26 June, 2014

Book Review: Past the Shallows

From Goodreads: Brothers Joe, Harry and Miles live with their father, an abalone fisherman, on the south-east coast of Tasmania. Everyday their dad battles the unpredictable ocean to make a living. He is a hard man, a bitter drinker who harbours a devastating secret that is destroying him. Unlike Joe, Harry and Miles are too young to leave home and so are forced to live under the dark cloud of their father's mood, trying to stay as invisible as possible whenever he is home. Harry, the youngest, is the most vulnerable and it seems he bears the brunt of his father's anger...

Thoughts: I was in equal parts drawn to this because of the cover and scared to read it due to the comment on the front cover - "Wintonesque" I love Tim Winton and I was terrified of reading this and having to exclaim - "You know nothing of Winton!" And while it wasn't Tim Winton, I can see the parallel. Parrett has a sparseness of language that portrays way more than you would think, something Winton is a master of. The bleakness of the setting perfectly reflects the bleakness of the story, giving the reader an ongoing sense of foreboding. My heart breaks for all three of the boys in this book. Joe because you know he will feel guilt for leaving the other two, but you also know he doesn't have a choice. Miles because you know he can't leave - he must fill the hole left by Joe and protect Harry from their wild, angry father. Harry because he still holds an air of innocence, but it is already being tainted by the harsh life he leads.
Past the Shallows is a book that will be enjoyed by those who like Winton. For a debut novel it's exceptional and you would think the only place for this author to go is up.

Book Review: The Grim Grotto

From Goodreads: Warning: Your day will become very dark - and possibly damp - if you read this book.
Plan to spend this spring in hiding. Lemony Snicket is back with the eleventh book in his New York Times bestselling A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Lemony Snicket's saga about the charming, intelligent and grossly unlucky Baudelaire orphans continues to provoke suspicion and despair in readers the world over. In the eleventh and most alarming volume yet in the bestselling phenomenon A Series of Unfortunate Events, the intrepid siblings delve further into the dark mystery surrounding the death of their parents and the baffling VFD organisation.

Thoughts: Definitely getting to the pointy end of this series! With only two books to go I am confident we will knock it off before the end of the year.
Tim Curry is reading these and he is a perfect choice for it. This video is a summary of the first twelve books and I think shows, Curry's brilliance at narration.

Anyway, back to the story! This, the 11th book takes the Baudelaire children on a search for the sugar bowl - an item Count Olaf is desperate to get his hands on, although we're not quite sure why. As we head towards the conclusion of the series (there are only two books left - The Penultimate Peril and The End) the Baudelaire's are discovering more and more that the lines between good and evil can be blurred and things are not always as they seem. In the end they follow their own moral compass, which really, is all we can do in life.
Both myself and the kids are looking forward to the next, penultimate installment.

25 June, 2014

Children's Book Council Early Childhood Short List

Children's Book Council of Australia

Now that I have finished reading the Children's Book Council of Australia's Younger Reader and Older Reader short list, I thought I would move on to their two picture book categories. The CBC has an Early Childhood list and a Picture Book list. This came about almost 20 years ago when they realised there was a good number of picture books for older readers being produced and it was not really fair to be judging them against those picture books for younger children. 

This post will look at all 6 of the Early Childhood Short listed books. It's a bit of a long one, so grab a cup of tea and enjoy!

The Swap - written by Jan Ormerod, illustrated by Andew Joyner

Caroline Crocodile is jealous of all the attention her baby brother is getting from their mother. When her mother goes to swap a hat that isn't quite right, Caroline figures she can do the same with her baby brother.
As the youngest of 3, I can only imagine the disgruntled feelings a new baby can cause in older siblings. Jan Ormerod explores this sensitive topic with tact and a sense of humour.

Source: Momo Celebrating Time to Read
Andrew Joyner's illustrations beautifully compliment the text. Caroline's expression leaves you in no doubt how she feels and while many on the pictures have a lot going on (look for the white rabbit running late, a lama reading an ereader, a mouse that crashed his motorbike), they don't feel busy. A lovely book to remind parents and older siblings that brothers and sisters are important too.

