Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Café by Belinda Murrell

Pippas island 1.jpgTitle: Pippa’s Island: The Beach Shack Café

Author: Belinda Murrell

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 3rd July 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A gorgeous new series about friendships, family and seaside adventures, from our beloved bestselling author Belinda Murrell!

Pippa has just arrived at a new school, in a new town, and even living on a gorgeous island isn’t cheering her up. Her arrival causes ripples at Kira Island Primary School – but Pippa soon starts to make friends with eco-warrior Meg, boho-chick Charlie, and fashionista and cupcake baker Cici.

Pippa’s mum plans to buy a rustic old boatshed and start a bookshop cafe, and Pippa worries they’ll lose all their money in this madcap venture – until her new friends come to the rescue to help get the grand opening back on track.

Will Kira Island ever feel like home?

~*~

Starting a new school is always scary – but for Pippa Hamilton, she has had her entire life uprooted, moving from all she has known in England, to a small island in Australia called Kira Island. In between school, she is helping her mum get the beach café/bookstore ready while she lives in a caravan with her mum, brother Harry, and sister, Bella, behind their grandparents’ house. Yet it is school that poses the real challenge: though she meets four really cool girls who will become her best friends – CiCi, Charlie and Meg – Pippa still feels isolated by popular girl Olivia, who seems nice enough, yet when Pippa starts doing better than her, tensions arise.

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At the same time, Pippa is trying to deal with what has happened between her parents, keeping things close until she learns she can really trust her new friends. Pippa is relatable, and fun, and filled with such joy that she shines off the page and dances around. Her story is engaging for all ages over nine. What I loved about Pippa’s Island was the uniqueness each character brought to the series and the way it all unfolded – in a classy, fun and stimulating way that wasn’t too complicated or too simple, and perfect for reading anywhere – on the couch, in bed, at the beach.

There were times when I felt like I was on Kira Island, and living near a beach, it was easy to imagine that some of the things that happened could have happened at the local beach as well – a bookshop café would be awesome to have where I live! So, once I get the chance, I will be heading to my local bookstore to grab the next two or three in the series to follow  Pippa’s adventures on Kira, and these will make for great summer reading.

 

Cavern of The Fear (Deltora Shadowlands #1/Deltora Quest #2) by Emily Rodda

Title: Cavern of The Fear (Deltora Shadowlands #1/Deltora cavern of the fearQuest #2)

Author: Emily Rodda

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st June 2002

Format: Paperback

Pages: 144

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A second Deltora quest begins in this fantasy trilogy that’s sure to engage Deltora fans and bring in all new readers!

The Shadow Lord’s evil tyranny over Deltora has ended. He and the creatures of his sorcery have been driven back across the mountains. But thousands of Deltorans are still enslaved in the Shadowlands, the Enemy’s own terrifying and mysterious domain. To rescue them, Lief, Barda and Jasmine, heroes of the quest for the Belt of Deltora, must find a weapon powerful enough to combat the Shadow Lord’s magic on his own ground. According to legend, the only thing the Shadow Lord fears is the fabled Pirran Pipe. But does the mysterious pipe still exist? And if it does, what dangers will the companions have to face to find it? Will its ancient magic still prevail against the Enemy’s sorcery? Filled with doubts the companions move on, knowing that whatever happens, their quest will end in the darkness and horror of the Shadowland itself.

~*~

Lief is now King of Deltora, and even though he defeated the Shadow Lord with the help of his friends, Jasmine and Barda, there is still a threat looming. With many Deltorans still enslaved, nobody is truly free. To unite Del and Tora, Lief must wed the Toran princess. But first – the three heroes who reunited the belt of Deltora must seek the Pirran Pipe – the only thing the Shadow Lord truly fears. Split into three pieces, Lief, Jasmine and Barda head off on a quest to find the pieces – yet as dangers lurk behind every corner, will they succeed in saving the enslaved Deltorans?

The first series ended with Lief discovering he was the true king of Deltora and driving the evil forces out of the castle that had enslaved Deltora for sixteen years. Now, he must seek to free those who are still enslaved, using his skills and wits. Yet he is distracted by his duties as king and impending marriage to the Toran princess. Yet he sets out across the land again, belt intact, to find the Pirran Pipe – split into three pieces.

