Most people know of the Jersey Shore as a holiday destination, but for Lucy it’s her home. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, she’s dealing with seMost people know of the Jersey Shore as a holiday destination, but for Lucy it’s her home. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, she’s dealing with seeing her home and community torn apart, as well as dealing with the fallout from a hurried relationship with the boy who spends his summers in the house next to hers.
This was a really sweet YA romance which reminded me a lot of Sarah Dessen and Joan Bauer books. I love YA books when the characters are invested in something else than just the romance, when they have interests and passions which they follow and enjoy. Lucy is incredibly interested in marine wildlife and volunteers with wildlife rehabilitation. You can really tell through the book that this is something which is important to her – that’s she’s a multi-dimensional character.
The relationships between Lucy, her twin brother and her parents is a fantastic part of the book as well. They are all showing the impacts of the storm and the stresses they’ve been through in having their home damaged and in rebuilding. I felt those stresses, and the way the family dealt (or didn’t deal) with them felt very realistic.
I live in a part of world which sees its fair share of natural disasters, so it was fabulous to see a book which dealt with the aftermath of a massive event. I’d love to see more books like that in the Australian market, since our country deals with so many events each year.
The romance part of the book was sweet, but probably a little more formulaic in comparison with the rest of the book. There were the usual misunderstandings and longing looks which you find in most YA romances – they’re fun when you’re reading them, but they don’t stay with you the way the other elements of this book did.
All in all, a good fun read which I’m sure will be enjoyed by many.
Willem has been given special homework – to make two ‘real friends’. But it’s difficult when he has difficulty communicating with people his own age aWillem has been given special homework – to make two ‘real friends’. But it’s difficult when he has difficulty communicating with people his own age and most of the boys he knows are engaged in an ongoing gang war. Sasha is angry with herself for playing along when Willem is being bullied. And Finn is just angry, angry at the situation he’s in, angry that he can’t seem to find a way out. When they meet Archie and his several forms of magic – cars, community, music and an old Spitfire plane – things finally start to move in the right direction.
There were a lot of things that I really enjoyed when it came to the plot of this book. Spitfires are my favourite vintage aircraft (we got to see a pair fly when we visited an airshow in New Zealand in 2011 – I highly recommend it) so I loved seeing the Spitfire play such an important part to the story. I loved the recognition of the women who ferried planes during World War Two. I also really liked the setting – the cycle of rivalry and disadvantage felt really authentic.
I just wish the writing had lived up to the promise of the story. It just didn’t flow the way I wanted it to, and it distracted from the story telling at times. There were occasions where there was too much plot – a romance story from World War Two felt a little too much, and the story would have been just as strong without it.
I thought that Willem’s Asperger’s Syndrome was dealt with well, too. The story alternates between his narration and Sasha’s and it actually helps create a good picture of what’s happening in his head and what outsiders can see. It was interesting to see a story where the main character’s disability was important, but it shared importance with the other stories going on. There’s always room for more stories with characters with disabilities, and I think there’s scope for some contrast and compare talk between Willem and other books featuring characters with disabilities.
Everyone in the class has a new, special backpack for the first day of school. Except one. She has a terrible suitcase. How can she fit in with the reEveryone in the class has a new, special backpack for the first day of school. Except one. She has a terrible suitcase. How can she fit in with the rest of the class, when she has something so very different?
I really enjoyed this picture book about imagination and fitting in to a group. We’re thrown right into the conflict in the book, without a lot of background information, so the reader is quickly thrust onto the side of our main character. We know she has a terrible suitcase and it’s the opposite of what she wanted. And we know that her mother, her friend and her brother aren’t very sympathetic to her plight. We’re completely and utterly on her side as she heads off to school.
Once we get to school, we see her placing herself on the outside of things, until an understanding teacher, a large box and a healthy dose of imagination come to her rescue. Inside the pretend rocket, she’s able to bring people in and her terrible suitcase becomes whatever she wants it to be.
