Lost in Snow and Space

Having missed some reviews last month I have two YA books to make up for it – a fantasy set in snow and a sci-fi offering set in space.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Although this book started off a little slow and I did think about putting it down, I am so pleased I did not. I persevered and found around the middle I did not want to put it down.

Danielle Paige’s character Snow starts out in a mental institution and is not an immediately likeable, but right from the beginning you get the sense that there is something a little off  in her world.

With the help of a figure from her dreams she manages to escape the hospital and ends up in a different dimension –  a world full of magic, one that her mother rescued her from as child when she realised Snow was part of a prophecy.

The world Snow is brought to is well constructed, and full of interesting characters. The plot actually has twists and turns that I could not see, and the climax also ended is worth over-coming those initial slow chapters for.

This book would be great for strong readers 14+ who like fantasy adventure with a little bit of star-crossed lovers thrown in.

Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

Jules Addison and Amelia Radcliffe find themselves on the far-away planet of Gaia with very similar objectives; one to save his father and the other to save her sister. In spite of this, their methods are very different. Jules wants to prove that the undying who brought humans to their planet might actually be dangerous, as his father predicted. Amelia wants to scavenge scrap to make enough money to buy her sister free from slavery.

Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner have again teamed up to write a great science fiction novel written from two different perspectives, developing two protagonists that easy to identify with, and bring you along on their great adventures.The plot is well developed and interesting, the version of earth and the planet the two find themselves on are well imagined, and there is enough science stuff for the avid science fiction reader – but not so much that others will not enjoy this adventure story.

I have to admit that I could guess much of the plot, but I did not mind because the strength of this book is how the characters interact and develop as the story moves along. Even though I could guess most of what would happen next, the end came as a complete surprise, and has me wanting to read the second book in the series, which fortunately for me is already out and on my Christmas list.

This book will definitely appeal to sci-fi fans, but it might also interest fans of dystopian and fantasy and even those who like a good romance. Although targets at the young adult market, good readers from 12 upwards would be able to read this if they do not mind a little death.

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Sam’s Top Ten of All Time!

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Sam’s Top Ten of All Time

 

 

Hello fellow  bookworms and blog readers I have been reading quite a lot of books this month and it made me think I would like to share with you my top 10 books of all time!!!!! (2011-2018)

10: Trials of Apollo – The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

The first book in this series was good, but there wasn’t much continuity in the stories and so many changes all in one book I just lost interest by book 2, so this book goes to number 10.

9: Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief  (Series) by Rick Riordan

Honestly, this was a good book when I read it and it has aged well over time, but as I went along my journey through the book world I found so many more exciting and wonderous books. So, I must put this book at number 9.

8: Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades is a story about a world with heroes, villains and normal people and was a great read. It was very intriguing and thought provoking, with hints and nods to the real world and its problems. With the twists and turns and all the story in between, this book easily makes number 8.

7: York by Laura Ruby 

With ints unusual steam punk setting, a tale of mystery and intrigue full of plot twists and character developments, with a great story arc, it is no mystery why York made number 7 in the blink of an eye.

6:  Heroes of Olympus (Series) by Rick Riordan

There was no question that this series would make the list. I have read it at least 4 times through and I have found more details as I read each book again, taking more time and being intrigued by different mysteries and plot twist, observing each character and their habits. Number 6 is really good.

5: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

I read this book recently and couldn’t put it down. The way Phillip Reve writes is with passion and a twist of fun such as calling a CD a seedy, this post-apocalyptic quartet is filled with thrills and fun and had to go at number 5.

4: Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rolwing

This book series is one of the most famous by no doubt. I love the magic and the world it is set in, and as with the heroes of Olympus have read through many times so at least had to go at number 4.

3: Wonder by R.J Palacio

This book brought me to tears when I read it and it is a tale to be read by all ages as it teaches an amazing lesson of love, kindness and acceptance. It needed to go to number three.

