Monday, June 21, 2021

Shelter by Catherine Jinks


Shelter by Catherine Jinks

Published January 2021 Text Publishing


A spine-tingling psychological thriller where everything is not as it seems, from one of Australia's best writers of suspense.

Meg lives alone- a little place in the bush outside town. A perfect place to hide. That's one of the reasons she offers to shelter Nerine, who's escaping a violent ex. The other is that Meg knows what it's like to live with an abusive partner. 

Nerine is jumpy and her two little girls are frightened. It tells Meg all she needs to know about where they've come from, and she's not all that surprised when Nerine asks her to get hold of a gun. But she knows it's unnecessary. They're safe now.

 Then she starts to wonder about some little things. A disturbed flyscreen. A tune playing on her windchimes. Has Nerine's ex tracked them down? Has Meg's husband turned up to torment her some more?

By the time she finds out, it'll be too late to do anything but run for her life.

One for the grown ups.

What a read! This is a psychological thriller at its best.

Meg, a woman who has suffered her own fair share of mental abuse from an ex husband, opens her home to a mother, Nerine,  and her her two young children.  They are escaping a violent husband/father, and Meg's place is their first step  to freedom and a new life.  

The story is mainly set in present day, but we have flashbacks to Megs life with her husband, so we can see the abuse she dealt with, that has ultimately led her to where she is now, and the life that she leads.

There is a slow burn in this one, suspense building on every page as Nerine's behaviour becomes more and more erratic, and we begin to realise not is all what it had seemed.

An absolute page turner, and a hard one to put down.

Thanks to NetGalley and Text publishing for giving me the opportunity to review this title.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Peace by Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul Illustrated by Estelí Meza

Peace by Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul Illustrated by Estelí Meza

Published March 2021 North South Books


Peace is on purpose. Peace is a choice. Peace lets the smallest of us have a voice.

From a hello and pronouncing your friend’s name correctly to giving more than you take and saying I’m sorry, this simple concept book explores definitions of peace and actions small and big that foster it.

Award-winning authors, Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul, have teamed up with illustrator Estelí Meza—winner of the ‘A la Orilla del Viento’ the premier Picture Book Contest Award in Mexico—to create an inspiring look at things we can all do to bring peace into our lives and world.

I like when a book can make me reconsider what something means.  

If I think of ‘Peace’, my basic thought is, calm, and not fighting.  But this book looks at Peace as a much bigger concept.  It looks at all of the little things we can do every day, to create that sense of peace, in our everyday lives and in the wider community. 

The rhyme is great, and this rhyming text makes it an engaging read, that will appeal to even the youngest of readers (or listeners, as the case may be). 

It is simple, with one statement on each double page.  In a classroom setting I can imagine that it would work well to focus on different pages, and different ideas,  and then talk about ways we can implement them every day. 

The one page that struck a note with me, was the page ‘Peace is pronouncing your friend’s name correctly’.  I recently saw an interview where the person who was interviewed spent his whole life having people mispronounce his name, and how grateful he was when someone got it right or asked how to say it correctly.  I think that will resonate more with adults than with children, as young children will more often than not hear a name, not have to read it and then try to pronounce it.

There is a great authors’ note at the back of the book, that gives an insight into another aspect of peace, and how it has an impact on not only people, but animals and nature.  After reading the authors note, you will want to go back and look at each page more closely. 

The tree, with what I assume are the children’s names on it, is a nice touch also. 

Thank you to NetGalley and North South books for the opportunity to review this title.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson

Owen and the Soldier by Lisa Thompson

Published August 2019 Barrington Stoke


Owen and his mum are struggling. It's just the two of them now and they're finding it difficult to ask for the help they need. 

When Owen discovers a battered old war memorial in the local park, he finds great comfort in confessing his worries to the war-weary stone soldier. 

No matter what Owen says, the soldier just sits and listens, and most days that's all Owen needs. So when the council make plans to modernise the park and get rid of the soldier, Owen is devastated and decides to put up a fight. 

If he can just show everyone how important the soldier is, maybe this time Owen won't be left to cope on his own.

A Barrington Stoke title by an amazing talent in the genre that I like to think of as ‘emotional fiction for boys’. Not the most eloquent way to put it, but what I mean is, Lisa Thompson writes emotion filled, real life stories, that appeal to boys.  I know there shouldn’t be a difference between books for girls and books for boys, but there seems to be. There are lots of books with a female main character that deal with feelings/emotion, family issues, friendship issues, but not so many with boys... this is where Lisa Thompson comes in.

