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Book Reviews

Instead of publishing all my book reviews as posts, I will now be publishing them on this page.

Book Review

Conspiracy 365: January

Gabrielle Lord

“They killed your father, they’ll kill you. You must survive the next 365 days!”

When 15-year-old Callum Ormond is given this warning by a wild, crazed man on the streets, he doesn’t know the warning is a true one, or that his next 365 days will be full of bizarre, abnormal happenings.

When crazy things start to take place, such as almost drowning, being attacked by sharks, and being kidnapped, Callum knows that all is not as it seems.

When he is falsely accused of shooting his uncle and putting his little sister into a coma, Callum goes on the run. He must figure out on what side his Uncle Rafe stands, he must decipher his father’s mysterious letter and drawings, and most of all he must avoid not only the police, but the two different enemy groups that stand against him.

This is only the January edition of the Conspiracy series, there will be a new book published every month in 2010 until Callum Ormond has escaped his enemies for 365 days.

The question is, can he do it?

I liked reading this fast-paced novel and will continue to read the rest of the series as it comes out this year. These exciting stories will be enjoyed by ages 10+.

Gabrielle Lord, author of the Conspiracy series says, “I've loved writing this series and hope it brings suspense and thrills to all who read it.”

Book Review
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
By C. S Lewis

“They say Aslan is on the move. Perhaps he has already landed,” whispered the Beaver. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delightful strain of music has just floated by. And Lucy got that feeling when you realise it’s the beginning of summer. This tale begins when the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are sent to stay with an elderly gentleman while a war takes place in their city.
The house is large, and apart from the strict housekeeper, life is going well, but then something happens that will change everything.
Lucy is pulled by accident into another world called Narnia that is very different from her own. Here she learns of the White Witch, the prophecy, and the King of Narnia, Aslan.
At first her siblings do not believe her when she tells them of what she has seen, but soon all four are pulled into Narnia and they find themselves in a magical world where animals can talk, a witch makes it forever winter, and where there is a battle going on of good against evil.

This is a captivating fantasy story that you will not soon forget. It and the next of it’s series Prince Caspian have already been made into movies, and another, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, will come out later this year.
This book and the six other books that make up this classic series will be enjoyed again and again by children and adults for all ages.

Book Review
The Key to Rondo
Emily Rodda

The music slowed, and stopped. Leo wound the box again. One, two, three. As the music began, he heard his mother moving around in the spare room next door, and sighed. He wanted to forget that Mimi Langlander, his least favourite second cousin, was coming to stay.
Leo Zifkak is known in his family for being the responsible and dependable one. That’s why, when his great aunt died, he received the old music box that had been in his family for generations.
His cousin, Mimi, is known for being bratty and irresponsible. That’s why the two of them normally do not get on.
So when they’re both pulled into the magical world of Rondo that exists inside Leo’s old music box, Leo knows he must be the one to get them out of there, unhurt. Mimi refuses to leave until she finds her dog that the mysterious, evil Blue Queen has stolen, and Leo refuses to leave without Mimi.
With them both wandering around in the magical world of Rondo they’re sure to run into adventure.
I found myself unable to put this book down until I had read it, cover to cover, and I recommend it to readers aged 10-14.
An exciting adventure by the best-selling author of the Deltora Quest series.
Some other books by Emily Rodda are:

• Finders Keeper
• The Time Keeper
• Rowan of Rin series
• The Wizard of Rondo ( the sequel)

Chinese Cinderella: The Secret Story of an Unwanted Daughter

By Adeline Yen Mah

Chinese Cinderella is an enjoyable nonfiction book about the unfortunate life of a little girl, Adeline.

All through childhood, her brothers and sisters hated Adeline because her mother died while giving birth to her.

Since she was considered bad luck, she was mostly left to herself, feeling useless and unwanted. Her stepmother, a young Eurasian beauty, hated her and mistreated her. Adeline was despised, unloved, and sent away from home, but Chinese Cinderella is not just the story of that, but also the telling of how she defeated, and overcame all of these hardships to prove her value.

The author writes about her childhood, how she survived it, as well as telling a little about life in China during the 1940s and 50s.

I truly liked reading this book because Adeline’s childhood was full of interesting, yet sad stories.

A wonderful tale for ages 11 and up.

If you liked reading this book by Adeline Yen Mah, you might also enjoy Falling Leaves, a book for adults that expands on the moving story of her life.

