We take great pride in our interest and knowledge of children’s books, junior fiction, middle fiction and young adult. We love helping you find the perfect book.  In addition, if we don’t have the book in stock that you are looking for we will do our very best to get it in for you. We host 6 book clubs a month, 2 storytimes a week and a book launch or two. We really love books!

In store we have lots of reviews displayed to help you find the book that you’re looking for.  We post our reviews on instagram and facebook, and here’s a few of our latest reads:


Chloe Snow’s Diary – Confessions of a High School Disaster (15+) – Emma Chastain

I enjoyed “Chloe Snow’s Diary” by Emma Chastain. It was an enjoyable read that was easy to pick up and read whenever I had a few minutes up my sleeve. The humour and warmth with which it was written shone through for me. Chloe Snow lives in a small town in the US and everything is changing. Not only is she about to start her freshman year of high school, but her mum has just announced that she is moving to Mexico for four months to work on her novel.

Chloe has a year of highs and lows as any teenager does, and I really loved Chloe for this as it made her more relatable. She doesn’t want to save the world, she just wants to survive high school. There were a lot of times in this novel that I wanted to reach out and shake Chloe into her senses, particularly when she lets down her best friend Hannah, and when she can’t see what her friends and us, the reader, see what is wrong with her relationship with Mac. As humans we can be blinded by love and this is so true of Chloe.

Chloe’s diary also explores her relationship with her parents, who she both loves and hates with equal measure, and isn’t that true for the majority of teenagers.

I liked the diary format, and felt that it was 100% suitable for telling Chloe’s story. It also made reading the story easy and before I knew it I was done.

“Chloe Snow’s Diary” was emotionally well written and I think Emma captured the world of freshmen perfectly. I think any high schooler would love reading this and would relate to the sweet, sassy, innocent, but definitely flawed, Chloe.

I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone under the age of 14 due to the sexual and drinking references.

– Danielle

After The Fire (14+) – Will Hill

This is a “stay up till 2:30am to finish” kind of book. It grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go even after you finally read the last page.

When I picked up “After The Fire” all I knew was that this book was a cult-type YA novel. A few chapters in I knew it must have been inspired by the tragic events of Waco in 1993 (as Will Hill discusses at the end of the book in the Author’s Note. Will said, and I too “suspect that many reading this book will be unaware of [this event]”).

Like many authors who write about cults, I find the whole subject fascinating. “After the Fire” follows one young teens journey of trying to break free from the clutches of Father John and the aftermath of his madness.The strength of the protagonist Moonbeam is inspiring. She’s a believable character and I quickly connected with her.

Although Will uses Moonbeam as our 1st person narrator, we are often kept in the dark about many of the events at the Holy Church of the Lords Legion before and after the fire. They are gradually revealed as the child psychiatrist and FBI Agent interviewing Moonbeam slowly build trust with her.

I found the first chapter hard to get into. Will dives straight into the middle of the bloody war between the “church” and the “outsiders” and to be honest I felt a bit lost. However it took less than the second chapter for me to be hooked. I enjoyed the way Will used the nonlinear narrative technique of alternating chapters “before” and “after” the fire to reveal Moonbeam’s story. It felt real, never forced, and the horror of the events palpable.

This is a strong, realistic (unfortunately) psychological thriller that I literally couldn’t put down. Highly recommended to teens and adults looking for a gripping read. If you liked Lili Wilkinson’s “The Boundless Sublime” you are so going to love “After The Fire”.

– L-J

Radio Boy (10+) – Christian O’Connell

I started this novel with slight apprehension. I spent many hours in the UK listening to Christian O’Connell on the radio. Was his humour going to translate well to middle fiction? I wasn’t 100% convinced.

Happily (as we’d chosen it for the Everlasting Gobstoppers Book Club!) it was not only funny, but well written with a strong story line and I’m sure all my Book Club kids will be looking forward to book2!

At its core this is a story about a Spike, a boy who feels like a nobody and invisible and outside of his two best friends and his parents (who have to think you’re brilliant so will all know this doesn’t count!). I think many of us feel invisible at times and like we don’t fit in, and this in itself will hold great appeal.

Being fired from his volunteer radio show and his arch nemesis being made head DJ at the school’s new radio station is the catalyst for the rise and fall of Radio Boy and the Secret Shed Radio Show.

As is often the case, power corrupts, and as his fame as the mysterious Radio Boy grows it leads Spoke to drive away his best friends and pushes the school’s nefarious head master into a hunt to take him down.

This is actually a very realistic story that most kids will be able to connect with. Boys and girls alike will enjoy this surprisingly heartfelt and funny debut novel. Perfect for 10+ and any good 8+ reader. Although I enjoyed the novel as a whole, my favourite line has to be from Spike’s sister:

“You can’t do that. It’s a basic human right to have wi-fi. This isn’t China, Dad, you know!”


– L-J

When It’s Real (14+) – Erin Watt

When both of Vaughn’s parents pass away, her and her older sister are left to take care of the family. An opportunity to make big money pretending to be a pop star’s girlfriend seems perfect, but wild pop star Oakley is making Vaughn’s job very difficult. How can she persuade the public they are in love when they are constantly fighting?

This book was a roller coaster and always kept me engaged with the constant twist and turns. The way Erin Watt included social media was entertaining and relatable. It was almost like an insight into the music industry/Hollywood fame life because Oakley’s story seemed so realistic.

It does include some implied sex scenes (not explicit) and alcohol usage.

Ideal for those who enjoy romance as it does get a bit cheesy and cliched at times, but overall a great story and enjoyable read.

– Sienna (book seller; 15 years)

Tilly and the Time Machine (8+) – Adrian Edmondson

3 1/2 stars. As an adult, the name Adrian Edmondson immediately brings to mind the lovable punk Vivian from the acclaimed 1980s comedy “The Young Ones”. To find out he’s written a younger middle fiction novel with a female protagonist, honestly I was excited and concerned in equal measures.

With relief I can say it was an enjoyable read that I’d happily recommend to any middle fiction reader and is also a great read aloud for a younger audience. I thought the activities at the end of the novel were a great addition for teachers and parents looking to extend the novel.

Non-Brits may not recognise some of the references, however this doesn’t impede the plot and actually opens discussion to important historical events (England winning the world cup in 1966 obviously being the most important!).

“Tilly and the Time Machine” is a sweet story told with humour and poignancy. I feel that both boys and girls will enjoy Tilly’s adventure to find her father, and parents will enjoy reading it aloud.

– L-J

One of Us is Lying (14+) – Karen M. McManus

4 1/2 stars. Two book in two days that have blown me out of the water. On the surface two very different stories, but at their heart “One of Us is Lying” and “OCDaniel” by Wesley King are both about people and their inner workings.

I initially found the multi-narration (four people) slightly confusing, but I found the multi-perspective really added to the story. The extra effort required was worth it and had the novel had a single narrator I think the story would have suffered.

Although completely different to “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher in terms of mood, tone and atmosphere, the exploration of our human flaws in “One of Us is Lying” was one of the reasons “Thirteen Reasons Why” flashed into my mind from time to time. There are definitely other similarities, but “One of Us is Lying” is not as hard hitting and doesn’t explore the issues as deeply.

What this novel does successfully is create a beautiful mystery and its light nature enables it to tackle complex and divisive topics that otherwise are often avoided. For that alone I applaud Karen McManus. Exploring depression, parental pressure (academic and sporting), cheating and sexual orientation doesn’t always need to be done in a hard hitting “War and Peace” fashion. Discussion at any level is progress.

Karen had several plot twists that I honestly didn’t anticipate. I love being surprised like that. I enjoyed the character development throughout the novel. Karen took archetypal characters and developed them through to more complex and realistic people. The ending nearly killed me. I was all set to send the author a strongly worded complaint. But she saved it in the end. Predictable? Maybe but I don’t care. I wanted it. So, hurrah!

Can’t wait to discuss this with my Book Sellars Book Club (adult YA)!