2: The Summoner Series by Taren Matharu

This series written by Taran Matharu is compelling. The fantasy world of Corellium amazed me and drew me in. The cover and the blurb enticed me, but when I read it was one of the best books that I had read in a long time. I have to say I counted the days down until the second book and the third came out. When the prequel came out I read it, and got annoyed with myself because I lost the book and recently found it, I read it again and it was as good as I expected, so the series had to go to number 2!

1: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This book when I read it was the best book I had read, and still is. When my mother asked which book I liked more, the novice (from the summoner series) or ready player one I couldn’t decide so I just took a gamble and put this amazing book first. 

On another note I found it ever so very hard to decide between the hundreds (and I’m not joking) of books that I have to find ten of my favourites. Most of these books here I have read more than once, and will remember for quite a while, especially the top 6.  Hope this helps with your Christmas shopping.      

 

Sam

 

 

Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows – Magical

Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows:

The Elandrian Chronicles Book 1

by J.M. Bergen

I am so excited at the moment. I have so many great books to write about I did not know where to start this month, so I closed my eyes, pointed and came up with a great middle grade/tween book that I was asked to review – Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows.

Boys around the 10-12 age range are notoriously hard to write for, and many parents resort to reluctant reader books that encourage boys to read with a mixture of pictures and words. Sometimes, though, you find a gem that will capture imaginations without scrimping on story and character development. Zombie Boy was one pf these,  and J.M. Bergen’s first book in the Elandrian Chronicles is another.

Thomas Wildus is an everyday boy who enjoys draw offs with his best friend in class and going to the beach, has a crush on a girl and a strong dislike of the school bully. The only difference is Thomas believes in magic because his dead father told him it was real. One day Thomas stumbles on a bookshop and the owner lends him a special book and Thomas’ life changes dramatically as he is drawn into a world of magic that places him in danger.

I love the way this book  weaves magic in a modern day setting with a real villain, but also with real life problems children can identify with. Thomas is a likeable character who has the admirable quality of standing up for others and a great imagination. The action is fast paced and keeps you wanting to find out what happens next, and there are some surprising turns in the plot, including a strange encounter with snakes. If there is one small problem with the book, and it is only really small, there are a couple of sections where I was unsure as to how much time had passed between scenes, but this did not detract from the story over-all.

The lack of female characters means the book will more likely be enjoyed by male readers, and they may enjoy it even more because of the lack of female characters. However, I know a lot of female readers who would enjoy a story about modern day magic regardless of the fact the main protagonists are male.

The only downside to this book is that I received a preview copy and it is not available until February 2019. Shame, as it would have been a great recommendation for a southern hemisphere Christmas holiday read. It is available for pre-order on amazon.

 

Preorder on Amazon 

The 1000 Year Old Boy

The 1000 Year old Boy by Ross Welford

By Sam (Aged 12)

Last school holidays I gave reviewer Sam a different sort of book to read and was surprised at how much he enjoyed it, in fact it was a struggle to get his nose out of it!

Alve is a Norse boy hiding with his mother and cat Biffa in the woods in the 21 century. They have a nice life until two kids, Roxy and Adean, find out where they live, and from then it all goes all catastrophically wrong. His house burns down and he loses his mother, and to make thing even worse there is a strange man following Alve claiming to be his long lost father. Can he trust this mysterious man? Can he find a way to live a normal life even though he is 1000 years old and does not age?

My favourite character is Alve because he has the strength to carry on through the hardest of times and the endurance to continue on his journey, but Biffa made me smile because he always showed up at the weirdest of times.

My favourite part in the story is when Alve escapes his house when it is burning. The description was very good and detailed the situation very clearly, which meant I could really imagine I was in the story.

I recommend this book for ages 9 to 12. Younger readers will enjoy the great story, even if it is read to them, older readers will enjoy the descriptions. Although it is a longer book, the story is fast paced and can be read read quite quickly.

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Not So Sweet Adversity

Sweet Adversity by Sheryl Gwyther

I have been lost this last week. Lost in the depression with a young girl I would love to meet in real life. She has sass and spunk, and a good heart. Okay, so she is also a little bit naughty and gets into trouble, but really these are just more good reasons to love Adversity McAllister.

