Last Pick by Jason Walz

lastpickThis is a really well done graphic novel for junior high school students. Plenty of issues, lots of big decisions to be made by a brother and sister who are desperately trying to save the world from an alien invasion. It is seat of your pants stuff! They have limited time, few resources and a fiery determination. Especially Sam, she is full of guts and grit. Wyatt however is a thinker, he is unusual and has trouble with social skills but is resourceful. Sam feels responsible for Wyatt now that their parents have been taken by the aliens. I love the bond between the siblings their fight against the evil aliens is epic and full of drama. Plenty of tension and good relationships, this is great!

The art is great, nice to see something not too designed and smooth and computer rendered looking. It has a good grungy look. This is definitely a book for the school library.


This Story Is A Lie by Tom Pollock

LieThe title says it all. Loop upon loop, lie upon lie, it isn’t the narrator who is unreliable in this story, it is everyone around him. Just when you think you have it sorted there is another twist and you are duped again.

Pete is the shy mathsy nerd to his twin sisters confident angry, rebelliousness. These two are as different as siblings could possibly be yet there is a strong bond, they have been bought together by their love of their mother, a frightfully important scientist who is doing secret work. Dad is never spoken of and is mysteriously absent. Pete is friendless and isolated but not unhappy as he has security and love at home, this helps when he is bullied and picked on at school.

As more or Pete’s problems are revealed to us, his paranoia and his obsession with counting and managing his life by dealing with it using numbers, you begin to realise that all cannot be what it seems. Things come to a head at a large function where his Mum is to be awarded the highest award in the country for science by the Prime Minister. All hell breaks loose, there is violence and suddenly Bel is missing and Mum has been stabbed. At this point you realise this is a thriller. The pace is wild and the action is kick arse. In the extreme.

This is one of those books where you have to suspend your disbelief and just go along for the ride. It is full on! I was guessing all the way to the end, Bel is such a cool character, totally kick arse and nasty and at the same time so loving to her brother. I loved being in Pete’s headspace, the wheels turning while he tried to figure out what was going on, who he could trust, who was good and who was evil.

This is movie ready and I have cast the characters already in my mind. It isn’t for the faint hearted and there is violence and gore all over the place. Tom Pollock does a brilliant job of keeping you guessing. A really cool and interesting concept and I enjoyed every second.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me access.

Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano (Illustrator)

IllegalWhat a gem of a book! The tone is exactly right, we come to feel the fears, hopes, exhilaration and live through the trauma of Ebo, as he searches for his brother who has headed off to try and get to Europe as a refugee. This is only the beginning though, after rejoicing at finding Kwame, he is then trying to earn enough money to gain passage on a boat for them to go together to Europe, where they hope to find their sister. It is hard to read, and it is quite an emotional experience for the reader to see their struggle in the pages of this gorgeously illustrated graphic novel. Hard, because for every good thing that happens to them, several terrible experiences occur to them. I felt a bit like I needed to take a break from the suffering at times. This was especially the case when they were sleeping in a water pipe which at any time might gush huge tons of water and drown them in their sleep. Gahhhh that was horrible.

This book is a must have addition to a secondary school library, you’ll probably need several copies, Social Studies teachers will use it with their classes studying refugees, art students will be drawn to the gorgeously drawn comics. Readers will enjoy, yet be horrified by, the experiences of the brothers. I liked so much about it. I liked the way that the authors didn’t shy away from the horror of the experiences of these people, I loved the change in tone in the colouring, which indicated the timelines and which made the then and now seperate, and yet relevant to the ongoing action in both storylines. This is clever but not too clever for it’s own good. I love that this graphic novel isn’t trying too hard, it just gets on with the stark story and draws you in. The fames are so well placed and the story is clear.

I’d love to see another story from this team on a social issue.  Take a look at the clip below to see the beauty and sadness.  Turn the sound up!


The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

bookseller3.5 stars. I’m going to be in the minority on this one, my heart wanted me to love this, especially after hearing an interview with the author recently, but I’m stuck firmly at the 3.5 mark.

