Bella Donna: Too Many Spells (Bella Donna #2) by Ruth Symes

bella donna 2.jpgTitle: Bella Donna: Too Many Spells (Bella Donna #2)

Author: Ruth Symes

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Piccadilly/Allen and Unwin

Published: 7th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Be who you really are . . . whoever that may be!

Half the time Bella Donna is a regular girl at a regular school with her regular friends – animal-mad Sam, and pink fan Angela. The rest of the time she’s a young witch learning to cast spells and living with her adoptive mum Lilith, and Lilith’s niece Verity. Bella is working very hard at learning her spells, as she’s desperate to win the Spell Casting Contest. But a new teacher at school, Miss Rowan, is making her nervous. Witchlike things are happening in the classroom, and Bella knows it isn’t her.

Beautifully illustrated throughout by winner of the Egmont Best New Talent award, Marion Lindsay.

~*~

The second in the Bella Donna series picks up soon after she has found her Forever Family with Lilith, and new friend at school, Angela. This time, Bella Donna has decided to enter the Spell-Casting Contest, but just as she receives the invitation, strange things begin happening at school. They start with the disappearance of her teacher, Mrs Pearce, and the arrival of Miss Rowan – whom everyone but Sam – Bella’s best friend – seems to like.

As Bella spends her time going to school, and learning spell-casting, as well as working towards winning the Spell-Casting Contest, she begins to notice strange things happening. Animals behaving strangely, and odd spells happening around school. Is Bella Donna responsible for this, or is there another cause?

This was another fun novel in a series that is starting to come out in Australia on the seventh of January. Bella Donna is such a fun character, who is allowed to make mistakes, and be scared. Her coven show understanding and care towards her – she is still a very young witchling who has only recently found out she is a witch. Aimed at children and young adults, I think this is a series that can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a fun and quick read, told using language that neither intimidates nor talks down to the reader – it finds that happy medium that works well for a vast majority of readers.

This is a series that shows readers of all types that it is okay to be who you want to be and shows readers that they can achieve their dreams and goals – even if they have to take a different path to other people achieving their goals.

Hopefully I can read the rest of this series, as I really like the characters and want to see where they go.

Booktopia

Pop Sugar Challenge Round Up

One of the challenges I did during 2019 was the PopSugar Challenge. It had forty categories, plus an additional ten advanced ones – a couple of which I managed to check off, and I filled most of the main categories, some with multiple books. It was a good challenge, but one thing I think lets it down is that it is overly prescriptive – and I think this made it too hard to fill in – almost impossible for some, in fact.

One was an author with the same first or last name as you – and this could let many people down, as there will be many names, not just mine, that do not appear as any part of an author’s name. Some I didn’t fill due to lack of time, but there were some that relied on accessibility as well – being able to get the book, or something being available in a library, bookstore or your collection. The point of a challenge is to challenge you and your reading – but perhaps not in a way that lets you down when you find you can’t fill a category.

Still, it was a fun challenge and I’ll be doing it again this year – but I feel that the categories get too prescriptive and specific each year, and rely too much on the accessibility of books – just because you can find a title in a Google search does not mean that book will be readily available for you – and my plan is to fill as many as I can with what I have.

Challenge #1

A book made into a movie you’ve already seen: Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Basu Victoria and Abdul (2017)

True crime: Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

The next book in a series you started: Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen, The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book involving a heist: The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait, Bright Young Dead by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #2)

Nordic Noir:

A novel based on a real person: Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

A book set in a country that fascinates you:

Country: Scotland
Book: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence

Country: England
Book: The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book with the time of day in the title: early – Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

A book about a villain or anti-hero: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner, The Ship that Never Was by Adam Courtenay

A book about death or grief: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer, Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbitt

A book with your favourite colour in the title: Bluebottle by Belinda Castles

A book with alliteration in the title: Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham
Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen
Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen

A book about time travel: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword by Wendy Mass

A book with a weather element in the title: Draigon Weather: The Legends of Arnan – Book One by Paige L Christie, Dragon Masters: Search for the Lightning Dragon by Tracey West

A book set at sea: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht, Bluebottle by Belinda Castles, Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A book with an animal in the title: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson, The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

A book set on a different planet: Graevale by Lynette Noni

A book with song lyrics in the title: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence (Last Train Out of Sydney)

