October 5

withering  Hotel Majestic sits high on a cliff above the small coastal town of Withering by Sea.  The damp, dingy hotel is run by the three dreadful aunts of Stella Montgomery, an eleven year old orphan, who also lives in the hotel.  Life is uneventful for Stella, until one night when she is tempted to be somewhere in the hotel she shouldn’t be, and sees something she shouldn’t see.  This begins a wonderful and dangerous course of events which gives Stella more excitement than she ever dreamed possible.  I loved reading this Victorian fantasy adventure  written by Judith Rossell  which is the first in a new series.  Awards currently attributed to this book include:

  • Winner, Indie Award, Children’s and YA, 2015
  • Winner, ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children, 2015
  • Winner, Davitt Award, Best Children’s Crime Novel, 2015
  • Honour Book, CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Aurealis Awards, Children’s Book, 2014





April 14

The five stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

I wondered how I’d go with a book in which the characters had suffered so much hardship in their young lives. The notion of a young man, literally living in a hospital, afraid to leave its confines and the connection with his dead family seemed very improbable, but as I read, Drew’s story and that of his friends, the patients, absorbed me. His journey to eventual letting go of his guilt had many ups and downs. Parallel to that, were the experiences of Rusty, Lexi and Trevor, all in themselves coming to various realizations of sorts and moving on with their lives. I don’t want to give the story away but have to say it was very much worth the read.

May 10

Fortunately, the milk

fortunatelyWith mum away, Dad is left in charge.  Come breakfast, there is no milk.  Dad heads to shop to buy some.  Concern arises when he doesn’t return.  Brother and sister wait, eat dry Toastios, practice violin and ponder dad’s lengthy visit to the shop.  When finally he appears, with the milk, they demand to know where he has been.  He reports an adventure filled trip to the shop, in which he was captured by aliens, forced to walk the plank by pirates, and almost sacrificed to angry volcano gods.  Fortunately, through all his mishaps and adventures, he manages to keep the milk safe and sound.  Written by Neil Gaiman, this refreshing tale is a delight to read.

April 27


panicWritten by New York times best selling author, Lauren Oliver, this is a contemporary novel set in a poor American country town.  We are introduced to the ritual and potentially deadly challenge which is issued each year to the graduating class to play the game known as Panic.  Weekly, graduating seniors donate $1. to the pot, resulting in an  enormous amount of money which will be collected by the participant who successfully faces and wins all of the challenges.  Participants nominate themselves, and there is no compulsion to be involved.  Everyone knows what’s going on, and they all want to witness the challenges.  Secrecy is of the essence in this game – the local authorities have for years been trying to stamp it out, having had to deal with serious injuries and deaths of players.  The two main characters, Heather and Dodge, are playing for very different reasons: one out of sheer desperation to improve the life of herself and her little sister and escape their trailer park home and neglectful mother, the other to seek revenge for the maiming of his beloved sister.  This is a book that kept me wanting to find out what was going to happen next:  what challenge, who would succeed and what life decisions the characters would make.  There is also a very interesting psychological element to the book.  As the characters face difficulties, rivalries and disappointments in their own lives, their willingness to be involved in death defying challenges grows, as they seek to satisfy their own ambitions and desires.  $67000. is a great incentive for these young people.

April 19

The baby and the Fly Pie

291717Fly, Jane and Sham are street kids.  They live in futuristic London, where they are the poorest of the poor.  Every day, they earn a meager living by sifting through tons of garbage on the city dumps, hoping to find the very best to take back to Mother, who will sell it on.  Mother isn’t their real mother, and in this bleak world, no one is to be trusted.  One day when Fly and Sham travel a little further afield to a new commercial dump, hoping to find valuable things to sell on, they come across something surprising.  Amongst a large number of cardboard boxes, they find a badly wounded man and beside him, a pink and cuddly baby girl.  They soon realise that this man has kidnapped the baby to hold her for ransom, in the hope of extracting a large amount of money from her well to do parents.  When the man dies, Fly, Jane and Sham see a chance for a their own emancipation from a life of crime and drudgery.  But how to go about it?  Fly and Sham are lead by the idealistic Jane in making decisions about how to extract their fortune from the baby’s parents.  But is Jane the best one to follow?    This book by Melvin Burgess is very thought provoking. He has written many controversial novels for young adults.  It’s hard not to put yourself into the shoes of these three young characters, and consider what you might do in a situation such as this.  The ending is best left for comment at this point.  Check out this book trailer for the book

April 8

The double life of Cassiel Roadnight

When a recently homeless boy, known simply as Chap, finds himself in a home for the most lost and hopeless, he is handed an unexpecteThe-Double-Life-of-Cassiel-Rd gift.  One of the wardens in the establishment identifies him through an old photograph of a boy, seemingly identical to him, who has been missing for two years.  Instantaneously, Chap sees the wonderful prospect of gaining a home, a family and some stability in his life, so he seizes the opportunity, becoming Cassiel Roadnight.  He soon finds that leading a double life can be complicated, especially as he is a vegetarian and Cassiel’s favourite food just happens to be meatballs.  He inherits a fragile mother, a switched on sister, and an older rich brother, who is something of an enigma in the family.  It doesn’t take long for Chap to realise that being Cassiel Roadnight is far more complex than he could ever have imagined.  I really enjoyed the story that Jenny Valentine has weaved here.  In being Cassiel Roadnight, Chap learns more about himself than he could ever have imagined, and gains some friends along the way.


