#CBCA2019 #aww2019 Book Review: “His Name Was Walter” by Emily Rodda

Title: His Name Was Walter
Author:
Emily Rodda
Genre: Fantasy/contemporary
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 05/05/19 – 12/05/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I was equal parts excited and nervous to read this book. Excited because Emily Rodda’s books were such a staple of my childhood and teen years and I hoped reading her again would live up to my expectations. And nervous because… well, because Emily Rodda’s books were such a staple of my childhood and teen years and I hoped reading her again would live up to my expectations. 

I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely into the story-within-a-story format of the book. Even though I ultimately enjoyed it, I thought there might have been better ways to integrate Walter’s  story with that of the modern-day school children. Walter’s story was often cut off right in the middle of something so we could see how Colin and Tara were faring; it all felt a bit disjointed. I also found that the story felt a bit superficial – I felt I was told how characters were feeling a lot of the time, rather than it being shown.

But at the end, when it was revealed exactly how Walter was connected to the modern-day characters… I’d already figured out some of it, or at least suspected. But I actually really loved this part, and that’s why the book still gets four stars from me. The final lines of the book made me tear up a little.

And look, I know I’m not the book’s target demographic. I think kid readers would make fewer connections between the real world and the fairytale story earlier on. I think they would find the ghostly bits creepy or even terrifying. I’m a grown-up now and I do have to recognise that Emily Rodda is still writing for kids. But the fact that the story moved me at the end is enough to make me feel her writing stands the test of time.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #cbca2019 Book Review: “The Things That Will Not Stand” by Michael Gerard Bauer

Title: The Things That Will Not Stand
Author:
Michael Gerard Bauer
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 02/05/2019
Rating:
★★

Review:

This book was kind of unexpected. I wasn’t expecting the humour and banter and pathos. I knew it was short but I wasn’t expecting to fly through it in one day. But here we are. 

From the opening chapter, Seb has a really distinct narrative voice. The book is written in first person present tense, which I think really emphasises the immediacy of the action taking place over a single day.

I really enjoyed the banter between Seb and Frida, and how it became more obvious as the book went on that something about Frida didn’t add up. I do have to admit, though, that apart from the three main characters of Seb, Frida and Seb’s best friend, Tolly, the remainder of the characters seemed a little 2D… particularly the burly university security guard who kept seeming to pop up. He seemed a bit of a stereotype.

While I was really struck by the puns and the humour at the start of the book, the continued use of them did start to wear a bit thin as we moved towards the end. I did appreciate the book’s overall message of letting someone know when you think they’re worth it, and that anyone is deserving of that, no matter what they might think of themselves. figured out Frida’s riddle at the end a lot faster than Seb did, though, so I did want him to get a wriggle on with figuring that out. That was probably a little drawn out for my tastes but maybe it was because I did already know what she meant.


I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “The tide was moving in as I ran along the shoreline. Always crashing, always unsettled…” // Review of “P Is For Pearl” by Eliza Henry Jones

Title: P is for Pearl
Author:
Eliza Henry Jones
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 23/04/19 – 27/04/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

It’s been a while since I read something small town-y and character-driven. At first, I thought the story was taking a while to get going. But then I realised the characters are the story in this one. And I really loved them. This is a coming of age story about grief and loss and growing up and it explores its themes really well. 

Eliza Henry Jones really captured the small town vibe in this. Little details like everyone calling each other in a storm to check if they’ve still got power or if they need anything really made me feel like everyone knew each other and like I could walk from one end of town to another in an hour. 

Gwen and her two besties made such a great friendship group. I enjoyed their banter a lot. And Ben, who was just the most adorkable love interest. He kept doing such awkward things and he got all stammery and I loved it. I also liked how Gwen helped him help his sister, and how Amber hadn’t been terribly nice to Gwen, she was still willing to help when someone needed it. 

I did think Gwen’s dad was… not terrible, and probably also dealing with grief in his own way. But he was really inattentive to her and I wanted to shake him a lot. Biddy, Gwen’s stepmother, is in a difficult position that I thought she juggled really well, trying to help Gwen through her grief but also sometimes just not knowing how to help. 

This was one of those books where you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to the characters when you reach the end. Even though they were moving on with the next stages of their lives, I wanted to hang out with them in their small town with the beach and the mermaids for longer. 