While this is a story of imagination, it also reminds us that the things we think are odd or different about ourselves don’t always matter to other people. Our main character gets mad because her suitcase is different from the backpacks of the other students, but they never tease her about it and they’re quick to bring the suitcase into their pretend game. A lot of her anger comes from her own anxieties and the reality is no where near as bad as she thinks it will be.
I love the look at the early childhood setting and the willingness of the teacher to let the students go with their imaginations. I read a criticism that the teacher was too lenient in letting the students get noisy – which surprised me, because every prep classroom I’ve walked into has been noisy around imaginative play time. Plus, I think our narrator is a little unreliable – while they’re off on their big adventure, it’s very possible they were much quieter on the outside than in their imaginations.
There’s less story-telling in Freya Blackwood’s illustrations than some of her other books, partly because there’s a lot more text here.I adore the transformation from box to rocket, though, especially the way shape and colour change the scene and alter the world of the book from ‘terrible’ to ‘exciting’. I also love the way she uses stripes and spots so much in her work to create a real depth.
This would be the perfect book in kindergarten and prep classrooms, a great way to discuss imagination and fitting in and how we feel about starting in new places. I can see some really in-depth conversations coming from a book like this as well as a huge amount of learning. It would also be great for younger children who like to see what ‘big kids’ are doing and as story prompts for older children remembering what it was like when they were younger.
Charli is thrilled to be attending a real-life riding camp where she’ll learn everything she needs to know about riding horses. But when she allows heCharli is thrilled to be attending a real-life riding camp where she’ll learn everything she needs to know about riding horses. But when she allows her fears about bats and the Hendra virus to get the better of her, things don’t quite go as planned.
I really enjoyed Samantha Wheeler’s first book, Smooch and Rose when I read it last year, so I was really looking forward to reading this one. Sadly, I don’t think it was as good as Smooch and Rose. Where Smooch and Rose felt multi-layered and had a real heart to it (I actually cried when I read it), Spud and Charli felt a little too one-noted, and didn’t reach me in quite the same way.
There’s a couple of reasons this might be the case – to start with, I’m not as invested in horses as I am in koalas – I’m just not a big horse person, while I live in an area where there’s recently been mass clearing of koala habitat. As an adult, I also had a pretty good idea of what the adults had done/were doing, so I didn’t have the same sense of dread that a younger reader might have. A younger reader who is interested in horses, might be able to move around those issues.
My main issue though, was the use of the ‘child over-reacts and goes too far because adults don’t give them information’ trope. It’s not the over-reacting that bugs me, so much as the ‘going too far’ – in this case, it felt like Charli was written into a position which she really couldn’t come out of. And it led to a conclusion which left me dissatisfied as a reader.
There’s information on the Hendra virus and bats and horses at the end of the book which is well worth reading – I like the little snippets which serve to build on knowledge and understanding of the reader or which act as a launching pad into further reading.
I really want to read more from Samantha Wheeler, but I really hope her next book has as much heart as Smooch and Rose. Spud and Charli is a nice little book which would appeal to younger readers, but I think the author has more powerful books to write.
Rachel Watts is a country raised girl, living in Melbourne after her family left their farm. James Mycroft is her eccentric neighbour and best friend,Rachel Watts is a country raised girl, living in Melbourne after her family left their farm. James Mycroft is her eccentric neighbour and best friend, with a keen interest in forensics and investigation. When they discover a homeless friend has been killed, it is inevitable that they’ll find themselves in the depths of investigation.
I first noticed this book when it started getting excellent reviews through the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. Then my friends discovered it and I knew that I had to read it right now. Every Breath is a witty and fun detective story, with terribly interesting characters and a really strong sense of place. The Watts/Mycroft pairing (with self-aware nods to the Sherlock Holmes canon) is a well-written and strong relationship – but just as importantly, Watts and Mycroft are strong, independent characters individually who are able to get things done on their own.
