Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Tracy Beaker is back, and she’s a mum now…

The Dumping Ground is far behind her, and Tracy Beaker has grown up, living on a tough housing estate with her daughter, Jess.

This time, it’s Jess telling the story.

Jess looks like a mini version of her mum- but she’s not quite as fiery. Well, not often. Jess and Tracy are living a hand-to-mouth existence on their estate, until Tracy meets up with someone from her past and their whole lives are turned upside down…

My Mum Tracy Beaker is a fantastic new story, reuniting readers with a much-loved old friend. Just like old times, it’s packed full of illustrations from Nick Sharratt throughout.

My Mum Tracy Beaker

Jacqueline Wilson

Doubleday

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

Even the redoubtable Tracy Beaker can get stuck in a relationship that is not all it should be. We meet Tracy and her daughter Jessica when Tracy has just started a new relationship with the wealthy and handsome ex-footballer Sean. But Jessica isn’t convinced that Sean is fond of Tracy’s famously independent ways and no-filter mouth. Tracy has to battle through finding and losing, then finding, love, finding and losing jobs and looking after her daughter with every fibre of her being. A heart-warming story of what really matters in life.

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New Zealand: Untouched Landscapes is a fresh and strikingly beautiful collection of landscape photographs that have been captured throughout the country by professional photographer, Petr Hlavacek. From our most iconic locations to harder-to-access and protected areas, New Zealand: Untouched Landscapes presents the pristine and diverse landscapes of this country, often from a new perspective.

Petr’s photography is motivated by the opportunity to promote greater public awareness of our fragile landscapes, a landscape he is passionate about protecting. Petr Hlavacek is an important new talent among New Zealand landscape photographers.

New Zealand: Untouched Landscapes

Petr Hlavacek

Potton & Burton

Supplied by Potton & Burton

Reviewed by Keith and Jacqui Smith

I think we’ve all seen those coffee table books full of pretty pictures of places in New Zealand; souvenir shops and airport bookstores specialise in them. At first glance this might seem to be more of the same, but although it does fill that niche, it is much, much more. Our first reaction on opening the book was “Wow!” And there was more “wow” on page after page. You may take it that we were impressed.

This is a book of New Zealand landscapes; some relatively familiar, some more remote, all pristine, magnificent, and full of untouched beauty. Some are positively primeval – the Lake Wahapo kahikatea forest at sunrise struck me as practically Jurassic, only somewhat lacking in dinosaurs. All are photographed with consummate skill – believe you me, we can only wonder at the effort it took to get just the right shot at the right moment. You may think that landscape photography is easy – and it’s true that getting a good landscape with a decent camera isn’t that hard – but getting shots of this quality is not at all simple. We had to admire the skill and patience involved.

I have only a couple of small quibbles. It was only when I came to write this review that I realised that the book has no page numbers, which is understandable on double-page spreads, but when the photos do not extend to the edges, page numbers could be useful to help find that kahikatea forest I was talking about! And I would have liked just a little more text in places, explaining the landscapes to those of us who like our geology. But otherwise, this is a beautiful work of art, far from just another souvenir picture book.

Little Kiwi doesn’t like doing chores. Why should kids do all the work, while parents take it easy?

But when a big storm blows through the forest, Little Kiwi finds himself in charge of some lost eggs. He is about to discover that a parent’s work is much harder than he thought . . .

And what’s this funny little bird with a shield instead of feathers?

Little Kiwi The Cool Mama

Bob Darroch

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Little Kiwi complains how being a parent is easy as they get the kids to do all the work.   Then he looks after eggs after a storm, keeping them warm till they hatch.  Suddenly he’s responsible for a whole heap of baby birds – and a Whatsit.  With Kakapo’s help he feeds them, teaches them to build nests and swim and fly (Kakapo) and realises it’s actually a lot of work being a parent.  But the rewards are worth it.

A fun new story in the Little Kiwi series, the illustrations are well-drawn and amusing, giving life to the story.  Lots of NZ native chicks are showcased and look very cute.

I didn’t realise a ladybird was in every illustration – this is the author’s signature.   Once it was pointed out I went back over each illustration.  Some were hard to find, some easy, but all were humorous and fit in so well with the story.

I wish I wasn’t the weirdest sixteen-year-old guy in the universe.’

Felix would love to have been a number. Numbers have superpowers and they’re safe – any problem they might throw up can be solved.

‘If I were a five, I’d be shaped like a pentagon … there’d be magic in my walls, safety in my angles.’

People are so much harder to cope with. At least that’s how it seems until Bailey Hunter arrives at school. Bailey has a stutter, but he can make friends and he’s good at judo. And Bailey seems to have noticed Felix:

‘Felix keeps to himself mostly, but there’s something about him that keeps drawing me in.’

Both boys find they’re living in a world where they can’t trust anyone, but might they be able to trust each other, with their secrets, their differences, themselves?

Invisibly Breathing

Eileen Merriman

Penguin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

Each generation grows up in a world that has changed since their parents were their age. When we are children we make a promise that we will be better parents than our own, a promise we forget as easily as we forget what it was like to be young. In this ‘coming of age’ novel, Eileen Merriman explores how much things have changed (what we will accept) and yet how much has stayed the same (people can be so cruel).

Invisibly Breathing is written from the point of view of a young boy, Felix, at a moment in time when figuring himself out includes figuring out love. For Felix, school and family mean dealing with the ripple effect of bullying and dangerous secrets before someone gets hurt.