– L-J

OCDaniel (13+) – Wesley King

4 1/2 stars. “OCDaniel” has taken me by surprise. With the books overt tone of mental illness; an interesting cover; and a mystery, I fully expected to like it. I think what surprised me most was my lack of tears. These kind of books always make me cry (if they’re any good). Yet this is a a good book and I didn’t cry. I connected to the characters: both Daniel and Sara were coined with such a beautiful delicacy. While I think Wesley King did communicate well Daniel’s struggles with OCD, and his growing understanding of this mental disorder, it was done in such a way that it makes it accessible to tweens and YA readers.

OCD is yet another topic that’s not discussed nearly enough. If we can create an environment where kids are able to discuss their concerns with someone safe, get help, and realise they aren’t silently going insane, then I celebrate any novel that helps achieve this. “OCDaniel” goes far beyond that. It’s well written, uses a light touch of humour to keep it from getting too dark (and possibly inaccessible). Daniel and Sara are beautifully developed and even the secondary characters have growth and development. I think Wesley’s light touch is why I loved this novel so much but my tears were kept at bay.

While the mystery could have been unrealistic, Wesley manages to keep it this side of reality and Sara’s sub-plot doesn’t detract from the overall arch of the main plot.

The only difficulty I had was with the American football references. Mostly it didn’t impact on my understanding of the plot, but as that part of the story became more relevant and discussed more, I found myself slightly bored and lost. HOWEVER do not let this put you off. This book is so worthy of reading and I can highly recommend it to any mature 12+ and YA reader.

As an adult I think it offers an understanding into OCD that’s invaluable. I hope it’s also able to offer hope and reassurance to OCD sufferers that they are not crazy, and hopefully a gentle encouragement to get help to manage this disorder and not let it rule their lives.

– L-J

Thirteen Reasons Why (14+) – Jay Asher

I wrote a blog post about my thoughts on this book (and the Netflix series). I think rather than regurgitate that post I’ll just give you a link to the 13 Reasons Why I Read This Book. This is an incredibly important book which I cannot give enough love to. I hope you’ll give it a chance, make up your own mind, and not judge it from all the negative hype surrounding it.

I will reiterate that this is a powerful novel discussing difficult topics. It should not be read by at risk youths and the Netflix series is aimed at 18+. It’s a great gateway to discussion between parents and children and I know of several who have read the book (or watched the series) together.

– L-J

The Secret Science of Magic (13+) – Melissa Keil

Lets be honest, growing up is hard. I know I never felt like I fit in; that no matter what I was good at it felt like people only focused on what I was bad at. This is exactly how Melissa Keil’s heroine feels in “The Secret Science of Magic”. This book is about growing up, facing your future, the value of loving what makes us different, and first love.

As usual Melissa has nailed the characters in this book and you can relate to either Sophia or Josh, and sometimes both. Great dorky characters who aren’t obsessed with being cool is great to see.

Josh loves Sophia from afar but Sophia is more interested in maths and a reclusive Russian genius. At first I wanted Josh to move on and find someone who would appreciate him, but in the end you are routing for him and Sophia. I enjoyed being part of their journey.

I’m also a fan of the current trend of using multiple characters voices to tell the story from different points of view. “The Secret Science of Magic” is well written with great dialogue. An enjoyable read for fans of “Stargazing for Beginners” and “The Moonlight Dreamers”. It’s suitable for 13+ or a mature 12 year old.

– Danielle

PS: After writing my review I was reading other reviews for “The Secret Science of Magic” and I came across several people who felt that Sophia lay on the autistic spectrum. I didn’t pick this up on reading the book, but looking back, yes I can see that this may be true. Most of these reviewers felt that Melissa should have addressed this subject more openly in the book. Maybe she should have, because it does need to more openly discussed. But possibly it was purposeful because a lot of people, especially girls, go undiagnosed and have their behaviour brushed off as anxiety or behavioral issues. Only Melissa Keil can tell us if Sophia was on the spectrum, but whatever the answer is, if it opens the door to discussion on autism in girls then I’m all for it.

Frogkisser (10+) – Garth Nix

While “Frogkisser” has been promoted as a YA read (14+), we felt it was more suited to younger readers (10-12 years). It is a longer read, but the light content suits a younger audience.

We loved how Garth Nix turns stereotypes on their heads in “Frogkisser”, re imagining them in clever and witty ways. Snow White is a retired male wizard; the princess is intelligent and does NOT need saving; the heroine is definitely reluctant; Burt, the leader of the good thieves, turns out to be a strong woman; and the head knight is a strong woman named Sir Malorak.

Nix gently explores poverty and privilege through the princesses journey, and her her very own descent into hardship.

The plot was interesting, but the story did seem rather drawn out. It made it feel like a long read.

My YA book club (the Outsiders) would recommend this book for 10-12 year old looking for a longer read with strong female characters. I think if we’d gone in expecting a middle grade story we’d have enjoyed it more.

– L-J and the Outsiders

Damage (14+) – Eve Ainsworth

I wanted to read this book the first time my wonderful rep showed it to me. While this wasn’t as deep and intense (it’s a quick read and I only cried once!) as other self-harm books I’ve read this year, I think it’s a fantastic book in its own right.

I loved that Eve Ainsworth explored that start of Gabi’s dark slide into the world of self-harm. Often we step into the protagonist’s life towards the end of this journey, and it was refreshing to have this new perspective. It was so interesting/important/informative to watch Gabi sinking deeper into her grief and the short relief that cutting offered. We can’t help people going through this without understanding how they get there. It can also bring about understanding of the self and reassurance that you’re not insane if you find yourself reflected in Gabi.

Every character in this story is flawed and beautifully human. Maybe it’s why I was so easily able to connect to them. I found aspects of myself in most of them.

Interestingly (and I have no idea if it was deliberate on Eve Ainsworth’s part), I found myself frustrated at Gabi’s interpretation of the words/actions of the adults around her, and wishing the adults in her life would be more open and honest with her. As a mother of a 13 year old I’ve found myself being more aware of both of our words/actions and less inclined to jump to conclusions.

As Eve Ainsworth says  in the afterword,

We need to look after each other, not judge. We need to listen to each other, not preach. And we need to keep reading, talking and understanding.

Eve Ainsworth has written a very readable novel with well developed characters dealing with difficult, but not uncommon, issues. Any book that shines a light on self-harm and alcoholism in such an affirming way must be highlighted. Highly recommended for both teens and adults who love YA who are looking for substance within a relatively easy read.

– L-J

Ps: Excellent cover.

The Other Mother – Kelly Chandler

I went into “The Other Mother” with dubious expectations. The book doesn’t seem like something we’d want/need to stock at Three Four Knock on the Door (or something I’d be likely to pick up for my person interest). Add to that, I’m the “original” mother. And on top of that, I’ve got a mound of TBR (To Be Read) books being released in the next few months to get through.

Yet, once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. Kelly Chandler’s writing is charming, searingly honest, amusing at time, and very real.

For the first time ever I actually saw things from the stepmum’s point of view. I don’t think I’d ever really considered it before as a child of (mostly) happily married parents, and as a single mum of over 8 years. For that I’m truly indebted to Kelly Chandler.

So, who should be reading “The Other Mother”? Obviously stepmums (you are not alone!), but I think it would behoove us single/separated/divorce mums too. It’s important for our children how we view their stepmothers. Our views and attitudes towards the stepmothers of this world help our children form their own views of their stepmother, which will affect their “other” home life, and ultimately them. And although none of us (honestly) wants the “other home” to be better/happier/more fun than our own home, the happiness of our children should surely rise above our wants? This book isn’t going to magically make everything ok. It doesn’t have all the answers. However, if does offer us PERSPECTIVE. And that has to be a good thing.

Easy to read and enjoyable, I highly recommend “The Other Mother” to all stepmothers and “original” mums (even the ones still happily married). At its heart, this book is a good autographical piece and worthy of anyone’s time.

– L-J

Remind Me How This Ends  (14+) – Gabrielle Tozer

Gabrielle Tozer has written an accessible, realistic, heartbreaking, funny, relatable story based in small town Australia. While “Remind Me How This Ends” uses several well used tropes (“boy meets girl again”; girl’s mother dies and her life goes off the rails; what do I do with my life?), it’s done in such a refreshing and honest way that it doesn’t seem forced or cliched. Her characters are clearly constructed and within the dual POV (which tbh I am a sucker for) you clearly hear each voice ringing true.

