Tag Archives: Loyalty

The Prison Healer – Lynette Noni

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Penguin Australia

  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760897512
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $24.99

I’m going to have a lot of my secondary students clamoring for this one. They are huge fans of Noni’s previous books, both boys and girls and this is another intriguing dark fantasy (with some dystopian touches) thriller for them to enjoy.

Set in an infamous death prison, Zalindov, seventeen year old Kiva has survived ten years of imprisonment – not for any wrong-doing as such but because she was captured along with her father who was charged with consorting with rebels.

After her father’s death Kiva took up his role as healer, then only aged 12, and has become an indispensable but hated prisoner. Seen as the Warden’s pet and the first to deal with incoming criminals by treating them and carving the ‘Z’ into the back of their hand, Kiva is reviled by the other inmates and it is only the orders of Warden Rooke that keep her relatively safe and whole.

The warring factions in Kiva’s world, the royal family and the rebels, are intent on creating division and this extends to the prisoners as well. The rising tensions within and without the prison are causing increased pressure on Kiva’s work in the infirmary and her emotional balance, held in check for so long. When the Rebel Queen is captured, gravely ill, Kiva must try to save her for two different reasons. One is that the authorities have ordered the rebel leader to be well enough to undergo the Trials by Ordeal and the other is that coded messages from her siblings on the outside have begged her to keep the queen safe, that they are coming to rescue them both. The arrival of a strangely mysterious prisoner, Jaren, threatens to upset Kiva’s balance even more and when she, in desperation, volunteers to submit to the Trials in place of the still sick queen, she must lean on the young man for help to endure and survive. At the same time, she is trying to uncover the reason for the mystery illness that is wreaking havoc with the prisoners, who are dying in droves.

This is complex and exciting with many twists and turns. Astute readers will very easily be able to piece together the various pieces of the puzzle from the cleverly inserted clues within the narrative but this will in no way detract from a satisfying read. It is quite dark and there are concepts best suited to older and mature readers: drug use/addiction, torture and violence and sexual references but that being said, I don’t feel it would be necessary to restrict this to our senior students (we put a disclaimer inside the cover for books with more mature issues/concepts).

I have every confidence that this new trilogy will prove every bit as popular as The Medoran Chronicles and with the second volume due for release in September, fans will not have to wait too long.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14 years upwards.

The Storm Keepers’ Battle: Storm Keeper Trilogy 3 – Catherine Doyle

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Bloomsbury Australia

March 2021

ISBN:9781526607966
Imprint:Bloomsbury Children’s Books

RRP: $14.99

I have loved this series from the very start! The premise is so fresh and different, and full of so many wonderful themes, characters and fabulous magic.

Fionn and the Arranmore islanders are under siege from the evil Morrigan, her heinous brothers and her army of SoulStalkers. Black Mountain looms ever more menacingly over the island, threatening all with total annihilation. As the new Stormkeeper, Fionn knows that it is up to him to find some solution but how to do it? His best plan is to find the ancient sorcerer of old, Dagda, but that seems like an impossible ask.

To his aid comes old Rose, who it seems has been hiding her true identity for long ages. She is Róisín, First and Fearless, who fought alongside the mighty Dagda in the battle against Morrigan years and years ago. She tells Fionn how to find the Whispering Tree and thus be led to Dagda, an adventure fraught with tension and danger in itself. To Fionn’s utter astonishment, though he finds Dagda in one sense, it is not so that the ancient sorcerer can come to the island’s aid once again. That it would seem is entirely up to Fionn, as he is pronounced the new sorcerer and the islanders’ sole hope for salvation.

Fionn must learn to control his magic (which is, to his immense surprise, powerful indeed), empower the islanders as Stormkeepers themselves, each to their own clan and wield this combined force to defeat the darkness that is so near to engulfing them. Losing both his friend, Shelby, and his sister, Tara, to Morrigan almost proves his undoing but he digs deep into his newly found magical strength and with the aid of the clans and Róisín, the overwhelming odds are reduced and Fionn is revealed as the great sorcerer Dagda predicted.

The ongoing themes of family, loyalty, tradition, self-belief and selflessness, with references to Irish legends woven throughout, make for a thrilling and marvelous narrative and I am only sorry that we have reached the end of this trilogy.

