Jazzy's Book Reviews

Reviews on this page:
Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World by A.L Tait
Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A Spratt
Star of Deltora: Shadow of the Master by Emily Rodda
Alana Oakley: Mystery and Mayhem by Poppy Inkwell
Finders Keepers by Emily Rodda
Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Wishful Thinking by Ali Sparkes

Image: Booktopia.com.au

What do you do when many half-forgotten Celtic deities start hanging around in your garden like it's their home? Kevin's seemingly normal life has suddenly become very unpredictable…

THE GIST

Kevin Rutley is a regular English boy with normal friends and a simple life. That is, until he meets Celtic god Abandinus. It all began when Kevin was carsick and wrote his wishes on a napkin to take his mind off things. The napkin blew into a sacred river and Abandinus came to Kevin's service. Kevin and his friends Tim and Gracie go on the adventure of a lifetime when Arimanius, the lion-headed god of the underworld, tries to pull our hero into his dark world.


THE JUDGEMENT


I found this fantasy/adventure treasure last year with Scholastic Book Club and read it all the time. I was hooked from the very first page.


This is a very plot-driven book. Kevin's always doing something interesting, like hanging out with his gods or running away from them. Ancasta is a beautiful deity but thinks that humans are like toys. She makes Kevin sing and dance unwillingly until he is scratched and bruised which makes him really angry with her.


This novel is really unpredictable, which is a good thing. You never know exactly who's good or bad, or whether the gods have abandoned Kevin and his friends, or not.


When I read Wishful Thinking I realised that I had lots in common with many of the characters; I can play music like Maponus, I want to be cool and I'd be happy to have a Wii like Kevin.


Kevin's friend Gracie comes from America. By the end of the book I had forged a great relationship with her and was sad that she had to leave.


There are some really upsetting scenes in this story, like when Kevin's Nan nearly dies and when he thinks that Abandinus has abandoned him. But then there are many exciting moments such as a big chase and also funny parts like how Kevin's mum thinks he's hooked on Gracie.


The end of this book has a fantastic cliff-hanger and when I finished it I really wanted there to be a sequel, which there sadly isn't. But fortunately the author Ali Sparkes has written many books of the same style and I plan to spend all my pocket money on them.


I recommend this book to kids aged ten and up because of the romantic and action-packed scenes. There are also some harder words like 'slaloming', 'oblivion' and, 'bollard' which children may not understand.

I give Wishful Thinking five bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-273968-1

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Image: Booktopia.com.au

Imagine you are at home, safe and sound with your cat, mother, book aaand… graveyard. Your mad prince-obsessed friend is hoping to be kidnapped and taken to a magical school that very night, as she believes she is truly good. And she believes that you are truly evil.

THE GIST

When Agatha, a strange, distant girl and Sophie, a beautiful, loving princess, get whisked away to a world entirely different to their own, their lives change forever.

Sophie and Agatha live in Gavaldon and are the most unlikely of friends. Sophie takes Agatha on walks and shares biscuits. But, Agatha is unappreciative, grunting and growling with her temper flaring every hour of the day.

The two girls are plunged into a world of stories and magic when they are taken to the School for Good and Evil. One of them learns about how to be good and the other, how to be evil. But things don't go as planned when Sophie is put in Evil and Agatha, Good! From the very beginning Sophie wants to flee into Good and Agatha just wants to go home.

THE JUDGEMENT

Deep within this dark fantasy novel, there are many fairy tales. It mentions stories like Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio and Hansel and Gretel. But while these are children's stories, the author reveals hidden secrets inside. He also includes surprises, like one of the teachers being Cinderella's fairy godmother. Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler; it's just one of the many unexpected treats in the book.

This book is very unpredictable. It involves many twists and turns and also a fair amount of suspense. The nemeses add to the wonder and mystery. Only the best witches get nemesis dreams, the first sign of who their nemeses are.

One of my favourite characters in this novel is a student named Hester. She is cruel, but as the book progresses you understand her more and she becomes nicer bit-by-bit. I also enjoyed getting to know the mean and quirky Castor. He and Pollux sometimes share a body, such as a dog's, which makes him rather angry.