Banjo and Ruby Red - written by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Banjo and Ruby red have a love hate relationship. Banjo barks, Ruby Red ignores. She goes into the chook pen when she is ready and not a minute before. On day when Banjo barks, Ruby Red is not in her customary spot on the wood heap. Banjo goes looking, but is he too late to save Ruby?
Libby Gleeson writes a lovely story about friendship without hitting you over the head with it. Friendships have different forms, but at the end of the day, you're there for you friends when they need you.

Source: Freya Blackwood Blog

Freya Blackwood's illustrations are beautiful. She portrays the chaos of the hens being rounded up, Banjo's frustration and Ruby Red's dignity in simple, but effective illustrations. Equally well drawn is Banjo's concern, his care and the cementing of their friendship. Beautiful.

Kissed by the Moon - written and illustrated by Alison Lester

Alison Lester has written a prayer that any parent would pray for their baby. It's pure, classical Lester - lyrical, heartfelt and beautifully illustrated in her trademark style. I would think the advantage of being an author/ illustrator is being able to match the vision of how the pictures will highlight the text.

Source: Alison Lester

Lester's pictures are always lovely, whimsical and fun. (If you click the link under the illustration above it takes you to a page where you can buy Alison Lester prints!) She often takes me back to the magic of the world seen through the eyes of a child. This book would be the perfect present for a new mum and bub.

I'm a Dirty Dinosaur - written by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Ann James

Fun! Perfect word to describe this book - pure, unadulterated fun! A book kids can get involved with a be noisy about - stomping, shaking and roaring. And what's more fun than getting dirty, playing in the mud and stomping about!

Source: Brona's Books

However, it's Ann James' illustrations that make this book special. The illustrations are simply but incredibly effective. I've never seen a more joyful dinosaur in my life! James perfectly captures Janeen Brian's words and lifts to the wonderful height it reaches. A must for any dinosaur lover.

Baby Bedtime - written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Emma Quay

This is what I call a ritual book. One of those books which describe a betime ritual and where the reading of it becomes a ritual itself. Mem Fox is good at them - 10 Little Fingers and 10 Little Toes was a staple part of our bedtime for months!
Mem Fox specialises in making the simplest words special. She repeats things we've said to our babies - I could gobble up your toes - or thought - I could gaze at you all night. Along with the gentle rhythm of the text, it's a wonderful read aloud.
Source: Emma Quay and her Books

Emma Quay's pictures a beautiful compliment to Fox's words. Soft, textured and warm. Along with pencil and acrylic paints, she has utilised op shop finds like doilies, lace, belts and baskets. To top it all off, she has finished it off with photoshop edits - a perfect moulding of old and new.

Granny Grommet and Me - written by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Karen Blair

Granny Grommet meets her grommet friends at the beach where they surf, soak in rock pools and snorkel over the reef. Our narrator is a little less sure about the ocean - there are strange things under the waves - but with a little gentle encouragement, they are soon discovering the delights of the beach.
Dianne Wolfer has covered many themes in this book. Being older doesn't stop you doing the things you love, friendship, fear and overcoming it and the natural environment. Any of these themes could be explored further with this book. I love the gentle nature of the narrators discoveries, Their fear is overcome by small things, insignificant by themselves, but a powerful force added together.

Source: Mumabytes
Karen Blair's pictures capture the different aspects of a beach perfectly. Wide expanses of blue, white edged water and long sandy beaches, warm shallow rock pools and the amazing world found on the reef. I also love that the gender of our narrator isn't clear in the text or the pictures, allowing children to insert themselves into the story easily.

24 June, 2014

Book Review: Gone Girl

From Goodreads: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Thoughts: Right, this is one of those reviews that is damn near impossible to write because you so don't want to give any thing away. 
I picked this up on the recommendation of  my friend Car over at Carrose Creations. First off, thanks Car! Love a good book recommendation is this is one of the best I've had in a while.
Gone Girl messes with your head - completely. You're travelling along in the story quite well and then all of a sudden, half way through, the whole thing is turned upside down and everything you thought you knew was wrong - completely wrong. And the end...still thinking about the end. Turning it over in my head going "but, what if...no that wouldn't work...how about...no..."
I do understand how people either love it or hate it. It's not the type of book everyone will enjoy, it is a bit of a crazy ride, but I loved it and will be thinking about it for quite some time to come.

