books

The Gaps by Leanne Hall

Anyone who is a fan of the current wave of crime hitting the YA shelves will love this book. It was a slow read for me at the beginning, but once I was in I couldn’t put it down. This is an abduction story, told from two perspectives, you’d be forgiven for not totally getting that you were getting two points of view – at least I didn’t realise for quite some time. So, a little bit of confusion at the start. But I’ve still given it 5 stars so you already know I thought it was good despite the confusion.

It is a missing person story. Yin Mitchell, best friend, great student, well known to all at school, has gone missing. One minute here in school, doing the everyday stuff, next minute gone. Is she murdered? Has she run away? Both of these seem very unlikely, but the fact is, she isn’t around anymore and her family are desperate and her friends are scared and upset. We hear Chloe’s point of view first, she is a scholarship student, she is new to the school. The others have come through from primary, but she is new. Talented and hard working but with different a different life to the other girls at this private school. And then we meet Natalia, someone who has a posse of acolytes, girls who hang on her every word, she and Chloe are not made for each other they clash and Natalia makes Chloe pay. But tying these girls together is the mystery of Yin. They are both affected, both so needing to know where she is.

There is tension, school politics, mean girls, music, art and conflict. I thought it was wonderful, loved the scenes where the art is described. It is a cleverly constructed, interesting novel.

Off the Map by Scot Gardner

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book. Scot Gardner is one of my favourite young adult authors. I don’t think I’ve ever met a book of his that I didn’t like.

This one is short stories, all set in a small country town, the protagonists are all young people and all of them have a great story to tell. These stories all give the reader pause, they deal with some hard stuff some of them. It is often hard being a teenager and that is captured here in the voices of the stories. They take risks, they hurt each other, they test the rules and they love each other. Some of their young lives are impossibly difficult and some of them are just fine, or are they?

I think some of these stories would be great class read alouds. It would make me really happy to think that lots of young people read these stories, or had them read to them. Another fine book by this wonderful author for young adults. 

RuPaul by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the only things my 3 kids have in common is their love for RuPaul’s Drag Race. It unites them as they discuss the outfits, the relationships between the queens and the unjustness of some of the dismissals on the show. This Little People, Big Dreams book is really cute. I adored the pictures and it is satisfying to read. Just the right amount of information for a little fan of the show and a great way of introducing children to the diversity in society. It’s super cute and is a great format. Just right.



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The Electric Kingdom by David Almond

Gaze upon this glorious cover! Enlarge it. Look at it’s detail. Siiiiggghhhh!

I loved this novel. Loved it! It is thoroughly weird, beautifully written and I’m going to miss spending time with these characters now that I’m done. I read it slowly, savouring it. I found it moving and so incredibly sad at times, but it is a novel with such a big heart that I also laughed at other times.

This is post-apocalyptic fiction at its very best. At times you aren’t quite sure what you’re reading, but this is a quest book, trust the author, he is going to bend your mind and break your heart. Nico is wonderful, a character I just totally loved. When she meets a group of kids who have a history that ties them together, you just know that this is going to be a wonderful lot of relationships. Kit, my heart belongs to Kit, a treasure of a character. A ragtag group of kids facing danger, trying to survive a pandemic, killer flies who carry people off by sheer numbers lifting them up and carrying them away. It is horrific! I love the use of cinnamon as a deterrent to the flies.

There is so much, so very many ways that this book is amazing. It confirms that David Almond is one of my favourite authors for young people.

Thanks so much to Text for giving me access to this wonderful book. I loved it.

Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Argentina before and I really enjoyed reading about this sporty young woman and her hopes and dreams to be a professional soccer player. A life which is not what her parents have planned for her. Camila must practise and play her sport in secret, to keep her life separate from her family so as not to get into trouble with her volatile father and she doesn’t want to upset her mum. On top of this is the childhood friend Diego, whom she adores, and it turns out it is mutual, but he is in Italy, playing football for Juventus, far away and her heart pines for him.

