Category Archives: adventure

The Last Thirteen by James Phelan

Do your children love sinking their teeth into a new series? Do they love books like The 39 Clues, The Infinity Ring and Conspiracy 365?  Scholastic have just released a new series, called The Last Thirteen, that’s perfect for fans of these series and anyone who loves a fast-paced story full action, adventure, and mystery.

I click my fingers and everybody dies.

Sam wakes from his nightmare to discover the terrifying reality. It will come true.

Kidnapped from school and finding out his parents aren’t who he thinks they are, Sam is suddenly running from danger at every turn. Nothing will ever be the same again.

With his life and identity shattered, Sam’s salvation is tied to an ancient prophecy. He is in the final battle to save the world, up against an enemy plotting to destroy us all.

He alone can find the last 13.

Are you one of them?

The first book in The Last Thirteen series has just been released and James Phelan kicks it off with a bang.  The first book sets the scene for the rest of the series, so we find out snippets of information about Sam, the Last Thirteen, and the organisations that want to get their hands on them.  The Last Thirteen are a group of teenagers with a special ability that some people will kill to get their hands on – their dreams come true.  Sam is the first of the 13 and the race is on to find the other 12 in order to save the world.

The plot races along (especially in the second half of the book) and the chapters are short, so readers will gobble it up and be waiting for the second book.  Each of the books ends with a dramatic cliff-hanger, and the end of the first book certainly makes me want to read the next one to find out what happens.

Like similar series (39 Clues, Infinity Ring) there is a dedicated fan website, where fans can register online and gain VIP access to a range of exciting features.  There’s also the chance to enter the competition, with your chance to become famous.

The Last Thirteen is perfect for ages 10+ who love action, adventure and mystery.  Get your copy today and join the race to find the Last Thirteen.

Check out the book trailer and the video of James talking about the series:

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Monkey Wars book trailer – Choose your troop

When Rhesus monkeys are brutally massacred on the dusty streets of Kolkata by a troop of power-hungry Langur monkeys, Mico’s life is changed for ever.

As he attempts to help the surviving Rhesus, he becomes increasingly entangled in the secrets that lie at the heart of the corrupt Langur leadership. And, as more blood is spilt, Mico quickly realizes that choosing between right and wrong will not be as easy as he first thought.

Monkey Wars by Richard Kurti is one of my most anticipated reads from Walker Books Australia this month.  It sounds really original and exciting.  Sounds like a great book for those kids who like Erin Hunter’s books.

Monkey Wars is out now in NZ from Walker Books Australia.

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Boy Nobody book trailer

I’m really looking forward to reading this one.  It looks like a great action-packed read. Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff is out now in NZ from Orchard Books.

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Fur-ightfully Funny Adventures from Beyond the Grave

When Joe Edmunds makes a wish on an Egyptian amulet, little does he know that he has volunteered to guide and defend the undead pet inhabitants of his town…

If you know a young reader who likes adventure stories that are a bit spooky and really funny, then I’ve got a new series for you!  Undead Pets by Sam Hay is an awesome new series for 7+ featuring zombie animals and ‘pets with one last thing to do before they pass to the other side.’  As well as a great story (that boys especially will love) the books are illustrated throughout by Simon Cooper.  I especially like the cartoons that describe how each of the pets die.  I reckon the covers are terrific and are sure to jump off the shelves.  Young readers will get hooked on Undead Pets and they’ll gobble them up in no time.  They’re stand alone adventures so kids can start with any of the books.

Read all about the different books in the series below and watch the cool book trailer.

