More Reviews by Jazzy

Reviews on this page:
Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson
The Mapmaker Chronicles: Beyond the Edge of the Map
by A.L Tait
The Flyaway Girls
by Julia Lawrinson
Skulduggery Pleasant
by Derek Landy
Ruby Redfort: Look into my Eyes
by Lauren Child
The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee by Deborah Abela
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne
Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan
Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children by Jen Storer

CLICK HERE FOR MY LATEST REVIEWS

 

Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson

THE GIST

Hetty Feather is a feisty red-haired girl living in the late 19th century. As a baby, her mother is forced to place her in the Foundling Hospital where she is first known as 25629. Once christened as Hetty, she is sent off to kindly strangers on a farm to be cared for up to the age of six. Hetty then reluctantly returns to the Hospital to train as a servant, but is ridiculed and made fun of. Can she last in this horrible, unhygienic place and will she ever see her mother again?

THE JUDGEMENT

I like to think my baby hair had not yet sprouted from my little pink head. A bald baby can still just about be beautiful. An infant with hair as scarlet as sin is an abomination, spawn of the devil. So says Matron Bottomly, and she pulls my hair hard.

This story is spoken in the voice of Hetty. You share her every emotion, her hopes and her disappointments. From the onset she reminds me of Anne out of Anne of Green Gables. They both have a fiery temper and are teased about their hair colour. But despite this, they are lovable characters. I connect really well to Hetty. She LOVES to read and does it whenever she can.

When Hetty arrives to train at the Hospital, she is bullied and laughed at. Hetty feels upset after leaving her foster home. Sadly, she soon grows accustomed to being treated badly. In one part of the book, a man tries to kidnap Hetty. He strokes her feet then tries to take her away, but a brave girl called Sissy saves the day. Hetty has a taste of what poverty is like in this section of the book; she has to rely on begging and selling flowers with Sissy.

When the girls in The Hospital turn 14, they have to leave to become servant girls in different houses. The boys move on to be sailors or soldiers. The boys are treated better and they obviously have more choice than the girls. Hetty really wants to be a boy because of the fun they have. Ironically, Gideon, one of her foster brothers wants to be girl.

While this is a fictional tale, it is quite educational. I learnt about the Victorian times. The clothing, lifestyle and rules were very different to now. I was surprised to learn there was actually a Foundling Hospital for deserted children started by Thomas Coran in 1739.

I recommend Hetty Feather to children aged 8+ because of some upsetting and slightly frightening scenes. It is the first story in a series. 

There are many lessons in this book: don't trust strangers, be prepared to face consequences for your actions and try to persevere through hard times. I give Hetty Feather four-and-a-half bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers UK
ISBN: 978-0-440-86835-4

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Beyond the Edge of the Map by A.L Tait

Quinn heard an awe-inspiring sound from above and his blood seemed to freeze under his skin. Hardly daring to do so, he looked up and there was the big cat, perched on the edge of their sea cave, roaring out into the twilight like a general calling his warriors to arms.

The cats on the beach began to bound towards them.

A.L. Tait's much anticipated addition to The Mapmaker Chronicles is finally here!

THE GIST

The Mapmaker Chronicles are about a young hero named Quinn Freeman who races against the greedy and the cruel to create a map of the world. Quinn has battled pirates, dragons, sea monsters and more.

In the fourth novel of the series, Quinn has returned home and is living an uneventful life with his large family. But not for long. He is kidnapped and flees the mysterious King Ivo's henchmen. He must return to the seas to live life on the run and complete the map for King Orel. And no longer would he be under the safe wing of his trainer, the feared Zain; this time his only travel companions are two of his inexperienced brothers, Jed and Allyn. Quinn has a gift: He has a phenomenal memory which served him well in the Great Race, but now people want to exploit it as he hurries to find the missing part of the map. Quinn meets lions, a monster shark and an old enemy while battling starvation and thirst.

