Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Cherry Pie Princess – Vivian French

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9781406368970

Walker Books

ISBN: 9781406368970
May 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $14.99

Vivian French has put her skills of lively and fun storytelling to work in this new book which stirs up lots of elements from favourite fairy tales. Readers will find a cranky king, a hysterical queen, seven princesses (six nasty and one not), a mean governess, dwarves, giants, fairy godmothers, a hideous hag, a talking cat and MOST importantly a librarian!

Princess Peony is the misfit in her family. She does not want the frilly dresses and expensive shoes her greedy sisters are always sniping about. She does not want to be cooped up in the palace. She certainly does not want to remain ignorant her entire life. When she and her sisters are taken to the local library, the older princesses are scathing and rude but Peony is fascinated and immediately wants to borrow her first book. However, whisked away by her governess and trying to speak up leads to trouble for the librarian Mr Longbeard as he replies to her. It’s not until four years later that Peony realises that her father has had the poor librarian locked up in the dungeons.

Rescuing Mr Longbeard – and the library – becomes Peony’s first mission but the arrival of a royal baby boy and the planned extravagant christening complicate matters. Everybody knows that you simply cannot leave the bad fairy, Hag, off the guest list but King Thoroughgood thinks he knows everything.

Peony not only rescues Mr Longbeard and another new friend from the dungeons but saves her baby brother from the wicked fairy just in time!

This is a great read for newly independent readers from around seven years up. Lots of fun with a resilient, quick witted and kind hearted girl in the hero’s role.

 

 

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Exchange of Heart – Darren Groth

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9780143781578

Penguin Random House

9780143781578

July 31, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

$19.99

If you were impressed with Groth’s 2014 novel Are You Seeing Me? you will be likewise taken with his new one and his ability to blend heartbreak and humour into one splendid story.

Munro Maddux has taken a desperate step in his grief and guilt over his little sister’s death. Evie was just 13 and had Down’s syndrome, and when she suddenly died of her supposedly low-risk heart defect Munro’s feelings of big brother inadequacies have completely undone him. Unable to rid himself of an inner voice his therapist has named the ‘Coyote’ and with his grades at school failing as well as his social interaction, he makes a huge decision to go on a student exchange to Brisbane.  It’s a long way from Canada to Queensland and Munro’s parents are not coping so well with his departure although they are trying to assuage their own grief with building a foundation in Evie’s honour.

Placed with a very understanding family, Munro with his Aussie ‘brother’ Rowan slowly begins to find his way in the social morass of Sussex High – not without some hiccups – but with an added bonus of a sympathetic Caro. But it is when he is placed at Fair Go for his community volunteering that his healing really begins. As the Life Partner for a disparate group of young people who reside in this assisted living facility for reasons Munro forms bonds that are destined to become unbreakable. Will it be enough to silence the Coyote forever?

Groth brings his wealth of experience as a special needs teacher and the parent of an autistic child to this novel breathing life into his characters at Fair Go with an astute awareness of their strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

There is a real tenderness in this novel which the reader feels palpably as we begin to unravel Munro’s real issue with his sister’s death and his growing attachment to his new life after Evie.

There is some swearing which might rule this out for some collections or restrict it to Senior but it is a beautifully written book full of emotion and empathy.

I highly recommend it for readers 15 upwards. Put in your pre-order now!

 

 

Wreck – Fleur Ferris PLUS Q&A with Fleur

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wreck

Penguin Random House

9780143784319

July 3, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP: $19.99

 

Bad things happen.

Fight to make them right.

Or let it wreck your life.

 

Once again Fleur Ferris has delivered a gripping and tension filled narrative which will have readers impatient to turn each page.

Tamara Bennett is about to start uni. Her part time journalist’s job for the local paper in her little town has developed into a full-on career path and she can’t wait to hit ‘O’ week with her best friend.

As her last contribution to the local news, she has followed her habit of scrounging through the flotsam at the beach and discovered an odd note sealed in a bottle. It appears to be a sign of life from someone meant to have disappeared, presumed dead, five years earlier. The ensuing snippet of news published in the paper has the worst possible consequences for Tamara as she becomes entangled in a web of danger and deceit perpetrated by one of the most powerful men in the country.

