The Restless Girls

Author – Jessie Burton

Illustrator – Angela Barrett

Age – 10+

There once were twelve princesses, loved by their parents and all who knew them. Their mother was an adventurous queen, loving driving her race car every chance she could. She encouraged her daughters to be free thinkers and to pursue their dreams.

When tragedy occurs, the grieving king can think of nothing but protecting his daughters – even if it costs them their true desires.

Frida the eldest princess, hates seeing her sisters so unhappy. She tries to find a way to lift their spirits, not realising a huge portrait of their mother holds the answers. Finally there is light in their lives again, with peacocks, lionesses, music and dance – until the king discovers something. Dozens and dozens of worn out shoes.

The puzzle infuriates the king already going mad with grief, and he makes two terrible decisions. How will the princesses live with his decree? It’s only the free and determined spirit their mother nurtured within them that helps decide their fates.

A retelling of the Grimms Brothers fairytale – The 12 Dancing Princesses, with a modern, feminist spin to it. A wonderfully magical tale which is much more satisfying to today’s readers, young and old.

(Fairytale, Magic, Dancing, Trickery, Feminist, Strong-minded, Strong willed, Siblings, Love, Family)

Tilly and the Book Wanderers (Pages and Co 1)

Author – Anna James

Age – 8+

Matilda Pages loves living with her grandparents next to their popular bookshop Pages & Co. She also loves curling up in her favourite sofa in the store with a favourite title and getting lost in it. Her only heart ache is wondering why her mother left her behind as a baby, and never knowing her father.

Now Matilda is eleven, she has even more questions about her parents. Her grandparents have been loving and wonderful her whole life, but Tilly can’t help wondering about them. When odd people start showing up in the store, Tilly is confused. There is something familiar about them. The next time she sees them, she learns the truth. They are in fact Alice from Wonderland and Anne from Green Gables. But how is that possible?

Her grandparents explain the world between Pages & Co and books and the ability to move back and forth between them. But there is another strange man lurking around. He’s no character Tilly has seen or read before. What does he want?

With her best friend Oskar alongside, Tilly delves deeper into this new world and discovers even more secrets. This world can be dangerous, even life-threatening – but it could also hold the answers she has been looking for.

An exciting premise, which all book lovers will devour, Pages & Co takes us to a place we all wish we could go – inside our favourite books. Connections were made between me and the story every time I recognised a character or lines from books, drawing me even further into the tale. Purely magical! 

(Magic, Books, Reading, Favourite characters, Mystery, Secret, Villain, Bookshop, Grandparents, Series)

Magician’s Moustache (Circus Quest 2)

Author – Maureen CrispMagician's Moustache (Circus Quest Book 2) by [Crisp, Maureen]

Illustrator – Irina Burtseva

Age – 7+

Circus Charles has arrived on the island of Papenton. It is the first stop in the Circus tour and also the first place to look for more clues needed to attend the Circus Challenge Convention. Once there, they not only can enter an important competition to help Circus Charles stay together, Kestrel may find his missing mother.

The first clue is among the town clocks, but Papenton is famous for them, with nearly every building sporting one. Kestrel’s best friend Skye is hard at work looking for the clue they need while Kes and the circus perform in front of their first audience of the tour.

Things are still going wrong within the circus. Are they really accidents or is someone responsible? Tension rises as Kes and Skye are left with a puzzle to unravel and a broken mirror bringing 7 years of bad luck. Will they be able to keep their clues safe, and will Kes ever see his mum again?

The 2nd in this series, emerging readers can follow Kes and Skye’s quest and try to solve the clues themselves. Not only are there puzzles in the books, the back covers hold another.

(Circus, Clues, Mystery, Family, Friendship, Series)

The Playbill (Circus Quest 1)

Author – Maureen CrispImage result for the playbill maureen crisp

Illustrator – Irina Burtseva

Age – 7+

Kestrel and his best friend Skye are part of Circus Charles with their families. They have been working hard preparing for the next circus season when their ringmaster Monsieur Charles calls the entire circus together.

He has some news that may drastically change their lives, possibly even closing Circus Charles for good. They have been invited into a competition to find the best circus. But the last time they competed, the clues they needed to solve to enter, were stolen!

