Dim’s Christmas Crackers List # 3 – Junior Novels

Do you have an emerging confident reader keen to fill their newly acquired ravenous literary appetite? Youngsters between 5 – 9 years are discovering at this age that stories can occur in the most wildly absurd wonderful places and that junior novels, like these, are their invitations to new words and new adventures. By feeding them regular healthy doses of junior fiction, you will nourish their love for reading and keep them satisfied well into the holidays. Here are some suggestions:

Younger Junior Novels 5 – 7 years

D-Bot Squad Series by Mac Park and James Hunt

Bold, bright and busting with high-action adventure, this series is brilliant for early readers. Controlled use of vocabulary, illustrations and diagrams all contribute to wicked reads with Books 1 – 6 released this year and more to follow in 2018. Kids will love following Hunter Marks on his dino hunting missions after he wins a computer game and becomes a member of D-Bot Squad. High-energy fun.

Allen & Unwin July 2107

Sally Rippin presents…Super Moopers Series by Fiona Harris and Scott Edgar

This whacky series is decidedly visual with full colour illustrations dominating each page. Text is minimal but enhanced with varying font sizes for emphasis and wow factor. Each book examines a particular Mooper character of Moopertown, the first being Dramatic Dom. The stories encourage kids to get to know each individual better and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. The notion that everyone is special in his or her own special way is the theme that meanders throughout this collection.

Five Mile Bonnier Publishing 2017

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog by Peter Meisel and Paul Meisel

This jolly attractive little hardcover book is part of the Read & Bloom Books series, which invite youngsters on wondrous adventures with lovable wily characters, like Stinky Spike, using mindfully sparse narrative and beguiling illustrations. Colourful and merry, these are the type of stories that really do plant the love of reading!

Bloomsbury Children’s Books March 2017

Junior Novels 6 – 9 years

Little Paws Series by Jess Black and Gabriel Evans

Who could resist a golden puffball of fluff with a tail? This heart-warming series is about puppies that train to become Guide Dogs. Each story is about a puppy, like Harley in the first book, and the families that train them. Lightly illustrated with Evan’s charming drawings and full of puppy pranks and incidents, this series is sure to sate your cuteness quota.  Buying these books also helps puppies like Harley become fully fledged Guide Dogs. Win win!

Penguin Random House 2017

Sage Cookson’s Series by Sally Murphy and Celeste Hulme

I love this quirky cooking orientated series about 10-year-old Sage, daughter of celebrity chef parents with an insatiable passion for…wait for it…food! Together they travel the globe encountering more than their fair share of not so nice-tasting situations and characters. Murphy cleverly combines every day normal with generous dollops of extraordinary. The latest titles include a sojourn to Singapore and a Literary Launch for this delectable character.  Delicious fun for girls and culinary creators alike. And the best bit? A recipe in each book. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

New Frontier Publishing 2016 – 2017

Squishy Taylor Series by Ailsa Wild and Ben Wood

Squishy is the instantly likeable, utterly loveable heroine of this spirited series about dysfunctional blended families and all the glorious ‘normal’ zany events that occur within their orbits. Fast paced, age-clinching narrative is interspersed with illustrations that induce drama and humour.  The first book, Bonus Sisters, introduces us to Squishy’s family members and her unquenchable need to question – everything! Creative, curious, charmingly optimistic and just a touch naive, Squishy is just the type of hero little girls will love to emulate.

HGE February 2016

Saurus Street Series by Nick Falk and Tony Flowers

I’m not sure what the scientific explanation is for the fascination kids of this age possess for all things dinosaurs but my little miss did, too. Palaeophiliacs (lovers of dinosaurs and pre-historic thingies) will revel in this series, a few years old now but young in comparison to a Diplodocus, when you think about it. Stomping-mad fun made all the more believable by Flowers’ hilarious illustrations. Pletosaurauses in the bathtub, Diplodocuses in the tepees – Jack and Toby have all these and heaps more dino dilemmas to cope with on Saurus Street. It’s like the age of the dinosaurs never ended.

