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) ***** 

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) ***

A brilliant end to a wonderful series

black heartTITLE = THE CURSE WORKERS (Book 3): Black Heart

AUTHOR = HOLLY BLACK

GENRE = FANTASY, MAGIC, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 +

This is the third and final book in an intriguing series. Fans of the previous 2 books are sure to be satisfied with Holly Black’s clever conclusion. As usual, Cassel Sharpe finds himself in a tricky situation: trying to keep his mother alive and out of jail, trying to keep away from a life of crime, he has signed up to help the Feds. But can he trust them? Or do they simply want to use him as so many others have used him before?

And is his heart destined to be broken…again? The only girl he has ever loved truly despises him (and given that he once turned her into a cat and his own mother once worked a spell on her, Cassel can’t really blame her). But his heart so wishes it was otherwise.

Meanwhile his best friends are fighting, a girl he doesn’t trust wants his help and the principal keeps threatening to kick him out of school. Life was never meant to be this complicated .. was it?

A  terrific book and a wonderfully inventive series … Cassel Sharpe will worm his way into your heart …even if he thinks his own heart is blackened.

Highly Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Identity and acceptance

keeping you a secretTITLE = KEEPING YOU A SECRET

AUTHOR = JULIE ANNE PETERS

GENRE = IDENTITY, GAY THEMES, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, FRIENDSHIP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 +

Holland Jaeger is in her last semester of school and life seems fairly comfortable: she is popular, athletic, head of the student council, has a charming boyfriend (Seth) and two close girl buddies. Yet beneath the surface, Holland is worried: her mother is nagging her about college applications, which is driving her crazy, and she feels just a tad overwhelmed by her subject load. Why has she even taken on art as a subject and is she really happy with Seth??

But things are about to change for Holland: from the time she first spies the new girl whose locker is across the hall from hers. Cece is different. Out and proud, she is not afraid to advertise her sexuality (with bold T-shirts) and she is keen to start a gay & lesbian club at her new school. Unfortunately, the school may not be ready for Cece and her gay pride. More importantly for Holland, why does she suddenly feel so attracted to this girl – she has had girl crushes before but she has never felt like this?

Forced to examine her feelings and consider her own sexual identity, Holland struggles to be accepted by her friends and family. She is shocked by their reactions and her easy life disappears before her eyes. Will she have the strength to follow her feelings and be true to herself?

This is a moving story about identity, relationships and family. It may be set in an American high school and at times seem a little dated but the characters are credible and the storyline is still relevant for Aussie readers.

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) *****

 

When life is turned upside down….

the yr my life brokeTITLE = THE YEAR MY LIFE BROKE

AUTHOR = JOHN MARSDEN

GENRE = SCHOOL, SPORT, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-8

Josh has always loved sport. At his old school he was a sporting champion and often captained school sides. In fact, he may even have been school captain this year…if he was still at his old school. But life has changed drastically for Josh and his family: his parents’ financial crisis has forced them to move to a crummy house in a crummy town and now Josh is the new kid in a crummy school.

Josh decides to start afresh; rather than be sports mad again, he wants to sample life without his beloved cricket. But this might just put him on the outer with the other boys in his year level and with the PE teacher in particular. How will they react when they discover that Josh has been hiding his talent??

Is there more to life than cricket? And is there more to this town and more to his new school than Josh has been willing to see?

A story about sport, friendship and family with plenty of action and entertainment.

Selected as a Notable book for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Younger Readers)

Recommended (dma) ****

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 sad but uplifting story

 TITLE = MOCKImockingbird bigNGBIRD  

 AUTHOR = KATHRYN ERSKINE

 GENRE = MENTAL HEALTH, GRIEF, FAMILY, SCHOOL, GROWING UP,

 INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Be warned – you will need a tissue box handy when reading this book … but it does have a satisfying ending! Caitlin Smith has faced a number of challenges in her short life but the most recent one is perhaps the cruellest, for her beloved older brother, Devon has died in a school shooting.  Devon was an important figure in Caitlin’s life, he helped explain the world to her. AS someone who experiences Asperger’s Syndrome, Caitlin sees the world in a very literal way, she likes order and consistency & she struggles socially, so she has needed lots of support in learning how to behave in social situations and in the school room … and Devon was one of her primary helpers.

To make matters worse, Caitlin’s father is struggling too and the role of raising a daughter whilst dealing with the loss of his beloved son is almost overwhelming him, especially coming only a few years after his wife died.

Cailtin is the narrator of this story so we learn first hand what it is like to see the world from her perspective. WE watch as she deals with school bullies, as she tries to make friends and most importantly, as she drags her father out of his grief in a way that inspires the small town community where she lives.

This book is about the impact of a school shooting on the families of victims and perpetrators, it is about how different people see the world, it is about family, friendship and love. You may need tissues at the ready but it is a remarkably heart warming story.

Highly 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) *****

A novel about footy, fans, grief and life

TITLE = THE WHOLE OF MY WORLD

AUTHOR = NICOLE HAYES

GENRE = FOOTBALL, MYSTERY, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIPS, GRIEF  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9-11

Shelley Brown is hoping for a fresh start: a new school, new friends, new interests – a new life. Since the loss of her mother, Shelley and her dad are drawing a line between the past and the present, so Shelley jumps at the chance to attend footy training with her new friend, Tara. After all, football has always been Shelley’s passion especially her beloved Glenthorn Football Club. Attending Thursday night training also gives Shelley a chance to befriend the new player, Mick Edwards.

Shelley and Tara are obsessed by their footy team and this novel is cleverly structured to reflect this passion: every chapter and section references the game, from “The Draft” to the “Pre-Season” to “The end-of-season Trip”. And the plot unfolds cleverly too: whilst most readers will accept Shelley’s lingering grief at losing her mother, midway through the novel the full story behind Shelley’s loss is revealed so we understand more fully the deep pain behind her journey of rebirth.

In a sports mad country like Australia it is intriguing to shine a light on that obsession:  the euphoria of the fans when their team wins, the despair when they lose and the relationship they have with the players themselves. However, this is more than just a football yarn; set against the football background is a bigger story about grief and loss, about family ties and family breakdown, of burgeoning love and the resilience needed not only to face another football season but also to face life’s many ups and downs.

Even those who don’t love football will find a lot to enjoy in Shelley Brown’s world.

This book has been Longlisted for the 2014 Gold Inky Award. 

Highly Recommended (dma) *****