#AWW2019 “I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates.” // Review of “The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 13/05/19 – 21/05/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

I read this book at the end of a long streak of MG and YA reads, thanks to a self-imposted challenge, and I suspect that might be why I didn’t love it quite as much as I’d hoped. I was needing a change of pace and not quite ready to give it to myself.

But here we are.

Actually, when I started out, I was completely in love with the style of this book. It has vibes of Nevermoor by fellow Aussie writer Jessica Townsend. It’s whimsical and charming without being silly. Unfortunately, for me personally, the novelty wore thin after a while.

I did really love the world of the Kingdoms and Empires. It is some kind of fantastical early twentieth century mishmash. Some people seem to live in a world closer to that of our 1900, while otherse have contraptions closer to those of the 1950s (like refrigerators). It’s actually kind of hard to explain.

There are a lot of characters, which made it hard to keep track of sometimes. The plot relies on Bronte travelling to her ten aunts delivering them gifts from her dead parents, and after a while, I had trouble keeping the aunts and their families straight.  As an adult reader, I know I am not this book’s target audience, so when I say I thought things were solved a bit too easily, that is something that may well not apply to younger readers. Ditto the fact that I saw some of the twists coming. It is a charming adventure story that I think that younger age group will really enjoy .


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

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#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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“Monsters are in the eye of the beholder.” // Review of “Shine” by Candy Gourlay

Title: Shine
Author: Candy Gourlay
Genre:
YA contemporary
Date Read: 10/06/18
Rating:
 ★★★★☆

Review:

This was a chance find at the library. I sat down with the intention of reading it all in one sitting because it’s a long weekend and I wanted to catch up on some reading. I ended up reading it one sitting because it got to the point where I couldn’t have put it down if I tried.

This book has so much going for it. A main character of colour, who also has a disability (she has  a condition colloquially known as the  Calm, which prevents her from speaking, so she communicates in sign language). There’s an examination of how children cope when it feels like a disable sibling gets more parental love and attention. There’s mental illness rep.  There’s mythology and writing that feels like a modern folk tale.

The book is split into two parts: the present-day narration from Rosa, and letter-style segments from Rosa’s mother Kara to her twin sister, Kat. These two stories seem separate at first, but weave together nicely by the end. The way the story unrolled really gripped me.  I wasn’t sure if there were ghosts or monsters or whether someone was out to get Rosa and I really wanted to know. I was able to guess a few things, but having an inkling of what was coming didn’t impact on my enjoyment in any way.

I did wish there was a bit more about the setting, Mirasol. At first, I thought that it was somewhere to the north of Scotland because part of the mythology is that it rains all the time. But then it seemed to be more of an African nation, perhaps? But then, there was reference to pesos being the currency, which made me think South America at first, but on discovering that the author was born in the Phillipines, I wondered if it was supposed to be there. A bit more clarity on the real-world stuff to go with the mythology would have been good.

I mentioned mental illness rep above. It’s good that it’s there, but at the same time, I was in two minds about it and the way that particular storyline was resolved. There was a scene where a character referred to the mentally ill character as a monster and Rosa stepped in and said “She’s not a monster, she’s ILL.” Which is great. But she never receives any help and the conlusion of her story is less than desirable (I won’t say anything further  because I’m trying not to spoil anything).

While my library categorises this book as junior fiction (effectively, middle-grade), and Rosa is thirteen, I would probably put this book on the younger side of young adult. Some of it was quite dark, and I wonder whether younger readers would be able to pick up on all the clues throughout the book the way I did.


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#WWW Wednesday – May 30, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday
What have you recently finished reading? 

I’ve finished  The Owl Service  by Alan Garner… I have to be honest, I didn’t really get it. I had no idea what was going on for most of it, and only finished it because I wanted to be able to discuss it with the people at work who recommended it.

No reviews this week because I am behind schedule.

What are you currently reading? 

I am about 40% of the way through Uprooted by Naomi Novik now. I am really loving it, though I do wish the Dragon would stop calling Agnieszka an idiot and an imbecile quite so much. They have really good chemistry otherwise, but that is quite off-putting.

I have started Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane. I am not very far through it yet, but I can tell it’s going to have a really strong narrative voice and some great women characters.