Random House September 2013

Ella Diaries Series by Meredith Costain and Danielle McDonald

Definitely one for the girls, this series is Tom Gates meets Dork Diaries for young girls. Interwoven with themes of friendship, teamwork, ponies, dancing, fashion, bullies and a whole year of diaries’ worth more, these stories will appeal to girls and their BFFs. Ella is utterly addictive thanks McDonald’s fantastic illustrations, just the sort of wiggles and pics and notations young girls are wont to scribble alongside their deepest most inner thoughts.  Fun, airy and tots on the money. Highly recommended.

Scholastic Australia 2015

Jake in Space Series by Candice Lemon-Scott and Celeste Hulme

Stunning spacey foil covers give way to equally scintillating storylines centring on space probing, Jake and his whacky team of mates and robots.

This series features galaxies of intergalactic fun sporting space-aged adventures mid-primary school kids can really get carried away with – providing they have their space suits on. There are six in the series, which gives young readers plenty of time and incentive to explore the entire universe! Did I mention the covers are truly out of this world!

New Frontier Publishing September 2014

Junior Novels Advanced Readers 8 years +

Countdown to Danger You Choose the Path To Survive! Series by Jack Heath

I LOVE an exciting pick-a-path-you-choose-the-path story! Having written one myself, I know how tricky it can be producing a convincing multi-ending story. It can also be colossal fun! Heath’s series adds a new dimension to 30 possible adventure storylines – a countdown. YOU the reader only have 30 minutes to choose the right path to survive. These stories are humming with danger, ethical decisions, survival dilemmas and plenty of problem solving, ideal for the inquisitive, questing mind.  Written in second person, as most choose your own adventure stories are, this series plants you smack bang in the middle of the action and you only have yourself to blame if things go horribly wrong. What’s not to love! Highly recommended for grip-the-edge-of-your-seat reading.

Scholastic Australia February 2016

You Choose… Series by George Ivanoff and James Hart

This expansive series is another choose your own adventure styled collection, which I just can’t get enough of. Ivanoff has created an amazing array of stories, each pulsing with high levels of interactivity. Again, YOU the reader must decide which options to take when faced with a dizzying selection of alternatives. Despite the choice, each chapter is concise enough to follow and complete within a relatively short timeframe, or even, to read aloud without confusion. Coupled with Hart’s explosive illustrations, it’s all very brilliant and, at times, just a little on the dark scary side. Pack some in your Christmas stockings this season – there’s a new release nearly every month!

Random House May 2014 – 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 YA Books With Jaw-Dropping Plot Twists

Books with amazing plot twists are arguably the best kind. Who doesn’t want to have their mind totally spun in dizzying circles after a thrilling plot reveal?! It makes the book stand out! It makes you sit in awe of the author! It also makes you distrust everyone evermore, but pfft, that’s just a minorly inconvenient side-effect.

Today I’m listing 5 Young Adult books that have simply superb plot twists and reveals! I won’t be giving spoilers, but obviously you need to get your clammy paws on these books ASAP and have your mind blown. Thank me later.


DANGEROUS GIRLS

BUY HERE
BUY HERE

Not only is this book perfectly thrilling, the ending will absolutely bend your mind. It’s about a group of teenagers who go for the perfect holiday on the island of Aruba…but not all of them come back. There’s a murder. There’s pretty damning evidence that Anna, a quiet a studious girl, killed her best friend, Elise.

I really loved how the story was mostly told by Anna’s perspective, as she went through the harrowing ordeal of trials and court cases and listening to TV reporters and the world in general tear her apart and condemn her — but it also had news clips to add extra perspective. There’s a huge cast of characters (SUSPECTS!!) and this was the first YA thriller that ended with my brain screaming. As a good thriller should.

 

THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY

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This story centres around Minnow Bly, who’s grown up part of a cult with limited contact with the outside world. But when the cult leader is murdered and their homes burned down, Minnow is the one they have in custody. She knows things. She is not talking about them. She also has no hands due to some macabre punishment from the cult…

Oh this book was really harrowing. It’s impossible not to have your heart break for Minnow and the suffering she’s been through. It also is a slight twist on the fairy tale, The Girl With No Hands, and I loved that spin!

