Monday, July 16, 2018

Freedom Finders - Break Your Chains by Emily Conolan

The Freedom Finders: Break Your Chains by Emily Conolan
Published March 2018 Allen & Unwin


To find freedom, you must leave behind everything you've ever known. It is 1825. You and Ma have survived on the streets of London ever since the soldiers took Da away and you fled Ireland. Now, with Ma gone too, you find yourself facing life-and-death choices at every turn. Can you carry a secret treasure across the ocean and finally be reunited with Da? You'll be asked to betray your friends, survive storms at sea and attacks by bushrangers, and trust thieves. At every turn, the choice is yours. How far will you go for freedom?

WARNING: YOU MAY DIE WHILE READING THIS BOOK... could there be a better opening page

Well, there might very well be, but this one is a cracker, here's what else is on the opening page:

When you read this book, you are the main character, and you make the choices that direct the story.
At the end of many chapters, you will face life-and-death decisions.  Turn to the page directed by your choice, and keep reading.
Some of these decisions may not work out well for you.  But there is a happy ending somewhere.
In the Freedom Finders series, it is your quest to find freedom through the choices you make.  If you reach a dead end, turn back to the last choice you made, and find a way through

Set in 2011,
your character is fleeing Somalia
This is quite different from most Choose Your Own books we see.  It's quite substantial in size, at 279 pages, and because thebooks in this series are based on real time periods in history, there is a Fact File section at the back of the book if you want more information.

I did die in this book, more than once, even though I thought I was making the right choice.  I found some of the choices a real battle between head and heart, and they are the type of choices we make every day.  For example at the start of the book, after your Ma has died, you have a choice of giving the stretcher-bearer your bracelet (the only thing of value you own) for a decent burial, OR you keep the bracelet, knowing your Ma would be dumped into the cold earth, without a marker or a prayer. I thought I was doing the right thing by choosing a decent burial for my Mum....

At the end of some chapters, you have the choice of jumping to the back of the books to read the Fact File on the particular topic you're reading about, like, child labour or smallpox. You will also find yourself at the end of some chapters where you have no choice in the decision at all.

It's an interesting series because I don't necessarily think it will appeal to avid readers of  'choose your own' type books.  It may however be a good opportunity to move those readers onto a new genre of historical or factual fiction, while still satisfying their need for a 'choose your own' book.  It's also something fun for avid readers of historical/realistic fiction, to try something different.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Paris Syndrome by Lisa Walker

Paris Syndrome by Lisa Walker
Published March 2018 by Harper Collins

For fans of John Green, this funny and poignant coming-of-age story is about that crazy thing called love. And how it can be found anywhere.

Happiness (Happy) Glass has been a loner since moving to Brisbane and yet still dreams about living in Paris with her best friend Rosie after they finish Year Twelve. But Rosie hasn't been terribly reliable lately.

When Happy wins a French essay competition, her social life starts looking up. She meets the eccentric Professor Tanaka and her girl-gardener Alex who recruit Happy in their fight against Paris Syndrome - an ailment that afflicts some visitors to Paris. Their quest for a cure gives Happy an excellent excuse to pursue a good-looking French tourism intern, also called Alex. To save confusion she names the boy Alex One and the girl Alex Two.

As Happy pursues her love of all things French, Alex Two introduces Happy to her xylophone-playing chickens whose languishing Facebook page Happy sponsors.

Who knew that Paris Syndrome was an actual 'thing'?  For someone who thinks they know everything (me), I am always surprised when I learn something new...which to be fair, is pretty much every day.  Here's what Wikipedia had to say:

Paris syndrome (French: Syndrome de Paris, Japanese: パリ症候群, Pari shōkōgun) is a transient mental disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or going on vacation to Paris, as a result of extreme shock derived from their discovery that Paris is not what they had expected it to be. The syndrome is characterized by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution (perceptions of being a victim of prejudice, aggression, or hostility from others), derealization, depersonalization, anxiety, and also psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating, and others, such as vomiting.[1] Similar syndromes include Jerusalem syndrome and Stendhal syndrome. The condition is commonly viewed as a severe form of culture shock. It is particularly noted among Japanese travellers

I found this book equal parts funny and touching.  It had a light-hearted touch, while still dealing with more serious themes.  Happy is dealing with moving to a new city, being away from her friends, and the place where all of her fondest memories were made.  Her relationship with her father is tenuous, as he now has a new life with his new girlfriend, so she's working on that as well as trying to get her Mum out into the world of dating.