Return of the Hungry Hamster

Dumpling the hamster came to a dusty end inside a vacuum cleaner … but he suspects that his owner Oliver’s parents never admitted to their son that they were to blame for Dumpling’s demise. Now the hamster needs Joe’s help to reveal the truth – but there’s a furry surprise awaiting them at Oliver’s house…

Revenge of the Phantom Furball

Disaster strikes when Bonsai the pug chases Pickle the cat into the street, where she is flattened by a car. But the fact that Pickle has (almost) shuffled off her mortal coil isn’t her biggest concern; she is worried that Bonsai will pursue her sister Pebble into an early grave too, unless she and Joe teach the dog a lesson…

Night of the Howling Hound

Joe is off on a school trip to an adventure camp, and he can’t wait to put Uncle Charlie’s survival tips into practice! But it’s not long before he’s visited by Dexter, a scruffy-looking dog, with a howling tale of woe. Dexter doesn’t want his owner feeling guilty for his death, but it’ll be hard for Joe to intervene this time – it turns out that the owner is Joe’s headmaster, the dreaded Mr Hill!

Goldfish from Beyond the Grave

Just when Joe thought things couldn’t get any stranger, he is visited by Fizz, a zombie goldfish. Fizz was flushed down the toilet by his owner Danny’s little sister, who doesn’t realize that she’s sent the fish to a watery grave. Fizz needs to ensure the truth is revealed before his fellow fish meet a similar fate. But how do you get a goldfish to rest in peace?

Rise of the Zombie Rabbit

Fluffy’s owner, Olivia, lost a necklace in her back garden and she’s going to get in big trouble if it isn’t found. Fluffy can’t bear to see her owner in distress and she demands that Joe finds the necklace – now! Can Joe do what Fluffy wants or will the undead pet be hopping around forever?

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House of Secrets by Chris Colombus and Ned Vizzini

Chris Coloumbus is the writer and director of some of my favourite movies, including Gremlins, The Goonies and Home Alone.  He’s a gifted storyteller for the screen who has now delved into the world of children’s books.  His first children’s book is House of Secrets, co-written by Ned Vizzini, and I was interested to see if his books were just as good as his movies.

A secret history… A mysterious family legacy… Dark magic of untold power… And three kids who will risk everything to bring a family back together. The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games … But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family’s secret history and save their parents … and maybe even the world.

House of Secrets is an action-packed blockbuster of a book about three children who are transported into the world of fiction.  There’s something in this story to appeal to all kids – adventure, mystery, magic, witches, giants, warriors, pirates, and fictional characters coming to life. Most readers have wanted to actually be in the world of a story at some stage, and this is exactly what happens to Cordelia, Brendan and Eleanor (even if it was the last thing they wanted).

Chris and Ned have said that the story was originally going to be a screenplay for a movie, but they thought it would be too expensive to make so they adapted it into a book.  I thought this came through quite clearly as the story really reads like it should be a movie.  It’s quite fast-paced and there is lots of action so it will definitely keep kids’ attention.  I can see why it would have cost so much to make this story into a movie, because it’s quite epic and there would be huge special effects involved.  The house that the children find themselves transported in is much like the Tardis (‘it’s bigger on the inside’), with lots of hidden passageways, and it gets battered about by witches, giants and pirates.  There are many different fictional worlds, filled with different creatures and characters.

Although I loved the story and the way the authors kept the action moving along, I found the children quite stereotypical and a bit flat.  Within the first 10 pages you’ve had a detailed description of what the three children look like and how old they are, which just seemed a little bit forced to me.  I guess it’s probably a movie thing and they’re trying to give us a picture of the characters, but you don’t need to know everything about a character within the first few minutes.

The plot races along right to the end and leaves the story hanging for the next book in the series.  I’ll be looking forward to discovering what comes next for the Walker children.

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Cattra’s Legacy by Anna Mackenzie

Risha is strong and outspoken, and at 16 has developed into a leader of men, a strategic thinker, and a woman — one can imagine — who will assume the legacy left by her mother.

The story begins with 13-year-old Risha living a simple life in the mountains with her father. When her father suddenly dies, Risha is left alone, an outcast of her village. Disguised as a boy, Risha leaves the village with a group of traders, on a quest to find out the truth about her mother and her heritage.

Here begins a grand sweeping adventure as Risha is caught up in dangerous pursuits, intrigue, trickery and betrayal. She is left for dead, confused by the actions of many, and is made to hide from those who wish her harm.

She finds out by chance that she is Cattra’s daughter. Who is Cattra — and why do so many wish Risha harm?

Cattra’s Legacy tells of the journey of Risha, not only across the wild land in which she lives, but from timid young girl to fierce and powerful young woman.  Risha’s world is full of secrets, lies, promises, danger, strategy, rescue missions, and plenty of fighting.  Anna has created Elgard, a world that is both beautiful and harsh, and she takes Risha from one corner of the land to another.  From her rocky mountain home of Torfell where she has grown up, Risha travels through the busy city of Caledon, the Lacstone Marshes and the Citadel at LeMarc.  As you delve further into the story you discover the politics of Elgard, the struggle for power between the various rulers, and the enormity of the task that Risha has ahead of her.  There was one particular part of the story, when Risha and Torfell are going through the marshes, that reminded me of the Swamps of Sadness scene from one of my favourite movies, The Neverending Story.  It’s a heart-breaking part of both the movie and Anna’s book, and I’d love to know if this part of the story is a tribute to that movie or just a coincidence.

Risha is a wonderful character who grows so much throughout the story, and she grew on me more and more as the story progressed.  She starts off as a timid young girl who lives a quiet life with her father in the mountains of Torfell, but the events of the story mean she has to grow up fast.  She grows in to a fierce and powerful young woman, who is very self-assured and you wouldn’t want to cross her.  You know that she is going to become a strong, but kind leader of her people and will do everything in her power to unite the people of Elgard.  One thing I really like about her is that she’s really focused on her duties.  Even though she could have her pick of the males around her, romance isn’t her number one priority.  I’m sure that romance will come in to the other books that are to follow in the series.

Between Cattra’s Legacy and R.L. Stedman’s A Necklace of Souls, there certainly isn’t going to be a shortage of strong female main characters for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards next year.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and see how Risha develops even further.  I certainly know that Risha is ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

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The Book of Doom by Barry Hutchison

If you’re a long-time reader of my blog you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Barry Hutchison, from his creepy Invisible Fiends series to his short stories and his Afterworlds series. The first book in the Afterworlds series has just won the Older Readers category in the Scottish Children’s Book Awards (which is voted for by children so it’s a wonderful award to receive).  He’s one of those incredibly talented authors who can creep you out one moment and have you laughing out loud the next.  Barry’s latest book, The Book of Doom, is packed with those laugh-out-loud moments, and plenty of cringe-worthy ones too.  The thing that makes the book even more awesome for me is that the main character is named after me (I can’t tell you how excited I am about this!).  When you read your name on the page it’s even easier to imagine yourself in that character’s shoes and go on the adventure that they do.

Heaven has lost the most important object in existence and getting it back is gonna be Hell … The second hilarious book in Barry’s AFTERWORLDS sequence – comic fantasy perfect for fans of Pratchett and Douglas Adams. There’s panic up in Heaven. They have mislaid the BOOK OF DOOM – the most important object in existence. Oopsy. They think Satan might have stolen it, the sneaky little devil, so to save the world – plus, you know, quite a lot of embarrassment, fifteen year old Adam and his angelic guide Angelo are sent to retrieve it. Sadly directions aren’t Angelo’s strong point and they soon find themselves just as lost as the book, wandering through Afterworlds such as Valhalla and Hades and encountering some colourful characters along the way… Can the hapless pair make it to Hell and back?

The Book of Doom is absolutely fantastic and it’s the funniest book I’ve read for older readers since Barry’s The 13th Horseman. There’s something in this book for everyone, including an assassin monk, archangels involved in dodgy dealings, a boy who’s half-human/half angel, a demon with a statue made from the skin of his enemy’s children, singing and dancing Vikings, and a demon wearing roller skates and hot pants.  There are also four familiar gentlemen who pop up at one part (I really can’t get enough of these guys and I hope we see them again).  There are plenty of pop culture references in the story that you’ll be able to spot too, from super heroes to Star Wars.  I loved how disappointed Angelo would get when someone didn’t get his reference to a comic or a movie.

Barry’s characters are wonderful as always.  Zac is very cool and I’m honoured to be his namesake.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a thief who gets sent to Hell to retrieve a very important book.  He’s not fazed by much, even when faced with a demon who has eyes for nipples.  Angelo is one of Barry’s funniest characters and he gets all the best lines.  I cracked up laughing when he says ‘Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.’  He’s awkward, and a little bit clueless, but quite lovable too.

The banter between Barry’s characters was the highlight of Book of Doom for me.  The banter between Angelo and Zac made me laugh out loud so many times and my favourite part is when they finally reach the gates of Hell.  It’s the sort of book that you really want to read aloud because it would be even funnier to hear someone reading it.

The last few chapters of the book are especially hilarious and I loved the twist (which totally made sense when I looked back on the story).  The Book of Doom will keep you laughing long after you’ve turned the last page.

5 out of 5 stars

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Seven Wonders: The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis

Imagine that you were told that you woke up on a mysterious island, a place that few people know even exists, and told that you have six months to live.  You’re told that you have a special gene that gives you amazing powers, but the only way to keep those powers under control and keep you alive is to retrieve seven lost magical orbs.  These orbs have been hidden in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and it’s up to you and your new friends to retrieve them before it’s too late.  This is the task that is given to Jack McKinley in Peter Lerangis’ new series, Seven Wonders. The first book in the Seven Wonders series, The Colossus Rises is out now.

The day after twelve-year-old Jack McKinley is told he has six months to live, he awakens on a mysterious island, where a secret organization promises to save his life – but with one condition. With his three friends, Jack must lead a mission to retrieve seven lost magical orbs, which, only when combined together, can save their lives. The challenge: the orbs have been missing for a thousand years, lost among the ruins and relics of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. With no one else to turn to and no escape in sight, the four friends have no choice but to undertake the quest. First stop: The Colossus of Rhodes … where they realise that there’s way more at stake than just their lives.

The Colossus Rises is an action-packed blockbuster of a book. From the first sentence you’re hooked into the story and, like Jack, you’re whisked from your normal, everyday life into a strange new world.  You’re taken to a place of legend, home to mysterious creatures, and where a group of kids have amazing powers.  The mystery of the unique gene that Jack and his friends have and the magical orbs draws you in and you keep reading hoping to find the answers.  Peter Lerangis is very good at only revealing little details throughout the story to leave you hanging and we’ll find out more as the series progresses.  There is definitely more to the island and their quest that Professor Bhegad isn’t revealing to Jack and his friends (if you read the free ebook prequel, The Select, you’ll see what I mean).

Peter really keeps you on the edge of your seat.  There is danger around every corner so you never know what to expect next.  I wasn’t even sure that Jack and his friends were all going to make it to the end of the story alive, as they have some very close shaves.  The second half of the book is especially exciting and fast-paced and had me engrossed in the story.

Like the Percy Jackson books The Colossus Rises is a mixture of adventure and fantasy.  Jack and his friends have powers that help them in in their quest to find the orbs and the island is home to mysterious and mythical creatures.  They have to fight for their lives with these creatures, both on the island and on the other side of the world, in plain view of normal humans.

Seven Wonders is sure to be a hugely popular series and I certainly can’t wait for the next book in the series, Lost in Babylon.  The Seven Wonders website is awesome and definitely worth a look too (especially for the free ebook prequel, The Select).

4 out of 5 stars

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Introducing The Department 19 Files by Will Hill

I’m a huge fan of Will Hill’s Department 19 series.  I love them because they’re action-packed and gory, and there are vicious, blood-sucking vampires galore.  If you haven’t come across the series you can read my reviews of Department 19 and Department 19: The Rising here on the blog.

The third book in this awesome series, Department 19: Battle Lines will be released in April in New Zealand (March 28th in the UK).  In the lead-up to the release of Battle Lines, Will Hill is publishing three Department 19 short stories as ebooks.  The Department 19 Files is a trilogy of new stories, set in the same world as Jamie’s, but further back in history.  Will describes the stories as:

“…some of the darkest, most painful stuff I’ve written, and are full of all the action and gore you’ll be expecting. They shed light on the early years of Blacklight and how it became the organisation that Jamie and his friends are parts of, and they allowed me to write about one of the most fascinating periods in history, a period of mechanised death and devastation on a scale that is almost unimaginable in these days of drone strikes and laser-targeted bombs.”

The three stories are being released over the next three weeks in the lead up to the release of Battle Lines, and you can buy them from Amazon.com or Kobo in NZ.  Will explains what each of the stories is about on his blog:

“if you want to read about Quincey Harker and his horrifying adventures in the darkness of the Western Front, pick up The Devil In No Man’s Land. If you want to see a younger Valeri Rusmanov doing what he does best as Europe is gripped by the flu pandemic of 1918 (and read some of the nastiest stuff I’ve ever written!) then stick around for Undead in the Eternal City. And if you want to know what happened when Quincey Harker returned home and discovered the truth about what his father and his friends really do, then The New Blood contains the answers, along with some characters that fans of Dracula will be very familiar with!”

I’ve just read the first story, The Devil in No Man’s Land, and it’s bloody brilliant!  Set in the muddy battlefields of the Western Front, it tells the story of Quincey Harker (a character you’ll be familiar with if you’ve read any of the other Department 19 books) and the members of the Special Reconnaissance Unit.  They fought relentlessly for their country and were given medals that they could never be officially awarded, but none of them were prepared for the horror that they would discover in Passchendaele.  Will Hill is brilliant at building suspense and having you on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out what Quincey and his squad will come across next.  The gore that I love in the Department 19 books is certainly here in this compact little story and Will portrays the horrors of war very well.

One of the things I like the most about the Department 19 books are the historical chapters that give you background to the story and the organisation, so it’s great that Will has written these ebook short stories.  The great thing about The Department 19 Files is that they can be read separate from the rest of the books, so even someone who hasn’t read the others would enjoy these.  They would be a great way to hook readers into the series too.

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Phantom of Terawhiti by Des Hunt

Des Hunt is one of my favourite New Zealand authors because he writes action-packed adventure stories set in New Zealand.  The setting is always so important in his stories and Des has introduced Kiwi kids to parts our beautiful country that are both familiar and unexplored territory for them. In his latest book, Phantom of Terawhiti, Des takes us to Wellington’s wild southwest coast and introduces us to Zac, who stumbles on an interesting discovery.

It’s the school holidays and Zac thinks he might go crazy with boredom. He’s living in exile with his disgraced father on the remote Terawhiti Station on Wellington’s wild southwest coast. Then Zac and his dad witness a boat sink during a storm. Investigating further, Zac finds a set of unusual animal prints on the beach. Whose boat is it? And what creature could have made the prints? Soon armed men are prowling the coast, and threatening Zac, his friends and his family. He must do all he can to protect the Phantom of Terawhiti from those intent on hunting it down.

Phantom of Terawhiti is an action-packed adventure story, packed with mystery,  armed and angry Russians, brainless hunters, wild weather, a car chase, and a race against time.  Des Hunt is a gifted storyteller who never fails to write a story that grips readers and makes you keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.  In Phantom of Terawhiti there are plenty of heart-stopping moments, especially when Zac and Jess clash with the Russians.  The mystery of the ‘Phantom of Terawhiti’ draws you in and, even when the creature is revealed, you wonder how it will survive in the wild with the hunters trying to track it down.

Like the main characters in his other books, Zac and Jess are just normal Kiwi kids, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or maybe the right place at the right time).  Zac gets dragged by his dad to come and live on the remote Terawhiti Station, and it’s while he’s here that he discovers the wreck of the yacht and the paw prints in the sand.  When they discover the Phantom of Terawhiti, Zac and Jess know that they must do everything they can to protect it.  Kiwi kids will relate to Zac and Jess and will imagine themselves in their shoes.

Phantom of Terawhiti is one of Des Hunt’s best books so far and I can’t wait to see where in the country he will take us to next.

4 out of 5 stars

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