I would rate this book three stars out of five.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons

By Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy

A long, long time ago in a nation far, far away, a young woman decides to try for something she has always wanted.
Buran, daughter of Malik, and the fourth of seven female children, has a dream.

It is not, to her parent’s disappointment, to stay in Bagdad and marry the man of their choosing, but to go out, travel, and trade.

Until her father got sick and they were in desperate need of money, Buran thought that her dream would never become more than that. It was all but common for a woman to think of such things.

But in an unexpected turn of events she is given a chance to fulfil her fantasies and she leaves all she has ever known, disguised as a boy and determined to rescue her impoverished family.

All is well at first, but then Buran meets Mahmud, a prince of Tyre, she finds herself falling in love with him. Problems arise when Mahmud also finds his feelings deepening into more than friendship and begins to put Buran through a series of tests to see if it is possible that she is a woman.

Buran must decide whether to reveal herself to Mahmud and lose everything that she has worked for.

This review can scarcely do the book justice as it is one of the most fantastic that I have ever read. It draws you in from the first sentence till the last.

This fiction novel will be enjoyed by ages twelve and older.

In an ancient Arab nation, one woman dares to be different.

Some other books by Barbara Cohen are:

• Canterbury Tales

• Even Higher

• People Like Us

• King of Seventh Grade

“Highly romantic.” –The Horn Book

Book Review

Prince on a White Horse

Tanith Lee

“It must be a spell, or perhaps a blow on the head – that thing when you forget everything – amsneezia, is it?”

“Amnesia,” said the horse.

“Then you can talk!” cried the Prince delightedly.

“Of course I can’t” said the horse. “Whoever heard of a horse talking?”

The Prince is not at all sure where he is, who he is, and what he is supposed to be doing. He has no idea about anything in the strange world that is ‘simply here’. All he knows is that he is in a land where strange characters such as Mad Witches, Bezzles, Buzzles, and Beezles roam around and horses talk (however much they deny it.)
Throughout this book, the Prince will come against many bizarre things before, finally, finding out who he is really is.
Every page holds humour and excitement that will keep you fascinated thoroughly from the first sentence to the last.
I have read and reread this funny, fantasy novel and would recommend it to older readers.
Tanith Lee has written over 50 novels, among them the best-selling Flat Earth series. Some of her other series are-
• Castle of Dark

• Secret Book of Paradys

• Tanaquil

• Claidi Journals

• Novels of Vis

Book Review
Archer’s Goon
Diana Wynn Jones

“Face the facts! This town in run by seven megalomaniac wizards!”
When Howard Sykes comes home to find a giant thug- the Goon- in his very own kitchen, life turns upside down for him and his family. Archer, one of the seven siblings that control everything in the town, sends the Goon to collect the two thousand words that Howard’s father owes him. When Howard's father refuses, the Goon settles himself inside their house until he is given what is owed, and, at their request, tells them all about the six brothers and sisters of archer

Although the Goon looks threatening, he’s easily bullied about little things and can almost be overlooked as an easygoing protector – a dangerous assumption to make, perhaps.
Things seem to get only worse as Howard begins to understand a little more about the dangerous siblings who run the town, and their motives.
Suddenly, the Sykes family is caught in the middle of wizard’s battle for power, and only Howard can save them!
This is a book with plenty of twists and surprises where nothing is as it seems.
I can easily recommend this book as one of the best I have ever read. Once again, I cannot do this book justice.
Diana Wynne Jones is a can’t-miss, fantasy author whose books include humour, an ample supply of magic, and an ingenious collection of alternate worlds.
Ages thirteen and older will immensely enjoy this fantastic, lively, science fiction novel.
Diana Wynne Jones has written many astonishing books, here are just some of her novels and series:

• The Chronicles of Chrestomanci

• Howl’s Moving Castle Series

• The Eight Days of Luke

• The Power of the Three

• Dark Lord of Derkholm

• Fire and Hemlock

Anastasia on Her Own

By Lois Lowry

“Think you could manage this household if you had a carefully thought-out non-sexist housekeeping schedule?” her mother asked.