Book Review: Life in Outer Space

From Goodreads: Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, he doesn’t have to worry about girls.
Then Sam meets Camilla. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his life. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a life of her own – and she’s decided that he’s going to be part of it.
Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies ... but now it looks like he’s been watching the wrong ones.

Thoughts: This is the final book from the older readers short list for the Children's Book Council that I needed to read. It was fantastic. Up until this point I was thinking it was going to be really hard to choose a winner, but for me, this is clearly it. 
Where to start? Keil has written a book that works - all of it. The characters, the story, the setting - it just works. I know Sam and his friends because it was me and my friends at school. Fringe dwellers, noticed by certain people who decided their role at school was to make life difficult for those they didn't like. I also like the way that Camilla moves between the groups, seemingly immune from what others think of her. As a teacher I discovered these kids can manage that movement because they truly don't care if you like them or not. They are comfortable with who they are and don't need anyone else's approval. Kids like that fit in any where and if they do attract the attention of a bully, it doesn't last long because they refuse to react the way they are suppose to. They are too hard a target. It's a skill I wish we could teach.
I truly don't know what else to say. The book is well written, the characters are believable and endearing, the story paced just fast enough to keep it moving without feeling like you are being rushed - on the whole it's just about near perfect. Recommend it? Absolutely.

17 June, 2014

Book Review: A King's Ransom

From Goodreads:
This long-anticipated sequel to the national bestseller Lionheart is a vivid and heart-wrenching story of the last event-filled years in the life of Richard, Coeur de Lion. Taken captive by the Holy Roman Emperor while en route home—in violation of the papal decree protecting all crusaders—he was to spend fifteen months chained in a dungeon while Eleanor of Aquitaine moved heaven and earth to raise the exorbitant ransom. But a further humiliation awaited him: he was forced to kneel and swear fealty to his bitter enemy.
For the five years remaining to him, betrayals, intrigues, wars, and illness were ever present. So were his infidelities, perhaps a pattern set by his father’s faithlessness to Eleanor. But the courage, compassion, and intelligence of this warrior king became the stuff of legend, and A King’s Ransom brings the man and his world fully and powerfully alive.

Thoughts: It's a bit difficult being a Penman fan - it's a long time between books. But they are worth waiting for. A King's Ransom follows on from Lionheart, following King Richard through his captivity in Germany and his bitter feud with the French King. There really were some not nice people around in the 1100's! It can be hard to review historical novels. Those who know the story don't need a rehash and those who don't won't want it spoiled. So, all I will say is that Penman writes brilliant, well researched, entertaining books. If you are after historical fiction that sticks close to the facts, but is easy to read, Penman is the author for you. Her characters come alive for the reader and her depth of knowledge is incredible. They are not short books (Ransom runs to 700+ pages) but they are compelling.
Penman also writes good, strong female characters. In this, history is on her side as she is able to take a few more liberties with the women than with the men as there is often not many records pertaining to the women. A brief glance a history is enough to tell you  Eleanor of Aquitaine was a formidable woman and not one to be messed with. Ransom sees the end of Eleanor's story, that Penman started with When Christ and His Saints Slept. I will freely admit I cried when she died. I'm not sure I would have liked her in real life, but my goodness you have to admire her.
After every read of a new Penman book I contemplate the rereading of all of her stuff. I strongly urge anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially involving the kings and queens of England, to give her a go. I promise you won't be disappointed.

11 June, 2014

Book Review: Band-aid for a Broken Leg

From Goodreads: A powerful, surprisingly funny, and ultimately uplifting account of life on the medical frontline, and a moving testimony of the work done by Medecins Sans Frontieres Damien Brown, a young doctor, thinks he's ready when he arrives for his first posting with Medecins Sans Frontieres in Africa. But the town he's sent to is an isolated outpost of mud huts, surrounded by landmines; the hospital, for which he's to be the only doctor, is filled with malnourished children and conditions he's never seen; and the health workers—Angolan war veterans twice his age who speak no English—walk out on him following an altercation on his first shift. In the months that follow, Damien confronts these challenges all the while dealing with the social absurdities of living with only three other volunteers for company. The medical calamities pile up—including a leopard attack, a landmine explosion, and having to perform surgery using tools cleaned on the fire—but it's through Damien's evolving friendships with the local people that his passion for the work grows. This heartbreaking and honest account of life on the medical frontline in Angola, Mozambique, and South Sudan is a moving testimony of the work done by medical humanitarian groups and the extraordinary and sometimes eccentric people who work for them.

