Choices always have consequences … some may be unexpected …

dead dogTITLE = DEAD DOG IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT

AUTHOR = ARCHIMEDE FUSILLO

GENRE = FAMILY, GROWING UP, VIOLENCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

This is a dark novel with a sense of brooding violence and anger lingering at the edge of every page. Primo has a lot on his plate: his father is in a nursing home and his girlfriend wants to break up with him. His home-life hasn’t got any easier since his brothers have moved back in, bringing all sorts of problems and pressures with them. How can somebody concentrate on their VCE studies with all this going on?

AS Primo tells his best mate, Tony, smart guys sometimes make dumb decisions … and it seems like Primo is talking about himself … first with his dad’s beloved car and then with the dead dog. What seemed like a good idea at the time may turn out to be a very very bad idea once it has been executed. And trying to fix one bad idea with another bad idea is surely never going to work? But hindsight is all very well – it is not going to help if the thug from work wants revenge, it is not going to help when he has to tell his mother the truth … as Primo learns all too well.

And ultimately that is what becomes important in this book: any one can make mistakes but it is how we deal with these mistakes, how we learn (or if we learn) that can make us grow up to fight another day… in a better way. Will Primo see that before his world comes crumbling down around him …and what will he learn about his family in the process? A book which may be dark but which also shows that strength doesn’t always come from a fist and dignity can be found in unlikely places.

Recommended (dma) ***** 

A boys own wartime adventure

brave the restless seasTITLE = BRAVE THE RESTLESS SEAS

AUTHOR = DAVID McROBBIE

GENRE = SEAFARING, WAR, WW2M GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Adam Chisholm has grown up near Liverpool, the busiest seaport in 1940’s Britain, so it is no wonder that ships have always been his passion. With his country at war, it is also no wonder that 15 year old Adam chooses to sign up for the Merchant Navy, to do his part for the war effort, especially given that his beloved mother has recently died.

Over the next few months Adam sails on an Atlantic convoy, faces seasickness and shipwreck, helps to salvage a ship and takes part in the destruction of a submarine. As the ship’s “Peggy” he learns how to keep a mess tidy and how to ferry meals across a slippery deck to satisfy the hunger of his fellow sailors. He will also discover a whole new vocabulary of shipping terms, which he must learn, if he is to obey the orders he is given on board.

A story about mateship on the High Seas, boys are sure to find this book entertaining and quite an eye opener about ships, seafaring and life in Britain under the duress of war. Images at the start of each chapter (including maps and posters of the era) and a glossary of ship terms at the end add to the sense of truth behind Adam’s story.

Selected as a 2014 Notable book (Younger Readers) by the CBCA Judges.

Recommended (dma) ****

Parkour and poetry provide a powerful mix

runTITLE = RUN

AUTHOR = TIM SINCLAIR

GENRE = PARKOUR, POETRY, VERSE NOVEL, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Ever since his friend Trench introduced him to parkour, Dee has fallen in love with it: running, jumping, moving through his suburb and city with athleticism and daring: seeing his environs in ways others can’t and using this skill to move … to run, to free himself from all around. It gives him a buzz, it makes him feel alive. But when a photographer offers him a chance to be filmed, Dee finds himself running from trouble. With the help of his new best friend, Jess, and her hacking skills, Dee just might be able to get out of trouble … or he might be heading deeper into danger. And just what did happen to his old friend Trench – is there a warning there for Dee?

Dee tells his story using free verse. The flow of his voice is natural and easy to follow, with the occasional clever image or metaphor. At times the author, Tim Sinclair, uses shape poetry to good effect: to catch the image of waves or a wire-fence in words. On pages describing Dee’s parkour antics, there are also bruised rubbings splashed across the page, perhaps mirroring Dee’s own light touch and flashes of movement.   Arrows which break up chapter sections also emphasise the sense of movement which is so important to Dee’s story.An unusual format, which is both visually engaging and also tells an intriguing story.             

It is clear why this book was selected as a 2014 Notable Book (Older Readers) by the CBCA Judges.  

