‘The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones’ by Rick Riordan

This is a thrilling book. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat. It has a great storyline and likeable characters. I love how Rick Riordan wrote this book, as the rest of the books are written by other authors. It’s cool to see one of my favourite authors writing this sort of book. I recommend the book if you like reading adventure and mystery stories because this book has a hell of a lot of both!

It’s about 14 year old Amy and 11 year old Dan. They are orphans, but only because most of their family don’t care about them. Dan has a photographic memory and Amy is very smart.

They are driven to their millionaire Grandmother’s funeral, where they find out their new family is massive. Relatives come from all of the world. In their Grandma’s will they are given the choice of a million dollars or the first clue in a deadly sort of scavenger hunt where everyone is willing to kill to win. This clue is the first of the 39 clues that give the books their name. They take the clue.

They get their Au Pair, Nellie, to chaperone them on the hunt which travels all around the world. After cracking Grandma’s clue, they make their way to Paris, where they must crack the next clue. But their bloodthirsty relatives are going to be a problem. This is a game with no rules but only one winner.

The competitors are family teams. The Cahill Family is divided into five branches: Ekaterinas, Tomas, Janus, Lucians and the Madrigals – the secret family – which Amy and Dan are part of (they actually don’t know this until one of the other books in the series). The first team to crack all the clues will become mega rich and the most powerful person in the world. .

I love books with many characters who are written so you can get to know them. This book has this.

There are an incredible number of books in this series. Though there are actually 5 series. I have only read the first series. I’m not sure I’d read any more because it sort of got boring after a while. I’ve moved onto other books. I think the idea is good but there are just too many books. 39 clues mean a lot of books by different writers. That’s too many for me.

Review by Finn Buck, aged 12

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‘The Martian’ by Andy Wier

Out of all the books I’ve ever read, this one has to be my favourite: really. It’s about Mark Watney, an astronaut botanist, who is stranded on Mars by himself, as his crew left to return to Earth because thought he died. The first sentence of the book has some bad words;  Mark has found out he has been stranded on Mars and isn’t happy! He does “smart ” things to survive, like burning rocket fuel and blowing stuff up. Lots of stuff.

I’ve read the book six times and still can’t stop reading it. The humour is fantastic; it never gets old. It goes from something serious to something random or to a great moment – then it blows up (yay!). If you are thinking of reading the book or watch the movie, I highly recommend reading the book first; it explains unexplained things in the movie. The book says what the NASA name is for; it then says what it actually is.  I also think the book is funnier than the movie.

Even though the book was written in 2011, it seems too futuristic to have been imagined then. Seriously, there is stuff in the book like MAVs (Mars Ascent Vehicle) and RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) and EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activity): way to complicated for 2011. Definitions for MAV, RTG and EVA are not in the book, so I had to guess their meanings.

Overall, Andy Weir has made the best book I have ever read.

Review by Deasun Byrne aged 12 (my first review for this site).

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‘Railhead’ by Philip Reeve

This is an awesome book. It shows sci-fi in a way I’ve not read before. It’s the same with Reeve’s other books. They make you think of other worlds: it’s a bit epic. Railhead is well written; it jumps off the pages in places! I couldn’t stop reading it. For me, it ended very mysteriously and is obviously meant to be part of a series of books. I can’t wait to read the next book.

The book is based in the distant future where mankind has left earth and travelled far and wide through space. Humans now live on many planets. This space travel wasn’t done with spaceships or rockets but with trains that have feelings! (the books made me think – a lot …!). The universe is now the great network of gateways (K-gates) through space – the trains cross these gates. There are over a 1000 of these gates meaning the trains can go everywhere.

The network of gates is watched over by the guardians who are incredibly smart Artificial Intelligence (AI) deities but is sort of ruled by the royal Noon family. The book’s name ‘Railhead’ comes from what they call someone who loves train journeys! Reeve has thought of great names for everything in the book – I can’t list everything here; I can just tell you it’s all easy to follow.