I’m also reading Bookworm: a Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan. I don’t feel like I’m loving it quite as much as everyone else, but she did quote a line from Where the Wild Things Are and I suddenly felt myself getting teary, so there are certainly bits that appeal to me. But it does seem for every book I’ve heard of, she talks about three others I haven’t, which makes it less of a nostalgia trip and more of a literary history lesson.

What do you think you will read next?

I have three books out from one library, two books out from another library, and the majority of my May-June TBR still to read. So who knows?

What are you reading this week?~ Emily

“Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.” // Review of “Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery

Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: L. M. Montgomery
Genre:  YA/children’s classic
Dates read: 02/04/18 – 17/04/18
Rating: ★★★

Review:

When I told people recently that I was reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time, the most common reaction was shock. How could I not have read this as a young girl?! I know, I know. And I’m a little sad that I didn’t, because I think in leaving it until I was an adult, I missed the boat a little. I think there is a certain amount of childhood nostalgia attached to it, and I have missed out on that.

Still, Anne Shirley is a character who you can’t help but like. She’s overly talkative, and clumsy and dorky and makes mistakes, but she has a wonderful attitude towards the world at large, and I did constantly find myself smiling at the things she said. The side characters were also well-written; I really felt like I knew all these figures in the small farming community.

I did often find myself wishing that events were described as they happened, rather than us witnessing them via Anne telling her guardian, Marilla, about them afterwards. Sometimes she would go into detail, but sometimes we wouldn’t get more than a “Marilla, it was simply wonderful!”

I have the rest of the Anne books available, and while I didn’t love the book the way many have, the story was definitely enjoyable enough that I do want to revisit Avonlea again at some point.


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“Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…” // Review of “Mr Stink” by David Walliams

Title: Mr Stink
Author: David Walliams
Genre: Children’s fiction
Date Read: 11/01/2018 – 12/01/2018
Rating: ★★★

Review:

After seeing the TV adaptation of Mr Stink over Christmas, I thought I would like to check out the book it was based on. While it was a sweet story with an ultimately good message, a lot of the time, I couldn’t work out exactly what Walliams was trying to say.

Chloe is having a hard time at school and at home, but when she befriends the local homeless man, known as Mr Stink for obvious reasons, and hides him in the familyi garage, she begins to learn that she can control more aspects of her life than she realises.

The throughline of this book is that anyone can become homeless, and that you shouldn’t write someone off just because they smell or look mangy. All good messages. But at the same time, I felt that the book also made a lot of fun of Mr Stink, and turned him into a bit of a caricature, which clashed with that message.

The same could be said for a lot of the other characters in the book, too. While the issues facing Chloe were often presented realistically, someone else would barge into the scene in a completely over-the-top way. I think it was trying to be funny, and definitely going for a Roald Dahl vibe (complete with illustrations by Quentin Blake), but it just never gelled into a consistent style for me.

Still, all of this possibly comes down to me being a more critical reader than most. As I was reading, I couldn’t help thinking that my 11-year-old niece would probably love it. While it’s not something I’d recommend reading as an adult on your own, reading it to your kids would probably have a whole different effect.


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#WWW Wednesday – January 24, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud and it was a very satisfying conclusion to the series. Sometimes when I had read the previous installments, I didn’t really get why the characters were doing things or going to certain places, but everything drew together very nicely at the end.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what Stroud comes up with next. I posted my review on Monday.

 

What are you currently reading?

I have started reading Every Breath by Ellie Marney. Ellie Marney was one of the instigators of the #LoveOzYA movement, so I’ve been keen to check out this series for a while. I am only in chapter 2 at time of writing so it’s very early days, but based on the couple of chapters and the blurbs for all three books (I picked up all three from the library at the same time), it might be one of those YA series that could either go very, very right or very, very wrong.

I am still going with The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin on audio but I have made some good progress and I think I’m at about the 80% mark now.

What do you think you’ll read next?

As it was last week, I’m not quite sure. I would like to knock one more book off my Jan-Feb TBR before the end of January, as then I’ll be halfway through it. I also need to look at some of my ARCs pretty soon.

~ Emily

#WWW Wednesday – January 17, 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

wwwwednesday

What have you recently finished reading?

I finished Everless by Sara Holland and while it was still a little bit tropey, it did subvert other tropes and completely sucked me in! I’ll be looking forward to the next book.

