Monday, November 29, 2010

Twilight Robbery (or Fly Trap in America) by Frances Hardinge (sequel to the heavily acclaimed Fly by Night)

Please note, although I'm sure you can hardly wait Twilight Robbery is not coming out until the 4th of March 2011.

The story:

Trouble follows Mosca wherever she goes, and it doesn't much help that she hangs out with a lying, cheating, fraudster of no account, and a goose best described as homicidal.

Got that?  Good.  Because now you've got to hold on tight, through kidnapping, half a bizarre country, more gods than I could possibly name, and into a town that is in terrible peril, from itself. 

Will Mosca save the day?  Will she be able to help more than just herself, but all the people who are relying on her?  Hold on tight and get ready for to discover a world of danger and not so much enchantment.  It's not magic that has everyone enthralled so much as the brazen daring of Mosca, her companions - and of course the evil forces they are pitted against.  Men and women who are too self centred to care about the plight of their fellows.

Twilight Robbery is everything you'd expect from children's book.  It's gorgeous, loveable, dangerous, enchanting (without the magic), and there's lots of running both into and out of danger, as well as fast talking, and a fun, loveable and dangerous -- goose.  Now while I didn't much care for Gullstruck Island, and Verdigris Deep is so brilliant that I don't think any other fiction will ever compare -- this strikes a happy middle note that makes me wonder why on earth I didn't read Fly by Night earlier.  A mistake I will soon be fixing.

My advice is (and I did exactly this) lay your hands on a copy as soon as you can. And if you're a good reader and can cope with intricately wrought writing with big words, read Verdigris Deep and marvel about how it failed to win the awards it deserved.  My reveiw is here.

Fly by Night won the Branford Boase Award in 2006,and was listed in the School Library Journal's Best Books of 2006.  Review here.

Frances Hardinge's website is here  - fair warning though -as of this moment her sequel hasn't been posted yet.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe

"If Night Falls, All Fall"

"A richly told tale of strange magic, dark treachery, and conflicting loyalties, set in a well-realized world"—Robin Hobb
Heir of Night, young Malian is supposed to be kept safe at all times, and still she is out wandering in places she shouldn't go, heedless of the dangers all around her. After all, life in the garrison her family is pledged to uphold seems safe enough - until they are visited by their ancient enemy, the Swarm.  And that's when things suddenly get very interesting.

Standard fantasy stuff on one level, a young hero against forces apparently much stronger than herself.  Forces that could destroy everything she loves and holds dear - but it is the rich detail that makes this book too intriguing to put down.  Not everything is quite as it seems on the outside and Malian's greatest challenge is to recognise where the true danger lies, when treachery lies hidden at every step.

The writing is gorgeous, except for some of the older characters whose dialogue trips the line from old-fashioned to clunky.  The characters are great fun, good and evil alike.  And unlike the rather gorgeous Thornspell the main characters -- and I wont even say who the other main character is because it might ruin the suspense (although you'll probably guess)-- are dynamic and active, swimming in waters over their heads they still manage to direct the plot as they use all their resources and inner strength to try and survive.  Keeping the reader hooked from beginning to end.

The UK/NZ cover above and the US cover below (just because I love the US cover so much, and feel it's slightly more relevant to the story)

Visit The Heir of Night website here.  That way you will be able to keep an eye on what's happening and find out when the next book, "Gathering" will be out, because it's certainly not one I would want to miss.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Maximum Ride by James Patterson

Buy from Rona Gallery
I'm deeply conflicted about this book.  It was a fast read, and rather fun.  My daughter LOVED it and went on to read the next four in quick succession.  So it was good.  But on the other hand - what was he thinking about calling the female lead "Maximum Ride?" and the story itself is similarly shallow. 

It's like he's writing by numbers, pushing all the buttons of an action packed book with fantasy overtones -- and most especially using the same techniques as the Percy Jackson series  in terms of trying to connect with the readers and instil a sense of impending doom and near danger -- it just didn't quite come off . Not for me anyway - but on the other hand I'm an adult and what I want from a book isn't always what a younger reader would want, and someone with a slightly less jaded "palette" would not be quite so sensitive to what seemed to me a certain soulessness that infected the book.

So maybe if this was an ordinary site and we gave out stars I would be tempted to give it only two - but that's not the whole story. And it's not really a fair evaluation because despite it's flaws it is highly readable and perfect for reluctant readers because of all those numbers - or buttons that are covered, kids - all alone, having to survive by their wits alone.  There's lots of action, lots of danger, lots of evil scientists and feats of bravery and wit.  So who am I to argue with the teens - for whom this book is written and give it any lower score than the four stars.

Review by Alicia Ponder.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Rona Gallery Top 10 Books for Adults, Teens, and Picture

This year we're not doing the Late Late awards, but we are celebrating some of our favourite books with our top tens for Adults Fiction, Non fiction, Teens and Picture.  Read one today and Enjoy. 

TOP 10 NOVELS FOR ADULTS (and yes SOMETIMES when it comes to things as important as books - counting isn't quite the skill that is sometimes emphasised in the classroom!)

1) The Distant Hours, by KateMoreton
2) Blossoms and Shadows, by Lian Hearn3) Hand Me Down World, by Lloyd Jones
4) Sex and Stravinsky, by Barbara Trapido
5) Hand Me Down World, by Lloyd Jones
6) Sex and Stravinsky, by Barbara Trapido
7) Inheritance, by Nicholas Shakespeare
8) Started Early, Took My Dog, by Kate Atkinson
9) Great House, by Nicole Krauss
10) Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
11) Widow’s Daughter, by Nicholas Edlin
12) Villa Pacifica, by Kapka Kassabova


1) Shortest History of Europe, by John Hirst
2) QI: The General Book of Ignorance (Bk2) by John Lloyd & John Murchison
3) The Fry Chronicles, by Stephen Fry
4) Katherine Mansfield -The Story Teller, by Kathleen Jones
5) All Blacks Don’t Cry by John Kirwin
6) Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of N.Z.Popular Music 1918-1964, by Chris Bourke
7) It’s Easier Than You Think, by Jo Seagar
8) Who’s Cooking Tonight, by Claire Gourley
9) Caught on Canvas, by Richard Ponder
10) Just my Type: A Book about Fonts, by Simon Garfield


1) Trash, by Andy Mulligan
2) Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins 3) Banquo’s Son & Bloodlines, by T.K.Roxborogh
4) The Moorehawke Trilogy, by Celine Kiernan
5) The Bone Tiki, by David Hair
6) Shadow, by Michael Morpugo
7) Fierce, September, by Fleur Black
8) The Guiness World Book of Records
9) Warriors, by Erin Hunter
10) Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare


1) The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate, by Joy Cowley
2) It’s a Book, by Lane Smith 3) Legend of the Golden Snail, by Grahame Base
4) Ten Little Fingers, by Mem Fox and Helen Oxbury
5) Wind up Racing Cars, by Paul Nicholls
6) The First Christmas, by Jan Pienkowski
7) Christmas Journey, by Brian Wildsmith
8)  Tabby McTat, by Julia Donaldson
9) Eyes, Nose, Fingers & Toes, by Judy Hindley
10) Klutz Educational Games and Toys - always worth looking at, with  great ideas for activities and instructional manuals to go with it.

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