THE JUDGEMENT

While this is a self-contained story, I recommend readers go back to where it all began in book one: Race to the End of the World. In doing this, readers will have a greater understanding of how the characters have developed. You can check out my review of the first tale HERE. Each has grown up throughout the series. Quinn is now 15 years old and much braver, while his friend Ash (aka Aysha) is 16. The two have a strong friendship which may bloom in later books.

Central to the storyline is how the friendship between the brothers grows as the journey carries on. There has always been a lot of rivalry between them but when it comes to survival they work really well together. Jed and Allyn start to appreciate Quinn who was once called 'the runt' by his dad.

One of the things I like best about The Mapmaker Chronicles is that it is not pitched at boys or girls - I think it is an all-round, maritime fantasy series.

The story is left a little open-ended, leaving the reader with the promise of a future quest for Quinn. The simple language makes this accessible for younger readers who enjoy a more complex storyline. There is mild violence so I recommend this book to children aged 9+.

A.L. Tait has done a brilliant job piecing together a story full of surprises and climaxes which makes it one terrific, fast-paced tale of survival. The scene with the lions was gripping and a page-turner. The characters' personalities are realistic and I enjoyed the fun and games between the brothers. I give The Mapmaker Chronicles: Beyond the Edge of the Map four-and-a-half bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Hachette Australia
ISBN: 978 0 7344 1774 9

Read my Q&A with Allison Tait HERE

The Flyaway Girls by Julia Lawrinson

My strides are too big, uneven, something. My rhythm is off. Normally I'd stop and start over. Not now. I can't. I have to show them. I have to show all of them: Kirsty, Louisa, Maddie - and especially Telia. I have to.

We all have our troubles. Our misgivings. And a chance to believe in ourselves… The Flyaway Girls is a doorway into the mind of a young Australian gymnast.

THE GIST

Chelsea is an 11-year-old girl facing obstacles. She works harder at gymnastics than any of the other kids in the Club. Her dream is to get into Nationals, but when a girl called Telia comes along things get interesting. Telia has more natural talent than the main character, even though Chelsea practices for many hours including at school. But gymnastics isn't the only thing she has to worry about. Chelsea has a very difficult family life. Her parents are divorced and her dad now has a girlfriend who infuriates Chelsea. Even worse; she has to go on a holiday with them! And now her friends are acting strangely…

THE JUDGEMENT

This story is new territory for me. I usually choose fantasy/adventures, but I actually found myself enjoying this book. It's a simple tale about gymnastics, friendships and family.

The author Julia Lawrinson has created a very realistic character in Chelsea, The Flyaway Girls' heroine. She has her flaws and struggles, like when Chelsea's friends Gemma and Rosie get angry at her. At first Chelsea can't figure out why and then she realises they don't like her doing gym all the time. Chelsea doesn't talk to them while rehearsing her floor routine and while she's doing everything else she completely ignores them. I don't do gymnastics but I still find that I can relate to Chelsea. She rarely gets nervous, is ambitious and always tries her hardest.

Chelsea's parents are OK, but her dad doesn't connect with her well. He doesn't know anything about Chelsea. She fights with Gemma and Rosie. Jealousy rules with Telia. Yet with all these things going on, Chelsea still manages to deal with her crises. There is a girl called Ellie, but Ellie isn't very nice. She bullies Telia and is a pessimist. In one part of the book Ellie cries… And Ellie never cries. This shows that every person has two sides to their personality, even though you may regularly only see one. Judgement is a very important message in The Flyaway Girls. Telia is really good at gymnastics and Chelsea gets SUPER envious, but she isn't actually that bad.

The Flyaway Girls would probably appeal to female readers more than boys because there are hardly any males. The dad, school teacher Mr Fraser and Chelsea's brother Kieran are the only main ones. Luckily, there are no language problems. I recommend this book to kids aged 10+

Julia Lawrinson has done a superb job putting together this heart-warming and relatable 'tween story and I will keep an eye out for some of her other books. I give The Flyaway Girls five bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Penguin Group (Australia)
ISBN: 9780143308652

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

"What do you want?" she said to the darkness. "Why do you want to come in?"

