Author Archives: Sue Warren

About Sue Warren

Teacher-librarian http://about.me/suewarren https://www.pinterest.com/losangz/

he – John Connolly

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Hachette

AUG 29, 2017 | 9781473663633 | RRP $29.99

Growing up the brilliant comic pairing of Laurel and Hardy were among my very favourites for viewing. Their completely in-sync timing was impeccable always and it was apparent that they shared a genuine bond. I find it strange that I don’t recall hearing about Stan Laurel’s death. Although I was only nine at the time, news of other well known people who passed away certainly entered my sphere. And though I have known a little of this great comedian’s history this novel has opened my eyes to the ongoing chaos that plagued his life.

Connolly’s novel presents from the PoV of Laurel in his retirement and nearing death recalling his life, his career, his train-wrecks of marriages, love affairs, drinking and financial troubles. But throughout his enduring love for his great friend and partner, Babe Hardy, shines through. When Laurel lost Babe he lost part of himself and it is as much this as his own personal history that the novel explores.

The author uses a style which I can only describe as almost a stream of consciousness and is perfect for the rambling recollections of a man who finds himself in his old age feeling vulnerable and lost, much as he often did all throughout his life.

Although fiction it certainly contains much information about the man from his early life to the heights of his and Hardy’s fame to the quiet retirement in the Oceania Apartments.

It intrigued me from the first and it gave me such pleasure to learn more about this fine comic though not without a sense of melancholy that imbues the entire text.

I highly recommend it to you if you are interested in the lives of others – albeit fictionalised.

Enjoy yourself finding about more about this two great performers here.

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The House of Unexpected Sisters – The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series – Alexander McCall-Smith

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Hachette

Imprint: littlebrown.co.uk

September 2017

ISBN 9781408708156

RRP: $29.99

When you’ve spent the first week of your holidays sick, trying to do much-needed spring-cleaning in short bursts between resting you tend to feel pretty dreary. So to sit in my comfy  bed with fresh clean sheets, a lovely new doona cover in soothing colours, and read the latest No 1 LDS from cover to cover was doubly a treat.

It is always a joy to revisit Botswana, Precious and her life, family and friends. In this new adventure of course there is a case to be solved. It is brought to the attention of Precious and the indefatigable Grace Makutsi by meek and mild Mr Polopetis and concerns the wrongful dismissal of a widowed young mother. Grace rather forcefully (surprise!) manages to make herself into the ‘Primary Investigating Officer’ – she does love an important sounding title – and also succeeds into reducing Mr P into even further submission.  In normal circumstances Precious might have stepped in more assertively but she has much to occupy her mind of a more personal nature and it is this that really is the main focus of this book.

First there is the revelation that her scurrilous ex-‘husband’ has been seen back in Gabarone. Precious wonders what further dramas he will manage to instigate for herself and her family.

More demanding on her emotions however is the discovery of another woman who bears the same surname as her own. Her investigations lead to the completely unexpected development that this woman is her sister (half-sister) and it is her desperate fear that her father was not the good man he always seemed. Precious suspects that Obed may have been unfaithful to her late mother before she died. Her unravelling of this complication consumes her until at last the revelation lies spread out in front of her and her newly found sister Mingie.  Then at last they can begin to build their relationship.

This was exactly what I needed to occupy an hour or so of resting while feeling poorly. Not too demanding, interesting in its plot, always fascinating in character studies – and above all invoking the images of a beautiful country, culture and people.

I don’t need to recommend this to fans of McCall-Smith – but should you be wanting to add some more mystery titles to your collection this would be a fine addition.

For readers from probably around 14 years upwards.

 

The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome – Katrina Nannestad

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Harper Collins

Imprint: ABC Books

October 2017

ISBN: 9780733338175

RRP: $16.99

Maybe it’s because spring is here (my favourite season) or maybe it is just the stars aligning but I have been so blessed to be sent so many absolutely delightful books to review lately. This is just gorgeous and I love it.

