Thursday, October 31, 2013

November...AusReading Month

Due to my lack of a Y chromosome I am unable to participate in Movember, but there is something I WILL be celebrating this month.

I am very excited to be taking part in AusReading Month.  A great idea thought up over at Brona's Books

Brona is doing a great job over on her blog, getting everyone excited about Australian literature and she has kindly asked me to list my five favourite Aussie reads. 

As my reading (at least for this blog) focuses on children's and teen fiction, I am choosing my favourite 5 classic Australian novels for this age group.  It was a hard decision, with so many greats to choose from, but here they are :

Ash Road by Ivan Southall (first published 1966)
Bizarre as it may seem up until a few months ago, this Australian classic was only available from the USA. It's now been re-printed, so there's no excuse not to read it.

Tomorrow when the War Began (first published 1993)
20 Years old this year, I think that makes it a classic, and the fact that is one of the most popular books for young teens, I think it deserves a place here.
Taronga by Victor Kelleher (first published 1986)
This one is a bit of a sleeper, I hope that with a new edition out, everyone gets their hands on this book.  It just shows that dystopian teenage fiction has been around for years!

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park (first published 1980)
Ruth Park is Australian fiction royalty, so no list could be without her. Fiction which features time travel and time slip are extremely popular today, so a visit to 1873 Sydney is bound to fascinate readers of today.

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (first published 1967)
Brona has already mentioned this one, but I am happy to include it too.  It is a creepy classic that is guaranteed to give you chills.

I will be re-reading each of these novels during November, and will see how they stand up to children's and teenage fiction of today, so make sure you come back to visit.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

And Then He Kissed Me

Toe-curlingly good (and bad!) kisses, boys next door, spots on date night, first love, unlove, passion, heartbreak... and other unnatural disasters.
A collection of romantic short stories from some of today s bestselling women s and teen fiction writers. Ever fallen in love? Ever fallen out of love? Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn t have...? Nine authors write about first kisses, love, heartbreak and everything in between in this short story anthology.
    A unique collection combining the work of bestselling women's fiction writers and children's authors.

    Authors include: women's writers Cathy Kelly, Monica McInerney, Adele Parks and Sinead Moriarty; and teen authors Katie Dale, Abby McDonald, Joanna Nadin, Dyan Sheldon and Sarah Webb.
It seems I may be a ‘short story’ convert. I have read more short story collections in the last two years than I have in my entire life.

This particular collection caught my eye because of the authors included, even though it’s a collection for teenagers there are a number of adult writers included. (See complete list of authors above) I must admit that because most of my reading is work related if I ever pick up an adult book to read, it’s usually a light chic lit novel, that I can get through quickly, so when I saw names such as Adele Parks and Monica McInerney I was curious as to what they would bring to the world of YA fiction.

I think the title of this book says it all, from holiday romance kissing, to lunchtime kisses in the library and kisses with the wrong boy to kisses with the right one, this book is all about kissing! The stories in this book showcase both the highs and the lows of first crushes, first love and first kisses.

Even though some of the authors usually write for adults, and the book is about kissing, this book isn’t that graphic, apart from the kissing there’s a mention of roaming hands, but nothing more than that. I wouldn’t be recommending it for a primary school library, but young teenage girls will love it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

For the main part, my job is to sell books to schools, and because of this I always think of the intended audience when I read a book. This book has me a bit stumped. The central character is Mila, she’s 12 and apart from a brief appearance from Jake (15) all of the other characters are adults. When you think about most books written for the teenage market, they rarely include adults, at least as central characters. This book is all about adults and adult issues such as alcoholism, marital problems, depression, and infidelity. There are also themes such as friendship, family and trust, but it all revolves around the adult characters.

While Mila may only be 12, she is very mature; I would have had her pegged as a slightly older teenager if her age hadn’t been mentioned. She is an only child, and her parents had her late in life, when they were in their 40s. Her parents are academic and artistic and seem to have treated her as an equal; this could explain why Mila’s ‘voice’ in this story is not that of an everyday 12 year old girl.

I am a fan of road trip stories, and this story does indeed have a road trip, through upstate New York on the highway heading to the Canadian border. Mila and her Dad Gil are heading to New York in search of Gil’s best friend Matthew. Matthew left the house one day, and no one has heard form him since, he has a wife Suzanne and a baby son Gabrielle. On the road we learn about Gil and Matthew’s friendship, meet Lynda and her son Jake who have their own connection to Matthew and we find out what happened the day when Matthews’ son Owen was killed.

See what I mean? Pretty heavy going for your run of the mill teenage novel. And I guess that’s the thing, this isn’t your run of the mill teenage novel. This book is all about sadness, and there really isn’t much of a resolution to that sadness either, it’s not like everyone works through it and comes out happy at the other end…because they don’t, life doesn’t always work like that.
With all my raving it may seem like I didn’t like this book, but that’s not true, I really liked this book. I read it in one sitting, it’s that kind of book, I’m just not sure who I would recommend it to?

This is one of those stories that I would love to talk about with other people who have read it, so please feel free to leave comments as to what you thought of this book.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Stay: The Last Dog in Antarctica by Jesse Blackadder

Animal stories have become increasingly popular over the last year, but this is an animal story with a difference, because the dog in this book isn't actually real (But don't tell Stay that!)

Stay is a fibreglass guide dog, the kind that has a slot in the top of it's head, designed to raise money for the Royal Guide Dog association. In 1991 Stay was dognapped from outside a supermarket in Hobart, and was taken to Antarctica aboard the Aurora Australis. That is all true, and this book puts together a captivating story that includes many of Stay's real life adventures with some made up ones added in.