Told in turn from Tamara’s perspective and that of the man most cruelly affected by the earlier disaster, this is a suspenseful tale well written as we have come to expect from this author.

I particularly love the use of the names Knox and Christian – dark and light – for the contrasting cousins…and the surname Chisel for the wealthy and powerful family. It implies the blunt attack of a tool meant to break up solid objects and that is extremely apt for this family who once boasted they ruled both on land and at sea but are now totally shattered into fragments.

Caught up in the concealment of a crime more insidious than she can believe, Tamara is in turn trapped between believing the account of Will and being persuaded by the intimidating presence of Knox his older brother.

The climax of the story is purposefully intense and charged with real fear. The villains are particularly frightening and the reader is left breathlessly awaiting the salvation of Tamara and Will.

This is an absolutely fabulous read for readers of either gender from around Lower Secondary upwards. It will keep them on the edge of their seats and give them much to think about regarding the public persona of well-known people vs their private lives.  Certainly it lends well to a debate on right and wrong, envy, loyalty and truth.

Highly recommended for Secondary readers!

 

Welcome to Just So Stories Fleur and what an absolute thrill to have you as Q&A and to talk about your new book ‘Wreck’.

  1. Your books are all very edgy and suspenseful – and sometimes even a wee bit scary – what prompts your plots?

When I hear of something I think, “What if?” and it usually starts from there. I draw from everything around me, current and historical events (local, national and international), and I enjoy discussing these ideas with friends and family.

  1. Perhaps you could tell us about your background before writing (for those who don’t know) and what triggered your desire to write?

I grew up on a wheat farm in North West Victoria. After year 12 I moved to Melbourne. Most of my adult life has been spent working in police and ambulance services in Victoria and South Australia.

I have always been a writer, even as a child. I have journals right back to when I was eight years old. In 2003 I wrote a short story and it was published in Woman’s Day. This sparked me to write more. Over the years, while I was a police officer and paramedic, I wrote novels that I never let anyone read. I knew in my early twenties that one day I wanted to be a published novelist but it wasn’t until I had children and left the Ambulance Service that I focused on writing for publication.

  1. Specifically, can you outline the genesis and development of ‘Wreck’?

I drew inspiration from a number of sources when coming up with the plot for Wreck. Whenever I heard of the discovery of a floating note at sea I wondered how long it had been floating for, how far it had travelled, who sent it, were they still alive, what did the note say. Often the discovery of these notes made world news and sometimes the sender, or members of their family, were tracked down. These stories got me thinking… What if the floating note wasn’t a wonderful discovery? What if it revealed something sinister? What if the person who found it was unknowingly thrust into danger simply because they had possession of it, simply because they had seen it? What if the note indicated or revealed something someone wanted concealed? For the discoverer, it would be as unfair as it was random and they would be completely blindsided by what was coming.

Instantly, my protagonist, Tamara, came to life in my mind. I knew where she lived, that she was the girl-next-door type of girl, excited by her goals and aspirations and about to move out of home and commence university. But instead of chasing her dreams she is running for her life. 

I started out writing the book as the reader would read it, swapping from Tamara’s voice to William’s voice, however, their voices started to sound the same. I stopped doing that and then wrote two separate thriller stories, one from Tamara’s point of view, and the other from William’s. I then had the task of cutting those stories and pasting them together so the reader received the right information at the right time so the story made sense and maintained tension and pace. 

  1. Tamara Bennett (Wreck) wants to report on ‘good news’ rather than focus on the negatives. In our current media climate it always seems to be very much the other way around. What are your personal thoughts on this?

With the regularity of atrocities and natural disasters that have occurred over the past few years it is easy to see why at times the news seems all negative, but I’m not sure if that is the case or if it’s because the “bad” news impacts people more, it’s the news that stays with us, the news that we think and worry about. I feel the news has become more graphic, but again, I don’t know if that is the case or if it’s because I now have children and it’s my job as a mother to sensor what they see. Maybe I didn’t notice it as much before I had children. 

  1. Your female characters are strong, smart and resilient. Is this a very intentional aspect of your writing?

Yes and no. 

