Reviews

The fast 800 keto: Eat well, burn fat, manage your weight long term by Dr Michael Mosley

cover image

The fast 800 keto builds on Mosley’s successful The fast 800 and is an easy to read and follow book explaining up to date science of weight loss. The book starts with an introduction of how we got fat, why we need to eat more protein and then goes into the science of keto which I found useful in understanding how the body reacts to eating the sugar found in many processed foods. It describes the effect of a keto diet when your body goes into ketosis and burns up fat instead of sugar leading to weight loss. Mosly goes into detail about the fast 800 Keto programme. It combines keto with intermittent fasting, which readers will be familiar with if they have read The fast 800 and stresses the advantages of a Mediterranean diet. Emphasis is given to the importance of preparation before beginning the diet by having the right food on hand. Advice is also given about how to maintain a good weight long term.

The recipes given by Dr Clare Bailey are easy to follow and meal planners are set out with 3 meals a day and 2 meals a day when doing intermittent fasting. I enjoyed the Rapid bircher with apple and cinnamon, and Wok-steamed white fish with pak choi. There is a chart to record Before and after measurements of weight, waist and blood pressure, and an extensive bibliography and good index are also included at the back of the book.

The cover states that it is possible to ‘lose up to 6 kg in 21 days’ and following the advice in this Australian and New Zealand edition would give people aiming to lose weight a scientific basis to do so. The fast 800 Keto is sure to prove popular and I will be using many of the recipes included in my regular meal planning.

Themes Keto diet, Intermittent fasting, Weight loss.

Pat Pledger

booktopia

The winter duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett

cover image

Ekata is just days away from leaving her home. Days away from freedom and the life she has looked forward to for years. An unimportant and forgotten middle child in a dangerous and vicious family, Ekata just wants to survive long enough to flee south and spend her days surrounded by those who value knowledge and peace. However, someone or something has other plans. Suddenly, and very much against her will, Ekata becomes the Duke of Kylma Above, tasked with ruling the kingdom, preventing an invasion, curtailing treason and discovering a cure for the magical illness which has incapacitated the rest of her family. And then there is Inkar, the girl who should have been her brother’s bride…

The Winter Duke is a satisfactory young adult fantasy offering some unique ideas and plot points. Bartlett has created a distinctive and atmospheric world. While most of the book is spent in the ducal castle, the reader gains a real sense of the cold and harsh environment of Kylma Above. The inclusion of magical elements and creatures and a complex familial and societal structure is also interesting.

Where the novel fails however is in its characters. Main protagonists do not necessarily have to be likeable for readers to be able to enjoy a book. Bartlett has clearly tried to style Ekata as a character relatable to her audience, with flaws and insecurities like those suffered by most teenagers. However, she is almost comically unconfident, reckless, credulous and petulant. As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to root for a character this exasperating. Moreover, secondary protagonists, including Ekata’s love interest and her most dangerous enemy, are more caricature than character. The book’s villain, for example, is brash, vulgar and innately ‘evil’, without much explanation or reasoning to explain why.

Overall, The Winter Duke is a solid young adult fantasy novel, which will no doubt please some readers of the genre, but it is not without its flaws.

Themes Fantasy, Romance, Family, Identity, Magic, Magical Creatures, LGBTQIA+.

Rose Tabeni

booktopia

Elektra by Jennifer Saint

cover image

Stunning! Jennifer Saint really knows how to take the framework of a Greek myth and breathe life into all the characters, their emotions and motivations. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting, rapidly turning the chapters between the three characters, Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra. The central storyline is the well known tale of the abduction of Helen of Sparta, by Paris, prince of Troy. But in this book, Helen is a rather vague and enigmatic creature and the focus is most definitely on the three women on the edge of the story: Clytemnestra, sister of Helen, and wife of Agamemnon, leader of the army that sailed to retrieve Helen; Cassandra, princess of Troy, doomed seer of the future; and Elektra, the stubborn young daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon.

Saint’s writing provides insight into how a wife can come to detest her husband and seek his death, how a solitary woman can be disparaged and reviled, and how a naive daughter can cling to belief in her father despite clear evidence of his cruelty. Saint brings to life the inner world of her characters, and they become very believable. And in the process, she reveals how each of these women struggles within a world where women are treated as a commodity to be won, bartered, scorned or sacrificed.

