Monthly Archives: June 2013

Stacking the Shelves


Hosted by Tynga’s reviews, Stacking the Shelves is a meme that shows off what we added to our shelves this week, whether it’s in eBook or physical format or whether it’s for review or another reason.


Wonder – R. J. Palacio

They Hosed Them Out – John Bede Cusack

The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck


The last three to replace copies previously owned. I have now given away about 8 copies of Of Mice and Men. One of my favourite reads, I press it upon anyone who shows interest and then buy another one!

They Hosed Them Out, was long out of print but recently re-issued by Wakefield Press Adelaide. As my dad was an air gunner and this is the epitome of stories about these brave men who had the highest fatality rate during the air battles of World War II, I was keen to buy it as soon as I knew it was available again. Now looking forward to the post bringing it!


Stagefright – Carole Wilkinson

Australian Flags and Symbols – Karen Tayleur

Word Hunters The Curious Dictionary – Nick Earls and Terry Whidborne

For ReadPlus  although I used my own copy of Word Hunters, charmingly and amusingly autographed by Nick Earls when I met up with him again in February.[PS nice thank you from Nick on FB!]

To Get To Me – Eleanor Kerr

Reviewed for Random House


No time for the library but re-reading Pigeon Post – Arthur Ransome, kindly given to me by Barbara Braxton after she reviewed it!

Miss Understood – James Roy

Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 3rd 2012 by Random House (Au)

A fun read from James Roy.. Meet Lizzie… who is Betty to her dad, Elizabeth to her kindly neighbour – and to those in charge at Our Lady of the Sacred Wimple, a troublemaker of the highest order. With flair reminiscent of Robin Klein’s Penny Pollard, Lizzie seems to continually blunder into one scrape after another, usually with dire results, yet always with the best of original intention. When she accidentally sets fire to Sacred Wimple, Lizzie is politely asked to leave the school and so begins a new experience of being homeschooled by her teacher mum. While this is not quite the ordeal Lizzie was expecting, she does run into some disturbing situations – the mystery of the unoccupied house next door, her father’s erratic behaviour and the trial of being abandoned by her best friend. However, through a new approach to important aspects of her young life, Lizzie begins to make some advances in thinking responsibly with visibly improved results. James Roy continues his deft touch for young readers with this light-hearted novel, which delivers a topical and timely message about a common mental illness – depression. Lizzie’s family is a very normal and recognisable one, living in suburbia – parents working hard to maintain a very simple lifestyle, sometimes struggling to do so. The relationships between Lizzie and the adults in her life are handled with humour and realism

Game Over – S. Carey

Paperback, 72 pages
Published January 30th 2013 by Penguin Australia

Cast your mind back to some of those great series like Deadly and Wicked (Jennings/Gleitzman) and After Dark (Gary Crew et al) and think about how popular they were with readers, particularly boys, of about Year 4/5 level. Quick to read, ghoulish enough to be creepy but not graphic and written in a quality style – interesting vocabulary that just stretches the newly independent reader.

The Eeries series promises to deliver just such a successful formula. Game Over takes the reader on quite a retro trip back to the 80s and readers may be slightly baffled at first by the described desirables – an Atari 2600 for example. However, they will be familiar (or dare I say, should be!) with others like MAD magazine, Doritos, Oreos and other American delights which were just beginning to creep into our collective consciousness back in the decade of big hair and bigger shoulder pads.

John’s new classmate, Samuel, is an unappealing American kid with a very appealing mother and houseful of goodies – all too tempting for an average suburban 80s Aussie kid. Lurking beneath this seeming haven of tempting treats is a sinister fate for those who succumb (think Lotus Eaters and you’re on the right track). Is Samuel really as indolent and unemotional as he seems? Is his rather glamorous mother as kind and beautiful as she appears? Hang around, eat enough goodies and play enough arcade games and you will find out. In fact, you may find yourself in a very unpleasant situation!

Highly recommended for readers with a taste for the macabre 8+.

Tiddles – S. Carey

Paperback, 72 pages
Published February 27th 2013 by Penguin Australia

I love cats. I love my Aunty Shirley. I love little holidays away from my family. How about you?
Brother and sister, Ben and Cathy, have to stay with their Great-Aunt Pam for a week while their parents are busy organising a new house and new job. Poor Aunty Pam has lost both her husband and her much loved cat. So far, a pretty normal regular storyline you might think.

But wait…Great-Aunt Pam resembles Jabba the Hutt and is twice as nasty. She certainly does seem to miss Tiddles, and Tom as well. But if her beloved cat is dead, then why does she still put out a cat tray and why does the cat bowl have fresh blood around it……….and why, oh why, are there dead maggots all around the cat door which keeps flapping in the night.