A book about or set on Halloween: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

A book with characters who are twins: The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester, Other Worlds: Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist: The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin, Tin Man by Sarah Winman

A book that is also a stage play or musical:

A book by an author of a different ethnicity to you: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan

A book about feminism: Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen, No Country Woman by Zoya Patel

A book about mental health: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson (mental disabilities, dealing with grief and loneliness)

A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift: The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne, Goodbye, Christopher Robin by Anne Thwaite

A book by two authors: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A book about or involving sport: Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk

A book by a local author: The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier (AU author), Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen, Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A book mentioned in another book: Heidi by Johanna Spyri, mentioned in Little Gods.

A book from a celebrity book club:

Book Club:
Book:

A childhood classic you’ve never read: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

A book that’s published in 2018: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner: Talking as Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

A book set in the decade you were born: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French

A book with an ugly cover: Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard

A book that involves a bookstore or library: Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Your favourite prompt from the 2015, 2016 or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges:

2015: A book with a one-word title: Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn, Lovesome by Sally Seltmann.

2016: A book based on a fairy tale: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

2017: A novel set during wartime: Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn

TOTAL READ: 61 in 37 categories
ADVANCED

A bestseller from the year you graduated high school (2004):

A cyberpunk book:

A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place:

A book tied to your ancestry (Scottish):

A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title: Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

An allegory: Munmun by Jesse Andrews

A book by an author with the same first or last name as you:

A microhistory: Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood by Edwin Barnard

A book about a problem facing society today: When the Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth – poaching. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – Racism.

A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge:

TOTAL READ: 5

As you can see, some categories were easier to fill than others, some I didn’t manage to find anything for aforementioned reasons, and some had multiple entries. Some were filled in with a stretch – perhaps this is why I like looser themes, rather than ones that dictate what must be in a title or part of the authors name – you still get the challenge of finding a book that fills it, without causing panic because nothing fits in – this takes the fun out of it. So in 2019, my goal is to fill whatever categories I can. And if there are some where I don’t find a book, or a book does not appeal to me, I will give it a miss – and just let it happen as it happens.

In my mind, a challenge like this whilst fun, can also be inhibiting, which is why in the group that does this challenge, I’ve suggested a list of other challenges in case others want to take those on as well as this one or instead of – something I might do, or tweak them for my individual needs.

So ends another year of reading challenges.

Booktopia

Clementine Rose and the Bake Off Dilemma (#14) by Jacqueline Harvey

clementine rose 14.jpgTitle: Clementine Rose and the Bake Off Dilemma (#14)

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd December 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 145

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Clementine Rose is bursting with plans for the school holidays! But with the announcement that a new cooking show will be filmed in the village, everything changes. While Clementine is disappointed that her activities have been cancelled, she soon has an idea and takes to the kitchen in a baking frenzy. If only her mother wasn’t feeling so sick and could help out when things turn sticky.

Everyone wants to be a part of the show – especially Mrs Bottomley! – and it doesn’t take long before temperatures are running high. With the main event being held at Penberthy House, Clementine has the inside scoop and spies some surprising behaviour from the contestants. Will she uncover a secret? And will the show be a flop, or a scrumptious success?

~*~

Six-year-old Clementine Rose lives with her mother, step-father, step-bother, aunt and grandparents at Penberthy House. It’s school holidays, and Clementine has all kinds of plans to have lots of fun. But her family home, Penberthy Hall, has been chosen to host the Great Village Bake Off – and all Clementine’s activities are put off. That is, until she decides to participate in the bake-off. Disheartened to find out she is too young, Clementine convinces those in charge to run a mini junior bake-off as well, and she sets about finding the perfect cake. If only her mother wasn’t so sick. But then Clementine and her brother stumble across nefarious activities and goings on with at least one bake-off contestant after they notice all the other contestants’ bakes are always going wrong – but who – or what is behind it and why? It is up to Clementine and Will to find out – and to stop cheating in the junior bake-off as well!

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I came to Jacqueline Harvey earlier this year with Kensy and Max – and thoroughly enjoyed the first two in that series and am keen for the next ones when they come out – hopefully soon. But this was my first adventure with Clementine Rose, a series aimed at younger readers who are just starting to read alone, and gain confidence in their reading abilities. This is book fourteen in the series, and I found it utterly charming. Clementine is a delightful little girl, who partakes in activities such as baking and ballet, but shows a determination to do things on her own and with her brother, like investigating the strange goings on at the bake-off, and uncovering the secrets behind the catastrophes. What will they uncover, and how will people react?

