A bit of magic, a bit of mystery and a bit of romance

TITLE = THE ZIGZAG EFFECT

AUTHOR = LILI WILKINSON

GENRE = MYSTERY, MAGIC, ROMANCE 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8-10

Sage is new to Melbourne and pleased to find a job with a magician, as she hopes the funds will help pay for the photography course she has dreamed of completing. However, she does not bargain for falling into the middle of a mystery when the magician goes missing – nor does she expect to fall in love (maybe) with the aptly named, Herb (a magician-in-training who dreams of going solo one day). Add into the mix the beautiful but enigmatic Bianca (magician’s assistant) and a rival magician and the scene is sent for a wonderfully entertaining romp, in true ili Wilkinson style.

Fans of “A pocketful of Eyes” will love the Melbourne setting, the hint of a girl detective in the making and the heart-tugging beginnings of romance that are to be found between the covers of Lili Wilkinson’s latest book. And they will not be disappointed.  New fans are sure to be made as well – and readers are sure to be enlightened and engaged by the world og magic that they enter in this highly entertaining novel.

Recommended (dma) ****

A very funny Hollywood novel

TITLE = MESSY

AUTHOR = HEATHER COCKS & JESSICA MORGAN

GENRE= GROWING UP, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY, SCHOOL LIFE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 10, 11

This is a surprisingly funny and entertaining novel. At the opening of the story, Max (the narrator) is a self-confessed misfit at her Mum’s prestigious school: she is scornful of most of her wealthy classmates who she judges to be superficial and self-absorbed. None moreso than pretty blonde Brooke Berlin, daughter of action hero (and diet obsessed) Brick Berlin. So it is somewhat surprising that Max should lower her standards and agree to ghostwrite Brooke’s new blog, which is intended to raise Brooke’s celebrity profile. However, Max loves to write and she has a dream of attending NYU over summer to participate in a writing course. Such a dream requires money and unfortunately for Max, Brooke is offering plenty.  Max allows herself to write sharply and perceptively about the world of celebrities and showbusiness and the results are highly amusing and entertaining. Although this is the second book featuring some of these characters, the reader does not need to have read “Spoiled” in order to enjoy this one. As is to be expected in a teen novel about Hollywood there are plenty of pop references to TV shows, films, celebrities and modern music.  All in all a fun read.

Recommended (dma) ****

Loads of fun and plenty of action

TITLE = PLAYING WITH FIRE

AUTHOR = DEREK LANDY

GENRE =MYSTERY, HUMOUR, FANTASY

INTEREST LEVEL – YEARS 7-12

 

Book 2 in the “Skulduggery Pleasant” series – another joyous ride with lots of laughter and a thrill a minute action.

Check out the book trailer below to find out more about this terrific book:

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

 

Music “Ghouls on the loose” by Dave Rudolf. most images from the Animoto site. All text and some photos from dma.

And if you liked this book and booktrailer, why not look at a student created booktrailer on Book 1 in the series here.

A funny and intriguing story about fate and friendship

TITLE = HOLES

AUTHOR = LOUIS SACHAR

GENRE = GROWING UP, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7

 This book has won several awards, including the US National Book Award for Young People’s Literature (1998) and the Newbery Medal (1999). And deservedly so, as it is a terrific book which continues to be popular with young readers today.

Watch the booktrailer below to find out a bit more about the novel:

 

Music “Fuzz” by Benji Jumping sourced from the Animoto site as were most of the images in this booktrailer. All text created by dma.

Recommended (dma) ****

A Prom Night that will change everything!!

TITLE = AU REVOIR, CRAZY EUROPEAN CHICK

AUTHOR =  JOE SHREIBER

GENRE = THRILLER, HUMOUR, ADVENTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 -12

This is a fabulous book: part thriller, part murder-mystery and part rite of passage. All built on a structure that it very, very funny and very, very clever. Perry is in his final year of high school so uppermost in his mind (or his parents’ minds at any rate) are college applications. It is therefore quite apt that each chapter in this book begins with a college application essay topic. The humour of the book partly lies in the contrast between what would be expected in an essay reply and the intriguing and unexpected responses that Perry provides as he tells his story. The fact that a series of essay responses can actually become a narrative structure at all is a testament to some clever plotting from author, Joe Shreiber.

Perry quickly learns that his foreign exchange student, Gobi, is not what she had seemed. And over the course of the story he also learns much about himself and his father, about integrity and love and honour. He re-evaluates his relationship with his family and reassesses himself. Yet all this is done as he and Gobi dash across New York involved in a vengeful killing spree (on Gobi’s part) and just trying to dodge a bullet (on Perry’s part). The whole mix is wonderfully entertaining and a fresh take on the teenage experience of growing up!!

Not to be missed (dma) *****

A school story like no other

TITLE =THE WHOLE BUSINESS OF KIFFO AND THE PITBULL

AUTHOR =BARRY JONSBERG

GENRE = MYSTERY, ADVENTURE, COMEDY

INTEREST LEVEL = YERAS 9, 10

As the opening chapter of this book shows all too well, Calma is a very clever girl and an A+ English student. Kiffo on the other hand, prefers to sit up the back of the class and threaten teachers. So why are they be friends? And more importantly, why are they stalking the new English teacher, who they have nicknamed “the Pitbull”? Could she really be a drug dealer and are they assisting the police by breaking into her home??

There are many laugh out loud scenes in this book as the two unlikely friends set about tracking down the truth about the Pitbull. Yet amidst the humour there will be pathos too, as we learn the back story to Calma and Kiffo’s friendship. There are some unexpected twists and turns in the plot that will no doubt surprise the reader. Be warned – a tissue box may even be needed at times!