This really isn’t normally my kind of story but Gabrielle kindly sent us a copy and I was strangely drawn to it. I really connected with Milo and his struggle with the endless question after finishing High School: “so, what are you going to do with your life?” As in Milo’s world, in mine everyone had left to go to University; enter National Service; go travelling; or take up an apprenticeship. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Truth be told I didn’t really know till my sister and I decided to open a children’s bookshop in 2009 (16 years after High School)!

Gabrielle contrasts Milo and his loving, well-meaning family with Layla’s loneliness and the grief over the loss of her Mother 5 years earlier (that she’s yet to really face). Both characters are very lost but in different ways. Is it possible for best friends to reconnect after 5 years silence, find strength in each other, and help each other find their path instead of being pushed along into something they don’t want but are supposed to do (according to society and well meaning folk around them)?

“Remind Me How This Ends” also explores toxic relationships from a very different angle. We see both Milo and Layla come to the realisation that their partners aren’t right for them and we see the evolution between them from best friends to something more. It’s refreshing to see two people supporting each other in such a positive, caring, mature and ultimately selfless way.

I’d like to also give Gabrielle kudos for Layla’s stepmother. It isn’t often you see this role played out in such a positive and sensitive fashion, and after reading “The Other Mother” by Kelly Chandler I felt myself give a little cheer for all the good stepmums out there.

I can attest that it’s not just after High School that you can feel lost and uncertain about your future. This is the perfect novel for anyone struggling with that feeling and Gabrielle succeeds in confirming that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to take some time after High School to decide what you really want to do. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

– L-J

Blame  (14+) – Simon Mayo

I don’t lightly give a book 5 stars. It has to be engaging, well written, great characters and a great story to boot. “Blame” has all of this and more. I have loved 5 star books, like George Orwell’s “1984” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”  for over half my life, so Simon Mayo had a lot to live up to. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he achieved it.

I think what scares me most about this dystopian novel is that I can see it happening, maybe not in my lifetime, but in that of the next generation.

In “Blame” Mayo explores the consequences of holding people responsible, not for any crimes that they have committed, but for those of their parents/grandparents/partners: heritage crimes.

Ant is the protagonist of the story, who along with her brother Mattie, are locked up with their foster parents for her biological parents’ crime. Parents she can barely remember. Ant knows she is the last hope in saving herself, her brother and her fellow inmates. Hated by everyone in prison, including the criminals, Ant doesn’t have a lot of help. She is an amazing, strong and loveable heroine. The fact that Ant is a girl is actually totally irrelevant to the story and I love Simon so much more for making her a girl. Even more so because she’s a girl who doesn’t need rescuing.

For me this was a stand out book for 2016. A dystopian thriller which you won’t want to put down. I would definitely put this a young adult (14+) title as there are serious topic discussed and some very brutal behaviour that would distress younger readers.

If I had to describe this book in three words they would be: brilliant, addictive and thrilling.

– Danielle

Rose Raventhorpe Investigates – Black Cats and Butlers  (9+) – Janine Beacham

I thoroughly enjoyed this fast paced middle grade fiction. A perfect combination of a feisty protagonist, mystery and adventure.

Rose Raventhorpe has basically been raised by Argyle, the family butler. Argyle is murdered on Rose’s birthday and she discovers there was more to him than she ever thought possible.

Rose refuses to sit idly by as the cats who watch over the town disappear and the murderer stays at large. It is this tenacious aspect of her character that drew me in from the start of the book.

A great introduction into historical fiction and the classic Victorian murder mystery genre (complete with Lords, butlers and bodysnatchers).

Overall a great fun read, perfect for fans of Wings & Co and EJ Spy School. I highly recommend this book.


– Danielle

Polly and Buster  (8+) – Sally Rippin

I was happy when I heard Sally Rippin was coming out with a middle fiction book. When I heard her read from the book and saw some of the illustrations I was excited. Then I read it. I was totally bowled over. I knew Sally could write but I’d never seen anything of this calibre from her before. This book goes beyond her beautiful writing and innate ability to construct perfect turns of phrase.

What struck me most was the depth of the story. On one level it’s as simple as the Billie B Brown stories that Sally is well known for, but beneath the surface, “Polly and Buster” bubbles with issues that our children, and society as a whole, are (unfortunately) still dealing with in 2017. When Buster (the gorgeous feelings monster) is forced to ride at the back of the bus because Witches & Warlocks don’t mix with Monsters I had a total “Rosa Parks Moment”. I was crushed when Polly chooses the wrong friends (although I totally get how it happens) and was virtually punching the air for joy when Polly saves Buster from the stupid inflamed masses.

It really was more of an emotional rollercoaster than I’d expected from both Sally and a book aimed at this age group. Now, don’t get me wrong, most 8+ reading this will enjoy the story and recognise the themes of friendship, honesty, believing in yourself and being your own person. But part of Sally’s talent is being able to write for an 8 year old mind whilst managing to beautifully and subtlety explore much larger and darker issues. Magnificent.

Although I recommend it to 8+ I think it would be totally appropriate to read it to a 5+. Lots of illustration (by the talented Sally) and such a strong story line that will appeal to all ages.

– L-J

PS: M or W? Always, always M!

Wing Jones  (12+ Clean Teen) – Katherine Webber

I love Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell, so I was a little trepidatious about stating touted as the latest novel for lovers of these authors. I needn’t have worried.

At its core this book is a coming of age story about finding out who you are when the chips are down. I loved that you are kept guessing through the story as to exactly what has happened to Wing, to her brother, and what she really wants.

Wing has been left devastated by an accident involving her brother. She just wants to fade into the background at school, but a previously undiscovered talent thrusts her into the limelight. Is this the very thing she needs to recover from the losses she has experienced and can it help heal her family?

As an Auntie to two mixed race girls who have yet to find their place in this world, I loved that Wing was half Chinese/half Ghanaian. We need more diverse characters in books and this is a great example of a strong (even if she can’t see it) diverse female character.

I would happily recommend this book to ages 12+. It does deal with some serious topics but there is no sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll.


– Danielle

Short  (10+) – Holly Goldberg Sloan


3 1/2 stars. L-J made me read this because I’m short (when deciding who gets to read certain books any reason can be good enough!)

Julia is short by comparison to an average kid her age but she is too tall to be considered a little person. She is however the perfect size for a munchkin.

Through rehearsing and staging the Wizard of Oz, Julia comes to realise that our size, and even age, aren’t important. What is important is believing in yourself and your friends.

While I found that action and adventure weren’t present in the book (not that it was needed for the story to work; just that that was what the last few books I have read have had), it did have a whole lot of heart.

Holly Goldberg Sloan successfully gives us an entertaining story interweaving diversity and grief, and she has a great turn of phrase. I would recommend this sweet book for ages 10+ (or a good 9 year old reading).

 – Danielle

Goodbye Days (14+) – Jeff Zentner

I LOVED this book. I couldn’t put it down. It is so well written and heartfelt that it wouldn’t suprise me if this exact situation hadn’t happened to Jeff in his teens.

Carver is about to start senior year when his three best friends die in a car accident. The cause of the accident? A text message sent by Carver.

Jeff asks the question: is Carver to blame? Can one text message ruin this young man’s whole life? As Carver struggles to deal with the loss of his best friends, he must also deal with the pressure from the media and the police. He needs to work out who he can trust.

I think that every teen today should read this book. If only to help them explore the meaning of consequences.

“Goodbye Days” addresses grief and how we all experience it differently. Jeff also explores forgiveness and what it means to forgive, not only ourselves, but those around us and those that we have lost.

Brilliantly written, heart breaking, life affirming and beautiful all in one. A definite must read.

– Danielle

Gallagher Girls – I’d tell you I love you, but then I’d have to kill you (13+) – Ally Carter

This was a good fun read, and I enjoyed it immensely. It has mystery, action, adventure and great strong female characters. I would have devoured this series as a 14 year old, but given my massive TBR pile I had to be satisfied with reading just one book.