There is no man who is completely trustworthy; the world of men and women is so structured as to prevent any sense of equality or power. However, Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra, each are strong and determined women and they fight against men, and against gods, to take their place in the world. It is a fiery tale of anger and passion – riveting reading!

This latest novel is even better than Ariadne – highly recommended.

Themes Greek mythology, Women, Power, Revenge.

Helen Eddy

booktopia

Great big softie by Kaye Baillie and Shane McG

cover image

Elliot, a monster with a great big soft heart, is desperate to fit in with the other more mischievous monsters. Those monsters cause mayhem amongst the people in the neighbourhood, so Elliot decides to join them. He trashes a shop, eats all the churros from a fast-food van, causes the swimming pool to be closed for the day and frightens a little girl with a huge growl. Elliot’s monster friends award him Monster of the Week for his dastardly deeds, but Elliot does not feel at all comfortable with what he has done and decides to make amends. He goes to the little girl’s house and returns her missing turtle. It is not enough though, so he bravely apologises to the little girl and the other people he has upset - his most daring deed ever. Elliot realises that belonging to a group needs to feel right and he learns a valuable life lesson about respect.

The engaging illustrations in this book are bright and colourful with diverse characters.

Themes Monsters, Mischief, Belonging, Respect, Saying sorry.

Kathryn Beilby

booktopia

Into the sideways world by Ross Welford

cover image

Ross Welford was born in a small seaside town in the north-east of England. This is his 7th book since his popular debut Time travelling with a hamster was published in 2016. With his previous books Welford has firmly set himself as an entertainer of readers 10+. His stories all include elements of sci-fi/fantasy set against a realistic backdrop based around the town of his birth.

Into the sideways world follows this formula and introduces two 12-year-old outsiders, Willa and Manny. It is the year 2031 and they are investigating sightings of a mysterious animal in their town. One night they suddenly find themselves in an alternate world.

Willa and Manny are stunned – while their own world has survived a pandemic but is close to war, this world is perfect. There’s no pollution, no rundown properties, no family arguments, no diseases and no world conflict.

Willa has a contact in her own world who may be the key to figuring out the link between worlds, if only she can get back. But do she and Manny even want to leave this ideal world? And if they do, will anyone believe what they have seen?

This story is full of adventure and humour while also being thought-provoking and including some difficult relationships and tough choices. There are subtle references to environmental issues, history and global politics. The chapters are short with lots of cliff-hangers – be prepared for desperate pleas to ‘keep going!’ if reading aloud.

There are no teacher resources for this book as Welford is of the opinion that teachers know best. But in an interview with The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in the UK he said 'Into The Sideways World could, I imagine, provoke some interesting class discussions on how we might begin to 'change the world'.' It also raises the question of whether you would opt for your own loved yet imperfect reality when faced with the choice of a perfect world instead.

Themes Fantasy, Adventure, Relationships, Future, Environment.

Kylie Grant

booktopia

Star the elephant by Remy Lai

cover image

Star the Elephant is based on the true story of a small group of Indian elephants that swam across the Johor Strait from Malaysia to a small island off the coast of Singapore after losing their home due to deforestation. In Remy Lai's (Pawcasso) retelling, five-year-old Star and her family have to split up; there simply isn't enough food in any one place to accommodate them all. But when Star and her mum and aunt get back to where they are expecting to find banana trees, they are faced with fallen trees in amongst the sea of palm oil trees. They decide to flee to an island that aunty knows of, but when they get there they are faced with more humans, and because of their experiences to date they are very scared. When Star's mum and aunty are shot with tranquiliser darts Star runs but is eventually peacefully captured and taken to a sanctuary where she is reunited with her family. 

Full-colour illustrations and simple dialogue and narration told within a graphic novel format make this perfect for young readers. However, some of the content, including Star almost drowning, the animals distress as they try to find a safe place and Star being separated from her family is quite confronting. This is one of three already published in the Surviving the Wild series, all of which look at the perils of the natural world and what we can do to protect it. Also included at the end of the story is the true story behind Star's adventure, some elephant facts and ways we can help. This is an important book for anyone to read but will especially be appreciated by children interested in animals and environmental conservation.