Trapped in Aunty Pam’s house, with doors and windows chained and bolted and no means of communicating with their parents, Ben and Cathy are faced with a horrible realisation and even more terrifying situation.

“They stayed huddled together, only aware of the own racing hearts as the black, dead thing pulled itself relentlessly towards them.”

The Eerie series, written by S. Carey (just think about that name for a moment, folks) is going to be a huge hit with independent readers especially of the zombie-loving kind. Mister 10 is going to eat this series up – oops, perhaps the wrong turn of phrase!

Killer App – S. Carey

Paperback, 72 pages
Published February 27th 2013 by Penguin Australia

Roma and her friend are totally into their iPads and their apps. When a sinister man called Roderick offers the group a free app that downloads to each their own personal dream , Roma thinks it seems too good to be true . And Roma proves right when the five friends find themselves whirled out of their dreams and into a dangerous and deadly nightmare.

Not only is Roderick one seriously creepy nerd, he is a deeply disturbed one and his revenge for past rejections is about to impact on Roma and her mates. The only way to escape Roderick’s hynoptic snare is to turn his plan back onto himself – and Roma has just what it takes to do that.

Clearly Dead Boring, the mysterious free app, is not quite as boring as it sounds.

Each of the Eerie series is cleverly enhanced with tiny ‘flip’ animations in the page corners and a new instalment of an additional story ‘Monster Me’ at the end of each book.

The series will comprise thirteen super spooky stories (Thirteen? Coincidence? I think not!) that will delight those 8+ years readers who savour the supernatural. There will be a rush on these when they hit your bookshelves – stand back and let the stampede begin!

Bewitched (The Floods #12) Colin Thompson


ISBN: 9781742755304
Published: 01/02/2013
Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s
Extent: 240 pages
RRP $14.95
Welcome back to the madness and mayhem that are the family Flood. Colin Thompson takes the reader on another rollicking excursion with the Addams like royal family of Transylvania Waters as King Nerlin displays some rather bizarre symptoms. In fact, he is behaving even more bizarrely than his normal state – clearly bordering on Doolallyness.  His family, afraid for his mental health, seek the best treatment available to them – and visit the Old Crones. With Queen Mordonna ably in charge and the rest of the family to lend their expert assistance – as well as assorted talking donkeys and imaginary friends – nothing could go wrong with this plan.
After the revelation that Nerlin is definitely not suffering from ‘celeriac or any other green vegetable’ it appears that he is actually infected by his imaginary friend Geoffrey-Geoffrey – perhaps not so imaginary as Nerlin and his family believed.  Cures via Fruit Pulp Immersion, kidnapping by crone, satellite tracking of vengeful adversaries are just all part of the road to Nerlin’s restored good health.
Legions of young readers attest to the success of the Floods formula and Colin Thompson’s delightful word play and surprising insertions, not to mention hilarious footnotes add to the crazy mix. Readers delight in the twisted mirroring of real life – ‘The Three Fake Cooks, who actually had a printout off Gargle Maps*’…*Which is like Google Maps PLUS it cures bad breath.
This volume is sure to be as popular as the rest of the series and readers from 9-12 will particularly relish it.

Song in the Dark – Christine Howe


Penguin Australia
Published: 27/02/2013
Format: Paperback, 184 pages
RRP: $17.99

Anyone looking for a gripping and gritty read for young adults should look at this extraordinary novel with its themes of love, betrayal, forgiveness, addiction and especially hope.

Paul is a teenager who has dealt with numerous difficulties throughout his relatively short life, beginning with his mother disappearing with him – abandoning his father and his loving grandmother.
In increasing turmoil during his teen years, he falls in with friends who are definitely of the wrong kind. They lead him into more and more dark and despairing situations – he spirals from smoking pot, to dealing it, to heroin which, naturally, takes hold of him with its usual ferocity.  The slim thread which keeps Paul in touch with a normal life is his Granny, with whom he reconnects when eventually his mother returns them to his childhood neighbourhood.

But as anyone who has had any intimate knowledge of addicts and addictive behaviour knows, there are no moral boundaries for those in the clutches of dependency. Desperate for money to buy the next hit, Paul attempts to steal his Granny’s hidden jar of cash with consequences both dire and ironically, life-saving. The truth of hitting rock bottom before you can climb up again is evident as Paul’s life begins to turn around and is salvaged through the kindness of strangers (in this case, the Salvos) as well as the belief and love that can unite family members, even though they are apart

“He doesn’t want to be like that anymore. Not now – not ever.” The reader is left with an overwhelming sense of hope for Paul’s future which resonates and compels empathy for his character.

Highly recommended – but for very mature readers 15+ – there is very strong language as well as the numerous drug references.