I loved this book – it was charming, and a quick read for young children, or anyone who wants a quick and fun read at any time of the year. Clementine Rose is the kind of character that shows children of all ages and genders that they can do whatever they want if they put their mind to it – she doesn’t let anything stop her, but she still knows to ask for help when she needs it, but that’s what makes her great – she knows what she can do on her own and knows what her limits are and this shows kids that they can be just like her. I loved Clementine Rose, and I enjoy Jacqueline’s style of writing.

Booktopia

Book Bingo Twenty-two – a prize winning book, a book by someone over sixty, and a book with a yellow cover.

Book bingo take 2

With 2018 rushing towards its busy, and warm conclusion, and in consultation with my fellow book bingo players, I have assigned some previously read books to the following categories, and have assigned my prize-winning category is taken up this time by 2007 Aurealis Best Children’s Book winning series, The Chain of Charms by Kate Forsyth, and have utilised other books in different squares from last time for others this time.

Book bingo take 2 .jpg

Rows Across – update:

Row #2 –

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book by an author you’ve never read before: If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

A non-fiction book:

 A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

 

Row #3:  – BINGO

A book written by an Australian woman:Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – AWW2018

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

 

Row #5

A book that became a movie:

A book based on a true story:

A book everyone is talking about:

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

 Rows Down update:

Row #1 –

A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018

A forgotten classic:

A book that became a movie:

Row #3: –

 A memoir: No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – AWW2018

A non-fiction book:

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – AWW2018

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book everyone is talking about:

Row #5 – BINGO

 A Foreign Translated Novel: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

A book with a number in the title:

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

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Row three across and row five down are my bingo rows this time around!

Australia DayLast time, Australia Day by Melanie Cheng slotted into the short story square, and yet this time, it fits into the yellow cover category this time. A series of short stories about life in Australia, and the varying experiences within society, aiming to capture the breadth of society and the different ways people react to, and deal with how they are perceived, and what is expected from the Australian experience, or perhaps in some cases, Melanie plays on the conflict between what is expected and who her characters are – varying between race, gender, class and sexuality to try and give a well-thought look at how Australia and Australia Day, isn’t the same for everyone, whatever their identity, and that it never will be. By revealing uncomfortable truths about Australian society in a way many people can relate to and understand.

Miss Lily 1Another book I recycled this time was Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – which fitted into the over 500-page square last time. This time, it fits into a book by someone over sixty – I did this again to make it easier filling the remaining categories with books I am in the middle of, and some I am yet to find. A historical fiction novel set during World War One, Sophie is sent to London to a school to learn how to be a lady – yet it is much more than that – she learns the ways of spying and using her feminine ways to find out about the war, and eventually, play a part in the war on the front line, in a time when the world is in tatters, and where men and women are dying everyday as battles rage across Europe, leaving Sophie’s home relatively untouched by the guns of war. Jackie French has been writing for all age groups for many years, and has been a favourite of mine since I was thirteen, and read Somewhere Around the Corner, which I still have my shelf. Another good book that fit more than one square.

My final square is the prize-winning book square. Ordinarily, this would go to a single book, however, with the flexibility we have given ourselves in this challenge, I have assigned it to a series I read this year within two weeks (had I not been so sick, it would have been a week). The Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth won the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction in 2007, for the whole series, comprised of six books, and won for books 2-6, i the long fiction category:

Kate Forsyth, The Silver Horse, The Chain of Charms 2, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Herb of Grace, The Chain of Charms 3, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Cat’s Eye Shell, The Chain of Charms 4, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Lightning Bolt, The Chain of Charms 5, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Butterfly in Amber, The Chain of Charms 6, Pan Macmillan

The series follows Luka and Emilia during the final days of a tyrannical reign during the time of Oliver Cromwell, trying to track down charms from each Roma family in the south regions of England, to reunite them and their families to bring back their good luck and fortune, and also, help stop the violence growing around them, and release their families from prison. It is a charming tail about friendship, and family, tying in historical fact and belief to create a world that children and any other readers can escape to.

