Friday, August 30, 2013

That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems

Every time a new Mo Willems book comes out I think, ‘This one is my favourite’.  When the next one comes out I think ‘No, this one is my favourite’, so it no surprise to me that THIS one is my new favourite.

It’s design is like that of a silent movie, where the reader can see the danger in the meeting of the wolf and duck.  Just in case you weren’t quite picking up on the ‘danger’ element, we have a little duckling poking it’s head to say ‘This is not a good idea’.

There have been other books quite similar to this one, where you know that things might not be what they seem.  It just might be that it’s not the duck that’s in trouble at all! It reminded me of two Wolf’s Sunday Dinner by Tania Cox being one, and My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza.

While there is that tiny element of danger…that the duck is going to end up as dinner, it’s not too scary for younger readers, I think the presence of the duckling popping in and out of the story lightens the mood somewhat.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

First Third by Will Kostakis

One of the first things I saw when looking at the cover of this book was the quote from Melina Marchetta.

‘The relationships in this novel are gems.  Funny dialogue, wonderful characters, a story told with so much heart.’ Melina Marchetta

At the same moment Billy has his first kiss (with an older woman who runs away when she realises how young he is), his Yiayia (Grandmother) collapses in church.  This results in a stay in hospital waiting to have her gall stones removed. It’s at the beginning of her hospital stay that Bill’s Yiaya gives him two notes.  The first takes him to Melbourne , where he comes face to face with a past he isn’t ready to deal with.  The second is a list of three things his Yiayia wants him to do…a bucket list.  Bill is convinced it can’t be a bucket list because no one dies from gall stones do they?

Here’s the list (in Yiaya's own words)

  1. Find your mummy husband
  2. Have Simon girlfriend in Sydney
  3. Fix Peter

This book is a real mix of comedy and tragedy.  The Tupperware laden family celebrating  Easter at Yiayia’s bedside in hospital is pretty funny, as are the Facebook updates which pop up throughout the novel, like this one for example:

There comes a time in every boy’s life when his mother asks him to proof read her sexts?  No?  Just me?  OK then.

The more tragic moments come in degrees, like the moment where the guy Lucas was chatting up throws his number away when he sees’s his crutches, and Bill sees it.  It’s only a small thing, but it gives us a feeling about Lucas’ life, and the boys friendship.  There are bigger issues too, family issues, dealing with loss, anger, rejection.

I can’t NOT compare it to Looking For Alibrandi, mainly because of the quote on the front of the book, but there are obvious similarities.  This is a story that has definite ethnic roots, a Greek Australian family whose culture is kept alive by the older generation.  At the same time it is also a book about a teenage boy dealing with moving to that next stage of his life…the second third. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Newbery honor winner, New York Times bestseller, Edgar Award Finalist, and E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor book.

A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Full of wisdom, humour, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.

I chose this book for two reasons, one, I felt I had been lacking in the primary reading department, and two, it was a Newbery honor book.  I had read and love the Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan, so when I saw this book at my library I happily took it home.

The book is set in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, population 148 minus 1 (murder) , a town full of eccentric characters. 

Moses, so named because she was found at the river’s edge during a hurricane 11 years earlier, is the centre of it all, and is front and centre when a local man is found murdered.  Moses may not have any luck finding her Upstream Mother, but she’s sure that she and best friend Dale can find the murderer before Detective Starr and his associates.

This book has a little of everything, the exchanges between Dale and Mo are laugh out loud funny, the dynamic between Mo, Miss Lana and the Colonel will tug on your heart strings, there’s a little romance with Mo’s crush on Lavender… and then there’s the murder mystery.

I am not sure if 'the south' of today still use such niceties as are displayed in this book, the children refer to their elders as Miss Lana, Miss Rose and Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton, but to this Aussie reader, that all adds to the charm of the story.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sweet Damage by Rebecca James

Rebecca James had an amazing debut novel, Beautiful Malice in 2010 and she’s back with another book full of psychological suspense with Sweet Damage. From memory, Beautiful Malice pushed the boundary as to whether is was a book for teenagers or adults, and this one, I think, goes over the edge. Because of the ages of the characters (in their 20s) and the content (sex, drinking, swearing), this would probably be considered to fit into the new genre of ‘new adult’ fiction. It’s probably even marketed as an adult title, but we have ended up with it on our shelves, so I will include it in this blog.