Recommended(dma) ****

Going on the run … with Mum and Dad!

two-wolvesTITLE = TWO WOLVES

AUTHOR = TRISTAN BANCKS 

GENRE =CRIME, FAMILIES, GROWING UP 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Ben loves making movies; his favourite pastime is to create his own stop-motion movies using all sorts of odds and ends to create the settings and the characters. His favourite genre of movie is crime: cops and robbers (with maybe a zombie or 2 thrown in for good measure). But one day his parents arrive home, bundle Ben and his little sister, Olive, into the car and take off. Suddenly, instead of directing a movie, Ben has one of the starring roles.

What is Ben meant to do once he realises that maybe, just maybe, his parents are not the law abiding citizens he always thought them to be? Is he brave enough to stand up to his dad? Should he turn them in to the police… they are family after all? And what about his little sister … can he drag her along with him?

These are tough decisions and Ben is in a tough situation. This is an exciting story from a popular author (Galactic Adventures: First Kids in SpaceMac Slater, Cool Hunter) which is sure to be enjoyed by young readers, both boys and girls.

 Recommended (dma) ****

 

A twisting turning plot brings plenty of surprises

celia frostTITLE = THE TRUTH ABOUT CELIA FROST

AUTHOR = PAULA RAWSTHORNE

GENRE = MYSTERY, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-10

There are many surprising twists and turns in this entertaining novel. At first it seems that Celia Frost’s main problem is a rare blood disorder which endangers her life: the smallest cut could be lethal, as she could bleed out. Is it any wonder that most classmates give Celia a wide berth, for fear of causing her harm. So when we first meet Celia she is a lonely girl, struggling against school bullying.

But Celia and the reader are soon in for a surprise and we follow Celia and her Mum as their close relationship is torn apart by changing events. What began as a book about a young teen with special needs, suddenly becomes a mystery novel,  complete with a mad (or bad?) scientist, a possible kidnapping, a dodgy private eye and a special friend – who just may save the day.

Celia is a credible teenage girl, struggling to make sense of her world – a world which keeps changing shape. The other characters are equally realistic: not all may appear likeable at first but they are certainly engaging. Set in England, in particular in a poor housing estate -this is an entertaining novel by a new author.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Plenty of adventure and fantasy

ruins of gorlan newTITLE = RANGER’S APPRENTICE Book 1 : The Ruins of Gorlan

AUTHOR = JOHN FLANAGAN

GENRE = ACTION/ADVENTURE, FANTASY,

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Will has always dreamed of being a knight, despite his small size. So when he is denied this chance and instead sent to become an apprentice to a ranger he is disappointed, to say the least. It doesn’t help matters that the ranger himself (Halt) is a man of few words and quite a hard task master.

However, under Halt’s tutelage, Will learns that being a ranger is not as easy as he had at first thought: there are many new and unexpected skills for him to learn and several weapons to master. This newly gained knowledge may come in handy when the kingdom faces a dire threat. Is Will up to the challenge? Will he have the courage and the cleverness required to save the day?

This is a fast paced adventure, the first in a series. Will is a likeable hero and has a lot to learn about himself and his friends. It is easy to see why this book has been so popular with so many students: it is a great read.

Find out about later books in the series here: Halt’s Peril and The Kings of Clonmel

Find out more about the series on the great website dedicated to The Rangers Apprentice

And if you like this book, you may also like John Flanagan’s Brotherband series: reviewed here (Book 1 and Book 2)

Highly Recommended (dma) ***** 

An exciting new crime series

travis delaney 1TITLE = TRAVIS DELANEY INVESTIGATES: #1 – THE ULTIMATE TRUTH

AUTHOR = KEVIN BROOKS

GENRE = DETECIVE, MYSTERY, CRIME, FAMILY, GRIEF

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Travis Delaney is heart-broken at the sudden death of his parents in a car accident. But was it an accident? The Delaney’s ran a private investigator’s agency and there are several questions hanging over their last case. Partly to take his mind off his own personal grief, Travis decides to do some investigating himself … but is he in over his head??

This is a fast-paced action adventure novel, the first instalment in what looks like being an exciting series. Travis is a credible and likeable kid: his grief is raw and he has a good heart. But his opponents are realistically portrayed too, so the danger he faces is all too real.

