Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

An unexpected inheritance gives the Heffley family a chance to make major improvements to their home. But they soon find that construction isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When things get rough, will the Heffleys be able to stay…or will they be forced to move?

Wrecking Ball: Diary of a Wimpy Kid #14

Jeff Kinney

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Dylan Howell

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball is the 14th book in the bestselling series of kids fiction books written and illustrated by American author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney. It presents another thrilling compilation of events from the life of ‘Wimpy Kid’, Greg Heffley, who compiles dozens of anecdotal insights into the life of himself and his family with every novel. The series has been a success ever since 2004 when the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid (DOAWK) was released on kids’ website ‘FunBrain’ where it received 20 million reads. DOAWK ‘Wrecking Ball’ continues the success of this series in a hilarious new story.

In DOAWK ‘Wrecking Ball’ Greg Heffley and his family embark on a brand new adventure, after receiving an inheritance large enough to convince the Heffley’s to make some home improvements. Of course, hijinks ensue -Mould, rotting wood, rodents living where they shouldn’t be, and Greg is struggling to cope with the potential loss of his best friend, providing new material in another triumph of originality for the series. Which is at heart, a slice-of-life comedy series that shouldn’t be missed by anyone.

As a long time reader of these books, I’ve grown up with the DIAWK series, with Greg Heffley being one of the first protagonists I could ever relate to. Somehow, through over 15 years of writing, and drawing, and his audience of people like me growing up, Kinney manages to make me laugh every single time and I make sure to never miss any new novel. His books are like magic, with every new story he uses his wit and humour to stack up the pieces and jokes so expertly it’s mind blowing when he knocks them all down at the end and you feel like you’re watching the events on the page unfold for real.

More than once did I laugh out loud reading this, the 14th book in the series. These stories are timeless, endlessly original and enjoyable for any age. Diary of a Wimpy Kid deserves all the credit I can give, and this book is another perfect installment in the series that just won’t stop putting out knockout tales from the life of Greg Heffley. I can recommend this book for ages 7+. If you love David Walliams, or Roald Dahl, or if you’re a plain funny human being, I can easily say this explosive comedy novel is for you.

 Spring, 1919. James ‘Max’ Maxted, former Great War flying ace, returns to the trail of murder, treachery and half-buried secrets he set out on in The Ways of the World. He left Paris after avenging the murder of his father, Sir Henry Maxted, a senior member of the British delegation to the post-war peace conference. But he was convinced there was more — much more — to be discovered about what Sir Henry had been trying to accomplish. And he suspected elusive German spymaster Fritz Lemmer knew the truth of it.
Now, enlisted under false colours in Lemmer’s service but with his loyalty pledged to the British Secret Service, Max sets out on his first — and possibly last — mission for Lemmer. It takes him to the far north of Scotland — to the Orkney Isles, where the German High Seas Fleet has been impounded in Scapa Flow, its fate to be decided at the conference-table in Paris. Max has been sent to recover a document held aboard one of the German ships. What that document contains forces him to break cover sooner than he would have wished and to embark on a desperate race south, towards London, with information that could destroy Lemmer — if Max, as seems unlikely, lives to deliver it.

The Corners of the Globe: The Wide World Trilogy #2

Robert Goddard

Bantam Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Spring, 1919, and former RAF pilot James “Max” Maxted is on the trail of the German spymaster Fritz Lemmer. But Max is playing a dangerous game, that of double agent. He wants to avenge the murder of his father, Sir James Maxted, killed recently in Paris and to take down the spy ring that Lemmer has constructed before, during and after WWI. His first task is to recover the Grey File, held by a German Captain aboard one of the battleships interned at Scapa Flow. Max knows this is a test and that Lemmer doesn’t entirely trust him.

Thus opens the second of Goddard’s The Wide World trilogy. The story flits between Max, his associates in Paris, and his family. All must face threats from hostile parties as they attempt to get to the crux of their own mystery. Naturally, a lot of this was foreshadowed in the first volume, The Ways of the World.

Goddard has a generally breezy style well suited to the political thriller/whodunnit and I found this novel to be a satisfactory page-turner. The characters are fairly well rounded and not complete stereotypes. The plot moves at an acceptable pace, and the mystery stays mysterious – kind of important as this is the middle book of a trilogy.

I liked The Corners of the Globe and want to read the finale, The Ends of the Earth in which I expect the main protagonists to have a Japanese vacation.