I write strong, smart and resilient female characters because I write contemporary fiction and I see young women of today as having these traits. When I write a novel my main focus is on telling that story in the very best way I can, making it compelling and thrilling. When I create characters my intention is to reflect people of today. I’ve witnessed time and time again (in real life) people showing courage, strength and resilience in the face of crisis, just like my characters do in my books.   

  1. Can you tell us about your process for writing and what your writing space looks like?

An idea for a story will brew in my mind for a long time, maybe years, before I start writing. I think of and see scenes like watching a movie. I never write any of these down, as I don’t need to. I don’t forget them. When I have thought up and seen enough scenes in my head the time comes where I feel ready to write it down. These scenes that I see cover the main plot line, so I know this part of the book but everything else happens on the keys as I’m writing. 

Once I start writing I try and write the whole novel without losing momentum. It takes me anywhere between six to sixteen weeks to write a first draft.

I don’t have an office so I write at the kitchen table. My time for writing has changed over time. When the kids were little I wrote in the early hours of the morning (4am – 7am) because that was the only quiet time I had. Now I have the luxury of writing during daylight hours while the kids are at school.

  1. We always love to find out what authors like to read. What are your preferred genres/authors? What did you enjoy reading as a child?

The magic faraway tree by Enid Blyton was my favourite book as a child.

Throughout my younger adult years I was big into crime fiction and loved Patricia Cornwell’s books. I also loved Dean Koontz.

I loved the Hunger Games and Divergent Series.

Some authors I’ve read recently and loved are Rebecca James, Ellie Marney, Nicole Hayes, Rachael Craw (NZ writer), Gabrielle Tozer, Trinity Doyle, Will Kostakis, Shivaun Plozza and Nova Weetman. There are too many good #LoveOzYA authors to list! 

My preferred genre is mystery/thriller.

  1. I read that you moved twenty times in twenty years – which I think even outdoes me! Was it wanderlust, necessity or just the way things rolled?

It was just how things rolled. I was renting/share housing for a lot of it and moved to wherever I was working. When I first joined the SA Ambulance Service I did relieving work so moved around a lot because of that. I love experiencing new places. 

  1. What’s coming up next in your life – professional or otherwise?

I’m writing my next YA thriller which will be released mid 2018. I also have a middle grade novel coming out early 2019. I hope to keep more books coming!

  1. What do you hope your epitaph will read?

Fleur Ferris lived a long, full and happy life surrounded by friends and family, she travelled to snowy places all over the world and skied and wrote books until the very end.

 

Thank you so much for sharing some insight into your life and work. Your books have been some of the most well received and hotly discussed in my libraries :-).

Click here to visit Fleur’s website.

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Third Witch – Jackie French

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Harper Collins

      ISBN: 9780732298531

      ISBN 10: 0732298539

      Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

19/06/2017

     RRP 16.99 AUD

Macbeth has been my favourite Shakespearean play ever since studying it at school and being taken to a very atmospheric production for an excursion. Of course I knew that Shakespeare had totally fibbed about the whole thing but then he wasn’t a chronicler of history, he was a showman and storyteller. Like Jackie French I too got to play the Third Witch as a 15 year old schoolgirl but not in the actual play but a school production of Happy as Larry, which was loosely based on the original.  I don’t remember much about it except we were a screaming success (of course!) except it was directed by the divine Mr Herlinger, my English and Ancient History teacher on whom I had a huge crush. But I digress…

Annie Grasseyes’ rise from lowly village girl to friend and confidante of Lady Macbeth forms the basis of this novel. Her involvement with her mistress’ plotting and planning starts out almost innocently but as time goes by Annie is drawn deeper and deeper into a vortex of evil deeds.

With her indisputable skill Jackie weaves the story with threads from Shakespeare’s own memorable phrases and a close knowledge of everyday life in medieval England, combining these with a story of a young girl mesmerised by luxury and power.

The themes of loyalty, love, betrayal, superstition, and power reflect the original but strips it down to what it truly was – an account of greed and treachery.

At times Annie almost becomes unlikeable as she constantly (and naively) supports the wickedness of her Lady, but her uncompromising loyalty is admirable and it extends to her family, resulting in her being torn between these.