"It's got nothing to do with me, girlie. I've just been sent to pick something up. Let me in. I'll look around, get what I came for and leave. I won't harm a pretty little hair on your pretty little head, I promise. Now you just open that door right this second."

And so began my obsession with Skulduggery Pleasant. Today, I'll take you back to where it all began with book one…

THE GIST

Stephanie Edgely is your average 12-year-old girl, or at least she was until the day she met a walking, talking skeleton named Skulduggery Pleasant. He can do magic. She jumps at the chance to team up with him to solve her uncle's murder (somehow he mysteriously turned to dust). Stephanie understands that only certain people can do magic, but she begs Skulduggery to try and teach her on the off-chance that she is one of them.

In Skulduggery Pleasant there are many types of magic. There's Elemental, which is magic of the four elements; water, fire, air and the earth. Water is to do with density, fire can be thrown, air can be changed or pushed and earth can save you from death. Another type of sorcery is Necromancy - death magic. You can use the shadows to defend yourself. Lastly, there's Adept, which covers other kinds of magic like teleportation. Stephanie's friend Tanith Low is an Adept - she can walk on walls and roofs. She can also unlock anything.

THE JUDGEMENT

Stephanie may be inexperienced at fighting and combat, but she helps Skulduggery and those on his side. There are some really great lessons in Book One, such as 'never judge a book by its cover'. A man called Ghastly Bespoke looks… Ghastly, as his face is covered in hideous scars. He is sneered at and teased by others, but his friends know that he is kind and brave. At first Ghastly doesn't like Skulduggery tagging Stephanie along, but he learns to appreciate her.

One of Stephanie's pet hates is the way non-magic people are called 'mortals'. Sure, magic makes sorcerers live longer, but it doesn't make them im-mortal!

The very concept of names is very important to all the Skulduggery Pleasant stories. At birth you have a 'given' name. If a mage knows your given name then they can control you, like a robot. There's your 'taken' name as well, which is the name you choose to cover up your given name. Then there's your 'true' name, which Skulduggery says can be dangerous because it will gives too much power.

Skulduggery Pleasant has a very interesting story behind him. He was a living man but once he saw his wife and son killed before his eyes by the evil Serpine, he reached for a dagger. This dagger was dipped in poison so he died. He used his magic to come back alive as a skeleton.

A warning: Skulduggery Pleasant is violent and some people who have just started reading it may be surprised. People explode and there are tons of deaths. Because of this I recommend this book to kids aged 9+.

The other books vary in age recommendations by the publisher which I don't agree with; numbers seven to nine should definitely not be 11+. The later stories include a massive war and also horrifying descriptions. In one part people's eyes are taken out. Their ears and lips are cut off and their hair is torn out in clumps. Despite all of this, I love these stories because they are funny and have great storylines. They are very unpredictable, too.

For more Skulduggery Pleasant goodies, check out two of my previous blogs: Hooked on Skulduggery Pleasant and Vile Villain Series - Skulduggery Pleasant Nasties.

Skulduggery Pleasant is a brilliant read, but it's not as good as the later stories. I give it four-and-a-half bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
ISBN: 978-0-00-724162-0

Ruby Redfort: Look into my Eyes by Lauren Child

'So, how did I do?' said Ruby.
'Oh that,' replied Hitch. 'Yes, well done - thirty-six out of thirty-seven. Not bad.'
'I got one wrong?' said Ruby, dumbfounded.
He winked. 'Nah kid, I'm just messing with you.'

THE GIST

Meet the extraordinarily clever Ruby Redfort, a 13-year-old whizz who is so smart that she reads War and Peace in the original Russian. A secret agency notices Ruby and requests her help with a mission. Take an amazing journey with Ruby as she strives to become a real agent.

