Tag Archives: Australian

Pete and the Persian Bottle by Sarah Jackson

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Pete and the Persian Bottle by Sarah Jackson and illustrated by Tegan Werts, e-book, 101 pages, published by Big Bulb Books in 2016.

The summer holidays are almost upon Pete when he discovers an interesting old bottle in the skip bin next door. Unfortunately for Pete, instead of a friendly genie ready to grant him wishes, there is a scared Djinn residing in the bottle who just wants to go back to his homeland. Suddenly Pete is a rat and the Djinn is gone; how will Pete get back to normal now?

This was an easy, quick and entertaining read. It does sound fun to get some wishes from a genie, but it would be so easy for things to go wrong, just as Pete discovered. Poor Pete; all he wanted was to be more than average. Of course, being a talking rat did make him special, but it wasn’t exactly what he had in mind! His adventure as a rat was good, it felt realistic, with a little bit of danger and some rather funny moments. I liked Pete’s narrow escape from the Lace Monitor, and his heightened sense of smell.

Pete and the Persian Bottle was set in a small and hot town in Queensland, Australia. The language reflects the setting, with a number of Australianisms throughout the story. Having grown up in country Australia myself, the setting was familiar and the language and characters perfectly suited to the town. I quite enjoyed the story, and I liked the cast of kids too (except for the bully, Glenn, no one could really like him!) There were also a few black and white illustrations scattered through the text, which were nice.

Pete and the Persian Bottle is suitable for middle to upper primary school children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

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Goodwood by Holly Throsby

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goodwoodcoverGoodwood by Holly Throsby, paperback novel, 384 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2016.

In 1992 in a sleepy little town in NSW something very unusual happens. Young Rosie White disappears overnight, leaving her mother devastated and the townsfolk speculating. Just one week later another member of the community disappears; Bart McDonald, local butcher, upright citizen, all round good guy. He went fishing and never returned. Could their disappearances be connected, or is it merely co-incidental? And will the citizens of Goodwood ever know the truth?

In Goodwood there are a few shops, a couple of drinking establishments and just out of town, a lovely lake, perfect for fishing and boating. Seventeen year old Jean Brown introduces us to this small town, where everyone knows everyone. And where everyone’s business is kept by the whole town. Some people have learnt how to keep secrets, but eventually most secrets come to the surface. Jean lives with her mother nearby her grandparents, who have been in Goodwood forever.

A complex web of secrets and intrigues shrouds the members of Goodwood, which only start to unravel after the shocking disappearance of two very different people. Like an iceberg, much more lurks beneath the surface in Goodwood, hidden behind the public facade of each household. There is plenty of gossip, and just maybe some of it is true. Rosie works in the takeaway shop, having just left school the year before. Jean is a little bit in love with Rosie, who seems so cool and in control. In contrast, Bart is middle-aged and always has time for everyone, even the annoying old lady that visits his shop everyday mostly for a chat. They are very different people, superficially without a lot in common, just what is it that links their disappearances?

Goodwood sucked me in very early on. The plot was intricate, the characters interesting, and the pace moderate. It is a most enjoyable read about small town life and the impact that a sudden and unexpected event can illicit among the townspeople. It also has coming-of-age elements as Jean learns more about herself, her relationships and her place within the community.

I found this novel quite nostalgic, pulling me back into my childhood. Through description and characterisation, the world as it was in the early nineties came flooding back. The writing perfectly captured that time, and I was left with a feeling of familiarity and contentment. It was like having a spotlight shone upon a time that I had mostly forgotten as a young child, and that brought pleasing memories forth. This helped me feel connected to Jean, and thus connected to the story. Goodwood was a delight to read.

Goodwood is reminiscent of Peyton Place and The Dressmaker; if you liked these, try Goodwood, I’m sure you will not be disappointed! It is suitable for upper high school students and adults, particularly appealing to mystery fans and those that enjoy the complexities of small community life.

 

*I received this book from the publisher as an uncorrected proof through an online competition. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

The Road to Winter by Mark Smith

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roadtowintercoverThe Road to Winter by Mark Smith, paperback novel, 230 pages, published by Text Publishing in 2016.

Finn watched as his little town on the Victorian coast was ravished by a mysterious virus, leaving few survivors. Finn is a survivor, and he has kept himself and his dog, Rowdy, alive for the past two years, despite his youth. He’s also escaped the notice of the violent gangs of Wilders who have taken control of the land to the north. A girl suddenly appears on Finn’s beach, injured, tired and running from the Wilders. He makes a split decision to help her; he is not alone any more, but she does pose a huge complication to his otherwise repetitive life of hunting and surfing.