This is a beautiful rendering of the original play and will bring the beauty of Shakespeare’s language to a new audience as well as entrancing them with the simplicity with which a person can find they are embroiled in the very worst of circumstances.

Highly recommended for those readers who relish historical fiction whether they be WS lovers or not.  Suitable for ten years upwards.

 

Laugh-out-loud Awesome Jokes for Kids – Rob Elliott

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ISBN: 9780062497963

ISBN 10: 0062497960

Imprint: HarperCollins

 14/02/2017

List Price: 3.99 AUD

 

Just a quickie as there’s not a great deal to say about a joke book except – well it’s full of jokes which your kids will love and will, no doubt, drive you completely bonkers!

Rob Elliott’s other collection have been best-sellers and judging by the way joke books suffer the most on our library shelves from their punishing  borrowing schedule, the appetite for them never diminishes with either boys or girls.

Riddles, puns, and knock knocks abound in this collection which will entertain your youngsters especially in these school holidays when parents can become slightly stressed.

What do pandas use to fight?

Their bear hands.

How does a farmer greet his cows?

With a milk shake.

 

You get the picture – now get the book! Your junior comedians will thank you – and you can always pack them off to the grandparent’s to practice their stand up routines!

 

Truly Tan: Trapped! (Truly Tan, Book #6) – Jen Storer

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Harper Collins

 

      ISBN: 9780733334122

      ISBN 10: 0733334121

      Imprint: ABC Books – AU

01/05/2017

     RRP 16.99 AUD

 

Confession time: Truly Tan is up to number 6 and I’ve not read any. In my defence, they are never on the library shelves long enough to snaffle one and since I taught my students how to reserve a book, they are even harder to snare!

So now having at last got my hands on one I can truthfully say I can easily see the great appeal to my girls who are such huge fans.

Tan’s family are exuberant and just a wee bit eccentric. They live in a beautifully ramshackle house in the country where animals, paddocks, creeks and bush are integral to their lives.

Tan, who fancies herself as a terrific Super Spy, is delightfully quirky and while mega-confident about her espionage techniques is also just a little uncertain of her status in the family, feeling undervalued and overlooked as the youngest of four girls.  However this doesn’t stop her quick mind and creative thinking when it comes to solving the latest unexplained mystery.

In this new adventure Tan is looking after the neighbour’s house while Mrs Topple is on a cruise. Along with her BFF Gloria she becomes embroiled in a stealth investigation of some mysterious happenings: a spooky white flash that appears and disappears, a gypsy caravan, a strange orange car and a shadowy figure all play their part in Tan’s latest triumph of undercover action.

There is a load of fun to be had in these – family, friends both old and new, clues to puzzle over, and problems to solve. I predict this latest will be every bit as popular as the first five and fans will be eagerly anticipating the next instalment!

Tan’s diary entries are hysterical IMO – I love the opening description of which pen she is using (along with any defects said pen may have)!

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

 

Pippa’s Island #1: The Beach Shack Café – Belinda Murrell

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9780143783671

Penguin Random House

ISBN 9780143783671

July 3, 2017

Random House Australia Children’s

RRP: $14.99

 

Belinda Murrell, one of our best loved authors, has cracked it again with a splendid new series once again celebrating family, friendships, community spirit and girl power :).  Throw in a simply gorgeous tropical island setting and you have a winning combination.

 

Pippa Hamilton has just relocated from London to a small island halfway around the world, along with her mum, brother and sister. Despite Pippa’s grandparents already in place to welcome them, this young girl feels desperately lonely and anxious. It’s not just the discombobulating move and having to start at a new school, in a new place, in a new climate, in a new culture that is making Pippa morose. Her father having decided to pursue a new life which prompted their move has left her feeling very hard done by indeed.

Her mum, a former stockbroker, has (what seems to Pippa) the crazy idea of renovating a derelict old beach shack to turn it into both a home and a café. Money is tight as is the time frame and things look very tricky for the first few wobbly weeks.