I really enjoyed this book, read it quickly, though it has taken me a long time to write this. It has a slightly uneven pace but I think it works really well. The pace matches the fast paced games of soccer, and the angst that Camila feels is well written. I really loved the relationships she had with her family and the way that she decides to stand up to her dad. Great book for young people to read a different perspective on life, to learn about life in Argentina and for those who love a sport book which is well written, those are few on the ground. Great book for a school library.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this book.

All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton

There is something about Trent Dalton’s writing that I love, his short sentences, slightly disjointed sometimes stuttery ways should irritate me, but they really don’t. I find them engaging, and gripping. I can’t wait to read the next page.

This is Molly Hook’s book, she is gutsy and brave and has the most unusual sidekick you can imagine. A shovel called Bert. Look, it all sounds so silly but it just works. Molly is the gravedigger’s daughter, and the daughter of a mother who was a dreamer, literature lover, and disappointed woman, a woman whose potential was never realised. Molly has grown up in abject poverty, she is a little girl who is used to making do, used to dealing with a drunken father and an abusive uncle, and she takes solace in poetry and the books her mother owned. She is used to being alone. But Molly’s uncle has a girlfriend who is a delight, Greta is a beautiful drunk with a bad reputation but a heart of gold. She is an actress in a town that doesn’t appreciate her talents with an abusive boyfriend who she can’t leave behind. And Greta loves Molly.

When Darwin is bombed by the Japanese, Molly and Greta set off together to set about reversing a curse put on Molly’s family. At the same time, a Japanese pilot, crashes and lands in their path and thus a threesome of travelers become adventurers, questers and friends.

This book takes a bit of work to get stuck into, but once you are in these characters will sweep you away. This is a weird kind of magical realism. Just suspend your disbelief and get stuck in and you’ll find a story that is not like any other. You’ll fall for Molly from page one, you’ll despise her relatives and come to understand the value of unexpected consequences in her life. This is a gem of a book. What the heck is Trent Dalton bringing us next? I can’t wait to see. These first two have been amazing, unusual, and moving. I’m totally there for anything he brings me now.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this book, I bought my own copy because I loved it so much.

Prodigal Son by Greg Hurwitz

I really like Evan Smoak, I like his attitude, his cool apartment and his uncomplicated stance on right and wrong. This latest offering takes us into the past, the time when Evan is in an orphanage, where he is spotted by Jack, although the way he ends up being Jack’s protege is not straightforward, and we wouldn’t want it to be.

Evan gets a message from someone who appears to be his long lost mother, but how could that be, he has never met her, she has never been in touch with him. This woman sets him a task which of course will be dangerous and life threatening, I mean it has to be, thats how these books work. So, despite Evan’s compulsory retirement, by order of no less than the President, he is back on task, investigating and protecting and being shot at and beaten to a pulp as per usual.

Another great addition to the series, best of all I love that you can dip in and out of the series and still get the gist. Evan is a machine with a heart. The boys and staff at my high school love these books. We all hang out for a new one. I’ll be recommending this one very highly.

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

Nasty! A lot of nasty in this story, and that’s what makes it so good. Sit back, suspend your disbelief and get ready to be hooked.

Margot knows nothing about her family, there has always been just her and her mum. That has been enough, but Margot has been emotionally shut out by her mum, and now she has a clue to her mother’s past and she runs off to investigate. What she finds is a town full of damaged people, huge secrets and very scary going ons. She finds a grandmother who is manipulative and downright creepy, and cops who are trying to pin a crime on her gran. And before that there is a fire, a terrifying, nasty and destroying fire.

This was an audiobook, read amazingly well by Lauren Ezzo, she got the tone just right, the pace and her reading set just the right notes.

I really enjoyed this, found it hard to stop listening to and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author. Give it to kids who loved One of Us is Lying.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for giving me access to this great audiobook.