Themes Habitat loss, Deforestation, Elephants, Environmental conservation.

Nicole Nelson

booktopia

Alice-Miranda in Egypt by Jacqueline Harvey

cover image

Alice-Miranda is on the way to Egypt with the Queen’s Colours Leadership program. This will be incredibly exciting as they explore Egyptology and archaeology, and display leadership qualities.  However, before they leave London, they discover that the school they attend could potentially close down and their teachers may be involved in a scheme that could have dreadful ramifications for the school community. While in Egypt they also discover another Egypt-based scam that could have serious consequences for their local guide’s family. Alice-Miranda and her friends cannot let any of this proceed quietly without solving the problems that are raised. The young leaders from a variety of schools are also just working out how to best get along, and some of the boys are starting to show an interest in the pre-teen, but wise-beyond-her-years, Alice Miranda.

This is book 20 in Alice-Miranda’s story, and so many readers will have followed her friendships and problem-solving detective skills over the years. Jacqueline Harvey continues to give Alice-Miranda a wise exploration of life and in this book a wonderful setting for her understanding of the world. She does always seem to be older than her years, a wonderful friend and relates to adults almost as a peer. With some interesting discussion of Egyptology, this may intrigue young readers. This is a book for those who love the series, aged 9-14.

Themes Friendship, Egypt, Egyptology, Ponzi schemes, Scams.

Carolyn Hull

booktopia

The way from here by Jane Cockram

cover image

I was drawn to The way from here because it promised ‘a mystery from the past’ on the front cover, and following a friend’s recommendation, I picked it up and was not disappointed. The mystery gradually unfolds, revealing family secrets from the past about her grandmother, mother, and sister.

After the sudden death of her sister Susie, Camilla is given a bundle of letters that directs her to scatter her ashes in various parts of the world. The first letter grabs the reader’s attention giving an insight into Susie and her life. The second letter sends Camilla off to London to view a painting of a horse in the National Gallery, and then the third letter has her travelling to the beautiful French Ile de Clare, where she finds more strange events to puzzle over before moving to a manor house in Devon. The settings are vividly described and leave the reader wishing to travel with Camilla.

This is a story about three generations of women, Nellie, Margaret, Susie, and Camilla all having secrets which have been kept from their families. The story is written from the viewpoint of Susie, telling her story set in 1998 when she has left the family farm to travel overseas, and of Camilla set in the present day following her as she reads the letters. Margaret, their mother, also gets to give her viewpoint of living in London in the 1960’s as does Nellie towards the end of the story when all is revealed. It is beautifully written and makes a compulsive read, with its themes of family, grief, secrets, truth, and love.

Fans of mysteries will be drawn to it, and may be surprised at the twists and turns, while readers who enjoy family sagas are sure to find it compelling.

Pat Pledger

booktopia

Wise quackers by Renee Treml

cover image

This new installment in the sensational graphic novel series The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea series (It's Owl Good, Squeals on Wheels, Bats What Friends Are For) is perfect for young, independent readers or for read alouds. It will appeal to fans of the Duck, Duck, Porcupine series by Salina Yoon, the Elephant and Piggie series and Renee Treml's other graphic series, Sherlock Bones. While accessible to a younger audience, its content and format will be equally appealing and relevant to an older age group. 

Ollie the owl thinks he is too old to play with stuffed toys...but as soon as Bea ducks off to fetch something Ollie can't help but play Super Duckie with Bea's toy. He gets so into the game that Super Duckie soon ends up stuck in a tree. Ollie manages to keep the secret from Bea with some clever distracting but try as he might he cannot get Duckie out of the tree. When Bea and the rest of the team finally discover the truth Owl expects them to be angry at him. But they understand it is an accident and work together as a team to solve the problem.

Children will love the jokes and world play that come thick and fast ('I'm hoppy to try it', 'let's get quacking') and the story is told exclusively through sharp, fast-paced dialogue. Renee Treml's (Sleep tight, Platypupfull-colour illustrations are crisp, clear and sparse with a superb focus on the changing emotions of Ollie and Bea. 

