Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Royal Ranger: Ranger’s Apprentice #12 – John Flanagan



The Royal Ranger: Ranger’s Apprentice #12 – John Flanagan

Random House Australia

1 October 2013-09-27

Paperback 473 p.

ISBN 9781864718195

RRP $17.95

When this arrived for review I could not help but wonder – is it really almost a decade since I first ‘met’ Will and Halt in The Ruins of Gorlan (#1 Ranger’s Apprentice)?  Nine years after that first book was published, John Flanagan’s epic adventure series has sold over one million copies in Australia, over eighty million more world-wide across 30 countries, been shortlisted for awards nationally and internationally and, above all, hooked thousands of kids into reading.

With each subsequent instalment the legion of fans has grown and each new publication hailed with exuberant excitement and, certainly in my own libraries – countdowns until the day when each devotee could get their hands on a copy! Will and Halt, Horace, Evanlyn, Gilan, Alyss and others have become as real people to readers and many a young boy has dreamed of becoming a member of the Ranger’s Corps.

So now we come to the final chapter, and with this last adventure with the Ranger’s brotherhood , young girl readers will be as fired up as their male peers to become a Ranger  because for the very first time in the history of the Corps – along comes a girl apprentice! 

Princess Cassandra (Evanlyn) and Horace the Oak-Leaf Knight are having that wonderful experience of so many parents – a teenage daughter going out of control. Rebellious, self-centred, indulged and wilful, Princess Madelyn – Maddie – has pushed her royal parents to their limit. At the same time, Cassandra and Horace, along with Halt and Gilan, are terribly concerned about Will’s state of mind after the murder of his beloved Alyss. Halt has the perfect solution for the beleaguered parents as well as a plan to bring Will back from the depths of his grief and obsession for revenge. He proposes that Will should take on his goddaughter Maddie as an apprentice. Not without its hitches, the plan is successful on both accounts (perhaps a little too successful according to Cassandra!) and with his usual witty humour, gripping adventures and engaging characters Flanagan takes his readers on one last thrilling adventure when the master and apprentice Rangers embark upon their first joint mission uncovering a dark and dangerous crime conspiracy.


No need to urge to buy this one – I know it will be on everyone’s list and quickly off everyone’s shelves!  I can’t help but feel a little sad the series is at end but I am sure that John Flanagan will continue to provide his loyal following with more spirited adventures and worthy heroes.

Highly recommended for all readers and would-be Ranger apprentices 10 years+

Kisses on a Postcard – Terence Frisby


Kisses on a Postcard: A tale of wartime childhood – Terence Frisby

Spoken word CD format

First a stage musical, then a radio play, then a book (edited by Bloomsbury 2010) Terry Frisby (perhaps best known for ‘There’s a Girl in My Soup’) narrates his account of his wartime evacuee childhood.

Along with his older brother, Jack, young Terry is evacuated to Cornwall and lands in the loving  but firm home of Aunty Rose and Uncle Jack, originally from Wales, now living in the tiny village of Doublebois.

For three and a half years or so, the two brothers – aged 11 and 7 respectively when they are first evacuated – are raised, respected and loved by the Phillips. Terry’s enduring memories of the life and characters of their tiny community – both good and not-so-good, endearing and eccentric – are retold with such deep affection and sensitivity, that the reader (or in this case, listener) is completely involved with all that happens.

While perhaps not very informative about WWII from a military aspect (although the reminiscences of both British and American GI soldiers are most entertaining), this is certainly a wonderful insight into the culture and society of rural England during one of the country’s darkest periods.

As we look back from this distance, we realise how difficult it must have been for parents to send their children away to safety – in this case, only seeing their offspring a handful of times during the long war years.

An absolute delight to experience – well recommended for older readers/adults.

Alone on a Wide Wide Sea – Michael Morpurgo


Alone on a Wide Wide Sea – Michael Morpurgo

Harper Collins 2006

ISBN 0007234635

Paperback 312 p.


It is serendipitous when you pick up a book by one of your favourite authors at an op shop – and you have not yet read it. Michael Morpurgo is always the consummate storyteller. He is an author generally commanding a read-it-in-one-sitting approach.  In this novel for older readers, Morpurgo combines two narratives.