Young Freja is not your average child. She’s not used to people or social situations or even making conversation. It’s not because she’s an only child. It’s because for all of her ten years she has spent nine months of each year with her zoologist mother Clementine in the wildness of Arctic regions as Clem studies the wildlife. Freja revels in these annual expeditions and the beautiful discoveries her mother shares with her. It is only for three months of each year that she is forced to try to adapt to ‘civilisation’. Each Christmas period the pair returns to England where Clem lectures, raises funds and prepares for the next trip and Freja is endured by a parade of babysitters all of whom find her odd and ‘difficult’.

This year things are different. Clem tells Freja that she is ill and she must go to Switzerland alone for her treatment. There will be no trip until she is well.  Freja is devastated – not just because of the trip but the trauma of being separated from her mother, not to mention the horror of ‘babysitters’. Enter Tobias Appleby and Finnegan his large hairy dog. Clem explains to Freja that Tobias is an old and dear friend and he will take great care of her. And so he does, in a completely bewildering and eccentric way to which Freja immediately responds. Their bond develops quickly though not without hiccups.

Yes, we can make assumptions here however nothing will be revealed so early in this new series.

Of course, the most exciting thing is when Freja (in one of her confused and shy moments) expresses a desire to see Rome and of course! For Tobias that’s simple as can be and soon the three of them (Finnegan as well) are acclimatising to the Roman way of life. For Freja it is a revelation. She discovers hitherto unknown social graces in herself and finds friends – friends!

This is a wonderful story about family, friendship and identity and I look forward to the next in the series with anticipation.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

 

Piglettes – Clementine Beauvais

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Penguin Random House

Imprint: Pushkin Press

ISBN 9781782691204

August 2017

RRP $16.99

This superb YA novel deals with some pretty gritty issues like bullying (cyber and real life), self image, identity and family relationships and is one of the most wickedly funny books you’ll read all year.

Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are three girls at the same school and recently voted as the first three place-winners in a Facebook ‘Pig Pageant’ for the ugliest girls by their schoolmates. This event was initiated by Mireille’s erstwhile childhood friend Malo, who is one of the most odious youths ever. Since they both started high school Malo has made it his mission in life to humiliate Mireille at every turn.

While the girls are all pretty crushed by this horrible bullying, they are not going to let it get the better of them and form a friendship that will fly them forever.  Each has a particular reason for their proposed plan to cycle to Paris for the huge Bastille Day celebrations; Mireille, wants to confront her biological father, now married to the President, Astrid wants to meet her idols Indochine and Hakima wants to berate the commanding officer about to be awarded the Legion of Honour for the debacle that resulted in her brother Kader losing both his legs in battle.

Overcoming the opposition of parents, the girls set off on what must be the craziest road trip ever with Kader in his super wheel chair as their chaperone. Along the way they garner the respect and adulation of thousands via newspapers and social media and in real life.

Told through Mireille’s witty and philosophical voice, the reader is alongside the girls for the entire trip which is joyful, uplifting and totally hilarious.

Proving themselves as true Mighty Girls the trio triumph over the online bullies and even horrid Malo shows some indications of redemption, especially when the reason for his nastiness is revealed. Each girl learns valuable lessons about herself particularly when they finally attain their goals and find that something has changed about their motivations.

Definitely worthy of its achievement of winning France’s biggest award for YA/teen fiction I highly recommend this to you for your girls from around 14 years upwards.

The Book of Secrets: The Ateban Cipher #1– A. L. Tait

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Hachette

September 2017

9780734417671 | RRP $14.99

So imagine if you will Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men hiding out in Sherwood Forest. Now replace that image with a feisty band of young girls adept in woodcraft, hunting, disguise and escape. This is the group that young Gabriel a naïve and inexperienced novice monk encounters when he is forced to flee his monastery.

When Gabe finds Brother Benedict beaten and bloody and is given a mysterious precious book to keep safe, he is completely at a loss as to what he should do. Strange things are happening in the cloisters of the only home he has known since he was left on the step, a foundling. The Abbott appears to be ill, the Prior is consorting with sinister knights and there are rumours of the Sheriff’s dishonesty.

Taking the advice of Brother Malachy, Gabe flees to the woods where he narrowly escapes capture by the Lord’s men but is rescued by a band of outlaws. These are no ordinary outlaws though. Gwyn, Merry, Scarlett and Midge are all for various reasons living in the woods completely concealed from the outside world.  They survive by their wits and their skills and agree to help Gabe in return for his help.