This is such a wonderful series that explores the real problems children have within friendship partnerships and groups. It's a beautifully honest look at those emotions that most kids have but many find it tricky to talk about. It also models wonderfully positive and uplifting ways to be a friend (and the fun of friendships) without glossing over the times when it is hard or uncomfortable.

Themes Accidents, Honesty, Teamwork, Friendship.

Nicole Nelson

booktopia

The ship of cloud and stars by Amy Raphael

cover image

Nico Cloud’s life in London in 1832 is not easy. As the girl in the family, she must only consider ‘female tasks’ like embroidery and must not explore education, science and complex ideas, like her aunt had pursued before her. Nico’s parents make her life so difficult and restricted that she decides to escape briefly and meet up with her aunt aboard her research sailing ship. Unwittingly she becomes a stowaway and when she is discovered she finds that not only is she sailing with her aunt, but she must keep her aunt’s identity hidden – a female scientist should never exist!  An aunt, she aren’t! Scientific research into Paleobiology can only continue if her aunt works as a man. Nico’s passion for seeds and science becomes woven into her aunt’s research, but first they must escape pirates and work out how the myths shared by the crew impact them and connect the past and the future.

This is an interesting tale highlighting the plight of intelligent girls, women and scientists from the patriarchal world of the 19th century, but it is also an adventure on board a sailing ship, a friendship tale and a slightly fantastic meshing of myth and science, with a few fossils thrown in for good measure. Young readers can cope with the excursions into myth, especially as history almost seems like fantasy to them. The historical context of life for women in the 19th century may also be surprising for them. Mostly this book is about a feisty girl from another era who is passionate about science and learning new things. The scattered illustrations in the book sometimes contain small details that do not match the text but they are child-friendly and do not distract from the story. Science-loving readers aged 9-11 will be happily engaged by this different adventure.

Themes Paleobiology, Female scientists, Adventure, 19th Century, Mythology.

Carolyn Hull

booktopia

My Peppa adventure

cover image

Little children who love Peppa Pig have the opportunity to look at the pictures on the pages of this book, and choose their own adventures for Peppa.The very detailed and highly coloured pages start with the reader choosing where they would like to go – to a desert, to mountains, on a train trip, underwater and so on, giving adults an opportunity to talk about many different environments with their youngster. On the next double page spread the reader chooses which of Peppa’s family and friends to take on the adventure and from there the reader chooses what clothes to wear, what to eat and how to travel there, all making a story for the young child to decide on. Then there is a playground adventure and a choice of places to live, musical instruments to play, and a party and work adventure.

This is a great book to stimulate the imagination of young children and to extend their vocabularies, while giving them the opportunity to think about their preferences and make choices for themselves.

Themes Making choices, Adventure.

Pat Pledger

booktopia

Love stories by Trent Dalton

cover image
This collection of love stories was inspired, for Trent Dalton, by a time in which he was profoundly moved by a love story that someone had told him.  Deciding to set up a table and some chairs on the footpath of a busy intersection in the city of Brisbane, Dalton added an advertisement: stating that he wanted to hear and collect people’s stories of love, if they were willing to tell these to him.  Many people stopped and he was amazed by the tales that he was told, which led him to decide to include these in a book.  Some stories are short, and others longer, as he writes the stories with a dedication to the idea of love, and to its profound effect on people’s lives.  
 
While every story that he narrates, as told to him by the storytellers, speaks of love and its role in human life, others go further, and speak of the profound importance and effect of love on people’s lives.  Each story reflects our human desire to experience love, to find romance, and for so many people this means sharing their lives with someone whom they love.  So moved by the stories that he hears, he imagines and writes a powerful and moving creed for living in response to people’s ideas.  Profound notions of what love is, and how powerfully love can move us to our deepest core, lead to his long statement about love, beginning with his revelatory understanding that changes his own thinking: beginning with 'I believe we are not alone in the universe …'.  Over two pages his newly realised creed challenges the reader to both wonder and question what life is, what love is, and how we should live our lives.  His eloquent language challenges us, to consider finding out what is our own idea of what life means, and what love is: moving, uplifting, and quite challengingly constructed.  
 