There are some annoying characters in The School for Good and Evil. One of them is Beatrix, who hates Sophie and Agatha and always snuggles up to Tedros, Sophie's crush. She has a bunny named Teddy, the name she calls Tedros, but on the inside she's actually aggressive.

I have read The School for Good and Evil many times. It is pretty scary and the climax at the end is awesome! I recommend this book for children aged ten years or older because of the complex plot and themes, as well as the level of violence.

The School for Good and Evil gets five bookbolts out of five. It is the first book in a series and I am looking forward to starting the next one, A World Without Princes.

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0-00-749293-0

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World by A.L Tait

Image: Booktopia.com.au

When I met A.L. Tait I had absolutely no idea that it would open a whole new world to me. This bubbly and adventurous author introduced me to Children’s Books Daily who I now review books for. I am honoured to have the opportunity to talk about her creation, The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World.

THE GIST

This high-seas adventure story is about a fourteen year-old boy named Quinn who leaves home to learn how to create maps. While he is away he gets paid – all the better for his poor family. After passing a test, Quinn is chosen to sail all around the world and create a map of what he finds along the way. Despite a reluctant start, Quinn gets to know the crew and even the mysterious slave captain, Zain and starts to enjoy the adventure. All of the crew are slaves except for Aysha and Cleric Greenfield. Quinn faces many obstacles such as wild storms, monsters, mean competitors and even murderers on his way.

THE JUDGEMENT

Quinn is the youngest of five brothers, all of which annoy him all the time. They are much bigger than he is, much stronger than he is; they pretty much are the opposite of Quinn. In the beginning he is a normal kid, but by the end he is the perfect hero. He learns a very, very important lesson: To, ‘ride the flow while it is strong and against you. Then challenge it while the time is right.’ To me, this lesson is about patience and hard times.

This thrilling voyage features some very eccentric people: Big, bulky and loud but not very talkative Zain; huge-moustached Jericho; enthusiastic, optimistic Ajax and heaps of other crazy characters.

A.L. Tait has also included some hilarious characters, like Odilon, a man who is, and also looks like he is, ridiculously rich. Odilon doesn’t care about others and loves himself. Inside his bedroom there are lush tapestries hanging off the walls for warmth and quiet and all over the ship there are golden door handles!

When I finished The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World, I felt satisfied with what I’d just read. It included everything that I believe should be in a maritime fantasy, from monsters to secret islands.

This book is the first part of The Mapmaker Chronicles trilogy. The second story is called Prisoner of the Black Hawk and the third is called Breath of the Dragon. I am looking forward to reading the next two.

I think that The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World should be age nine and over because there are some gruesome scenes and the partly complex storyline.

I give The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World four-and-a-half bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Hachette Australia
ISBN: 978-0-7344-1577-6

A.L. Tait and I during Bookweek 2015

Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A Spratt

Image: Booktopia.com.au

“Vegetables do not, in and of themselves, prevent disease,” said Friday. “They provide vitamins that act as co-factors in enzyme reactions, carbohydrates for energy and fibre that assists ease of bowel function.”

Friday Barnes sure is one clever cookie. But there is more to her than just brains. Open the pages and open the door to Friday’s world of mystery…

THE GIST

When Friday Barnes, a seemingly ordinary 11 year-old girl, uncovers the culprit behind a bank robbery she earns $50,000. Friday spends her reward on going to Highcrest Boarding School, the best and most expensive boarding school in the country. Soon Friday learns that there are yeti running around the wild and untamed school swamp and she feels the urge to get to the bottom of it. Friday and her best friend Melanie also solve many other smaller mysteries along the way, like missing homework and even stolen dinner.

THE JUDGEMENT

I like that Friday Barnes is an unusual heroine. She’s petite, smart and peculiar. I find it quite boring to have a heroine that’s absolutely perfect like a robot; it is much more interesting to have an ordinary girl with an ordinary life.

Friday’s sidekick Melanie helps Friday solve mysteries. She actually is the key to the mystery, but I’m not saying how. The Headmaster at the Highcrest absolutely hated Friday from the moment he met her because she is eccentric and solved a mystery better than he could have.

The whole plot of this slowly moving novel fits together like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Without giving too much away, the people you least expect happen to be the villains, like in many good stories.

