A mystery solved with some supernatural help

dying to tell meTITLE = DYING TO TELL ME

AUTHOR = SHERRYL CLARK

GENRE = MYSTERY, SUPERNATURAL, CRIME, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Since her mum left, Sasha has been filled with anger, and this has led her into trouble, from shoplifting to joy riding. Humiliating for her, and even more so for her dad, a policeman. In an attempt at a fresh start, Dad has moved with Sasha and her younger brother (Nicky) to the small town of Manna Creek, where he is to be the local cop.

Sasha isn’t entirely happy about the move and even less happy when she starts to have premonitions again; is she seeing ghosts? Is she going mad? To make matters worse, Sasha can even communicate telepathically with their newfound dog, King! Can Sasha use these skills to help her dad solve local crimes or is she just imagining it all?

This is a clever mystery story, with credible characters and heart-warming family relationships. Sasha is a likeable character, with a realistic mix of spunk and vulnerability. A thoroughly entertaining read.

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 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) *****  

Identity and acceptance

keeping you a secretTITLE = KEEPING YOU A SECRET

AUTHOR = JULIE ANNE PETERS

GENRE = IDENTITY, GAY THEMES, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 +

Holland Jaeger is in her last semester of school and life seems fairly comfortable: she is popular, athletic, head of the student council, has a charming boyfriend (Seth) and two close girl buddies. Yet beneath the surface, Holland is worried: her mother is nagging her about college applications, which is driving her crazy, and she feels just a tad overwhelmed by her subject load. Why has she even taken on art as a subject and is she really happy with Seth??

But things are about to change for Holland: from the time she first spies the new girl whose locker is across the hall from hers. Cece is different. Out and proud, she is not afraid to advertise her sexuality (with bold T-shirts) and she is keen to start a gay & lesbian club at her new school. Unfortunately, the school may not be ready for Cece and her gay pride. More importantly for Holland, why does she suddenly feel so attracted to this girl – she has had girl crushes before but she has never felt like this?

Forced to examine her feelings and consider her own sexual identity, Holland struggles to be accepted by her friends and family. She is shocked by their reactions and her easy life disappears before her eyes. Will she have the strength to follow her feelings and be true to herself?

This is a moving story about identity, relationships and family. It may be set in an American high school and at times seem a little dated but the characters are credible and the storyline is still relevant for Aussie readers.

Recommended (dma) ****

An entertaining story about circus life in Australia’s past

gundagai 2TITLE = THE ROAD TO GUNDAGAI

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = CIRCUS, RELATIONSHIPS, DEPRESSION ERA, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 +

Although this is the third book in the “Matilda Saga”, readers do not need to have read the previous 2 stories to enjoy this book – it works perfectly as a stand alone book. Set during the zdepression in Australia w e follow the misfortunes of Bluebell Laurence. AT the tender age of 16 she has no sooner lost her parents and younger brother in a shipwreck than she is caught in a dreadful fire in her home. Badly burnt and scarred, Blue’s legs have been fused by the fire. She decides to run away to the circus when she believes that her life may be in peril … and so we follow her adventures along the road as she is befriended by the odd assortment of circus folk, in particular the elephant, Sheba.

Blue has led a privileged life up until now and so she has a lot to learn about the hardships faced by so many during the depression. And bubbling beneath this story is the central problem: was someone really trying to poison Blue, and if so, who??  There are many surprises in store for both Blu and the reader as the mystery is gradually unravelled.

This is a truly entertaining tale which is sure to be enjoyed by readers who enjoy adventure, history and just a touch of romance.

 If you would like to know more about the other 2 books in this series why not read these reviews:

A Tale for Matilda and The Girl from Snowy River

Highly Recommended *****

An amusing school story about new schools, new friends …and Shakespeare!

stagefright walker versionTITLE = STAGEFRIGHT

AUTHOR = CAROLE WILKINSON

GENRE = SCHOOL, RELATIONSHIPS, THEATRE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 +

Velvet S Pye’s life has turned upside down.  Her family is no longer wealthy so Velvet has been forced to move from her cosy private school and her comfy friends to the local government school. Oh No!! How will she survive?? Especially when this school is absolutely sports mad and Velvet’s main passions are music and theatre.

Thrust into a class of misfits, who are ordered to put on a play (preferably by Shakespeare) as a fundraising effort, Velvet suddenly sees her chance to shine. But what hope of success do they have when her cast includes the school delinquent (who can’t read Shakespeare), a guitar player (who detests music by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Velvet’s hero), a soccer player (who demands a fight scene), a computer geek and 2 girls who are more interested in their next boyfriend than in Shakespeare. Will Velvet be too bossy for her own good…or could she just learn a thing or two from her classmates? And is she ready to fall in love?

Carole Wilkinson has written a truly entertaining story about dealing with change, taking chances and growing up; with plenty of humour and witty dialogue and just a dash of Shakespearean theatre thrown in for good measure.  