THE JUDGEMENT

Ruby Redfort: Look into my Eyes is the first book in a popular 'tween series. Funnily enough, this made me NOT want to read it. I have been hearing about it for soooo long. If you follow my blog you will know that apart from Harry Potter I am fond of off-beat books. But it was time to find out what the fuss has all been about... Ruby Redfort is FANTASTIC! This book is mysterious and fast-paced. It made me laugh at times and is very unpredictable.

The author, Lauren Child, is talented at writing books for different audiences. You might have heard of her from the Charlie and Lola series. Ruby Redfort is aimed at older kids.

I find it interesting that Ruby isn't perfect - she makes mistakes that often get her in trouble. Ruby tells her friend Clancy Crew everything about the secret agency she now works for, Spectrum. This is terrible because Spectrum's biggest and most important rule is, 'keep it zipped'. As the story progresses Ruby steals a watch, a dog whistle and a jigsaw puzzle keyring, all by accident.

Though Ruby has some disadvantages, she has many qualities too and is a likeable heroine. She is quick-witted, shrewd and brave, always escaping trouble in the nick of time.

Ruby's friend Clancy is very strange. He is horrible at French, though he can be amazingly imaginative. Clancy communicates in a secret code with Ruby all the time. They fold up their messages in complex tree notes, an origami design. Anyone who sees it won't be able to fold it up the correct way, except for Clancy and Ruby. This way they can keep in touch even when they don't have the time to visit each other's houses and can tell whether anyone has seen what they wrote. Ingenious.

I found LB a very… interesting character. When I met her in the tenth chapter, her description was: The woman was older than her mother but not old. Dressed completely in white, she was elegant and strikingly beautiful, immaculately groomed - although in no way "dolled up", as Mrs Digby would put it. LB never gives compliments unless she is extremely impressed. She may be strict, but means well.

I powered through Ruby Redfort: Look into my Eyes. Even though it looks thick, it is actually double-spaced! I read late into the night, trying to guess what would happen next.

The content in this book is suitable for kids aged at least 9+. It is a thinking person's book with an exciting plot and suspenseful scenes.

I give Ruby Redfort: Look into my Eyes five bookbolts out of five and will definitely be purchasing more of these adventures in the future.

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0-00-733407-0

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee by Deborah Abela

Rich clever kids tour Australia as they compete in a popular spelling bee TV show. What if one of the contestants this time is a little… different?

THE GIST

India Wimple is a shy and ordinary girl who lives in a little-known town called Yungabilla. But she has one amazing talent - spelling. At first India is reluctant to be involved in the famous Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, but soon she bravely decides to try it out. She has fantastic adventures as she journeys around Australia with her family.

THE JUDGEMENT

I first met Deborah Abela last year at the shooting of the MS Readathon video. You can read my blog, "The Day I met an Author" HERE. Deb told me that she was researching spelling bees for her new book and quizzed me about them. So, I was a little nervous when The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee came out because spelling bees are an important part of me. I started competing in Kindergarten and made it to Regionals in the last couple of years.

I came home from school and found a parcel on my bed. It was the book I had been anticipating with a cute letter inside from Deb. I turned the pages to see that I was in the dedications!

'Tremulous (adjective): Nervous, timid, quite a bit shivery. The girl felt tremulous at the challenging task ahead'. The story follows India Wimple who is not exactly who you would expect to participate in a national spelling bee. She is so shy she never talks to anyone she hasn't known her whole life and gets scared when she's in front of crowds. India has an asthmatic brother named Boo who has to be home-schooled in case he has an attack.

Then, there is the super-annoying character Summer Millicent Ernestine Beauregard-Champion. She is rich, pushy and pretty much a living nightmare for her nanny, Daniela. There are nice kids, too such as Rajish, an Indian boy. He is also India Wimple's friend.

This story includes the Prime Minister and he is cheeky. When the Wimple family first meet him, he is dishevelled and has a massive twig in his hair, apparently because 'terribly tedious adults' were annoying him; he escaped by sneaking away through a secret passageway.

