An unusual recipe for a brilliant book

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METHOD:
1. Find a desiccated bat.
2. Mix it with some water.
3. Drink it, and
4. see what the future holds for the offspring of each and every person you come across in the next few weeks.
What could go wrong?
Glory’s present isn’t easy. Her mother has died, and her father doesn’t want to leave his chair, his computer, or the copious amounts of comfort food that seems to provide little consolation for life’s miseries. Glory’s only friend is not so friendly, and she is about to graduate school with no plans for her future. Glory obviously needs the soothsaying bat juice to provide direction for her life!

But it seems that the future is not so bright. The second American Civil War is only decades away, and Glory has a vital role to play…
This is another thought provoking book from the author of Everyone Sees the Ants, Ask the Passengers, and Reality Boy. A.S. King is an extraordinary writer, who successfully twists and morphs genre in such a way so as the reader never loses the sense that every event in the book could happen in real life. This is a book for older readers who enjoy dystopian themes but who are looking for more than a rehashed The Hunger Games.

Wonderful: (ipe) *****
Author: A.S.King
Interest Level: Year 9+

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) ***

 

 

 

 

When grief threatens to overwhelm life …

as stras fallTITLE = as stars fall

AUTHOR = CHRISTIE NEIMAN

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Robin’s happy farm life has been replaced by a rather lonely city existence. On the night of a threatening fire, her parent’s marriage has been shattered and the fallout for Robin has been equally heart-breaking: a new tiny house in a new strange city, a new school and the need to make new friends…. One of whom could be Delia ….but….

Delia’s life has also been shattered, on the same night and by the same fire. The loss of her mother has caused Delia to withdraw, her older brother (Seth) has turned to drugs and her father has turned to alcohol.

The common link between the two girls (unbeknownst to them) is not only the fire but also a strange and rare bird. Can this bird draw the two girls together … before it is too late for them … and for Seth??

This is a beautifully written book which brings alive the countryside of Australia, in all its terrible beauty. The characters are credible and their dilemmas are heartfelt whilst allowing different characters to take turns in telling the story from their point of view, is both clever and magical (when the narrator happens to be the bird).

A wonderful blend of warmth, sadness, beauty and complexity; mature readers will love this book.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****  

The sliding doors effect … and how it affects 3 teens

the vanishing momentTITLE = THE VANISHING MOMENT

AUTHOR = MARGARET WILD

GENRE = GRIEF, MENTAL HEALTH, FAMILIES  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Everyone faces moments in their lives when tough things happen, moments we regret or moments we wish had never happened. Just imagine what it would be like if you could go back and relive those moments  –  remove the heartache and pain … would you take up this chance? Even if it meant another version of yourself had to suffer instead of you?

This is the situation facing 3 young adults. Bob has had a dreadfully unhappy childhood, raised by a bullying step-dad – loneliness and jail seem the likely future.  Arrow  is drifting aimlessly, seemingly unable to cope with the deaths of her childhood friends. And Marika can’t stop crying since her toddler brother went missing, whilst in her care.

All 3 cross paths at a small seaside town …. Will their meeting herald a new and better future?? Or is sadness around the corner for some of them? A book with an interesting ending and with plenty for readers to think about.

A Notable book in the 2014 CBCA awards (Older Readers).

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 love letter to the western suburbs of Melbourne

tigerfishTITLE = TIGERFISH

AUTHOR = DAVID METZENTHEN

GENRE = AUSTRALIAN SUBURBS, FAMILY, GRIEF, VIOLENCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 +

This is a brilliant and compelling novel. If “The Incredible Here and Now” is a love letter to the Western suburbs of Sydney, then this novel is an ode to the Western suburbs of Melbourne. It is an ode tinged with rawness and simmering violence, but also with loyalty and kindness.

Ryan is well aware that there is a bleak harshness about his suburb. There is fear lurking in the wasteland on the edge of his suburb: fear due to past violence and recent reports of a prowler on the loose. Even Ryan doesn’t want to be out in this bare wasteland at night. Yet despite this fear and darkness, Ryan clearly loves his neighbourhood and there is a lot to be loved – in the strong sense of community spirit and in Ryan himself.