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The first piece – the mouthpiece – is said to be in the Cavern of The Fear. As Lief, Barda and Jasmine seek the first piece, they will face dangers and the unknown in the exciting second Deltora series.

The second series picks up soon after the first, with Lief crowned as king of Deltora, and getting ready to take on the responsibilities. Yet as things continue to trouble him, he turns once again to thoughts of the dangerous Shadow Lord and the years of torment the people of Deltora faced haunt him.

This series is a wonderful follow-up to the first, and continues the story seamlessly, by referring back to the first series, yet at the same time, identifying a unique threat that continues to grow and threaten their peace. It is exciting, engaging and quite a quick read – and heads straight into the action, with just the right amount of set up to prepare the reader for what is to come. Yet this is a series that is a continuation and should be read once you have completed the first series.

Another great book from Emily Rodda.

Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5) by Kate Forsyth

battle of the heroesTitle: Battle of the Heroes (Impossible Quest #5)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published:  1st September 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 188

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Do not lose faith. Remember the words of the story, remember the words of the spell…

Quinn, Sebastian, Elanor and Tom have defeated the black witch Githa and found the last crucial piece of the prophecy — the sea serpent’s scale.

Back now at Wolfhaven, they search desperately through the castle crypts for the sleeping heroes, who they hope will save them all … before the dark moon rises and they lose everything.

~*~

In the final book of the series, Quinn, Elanor, Tom and Sebastian head back to Wolfhaven Castle with the unicorn horn, the griffin feather, the dragon’s tooth and the sea serpent scale to awaken the sleeping heroes and save those trapped in Wolfhaven. Thinking they have tricked sister witches – Lady Mortlake and Mistress Mauldred, the four children seek to infiltrate the castle. Yet those they seek to destroy are waiting for them, and with only twelve hours to save those trapped in Wolfhaven, they must work quickly and use all their wits and trickery to achieve their goal. But will it be too late, or will Wolfhaven Castle

2019 BadgeAs the fairy tale quest concludes, each of the four heroes has grown across the series, with Elanor becoming feistier as each book has gone on – which helps her when she faces Mistress Mauldred and helps her friends fight off those who wish to harm them. As the fairy tale quest comes to an end, with a happily ever after and the friends feeling at home with each other and hopefully, their new skills and roles in life, and the series ends wonderfully, with the quest wrapped up delightfully, but a feeling of challenges still ahead. But perhaps these challenges will be of a different kind for these friends.

Having read a lot of Kate Forsyth’s books now, I believe of the ones I own, I only have two or three that I need to read for the first time. The rest will be re-read at some stage as well, and now, with each book I am noticing the fairy tale motifs more and more and the way each motif brings something unique to the book, whether it is for children, young adults or adults. I have loved Kate’s stories for years, and I look forward to each new release from her eagerly.

Winding up a series is always bittersweet – you want it to go on, and to know what happens after the last page has been turned – where do they go to from here, what happens to your favourite character? Yet at the same time, ending it on a high note, where everyone finds a way to fit in with what has happened, and their world, and where it feels right for the characters is enjoyable and brings a sense of completion to the world you’ve been inhabiting for so many books. I can go back and read them again or imagine their lives beyond the page, and know they are happy, and their world has been set right.

Another excellent series from Kate Forsyth for all ages!

 

The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3) by Kate Forsyth

blackmoor bogTitle: The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st February 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: After escaping the bog-men in the wilds of the Witchwood, Sebastian, Quinn, Elanor and Tom journey south on their impossible quest. Sebastian and Elanor seek help from Crowthorne Castle, but both allies and enemies will reveal themselves. Tom and Quinn venture into the mysterious moors … where a hideous beast lies in waiting. Best-selling, award-winning storyteller Kate Forsyth weaves battles, beasts and bravery in this epic new five-book series.