Again, all my books are by Australian Women Writers. My aim was for each to be a unique book, but as I am cutting it fine, I’m not sure that will happen, so recycling will happen at times. Onto my next Book Bingo in two weeks time!

Booktopia

The Cat with the Coloured Tail by Gillian Mears, Illustrated by Dinalie Dabarera

the cat with the coloured tail.jpgTitle: The Cat with the Coloured Tail

Author: Gillian Mears, Illustrated by Dinalie Dabarera

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 1st September 2015

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 80

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Mr Hooper and The Cat with the Coloured Tail travel through the countryside in their ice-cream van. They enjoy looking for heart shapes (their favourite game) and making people happy with their delicious moon-creams. But a dark feeling is following the cat. Something is wrong. When the ice-cream van enters the forest, Mr Hooper and the cat realise the heart of the world is in danger. Will they be able to save it? A lyrical fable about love and healing.

  • “Gillian Mears’ distinctive voice is undimmed, and her yearning fable is a sweet and gentle reminder of the two great forces that lie dormant within us – kindness and hope. Her work hasn’t just described life; it’s enhanced it. And we owe her thanks.” Tim Winton
  • Gillian Mears is an acclaimed award-winning author of adult fiction. This is her first book for children and is inspired by personal experience.
  • A tender fable-like tale about love and healing that works on many levels. The story is rich in symbolism and with a subtle yet powerful environmental message but is still able to be enjoyed as a magical story.

~*~

In this charming tale, Mr Hunter travels the countryside with his beloved cat, whose tail changes colour, and who can see hearts in the world. The Cat also knows what kind of moon-cream people need to make them feel better when they are sad. And right now, the whole world is sad. Mr Hunter has stopped seeing hearts, and doesn’t know why – and his beautiful cat, The Cat with the Coloured Tail. is frustrated with him and can feel the sickness seeping into the world. Darkness, and sadness and cruelty – the light seems to be dimming everywhere they go as they approach their holiday. The sick, blackened heart of the world needs to be healed, but can Mr Hooper and his cat do it – and how will they do it?

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Told in a fairy-tale, or fable like manner, Gillian Mears’ heart-warming story can be read by any age group, and touches on the goodness of humanity, and the little things people can do to help those having a bad time, or in need of a bit of fun and a smile. Alongside this, is a message about the world and its destruction, and the healing power of selfless sacrifice to help heal the wounds that have been inflicted upon the world by cruelty.

In this story, it is up to Mr Hooper and The Cat with the Coloured Tail to find out why the heart of the world is sick, and how to fix it, by following the trail of sadness that the cat’s tail can sense. What they find is distressing, yet the find and what follows are so beautifully and magically told, that there is a sense of calm even as the worst begins to happen.

The heart-warming end will bring a smile to your face, and is a perfect read for all readers – to be read to them, or individually, and can be enjoyed by all ages. The Cat with the Coloured Tail is a lovely read, with a message about caring and healing for all.

Booktopia

Secrets Hidden Below (The Adamson Adventures #1) by Sandra Bennett

NJ1798-Secrets-Hidden-Below-Cover-v4-copy-e1533336263504.jpg

Title: Secrets Hidden Below (The Adamson Adventures #1)

Author: Sandra Bennett

Genre: Adventure

Publisher: Elephant Tree Publishing

Published: August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 140

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: The Adamson family are set for a surfing holiday in Bali they’ll never forget. Dad wants to surf all day and Mum wants to shop. Zac is eager to explore a sunken WWII shipwreck. Luke is keen to cause mischief wherever he goes. Clare on the other hand, just wants to stay out of trouble.

But while building sandcastles on Kuta Beach, the kids unearth a surprising find that dramatically changes their holiday. Curiosity leads them on a dangerous path to an adventure where difficulties lurk around every corner.

Secrets Hidden Below takes the reader on an intriguing treasure hunt around an exotic tropical island that includes plenty of rotten-egg gas, a guardian snake and a volcano spirit you definitely don’t want to anger.

~*~

Zac, Luke and Clare are on a family holiday to Indonesia – where they are looking forward to swimming, snorkelling and diving with Dad on a World War Two wreck – but the kids are left very much to their own devices as Dad spends his days surfing and Mum spends her day shopping at the markets. So, the kids are left to play on the sand – that is, until they discover a map that leads to a secret treasure near a volcano, and a mystery that has been buried for hundreds of years, ever since Indonesia had been a Dutch colony.