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “Within me, the truth unfurled, opening as a flower. I breathed as if for the first time.” // Review of “Hive” by A. J. Betts

Title: Hive (Hive #1)
Author:
A. J. Betts
Genre: Dystopia
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 22/03/19 – 25/03/19
Rating:
★★

Review:

This was one of those books that I was fairly sure I wasn’t really into, but the ending was satisfying enough that I want to know what happens in the next book. 

This is a slow-moving book and I guess I was expecting something a bit faster. The blurb led me to think that once Hayley found an anomaly in the culty/dystopian world they live in, things would unravel quite quickly. But they don’t really. Instead, Hayley tries to find answers within her community but thinks she’s slowly going mad for the majority of the book.

The world-building is definitely a strong point here. The way people were assigned roles within the community and the history of how it was established was all very solid. I was confused about how they had a forest when they were supposed inside a self-contained building but I may have missed something that explained that.

Hayley and her best friend, Celia, were definitely the strongest characters. I loved that they had created a whole language of signals tapped out on the other’s hands so they could communicate secretly. The Son (of the Judge) became a bit more fleshed out towards the end. There was also a sweet character called Luka who I wanted to give a hug because he reminded me of a young Luka I know and how he would probably react in the same circumstances.

As I said, this definitely picked up for me in the last few chapters and by the end, I found myself wanting to know how things were going to pan out. While this isn’t my favourite book, I will still pick up Rogue at some point when it comes out.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “You told the story to show me how to move on.” // Review of “Catching Teller Crow” by Ambellin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Title: Catching Teller Crow
Author:
Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina
Audio book narrator: Miranda Tapsell
Genre: Contemporary/magical realism
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 20/03/19 – 23/03/19
Rating:
★☆

Review:

Ah, man, I hate being the unpopular opinion person! So many glowing reviews of this book. So many “I read it all in one sitting!”s. And here’s me feeling kind of underwhelmed. 

Looking back now as I write this review, some of this could be down to being in a bit of funk life-wise at the time. I wasn’t really enjoying anything, books included. So it’s probably partly on me. 

I also feel like some of this was to do with the audio book. It wasn’t the worst one I’ve ever listened to, but I felt like the way it was read made the character of Beth Teller sound kind of annoying, and a lot younger than her 15 years.

On the other hand, there were also sections of Isobel Catching’s chapters where it was read with no expression whatsoever. I’m deliberately using passive voice here because I’m assuming that there are directors and other people involved in the recording of an audio book and this is not all Miranda Tapsell’s fault, so I don’t want to seem like I am ragging on her alone. 

In terms of the content of the book, it was one of those stories where I got what it was doing, but I felt it needed to be explored further. It’s quite a short book and it’s dealing with a lot of issues. I also figured out fairly early on what Catching’s chapters were really about, so I think the revelation towards the end lost some of its impact because of that. 


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “But it’s not like we pick and choose what to be afraid of. It’s like our fears pick us.” // Review of “Small Spaces” by Sarah Epstein

Title: Small Spaces
Author:
Sarah Epstein
Genre: Psychological thriller
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 17/03/19 – 19/03/19
Rating:
★★

Review:

I have to admit that I had hoped I would love this book more than I did. It definitely had its moments, but I ultimately felt a little bit unsatisfied. 

Tash Carmody is haunted by the memory of her imaginary friend Sparrow leading away family friend when they were both small. Mallory Fisher has never spoken about the abduction and Tash thinks that Sparrow is gone from her mind… until the Fishers move back to town and she starts seeing Sparrow out of the corner of her eye again… 

First of all, I have to admit that I was nerding out every time the setting of the book was mentioned, because I grew up in the same area. My parents were hoping I would stay at home after school and commute to Newcastle Uni (I moved five hours away instead). There was a mention of Gloucester Shire Council, members of whom my mum just recently had a meeting with. And my family used to go camping in Barrington National Park, which is where Mallory was found wandering a week after her abduction. So that was fun. 

The treatment of mental illness in this book was realistic but infuriating. Everyone just thought Tash was doing things for the attention. There was a particularly poignant moment where Tash asks “Why would I want this kind of attention?!” and I wish more people would think about that before hurling such accusations. It was really great to see her validated at the end. 

There were genuine creepy moments throughout. At one point, I was berating myself for reading just before bed, because I was too wired when I turned the lights off. I walked to the bathroom in dim light and kept my back to the wall just in case. 

I did feel that the book felt a bit long. While there were certain things that of course needed to be set up and established, I thought it could have been done a bit faster?! And to be honest, I’m not exactly sure why I felt underwhelmed by the ending. It was well plotted and lead up to a logical conclusion. But for all that, I just found myself thinking, “oh, is that what it was?” I feel like I’m being unfair on the book and the author here because I don’t know what I wanted or expected, but whatever it was, I just feel I didn’t quite get it. 