One thing that really impressed me in the book was the diversity of characters. It’s sad that this really stood out, that the world of the book felt like the world I see around me in our local schools and our local shops. I particularly liked the care taken with descriptions, to give characters an individuality without plunging into stereotype. I think all childrens and YA authors (and screenwriters etc) should read this as a starting point for their own work – it would be wonderful to see more and more diverse books building from books like this.
The struggles of the different families in the book, also added to the depth of it. I read a criticism of YA books (I think it was based in the US) for being too firmly set in middle and upper-middle class backgrounds. That definitely isn’t the case here as Rachel and her family all work and look at ways to save money as a family. It’s a cause of conflict at times, too, which felt very real.
The mystery was interesting, though I did pick ‘who-dunnit’ quite early on. I liked the way that Mycroft and Watts didn’t get a free pass through the police departments (or from their schools) to go about their investigating. I’m found the final scenes of the mystery a little silly, but by then I was so wrapped in the book, that I just went with it.
There haven’t been a lot of notable mystery stories published in Australian YA and Children’s books over the past few years, so it’s great to see this series doing so well. I have to admit that I’m putting off the second book just a little bit longer so I don’t have a bit wait until the third which comes out in March, but I’m not sure how much longer my will power can last! If you haven’t read these books yet, I highly recommend getting your hands on them – and I’d definitely recommend that they find a place in high school libraries!
Calum and his family live between two worlds. The world of the Sidhe and the world known to the rest of us. So when a new girl arrives in town with aCalum and his family live between two worlds. The world of the Sidhe and the world known to the rest of us. So when a new girl arrives in town with a mark of a dark clan, they can’t help but wonder how she fits in. And does she have anything to do with the disappearance of Calum’s cousin?
I’m not the biggest reader of fantasy books, so I’m not always terribly knowledgeable about fantasy creatures and conventions. So, I have to admit that I found the first half of this book quite difficult to read – I felt like I was missing something (or a lot of somethings) which would make it understandable and all fall into place for me.It did eventually fall in to place for me, and I really enjoyed the second half of the book, but I wonder if young readers with similar lack of knowledge as myself would also have troubles.
Apart from that, I really enjoyed the characters in the book. The children felt very real and the adults were present – something we don’t always see in fantasy books for children. At times I felt like the ‘school stuff’ was a little distracting from the story – I’m still on the fence about whether it told us more about the characters or was unnecessary.
The highlight of the book was the rush towards the end as Calum and his friends work towards solving the mystery. The pacing was just right and held my attention beautifully, and it never felt like the action was getting away from me as a reader. It was a wonderful set up for a follow up book too.
I can see a lot of young readers enjoying the book, and with the right book talk, it could do very well in a school or classroom library. When I was teaching, I once taught a unit about Fantasy books – this one would fit in absolutely perfect.
Denton Little is going to die tomorrow. Science has developed a way to determine when everyone will die, and Denton is one of those people who will diDenton Little is going to die tomorrow. Science has developed a way to determine when everyone will die, and Denton is one of those people who will die young. So how will he spend his last days and what is that mystery everyone is keeping from him.
I loved the premise of this book – the idea that science has a way to predict when we’re going to die and that some countries insist on everyone being tested. The implications of this was really interesting – people who were due to die were banned from certain activity, they started holding funerals before people died and rituals developed for the death days. Trying to work out how the world would live with such a development is fascinating.
The story itself was quite good too. Most of the time it veered towards humour – the way that people act towards imminent death isn’t always quiet or dignified and the author found a lot of humour in that. I loved the twist at the end – I wish that more time had been spent on it and setting it up more thoroughly.
My main complaint with the book was that it felt really frantic in the middle, but at the same time it felt that the middle portion dragged on too much. It was almost like the key parts of the story – the premise and the twist – got lost in a series of hijinks. It felt exhausting to read at times.
I also could have done without the romantic triangle – it felt a little out of place at times and was pretty much unnecessary – I think there were other ways the author could have developed the story without it.
