Posted in Young Adult Fiction

Book Review: Reckless III – The Golden Yarn

Reckless III: The Golden Yarn

By Cornelia Funke (Murdoch Books)

PB RRP $24.99     ISBN 9781782691266

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Fairytales have long told of magic mirrors and Cornelia Funke’sReckless series – a story inspired by the Grimm brothers – features one that is a portal to an alternate fantasy world (‘Mirrorworld’).

In The Golden Yarn, Jacob discovers a Rumpelstiltskin-like character (Spieler) in the human world, while trying to hide the legendary crossbow he found in Living Shadows. It seems the Reckless brothers are not the only ones who can cross between worlds … and theirs is not the only mirror.

Funke slowly weaves us through the plots and subplots of this third story in the series, as we absorb the details of the world she has built. First, Kami’en and Amelie’s baby goes missing. Then, the Dark Fairy disappears. Clara is in a Sleeping Beauty slumber so Will is seeking the Dark Fairy. Jacob is looking for Will … with several distractions along the way. He meets elf siblings, ‘Sixteen’ and ‘Seventeen’, who steal faces from mirrors to disguise themselves. He also meets … his long-lost father! Having struck a painful deal with Spieler, Jacob keeps his distance from his true love (Fox), who then falls in love with someone else. We also learn more about Will’s cursed skin from the first book,The Petrified Flesh.

This series will appeal to young adult readers of fantasy, particularly fans of Funke’s prior works (such as the Inkheart trilogy). Reading the first two novels in the series is a must as Funke releases crucial details at different points across the series. There is always a sense that she knows much more than she has revealed! Admittedly, this can either hook her readers or frustrate them.

Funke has revised and re-released The Petrified Flesh, retaining the original story but adding more depth to her characters. (The portrayal of darkness and light in her characters is definitely her forte, with her writing beautifully depicting the hesitation in their actions.) The second novel, Living Shadows, has also been re-jacketed. She is currently working on a fourth book in the series.

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website:

Posted in Young Adult Fiction

Book Review: The Amateurs

The Amateurs

By Sara Shepard (Allen and Unwin)

PB RRP $16.99     ISBN 9781471405266

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

What really happened the day 17-year-old Helena Kelly disappeared? Did somebody take her, or did she choose to leave? Helena’s body was found four years later, not far from her family home, but the police couldn’t solve the murder and eventually closed the case. Aerin, Helena’s younger sister, seems to be the only one fighting for answers. Now aged 16 years old, she feels disengaged with the world (and her parents) but masks her depression by distracting herself with whatever means are available at wild teenage parties. At home, her sister’s death is all she can think about. She finds herself logging on to a website called ‘Case Not Closed’, and posts a desperate plea for help in finding her sister’s murderer. That’s how she meets Seneca, Maddox and Brett, amateur sleuths who want to help (each for their own reasons).

They team up together, each bringing different knowledge and ideas to the case. It isn’t long before the threats and attacks begin. Somebody in town knows they’re investigating, and they’re keen to scare them away. They believe the attacks mean they are getting closer to the truth … but perhaps the truth is even closer than they realise.

This is a gripping, cleverly written murder mystery for readers aged 12–16 years. There are plenty of plot twists and developments that drive the story forward, making this novel difficult to put down. It is the first in a new series of books by bestselling author Sara Shepard, who wrote Pretty Little Liars. The novel ends with quite a major plot twist, so I’m sure readers will be keenly awaiting the sequel (due to be published around the middle of 2017). The main characters are well developed, strong and likeable, each of them interesting for different reasons. It will be great to learn more about them as the series progresses.

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website:

Posted in Young Adult Fiction

Book Review: Trollhunters


Written by Guillermo del Tora and Daniel Kraus, illustrated by Sean Murray (Allen and Unwin)

PB RRP $16.99     ISBN 9781471405181

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘There are times when you have to do the right thing, no matter how scary.’

Meet Jim Sturges Junior – high school outcast by day, brave ‘Trollhunter’ by night. Jim lives with his dad, a terrified, overprotective man who has been that way since his big brother went missing 45 years earlier. His extreme anxiety and strange behaviour doesn’t exactly help Jim in the popularity stakes at school, where he struggles with bullying, unrequited love and being athletically inept. At least he has a best friend, ‘Tubby’ … though their friendship is about to be tested.

Jim’s Uncle Jack had been the last of 190 kids to go missing in the ‘Milk Carton Epidemic’ 45 years earlier, and things have been pretty quiet in San Bernardino, California, ever since … until children start to go missing once more. It turns out the Sturges’ family name is connected with a long history of troll hunting, and Jim is going to learn his destiny the hard way – by encountering a troll in the flesh.

This fantasy adventure story is targeted to kids aged 12–18, and will likely appeal to fans of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant books. Even readers who don’t normally read fantasy will find elements of the story to relate to, given it’s grounded in a realistic high-school setting. The novel can be rather gory – there are detailed descriptions of human flesh being eaten, and internal organs spurting – but I found the gruesome scenes were often pleasantly offset with some extremely amusing writing! (This book also has, hands down, the best tirade of back-to-back Scottish insults in a single paragraph that I have ever come across!)

The novel has been written by an award-winning duo – well-known director, Guillermo del Toro, and Daniel Kraus, author of several fantasy novels. There are a handful of full-page black and white illustrations also, rich in detailed linework, by Sean Murray. The book is the inspiration behind the Netflix ‘Trollhunters’ series by DreamWorks.

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website:

Posted in Junior Fiction

Book Review: Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja

Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja

By Marcus Emerson (Allen and Unwin)

PB RRP $9.99     ISBN 9781760295554

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Desperate to make friends at his new school, Chase Cooper falls in with the wrong sort of crowd – a secret group of ninjas who are up to no good. In order to be initiated, he has to prove his worth by stealing from one of his classmates. His cousin Zoe, sympathetic to Chase’s struggle to make friends, goes along with it all at first. She quickly feels sickened by their lack of morals though, and angrily leaves the group.

The ninjas decide to retaliate by stealing the school fundraising money for the ‘Student Hunger Drive’ and framing Zoe for the theft – but they want Chase to be the one to set her up. Chase must work out whether belonging to a group is more important to him than hurting Zoe, his truest ally.

Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja is the first book in a series currently featuring ten titles, all to be released for publication between the months of January and March, 2017. Author, Marcus Emerson, self-published the series first and achieved amazing success with over 200,000 copies of the books sold worldwide.

Readers aged 7–12 years will find this story fun and engaging. It is told from a first-person perspective and is rich in dialogue, making it easy to read. The sheer quirkiness of the tale also makes it hard to put down! (Chase describes it best when he says ‘I just lived through it, and even Idon’t believe that tale.’) In amidst the fast paced action, Emerson explores themes of loneliness and social anxieties in a school-based setting.

The book does feature occasional black and white illustrations throughout, to complement the story. Its formatting is far more traditional compared to, say, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Weirdo books, but I believe fans of those novels will enjoy this series also.

Emerson gives the series a strong sense of direction with this first novel, which finishes off with a leadership upset and an impending new adventure that ties in with the second book.

This review was originally published on the Buzz Words website: