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What's New?


Jul 2013

Heroes of Olympus

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Following on from the [series:percy-jackson original Percy Jackson series], the gods of antiquity are under threat from the earth goddess Gaia and cause the Greek Demigods to throw in their lot with their Roman counterparts whose existence had been hidden from them.

Classical gods fathering half-blood children. Young characters maturing as they overcome adversity. Some very mild young-teen romance based on a trusting friendship and shared adversity. Many classical references in a modern setting.

Adventure, Boys, Fantasy, Friendship, Mythical, Romantic

The Mark of Athena

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Fairly Positive

The joint Greek-Roman crew of the Argo II must sail to Rome to confront Gaia whose plan is to overthrow the Olympian Gods altogether.

Adventure, Boys, Fantasy, Friendship, Mythical, Romantic

The Son of Neptune

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Percy Jackson has lost his memory of Camp Half-Blood and battles his way to the Roman Camp Jupiter where he must convince the Roman demigods that he isn’t a threat to them while he tries to recover his memory.

Adventure, Boys, Fantasy, Friendship, Mythical, Romantic

Nov 2012

Brotherband: The Outcasts

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Hal is left leading the third of the year's brotherbands: all those not chosen for the other two bands.

Courage and wit in overcoming prejudice and disadvantage. Teamwork vs Selfishness. Competence vs brute force.

Adventure, Boys, Fantasy, Friendship

Hero on a Bicycle

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Paolo & Constanza's mother Rosemary Crivelli agrees to take in some fugitive Allied servicemen risking reprisals by the local Gestapo.

Wartime bravery from a mother and her teenage children. Chaste romance between an older teenage girl and an Canadian serviceman. Betrayal by a villager followed by reconciliation (personal and sacramental). Positively-presented Catholic piety.

Adventure, Romantic, War

The History Keepers: The Storm Begins

Style: Weak → Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

Jake Djones is caught up in the work of the Bureau of History Keepers when his parents, who have secretly worked for them all these years, disappear while on a mission.

Inoffensive if uninsipired. Time-travelling family & friends with minor heroics against dastardly villains.

Adventure, Time-Travel

Oct 2012

Holes

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Stanley Yelnats, sent to a harsh young offenders' camp in the desert when he is wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of shoes, finds his place among the other boys and offers to help one of them, nicknamed Zero, who is illiterate.

Quirky and feelgood story. Bearing misfortune optimistically. The benefits of helping others. Living in the shadow of a curse.

Coping with, Friendship, Growing-Up, Humorous

Ptolemy's Gate

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

As the British Empire starts to implode, the ruling Magicians are unable to subdue the dissent of the increasingly magic-resistant Commoners.

Magic & Djinni in an alternative modern world. Friendship and affection with a light dusting of humour. An appeal to the honour and morality present in people despite the apparent pragmatism of their day-to-day struggles. Heroic self-sacrifice for the common good.

Adventure, Fantasy, Humorous

Aug 2012

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

The Tooting family restore a classic camper van with a view to travelling abroad, only to discover that it has wings and a mind of its own.

Quirky and heartwarming story about a making the best of every opportunity when all you’ve got is a flying car.

Adventure, Fantasy, Humorous

Jul 2012

Article: To EB or not to EB? - Is Enid Blyton a worthwhile read these days?

Jun 2012

Hitler's Angel

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

In 1940 two German-speaking teenagers who have escaped the Nazis and are now living in England are parachuted into Germany to retrieve a young girl who is believed to be an important bargaining piece in the war between the powers.

Mediumweight adventure story. Bravery, heroism and loyalty by youngsters in perilous situations. Very mild, brief sensuality between teenagers. Apparently successful dowsing of the children’s location by a German diviner. Strong respect for human life and dignity.

Adventure, Friendship, War

Treasure Island

Style: Classic

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

A dead pirate’s chest throws up a map showing the way to treasure buried on a secret island.

“Buccaneers, and buried gold”. The original Boys’ Own Yarn combining youthful bravery, charismatic villainy and buried treasure. A slow start for the modern reader and never as racy as Alex Rider but very readable nonetheless once you’re immersed in its world

Adventure, Boys, Classic

Article: Favourite Scenes: Dragonsinger - The moment in <em>Dragonsinger</em> when the Hall gathers together during Threadfall and Menolly leads the massed chorus, accompanied by her fire lizards.

Feb 2012

The Golem's Eye

Style: Good

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Nathaniel and Bartimaeus try to discover who’s controlling the Golem they believe is responsible a series of high-profile acts of destruction across London.

Engaging magical adventure story with some intriguing discussions about moral convictions and the rise and fall of empires.

Adventure, Fantasy, Humorous

The Changes Trilogy

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

One day, without warning, the whole of Britain turns superstitiously against technology and millions of people flee the country leaving the cities and much of the countryside deserted.

A thought-provoking look at what life might be like if technology were no longer available. The need to combine skill and hard work in a post-industrial society. An assumed supernatural premise.

Adventure, Fantasy, Thought-provoking

Jan 2012

The Lost Hero

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Fairly Positive

Jason, Piper & Leo are thrown into the world of half-blood children of gods and embark on a quest to free Hera-Juno from the clutches of a mysterious enemy.

Classical gods fathering half-blood children. An enjoyable if slightly disappointing adventure quest. Heroism as friends help friends and people have to work together to save the lives of others.