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Oh my this is grim! As I was reading it I was really hoping that it wasn’t based on the real experiences of the author, or anybody!

Jas and her siblings are growing upon a farm in The Netherlands. They fantasise about what life might be like over the other side of the lake. Then one sad winters day Jas’s brother disappears, he has drowned, fallen through the ice. The family begins to break, the tension between their parents is horrible. Jas tries to understand her feelings of pain and growing up with no adults paying attention and begins to behave in really damaging ways. All of this family are broken. Terrible things begin to happen and on top of it all their beloved cow herd become afflicted with foot and mouth disease.

This book was totally riveting. It was so awful, one of those books you can’t take your eyes away from because things get worse and worse but you are compelled to keep going, hoping all the while that Jas will come through this, that they will begin to repair themselves and that their mother will begin to eat again. There is creeping menace and there is tension, there is also a lot of wincing as situations unfold in front of you.

Broken people, harsh lives, uncomfortable and unpleasant and brilliant.

The Greatest Superpower by Alex Sanchez

Out of the blue, Jorge and Cesar’s parents announce that they are getting a divorce, at least that is how it seems to them. They are 15 year old twins and they are shocked. Jorge has always been close with his dad but when he announces that he is moving out into a house nearby that rocks his world. Then when his dad announces to the family that he will soon be transitioning into a woman called Norma that is an even bigger shock. This is the story of what happens to the relationships in the family, about love conquering all and friendship, with people who understand you and will help you through your troubles.

I really loved the relationships in the family, between Jorge’s mum and dad, with each other, and with the boys. The chats they had were lovely, warm and felt very real. I loved the diversity and the way that Jorge’s friends accepted Norma. I loved how it wasn’t all plain sailing and I thought the issues were dealt with sensitively. With any book about transgender characters there are always community members who will find a book inauthentic. What I want is for there to be books with characters dealing with issues about rainbow families and characters and for there to be lots of them. So, for me, this book is a win.

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman

I loved The Magicians and it’s sequel The Magician King, so I was really excited to get started on this audiobook edition of The Silver Arrow narrated very engagingly by Simon Vance. It was provided to me by Netgalley and the publisher.

This is quite different from the previous books, and pitched at middle grade readers but I think that some of the younger high schoolers I know would appreciate it’s lovely fantastic feel, especially the fans of Phillip Reeve and Angie Sage. It is a fantastic adventure, and one which appears a simple story on the surface but it has some great messages about taking care of the planet and looking after each other.

A rather precocious girl asks her rich uncle for a birthday present. Kate is most surprised that he agrees and a beautiful silver train is delivered to her house, she and her brother Tom jump aboard and the adventure begins. The train is managed by a crew of animals with whom she has no trouble communicating. Some of them need careful management. The train itself needs careful management, the flames in the engine can never be extinguished, this will be a challenge as the journey takes the passengers on the train through extremely cold, dangerous and underwater locations.

It is lovely story with lots of themes of resilience, teamwork, the value of friendship. It is an action filled adventure and I really liked it.

The Gaps by Leanne Hall

Anyone who is a fan of the current wave of crime hitting the YA shelves will love this book. It was a slow read for me at the beginning, but once I was in I couldn’t put it down. This is an abduction story, told from two perspectives, you’d be forgiven for not totally getting […]

Off the Map by Scot Gardner

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book. Scot Gardner is one of my favourite young adult authors. I don’t think I’ve ever met a book of his that I didn’t like. This one is short stories, all set in a small country town, the protagonists are all young people and all […]

RuPaul by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara My rating: 4 of 5 stars One of the only things my 3 kids have in common is their love for RuPaul’s Drag Race. It unites them as they discuss the outfits, the relationships between the queens and the unjustness of some of the dismissals on the show. This […]

His & Hers by Alice Feeney

hisThis is a deliciously devious thriller. Twisty and turny and a book to keep you guessing all the way along. This is a gritty book. Plenty of violence to be had, bodies abound, people are horrible to each other and to top it off an unreliable narrator or even more than one. I thought I had this one pegged early on, but it turned on me and messed with my mind and had me trying to figure out exactly how all the pieces fitted together all the way.

