Juvenile

bookcover: 
Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club
Author: 
Robert J. Harris
Publisher: 
Floris Books
Genre: 
Action-Adventure: 
Rating: 
7
ISBN/ASIN: 

9781782503538

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Review: 

Books for kids have a tall order. They should have a subtle (practically invisible) moral lesson that is delivered in a package that is fun, entertaining, not condescending. They should use language well, introduce the reader to new concepts, places, stories and characters, as well as make all those things relevant. And the instant the story begins to smell moral, young readers are out the door. Those old mystery books series like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys managed to fulfill all of the above, as well as write to a child's eye view, and introduce essentials like the importance of side-kicks. Robert J. Harris's Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club also does a pretty good job of filling this very tall order.

It seems a no brainer to pick young Artie Conan Doyle to be the inquisitive main character of a child mystery, but it is a perfectly genius concept. And of course, Artie must have a childhood sidekick to parallel Watson, hence the dependable and oft hungry Ham. Even the 'Gravedigger' title falls perfectly into the kid mystery genre, too. And where better to begin the tale than in the beautifully drawn murk of Greyfriars graveyard a week after the death of the most famous of loyal terriers, Grayfriar's Bobby?

Mix together ghosts, gravediggers, a mysterious tenant, the lady in gray, a couple of curious boys, and fantastic ambiance and you have a solid recipe to satisfy any reader's mystery appetite. Artie and Ham felt quite real to me as we were hot on the trail of the mystery. I even like well-read Artie's home library, and hope young readers will be inspired to check out Artie's favorite books. I recommend Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club to any kid (or adult) who would be interested in Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and even Sherlock Holmes. Meanwhile, I did a little research, and find myself intrigued by some of Robert J. Harris's other titles.

The Hardy Boys* meet Arthur Conan Doyle in Robert J. Harris's Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers' Club.

*(Okay, the Hardy Boys don't actually make an appearance in 1872. You probably knew that, but I figured I should make it really clear.)

bookcover: 
Author: 
Lari Don
Series: 
Fabled Beast Chronicles
Publisher: 
Floris Books, Myrick Marketing & Media imprint
Genre: 
Rating: 
8
ISBN/ASIN: 

Electronic: 9780863156366

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Review: 

As a parent, I can tell you firsthand that kids don't do what you say. They do what you do. It may be an adage, but adages become adages because the truth can only be hammered so many times before the words like fossils are cast in stone. Our adolescent heroine in First Aid for Fairies is Helen; and although she's not sweating over adages, she personifies this to a certain degree. First, Helen is not your ordinary little girl (if there is such a thing as ordinary.) Helen is a violinist, a student, and the daughter of a veterinarian. We learn that Helen's mother would like Helen to follow in her footsteps; instead, Helen wants to follow her great talent and her first love, which is music. But life throws her a complication when she is approached by an injured centaur named Yann who was bitten by some creature whose teeth she finds.

Yann has a wound that must be treated, and Helen treats it. And then she is drawn in to his quest when he returns to collect the teeth which belong to an evil creature. Her new friends include Lavender the fairy, Rona the selkie, Sapphire the dragon and Yann's best friend, a phoenix named Catesby. Helen's path is not an easy one. She must prove herself at every step, not only to her friends but to herself. As the healer's child, she becomes the healer for the little entourage. Helen grows in confidence, and makes careful choices, often having to weigh options which are not always black and white. There's an interesting twist as well—because these magical kids are trying to straighten up a mess they made. Helen is not the only one who has to prove herself. To join the magical creatures' secret quest, she must take items from her mother's medical practice, sneak out, keep secrets from her family, and allow her parents to believe the worst of her baby sister.

First Aid for Fairies is appealing on a number of levels. It is a fantasy adventure but introduces young readers to traditional Scottish mythological characters, and explores some of the Scottish countryside as well. And while Helen is surrounded by creatures of magic, she herself is solidly grounded in science and reality, heals based on the advice from books, and is usually the voice of reason and good sense. She's a good character for her young readers to relate to, because the choices she makes are so well-considered, and every decision comes with a lesson/consequence that isn't so heavy-handed that it will be ignored.

On the publisher's website, the book is considered to be an 8-12 reader; but there is no reason to limit readership to an age-group. Consumers of good vs evil quest-style fairy tale and fantasy will find the unexpected on every page, and love this book regardless of age.

© January 2012 Allie Bates

bookcover: 
Sea Change
Author: 
Frank Viva
Publisher: 
Myrick Marketing and Media, LLC
Genre: 
Rating: 
7
ISBN/ASIN: 

9781935179924

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Review: 

Twelve year old Eliot Dionisi gets sent off for summer vacation to visit his mother’s family in Nova Scotia. His parents think it will be a big adventure for him, but Eliot is not so sure he wants to see his Grandmother McNeil. He stays with his Uncle Earl who is a fisherman, and makes friends with some local kids from Point Aconi whose world revolves around fish and the boats that go out to get them.

