26 June, 2012

Library Book Month Wrap Up.


Oh my goodness, what a month! As you may or may not remember, back at this post, I set myself the challenge of reading all my library books by June 24 - and to not borrow any new books! So, how did I go? As I did the challenge, I crossed each book off on the original page, and the date I finished it. It ended up looking like this:

So yay! I did it...sort of...The idea was to not have to take any books with me when we boarded a plane on June 24. I ended up taking one - All My Dangerous Friends, so I came pretty close.

I am thankful that these books which I had on reqeust did not come in!

In fact Between the Lines and Peanuts are still on order, so am unlikely to see them for quite awhile. 

I enjoyed this challenge and was really proud of the fact that I managed to not borrow any more books during it, although I am looking forward to filling it up again when I get home! I can see this challenge becoming a bit of regular feature. I've had a few ideas for other challenges so keep your eye out for those. As for now, I have this to get through before my next book group meeting at the end of July:

 At a mere 1500 pages it may very well take me all month!

All My Dangerous Friends

Title: All My Dangerous Friends
Author: Sonya Hartnett
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: Louie has finished with her old life, and stepped into a world of sinners. For her, things are not going to be the same again. This darkly funny, disturbing novel explores a lawless world where morality is a nuisance, everything can be bought, and the prices paid are high.

What I thought: This was the last book in my Library Challenge and was the only book I had to take away with me. Given the idea I was suppose to finish all my books before going away, theoretically I didn't complete the challenge, but I did damn well! I will do a separate challenge post.
Well, what can I say about this? Hartnett's writing is so dark. She takes her characters into places that make you scared for them. At the same time, even though you can see that they choose to be in that situation, you feel for them, want them to survive, come through the other side.
Louie's new boyfriend introduces her to his friends - and they are in some very dangerous business indeed. At first they don't involve Louie, but at her insistence and as her actions prove her trustworthiness and usefullness, they let her in. And she loves it. Loves the thrill, the excitement, the fact she is part of something. But how much is too much? How far is she willing to go?
Not only does Hartnett introduce Louie to this world slowly, she takes the reader with her. You're not 100% sure what these guys are up to, but you know it's not good. And when it comes to a point in the book where Louie has to decide to go on or not, you do too. Do you go and accept these guys for what they are and what they do, or do you draw back and watch from afar, shaking your head, disgusted with what they do. At no point does Hartnett make that choice for you - it's all yours.
This was written from Louie's point of view. Then about three quarters of the way through the book, new characters and a new scenario are introduced. It's jarring, since the reader is not sure where this fits into the story. But I think the jarring is deliberate, it forces you out of any complacency or assumptions you might have slipped into and in the end it comes together.
All My Dangerous Friends is another excellent book from Hartnett. I look forward to the next one from her on my list.

Challenges: Library Challenge,

The Alloy Of Law

Title: The Alloy of Law
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.
Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.
One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

What I thought: So this is the second last book in my library challenge that was due to end on June 24. You will have to wait for my next review of the last book to find out if I made my deadline!
I loved Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy. He was by far and away the most original fantasy writer I have read in a long time. It always worries me though when a trilogy author comes out with a fourth book - I mean, if they can't count, what hope do they have! So you can imagine I approached this with trepidation. I was greatly relieved to read in the introduction, this paragraph:

I wanted to move away from the idea of fantasy worlds as static places where millennia would pass and technology would never change. The plan then was for a second epic trilogy set in an urban era and a third trilogy set in a futuristic era - with Allomancy, Feruchemy and Hemalurgy being the common threads that tied them together.
This book isn't part of that second trilogy...

Instead, The Alloy of Law is like an off shoot - something I was very pleased to read and while it's no Hero of Ages, it was OK. Still set in the Mistborn world, Alloy of law is far in the future from the original trilogy. There is no huge quest, in fact it was like a western with Mistborn powers! It did end in a way that suggests there be others in this vein and with these characters and that is OK. I will read them if they come, but it's those 2nd and 3rd trilogies that has me really intrigued!