Readers with a love of high fantasy and thrilling action, both boys and girls, from around 10 years upwards will absolutely love this series and I highly recommend it to you as a remarkable addition to your collection.

Pages & Co #3: Tilly and the Map of Stories – Anna James

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Harper Collins Australia

October 2020

  • ISBN: 9780008229948
  • ISBN 10: 0008229945
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

This series is so utterly charming and original that it has been such pleasure to read and review each of them. Tilly and Oskar continue their adventures with the ongoing quest to thwart the horrible Underwoods who have usurped the British Underlibrary. Book wandering has been prohibited and stories at large are under very real threat of being lost for all time.

Tilly has some clues gathered from story friends and others which she strongly believes might provide a sort of map to the Archivists – the legendary protectors of all stories and imagination. With her mother’s help Tilly and Oskar are off to America to meet up with Orlando and Jorge, her mum’s old friends and the best lead for the first signpost in Tilly’s possession. But the plan goes quickly awry when the pair find that even in America the Underwoods’ influence is infiltrating every layer of story.

It takes all their resourcefulness and courage to navigate their way through the intricate maze that their clues reveal but Tilly and Oskar are determined to not only save the world of stories but their very dear fictional friends. They are not unused to danger but this adventure, with its meandering journey, ultimately presents them with their biggest challenge yet. Can these two intrepid bookwanderers save story and imagination from complete annilhilation?

As with the first two books there are moments of real humour woven into the tension of the plot and readers will particularly find the appearance and help of William Shakespeare himself to be highly amusing.

I absolutely adore this series and have recommended it to many young readers who have all enjoyed it equally. If you’re late to the party I’d suggest you put all three on your orders list for the new year.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

Hollowpox: The Trials of Morrigan Crow. Nevermoor #3 – Jessica Townsend

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Hachette

SEP 29, 2020 | 9780734418241 | RRP $17.99

Huzzah! It has finally arrived! We’ve all been waiting with great impatience but at last the next instalment is here. And what a corker it is! Not only is it gripping and full of new revelations but has most uncanny parallels to our current parlous circumstances.

Morrigan is looking forward to her new studies at Wunsoc and the delicious anticipation of her second Christmas in Nevermoor as well as many other delights but there is a dread development overtaking her adopted home.

As Morrigan is introduced to deeper studies as part of her Wondersmith training by virtue of insights into long-gone but carefully preserved lessons, a bizarre and deadly illness is infecting Nevermoor’s Wunimals. Normally peaceable and productive members of society, the affected Wunimals are becoming wild and vicious unnimals attacking without reason anything and anyone in their path and eventually succumbing into a sort of ‘hollow’ torpor losing all traces of their unique ‘wunimal-ness’.

As the mystery virus takes hold with more and more Wunimals becoming infected and causing grievous bodily harm and even deaths, the residents of Nevermoor become violently divided in their reactions. Some vociferous in their protests that the Wunimals one and all are a menace to society, some in complete denial that the illness exists while others work as hard as possible to find a cure and save all lives – sound familiar?

Morrigan begins to see that it is going to be up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox but doesn’t quite bargain on her arch-enemy Ezra, the disgraced and feared Wondersmith, being the one who will lead her to it – though by very convoluted and mysterious ways.

As the young Wondersmith grows in her mastery of the Wretched Arts she is able to see more, do more, achieve more and manipulate the world around her more and while she still faces dire challenges and dangers, as she weaves her wundrous way through each new obstacle until she attains success, she is able to attain success, despite all odds.

This is not simply a new adventure filled with thrilling and and tense episodes but a very revealing insight into human nature and an ‘en pointe’ comparison to much of the disparate, and often extreme, responses we have all witnessed in recent times.

Fans, young and old, will relish this latest in the lives and events of Nevermoor and Morrigan and, like me, will be unable to put it down until they are done. And immediately, we will all be waiting with bated breath until we are able to re-visit Nevermoor, Morrigan, Jupiter and Fen – along with all the other marvellous and rich characters we have all grown to love so much.

Naturally it needs no recommendation – most of those I know have had their copy on pre-order forever!!

