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Keyword: ‘jewel’

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

September 6, 2014 Comments off

jewelThe Jewel by Amy Ewing. Pub. Walker Books, 2014.

This novel totally fascinated me from beginning to end. It is a sort of dystopian fantasy creating a world that is futuristic, fantastic and totally believable. Like the court of Louis XIV only modern.

Set on an island protected by a sea wall the society created is in five concentric circles at the heart of which is the Jewel or the Royal Palace and all the ruling Aristocratic families. The life here is totally extravagant. Status is their occupation and gossip their currency.

Outside the Jewel is an area called The Bank. The professional, banking district whose residents fawn on the Jewel and conduct the business of the island. The current Empress of the island is from the Bank and this causes a great deal of resentment amongst the ruling families. Murder is common.

Next layer out is the Smoke. Factories that drive the economy with harsh Dickensian working conditions. outside this layer is the Farm lands. Again harsh working conditions and poverty.

The lowest of the low is the Marsh lands. The heroine of this novel Violet is from this poverty stricken land. The irony of it all is that the families from the Jewel cannot produce babies that live long and the girls from the Marsh are used as surrogate mothers to produce royal heirs.

The girls are tested at age 12 to see if they are suitable, then trained in holding facilities and tested for three qualities called Auguries until they are 16  related to Colour, shape and growth and only special girls can do the business. The girls are known as Surrogates and are auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Violet  is highly  ranked at 197 out of 200 surrogates and  she is expected to carry a child who will inherit all that is royal. She  is bought by The Duchess of the Lake, a vicious bitch who ruthlessly deals to anyone who is in the way. Can Violet survive?

Then she meets Ash.

You have got to get into this one. The detail of the society is impressive as Amy Ewing sets up the the trilogy that this is to become. The clothes, the Balls, the extravagant living, the intrigue and the ritual of testing the Auguries and conceiving a child are just breath taking.

High school and young adult in appeal. You have never read anything like this before. Compulsive.

Good Rosie! by Kate DiCamillo, Pictures by Harry Bliss.

October 11, 2018 Comments off

Good rosieGood Rosie! by Kate DiCamillo, Pictures by Harry Bliss. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

This sophisticated picture book, come comic book made me laugh.

It is the story of Rosie, a good but lonely dog and her good and probably lonely master, George. Each day begins with George having two poached eggs and Rosie having a shiny bowl of dog food. Rosie sees her image in the bottom of the bowl and says hello. The other dog never answers.

Then George has  a good idea and they go to the dog park. This changes life for both Rosie and George but you will have to read it to find out how. All I will say is that Rosie meets big dog Maurice and his bunny, plus Fifi with the bejeweled collar. George meets their owners.

Kate DiCamillo’s tight script is complimented by Harry Bliss’s superb illustrations. Each illustration is a work of art  with detail that enhances the text. You will read this more than once I can assure you and it will make you laugh.

Take your time reading this. savour every page. For everyone.

The Genius of Bugs & Activity Book by Simon Pollard.

November 29, 2016 Comments off


The Genius of Bugs & Activity Book by Simon Pollard. Pub Te Papa Press, 2016.

Issued in conjunction with the Bug Lab exhibition at Te Papa these two science books about bugs are exceptional publications.

The emphasis is on selected bugs that use Weapons, Teamwork, Engineering and Deception to ward off enemies and attract their prey.

Take the Bombardier beetle that blows a super-hot, stinky gas powered spray out of it’s bottom and you are right in a very interesting book.

Add the Spitting spider, the brain surgeon Jewel wasp that surgical implants it’s eggs inside a cockroaches brain and the Japanese honey bees that surround an enemy and cook it alive with their body heat and you have an action packed read.
New Zealand Wetas , the  Harvestman spider plus my favourite the Moss piglet add flavour and science comes alive.

Splendidly illustrated with close up photographs and written in large font with bite sized information boxes and the package is complete.


Genius of Bugs Activity Book by Simon Pollard. Pub Te Papa Press, 2016.

