Posts Tagged ‘Reviewer-Karen’

Superworm

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

superworm 2Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, the brilliant team behind The Gruffalo, have created a new exuberant character who is sure to delight young readers – and their parents – in this eagerly anticipated hardback, Superworm. The funny and fantastically-illustrated story is full of bouncy rhyming verses and has a fun chorus that is sure to have preschoolers joining in as they follow Superworm’s adventures as he faces up to the wicked Wizard Lizard and his sinister servant Crow. When Superworm is kidnapped by them, it is up to his animal friends to save him. The quirky illustrations are full of charming details and the unlikely hero of the tale has immense appeal for children aged 3 and over.

I must confess that I only bought ‘Superworm’ as it was on offer and because one of children’s literature’s most famous duos, Julia Donaldson and Axel Schleffer were behind the helm. It couldn’t be that much of a dud surely?!

To my relief, this book has proved to be an absolute hit with my 5yr old daughter and 2yr old son. Whilst thinking about doing this review, I was trying to work out what makes this book so loved. Asking the children gets the usual, not very descriptive, ‘It’s good’ so no real hope there.

I can only assume that it’s the combination of having a ‘superhero’ and that the characters are bugs and other small common creatures that the children can easily identify with. Each page is filled with action, the pace is fast, Superworm is afterall busy being a superhero and all that.

Also, Superworm is a hero that’s cool to younger children. Who cares about x ray vision, seeing the future, super strength etc when Superworm can make himself into a slide, skipping rope, train, lasso and so on? Throw in a dastardly lizard and his crow servant who want to use Superworm for their own nefarious purposes and you have the formula for a fantastic book in your hands.

The usual Donaldson and Schleffer footprints are here with the witty, easy to read poem that the kids quickly start to memorise and chant aloud with you in glee. Coupled with Schaeffler’s trademark quirky, detailed illustrations that adds life and character to the ‘creepy crawlies’ and the world which they inhabit, this is an enjoyable book to listen to and look at.

Verdict: This book may appear to have a limited target audience but would actually be appreciated by most children. It’s fast paced, full of action and yet easily relatable, catching most children’s interest. I’m sure that when the weather gets warmer we’ll be outside looking for our own ‘Superworm’ and friends!

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Alison Green Books
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: Hardback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
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Them Or Us

David Moody

them or usThe war that has torn the human race apart is nearing its end. With the country in the grip of a nuclear winter, both Hater and Unchanged struggle to survive. Hinchcliffe, leader of an army of Haters, will stop at nothing to be at the top of the new world order.

For me, ‘Them or Us’, the third and final instalment in the ‘Hater’ series was the best book by far in the trilogy.

For those of you that have not read the previous two books, the premise is simple. In ‘Haters’, the world has suddenly split into two groups of people. The ‘Unchanged’ are the majority of the population who have, unsurprisingly, not experienced any changes. Then there are the ‘Haters’. There is no way of working out who may turn into a ‘Hater’. Just imagine one moment you’re plodding along as content as can be, the next moment you have this uncontrollable urge to kill the person walking past you in the street. Inexplicably, you just know who is a fellow ‘Hater’ and who is the ‘Unchanged’ that must be eradicated.

Moody is the master of slow building tension. In the first book, as you witness the worlds population slowly start to fall apart it is almost painful to read, as Moody focuses on the mundaneness of the lead character’s life interspersed with shocking scenes of violence and the tension just increases throughout until you get to the shocking finale which is truly, ‘jaw drop’ worthy.

The second book, ‘Dog Blood’ details the build up and inevitable conclusion between the ‘Haters’ and the ‘Unchanged’, whilst the two groups are fairly evenly matched, the ‘Unchanged’ by their larger population, the Haters due to their unflinching ferocity towards the ‘Unchanged’. Due to the stepping stones Moody put in place in book one in terms of character building, the events that unfold in book two are all the more heart wrenching and your jaw is now touching the floor as you race through the closing chapters.

In this book, Great Britain has now been ravaged by numerous nuclear attacks by both the ‘Unchanged’ and the ‘Haters’ leaving the majority of the kingdom uninhabitable and in the midst of an unforgiving nuclear winter. The ‘Unchanged’ are now far and few between, slowly being hunted to extinction. The ‘Haters’ primary function which was killing the ‘Unchanged’ is pretty much redundant. They are left trying to adjust to a harsh environment where food and provisions are limited and only those that are useful in some way stand the slightest chance of getting provision and security whilst infighting and abuse between the Haters is rife.