Slate (Ryan’s brother) is stuck in a dead-end factory job by day and a bouncer’s job at night; simmering with anger about the consequences of past decisions.  Ariel, the new love of Ryan’s life, is trapped by her sad family history. School colleagues, Eden and Elmore are trapped by guilt. And caught between all these characters is Ryan himself; uncertain of his own future yet willing to reach out to others, however uncomfortable he may sometimes feel.

Loyalty is important to Ryan as is team work – and he uses his love of footy to guide his actions; moving forward, sidestepping where necessary, not always winning but willing to come back next week and give it a go. This is a compelling novel. Ryan’s voice is authentic and, at times, dryly funny. He sees the bleakness around him but he also sees the beauty in his community. What he perhaps doesn’t see, but what the reader will see, is how Ryan is a part of this beauty.

Highly Highly Recommended for older readers (dma) *****

A sad yet uplifting story

stay well soonTITLE = STAY WELL SOON

AUTHOR = PENNY TANGEY

GENRE = GRIEF, DEATH, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7+

Make sure you have the tissue box handy … this is a great read bit it is also rather sad at times. Young Stevie hasn’t exactly got things easy: her mum can’t afford for her to go on school camp, let alone buy her a horse! Her best friend seems to have dropped her (so school days are lonely) and now her brother is sick(which means lots of time in his hospital. Even her friendship with the new girl, Morgan, gets prickly sometimes – Morgan asks too many questions in Stevie’s mind… and she doesn’t always want to answer .. or maybe she just doesn’t have the answers?

The one bright spot comes from Lara, the friend Stevie makes when chilling out in the Kidz Space at her brother’s hospital. Despite the fact that Lara is 14 and Stevie is only 11, they have a lot in common: they both love horses and they both love to draw. But Lara is sick too. How does an 11 yo make sense of her world when so much keeps shifting and there seems so much to lose?

This is a lovely story about family, friendship and coping with grief…and a young girl’s obsession with horses! Girls in particular are sure to enjoy this book, especially Stevie’s numerous drawings and sketches. But be warned… tissues may be needed at certain points in the story!

Selected as a Notable book in the 2014 Book of the Year Awards (Younger Readers)

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 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) *****

A new look at the Galahad story

TITLE = PUREHEART

AUTHOR = CASSANDRA GOLDS

GENRE = MYTHS & LEGENDS, ARTHURIAN LEGEND, ROMANCE, GRIEF, REVENGE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9-11

This is a very sad and often heart-breaking spin on the Galahad legend. The first half of the story in particular seems to be filled with tales of woe: dreadful bullying at school for Deirdre, more subtle bullying at home from her Grandmother – and the one shining light in the gloom is forbidden – her friendship with Gal. And overlying this central story is a constant sense of dread and doom: we know that something bad has happened in the past between Deirdre and Gal, so bad that neither can properly remember what happened … we are desperate to learn the truth behind this mystery but also fearful of what that truth may actually be.

Surely young Gal is as pure of heart as in the legend (and the title of the story) … isn’t he?

By novels’ end, all will be revealed and the awful tale of revenge and grief will have been unravelled. Our hero and heroine must learn some painful life lessons which may make them purer of heart … but not necessarily happy little vegemites!

Fans of Cassandra Golds award winning “The Three Loves of Persimmon” will be intrigued by the author’s further foray into the world of love and understanding but the beauty and joy of that earlier novel is replaced by resigned forbearance in her newer book and the writing seems less magical.

There are some clever references to the original legend (in the naming of the block of flats where Deirdre lives, in the parentage of Gal) but the overall mood and feel of the book may be unexpected for those familiar with the story of the perfect knight, Sir Galahad, retriever of the Holy Grail, although the ending captures the essence of that tale’s conclusion and may make us look at that tale with fresh eyes.

This book gained a Notables listing in the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers)

Read more about this author who will be appearing at MWF in 2013.

Read a post about her earlier book here.

Recommended (dma) ***