My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier.

April 26, 2016 Comments off

sister rosaMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2016.

This is a psychological thriller of the highest order for young adults.

Rosa is 10 years old, she is charming, nothing scares or worries her,she is a thrill seeker and she doesn’t care about anyone but herself. She is a psychopath. Her parents are business people who leave the looking after Rosa to her brother 17 year old Che. This takes some doing as Rosa is ultra intelligent, very manipulative and above all very dangerous.

With their parents David and Sally they move to New York to do a job for an ultra wealthy family with twin daughters Rosa’s age and a high flying fashionista the same age as Che. The interrelationships between the two families provides much of the drama in this novel.

Che narrates this intriguing story in four parts, each part named after a wish list that he has 1/ keep Rosa under control. 2/ I want to spar. 3/ I want a girlfriend. 4/ I want to go home.

Che is a boxer but his parents do not want him to spar. When Che meets Sojourner a black religious girl who is totally gorgeous and a brilliant boxer he just has to spar to impress her. But what will Rosa do?

Che is a tortured soul – what do you do when you know your sister is a psychopath? Rosa does a few bad things and the family counsel her but Rosa doesn’t learn to be good; she learns to be better at being bad.

Superbly told with twists and turns that will keep you fascinated and surprised. You the best among you will do well to pick the ending.

The boxing is superb and the fashion talk edgy. Life of the super rich in New York is out of this world. There is an array of other characters who make the action live and the plot intriguing.

Justine Larbalestier knows her stuff and writes in very concise way. The dialogue and discussions between characters is at times mind blowing.

I loved this book.



My Grandpa is a Dinosaur by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones.

April 21, 2016 Comments off

grandpa dinosaurMy Grandpa is a Dinosaur by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones. Pub Penguin/Random House, 2016.

Not many picture books have the word palaeontologist in the text, and not many will have the multi level appeal of this memorable picture book for everybody.

Wanda knows that grandpa is a dinosaur but nobody else seems to notice. There is plenty of evidence – grandpa’s skin is green, he has a tail and he is the only grandpa to eat a whole tree at the Grandparents Day picnic.

So Wanda takes a direct approach and asks her grandpa if he is a dinosaur “of course I am ” he replies. But he is not the only one, read and find out where the others are.

Excellent story with minimum written text. Brevity is the key to all humour and Terry Jones knows this. Richard Fairgray has provided perceptive whole page illustrations with the facial expressions, particularly of grandpa superb.Tara Black’s colouring is also a standout feature.

Add in the unique relationship between Wanda and her grandpa and you have a picture book with the aaah and wow factor. If you don’t get this for your school or your children at home you are mad.

As a granddad myself, I haven’t been called a dinosaur yet, but my day is coming. My granddaughters have had it read to them every day this week at bed time. “that’s you granddad” said the younger one on day one.

Categories: Picture book Tags: ,

This is where the World Ends by Amy Zhang.

April 19, 2016 Comments off

world endsThis is where the World Ends by Amy Zhang. Pub. Greenwillow Books imprint HarperCollins, 2016.

If you like tragic young adult stories this is about as tragic as it gets, but so wonderfully told.

Janie and her secret boyfriend Micah share the same birthday. They call it Metaphor Day after a pile of rocks that stands near a deep quarry full of water near both their houses. They are different yet together. Micah likes Rachmaninoff Prelude in G Minor, Janie is Let it Be by the Beatles. Janie carries rocks from the Metaphor around in her pocket.

They tell no-one of their relationship because Janie wants it that way, meanwhile she has a relationship with a jock called Ander from school. He is repulsive and his actions ultimately lead to Janie’s collapse.

Lewis Carroll once said “all the best people are crazy” and I think this sums up the characters in the book well, but then aren’t we all. This is a school story about growing up.

The novel is structured in two parts, Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After and within each part their are three narratives – a Before narrative by Janie, an After narrative by Micah and a Journal kept by Janie which provides a fairytale dimension to Janie’s life and to the story.

It took me a while to get into this novel but once in there I dwelt for long periods digesting every word, action, emotion and fantasy. You will too. It is not unlike All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. It is very deep and not for everybody but those that like it will remember it forever.

Play On by Mick Fleetwood & Anthony Bozza.

April 13, 2016 Comments off

play onPlay On by Mick Fleetwood & Anthony Bozza. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton, 2014.

Mick Fleetwood would be one of the most self deprecating rock stars I have ever read about. He is extremely harsh on his abilities as a husband and father and astonishingly at his drumming ability. But his story is a most interesting one as he takes the band Fleetwood Mac from quintessential British Blues band to the sophisticated rock band that provided Bill Clinton with his election slogan “don’t stop thinking about tomorrow”.

Mick had a happy childhood and adored his Airforce father and his loving mother and two sisters. He loved family gatherings with their storytelling and laughter. Inflicted with dyslexia he did not like school from an early age but once he got going at a Rudolf Steiner school he learnt to be a drummer and this changed his life forever.

He played with some of the most revered musicians in the UK such as John Mayall a guy who didn’t suffer fools gladly. That is why I don’t take seriously his opinion of his drumming ability. Joined by his base playing partner for life John McVie and putting up with brilliance  and craziness of lead guitarist Peter Green and the brilliant Jeremy Spencer, Fleetwood Mac were an outstanding blues band.