Then there's the question of Happy's sexuality.  She meets two Alex's, a boy and a girl.  She embarks on a relationship with Alex the boy, and a friendship with Alex the girl, only to realise that it's Alex the girl she's interested in romantically.   I thought that this aspect of the story was done so well, as it showed that we fall for a person, not a gender.  It actually comes as a real surprise to Happy that she has these feelings for Alex the girl. 

There's also a bombshell towards the end of the novel, where we learn exactly how much Happy is really coping with.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

My TBR pile is too tall...a first world problem

There is nothing that give me greater joy than a stack of books in my TBR (To Be Read) pile, and there is nothing that fills me with more horror than a stack of book in my TBR pile...

I am lucky enough to work in a book shop, so am surrounded by books.  I am also SUPER lucky that I receive ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies), so I get to read the books before they are released, I know...poor me!

These are my piles:

1. Books that I need to read for upcoming podcast episodes.
2. Books that are due for release in the next few months.
3. Books that have already been released that I probably should have read by now.
5. Books I am currently reading.
4. Books that I have borrowed from the library, foolishly thinking I would have time to read.
5. PLUS let's not forget the 'virtual' pile of at least 8 books on my iPad thanks to Net Galley! (not pictured)

I know full well that having too many books to read is absolutely a first world problem and my question to the wide world, is not what to read next, but how do I manage my time so that I can get through even half of these??

In 2012 I read 366 books, 1 book a day...I am not sure how I did it...I am pretty sure I didn't watch TV for a year, I didn't have Netflix and I wasn't  addicted to playing Backgammon on my phone.

Turning my phone off, is one obvious solution. As is a month long holiday...but what about Apps?  Does anyone use any productivity Apps to help them 'get stuff done'?  Comments, thoughts and suggestions greatly apprectaited.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Kensy and Max Book 1: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey

Kensy and Max Book 1: Breaking News by Jacqueline Harvey
Published March 2018 by Penguin Random House

Introducing Kensy and Max – an action-packed spy-adventure series for girls and boys from bestselling author Jacqueline Harvey! What would you do if you woke up in a strange place? If your whole life changed in the blink of an eye and you had no idea what was going on? Twins Kensy and Max Grey’s lives are turned upside down when they are whisked off to London, and discover their parents are missing. As the situation unfolds, so many things don’t add up: their strange new school, the bizarre grannies on their street, the coded messages they keep finding and the feeling that, all around them, adults are keeping secrets . . . Things can never go back to the way they were, but the twins are determined to uncover the truth!

I was super excited to read the first in a new series by the super talented Jacqueline Harvey.

One of the things I loved about this book, as with so many of Jacqueline's books, is that they are so well researched. All of the street names and most of the places mentioned in the book are real, so you can follow where the twins are going on real map of London, or for a more realistic experience look at this area on Google maps or Google Earth. 

Follow their journey from home to school, by following the directions on Page 85 (you will have to start at home and work backwards, as there is no address for the school)

In Chapter 17, Kensy and Max have dinner at The Morpeth Arms This is a real pub in London. They really do have a Spying room and underneath the pub there really are corridors and holding cells for the nearby Millbank Penitentiary.

You can find The Morpeth Arms on Google Maps (58 Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RW, UK ) and see how close they really are to the MI6 headquarters across the river.

Being the  nerd that I am, I actually did this, and I loved seeing exactly where the story was set, I think kids will love this too.

Apart from all of the above, the story was great too.  Lots of shady characters, figuring out who the good guys are, who the bad guys are and a revelation at the end of the book that makes you want the get your hands on the next book as soon as possible!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Writers Read Podcast by LiTracey

I have been very fortunate to be invited to participate in a new Podcast, developed by teacher and literacy expert Tracey Grice.

Tracey has come up with an ingenious idea of interview authors, not about their writing, but about their reading life.  It's called Writers Read, and the first episode is out now.

In each podcast Tracey will interview an author, and talk to them about what their reading life is like, what book got them hooked, what do they read now, where do they read...  The authors will also choose one of their books to read from, the plan is that this reading will have the listeners on the edge of their seats, desperate to get hold of that book and see what happens next...

My part in this venture is called Rebecca Recommends, and I will talk about some of the other books the author has written and hopefully get listeners excited about those books too.

