Getting my Stone Age on – ‘Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile’

TarinOfTheMammoths.jpgThere is a happy place where the reader and the scientist in me combine to devour both books and chocolate, all with a smile on my face. Only found amid the pages of truly fab books, I found that happy place reading ‘Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile’ by Jo Sandhu.

Hey if your kids (or you!) love history and science and all things Stone Age, then this is the book to read. It’s got danger, adventure, friendship and a diverse set of characters.

It’s got mammoths, too.

The things that work so well in this book are the basic building blocks of any great read: world-building, narrative and character.

 

World-building so epic you forget how to use a zip

I loved how Sandhu built the world for her book, with historical gems like reindeer hide and flints and boots with stuffing, and then added magic. Look, I’m no expert on Stone Age life, but I get the strong feeling Sandhu might be close. Her writing is alive, her world works. And no one slips up and lights a fire with matches or zips up their jacket or anything ūüôā

Brilliant. The authenticity of the world is what really drew me into this story. Like I was learning at the same time as I was enjoying the read. Continue reading

As big and as bold and as awesome as a wingerslink – ‘Ottilie Colter and the Narroway Hunt’

OCATNH.jpgThis book has stolen my heart! I enjoyed reading it so much.

I loved it on the first read, when I was captivated by the friendship, humour and exciting world filled with unknowns that I just wanted to know.

I loved it on the second read, as I discovered some of the tricks author Rhiannon Williams used to make it so super-duper awesomesauce.

And then…

YES! And then!

AND THEN!!!! I went out and bought it because my library only had an e-book and I love paper books. And I loved it on the third read with its beautiful cover and fabulous messages for kids.

‘Ottilie Colter and the Narroway Hunt’ by Rhiannon Williams is a delight for middle-grade readers. It won the Ampersand Prize. I can see why. If I’d been judging, I would have hugged the manuscript after I’d finished it.

(I may have hugged the book) (I do that sometimes)

Why did I enjoy so much?

Because it has action and suspense and camaraderie with this deep underlying theme of challenging gender stereotyping and being true to who you are.

AND I enjoyed it because I felt like I was in safe hands with the author – the reason why came apparent in my second read because Williams follows a pretty standard structure for the book. This isn’t a bad thing at all – it’s standard because it works for the reader, keeps them hooked and reading to the end.

So, a quick summary (and careful if you haven’t read it, because I can’t explain without a few spoilers!!): Continue reading

As exciting as a stint in an InvisiLounge -‘Skyfire’ (The Seven Signs #1)

SkyfireSeven teens from seven continents, trying to crack seven signs a day for seven days as the world progressively swirls down the proverbial toilet.

Gold. Total gold.

I was reeled in by Skyfire, the first in The Seven Signs series by Michael Adams, hauled deeper into the mystery the more I read. I’ll be honest, the first few pages I was totally thinking¬†yeah, I know what this is all about. But then the characters came alive and the action began ticking. And awesome things began happening. And happening. And happening.

And then, hooly toolooly, the first signs arrived.

There was no turning back for me. I had to buy the rest of the series. I had to read them all, stat. I had to know what was happening and where were they going next and who was the Signmaker and for goodness’ sake, can someone let these kids sleep sometime!? Continue reading

Even better than a hug from a dingo cat – ‘Cyclones and Shadows’

CyclonesAndShadows.jpg

I used to work up in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Red dirt, indomitable spinifex and awe-inspiring mountain ranges.

I’m miffed that I never got to experience a cyclone, though. (‘You don’t want to,’ said everyone who ever had.) Still, I would’ve loved to really feel WHY. The wind and the pressure and the bunkering down…

Now, thanks to modern storytelling, I’m halfway there :). ‘Cyclones and Shadows’ is a collection of four fab stories all based around the north of Australia, including one in a cyclone.

I’m in love with them all. I’d love a Shadow of my very own!

And his mango tree too, please!

What made me grin reading this book?

These stories, by Laura Dudgeon, Pat Dudgeon, Sabrina Dudgeon-Swift and Darlene Oxenham, are full of humour, empathy, insight and adventure. There are strong female main characters, zero gender stereotypes¬†(when was the last time you read about a girl fixing up a car in Junior Fiction? Yeah, I thought so…), and vibrant themes of family and friendship.¬† Continue reading

Wit, world-building and wow! – ‘The Luck Uglies’

TheLuckUglies.pngThe cover of this book drew my eye. A girl, a gargoyle, a rooftop race. I grabbed it for my library bag. So glad I did!!

What a ripper of a yarn!

I really enjoyed ‘The Luck Uglies’ by Paul Durham. It’s a fab piece of middle-grade fantasy, with a crafty and strong female lead.

I often read books to figure out what they did to become popular, win awards or fans. That doesn’t always mean they connect with me. But sometimes, like now, I don’t just read – I LOVE. I get absorbed. I chuckle. I smile.

Seriously, this has to be one of the best first sentences I’ve read in a while:

Rye and her two friends had never intended to steal the banned book from The Angry Poet – they’d just hoped to read it.

So, without further ado, what was fabularytastic?

  • The narration and humour
  • The world-building
  • The House Rules

It’s hard to just pick three, but these encompass why I enjoyed the book so much.

Continue reading

Fun and daring make for an ideal combo – ‘To the Lighthouse’

ToTheLighthouseIt’s rare to read a book that looks at childhood and growing up with such clever balance. ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Cristy Burne does that, and all with a vivid sense of humour and love of adventure.

Take risks. Eat jelly snakes. Make new friends. Laugh. Lots.

I really enjoyed this junior fiction book. It was vivid and honest, exciting and funny, and I recommend it for all 7-10 year olds.

But I almost didn’t write it up. ‘Why, oh why?’ I hear you ask.

Because I know the author. Really well. And I didn’t want to be seen as false or having conflicting interests or whatever it could be.

But then I figured… it’s my blog! And it was such a fab book, I’d write it up anyway :). Ha!

Yeah? And what was so fab?

  • Diverse characters
  • Boy and girl friendship without any complications
  • Parents are around
  • Encourages risk-taking

Continue reading