London is a city on wheels – a future city like you’ve never known before. In the terrible aftermath of the Sixty Minute War, cities which survived the apocalypse became predators, chasing and feeding on smaller towns. Now London is hunting down its prey, getting ready to feed. But as the chase begins, Tom uncovers a secret – a secret full of deadly consequences. Soon he is plunged into a world of unkillable enemies, threatened by a weapon that will tear his life apart…

Mortal Engines: Mortal Engines Quartet #1

Phillip Reeve

Scholastic

Purchased at Scholastic Book Fair

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

Everybody was saying how good it was, and Peter Jackson was going to make the movie, so I bought the book. And as I read it, my mind refused to relax and buy into the dystopian steampunk setting. I have no trouble as a rule – I like steampunk – but the central premise, the rolling cities, made the practical part of my brain that does physics and engineering hurt. I kept thinking that the only way to do this is with antigravity – and if you’ve got that, why not go full spindizzy and make those cities fly? Yes, it’s been done, and done better, many years before – try “A Life for the Stars” from Cities in Flight by James Blish. Oh, and where on Earth did all the water go? Yes, a dried-up (or washed-out) planet is a dystopian staple, but seriously?

Admittedly, I can see why people like the characters and it’s not really a bad story, but I really can’t bring myself to pick up the next book in the series, even though I already bought a copy.

 

The Amulet of Samarkand

When the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus is summoned by Nathaniel, a young magician’s apprentice, he expects to have to do nothing more taxing than a little levitation or a few simple illusions. But Nathaniel is a precocious talent and has something rather more dangerous in mind: revenge. Against his will, Bartimaeus is packed off to steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a master magician of unrivalled ruthlessness and ambition. Before long, both djinni and apprentice are caught up in a terrifying flood of magical intrigue, murder and rebellion.

Set in a modern-day London controlled by magicians, this hilarious, electrifying thriller will enthral readers of all ages.

The Golem’s Eye

Two years have passed since the events of The Amulet of Samarkand and the young magician Nathaniel is rising fast through the government ranks. But his career is suddenly threatened by a series of terrifying crises. A dangerous golem makes random attacks on London and other raids, even more threatening, are perpetrated by the Resistance. Nathaniel and Bartimaeus travel to Prague, enemy city of ancient magic, but while they are there uproar breaks out at home and Nathaniel returns to find his reputation in tatters. Can he rescue it from his Machiavellian adversaries in the government bent on his destruction?

Ptolemy’s Gate
A thrilling sequel in which the relationship between the young magician and the djinni remains as teasing and complex as ever.

Three years on from the events in The Golem’s Eye, the magicians’ rule in London is teetering on a knife-edge, with strikes, riots and general unrest. The Prime Minister is largely controlled by two advisers, one of whom is 17-year-old Nathaniel. Meanwhile, living under a false identity, Kitty has been researching djinn; she has come to believe that the only way to destroy the magicians is with an alliance between djinn and ordinary people.

Kitty seeks out Bartimaeus and embarks on a terrifying journey into the djinn’s chaotic domain – the Other Place – which no human being has ever survived. But even as she does so, Makepeace engineers a dramatic coup d’etat.

The outcome is a shattering of the magicians’ control and all magical laws are turned upside down. Can Bartimaeus, Nathaniel and Kitty settle old scores to prevent the earth’s destruction?

The Bartimaeus Trilogy:

  1. The Amulet of Samarkand
  2. The Golem’s Eye
  3. Ptolemy’s Gate

Jonathan Stroud

Doubleday

Purchased at a second-hand book fair

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

If you’ve wondered why the wizards in Harry Potter aren’t ruling the world…. Well, in the Bartimaeus trilogy, they are. Magic is the province of an elite who command the powers of djinni and other spirits from the “Other Place” and they rule with a staff of iron. Literally, to some extent, since one of the major artefacts in the stories is the Staff of Gladstone.

The sixth book in a bestselling junior fiction series inspired by true stories from the Wilson Sisters’ childhoods. It’s a whole new world . . . rescuing an injured stallion!

In the sixth Showtym Adventure, Vicki will stop at nothing to save a crippled beach-racing stallion.
When Vicki and her sisters discover that horses are roaming on country roads because the locals can’t afford to fences contain them, their eyes are opened to a whole new world of hardship.

Then Vicki meets Pepe, a prized beach-racing stallion crippled by mistreatment. The owner can’t pay for a vet and, fearing the beaten horse may die, the Wilsons take Pepe in.

Will Vicki be able to save the injured racer? And will Pepe accept his new life after galloping at full speed?

This story of hope and recovery is inspired by the Wilson Sisters’ early years.

