Get our boys reading! – ‘The Ruins of Gorlan’

ra_ruinsofgorlanIf you love unabashed epic middle-grade fantasy, you’ve probably heard of John Flanagan. Between the Ranger’s Apprentice series and Brotherband Chronicles, I count nineteen books. Each and every one with a totally awesome cover.

Today I’m heading back to where they started, in 2004 with ‘Ranger’s Apprentice Book One: The Ruins of Gorlan‘.

Hang on one book-devouring second…

Nineteen books in just over twelve years? And another one due this year? That is, hands down, awesome work. Bravo Flanagan!

So, what did I love?

  • Positive relationships
  • Incorporation of bullying
  • Mystery
  • World-building

Continue reading

Entertaining and heart-warming – ‘The Memory Shed’

thememoryshedI got drawn into this book by the awesome idea of a sinister garden shed. I admit, I don’t like delving into the depths of my rickety back shed (hello red-back spider, and <hooly dooly> what made that scuttling noise?) but I always love discovering long-forgotten things.

I wasn’t disappointed by the read. In fact, it pleasantly over-achieved! ‘The Memory Shed’ by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Craig Smith, was a delightful read. It is beautiful, well-written and give-yourself-a-hug warm.

The stats…

  • Junior Fiction
  • 5 chapters
  • 55 pages
  • About 2,500 words
  • Chapter 1 – intro to characters (including shed!) and inciting event (going to clean shed out)
  • Chapter 2 – trepidatious entry into shed to start clean
  • Chapters 3-4 – fun and memories
  • Chapter 5 – realisation and happy finish.

What did I love?

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 great read for younger fans of fantasy – ‘Eve and the Runaway Unicorn’

Keeper-of-the-Crystals.jpgUnicorns. An ancient prophecy. An enticing locked chest in a forbidden attic.

Perfect ingredients.

This was a fun read. ‘Eve and the Runaway Unicorn’ by Jess Black is the first in the Keeper of the Crystals series. Four books are currently published in the series, and the beautiful covers were what attracted me. Thumbs-up to the librarian who decided to arrange them artfully at (kiddy) eye-level.

Once I got past the start, which threw me (more about that later), I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I liked the subtle environmental themes, and the rhyming clues.

So, what are the stats for this one?

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 times have changed…

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Made by me using pablo…

Back in 1910, this was how children’s books rolled. It’s one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite series as a child – the famous Billabong books by Mary Grant Bruce.

I can just imagine turning up to my critique group with a sentence like this in a middle-grade manuscript… I don’t think they’d laugh me out of the house, but only because they have excellent self-control. And yet I spent hours dreaming of riding horses on a cattle farm in outback Australia because of these books!

The power of words, be they strange or familiar…

Recently someone was telling me how historical kidlit fiction should use modern language to avoid alienating the readership. I’m not so sure. There was something about Bruce’s writing that immersed me in her time.

However, I draw the line at anything like the quote above…!

Putting a little DORK on my FORK: ‘Dork Diaries #1’

dork-diaries

As an ex-librarian, when I found the first ‘Dork Diaries’ on the WRONG SHELF, no – <gasp> – make that the WRONG ENTIRE SIDE of the Junior Fiction section of my library, I knew I had to help it find its way home.

Except when I picked it up, I immediately recognised the title, and took it out instead.

Yes, I hear what you’re saying… ‘But, Heather… this book was published in 2009! How can you not have read it yet?!’

That’s cool – I believe in better late that never when it comes to books.

My first take-home from this book is it’s not entirely my thing. And that’s completely fine because gazillions of other people think it’s their thing. So it’s still valuable to review why it worked. I don’t need (or even want) to write a book just like it (no one should for any book), but I can incorporate some of the winning ingredients into my own writing.

My second thought was about how different this ‘girl’ book was from funny ‘boy’ books of a similar ilk. More focus on clothes and looks and the opposite sex. Hmmm…

But what worked in this book that I can take into my own writing?

  • Friend-making
  • Love interest (not hopeless)
  • Besting the nasty popular kid through personal skill
  • Fab illustrations.

My favourite thing is the way MC Nikki keeps on saying all these awesome and/or outrageous things, and then tells us it was only in her head. A clever trick. I would internally gasp, like ‘Did she really say that?’ and then find she didn’t. Sometimes I was relieved, sometimes I was disappointed!

‘But I just said it in my head, so no one else heard it but me.’

And you know what else I love? In the acknowledgments, author Rachel Renee Russell thanks her agent who saw ‘the potential of this book when it was merely fifty rambling pages about a quirky girl and her fairy godmother.’ This book no longer has a fairy godmother. (Quirky girl? Still a tick.)

From that, I figure that compelling character and great writing will win out. Maybe we don’t need to get that submission perfect. Maybe, even if it’s the wrong genre aimed at the wrong age group, if we write well enough someone will see the potential.

Write on, people!

A sporty Hero’s Journey – ‘Pocket Rocket’

PocketRocket.jpg

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

Fist-pump for 40K!

Fortyk_earnedI have a hot pot of tea at the ready, plenty of mind-nurturing snacks on my desk, and my MC is literally falling off the side of a mammoth mountain and I need to save her.

This is no time for procrastination.

(‘What did you just call me?’ asks my blog.)

 

However, I also just tipped 40,000 words on the SnowNaNo, so…

Whoo hoo! Pat myself on the back!

 

Now, get back to it…