An entertaining Aussie rom com

cinnamon girlTITLE = THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF CINNAMON GIRL

AUTHOR = MELISSA KEIL

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Sarah Jane (otherwise known as Alba) has lived in the small country town of Eden Valley all her life. With a small but close group of friends, she has just completed Year 12 and is facing the next stage of her life…with some trepidation. AS a comic book lover and artist, she may have created a fantabulous character in Cinnamon Girl but can she find the courage to set her off on new adventures?? Just as her comic creation has stalled, life for Alba has turned on its head. There are still the old traditions (that she has created) like Monday morning brekkie on the lawns of her mum’s bakery, and Monday night TV & drinks and Christmas Eve picnic tea…. But this maintenance of the old is being fast swamped by new events with which Alba is struggling to cope. First there is the invasion of her town by doomsdayers who believe that the world will end on New Year’s Eve – all except for Eden Valley … then there is the strange behaviour of Grady her longtime best friend, who alternates between yelling at her and disappearing altogether…. and the return of one of their childhood friends, Daniel, only adds to the complications.  Why can’t Alba think through the fog in her head… and why can’t she see what everyone else can see…about her future and her love life?? Most importantly, will she sort it all out before it is too late??

Fans of Melissa Keil’s first novel (“Life in Outer Space“) will enjoy her new book and if you love a warm-hearted romcom or if you love comic books you are sure to delight in Alba’s incredible adventures … it is a wild and comical ride with a fanciful and talented young heroine.

And the cover is to die for!

HIghly Recommended (dma) *****

Non-stop action and adventure

house of secretsTITLE = HOUSE OF SECRETS (Book 1)

AUTHOR = CHRIS COLUMBUS & NED VIZZINI

GENRE = ACTION, ADVENTURE, FANTASY, ROMANCE, FAMILY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-8

Action packed from go to whoa, this is a great book with an inventive plot. The Walker family, including three children (Cordelia, Brendan and Eleanor) have just moved into Kristoff House.  An amazing old house, it soon becomes apparent that there are powerful forces of magic at work and before long the three children are thrown into a dangerous adventure. They must battle pirates, ogres and a wicked witch before they can find their way home. The Walker children realise that they must work together and use each of their strengths if they are to survive.  …. And the hero of the hour may be somewhat unexpected!.

This is a wonderful story about the power of books, the power of words and the power of wishes. There is a lot of humour in the sibling rivalry and bickering and even a touch of romance to add a bit of spice. All in all, a very entertaining first book in what promises to be an exciting series.

Recommended (dma) ****

A very different story from Claire Zorn

the-protected-cover-aw-copyTITLE: The Protected

AUTHOR: Claire Zorn

GENRE: Family, Grief, Bullying, School

INTEREST LEVEL: Year 8, 9, 10

After her sister, Katie, dies in a car accident, Hannah’s life is more stressful than ever. She isn’t getting bullied at school anymore, but her mother hasn’t left the house since then, and her injured father is going to court in six weeks because he was driving the car when Katie died.

Hannah can’t remember the accident.

It’s almost a year later, and Hannah is talking to the school counsellor about what happened. And to Josh, sometimes – the new kid who always seems to be around. The book unfolds with lists about Katie, flashbacks to Hannah’s life before the accident, and her interactions now – conversations with the school counsellor, with her parents, with the students that used to bully her. Occasionally it’s a little hard to tell when a flashback has started – until Katie shows up. Everyone in Hannah’s life is trying to help, but some people are more successful than others.

The author, Claire Zorn, wrote The Sky So Heavy which was shortlisted for the CBCA Older Readers book of the year; this story however is quite different. Set in a town in the Blue Mountains, it’s a story that could, tragically, easily be any teenager’s story – not like The Sky So Heavy’s apocalypse. Read it if you are interested in all the ways people try to deal with death, and what you do when someone you love dies.

Recommended (emc) ****

A suspenseful summer story

liarsTITLE: We Were Liars

AUTHOR: E Lockhart

GENRE: Family, Suspense, Relationships

INTEREST LEVEL: Year 9+

Every summer, the Sinclairs spend the summer on their island. It’s a beautiful island, and the Sinclairs have four beautiful houses to live in every summer. The Sinclairs, you see, are terribly rich.

Our narrator, Cadence, and her cousins are called the Liars. The three cousins, and one friend, have grown up together, swimming and boating and getting into trouble: holidays. But now it’s summer seventeen and everything is different – Cady missed summer sixteeen when her dad took her to Europe. What happened during summer fifteen? Why can’t Cady remember?

Each tiny little section – some less than a page long – gives you some information about summer seventeen, or the accident, or the Liars’ lives growing up. This structure makes it even harder to put the book down. Occasional retellings of parts of King Lear, rewritten to suit Cady’s life at that point of the novel, show the reader more links in the stories of different generations of the Sinclairs.

We were Liars is a suspenseful story about family, love, and the truth. If anyone asks you how it ends, lie.

Highly recommended (emc) ***** Also, have a look at the tumblr created for the book.

A ghost story with plenty of twists and turns

doll bonesTITLE = DOLL BONES

AUTHOR = HOLLY BLACK

GENRE = HORROR, QUEST, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9    

Poppy, Zach and Alice have been friends for ages and have had great fun playing a special game filled with imagination and adventure. They use action figures, puppets and dolls to act out their stories, collaborating and decorating their storytelling.

But what happens when one of them is challenged to stop being childish … the ripple effect on their friendship and their storytelling game quickly stirs into action, especially when Poppy realises that the doll in her cabinet at home has a mysterious curse that can only be lifted by a road trip … by bus, at night ….

Can 3 young teens really work together on this quest without destroying their friendship? Does the doll really need help or is it just playing games with them? Can they in fact finish their quest … or will fear, anger or disappointment get in the way?

This is a clever story with plenty of mystery, adventure and friendship problems to be resolved. If you liked The Spiderwick Chronicles you are sure to enjoy this novel for younger readers from Holly Black

Recipient of a Newbery Honor Award

Recommended (dma) **** 

An interesting blend of humour, grief and reality TV

loathing lolaTITLE = LOATHING LOLA

AUTHOR = WILLIAM KOSTAKIS

GENRE = FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

15 year old Courtney  Marrow has lost her boyfriend in a car accident and is struggling with her grief. She lives with her Mum and younger brother and has a poor relationship with her father (who recently remarried the dreadful Lola, without warning his children first). On the plus side, Courtney has a great best friend: Tim (they talk together, support each other and he is very loyal towards her). His twin sister (Katie) is another story altogether; having recently decided she will be Courtney’s second best friend …. Is she really on Courtney’s side (or only looking out for herself?)

Courtney has been selected to be the star of a reality TV show based on “a real teen” – however, she is unaware of the plotting going on behind the scenes: by supposed friend and others. Can Courtney survive the reality experience with her reputation and sanity intact??? And what about those burgeoning feelings for a new boy in her life … is it too soon after the death of her previous boyfriend?

Clearly there is a lot on Courtney’s plate and readers will enjoy watching her trying to untangle the complications in her life and her heart.

The authors second novel (The First Third) was announced as an Honour Book (OR) in the CBCA Book of The Year awards. This is his first book and it reveals the same desire to blend laughter and sadness. Although it is perhaps not quite so well handled here, there is still a lot to like about this book.

Recommended (dma) ***  

A moving story for older readers

eleanor and parkTITLE = ELEANOR & PARK

AUTHOR = RAINBOW ROWELL

GENRE = FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, SCHOOL, BULLYING, ROMANCE 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

This is a sad story as flagged from the opening page.

Park is afraid to be open about his feelings, so initially seems a bit angry with Eleanor. Eleanor seems gawky and awkward but as we follow their stories in alternating chapters, we see what hides beneath the veneer that they show the world.

Eleanor comes from a poor and brutal home where her step-father rules. He has only just allowed Eleanor to return home, after kicking her out a year ago. Her mother is afraid to stand up to her partner, so Eleanor and her siblings eat early (before he comes home) and cower whilst he shouts and their mother cries.

Eleanor’s newness and strange attire make her a target for the school bullies so school days are equally difficult for Eleanor; until Park slowly reaches out to her over a shared interest in comics and music. Gradually, their friendship blossoms, giving both of them inner strength. But does their love stand a chance when Eleanor’s brutish step-father is watching her every move… and when put to the test, will Eleanor and Park have the courage to take action .. even at a cost to their relationship?

This is a credible and moving story … although some readers may not like the ending?? Given the themes in the story, it is likely to suit more mature readers.

