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)

 

 

Dead ends or a new start?

Title:  Dead Ends dead ends 2

Author:  Erin Lange

Interest Level: Year 9+

Dane has just about used up all his chances. One more mistake and he will be expelled from his High School.

Billy D has changed schools and needs help avoiding bullies like Dane. What better way for Dane to redeem himself than helping a kid like Billy D? Or at least the principal thinks so…

As reluctant as he is to help, Dane quickly discovers that Billy D needs more than a bodyguard, he needs a friend. Dane isn’t really sure anyone is equipped to be that friend. Billy D is a demanding task master who is not above threatening and manipulating Dane to make him do what Billy wants. And yet, Dane and Billy D have much in common; they both struggle to fit in and both are missing their fathers. Dane has never known his father, whilst Billy D has lost contact with his.  It is this common bond, and the resulting search for their fathers that ultimately brings both boys a little closer to adulthood.

This is Erin Lange’s second book. Her first, Butter, was a stand out for its original and contemporary approach to issues such as obesity and teen suicide. In Dead Ends Lange in her straight forward and uncompromising way, tackles disability, bullying and poverty of opportunity. There are no neat resolutions or happy endings for the characters, however, Dead Ends does leave the reader believing that the boys’ lives are better for their friendship and that there is potential for happier futures.

Recommended (ipe) ***

 

 

 

 

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) *****

An exciting new crime series

travis delaney 1TITLE = TRAVIS DELANEY INVESTIGATES: #1 – THE ULTIMATE TRUTH

AUTHOR = KEVIN BROOKS

GENRE = DETECIVE, MYSTERY, CRIME, FAMILY, GRIEF

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Travis Delaney is heart-broken at the sudden death of his parents in a car accident. But was it an accident? The Delaney’s ran a private investigator’s agency and there are several questions hanging over their last case. Partly to take his mind off his own personal grief, Travis decides to do some investigating himself … but is he in over his head??

This is a fast-paced action adventure novel, the first instalment in what looks like being an exciting series. Travis is a credible and likeable kid: his grief is raw and he has a good heart. But his opponents are realistically portrayed too, so the danger he faces is all too real.

Sure to be a hit with both girls and boys. Check out the book trailer below:

Music (“Polonium 210”  by Alan Gould & Roger Roger) sourced from the Animoto site, as were the images for this book trailer.

Highly Recommended (dma) ***** 

A road trip …. and missing dads

the pull of gravity TITLE = THE PULL OF GRAVITY

AUTHOR = GAE POLISNER

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY, ROAD TRIP, GRIEF

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

Nick’s best friend (Scoot) has an aging disease. He might be 16 yo but his body thinks he is a small, old man. Whilst most teens are thinking about their first date, Scoot has to battle heart failure and weak limbs. He is all too aware that he is dying.

So when Scoot’s other best friend, Jaycee, decides to fulfil Scoot’s dying wish (to find his father) how can Nick refuse to help her?? Even if it means a road trip with a girl he barely knows and doesn’t really understand. And while they look for Scoot’s dad, what about Nick’s own dad who has taken off own his own road trip to NY.

Absent fathers and friendship are at the heart of this book. Nick not only learns a lot about Jaycee, he also learns a lot about himself and how to deal with tough times and unplanned events. This book is gently paced, with credible and interesting characters. For those readers with a literary bent, references to Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and  Men” will be of interest while others might revel in the frequent mention of Star Wars movies and Yoda’s quotes.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

 

An unusual narrative approach for a cleverly twisted mystery

cry blue murderTITLE = CRY BLUE MURDER

AUTHOR = KIM KANE & MARION ROBERTS

GENRE = CRIME, MYSTERY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 – 10

This is an unusual mystery story with a powerful sting awaiting readers in the final pages. Part of the uniqueness of the story lies in the way it is told for it does not use the normal narrative path. It opens with a list of witnesses followed by a Facebook page, which has been set up following the disappearance of a Melbourne schoolgirl. Two contributors to the Facebook page become online friends And much of the story is revealed via their emails and texts to each other. Celia is a schoolgirl in Melbourne, upset by the local mystery and as a new girl at her school, feeling a tad friendless and lonely. She is pleased to have an eager audience in Alice, who used to live in Melbourne but is now at a boarding school in Mildura. Both are having a difficult time with their families so much of the story unfolds slowly as the 2 girls discuss their lives. The central mystery slips to the background until a second girl disappears. 

Interspersed between the emails are newspaper articles and interview transcripts with witnesses and/or possible suspects, so the reader is in a good position to play detective. Whether they will see the shock coming at the end of the story remains to be seen!

An entertaining story told in an unusual way.

Recommended (dma) ***

Solving a mystery can be difficult for a youngster

picture me goneTITLE = PICTURE ME GONE

AUTHOR = MEG ROSOFF

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, GRIEF, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

Meg Rosoff always writes interesting books with unusual and thought-provoking themes and this book is no exception. 12 year old Mila and her father are about to travel from London to NYC to see her dad’s best friend, Matthew, when they receive news that he has gone missing. Mila has always wanted to thank Matthew  because he once saved her father’s life, although she is also aware that if not for Matthew, her father would not have been mountain climbing, so his life would not have needed saving!

When they arrive in NYC they meet Matthew’s wife and baby son before heading off on a road trip with Matthew’s dog, to a cabin in the woods where they hope to find the missing man. Whilst they search for her father’s friend, Mila is also thinking about her own strained friendship with Catlin who is going through a tough time as her parents have just split up.

Against this backdrop, Mila is trying to make sense of the man she is hoping to find. Matthew has always been described as a kind of heroic adventurer but is he really? What makes a man run away from his family … would a hero do this? There is also the mystery to be solved about a car accident many years ago. Is this the first time Matthew has run away? Mila has many questions she would like to ask Matthew … and as their search goes on, she begins to doubt the world of adults and she begins to learn a bit more about the meaning of friendship, whilst also rethinking her relationship with her own father.

This isn’t a simple read but it is certainly a moving and thoughtful book that has much to offer readers.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Where things come back: a novel

 

TITLE = WHERE THINGS COME BACK

AUTHOR = JOHN COREY WHALEY

GENRE = FAMILY, GROWING UP, FRIENDSHIP, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

This book is so hard to put down – from the very first page, to the final thought-provoking chapter!  It is a story with separate strands which gradually merge into a nail-biting finish.

First there is Cullen Winter’s story. Life for 17 year old Cullen seems ever so boring:  he lives in a boring, small American town, he has a boring part-time job, he only has one friend and the girl of his dreams hardly knows he exists. And at the very start of this novel he has to identify the body of his teenage cousin then watch his Aunt’s life dissolve into despair and anguish. The one bright spark in his life is his younger brother, Gabriel who Cullen adores. Where Cullen is lonely, Gabriel is self-contained. Where Cullen is cynical, Gabriel is optimistic. So when Gabriel goes missing … how will Cullen and his family cope? Especially when the rest of their town seems more interested in possible sightings of a long-lost woodpecker, than sightings of Gabriel.

Meanwhile, across the globe, Benton Sage is struggling to cope as a missionary in Ethiopia. Despite a deep desire to fulfil a religious purpose and an even deeper desire to please his exacting father, Benton returns home a broken young man. Does he have a future? Can his actions ever have an impact on others?

This is a novel about the power of friendship, the importance of family and the significance of second chances. It is beautifully told and despite the apparently grim storyline, there are many moments of humour to brighten the gloom.

Lovers of Catcher in the Rye will enjoy this novel … as will many thoughtful teen readers.

Highly recommended ( Deb Marshall)