Will they be able to keep the clues hidden this time? Can Kes and Skye help keep Circus Charles together and work out the answers to enable them to compete in the ultimate Circus competition?

A new, fun series set in the lives of circus performers. Young readers will discover what goes on behind the scenes of all the acts. There are routines to be learnt, tricks to perfect, hard work to be done preparing the equipment and safety gear, not to mention the packing, erection and unpacking of the Big Top itself.

But there are devious people among them. Kes and Skye could be in real danger as they try to work out who is causing the circus’ troubles. Intriguing and exciting, drawing the reader from chapter to chapter; this will be a popular series for emerging readers.

(Series, Kiwi Author, NZ, New Zealand, Circus, Family, Friends)

Small Spaces

Author – Sarah EpsteinSmall Spaces

Age – 14+

It’s been 10 years since it happened. When Tash was 8 years old she saw her imaginary friend (who she named Sparrow after he appeared on her windowsill one night), lead a 6 year old girl away from the town carnival. The girl re-appeared 5 days later, mute, dirty and wandering in the bush alone.

Since then, Tash’s life has been a whirl of therapy, accusations of attention seeking, confusion and tension. And now the girl’s family have moved back to town. Tash thought she was better, but now she’s beginning to see Sparrow in the shadows. She can’t tell anyone because they’ll think she’s crazy again. All Tash wants to do is go to Uni and escape it all.

But when she is at breaking point, she forces herself to look deeper and into places she never thought to look. Is Sparrow real or not? Is the girl’s brother involved? The deeper she digs, the more real everything becomes, until lives are on the line – including hers.

A YA thriller that swaps between Then – showing therapy sessions and police reports, and Now – Tash’s journey back into the nightmare of her childhood. But she’s not a child anymore, and this time she fights back. Gripping!

(Imaginary Friend, Fears, Claustrophobia, Family, Aunt, Drugs, Secret, School, Loyalty, Thriller)

Sea Witch

Author – Sarah HenningSea Witch

Age – 12+

Nik, Anna and Evie are best friends. They are all different, Anna a beautiful little blonde girl and of high birth, Evie, the opposite with her dark hair and humble roots, and Nik, Prince of Havnestad.

One day while playing on the beach, there is a terrible accident and Nik and Evie lose their beloved friend Anna.

Years later, Evie remains Nik’s best friend, despite the whispers and taunts of the town who know she is beneath him.

Just before the Havnestad Annual Festival and on the year of Nik’s 16th birthday, a girl arrives, strikingly similar to Anna. Evie is taken aback at the resemblance, but the girl claims her name is Annemette. When Evie takes Annemette under her wing for the festival, Annemette reveals a secret involving Nik.

Evie, stirred by the memory of Anna in this girl, does everything she can to help, but the results cost lives, with devastating results for Evie and Annemette.

Sea Witch tells the back story of Ursula – the villain of The Little Mermaid. We learn where Ursula came from – her life above the waves before she became the tentacled creature we know from the story. Sea Witch is a love story, a tale of revenge, magic, suspicion, and loyalty. Fabulous!

(Fairytale, Fable, Ocean, Sea, Love story, Princes, Magic, Witch, Octopus, Revenge, Friendship, Secret)

Liars – The Truth App

Author – Jack HeathThe Truth App (Liars #1)

Age – 9+

A brown ute comes out of nowhere and smashes into Jarli and his dad in their car. To make things even worse, they quickly realise it wasn’t an accident when it comes at them again. The driver is an old guy with thick black glasses.

But when Jarli tries to tell the police afterwards, no-one believes him. They are all more interested in the throngs of media outside the hospital. Jarli has released his new app to some testers, who in turn released it to the world – with horrifying consequences.

The app detects a lie when spoken aloud, and it is causing havoc everywhere. Did the old man have something to hide and the app exposed it? Will there be more angry people out there keen for Jarli’s skin?

He and his friends are suddenly on a pell-mell flight from a killer who just won’t give up. It’s not only the app exposing people’s lies, there are more just under the surface of Jarli’s life, closer than he can imagine.

By the author of Countdown to Danger series and many more action filled books for children – this is the first in a new series of heart pumping titles. Each page is rimmed in a shaded grey and the text is interspersed with text-speak and technology.

