So many books, so little time… to review them. So here I go again with a whole bunch of mini reviews.
|Footy Dreaming by Michael Hyde (2015)
This is a young adult novel about two footy-playing teenagers in a small Australian town. They are from different backgrounds, but they share a common dream — to play in the AFL. I’m not in the least bit a footy fan. But I loved this book. It is about so much more than football. It’s about friendship and family, prejudice and small-town life. But most of all, it is about the importance of chasing your dreams. Yes, there were a couple of passages dealing with game play that lost me momentarily… but it also managed to give me some appreciation of the game. The writing is straightforward and accessible, and you really get into the heads of two boys. And it’s an uplifting, feel-good book.
|Henry Hoey Hobson by Christine Bongers (2010)
This is a middle-grade novel about 12-year-old Henry, who finds himself the only boy in Year 7 at his new school, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. He also isn’t Catholic, has no father and is finding it impossible to make friends. Add in some unusual new neighbours and a school swimming carnival, and you’ve got a really engaging read. It’s one of those delightfully perfect books, hitting all the right marks in terms of character, plot and emotion.
|Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)
I saw the film version a number of years ago and loved it. And I finally got around to the book. It’s a middle grade novel about a teenager sent to a boys’ juvenile detention centre, Camp Green Lake, for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s a remarkable book that is nothing like what you would expect it to be. Themes of destiny, coincidence, history, prejudice, family and friendship all mash up into this story told over several different time periods, with everything culminating at the end. It is unexpected and it is brilliant!
|Small Steps by Louis Sachar (2006)
This is a sort-of sequel to Holes, but is about two of the other boys from Camp Green Lake, rather than Stanley. Set two years later, it is more YA than middle grade, and more clearly about prejudice (dealing with both race and disability). But there are other themes in there too — friendship, love, honesty, pop music and celebrity. The violence towards the end was a bit of a shock… but that’s probably what it was there for. It’s a very different book from Holes, but equally unexpected and just as good.
|The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (2006)
A middle grade novel about the young son of a Nazi who befriends a Jewish boy in a concentration camp. It is tense, unnerving, beautiful and heartbreaking. It is really interesting for its deliberate omission of certain terms, names and details. Quite an amazing novel, and although it is aimed at children, thus not directly confronting the brutality of the era, I defy anyone to read this and not be affected.
|Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death by Chris Riddell (2014)
This is the sequel to Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse [See mini review]. It is a gorgeous illustrated kids novel, about Ada Goth, only child of Lord Goth of Ghastly Gorm. Ada must deal with secret agents, vampires, a lady’s maid with a secret, a fete and a bunch of celebrity chefs. Like the first book, it is full of bizarre characters, unlikely situations and wonderful literary and pop culture reference. Charming, witting and thoroughly engaging.
|The Secret of the Fortune Wookie by Tom Angleberger (2012)
This delightfully Star Wars-y kids’ novel is the third book in the Origami Yoda series. Star Wars obsessed Dwight, along with his wisdom-dispensing origami Yoda finger puppet, is suspended from school. With the help of an origami Wookie, his friends rally together to help get him back. I loved the first book (see review), but doubted the author’s ability to stretch this bizarre concept beyond it. I was wrong. Book 2 was just as good (see review), and so is book 3. Heaps of fun!
|The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet by Tom Angleberger (2013)
Yep… this is book 4 in the Origami Yoda series. This time around the Star Wars obsessed kids and their origami finger puppets take on the school administration and the Department of Education in an endeavour to rid themselves of the new FunTime Education System — an insidious evil, designed to raise standardised test scores. Great fun, with a nice set-up for the next instalment (which I am very much looking forward to).
|Doctor Who: Time Trips (2015)
All eight novellas collected in this anthology were originally published as eBooks in 2014. They were then collected together with an added short story and released in a lovely hard cover edition in 2015. I had already read Trudi Canavan’s story, “Salt of the Earth”, as an eBook, and it is definitely a standout in the collection. It’s an interesting anthology, with stories from best selling authors Cecilia Ahern, Jake Arnott, Jenny T Colgan, Stella Duffy, Nick Harkaway, Joanne Harris and AL Kennedy. Every story, bar one, really hits the mark in terms of character and exciting adventure, often with an unusual perspective. Given the high quality of the stories, it’s odd to have one jump out as a poorly characterised and confused mess. Perhaps I simply missed the point of “The Bog Warrior”, but it just didn’t work for me as Doctor Who, or as a story in and of itself. Bar this one story, Time Trips is a great read.
|The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892)
A while back I bought myself a box set of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books. Being pocket-sized hard covers, they have become my travel reading. [see review of A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four] This book is the first collection of Holmes short stories. They are a cracking good read — never dull; always zipping along at a wonderful pace. And they continue to surprise. Unlike in many of the adaptations, the Holmes in these stories doesn’t always know everything, and doesn’t always get things right. And occasionally the levels of violence also surprise. Reading this book was a pure joy.
That’s it for now. More soon!
Catch ya later, George
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