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Sleeping beauty wakes up in 2128

when we wake coverTITLE = WHEN WE WAKE

AUTHOR = KAREN HEALEY

GENRE = SCIENCE FICTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8, 9

Tegan Oglietti is having the best day of her life, in Melbourne, in 2027, a few years in our future. But the next thing she knows, she wakes up in a hospital – in 2128, having been asleep for over 100 years. She is the first patient who has ever woken up from stasis, and immediately becomes a celebrity, followed at the supermarket and at school. She manages to make some friends (and introduce her music class to the Beatles) but as she discovers more about the world she has woken in, she finds out that not all the changes between the Melbourne she grew up in and this new Melbourne are good, or for good reasons.

This adventure shows us what our future might be; how our decisions can change the world, even if we are sixteen year old girls who have been asleep for a century.

The author, Karen Healey, is from New Zealand but lived in Melbourne for a few years. On her website she has some extras for When We Wake: you can have a look at what the characters are wearing, listen to the book’s soundtrack, or read her essays on the Sleeping Beauty archetype that inspired the story!

This book has been Longlisted for the 2014 Silver Inky awards.

Highly recommended (emc) *****

More drama and fun for Sadie (the blue haired hairdresser)

scissors sistersTITLE = SCISSORS, SISTERS & MANIC PANICS 

AUTHOR = ELLIE PHILLIPS

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, RELATIONSHIPS, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7- 9

A sequel to “Dads, Geeks, and Blue-haired freaks”, the story picks up about 6 months later: Sadie is still obsessed with hair and with becoming a hairdresser only now she has a part-time job and is attending Hairdressing college once a week. She and Tony are still going out together .. so life should be just rosy for Sadie, now shouldn’t it???

Unfortunately, when Sadie loses her job her chances of entering (let alone winning) a famous  hairdressing competition seem to have gone down the drain.  But in true Sadie fashion … she is not going to let that small mishap stop her … not if she has anything to do with it. However, could her obsession with the competition put her relationship with others at risk – especially with her boyfriend Tony? And what exactly is going on with her cousin, Billy … they used to be so close but now…

And as if life couldn’t get any more complicated… how would Sadie feel about finding out about a new sister??

Once more, the emotional turmoil of Sadie’s life seems to be set on high as she tries to attain her hair-dressing dreams and survive her family intact. More fun, more drama, more mayhem.

Even if you haven’t read the first book in this series you are sure to enjoy this new excursion into Sadie Nathanson’s tumultuous and hair-obsessed life. (Alternatively, go and read book 1 first and then pick up this one – read a blogpost here)

A thoroughly enjoyable romp!

Highly Recommended (dma)  *****       

Meet another strong girl in a great series

sophie bennettTITLE = GIRL v WORLD: Sophie Bennett saves the Planet

AUTHOR = MEREDITH BADGER

GENRE = IDENTITY, GROWING UP, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

A delightful addition to the Girl v World series, which employs a range of authors to tell stories of strong girls. Meredith Badger introduces us to young Sophie Bennett, who doesn’t feel strong at the beginning of this story, she simply feels like the odd one out. This is partly because of her environmentally aware family. Both her parents are strong advocates for the environment in every aspect of their lives including diet (vegetarianism), entertainment (no TV) and lifestyle (growing most of their food and reusing products, such as Sophie’s bicycle). Sophie has grown up with a similar philosophy and is well aware that this has made her very different to most of her class mates and being different isn’t always easy as a teenager; sometimes it can lead to bullying or loneliness.

When her folks have to leave her with a neighbour for a week, Sophie begins to question some of her values and ideas as she tries out new experiences with new friends. But if Sophie is trying new things, so too are some of her friends thanks to Sophie who learns that being different can sometimes be fun, too.

A quick and enjoyable read in a very popular series.

Recommended (dma) ****

A gripping read

KILLING-WOODS-Final2-196x300TITLE = THE KILLING WOODS

AUTHOR = LUCY CHRISTOPHER

GENRE = CRIME, MYSTERY, ADVENTURE, HORROR  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

This is a clever but quite chilling tale told by 2 key characters: Emily and Damon. Emily is the daughter of a battle-shattered man who has been arrested for the murder of a teenager in the woods behind their house. The doctors and police have decided that her dad’s wounded mind has led him to mistakenly kill the girl whilst in the throes of a flashback. Emily refuses to believe that her dad is guilty of the murder so she wants answers: why was the teenage girl (Ashlee Parker) in the woods on that night anyway? Was her dad simply trying to save the girl as he had saved many woodland creatures in the past?

Damon was Ashlee’s boyfriend. He too wants answers – whilst he firmly believes that Emily’s father is the guilty party, he was actually in the woods with Ashlee on that fateful night  … but a combination of drink and drugs means he cannot clearly remember what happened. He is haunted by the suspicion that he could or should have saved her. Worse still, could he have anything to do with her death?

Can Emily and Damon trust each other enough to find answers for both of them? And what about their own close friends – are they helping or hindering the police investigation … can they be trusted?

A gripping story which is a real page-turner from go to whoa. Like Emily and Damon, the reader will be keen to piece together the events which have led to Ashlee’s death, but will we see the truth before they do?

Why not check out the author’s website to learn more about this gripping novel and her other award winning books?

Highly Recommended (dma) *****