Eileen Merriman has a whimsical style of writing, her characters are both quirky and familiar individuals; a snapshot of the youth of today’s society. This is a novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy the realism that a good ending doesn’t have to be happily ever after.

An all-new collection of short stories from the world of Magnus Chase!

How well do you know the nine Norse realms? Do you get all those heims mixed up?

Well, this collection of rollicking short stories – each set in a different world and told by a different character from the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series – will help straighten you out.

And even if it doesn’t, you’ll enjoy reading about how Alex saves Amir’s pants, Samirah plucks a giant’s harp, Mallory teaches a dragon how to throw down insults, and much more.

Just watch out for Thor, who is running through the whole thing and raising quite a stink . . .

Magnus Chase: 9 From the Nine Worlds

Rick Riordan

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

I get the feeling that Rick Riordan had these spare chapters that didn’t make the cut….But they are entertaining and have plenty of trademark snark.

Niflheim, Muspelheim, Asgard, Midgard, Jotunheim, Vanaheim, Alfheim, Svartalfheim, Helheim. Are you ready for mad shopping skillz, dragon insulting and seven other adventures from our favourite characters from the Magnus Chase series? Be nice to think that Hearthstone, Blitzen, Samirah, Alex, Jack, T.J., Mallory and Halfborn could stave off Ragnarok until Magnus gets back from holiday but maybe not…

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone . . .

Inspired by the original Hogwart’s textbook by Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original screenplay marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. A feat of imagination and featuring a cast of remarkable characters and magical creatures, this is epic adventure-packed storytelling at its very best. Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition for any film lover or reader’s bookshelf.

Fantastic Beasts and How to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

J. K. Rowling

Little & Brown

Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

This is not a novelisation of the movie, nor does it bear much relation to Rowling’s earlier work by that name (which was an in-universe work; essentially a bestiary for the wizarding world). No, it is what it says on the cover, the screenplay for the movie. Which made the eternal question of whether to read the book or view the movie first even more difficult. So, I came up with the bright idea of waiting for the DVD and them attempting to read the screenplay and watch the movie simultaneously. And no, that just does not work. But I did discover one thing – this screenplay really is the movie, line for line, direction by direction. It’s all here, except the special effects, and those really must be left to the imagination. Or memory, because I really would recommend watching the movie first in this case.

I found the book to be an interesting supplement to the movie. It added to it in unexpected ways – giving names to many characters that I missed in passing, and adding lots of small details. There is a helpful glossary of film terms at the back and I suspect that, given how rarely the screenplay of a popular movie is published in book form, film and media studies teachers will find the book quite useful. It’s quite a short read, and I have to admit that it did will take a while to get used to the format. It’s certainly a physically attractive book, with a nice 1920’s style about it, including clever drawings that hide creatures in scrollwork.  It’s not a novel… but if you enjoyed the movie, I think you will probably appreciate the screenplay, but if you didn’t like it, then this is not the book for you.

A wanderer and a cursed child.
Spells and magic.
And dragons, of course.
Welcome back to the world of Alagaësia.
It’s been a year since Eragon departed Alagaësia in search of the perfect home to train a new generation of Dragon Riders. Now he is struggling with an endless sea of tasks: constructing a vast dragonhold, wrangling with suppliers, guarding dragon eggs and dealing with belligerent Urgals and haughty elves. Then a vision from the Eldunarí, unexpected visitors and an exciting Urgal legend offer a much-needed distraction and a new perspective.
This volume features three original stories set in Alagaësia, interspersed with scenes from Eragon’s own unfolding adventure. Included is an excerpt from the memoir of the unforgettable witch and fortune-teller Angela the herbalist, penned by Angela Paolini, the inspiration for the character, herself!
Relish the incomparable imagination of Christopher Paolini in this thrilling new collection of stories based in the world of the Inheritance Cycle.

The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm: Tales from Alegaësia

Christopher Paolini

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Christopher Paolini broke onto the literary scene a few years ago with his debut novel Eragon. Which soon expanded to a trilogy. Of four books (don’t ask). His latest offering continues, in an oblique manner, the story of Eragon and the dragon Saphira. The book comprises three sections: The Fork, The Witch, and The Worm, each a separate tale not directly connected to Eragon, but linked by a theme given in the introduction to the section. While Christopher’s name adorns the cover, the second tale is penned by his sister Angela.

The premise of the book is that Eragon is facing a variety of challenges, mostly managerial, establishing his new dragon rider academy. The first story is a distraction from the mundanity of administration courtesy of the collective minds of the dragons past and future. The title of the vignette comes from the weapon wielded by a mysterious stranger befriended by a young girl. It was an okay read but seemed a little formulaic.

The next details a visit and the diary of Angela, a witch with an interesting ward, Elva the girl Eragon improperly blessed back in one of the previous volumes. Certainly there is a different voice here though it is similar to Christopher’s. This one works well even if the sub-chapters are a bit short.

The last section, Worm, is a great story, but Christopher needs to read more heroic epics, like Beowolf, or Gilgamesh, as his voice here was totally wrong. There was none of the pulsating passion, or oratorical balance epics have. I felt I was reading the Reader’s Digest Version. Too much tell, not enough show, and because the voice was wrong this was the weakest story in the book.

The book closes with an excerpt from Eragon, perhaps prompting a re-read of the series to fill in the mental blanks time has left.

I’d recommend this volume for the fans of Paolini’s work. But discriminating fans of heroic fantasy will be disappointed. Let’s just hope he has a follow up in the pipeline. I thank Penguin for supplying the review copy.s