Recommended (dma) **** 

Mycroft and Watts are at it again!

every wordTITLE = EVERY WORD

AUTHOR = ELLIE MARNEY

GENRE = CRIME, MYSTERY, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

An exciting, nail-biting sequel in a brilliant crime series – fans will be delighted and new fans will be won over. The action has moved to London where Mycroft and Watts have a crime to solve but this takes a back seat to battling their demons: Mycroft has plenty of angst in his family history to make him surly and unsure whilst Watts is agonising over their on-again-off-again relationship. Throw in a couple of nasty thugs, a kidnapping, an explosion or two … suddenly the lions they faced in book 1 are looking pretty tame by comparision with their London adventures.

Will Mycroft and Watts survive intact … will their relationship?

Check out the following book trailer for further clues:

(Images by dma or from the Animotot website, Music (Beethoven, Symphony No 5) sourced from thewebsite too.

Read a review of book 1 (Every Breath) here. Fans will be eagerly awaiting the final instalment in this exciting crime series.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

In a dark future how do you survive?

the sky so heavyTITLE = THE SKY SO HEAVY

AUTHOR = CLAIRE ZORN

GENRE = FUTURE, VIOLENCE, SURVIVAL, FRIENDSHIP 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

This is an exciting story of survival which also gives the reader plenty to think about. The opening line takes us straight into a dramatic situation and awakens a strong sense of peril and fear. And then we go back to find out what brought the narrator, Fin to this urgent situation.

And it all began on what seems like a typical day in the life of teenaged Fin: catching the bus to school, trying to chat with his crush (Lucy), listening to his teachers waffle about the world outside their own Blue Mts. At home, his brother clashes with his father and step-mum, so the boys are left on their own … and that’s when the horrifying adventure really begins.

In an apocalyptic future, Fin and his brother Max must face the danger alone. The power goes almost instantly so any chance of communication with the outside world is immediately restricted. It becomes a daily battle to keep warm and feed themselves, let alone entertain themselves… as they wait for dad to come home …or to be rescued.

Fin is a decent and responsible lad but even he can be pushed to extremes when faced with the mammoth job of keeping his brother alive and safe. Suddenly Fin decides to take action in a morally questionable way … this leads the way for a clever and thought-provoking strand to develop in this novel. For the story gradually raises questions about actions and consequences: does the end always justify the means? Does the fight for survival give one the right to hurt others? How far is too far?

Fin joins forces with Lucy and another boy from their school whose religious leanings provoke some of the moral questioning. Fin is a credibly flawed character who faces great odds and readers will be truly engaged in his story.

Shortlisted for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers), this book was announced as AN HONOUR BOOK!! CONGRATULATIONS TO CLAIRE ZORN.

Recommended (dma) ****

A sparkling sequel in an original and magical series

Cracks in the Kingdom CVR.pdTITLE = THE COLOURS OF MADELEINE Book 2: THE CRACKS IN THE KINGDOM

AUTHOR = JACLYN MORIARTY

GENRE = FANTASY, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE, GRIEF, FATHERS, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

Jaclyn Moriarty has crafted a wonderful sequel in a clever and thoughtful series. Filled with a delicious blend of magic, science, adventure and romance…with credible characters who will draw readers into their stories. Again the book follows the stories of Elliott (in Cello) and Madeleine (in Cambridge, the World) but there is an added strand to the story in the sequel: the story of Princess Ko’s attempts to retrieve her royal family members who have been sent into the World by Hostiles (where they have forgotten their identities and ties to Cello). So there is an added political intrigue behind their new adventures, especially as Elliott is part of the team who have been nominated to help find the royal family … even though this means working with Madeleine to open up the crack between their worlds, despite the risk of death if he is discovered.

This book is about mirrors and cracks: in the world, in families and in individuals: he depths we will go to in order to find and/or protect our loved ones … the grief we will feel at their loss. It is also about politics and looking beneath the surface of people: spies pop up at every turn, allies and friends may have hidden depths of despair … no-one is quite as they seem.

Moriarty balances each strand of the story cleverly, with plenty of new twists and turns in the plot and in the characterisations.  As in the first novel (A Corner of White, read a review here), Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing simply sparkles: it is an absolute joy to read each line. Readers will be left asking for more, and impatiently awaiting the last volume in the series.

Read an interview with Jaclyn Moriarty about writing this series, here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****