamy Bird was stolen. The same night some family jewels belonging to a guest was also stolen. The next morning they all wake up and find themselves in 1931 – not together but all in and around Almbury Manor. They each know who they are and they recognise each other. They also all recognise Great-grandma Violet, only she is now 8 years old. The family realises they have a chance to stop the theft and change the family fortunes. What follows is a fun adventure with children exploring, sailing and camping while playing make-believe (pretending to be pirates) instead of video’s, then the grown-ups join in and traps are laid, sleuthing happens and secrets searched for, culminating in an edge of the seat sail in a storm.

Such a fast paced and fun read that certainly brought back memories of my own childhood play in the 60s and some of my favourite books. When my friends and I went for walks they were NEVER just walks – they were adventures. We’d agree on some imaginary foe be they Pirates, Gypsies, Indians, Kidnappers or bank robbers and off we’d go. I’m not sure kids do this anymore. Shame really. But at least they have access to books like THE BELLAMY BIRD to show them the way of they want to. The mystery of who stole what, why and how lasted until the very last page – and the big reveal with all the suspects gathered in one spot. There were twists and turns, scuffles and accusations but all in all I really recommend this book. While aimed at the middle school level – I think anyone would enjoy the story.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to the author for my copy to read and review

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Title: The Nargun and the Stars

Author: Patricia Wrightson

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Opening lines: ‘…It was night when the Nargun began to leave …’

Blurb: When Simon Brent’s parents are killed in a car accident he is taken to live with his mother’s second cousins, Edie and Charlie, on Wongadilla, their 5000 acre sheep run in the Hunter Valley in NSW Australia. Simon, with his city attitudes feels like an outsider, and wonders how he will ever learn to like country life. But Simon is not the only thing that doesn’t belong in Wongadilla; the Nargun, a great rock, older than time itself, has slowly dragged itself from Victoria and into the valley looking for peace and quiet and a place to sleep for a few thousand years. Sadly for Nargun the appearance of heavy machinery to clear some of the land makes such a noise that it is woken up and with a simmering rage that drives it to kill. As the terror begins, Simon, his cousins and other ancient creatures must use their wit and ingenuity to drive the monster away.

My thoughts: THE NARGUN AND THE STARS is a children’s fantasy novel set in Australia, but instead of the European fairy folk who are too delicate for our rugged country author Patricia Wrightson uses our homegrown dreamtime bush creatures – far more suited to the land. The Nargun is a fierce half-human half-stone creature that lived in the Den of Nargun in the Gippsland Victoria, the Den of Nargun is a real place and is a cave under a rock overhang behind a small waterfall. All Nargun wanted was peace and quiet during the day and to gaze at the stars at night – while killing and eating the occasional warm-blooded creature, be it animal or human. In the late 1800s the Nargun is disturbed by the noise made by the increasing human population so decides to head out in search of a quieter home. For 80 years the Nargun slowly heads north until it finds a very suitable gully in the Hunter Valley. There it decides to settle – much to the horror of the other bush creatures the cheeky swamp Potkoorok, the whispery cave Nyols and the rustling tree Turongs who love playing tricks on humans – but don’t want this strange foreign creature in their part of the world.

Simon spends time alone and gets to meet these ancient creatures and learn their ways. As the Nargun starts to threaten the farm Simon finds out his aunt and uncle also know and respect the creatures and asks them for help to get rid of the Nargun. The creatures don’t want the Nargun but are too scared to go up against it – but a plan is hatched for Simon and his Uncle to do battle with the beast. THE NARGUN AND THE STARS is beautifully written and is a wonderful introduction to our very own mythical creatures – or are they mythical? Ever walked past rustling trees and noticed there is no wind? Turongs!!

Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

For more about the author – Click Here

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Title: Fortunately, the Milk…

Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Children’s book/Science Fiction/Fantasy

Opening lines: “…There was only Orange Juice in the Fridge …”

Blurb: You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.

My Thoughts: Adults often accuse children of coming up with some fantastical tales when giving reasons as to why they did (or didn’t do) something that may mean they’re in trouble. But what if the tables were turned? How would children react to a fantastical tale from a parent? When you start to read FORTUNATELY, THE MILK you know how fantastical the book is going to be when the reasonable explanation offered by the father as to why he took so long to get the milk starts:

‘…”I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: Thumm Thumm. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.” “That wasn’t odd? I asked.