This book is indeed an animal story, but for me it's more of a book about Antarctica. Each of the characters in the book take Stay to visit their places of work, and the characters love talking to Stay, so we get to hear all about the different kinds of work that goes on in Antarctica. We meet Chicken Chasers who do penguin research, a diesel mechanic, the captain of the Aurora, weather forecasters, weather observers, the cook and pilots to name a few.  As a place I will most likely never get to visit, this book give an up close and personal glimpse at what life in Antarctica is like, and for that reason I really loved this book.

There are a few other dogs that also feature in this story, the huskies.  Just after Stays' arrival in Antarctica, in 1992, all of the huskies who lived and worked there were returned to Hobart, this was because of new environmental protection legislation.  The old dogs stayed in Tasmania, to retire, and the younger dogs were sent to Minnesota, to continue working.  While Stay, in this book, thinks of herself as a real dog, the Huskies don't agree, and one thing recorded in this story, that really did happen was that one of the Huskies weed on her when they first met!

Stay is still in Antarctica, and while she doesn't come back to Australia, the money she raises does.  I have included some links below so you can see more images of her, and read about some of her 'real life' adventures.

This is the first in what will be a new series by Jesse Black Adder, the next book (see below) is due for release in early 2014, so be sure to look out for that one. It's a tale is inspired by the true story of the Kimberley brumbies and their journey to Dubai.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pretty Girl by JC Burke

The Blurb:
One girl's dead. One's in hospital. And one has a secret. Paige, Sarah, Jess and Tallulah were best friends at school. Now they've begun university and are living together at college, but it's not turning out like it's meant to. Tallulah's partying too hard, Jess is being secretive, Paige is embarrassing herself with an unrequited crush, and Sarah's struggling to keep up with her wealthier friends. One night, Sarah saves Paige from drowning in the university swimming pool. Paige can't remember why she was there, and Sarah's too afraid to say what she thought she saw. Then Jess's body is found outside the college laundry. It's not until Sarah meets the gorgeous and charming Jonny that she can tell someone her suspicions. But what really did happen that night at the pool? And what connects Paige's accident with Jess's death? As Paige starts to piece together her memories, the most terrifying question becomes clear: could it be happening again?

Here’s another book in the new and popular genre of New Adult. It’s a great psychological thriller, the likes we generally only see in adult fiction. Chapters are broken up between Paige, who’s had an accident, and is recovering from a head injury in a fancy private hospital, and Sarah, who’s dealing with the aftermath of the accident and the death of their other friend Jess. Through Paige’s chapters we piece together what happened before the accident and find out why she started to distance herself from her friends. When Sarah meets Jonny, she also starts to distance herself from her friends, and we begin to see that there may be something sinister going on.
As an adult who quite likes a good mystery and thriller I could pick pretty early on what was happening and could see the links between the characters, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. It’s the sort of book you will read in one sitting because the way the story unravels; you need to keep going to put all of the puzzle pieces together.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

As bizarre as it may sound, I have a fondness for ‘teenage pregnancy’ novels. In fact I remember many years ago having a conversation with a librarian where we shared our love of this genre of fiction and the librarian in question (you know who you are, I think you might actually read this!), stopped short and said in a horrified whisper ‘ You didn’t actually HAVE a teenage pregnancy did you?’ The answer is no, I didn’t have a teenage pregnancy, for some reason I just like reading about them!

So, that little insight into my life leads me to today’s book, which is of course about a teenage pregnancy. The story moves from present day where Reena is 18 and a mother to nearly three year old Hannah, and three years previous to when she and Sawyer (Hannah’s father) get together. Sawyer was a typical bad boy, and he moved away before Reena even had a chance to tell him she was pregnant, but now he’s back, and just when she thought she had it all figured out, Reena realises…she doesn’t.

I loved the characters in this book and I loved the fact that I could really feel the intensity of first love when I read it. It made me think about my first love and the fact that when we are young, we tend to only think with our hearts. As we get older we use our heads a lot more, and our heads will most often override our hearts, being all sensible and practical. This is a story that makes you want to go out and think with your heart, take risks and not worry about the reasons things might NOT work out, but focus on the reasons it might.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Do you remember Ant and Bee?

When I first saw this book on the shelves I had a bit of a flashback to my childhood.  I don't actually have a concrete memory of having the books, but I knew that I had read them

These books were originally published in the 1960s and 70s, and they have just been reprinted for a new generation to enjoy.

They are only tiny (h95mm  x  w120mm), and each book introduces a new set of words.  In the first book, Ant and Bee, we have 3 letter words.  In More Ant and Bee there are 4 letter words and 3 letter words.  In More and More Ant and Bee 5 letter words are added to the 3 and 4 words.

They are designed for adults and children to share, the main body of the text is printed in BLACK, and is designed for an adult to read.  The 3, 4 and 5 letter words are printed in RED, for the beginning reader to attempt.  For each RED word there is also an illustration to accompany it.

The truth of the matter is that the stories may not set the world on fire, but the concept is great and I do think that beginning readers will revel in the fact that there is a way for them to read part of the story.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ask the Passengers by A.S King

 Imagine living in ‘small town America’, where being different is social suicide.  Imagine you’re a teenage girl who realises she is actually in love with a girl.  This is Astrid’s story. 

The twist in the tale is that Astrid’s best friend Kristin is gay, and Astrid is the only person who knows.  Kristin lives a fake life where she dates the most popular boy at school (he is secretly gay also) is on her way to becoming homecoming queen while really she is dating a girl from a nearby college.