Tag Archives: Harry Potter readalike

Looking forward to: “House of Secrets” by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini


The House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini.
(House of Secrets – book one of an intended trilogy)
Hardcover, 496 pages
Expected publication: April 23rd 2013 by Balzer + Bray
ISBN: (ISBN13: 9780062192462)

From the publisher: From legendary Hollywood director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Philiosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and bestselling author Ned Vizzini (It’s Kind of a Funny Story) comes this first book in an epic new fantasy series.

Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia Walker once had everything: two loving parents, a beautiful house in San Francisco, and all the portable electronic devices they could want. But everything changed when Dr. Walker lost his job in the wake of a mysterious incident. Now in dire straits, the family must relocate to an old Victorian house that used to be the home of occult novelist Denver Kristoff—a house that feels simultaneously creepy and too good to be true.

By the time the Walkers realize that one of their neighbors has sinister plans for them, they’re banished to a primeval forest way off the grid. Their parents? Gone. Their friends? A world away. And they aren’t alone. Bloodthirsty medieval warriors patrol the woods around them, supernatural pirates roam the neighboring seas, and a power-hungry queen rules the land. To survive, the siblings will have to be braver than they ever thought possible—and fight against their darkest impulses. The key may lie in their own connection to the secret Kristoff legacy. But as they unravel that legacy, they’ll discover it’s not just their family that’s in danger . . . it’s the entire world.

I’m looking forward to reading this forthcoming book because…I am interested to see if this lives up to the hype of all the pre publication announcements and excitement. I am always looking for great fantasy series to feed the constant demand of readers, and hope this is another one that students will love.


See the author interview and book trailer here:

Spinning a magical tale…The Spin by Rebecca Lisle

alt=the spin rebecca lisle cover

The Spin by Rebecca Lisle, Published by Hot key Books, 2013. 357 pages.

From the publisher:

His destiny lies across a dangerous sky….

Stormy is an orphan and a kitchen skivvy. He tends the compost, he scrubs the floors, and watches feasts make their way up the mountain as he survives on bread and water. A skivvy is all that Stormy can hope to be. But Stormy has a secret. He wants to be a sky-rider, to soar amongst the clouds on spitfyres: flying horses that spit fire and smoke, and answer only to their riders. A chance meeting with an escaped convict turns Stormy’s life upside down. Sent up to the Academy he uncovers a web of lies, deceits and neglect, at the centre of which lies the mysterious thirteenth horse. Can Stormy save Thirteen, defeat the dark forces at work within the Academy and prove himself worthy as a sky-rider?

From the editor: “THE SPIN is an utterly charming story, perfect for fans of Harry Potter or How to Train Your Dragon, who like their adventure with magic, heart and humour. Rebecca Lisle has woven a wonderful adventure story inspired by Dickens’ Great Expectations – a story featuring a lonely but plucky little orphan Stormy, a mysterious benefactor and a stuck-up, enigmatic young girl – and a healthy dose of flying horses. Heartwarming and thrilling by turns, it’s a story to be loved by all the family, with the feel of a classic.”

What do I think about this book?

I absolutely loved it! Some books stay with you long after you have finished them and this was one of them. It has taken me a few days to write this post as I kept thinking about the characters (even then I am lost for words, which just proves I am not a writer – it’s very hard to do this book justice and not sound trite!) As I was reading this story I felt that I had been transported into Stormy’s world with the magical alternate world within it. The writing is fresh and original, it may have had Great Expectations as its inspiration but it certainly is a modern book and not having read Great Expectations recently, I really felt this was a “new” tale. It is so refreshing to read a story about a magical creature that is unfamiliar – I have read lots of stories featuring a pegasus or dragon but a gutsy flying horse that breathes fire and sparks (and isn’t a playful pony), is a novelty. The plot is complex without being complicated – it requires careful reading so that the reader can savour it. I was torn between wanting to find out what happened next whilst luxuriating in the story and not wanting it to end!

This story will be a great read for older children from year 5 up into year 8/9, with plenty of drama and suspense. It would also work very well as a family read aloud for slightly younger children.

Can I also add how much I love the cover – thank heavens it is not the typical dragon/pegasus fantasy style cover – the silhouetted figures against the spiral are really eye catching and I can see lots of students picking this out when it is on display.

**At the time of writing Hot Key Books publications are not distributed in New Zealand**

I have it on good authority that this situation will change this year…which is brilliant because I can honestly say I have enjoyed every title I have read…in addition each book has this handy “key” printed on the back of the cover or on the website. Here is the key for this book which indicates the content as follows: (50% Fantasy adventure, 25% Flying horses, 25% friendship).

hotkey spin

Extra bits of Spin related goodness:

Here is a blog post from the author, where she talks about her inspiration for the story and how some of the characters and plot developed.

Download the first chapter here.

Author website: http://www.rebeccalisle.com


Hello,Tanith Low…More for Skulduggery Pleasant fans….


One of the book series which has proven to be extremely popular amongst my Year 5 and 6 readers is Derek Landy’s “Skulduggery Pleasant”. I finally decided to bite the bullet and have begun reading the first book in the series this summer. As I was exploring Derek Landy’s blog I read about this book and decided my students who love this series need to know about this! Coming up on April 1 2013 is a new novel featuring villainous character “Tanith Low” from the SP books…..I believe is it a “one-off” rather than the start of new but related series, and at 288 pages it is a bit shorter than the very satisfying Skulduggery Pleasant books.