This book has really cool narration. The actors are sufficiently creepy which fits perfectly with the story. Positively creepy. Richard Armitage has the perfect voice for Jack, who is investigating the case and Stephanie Racine does a brilliant job of the nuanced role of news presenter Anna Andrews whose ambition sees her chasing murder stories, trying to take down her rivals. There is such a lot going on in this story, double crossing, lies, blind ambition and resentment for things long past. Phew!

If you like your thrillers full of mystery and intrigue and told in multiple voices and in this case voiced really really well, get hold of this book.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

switchRight book, right time. I was in a bit of a reading slump, couldn’t find something that really appealed on my shelves and then Netgalley released audiobooks. Yay! This was my first and it certainly won’t be my last.

The narrators switch from Eileen a feisty elderly woman, voiced by Alison Steadman with humour and verve and Leena her granddaughter voiced by Daisy Edgar-Jones, who manages to perfectly convince as the frustrated and tired, overachieving businesswoman. I loved hearing their voices, the two different flavours added so much to the story.

Eileen is angry, having suffered her rather insufferable bore of a husband for years, he has taken off with another woman, left her high and dry and desperate for company, and a bit of sex to go with it. Leena has been treated badly at work, a coworker with very mean tendencies has worn her down and she is tired. Her boyfriend who seems so marvellous, is very absent which also doesn’t help. Both these women are still grieving for Leena’s sister who died a year ago from cancer. Then they come up with the brilliant idea of swapping lives, Leena will go to the country, live in Eileen’s house and Eileen will go to London and try the lifestyle there. And in this way, the action begins. There are challenges for both women of many kinds.

This book is fun, full of action, and lots of hilarious moments. Your heartstrings will be plucked, you’ll cheer at the village fair, squirm at the uncomfortable scenes which bring in some big issues such as family violence and infidelity, but overall you’ll have a really fine time. It is a great big dollop of feel-good drama.

Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publisher for access, I had a really good time. Must just up that rating to 5 stars

Premeditated Myrtle by ElizabethC. Bunce

myrtleThis book for middle grade readers has such a lovely old world feel. It is a cozy mystery for kids, something I was drawn to immediately. Our heroine is Myrtle, daughter of a busy prosecutor and mad keen investigator of mysteries and pursuer of science. When the neighbour meets an unexpected end by dying in the bath, Myrtle decides to investigate. Young ladies in Victorian times however are not expected to be running around interviewing gardeners and pursuing clues, but Myrtle is not interested in behaving as other girls do.

This is a lovely cozy mystery, it is way too long. The story stalls a little in the middle and I admit to skimming some chapters where nothing in particular was happening. A tighter editing would have been good. Having said that it is a lovely novel and Myrtle is a great character.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi

stampedA history of racism. A history of slavery. A serious look at why it is that people believe that they are a superior race. Told in an accessible way which is engaging and real. I listened to the audiobook because I wanted it immediately after watching a conference keynote between the author of this book Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi who is the author of the book that this is a spinoff from, Stamped from the Beginning which won the National Book Award. It was moving, one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever seen.

This book is a must if you want to be in touch with the Black Lives Matter movement, if you’ve wondered why people are so angry, why statues are toppling around the world. This book is written so that teenagers will have an insight, will know their history, but it is a book that will work for anyone. There is power in the words in this book. The power to inspire people to make change, to adjust attitudes. This is a book to hand to someone who makes the racist comment, the off colour comment.

Jason Reynolds said something that I’ll always remember. If you have a disease you work to find a vaccine, the vaccine hurts but in the end it does good. Being anti-racist actively and consciously is the vaccine, you have to tackle those who are racist for their own good and the good of the world.