Our protagonist Danny McCoyne, a man who has certainly been no hero for either side is physically and emotionally spent and just wants to be left alone. He continues to reign in the ‘Hate’ a rare skill that enables him to be within close contact of the Unchanged whilst suppressing the urge to kill. This makes him noticed by ‘Hinchcliffe’ a bully of a man that rules the large Hater community Danny resides with and uses him to flush out the remaining ‘Unchanged’.

As his future existence and that of his peers looks bleaker and bleaker under Hinchcliffe’s brutal regime, Danny is forced to choose a side when conflicts between the ‘Haters’ themselves and of course the remaining few ‘Unchanged’ come to a climax. This results with his decisions and actions being the main turning point to end at least this trilogy’s final chapter.

Guillermo del Toro has acquired the rights to make this series into a movie and it will be very interesting to see how the story is reflected on screen.

Verdict: This series will stay with me for a long time. It’s morbid, shocking and an absolutely fascinating and thought provoking read.

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368
Genre: Horror
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British book
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Karen’s 2012 review

What is your favourite read of 2012?

There have been so many books that I have enjoyed this year, that whittling down to just one seems like such a disservice to all the rest! I’ll therefore slightly cheat and say that my favourite children’s book was Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. Young Adult – a tie between the Infernal Devices’ series (Cassandra Clare) and The Enemy (Charlie Higson) series and for adult, I really enjoyed Them or Us the final instalment in the Hater’ series by David Moody.

Which book have you most enjoyed reading with your children in 2012?

I think I have made it very clear on this blog how much my husband and I adored reading, A fearsome Beastie by Giles Paley Phillips to the kidlets. In particular because it was the first book that made my then 1 year old son so enthusiastic to listen to a story all the way through without the help of tactile/noisy features.

What have you enjoyed most about book reviewing/blogging in 2012?

The fact that blogging allows you to pick up and read any book you like the look of without prejudice. In particular, children’s and young adult books. Blogging also insists that no matter how busy my life is, I need to set time aside for reading. This is something which I really appreciate as reading does give me such a chance of escaping the daily pressures of life.

What book are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?

I’m impatiently waiting for Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare to come out as I have adored the series so far.

Other blogging thoughts:

In 2012 I read a number of books that are the inspiration for movies playing in cinemas in 2013.

Whilst it’s been a while since I last read the book, The Hobbit it needs to be mentioned as it will still be watched in the cinemas come January. Having seen the movie adaptation, I’m curious enough to reread the book to work out which bits were added in to fill out the first part of the trilogy. It’ll also give me a chance to sigh ‘Ohh Kili’ every time that sexy little dwarf gets a mention 🙂

I think I’ll save my pennies and wait for Jack Reacher to come out on rental release, just because I can’t get over the fact that Tom Cruise is playing Jack. In the books he is described as being very tall, literally 6ft+ and some. He uses his height to his advantage in fights and to intimidate and in general is very ‘rough and ready’. I worry that whilst it will probably be a good action movie, what made Jack Reacher such a fascinating and iconic character will be lost in the process.

Whilst randomly exploring You Tube I came across the trailer for Warm Bodies which in turn encouraged me to read the book. Previous headlines based around having a zombie boyfriend had put me off the book thinking that this was one step too far, but I found this an interesting twist on the zombie genre. This book is on my to do list to write a review so I will leave it at that for now!

Still on the zombie genre, World War Z as a film really interests me. Looking at the trailer it looks like the focus is on Brad Pitt’s character and his family. The book’s genius and originality is that it’s made up of different survivors’ accounts of how they endured a zombie apocalypse across the world so it will be interesting to see what aspects of the book the movie has tried to recreate.

Then there is of course,The Mortal Instruments with one of my favourite actors, Robert Sheehan playing Simon. Is it bad though that I am already hoping that this means that the Infernal Devices series will be made into a movie?!

Karen’s Favourite books of 2012 (Click on the title below to learn more)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay

The Fearsome Beastie by Giles Payley-Phillips

Post by Karen

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Tamara Small and the Monster’s Ball

Giles Paley-Phillip

On a windy night Tamara lies awake in bed, when she hears a noise outside her room. Suddenly she is whisked away by a hairy arm and taken to the village hall! Luckily it is just the monsters from her neighbourhood inviting her to their ball. She has fun dancing with all the monsters before being sent back home with a lovely slice of slime cake!
Touching on every childhood fear, Tamara Small can hear noises when she goes to bed one night and immediately fears the worst, except in this case, she’s right. The noises are from a monster and he’s come to take her away. But not to fear, it’s to the annual monsters ball of course!