Sea Change by Frank Viva is presented in a creative fashion, with child-like drawings that bring a youthful perspective to the table. Contrary to his expectations, Eliot discovers on his vacation the place that his Mother had "spent an entire summer in Point Aconi, and it was the best summer of my life." Eliot's summer vacation speaks of all summer vacations spent encountering strange friends, and encountering new foods and strange ways that only take a few months to feel like home.

What is appealing about this book is the nostalgia and romance of summers-gone-by.

However, there is also a looming threat from a coal manufacturer that never comes to a point. Maybe Frank Viva is planning more stories where the coal giant is taken on. If that whole thread had been left out, it would have been a better book. I am sure I was not the only one who spent the whole book waiting for that other shoe to drop. It never did.

bookcover: 
Author: 
Rue
Series: 
The Chronicles of Hawthorn, Book 1
Publisher: 
Sittin’ On A Goldmine Productions LLC
Genre: 
Fiction: 
Juvenile_: 
Rating: 
10
ISBN/ASIN: 

9780997311891

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Review: 

This is my second review of the book An Average Curse, Book One. I was alerted that extensive editing had been done, and could I re-read it to see if it improved. Boy has it ever. This book is something you will find yourself living in. A rare treat to find these days. You will feel the mist of New Zealand and ride the Moa Bird as you follow the learnings and mishaps of Flynn and her dearest friend Hazel. The Ninth daughter of the Ninth daughter, she was expected to be one of the most powerful Witches and help save the land from darkness. But from the time of her toddler days to her first class as an a spell caster in training, not even the most simple of spells could be done by her. She was quickly rumored to be nothing more than a Watcher. A person who can see others do their spells, but never herself. To help, her friend Hazel tries to cover up her folly by doing magic enough for two. Then they meet Po a young man, who was very clumsy except with his carvings and haphazard ways of doing things. Can the three of them get though their first sessions of learning spells and rescue their home from the beginnings of evil magic.

I rarely give out 10’s for stories, but if I could, I would give this a 20, its that good.
Nancy Louise
May 20, 2016

bookcover: 
An Average Curse
Author: 
Rue
Series: 
The Chronicles of Hawthorn, Book 1
Publisher: 
Sittin' On A Goldmine Productions LLC
Genre: 
Action-Adventure: 
Fiction: 
Rating: 
9
ISBN/ASIN: 

9780997311891

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Review: 

Most of our magical stories tend to have their roots going back to the great Black Forest that now resides in Germany, or the Misty Isles of the United Kingdom and even some from the Icy Scandinavia of Northern Europe to the Southern Isles of Greece and Italy. There is however in this book, a new land largely ignored or rarely studied enough to include the ingenious people outside of colonial history and imposed languages. I introduce to you, the Maori people. Long unknown by English speaking people in terms of their indigenous cultures. In this story you will find many of the standard magic and myths among the mist. From there An Average Curse, Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn

A child, the ninth daughter of the ninth daughter is brought up in the prophesy of being the one who would heal the riff between their two great nations on the small Island that is cut off from the rest of the world by a mist. The Riff is great enough that one says these nations are not brought together, will foretell and cause the end off all. This is a great deal to put on the shoulders of a young girl who from birth has been unable to show even the skills of the most simple spells. As if her magic was totally mute. But is it? As things move along and the time comes for her to pass magic test to advance in her learning, things are not all what they seem.

Fantasy has been growing to include ingenious people and their language to give more authentic texture to the stories an the root of all magic which is in the people, the land, and the sacred names by the people who have long live in its mist. The only reason I have given it less than ten, is some more editing is needed to correct some typos and sentence structures.

Nancy Louise
April 8, 2016

bookcover: 
Solar-Powered Showdown
Author: 
Bob Pflugfelder
Series: 
Nick and Tesla
Publisher: 
Quirk Books
Genre: 
Action-Adventure: 
Fiction: 
Rating: 
5
ISBN/ASIN: 

978-1-59474-866-0

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Review: 

The only reason I am giving this a five is for two basic problems. My Kindle view for the iPad was badly formatted and very difficult to read, with foot notes being mixed in with the story instead of, well a footnote. Also the story looked like it was in mid-editing, with the edited items left rather than removed or changed. I loved the gadget making sections and plan to try the hot dog maker since we are not allowed in our compound to do honest fire based BBQ, this could be an environmental run around.

Now this was the FIRST book I read in the six volumed series. Normally it is perfectly all right, if it was written to be able to continue a series and as a stand alone. Hey, I read it with Nancy Drew books, and I worked my way back and forth over the series. In this case, it not working for me. You almost have to read all the other books in order. A well-written book can handle the stories being read out of joint. In fact. they would inspire in you the desire to find the rest of the story without feeling like you have no clue as to who these kids really are.

The story had some good strong points though. I loved the science gadget make it help (already said) and I like the quirky personalities the characters had. My major problem is the pacing and how the book feels really less than half finished, almost as if they needed a fat outline to get the book approved, but never got around to actually writing the whole thing.

Nancy Louise