~*~

Quinn and her friends are venturing in search of the third beast – the dragon and the dragon scale. To find it, they separate – Quinn and Tom into the mysterious moors as they are drawn into more danger, and Elanor and Sebastian head to Crowthorne Castle, hoping for help from Lady Ravenna. Yet in both places, the friends will encounter allies and enemies – and begin to find out who and what is behind the dark spell that has been cast over Wolfhaven Castle and its inhabitants, and Elanor’s father. Here, they will find out about the beast in the moors and be thrust into danger that will lead them to discoveries they never thought they’d find on their journey.

The midway point in the series sees our heroes temporarily separated for a while each pair tackles the next part of their journey in unique ways.  In this installment, the heroes are in search of the dragon scale for the spell to awaken the sleeping heroes of the prophecy they are following so they can save Wolfhaven.

The fairy tale archetypes and tropes are still there, especially the beasts and the quest, and the magic that unites them and helps them find a way around challenges they face. As dangers grow, so does the tension, and conflict, which will only bring the quartet closer as they discover that for now, they cannot trust anyone else except each other.

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I am loving this series and polishing it off very quickly. It is filled with adventure and conflict, and friendship, and the power of friendship. It truly is a delightful series, and one that I am thoroughly enjoying. Aimed at readers aged between eight and ten, I believe it is a good read for many age groups and audiences.

Each character is unique and flawed, and relatable in many ways. They fulfil the fairy tale archetypes, but at the same time, are unique, and very different from the characters of fairy tale traditions, and have many more complexities behind them than usually might be found in fairy tales, depending on which version of the fairy tale you read, and how close to the original it is.

I am now reading book five, and the series is heading towards its ending. Next, I am going to review book four, and as each book builds on each other, the series is growing and building on the previous books, and creating a world that is tight, cleverly created whilst still a bit scary, but also, somewhere that I am sure, by the end of the series, will be light and fun again, as it was before the Mortlakes took over.

Illustrated Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling, Illustrated by Jim Kay

goblet of fire illustratedTitle: Illustrated Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Author: JK Rowling, Illustrated by Jim Kay

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher:  Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 8th October 2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 464

Price: $65.00

Synopsis: Dragons! Daring! Danger! The first fully illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is an extraordinary creative achievement by two extraordinary talents. Jim Kay’s inspired reimagining of J.K. Rowling’s classic series has captured a devoted following worldwide, and the drama just gets bigger as the series progresses. With over 150 illustrations, Jim Kay’s unique vision delivers breathtaking scenes and unforgettable characters – including fan favourites Cedric Diggory, Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum illustrated by Jim Kay for the first time.

Fizzing with magic and brimming with humour, this full-colour edition will captivate fans and new readers alike as Harry, now in his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, finds himself competing in the legendary Triwizard Tournament and facing death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards … Making magic in paint, pencil and pixels, this is the Wizarding World as we have never seen it before.

‘It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be’.

When the Quidditch World Cup is disrupted by Voldemort’s rampaging supporters alongside the resurrection of the terrifying Dark Mark, it is obvious to Harry Potter that, far from weakening, Voldemort is getting stronger. Back at Hogwarts for his fourth year, Harry is astonished to be chosen by the Goblet of Fire to represent the school in the Triwizard Tournament. The competition is dangerous, the tasks terrifying, and true courage is no guarantee of survival – especially when the darkest forces are on the rise.

~*~

Harry Potter has been charming the world for over twenty years, and now, each book is being lovingly illustrated by Jim Kay. In the fourth book, Harry and Hermione join Ron and the rest of the Weasleys at the 422nd Quidditch World Cup. After an enthralling match, the Dark Mark is revived by Voldemort’s supporters – Death Eaters, and soon, everything begins to take a very dark turn as Harry heads back to Hogwarts for his fourth year. This year, the Triwizard Tournament is being reinstated – a competition between three Wizarding schools – Beauxbatons, Durmstrang and Hogwarts. Usually, three champions, one from each school is chosen. But this year, Dark Forces throw Harry – the fourth champion – into the mix as well. From battling dragons, to rifts with friends, the series moves into darker and more dramatic territory. As the story darkens, so do Jim Kay’s exquisite illustrations.