(Action, Technology, App, Assassin, Car Accident, Family, Friends, Boxing, Series)

The Wild Robot (2) Escapes

Author – Peter Brown34219841

Age – 8+

The Wild Robot’s story continues in this sequel. Ros wakes up to find herself on a farm. She has been reprogrammed to do farm work, and acting like an assistant manager to the farmer, she ensures all the tasks on the farm are completed. This includes looking after the cows, machinery, buildings etc. The farmer looks after the accounts etc.

The farmer also has to look after his two children. He lost his wife in a farming accident, and that’s why he bought Ros – second hand, scratched and dented.

Ros surprises the animals around her when she begins to speak their language. She makes firm friends of the cows and the children, especially after she has told them many stories about a wild robot who adopted a gosling egg. They are fascinated by the stories, but thinking about her son Brightbeak makes Ros homesick for the island and her old friends.

Over the months on the farm, Ros’ stories spread far and wide between the birds and then animals, across the countryside and into the cities far away. Ros doesn’t realise it, but her stories will be her answer. She has been thinking about nothing but escape since she arrived on the farm. But getting to know the children and cows, she is now reluctant to leave.

When the children learn the truth about the stories, they may be just what Ros needs to decide her future. Ros must face a tornado, a wolf’s revenge, brave pigeons, recon robots searching for her and much more before her story ends.

I enjoyed this sequel even more than the first in the series – The Wild Robot. Roz grows even more ‘Human’ around the farmer and his children. She is kind and careful with the farm animal’s welfare, is torn between staying with them or leaving to find her son Brightbeak, and weighs up each situation she finds herself in, with all the options. Readers of all ages will enjoy this book. Though the text seems simple, the ideas behind not so. Fantastic!

(Technology, Robot, Animals, Geese, Journey, A difficult choice, Farm)

Highly Illogical Behaviour

Author – John Corey WhaleyHighly Illogical Behaviour

Age – 14+

Solomon is 13 when whilst at school, one of his panic attacks is so bad, he sought the only thing he can think of to calm him – water. He strips down to his boxers and sat in the school fountain.

Now 3 years later, he hasn’t been to school (or anywhere outside) since, preferring the company of his parents and funny and wise real estate agent grandma, who comes for dinner often.

Then there is Lisa. She is a highly organised, hard working, student who has an ultimate goal – to attend a prestigious university psychology programme. To do this she must get the scholarship they offer to one student. She has to write an essay about her personal thoughts/journey on someone with mental illness. She was at school the day ‘The Fountain Kid’ was pulled out. By chance she finds him and knows he is her ticket to the scholarship.

At first, with only the scholarship in mind; she tells him by letter she wants to be his friend. But Sol is so funny and down-to-earth that’s exactly what happens – they become good friends. Lisa introduces her boyfriend Clark to Sol and the three of them see each other almost every day – inside Sol’s house.

Clark and Sol share an addiction to fantasy stories, particularly Star Trek. Their friendship grows even stronger and Clark threatens to tell Lisa’s secret. Will he tell? Does he even love her any more? Lisa is torn. But Sol is stronger than he was before Lisa and Clark, and when it counts he may just surprise them.

(Agoraphobia, Friendship, Home-school, University acceptance, Secret, Star Trek, Family)

Salt to the Sea

Author – Ruta Sepetys25614492

Age – 13+

Thousands of refugees are fleeing the Russian Army near the end of World War II in East Prussia. Germans, Lithuanians, Polish and Croatians trek the roads, the forests and the fields – heading for the ports and the ships that are said to be coming to help them escape.

No-one trusts anyone, least of all Florian; an injured German with a tiny hidden parcel which if discovered will get him shot on the spot. Little does he know that when he goes to the aid of a young Polish girl, that his trek will no longer be a solitary one.

Through this 15 year-old-girl (Emilia) who has her own secrets, Florian meets others on the road. The wandering boy – only aged 6, who just wandered alone out of a forest. Ava – a giantess who says it like it is, an elderly shoemaker who is kind and wise about all matters of the feet, and Joana – a nurse who seems to be the leader of this hotchpotch group of humanity.

