An interesting blend of humour, grief and reality TV

loathing lolaTITLE = LOATHING LOLA

AUTHOR = WILLIAM KOSTAKIS

GENRE = FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

15 year old Courtney  Marrow has lost her boyfriend in a car accident and is struggling with her grief. She lives with her Mum and younger brother and has a poor relationship with her father (who recently remarried the dreadful Lola, without warning his children first). On the plus side, Courtney has a great best friend: Tim (they talk together, support each other and he is very loyal towards her). His twin sister (Katie) is another story altogether; having recently decided she will be Courtney’s second best friend …. Is she really on Courtney’s side (or only looking out for herself?)

Courtney has been selected to be the star of a reality TV show based on “a real teen” – however, she is unaware of the plotting going on behind the scenes: by supposed friend and others. Can Courtney survive the reality experience with her reputation and sanity intact??? And what about those burgeoning feelings for a new boy in her life … is it too soon after the death of her previous boyfriend?

Clearly there is a lot on Courtney’s plate and readers will enjoy watching her trying to untangle the complications in her life and her heart.

The authors second novel (The First Third) was announced as an Honour Book (OR) in the CBCA Book of The Year awards. This is his first book and it reveals the same desire to blend laughter and sadness. Although it is perhaps not quite so well handled here, there is still a lot to like about this book.

Recommended (dma) ***  

Of jokes … and grandfathers … and new love

tigers on the beachTITLE = TIGERS ON THE BEACH

AUTHOR = DOUG MacLEOD

GENRE = FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, GROWING UP, GRIEF, GRANDPARENTS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Jokes are important to Adam. His beloved grandfather has always kept him entertained with jokes so it is only natural that Adam tends to find the humour in life. But suddenly there doesn’t seem a lot for Adam to laugh about: his loving parents seem to be constantly arguing, his grandmother is crankier than ever, his grandfather can no longer send him funny emails and to make matters worse, the girl Adam likes just doesn’t seem to have a sense of humour at all. Can things get any worse…well, when your younger brother is a rather special kid, who is dabbling in explosives, then, yes maybe they can!

This is an entertaining story, set in an Australian seaside town. The title comes from a joke that is sent to Adam by Samantha (the girl he likes) …. Unfortunately he doesn’t “get it”. Can two people with a different sense of humour actually have a friendship, let alone a romantic relationship??

To find out, join Adam and his family in this heart-warming story about love, family, friendship … and humour.

PS. If you have read one of Doug MacLeod’s earlier novels (Siggy and Amber) then look out for their cameo appearance in this book!

Highly 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

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) *****

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) ****

Wrestling with words

TITLE = LOUIS BESIDE HIMSELF

AUTHOR = ANNA FIENBERG

GENRE = FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, PARENTS, GROWING UP, IDENTITY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

Louis is not your typical hero but he finds himself in a situation where courage and loyalty are needed, and where he must make some important decisions and take   action.  Louis loves words and would much rather read, take notes and add to his ‘Word Bank’ than join his mates Singo, Hassan and Elena skateboarding or playing basketball.  However, Louis’ father comes from a long line of wrestlers and tries constantly to share moves and arm-wrestles with him, despite his own doubtful skill. When a burglar breaks in one night, Louis fails to use his wrestling moves but instead uses his own special skill—words—with unexpected results.  The intruder is Cordelia, an older girl who has run away from family problems and whom Louis and his mates decide to hide.  This is a humorous yet thoughtful book with great characters. Through Louis, the author celebrates the richness of language and suggests that there is a hero in all of us, and that if we are true to ourselves we can be true to others.  This book is a 2013 CBCA Notable Book for Younger Readers.

Recommended (mrsk) ****

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)  ****