 

WHITE CAT

BUY HERE
BUY HERE

How about a thriller with paranormal aspects?! This one is set in a world where you can curse someone with a touch, and everyone wears gloves to prevent being manipulated. Cassel’s family are basically crime laws, and yes he wants out and is getting himself through an elite private school to get away…but he’s haunted by his family’s dark work and also the question of what really did happen to his best childhood friend, Lila? Who really killed her?

I loved how it mixed a highschool contemporary setting with the Mafia aspects and also magic. Every book should have magic! Dangerous magic all round!

 

ALLEGEDLY

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This is one of my all time favourite books because I’m still not over the jaw-dropping ending! It’s the story of Mary who, at 7 years old, was accused of murdering a baby. Now she’s 16 and out of prison and trying to make a life for herself after discovering she is now pregnant. She wants to keep her baby, go to uni, get her charges cleared because she swears she didn’t do it. But then who did?

This book was sad and brutal to read but absolutely captivating! It’s impossible to put down and your heart will just break for Mary as she’s abused and mistreated at every turn. I’m still reeling over the ending reveal!

 

THE LEAVING

BUY HERE

6 children were kidnapped one day and then, years later, only 5 are returned. And to make the mystery even more complex, none of the returning teenagers remember a single thing about their time away. The story flips from several of the kids perspectives and also to the sister of the one kid who never came back. They all want to know what happened to these kidnapped kids and the town is getting rapidly suspicious that someone isn’t telling the truth.

I particularly loved the raw and emotional writing in this one and the book’s tendency to use unique formatting to tell the story. Sometimes the font will explode into huge letters or the sentences will fall to pieces and run off the page. I think it’s such a great visual experience of the kids’ PTSD as they try to cope with no memories and being reunited with suspicious families.

 

Review: Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer

9781743318638I had zero idea of what to expect from Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer. And what did this glorious conglomeration of paper give me? AN INCREDIBLE, MIND BLOWING STORY. I am such a fan. I’m absolutely going to dig out Brigid Kemmerer’s other series (The Elementals) to and devour it immediately because this author is marvellous.

Thicker Than Water is basically the story of Thomas Bellweather, who moved to a small, backwoods sort of town with his mother after she re-married a cop. THEN SHE IS MURDERED. Thomas looks very guilty. He’s totally friendless in this town and everyone thinks he did it. But he befriends Charlotte and they try to solve the mystery.

Although the thing to note is this is a paranormal murder-mystery thriller. I didn’t know that when I started, so I confess: I was thrown. But it’s still set in an “normal” sort of town and the story is like 80% reality and 20% paranormal.

Thomas and Charlotte’s relationship is basically a “forbidden romance”. Everyone thinks Thomas is a killer and Charlotte has an entire family (!!) in the police force; father plus three brothers. They do NOT want her anywhere near a potential killer. But I loved how low burning their relationship was though! They’re attracted at first, but neither really acts upon it. And it’s entirely adorable how they learn to trust each other.

 

A Small List Of Other Things I Loved About This Book:

  • I was absolutely rooted to my chair. I could not stop reading. It’s been aaages since a book has gripped me this much!
  • The characters were all fantastic. It’s dual narrated by both Thomas and Charlotte. And even though it’s in 1st person for both (which I usually find confusing) they both had very distinct voices. Plus I loved them both so there was no sighing at the alternating POVs.
  • Thomas was an incredible creature. He was really angry and bitter, particularly since everyone was condemning him for this murder he didn’t do. He was frustrated and lashed out a lot…but I really understood him. And there was so much emotion! When he’d struggle not to cry….oops. THERE GO MY EMOTIONS TOO.
  • Charlotte made some pretty dumb decisions when chasing after him (and was constantly being hurt…okay, she was slightly a bit of a damsel) but I can’t blame her because Thomas was intensely interesting.
  • I do have much love for Charlotte too! She has Type 1 Diabetes and she has a huge family (lots of cops) and they’re all very traditional and want her to be a “lady”. She’s often left with the dishes and treated as a child, despite being nearly 18. So she quietly struggles with the sexism of her family life, too, but she still adores her family and they’re all so loving. I adore reading about big families!
  • Plus Charlotte really loved to cook. There is so much FOOD in this book. Please bring a snack when you start to read it.
  • It’s set in a sleepy small summery town and I felt so sucked into the atmosphere. Excellent writing!
  • The murder mystery aspect kept me on my toes, too! I was REALLY curious how it’d play out in the end, especially when the paranormal aspects came out.
  • The twists will probably leave you shrieking.
  • Just sayin’.