They face many horrors and hardships along the road, wary of each other’s motives and unspoken backgrounds. But it’s this time on the trek together that finally binds them when they need it most. Fighting for survival.

Salt to the Sea is based around the worst maritime disaster in history, (seven times worse than the Titanic). Compelling, heart wrenching and beautifully written in different points of view, it won the Carnegie Medal 2017, The Golden Kite Award, and the Audie Award for Young Adults. A must read for historical fiction fans or anyone interested in World War II. The characters will be with me for a long time. This is my favourite read for 2018 so far. A 10/10 for me.

(WWII, World War II, Escape, Refugee, War, Secrets, Forgery, Stolen Art, Prussia, Courage, Historical, Carnegie Award 2017, Multiple POV)

Finch

Author – Penny MatthewsFinch - Penny Matthews

Age – 10+

Audrey is a nerd. She knows it, and her younger sister Chloe reminds her all the time.

Audrey loves birds. She learnt the latin names for birds at a young age and recites them to herself when she sees any bird on their new vineyard property, and the paddocks beyond. Their new neighbour, chatty and confident Mavis, also loves birds, but Audrey isn’t keen to go bird watching with her and her elderly friends. Now that would be nerdy.

One day, while exploring with Chloe (and watching birds, they spy a cave further inside a neighbour’s property. At first they go no further. They have been warned about trespassing in the country. But later when Audrey is alone, she ventures further.

She is surprised to find someone. He’s hiding. He’s got a secret, and his name is Finch.

He loves birds as much as her, and she finds his company relaxing. But who is he and where did he suddenly go?

With a secret, a mystery and feuding parents, this is a coming of age story. Audrey is learning about herself, her family and coming to terms with her new home and surroundings.

(New home, Family, Secret, Historical, Siblings, Sisters, Mystery, Birds, Bird watching, Geek, Ornithology)

 

The Last Days of Archie Maxwell

Author – Annabel Pitcher36170364

Age – 16+

Archie is reeling after a family announcement. His father is leaving. His mother doesn’t even seem mad about it, and his big sister knows more than she’s letting on. When Archie learns the whole truth, his whole world implodes.

What if the guys at school find out? His life won’t be worth living. They will show no mercy. And that’s when Archie begins to think about that guy who ended it all on the train tracks behind his house.

Archie likes a girl at school – who just happens to be the sister of the guy on the tracks. She blames herself and is trying to understand why her brother did it. When Archie offers her some relief from her guilt, they become a little closer. But she has her own secrets too. Is Archie strong enough to resist a final solution for himself and protect her from the same?

This is an easy read/novella for not only dyslexic teens, but those who may find larger texts daunting or unappealing. It was gritty, true to life, showing the no-filter language of teen boys amongst themselves and about girls. Fantastic read.

(Dyslexic, Homophobia, Suicide, Bullying, Mental Health, School, Family)

They Saw Too Much

Author – Alan Gibbons38318466

Age – 14+

John is on the beach with a girl called Ceri James from school. They have been teamed up to do a photography project together. John is enjoying using the school’s expensive camera and is aiming at everything around him, getting the feel of it.

A car pulls up near them and John is instantly on alert. Things in his past have made him aware of anything looking a little shifty, and the two guys inside the car ring alarm bells.

He watches them in the camera viewfinder and uses the zoom on them when they follow a man out onto the beach. What he sees next sends him and Ceri on a pell-mell, dash from place to place – trying to find somewhere to hide. The men saw them with a camera and will do anything to stop them from showing any pictures taken, to the police.

Not sure who to trust, realising his own father is connected somehow, and trying to protect Ceri who has her own secrets and past swirling just under her skin; John is angry, confused, and scared. They are running for their lives.

(Murder, Crime, Trust, Hostage, Gangster, Witness, Family, Foster, Action)

After the lights go out

Author – Lili Wilkinson

Age – 14+

Imagine it – suddenly, without warning or reason, there is no electricity. Anywhere. Modern cars are useless and even pacemakers fail.

The isolated Australian outback town of Jubilee begin to struggle with this after a few days, and even more so when their men don’t return from the mine where they work.