We jump into the book with Zen Starling, a teen thief who doesn’t want to be in poverty but can’t do anything about it. He is a railhead. He lives with his tough, hardworking, sister and his disabled mother. One day a meteorite (an android) called Nova hires him for a job because he looks exactly like one of the Noon family – a boy called Tallis Noon. Zen meets his hirer, a man called Raven. The job Raven wants done is to steal a mysterious box called the Pytis which is in the Noon family’s train. What Zen doesn’t know is that this will uncover many secrets about his past, Raven, the guardians and much more (the universe!).

This is a truly thrilling book. It makes you think about what’s beyond Earth. I’m not going to tell you anything else about the storyline – read the rest to find out what happens.

I recommend this book to anyone – kid or adult – who likes sci-fi and adventure books. There is something new here. It’s a book not like other books. There is so much detail in this book but it’s still funny! It’s also a big adventure – I could hardly keep up with the speed of the story.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘Danny the Champion of the World’ by Roald Dahl

This is one of my Dad’s all time favourite books and he asked me to read it to see what I think. I like most of Roald Dahl’s other books, so I didn’t mind. They are easy to read and never too long. His books are deliberately written to keep kids turning the pages. It is really easy to imagine what is going on in the book. I found the book a bit old fashioned and I am not sure I’d have chosen to read it if I were picking books in the library.

It is about a nine year old boy called Danny. Danny doesn’t have a Mum. He lives with his Dad in an old wooden caravan beside a little garage they own. They fix cars and have fuel pumps.

Danny loves his Dad who is called William. They spend so much time together working in the garage (they are both always in dirty clothes!). Danny can already take a car’s engine apart and put it back together again. Danny has skills! Danny really looks up to his Dad. You can tell they love each other and that Danny’s Dad is as good as having both parents (he tells brilliant stories).

The way they live in a gypsy caravan is a bit funny. They don’t have electricity and I am not sure where they go to the toilet. I don’t know why they need to live like they are camping if they own a garage. I guess they are meant to come across as a bit poor. This is probably because their garage is in the middle of nowhere, with just a few customers.

Danny has a tough life. This is shown when his teacher hits him across his hand with a cane (teachers used to be allowed to do this) because he thinks he was cheating. Danny’s Dad goes mad when he sees the mark. He shouts: ‘Who did it?’ ‘Was it Captain Lancaster?’ Danny says: ‘Yes, Dad, but it’s nothing.’ I understand this. I’ve been in trouble in school and I wouldn’t want my parents to know about it or get involved. I felt sorry for Danny.

One night, Danny’s Dad isn’t home when wakes up when it is still dark. Danny is scared but waits and eventually his Dad arrives home. His Dad hadn’t expected him to be awake and has to tell Danny where he has been. It turns out he has been breaking the law. He went to poach (steal) pheasants (birds you can eat – rich people like to shoot them) from the big farm of a horrible rich man called Mr Victor Hazell. I am not interested in pheasants and wouldn’t eat one, so I don’t really get the point of stealing them.

Danny’s Dad hates Hazell because he is always so rude when he stops to buy petrol. Danny knows Mr Hazell doesn’t like him and his Dad. The book makes you feel the same way. I really wanted Danny and his Dad to steal the pheasants from Mr Hazell (though this makes me sound bad!).

Danny’s Dad used to go poaching when his Mum was alive. It was his favourite thing. After Danny’s Mum died, he had to look after Danny until he was old enough to leave him safely at home. He explained this to Danny and Danny said it was ok to go so long as he told him before he went!

One night when William goes poaching, he is gone so long that Danny starts to worry (he knows it is dangerous as William tells him he has been shot in the bum running away before!). Eventually, he thinks there must be something wrong and drives one of the cars they are fixing to where he thinks his Dad will be. This bit is funny and a bit scary, as you keep thinking one of them will get caught by the gamekeepers (the pheasant guards) or the police. Danny’s Dad has broken his ankle and Danny saves him.

After this episode, William and Danny hatch a dastardly plot to steal all of Mr Hazel’s pheasants and I mean all of them. I won’t tell you how or if they succeed. I’ll just tell you that this bit makes the entire book worth reading. Who do you think wins? The rich man or Danny and his Dad?

I think I might be a bit lonely if I were Danny and living just with my Dad (with no Mum, siblings and Danny doesn’t bring friends home from school – maybe he’s embarrassed). This book shows you how life can be fun and happy even when things are not great. Apart from the poaching, this book reads like a true story. It is a funny book – not laugh out loud (LOL funny), it just made me smile. I thought it might be funnier. I’d say it is a bit of an adventure story.