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Following the map and the clues, Zac, Luke and Clare head off on an adventure – Mum and Dad are there, but are clueless as to what the children are really up  to – and begin to seek out the legend, and treasure and the volcano spirit they must appease before they can find what they seek, and also contend with someone else who wants to the treasure as well – but for what purpose? And what will the children find? It is this mysterious treasure hunt, filled with colourful characters, who also want the treasure, that make this book the exciting story it is, and that will engage younger readers as they read. The fast pace of the book ensures there is always something happening, and that things are not going to slow down any time soon, which made the story go faster, and allows the reader to be swept up into the action.

The first in a new series to be published by Elephant Tree Publishing in Canberra, Secrets Hidden Below is aimed at children aged eight and over, and as it uses Indonesian phrases, is a great way for beginner students to see the language they are learning being used in a practical setting.

The adventure that Zac and his siblings, Luke and Clare go on is fun, and engaging, with a decent pace for all readers of the story, to keep them intrigued, and interested in what is happening, whilst at the same time, exposing them to a new language, country and culture. It is a quick, light read, yet at the same time, filled with excitement, a bit of danger, and a treasure hunt that any kid would enjoy as they explore an island filled with culture and history, and sandy beaches.

With Zac in charge, Clare and Luke follow him on his quest to find the treasure, and with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It is Zac’s ability to translate and speak Indonesian that helps them, and brings an element of excitement and interest

to the novel. Having learnt Indonesian in high school, most of it came back as I read, and I was able to understand it – the glossary of every day terms in the back was useful to refresh my mind, and is also useful for those just starting out, and needing to check a word or two.

This book is the first in a series, it will be interesting to see what other books in the series have to offer, and what other adventures the Adamson family go on. It introduces children to adventure, a new language and culture, and with its spattering of Indonesian, is ideal for students learning the language at any level, to reinforce usage and how the language works – in a fun and inviting way.

Booktopia

Kensy and Max #2: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey

Kensy and Max 2.jpgTitle: Disappearing Act (Kensy and Max #2)

Author: Jacqueline Harvey

Genre: Spy stories, children’s fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Kensy and Max are now agents-in-training at Pharos, a covert international spy network. Christmas break sees the twins back at Alexandria for training and a celebration like no other, but where are their parents and why can’t they come home?

Thankfully, a school trip to Rome provides a welcome distraction. Amid the history and culture of Italy’s capital, they discover a runaway boy and whisperings of Mafia involvement. It looks like Kensy and Max’s harmless excursion may just turn into their very first mission.

~*~

The second instalment of the Kensy and Max series sees the twins in training with the fellow Pharos agents in training, who are also their school friends from the Central London School and their teachers.  After rigorous training and a spectacular Christmas, Kensy and Max head off on a school trip to Rome with their classmates and teachers – most of whom are involved in Pharos. Whilst there, they receive more coded messages from their parents, and the Prime Minister’s son goes missing. Kensy, Max and their friends become embroiled in a mission to save him and stop a plot to undermine the prime minister.

But Kensy and Max miss their parents and Fitz, and are wondering where they are, and why they haven’t made contact since the last coded messages hinting at their whereabouts. As the teachers try to keep a modicum of control, one of the children, Misha Thornhill, has another, ongoing assignment related to Lola Lemmler, the school bully who seems determined to ruin the trip for as many people as possible.

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Travelling through Rome, Kensy and Max spend more time on ciphers and the mystery of the missing boy, than taking in the art, history and architecture of Rome, despite their teachers’ best attempts to ensure they stick with their groups and don’t reveal the existence of Pharos to the few students on the trip not part of the organisation.

As twins go in literature, these days Kensy and Max are definitely my favourites, and this is probably something I would have enjoyed as a child – fun, interesting and filled with adventure, travel and a cipher to unravel. It is exciting and engaging, and the loyalty that Kensy and Max display towards each other and their friends is one of my favourite things about the book and series.

This time, the Pigpen Cipher is used for the chapter headings, and readers of all ages will enjoy the challenge of unscrambling these to discover what each chapter is called.

I am now eagerly awaiting the third instalment to see where Kensy and Max head off next!