The One and Only Bob – Katherine Applegate

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Harper Collins Australia

  • ISBN: 9780008390662
  • ISBN 10: 0008390665
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
  • List Price: 14.99 AUD

For all of us who fell in love with the story of Ivan and his friends, this is such an exciting new release – and all I can say is if you haven’t read The One and Only Ivan – what are you thinking?! Get to it now before the long-awaited movie adaptation comes out!

Ivan and baby Ruby are happily living in the zoo that is their new home. Ruby is the darling of her adopted elephant herd and Ivan even has a girlfriend while Bob, the indomitable little dog who is their best friend, is living with Julia and her parents. NOT that he is a pet you understand – but he does accept the regular feeding, cuddles and being looked after without too much complaint. Luckily, Julia’s dad now works at the zoo and Bob is able to visit his friends regularly – with the keepers all turning a blind eye to the general rule that dogs are not allowed in.

It would seem that all is smooth in the lives of this strange but tight animal trio but when their town is hit by a hurricane that becomes a tornado all is chaos. The zoo suffers much damage and they are caught up in the destruction and the subsequent consequences. Added to this drama is Bob’s discovery of his long-lost sister whose life has been both scary and traumatic, though she brushes it all off with seeming carelessness.

Bob may be small but his spirit is huge – something already demonstrated in the earlier book – and again, this canny canine proves his worth as a hero of epic proportions.

Once again Katherine Applegate has written a tale that epitomises the true meaning of friendship, loyalty, family and home. Readers, young and old alike, will revel in the continuation of the story of this extraordinary animal and human family.

My highest recommendation for this new sequel to a truly amazing story, which was inspired by the true story of Ivan, the magnificent silverback, who became the most famous resident of the Atlanta Zoo.

The Tell – Martin Chatterton

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9781760895945

Penguin Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781760895945

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

OMG whoahhhh! If you struggle at times to get some of those middle school reluctant readers engaged with a great book (who doesn’t?) this is definitely a ‘must have’!

Pure adrenalin pumping action from start to finish, this a narrative that is tense, at times grim but with fabulous concepts of the meaning of loyalty, family expectations, ethics and courage throughout.

Raze Tanic is in many ways an average teen boy whose passion in life is creating street art (yes, graffiti but classy) with his two best friends, Ids and Candy. Together they form MCT and plan to be the best street artists in Sydney. However, Raze is far from average given that he is the son of Dejan Tanic, head of the biggest crime syndicate going and currently serving time – long time – in The Coffin, a high security jail out of Sydney. Older brother, Solo, is already firmly entrenched in the family business but Raze is determined to stay clear of it, a dilemma that has bothered him for quite some time as he anticipates his father’s fierce response. So he is well and truly astonished when during his much-hated jail visit and bravely telling his father of his decision, Dejan is not only understanding but seemingly supportive. Little does Raze know that it’s because Dejan is distracted, awaiting his ‘escape’ plan to come to fruition and when it does, all hell breaks loose.

Dejan’s bold and daring escape, executed with perfect precision, instigates the biggest manhunt ever but also triggers out-and-out warfare with rival crime boss, Jonjo Sullivan and it is Raze who is caught in the crossfire.

Ids and Candy have his back but their help is complicated by the fact that Candy’s father is Don Cooper, chief cop in charge of the operation to re-capture Tanic Senior and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Murder attempts, arson, crooked cops, betrayals, domestic violence, cat-and-mouse chases, narrow escapes and more, all over Sydney, unravel at lightning speed leaving the reader practically breathless.

The energy and intensity of the narrative is superb and the characterisation of the three teens so well done – Martin has captured their ‘voice’ perfectly. Their resilience, ingenuity and sheer daring will appeal to even the most disengaged reader in my opinion and there is no doubt that this would also make a fabulous ‘read aloud’ for those 7/8/9 kids who disdain novels.

I’ve already recommended this to my Choclit group and promoted it on our library home page but will certainly be giving it a lot of ‘book talk’ time (whether that’s real-time or virtual). It’s definitely one to add to our eBook collection as well and I’m pretty selective about those, only adding what I judge to be a ‘winner’.

Do your collection and your teens a huge favour and make sure this one is added to your shelves – you won’t regret it and nor will they!

