The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea #2: Squeals on Wheels – Renée Treml

This is almost unheard of for me. I loved the sequel even more than the first book in this series.

Ollie, the owl who needs to wear glasses, and Bea, the bunny with the kangaroo sized feet, return. They’re joined by the friends they met in the first book: CeeCee the otter, Pedro the chameleon, Sera the deer and Simon the squirrel.

Having already figured out what all of their superpowers are, the friends are ready to have some fun. On the agenda for today is rollerskating. Except one of the friends keeps making excuses. The thought of skating is making Bea anxious. She’s worried she’ll look silly.

Thankfully her friends come up with the perfect solution, one that makes Bea feel comfortable skating so she can have fun too.

Puns abound in this book as well. My favourite was Ollie’s “Owl be back!” I know I’m not the only one to read that in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice.

The colourful illustrations, which I appreciated in the first book, really make the details come alive in this one. Be on the lookout for Sera the deer; her outfit is brilliant!

I love the focus on supportive friendships in this series. They highlight how integral friendships can be in building self confidence and overcoming obstacles.

This book deserves all of the carrots! 🥕🥕🥕🥕🥕

I can’t wait to see what other adventures are in store for Ollie, Bea and their friends. I’m already dreaming up a crossover where Ollie and Bea visit the State Natural History Museum and team up with Sherlock Bones and Watts to solve a mystery.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Best friends Ollie and Bea continue to delight young readers in Book 2 of this super sweet and funny full-colour graphic novel series that celebrates friendship and the differences that make us special.

Q. What’s the hardest part of learning to skate?
A. THE GROUND!

Ollie is having a HOOT on his rollerskates, but Bea is full of excuses for why she can’t join in. Will she realise that sometimes it’s okay to look silly, and that real friends don’t CARROT all if you have very big feet?

Ollie and Bea continue to charm in this super-cute series about the joys of friends and fun and lots of puns. The perfect book for young readers who love to laugh.

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea #1: It’s Owl Good – Renée Treml

I absolutely adore Renée Treml’s Sherlock Bones books so I was keen to get my hands on the first two books in her new series. I was not disappointed. The engaging characters, the gorgeous illustrations, the accidental learning and the humour I loved in Sherlock Bones were all here, just for a younger audience.

We’re introduced to Ollie the owl and Bea the bunny. They’re destined to become best friends. We also meet CeeCee the otter, Pedro the chameleon, Sera the deer and Simon the squirrel, who each have their own superpower.

I adored Ollie and Bea straight away, mostly because they’re both struggling with insecurities. Ollie, unlike other owls, has poor eyesight and needs to wear glasses. Bea’s feet, which are so long they should probably come with a trip hazard warning, make her feel self conscious.

Together, our new friends try to find a way to turn what they perceive as their weaknesses into superpowers.

My favourite piece of accidental learning in this book was “an owl can hear ten times better than a human”.

Some of the humour in this book comes from the puns. When Bea gets angry, she’s a “hot cross bunny”.

The illustrations are “otter-ly awesome!” Bonus points from me because they’re in colour.

The target audience are kidlets aged from 4 to 7 years. It’s the kind of book I’d be happy to read aloud repeatedly. Emerging bookworms should manage this book well as there aren’t many words on each page. There are a couple of Spanish words towards the end of the book but readers don’t need to know Spanish as the meanings are explained in English.

I’m looking forward to the next book, Squeal on Wheels, which features rollerskating animals. What’s not to love?!

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ollie and Bea will delight young readers in Book 1 of this super sweet and funny full-colour graphic novel series that celebrates friendship and the differences that make us special.

Come with Ollie and Bea on a HARE-raising adventure with a HOPPY ending!

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. And Bea is a bunny with very big feet. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to be best friends. Can they help each other to find their OTTER-LY awesome inner superhero?

Join Ollie and Bea in this charming, funny, cute story about the joys of making friends and having fun. The perfect book for young readers who love to laugh.

Kate on the Case – Hannah Peck

Kate, her Dad and her talking mouse, Rupert, are travelling by steam train to the Arctic. Before they even board the train, though, Kate spots something strange and it isn’t long before there’s ‘Total and Utter Chaos’.