The first episode featuring Jackie French is out now, the Auscast Network and iTunes versions will be live within the next week.

In the meantime, enjoy the first episode of Writer's Read on Sound Cloud.

Make sure you follow us on Facebook  too.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Indigo Blue by Jessica Watson

Indigo Blue by Jessica Watson
Published January 2018 by Hachette Australia

Alex feels like a fish out of water in her new hometown - the sleepy little lakeside village of Boreen Point where she is reluctantly sent to live with her slightly eccentric aunt for her final year of high school. None of Alex's classmates could care less about the new girl, so Alex couldn't care less about them . . . or so she tries to tell herself. As a distraction from what is quickly shaping up to be a very lonely year, Alex spends her savings on a rundown little yacht and throws herself into restoring it. An offer to help a shy classmate with a history assignment leads to a curious discovery and the beginnings of a friendship, but it's Sam - the sailmaker's apprentice - and his mysterious ways that really capture Alex's attention . . .

I have to start this review by saying that I REALLY want to tell you what happens in this story.  I won't...because I don't do that, but this book really isn't what I was expecting at all.  The blurb, doesn't lie, it is about a girl called Alex fininshing her last year of High School in a small Queensland country town.  She does have trouble fittng in, she does buy a boat, and she does meet a boy...and then....a whole storyline I can't mention.

The descriptive language in this book was great.  I could see the landscapes, and the 'action' scenes when Alex was sailing were great too.  It was the 'voice' of Alex that was off for me, she seemed very young, and it makes me question who this book is written for? The main character Alex, is in her last year of High School, and for me that would normally mean the book is aimed at readers 14+, but his book seems to be written for a much younger audience, I would be OK with an 11-12 year old reading this book.  There is some boy/girl love interest in the story, but it's very innocent (I think the characters kiss twice) 

I didn't love this book, but I didn't hate it either...I think I just felt a bit tricked because I thought I was reading one thing and then it turned into a completely different book...for me anyway.

I would be very interested to see what other readers have to say.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Supersaurs Book 1: Raptor of Paradise by Jay Jay Burridge

Supersaurs Book 1: Raptors of Paradise by Jay Jay Burridge
Published October 2017 by Supersaurs (imprint of Bonnier Zaffre)

A thrilling new adventure series: what would the world look like if dinosaurs had never died out?

Imagine a world where dinosaurs have survived and evolved as ... SUPERSAURS. This is the world that Bea Kingsley lives in, a world where humans live side by side with supersaurs, sometimes in peace but often in conflict.
Bea is the daughter of explorer parents who went missing when she was just a baby. So when her grandmother suddenly takes her on a trip to the remote Indonesian islands of Aru, Bea starts asking some big questions. But the more questions Bea asks, the more trouble she and her grandmother find themselves in. Was the journey to the islands a big mistake?

The adventure starts here...

Picking this book up from the shelf is a prime example of me judging a book by its cover.  I was drawn to the retro Indian Jones image on the cover, and interested to see how the Supersaus App worked with this book.

Firstly let me say that I went straight to the app, and it is very cool.  When you open the app and place your phone or iPad over the illustrations, they come to life and literally jump out of the pages!  (see below for some images of what this augmented reality looks like) This is an impressive and clever feature that will definitely encourage non readers to pick up a book, but I hope they don’t stop there because the book is a great read.

I would say the book is set in the 1930s, but it’s an alternate version of the 1930s, where dinosaurs are still alive.  While adventurers in the 1930s travelled the world to catch sight of exotic animals like elephants, lions and tigers, the intrepid travellers in the Supersaurs novel are hoping to spot the elusive Raptors of Paradise.

Book 2 is out now...there is a new app that can be downloaded for this book, but it only works with the cover.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Hello, I'm back...

If you didn't look too closely at the dates on this blog you may think it's only been 6 months between posts...not more than 2 and a half years...but what's 30 months between friends??

It's safe to say that in the last 2 and a half years I have read a few books...and it's also safe to say that I am not going to review them all now.  If you want to see some of what I have read, you can click on the covers to the right, under the heading, Rebecca's bookshelf: read.

I have decided that 2018 is going to be my year to make a comeback to the blogging world...and it has only taken me until March 12 to do anything about it...but I am here now, and with any luck, this is the first of many posts for 2018.
Watch this space.