Written during the time of 'Covid', Dalton’s work displays his notion that we should all be kind, compassionate and understanding of others, seeking to take our minds off the fear of illness and its aftereffects, to make the world at least appear as a safe and good place. His work reflects his character, and his sense of loving kindness as the heart of human experience and need, in turn reflecting the best example of humans rising above the evil, the awful experiences that so many people have been through, and most of all our capacity to offer goodness, kindness and love to others, in love’s many different forms.  It is a different and wonderful book, appropriate for adolescent reading, and certainly an inspiring book for adults of all ages.  

Themes Love, Short stories.

Elizabeth Bondar

booktopia

Little Owl's new friend by Debi Gliori. Illus. by Alison Brown

cover image

Another in the Little Owl series (Little Owl’s egg, Little Owl’s bedtime and Little Owl’s bath time) will be welcomed by fans of the cute little owl. This time Little Owl is playing with Hedge his best friend and trying to get him to roar like a lion. Then Mummy Owl brings along Small Squirrel to play. Little Owl is not impressed and does not want to play with Small Squirrel, but Mummy tells him that she will feed the cinnamon buns that Small Squirrel has brought to the bears in the bushes. So off he goes, with Small Squirrel trailing behind him. Gradually Little Owl gets to know Small Squirrel who is very talkative and drags him off to hunt Snaffle-Worms. When Hush-Hush a ghost scares Small Squirrel Little Owl can protect her, and he begins to see how he could contribute to a new friendship.

The very cute illustrations by Alison Brown are delightful, full of bright and colourful images, and each character comes alive on the page. I loved the character of  Small Squirrel, who talks so much. This is a personality type that children and adults will have come across and could be another point of discussion.

Making new friends can be fraught for some children and Little Owl’s new friend is an ideal book for adults to share with children and discuss the issues surrounding friendship.

Themes Friendship.

Pat Pledger

booktopia

Lego City: Police Patrol

cover image

A push, pull and slide book, Police Patrol is a winner for young children who are interested in adventure and policing, as well as having lots of fun vehicles to examine. When the City Bank is robbed it is up to the Police Patrol to go to the rescue and capture the robbers. Right from the front cover, the young reader is drawn into the action with a flap that pulls out revealing two police officers on motor bikes and a police car. Turning the page, a robber is seen climbing a ladder while the police get to work. There is also a chance for readers to answer a question about the number of police bikes in the picture, as well as pushing a police officer up and down in an escalator. On the next double page spread a helicopter appears in the sky guiding the police who are following the robbers, and once again the reader must answer a question and find where a robber is hiding. Another page has a push tab that makes the police lights turn on and the final page sees the robbers in goal.

The many ways of manipulating the colourful pictures are sure to delight a young child and the story is exciting and gives insights into police procedures, vehicles and personnel. No doubt this will stimulate some building of different objects out of Lego blocks.

Themes Police, Vehicles, Robberies.

Pat Pledger

booktopia

How beautiful by Antonella Capetti and Melissa Castrillon

cover image

How Beautiful is a gentle, thoughtful story complemented by stunning illustrations. A tiny caterpillar who has happily lived each day munching on leaves is suddenly plucked from a leaf and told he is beautiful. This leads him on a quest to find out what beautiful actually means. He asks a bear who says honeycomb is beautiful. He asks squirrels who say dry leaves are beautiful. He asks a mouse who says a mushroom that is shelter from the rain is beautiful. He asks a deer who says his golden seat is beautiful. He asks a mole who says his underground hole is beautiful. Along the journey a blackbird annoyingly disputes all of the animals and their choices of beautiful. The caterpillar begins to worry that he will never find the true meaning of beautiful until he and the other animals rest under the night sky and see how beautiful it is.

The striking colour palette of purples, oranges, reds and browns used in the illustrations are reminiscent of stories from the past. The illustrations are both detailed and appealing and offer the reader the opportunity to search for hidden creatures. This story very much reflects the saying, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ A lovely book to share with children of all ages.

Themes Animals, Nature, Beauty.

Kathryn Beilby

booktopia