The first is the history of Arthur Hobhouse, boat builder, who arrived in Australia as one of the British child migrants following World War II. Somewhere between 7 000 and 11 000 children are estimated to have been shipped around the world between 1947 and 1967. While many of these were welcomed into kind and loving environments, there are many dark and disturbing accounts of those who were exploited and mistreated. Arthur was one of these unfortunate victims but happily is rescued and set on a path to full and happy life, as a master boat builder. 

The second half of this superbly crafted recount is the journey of Arthur’s daughter, not yet twenty and undertaking a lone world voyage on the Kitty IV, the yacht lovingly built by her father for this very purpose. Her mission is to find her dad’s long lost sister, Kitty.  Allie’s story is told through her journal account of the voyage with all attending risks, misadventures and triumphs.

At all times gripping, sometimes poignant, adventurous and inspiring and with dashes of humour, this book would sit well on any secondary library shelf.

Recommended for both male and female young adults (as not confined to a single protagonist of either gender) – capable readers of 13+ should enjoy this thrilling story.

Pretty Girl J. C. Burke


Pretty Girl – J. C. Burke

Random House 2 September 2013-09-23

RRP $19.95

ISBN 9781741663136

Paperback 364 p.

Sisterhood stories have long been popular with girl readers, whether the formulaic Babysitters Club books for younger girls or more complex offerings such as ‘Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’ or ‘Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’ series for young adults.

‘Pretty Girl’ slots well into this chick lit genre and while you may well have thought the two latter series mentioned above had some darker moments, this new novel by J. C. Burke takes a group of best friends into far murkier places.

Four friends, Paige, Sarah, Jess and Tallulah, have been ‘besties’ all the way through school and have now arrived at university where they all live together on campus. In this new setting, they find themselves divided as issues of wealth, partying, drugs, studying or lack of it and more separate each according to their personalities and circumstances.  One thing links them together, albeit unknowingly. A charming and good looking young man befriends each in turn secretly with dire, and indeed, fatal results. Jess is dead, Paige is recovering from a near-fatal accident in a mental institution, Tallulah is out of control and Sarah is beset by doubts and suspicions, as she struggles to keep up with wealthier friends, her memories of Paige’s accident, Jess’ death and her own longstanding relationship with Will. Enter Jonny – gorgeous, exciting, sexy and psychopathic. As Sarah falls under Jonny’s spell, Paige’s memory starts to return, piece by piece. Will Sarah be saved from the terrifying control of Jonny’s twisted mind in time?

As the readers, we are already putting together the clues about Jonny well before the girls do and we are mesmerised by the seemingly inevitable nightmare into which Sarah is being drawn.

Burke has drawn her characters with great clarity and we can recognise each one’s flaws and strengths. A terrific plot which unravels with a steady pace heightens the tension and sense of impending disaster perfectly.

Recommended for mature readers 14 and up – some pretty heavy duty language, drug and sex references throughout

The Screaming Staircase – Jonathan Stroud


The Screaming Staircase – Lockwood & Co. #1 – Jonathan Stroud

Random House Australia, 2 September 2013

ISBN 9780857532022

RRP $24.95

Paperback  440 p.

This new series from Jonathan Stroud is the first since the Bartimaeus Sequence which sold over six million copies, and was translated in over 35 languages. The fact that Universal Studios has already picked up the film rights to Lockwood & Co. is an indicator of the enthusiasm this new series should generate.

In a London that echoes a steampunk feel, Lockwood & Co. are…well, they are ghost busters! The populace is gripped in a plague of pesky poltergeists, spooky spectres, appalling apparitions, loathsome lurkers – pretty sure you get the picture. This supernatural pestilence has been creating havoc for forty years and sales of lavender (a well known deterrent), salt (ditto) and iron or silver wards (charms hung about the person or home) have skyrocketed.