Read this book, learn stuff and make a better world with the knowledge you gain

Burn by Patrick Ness

burn

As I always do with a Patrick Ness, I had pre-ordered this.  I had some worries going into it because the last couple of books haven’t been my faves. I was so hoping he wouldn’t disappoint me with this one. And he hasn’t. This is a return to form. What works best for me with this author is when he doesn’t try to do too much with his stories. This one is a dual storyline but it is way more successful in this novel than in Release. You know that the stories are going to combine and you just can’t wait for that to happen.

It is set in Washington State in the USA in the 1950s there is rampant racism and homophobia and so much judgement of people it makes you quite uncomfortable. Sarah’s dad has just hired a dragon to help with the farm work. The dragon will work to clear paddocks of rocks and trees, he is not to be spoken to and while there is a truce between dragons and humans, you shouldn’t get friendly or close to him. Sarah’s dad is very clear on this. However the dragon knows Sarah’s secret and they begin to talk. At the other end of the country a young man is heading north on a mission to kill Sarah. He has been given a mission from on high and he must fulfil his duty. On the way he will meet another young man who will change his life and also change the future. There is a whole bunch more going on in this book but to reveal too much would be way too spoiler alerty.

I loved Sarah and her dragon. I loved all of the love in the story. There is a lot of love! Love for parents, for other people, for dragons and for humanity. There is also a lot of hate, for those who are different to ourselves, for those we are suspicious of and those we don’t understand. It is the balance of these that makes this story so good.

It is an exciting book to read, there is a heap of tension and a lot of action. Patrick Ness is so good at having his little guys wield enormous power and that is exactly what happens here. Grab a copy for your school, have a read and then share it with all your students. I think they’ll love it!

This is Happiness by Niall Williams

thisWhen the Booker Prize list is announced later this year I fully expect this book to be one of the nominated books. This is one of the books I bought for myself for Christmas, a treat book, with firm hopes that I would love it and I so did. The writing is lush and gorgeous, it transports you to a place and time from the past, a past when electricity is about to enter the lives of ordinary folk in a small Irish village called Faha. Change isn’t something that the population are keen to embrace, these people are used to being damp and cold, having limited hours of light and are made of stoic stuff.

Our narrator is Noel, he is looking back on the time in his life when he lived with his grandparents Doudy and Ganga. He is 17 and has rejected his vocation to the church. His mum has been very unwell and the formidable Sister Ambrose has taken him to Faha to live and he continues to receive visits from her. She is terrifying, opinionated and not to be crossed. Noel, called Noe, is a gentle soul, reflective and thoughtful. The characters of Doudy and Ganga are like none you’ve read before, their quiet lives, making do, Doudy cooking awful meals and Ganga complimenting her on them, Ganga standing in a field for hours watching …. just watching. Then the electric company comes calling and are after places for lodgers, Ganga and Doudy decide to take one and soon Noe is sharing his room with the enigma that is Christy. Christy tells stories of his life and they are compelling, his life has been one which Noe cannot even begin to comprehend the adventures he has had in his life, travelling the world, loves and losses and a world of difference from quiet rain sodden Faha.

Then, it all begins to change, Noe finds out the true reason for the arrival of Christie in this tiny backwater. Noe has a terrible accident, finds love and begins to understand Christie and his longings. And, most startling of all, the rain stops falling. Sodden Faha is covered in sunshine! A situation that hasn’t occurred before.

I adored this book, it took me ages to read. I kept putting it down to enjoy the sentences playing over in my mind. It is a book that makes you feel so deeply for its characters. A book to treasure and a book to reread in the future.