As things fell apart in his personal life and with the band a new Fleetwood Mac with Christine McVie nee Perfect and the Americans Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham evolved to become one the World’s most successful acts. Their internal squabbles and relationships were legendary, and recorded in song. They agonised over every song as their personal lives became common knowledge with the story of the hit album Rumours being of great interest.

I liked the way he talked about how the songs came about and of all the musos that he met. His own part in the cocaine fueled 70’s is insightful and the LSD input into the hippy culture and the demise of Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, is enlightening.

I liked the man and Anthony Bozza should be congratulated on putting Fleetwood’s fascinating life experiences on paper.

The Discombobulated Life of Summer Rain by Julie Lamb.

April 11, 2016 Comments off

summer rainThe Discombobulated Life of Summer Rain by Julie Lamb. Pub Makaro press, 2016.

Summer Rain is 12 years old and in year 8 at a country school. She is a bit of a tomboy, likes to make the boys laugh and struggles with having girl friends. She is worldly wise, has a terrific but bizarre sense of humour and is very self sufficient. She has to be.

Her mother ran off when she was very young, her father was unable to cope so she has been brought up by her grandfather, Pop. He is a stingy old codger with some very blokish habits and attitudes, hence Summer is a Tom Boy.

Summer is changing from girlhood into womanhood and she is a bit uncomfortable about it all, but in the course of the novel this changes.

There are a host of strange yet appealing characters that Summer relates to especially Juanita a girl Summer regards as up herself, then there is Apple who is as close to a witch as you can get, in the best possible taste of course. But the character that really gets up Summer’s nose is Mrs Macy. She is an old flirt who is after her Pop because she thinks he has money. You will have to read the book to find out what happens.

Told with some relish and enthusiasm by Julie Lamb. Her language is vibrant with imagery that is original and witty. I think she has read Margaret Mahy and the book has this feel about it. The word discombobulated has that Mahy essence about it. This is not a criticism as I am glad that the Mahy mantle has been taken up. I may be wrong.

Will have wide appeal to girls in particular but boys would be silly not to try this book out too. Female relationships have always fascinated me and this book will fascinate you.

Primary and intermediate readers but adults who read this novel will get some of the more earthy humour.

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern.

April 5, 2016 Comments off

flawedFlawed by Cecelia Ahern. Pub. HarperCollins, 2016.

This is one of the most stunning dystopian fiction novels for young adults that I have ever read.

Set in a country much like Scotland, in a city much like Edinburgh, with a population that are led and infected by the most extreme and cruelest Knoxian ethics and values. This is one of the most cruel yet brilliant novels I have read.

The main character is 17 year old Celestine who is a near perfect teenager, doesn’t rock the boat and goes along with society’s rules wiothout question. Before she was born there was a great recession in which the banks folded, the Government collapsed and the economy ravaged. The nation responded by rooting out all the bad decision makers and every person who made an error of judgement whether it be ethical or otherwise.

People who where judged to have made mistakes were labelled Flawed and were branded on a part of their bodies that reflect the flaw. Daily trials were held presided by three power judges. The events were televised like reality tv and became the source of the nations entertainment and worshiping celebrities but mainly a way of rooting out undesirables. The judges were very powerful and the most powerful was Crevan father of Celestine’s boyfriend Art.

Those who were  branded flawed have a terrible life, much worse than under Apartheid and treated as outcasts by those who considered themselves more worthy. Celestine is about to find out what this all means and so are you the reader.

In an incident on a bus Celestine shows humanity towards a Flawed old man. This is illegal and she appears before the court and suffers the most cruel treatment of any character I have read about. It will stun you but you will strongly empathise with Celestine and feel her pain.

The novel not only shows man’s inhumanity to man but it asks the question Can perfection be bred and imperfection bred out? Is anybody perfect? and it shows how power must always be checked.

Beautifully written without a word out of place. It amazed me that Cecelia Ahern wrote it in 6 weeks and then tuned it up. This woman can write. The chapters are short and you can’t stop reading. I read it long into the night and at times had to put it down and walk around while digesting what I was reading. Hell I hope Celestine is alright.

There is going to be a sequel to this novel out in 2017. If there is a 10 out of 10 novel this year this is it.

Changers Bk1. Drew by T Cooper & Allison Glock-Cooper.

April 3, 2016 Comments off

changersChangers Bk1. Drew by T Cooper & Allison Glock-Cooper. Pub. Atom, 2016.

Fourteen year old Ethan moves with his parents from New York to Tennesse and on his first night in their new house he turns into a girl called Drew. His parents are delighted. Not only that but he/she has a whole record as a girl and is enrolled at the local high school.

His parents belong to a special human race that believe by changing that a better understanding of each other is possible and that human problems will subside because of it. Everybody who belongs to the Changers will change 4 times in their teenage years and then opt for the change that most suits them.

During the change Drew has a minder called Stacey who is to monitor progress, give advice and to instruct Drew on the Book of Change.

From being and thinking like a teenage boy to acting and being a teenage girl proves a shock to Ethan. Drew has breasts and gets a period, how will he cope with that. He is hit upon by boys.

Every night he has to keep a diary of how she is feeling and slowly he starts to get used to being a girl and doing girl things. Drew becomes a cheerleader at the local school, joins a rock band as a drummer and feels a strong attraction to a boy called Chase.

The Changers have several strict rules that read like the Ten Commandments and one of them is there is to be no relationships between Changers. Chase is a Changer too.

This is part one of a series by a husband and wife team so you get very good male and female points of view and lots of issues to work through.

This will be popular with teen readers, I was riveted.  Part 2 is on the way


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