Some parts of the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee are intense, like when Boo has an asthma attack and is sent to hospital. Some are funny, like when India arrives at the spelling bee in her pyjamas and with knotty hair. It is also very comical when India is day-dreaming so almost misses her turn at spelling a word.

Many things in this tale can happen to spellers before going on stage. Nerves, doubting yourself, butterflies and headaches are all regular occurrences. I know for sure that I got nerves when I competed.

I think it is brilliant that with each chapter number there is a dictionary meaning for a certain word. It is like a clue for what might happen in the next part of the story. It is then put into a sentence, just like in a regular spelling bee.

The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee is a fun, light read with a fantastic storyline. I recommend it to kids aged 8+ 

I give The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee four bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd
ISBN: 978 1 92532 482 2

Reviews on this page:
The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee by Deborah Abela
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
by Jack Thorne
Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes
 by Rick Riordan

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children by Jen Storer

CLICK HERE FOR MORE REVIEWS

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne

Image: Dymocks.com.au

It seems like the whole world has been waiting for this book. At long last it is here…

THE GIST

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is about Harry Potter's kids: Albus, James and Lily. It follows their adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry up to their fourth year. They go back in time at the request of Amos Diggory to bring back his relative from the dead. Things do not go as expected…

THE JUDGEMENT

This book isn't a regular novel; it's the special rehearsal edition script for the play in London which premiered at the same time. It was written by Jack Thorne, though JK Rowling did help piece the story together. By releasing the play and the book simultaneously, the plot was shrouded in mystery until the opening day, Harry's birthday. Though it is written differently, it is an okay novel, although not very fast-moving. This also makes it faster to read.

The first chapter is basically the same as the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry is now in his thirties and works for the Ministry of Magic. He and his friends' kids are about to board the Hogwarts Express. Older brother James is always teasing Albus, saying he will be in Slytherin. It turns out he was right all along.

Readers can look forward to being reunited with their favourite characters like Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny. Time hasn't changed things between Ron and Harry; their relationship is the same as it has always been, if not more stable. Surprisingly Draco Malfoy and Harry get along better than they used to. The Dementors return, along with Professor Umbridge and Voldemort PLUS there is one more new enemy to watch out for. There are lots of new characters to get to know like Rose, Albus, Delphi and Scorpius. I liked Rose and Delphi the best. Rose is over-sensitive but once you get to know her she is quite nice.

Albus is a lot like Harry. He is angry and emotional but also courageous. Most of the other kids are more like Harry's wife who is sweet and brave. When Albus goes to Hogwarts and is sorted into Slytherin, he is teased twice as much as before by James.

I find that Harry doesn't really like being an adult. Ron definitely doesn't:

RON
"Honestly, every time I sit down I make an 'ooof' noise. An 'ooof'. And my feet - the trouble I'm having with my feet - I could write songs about the pain my feet give me - maybe your scar is like that." (Act 1, Scene 15).

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child can be very sad - even confusing at times. When Albus and Scorpius go back in time they find out that Albus would not exist if unless they set things right again. On the other hand, the story is hilarious in some bits. There is even one part where James receives a comb that makes your hair pink, for Christmas!

Does it feel like the first seven Harry Potter books? While JK Rowling was one of the story creators it is not as scary. Also, don't read this book if you haven't read the rest of the series. It just won't make sense.

I recommend Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to kids aged 9+. Be warned, there is kissing. While there are deaths, they are dealt with very gently.

I give Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book four bookbolts out of five. It is funny and enjoyable, but not as creepy as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I really want to see the play when it comes to Australia.

Publisher: Little, Brown
ISBN: ISBN 978-0-7515-6535-5

CLICK HERE to listen to my radio interview with ABC 97.3 Illawarra's Melinda James about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan is one of my favourite authors. You can read my review of The Red Pyramid HERE. In the Percy Jackson series he draws on Greek mythology and adds his own twists to create fantastic adventures. However, Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes is truer to the tales.