Friday uses some, ‘big’ words such as, ‘devolutionary’, ‘significant’, ‘perpetrate’, ‘inherent’ and, ‘janitorial’. It also contains suspense and some romance, so I think that Friday Barnes: Girl Detective best suits children aged eight and over.

I give Friday Barnes: Girl Detective 4 bookbolts out of 5 because it is a great read with fantastic descriptions.

Publisher: Random House Australia
ISBN: 978-1-74275-962-3 

Star of Deltora: Shadows of the Master by Emily Rodda

I am a great Emily Rodda fan because her books are imaginative and completely my style. I was absolutely thrilled when I was sent one of her latest books, Star of Deltora: Shadows of the Master. Thanks, Children’s Books Daily for giving me the brilliant opportunity to review this novel.

THE GIST

This fantasy/adventure story is about a young lady named Britta whose father was a trader. On a quest to find the powerful Staff of Tier his ship the Star of Deltora went missing. Britta, her older sister and her mother’s hearts were broken and they had to go into hiding because he had abandoned his crewmates once he had found the Staff. Britta lives in shame but still longs to be a trader and sail the vast ocean. Years later, she is given a note while working at her family’s’ shop telling her to visit her elderly friend Captain Gripp, immediately. She stops by and finds out she is to enter a competition to try out for the role of apprentice to Mab, a legendary sailor. She is eager to win this once-in-a-lifetime chance to become a trader like her father before her.

THE JUDGEMENT

This novel’s first chapter is written in the villain’s point-of-view and includes vivid memories of his. These memories are important to the story because they include some of the people Britta meets at the Traders’ Hall later on. The story then switches to Britta’s observations, written in the first person. As Emily Rodda’s usual style is a page-turner, so is this.

Britta makes a great heroine. She isn’t perfect and has a dramatic history. When her father was possessed by the Staff of Tier he caused the deaths of Mikah and the ship’s crew. Her family was devastated and she would tiptoe to Captain Gripp’s house to seek comfort and play games with him. Gripp is an enthusiastic and understanding character that treats Britta like his own daughter.

One of the characters drove me completely BONKERS – a portly, manly woman named Zoolah. When she meets Britta, she hates her from first looks. She thinks she is cheap, revolting and worthless. Zoolah’s job is as the Senior Managing Officer of the Rosalyn Trust. She considers herself very important and is bossy and easily offended. Zoolah was driven crazy when her brother, Mikah was found tied to the steering wheel of the Star of Deltora, dead. This causes friction between Zoolah and Britta, whose father was responsible.

I recommend this book to children over the age of ten because of ‘tween themes and scary stories told by the people in the village.

I give Shadows of the Master 5 bookbolts out of 5 as it is a great book exploding with lots of creativity. It is the first book in the new Star of Deltora series and I can’t wait for the next one to be released.

Publisher: An Omnibus Book for Scholastic Australia
ISBN: 978 1 74299 062 0

Alana Oakley: Mystery and Mayhem by Poppy Inkwell

THE GIST

Picture this: It’s your first day at high school and you’re instantly on the wrong side of your PE teacher after your friend called her a “bird-brain”, a magic charm goes missing and your mum’s obsessing over a stranger she’s dating on the internet.

Meet Alana: Sassy, clever, likeable, brave. Poor Alana has had many terrible experiences with birthdays like dancing llamas, a very real crocodile, embarrassing preschool pirates and a fire breather all in one. In fact, Alana’s hair ended up catching on fire. Her birthday wish was for the next year to go well.

Meet Alana’s Mum, Emma: She is unorganised, burns dinners and when she writes, she uses whatever’s at hand. Sometimes Emma even scribbles on Alana’s homework.

Buckle up for an entertaining ride to find a surprise waiting for you at the end!

THE JUDGEMENT

Mystery and Mayhem is the first book in the Alana Oakley series and is set in the inner-Sydney suburbs.

Alana does lots of things young teens will relate to. She goes to school, hangs out with her friends and has a curious side to her. I think it’s brilliant that all of Alana’s friends share a love of music. They enter a radio competition for homework and really enjoy making their song.

One of the best things about this simple novel is the references to bullying and racism. On a train, Alana and her friends have to sit across from some nasty teenage boys. They tease Maddie, an Aboriginal girl for having a violin. They say that someone like her shouldn’t have something like that. How rude, but the situation is dealt with cleverly.