In book one we are introduced to The Gallagher Girls, an elite group of exceptional young women who attend the special Gallagher Academy. Not only do they learn to disarm bombs, surveil their targets, and have to speak multiple languages, they also get extra credit for cracking CIA codes in their spare time! But things go awry when Cammie and her classmates are given a surveillance assignment in town (where no one knows how special the girls are) and Cammie meets a regular boy,  New love, romance and relationships are set against a backdrop of mystery and spies.

The book was fast-paced and Cammie is a likeable character that you want to root for. I liked the cliffhanger at the end, and the feeling of the overall story arch, which is sure to continue throughout the series. The book itself is well written with great characters and a good story line.

I would recommend this book for 13+, especially for fans of Ruby Redfort, Verity Sparks and Wings & Co.

– Danielle

Guilt Trip – my quest to leave the baggage behind – Kasey Edwards

Guilt has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember. It’s certainly something I learnt well from my Mother and am dutifully passing it onto my two girls. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. Kasey Edwards has compiled a selection of her witty and insightful articles into the fabulously titled “Guilt Trip” – one journey all women take multiple times. I personally have a well-used season pass.

Kasey covers body issues, relationships, pregnancy & childbirth, motherhood and careers. All our favourite stops on the train to Guiltsville.

So much of this book resonated with me, and the bite sized articles makes it really easy reading (even for new mums and busy career women). I highly recommend this book for any 20+ heading into the big bad world, and essential reading for Mothers and Women. Let’s ditch the guilt, support each other, and believe in our own self worth. In Kasey’s words, “we are good enough just he way we are”.

– L-J

Optimists Die First ( 14+) – Susin Nielsen

Danielle and I fought over who would get to read this one first. I won due to my illness and her kindness.

Susin Nielsen at her best. I love the light hearted hand Nielsen uses in her writing. Yet she manages to deal with weighty topics in a sincere way. “Optimists Die First” was cynical, heart warming, funny in parts, sad in others (yes there were tears twice), and I was left at the end with a rosy warm glow spreading through my own cynical heart.

I love the misfits Nielsen creates in her novels, and this one is no exception. Maybe it’s just that I can identify with them? Yes, they can be archetypal, but archetypes exist for a reason. I feel the realness of her characters, and I feel their pain.

At the end of the day, how can you not enjoy a book that uses cats to reimagine Wuthering Heights? Impossible.

– L-J

PS: Don’t forget to take the Optimists Quiz. I’m a wise pessimist. A confirmation more than new information really 😛

Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky ( 10+) – Robert Newton

Having heard Robert Newton speak at a publisher’s event I was intrigued by this book that was sparked by a real life encounter when Newton was a firefighter in Melbourne.

Please don’t judge this book on its sad beginning. It belies that this is ultimately an uplifting novel about an old Russian immigrant and two young teens living difficult lives in a Melbourne housing commission (public housing).

I enjoyed the evolving friendship between Lexie and Davey, but the heart of the book really lies between Mr Romanov and Lexie. While we watch Mr Romanov’s deteriorating mental health, the bond and mutual understanding between him and Lexie is a ray of sunshine in the loneliness of dementia and a troubled home life.

This book does not shy away from the harsh realities of life for these three people. However, the tenderness with which it is done makes it accessible to 10+ boys and girls. I hope it brings a sense of empathy to those lucky enough to be in better circumstances, and hope to those that aren’t.

We’re reading it for my all boy 10+ book club this month. I’m excited, interested and cautiously optimistic as to their reaction. They absolutely loved Brian Falkner’s “Shooting Stars”, so this should be interesting.

– L-J

Shooting Stars ( 10+) – Brian Falkner

I’ll be honest, I never expected to like this book. I chose it for my all boy 10+ book club because it seemed like a good adventure story that I knew they would get their teeth into. But it didn’t seem like my kind of thing. For starters I hate any form of camping, so that aspect certainly held no appeal.

But as the book progressed I found myself choosing to pick it up. Wanting to see what happened next to Egan and Jack the dog. There were several twists and turns that I didn’t expect and as as hokey as it may have been, I loved the moral compass Ethan’s Moma equiped him with. I really hope that when kids are reading “Shooting Stars” they are inspired to be better people.

The ending moved me. It was unexpected, especially for middle fiction. Yet it fit. It worked and I closed the novel satisfied. I highly recommend this across the board. I think the plot and the multiple mediums used (diary entries, story, police report, court transcripts, drawings) will appeal to most readers.

“Shooting Stars” is a book packed with action and a lot of heart. Oh and extra kudos for the title appearing early on.

– L-J

UPDATE: The book club boys loved it.

A Girl Called Owl ( 10+) – Amy Wilson

3 1/2 stars. While I was reading this book I wasn’t overly sure I was liking it, but I continued anyway. In the end I enjoyed it for its weirdness and magic.

It starts with a familiar trope of middle fiction – a child, in this case Owl, who wants to know who her father is. What she isn’t prepared for is the answer.

Ultimately this book is one of self-discovery and in the end I think asks an important question – what is a good dad? The type that Owl imagines is one who comes to school events, plays in the garden with you, and who shares in jokes with you. Or can it be one who simply tries his best to be a good dad?

“A Girl Called Owl” is a mix of reality and fantasy. Amy Wilson has done well to blend the two without the situations seeming contrived or forced.

While I liked Owl I didn’t fall in love with her, and this more than anything is why I gave it 3 1/2 stars. Overall the text is well written and the story line is easy to follow. It would have been interesting to see Owl’s Mum have more of an influence in the story line at the end of the book. What I did find amusing was that while reading the book I imagined that the extreme weather conditions that we’re experiencing aren’t from global warming at all (which I know it is, just to be clear!) but from the elemental characters presented in the book playing while we sleep.

I would recommend this book for readers who love magical stories, adventure, friendship and coming of age.

– Danielle

The Original Ginny Moon ( 14+) – Benjamin Ludwig

The authenticity of Benjamin Ludwig’s writing stuck me immediately. Told in Ginny’s voice, I watched the story unfold through the eyes of this autistic teen and fell in love with her within pages.

Ginny’s life is in turns heartbreaking and inspirational, and her story is unlocked as we progress through this beautifully written novel. Ginny’s autism makes communication with her difficult and confusing at time, and her behaviour seemingly erratic. Through his prose, Ludwig really manages to convey this effortlessly.

Ludwig doesn’t just accept the mantle of an abused autistic teen girl, but takes on being a foster parent/child too. He doesn’t sugar coat anything, and watching Ginny and her Forever Mom’s relationship deteriorate is painfully realistic.

My only quibble with the book is that it really should have been called “Forever Ginny Moon” without a doubt! Besides that I felt it was a fantastic read. Highly recommend as good YA for adults read.

– L-J

Vigilante ( 16+) – Kady Cross

I accidentally started reading this yesterday. I have my YA book club book to read for day 2 days time; I’m dead tired; I have Mom-stuff to do; work-stuff hanging over my head; plus a million other things. But after I took a sneak peak, I knew I’d be in for a late night (3am to be exact). I needed to finish it as much as I need to take my my next breath. Yes…that kind of need.

The “girl raped with society’s appalling response” trope is rather popular currently. Kady Cross manages to take this trope and put her own spin on it. I loved her plot and the atmosphere she creates around both the rape and the vigilante movement that evolves from the rape. Cross explores several important themes, such as men are vulnerable to rape; self defense classes for girls and women are really imperative; and most importantly: boys need to be taught not to rape!

I enjoyed the flawed characters Cross created in Hadley and Gabrie, and she has created a monster in the antagonist and head/lead raper Drew. He was loathsome and all too real. There was some repetition with Hadley blaming herself for her BFF’s rape and suicide (you find out about this in the first few pages so I’m not spoiling anything!) and it became slightly tiresome. I also felt that some of the writing was at times a tad immature.

Saying that, overall I loved “Vigilante” and I literally couldn’t put it down. I would love to see young women (and hopefully men!) pick this novel up and read it.