Various items, including sixteen trophies, are missing and no one knows who the culprit is. Kate and Rupert decide to take on the case. They even have a prime suspect in mind.

Their investigation has Kate interviewing potential suspects and consulting her beloved copy of Catherine Rodríguez’s The Special Correspondent Manual for tips to help her solve the mystery. But not everything on this train is as it seems.

Young readers will love the talking animals, which I didn’t expect to be part of the story, and the story’s consistent pace.

I liked Hannah Peck’s illustrations in Jenni Jennings’ Malice in Underland and her style is evident in this book, helping to bring the characters and chaos to life. I really liked the design choice of making the pages black and the text white when events are occurring in the dark. Adding bright orange to the black and white illustrations may seem like a random choice at first but you’ll appreciate how appropriate it is by the end.

Readers who enjoy this book may also like Annabelle Sami’s Agent Zaiba Investigates and M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman’s Adventures on Trains.

I’m interested in continuing this series.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Young reporter-in-training Kate and her mouse-accomplice Rupert are on board a train, to visit Kate’s mum in the Arctic.

But as soon as the train departs, mysterious things start happening.

A packet of ginger nuts goes missing …
A collection of gymnastics trophies are stolen …
And some ancient scrolls disappear …

Fellow passenger Madame Maude seems the most likely culprit, until a surprising – and delicious – twist turns the whole investigation on its head.

Pow Pow Pig #1: An Unexpected Hero – Anh Do

Illustrations – Peter Cheong

‘Every good deed makes the future a little brighter.’

Anh Do has another winner on his hands with this first book in a new series. It’s dystopian. It’s time travel. It’s a bunch of animals who didn’t cut the mustard working together to save the world!

Pow Pow Pig, Kung Fu Duck, Cha Cha Chicken and Barry the Goat are my new favourite team up. They’ve all completed their CHOC (Creatures Helping Other Creatures) training and are keen to begin making a difference.

While Pow Pow Pig wants more than anything else to join A team, he knows that’s not likely because, while the rest of the trainees have been busily learning the skills needed to help other creatures, Pow Pow and his friends have been stuck on cleaning duty. But they never thought that they would be assigned to … Z team.

A series of events promotes this rag tag team from zeroes to potential heroes. The fate of the world is in their trotters, wings and hooves. Now they must travel back in time to prevent the world from ending. If only it was that easy.

There’s something about Anh Do books. It only takes me about two pages to get sucked into the story and I fall in love at first sight with the new friends I meet.

The story is imaginative but it was the details that captured my attention. In particular, Kung Fu Chicken’s skills with a tea towel delighted me. 

I also loved how the team work together to solve problems, persevering despite the odds that are stacked against them.

I wasn’t previously familiar with Peter Cheong’s work but his illustrations bring this team and the rest of the creatures to life. In keeping with the humour that’s pretty much a given with Anh Do’s books, Peter majors on expressions and action, complimenting the text well. Be on the lookout for a cow who’s been cured of mad cow disease.

I can’t wait for the next book in the series. This one ends on a cliffhanger and my mind is frantically trying to predict where (or should I say, when) this team will end up next. While I already have a pretty good idea how this series is going to end, I hope it’s a long ride because everything I love about Anh Do books is already evident here: underdogs, friendship, teamwork, making the right (but not always the easiest) choices and humour.

And if I haven’t already sold you on this book, you need to know one more important thing: there’s a page of stickers at the end of the book! I’m one very happy book nerd.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A hilarious new adventure from the mega-bestselling author of Wolf Girl and Ninja Kid.

Hi there! I’m Pow Pow Pig!

Me and my friends didn’t make the A team … or the B team … or the C, D or E teams ….

We made the Z team!

How are we going to save the world when we were the last ones picked?!

Savage Island #2: Cruel Castle – Bryony Pearce

It’s been six months since the Iron Teen Tragedy, something that readers of Savage Island will immediately recognise as PR spin. Only Grady, Ben and Lizzie know the truth about what really happened on Aikenhead, Marcus Gold’s private island.