Big Thursday Anne Brooksbank

Paperback, 276 pages
            Published        January 30th 2013         by Penguin Books Australia

Nat’s family is in crisis. His father, Luke, has been called to account for some serious errors of judgment in his professional accountancy role and has been ordered to undertake weekend detention along with serious financial redress. His mother, Rachel, is finding it difficult to handle the loss of their family home along with many of their possessions and what is even harder, their respect and status within their community.  His younger sister Hannah and little brother Toby are finding it difficult to adjust to living in a caravan park rather than their large house.

Nat doesn’t mind the new caravan home and its proximity to the beach. It means it is even easier for him to catch some waves when he’s not at school. His passion for surfing has been nurtured his whole life by his dad who was, in his time, a champion competition surfer. Somehow the rollercoaster of emotional upheaval is easier to deal with when he’s riding a good wave. Discovering that Grace, a long time schoolmate but recently acquired friend, is equally passionate about surfing – albeit far more accomplished than he – also helps him to deal with his emotional state.

Just as the dust seems to be settling a little as they all adjust to their vastly different circumstances, a new crisis develops when Luke’s mental health causes him to be seriously injured. Nat’s mum feels unable to sustain the family situation as it is and, in desperation, relocates Nat and his siblings to Tasmania and her parents’ guesthouse.  While Nat desperately misses his friends, and particularly Grace, it is his dad he is most anxious about and taking matters into his own hands manages to travel back to his home to ensure the safety of his loved father and ultimately save his family from a complete breakdown.

Brooksbank has captured the anguish and turmoil of a family in extraordinary circumstances beautifully. The characters are well drawn and so utterly believable and authentic.  Highly recommended for readers about 12 years old and up – particularly grommets!

The River Charm Belinda Murrell

Paperback, 320 pages
            Published        June 3rd 2013         by Random House Australia     
ISBN 174275712X

Earlier books from Belinda Murrell, such as The Locket of Dreams and The Ruby Talisman, were hugely popular with the 10-13 year old girls in my school libraries. So popular in fact that I never seemed to get to read any of them.  Her new novel, The River Charm, is well titled as this reader found it indeed charming and engaging. As a lover of historical fiction and particularly Australian colonial history, this novel ticked all the right boxes.
Based on the family story of the author, who clearly demonstrates the inheritance of skilful writing and creativity, The River Charm relates the story of the Atkinson family and their home Oldbury near Berrima New South Wales. Charlotte Barton (Charlotte Waring Atkinson), the great-great-great-great grandmother of Belinda Murrell, was the celebrated writer of the first book for children published in Australia –  A Mother’s Offering to her Children: By a Lady, Long Resident in New South Wales.
Through the fictionalised story of modern day Millie Mitchell, a descendant of the Atkinson family, the Atkinson family history is recounted by Aunt Jessamine, on a visit to the old home, Oldbury. Weaving fact with fiction Murrell recreates the colonial atmosphere,attitudes and setting beautifully, not shying away from unpleasant aspects such as the lack of rights for women and Aboriginal people.  The remarkable events which combined to best engender the triumph of Mrs Barton and her children against all odds have been painstakingly pieced together by a number of researchers and brought together by Murrell to provide the reader with a beautifully described story of courage and personal strength.  The focus on strong female protagonists make this a natural choice to offer to young girls looking for inspirational characters.
Aside from the very clear appeal to readers of historical fiction, this is a novel which has much to offer as a support for Australian History curriculum topics as there is an abundance of accurate factual material contained in the story.  This reader suggests this is a must have title for any primary or lower secondary school library.
Highly recommended for readers 10-15 years particularly.

Australian Flags and Emblems Karen Tayleur


Paperback, 32 pages         Published        June 2013         by Black Dog Books     
It seems quite a while since there has been a new book on this topic and Karen Tayleur has done a fine job of producing both a very useful and attractive resource.  With some introductory information on the background of emblems, including traditional heraldic definitions and examples, Tayleur leads the reader to a well presented explanation of the flags associated with our country. Several pages are devoted to official national flags – Australian National flag, Aboriginal flag and Torres Strait Islander with a history of each along with some history regarding the Union Jack.
There is a pleasing uniformity to the format with a double spread devoted to each state flag –  description and history faced with picture of flag, coat of arms (annotated) and  fact box with other state emblems. Each page is thoughtfully presented with white space breaking up sections of text and illustrations.
Tayleur concludes the book with a double page spread of other Australian flags, for example, the Eureka flag and Australian Territory flags e.g. Norfolk Island, some flag protocol information as well as a glossary and index.
All in all, a highly recommended book for primary school library collections – superbly suited to Australian Curriculum (e.g. History/Year 3/Historical Knowledge and Understanding/Community Remembrance).  This book could be used across year levels with ease.