Adversity has been left by her parents in an orphanage, like so many others during the depression in Australia. It is not that they do not love her, but that they cannot afford to keep her while they take their travelling Shakespearean show around the countryside. The Matron assures them that she will take good care of their daughter, but then proceeds to try and make a profit from the talented Adversity.

In Sweet Adversity, Sheryl Gwyther has produced an adventure story with a strong female hero, a touch of history and some fantastic bad guys who keep the story interesting. Told from twelve year old Adversity’s perspective, Australia during the depression is full of; scary grown ups, children who are more than capable of fending for themselves, as well as people with hearts of gold who help others when they can. All of these characters are part of the well told story around Adversity trying to escape from those who wish to profit from her while she investigates the truth about what really happened to her parents.

This is one of those rich, beautifully told tales that tween readers who love getting lost in books will fall into and be reluctant to climb out of. It is also one of those books that parents will enjoy reading to, and with, their children. I was sad to let Adversity go, so I am hoping that she might pop up in another tale somewhere along the line.

 

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Beginnings – The Wizard and Warrior Book One

Beginnings

The Wizard and The Warrior Book One

by Vivienne Lee Fraser

This week’s review is dear to my heart, but I will let you read what reviewers Sam and Ruby made of this debut YA Fantasy novel.

Beginnings (by Sam Aged 11)

This book written by Vivienne Fraser follows two characters, Aliah and Seamus, on a journey to warn the king of treachery and betrayal by his closest advisers!

Aliah or Alihandra is sent to marry the King Caston,  but before she leaves home she gets word that the King of Caston will still attack so she escapes the ship and goes to warn the King. Seamus is the son to the Duke of Hand, a mysterious isle off the coast of Aria where no magic is allowed. He has the gift of magic so he runs away to learn to be a wizard.

My favourite part is when Seamus and Aliah are traveling through the sewers and the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

My favourite character is Seamus because he is so resourceful but shy.

I recommend this book for ages 10-16 as a short but descriptive and action packed story full of spirit and excitement.

Beginnings (by Ruby aged 10)

I was given this book to read. It was good and I really liked it because it was funny and easy to read. I really liked Seamus. I hope you are writing more more book sin this series because I want too read more books like this.

 

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Coming of Age and Dystopia – A Real mixture

Interesting Independent Author Reads

One of the great joys of self-published authors, or those who publish through smaller publishing houses is there is a greater variety in book content. I guess when investing large amounts of money in a book publishing houses need to be assured of a return so they shy away from anything that might be controversial, and the very thing that makes these books so interesting has posed a dilemma for me.

I ummed and ahh so much about the books I am reviewing today that I did not actually write a review last week. My dilemma was not so much that I did not enjoy these books, but whether I could recommend them for Young Adult readers because of the content. Some of the content is confrontational, and so I hesitated. My first thought was I would not really like reviewer Sam reading these and he is touching on twelve. Part of the content would be a bit much for him to digest. In the end I decided that is no reason not to recommend then for children in the age range they were written for (13+). So each book comes with caveat, and you can decide whether the content is suitable for your children

When Fall Breaks – Julie Solano and Tracey Justice

This first book in the Seasons of Jefferson series is a teenage love story with a twist. Girl falls for boy, boy falls for girl, but they cannot be together because of family relationships. While Kaitlyn and Brody try to come to terms with their changing feelings there is tension around them,  especially with Kaitlyn’s boyfriend Pistol.

The people in this book are the same people we all grew up with, and I love the outdoor setting of Northern California. It is great to read a story set out of a major city environment. I also like that this story deals with something all girls face in one form or another, the mental and physical control some males still feel they have a right to have over women.

That is what makes this book more than a teen romance, and much more of teen coming of age book. Like Kaitlin, it takes the reader a while to realise that rather than loving Kaitlyn, her boyfriend sees her as an extension of him and wants to control her. It is this relationship that takes the book into darkness near the end.

I enjoyed this book very much, right up until the end. I do not know why, but I like a story to be completed in a book, even if it is part of a series, and this leaves too many unresolved issues for my liking. But that is just me. All in all this is a very good teenage girl coming of age book.