There is, however, a huge amount of discussion possible around this book. There’s massive moral issues about telling people when they’re going to die and doing nothing to prevent or get around that. There’s also some interesting thoughts about how you would live your life if you knew exactly when you were going to die. A book that sets up big thoughts like this is sure to stay with you – the humour is just icing on the cake.
Finch is fascinated by death and the different ways people kill themselves. Violet is just counting the days until she can escape Indiana and the suffFinch is fascinated by death and the different ways people kill themselves. Violet is just counting the days until she can escape Indiana and the suffocating grief of her sister’s death. When they find each other at the top of the school clock tower, they find a possible saviour (though they don’t really know who saves who), a project partner, a confidant and much more.
You’ve possibly seen the many many good reviews of this book, and when you read it, they’re easy to understand. This was a beautiful celebration of the small but wonderful things which surround us – and one of the saddest, loveliest books I’ve read. Finch and Violet felt incredibly real – although the reader might not share their same problems, their reactions, the way they handled the big events of their life, were incredibly relatable.
I really enjoyed the project of seeking Indiana ‘icons’. So many times we see books set in ‘big’ places – New York, Boston, Chicago, London, Paris – that it feels like there’s no story in the less notable parts of the world. Of course there is, though, since people live everywhere, and this is a good reminder to look for stories beyond the big places.
The only thing which I wondered about was why no one had ever discovered Finch’s secret about his home life – why no doctor or teacher ever raised an alert. It’s just possible, which the right amount of lies and charisma, but reporting laws are pretty strong here, so it felt surprising that no one had said anything.
This will probably be one of the YA books which gets talked about a lot this year. I noticed that they’re already talking movie deals, though, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Sometimes it’s nice to keep books for the readers for a little longer, to give them time to discover them – especially young readers who’ll find them in libraries and bookshops and borrowed from friends, rather than getting the latest review copy. A good book-to-movie adaptation will still be good a few years down the track – there’s no need to rush the whole thing.
When Louise goes for her first horse ride in the country, she is enchanted to come across a group of brumbies. However, when she discovers that theirWhen Louise goes for her first horse ride in the country, she is enchanted to come across a group of brumbies. However, when she discovers that their numbers will be reduced and some brumbies will be sold for pet food, she and her new friend Ben are determined to undertake a muster and save their favourites. But despite the backing of Ben’s family and the park ranger, nothing seems to go to plan.
I came across this book when I was alerted that it was free on Amazon – I’m really glad I did, as I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m probably going to be purchasing the sequels! Horse books were never my thing as a child – although I once rode a horse at my friend’s property and many of my friends were horse riders (I did grow up in a rural town), I was a small kid and always a little scared of the big horses. Plus I had a tonne of ballet books (and Baby-Sitters Club books) to read.
I really enjoyed this look at horses though – the way horses were treated by the main characters and the way they were described through the book. It reminded of the respect given to horses in the Ranger’s Apprentice series and the old Trixie Belden books I read.
The book had a rather lovely old fashioned feel to it – in a really good way. The characters are teenagers, but there’s no romance, just good developing friendship. The risks are there and real (a possible bushfire, getting caught unprepared in the bush) but they never feel over the top – they’re handled very practically. And the writing style reminded me a lot of some of the older, calmer books I read when I was younger. I’m finding that a lot of YA and kids books I’m reading a bit frantic at the moment, so this calmer pace was very welcome.
This is also a great book to hand to those more advanced readers who are looking for a challenge, but aren’t ready for more adult themes in their books – a group of readers who are often looking for recommendations. The story line is a little more mature than early readers or earlier middle grade books, but there’s nothing which would be too old for the 7-9 yr old age group. It would also make a nice read-aloud book, probably prompting some interesting discussions about how introduced animals are dealt with in Australian parks and the moral issues raised through some of the events in the story.