Touching on every childhood fear, Tamara Small can hear noises when she goes to bed one night and immediately fears the worst, except in this case, she’s right. The noises are from a monster and he’s come to take her away. But not to fear, it’s to the annual monsters ball of course!

This is Giles Paley-Phillips, who wrote the brilliant, ‘A fearsome Beastie’s latest offering. In this book, the story once again starts off scarily but the monsters are friendly and just want to have a good time dancing the night away.

I enjoy reading Giles’ books because the poem always flows nicely. Even my husband, bless his heart, as reading aloud doesn’t come naturally, can read Giles’ books with ease. His rhymes are witty and engage children to the story.

Gabriele Antonini is also back with her unique illustrative style, managing to make the monsters not too scary but still full of quirky and captivating character.

Verdict: An enjoyable book that taps into a child’s ‘love to be scared’ relationship with monsters but won’t leave them with nightmares. Instead, they might be listening out for strange noises at night and hoping that they’re the next Tamara Drew!

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
Publication Date: October 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture book, Early readers
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British author
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The Walking Dead Compendium 2

Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

Returning with the second eight volumes of the fan-favorite, New York Times bestseller series, The Walking Dead, collected into one massive paperback collection!
This is the perfect collection for any fan of the Emmy Award-winning television series on AMC: over one-thousand pages chronicling the next chapter of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning continuing story of survival horror – beginning with Rick Grimes’ struggle to survive after the prison raid, to the group’s finding short solace in The Community, and the devastation that follows. In a world ruled by the dead, we are finally forced to finally start living. Collects The Walking Dead #49-96.

Now, that the televised ‘Walking Dead’ series 3 is kicking about, I’m going to try and make sure this review is as spoiler free as possible. There are some in here but I hope that they are obvious and expected developments.

I can’t tell you how eagerly I have been waiting for the second compendium to come out, especially considering the incredibly huge, jaw dropping ‘I didn’t see that coming’ finale that the first compendium ended with. The initial compendium was actually my first foray into comics….sorry, slaps hand, graphic novels. As a fan of the TV series and knowing that Robert Kirkman helped create the graphic novels and series I thought I’d give it a try. The story lines are similar and still based on how the characters have had to adjust to the zombie apocalypse. They now behave with a different set of moral codes which will at times be in conflict with the group as a whole and how that is dealt with.

What makes the novels so brilliant is the level of detail with the illustrations. You literally see what the characters see, if a scene unfolds without speech or watching a character go through a slew of emotions. Time is taken to painstakingly draw scene after scene to make you explore every detail to understand what is going on. It’s quite cruel really as the speed of the story is fast, making you eager to find out what’s happened but you can’t just skim over the pictures as they convey more of the story than the actual dialogue!

If like me, you’ve finished watching season 2 and only seen the trailer for series 3, you’ll know that a prison seems to be the answer to our survivors’ dreams whilst some of the disbanded survivors find themselves in a maintained community with a governor that would make even the zombies shudder. Well, the conclusion to that particular chapter finishes at the end of compendium 1.
Compendium 2 starts straight away following this dramatic finale. The survivors are all scattered but gradually regroup. They’re all emotionally beaten as they have seriously just taken such a kicking. Rick in particular has to fight his demons and has lost confidence in his ability to lead the group, a thought which is also shared by others in the group. As we follow the survivors try to once again find sanctuary however short-lived, the pace feels a little slower but understandably so. The survivors are licking their wounds after all and there is a fear that being too relentless could lead to predictability which the novel avoids. I also wonder if you, the reader can become desensitised to the zombie attacks, something of which, even the characters acknowledge as zombies and the manner of killing them, once and for all becomes part of daily routine.

Verdict: This compendium ends on not quite such a dramatic cliffhanger as it’s predecessor, but you just know that, ‘a storm’s a coming’. Now I know that I could buy the following novels separately, but that will ruin the harmony of my collection so far, so I will just have to sit on my hands and hope that Compendium 3 doesn’t take too long to come out!

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: October 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 1068
Genre: Graphic Novel, Zombie
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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The Chocolate Money

Ashley Prentice Norton

Bettina Ballentyne is a chocolate heiress only by name; it is her glamorous and narcissistic mother, Babs, who lives up to the billing and plays by no ones sharp and sparkly humor will have you laughing during its darkest moments. A mesmerizing portrayal of the corrosive effects of an American fortune, The Chocolate Money is a shocking and intensely readable debut.

Well, this book was certainly an eye opener! The publisher had initially intrigued me by admitting that this book was the equivalent of Marmite and I can see why.