Alpha 9 by Rebecca Bosevski

The idea of this book really appealed to reviewer Sam. A dystopian world where a group of trained soldiers are released to face trials so they can be better prepared for the upcoming war against an alien invasion. Led by Alpha 9, a small group completes the trails to find that the the world has changed and they  have to try and live in a very changed world, one that is now run by aliens.

This is a fast paced action story, and while the characters are not exactly people you might warm to, they are soldiers and trained to kill to survive, they are interesting and keep the story moving.

 Rebecca Bosevski has created a believable alien world in Sydney, which retains all of the main landmarks, including the Opera House, which plays a central role.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and loved the twists. So what is the caveat in this book? Well, the aliens are abducting women and forcing them to have alien babies. A bit yucky if you think about it, but for me some of the descriptions of the process are a bit raw for the average teenage male, and perhaps some females too. But maybe it is just me being old fashioned, or over-protective. It is a small part of the story, but I did find the graphic descriptions disturbing, enough that I would recommend the book for older Young Adult readers, perhaps 16+.

So my dilemma is over. These books are good enough to recommend, and it is great to have something to offer that has not been pushed out through the bland machine. And at the very least the things that I ummed and ahhed over got me thinking through the issues they raised, and also about what reading should be. Sometimes it should be a nice and cosy escape, and sometimes it should be uncomfortable and get you thinking.

 

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Zombie Boy – Who would have thought I would love a book about Zombies?

Zombie Boy by K.S.Hall

Who would have thought I would really enjoy reading a Zombie book?

It started out with my wanting to read some books published by independent authors. Someone suggested a read Zombie Boy by K. S. Hall, and at first I was not very keen. I tried to get reviewer Sam to take it on, but he was not keen either – it seems zombies really are not a thing in our family. So I took a deep breath and started reading, such is my dedication to providing a range of reviews.

I read chapter one, which was from the zombie perspective, and I forced myself to read chapter two from a human perspective. Next thing I knew I had finished the book and it was past the hour more sensible people would have put their books down and gone to sleep.

The story is simple. 11 year old Aiden has contracted the horrid XR-30 virus, which has turned many in his home town into zombies, but he is different. He can still think and feel and has limited control over his body.12 year old James is trying to help his family stay away from an increasing number of zombies, yet when he meets Aiden he realises something is different. Together they go on an adventure that will hopefully save Aiden and the world.

Although this book is set in a zombie apocalypse it is really an adventure story with a side helping of friendship and agreat big dollop of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ (on two levels in terms of how people treat zombies, and how people see zombie stories). Obviously I really enjoyed the read. The children are great literary characters, the action is fast paced, and the story is catchy. On that alone I would recommend this book. But, on reflection, this is also a very clever book. As boys are so often emerging themselves in zombie culture with TV series, movies and video games, K. S. Hall has hit on a winning formula that might actually entice these boys to read, and to read a quality book.

Love this this hidden gem, and I think your zombie loving children will too.

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Swim Season – A Lovely Coming of Age Story

Swim Season by Marianne Sciucco

 

I stumbled on Swim Season, read the first couple of chapters and decided to buy it from Amazon. I found this book on Instafreebie , where independent authors can distribute free books and stories. It was my first time using the site and I downloaded a few books to review. I was initially frustrated when I found that most of what I thought were books were actually the first couple of chapters of books. Then I realised that it was actually a useful tool to cut the wheat from the chaff because I could decide which books I like enough to actually purchase.

So out of the five books I looked at I was taken by Swim Swim Season, a story about a high school senior who had moved to a new school for her final year and joined the swim team. Aerin has much to deal with in her personal life, not least the relationship between her estranged father and mother and her father’s new family, but she manages to make new friends and beings to enjoy life in her new school on her terms. This all changes when it is found out she really is a much better swimmer than she has been letting on. Then her friendships are tested and she has to decided what she really wants out of life.