Among the many businesses which have been set up to offer protection against these unwelcome visitors, possibly the most unprepossessing is Lockwood & Co. The charming Anthony Lockwood is the proprietor and employs a nerdy sidekick named George and most lately, a skilful psychic investigator called Lucy Carlyle. While only children can see the Visitors (the Talent) and so therefore are those employed by all such agencies, Lockwood & Co. is somewhat unusual in that it is completely without any adult supervisors – a situation that can create a little doubt in some of their clients.

Throughout, the determined trio manage to set a house on fire, release dangerous spirits, send the company bust, incur the wrath of the DEPREC (Department of Psychical Research and Control, a government agency, which monitors the various agencies and works closely with the police) and generally find themselves more than once in real bother. However, in the spirit of all great adventurers, they turn the tables entirely when they solve not only a long standing Haunting but also a nasty murder, winning kudos (and financial solvency) all round.

With some wonderful humour, enough spookiness to be entertaining, some tense moments dealing with more difficult Visitors and, most of all, a terrific plot Stroud has produced a real winner with this new novel.

Highly recommended for readers from 10 onwards.

The Only Game in the Galaxy


The Only Game in the Galaxy – The Maximus Black Files Book 3

Paul Collins

Ford St Publishing, September 2013

ISBN 978 1925000043

RRP $19.95

333 p. Paperback


Hold on and get ready for a fast and furious helter skelter ride through a world of futuristic spy games with Maximus Black and his nemesis, Anneke Longshadow.  Defined by the publisher as science fiction (space opera) this final offering in the trilogy, had this reader on the edge of my seat for the entire ride. Openly admitting, this is not my favourite genre and despite having not read the first two books in the series, I had no trouble in picking up the threads of previous actions and history of the whole RIM (intergalactic law enforcement agency) and the nefarious main character.  This was a book that demanded not to put down mid-story and there was some considerable difficulty in doing so (due to constraints of mundane annoyances like day jobs and the length of my commute).

Though there are numerous other characters in play, as well as some swift changes in time and place, due to the technological marvels of the future, the novel has tremendously fluid continuity throughout.  One has immense trouble disliking Maximus, for all his faults and as his past unfolds to reveal his present, there is clearly room for a ΄nurture vs nature΄ debate.  I was put in mind of Artemis Fowl – except perhaps on steroids!!

Begging for a lengthy discussion about good and evil, – and are certain characters inherently either one or the other –, along with the obvious parallels with historical and current global conflicts, there is no hesitation in recommending this exciting and well paced novel for older and capable readers of around 12+.

Put this one (and the first two!) on your shopping list immediately – there will be no disappointments here.

The Princess and the Pirate


The Princess and the Pirate – Royce Bond

Morris Publishing Australia

July 2013

ISBN 9780987543400

Paperback – 272 p.

RRP – not known


Royce Bond established a solid reputation as a published writer of scientific material prior to his retirement, along with a couple of books for children. He is now venturing into writing for the young adult market.

His new book The Princess and the Pirate is somewhat of a grab-bag of various ideas but mostly falling into the speculative fiction genre.  It made this reader think of a cauldron into which had been stirred some elements of Star Wars, as well as some of The Princess Bride along with a bit of Raymond Feist.

Hepzebah, a warrior princess, is by far the dominant character in this oft times confusing story. Her relationship with Sergio, a rogue pirate trader echoes the love/hate positioning of Princess Leia and Hans Solo. They forge a partnership designed to overcome the evil enemies of their planet. This reader found the story difficult to read – and at times, somewhat banal and predictable.

Along with a spelling/typo error on the back cover blurb, it was bemusing to read that Hepzebah wore a tight fitted ΄gherkin΄ – surely not? It would be somewhat unconventional to say the least.

The complete arrogant control demonstrated by Hepzebah throughout would be off putting to male readers, I believe – and I cannot see that there is enough substance in the story to win over the female sector.  The frisson of sexual tension may of course appeal to some less discerning teens.

Whilst I confess to skipping some pages that seemed interminably long winded about vicious attacks, the end chapter, beginning with ΄two years later΄ did not even come close to a satisfactory or logical conclusion.

All in all, I am sorry to say it was a disappointment and I can only offer a very mediocre rating for this novel.