My CBCA Notables book binge!

My last library visit I had an aim – grab three CBCA Notables YA books.

And then read them. (Of course.)

At home, I mean. Not the library. (Of course.)

Not only did I manage that with flying colours, I also managed to find a Scribblers Fest feather in one! Not the gold… but still… I felt like I’d just opened a Wonka bar and found a golden ticket!

Here is my quick take on the three books. Beware spoilers, people…

‘A Shadow’s Breath’ by Nicole Hayes

AShadowsBreath.jpgSuspense. What went wrong? How did they get there? Will they survive?

I loved the structure of this book, very cleverly interweaving now and then to ensure we only discover what we need to, when we need to. And then, when we think we know what the bad thing is that she saw, that’s when the real bad thing that she doesn’t want to remember comes out. 

I really loved the Australian setting. The heat, the fire, then the rain. Some readers, unfamiliar with an Aussie summer, might think Hayes went over the top with the changeable weather. But I could smell the heat and feel the brooding clouds of a summer thunderstorm. Super.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Heaps better than a fake spider on your door frame – ‘Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend’

Olivia'sSecretScribblesMNBF.jpgWhat’s more awesome than your kid not wanting to go to sleep because they’re reading a great book?

Having them wake up the next morning and keep reading! And almost be late for school because they love the book so much! And then talk about it all the way to school!

‘Olivia’s Secret Scribbles: My New Best Friend’ by Meredith Costain and Danielle McDonald is the first “big kid” book my daughter read by herself, cover to cover. In less than 24 hours, too.

That’s not reading, people, that’s devouring.

So, what was so inviting in this book?

  • Easy to read font with lots of enticing illustrations
  • A couple of mysteries to solve
  • Some hidden lessons

Continue reading

Bushfire – Fiction Friday!!

I didn’t hear the characteristic rattle of the loose roof iron above the kitchen, heralding a change in the wind. Hot easterly turning to a south-westerly that on a normal day would promise a drop in temperature. My brain didn’t register the growing smell of smoke, creeping up like an intruder.

CSIRO_ScienceImage_439_Experimental_Bushland_Burning_Results

Image: CSIRO

The shrill clamour of the smoke alarm finally halted my study halfway through working out the molar weight of an unknown substance in question 34a. Fear buzzed as chemistry fled my brain. I made it halfway to silence the alarm before the power went out, plunging me into a dark that was simply too dark for the time of day it was.  Continue reading

Diverse voices make for a brilliant read – ‘The Stars at Oktober Bend’

TSAOBThis was an unexpectedly extra-super-dooperly beautiful book. ‘The Stars at Oktober Bend‘ by Glenda Millard had been recommended to me, so I was prepared to thoroughly enjoy reading it.

I was even prepared to cry. Quite a lot.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the depth, the intensity of the characters, and the extent to which this book covers new and interesting perspectives.

I read the blurb and expected a love story with extras. It’s way more than that. The back calls it:

A beautiful, heartfelt novel about transcending past troubles and learning to live with trust and hope.

And it absolutely is. Like the ocean is water, or chocolate is yum.

3 things that were super-dooper

  • Diverse backgrounds and issues
  • Great use of POV
  • Poetry you really do want to leave around the place so people read it.

Continue reading

Twists and turns in an ace setting – ‘All Fall Down’

AllFallDownThe Embassy Row series seemed to be popping out at me from everywhere, and I was intrigued. So when Book 1 showed up at my library, I grabbed it.

‘All Fall Down’ by Ally Carter was an unexpected surprise for me. I had very little idea what the series was about, and what I did know had me thinking it was going to be something a bit Selection-y (perhaps because of the cover of Book 3). It’s not.

It’s got more grit and less glamour, with an ace setting and many twists and turns that will have you wishing you’d trailed string behind you in those dark underground tunnels so you could crawl out to safety.

And check out the cover. I love the fractured font above the soft image.

It is a bridging YA text, you could be confident giving it to middle-grade readers who are looking for something more, as well as more seasoned YA readers. The book combines adventure and mystery with the gaining, and losing, of friendships. As well as some harder issues around mental illness and grief.

So, what worked?

  • The inspired setting
  • The plot twists
  • The supporting cast

Continue reading

A great brew of friendship and fun – ‘Ivy + Bean’

Ivy+BeanBook1I’m always on the look out for cute chapter books to read with my daughter, especially a series. I mean, what’s the one thing better than finding a fun book?

Finding out it’s only the first of many!

‘Ivy + Bean’ by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, just calls out to be read and enjoyed. Look at the cover! So cute! And the size is nice and wee, making it supremely approachable for kids starting out on chapter books.

I really enjoyed this story of two girls, who know they aren’t going to be friends until the day they each realise the other is more fun than they’d thought. As a mum it made me giggle to see how the more their mums told them to play with each other, the more they didn’t want to.  Continue reading

Fun and daring make for an ideal combo – ‘To the Lighthouse’

ToTheLighthouseIt’s rare to read a book that looks at childhood and growing up with such clever balance. ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Cristy Burne does that, and all with a vivid sense of humour and love of adventure.

Take risks. Eat jelly snakes. Make new friends. Laugh. Lots.

I really enjoyed this junior fiction book. It was vivid and honest, exciting and funny, and I recommend it for all 7-10 year olds.

But I almost didn’t write it up. ‘Why, oh why?’ I hear you ask.

Because I know the author. Really well. And I didn’t want to be seen as false or having conflicting interests or whatever it could be.

But then I figured… it’s my blog! And it was such a fab book, I’d write it up anyway :). Ha!

Yeah? And what was so fab?

  • Diverse characters
  • Boy and girl friendship without any complications
  • Parents are around
  • Encourages risk-taking

Continue reading

Recommended reading for all teen girls – ‘Risk’

Risk.jpgReviewing this top-notch read has been a long time coming. And when I say long, I mean years.

I first heard about ‘Risk’ by Fleur Ferris before it was published. Here in West Oz, SCBWI have an annual event where we basically invite a few publishers over and then maroon them on a small island with us for several days.

Back in 2015 the publisher was from Random House. And she was talking up this book. If we wanted our YA to be published, she told us, this book was our benchmark.

The tantalising first chapter on the web hauled me in, but the book wasn’t out at the time. And somehow it just stayed on my TBR…

Until now.

My library recently bought a brand-spanking shiny new copy that jumped out and grabbed me as I wandered past the shelf. And approximately seven hours after checking it out, I was reviewing it.

Because this brilliant book dragged me in and held me.

It frightened me.

It made me cry.

And it made me consider internet restrictions for the teenager my daughter will become in less than a decade. May it be a very long eight years.

So, what was so great about it?

  • The balance between fear and reaction
  • The background knowledge of the author
  • The characters

Continue reading

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