While Ben and Lizzie have been in hiding from Gold, Grady has been working for him. For the past four months he’s been one of the participants in Gold’s graduate programme in London. When he learns he’s being sent on a team building weekend at Stowerling Keep, Gold’s castle in Scotland, Grady knows this won’t be any ordinary team building exercise. He is certain it’s going to be Aikenhead 2.0.

Stowerling Keep. It’s going to make Aikenhead look like Disneyland.

Accompanying conspiracy theorist Grady on this potential bloodbath are several of his fellow graduates:

  • Aanay, who seems too nice to have made it into Gold’s graduate programme
  • Bella, a girl who uses her looks to manipulate others into doing her bidding
  • Dawson, one of the “clones”, who won’t let anyone see what he’s written in the notebook he carries in his trouser pocket
  • Iris, who doesn’t talk to anyone.

Of course, Ben and Lizzie aren’t going to let an opportunity to expose Gold’s nefarious deeds to the world go to waste. They may not have received a personal invitation from Gold to come to Stowerling Keep but that’s why infiltration was invented.

Savage Island was one of my favourite reads of 2018 and while many books I’ve read since then are now pretty fuzzy in my mind, my memory of it remains sharp. If I had to describe it in three words, it would be Survivor: Psychopath Edition. It felt fresh. It surprised me. I didn’t know where it was going. I’m all for gore in my horror and it gave me some “ew!” moments. I absolutely adored it!

Naturally, I was all in when I learned there was a sequel. I enjoyed it but it didn’t pack the punch of the original for me. In horror sequels I expect the body count to be higher, the deaths to be more gruesome and the twists to just keep on coming.

This sequel plays out in a series of escape rooms, which I’ve seen done so many times now, and for it to have given me the wow factor of the first book it would have needed to up the ante in a massive way. There is plenty of blood to paint the walls with, there’s bone crunching and some insides that are now your outsides action to look forward to but it felt somewhat tame to me when I compared it with Savage Island.

Told in four voices, Ben, Lizzie, Grady and another whose name I won’t mention because spoilers, I got a sense of what everyone’s state of mind was as we progressed through the ‘team building’. Switching up the perspectives also helped to propel the story along and provided opportunities for flashbacks to help explain the relevant backstories.

While I liked being able to get inside Grady’s head, I never really bought what was going on with Ben. If I hadn’t already encountered that explanation multiple times before, in books and movies, then it might have made sense to me but I’ve seen it done too many times (and usually not well) so I wasn’t as receptive to it here. This probably won’t be a problem for younger readers, who won’t have come across this or escape rooms as many times as I have.

It probably sounds like I didn’t have fun reading this book. I did, though, and I’m really looking forward to reading more books by this author. If anything, because I loved Savage Island so much, my expectations for this book may have been unreasonably high.

If a third book in the series is ever written, I’ll be there at the front of the queue to read it. I’d just hoped this book would be completely over the top (in a good way) like the first book was.

I would still recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA horror. For context, though, and to understand what the three main characters have already survived, you’ll want to read Savage Island first.

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide and mental health.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Stripes Publishing, an imprint of Little Tiger Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

They thought the island was the end. It was only the beginning…

Having survived the horrors of Savage Island, Grady is now stuck working for Gold, the psychopath who masterminded the gruesome competition. Sent on a “team-building exercise” in a remote castle, he starts to plot his escape.

Ben and Lizzie are in hiding, presumed dead after escaping the island. If they’re ever to return to their families, they need to bring Gold down. So they secretly join Grady in the castle. But as the doors slam shut and the series of deadly challenges between them and freedom are revealed, it looks like history is going to repeat itself…

A Red Eye horror novel for teens, this gripping sequel to Savage Island is full of fast-paced action and gruesome twists and turns. 

Book Haul – July 2021

Hey book nerds!

This month I’ve been going back to some of my early NetGalley approvals to try to increase my feedback ratio and finally give feedback to the publishers who gave me a chance when I was just starting out in the reviewing world. Back in the early days I was so excited about the idea of reviewing that I gave little thought to how many books I could get through in a reasonable time. It feels good to be chipping away at some books I’ve wanted to read for years.

I’m also looking forward to some future reads. In particular, I can’t wait to read my first Stephen Graham Jones book.