The protagonist Bettina Ballentyne is the daughter of a very rich heiress of a chocolate empire. It’s the lavish set up where ‘Babs’ the mother, is richer than you can imagine and doesn’t have to physically work for it so spends her days socialising, grooming, networking and being the biggest bitch 1980’s Chicago has encountered! Babs, funnily enough, will never be a contender for, ‘Mother of the year’ anytime soon. I’m no aspiring psychologist but even I can tell that this mother/daughter relationship was seriously screwed. From giving Bettina at the age of 10 very graphic pearls of wisdom in regards to her own sexual techniques and exploits to outright neglect and abuse, Babs is definitely one of those, beautiful on the outside, ugly on the inside characters. At the same time though, this isn’t one of those autobiographical books where the abuse is constant and there is hate spewing from a parental figure. Babs, in her own way does care for her daughter. It’s just in a very weird way. Babs cares for her daughter as she would a possession and as such would never supersede her own selfish desires.

All the while Bettina strives for her mothers affection and attention. As you wince through the car crash of this girl’s upbringing, she leaves her mother’s shadow to go to college. There she struggles to find her own identity and lacks the insight to maintain normal relationships and friendships. She then continues to make inappropriate decisions that will hurt her and others along the way.

This book was quite the sensationalist read and had me muttering ‘just…one….more…. page….’ until the late hours as I couldn’t put it down. I felt almost voyeuristic as I observed such a messed up family wondering what new low they would manage next.

Verdict: A challenging read and not for the easily offended but nevertheless had me gripped.

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: Hardback
Pages: 288
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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The One And Only Ivan


Katherine Applegate and Patricia Castelao (illustrator)

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

here was something about the very simple yet whimsical cover that drew me to this book. When I then read that the story is narrated to us by a gorilla I was sold!

Ivan (the gorilla if you hadn’t guessed/read the premise!) explains very early on that most animals only speak as necessary and to the point, mocking people who tend to waffle, are overly emotive and constantly chatter. The narration therefore reflects this viewpoint and describes the events that unfold in a brief and to the point manner. Literally on some pages there are just a couple of sentences to read. With Ivan as a narrator, ‘less is more’ and ‘quality over quantity’ is very apt as these few sentences at times, are very powerful indeed.

Ivan and his circus friends are resigned to their dreary, institutionalised life at a static circus. As the years have passed and their popularity has dwindled, so has their spirit and memories of a life in the wild prior to captivity is rapidly fading.

The sadness of their mundane lives really hits home when the animals ask Stella, a mature and injured elephant who still performs circus tricks whether she is excited at the news that a baby elephant will be arriving soon. Stella can think of nothing worse than the thought of this young, vibrant life suffering the same fate as her own and asks Ivan to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Ivan is a thoughtful gorilla, in his domain with limited stimulation and people to observe he has a lot of time to ponder and wonder about his lot. His pondering and discussions with Stella and Bob, a stray dog who has attached himself to Ivan are thought provoking and gives insight as to how they view their micro world. He agrees to honour Stella’s wish although this is such a monumental task for a caged gorilla to do.

The issues the book raises are cleverly handled. The animals experience neglect, emotional and physical abuse and, even though this story has a happy ending for some of the animals, it still makes it clear that any enclosure, no matter how vast, still doesn’t replace the freedom of the wild.

I really enjoyed this book and it even provoked me to get teary without being too animal rights militant at the same time. I do wonder if younger or less empathetic readers may miss the point, so may appreciate some discussion to ensure that they understand the hidden meaning behind Ivan’s deceptively simple words.

Verdict: A beautiful read with a unique narrative style. One of my favourite reads of the year so far!

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: Hardback
Pages: 301
Genre: Animals
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None

Thanks to those lovely people at Harper Collins Children’s Books we have three copies of The One and Only Ivan to giveaway. To enter simply comment below. Three winners will be selected at random to win one of these fabulous middle grade books. UK postal addresses only.
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The Fearsome Beastie


Giles Paley-Phillips and Gabriele Antonini (illustrator)

The Fearsome Beastie is hungry and he likes nothing more than a yummy child. He is crafty and cunning but will his demise come form a little, old granny?

This is a book that from the very first page had both my children ‘entranced’. Prior to this book, my son was a bit ‘meh’ to listening to stories and would only tolerate noisy or tactile books.

Now, this is,’The Book’ that quite frankly has superpowers. When I need normality to resume in the household due to the kids either squabbling, crying, getting bored and so on I now call out to them asking for,’The Book’ and watch them promptly stop what they’re doing and trot off to get’The Book’.

