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) ****

Fast-paced from start to finish

machine warsTITLE = MACHINE WARS

AUTHOR = MICHAEL PRYOR

GENRE = SCIENCE FICTION, FUTURE, ACTION, ADVENTURE 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This novel is a fast-paced adventure from the very first line.

Bram’s mum (the genius behind many Artificial Intelligence (AI) inventions) has always been aware of the potential problems inherent in AI so when one of her creations (Ahriman) starts to act strangely, she has prepared her family with a well-researched “Scatter-and-Hide” safety plan.

But for 14 year old Bram, practising a safety plan and the reality of a safety plan are 2 very different things. Bram finds it exhausting, nerve-wracking and down-right dangerous being on the run from robotic-internet driven AI controlled bugs. IT is just as well he has 2 companions: a friend from school (Stella) who distinguishes herself with her intelligence, and Bob the duck (Bram’s favourite toy when he was a toddler but since turned into an AI protector by Bram’s mum).

Can Bram, Stella and Bob the Duck outwit the power hungry Ahriman long enough for Bram’s mum to come up with a counter-attack?? With clever robots on their tails, the machine wars are very, very real and could end very, very badly for Bram, Stella and Bob.

Great pace, great action and clever plotting make this story an enjoyable romp from start to finish. There are plenty of punches and punchlines andjust  a touch of romance, so it is wonderful  entertainment for younger readers.

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) ***  

Two boys with a lot more in common than they believe

bleak boy and hunterTITLE = BLEAKBOY and HUNTER STAND OUT in the RAIN

AUTHOR = STEVEN HERRICK

GENRE = FAMILIES, SCHOOL, BULLYING, ENVIRONMENT 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7

This book is about 2 boys who think they are very different from each other but in fact have a lot in common. Jesse’s family likes to be self-sufficient: they grow their own food (as much as possible), make (and repair) their own clothes and his folks tell awful jokes. Hunter is Jesse’s worst nightmare: the school bully. Yet when we first meet Hunter he just seems like a boy who cares for his Mum, who is a bit sad and lonely since Hunter’s dad left them. This is the kind side of Hunter which he doesn’t reveal at school; at school he calls people names, does his best to get out of class and is often in trouble.

Hunter assumes that Jesse (whom he calls BleakBoy) is a goody two shoes who would never do anything wrong … yet Jesse has stolen his father’s credit card, is caught smoking at school and has 2 detentions in as many days … what exactly is going on? Has Jesse truly become BadBoy? Meanwhile Hunter has offered to help Jesse and his friend, Kate, help save the whales … has Hunter become GoodBoy?

A story with a lot of heart and a lot of humour … and a very satisfying ending.

Recommended (dma) ****

Of jokes … and grandfathers … and new love

tigers on the beachTITLE = TIGERS ON THE BEACH

AUTHOR = DOUG MacLEOD

GENRE = FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP, GRIEF, GRANDPARENTS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Jokes are important to Adam. His beloved grandfather has always kept him entertained with jokes so it is only natural that Adam tends to find the humour in life. But suddenly there doesn’t seem a lot for Adam to laugh about: his loving parents seem to be constantly arguing, his grandmother is crankier than ever, his grandfather can no longer send him funny emails and to make matters worse, the girl Adam likes just doesn’t seem to have a sense of humour at all. Can things get any worse…well, when your younger brother is a rather special kid, who is dabbling in explosives, then, yes maybe they can!

This is an entertaining story, set in an Australian seaside town. The title comes from a joke that is sent to Adam by Samantha (the girl he likes) …. Unfortunately he doesn’t “get it”. Can two people with a different sense of humour actually have a friendship, let alone a romantic relationship??

To find out, join Adam and his family in this heart-warming story about love, family, friendship … and humour.

PS. If you have read one of Doug MacLeod’s earlier novels (Siggy and Amber) then look out for their cameo appearance in this book!

Highly Recommended (dma) *****    

 

An intriguing insight into one boy’s mind

colin fischerTITLE = COLIN FISCHER

AUTHOR = ASHLEY EDWARD MILLER & ZACK STENTZ

GENRE = ASPERGER’S SYNDROME, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, SCHOOL

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7 +

As the cover suggests, Colin Fischer has an unusual way of looking at the world – and this sometimes gets him into fixes. Colin has trouble reading facial cues and trouble with tone – he is a logical thinker and takes things literally. Colin has previously had an aide to help him navigate the pathways of school, but now he is adventuring out alone.. except for his trusty notebook in which he records events and keeps notes to help him cope with new experiences.