I’m currently keeping the people I know in Sydney in my thoughts as they face at least another four weeks in lockdown. I know some really incredible people who are all doing the right thing, like most people, but whose efforts are being undermined by the minority. My heart hurts for them.

I’d also like to personally thank our premier, Gladys, for the cancellation of my COVID vaccination appointments, which I’ve been waiting for for two months. There are plenty of angry people in regional NSW today; our vaccines are being given to Sydney Year 12 students. I could rant about how if the powers that be had acted decisively at the very beginning of this current outbreak, we would not be in this position now. But NSW doesn’t have Victoria’s premier … and that has made all the difference.

I found this YouTube video today that explains the situation here in Australia perfectly. Heads up: there’s plenty of swearing. It’s too good not to share, though.

Until next month, happy reading!

July Reads


Book Mail

A hilarious new adventure from the mega-bestselling author of Wolf Girl and Ninja Kid.

Hi there! I’m Pow Pow Pig!

Me and my friends didn’t make the A team … or the B team … or the C, D or E teams ….

We made the Z team!

How are we going to save the world when we were the last ones picked?!


Young reporter-in-training Kate and her mouse-accomplice Rupert are on board a train, to visit Kate’s mum in the Arctic.

But as soon as the train departs, mysterious things start happening.

A packet of ginger nuts goes missing…
A collection of gymnastics trophies are stolen…
And some ancient scrolls disappear…

Fellow passenger Madame Maude seems the most likely culprit, until a surprising – and delicious – twist turns the whole investigation on its head.


Come with Ollie and Bea on a HARE-raising adventure with a HOPPY ending!

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. And Bea is a bunny with very big feet. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to be best friends. Can they help each other to find their OTTER-LY awesome inner superhero?

Join Ollie and Bea in this charming, funny, cute story about the joys of making friends and having fun. The perfect book for young readers who love to laugh. 


Q. What’s the hardest part of learning to skate?
A. THE GROUND!

Ollie is having a HOOT on his rollerskates, but Bea is full of excuses for why she can’t join in. Will she realise that sometimes it’s okay to look silly, and that real friends don’t CARROT all if you have very big feet?

Ollie and Bea continue to charm in this super-cute series about the joys of friends and fun and lots of puns. The perfect book for young readers who love to laugh.


NetGalley

How do you survive hearing your family being brutally murdered over the phone? For Father Raul Figeuroa, all faith and hope are lost. Turning away from the priesthood behind, he retreats to his aunt’s empty farmhouse in upstate New York, hoping to drink himself to oblivion. But he’s not alone in the house. Something is trying to reach out to him. Or is he losing his grip on reality? When his childhood friend Felix comes to visit, things take a darker turn. The deeper they dig into the mystery, the closer they get to hell literally breaking loose. 


They thought the island was the end. It was only the beginning…

Having survived the horrors of Savage Island, Grady is now stuck working for Gold, the psychopath who masterminded the gruesome competition. Sent on a “team-building exercise” in a remote castle, he starts to plot his escape.

Ben and Lizzie are in hiding, presumed dead after escaping the island. If they’re ever to return to their families, they need to bring Gold down. So they secretly join Grady in the castle. But as the doors slam shut and the series of deadly challenges between them and freedom are revealed, it looks like history is going to repeat itself…


A collection of new and exclusive short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson is a seminal writer of horror and mystery fiction, whose legacy resonates globally today. Chilling, human, poignant and strange, her stories have inspired a generation of writers and readers.

This anthology, edited by legendary horror editor Ellen Datlow, will bring together today’s leading horror writers to offer their own personal tribute to the work of Shirley Jackson.

Featuring Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Hand, Cassandra Khaw, Karen Heuler, Benjamin Percy, John Langan, Laird Barron, M. Rickert, Seanan McGuire, and Genevieve Valentine.


When Tess and Eliot stumble upon an ancient book hidden in a secret tunnel beneath their school library, they accidentally release a devil from his book-bound prison, and he’ll stop at nothing to stay free. He’ll manipulate all the ink in the library books to do his bidding, he’ll murder in the stacks, and he’ll bleed into every inch of Tess’s life until his freedom is permanent.

Forced to work together, Tess and Eliot have to find a way to re-trap the devil before he kills everyone they know and love, including, increasingly, each other. And compared to what the devil has in store for them, school stress suddenly doesn’t seem so bad after all.