Each illustration evokes the mood of the scene and the novel overall, moving from the excitement of the Quidditch World Cup, to the dangers of facing a dragon, mermaids, and the maze in the third task, and finally, his depiction of Voldemort’s return is eerily exquisite as he captures the fear and harsh reality of Cedric Diggory’s death.

The words on their own are magical and filled with magic – and it is these words that have informed the illustrations that add to the magic of the series. With each book, there are images and scenes that get progressively darker, to reflect the dark direction the series is beginning to move in, leading up to the final Battle of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

 

I have been reading the Harry Potter series for nearly twenty years, since my best friend and her mum introduced me to them shortly after the fourth book had come out. So these books are special to my friend and I, and this is the one I remember going to pick up her pre-order with her – and from there, I was hooked, and picked up the first book, and then devoured all four and each subsequent book as they came out. These illustrated editions add something magical and beautiful to the ones already out there, and they are a lovely addition to any Harry Potter library.

The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch by Tom Fletcher

christmasaurus winter witch.jpgTitle: The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch

Author: Tom Fletcher

Genre: Fantasy/Christmas

Publisher: Puffin

Published: 15th October 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: The magical new story from bestselling author of The Christmasaurus and The Creakers, Tom Fletcher.

‘She is the best-kept Christmas secret of all,’ whispered Santa Claus. ‘Which is surprising, because Christmas itself would not exist without her. She is older than time itself, yet still as young as tomorrow. She is known only as the Winter Witch.’

One year has passed since William Trundle’s incredible adventure with the most extraordinary dinosaur: the Christmasaurus. Now, William is swept back to the magical North Pole, where he meets the mysterious, icy Winter Witch – whose power to control time allows Santa Claus to make the long journey all around the world every Christmas Eve. And when they learn that the fate of Christmas itself hangs in the balance, William and the Christmasaurus must work with the Winter Witch to protect it . . .

Full of magic and music, humour and heart, and a friendship like no other, The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch is the most enchanting Christmas read for the whole family.

~*~

Christmas stories are always fun, and I love discovering new ones, and reading them, as well as the classics like A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker during December if I can to get in the mood for Christmas as we decorate and bake for Christmas, and listen to the music and watch the movies and sometimes, the Christmas episodes of my favourite shows. I’ve not yet read the book that introduces the Christmasaurus, but I have added it to my list, as I feel it would be interesting and fun to read.

This is the second book, and starts when William, his father, Bob, stepmother, Pamela and stepsister, Brenda, are starting their Christmas break, and getting into the Christmas spirit completely – from what they wear, to what they bake and many traditions that Bob and William have enjoyed over the years. What is different this year, is that they are taken up to the North Pole to see Santa and the Christmasaurus.

Here, William is given a special bean and a wish as gifts – and he decides to save them for something special, until he notices the bean has disappeared when they arrive home, after Brenda has to go to her father. What happens next threatens Christmas’ very existence – and it is up to William and Christmasaurus to find a way to save Christmas, with the help of the Winter Witch, and ensure everyone goes on believing.

There are many things I love about this book. First, CHRISTMAS! Christmas stories are delightful, cheery and make readers feel good and bring joy to the holiday and show that there is more to it than what we are led to believe. Each story has its own magic and mythology that imbibes Christmas with its very magic and joy that we should all be able to experience with those we love. Second, the main character is disabled! This may not seem important to some readers, but for wheelchair users or who use mobility devices or are limited in some way due to a disability, this is fantastic! William is able to do things in his wheelchair, his family and Christmasaurus adapt for him so he isn’t left out and most importantly, he’s just disabled. I haven’t read the first book, but I want to so I can see how Will does things in that book as a wheelchair user, and the other challenges he faces, which are not shied away from here, but also, I felt, not dealt with as impossible. Nothing big is made of it, he just is. He’s his own person, not an object of pity, or passively treated character as some disabled characters are. And he is allowed to be disabled. This is fabulous – it shows that disabled kids and adults can be and do things like everyone else. We just have to find a different way to do it.

