A super start to a defo non-fairytale fairy series: ‘Valentine’

Valentine.jpgPhew! First semester is over, so it’s back to the (fun) books for me! I couldn’t resist reaching for a novel I’ve been aching to read since it first came out – ‘Valentine’ by Jodi McAlister.

Great cover (don’t you think??!), great premise. Four kids, all born on Valentine’s Day… but which one is the changeling? Add a dash of love-hate romance and you have the perfect recipe for YA enjoyment.

And so…?

This book does truckloads of stuff right. The characters and location feel so real. The start is amazing. All those midnight animals creeping around keep building the suspense.

And whoa… because if there aren’t at least two Valentines who can trace their lineage back to a bit of fairy magic, then I’m not a madcap children’s writer. Unfortunately, I have to wait for the next book to find out if I’m right. Continue reading

Ponies + Mermaids = Gold… ‘Lulu Bell and the Birthday Unicorn’

LuluBellBirthdayUnicorn.jpgI’ve just read that the Lulu Bell series by Belinda Murrell has sold >200,000 copies.

Just a moment while I put the laptop aside and bow in tremulous awe.

Okay, I’m back. So today I’m reviewing Lulu Bell and the Birthday Unicorn, the first in the Lulu Bell series. The book instantly caught my attention, thanks to the vibrant illustrations by Serena Geddes. And then it kept it, thanks to the clever writing.

Awesome thumbs-up aspects:

  • Cute animals (everywhere)
  • Mermaid costumes (what kid doesn’t want one of those)
  • Humour
  • Diversity
  • Gorgeous illustrations

That’s the short of it. But, of course, I had to look a little deeper into the workings of a very successful book idea.

Want some tips on how a great chapter book works? Read on…

Continue reading

A hug from the hope spreader – ‘Sorta like a rock star’

slarsI’d been crying for at least an hour. My husband peered at me over the ever-growing mountain of used tissues. ‘Why do you read books if they’re this bad?’

‘It’s not bad,’ I sobbed. ‘It’s really, really good.’

And it is. ‘Sorta like a rock star’ by Matthew Quick will give you a hug (because Amber loves hugs), tear your heart apart with anxious little doggy teeth while you’re looking the other way, and then knit it back together. But it won’t be quite the same.

I was recommended this book by an author friend. I was expecting hope and light. Sure, I got that, but I also got some unexpected, wrenching dark. There is depth and harshness and reality that make the hope that much more powerful.

Hence the tissues…

If you have trigger issues around depression, this might not be the book for you. Otherwise, read on…

So what makes this book so enthralling? Continue reading

The joy of brilliant writing and diverse characters – ‘The Sidekicks’

TheSidekicks.jpgThis book absorbed me. I became not one, but three new people as I read it.

That’s powerful.

I didn’t expect to love it this much. Don’t snort in my general virtual direction. I guess because this was written by a bloke, about three blokes adapting to the loss of a fourth bloke. And I’m not a bloke.

So I think my mind just kept gravitating to female-centric books instead.

Thankfully, I purposefully put it on my list at my last library visit after a few twitter giggles at posts by the author. And so should you. ‘The Sidekicks’ by Will Kostakis was a fabulous read, and I’m a bigger person for reading it.

The characters were vivid, the plot was enthralling, the writing was that sort of perfect where you don’t realise you’re reading.

I’m doing a dance now that I have read it, because it’s reminded me of why literature is so powerful. It isn’t just telling a story. With a book, especially in first person, you become the narrator as you read. You see and feel and think like someone else. And when that person is someone completely different to you, this magical thing can happen.

Empathy.

<oh, and a kinda spoiler alert, too> Continue reading

My top six Young Adult and Junior Fiction reads of 2016

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Made by me using Pablo

This year I committed to reading a dino-load of books and absorbing, by capillary action, every awesome aspect I could find within them. I managed to read 60 Young Adult and Junior Fiction books this year, and I’m overjoyed with that.

So, what were my favourites? In precise alphabetical order, by author (that’s the librarian in me coming out…) here they are:


‘The Things I Didn’t Say’ by Kylie Fornasier

thingsIdidn'tsay

Young Adult Contemporary

Powerful. This got into my head. Beautifully written.

See my review here.

 

‘Illuminae’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

illiminaeYoung Adult SciFi

Like nothing I’d ever read before. Mind-blowing.

See my review here.

 

‘Throne of Glass’ by Sarah J. Maas

YoTOG-NYT-Coverung Adult Fantasy

Hello Fantasy and welcome back into my life! This was addictive.

See my review here.

 

‘Sister Heart’ by Sally Morgan

Junisister-heartor Fiction Historical

Beyond powerful. A must-read that both broke and filled my heart.

See my review here.

‘Deltora Quest’ by Emily Rodda

deltoraquest Junior Fiction Fantasy

Love love loved this series! It reminded me of landmark books of my childhood and left me filled with joy.