Learn more about the author here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A new student booktrailer on a popular book

TITLE =SKULDUGERRY PLEASANT

AUTHOR = DEREK LANDY

GENRE =FANTASY, MYSTERY, ADVENTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

 

 

 

Highly Recommended by claire & lauren – check out their book trailer below:

Music (“Bandroid ” by Cracknation) sourced from the Animoto site as are the images. Text created by claire & lauren.

And if you like the sound of this book why not check out the booktrailer on Book 2 in the series here.

The joy of life in the midst of death

TITLE = THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

AUTHOR = JOHN GREEN

GENRE = DEATH & DYING, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, LOSS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 – 12

A brilliant, brilliant book from a master story teller. The three main characters in this novel are all teenagers and all have cancer: one has lost an eye (and looks set to lose his other eye), one has lost part of a leg (after a “touch” of osteosarcoma) and one has to wheel an oxygen tank with her wherever she goes. They share not only an insider’s knowledge of cancer and its treatment but also a sardonic response to their situation. Their conversations about life, death and dying are sprinkled with witty, humorous asides and observations.

And here lies the brilliance of the novel: the finely tuned balance between light and shade, between the humorous dialogue and the pain it hides, between the hope and the honesty with which these teens live their lives. For whilst the novel is about dying and how we face death, it is also very much about life and how one can live with joy despite the looming shadow of death. Augustus fears oblivion; he wants to leave his mark on the world. On the other hand, Hazel is more worried about the impact of her death on those loved ones she will leave behind. Neither of them plan to complicate their lives by falling in love and neither of them quite expect what is to follow.

Whilst Green does not shy away from the awful realities of treatment and the pain involved in a terminal illness, he nevertheless manages to imbue the story with a sense of warmth. Readers may occasionally need to reach for the tissues but this is just as likely to be so they can wipe away tears of joy as tears of sadness.

A book that will open readers’ eyes and hearts and provide a new regard for both the power and the pain of loving, of living and of dying.

Check our John Green’s website to learn more about this book. There is an interesting thread from teens and others about battling cancer on his Nerdfighter’s ning here.

You might also want to watch some of John Green’s vlogs on this book – here is one to sample (look for others on his website):

 

It is no surprise that this novel is the SILVER INKY winner for 2012!!

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

If you enjoyed this novel, you might also like to read “The Shiny Guys” by Doug MacLeod (reviewed here) or one of John Greens earlier novels: “Will Grayson WillGrayson” reviewed here, “Paper Towns” reviewed here, and Looking for Alaska reviewed here.


The impact of terrorism explored with humour & sadness

TITLE = WE CAN BE HEROES

AUTHOR = Catherine Bruton

GENRE  = GRIEF, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, 9/11

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

This novel is an engaging combination of action, adventure, humour and emotion. It describes the impact of 9/11 on modern day Britain, as seen through the eyes of a young boy. Ben is a quiet, observant boy who copes with life’s mysteries by making lists of questions (often quite poignant) and drawing cartoons (often quite funny). Ben’s dad died in the 9/11 attacks and his grieving mother is in hospital, so Ben is spending the summer holidays with his father’s grandparents. Here he meets Priti, who is everything that Ben is not: loud, outspoken and fearless. She is the youngest daughter of the Pakistani family who live next door to Ben’s grandparents. Within a few days they are joined by Ben’s angry cousin, Jed and then the fun really begins.

Soon the three youngsters are caught up in the adventure of spying on Priti’s brother, Shakeel, who they suspect (on very flimsy evidence) of being a terrorist bomber, and trying to hide the unsuitable romantic liaison of Priti’s eldest sister, from her hot headed brother, Mik. But what seems like a game to the children suddenly takes a more sinister turn when adults become involved. Only then can the true heroes emerge – and the readers may be surprised by the end result!

There is horror, sadness and plenty of high drama before the situation can be resolved. But fortunately there is also humour to be found especially in Ben’s comic at the end of the novel which also allows the children to finally be the heroes they yearned to be!

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

All the fun of the panto

TITLE = THE EXTINCTION GAMBIT 1: THE EXTRAORDINAIRES

AUTHOR = MICHAEL PRYOR

GENRE = FANTASY, STEAMPUNK, ADVENTURE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 AND UP

A brilliant, brilliant novel by Michael Pryor. Full of wit, adventure and edge of the seat thrills. True to its name, the novel is peopled with extraordinary characters; from our brave, wolfish hero Kingsley, to his strong and courageous albino companion, Evadne. The villains in this novel are equally engaging, be they the troll-like, Damona or the slippery, wheeler and dealer, Soames. Even author, Rudyard Kipling makes an appearance.

The novel opens in 1908 in a small theatre where Kingsley is to make his debut as a magician. But when his wolfish nature turns his magic show into bedlam, Evadne decides to rescue him as her “project” little knowing that danger is lurking around the corner, quite literally. Not only do the police think our beloved hero is guilty of a dastardly crime, but also there are dark people living in dark places who want Kingsley for themselves, or at least, they want his brain! And it seems they will stop at nothing to achieve their ends.

Can Kingsley escape their clutches and clear his name with the police? Will humankind as we know it be obliterated by dark forces if Kingsley is taken? And most importantly, will Kinglsey become more than just a project to the delightful and strongwilled, Evadne … can love blossom against the backdrop of doom and disaster??

Befitting a story that opens and closes in a theatre, this novel often reads like a wonderful melodrama with all the fun and adventure that one would expect on a panto stage. It is especially exciting to know that this isn’t just a stand alone adventure – but the first in a series. Readers will be eagerly anticipating the next book set in extraordinary times and about extraordinary heroes.

Selected as a Notable book for the CBCA Book of the Year 2012 (Older Readers)

 

 

Highly Recommended (dma)  *****