Challenges: Library Challenge,

The Potato Factory

Title: The Potato Factory
Author: Bryce Courtenay
Series: The Australian Trilogy
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Audio book - Kindle

From Courtenay's Website: Ikey Solomon is in the business of thieving and he's very good at it. Ikey's partner in crime is his mistress, the forthright Mary Abacus, until misfortune befalls them.
They are parted & each must make the harsh journey from thriving nineteenth century London to the convict settlement of Van Diemen's Land. In the backstreets & dives of Hobart Town, Mary learns the art of brewing & builds The Potato Factory, where she plans a new future. But her ambitions are threatened by Ikey's wife, Hannah, her old enemy.
The two women raise their separate families, one legitimate & the other bastard. As each woman sets out to destroy the other, the families are brought to the edge of disaster.
What I thought: Finally finished it! I have vague recollections of trying to read this many years ago when it first came out and really struggling with it. As I listened, I tried to remember what my issue was and I think it's this...Bryce Courtenay is very wordy! He seems to take the attitude of why say in 10 words what you can say in 50. He also goes off on little historical jaunts which while may be interesting, do tend to distract from the main story.
I must say though, the person who narrated it, Humphrey Bower, breathed life into this audio book. It's a long listen (almost 24 hours) which means it's essential to have someone who can keep you interested and engaged and not have you drifting off into other thoughts. In the end, I enjoyed the Potato Factory and have downloaded the second in the series, Tommo and Hawk. Here's hoping it doesn't take me quite as long to get through that!

Challenges: Library Challenge, Aussie Author Challenge,

20 June, 2012

48 Shades of Brown

Title: 48 Shades of Brown
Author: Nick Earls
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: Australian teenager Dan Bancroft had a choice to make: go to Geneva with his parents for a year, or move into a house with his bass-playing aunt Jacq and her friend Naomi. He chose Jacq’s place, and his life will never be the same. This action-packed and laugh-out-loud-funny novel navigates Dan’s chaotic world of calculus, roommates, birds, and love.

What I thought: I make no secret of my love of Nick Earls. I think is one of the funniest, wittiest writers around. I also think he has a great knack for getting inside the head of his characters and making you feel every thing they do. While reading this, I could feel Dan's anxiety, tension, worry - every tiny bit of teenage angst you can imagine. The mother in me wanted to gather him in my arms and tell him it will all be OK, all he needs to do is be himself! Which in the end is the moral of this story - be yourself, because being someone else is too much hard work! It's great advice for any teenager.
Challenges: Library Challenge, Aussie Author Challenge

18 June, 2012

It's Monday! What are you Reading!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Is a meme hosted by Shelia over at Book Journey. A weekly check in to see what you are currently reading and what is coming up. Head over to Shelia's blog to see what others are reading this week.

What am I reading now.

48 Shades of Brown - Nick Earls
Another one of my library books so fits with my month long library challenge.
It also fits into my quest to read all of Nick Earls books.

What am I listening to.

The Potato Factory - Bryce Courtenay
Still on it! Almost finished though - only another 5 or so hours. (its almost 24 hours long!)

 What I Read Since I Last Posted a Monday Post!

It's been three weeks since I posted (although I have been posting reviews), so here are my reads for those weeks!

The Breaker - Minette Walters
Crow Country - Kate Constable
The Truth About Verity Sparks - Susan Green
The Golden Door - Emily Rodda
Lockie Leonard: Scumbuster - Tim Winton
The Outcasts - John Flanagan
Bungawitta - Emily Rodda
Storm Peak - John Flanagan
Nanberry: Black Brother White - Jackie French
Ishmael and the Return of the Dugongs - Michael Gerard Bauer

What's next?

Well I've almost reach the end of my Library Book Month Challenge! I have one week left and three books to go! Two are young adults, so I am hopeful of coming close!
After that I need to read (all 1400+ pages!) of A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth for our July book group. We leave for two weeks holiday on Sunday (a visiting family holiday as opposed to a lounging by the pool holiday) and this book will be my project while we are away!

So what are you reading? Leave me a link, I'd love to know!

