A new insight into WW1

floras warTITLE = FLORA’S WAR

AUTHOR = PAMELA RUSHBY

GENRE = WW1, WOMEN IN WAR, ROMANCE, GROWING UP  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Flora is a young Australian girl accompanying her Father on an archaeological dig in Egypt in 1915. Having travelled to Cairo with her father for many years, she is well used to the heat, the dust and the Egyptian food but this year is different. The war in Europe is encroaching on the sands of Egypt and Flora finds that even for an archaeologist’s daughter this means change: there are fewer parties and pretty dresses and more bandages and cups of tea with young men who are leaving for the war front. More dramatically, when these young men return injured, Flora must deal with the smell, the bloody wounds and the suffering.

For readers interested in the role of women role during war-time, this book will make an interesting read. Certainly, the role of Australian civilians in Egypt is an unusual perspective for a book about ww1 and the description of Egyptian life, and life for a young woman in the early days of the war, will intrigue many.

Some may find the Flora’s romantic entanglements less credible but they are sure to enjoy her bold spirit and determination.

This book was chosen as a Notable book in the Older Readers section of the CBCA awards (2014).

Recommended (dma) ****  

An exciting icy adventure

ice breakerTITLE = THE HIDDEN SERIES: Ice Breaker (Book 1)

AUTHOR = LIAN TANNER

GENRE = FANTASY, ADVENTURE, STEAMPUNK, FRIENDSHIP, RELATIONSHIPS   

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

As the title suggest, this novel is based around an intriguing world on board an icebreaking ship (Oyster) which inhabits the icy regions of the south. On the Oyster there are 3 tribes: Braid (Oficers); Dufftown (Cooks) and Grease Alley (Engineers) – each with their own uniform, their own set of duties and their own level on the ship. So everyone on board has a designated place …. all except Petrel, who is shunned by all on board the ship: she has no name to the others (“Nothing Girl” they call her) and no rights – she is even hunted down by some… all because of a supposed betrayal by her dead parents about which neither she (nor the reader) knows the details … until they are gradually revealed in this story.

Having grown up in this world, Petrel is understandably used to living on her wits and trusting no-one. But when she helps to rescue a young lad abandoned on the ice, Petrel finds she must trust some on the ship if this young man is to be saved… indeed her own survival may depend upon it. But will her trust in this boy be her own undoing?? And once the truth about him is revealed…. Will anyone on board be safe??

Fast moving, this is an exciting adventure that will suck the reader into this strange new world ….and keep a firm hold of them until the very last page. As the first of a new series, readers who enjoy this book will be pleased to know there is plenty of excitement still to come.

Shortlisted for the 2013 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Book (Australian fantasy) and selected as a Notable Book for Younger Readers in the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Younger Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

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) *****

Action aplenty amidst the sewers of Victorian London

CITY OF ORPHANS BK 1TITLE = CITY OF ORPHANS (book 1) : A VERY UNUSUAL PURSUIT 

AUTHOR = CATHERINE JINKS

GENRE = HORROR, ADVENTURE, FANTASY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

If you like action, adventure and ghosts… with a backdrop of historic London then you will love this book. Young Birdie lives in the dark and threatening streets of London at a time when being a child wasn’t always easy. But Birdie is happy with her lot because she lives and works with Alfred Bunce, the local bogler who kills child eating monsters. Alfred may speak little, but he certainly looks after and cares for young Birdie ..even if his job does require him to use her as bait for the monsters he kills!

Birdie loves her job, despite the danger; she feels certain that she and Alfred are a match for any bogle out there. But have Alfred and Birdie bitten off more than they can chew … will they survive a run-in with the crook Sarah Pickles and the mysterious doctor?

If you enjoyed Jonathan Stroud’s “The Screaming Staircase” (reviewed here) you will also love this book … fast-paced, a cleverly twisting and  turning plot and an historic London that is brought magically to life … you can almost smell the rats and the sewers!!

Look out for the second (A Very Peculiar Plague) and third (A Very Singular Guild) books in the series … soon  to be on the shelves.

 This book was shortlisted in the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year awards and then announced as THE WINNER!! CONGRATULATIONS TO CATHERINE JINKS.

Highly 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) *****

A gothic fairytale in small town America

far far awayTITLE = FAR, FAR AWAY

AUTHOR = TOM MCNEAL

GENRE = FAIRYTALES, GOTHIC HORROR, RELATIONSHIPS, COMMUNITY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

This is an unusual tale, filled with ghosts and the whisper of grim fairytales, where children go missing and evil lurks around the corner. There is a real sense of other-wordliness about this story partly because the narrator is none other than the ghost of Jacob Grimm (yes, of the Grimm brothers’ fame).

Unable to crossover after his death and meet his beloved brother Wilhelm, Jacob believes his destiny is to look after Jeremy Johnson Johnson and ensure that he doesn’t fall into the clutches of the “Finder of Occasions”. So he whispers in Jeremy’s ear and tells him spooky fairytales.

Jeremy is a quiet boy, with few friends – partly because he hears voices (Jacob’s whispers) and partly because he loves reading fairytales (surprise, surprise). He is a kindly lad who cares for his father, bedridden with grief since his wife left them many years ago. But Jeremy is shunned by the townspeople after an unfortunate prank … is the beguiling Ginger simply leading him astray? Or can she help him find his way to fame and fortune … so that he can save his home from the debt collectors?

Jeremy & Ginger need to stay one step ahead of the “Finder of Occasions” … whoever he may be… for if they are caught they may join the ranks of other missing children. Can Jacob help save them or is he too busy watching the wrong person?

A spooky tale that mesmerises readers into believing in fairytales … and hoping for the best for our young hero, Jeremy and his friend, Ginger. This book has won numerous awards, including the California Book Award Gold Medal (2013), it has been shortlisted for the US National Book Award (2013) and been a finalist in the Edgar Allan Poe Mystery Awards (2013) as well as gaining many, many acclaimed reviews from school libraries. A great choice if you are interested in spooky fairytale-like stories.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Growing up with a disability

out of my mindTITLE = OUT OF MY MIND

AUTHOR = SHARON M. DRAPER

GENRE = DISABILITY, MENTAL HEALTH, FAMILIES 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7+

Melody was born with cerebral palsy, which means she has difficulty controlling her body movements, is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak. Her greatest desire is to be able to communicate with others and let them know that just because her body doesn’t work properly this doesn’t mean that her brain is not sharp. She is an intelligent girl with a whole lot to say to the world – she just can’t get the words out.

Melody tells her story in first person so we are given a great chance to see what life is like for this remarkably strong young girl. She doesn’t want our pity she just wants to be understood. Fortunately, Melody has a lot of people around her who want to help: from her loving parents, to her remarkable neighbour and a caring aide at school.

Not everyone at school is helpful, though: some teachers can’t see past the wheelchair and some kids can’t see past her drooling. So when Melody tries out for the school Quiz Team there are bound to be some raised eyebrows … just how far can this young girl go, if given the chance.

This is a moving story with a very believable main character. Her story is not whitewashed: not everything goes Melody’s way and there are some moments of true heartbreak for her. But it is a powerful tale and will make readers genuinely think about the power of words, the power of speech and perhaps reconsider our beliefs about disability. This book understandably spent 9 months on the NY Times bestseller list.

Check out the author’s website: a teacher and a highly awarded author, who has some genuine understanding of Melody’s situation as she has a disabled daughter (although Sharon Draper is keen to tell readers that Melody’s story is NOT her daughter’s story)

Highly 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) ****

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) *****

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) *****