Owen is a quiet kid, who is bright, but hates being the centre of attention, and speaking in front of groups, even a small class group.  He keeps to himself, his days split between school and looking after his Mum.  His Mum rarely gets out of bed, shops or cooks, so Owen is looking after her.  The one place he feels comfortable to speak, and talk about what’s going on in his life, is in the park, where he sits and talks to a statue of a soldier.

When Owen learns the park is going to be redeveloped and the statue will be removed, he knows it’s time he has to be brave and use his voice, and tell people how important the statue is to him, and why.  It’s the why that explains what’s going on with his Mum, and the poem he reads is guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye.

This book is not a difficult read, and it’s only 104 pages, small but perfect.   Being a Barrington Stoke title means it’s also a perfect choice for dyslexic and reluctant readers.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Interview With a Tiger & Other Clawed Beasts Too by Andy Seed and Nick East

Interview With a Tiger & Other Clawed Beasts Too by Andy Seed and Nick East

Published November 2020 Welbek


 If you could talk to animals, what would you ask?

'What are your top tips for catching prey, Tiger?'

'How do you help yourself to honey, Honey Badger?'

'Why do you howl, Wolf?

Get familiar with 10 fierce and furry beasts as they step up to the mic and share their habits, behaviour, likes and dislikes, favourite foods, and more. Each animal has its own story to tell... and its own attitude!

In this fun and fact-filled book, bite-sized text in a question-and-answer format is paired with colourful and engaging illustrations throughout, perfect for emerging or reluctant readers, or any young animal enthusiast who enjoys a bit of humour!

Features 'interviews' with a tiger, wolf, honey badger, giant armadillo, lion, jaguar, giant anteater, snow leopard, polar bear, and three-toed sloth. Plus, ideas for how to do your bit to help endangered species and their habitats.

What a great idea this book is, and what better way to find out about an animal…interview them!

At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking that this book was just a bit of fun, and while it most definitely is fun, it also contains actual facts about each animal.

There are ten animals in the book:

  • Bengal Tiger
  • Wolf
  • Giant Anteater
  • Honey Badger
  • Jaguar
  • Polar Bear
  • Lion
  • Giant Armadillo
  • Snow Leopard
  • Three-toed Sloth

Each animal has 4 pages of interview questions, and sprinkled throughout the humorous responses, we get the facts. The Lion for example has not seen the movie The Lion King, but we do learn that lions live in family groups called prides. Or that the tiger tried spots instead of stripes, but they didn’t suit him, and stripes are much better for hiding in long grass.

This book is proof that you can have fun while learning something at the same time.

There is also a ‘How you can help’ section at the back of the book, explaining that some of the animals in the book are endangered, and here’s what we can do to keep them around.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler

February 2021  Simon and Schuster


A powerful and heart-breaking novel about three childhood friends living during the Second World War whose fates are closely intertwined, even when their lives take very different courses. For readers of Private Peaceful, The Book Thief and Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl. 

Three friends. Two sides. One memory. Vienna. 1936. Three young friends - Leo, Elsa and Max - spend a perfect day together, unaware that around them Europe is descending into a growing darkness, and that events soon mean that they will be cruelly ripped apart from each other. With their lives taking them across Europe - to Germany, England, Prague and Poland - will they ever find their way back to each other? Will they want to? 

Inspired by a true story, WHEN THE WORLD WAS OURS is an extraordinary novel that is as powerful as it is heartbreaking, and shows how the bonds of love, family and friendship allow glimmers of hope to flourish, even in the most hopeless of times.

Wow, what a book.  I had been in a bit of a reading rut, struggling to really get into a book, but I read this one in two sittings…it would have been one sitting had I not started it at night.

Leo, Elsa and Max, three best friends living in Vienna.  They experience one of those rare ‘perfect days’ celebrating Leo’s 9th birthday…and then the world as they know it changes, and friends become enemies. Leo and Elsa are Jews and Max is not.

The book follows these three characters on their separate, very different journeys through the years from 1936 to 1945.

I won’t give too much away, but the idea for this story came from the authors own grandfather.  He is the Leo in this story, and the chance encounter he had with a visiting English couple in Vienna turned out to change the course of his life.

This book is heartbreaking, so be prepared.  It is a story of the holocaust, and all of the horrors that surround that time in our history.  Not everything is explicitly explained, such as what happens to the Jews told to go to the left at Auschwitz, or what exactly Elsa’s friend Greta has to do, to get the extra food from the Nazi officers, but it’s all there.  

We get to see both sides in this book.  What is was to be Jewish, but also what it was to be a young German boy who grew up with one wish; to be part of the Hitler Youth.  Impossible to understand in hindsight, but how much did these young men really know about what being a Nazi soldier meant, in practice?

All of the darkness and sadness aside, this is also a story about family, hope and the memories of perfect days that keep us going, when the world is falling apart.

A must read. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read a review copy of this.