Until we as a society stop blaming the victims and accepting rape and assault as “foolish drunken behaviour,” then there is a need for these powerful books, and a need for open and frank discussion. Well done Kady!

– L-J

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen ( 12+) – Susin Nielsen

I am always hesitant to pick up a book by an author when I have loved one of their other works. Just a few weeks ago I devoured “Word Nerd” by Susin Nielsen and I can say she didn’t let me down with her following title “The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen.”

While this book employs the much used trope in YA of a loved family member who has passed away, the circumstances of Henry’s brother’s death and his reaction to it were decidedly different.

Following his brother’s death, Henry’s psychologist suggests he writes a diary,  and through this diary we follow Henry on a journey of him trying to hide the truth from his new classmates, his discovery of new friends, and what exactly friendship means. Along the way we discover what exactly happened to his brother and come to understand why Henry wants to hide the truth.

A heartfelt and enjoyable novel that I would recommend to middle grade fans of Jane Elson and Cath Cassidy who are ready for a more mature read.

– Danielle

Horizon ( 9+) – Scott Westerfeld

Action packed, suspenseful and inventive are words that i would use to describe Scott Westerfeld’s newest book, “Horizon”.

After a plane crashes in an alien jungle, eight kids are left to fend for themselves, battling alien creatures, finding mysterious technology and discovering the limits of reality.

Scott has written a fantastic book where the characters seem to jump off the pages and become real. The ending of this book is a cliffhanger, because this is the beginning of an amazing, detailed series.

I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in adventure and survival stories with alien technology.

– Evan White (Book Club Member Extraordinaire)

Thirteen Days of Midnight ( 10+) – Leo Hunt

4 1/2 stars. “Thirteen Days of Midnight” has a real depth to it as there are many sub plots.

The book is very realistic (except where there are 8 ghosts trying to kill Luke). The book is quite full on and I don’t think I’d recommend it to readers under 10. The characters are easy to relate to but I think that the author needed to give Elsa more of a back story to do with magic. Other than that I felt this was a very credible book.

Luke is 16 years old and has just inherited £6 million (A$10 million). His life is normal and he thinks boring but he comes to his senses when there are 8 ghosts trying to lop is skull off. Will he save his mother? Will he save himself? Can he save himself?

Leo Hunt is a amazing author and is well respected by me. This book will appeal to paranormal fans and also Skulduggery Pleasant fans as it says on the cover (I myself am a fan of the Skulduggery  Pleasant novels)

I loved and was immersed in this book.

– Rhys Lewis (Book Club Member Extraordinaire)

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful (14+) – Eric Lindstrom

4 1/2 stars. You know a book is well written when you encounter a immensely complex protagonist who you want to hug and protect and at the same time shake some sense into them. That is what Eric Lindstrom has delivered in “A Tragic Kind of Wonderful.”

We quickly learn that all is not well with Mel. It has been years since her brother Nolan died but it affects Mel to this day. She tries to hide her problems from her friends so that they don’t treat her differently. But can she keep her heart and brain locked away indefinitely or will her best friend and the new boy in her life lead her to explore other possibilities?

One question I asked myself reading this book is how do we treat others with a mental illness differently, and does this make it better or worse for that person?  Are we doing it for them or ultimately to make us feel better?

I fell in love with Mel’s vulnerability and her unselfish need to protect those around her, even when it costs her her best friend and her mental health. I would highly recommend this to fans of Jandy Nelson, Jennifer Nixon and Sara Barnard.

– Danielle

The Wolf Wilder (10+) – Katherine Rundell

I’ve had this book on my (massive) reading pile for over a year. Finally we decided to do it for book club. I picked it up yesterday and barely put it down until I’d finished it. It’s a stunning piece of prose.

The feisty, determined and resilient Feo is a fantastic protagonist. Her mother is training her to be a wolf wilder – someone who trains tame wolves to be wild again. When Feo’s Mother is arrested by the archetypal evil General Rakov, Feo sets off on a mission to rescue her with the help of her faithful wolves and the sweet Ilya.

“The Wolf Wilder” is set before the Russian Bolshevik revolution in the depth of winter, and with the way Rundell writes I was with Feo every step of the way. I loved the subtle historically accurate references and I cannot end my review without commenting on the stunning tactile cover, evocative illustrations and one of the best quotes to ever come out of a book:

“It’s inhumane to take your books away before you know the end.”

Beautiful and loved by the book club.

– L-J

The Women in the Walls ( 14+) – Amy Lukavics

Mystery, paranormal, horror, self-harm and a dysfunctional family. The perfect ingredients for a good book. Amy Lukavics starts strong and I was riveted for the first three quarters.

Lucy’s Mother died when she was 3, her father is a distant presence, and we enter as her Aunt disappears and her cousin is turning slowly insane. Will Lucy figure out what is happening before her own sanity starts unraveling?

Between the insta-love tropes, one ring to rule them all, and talking animals taking over the running of a farm, I’m very able to suspend my hold on reality. But I really was unable to get on board with the ending. Maybe it’s me and others will enjoy it but I’m left feeling rather disappointed after a mostly great read.

– L-J

Hate – Alan Gibbons (14+)

Hate. There’s too much hate in the world. Sadly this book was inspired by the true events of the brutal murders of Sophie Lancaster. In “Hate” two alternative 20 somethings ar beaten in a park just because of how they dressed. One dies. Rosie. This is the aftermath for Rosie’s younger sister  Eve and Anthony, the boy that stood on the sidelines and did nothing.

This book struck me to the core. I’ve walked in fear because of how I dress. I know people attacked because of their sexuality or how they looked. I’ve walked in these shoes. Maybe that’s why it’s taken me days to write this review.

The raw reality of this story makes it riveting, heart-breaking and I was unable to put it down. While “Hate” is about love, loss and hate, it is ultimately about hope, forgiveness and standing up for what is right. Highly recommended for any YA/teen reader.

– L-J

History Is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera (15+)

By the end of the first page I was pretty sure I’d love it. I’m just so slightly obsessed with finding the actual title within a book, movie or song. Sometimes it doesn’t exist. Sometimes it’s implied. When it’s word-for-word it’s a delight. I found this one on the first page. Bonus point.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel. A recommendation by one of my favourite authors on the front cover (the fabulous Patrick Ness) boded well. What I didn’t expect was to spend, at the very least, half of the book in tears. There was even sobbing at one point! I will never read another book by Adam Silvera. Ok I lied I’ll read anything this man writes. He has a mainline to all my emotions. Curse him!

So, “History Is All You Left Me” is told in the first person by our protagonist Griffin. It’s about the death of his best friend and first love – Theo. The story is unveiled in alternating chapters between “today” after the tragedy, and “history” leading up to it.

I became invested in Griff (I fell I’ve earned the right to call him that Adam!) quickly. I fell in love with Theo (despite being a girl). Pondered the relevance of third-wheel Wade (until I realised what was going on). Hated Jackson. Oh, and did I mention I cried?

This is a beautifully crafted story of first love, first heartbreak, grief, forgiveness, growing up, and inevitably moving on. Unless you’re a stone gargoyle you will cry. How much depends on how much you open yourself up to this story.

– L-J

ps: Be prepared for a full on book hangover. You have been warned.

Quarantine – Lex Thomas (15+)

This series is really is a modern reenactment of “Lord of the Flies”. A perfectly paced YA dystopian novel which of course requires a slight suspension of reality.

McKinley High is under military quarantine as the teens have been infected by a virus that makes them deadly to adults. In “Quarantine” Lex Thomas manages to amplify the dog-eat-dog world of high school cliques in a very believable way.

If you loved “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” then I’m pretty sure you’ll get sucked into the crazy world of McKinley High and “Quarantine”.

– L-J

Double Cross – Jackson Pearce (9+)

Well written. Funny. Fast paced. Witty. This is a fantastic new spy school novel about 12 year old Hale who is…rotund…and doesn’t exactly fit in with his fellow students, his polymathic younger sister, or the super team of his mum and dad. But maybe he is the only one that can save the day?

Hale is self-deprecating and incredibly likeable. Along with Hale, Jackson Pearce has created a cast of likeable archetypical characters that although recognisable have some depth and layers to their personality.