This was a surprise book for me – I’d found it in the depths of my Kindle list after buying it a couple of years ago. After reading Fangirl a little wThis was a surprise book for me – I’d found it in the depths of my Kindle list after buying it a couple of years ago. After reading Fangirl a little while ago, I wanted to read more Rainbow Rowell, so it was a lucky find. In the end, though, I’m not sure whether I liked this book or not. The writing was great and thoroughly engaging – it made me want to keep reading late into the night. But the idea behind it – a man using his powers at work to collect information on women, then going out and applying that knowledge in various unprofessional ways, really didn’t work for me – and it works less for me the more I think about it.
What I really enjoyed what the story of Lincoln heading out on his own. Despite working unfriendly hours, he starts making friends at work, starts reconnecting with old friends. He makes changes in his life and set out away from his mothers house which he’s been living in since he left college. This story, and the characters involved in it are interesting and I wonder if there was a way to make that the story, rather than the parts which feel more uncomfortable.
In the end, the romance part felt not only uncomfortable, but also a little too convenient. Too many things just fell into place without any real consequences and it just didn’t feel real. It’s a cute story, but not necessarily meaningful or memorable.
So, a few days after I finished the book, it’s hard to explain whether I liked it or not. The writing was certainly good – if you read this, you’d probably go looking for other Rainbow Rowell books, even if you didn’t like this particular story. But the story itself is becoming less appealing the more I think about it, and I think that has definitely diminished my enjoyment of the book.
Shelley just wants to make a fresh start at her new school. However, she soon becomes involved with the local football club and the whirlwind world ofShelley just wants to make a fresh start at her new school. However, she soon becomes involved with the local football club and the whirlwind world of players, die-hard supporters and the various rituals which hold them together. She befriends the new recruit, Mick, discovers that friendship can be more complicated than she previously thought, and learns that it’s not always so easy to keep your past away from you.
I have to confess that I have an absolute love for books which write sport well. My high school phys ed teachers would be in shock to hear it, but there’s something about movement written in a way so you can ‘see’ it which always draws me in. (I also enjoy books which write dance well.) A particularly good sports book will write a sport which you don’t know that well in a way that you suddenly feel like you understand it. (I highly recommend Pip Harry’s Head of the River and Juggling With Mandarins by V. M Jones for other examples of YA fic which do sport well).
I have some knowledge of AFL (my Grandmother is from Geelong and I’ve been to a couple of Brisbane Lions games), so I’m not sure whether this book would work for a complete newbie, but it does immerse us in the game and the world around the game. Shelley doesn’t play AFL, though she’d like to – instead she gets involved in the world of the supporters – the people making the banners and cheering as a group and hanging around training trying to meet the players and get autographs.
I must admit that it took me a little while to work out when the book was set – Shelley not playing AFL (there’s definitely women’s teams around these days), the informality around the supporters group and the fact it seemed to be just a Victorian league threw me, and I wondered for a while if it was set in the local comps rather than the big leagues before working out that it was set in the not so distant past (the use of different team names instead of the Hawthorn and Collingwood type names which are more familiar didn’t help). Maybe I missed an explanation of the time period somewhere or maybe it’s clearer if you’re Victorian or know more about AFL history, but it definitely threw me as a Queenslander.
Shelley is clearly miserable – for reasons we understand as you read the book. The world of the football club – with it’s own set of rules and rituals – doesn’t make her immediately happy, but it gives her a place to belong (or at least, to feel like she belongs). Her friendship with Mick does the same thing – she feels like he understands her and she understands him. However, she doesn’t really see how this looks to outsiders – considering that Mick is an older recruit and is married with kids. As an adult reader, reading in the aftermath of multiple scandals involving football players and young women, it makes for sometimes uncomfortable reading.
I really enjoyed the way the characters were written throughout The Whole of My World. They felt incredibly real and unique – and their actions were sometimes predictable and sometimes surprising, just like real people. It really helped to create the world of the story.