Pepe, The Beach Stallion: Showtym Adventures #6

Kelly Wilson

Puffin

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

The Wilson sisters, parents, and their horses visit some friends on their huge farm during the school holidays.  Amanda, Kelly, and Vicki have so much fun riding horses and motorbikes and exploring the farm with their friends.  The farm offers horse trekking rides and the Wilson’s dad helps his friend, Mike, clear some tracks to use.

The girls hear that stray horses found loose on the roads will be shot by the council, so arrange for Mike – the local vet –to be called first the next time a stray is found.  They quickly get a call about four stray horses roaming and are successful in capturing them for the council.

Locals soon discover what they’re doing and they get a call for help from the owner of a stallion.  Pepe is a very fast pony used to beach racing and being ridden without a saddle or bridle.  He’d gone missing for a day and been returned with his legs damaged and hooves a worn-down, bloody mess.  His owner offers to give him to the Wilson’s as payment for fixing him.  They take him home to nurse him and the Wilson sisters’ adventures begin!

The real-life Pepe is featured in the back of the book. Along with an introduction to characters and a guide on jumping.  I really enjoyed the story, which is based on actual events.  Any horse-mad girl needs to read this book.

Introducing an exciting new approach to stargazing in the southern hemisphere, this book features step-by-step routes to help you easily identify key constellations across the southern night sky.

Stargazer takes you through constellations one-by-one, linking them together as you progress using easy-to-follow star routes that guide you across the celestial sphere. Adapted carefully for the southern hemisphere, this book is perfect for budding astronomers learning to navigate our expansive and fascinating universe. Complete with practice exercises, stunning colour photography of nebulas and galaxies, and amazing facts about our solar system and beyond, this book is a reliable and exciting new guide to our skies.

Stargazer: A Step-by-step Guide to the Southern Night Sky

Dorling Kindersley

Penguin Random House New Zealand

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Stephen Litten

Stargazer was originally published as a northern hemisphere guide, but thanks to the team at Penguin Random House Australia it has been updated to aid in the identification of constellations and major star clusters in the southern hemisphere. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is retained from the UK edition, and is ably assisted by Ian Ridpath and Patrick Armstrong, two Australian astronomers.

The book is divided into 6 sections: an intro to stargazing, 4 routes around the southern sky, and a brief extro concerning planets and the like. Why constellations and not stars? Because the sky is divided into constellations with the named stars tied to the various constellations. Thus, Antares sits in Scorpius and Betelgeuse in Orion. The routes traced are: Crux to South Celestial Pole, Orion to Pleiades, Scorpius to Galactic Centre, and Piscis Astrinus to Large Magellanic Cloud. So, while the southern skies don’t have a naked eye visible polar star, we do have the better view of the Milky Way plus the Magellanic Clouds. There are plenty of illustrations and enough text to illuminate these.

What are missed are some of the constellations that straddle the ecliptic. These include some of the zodiacal ones like Virgo and Leo as well as non-zodiacal ones like Cetus and Ophiucus. So this really is an introductory guide. Not having the original northern hemisphere version, I can’t quickly check to see if the omissions in this are completed by that.

I found the book to be aesy to follow. Finding the constellations was generally simple (when the weather cooperated). I live in south Auckland and I could achieve adequate viewing conditions by just stepping out the back door, so it is applicable most of us southern hemisphere types. Price is reasonable for a firm-cover edition, $37, and it’s not too bulky so can be carried outside with you. Thank you to Penguin Random House for the review copy.

It is a peaceful morning and Scarface Claw is happily snoozing in a spot in the sun, tail curled around and feet tucked in.

Suddenly,
there was a shudder and sway,
the whirr of an engine,
then off and away.

And then off goes the truck down the drive – with Scarface ON TOP! Clinging on to the roof of the truck, Scarface zips along streets with his owner, Tom, oblivious to his rooftop passenger and everyone trying to get his attention as he drives along … who will come to poor Scarface Claw’s rescue?

Inspired by true stories of cat owners driving off without realising their cats are on the roofs of their cars, Scarface Claw’s latest adventure will have readers getting just as involved in the story as the bystanders trying to get Tom’s attention!

Scarface Claw Hold Tight!

Lynley Dodd

Puffin MR

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

A delightful tale of Scarface Claw and his wild adventure of going for a ride on a car roof.  The story is told in short, rhythmic paragraphs and simple sentences that are alliterative and fun.  The illustrations are superb, very realistic while being entertaining.

The book itself is a board book with solid cardboard pages that won’t be torn by little fists.  This is another enjoyable picture book featuring the mighty Scarface Claw in the much-loved Hairy Maclary and Friends series.  I highly recommend all babies and toddlers be immersed in the Hairy Maclary world and this book is a must-have!