It’s quite an old book now (the inside cover says 1975) and I think this shows a bit. This would be a good book for a Dad to read a son when he is about 7 or 8.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘StormBreaker’ by Anthony Horowitz

I think this book series is incredible, fizz-banging good. I recommend it to kids who like mystery and spy books. The book is well written and full to the brim with twists and turns. The story is about 14 year old Alex Rider whose parents died a few years before. He is just your normal schoolboy (who is a black belt in karate …!) until his Uncle (his guardian and an MI6 agent) dies in a car crash. He is left with Jack, his housekeeper, who, for your information, is an American girl. What Alex doesn’t know is that by training him in everything a spy needs, such as karate, sports and extreme sports, his uncle had been preparing him for MI6. MI6 now approach him as they want him to go on a mission for them. He refuses. Then they threaten to take away Jack’s visa so he agrees. Then he finds himself in a SAS training centre, where he goes through two weeks of gruelling training. After the training, he is sent on a mission to the power plant of Herod Sayle, the man behind StormBreaker, an incredibly powerful computer. Sayle is giving these computers free to  every secondary school in England. There’s something not right about these computers and Alex must find out and stop Sayle’s plot. This plot is what got Alex’s uncle killed.  Alex poses as the winner of a contest which sees him invited him to see the first StormBreaker computer in operation. I won’t tell you how, but Alex finds out what it was that got his Uncle killed and what he must do. Alex is now the only one who can stop Herod. I’m not telling you anymore – read it yourself! This is a cracking read and Anthony is an amazingly good writer who bends the words to his will.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Take Back the Skies’ by Lucy Saxon

This is a great book. It’s choc full of  rebellion and adventure. I highly recommend it to science fiction nuts. It is a fantasy book about a world amusingly called Tellus (Tell us!). It brings Steampunk, modern and weird technology together – I find this really awesome because it makes you use your imagination to picture how everything would look. It’s about a 14 year old girl who hates her life of wealth and her arranged marriage. She decides to run away. She stows away on a ship called the Stormdancer, but the crew find her and think she is a boy because of her short cut hair. She goes along with this. But they find out she’s a girl and then they have to regain their trust in her. She proves herself to them and becomes their friend. They find out the Government is making cyborgs out of children (half child / half machine) and they look hideous. So the group have to stop the Government from doing this or the whole of Tellus will be thrown into war.  Read the book to find out if they can find and stop a flying ship full of children who are being experimented on. This book has somne gruesome bits so it might not suit younder kids. I’m 12 and I was ok with it.

Review by 12 year old Finn Buck.

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‘Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer’ by Rick Riordan

This book is a trailblazing up all night page turner. It is in my top 5 favourite books! I absolutely love it. Rick Riordan is my favourite author by far. If you like mythology, Rick Riordan is for you. This books brings Norse mythology to life. The tale told here is flipping great. All of his books bring awesome times in history to life. The books are all about Greek, Roman, Egyptian and other histories. This might make the books sound boring, but I can tell you they’re not and this one is actually insanely cool. The book is about a 16 year old boy called Magnus Chase who has lived on the streets since his Mum was killed in a mysterious explosion; the blast also destroyed his home. But then he manages to die from Surt ruler of the fire world because he found the sword of summer. A Valkyrie by the name of Samantha brings him to Valhalla the home of the Einherji, the warriors of Odin. But Magnus needs to get out of Valhalla to stop Dooms Day, but first he must find the sword of summer which has been lost again.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12.

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‘The Enemy’ by Charlie Higson

I think this book is incredibly good. I would recommend it to ages 10 to 14 (or younger or older). The book is set on a post-apocalyptic earth, where everyone over 14 has been hit by a disease, which made them go mad. It ravaged their bodies or they would die a very ugly death. The story is shown from many different perspectives and opinions. It’s set in a London of the future . The kids in the story are all spread out in different locations/landmarks like Buckingham Palace. For people like me, who like action and adventure stories, this is the book for you. Keep this in mind: It’s a bit depressing because of the amount of people who die. Beware squeamish people.

Review by Finn Buck aged 12

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