Sure to be a hit with both girls and boys. Check out the book trailer below:

Music (“Polonium 210”  by Alan Gould & Roger Roger) sourced from the Animoto site, as were the images for this book trailer.

Highly Recommended (dma) ***** 

Outrageous fun

beauty queensTITLE = BEAUTY QUEENS

AUTHOR = LIBBA BRAY

GENRE = SATIRE, SURVIVAL, BEAUTY PAGEANTS, ADVENTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 +

Libba Bray is in sparkling form in this novel. Imagine what would happen if a plane load of beauty queens crash lands on a desert island. Will they follow the lead of Taylor (Miss Teen Dream Texas) and keep practising their routines so they are ready to go into full swing when they are rescued? Or will they follow Adina (Miss New Hampshire) who wants them to look out for themselves?  Will their sense of competition prevent them from working together or will they discover that their pageant talents can be put to a real life purpose after all?

While casting a satirical eye over the beauty pageant business, Libba Bray also sheds a comical glance at boy bands, reality TV and Mother-daughter relationships. There are unexpected twists and turns in the plot to keep our reader on the edge of their seats …and our poor teen queens on the edge of their toes. Tough exteriors are put to the test and long held principles are questioned.

But at its heart, this novel is about entertainment and fun. From the narrative voice to the comical footnotes, there is oh so much to love about this novel. Snappy writing and a cast of wonderful characters will delight readers – both boys and girls should find some mirth in the pages of this book.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

 

A brilliant end to a wonderful series

black heartTITLE = THE CURSE WORKERS (Book 3): Black Heart

AUTHOR = HOLLY BLACK

GENRE = FANTASY, MAGIC, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 +

This is the third and final book in an intriguing series. Fans of the previous 2 books are sure to be satisfied with Holly Black’s clever conclusion. As usual, Cassel Sharpe finds himself in a tricky situation: trying to keep his mother alive and out of jail, trying to keep away from a life of crime, he has signed up to help the Feds. But can he trust them? Or do they simply want to use him as so many others have used him before?

And is his heart destined to be broken…again? The only girl he has ever loved truly despises him (and given that he once turned her into a cat and his own mother once worked a spell on her, Cassel can’t really blame her). But his heart so wishes it was otherwise.

Meanwhile his best friends are fighting, a girl he doesn’t trust wants his help and the principal keeps threatening to kick him out of school. Life was never meant to be this complicated .. was it?

A  terrific book and a wonderfully inventive series … Cassel Sharpe will worm his way into your heart …even if he thinks his own heart is blackened.

Highly Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A gritty and compelling vampire story

coldest girl in coldtownTITLE = THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLD TOWN

AUTHOR = HOLLY BLACK

GENRE = FANTASY, SUPERNATURAL, VAMPIRES

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS

Imagine a world where vampires exist … not the sparkly kind, the dangerous kind. Imagine going to a party one night and waking up the next morning to find all the other party guests have been killed …. by vampires. That is, all but your ex-boyfriend. Do you run? Do you save him? And what about the vampire chained in the corner .. do you take him with you or escape while you can??

This may seem like a nightmare world but it is Tana’s reality.

And so begins a gripping new novel by that wondrous writer, Holly Black. As Tana tries to maintain her sanity, and her humanity, she is driven into increasingly desperate situations. Going on the run with a soon-to-be vampire she once loved and a somewhat crazed vampire who she seems to be falling for, may seem like an act of madness but Tana is intent on staying alive and staying one step ahead of danger. She is not trying to impress anyone, she is not looking for romance – she simply wants to stay alive and human …even if she must risk everything by entering the strange world of Coldtown, where vampires and reality TV seem to have merged.

Only Holly Black could have dreamed up a world like this one: dark and cruel and absolutely fascinating. A world where compassion may be found in the unlikeliest places and where no-one is quite as they seem. A compelling tale from go to whoa which will have readers spellbound, especially those who like their fantasy to be just a little bit gritty.

Highly Highly Recommended (dma) *****