I enjoyed the story, the twists and turns, the goods and baddies, and most of all our anti-hero Hale. I liked him from page one and found my admiration for him growing throughout the novel.

I look forward to discussing this with my first Everlasting Gobstoppers Book Club of 2017. I have no doubt there will be requests for book 2 for a future book club!

– L-J

update: The kids loved Double Cross with an average rating of 4.5 stars. Twins Ben and Beatrix were the most popular characters and book 2 was requested when it comes out!

The Amateurs – Sara Shepard (14+)

I’ve always loved mystery book, and this one sits right up there with some of the best YA ones that I’ve read.

Aerin really wants to know what happened to her sister Helena, and thanks to three members of an amateur crime solving website she might find out. The question is, is she really ready for the truth?

You think you know who killed Helena, but do you? Lots of twists and turns keep the reader engaged throughout the book.

I would recommend this book for fans of YA Kathy Reichs books, YA John Grisham books, and mystery/crime books in general. Overall a good fun read and I’m looking forward to Book 2!

– Danielle

The Boundless Sublime – Lili Wilkinson (LOCAL AUTHOR) (14+)

This book is divine. Glorious. Heavenly. Majestic. Resplendent. Splendiferous. Splendorous. Super. Superb. Sublime. Lili Wilkinson has created a wonderful piece of prose, a fantastic believable plot, and intense characters.

17 year old Ruby is lost after a family tragedy and is finally “seen” by the angelic Fox. Unfortunately Fox is part of a possible cult – The Institute of the the Sublime. Can Ruby really ever escape the Institute? Can she save the divine Fox? Can she reunite her family?

Miss Lili has done her research and this book is far too realistic; I could see it actually happening. Her characters were beautifully developed and I never saw the final twist coming!

The icing on the cake was a good ending. I don’t mean a happy ending, but one where Miss Lili ties up all the end in a believable way.

Highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in cults, psychological thrillers, or well developed prose. Perfect for teens and adult readers.

– L-J

If You’re Lucky – Yvonne Prinz (13+)

I’ve read a few books in the last six months that have revolved around the “coming of age after a sibling has died” trope. I have loved these books so I approached this one with some trepidation wondering if it would be as good.

It was, but in such a different way. This book takes a dark turn and has you asking was Lucky killed or has George just lost her mind? A question that has you reading until the very end (I promise that I won’t reveal the answer here!).

George’s story was told in a very heartfelt and gentle way. When George thinks she’s seeing Lucky, Prinz manages to make you feel George’s pain and her mania. You want her to be right (that Lucky’s alive) but you just don’t know.

Excellently written, I really enjoyed this book. My only criticism would be that I would have liked to know more of what happened to George after the story ends.

Please note this book contains a small amount of drug use.

– Danielle

The Edge of Everything – Jeff Giles (13+)

Two worlds colliding: Lowlands (hell) and the Overworld (Earth) and the bloom of first love. Bounty Hunters are imprisoned in the Lowlands and released only to hunt for the souls of those who have committed the worst of crimes. Can X,  the only innocent Bounty Hunter of the Lowlands satisfy the Lords and return to his true love Zoe in the Overworld?

I thought the concept was exceptional. In these days it’s hard to conceive a truly original idea and this feels really fresh. Elements of it left me seriously excited. Plus there were a couple of twists and turns that I’d not expected. Additionally I liked the character development and imagine that Jeff Giles will develop these characters further throughout the series.

Giles includes many traditional YA tropes in “the Edge of Everything” and I take no issue with that. Yet the way he used the insta-love trope didn’t sit well with me. There’s insta-love and then there’s INSTA-LOVE! Most times I can get on board with this trope, but this time it felt too forced. Too “insta”. Too instant. Just too. It’s the sole reason I gave this book three stars and not four. That aside, I think that this could be the start to a great new series.

– L-J

The Half Life of Molly Pierce – Katrina Leno (14+)

I don’t know what to say. Katrina has opened herself up writing this beautiful novel, and for that we should be grateful.

It’s never easy admitting to yourself, let alone those around you, when you suffer from mental health issues. But that is what Molly has to do.

I would highly recommend this book to both girls and boys. It engaged me from the first page. I admire Katrina for her willingness to tackle a difficult situation, and love that she has achieved it in a thought provoking book.

– Danielle

The Tragic Age – Stephen Metcalfe (15+)

It took me a good 1/3 of the book to really get into the story. I’m not the perkiest of bunnies, but Billy Kinsey is a very depressing character. I was reminded as a read of Holden Caulfield in “Catcher in the Rye”

Billy has isolated himself to protect his feelings (somewhat like the protagonist in Oliver Jeffers’ “Heart in a Bottle”) after his twin sister dies. I understand why Stephen Metcalfe has done this, however it made reading this book very hard work.

Once Billy’s interacting with our other main players the book starts picking up its pace. In fact I started to really enjoy it and wanted to know what the conclusion would be.

I found Billy’s daydreaming of what he wished he did (and then what he actually does) gave a fresh insight into Billy that we’d have otherwise not have seen. However towards the end of the book I started questioning if any of the story was real or if it was just another “American Psycho” or “Sopranos”.

Nevertheless, aside from the slow (read depressing) start and the alternative universe stuff, I ultimately enjoyed “The Tragic Age” and would recommend it to both boys and girls of the tragic age.

– L-J

ps: the title is revealed in chapter 69! Bonus points.

Life in a Fishbowl – Len Vlahos (14+)

4 1/2 stars. When I picked up “life in a fishbowl” to read this morning on my day off I didn’t expect to finish the day at the end of an emotional rollercoster.

This book is about Jackie, her younger sister Megan and their parents. Jackie’s dad has just found out he has a brain tumour and yet his only concern is how he is going to provide for his family. What ensues is a difficult family journey that is told with some humour. The book explores how far some people will go and what true love and friendship means.

Reading this book bought back some very personal memories for me, some very difficult memories. However Len deals with this extremely difficult subject in a compassionate way. He gives a very real look at what families go through. I laughed, I cried, and was so involved with the characters that I only put this book down to do a training session and eat dinner.

I especially like the way in which the author tackled the cancer and used it as a character, not just an idea or part of Jackie’s dad.

I would highly recommend this amazing book. There are some very difficult issues tackled and would therefore suggest and age of 14+. It is a very emotional journey and the reader needs to be prepared for that.

– Danielle

The Song from Somewhere Else – A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold (10+)

When I finished reading this book I just sat and let it sink in. I wanted to jump in the pages and hug Frank and Nick.

This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. The stunning imagery created by Pinfold adds such depth to the beautiful prose by Harrold. I couldn’t imagine one without the other.

At its heart this book is about Frank, who is merciless bullied; Nick, who stands up for her; their unlikely friendship; and the power of secrets.

It made me question what a friend really is, what I would give up for my friends, and the power of forgiveness.

Told with dark humour this book is unforgettable. I would recommend this book for every person young or old. I can’t wait to read Harrold’s first book “The Imaginary”.

– Danielle

Girl in Pieces – Kathleen Glasgow (16+)

When I finished reading “Girl in Pieces” I had the worst book hangover I’ve had in a very long time. In the past this usually occurs when I’m sucked into a new world (like “Hunger Games”). This time I was pulled firmly into my past and reading “Girl in Pieces” became a very intimate act. While the act of cutting has never been a personal issue for me, there are other acts of self harm we use to alleviate anxiety, depression and feelings of hopelessness.

“Girl in Pieces” is about Charlie’s struggle to survive in a world that keeps throwing the worst at her. It’s about using cutting to cope with life’s horrors and Charlie trying to find better ways to deal with disappointment and hurt.

It’s my hope that teens will read this and know they aren’t alone. Know there’s hope. Know that you just have to keep moving forward every day, every hour, every five minutes if that is what it needs to be. I want adults to read this so they know their struggle is real, their path is well worn, but they too aren’t alone.

Kathleen Glasgow writes eloquently about cutting – non-suicidal self-injury. It’s an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger, and frustration. Like Susanna Kaysen’s “Girl, Interrupted”, Glasgow draws on personal experience. This gives us a gritty, emotional story that as usual I COULDN’T PUT DOWN.

