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) ****

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) *****

 

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

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)  *****       

A wonderful blend of spy action and schoolyard romance

TITLE = SPY SOCIETY: Hide in Plain Sight

AUTHOR = ROBIN BENWAY

GENRE = SPIES, SCHOOL, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read largely because neither the author nor the narrator take themselves too seriously.

Maggie Silver is the daughter of two international spies and, since the age of 4, has been a safecracking genius. The family has just been sent to NYC on assignment but this time, Maggie is the key. Yes, she has her first real job as a spy: attend high school and befriend Jesse Oliver so she can break into his dad’s safe! Sounds easy?? Well, for a girl who has spent her life travelling the world accompanying her parents on their spy cases, attending high school is not as easy as you might expect. Maggie soon discovers that she is more adept at cracking safes than she is at cracking the teenage high school code of behaviour, let alone cracking the code of teenage boys.

Part mystery story (with just enough hints thrown in to keep the reader guessing), part teen romance story (as both Jesse and Maggie try to make sense of their equally unusual upbringings) and part high-school drama this novel is a thoroughly engaging romp from beginning to end. Robin Benway balances the demands of each element of her story cleverly and the teenage narrative voice is pitch perfect. With plenty of action, romance and just the right amount of teenage ansgst to keep young readers entertained, it looks like a delightful series is about to begin.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Surviving the ups and downs of life … with a grin

TITLE = A MONTH WITH APRIL-MAY

AUTHOR = EDYTH BULBRING

GENRE = HUMOUR, FAMILIES, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Poor April-May February (yes that is her name!) seems to have it all going against her. Her mum and dad have recently divorced (despite her best efforts to put a stop to their separation) and her first day at her new school is a disaster. Having made an enemy of her teacher, Mrs Ho, April-May thinks she can sort things out with a bit of mischief and behind the scenes hi-jinks … but things don’t always go to plan for April-May and she may just have dug an even deeper hole for herself.

For an intelligent girl (she is a scholarship student, after all) she doesn’t always seem to think things through very clearly. But whilst many of April-May’s misadventures may seem quite funny, what if they put people’s lives at risk?? And will she jeopardise her scholarship and her friendship with Melanie, for a boy??

This is a clever and funny book. Although it is set in South Africa, so some of the words may seem a bit different, the school-based story is easy to follow and quick to read. A glossary of South African terms can be found at the end of the book (but most readers will probably pick up on the meanings via the context of the story).

It is refreshing to read a new author and to learn that schoolgirl troubles in South Africa are not so different from what we might find here in Australia.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An amusing romance novel with a literary twist

TITLE = THE ROMANCE DIARIES

AUTHOR = JENNA AUSTEN

GENRE = ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

This is a very clever and engaging romance novel which is sure to appeal to teen girls. Ruby is determined to act as a matchmaker to her friends and her mother (who has eschewed all thoughts of romance since her husband died some years ago). But Ruby is working on a plan, a plan founded in literature (which is fitting, cos she works part-time in a bookshop). Ruby’s theory is that there are 2 sorts of men: Jane Austen heroes (a la Darcy from Pride and Prejudice) and Jane Eyre heroes (a la Rochester) – and the problem for her mum and her friends is that they keep falling for the wrong one. According to Ruby, if you behave like a Jane Austen heroine then clearly you should aim for Darcy whereas if you behanve like Jane Eyre then it is better that you aim for a Richester.

So with this plan in mind, she sets to work. Unfortunately, things don’t go quite to (her)plan! Especially disconcerting is that some of the boys she beleievd to be Darcy’s may in fact be Rochesters … ooops! Especially if the Rochester is keener on her than on the girl she has set him up with. Are hearts set to be broken.. including her own??

This is a truly engaging romantic novel which gives the reader a bit more to think about than the average love story  especially with the inclusion of lots of pop and literary references (inlcuidng an amusing essay topic comparing Darcy and Edward Cullen!!)

Sure to be a big hit with the girls – may take over the gap left by the discontinuation of the Girlfriend series.

Recommended (dma) ****

A funny account from a writing journal…Awesome!

TITLE = MY TOTALLY AWESOME STORY

AUTHOR = PAT FLYNN

ILLUSTRATOR = PETER CARNAVAS

GENRE = HUMOUR, SCHOOL, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

This is an easy to read, very funny book. It is basically a record of all the writing assignments that Duane is given by his teacher, Miss Wright. Duane does not like writing so his responses to her set tasks are often quite humorous (and sometimes quite short!). He also thinks he is tough and strong and the best rugby player ever – so his journal entries about his sporting activities are often amusing too – things don’t always go as Duane expects (or likes). And we also get a glimpse into Duane’s love life!

An entertaining story which is made even more engaging by the sketches that Duane (aka illustrator, Peter Carnavas) adds to his stories and journal entries.

An amusing book which is sure to be a hit with young readers especially those who enjoy other comical diary accounts (eg Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series)

And why not check out the author’s website where you will find lots of fun things to do and see in relation to this book: there’s a booktrailer, a clip of Pat reading the book and even a song and drawing help from Peter (the illustrator). Check it out here.

Recommended (dma) ****

A funny story about a special girl

TITLE = MY LIFE IS AN ALPHABET

AUTHOR = BARRY JONSBERG

GENRE = FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a very funny novel – in fact, don’t read it on the train (or bus) if you don’t like to laugh out loud in public! Candice is a rather unusual little girl trying to survive in the face of family dysfunction and her own rather special way of relating to the world. There is no doubt that Candice’s family has good cause to be dysfunctional: faced with the death of a baby sister and a mother’s breast cancer, it is understandable that they are all struggling to deal with each other, let alone the world beyond their family.

But Candice has decided that this needs to stop and she is determined to bring change about – even if it results in some very comical scenes, some very witty dialogue and at least 2 ambulances! What makes the story even more engaging is that it is told (as the title suggests) in alphabetical order – for a school assignment. As Candice seems incapable of telling other than the absolute truth (even if she sometimes has to use notes to do so) the result is both entertaining and clever!

Candice may or may not be “special needs” (as one of her classmates has labelled her) but she is certainly refreshingly honest and determined. Her growing friendship with Douglas Benson (who is apparently from another dimension) is equally delightful and candidly portrayed.

You may like to read a post by the author Barry Jonsberg when he was a guest reviewer on the Inside a Dog blog or check out his blog.

This book WON the 2013 Gold Inky Award and was on the Short List for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year award (Younger Readers) before being announced as AN HONOUR BOOK!! CONGRATULATIONS BARRY JONSBERG.

Highly Recommended (dma)  ****