The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver

spaceI’ve been talking about this book since I started it. Lionel Shriver certainly gives you plenty to mull over while you read her books. Is it selfish to spend your time away from those who love you doing competitive exercise? To obsessively devote every moment to self improvement? To put your life at risk in order to achieve a goal? The Motion of the Body Through Space is posing some big questions and I was obsessed with this book. Is it ok to put your weekend aside to read Lionel Shrivers words and ignore all else until you are done? I have zero interest in exercise of any kind other than going for walks with my beloved dog. I think people are weird wanting to take part in extreme sports (climbing is the exception).

Serenata and Remmington Alabaster have retired to the quiet town that Remmington grew up in, they live a slightly dull, placid life there. They have a wayward son and a daughter who is married to an unsuitable man and who is constantly having children and talking about God. Serenata reads audiobooks for a living. Remmington has far too much time on his hands. Serenata has been a consistent exerciser all her life. Running miles and now that her knees are letting her down, spending time doing calisthenic exercises with a great deal of rigour. It turns out that her family have resented this, now Remmington has decided to take up running which leads him to triathlons known at Mettleman, a competition which is extreme and requires months of training. We follow his journey, the obnoxious characters he meets as part of his squad of fellow tri competitors.

It is obvious that the author is making a point with this book. She definitely has an opinion on extreme exercise, the self that is so vital to the pursuit of extreme exercise. I didn’t care. I loved spending time with these slightly weird people. It won’t be for everyone but polarising fiction is awesome. In a world where opinions seem to be getting dangerous in some ways, Lionel Shriver isn’t afraid to share hers.

Thanks to the Publisher and Netgalley for giving me access to this book.

Displacement by Kiku Hughes

displacementI loved this graphic novel. In a time where racist behaviour is being shamed, here is a new take on an old story. During the second World War, Japanese Americans were rounded up and moved to internment camps. These were citizens of the USA. Many of them born and raised there, yet the advent of war meant that they were treated with suspicion.

We meet Kiku, who with her mum is on a trip to a museum, sitting outside she is overcome with a strange feeling, mist and clouds swirl around her and she is transported or displaced, back to the time when her grandmother, a quiet introverted girl, was sent to internment camps with her family in the 1940s. Kiku is caught up in the crowd, next minute she is on a train with the rest of the people and becomes part of the camp population. She tries to fit in, tries to make contact with her grandmother and comes to realise how difficult the camps were. She is stuck there for a long time, unable to get back to her real time. She starts to fit in, makes friends and and becomes part of life in the camp.

This is a treasure of a graphic novel, one that will take you on a journey to a time in history which isn’t spoken of often. A side of the second world war not fought on the front lines but in rural USA.

The art in this graphic novel is stellar, it complements the story so well, the colours are evocative and moody. This is a thing of beauty. A treasure.  Thanks to Netgalley for giving me access to this lovely book.

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

The-Good-Turn-High-Res-151119A new book by Dervla McTiernan is to be celebrated. Our hero Cormac Riley has been ostracised and criticised by his fellow police officers. He is always on the outer and things seem to have just gotten worse for him over time. He is lonely and isolated and at the same time his girlfriend seems to have become more distant, spending time away from him for work.

Cormac’s only friend in the force Peter Fisher goes to investigate a crime scene and is set upon and indeed set up. Someone dies and Peter and Cormac are in the spotlight for being the cause of the death, both of them are suspended from work, Cormac heads to Europe to be with his girlfriend and Peter is banished to the village he grew up in and forced to work with his belligerent father as a punishment for messing up. He begins tidying up the final threads of a death in the village which becomes so much more than it is at first thought and he risks alienating the entire village. Meanwhile Cormac is struggling from afar to prove corruption in the force and enlists the help of an old friend.

What I like about these Cormac Riley books is the way they deal with moral dilemma, always giving you much to think about as well as a good juicy crime, in this case several of them. The threads seem so unconnected in this story that I couldn’t see links right up until the end. This author is my new crush, she hooks me in and pulls me along for the ride with skill. I’m now looking forward to the next one with anticipation.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for access to this awesome book.