What a debut for Mark Smith! An intense dystopian novel set in Australia, The Road to Winter is about the struggles to survive in a world turned upside down. There are also themes of friendship and love, including the special bond that Finn has with Rowdy. I really got wrapped up in this story as I read. I stayed up late to finish reading it, and when I awoke the following morning, all I could think about was getting back into the book to find out what happened next. I was extremely disappointed when I remembered that I’d already finished it and the next one isn’t available yet.

Such rich characters, having experienced loss, trauma and hardship. In some ways they are all broken, but they also possess much strength to have survived the sickness and the collapse of society. I really liked Finn, his gentle and caring nature, his independence and his love for Rowdy. He is quite resourceful also, trapping rabbits and diving for abalone to eat. Rose and Kas are much more feisty, and maybe even more determined to survive than Finn. They are also capable, clever and beautiful. Ramage, on the other-hand, is cruel and vindictive, a truly ugly person capable of the most heinous acts. I think many of the Wilders do Ramage’s bidding because they are frightened of him, and with good cause. It’s a shame the virus didn’t take him out! The sound of his trail bike is chilling; it announces impending hostility and fear, hard to forget.

The author has included a rather controversial and topical aspect to this story in the form of ‘Sileys’. This is slang for asylum seekers. In the story these ‘Sileys’ were bought and sold like slaves, property for their owners to do with as they saw fit. Australia is currently up in arms about the treatment of asylum seekers, who face off-shore detention in poor conditions indefinitely. It’s scary to think that our current methods of processing asylum seekers could ever devolve into open slave labour like in the story.

A thrilling read, The Road to Winter is suitable for high school students. It is to be the first in a series, so now I have to wait (trying to be patient, and failing miserably!) for the next book.

The Flywheel by Erin Gough

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flywheelcoverThe Flywheel by Erin Gough, paperback novel, 306 pages, published by Hardie Grant Egmont in 2015.

Del’s life is complicated. After her mother left, Del encouraged her heart-broken father to travel overseas and take time for himself. While he is away, Del is running her father’s café, The Flywheel. She was supposed to just be helping out the manager, but he got deported, and now she’s on her own, trying desperately to keep things going, and she just can’t tell her dad. She also wants to avoid going back to school, where she is supposed to be in year eleven. She’s been copping it for being gay, with the ‘popular’ girls leading the charge with claims of stalking and voyeurism. And she’s got her friend Charlie to worry about; and her crush on Rosa, a girl that dances Flamenco at the Tapas Bar across the road.

A poignant and compelling story of a girl trying to find her place in the world, The Flywheel is about friendship, love, loss, and making the best of any situation. Beautifully written from the stand-point of Delilah, the gay 17 year old protagonist, I found this book to be incredibly hard to put down. I would have finished it in one sitting, but I really needed to sleep!

With excellent description, I could be sitting in The Flywheel now, sipping a triple chocolate milkshake, eating a HAT sandwich and watching the uni students play poker. Or chatting with one of the sunburnt backpackers. Or watching Rosa dance gracefully around the floor at Charada, her red skirt flying. It all felt very true to life. Even the awful bullying that Del faced at school sounded similar to things hurled about in my own school days. I hate that any child should have to endure torture like that, and I wouldn’t have minded seeing Ella (or Georgina) catch a football with her face!

Del is an amazing girl. She is smart, funny, kind, brave, loyal… the list really could go on. I liked her very much. Her life might be in the toilet, but she never really gives up. Determined and independent, she is confident in her sexuality, but expects too much of others. As the story progressed, Del came to know a lot more about herself, and how to live the life she wanted. Charlie also developed quite a lot through the book. He is kind of crazy, yet loveable. He added spice to the story with some of his antics, and his fickleness in love. He is a very good friend to Del. The supporting characters were also well described and easy to picture. I especially liked Misch; she made me laugh.

The Flywheel is a delicious look at contemporary Australian teenage life. It does contains some swearing and sexual references and it is most suitable for middle and upper high school students, through to adults.

The Flywheel is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.

 

Run, Pip, Run by J. C. Jones

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runpipcoverRun, Pip, Run by J. C. Jones, paperback novel, 193 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2015.