After she finds an old Holden to travel in, 17 yr-old Pru Palmer decides to go to the mine to look for her father. They have a secret. Her father Rick is a doomsday prepper and they have a bunker not far from their house packed with supplies to last years underground. Pru and her sisters have been trained to survive in almost any situation. But Pru is now in charge. She always thought her dad would be there too.

Along with a stranger in town (whose mother was facilitating a safety seminar at the mine), Pru finds disaster at the mine. They return to Jubilee to find her usually docile community beginning to attack eachother – just like her father said they would. But can she just walk away and leave them all to starve?

Her dad always said “Family first,” and Pru is torn between how she was raised and the people in town.

This story drew me in early and surprised me again and again. Pru is an authentic character, suddenly dealing with so much responsibility and guilt. She feels surrounded by anger, fear and even death and has to find solutions. But realistically, she doesn’t have to cope all on her own – until the unthinkable happens.

(Doomsday prepper, Apocalypse, Bunker, Romance, Siblings, Twins, Family, Courage, Australia, Outback, Secret)

The Mulberry Tree

Author – Allison Rushbyxthe-mulberry-tree.jpg.pagespeed.ic.lS1n_Kk90Y

Age – 10+

Immy has moved from Sydney Australia, to a small village in the UK. It’s a new start for them after something happened at her father’s work.

After seeing a few houses with a rental agent, they choose a cute little cottage with a large tree in the back lawn. But this isn’t just any tree.

The agent tells them of the tree’s history. A history where two girls who lived in the cottage mysteriously vanished on the eve of their 11th birthday. The entire village blames the tree. But that’s ridiculous – isn’t it?

Immy tries to make friends but the tree’s history affects everyone around her – even Jean, the kind old lady who lives next door. She says her best friend Elizabeth was one of the girls who disappeared many years before.

Immy has been hearing a creepy rhyme being sung – even when there is no-one nearby. Could there be some truth in the legend? While she keeps her fears to herself, she is also dealing with her dad’s depression, and the feeling that the tree is watching her and mirroring her feelings. She is determined to learn the truth – which means staying home on the eve of her 11th birthday…..

I loved this story! It was sad and beautiful, and intriguing and creepy.  I couldn’t read the last few pages fast enough. I closed the book with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. Fans of Emma Carroll will love it too.

(Mystery, School, Magic, Secrets, Friends, Depression, Nature)

 

Fahrenheit 451

Author – Ray Bradbury

Age – 16+

It’s not until firefighter Guy Montag meets his new 17 yr old neighbour, Clarisse McLellan, that he begins to think about his life. She seems strange, taking pleasure out of simple things and asking personal questions. The toughest of these being, ‘Are you happy?’

This gets Guy thinking, and he realises he hasn’t just sat and thought for a long time. When he discovers his wife has tried to commit suicide, and doesn’t even remember doing it – just waking up and asking for another full wall TV screen (they are already trying to pay off the third they purchased only 2 months ago), Guy really starts to look at his life.

He is a firefighter – no, make that a firestarter. He works shifts at a firestation, responding to alarms that tell them someone, somewhere, has books that need to be disposed of – burnt, by him and his crew. They spray kerosine, not water, from their pipes, then throw a match.

It’s not until he witnesses a woman preferring to die amongst her books that he realises what he has become. Almost a robot. Just going through the motions of life, not thinking or asking questions. Will books help him make sense of his life. Will they wake him up?

He can’t talk to his wife. She’s only interested in the TV programs and radio broadcasts she is addicted to. Who will help him in his quest?

His firestation Captain seems to understand his confusion – at first. But soon Guy’s life tips upside down, and he can’t return to how life was before, even if he wanted to…..

This classic was written in 1953 and has been classed as Dystopian, Futuristic, and a story about Censorship. But the author said simply, it was about too much TV turning people into morons. This story fascinated me in the fact that the author seems to have looked into the future (our now), and seen our TV and screen addictions, and often ‘sameness’ culture.

Brilliant!

(Dystopian, Censorship, Friendship, Books, Book-burning, Future, Classic)

Girl Mans Up

Author – M-E Girard28217802

Age – 14+

Pen loves hanging out with her friends, gaming, wearing her brother’s clothes and just being herself.