Third – a new take on Christmas with Christmasaurus. Combining dinosaurs and Christmas is a wonderful idea, and very creative. I loved that William and his father were so welcoming to Brenda and her mother, and that they wanted Brenda to stay for their family Christmas. Mostly, I just like a good story and this one had so many elements that worked for me and was so funny that I just gobbled it up and loved the way it incorporated lines and references from songs sung or played around Christmastime. And the Winter Witch’s role in Christmas – that was a new, and unique take on it and seeing how it all worked was a lot of fun in the end, and I hope kids and other readers find this book entertaining and wonderful as well.

A good book to read in the lead up to Christmas or at Christmas, or even as a Christmas gift from Christmasaurus himself. I recommend this for all ages!

The Starthorn Tree (The Chronicles of Estelliana  #1) by Kate Forsyth

starthorn treeTitle: The Starthorn Tree (The Chronicles of Estelliana  #1)

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 1st May 2002

Format: Paperback

Pages: 500

Price: $16.95

Synopsis:

Under winter’s cold shroud, the son of light lies.

Though the summer sun burns high in the skies.

With the last petal of the starthorn tree

His wandering spirit shall at least slip free…

Nothing can save him from this bitter curse,

But the turning of time itself inverse.

The young Count of Estelliana lies sleeping as still and cold as if he was dead. His mysterious slumber has subjected the people of his land to the harsh rule of Lord Zavion, the cold and ruthless Regent.  But when Durrik, the son of the town’s bell-crier, involuntarily prophesizes the count’s death before the entire starkin court, he catapults himself and his best friend Pedrin into the adventure of their lives.

Pursued by starkin soldiers, they must seek refuge in the Perilous Forest, home to the dangerous and unpredictable wildkin. It is only when they are forced into the company of the spoilt starkin princess, Lisandre and her servant-girl Briony that they begin to realise the meaning of Durrik’s riddle. But if they are to waken the count and save their people, they must survive the hazards of the forest where the sinister Erlrune of Evenlinn awaits them…

~*~

The Starthorn Tree was one of those books I just happened to stumble across at the age of sixteen during a visit to the big three level Dymocks in the city. I was looking for something new to read when my eyes fell on this book in the children’s section. It was the first Kate Forsyth book I picked up, and had an autographed edition sticker on it – my first for both, and as I found out from Kate over the weekend after showing her a picture, it is also a first edition – I will be hanging onto this one!

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The Starthorn Tree begins with Durrik and Pedrin listening to orders from the bell-crier, set forth by the Regent for the coming summer for all boys their age to help build a tower. But during a dinner at the palace, Durrik has a vision of the death of the count, stuck in an everlasting sleep in the palace, unable to be awoken by any remedies. He has been struck down by the same mysterious drink that took the life of his father and several others. Fleeing their home, Durrik and Pedrin soon stumble across Lisandre and Briony – and together, they venture deeper into the Perilous Forest, searching for a way to save Lisandre’s brother, the count. But with Zavion’s spies after them, and danger looming from the wildkin – can the four children – a combination of starkin, wildkin and hearthkin, find a way to work together and save their beloved country?

With each of her novels, Kate Forsyth works fairy tale motifs into them. Towers, those stuck in an enchanted sleep, princesses, and many more to create her stories. Drawing on this rich and diverse fairy tale history, she creates worlds like Estelliana that are captivating and when reading, it feels like no time has passed and as though you are within the story itself, so it felt like the pages just flew by. In this one, she sets everything up well, and the journey is both exciting and filled with peril, creating a fantasy world that has everything from Australia’s master storyteller. The amount of fantasy novels written by Australian authors has boomed since 2002 – but Kate Forsyth’s Starthorn books and her Eileanan books are the first ones I remember seeing, buying and reading – though I am sure there were others. It was these books that were my gateway into Kate Forsyth’s books and works as a whole, and I have a great many on my shelf today.

I could not put this one down and am starting the second one as soon as I am able to over the next few days. This was Kate’s first book for children as well – so many firsts with this book for her and me – which makes it really special. I am keen to see where The Wildkin’s Curse takes us – and how things have changed in Estelliana since Durrik, Briony, Pedrin and Lisandre’s original journey.