Those of us who dream of one day owning a bookshop would probably feel the same way about the general public as Shaun Bythell does, that we are irritating, we don’t know what we want, or we do know but we can’t describe it. However, I’d hope that I could be slightly more tolerant towards people like me than Shaun Bythell is. I understand his shop is cold, that he has limited choice of staff in a small town, that he has chosen to live in a place where the weather isn’t ideal all the time, that bookish people are often painful. I however, thought that he was a bit of a pain himself. His constant whining about how kindle is killing the book industry was very wearing. He might even be right about it, but his snobbish attitude is not at all helpful.

This book is fun. It is incredibly readable. It wasn’t my favourite though.

The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton

timI finished this ages ago but haven’t been up to writing a review, this book left me feeling bereft and empty when it was finished. I’ve had a long and loving relationship with Tim Winton. I hereby admit my love of his beautiful sentences and his descriptions of place and feelings. I love the way he thinks about the tiniest of things, how he notices the sounds and nuances of the land, the birds and the skies. He makes you see the world in a different way and he makes your heart ache for the characters he makes, they are flawed, very bad things happen to them, they do very bad things to other people and yet they are loveable and real.

Jaxie is a hard boy, he is on the run and he heads out into the bush. He is ill prepared for a long stretch in the wilds and suffers terrible thirst and hunger, he has to make decisions about how he will manage his survival. While he travels he mulls over his life, the awful illness and death of his much loved mother, his angry and now dead father. The fact that Jaxie is going to get the blame for his death. He thinks about the love of his life and tries to make his way to her in a town a long distance away. Eventually he comes across a hut with signs of life, living in there is a disgraced priest, Finton MacGillis someone Jaxie cannot trust and who leads a lonely existence in the middle of nowhere. These two will build a relationship based on mutual distrust. They will come to mean something to each other.

This is not for the faint hearted. It is sweary in the extreme, it is tough, brutal and wincingly extreme at times, but it is beautiful. I didn’t want it to end

The Choke by Sophie Laguna

chokeJustine has to be one of my favourite heroines this year. Her sad and miserable life on the outside belies the wonders going on in her lovely mind on the inside. She is one of lifes victims, being bought up by her Grandfather in abject poverty, in a small Australian town, she is so very alone. Her Grandfather is unwell and he was a soldier involved in the building of the Burma Railway and he carries this around with him every day. He suffers terribly. Her Dad, Ray, occasionally comes home to drink with the male relatives and to do unspeakable things to the women of the town. He is a bad man, and unstable man. Justine sees her half-brothers and sisters, at The Choke, the swimming hole but there is a falling out and then she is so lonely. Leaving her with just the chooks, who are quite the characters, and Grandad. Grandad loves her and the chickens, but his son Justine’s father and his daughter is banished due to her love for a woman. Justine is unable to decipher the words at school, she is dirty, unkempt, has nothing to wear and mostly lives on eggs from the beloved chickens. All this grimness, and Justine goes on, getting along with her life. It is so unfair, you want so much more for Justine.

Then she is made to sit beside Michael Hooper at school. Michael who cannot speak, who is very disabled, whom the other kids mercilessly make fun of. This is the beginning of a friendship which will be transformative for Justine, until Michael leaves for Sydney and she is alone again. And then it all starts to get worse. So much worse.

I loved Justine, I loved the way she thought, the way she was so brave. I love that the story was told from her point of view. This really is a gem of a book. One I will remember for a long time, Justine made me laugh and cry and gasp with horror at what she witnessed and what happened to her. I count myself a freshly minted Sophie Laguna fan!

Listen to her here on a podcast.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

tragicI’m way behind on catching up with this author, lots of my friends have discovered his wonderful way with teenage characters and here and I only just getting to it. Now that I have read this one I need to get going on the other book by this author that we have in the library.

Mel has secrets that she holds close in order to protect the new life she has built in a new place, away from where a tragic event took the life of her brother, which she witnessed. This is more than enough tragedy to bear but there is also the fact that Mel has crippling mental health issues and holds them in check, but just barely. Oh it is hard. It is hard to read of her coping, hard to read of her not coping.

This book wouldn’t be for everyone, Mel can be a character who seems hard, who isn’t always nice to her friends, who hurts people, but you have to understand how tense she is and how hard it is to tell anybody her stuff. Most of the time she can manage to keep it together and hold everything in with coping strategies, but then that just isn’t enough. When the crisis comes it is going to be huge, and all you can do is stand by and wait for the peak and hope nobody gets hurt.

This is a sad story, well written but the style is unusual and that may irritate some people too. A solid 4 star read for me.