Adventure, Boys, Fantasy, Friendship, Mythical, Romantic

The Amulet of Samarkand

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Fairly Positive

When Nathaniel summons the Djinn Bartimaeus to steal the eponymous amulet from magician Rupert Lovelace as an act of petty revenge, his plan gets out of control and ends in tragedy for the people he lives with.

Witty and well-paced fantasy adventure. Humorous summoning of Djinni as servants. A childish act of revenge resulting in tragic deaths. Bravery & determination to combat an evil scheme.

Adventure, Fantasy, Humorous

Caddy's World

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Caddy grows up quickly as her family focuses on her dangerously ill baby sister while her friends start to pull apart while trying to keep together.

Amusing family story. Friendship between four girls who are growing up. Problems faced cheerfully by a family whose newborn sister might not live. Realistic sibling relationships.

Family, Girls, Growing-Up

Article: Favourite Scenes: Framed - The moment in &quot;Framed&quot; when the National Gallery expert explains about the Wilton Diptych and discovers he has an unexpected audience.

Dec 2011

Article: Favourite Scenes I - What are the scenes I like to return to again and again? Episode I: <strong>Over Sea, Under Stone</strong> &amp; <strong>Cuckoo in the Nest</strong>

Just Henry

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Henry, believing himself loyal to his dead father, initially despises certain other people and their ideals, but later learns that his father is less of a hero than he had thought and that the others deserve better from him.

Positive story about post-war attitudes and opportunities. A slightly tolerant attitude towards divorce and illegitimacy. Generosity and cheerfulness in difficult circumstances.

Family, Growing-Up, Moral Issue

The "Mortal Engines" Quartet

Style: Good

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Edifying

Tom Natsworthy, an orphaned History apprentice on the Traction City of London, is sent in disgrace to the city’s Deep Gut after a bullying fellow-apprentice taunts him into a fight.

An engaging and uplifting story set against an imaginative future backdrop. Cyborg stalkers built around dead bodies. Romantic suicide. Christianity as a force for reconciliation.

Adventure, SciFi

Nov 2011

Dogsbody

Style: Average → Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Positive

Sirius, the personification of the Dogstar, is exiled to Earth and given the lifespan of a dog to discover the whereabouts of the Zoi, a celestial tool of immense power which was allegedly used by him to destroy another Luminary.

Entertaining story mixing fantasy and reality. Intelligent celestial beings. Arawn and his hounds from Welsh mythology. An Irish girl who draws strength from her dog when her father is imprisoned for terrorism. Family tragedy. Non-judgemental references to the troubles in Northern Ireland.

Animal, Coping with, Fantasy

The Load of Unicorn

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Young Benedict “Bendy” Goodrich lives with his adult brothers who run their retired father's scrivener business in Paternoster lane, but his ambition is to work with William Caxton who's pioneering the newly prosperous craft of printing in his workshop by Westminster Abbey.

Interesting historical story around the changeover to printing. A hotheaded young man learns to control himself. Generosity of several individuals when helping others without reward.

Adventure, Historical

The Clockwork Three

Style: Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Positive

Three youngsters become involved in each others’ affairs by accident and help each other out in their overlapping problems.

Simple adventure story with slight touches of the supernatural: an apparently serious séance; a clockwork man animated by Golem clay. Supportive friendship between three youngsters. Violent behaviour from a cruel Fagin-like character and others. Positive, if generic, representation of a Christian pastor. Genuine respect and affection between an elderly master and his young apprentice. Some theft by young people.

Adventure, Friendship, Magic

The Historical Stories of Cynthia Harnett

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive → Edifying

Gentle, readable and edifying historical stories featuring youngsters in homely situations between the 15th and 17th centuries.

Historical

Apr 2011

Article: Anatomy of a Review - What are the different sections of the review? What emphasis should be given to each one?

Red Leech

Style: Average

Attitude: Unobjectionable → Fairly Positive

When Amyus and Mycroft become aware of the escape of John Wilkes Booth, whose assassination of President Lincoln has made him a rallying-point for a possible Confederate army, Sherlock takes matters into his own hands and tracks down where Booth is staying in Surrey and follows his accomplices when they take Matty hostage.

Disappointing if unproblematic historical adventure story. Some interesting ethical discussions based around Plato's Republic, but mostly a run-of-the-mill tale including a disfigured antagonist with a poolful of lethal reptiles. Some scary moments at the hands of the villains.

Detective, Historical

May 2010

The Shapeshifter Series

Style: Average

Attitude: Take Care → Positive

In [Finding the Fox], Dax Jones discovers that he can turn into a fox and learns that he is one of the Children of Limitless Ability (COLA), to be educated in a secret government school on the Cornish coast.

Children with extraordinary powers: telekenesis, shapeshifting, healing, telepathy, illusion, dowsing and pyrokenesis. Common and sometimes comical acceptance of dialogue with the dead. All the children are motherless for plot reasons. Friendship and support among the children and between them and their teachers. Occasional plot-related brutal or vindictive behaviour including an attempt to auction the gifted children into slavery.

Adventure, SciFi, Thought-provoking

Apr 2010

Mission Telemark

Style: Weak → Average

Attitude: Some Care Needed → Fairly Positive

Four youngsters are sent into wartime Norway to destroy a Nazi heavy water plant, preventing the Germans from developing nuclear weaponry.

Disappointing. An awkward mixture of kids' caper and wartime resistance story. Courage and heroism in extreme physical conditions. Highly credible Scandinavian setting. Less credible characterisations. Tacit acceptance of suicide.

Adventure, War