Thoughts: I picked this up as it came through the return chute at work. It's not like I actually needed something else to read, but it sounded too interesting to not borrow. Damien Brown has done what most of us only vaguely think about and volunteered with an organisation that deliberately goes into some of the most dangerous places on earth. What I really loved about this book is it's in no way presumptuous or preachy.  Damien's recollection of his time with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is honest, heartbreaking and thought-provoking. I often find with books from this genre a slightly holier than thou attitude from the author who somehow makes you feel inadequate for not doing what they do. Damien Brown though manages to relate his story with none of that. At different times this book has me crying, laughing, cringing, turning green, despairing and cheering. The places Damien went surely bought out the best and the worst in people, exposed him to great hardship and incredible joys. He acknowledges the good and the bad of both the volunteers, the local workers and the patients. He offers no justifications for any of these people and the way they react to what is going on around them, instead just relates their stories and lets the reader make up their own mind. His honesty about the effect it had on him is refreshing. It wasn't easy, he doesn't pretend it was. The final linking of his experience to Australia was a perfect way to end the book. I hope where ever he and what ever he is doing, Damien is happy and content with his lot.

10 June, 2014

Library Challenge Update #2

One day to go in my  Four Week Library Challenge. The list is diminished, but not all items will be finished. A good effort though! Crossed off items have been returned.

The Monthly - Issue 99
The Monthly - Issue 100

Dexter - Season 7 - Disc 3-4
Dexter - Season 8 - Disc 1-2
Dexter - Season 8 - Disc 3-4 - So not happy with the way this ended!
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
My Place Volume 1

Non Fiction
Save with Jamie - Jamie Oliver
Band-aid for a Broken Leg: being a doctor with no borders and other ways to stay single - Damien Brown
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother - Amy Chua
Ugly: my memoir - Robert Hoge
Fast Ed's Dinner in 10 - Ed Halmagyi
Blood Ties - John Suter Linton
The 17 Day Diet Cookbook - Mike Moreno
Dangerous Allies - Malcolm Fraser
Lazy Loser - Marie Bean

Past the Shallows - Favel Parret
Six Impossible Things - Fiona Wood
The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
Hawkes Harbor - SE Hinton  - started this and gave up. So disappointed, one of my favourite authors as a teenager
The Cold, Cold Ground - Adrian McKinty
The Sky So Heavy - Claire Zorn

The Incredible Here and Now - Felicity Castagna
The First Third - Will Kostakis

Book Review: Sense and Sensibility

From Goodreads: 'The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!'
Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Thoughts: You can always tell when I'm back at the gym - I start reading Austen again! Dare I say I'm rather starting to enjoy my little Austen sojourns.
So, Sense and Sensibility - this may possibly be my favourite Austen so far. I loved Elinor - so sensible, level headed and together. Marianne's drama gave the book zest and the men as always broke hearts and mended them.
As always there is a character to annoy and frustrate - more than once I wanted to be able to step between the pages and slap Lucy! 
Really, this review from Goodreads sums is up pretty well for me (if you ignore the bit about being a bloke - 'cause obviously I'm not!) It manages to sum up why the book was so good.
The question now is, which Austen next?? I have Persuasion, Northanger Abbey or Mansfield Park to choose from. Recommendations??

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

From Goodreads:An awe-inspiring, often hilarious, and unerringly honest story of one mother's exercise in extreme parenting, revealing the rewards-and the costs-of raising her children the Chinese way.
All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. What "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" chronicles Chua's iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way-the Chinese way-and the remarkable results her choice inspires.
Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do:
? have a playdate
? be in a school play
? complain about not being in a school play
? not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
? play any instrument other than the piano or violin
? not play the piano or violin
The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin.
Of course no one is perfect, including Chua herself. Witness this scene:
"According to Sophia, here are three things I actually said to her at the piano as I supervised her practicing:
1. Oh my God, you're just getting worse and worse.
2. I'm going to count to three, then I want musicality.
3. If the next time's not PERFECT, I'm going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!"
But Chua demands as much of herself as she does of her daughters. And in her sacrifices-the exacting attention spent studying her daughters' performances, the office hours lost shuttling the girls to lessons-the depth of her love for her children becomes clear. "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" is an eye-opening exploration of the differences in Eastern and Western parenting- and the lessons parents and children everywhere teach one another.