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “And there’s a good chance the only *one day* I’ll get is here and now.” // Review of “Between Us” by Clare Atkins

Title: Between Us
Author:
Clare Atkins
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 14/03/19 – 15/03/19
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

Oof. What a book to start off my challenge of reading the YA and MG books on the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2019 Notables List.

This is the story of Iranian asylum seeker, Ana, who is only let out of detention to attend school. There she meets and becomes close to Jono, the son of one of the officers at her detention centre. Meanwhile Jono’s father, Kenny, becomes increasinly paranoid about the relationship between his son and the detainee.

This book has real power, though I wonder if some people will dismiss it as being over the top. I certainly had to keep reminding myself that our country wouldn’t be in the situatioin it currently is in regards to refugees if there weren’t people who thought the same way as the characters in this book. It says something about the present situation when the author can’t even name some of the people she spoke to when researching the novel.

These characters disgusted me, but I know they are not far from the truth. I think it might be easy for those less willing to engage to write them off as unrealistic, but I hope that isn’t the case.

The scenes from Ana’s perspective are heartbreaking. Watching her have to take responsibility for her family as her mother sinks further into depression while also trying to cling to some semblance of a regular teenage life through friendships and music and the occasional excursion. 

I didn’t warm to Jono quite as much. This is not really the fault of the character, as he is well written. It is more that he is not the type of character I can easily identify with – he smokes and drinks and lies to his dad about his whereabouts. Look, I admit it, I was a goody two-shoes growing up, but I don’t see anything wrong with that. I did enjoy the scenes where Jono opened up a bit more to his dad, and their bond started to return.

Kenny was the character I struggled with the most, for the reasons I stated above about not quite believing there are people like this. I wanted to shake some sense into him.

Despite these niggles, I still gave it five stars for the way it made me feel,  for the fact that I had a dream about these characters, and the fact that I was still thinking about it days later.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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Book Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Title: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
Author: Melissa Keil
Genre: contemporary YA
Date Read: 25/09/2015 – 26/09/2015
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

cinnamongirlcoverI don’t normally read contemporary YA; teenagers being teenagers and doing normal teenage things and having normal teenage dramas doesn’t really interest me. But look at that cover. I had to pick it up. And I loved it.

Alba is an aspiring comic book artist from a small Australian town who has just finished school and, just like the rest of her friends, is wondering what comes next. Her best friend can’t wait to get out and move to the city, and several of her other friends are also leaving. But Alba’s happy working in her mum’s bakery, and scared of leaving everything she knows. Oh, and thanks to a viral YouTube video, dooms-dayers everywhere believe that the world is coming to an end and that Alba’s town of Eden Valley is the Last Safe Place, so they’re flocking there. Basically, everything is changing, and Alba’s not sure if she likes it.

I kept muttering “This is so Australian” under my breath as I read this book. I grew up in small-town Australia and this book captures the feel of those small towns immensely. While my experience doesn’t exactly mirror Alba’s, it felt incredibly relatable, partially because of those similar experiences.

Alba herself is fantastically written. For starters, she’s a plus-size heroine, but this is not a plot-point; it is merely mentioned and then she moves on. She’s a very rambly narrator, and actually nerdy/geeky/dorky, unlike a lot of YA heroes, who I feel authors kind of want to make “nerdy”, but only insofar as to make them “quirky”. Alba would have easily fitted in among my group of school friends, and I have a feeling Melissa Keil would have, too. I don’t know much about comics, but it was clear that Keil does.

Alba’s friends all have distinct personalities, and I loved the way they all interact with one another. In a city environment, they may not have really been friends, but that’s one thing about small towns: you befriend the people who are there. And thanks to the style of the narration, you feel like you are part of their group. Their Christmas traditions feel like they’ve been going on for years, and their fears and desires for the coming months and years are all incredibly real.

The only thing I was a bit disappointed with, and this is the reason for 4.5 stars rather than 5, was the romance. I won’t say who Alba ends up with, because there are a couple of possibilities and I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that I had hoped that they would be able to just figure out their issues and remain friends, rather than it becoming romantic. I had assumed for three-quarters of the book that they would stay platonic, and I actually really liked it that way.

That was my only qualm, and I think I’m going to go and look up Melissa Keil’s other book, Life in Outer Space. It sounds like it has a similar feel, and would be just as adorable.