17 June, 2012

Ishmael and the Return of the Dugongs

Title: Ishmael and the Return of the Dugongs
Author: Michael Gerard Bauer
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: Scobie, Zorzotto, Prindabel, Kingsley and Leseur are back at St Daniel's for Year Ten. Ishmael is feeling confident that he is over the worst of Ishmael Leseur's syndrome and, with Barry Bagsley neutralised for the time being, is hoping for a smooth ride. Instead, it's a seriously gut-wrenching struggle against social humiliation on a scale undreamt of before when he and the Razzman discover girls. His world is now seriously changed, and suddenly Ishmael needs a list to help him make a phone call. Meanwhile their father plans a potentially embarrassing comeback with his old band the Dugongs.
What I thought: I love Ishmael. I can only hope my boy grows up to be as thoughtful and lovely as this fictional character. Not that he's perfect - no, he gets into his fair share of trouble, but he thinks about others, is a good friend and his heart is usually in the right place!
I feel a bit disjointed with this series because I read the last book first, something I just don't do! I did however, enjoy it just as much as the other two books. My saddest thought is Scobie, Zorzotto, Prindabel, Kinglsey and Leseur have now graduated high school and unless Bauer plans to follow them to university (unlikely I think) this is my last Ishmael book.

Challenges: Library Challenge

Nanberry: Black Brother White

Title: Nanberry: Black Brother White
Author: Jackie French
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Children
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: It's 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, Surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son. Nanberry is clever and uses his unique gifts as an interpreter to bridge the two worlds he lives in. With his white brother, Andrew, he witnesses the struggles of the colonists to keep their precarious grip on a hostile wilderness. And yet he is haunted by the memories of the Cadigal warriors who will one day come to claim him as one of their own. This true story follows the brothers as they make their way in the world - one as a sailor, serving in the Royal Navy, the other a hero of the Battle of Waterloo. No less incredible is the enduring love between the gentleman surgeon and the convict girl, saved from the death penalty, to become a great lady in her own right.
What I thought: This is the sixth and last book from the The Children's Book Council of Australia Younger Reader's Short list and I loved it. Jackie French is such a wonderful, talented author and in Nanberry she brings the early years of colonial life in Australia to life.
Jackie French has done a lot of research for this book. It is based on true events with, of course, French filling in the gaps in research and knowledge. It highlights the difficulties and issues suffered with the coming of Europeans to Australi, without demeaning either the indigenous or European communities. It raises some excellent talking points, but does cover some issues (such as a gentleman having a convict mistress, the 'Rampaging Lusts' of men and the high levels of drunkenness and abuse in the early colony, that I would be concerned about sharing with a younger audience.
Once again, like The Outcasts and Crow Country, it sits on the Teenage shelves at the library I work at. However, unlike those two books, I'm not sure this can cross the boundary of the two categories. The CBC FAQ page states "the YR category covers middle primary to junior secondary" This, I must admit, leaves me feeling confused. I would not class Bungawitta as middle primary - more lower. While Nanberry does fit into this category (just) at the junior secondary end, I'm finding it difficult to compare to something like Bungawitta and wonder how the judges for the CBC manage it. In fact, it makes me wonder with the growth in the number and quality of children's literature whether it's worth the CBC revisiting, renaming and recategorising their awards - but that is probably a whole other post!

Challenges: Library Challenge

11 June, 2012

Storm Peak

Title: Storm Peak
Author: John A Flanagan
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: Jesse Parker, ex-Denver police detective, has returned to his hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to spend the winter working the ski patrol and taking it easy. But he is reluctantly dragged back into a world of violence and murder when a serial killer begins a killing spree in the sleepy ski town. The town's popular sheriff, Lee Torrens, asks Jesse to help her out with the investigation as the killer continues to stalk the town, leaving little clue as to his motive. Are the murders random acts of a psychopath, or a cold, calculated escalation of terror? As the two friends work together, the embers of an old union reignite, but the growing notoriety of the Silver Bullet Killer brings complications that will shake the foundations of the small town. No-one is safe.
What I thought: I borrowed this from the library when I was looking on the catalogue for other John Flanagan books in the Ranger's Apprentice series. Anyone who has read this blog for more than 5 minutes will know how much I love the Ranger's Apprentice series so I thought I would check out one of his adult books.
Storm Peak was OK. It kept me reading, but didn't set anything on fire. For me it was a pretty stock standard mystery book. There was nothing in it that I wasn't expecting, the characters were nothing new. What the book did have over many mysteries I have read was good writing. Nothing jarred, stood out like a sore thumb. Flanagan obviously knows his stuff in term of skiing and used that to keep the scenarios in the book believable (mostly!) Would I read another of his adult books? Not in  a hurry, but I wouldn't turn one down either.