She hates being called Penelope, people thinking she dresses and acts the way she does because she wants to be a boy, her mother wanting her to be a pink, sparkly, princess type of girl, and guys acting like douche bags.

Her best friend (since age about 9) is Coby. He’s popular, good looking, shares her love of gaming (even though she can thrash him at it), but he can be a douche bag to girls.

Coby is always talking about loyalty, so when Pen learns about a girl he has treated badly and tries to help, he calls her out on it. Pen is torn at first. She’s already angry at people who just won’t let her be herself, always trying to stick a  label on her. Bi, Trans, Lesbian, Gay. Pen just wants to be Pen – it’s that simple.

Her parents are always talking about respect, but the only person in her family Pen has respect for is her brother Johnny who has come to her rescue multiple times. She feels she can look after herself, but their bond is what keeps her sane.

Dealing with family pressures, toxic friendships and new relationships, Pen finally finds her own identity, her own tribe (without Coby), and a deeper understanding of the people who share her life – at home and high school.

I loved Pen. She was strong, brave and determined. She loves her parents but has to come to terms with the fact they may never understand who she really is. The friendships were real, the banter convincing and the relationships (both toxic and supportive) were intense. I wanted to climb into the book and slap some of the characters. You’ll have to read it and find out who!

(Diversity, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, School, Friendships, Secret, Relationships, High School, Family, Portuguese)

The Boy who Grew Dragons

Author – Andy Shepherd39355816

Illustrator – Sara Ogilvie

Age – 7+

Have you ever wanted your very own dragon? Maybe you’ve dreamed about flying on one high above your town or city? Tomas can tell you all about that and what to do if you ever find one – just like he did.

It all began while he was helping his Grandad in his new vegie garden. Suddenly he is dealing with a tiny bundle of sparks and exploding poos, all the while trying to keep it all a secret from his parents, friends, grandparents and especially a kid called Liam from school.

But it’s all just too exciting to keep to himself, and he’s dying to tell someone!

The first in a series, this was a fun read and guide on how to keep a dragon and where you might find one. Looking forward to The Boy who Lived with Dragons.

(Funny, Dragons, Grandfather, Humour, Bully, School, Friends, Secret, Younger Sibling)

 

Embassy of the Dead

Author – Will Mabbitt39875529

Age – 7+

The most exciting thing Jake Green was supposed to be doing was attending a school camp. But when a ghost unexpectedly hands him a strange package, life becomes far more exciting than he thinks he can handle.

Curiosity overwhelms him and he opens the package – which is the worst possible thing he could have done. A secret organisation called The Embassy of the Dead has now issued a Death Order against him, unleashing one of the worst Grim Reapers. Oh yes, there’s more than one, and they love following through with a Death Order!

Jake never knew he was a ‘sensitive’ – someone who can see and hear ghosts. But soon, they are the only ones who can help him avoid the reaper, get the package back to the Embassy and keep it away from a creature wanting to take over the Land of the Living.

The first in a series, this was a fast-paced, funny story about a boy getting caught up with ghosts of every kind and their ruling organisation that has more paperwork than a tax department; all while trying to pretend to his parents that he is at a school camp. Looking forward to more in the series!

(Series, Secret, Ghost, Friendship, Funny, Humour)

Fart Monster and Me

Author – Tim MillerThe Crash Landing (Fart Monster and Me #1)The New School (Fart Monster and Me #2)

Age – 6+

Ben Dugan is excited when something green crash lands in his back yard the day before they are moving house. It’s a creature from outer space that has farted so hard, it left its planet and landed on Earth.

It eats everything Ben can think of to make it ‘blast’ off again, but no matter how many cabbages, baked beans or eggs it eats, it cannot get enough gas. Ben doesn’t want to leave it behind on its own, so takes it with him to their new house at Stone Beach.

It’s good that the creature is invisible to anyone but Ben, except for the fact that every time it blows off, Ben is blamed.

In No. 2 in this series, Ben goes to his new school and as he tries to make friends, they all make fun of him for the smell that comes with him.

Great for any reluctant readers who love toilet humour.

(Alien, Fart, Trumpet, Blow-off, New School, Invisible, Humour, Funny, Series)