“Well something odder,” said my father….’

So starts the funny madcap adventure of a father who looks remarkably like Neil Gaiman. His children are not stupid – they keep asking pointed questions which send their quick-thinking father’s story off on another tangent. There are encounters with aliens, intergalactic dinosaur policemen on space bikes, hungry piranhas, and a Stegosaurus inventor who flies a hot air balloon, pirates, sparkly ponies, an angry volcano god, wumpires and even some time travel! Oh I loved the wumpires! There is something for everybody in FORTUNATELY, THE MILK, a surprise and a laugh on every page along with the most amazing illustrations by Chris Riddell. Although aimed at the 8-12 age group there are some references that will go straight over their head for the pleasure of the reading parent.

Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and is a book I will be recommending to all my friends.

For more about the author – Click Here

With thanks to Bloomsbury Books and the author via Allen and Unwin.

Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $17.99

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Title: Curse of the Scarab (Big Honey Dog Mysteries #1)

Author: H.Y. Hanna

Genre: Young Adult/Mystery

Blurb: Honey the Great Dane enjoys a pretty peaceful life: walking her human, checking Peemail at the park until the arrival of a puppy named Bean turns her life upside down. But when Bean goes missing – together with other neighbourhood pups – Honey sets out on a dangerous quest to find them. Joined by her canine friends, Honey tackles mysterious paw prints and sinister hieroglyphics as clues lead them to a deserted cemetery. But an ancient Egyptian curse has awakened and time is running out … Can Honey solve a cryptic riddle in time to save the puppies? And should she trust Max, a Pit Bull with a murky past, who is hiding secrets of his own?

My Thoughts: CURSE OF THE SCARAB has it all, a rollicking adventure with friendship, danger, laughter, bravery and dog treats. The story is told from the point of view of the dogs in the story – with a few other assorted beasties helping along the way. It is a very good mystery quest but does have some quite scary bits towards the end so definitely for the older reader. Honey is wonderful, a friend of mine use to show and breed Great Danes so I know author H.Y. Hanna has got the quirks of the breed down to a tee, and she must have come across the odd Beagle as well because I am sure she based Biscuit on my food driven Beagle!!! Honourable mentions have to go to Suka, Tyson and the battered old warhorse Max. Their foe is sssssssuitably insane – a delicious baddie who would raise the hackles of any dog hero or heroine. There were lots of lovely touches, I particularly liked the use of the word ‘peemail’ to describe when dogs do their thing as they pass bushes, trees and interesting clumps of grass. CURSE OF THE SCARAB is the first of a proposed series and I would have no hesitation in reading any further adventures that Honey and her friends are drawn into.

Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it.

For more about the author – Click Here

With thanks to the author via Netgalley

Curse of the Scarab by H.Y. Hanna is book # 34 for AWW2013

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Title: Floodland

Author: Marcus Sedgwick

Genre: Children’s Dystopian

Opening lines: Zoe ran. Harder than she had ever run in her life.

My Thoughts: My biggest complaint about FLOODLAND is that it is too short and as a result it suffered from not being able to give enough information to the reader to totally be at ease with what was going on. Ten-year old Zoe lives on Norwich. No, that’s not a typo – Norwich has become an island as the ice caps melted and sea levels rose inundating much of Britain and the rest of the world. Supplies were running out and six months previously when the boat came to drop off supplies for the last time Zoe’s parents make it out but she is left behind. Zoe now has to fend for herself in a settlement which is growing smaller each day, while the people become more savage and desperate. Zoe finds a boat and rows off to find her parents. Half way to what’s left of the mainland she comes across another small isle that is dominated by huge Cathedral. A grimy, miserable and unpleasant place the young population is starving and under the thumb of a thug called Dooby. They call themselves, the Eels and do battle with at least two other groups called Cats and Horses. When I say do battle I mean heads being chopped off and torturing of ‘spies.’ Zoe is forced to stay on the island when her boat is hidden, and life is very, very dismal. However Zoe is a gutsy little girl and survives long enough to find her boat, make an ally and to escape in the middle of a battle and continue off to find her parents. FLOODLAND is unrelentingly miserable and dark with a lot of unanswered questions. I found the end to be a bit of an anti-climax after all the drama building in the first ¾ of the book. I understand Zoe is only 10 so should only have the understanding of a 10-year-old; and the book is aimed at older children rather than adults; but I still would have liked the book to be longer to give more of a background because even young kiddies like to know why! Despite its bleakness the story itself is very good and has a very believable plot it’s just that Zoe is all over the place as far as her character goes and on top of that it seems like the story starts and ends in the middle. FLOODLAND is Marcus Sedgwick’s debut novel – and he has gone on to write 32 more, this is my first experience of his work.

Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it.

For more about the author – Click Here

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Title: The Planet Thieves


Author: Dan Krokos


Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure/Children’s/YA



The Blurb:

Two weeks ago, thirteen-year-old Mason Stark and seventeen of his fellow cadets from the Academy for Earth Space Command boarded the SS Egypt. The trip was supposed to be a short routine voyage to log their required spacetime for summer quarter.  But routine goes out the airlock when they’re attacked by the Tremist, an alien race who have been at war with humanity for the last sixty years.  With the captain and the crew dead, injured, or taken prisoner, Mason and the cadets are all that’s left to warn the ESC. And soon they find out exactly why the Tremist chose this ship to attack: the Egypt is carrying a weapon that could change the war forever.  Now Mason will have to lead the cadets in a daring assault to take back the ship, rescue the survivors, and recover the weapon. Before there isn’t a war left to fight.


My Thoughts:

 I loved THE PLANET THIEVES – absolutely LOVED it.  An edge of the seat, action packed adventure; how adventures should be.  I am not really into space based Sci-fi all that much nowadays, although I devoured all of Robert Heinlein’s books as a teen, and dabbled in the occasional Andre Norton.  I do enjoy dystopian books but they are usually based on a future society here on earth.  Then I find THE PLANET THIEVES! Grabbing me from page one it was a roller coaster ride to the end with lots of twists and turns that had me on the edge of my seat and reading exclusively as I put down all my other current reads. The young hero, Mason, was not a perfect little goody-two-shoes, in fact as the book opens he is in the process of playing a practical joke.  In a matter of hours he is confined to the Brigg, released by friends, shoots invading aliens, sees people die, goes on a rescue mission and made a temporary ship’s captain.  When he steps up into the leadership role he was fearless, assertive and quick to think on his feet.  He is very loyal to his friends and seemed to have an instinct as to the capabilities of his cadet companions as he assigned them roles.  At times it was hard to remember they were all young teens who were forced by violent circumstances into doing the work of experienced men and woman.  THE PLANET THIEVES is the first in a series – I am putting author Dan Krokos on my ‘must read everything he writes including his shopping list’ list.



Rating: A – Excellent. I could not put it down.


For more about the author – Click Here


With thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Starscape Publishing and the author via Netgalley.



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Book 1 – A Frightful Recipe
Book 2 – Sheets and Ladders
Author:  Notti Thistledore
Genre: Children’s/Australian Author
 My Thoughts
Book 1 – A Frightful Recipe – the first book in the ‘Chatswood Spooks’ series introduces us to the three ghostly heroes: Winifred, Edgar and Jingo.  The owner of the hotel they are haunting tells them that they are not scary and if they don’t start being more scary they are going to be demoted to bathroom pipe gurgling. The threesome promise to be more scary but that very night Ivan the fearless checks in.  A very funny adventure follows as each of the ghosts do their best scary stuff before an answer to scare Ivan and save their jobs is found.
Book 2 – Sheets and Ladders – Jingo runs away from the hotel as someone has turned his favourite haunting sheets pink.  He finds himself at the circus where he is obviously much more appreciated than back at the hotel.  Or is he?  Winifred confesses to Edgar that she put her red underpants in the wash which is what caused the sheets to turn pink. So the two of them go off to find Jingo to beg him to come back – a journey which ends up as a rescue mission.
I loved both these little books – they are humorous and have lovely pictures with them.  My two grandsons are a little young for them yet but they are not far away.  I would recommend this book to anyone has young children who have graduated from picture books.
Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading them.
For more about the author – “Click here
A Frightful Recipe and Sheets and Ladders are books #15 and #16 for AWW2013
Thanks to the author for these copies.

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