Challenges: Library Challenge, Aussie Author Challenge, What's in a Name Challenge

10 June, 2012


Title: Bungawitta
Author: Emily Rodda
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Children
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: It's crunch time in Bungawitta. The land's as dry as a dead galah, there's no rain in sight, and only twelve people left in town. Little Glory-Alice blames it all on the TV weatherman. Jay knows better. Nobody can make it rain. But a shower of money would help keep Bungawitta alive. And a festival would attract city tourists with money to spend, Jay's sure of it. But can twelve people, two dogs and a Shetland pony put on a proper festival? Only time, and the ABC, will tell.
What I thought: This is the fifth book from the The Children's Book Council of Australia Younger Reader's Short list, and Emily Rodda's second on the short list - the first being The Golden Door.
Having two Rodda books on the list only serves to highlight her versatility as a writer. Bungawitta is aimed at the younger end of the market, with fantastic illustrations from Craig Smith. Once again Rodda's characters are wonderful and this a lovely read of how a town sets out to save itself from the crippling drought.

Challenges: Library Challenge

The Outcasts

Title: The Outcasts
Author: John Flanagan
Series: Brotherband
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Children
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: In Skandia, there is only one way to become a warrior. Boys are chosen for teams called brotherbands and must endure three months of gruelling training in seamanship, weapons and battle tactics. It's brotherband against brotherband, fighting it out in a series of challenges. There can be only one winner.
When Hal Mikkelson finds himself the unwilling leader of a brotherband made up of outcasts, he must step up to the challenge. The Heron brotherband might not have the strength and numbers of the other two teams, but with inventiveness, ingenuity and courage on their side, they might just surprise everyone.

What I thought: This is the fourth book from the The Children's Book Council of Australia Younger Reader's Short list. And like Crow Country,  it's on the teenage shelves at work. Also like Crow Country, I feel it's just as at home as a children's (albeit older children) or young adult book. Again, as a teacher librarian in an primary school, I would have bought it for the upper classes, especially boys.
John Flanagan is the well known author of The Ranger's Apprentice series of which I have raved about at various times, including here, here and here.
Brotherband is his new series, set in Skandia, a country introduced to readers during The Ranger's Apprentice series. And once again, I will rave!
Flanagan writes such good quality young adult/children's fantasy fiction. His characters are strong, believable, flawed and find themselves in situations where they need to use their skills to survive. The world they live in is not easy and they are given responsibility at a young age - and expected to shoulder it. (This is something I don't think we do enough for our children these days) The story is exciting and fast paced, encouraging the reader to turn that next page...just one more chapter...
I have just bought my ten year old the first in the Ranger's Apprentice series and he has taken to it with gusto. You simply cannot beat well written, intelligent books. Well done John Flanagan for producing yet another excellent book! Can't wait to read the second in the series!

Challenges: Library Challenge

Lockie Leonard: Scumbuster

Author: Tim Winton
Genre: Fiction
Audience:Young Adult
Format: Book - Library

From Goodreads: Lockie's life is a disaster area. His new best friend is probably the oddest human being on planet Earth and, to round things off, he's fallen for a kid still in primary school who even surfs better than him. Can things get worse? This book is the sequel to "Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo".

What I thought: Another Tim Winton classic! This is the 2nd Lockie Leonard book and a good read, although maybe slightly dated. Lockie and him new mate Egg, set out to stop two companies in the fictitious  town on Angelus (which features in other Winton books) polluting the harbour. Of course, being only 14 makes it a bit harder.
First released in 1993, Scumbuster, I think, shows how far we have come with environmental issues. Today it would be unthinkable for a company to dump it's waste into the ocean, or a community to NOT be upset by it, or a government to not take steps to end it! 
Long time readers of Winton will also recognise a cameo appearance by Queenie, the whaling activist in one of Winton's earlier adult novels - Shallows - which was also set in Angelus.

Challenges: Library Challenge

The Golden Door

Title: The Golden Door
Author: Emily Rodda
Series: The Three Doors Trilogy
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Children
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: The walled city of Weld is under attack from ferocious flying creatures that raid in the night, bringing death and destruction. The Warden calls for Volunteers to find and destroy the Enemy who is sending the invaders. The heroes of Weld answer the call one by one, never to return. Rye is officially too young to go, but his brothers are among the lost, and he must find them.