The main character is Tim, trying to sort his life out. He has returned to Australia after travelling, and has been sharing a flat with his ex-girlfriend. When he sees a add for a cheap room, in a huge house, with great views and is walking distance to work, Tim jumps at the chance. The only condition is that he has to look out for his new housemate Anna, who suffers from agoraphobia. Anna is odd and the house is spooky, and when Anna’s tragic story comes to light all of the pieces fall into place.

The story is told through two characters, Tim and Anna. Through Anna’s chapters we learn of the events that have lead her to where she is today. It has elements of a thriller with a bit of mystery thrown in and the suspense slowly builds until we finally see the big picture at the end of the book and go….aaahhh, of course. To me the book reads a lot like a movie, and for that reason I think it will appeal to older teenagers who are not real readers.

For Adelaide readers, Rebecca James will be appearing at The Body in the Garden, South Australian Garden and Crime Writers' Festival being held in October.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray

Kirsty Murray has a talent for writing historical fiction, sometimes as straight historical fiction as with the Children of the Wind series, and also as a time slip novel, like Market Blues. This book is a time slip novel, which takes Lucy back to the late 1930s.  

As is often the case with time slip novels, Lucy is not happy, she feels abandoned and very hard done by.   Her sister has had an accident in Paris so her mother has to rush off to be with her.  Her father is working on an important project, which means he can't look after her either, so Lucy is shipped off to the bush to stay with her Great Aunt Big.  

She doesn't really know Big, and she doesn't like the great outdoors, so the summer is not looking that good for Lucy. Lucy's disinterested and grumpy mood soon changes however when one night she finds herself stepping through the painted wall of the dining room, and finds herself back in 1938.  Here she meets April, who looks so much like her they could be twins,  April's brother Tom and her best mate, Jimmy Tiger.  Throughout her stay at Avendale she visits them four times, in each season, and experiences a glimpse at what life was like 75 years ago, end even gets caught in the bushfires of Black Friday in 1939.

What I loved about this book was the relationship between Lucy and April and how that changed the relationship Lucy has with Big.  It makes me wish that I had a painting I could walk through  to go back and visit my Nan when she was a girl.  What you see in this book, is that despite what people may look like on the outside (grey hair, old bones) they still have the memories of childhood inside them, and that doesn't go away.

I have to say that I read this book because I love Kirsty Murray’s writing.  If I didn’t know anything about the author or the story I am certain I wouldn’t have picked up this book…because of the cover.  It is only my opinion, but I think it in no way does the story justice, and it may be a book that needs a little assistance getting into the hands of readers because they won’t pick it up based on the cover.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reboot by Amy Tintera

Publishers go to great lengths these days to make sure you read their books.  We received a parcel in the post, with a QR code on the front, asking us to scan it before opening.  The QR code took us to a video clip giving us 10 reasons why we should read this book. 

Here’s the blurb:

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren's favourite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she's ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he's always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there's something about him she can't ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line - or she'll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she'll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum. The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

Here are my reasons why you should read it:
1. Fast paced
2. Strong female character
3. A good choice for Hunger Games fans
4. Reminded me of The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf and in some ways What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhiang both of which I really enjoyed.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Deer Watch by Pat Lowery Collins illustrated by David Slonim

Just a quick post to share this beautiful picture book I found on the self today.

I have used a large image of the cover, because it's the cover that made me pick up the book in the first place. This image probably doesn't do it justice, but I just wanted to touch the cover of this book.The illustrations in this book are done with oil paint, and it's rare to see illustrations like this in a picture book, but together with the poetic text you suddenly have a beautiful book that feels very special.

I was so taken with the illustrations that I did a bit  of research (Googling) to find out about the illustrator.  See the link below for an interesting interview I found where he talks about his different styles...

I may have focused on the illustrations, but the text is beautiful too.  A father and son taking a walk in the woods, with the hope of seeing a deer. The story records their day together and everything they see, from a red-winged blackbird to a bulldozer, rabbits and...a doe and two fawns.