Posts Tagged ‘Book review’

Brown girl dreaming

By Jacqueline Woodson

ISBN 9780399252518

While Brown girl dreaming is a memoir written in verse form it still has power to move. Visually, verse novels have their own beauty, in the way words sit on the page and the way words ebb and flow. Jacqueline Woodson does this with precision.

This is a moving account of the author’s early life with her brother Hope, sister Odella and later, younger brother Roman. We witness what it is like to be growing up black in the 1960’s in a world of change. For some it is a world where the past haunts, always in the background. For others it is a time where the rise of the Civil Rights movement is making change and bringing hope. And always just on the surface is Jacqueline’s desire to write. Learning wasn’t easy for her and I was very moved when I read the reasons why she used the name Jackie instead of Jacqueline. At the heart of this novel is family.

This is not just a personal memoir but a view of the social and political times in which so many people grew up and for that it is a must read.
I am including a couple of quotes which will remain with me. I am sure you will find your own which impact on you as you read this wonderful novel.

“How can I explain to anyone that
stories are air to me,
I breathe them in and let them out
over and over again.” pg 247

“How to listen #7
Even the silence
has a story to tell yoy.
Just listen. Listen.” pg 278

The book is beautifully produced with a standout cover with a brown silhouette of a young pig-tailed girl with book in hand.

Enjoy this clip of Jacqueline reading from her book.

By Joy Cowley


Eleven year old Will aka pooface to his sister Melissa aka slime brain to Will are bribed to the tune of $1000 each, to help out their old hippie grandparents fix up their holiday home in the Sounds.
It is not until they arrive at the Sounds that they realize just how secluded they are. No cell phones, no electricity, no indoor toilet and even getting water proves difficult and potentially dangerous. They will certainly have to work for their money.
Joy Cowley weaves a wonderful feel good story with moody teenager Melissa and often smart-alec younger brother Will. At times they are both frustrating but the mark of a good novel is seeing the growth of a character. Will and Melissa by the end of the novel are not the same people that began their journey to a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere. This is an honest, realistic feel good story.
This book so deserves to be a finalist in the New Zealand Post book awards for Children and Young Adults

The forbidden library
By Django Wexler
Illustrated by David Wyatt (UK edition)


Young Alice happens at the very start of this novel to eavesdrop on a rather heated exchange between her father and a fairy. Not your ordinary run-of-the mill fairy, but a two foot tall fairy with enormous wings and a “mouth full of needle-like teeth, and a long red tongue like a snake’s”.
This exchange is just the start of many events and action which just keep happening.
As with many good adventures it isn’t long before Alice is suddenly orphaned and forced to live with strangers in a very strange place.
Alice finds herself in a magical world where cats can talk and dangerous creatures invade the pages of books in a very large, dark and mysterious library.
There is the very quiet, mysterious and waif-like Emma who attends to Alice but seems just as strange as everything else in Alice’s new world.
Then there is the library where books have their own secrets and dangers and Alice has no choice but to enter a fantastical world of adventure and danger.
Trapped between the pages of the mysterious books Alice must find a way to survive and return to safety in the real world. The pace is steady and enticing and I had to keep reading.
The UK edition offers some wonderful pen and ink illustrations from David Wyatt. The US edition illustrations are also very fine but I must admit I do prefer the UK ones.
This is a great read for children 10-13 who love books, reading and adventure, with a heap of fantasy for good measure.
If you want a taster of this novel check the author’s website here and read the first chapter.The trouble is you know you will want to read more once you start.

Blood eagle tortures
Book 4 in the CRYPT series
(Covert Response Youth Paranormal Team)
By Andrew Hammond


This book has been on my TBR pile waiting for the holidays to read it and it was well worth the wait.
I love this series and have devoured each book. What makes this book great is that as readers we are let in to a little more of Jud’s past. There are still plenty of secrets and Jud has to navigate his past with his present. We also see more of the relationship building between Jud and Bex but I really don’t want to give anything away. I will say though, tension is building between them!!
Jud and Bex work for a secret division of MI5 where a group of gifted teens investigate paranormal events. They have met many horrible, nasty ghosts in their investigations and are always only just lucky enough to escape with their lives.
In this particular book, horror is unleashed when a lone diver discovers items that should have stayed buried forever and bodies begin to pile up. Gruesome deaths have the team all over the place looking for clues and answers to the ghostly horrors. And in the midst of all the horrors is someone with a face Jud just can’t place. There is more danger than just the ghosts if Jud’s secret is let loose.
I love the way the chapters are short, sharp and go back and forth between characters so that we sense the tension building and become privy to possibilities that leave us guessing.
However, I wasn’t prepared for the ending and have to say Mr Hammond, you need to hurry up with book number 5 because I am desperate to know what happens next.

Finally had the chance to read this much anticipated book and I must say I was not disappointed. Thank goodness for holidays and sunshine to sit back and read. Only one complaint and that is I have to wait for book two be published.