Besides the self-harm, there’s drug and alcohol use, homelessness, rape and prostitution. Please don’t let this stop you from picking up this amazing piece of work. I personally want my children to explore the dark turns life can take from within books in order to help them make better choices in their lives.

Unusually I like the US cover better…

– L-J

Olive of Groves – Katrina Nannested (8+)

3 1/2 starts. Olive is an ordinary girl and there is absolutely nothing special about her.  At least that is what she thinks until she starts at Mrs Groves’ Boarding School for Naughty Boys, talking Animals and Circus Performers. At school she befriends Moose, fainting goose and some clowns.

Katrina Nannested has created an amazing school in which Olive can find out how special she really is and how brave she can be.

Told with humour, this book is suitable for 8-10 year old, especially ones that love books with animals, adventure and just a dash of mischief.

– Danielle

No Virgin – Anne Cassidy (16+)

This is a book that takes you by the throat and doesn’t let you breath until you’re finished reading. It’s the classic trope of rape and self-blame and it breaks your heart in so many ways.

As the story unfolds, like the peeling of an onion, the context of rape is revealed. The book is told for Stacey’s point of view and from the outset she totally blames herself. While the rape scene is unflinching in its details it is not gratuitous. We need the details to help us and Stacey understand why Stacey isn’t to blame.

Stacey’s circumstances are all too relateable. Her self-blame is understandable and so much of this book felt familiar. It left me feeling out of sorts for hours after I finished it. I felt enraged at the antagonists, and while on the one hand I wanted to comfort Stacey, I also wanted to shake her and repeat “it wasn’t your fault”.

I can’t say more than this powerful piece of prose is a must read for all teens (and hopefully a warning) and adults (and possibly a reminder that it wasn’t your fault).

– L-J

Word Nerd – Susin Nielsen (12+)

After four very heavy YA novels I needed something lighter and picked up “Word Nerd” – which starts with bullies trying to kill the protagonist Ambrose :p

Susin Nielsen tells Ambrose’s story with a beautifully light touch. There’s humour and so much heart in these 240 pages.

A lonely and slightly strange boy forms an unlikely friendship with the ex-con upstairs neighbour over the game of scrabble. In the space of 9 months we are a part of the a beautifully unique young man’s journey in finding his voice, his confidence, and his people.

This is a story to life the spirits and I highly recommend it to any tween, teen or adult looking for something slightly quirky, uplifting and full of fantastic characters.

– L-J

Zom-B – Darren Shan (14+)

Darren Shan has created a classic zombie series with a twist – racism.  Simon & Schuster have done a great job of rejacketing it and any horror/zombie lover will enjoy this series.

I read the first in the series quickly and found the fast pace good. I liked the twist at the end (won’t give anything away) but am not entirely sure what the point of it was. I think any horror/zombie fan will enjoy the gruesome violence that you’d expect from a zombie novel.

I found the racism of B’s father to be very difficult reading. B’s struggle in dealing with a violent and racist father was believable and I could understand the difficulty of growing up in that environment, wanting to please your Dad, and yet knowing the racism was wrong.

I understand that Darren was trying to approach the difficult subject of racism in a way that makes young people really think about these issues.  He’s used the zombie apocalypse trope to achieve that in a non-preachy way. I admire that, yet it didn’t totally sit well with me. I think it contributed to my inability to connect to B, which in turn meant I was unable to connect with Zom-B.

– L-J

The One Memory of Flora Banks – Emily Barr (14+)

Flora had a tumor removed when she was 10 and doesn’t remember. In fact she can’t remember anything since that day. She’s lost all her short term memory. That is until she kisses a boy. She remembers the kiss and Flora goes to the end of the earth to find him because she thinks he is the cure. But is he really? Will he make things better or worse for Flora? Only she can answer this.

In a time when there is a plethora of YA fiction featuring mental illness this book stands out as it tackles a neurological disorder and for its tenderness and realism.

I fell in love with Flora and I wanted to protect her from harm. The ability by Emily Barr to create this connection is above all else the key to a fantastic novel.

I would highly recommend this book to fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.

– Danielle

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sarah Barnard (15+)

This book is perfect for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.  It’s about a girl who is painfully shy and the boy who helps her find not only herself but her confidence. It’s about first love, friendship, family and how you can change your future, if only you find your voice. It’s about what it means to be in a a relationship and how one person shouldn’t be the protector but it should be about equality.

In a lot of ways it is a simple story of growing up and finding first love but really it is about so much more. The role of the best friend/parents/school in our lives and how they shape who we are and what we can achieve.

I wish I’d had a book like this when I was growing up. While I never stopped talking, I connected with the feeling of being anxious. Growing up is never easy and everyone thinks that they know what is best for you. But you need to find the voice, your voice, to tell people what is best for you.

Contains drinking and sex.

– Danielle

Lisette’s Paris Notebook – Catherine Bateman (13+)

3 1/2 stars. A very sweet story about a girl coming of age and finding out what her dreams are.

Lisette has traveled to Paris during her gap year to improve her French. But is this her dream or her Mother’s? Now she is on her own for the first time will she be able to step out of the shadows and stand up for herself?

A romance story and a coming of age tale. This book has both.

A good read for fans of chic lit or someone looking for something a little less serious and maybe a little more uplifting to read.

– Danielle

Frankie – Shivaun Plozza (LOCAL AUTHOR) (14+)

“Frankie” has been in my reading tower for most of 2016. I’m so glad that it made it into my Christmas Holiday Reading Pile. What an absolutely fantastic story. Frankie is a very angry 17 year old; suspended indefinitely from school; abandoned at 4 by her mother; raised by her Auntie. Suddenly a previously unknown half-brother pops up. Just as Frankie is coming to terms with his existence, her half-brother Xavier disappears and is seems Frankie is the only one interested in finding him, with the help from the devilishly delicious Nate.

Set in a suburb of Melbourne (Collingwood) I found myself reveling in the familiarity and the “currentness” of “Frankie”. I sincerely hope that for non-local readers it adds another layer of reality to the story and doesn’t distract them. This book deserves to travel far.

With the pent up teen angst, fabulous music references and punchy dialogue, “Frankie” definitely spoke my language, both as teen-me and now-me. This is a perfect novel for any teen, boy or girl.  It has an edge that I think will appeal across the board.

Oh, and as much I love Ian Curtis, always Morrissey. Always.

– L-J


The Boy Most Likely To – Huntley Fitzpatrick (14+)

When I first started reading “The Boy Next Door” I expected a light hearted fluffy chic-lit style book. What I got was an unexpectedly powerfully written book about what it means to grow up as a teen in today’s complicated society. A book about accepting yourself for who you are – both good and bad. I loved it.

Please note it does contain references to drinking, drugs, sex and teen pregnancy.

– Danielle

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls – Lynn Weingarten (14+)

I couldn’t put this book down. I picked it up the morning of a day off and went to bed early so that I could finish it in peace.

It’s a twisted story looking at the powerful bond of relationships. A very strong plot that twists and turns, keeping readers on their toes. With a fascinating and manipulative cast of characters, you don’t know who to trust.

I was only disappointed by the open ending, mostly because I am not a fan of leaving a novel for the readers interpretation, I prefer to know what happens to the main characters that I have invested my emotions in. If not for the open ending I’d have given this book 5 stars.  Nevertheless I would highly recommend this book.

Please note it does contain references to sex, drugs, drinking, suicide and murder.

– Danielle

Beautiful Failures – Lucy Clark (Parents & Educators)5stars-small

beautiful-failuresThis book is revolutionary. Forget Mao’s Little Red Book or Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Just pick up Lucy Clark’s “Beautiful Failures.” Every parent, every teacher and every principal should read this book.

Our education system is broken and it is failing OUR children. It needs to change. Our expectations need to change. How we measure success needs to change. If our children’s happiness is honestly our goal, then change MUST occur. While written from the perspective of an Australian parent, I think it applies to all first world countries (except Finland of course!).