Even though this is a slow-moving story with words that easily describe what’s happening, there are a few scenes that would be aimed at older kids. They talk about women’s chests and butts, there is one kissing scene and a teenage heart-throb who all the high-school girls think is adorable. Therefore, I recommend this book to children over the age of 11.

This book is not my usual fantasy/adventure/horror cup of tea, but I give it 3½ bookbolts out of 5.

Publisher: Big Sky Publishing Pty Ltd. ISBN: 9781925275124

Finders Keepers by Emily Rodda

What if you were sucked into a new world because of a computer invitation? Then, you were asked to star in a TV show where you must cross between worlds to find unique hidden objects. Sounds cool, right?

THE GIST

Patrick Minter is your average boy. He loves computer games, has a painful big sister named Claire and a five-year-old little brother. But when he visits a computer shop at Chestnut Tree Village something extraordinary happens: Patrick is is randomly chosen to turn on the TV at 10:00 AM and play Finders Keepers. This is a show where “Finders” have to cross barriers to find the different hidden possessions of “Seekers” and return with them to earn fantastic prizes. There are three riddles that Patrick has to work out so he knows what to look for on his side of the barrier. The first goes like this:

"A tree has died to give me birth,
But still I shelter feathered friends.
I'm large and heavy, coloured earth
With goldn fringes my tail ends.
And where my name and others be
My owners name is plain to see."

Imagine how hard it would be to work that out!

Now, about some of the characters…

It starts out where Judith, Patrick’s mother, is yelling at him to turn out the TV. He wants another few minutes of peace, but he doesn’t get it. Danny, Patrick’s little brother is very infuriating. He complains heaps, and watches lots of Mickey Mouse movies. Claire, Patrick’s big sister is also very annoying. She goes to high school and is very aggressive. She tries to be nicer to Patrick as the book goes on. Patrick also meets Lucky Lance Lamont, Boopie Cupid and Max, all of which help with the game show.

THE JUDGEMENT

I first read this awesome novel in Grade 1 and have done so multiple times. It is still a thrilling ride many times over. Recently, I gave Finders Keepers to one of my friends for her 10th birthday. Why? Because of the super-cool Emily Rodda, of course! Her books are all thrillers and keep you hanging on to every single word on every single page in every single book.

This story is hard to put down right from the beginning. The storyline is fun and imaginative. Patrick makes an unlikely hero because he watches lots of TV and plays lots of computer games.

I found it enthralling to solve the riddles with Patrick because the clues were hard. Later, I tested some out on my friends.

I think that the author’s message is to never give up and stick to what you’ve started. For example, when Patrick started Finders Keepers, he never gave up. In the end, he got what he wanted. He is a bit unsure at the beginning, but he soon learns how to play.

I recommend this book for kids 7 years or older because the storyline is a little bit complex.

I give Finders Keepers 5 bookbolts out of 5.
Finders Keepers
also has a sequel, The Timekeeper and it’s just as good.

ISBN: 978 1 86291 822 1

Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull

Image: simonandschuster.com.au

When I found Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders in the Scholastic Bookclub catalogue I was drawn to it because one of my favourite authors, Rick Riordan, said that, ‘Brandon Mull is a wizard with words.’

THE GIST

This fast-paced fantasy/adventure novel is about a sixth-grader named Cole Randolph who hears rumours about a creepy house set up for Halloween. He really wants to go there, so he rounds up his friends to investigate what’s inside. But, things don’t go to plan. The house is a trap and every kid who walks inside gets captured, shackled and forced to fall down a massive manhole.

Cole manages to hide, but his best friends Jenna and Dalton go down. Cole goes through the manhole to save them, but it is difficult to prove one’s self a hero when you have to take on scorpipedes, slavers, dangerous sky castles and a monster called Carnag.

THE JUDGEMENT

“Weaving down the hall, Cole avoided a ninja, a witch, a pirate, and a zombie bride.” From reading the first sentence, I just could not put down this novel. This story is action-packed and very unpredictable. All the characters are funny and have their own faults, making them realistic and likeable.