Pippa’s new school adventure proves to be not quite as intimidating as she first thought especially when she chums up with Meg, Charlie and Cici. The girls are all very different in their likes and strengths but complement each other perfectly. So perfectly in fact that they combine forces to create the Sassy Girls Club – where each can shine with her particular brand of ‘mighty girl’.

With the deadline for the café opening imminent and things still unfinished, their new ‘village’ comes together and supports the Hamilton family in a joyful ‘helping hand’ we expect from close knit communities and generous Aussies.

What a welcome to Kira Island for this family! And indeed what a welcome to what will be a hugely popular series for those who loves Belinda’s other books!

With all the themes that we have to come to love young readers will flock to this series like bees to honey, there is no doubt in my mind.

Highly recommended for girls particularly from around 8 years upwards. Get your orders in noooooooooooow!!!!!

PS – Totally in love with the cover design – so colourful and with the addition of real photographs just perfect!!

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Release – Patrick Ness

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781406331172
Imprint: Walker
May 4, 2017
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99
Oh my,oh my! Another one of my favourite writers! Ever since the Chaos Walking Trilogy first came to my notice I have been a fervent admirer of Patrick Ness’ writing and of course with the film of A Monster Calls soon to be released, his work is even more resonant with readers at present.

On one Saturday small town teenager Adam finds his world falling to pieces but at the same time he is being released from its confines. The son of a fundamentalist preacher, Adam’s homosexuality has become the ‘elephant in the room’ with his family with who he is constantly at loggerheads. In just twenty four hours everything turns around for him while at the same time the ghost of a recently murdered girl arises from the nearby lake seeking retribution and her own release. As is common with Ness’ writing the parallel narratives – one all too earthly and one very much mystical reality – weave in and out around the residents of Adam’s town.

Adam’s struggle with resolving his feelings about his first love and finding the joy with his new one form a large portion of his twenty-four hours but there is also the imminent loss of his long time female friend as she plans to move away, the revelation that his ‘perfect’ big brother has impregnated a girl who is not even his ‘girlfriend’ and the horrible unwanted advances of his creepy boss to deal with.

John Green describes Ness’ writing as ‘insanely beautiful’ and I have to agree. If you have never read any of his work – you should!

Given the central theme of Adam’s sexuality being prominent in this plot, this is not a book for every school library but for many it will be a turning point as a coming –of- age novel that validates being true to oneself and finding inner strength.

Highly recommended for older readers from around 15 years upwards.

 

Toto: the Dog-gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz – Michael Morpurgo. Illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark

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Harper Collins

          ISBN: 9780008134594

          ISBN 10: 0008134596

         Imprint: HarperCollins – GB

         On Sale: 21/08/2017

         List Price: 19.99 AUD

When I had my sixth birthday my older sister gave me an illustrated copy of The Wizard of Oz and I immediately fell in love with the story. This poor book (which I still have) was re-read many times and is now looking a little shabby but is still treasured deeply.

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How absolutely marvelous to have one of our greatest modern storytellers bring a fresh new take on this now ‘antique’ tale – first published in 1900 by L. Frank Baum. MM has conceived a wondrous version which re-tells the story from the point of view of Toto, Dorothy’s courageous little dog.

Now an old Papa dog, Toto delights in telling the young pups stories and of course the favourite is the story of his and Dorothy’s adventures in the Land of Oz. Most of the pups get bored with the endless reminiscences but not the youngest who laps them up especially the Oz story no matter how many times he hears them.

Toto’s voice is completely as one might imagine from a little Kansas country dog and this re-tell keeps closely to the original story which is especially satisfying.  MM also keeps closely to the language style of the original while still making it accessible to modern readers.

Colourful and contemporary styled illustrations give this book a really attractive and vibrant look which will thoroughly engage young readers for what might be their first introduction to the Oz stories.  They will definitely love the ‘emerald’ foiled highlights on the cover!

Much as I love my original even after so many years this was simply a joy to read – as indeed are all Morpurgo books!

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards!

Super Blog Sale

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Given that I need to raise some extra funds to tide us over till my new contract starts, I’m selling off books that I have reviewed recently or about to. Selling them all for $5 each – will combine postage if needed – or local pick up if wanted.

Here’s the first lot and will keep posting as available:

 

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