What I thought: This is the third book from the The Children's Book Council of Australia Younger Reader's Short list.
Emily Rodda has long been a favourite Australian children's author. Her Rowan of Rin and Deltora Quest series' are fantastic - a great introduction to fantasy fiction. Once again she has produced an excellent book which promises another wonderful series. It's full of the adventure and action needed to keep children interested. At the same time she has created a world of fantastic monsters, strange people and perplexing characters. Her hero, Rye, is reminiscent of Rowan from the Rin series. A quiet boy - nothing special - who finds himself in the middle of a quest to save his people, and in doing so, finds hidden strengths and talents. My personal feeling is you can't go wrong with a Rodda book. I'm already looking forward to going through the Silver Door.  It will however have to wait until after my library challenge!

Challenges: Library Challenge

The Truth About Verity Sparks

Title: The Truth About Verity Sparks
Author: Susan Green
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Children
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: Verity Sparks is a thirteen-year-old orphan working as a milliner in Victorian London. But Verity is no ordinary girl – she has an almost perfect memory and possesses the talent of Teleagtivism. She can easily find things that are lost! When Verity is wrongly accused of theft and dismissed from her job, she goes to live with the Plushes – a slightly Bohemian family who run a Confidential Inquiry Agency. Verity helps them solve cases and slowly becomes one of the family. But patches of the truth about her past begin to surface, along with the special talent that Professor Plush is helping her explore. Who were her real parents? Is she the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter? Who is sending poison pen letters about Verity to the Plushes? Who doesn’t want them to learn the truth about Verity Sparks? An adventure/mystery with a dash of the supernatural thrown in; The Truth About Verity Sparks is packed with chases through the dark alleys of London, séances in high-class dining rooms, pet pythons named Anthony and Cleopatra, murdered opera singers and much, much more.

What I thought: This is the second book from the The Children's Book Council of Australia Younger Reader's Short list.
I seem to have this ting at the moment where children's/ young adult books I read are reflected or have something in common. It happened with When We Were Two and Cloudstreet and now with The Truth About Verity Sparks and The Potato Factory.
Verity Sparks is set in England at a time when transportation to Australia is not common any more, but the class system is alive and thriving. Verity herself is incredibly lucky to have found herself apprenticed to a hat maker. However, a false accusation sees her out on the street where she comes into contact with the wealthy Plush family and embarks on an adventure to discover her past. The thing I really liked about this book was the adult feel to it. Yes, some of the characters were stereotypical - the down on her luck poor girl, the single minded professor, the evil doctor and the friendly benefactor, but it has enough twists and turns to impress Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle! It's theme of supernatural and psychic abilities and the inclusion of a séance may concern some people, but most good books are controversial in some way! I personally would love to see some more Verity Sparks books!

Challenges: Library Challenge

07 June, 2012

Crow Country

Title: Crow Country
Author: Kate Constable
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Children
Format: Book - library

From Goodreads: Sadie isn't thrilled when her mother drags her from the city to live in the country town of Boort. But soon she starts making connections—with the country, with the past, with two boys, Lachie and Walter, and, most surprisingly, with the ever-present crows. When Sadie is tumbled back in time to view a terrible crime, she is pulled into a strange mystery. Can Sadie, Walter, and Lachie figure out a way to right old wrongs, or will they be condemned to repeat them? A fantasy ground in mythology, this novel has the backing of a full consultative process on the use of indigenous lore.

What I thought: This is the first book from the The Children's Book Council of Australia Younger Reader's Short list.
What is really interesting is it's on the teenage shelves at the library I work at, so I was very interested to see what I though - younger reader or young adult. And the thing is, there are themes for both. It would be a great book to read to younger readers while working on a theme centred around the Aboriginal Dreamtime - why it was important and it's ongoing relevance to today's Aboriginals. It would also be a great way to look at the changes in Australia, attitudes to our indigenous population and ownership of land.
On the young adult side, there is a lot to be harvested from this book - reconciliation, mateship, friendship groups and ownership of land just to name a few.
In the end, I think Crow Country can fit comfortably in either category. If I was still working as a primary school teacher librarian, I would definitely have purchased and recommended it for year 3 and up.

Challenges: Library Challenge