I knew my kids were hooked from the outset because from the start the poem grips you. With a loud ‘Roar’ the fearsome beastie has awoken from his slumber, making the children in nearby villages tremble with fear. Visually you see him leaving his cave that has human bones dotted around, making you realise that he isn’t your average monster just looking for a cuddle. You then read on, building the sense of menace as the beastie makes his trek towards where the children live and then the unthinkable happens,the children do get eaten up! Cue your child’s mouth dropping open in shock but they are now truly gripped by the story. We then have a rather unconventional gran come to the rescue whose methods of dealing with the beastie make my children shriek with delight every time.

This book truly deserves to be a classic. I remember reading Roald Dahl as a child and feeling ‘deliciously scared’ and loving how the ‘bad guys’ always get their comeuppance in the most imaginative ways possible and this book sits in that format perfectly. In a few years time I want to be sitting in front of the tv with my kids on Boxing Day and watching this poem come to life.

Verdict: Giles Paley – Phillips is an author to watch and from the strength of this book alone, I’ll happily blindly buy other works of his, no questions asked!

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing
Publication Date: May 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Children’s book
Age: Picture Books
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Received from Author
Challenge: British Book
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Happy Birthday Big Book Little Book

Has it been a year already?! Next you’ll be telling me it’s less than 6 months until Christmas…oh wait! Like any parent, I’m so proud of how our BigBooklittlebook (BBlb) blog baby has grown in just one year. I’ve loved how being part of this blog has made me dedicate more time to reading and given me the opportunity to socialise with likeminded bibliophiles and meet fantastic authors in the flesh too!

Thanks to everyone that has taken the time to read our posts, super squishy hugs for those that are following us and full on snogs for everyone that has commented on any of our posts – they really are so appreciated and motivates us to carry on.
This is a picture of my two kids reading, ‘The fearsome Beastie’ by Giles Paley – Phillips. It’s been read so often, Becca knows most of the words off by heart. A review will come when I find the right words to do the book justice! When you see your kids having the same wonder and enthusiasm for a much loved book as you have for reading, it kinda makes all the effort worthwhile 🙂
Post by Karen

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Hattori Hachi: Stalking The Enemy

Jane Prowse

Hang-gliding high above the vast forest, silently swooping through the darkness towards the enemy camp, I felt powerful, free … Schoom! An arrow tore through one of my wings, and suddenly I was plummeting down, fast and vertical. The ground was coming up to meet me as the air was forced from my lungs by the pressure of the wind. Only a miracle would save me now … An abandoned castle in the heart of Kielder forest is not what it seems as Hattori Hachi encounters a new terrifying enemy. Why is the evil Raven planning to kill hundreds of people? What is his connection to her family? How can she avert catastrophe, while uncovering dark secrets and terrifying legends that cannot be allowed to come true?

This has been an interesting series so far for me. I have to admit, a young adult series based on ninjutsu isn’t my first choice of reading material and when the books arrived, they lingered a little longer than they should have done before being picked up and read.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised that I found myself enjoying them! ‘The Revenge of Praying Mantis’ is the first book. Here we meet Hattie, a 15yr old living in London with no idea of her family heritage or destiny. Her mum though has been training her to be a ‘kick ass ninja’ on the sly, why she did this starts to become apparent after her mum mysteriously disappears. Now the nice thing about Hattie is that she’s one tough cookie. This isn’t some pint sized heroine who needs a strong male lead to look after her. Yes she meets ‘Mad Dog’, who helps her search for clues into her mother’s disappearance but from the outset it’s clear that he is following her lead and his fighting skills doesn’t compare to her extraordinary talent. The action in this book is constant; just think of the classic ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ style movie fighting, set the scene for London and make it age appropriate for adolescents and this is your book.

In ‘Stalking the enemy’ the book is very much a straight continuation. Whilst Hattie becomes more self-assured and she gets closer to fulfilling her destiny, she still requires the help of her friends to get to the bottom of what’s going on in the Kelder forest. In the midst of all the action, we clearly see a potential relationship blossoming. Hattie’s still too busy though kicking ninjutsu ass to truly explore her feelings so the series shouldn’t alienate those looking purely for adventure in a read. Given that this series is all about ninjutsu, it isn’t actually, very violent; well in the sense that there’s not much death or detailed violence in the fight scenes. Due to this and the fact that the romance is minimal, I wonder if this book series should have been better promoted as for readers aged 9yrs+?

Verdict: An enjoyable, refreshing and action packed change to my usual YA tastes. The third instalment, ‘Curse of the Diamond Dagger’ should be out later this year.

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Piccadill
Publication Date: June 2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
Genre:Action, Ninja
Age:YA
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Received from author
Challenge: British Book Challenge
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