I also read Mr Stink by David Walliams. This is a children’s book very much in the style of Roald Dahl (complete with illustrations by Quentin Blake). I liked it but I wasn’t quite sure what it was trying to say. I’ll have a review up on Friday.

Two reviews this week! My review of Everless went up here and I also reviewed False Awakening, an urban fantasy by Cassandra Page, here.

What are you currently reading?

I haven’t had a lot of time for reading this past week as I’ve been on holidays with a couple of friends, but I have been reading The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud. Feeling a bit bittersweet as I have been following this series since it began and this is the last book.  Also, last time I finished a series by Jonathan Stroud, I threw my Kindle across the room (the ending wasn’t bad at all, just gave me a lot of feelings), so I’m a little apprehensive.

I am still going with The Hospital by the River by Catherine Hamlin. I haven’t had much time for audio books but I’ll be getting back to my longer walks tomorrow so I will be able to make some more progress with this one.

What do you think you’ll read next?

So I requested some ARCs from NetGalley that I thought were not going to be published until June and October, only to discover after I was accepted that they were actually published last June and October (and are still available to request?!). And also there was that time on Sunday when I went to the library and accidentally came away with six books. Which is all to say, I really don’t know, but I have plenty to choose from!

What are you reading this week? 

~ Emily

#aww2017 Book Review: “Stay” by Jesse Blackadder

Title: Stay
Author: Jesse Blackadder
Genre: Children’s fiction
Date Read: 25/11/2017 – 27/11/2017
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This was a sweet book, though to be honest, nothing stand-out, at least to me. I think it’s one of those ones that kids would really loove, but that don’t really transcend the target demographic. Which there’s nothing wrong with, really, just that it affected my enjoyment.

Stay is a fibreglass fundraising labrador, supposed to be raising money for the Royal Guide Dogs outside a supermarket in Hobart. In  1991, she was dognapped and taken to Antarctica by scientists disappointed huskies would no longer be used on the ice continent. Through Stay’s eyes, we learn what life was like for the scientists in Antarctica before the days of mobile phones and the Internet, and about the kinds of work they went down there to do every season.

I did actually like the way Jesse Blackadder turned Stay into a character in the story. Stay is able to communicate through her thoughts, sending out vibes to the humans around her. In return, they compete to have her nearby during their season down south. While some of the lengths gone to for Stay seemed a bit excessive, it did help to add tension to the plot. Blackadder weaves information  about the day-to-day life of the scientists into the plot in a way that I feel would not have felt like info-dumping to a child reader, though with adult eyes, I could see the parts that were obviously intended to be educational.

I think young readers interested in exploration or the Antarctic woould definitely get something out of this book. The writing style would make for a good read-aloud-before-bed type of book.


(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017. Click here for more information).

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Book Review: Artie and the Grime Wave by Richard Roxburgh

Title: Artie and the Grime Wave
Author: Richard Roxburgh
Genre: Middle-grade/adventure
Date Read: 18/10/2016 – 08/11/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

artiegrimewavecoverIf I’m honest, I really only bought this book because I like Richard Roxburgh’s acting work and he was doing an author event at my workplace and I wanted his autograph for that. This book was okay, but having said that, had I been twelve when I read it, I think I would have really enjoyed it.

Artie lives with his terminally angry sister, Lola, and their mother, who has been stricken with grief and barely left the house since Artie’s father died some years ago. But when he and his best friend Bumshoe discover a Cave Of Possibly Stolen Goods, it’s the beginning of an adventure that leads to an organised crime racket that goes all the way to the Mayor.

The characters were definitely the strength of this book. Roxburgh has created a vibrant, diverse community. Many are over-the-top, with a lot of influence from authors like Roald Dahl, but that adds a vibrancy that will appeal to younger readers. Roxburgh’s own illustrations were larger-than-life and added additional colour.

I did find that the writing sometimes told rather than showed, and didn’t always flow as smoothly as it might have. There were also some authorial interjections, which have always annoyed me, though to be fair, that is a personal preference. While I hate this term, I have to admit that it did feel like a “boy’s book” – there were few female characters, and they were largely outlandish. The main two boys had a bit more realism to them.

Having said all that, this is a strong first novel and I am sure that the follow-up will smooth over some of these debut-novel hiccups.