From the publisher: This time, the bad guys take the stage. Tanith Low, now possessed by a remnant, recruits a gang of villains – many of whom will be familiar from previous Skulduggery adventures – in order to track down and steal the four God-Killer level weapons that could hurt Darquesse when she eventually emerges. Also on the trail of the weapons is a secret group of Sanctuary sorcerers, and doing his best to keep up and keep Tanith alive is one Mister Ghastly Bespoke. When the villains around her are lying and scheming and plotting, Tanith needs to stay two steps ahead of her teammates and her enemies. After all, she’s got her own double-crosses to plan – and she’s a villain herself…

What do I think about this book?
It is quite an irony that Skulduggery Pleasant books often came up in lists by Librarians and Bloggers as being a good read for kids hungering for a Harry Potter readalike. The Skulduggery Pleasant series has become so popular, that I have readers asking me for Skulduggery Pleasant readalikes! I am intrigued as in the first book which I am reading now, I have just met Tanith Low and she seems to have some good in her? I obviously need to keep reading the whole series so I can find out what happens with her. This book will be pre-ordered so that we have it as soon as it is released, because I know it will be extremely popular.


It’s time for a new hero…The History Keepers



The storm begins (The History Keepers book 1) by Damian Dibben, Doubleday, 2011.

This book cover looks like a great movie poster to me, so it was no surprise to learn that the movie rights have already been sold and that the author is also a screenwriter as well as book author. (After reading the book I KNOW this would make a great film…and I hope it doesn’t take too long to be made)

From Goodreads.com:

When Jake is kidnapped by strangers on a stormy London night he discovers his loving parents have been leading a double life and are now missing, lost somewhere in history. He is plunged into a world of secret societies, dangerous double agents, and a terrifying countdown to oblivion. Transported by a Spanish galleon back to 19th century France, he finds himself in the headquarters of The History Keepers – a remarkable league of time-travelling special agents. The History Keepers preserve the true course of history against those who would change it for their own gain, such as the diabolical Prince Zeldt. Driven by a sense of adventure and a desire to reunite his family, Jake makes the most thrilling – and dangerous – decision of his life.

From the book cover UK edition:

Imagine if you lost your parents – not just in place, but in time. Jake Djones’ mum and dad have gone missing and they could be anywhere in the world – at any time in history. Because the Djones family have an astonishing secret, which for years they’ve managed to keep – even from each other. They belong to the HISTORY KEEPERS: a secret society which travels through the centuries to prevent evil enemies from meddling with History itself. In the quest to find his parents, Jake is whisked from 21st Century London to 19th century France, the headquarters of the mysterious History Keepers, where he discovers the truth about his family’s disappearance – and the diabolical Prince Zeldt’s plan to destroy the world as we know it ..

What do I think about this book?:

This is a great, fast moving adventure of the swash buckling variety with lots of action, heroic acts and a bit of humor. I really could see this as a movie unfolding before my eyes as I read.  Perfect for Year 5 – Year 8 readers (both boys and girls) who want a good adventure story with plenty of action.

This is another title where the publishers are counting on the reading public’s thirst for more books along the line of a certain young wizard who shall not be named as he has hung up his wand and invisibility cloak…however I am happy to explore any potential “read-alike” books, as the Harry Potter series is a great “hook” for young readers.

The difference here is that this is a time travel book (but without too many sic-fi overtones) rather than a magical fantasy. Like the main character the reader is jostled along without everything being revealed at once and it is both an intriguing and a thrilling ride. Rather than time travel where the story zips backwards and forwards between historical periods, this is relatively easy to follow and because most of the action takes place in one period of history you get to experience it in some depth without the description being too heavy for young readers. After reading the book I saw more in common with the pace of a Pirates of the Caribbean/Percy Jackson movie than Harry Potter.

I read this in two days and look forward to reading the already published sequel: History keepers – Circus maximus.

Books of beginning series – brilliant for fantasy fans!


The Emerald atlas (2011)

The Fire chronicle (2012)

Book 3 (as yet un-named…) (2014) I can’t wait to read the conclusion!

All written by John Stephens and Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

The Emerald Atlas was described by the publisher as Narnia meets Philip Pullman’s His dark materials trilogy…this sets the bar very high for readers, however it did not disappoint and I have enthusiastically been recommending these books to my year 5 and 6 readers who enjoyed Harry Potter, the Narnia Chronicles and Percy Jackson.

From goodreads.com: 

The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma’s extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world. These three siblings have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage. Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now. ..Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey through time to dangerous and secret corners of the world…a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.

Book trailer:

Continue reading Books of beginning series – brilliant for fantasy fans!

Hungry for more Harry Potter?


Looking for more adventures at Hogwarts? Then look no further than the fan fiction trilogy created by G. Norman Lippert. Based upon the characters and worlds of J. K. Rowling, this trilogy tells the story of Harry Potter’s son James, and his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first installment “James Potter and the Hall of Elder’s Crossing“. This first book is followed by two others, “James Potter and the curse of the gatekeeper” and the final book “James Potter and the vault of destinies“. All are available as free ebooks (epub format for adobe reader/ibooks/ereaders and mobi format to be read on Kindle devices) on the website link here:

Continue reading Hungry for more Harry Potter?