On Pip’s tenth birthday her pseudo-grandfather, Sully, has a stroke and is taken to hospital by ambulance. As Pip has no other family, the police insist that they find her a place to stay while Sully is recovering. Pip is determined not to go to the ‘welfare’ people, so she gives them the slip and sets out on a big adventure that includes disguises, hiding, a psychic cat, a scruffy dog and a friendly but persistent cop on her tail.

A wonderful tale of courage, loyalty and adventure. I really got into this story, and ended up reading it all in one day. The plot moved along quickly, and I found myself completely immersed in Pip’s plight.

I loved the Australian idioms and slang scattered through the story, and Pip’s explanation of them. We use these terms in everyday speech, but they are not often translated into our literature. It made me feel very connected to the story.

I thought Pip was a particularly realistic character. She had been brought up by a grandfather figure with little money and was exposed to gambling and drinking at a young age. It seemed unusual to me that a ten year old would be studying the racing form, but it makes sense with Pip’s background. She may have been savvy with the horses, but she was typically ten in other ways! Misunderstanding the type of rehab that Sully would need, and not wanting to get her teacher in trouble, as well as managing to pick up a stray dog! She was also indignant when the papers reported her as being only nine, which made me smile. She was resourceful and full of determination, a very strong character. Matilda was also a good character. She could have easily given Pip up when she discovered her living in an empty house in her street, but she kept Pip’s secret and helped her, like a good friend should.

Matilda’s cat was an interesting addition to the cast. She helped Pip when she needed it the most, but otherwise remained rather aloof in typical cat fashion. Her psychic abilities were quite useful to Pip. I wouldn’t mind a cat like this, especially if she could help me locate my lost keys, phone, glasses, book…

Run, Pip, Run is suitable for middle primary through to lower high school students. It is a fantastic and enjoyable story, great for a range of young readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

* Run, Pip, Run is shortlisted for the 2016 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Younger Readers category.

 

 

The Protected by Claire Zorn

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protectedcoverThe Protected by Claire Zorn, paperback novel, 254 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2014.

Life for Hannah is far from normal. It’s only been a year since her sister died, her father was crippled and her mother disappeared into herself. Life was crap for Hannah even before Katie died. She was being severely bullied by the kids at school, harassed, assaulted, cyber-bullied. Having a dead sister has stopped the bullying, but her wounds will take a long time to heal. Her life is screwed up as she paddles the deep waters of grief and guilt and pain. Though her days are dark, some hope seeps into her life when new boy, Josh, takes an interest in her, and she begins to build a rapport with the school counsellor.

I loved Claire Zorn’s previous book, The Sky So Heavy, but I love The Protected even more. It was a heart-rending tale of loss and survival, of guilt and hope. Tears may have been spilt whilst reading… but there were hopeful smiles too. The plot was compelling and very realistic. I read it quickly and thought about it for quite a while after I’d finished.

After the accident, Hannah’s parents were broken. Her father was physically crippled from his injuries, and her mother fell into her grief and forgot to keep living. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of losing a child, but they still had Hannah, and she needed them more than ever. They failed her. I can’t help thinking that Katie was their mother’s favourite, and because she couldn’t move forward, she almost lost both her daughters. What incredibly engulfing pain she must have been in to let Hannah down like this. I feel sad just thinking about it. This was a realistic insight into what the loss of a child can do to the family unit.

Hannah got under my skin, she kept me awake at night, she made me feel her pain, her guilt, her grief, her burden, her loneliness. And then from the depths she made me feel hope. I felt compassion for Hannah, but I also liked her. She was quiet and studious, but she was also full of strength. She was rather distrustful of Josh at first, but I liked the way that he persisted in getting to know her for her, irrespective of what the other kids thought.

I didn’t really like Katie. She seemed superficial, egotistical and selfish, but she probably would have grown past that had she survived her teenage years. Her relationship with Hannah might have had a chance to improve beyond high school, but during their teen years, Katie was pretty mean to Hannah. She was more concerned with her image than with how her sister was coping with school, with the fact that she had no friends, with the intense bullying. How does a sister watch that and not try to help? Hannah always lived in her sister’s shadow, and even in death Katie lingered over her.

The Protected is an incredible book that should be read by all Australian high school students. I thoroughly recommend it. I am excited to see what Claire Zorn produces next!

* The Protected was the winner of the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Older Readers category.