Thoughts: BHOTTM is one of those books I'd heard about but wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. I knew it had the potential to make me angry - throw the book across the room angry - but as I was shelf checking at work one day, I came across it, pulled it off and read the first couple of pages - and then borrowed it.
BHOTTM is a  bit like a train wreck, you want to stop looking but you can't. For me there was a lot of head shaking, incredulous laughing and just plain astonishment. Tiger mother parenting is a lot different from my brand of parenting.
But here's the thing, Amy Chua truly believed she was doing the best for her child. She admits her methods were extreme, but for her, that was what she believed was best. Part of me has to admire a woman who can continually go head to head with a child who clearly does not want to do what she is being made to do. Another part has to admire a woman who keeps going despite all those around her questioning and doubting her methods. I also admire her no apology approach to writing this book. She is not looking for the readers acceptance or validation, she is simply relaying what she did as a parent and her reasons for it. If you don't agree with it, fine, but don't expect her to agree with you either. As to the long lasting effects of her parenting methods on her kids - who knows. None of us know how our parenting will affect our kids until it's too late to undo any supposed damage we do. For me, where I think Chua goes wrong is in thinking what works for one child will work for the other.
So I don't agree with Chua's parenting model, but I don't doubt she loves her kids and did what she considered best for them. What really got my back up in this book is her belief that she is right and her method is the only way. I may have been reading it wrong, but what came across to me was that by not raising my child the "Chinese" way I am guaranteeing my child will not be as happy or successful as her children. My children will be incapable of reaching their full potential because I do believe it's important they have sleepovers, watch TV, play computer games, choose their own extra curricular activities. I don't believe the world ends because they don't get an A or play a musical instrument.
Does Chua love her kids? Yes. Did she do what she believes is best? Yes Are any of us the perfect parent? No. Is her way the only way to raise successful kids? No. Should you read this book? Hmmm, hard to say. If you do, be prepared to be challenged , frustrated and angry.

Book Review: Six Impossible Things

From Goodreads: Fourteen-year-old nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving house, new school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on the girl next door.
His life is a mess, but for now he's narrowed it down to just six impossible things...

Thoughts: So apparently I read this for the 2011 Children's Book Council Short list for Older Readers and liked it enough to say it should be an honour book. That may go some way to explaining why it sounded kinda familiar! However, I'd forgotten enough to think I'd read the start and not finished or something. Bizarre given that I really quite enjoyed it.
I decided to read it after reading Wildlife for this years short list. The books are linked, but interestingly, by a secondary character in this. Lou does play a larger part in  Wildlife, but both books stand well on their own. Having read this, I now want to go back and check a few things in Wildlife.
I like Dan, the main character in this. He's aware of his faults, but like many teenagers, seems unable to get out of his own way. He bumbles along, thinking it's all up to him without realising there are plenty of people willing to help. I love his mum who keeps talking brides - who come to discuss wedding cakes -  out of  getting married and thus not helping matter at all! 
I do however, have two issues with the book. The first has to do with the age of the characters. The way they behave, their conversations and maturity level I struggle to believe. In truth, they would only have to be 12 months older to make it easier to believe, but Dan is only 14 and while circumstances have forced him to grow up and quickly, I still have a hard time believing he is only 14. My other issue is the neat tidy ending. Without giving anything away, too many issues such as impending poverty and a huge betrayal of trust are resolved way to easily. I most probably could have dealt with one and the hint of the other sorting itself out, but both together just didn't gel for me. Don't let that put you off, though, both books are well worth reading.