One of my favourite things about Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders is Brady’s Wilderness, a crazy place with giant banana splits, gummy fruit orchards, lemon meringue pies so large you can scale them and so much more! This land is created by a kid named Brady, a shaper (someone with the ability to make things appear by just imagining them). He has no power over what he shapes and this creates pandemonium.

Brandon Mull is a fantastic author, giving the perfect cliff-hanger at the end. This is the first book in a series and I can’t wait to read the next. Sadly, there is no movie yet, but I am sure one will come out very soon.

I recommend this book for kids over 10 years of age because there are some very gory chapters.

I give Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders 5 bookbolts out of 5.

ISBN: 978-1-47112-188-3

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Image: amazon.com

When I stumbled across The Red Pyramid in the school library, I was intrigued to read it because it is written by one of my favourite authors, Rick Riordan who wrote the Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian series.

THE GIST

This is an electrifying adventure story about a sister and brother, Sadie and Carter Kane. During a visit to the British Museum, they watch their archaeologist father become imprisoned in a golden coffin. When they find his mysterious workbag was left behind, they hope to find their father and discover its secrets. Ancient Egyptian gods and pharaohs rise when the Museum’s famous Rosetta Stone is blown up. Sadie and Carter must use their instincts to battle magicians and gods including Set, the evil lord of chaos.

THE JUDGEMENT

The Percy Jackson series includes characters from Greek mythology. When I read the novels, I became interested in everything to do with Ancient Greece. In the same way, The Red Pyramid uses Ancient Egyptian myths in its storyline. Bast, Osiris, Isis, Horus and Ra along with Set make the story spooky and exciting.

The characters are very realistic. Each chapter is “by” either Sadie or Carter, and it is funny to see what they say about each other. Because Sadie is 12 and Carter is 14, they are both very sarcastic and have the usual brother-and-sister squabbles. In many chapters Sadie teases about how Carter loves Zia, a pretty Egyptian girl who they become friends with.

The Red Pyramid is most certainly a thrilling page-turner. Each chapter finishes in suspense and makes you want to read on, like the time Sadie and Carter have to flee from an army of gigantic scorpions with Bast, the cat goddess. The ending of this fab novel is a real cliff-hanger, but I am not going to give it away.

I recommend this book to children aged 10+ because there is lots of fighting and violence. I think both adults and ‘tweens would enjoy it if they like the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson stories.

The Red Pyramid is book one of a series called The Kane Chronicles and I cannot wait to read the second one: The Throne of Fire.

I give The Red Pyramid 5 bookbolts out of 5.

ISBN: 978-0-141-32550-7

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Image: barnesandnoble.com

Don’t be put off by the name, A Little Princess is not a dumb Disney story.

THE GIST

This is a dramatic tale set in Victorian times about a young girl named Sara who has a splendid gift for making up gripping stories. She is sent to the Miss Minchin Select Seminary for Young Ladies when her beloved father leaves to fight in the war. After a devastating letter arrives, Sara is forced to be a scullery maid and sleep on a cold stone bed in an attic full of cobwebs and rats. Each day she has to help the horrible cook, teach naughty children, go on errands in the cold and do other terrible jobs. Sara’s big heart shrivels up as she misses her father, but always holds on to hope.

THE JUDGEMENT

I never expected to like A Little Princess. When I read The Secret Garden by the same author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, I was really disappointed because it was sooooo boring. But this book is adventurous and exciting. The moody and mysterious start makes you want to read on. There are interesting characters like the cruel, strict headmistress: Miss Minchin who threatens to whip Sara and tries to take Sara’s only possession left – a doll named, “Emily”. As soon as I “met” Sara I liked her straight away because she is kindhearted and sympathetic to people who are less fortunate than herself. I can connect to Sara through her thrilling storytelling and if I were her classmate I would be hanging on to her words. The story is funny in places, such as when Miss Minchin’s sister, Miss Amelia laughs so hysterically that she has to go to bed. There is a happy ending, which is comforting, after all that Sara has been through. I was asked to always hold on to hope and I felt depth in these words:

“Whatever comes,” she said, “cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”

In this Vintage Classic book there is a fun quiz, a useful glossary and information about what life was like for children back in the nineteenth century. This book is suitable for kids aged 9+ because it contains unhappy themes like war and death.

I give A Little Princess 5 bookbolts out of 5.

ISBN: 978-0-099-57372-2

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