These are Mighty Girls indeed, undaunted by any obstacle or difficulty and ready to stand and defend not only their own rights but those of others.

A wrongfully imprisoned father, a substituted royal prince, nefarious dealings between lords and church all combine to make this one absolutely top-notch adventure. It will appeal to both boys and girls and they will no doubt not only embrace it but be eager for more.

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

The Wizards of Once – Written & illustrated by Cressida Cowell

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(wish you could see the coppery accents!)

Hachette

September 2017

ISBN 9781444939576

Following twelve books in the How to Train Your Dragon series, devotees of Cressida Cowell’s distinctive quirky writing and illustrating are bound to be enchanted by this first in a completely new series.

Some of the most exquisite cover art I have ever seen promises a read chockfull of mystery and adventure and it certainly does not disappoint.

Xar is a small Wizard, the youngest son of Encanzo the King Enchanter. He is wilful, disobedient, reckless and often just plain naughty and a great disappointment to his father, especially as his Magic has not yet come in.  Fed up with this situation, Xar takes it upon himself to lead his retinue of assorted creatures and sprites plus his raven counsel Caliburn into the Badwoods (against all the rules) to try out his grand plan of trapping a Witch and stealing it’s magic. Of course, Witches are supposed to be extinct after the long ago wars between Wizards, Warriors and Witches but Xar has found a special feather which he is convinced is of Witch origin.

Coming from the opposite direction, that of the Warrior fort, a small awkward girl rides her pony accompanied by her protesting novice bodyguard, Bodkin. Wish is the youngest daughter of Queen Sychorax, leader of the Warriors and an imperious, dangerous person. Wish is often disobedient, reckless, and wilful – wait a minute – that sounds familiar! And a huge disappointment to her rather scary mother.

The reader will predict that when these two meet in the forest amid mysterious pursuers and strange happenings, that fireworks will occur. They surely do but as the tale goes on, a strange bond of alliance is forged between these two sworn enemies.  Also predictably Witches, it seems, are not extinct but like a lot of Magic, hidden and biding their time.

From start to finish this is a gripping read with Cowell’s usual touches of real humour and absurdity throughout. Darker and edgier than the Dragon books though, there is a real sense of menace throughout.

An audio book is being recorded by David Tennant and movie rights have already been picked up so it’s safe to say this is going to be another winning and highly addictive series from this creative writer/illustrator.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards – perhaps with the lights on though!

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow– Jessica Townsend

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Hachette

October 2017

9780734418074 | RRP $16.99

When you receive a proof copy of an upcoming debut novel about which the publisher says stuff like ‘sold by eight-way auction’ and ‘film rights pre-empted’ you can assume it’s going to be a cracker.

And it is that indeed. Written by Jessica Townsend (Sunshine Coast! Yay!) this is going to be a phenomenon and garner readers from young to old.

Morrigan is a cursed child. These children have been born on the Eventide of a new age and their curse is to die on the next Eventide of a new age.  For all her almost-eleven years Morrigan has lived with the cruel rejection of everyone around her including her family. But things are about to change for her in the most spectacular way. Finding herself at Bid Day where children who have completed prep school are sought after by education bidders, to be trained up in whatever calling, Morrigan is startled to receive bids of her own. Who on earth would bid on a cursed child?

Before this puzzle can progress further, Eventide is upon her and so is one of the bidders.  The flamboyant and charismatic Jupiter North appears at her home and after much debate with her family, whisks her away in the nick of time as they are chased by the Hunt of Dark and Shadow pursuing Morrigan, in expectation of her death.  Jupiter’s rescue takes Morrigan to Nevermoor where she is, for the first time in her life, made to feel welcome by many (but not all) and that she could have a purpose.

She is set to work to pass the trials required to become a member of the Wunder Society and this is a fraught experience for her in many ways, but always with the support of new friends.  Not all is well though. The mysterious Mr Jones (another of her initial bidders) keeps appearing at random, other trial contenders are contemptuous of her lack of skill and a nasty law enforcement agent is determined to oust her on grounds of being an illegal immigrant.