“Of course,” Anastasia said. “Organized housekeeping is ridiculously easy, once you have a schedule.”
The Krupnik Family Non-sexist Housekeeping Schedule was designed at first to help Anastasia Krupnik’s stressed-out mother with her housekeeping, but when Anastasia’s mother has to go away for a week; Anastasia is left with the housekeeping, something she considered relatively easy until it actually became her job.
Things like Sam getting chickenpox and maddening telephone salesmen continuously calling, show Anastasia that housekeeping is not nearly as easy as she thought, even with a first-class schedule.
Things go from bad to worse when Anastasia suddenly needs to cook a gourmet dinner for her first date as well as chaperone for her father when his old girlfriend shows up on the same night.
I have read and reread the books in this series because I seriously enjoy the funny, light-hearted read that it provides.
Ages eleven to fourteen will delight in reading about Anastasia’s clever, amusing antics.
Some other books and series by Lois Lowry are:

• The Anastasia Krupnik Series

• The Sam Krupnik Series

• The Giver

• A Summer to Die

• Number the Stars

The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers

By Harry Bernstein

There are places that I have never forgotten. A little cobbled street in a smoky mill town in the North of England has haunted me for the greater part of my life. It was inevitable that I should write about it and the people who lived on both sides of its “Invisible Wall.”

It is right before the beginning of the First World War and Harry’s family struggles, like all the other poverty-stricken families in England.

Harry’s story begins with him delivering messages between two forbidden lovers. Forbidden simply because one is a Jew and one is a Christian. This is only the beginning of his story, though.

Throughout his book Harry tells of his cruel, alcoholic father, his mother’s great worry over money, and the secret, unlikely love between a Christian boy, Arthur and his sister, Lily. Most of all though, he tells of the invisible wall, a boundary that can only be separated by love.

Harry Bernstein, at age ninety-six, finally shared his story with the world in the form of The Invisible Wall, an amazing story of Harry’s early life in England during World War 1.

This is a well-written, gripping, vibrant story that will be enjoyed enormously by ages thirteen to adult.

Harry, now one-hundred years old, has written two other books, also biographies, which are called ‘The Dream’ and ‘The Golden Willow.’

The Family Nobody Wanted

By Helen Doss

“A little girl,” I said. “Donny’s such a sociable little boy. He ought to have a little sister.”

“Oh no,” Carl groaned. “Give my wife an inch and she wants a mile.”

“I don’t want a mile. I just want one more little baby.”

After finding out that she and her husband Carl couldn’t have any children, Helen Doss wanted nothing more than to adopt a child of their own.
‘The Family Nobody Wanted’ is about how she adopted and loved not one, but twelve children, of many different races and colour.

Helen reveals, through skilful and sincere touches, the astonishing story of how a family, though different, can come together, no matter the circumstances.
I read and reread this story a number of times because I love the genuine and humorous tales that fill the pages.
This biography is a matchless adventure that will be enjoyed exceedingly by ages eleven and older.

The Secret Life of Henry VIII

By Bob Fowke

King Henry VIII is well known for having six wives, this book is about things that he isn’t known for. It’s about his secret life.
For instance, did you know:


• Henry got so fat in his old age he had to be lowered on to his horse with a rope and a pulley.

• He separated England from Rome just so that he could get an annulment with his first wife, Catherine.

• Henry’s second wife was accused of being a witch because she had six fingers on one hand.

• When he finally divorced Catherine of Aragon, he dressed up in yellow, danced, and partied for days.

This book will tell you, not only these facts, but many more than you will not know about Henry VIII.
This is a fantastic book for ages nine to twelve. This age group will enjoy learning about the Tudor times through clever cartoons and witty stories.
The other books in this series are ‘The Secret Life of Elizabeth I’, ‘The Secret Life of Victoria’, and Bob Fowke has written many other historical books for children.

The Magic Forest of Goonoo

By Pat Clarke

From her perch, Maggie looked down into the truck. She gasped in horror. There were all kinds of cages, big and small, with nasty-looking animal traps and snares stacked in rows. She also saw sacks of birdseed, tins marked ‘poison’, and even some rifles and ammunition. These were no ordinary campers in the Goonoo Forest, she realised. These were trappers!

When the animals of the Goonoo Forest are alerted by Maggie Magpie of trappers nearby, the birds and animals of the surrounding area immediately become determined to get rid of them.
They come into a group to discuss what to do, but all of their thoughts and decisions seem hopeless. Then, Rover the Barking Owl comes up with a daring plan, to rid the trappers from the Goonoo Forest for good.
This soon-to-be-published book is a fantastic, well-written story that younger children will enjoy immensely. Its full-page illustrations, by Lynne Wilson, a talented artist from Gympie, are vibrant, colourful, and astonishingly realistic.

The book launch for this story will be held on the 2nd of December at 4:00pm at the Dubbo library. The author, Pat Clarke, will attend and talk about her book.
This is an enjoyable children’s book and I recommend it thoroughly.