It has all your favourite things! Adventure, maps… and a sad ending.

The-Girl-of-Ink-and-Stars-by-Kiran-Millwood-HargraveTitle: The Girl of Ink and Stars
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Interest Level: Year 7 +

They say the day the Governor arrived, so did the ravens. And the songbirds, in their despair, flew backwards into the sea. That’s why there are no songbirds on Joya.

Isabella loves stories and her father, an explorer and renowned cartographer, is a master storyteller. But since the Governor arrived on their island, there has been no need for map making – exploration is forbidden and no one is allowed to leave the island.

When her best friend Lupe, the Governor’s daughter, goes missing – Isabella is determined to help find her. Armed with only ink, parchment, her knowledge of the stars and the stories of her father, Isabella joins the search party to navigate the island’s forgotten territories. But the monsters in her father’s stories are more real than she could have imagined, Isabella must face her fears to find her friend. The vivid descriptions and stunning rendering of the book itself will draw you into this beautiful tale of courage and wonder. The debut novel of Kiran Millwood Hargrave showcases her flair for poetry and love of short stories, embedded within this fantasy tale.

Highly recommended: **** (ofr)

 

 

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) *****

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) **** 

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) *****

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 gothic horror with a literary twist

fairytales for wildeTITLE = FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS

AUTHOR = ALLYSE NEAR

GENRE = GOTHIC, HORROR, FAIRYTALES, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP, GRIEF, MENTAL HEALTH

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Does Isola live in a fantasy world or is the fantasy simply happening in her head? When we first meet this teenage girl who lives on the edge of a “dark and scary wood”, we are certainly introduced to an unusual setting and an unusual girl. Living with her gruff and often absent dad and with a somewhat unbalanced mum to care for, it may come as no surprise that Isola often loses herself in her beloved book of fairytales and surrounds herself with imaginary friends that seem to come from a rather twisted fairyland. For the mermaids, warriors, fairies and heroes who seem to be her best friends and greatest protectors, all seem to have lived and died violently.

Yet Isola also inhabits a very real world with school and its normal assortment of friends and foes, of bossy teachers and deadlines, of swimming carnivals, tests and detentions. And she also has two boys vying for her affections.

How does a girl live a life haunted by her mother’s illness, haunted by her namesake’s short life and haunted by her fears … is Isola brave enough to face the truth of her world or will she simply waste away? Will she spurn the help of those who care for her, those who really can help her … can she break free from the horrors she has witnessed, from the ties of family?    

This novel may be a challenge for some readers, especially in the early pages as the focus and style seem to change all too rapidly but it is well worth the effort. Ultimately, readers might have different views about whether it is a clever fantasy story or a book about mental health and resilience… but there is certainly plenty to think about and plenty to enjoy in the writing.

 It is no surprise to find that this novel is the winner of a number of awards (gaining two 2013 Aurealis awards –  joint-winner of Best Young Adult Novel and winner of the Best Horror Novel) and it has been shortlisted for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year Award (Older Readers) and long-listed for the 2014 Gold Inky Awards.

This book was announced as A CBCA HONOUR BOOK!! CONGRATULATIONS TO ALLYSE NEAR.

 Highly Recommended ****(dma)

 

A lyrical story from the selkie world

TITLE = SEA HEARTS

AUTHOR = MARGO LANAGAN

GENRE = FANTASY, FAMILY, COMMUNITY, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

What an extraordinary book!

This amazing book will entice readers into a foreign world of magic and mystery with a heart breaking tale of revenge and love. The lyrical language will lure readers into the story and delight them at the same time. Whilst the central story will capture their hearts.

The island of Rollrock seems to be at the mercy of the elements: such a windy, cold place which seems to demand hardiness from its inhabitants. Meanwhile the surrounding sea not only provides families with a livelihood but also provides them with mystery and wonder. The seals which lollop on the beach front may be scorned but their females (the selkies) seem to weave a charm on the hearts of the local men. Or is the spell woven by the local witch? Is it a spell of love or a curse of revenge? And most importantly, will it bring harm to the Rollrock community or can it be broken?

This story is cleverly woven from different perspectives of some of the key players on the island; their separate stories will gradually come together in a moving end. This is a book to be treasured and a book which readers will find hard to put down and even harder to forget.

This novel is a worthy selection on the shortlist for the 2013 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Another seafaring adventure to excite the fans

TITLE = BROTHERBAND 2 : the invaders

AUTHOR = JOHN FLANAGAN

GENRE = ADVENTURE, GROWING UP, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

Hal, Stig and Thorn, our heroes from book 1 in this exciting seafaring series, return for more adventures in “the Invaders.  But this time they (and the Heron team) are joined by Lydia, a young girl who wishes to flee from Limmat after her grandfather has been killed by Zavac and his pirates. A local lad, Barat, who hopes to lead Limmat against the pirates, is a bully and believes Lydia will be his bride. But Lydia has different ideas. However, Hal agrees to help Barat to reclaim Limmat, in the hope of capturing Zavac and retrieving the Andomal treasure so he and the Herons can return to Skandia and save their reputation.

Hal is still a keen inventor and one of his inventions looks set to provide them with a key weapon in their battle with Zavac. But Hal’s fatal flaw remains: his inclination to overlook details in searching for the bigger picture. Could this flaw cost Hal his life in this exciting episode?

The inclusion of a forthright, courageous female character adds a bit of spice to the story – not only is Barat vying for affections but also, it looks like Hal and Stig may also both be keen on the same girl! Given the history between Thorn and Hal’s dad, this mutual attraction may not bode well for the future of the two friends.

Fans of the first book in this series will not be disappointed with the sequel and will be eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the adventures of the Herons. Don’t forget to check out the great website based on this book or watch a booktrailer about book 1 in the Brotherband series (The Outcasts) here.

Recommended (dma) ****

A story about dragons and storytelling and so much more …

TITLE = THE LAST DRAGON CHRONICLES SERIES

AUTHOR = CHRIS D’LACEY

GENRE = FANTASY, ADVENTURE, INTRIGUE, MYSTERY

INTEREST LEVEL =  YRS 7 -12

Watch the booktrailer below, read the review … then dip into the books for a great reading experience:

Music (“Believe” by Windsor Drive) sourced from the Animoto site. Many images from Animoto too but clay dragons and bears were homegrown. Text from booklover.

 

 

 

 

 

This is quite an unusual series. The first book reads a little like a story for young children, with its focus on saving squirrels and clay dragons that come alive. But each book after that takes the reader into new territory, both literally and imaginatively. We visit the Arctic zone to find a link between the last dragon, Gawain and polar bears. We follow our hero as he battles against beings from this world and evil beings from beyond. We are asked to ponder questions about how the Earth came into being and about the future of the planet … all amidst a central story of the battle between Good and Evil, a battle that plays out across different dimensions  and takes many guises. Even our hero, David takes many forms. Each book offers the readers something more to ponder as the plot, quite literally thickens. A series that will touch your heart and leave you with plenty to think about. The sort of series that can be read many times.

Check out Chris D’Lacey’s terrific website to find out more about the author, interviews, his other books and his inspiration.

Or go to the series website for more info.

A Highly Recommended series (dma) *****