Marianne Sciucco has written a great book that keeps the reader involved from beginning to end. We will all recognise her characters from our own high school days, no matter what country you love in, and we will all recognise the struggles they go through to find out who they really are. It is a great read for high school girls and mums alike.

If this book does not convince you that you should give independent authors a whirl, then try Instafreebie and you might just be surprised by what you find.

 

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Why I Love Second Hand Book Sales

An Hour of Your Time Can Produce Gold

I love a new book. I love to be the first one to open a book and to read it til the end. Even if I buy a book for both my husband and I to read it is only with great reluctance that I will let him read it first. So it will come as no surprise to you that I never really liked second hand book sales, well until recently.

My first foray was with a friend when she went to the local Lifeline sale. I was amazed by the number of people coming out with bags full of books. I thought to myself there really cannot be that many books there that I would want to read, not second hand…..

Fast forward to an hour later when I emerge with a box of books. It started with a Leon Uris book I wanted to re-read  which I found and it spiraled from there. I now enjoy spending a good hour or so in local second hand book stalls, stores and sales, and I am never disappointed.

I am at home in New Zealand at the moment and my brother was talking about a local book sale. I was not going to go as I did not have much weight allowance left, and books eat up weight very quickly. However, on a wet afternoon I decided an hour or so would be a little fun, and I am pleased I did because I found some real gems, and I have 5 examples of why spending an hour of your time can do wonders for building your children’s reading library. not ;east because I spent NZ$2.5o to get the quality books I am going to tell you about, one of which I found on one the ABLE website selling for US$37. Each still have a number of reads left in them, and would be a  great addition to a reading library apart from the savings buying second hand provides.

      1. My personal favourite,

        Calling All Puppies Written and Illustrated by Winifred Martin

        This is a picture book from the 1950’s about two Wire-haired Fox Terrier puppies and their puppy friends – Cocker spaniels, Scottie, Pekingese and others. Illustrated with charming full page colour portraits and dozens of black and white text drawings by the author/artist it is the most adorable book for dog lovers. This is truly a lovely story with beautiful illustrations.

      2. A great read by and author commissioned to write some of the Frozen Books,

        Jitterbug Jam: A Monster Tale by Barbara Jean Hicks and Alexis Deacon

        This reverse monster under the bed tale is well written and superbly illustrated and touchingly funny. Children will just love it, and parents will love reading it to them. If you want to know a little more  you can read the goodreads blurb here.

      3. A timeless tale,

        The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter

        Any Beatrix Potter book is a find, and when the cheapest new online price I could find was $5, and secondhand price 99c, 50 cents to buy this lovely tale written and illustrated as only Beatrix Potter did is a steal. The book tells of Squirrel Nutkin when he goes to the Island to gather nuts with his brother Twinkleberry, and their cousins. I bought this book not only because of the author, but I loved the line on the first page that tells us this is a Tale about a Tail. Priceless in so many ways!

      4. A tween book not for the faint-hearted,

        Dangerous Spaces by Margaret Mahy

        Margaret Mahy had a unique view of the world, writing books that took children into places they could only ever imagine. In this story an ordinary girl blurs the boundaries between reality and imagination in a spine-tingling way that is relieved by the humorous picture of her everyday life. This is not one one her best loved books, but when you pay 50c you may as well give it a read. I have only just started reading it, but I am already hooked so it was worth my tiny investment. You can read the goodreads review here.

      5. A New Zealand Book Award Finalist,

        The Lies of Harry Wakatipu by Jack Lasenby

        I have to admit I did not buy this for me, but for reviewer Sam. I thought he might like the line on the back cover that states Harry Wakatipu is a legend in his own sleeping bag. This is a collection of fantastic stories told by Harry the Horse, and is written by the man who who edited the reading journals we kiwi kids of my generation grew up on. I just had to have this one because I wanted my son to have a taste of my culture. I will have to wait until I get home to see what he makes of it, but for 50c it was worth a punt. There is a review on goodreads.

These books are why I love second hand book stalls; you can find timeless gems, be taken back to your childhood, try something new, just waste an hour or so on a wet do-nothing day, and for such a small you might just find something you or your children will love.