Jade is one class away from graduating high school, but that’s one class she keeps failing local history. Dragged down by her past, her father and being an outsider, she’s composing her epic essay series to save her high school diploma.

Jade’s topic? The unifying theory of slasher films. In her rapidly gentrifying rural lake town, Jade sees the pattern in recent events that only her encyclopaedic knowledge of horror cinema could have prepared her for. And with the arrival of the Final Girl, Letha Mondragon, she’s convinced an irreversible sequence of events has been set into motion.

As tourists start to go missing, and the tension grows between her community and the celebrity newcomers building their mansions the other side of the Indian Lake, Jade prepares for the killer to rise. She dives deep into the town’s history, the tragic deaths that occurred at camp years ago, the missing tourists no one is even sure exist, and the murders starting to happen, searching for the answer.

As the small and peaceful town heads towards catastrophe, it all must come to a head on 4th July, when the town all gathers on the water, where luxury yachts compete with canoes and inflatables, and the final showdown between rich and poor, past and present, townsfolk and celebrities slasher and Final Girl.


I never wanted to be a vampire queen.

But on the bright (if not sunny) side of the debacle, I’ve got a super-hot new boyfriend. And he just might be the perfect guy.

Well, if the perfect guy ghosts you for a month and then comes back to school with a new look, a pack of friends, and a secret. But we have bigger problems.

The Drainers are back. They’re singing a different song, but have they really changed?

Even worse, werewolves’ hearts are being ripped from their bodies – which is putting the people I love in danger. I need to figure out who is behind the murders before there’s an all-out vampire-werewolf war.

No one is going to mess with my friends, even the ones who like to get wild and howl at the moon.

Sometimes, all a girl can do is grab her tiara and start kicking some supernatural ass… 


The 22 Murders of Madison May – Max Barry

“You know, I love you, Madison. In every world. Even when you don’t love me back.”

For Clay, it was love at first sight. The Madison May he fell for was the character she played in a movie, although Clay is certain that Maddie, the person, is the woman for him. He’s so sure that he’s been stalking her travelling across multiple parallel dimensions for their happily ever after.

The only pesky problem is that he hasn’t found a Maddie yet who meets his expectations and what’s a loved up guy supposed to do when that happens? Kill that Maddie and move on to the next one. Yeah, our Clay isn’t exactly the poster child for optimal mental health.

Along for the ride is Felicity Staples, a newspaper reporter who doesn’t usually report on murders. Felicity saw firsthand what Clay’s ‘love’ is capable of in the life where Maddie was a real estate agent. Now she’s trying to stop Clay from murdering other Maddies but Clay always seems to be one step ahead.

“The details are different. But it’s her. It’s the same person, murdered in a different place.”

When I read the blurb for this book, my immediate thought was, ‘Oh, so it’s like Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls.’ No, I haven’t read that one yet so I can’t say for sure but it seems I’m not the only reader to pick up on the similarities.

Parallel universes are one of the things I love to read about. They raise so many questions that my brain enjoys teasing out. Things like, if you travel from one parallel universe to another, what happens to the you that lives there? Does You #1 erase You #2 by showing up in world #2? Does You #2 wind up in the world you left, trying to make sense of subtle or not so subtle differences? Are you now a missing person in your world? If you travel to a third world, does You #2 get to resume their life in world #2? I could go on forever like this.

This book come up with its own answers for how parallel universes work. It made sense, although it was a sadder concept than what I’d like to believe. I did enjoy the idea of moorings, although I would have liked more explanations for how everything worked, including how the first person to ever travel between universes figured out how to do it.

Clay’s obsession with Maddie is downright creepy and I expected to feel something every time I watched her get murdered. However, I never formed an emotional connection with any of the characters so while I was interested in seeing how it would all pan out, I felt like more of a casual observer than someone who was invested in the lives of Maddie, Felicity, Clay, etc.

“You’re the reason for everything.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

I love you. In every world.

Young real estate agent Madison May is shocked when a client at an open house says these words to her. The man, a stranger, seems to know far too much about her, and professes his love – shortly before he murders her. 