Colin has been the butt of bully boy Wayne Connelly for as long as he can remember. So when Wayne is accused of bringing a gun to school, no one is more surprised than Wayne, when Colin decides to help solve the mystery and clear Wayne’s name. But this is not out of a sense of friendship or empathy, it is simply Colin’s logical, rational mind at work – and after all, his hero is the renowned detective, Sherlock Holmes … so it makes sense that he should try and follow in his shoes. Even if this leads him to a number of firsts: lying to his parents for starters!

There is much to enjoy in this book. Whether or not the depiction of Asperger’s syndrome is accurately portrayed the novel certainly allows the reader to witness life from a different perspective. Colin is a likable young man with a credible family: his parents are thoughtful and loving but his younger brother is somewhat jealous and rarely has a kind word for his brother!  The ending may come a little too neatly for some but younger readers are sure to be satisfied with the way plot strands are resolved.

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) *****

 

Facing life in the wilds of school camp

wildlifeTITLE = WILDLIFE

AUTHOR = FIONA WOOD

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, GRIEF, GROWING UP, FAMILY, ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Sybilla and Lou take turns to tell this story. Both are in yr 10 and heading off to their school’s compulsory term in the “wild” – or at least in the bush, miles away from the city in which they have grown up. Sybilla is a smart and friendly girl, inclined to be a bit on the passive side and decidedly naïve on the boyfriend stakes. Her oldest friend is Michael: a self-confessed nerd with a rather unusual view of the world; a bit of a loner amongst the rest of the yr 10s. Her best friend is the rather unpleasant, Holly. And Sybilla’s eye is on the most popular boy in the school, Ben.

Lou on the other hand, is a quiet girl, new to the school and harbouring a secret grief. For her boyfriend, Fred, was killed in a bicycle accident some months ago. Struggling to cope with her grief and struggling to find her way out of depression, Lou has changed schools, in the hope that a fresh start will help. She has a rather cynical view of the world but unlike Sybilla she has quite a sharp tongue and is the only girl in their cabin who is impervious to Holly’s bullying.

The 2 girls seem worlds apart at the beginning of this book and their stories seem to be very different; one seems light and frothy one much darker; gradually their stories begin to merge as does their friendship. This is an engaging story with very credible characters who explore quite realistically, friendship, sexual awakening and grief. A wonderful mix.

Sidenote: if you have read Fiona Wood’s previous YA novel (Six Impossible Things) you may recall Lou and Fred as minor characters.

This book has been named on the Short List for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers), and then was announced as  THE WINNER!! CONGRATULATIONS TO FIONA WOOD.

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

Looking at life in a new way

when mr dog bitesTITLE = when mr dog bites   

AUTHOR = BRIAN CONAGHAN

GENRE = RELATIONSHIPS, TOURETTES SYNDROME, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 -12

Dylan Mint is 16 yo and has Tourette’s Syndrome which means he must constantly battle against his tics: especially swearing, growling and howling like a dog. But sometimes, the more he tries to keep these things in, the more they simply want to explode out of him – like a volcano. Stressful situations only make it worse and Dylan feels he has a lot to be stressed about; especially since he overheard the doctor telling his mum that he won’t live past March!!

There is a lot on Dylan’s list to do before March. And as if this isn’t enough, he and his best mate Amir have to deal with the school bully, there is a taxi driver who keeps parking in his Dad’s spot … and his dad is doing another tour of duty. Will Dylan see his dad before March?? With so much going on in his life is it any wonder that his relationship with his Mum seems to be getting worse and Dylan is getting into more trouble than ever at the special school he attends.

Written in the first person, the reader has a unique chance to feel what it is like to walk in Dylan Mint’s shoes. He may not always be able to control what comes out of his mouth but like any teen, Dylan wants to understand the world around him and find his place in this world. He may sometimes speak crudely but beneath this, he is a thoughtful and kind young man, willing to stand up for his friends against bullying and racism.

Often quite amusing and always entertaining this is a wonderful story and Dylan is a very likable character. The language and frank discussions of sex may be confronting for younger readers but older teens are sure to thoroughly enjoy this novel.

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