The Activity book allows juniors to make their way through a spider maze, solve a word find puzzle, connect the dots to discover an insect and answer true or false questions. Answers are in the back of course.

Helps juniors connect with the subject of insects  in the above book.

Broad appeal over the whole primary/ intermediate school and plenty of boy appeal.

The White Rose by Amy Ewing

August 30, 2016 Comments off

white roseThe White Rose by Amy Ewing. Pub. Walker books, 2015.

This book has been with me for a while now and I have finally got around to reading it and I am so glad I did. It is the second part of a trilogy the first of which is reviewed on my blog below. At the start all hell has broken loose inside the Jewel after Violet and Ash were found in bed together. The Duchess of the Lake, a cruel nasty bitch, is after blood. Lucien the male Lady -in -waiting orchestrates the escape of Ash and Violet with the help of The Duchess’s rebellious son Garnet. There are victims but you will need to read the novel to find out who they are. Where is Raven the girl who entered Surrogacy with Violet?

The escapees are headed for the fourth outer ring of Lone City known as The Farm but first they must escape The Bank and The Smoke with the Duchess and her Regimentals in hot pursuit. It is nail biting action with the presence of The Black Key a crucial link.

Finally they arrive at The White Rose but what is it all about? Well Royalty have taken and used whoever and whatever they like. There are huge disparities between the rich inside the Jewel and the people outside and they have had enough. The city has rotted for too long and there is a sense of utter hopelessness from the workers in the Smoke. A Revolution is in the air but part 3 will be where it is told.

Violet has a crucial role to play because of her Augury or talent of Growth.

Masterfully told by Amy Ewing, great dystopian fiction mixed with fantasy and a modern realism. For high school students and young adults. The link to part 1 Jewel is here:-

Middle School Story: I Even Funnier by James Patterson

January 13, 2014 Comments off

even funnierMiddle School Story: I Even Funnier by James Patterson. Pub.Random House, 2013. 

My first children’s book of the New Year and it is great. Good characters, good story good values and it is very funny in places although not exactly PC. Why should it be?

As an example – A woman gets on a bus with her baby and the driver says to her “that is the ugliest baby I have ever seen”. The woman sits down next to a man and says the driver was very rude to me. The man says go up to him and tell him how you feel. I will hold your monkey.

Jamie Grimm loves comedy, it is his life. He wins a contest for child comedians and is to contest The Funniest kid on the Planet contest. He studies other comedians and analyses his own life, school life and things around him for jokes. There is much to laugh at and it is not offensive.

He wants to be a standup comedian but for him that is impossible because he has been crippled in an accident and is in a wheelchair. He sees life from belt buckle high or belly button jewelery high if you want another perspective.

He is interested in girls and is not left untouched by bullies. Lots of good laughs in all of this and Jamie’s attitude is admirable because of everything that has happened to him. Read it and find out.

Primary and intermediate but some junior secondary school students particularly boys will get off on this. Those that have read the Wimpy Kid series will also enjoy it.

What better way to start a year than with a comedy book that hits home?

Ruby Redfort Pt3: Catch your Death by Lauren Child

November 25, 2013 Comments off

catch your deathRuby Redfort Pt3: Catch Your Death by Lauren Child. Pub. HarperCollins, 2013. 

The best of the Ruby Redfort novels to date in which Ruby shows a chink in her armour. She is mightily clever when exercises of the mind are concerned but to be a SPECTRUM Agent she must be able to survive in the wild.

The first few chapters of this novel are concerned with Ruby going on a survival course in which she encounters more problems than she expected largely because she ignored some basic proceedures. To find out what they are you will have to read the book.

As always there is a mystery about Ruby’s adventures. In this case they concern the hugely evocative sense of smell. Odours, scents and smells are strongly linked with emotion and memory and often arouse feelings and recollections. It’s no secret that Marilyn Monroe wore only Chanel No 5 to bed at night. But how will a sense of smell help solve the mystery here?