This book is not only for parents of the square pegs that do not fit into the round holes our society has created, but for the round pegs too.  Their fantastic results do not reflect the damage we are inflicting upon our children.  Damage that will ultimately lead them into becoming unhappy adults.

I can’t find the right words to express how beautiful and important this book is. Buy it. Borrow it. Whatever you need to do. And make time to read it.  It’s that important to your children’s future.

– L-J

Dear Charlie – N.D Gomes (14+)4stars-small

dear-charlieEvery week (or so it seems) we hear about another mass shooting. We easily empathise with the families of those killed, we pray for them and we want answers. But what about the family of the person that did it? We either ignore them or blame them. Is that fair?

“Dear Charlie” explores the aftermath of one of these events from the perpetrator’s younger brother’s point of view. At the tender age of 16, Sam is left questioning everthing he thought he knew.

I truly admire the author for tackling these issues in a tender but real way. It opened my eyes to the way we treat others when we need to blame someone, and how we treat ourselves.  This book is a beautifully written exploration of the aftermath of a preventable tragedy.

– Danielle

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B – Teresa Toten (13+)4stars-small

unlikelyhero13bI cried. Real tears. I loled. Actual laughter.  I couldn’t put it down. I knew going in that this book was a recommended read about mental health issues.  However, although OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder, of which anxiety is the root cause) is central to almost all the main characters, it’s really just a backdrop to the story of growing up, friendship, family, step-families, first loves and finding your inner strength. There’s also a good unexpected twist at the end.

While the emotional content of the book definitely got me in the feels, I found the OCD aspect riveting, informative and incredibly important.  Mental issues need to be taken out into the open, normalised and brought to the fore to allow discussion and understanding.

I can’t tell you how much I loved this book.  I never expected to, but it engaged me on so many levels. It was raw and emotionally charged. The characters felt real. My only quibble is that I wish there was a book 2 in the works.  But that’s just because I want to know what happens to the main characters! Obviously highly recommended. I think everyone could get something out of this book.

– L-J

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares – Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (12+)4stars-small

dashlilyI now remember why I DON’T READ THESE TYPES OF BOOKS. The emotional rollercoaster I have been through in the past few days has been overwhelming.  Furthermore I’m left with “post book depression”. Note to self: read a rubbish book next time!

If I enjoyed David Levithan before, now I’m a total fan girl. And be in no doubt people, this man has created a fantastic boy in Dash.  I fell for him hook, link, snark and sinker.  Add to that Rachel Cohn’s Lovely Lily Bear. Lily had aspects I could relate to, and others that I found endearing.

I found myself almost in tears when things weren’t working out, heart palpitations when our protagonists were making silly teenage decisions (full disclosure: I’m not sure as an adult my decisions are any better unfortunately) and smiles a plenty throughout.

This is a super cute and sweet book suitable for any 12+, fans of either Levithan or Cohn, or anyone just looking for a damn good read.

– L-J

The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker – Kat Spears (14+)4stars-small

theboywhokilledgrantparkerI’m not sure what drew me to this book. Maybe that I’ve changed schools more times than most people have had hot dinners.  I tend to be drawn to a book by three things: the title (great title);  the cover (I’m not in awe of this cover to be honest); and the first few lines (which drew me in beautifully).

Kat Spears has created a story which is reminiscent of a cross between “Footloose” and “Some Kind of Wonderful”.  I enjoyed the characters and felt particularily drawn to Delilah.  The events that lead to the rise and fall of Luke’s fate reminded me not only of how quickly things can escalate in your youth, but a similar sensation of loss of control as an adult too.

I think the themes of fitting in, standing out, bullying, having a crush on the wrong person when the right one is there in-front of you, and teenage defiance against authority are all themes that most of us can easily identify with. Spears’ writing draws you in and engulfs you.  Highly recommended for 14+ and any adult YA reader interested in a good read.

– L-J

Divergent – Veronica Roth (14+)  4stars-small

divergentI will admit I’m a late arriver to Veronica Roth’s world of Divergent.  I came to it knowing very little about the series and quickly fell in love with the strong female
protagonist Tris and Four (a major male character).

This is a beautifully crafted dystopian novel about a city walled off from the world that’s divided its citizens into five factions based on their virtues – Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (peace), and Candor (honesty).

I was surprised to read negative reviews. Yes, I did have to suspend my belief in reality in places (when don’t I?) but I easily got lost in Tris’s world with that familiar inability to put the book down.

I’m guessing it’s apparent I’m in love with the dystopian and fractured fairy tale genres.  Not sure what that says about me…but I’ll continue to enjoy it. Great for YA dystopian lovers who are looking for action with an interesting plot. I personally put this at 14+ although I do know a lot of 10+ kids are reading it.

– L-J

Virals – Kathy Reichs (12+)4stars-small

viralsWhen Danielle recommended the Young Adult (YA) Kathy Reichs series Virals I wasn’t too sure what to expect.  I LOVED her adult series but was disappointed by the series Bones (as a stand alone it’s enjoyable, but compared to the books it really falls short). I wasn’t sure how she’d transition to the YA market.

Having read it the first of the series I have one word – Stunning.  I was captivated till the end.  Like a lot of YA there were elements of implausibility, however if you suspend your knowledge of reality this is a great read. There is lots of action, interesting characters, forensic science and a good little twist.  It’s a great adult YA read and perfect for any 12+ looking for something a bit more gritty.

– L-J

Apple and Rain – Sarah Crossan (12+)3stars-small

apple-and-rainThis book made me feel sad, it made me feel happy, it made me laugh and it made me feel grateful. An incredibly well written book that at times I wanted to jump into and give the characters a good talking to!!

No parent is perfect but reading this book made me realise how lucky I was to have my parents. Apple’s mum leaves her when she is young and she struggles to understand why. Her mum returning doesn’t answer her questions but it makes her realise what love really is… and that love can come from surprising places if only you see people for who they really are and accept their good along with their imperfections.

I would recommend this to any fans of John Green type novels – it is very real and heartbreaking at times. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed it – I struggled to put it down from the moment I cracked it open (as anyone who saw me at the Port Melbourne Primary School fete can attest!).

– Danielle

Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy (14+)4stars-small

dumplinI loved this book. More than that, I connected with it. The main character fights to remain true to herself and she does it with amazing courage and sense of humour. Reflecting on my teenage years I wish that I had been more like her.

It doesn’t state her weight and lets you determine what is your meaning of overweight.

I believe every girl that feels different to the group for what ever reason will connect with this book.

The perfect book for anyone who isn’t perfect.

– Danielle

The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness (12+)3stars-small

TROUJLH-hb-coverReading this book is like snuggling up in bed on a cold day with your quilt wrapped around you and a bar of your favourite chocolate in your hand. Patrick Ness has never disappointed me and this book is no exception.  Mystery, intrigue, relationships, real life, teenage angst with the smallest sprinkling of mushy stuff.

I love the way Ness creates two stories simultaneously – a glimpse at the beginning of every chapter into the Indie kids who save the world, and the real story about the rest of us who just live here – you and me! I honestly cannot recommend this book highly enough.

I think it’s appropriate for the teen market and will particularly appeal to girls; anyone who loves a good dystopian book or just a good story line; adults who have tapped into the joys of YA fication; and boys who enjoy character driven novels will enjoy this too. it might be a little slow for plot driven readers but I literally devoured it.

– L-J

I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson (14+)5stars-small

give-you-the-sunDanielle (sister) and Michael (our rep from Walker Books) insisted I read “I’ll give you the sun” by Jandy Nelson. It’s not my usual reading fodder (I leave the sappy chic type books for Danielle). Murder? Mystery? Sci Fi? Something odd? I’m your girl.

But they INSISTED!

It made me cry. It made me get up at 3am. I had to know what happened. It made me believe in soul mates and split-aparts again. Something I’ve not done for a long time. It made me miss my Mom. It made me want to create.

This is not just an amazing piece of prose. It’s so much more than that.

This is not just for fans of John Green. It’s so much more than that.

This tale, told in two halves, of twins, of tragedy, of all consuming love…this tale moved me.

I have Danielle and Michael to thank for that.

– L-J