Felicity Staples hates reporting on murders. As a journalist for a midsize New York City paper, she knows she must take on the assignment to research Madison May’s shocking murder, but the crime seems random and the suspect is in the wind. That is, until Felicity spots the killer on the subway, right before he vanishes.

Soon, Felicity senses her entire universe has shifted. No one remembers Madison May, or Felicity’s encounter with the mysterious man. And her cat is missing. Felicity realises that in her pursuit of Madison’s killer, she followed him into a different dimension – one where everything about her existence is slightly altered. At first, she is determined to return to the reality she knows, but when Madison May – in this world, a struggling actress – is murdered again, Felicity decides she must find the killer – and learns that she is not the only one hunting him. 

Traveling through different realities, Felicity uncovers the opportunity – and danger – of living more than one life.

Skydragon #2: Fly Free – Anh Do

Illustrations – James Hart

Picking up where the first book ended (you need to read this series in order), Fly Free continues to follow Amber (Skydragon) and her brother, Reggie, who is Firefighter. Reggie still has amnesia so he doesn’t know the National Service want him to apprehend his sister and Amber suspects Firefighter is Reggie but doesn’t know for sure.

The stakes are raised for Amber in this book and Reggie begins to question whether the National Service are the good guys or the baddies. Readers already know they’re not trustworthy.

It turns out that Firefighter isn’t the only person with powers that the National Service have recruited; we’re introduced to Senseless (Stefan, Anna and Nic). I’m hoping at some stage all of the people with powers will band together against the National Service, who are probably even more nefarious than I currently suspect they are.

I wasn’t especially comfortable with Amber ordering insects to do her bidding in the first novel. Fortunately in this book, Amber realises that the insects are her allies, not her servants. So many haven’t survived the first two books, though. Given how much Amber loves insects I would have thought this would be devastating for her but so far it appears I’m more upset about their demise than she is. Granted, she’s busy trying to stay alive herself, but still…

There’s mention of E-Boy in this book. I haven’t read any of the E-Boy series yet so I’m not sure if Agent Ferris and the rest of the National Service goons feature in those but it appears we’re building towards a crossover.

There remains plenty of action in this book. Thankfully Justin, Amber’s friend from the first book, has a part to play in the second book. I’m not sure how long they’re going to be able to communicate by phone as I’m pretty sure the cabin Amber stays at is off the grid. Right now, though, that’s the least of Amber’s worries. She’s got a cliffhanger to contend with and things aren’t exactly going in her favour.

To be continued in Ride the Wind

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Amber is back! The second book in the high-flying adventure series from Anh Do.

Amber held her arms out. Surround me. Locusts, beetles, bees and all manner of flying insects nestled together tightly. Shapes formed. Horns on her head, claws on her hands and feet. A thick, long tail. She was a dragon!

Amber is on the run. What will happen when she and the Firefighter finally come face to face?

Skydragon #1: Take to the Skies – Anh Do

Illustrations – James Hart

All superheroes need an origin story. Usually this involves surviving significant trauma. Amber is no different. She was only nine years old when both of her parents died and her thirteen year old brother, Reggie, became comatose as a result of a meteorite falling on their home.

Years later, Amber remains scarred both emotionally and physically.

Every day she caught someone eyeballing the twisted vortex of dark red lines that covered her right cheek.

Although the meteorite took almost everything from Amber, it didn’t steal her love of insects.

‘They’re the closest thing we have to dragons,’ she said.

Amber is bullied by the mean girls at school but finds a friend in Justin.

It was nice that Justin also liked bugs. Perhaps they could be weirdos together?

description

The purple goo from the meteorite that seeped into Amber’s skin has changed her in ways she’s only just beginning to understand. Now she’s attracted the attention of people who definitely don’t have her best interests at heart.

The first in a new series, Skydragon provides readers with information about Amber’s life before and after the meteorite. She deals with bullies, loneliness and grief as she starts to figure out her new powers.

description

James Hart’s illustrations bring the wonder, danger, grief and action to life. There were a couple of times when the pictures didn’t line up with the text, e.g., the fallen beam that traps Liz isn’t shown in the illustration and a couple of times the expressions pictured don’t match those described in the text, but overall I really enjoyed them. I particularly liked the detailed illustrations of insects and when Amber has become Skydragon.

