A love letter to the western suburbs of Melbourne

tigerfishTITLE = TIGERFISH

AUTHOR = DAVID METZENTHEN

GENRE = AUSTRALIAN SUBURBS, FAMILY, GRIEF, VIOLENCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 +

This is a brilliant and compelling novel. If “The Incredible Here and Now” is a love letter to the Western suburbs of Sydney, then this novel is an ode to the Western suburbs of Melbourne. It is an ode tinged with rawness and simmering violence, but also with loyalty and kindness.

Ryan is well aware that there is a bleak harshness about his suburb. There is fear lurking in the wasteland on the edge of his suburb: fear due to past violence and recent reports of a prowler on the loose. Even Ryan doesn’t want to be out in this bare wasteland at night. Yet despite this fear and darkness, Ryan clearly loves his neighbourhood and there is a lot to be loved – in the strong sense of community spirit and in Ryan himself.

Slate (Ryan’s brother) is stuck in a dead-end factory job by day and a bouncer’s job at night; simmering with anger about the consequences of past decisions.  Ariel, the new love of Ryan’s life, is trapped by her sad family history. School colleagues, Eden and Elmore are trapped by guilt. And caught between all these characters is Ryan himself; uncertain of his own future yet willing to reach out to others, however uncomfortable he may sometimes feel.

Loyalty is important to Ryan as is team work – and he uses his love of footy to guide his actions; moving forward, sidestepping where necessary, not always winning but willing to come back next week and give it a go. This is a compelling novel. Ryan’s voice is authentic and, at times, dryly funny. He sees the bleakness around him but he also sees the beauty in his community. What he perhaps doesn’t see, but what the reader will see, is how Ryan is a part of this beauty.

Highly Highly Recommended for older readers (dma) *****

Soccer fun

extra timeTITLE = EXTRA TIME

AUTHOR = MORRIS GLEITZMAN

GENRE = SPORT, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Matt is a sporting prodigy, able to duck and weave and glide gracefully around a soccer field. His dream was to play professionally but that dream was put on hold after a tragic car accident which killed his brothers and damaged his legs.  He still displays remarkable talent on the soccer field but does his body have the strength to hold up against the rigours of the big league?

Put to the test on a promotional tour in England Matt discovers that training for the big league is not just about the body, it is also about the mind and the soul. Could playing soccer professionally come at a cost … not just to his body but also to his heart, could he lose his love for the game? Or will his little sister, his manager, help him find his way?

A novel about soccer and family, about the joy and business of sport; younger readers are sure to enjoy this fast, entertaining read, especially lovers of football. And to find about more about the great author of this book, why not check out his website here.

Recommended (dma) ***

An unusual and amusing tale of adventure, myth and mayhem

houndedTITLE = THE IRON DRUID CHRONICLES #1: Hounded

AUTHOR = KEVIN HEARNE

GENRE = FANTASY, HUMOUR, MYTHS & LEGENDS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 – 12

 Atticus O’Sullivan is the last of the Druids. He runs an occult bookshop in Arizona and is happily minding his own business when life is turned upside down for him. Atticus has in his possession a famous sword (Fragarach – the Answerer) but the Celtic god who previously owned this sword wants it back and will use any means to achieve this end. Atticus has always been careful (some would say he is paranoid about safety) but it seems even harder than usual for him to know who to trust – are the local witches on his side? Will his werewolf friends help out? Will the local cops believe him … and what of that pesky neighbour??

Perhaps the only one he can truly trust is his beloved wolfhound, Oberon with whom he communicates in thought ..

Life is certainly never boring for Atticus and readers will be cheering him on as he faces one danger after another. Action packed and very,  very funny – a most entertaining read with a new take on magic and the supernatural. Thankfully this is not a stand alone novel but the first in an engaging new series.

Highly Recommended (dma) ***** For more mature readers

A novel about footy, fans, grief and life

TITLE = THE WHOLE OF MY WORLD

AUTHOR = NICOLE HAYES

GENRE = FOOTBALL, MYSTERY, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIPS, GRIEF  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9-11

Shelley Brown is hoping for a fresh start: a new school, new friends, new interests – a new life. Since the loss of her mother, Shelley and her dad are drawing a line between the past and the present, so Shelley jumps at the chance to attend footy training with her new friend, Tara. After all, football has always been Shelley’s passion especially her beloved Glenthorn Football Club. Attending Thursday night training also gives Shelley a chance to befriend the new player, Mick Edwards.

Shelley and Tara are obsessed by their footy team and this novel is cleverly structured to reflect this passion: every chapter and section references the game, from “The Draft” to the “Pre-Season” to “The end-of-season Trip”. And the plot unfolds cleverly too: whilst most readers will accept Shelley’s lingering grief at losing her mother, midway through the novel the full story behind Shelley’s loss is revealed so we understand more fully the deep pain behind her journey of rebirth.

In a sports mad country like Australia it is intriguing to shine a light on that obsession:  the euphoria of the fans when their team wins, the despair when they lose and the relationship they have with the players themselves. However, this is more than just a football yarn; set against the football background is a bigger story about grief and loss, about family ties and family breakdown, of burgeoning love and the resilience needed not only to face another football season but also to face life’s many ups and downs.

Even those who don’t love football will find a lot to enjoy in Shelley Brown’s world.

This book has been Longlisted for the 2014 Gold Inky Award. 

Highly Recommended (dma) *****