This is filled with humour, charm, love, despair, spookiness and good fun. Although it took me a week to get through it that was only because I was so tired each night I only managed a few chapters at a time. In holiday time it would have been consumed in one go.

 I have already been promoting it to my readers from around ten years up and even my big girls in Book Club are keen to get their hands on it.

Be warned – this is going to be a ‘must have’ and you would do well to make sure it’s on your shopping list.

Highly recommended for all readers from middle primary upwards!

Alice-Miranda in Hollywood (#16) – Jacqueline Harvey

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Penguin Random House

August 2017-09-03
ISBN 9780143780618

RRP $16.99

My girls are already super-excited awaiting this latest Alice-Miranda and well they should be because I think it is the most exciting thus far!

A-M and her pals are in the midst of being part of a real Hollywood movie – as child actors in A-M’s Uncle Lawrence’s latest film, a musical western – almost an anachronism. This in itself is thrilling but of course it would not be complete without mysteries and puzzlements and even a spot of very real danger. There seems to be just one thing after another with problems with the filming from strange reactive makeup to missing scripts to nasty accidents. Of course, A-M is far too sensible to believe in the old story of Nellie’s curse (the Nellie being the subject of the movie) but why do so many odd things keep happening? And why does it seem that this is not the first time an attempt to make this movie has happened?

Amid making new friends on the set and exploring the fascination of Hollywood the children are off to the desert near the Grand Canyon for location shooting where anything can and does happen, particularly when a paparazzo photographer, not particularly well-liked by A-M’s family, becomes the object of kidnapping and violent threats. A chance encounter with a reclusive old lady whose name seems vaguely familiar to A-M saves the day – and unravels the mystery of the cursed movie.

What a great adventure this is! As usual, Alice-Miranda acts with aplomb and generosity even towards the less than amiable Caprice. How can Jacqueline top this one? Although, I have no doubts given her talent that she can – she knows exactly what her readership loves and provides it time and time again.

Highly recommended for your readers aged around 8 upwards. I know mine will be tussling over this copy when I take it to school tomorrow!  Take a peek inside here.

Raymond – Yann & Gwendal Le Bec

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781406362428
May 1, 2017
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

What an utterly charming debut to Walker Books from brothers Yann and Gwendal Le Bec!  The plethora dog lovers both young and old who have often wondered what their dog might be like as a ‘human’ will enjoy the gentle humour, others will ruminate on the all-too-often seen acceleration to celebrity status with which our media bombards us. Still others will see this as a perfect lead in to a philosophical discussion on what defines our happiness especially within a family circle.

Raymond is pretty much an ordinary dog – well loved by his family and quite content.  Then one day he wonders what it would be like to sit at the table with his people and eat his dinner there. Thus starts a path to becoming more and more human – and along the way becoming a high profile ‘dog star’. His family becomes more distanced from him as his celebrity status explodes. Finally his family persuade him to join them on a holiday and Raymond remembers the simple joys of being a dog – and being true to oneself.

So much rich conversation will be had from this seemingly simple story with its cunning word play and vibrant illustrations.

Highly recommended for readers from around six years upwards and for use with older children in philosophy circles.

Nanna’s Button Tin – Dianne Wolfer & Heather Potter

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781922077677

June 1, 2017

Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99
This is an absolutely charming story for young readers and a beautiful gentle lead in to the idea of memories, keepsakes and family story telling.  When a special little girl needs a very specific button to repair a much loved teddy, Nanna’s button tin is the perfect place in which to search.  As Nanna and the little one spread out the buttons and examine each carefully, they share the stories of the origin of each.

Such seemingly prosaic objects become a focus of special remembrances and happy loving thoughts. Finally exactly the right button is found and Teddy has a special operation to restore him to perfect health.

The illustrations in soft pastels with fabulous use of white space provide a soothing and peaceful feel to the story which will be felt by those who read it.

I wonder how many children have the joy of this special activity these days. I do hope some have grannies and great-grannies that keep those special buttons and are able to tell the old stories about them.

Highly recommended for little readers from around five years upwards.