I haven’t published a review yet, I want to figure out how it all worked…

‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth

divergent Young Adult Dystopia

When a book helps define a genre, you expect fireworks and meteor-shower-spectaculars from it. I got everything I was looking for with this one. And more.

No review though, because I read it well before I started this blog… sorry you’ll just have to read it yourself… if you haven’t already!


 

So there they are, my best reads from a very good year!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Heather :o)

 

How to create and maintain suspense: the riveting ‘Black’

Black.jpg

I read this book in one sitting. NOT because it’s short (it’s actually 276 pages). NOT because I was reading-deprived after a month of writing (which I was, but that’s not the real reason). NOT EVEN because I didn’t want to go to bed before I figured out what super-scary stuff was going down that would otherwise give me nightmares.

No. I read this in one sitting because it’s that damn good.

I lent it to an author friend and she couldn’t put it down either.

Black‘ by Fleur Ferris is totally worth reading.

Obviously, me being me, I then wanted to figure out why this book was unputdownable for two sleep-deprived children’s writers.

Roughly speaking, it’s split into two almost equal parts. Part One, where we’re anxiously trying to figure out what is happening and waiting for it to all go bad. And Part Two. Where it goes bad, and we’re caught up in Ebony ‘Black’ Marshall’s fight to regain herself. I understand what makes the second part tick. I can write action and up the stakes and have people fight for their lives.

But the first part of the novel is a brilliant study in creating suspense.

I knew I had to work out how Ferris had done it. Want to know too? Read on.

Continue reading

A sporty Hero’s Journey – ‘Pocket Rocket’

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Brilliant! Talk about filling a Jupiter-sized kidlit hole. Awesome girl playing non-traditionally-female sports and acing it? Bring it on! ‘Pocket Rocket‘, by Ellyse Perry and Sherryl Clark, is the first in the Ellyse Perry series, and it rocks.

Perry is up there with Australia’s top sportswomen, having represented our country in both Cricket and Soccer (football for you non-Aussies). I think she rocks as well!

This book, aimed at primary-school-aged girls, covers Perry’s first few weeks at high school as she tries to get on the school cricket team and win the Club Cricket grand final. It covers issues like changing friendships, settling in, and sticking to your dreams.

 I love that her Dad is the parent we hear most about – their relationship is really positive. And diverse characters are throughout – just like in a real life Aussie school.

The Basic Ingredients for this Junior Fiction book

  • 141 pages
  • ~25,000 words
  • 15 Chapters
  • Humour, friendship, self-belief
  • Swift publishing of Book 2
  • Books 3 and 4 coming out within months

If you’re not scared of the occasional blatant spoiler or ten (okay, it’s all spoilers), read on for my deconstruction… Continue reading

A brilliant breath of fresh air: ‘The Lost Sapphire’

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Family. History. A girl-meets-boy story with <all out cheering> no romantic angle… (yes, that’s right, boys and girls can actually be teenagers and be good friends)…

I’m calling it!

If you’re looking for some truly sweet kid lit, then The Lost Sapphire is for you. I’d hazard a guess the entire of Belinda Murrell’s time slip series would be too. It was a relief for me to read something interesting, exciting and fascinating, that wasn’t peppered with swearing or murdering or shooting or shagging.

A breath of fresh air. Continue reading

Breaking free from the circling wolves – ‘Jenna’s Truth’

jennastruthcoverPicture the scene. It’s 2.47pm on a Wednesday. I have to leave to pick my daughter up from kindy in three minutes, except I’m awash with hot silent tears. I’ve been reading a great book again…

Sometimes there are stories that talk to me, change me, teach me. ‘Jenna’s Truth’ by Nadia L King is one of them. It takes the tough issues of bullying and teen suicide, and fights for a positive outcome.

Never relax around the popular kids; they lure you in like wolves circling their prey – I just hadn’t realised yet that I was the prey. (p30)

King was inspired to write this book by the moving story of Amanda Todd. Straight after I finished reading ‘Jenna’s Truth’ I googled Amanda’s You Tube video. Cue more tears on a Wednesday afternoon. Because Amanda didn’t deserve the treatment she got. Jenna doesn’t either. The difference between these two is that Jenna is saved.

‘Jenna’s Truth’ aims to save many more. Continue reading

Alcohol and social media and the desire to conform: ‘Saving Jazz’

savingjazz

Mate, after reading this I’m glad I’ve finished High School. Compelling and chest-huggingly confronting. Sickening actions with terrible repercussions. This book isn’t shy. It’s on a mission. But fear not – it also has the poise to end positively without a whiff of cheddar or colby. And it absorbed me.

‘Saving Jazz’ by Kate McCaffrey tells the tale of a drunken party gone wrong and its painful aftermath. It has a level of clarity that only comes from a combo of great writing and clever and careful editing – bravo Fremantle Press. The part of me that’s a mum was rocking in the corner muttering, ‘Home-schooling, home-schooling.’ The part of me that’s planning to be a Science teacher was setting her jaw, more determined to take the path already chosen, but also a little terrified.

Continue reading