I’m a bit unsure how this book would be received by teenaged readers in Queensland, where the rugby league culture is so strong – especially since it’s been a few years since the Lions were a successful team. While the story – finding a place to find yourself after traumatic events – is pretty universal, I’m not sure if the AFL dressing (especially set in a time before teenaged readers were born) would put off readers who were unfamiliar with that world. It’s a great book, but I’m not sure it’s a book which would seem universally appealing.
If you are familiar with AFL, or you are looking for an interesting book about friendship and family and finding places which are open to us, then I recommend this book. There’s a lot about it to like.
Gloria is a collector of ephemera, a seeker of signs and a soon-to-be Geek Camper. She’s signed up for the Secrets of the Written Word major with theGloria is a collector of ephemera, a seeker of signs and a soon-to-be Geek Camper. She’s signed up for the Secrets of the Written Word major with the mysterious Professor X, but finds herself learning more about Kentucky, the people around her and the world outside her usual existence than about the great books of history.
This is a beautifully written approach to a classic coming of age story – the one where you realise there’s a whole big world out there which may not think the same way you do. The strength of the story is not actually in the main character, Gloria – she’s there to experience the stories of others more than to star in her own story. Instead we have the fascinating classmates, the mysterious and really not mysterious teacher, the roommate and the friend – all bringing something of an outside and sometimes strange world which Gloria has little experience of.
The ephemera is a wonderful symbol throughout the whole book. It’s about the signs and clues and separate, though occasionally connected, moments which teach us more about who and where we are. Small objects connect back to the people of the story too – Gloria’s roommate Jessica connects to her framed photos which only tell part of her story. Her classmate Mason connects with his hat which is a protection and a beacon – something which makes him stand out.
Breakfast Served Anytime was a quick read – one of those books where the words flow over the reader rather than the reader getting bogged down in them. It didn’t contain big momentous events, but dealt with the day to day and the little moments. There were some parts I would have liked to see more of (especially the environmental stuff – it felt a little pushed in without being expanded on), but overall it was a lovely book.
Jesse is an idealistic and slightly odd newcomer to an alternative school. Hunter is also idealistic – but only under a very thick layer of protectiveJesse is an idealistic and slightly odd newcomer to an alternative school. Hunter is also idealistic – but only under a very thick layer of protective (which might look like destructive) behaviour.
I really enjoyed this book. It would be very easy to dismiss it as relatively simplistic – it is a shorter book – but there are a lot of layers to discuss when you look more closely. One of the most striking things is how although both the main characters have a streak of idealism, things just don’t work the way they should (one of those things you definitely learn as you grow up). Jesse’s discussions with his picture of Jesus (or Trevor to appease his family’s declared atheism) don’t get the results he think they should. His family wants to do their part to ‘save the world’ but their finances are just too tight. Hunter’s father refuses to act in a way that Hunter feels a father should act. Even the alternative school – with a democratic leadership and teachers who are known by their first names – sees Hunter as a disruption and nuisance, rather than seeing what’s really bothering him.
The school, with its named buildings, vegetarian canteen and outward commitment to alternative values amused me – I’d love to read other stories in the same setting. I really liked the way that it seemed very different from ‘normal’ schools on the outside, yet the interactions between students and between students and teachers were very familiar.
Although I enjoyed Jesse’s story (especially when he gets enthused about his friend Kate’s commitment to saving the whales), Hunter’s story was the highlight of the book for me. His friendship with a local elderly man, the actions he takes to move on from his father moving away, the way he becomes a part of Jesse’s life is all fabulous. He’s definitely a character I wish I could read more of.
I would highly recommend this book as a Year 5 or 6 classroom read aloud. The chapters are short and would fit well into a reading session and there’s a lot to explore. One of the most striking things (something which took a little to get used to) was the way the story moved from a first-person narration for Jesse’s chapters to a third-person narration for Hunter’s chapters – there would be a huge amount to discuss there in terms of both reading and writing in the classroom.