Book Review: Divergent

From Goodreads: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Thoughts: It appears that dystopian fiction is the current YA trend. I find it fascinating to watch as a book for one genre takes off and then suddenly it's all you can find on the YA shelves. Invariably the pickings for quality become slim as the rush to ride the most recent wave takes over. Having loved Hunger Games, and then been disappointed with a few recent YA reads, I was reluctant to jump on this bandwagon. Then a friend said it was worth reading, reviews were generally good, so I put in on hold and waited to reach the top of a very long list.
I'm glad I read it, it was a good solid read and I will be reading the rest of the series.I'm glad YA is developing good, strong female characters who can look after themselves and don't go to pieces because someone sparkles at them. Sure, they like a bit of romance, who doesn't, but it's not the centre of their world. Instead, the centre of Tris' world is working out how to survive, how to be who she wants to be and how to protect those she holds dear. I loved her struggle between who she feels is her true self - dauntless - and the self everyone else sees her as - abnegation. I love that she gets knocked down and gets back up again and again and again. I love that she can think for herself. I love that it took her time to fall for the guy and it wasn't one single thundebolt moment that immediately sent her into a tailspin. 
If I have a criticism of the book it's the premise it is built on. As another review I read said, you can see how the world portrayed in the Hunger Games would come about, it's a bit harder to stretch to a Divergent world. However, if you can manage to look past that and just accept this is the way things are, you are in for a good YA read.

04 June, 2014

Book Review: The Incredible Here and Now

From Goodreads: Michael’s older brother dies at the beginning of the summer he turns 15, but as its title suggests The Incredible Here and Now is a tale of wonder, not of tragedy. Presented as a series of vignettes, in the tradition of Sandra Cisneros’ Young Adult classic The House on Mango Street, it tells of Michael’s coming of age in a year which brings him grief and romance; and of the place he lives in Western Sydney where ‘those who don’t know any better drive through the neighbourhood and lock their car doors’, and those who do, flourish in its mix of cultures. Through his perceptions, the reader becomes familiar with Michael’s community and its surroundings, the unsettled life of his family, the girl he meets at the local pool, the friends that gather in the McDonalds parking lot at night, the white Pontiac Trans Am that lights up his life like a magical talisman.

Thoughts: The fifth of the Children's Book Council Older Readers books. I swear the more of these I read, the harder the choice is.
This book is quintessentially Western Sydney suburbs. The melting pot of cultures, the pride of those who live there and misconceptions of those who don't. Michael is dealing with the loss of his beloved older brother, Dom. Dom the boy who could charm anyone with a smile. However, the book is not infused with grief. It does express the confusion and almost detachment that comes with having to deal with this level of grief. Learning to move on, but hanging onto the past events.
Told in snippets, The Incredible Here and Now leaves the reader constantly wanting more, needing to delve a little further into the lives of these beautiful, well executed characters and their suburb.

Book Review: The Slippery Slope

From Goodreads: Like bad smells, uninvited weekend guests or very old eggs, there are some things that ought to be avoided. Snicket's saga about the charming, intelligent, and grossly unlucky Baudelaire orphans continues to alarm its distressed and suspicious fans the world over. The 10th book in this outrageous publishing effort features more than the usual dose of distressing details, such as snow gnats, an organised troupe of youngsters, an evil villain with a dastardly plan, a secret headquarters and some dangerous antics you should not try at home. With the weather turning colder, this is one chilling book you would be better off without.

Thoughts: Book the 10th! Book 9 left us on a bit of a cliff hanger with the Baudelaire's separated by Count Olaf's dastardly deeds.
A few things happen in this book. Sunny is acknowledged as no longer being a baby. New friends are made, old villains retire and some questions are answered. As these things go, more questions are asked! It is obvious however, that we are starting to draw near the end. The books are no longer just about Count Olaf's quest for the Baudelaire fortune, but are about finding the truth - not only about the death of the Baudelaire parents, but the truth about their lives as well.
The kids I am pleased to say are just as eager for each new book as the old finishes as they have been the whole series. That alone tells me how good the series is. If you are able to keep the attention of children for over a year as the story evolves you are obviously doing something right. We only have three books to go - hopefully we knock it off before the end of the school year!

The Aussie WIP Wednesday

Little White Dove

Today I thought I would play along with Little White Dove's WIP Wednesday if for no other reason than I actually have a work in progress to share! If you want to play along too, head on over and link up!

 This is a quilt top I am working on for my niece who turns 21 this year. In fact I have 2 nieces turning 21 this year and hopefully they will both end up with quilts! This will be a queen size top that I will then get professionally quilted. It still needs a border of rainbow squares followed by another border of white. I really enjoyed watching the pinwheels come together - they are so easy to chain piece! With any luck I will get a chance to work on this a bit more over the next couple of days. the 3.5" squares for the rainbow border are cut, just got to piece them now!