THE GIST

Cast yourself into the magical era of the Greek legends. Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes is a fascinating collection of classical heroes like Perseus, Theseus and Hercules. Each story is narrated by Percy Jackson, a fictitious teenage demigod who has had his own missions in other books by Rick Riordan.

THE JUDGEMENT

Line 1: "Look, I'm only in this for the pizza." How could I not read on? Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes is an awesome way to bring ancient Greek heroes to life. Percy tells the tales in a chatty, modern way that helps the reader understand what's going on. It was because of the Percy Jackson series that I started reading the original ancient Greek myths.

There are some really interesting characters. Psyche is a mortal girl who is so beautiful she is actually god-like. People worship her and Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, is NOT happy when she finds out. Then there is Atalanta who was abandoned by her father in the wilderness and raised by a BEAR. I particularly enjoyed the story of 'Otrera invents the Amazons (with free two-day shipping!)'. And a book about Greek heroes would not be complete without Hercules.

There are hilarious jokes in every chapter. For example, Hades, the god of the underworld, plays Hungry Hungry Hippos with Persephone, his wife. Then, there is the time Psyche needs to fetch beauty cream from the underworld and meets a 'lame ass-driver'.

Each chapter ends with a cliff-hanging clue of what the next one is about. This made it hard for me to put the book down!

I recommend this book to children aged 11+ because these ancient stories are really violent; there are bloody battles, man-eating sheep, animals are killed and a hero is decapitated.

This book is actually the second in a series but it works well enough on its own. The first is called, Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods which I have now bought because I enjoyed this one so much! I give Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes five bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Puffin Books

ISBN: 978-0-141-36225-0

Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children by Jen Storer

Image: booktopia.com.au

I bought this book on a whim at an airport and just happened to love it. Throughout the flight I was hooked and I don't think I noticed when the plane had landed.

THE GIST

Abandoned baby Tensy is discovered by accident by Albie Gribble. He collects the linen from the hospital doorstep and she just happens to be underneath. He cares for her while his angry and strict mother tells him to give her to a home. Later, Tensy falls into the clutches of evil Matron Pluckrose at the Home for Mislaid Children. When the Matron takes Tensy's beloved teddy, Mr Potpan off her, the Matron's assistant is kicked. Tensy isn't exactly off to a good start in her new home. Rescuing Mr Potpan is one thing, but taking on a deadly water spirit is another!

THE JUDGEMENT

Author Jen Storer is a terrific writer, describing scenes thoroughly and creating very likeable and rotten characters. Even the alarm clock has a personality:

"Matron Pluckrose smacked the alarm clock with such force that it stopped ticking. Then it gathered its senses, ground its gears and once more ticked bravely into the future."

I am always drawn to unlikely heroines like Tensy. She is small, skinny and has flyaway hair. She has fears like the best of us. She is bullied and not many kids like her.

Lythia is a terrifying mud woman. She used to be a guardian angel until she drove the person she was allocated to, mad. Lythia was sentenced to dwell as no more than a water spirit in a swamp-like lake.

Matron Pluckrose is the exact opposite of what you would expect from someone who works in childcare. The Matron is “like a bloodhound” when it comes to getting her hands on riches. She forces children to work for her, but they are not nice jobs and they do not get paid. The poor kids have to scrub floors, remove guts out of fish and perform other gross chores. She tries to poison people with needles before giving them to Lythia, lies and sends children to the dreaded chapel.

This book has some funny parts, such as when Matron Pluckrose goes bonkers and delivers an alarmingly loud speech. She talks in front of many important people, who now think she's mad, which of course she is.

There are also some grim scenes like when Tensy and her friends Howard and Polly are sent to the chapel for a night. This may not sound bad, but when they meet the Wailing Widow ghost, things get interesting.

This book best suits children aged nine and up because there are some frightening scenes.

I give Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children five bookbolts out of five.

Publisher: Penguin Group (Australia)

ISBN: 978 0 14 330437 1