Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Review: The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton

I recently posted my review of THE LAST CHANCE HOTEL by Nicki Thornton on my library's Facebook page:

THE LAST CHANCE HOTEL is the first book in the Seth Seppi series. We meet Seth, who is to all intents and purposes an orphan, working as a kitchen boy/general dogsbody to the Bunn family who run the Hotel. He is bullied mercilessly by their awful daughter Tiffany who is supposedly training to be a chef.

There is a grand event being held at the Hotel and Tiffany tricks Seth into making a dessert which is unsuitable for the main guest so Seth quickly rustles up an alternative and labels it for the main guest’s consumption only.

So when the main guest dies of apparent poisoning after sampling their special dessert, Seth is immediately the main and only suspect.

It is then Seth discovers that his cat, Nightshade, can talk and that magic is real. The main thing going for him is that the main detective doesn’t seem to think that Seth did it. Can Seth clear his name? And what else doesn’t he know about his home and its residents?

With its short chapters this is a quick read, and combines a locked-room-style mystery with Harry Potter-style magic. As well as a death there are a few punch-up scenes during the thrilling finale which might steer this to a slightly older children’s audience eg 9+ years.

THE LAST CHANCE HOTEL won the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition in 2016.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Review: Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm

I recently posted my review of ORION LOST my library's Facebook page:

ORION LOST by Alastair Chisholm is set on Orion, a colony spaceship leaving Earth and heading for the planet Eos Five, far far away. The story is told from the point of view of Beth who is thirteen. Her mum is an officer aboard the ship and her dad is also employed on the ship, as a farmer. Beth is training to be an officer herself and soon makes friends with her classmates with the exception of Vihaan, the arrogant son of Orion’s Captain, and his bullying friend Arnold.

For the ship to travel the necessary vast distances, every so often it must “Jump”. The Jump requires that everybody’s memories are backed up just prior to them going to “Sleep” and when they “Wake” the memories are restored.

All is going well aboard the ship, Beth is learning and they’ve made several successful Jumps. But then an unexplained shudder through the ship means everyone is put into emergency Sleep.

When Beth is next awake, it is to find that only her and her classmates can be awoken. The ship is way off the flight-plan, there is massive damage and fires are raging. This small crew has to learn to work together to save themselves, their families and the ship itself. They have to face numerous challenges, ranging from space pirates and mysterious aliens, to the ship’s Artificial Intelligence which might be hiding something, as well as their own fears.

ORION LOST is an absorbing read. It is a mystery, a thriller and a science fiction book all in one. There are lots of twists and turns and surprises and Beth is a character you can root for and empathise with. It appears to be a non-series book though I really would love a sequel.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Review: Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Missing Diamonds by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa

I recently posted my review of AGENT ZAIBA INVESTIGATES: THE MISSING DIAMONDS on my library's Facebook page:

AGENT ZAIBA INVESTIGATES: THE MISSING DIAMONDS, by Annabelle Sami and illustrated by Daniela Sosa, is the first book in a new series and introduces Zaiba, an aspiring detective, and her two sidekicks: her best friend Poppy and younger (half) brother Ali.

The story all takes place in the Royal Star Hotel where Zaiba’s cousin Sam and fiancĂ© Tanvir are having their Mehndi party.

Zaiba, in the best tradition of her hero Eden Lockett - a successful writer of detective stories based on events in her own life – is tasked with identifying the mysterious celebrity who is staying at the hotel. The female celebrity is staying with a small dog who has an expensively bejewelled collar. When first the dog goes missing and then the collar, it is up to Zaiba and her team to find both, solve the mystery and save the day!

I really enjoyed this book. There’s lots of action and use of initiative. All the characters have their individual strengths though Zaiba is on a bit of a learning curve to take notice of her friends’ suggestions at times. Alongside the text there are full-page and incidental illustrations dotted throughout.

Zaiba gets on well with her step-mum Jessica whom she calls mum but there is a mystery about the loss of her birth mum which I hope is revealed over the series. Zaiba feels close to her mum via the Eden Lockett books which she inherited as her mum had written little notes in the margins.

The second book is out in July and I look forward to it.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Review: The Blizzard Challenge by Bear Grylls

I recently posted my review of Bear Grylls' THE BLIZZARD CHALLENGE on my library's Facebook page:

THE BLIZZARD CHALLENGE is the first in the Bear Grylls Adventures series aimed at younger children.

In this first book we meet Olly who has been sent off to an adventure camp with his friend Jack. Jack loves this type of thing but Olly would rather be at home with his tv and creature comforts.

The boys are teamed up with Omar, who doesn’t think much of Olly and his impatient attitude soon has Olly deciding to wander off and leave his team to get on without him. Olly is then given a compass by a girl. The compass seems to have a fifth direction though he cannot read it.

Omar is not happy with Olly for abandoning him and Jack, and there’s a tense atmosphere in their tent. As Olly is trying to sleep, a cold wind blows through the tent and when Olly goes to close the door tighter he finds himself in the snowy mountains with a man called Bear.

Bear and Olly must team up and get away from the approaching storm. They will only survive as a team. During his adventure with Bear, Olly will learn some survival lessons and also how he can push himself to do better and how we are stronger together.

This is a short book with quite simple language with more difficult words explained by Bear eg hypothermia, and it shows the benefits of team-work whilst telling an adventure-filled story. It includes illustrations, provided by Emma McCann. The target audience is around 6+.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Free Ebook: The New Girl

As you may have seen Amazon are offering a number of free ebooks for children/young people at the moment. I recently spotted that Cathy Cole's first Heartside Bay book, The New Girl, was included in the freebies.

I reviewed books one and two here.

Download The New Girl here.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Review: Kat Wolfe Investigates by Lauren St John

I recently posted my review of Lauren St John's Kat Wolfe Investgates on my library's Facebook page:

KAT WOLFE INVESTIGATES, the first in a new series from Lauren St John, won CrimeFest’s, Best Crime Novel for Children (8-12) last year. And I loved it too.

After an unpleasant incident in their London home, Kat's mum, a veterinary surgeon, and Kat relocate to a slightly mysterious job in an idyllic Dorset sea-side town called Bluebell Bay. One of the conditions is that they take on the previous owner's cat, which is no ordinary British Domestic Shorthair... Plus Dr Wolfe has to be able to treat monkeys at the local sanctuary.

As it's the school holidays Kat is soon running her own small business – pet sitter for hire, and meets a temporarily housebound American girl of her own age (12) who has been thrown and badly injured by the very horse that Kat is to look after. Kat also offers to look after a parrot whose Paraguayan owner is returning home for a while. This latter job is what instigates an involving adventure with international implications.

This is a very rich book, with quite a complicated storyline. I don't want to say anything more about the plot but it is I think, quite an unusual story for this age group. Kat is a great animal-whisperer and not surprisingly her and her mum are vegan. She has a good heart and those around her respond to it. This book beams with good messages, has an exciting story and is quite funny as well.