Veerle is 17 and living in Brussels with her mother Claudine. Her mother is somewhat losing the plot and Veerle is becoming more and more frustrated with the life she is living under her mother’s suspicion and paranoia.
The prologue opens with a punch when Veerle is just a young child and sees something she shouldn’t. Fast forward ten years and a chance encounter takes her down a new road when she investigates a light in an abandoned building. There she meets Kris who invites her to become part of the Koekoeken (cuckoos) a secret society who break into empty properties. Rather than steal or vandalise the properties, they fix things up. Just little things like latches. The society is so secret most members don’t know of each other or their real identities. Then the bodies begin to pile up. Somewhere there is a serial killer and slowly Veerle is starting to connect the dots. The Hunter is watching, waiting and Veerle and Kris are next on the list.
This is definitely different (in a very good way), to most YA books. This is thriller, mystery, murder and even a little romance all rolled together. It is very well written with just enough clues to keep you guessing and hanging out to read the next chapter. It moves along at a steady pace, building tension and suspense as the bodies pile up. As I was approaching the end of the novel I sneaked a moment at work to read when work was quite. My work mate approached me to say something and I jumped and screamed out loud. (We both got the giggles) but I was so engrossed in the story I was right next to Veerle urging her to run. I love the way the Hunter has chapters of his own where we become witness to the murders. Now I have to wait for the next book. Grrr!
Check out the trailer on an earlier post.

Everything I need to know I learned from a Little Golden Book
By Diane Muldrow


I bought this delightful book yesterday for the school library and even though I haven’t even processed it yet I have children and teachers begging to be first to read it. (Teachers mostly!)
We have all grown up with Little Golden Books. They were everywhere – they still are but this one is a treasure to keep.
It is simply a “guide-to-life” seen through the pages of Little Golden Books. It really is aimed at adults who will be transported back in time to their own childhood and their own memories of these wonderful books. The size and format is exactly the same with its iconic golden spine. The end pages are gorgeous.
I wish I could show you the inside of this book and all the hilarious retro illustrations. There is mother in her perfection wearing the full apron while hoovering the house and father in his suit.
My favourite was and still is The Poky little puppy who here tells us to “remember to stop and smell the strawberries”.
It is a look back at some of some of best illustrators, including Richard Scarry and Eloise Wilkin and the Poky Little Puppy illustrator, Gustaf Tenggren, whom I admit I have never heard of – but know his little puppy anywhere!
The book is full of little quips to lead us to a better life. It is great for children but equally great for the child in us all. This really is a beautiful book and would make the most wonderful gift to give this Christmas.

Stay where you are & then leave
By John Boyne


I was very fortunate to receive an ARC of this book from the Random House Road Show and being a fan of John Boyne’s work I devoured this. I recall when John Boyne was here in Christchurch some years ago to promote his book The boy in striped pyjamas that when I lined up to get my copy signed, I told him how cross I was at such a tragic ending. We discussed it briefly (the line was long) and I know there could not have been any other ending. The point of war is tragic.
Boyne makes a similar point in his latest novel but on a different level. Here, five year old Alfie knows there is a war. His father, after all has signed up willingly to fight and is on a secret mission hence the lack of contact. Letters arrived from his father in the trenches when war first started but then they stopped. War was supposed to be over by Christmas but no-one ever said “which Christmas”. Four years on and war is still going but still no letters. A sequence of coincidences prove too much for Alfie and he begins his own journey to find out about his father.
This is a moving, poignant tale of war and its impact on family life. Boyne weaves in different points of view from the people living in Damley Road where Alfie Summerfield lives. This book moves along subtley and then hits you with a punch that leaves you thinking about Alfie and his family, long after you have finished reading.
Oliver Jeffers has done a brilliant job on the cover of this book. So real in a retro way. Love it!

Dear Vincent
By Mandy Hager


Tara is 17 and overwhelmed by what  life keeps throwing at her.  She is trying to succeed at school, working part-time to help out at home as well as caring for her stroke-ridden father. Her mother is brutal, uncaring  and abusive. Tara misses her older sister, Van who died five years ago and consoles herself with painting. She is obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh seeing parallels between his life and hers.

The discovery that her sister had actually taken her own life leaves Tara distraught. She begins to spiral out of control desperate and self-destructive.

There is hope though in the companionship of an elderly man she cares for at the rest home where she works. He offers her strength and wonderful discussions about Vincent Van Gogh. But is it enough?

This book is raw and honest. Family secrets are hidden deep but the consequences are devastating. It is an emotional roller coaster which leaves the reader gasping for breath.

Suicide is very real and Mandy Hager is brave to tackle what is often a taboo subject. I highly recommend this book although the subject and reality of suicide  is not for everyone.

I  predict this gutsy novel will be a finalist on next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book  Awards.

I hunt killers
By Barry Lyga
Jasper Dent Book 1
(ISBN13: 9780316125840)


I posted the trailer for this book a few weeks back and having finally managed to get my hands on a copy have read it and here is my review. I was not disappointed with this book at all!
Jazz is the son of the world’s worst serial killer. He cannot escape his heritage and even though his father is locked away in prison, his town is not safe. Bodies have started piling up again and Jazz is determined to get to the bottom of it. He may however, be more involved than realises. There are so many things in this book which kept me hooked. Jazz continually has internal conversations with both himself and his father. Sometimes the “conversations” are quite brutal and you have to wonder just how cruel humans can be. The past keeps coming back in flashes that both haunt and confuse Jazz. There are moments when you think you know who is committing the murders and moments when you are as confused as Jazz. The pace is perfect and the language and tone are also just right. The author has obviously done his research and facts are thrown in from time to time about real serial killers. At times it is a little graphic for sensitive young adult readers but it is a book I highly recommend for a great thriller, murder-mystery and just a 5 out of 5 great read. I will certainly look forward to book 2 as the twist at the end leaves you hanging out for more!

Just a reminder that the book trailer can be found here on this blog.