March 5

Elementals series: Storm

ElementalsBecca Chandler never thought that she would be involved in saving the life of Chris Merrick, but one rainy night, that’s exactly what she did.  Becca could hardly know at that point, the chain of events which would occur as a result of her action.  Becca’s world consisted of going to school, hanging out with her best friend Quinn and generally trying to cope with the bullying she experienced on a daily basis.  When the Merrick brothers come into her life, and later, the mysterious newcomer, Hunter, Becca’s life is turned upside down by a series of events which lead her into a world she never dreamed existed. This is a fast paced and absorbing young adult read, the first of a series by Brigid Kemmerer.  Check out this book trailer 

February 27

Never fall down


Neverfalldown2It’s a while since I’ve read a book the likes of this one.  I won’t be forgetting this story.  It’s written by Patrical McCormick.  It’s a novel, but based on the true story of Ahn Chorn-Pond, a young man who survived the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge.  This is not a comfortable read and nor should it be.  We learn how Ahn’s family life, safety and happiness disappeared with the appearance of the Khmer Rouge, forcing him and thousands of other Cambodians into work camps where human life was not valued and atrocities were an everyday occurrence.  What is intriguing is the camaraderie and loyalty which grew up among those that Ahn became associated with in the work camp.  Although starving, we see in the book many occasions where much sought after food is given away to friends, one child protects another and keeps secrets to keep the other alive.  For Ahn, survival came in the form of music.  He was chosen to be involved in a band or orchestra which played patriotic songs of the Khmer Rouge.  We see the “power” afforded to Ahn as a result of this, and how it ensures his survival, and a marginally easier existence.  His journey to freedom in Thailand,  is fraught with danger and even when there, the poisonous tentacles of the Khmer Rouge are still present and dangerous.  Ahn’s final deliverance from danger is miraculous. Ahn Chorn-Pond is now a world renowned speaker on the topics of Cambodia and he founded Children of War, an organisation that aids children held hostage by war and violence.    He is the founder of Cambodian Living Arts, a group that helps preserve the traditional arts of Cambodia by pairing young students with the feew master musicians who survived the Khmer Rouge.

February 22

The Returners



The year is 2016.  Meet Will Hodges.  Things aren’t going so well for him.  He’s dealing with the tragic loss of his mother, his bigoted, neglectful father, and a group of people who he calls the “freaks” following him around, looking at him with sorrowful faces.  School doesn’t offer him any escape, in fact he’s lucky to make it there more than a few days a week.  This might have something to do with the fact that each night, he’s plagued by graphic and violent dreams which seem to involve many different historical events.  Poor Will.  You wouldn’t want to be him!   He’s confused and lonely.  Things really become complicated when he discovers that he’s a “Returner”, someone who has lived throughout history, being present at many major events.  This, and his fathers’ involvement in a new political party espousing frightening and racially prejudiced views, see Will involved in a journey to find out who he really is.  This is a book with messages for the reader about right and wrong on a number of levels.  Be prepared to think!  This is my first Gemma Malley novel.  I will definitely be reading more.  Check out her website to see what she has written.

February 16

Hyperspace High. Crash Landing

John Riley says goodbye to his parents, and sprints down the road, already late to catch the bus which will take him to his new boarding school.  As he boards, just in time, he briefly reflects that the teacher standing at the bus looks a little different, perhaps a little taller than most.  Taking his seat, he knows that something is definitely odd when the seat belt activates, pinning him very firmly to his seat.  As the bus manoeuvers to a 180 degree upright position prepared for take off, he definitely knows he’s made a mistake!  Too late!  John Riley is about to take the trip of a lifetime, to Hyperspace High – an amazing school for superior students which is on an enormous space ship!

At first John is lonely, realizing that he’s light years from home, with no hope of returning quickly.  But gradually he makes friends with beings from all over the universe, as well as the ever present computer, Zepp.  He begins to enjoy the wonderful things he is involved with on Hyperspace High.  Where there are friends, there will always be enemies, and on a field trip gone disastrously wrong, John and his friends quickly learn that they must work together to survive, whilst others selfishly only try to save themselves.  The exciting finish sees John and his friends return victorious to Hyperspace High, earning high praise from the principal.  This is only the beginning of John’s adventures on board the inter galactic high school.  A great read!

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