There is an ancient jewelery exhibition in town and some strange looking animals appear to be loose in Twinford. Are they linked? What of Ruby’s survival skills will they be tested again? Thirteen year old Ruby and her best friend Clancy Crew have plenty to contend with in this 500 page novel.

Mostly for primary and intermediate readers or readers who like to solve mysteries and codes.

Flip by Martyn Bedford

January 17, 2012 Comments off

Flip by Martyn Bedford. Pub. Walker Books, 2011.

This would be the strangest book for teenagers I have read for some time but boy was it compelling reading. It will make you flip.

Alex wakes up after a night out with his mate and finds himself in a bedroom he doesn’t recognise. He looks in the mirror and it isn’t his face, he goes to the toilet and the crown jewels are not his, they are more impressive in fact. Yuk!!

He hears a female voice calling Philip down to breakfast and he quickly realises that he is Philip, well the body is Philip but his mind is Alex. What has happened?

First he has to negotiate the first day including school, Philip’s friends, classes, sister, girlfriends and parents. Philip is alien to Alex. What has happened to his own body?

Mentally he starts to fall apart. Philip is a sporty jock with limited intelligence and Alex is more cerebral preferring chess and academic performance.

Alex tries to contact his family in London but discovers something is wrong and suspects that his own body of Alex is  dead. He goes to London to see his family and I can tell you no more. Read it yourself.

Martyn Bedford makes you think. He touches on that important aspect of human existence, the soul. Can it be transferred from one person to another? Psychic evacuation he calls it. Terrific stuff. I loved this book.

Wonderful ending. Read it.

Brotherband Book 1: The Outcasts by John Flanagan.

November 27, 2011 Comments off

Brotherband Bk 1 The Outcasts by John Flanagan. Pub. Random House, 2011.

I love Viking stories and Viking warrior culture because it is exciting and gives us some terms such as berserk, valhalla and saga which evoke thoughts of  prowed ships, laden with axe wielding helmeted warriors coming out of the mist seeking gold and jewels. This is such a story.

Set in the kingdom of Skandia, Hal is the son of a freed slave who will always be treated as an outcast but who possesses qualities that the local Skandian lads admire and fear at the same time. Hal has  a guardian called Thorn, a strong warrior and friend of his dead father but now reduced to a target of ridicule after losing a hand and hitting the bottle.

Hal has a friend called Stig, also an outcast and they will become a formidable pair.

All the Skandian lads at the age of 16 years attend training to become warriors at Brotherband and this novel is about their training and first exposure to battle. The training is excellent reading as the qualities of competition, of teamwork, of courage and particularly of leadership are brought out as the lads now in three teams thrash it out.

One important lesson learned is that most fights are won with the first two or three punches. There are bloodthirsty pirates around to provide tension and action. Gritty stuff.

John Flanagan also wrote bestselling series Rangers Apprentice and this series will attract those readers and others of high school age and good readers at intermediate level.

I look forward to the rest of the series.

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams

November 10, 2011 Comments off

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams. Illus. Tony Ross. Pub. HarperCollins, 2011.

I love David Walliams books and so do lots of other kids at primary and intermediate level. His stories are always wacky, bizaare,  hugely funny but have a strong element of common sense and humanity about them.

Gangsta Granny is the latest and just as off the wall as The Boy in the dress and Billionnaire Boy that are reviewed elsewhere in this blog.

Ben’s parents are obsessed watching Strictly Stars Dancing on the tele but Ben can’t stand it! (I understand how he feels). When they watch it they send Ben to stay with his Granny who is very old, smells of cabbage and is boring.

Ben would rather eat bogeys than go and visit her. When he tells his parents this Granny overhears and is hurt. When Ben finds a tin of jewellery when hunting for chocolate biscuits Granny tells him an amazing story about her early life as a Jewel thief.

Ben is hooked and plots to steal the Crown Jewels the only task that Granny has not done.

Brilliantly funny with a superb ending. Great for relationships between old and young.