I can see some parallels between Skydragon and Firefighter in this book and Nelson and his father in the Ninja Kid series.

I’m looking forward to watching events unfold as Amber learns some critical information readers already know.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Amber knew she’d been given an incredible power, but was it a freak accident, or was there something she was supposed to do with it?

Controlling her new ability might be the hardest thing Amber has ever done. Especially when she is running for her life.

Who is her mysterious enemy? What connection does he have to Amber’s past? And, most importantly, does Amber have what it takes to truly become … Skydragon?

The Astonishing Future of Alex Nobody – Kate Gilby Smith

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

It’s always just been Alex and her Uncle Henry. That is, if you don’t count the consistent groups of strangers who have been trying to sneak a peek at Alex her entire life. There are actual coaches full of them. But, hey, maybe this is normal. It’s not like Alex has any friends to compare notes with.

Until she meets Jasper on her twelfth birthday. We love Jasper, although we don’t really know a lot about him for the longest time.

For a boy who loved asking other people questions, he was an expert at avoiding them himself.

We do know he’s a sweetheart, though, and he’s a really good best (and first) friend to have. We adore him, even after he suddenly disappears before Alex’s eyes. Fortunately, Alex likes Jasper as much as we do so she’s determined to find him. No matter what.

‘And this time I don’t think logic is the answer.’

I spent the entire book trying to figure out what I could possibly say about it that didn’t give away the whole time travel component, which is one of my all time favourite things to read about. I needn’t have worried; one look at the book’s blurb and I discovered that what I thought was a secret is well and truly out of the bag. I probably would have read this book sooner had I known. All I had to go by when I decided this was the book for me was the title and Thy Bui’s incredible cover illustration.

Speaking of design, something so simple yet so appropriate accompanied the chapter titles. Remember how I mentioned the literal coaches full of people who want to catch a glimpse of Alex? A coach starts appearing in the first chapter and slowly makes its way across the page, chapter by chapter. Brilliant!

Besides loving Alex and Jasper, I also wanted to get to know Uncle Henry, whose ideas on learning were all I needed to know to want to hang out with him forever. I also really liked Gerty, who Alex meets when she’s searching for her missing friend.

I adored the way time travel is explored in this book. There were a couple of time travel related head-scratchers, though. The Laws of Time all made sense to me but I had trouble believing, based on my extensive time travel experience with Marty McFly, that a Time Tourist hadn’t inadvertently rewritten history by now. Although, if Timeless is to be taken as time travel gospel, then maybe only the people personally involved in the rewrite would remember how things used to play out.

The time travel quandary that remains for me is why the bazillion Time Tourists who not so secretly spied on Alex as she was growing up didn’t immediately recognise her in the future. Sure, it’s not like she was expected to show up there unannounced and oftentimes we don’t recognise the obvious right before our very eyes when we don’t expect them to be there, but … someone should have been pointing at her and whispering to the person next to them, ‘Hey, look! Doesn’t that girl look like Alex when she was young?’

I figured out fairly early on who future Alex was going to be and why she became famous. If kid me had read this book, though, it would have been your job to pick me up off the floor once I’d made it to the reveal.

Although the time travel is absolutely wonderful and it made me want to do it even more, my take away from this book is going to be the friendship between Alex and Jasper. It made me feel all warm and squishy inside. In a good way.

‘Never underestimate the power of a best friend. A friend who loves you for who you are, who believes in the person you will become even when you don’t. Who believes you are stronger, smarter, better than you believe yourself to be. A friend who can put you in your place when you need it. More than talent, more than success, friendship is what matters most.’

Book in a book: Jasper gives Alex a copy of The Secret Garden, one of the many reasons I loved him.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

On the day Alex was born, crowds surrounded the hospital. On her first day of school, people spied from the gates. And recently, strangers came to watch her perform in her school play … as the llama.

But why? Alex has always been a nobody.

Then a mysterious boy named Jasper starts at school and he alone seems to know the answer. But before he can tell Alex, he disappears … into the future. Can Alex brave traveling into the future to discover what’s happened to him and to unravel the secret of her own astonishing destiny … before time runs out?