Highly recommended for readers from around 13 years upwards.

Check this out!

The Good Hawk: (Shadow Skye – Book 1) – Joseph Elliott

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1567475540141

Walker Books Australia

February 2020

ISBN: 9781406385854
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99

 

Enter a fabulous new adventure-fantasy series that will not just enthral readers with its ‘difference’ being set in a fictional parallel landscape but with its wonderful celebration of another type of difference. Agatha and Jamie are of the Clann-a-Tuath, one of the clans on the isle of Skye and a clan which has abandoned the practice of marriage or child-raising by defined parents. In this clan the whole community takes responsibility for children who are assigned to roles as they grow older. Jamie has become an Angler going out on the boats to fish – which he hates because of his terrible sea-sickness. Agatha is assigned as a Hawk, one who watches from vantage points to protect the clan from invaders. Agatha too has some difficulties with her role although she is closely supervised because as the reader realises from the start, Agatha is ‘different’. Some refer to her as ‘broken’ but others in the clan accept her difference and help her to develop her strengths, such as Maistreas Eilionoir.

In complete contradiction to their long-held customs the clan has arranged a marriage between Jamie and a girl of the clan Raasay in order to (so they think) ensure a strong alliance. In fact, they have been duped and clan Raasay betray them to the deamhain from far-off Norveg, ruthless barbarians with cruel intentions.

So begins an epic quest as Agatha and Jamie, the lone survivors of the attack, determine to track, find and rescue their captured clan members. To the mainland of Scotia where people have long been wiped out by a dreadful plague released upon them by the evil King Edmund in the south the pair flee, reluctantly taking along a captured deamhan who claims to be a prince in his own land, as a bargaining chip. Along their way they encounter a strange tribe, riders and companions of shaggy Highland cattle, who become allies and even stranger a mad Queen who has somehow survived plague and shadow beings alone in her castle for forty years. The rescue is arduous and long and always fraught with danger but throughout both Jamie and Agatha, who may be ‘broken’ but also has special powers, prove themselves as worth heroes over and over again, despite all odds.

This is fantastical, creepy, at times violent, but ultimately a wonderful tale of bravery, loyalty and compassion.

Elliott draws on his experience of working with children with special needs to create a memorable character, in Agatha, who is able, intuitive, fiercely loyal, sweet and funny in spite of, or perhaps because of, her Down’s Syndrome. Jamie is equal to her in many of these attributes and is able to conquer his fear, which is after all the true measure of courage, and draw on hidden strengths.

Readers from around 12 years upwards will love this for its unusual settings and characters, the use of adapted and invented languages and the full-on adventure of the rescue mission.

The Adventures of Catvinkle – Elliot Perlman

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catvinkle

Penguin Random House

9780143786368

October 1, 2018

Puffin

RRP $19.99

 

Well regarded author of adult books Elliot Perlman has ably proven that he can turn his hand just as easily to writing for children with this first book for younger readers. It is delightfully whimsical and carries a literary flavour of its Amsterdam setting within its text with an enviable ease (very reminiscent of Annie M. G. Schmidt’s beautiful classics).

 

Catvinkle is a much pampered only pet of a charming barber in Amsterdam. She is exceedingly beautiful and certainly talented in some ways but also very definitely selfish and rather casual with the truth. When her owner Mr Sabatini brings home a rather forlorn and neglected Dalmation named Ula, Catvinkle is extremely unimpressed to say the least. An intruder into her cosy parlour and water bowl and a dog to boot is the last thing with which she wants to contend. It will completely ruin her social standing in Kittens Anonymous for one thing!

 

Ula’s sweet nature and compliant personality win Catvinkle over slowly (of course her delicious musky smell which acts intoxicatingly on the cat helps) but it also endears her to others as she breaks down barriers between not only cats and dogs but dogs and dogs!

 

The subtle themes of anti-racism, anti-bullying, acceptance, tolerance, friendship and loyalty are delivered in a wonderfully funny story where cats who baby-shoe dance, fly with tail propellers and llamas who play backgammon are quite the norm.

 

Readers from around eight years upwards will delight in this magical story of animals whose lives seem to mirror those of humans.