 

Thicker Than Water was definitely a solid win for me! I loved the writing and the characters (I mean, aren’t characters the best part of a book anyway?!) and the fact that my eyeballs were glued to the page. And maybe the paranormal aspects did take the realism out of it, but it still made the book so thrilling and addictive and exciting. The ending was left WIDE open, though, and I’m clamouring for a sequel!

[Purchase Here]

Player Profile: Terry Hayes, author of I Am Pilgrim

hayes, terryTerry Hayes, author of I Am Pilgrim

Tell us about your latest creation…

“I Am Pilgrim”. It is an epic book – an international spy thriller which is the story of one of America’s greatest intelligence agents. he retired young – sick of living in the shadows and by-passed by the huge changes the war on terrorism have wrought. He comes out of retirement, tasked with chasing and finding a mysterious man called The Saracen who has brought back to life the world’s most deadly virus. The mission takes Pilgrim back into his past and from England to Germany, Saudi Arabia to Santorini, Bulgaria to Turkey. And a host of countries in-between. It is a harrowing race against time and, full of false leads and shattered hopes. A story that is not resolved until the last paragraphs on the final page.

Where are you from / Where to do you call home?…

I was born in England, migrated to Australia as a five-year-old, was raised in Sydney where I became a journalist and later went to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. Myself, my wife and four children are now residents of Switzerland.

9780593064955When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

Always a writer. I cannot remember a time when I wanted to be anything else except a writer.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?

I think my best work is Mad Max 2 and Dead Calm in movies; The Dismissal, Bodyline and Bangkok Hilton on TV; and I Am Pilgrim as a novel. On the movies and TV mini-series I was both a writer and producer.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?

Orderly to me! Chaotic probably to anyone else. Two computers and screens – in case one goes belly-up – lots of notebooks and pads with notes and research, pictures of my kids for inspiration. A few movie posters – Payback, Dead Calm, From Hell – to remind me that I have written stories before and I can do it again.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?

Newspapers, magazine articles – once a journalist, always a journalist – useless information which often, very surprisingly, proves to be very helpful. The
internet has given instant access to wonderful information and articles from all round the world. Books? Classics and whatever is recommended to me – usually by my wife.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?

Anna Karenina – a classic that moved with all the pace and emotion of a great thriller; Catcher in the Rye; The Great Gatsby; Shogun; anything by Herman Hess – it was eclectic if nothing else!

If you were a literary character, who would you be? 

Pilgrim from I Am Pilgrim. I wrote it as first person account and there is a lot of me in it. Or at least what I would aspire to be – courageous and true, intelligent when it’s needed, self-effacing and modest. My wife, on the other hand, says the character is completely fictitious – so maybe I’m just deluded.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?

My main occupation is to operate The Paceman cricket bowling machine to a) stop my two young boys from braining themselves with a fast ball and b) attempt to improve their batting skills. I hate to say it – but Australia needs them.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Anything healthy for food – Japanese fits the bill perfectly. I love sushi and tempura. Sake, in the Rocks in Sydney, serves outstanding food in my opinion. And no, they haven’t bought any books in return for that glowing endorsement.

Who is your hero? Why?

In my own life – my wife. She has never faltered in her belief in me and my work. She has encouraged, cajoled and threatened me. I would never have been half the writer I am – whatever that may be – without her. She has also been a terrific mother to the most important thing in my life – the four children. She likes dogs too, which is never a bad thing!

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?

Good stories, however you define that phrase. Storytelling has been with us since men first sat around fires in caves and it will be with us long after we have colonised other planets. It is wound deep into our DNA and that is not going to change any time soon. Delivery systems, technology, public taste are always changing and presenting challenges. If we think the ground is shifting now – imagine what monks copying texts by hand must have thought when they heard about something called the printing press. As long as their are people, there will be  eaders and they will need stories. Books – and book-selling – have succeeded, so far, in adapting to new technology where both the movies and, especially, the music industry have failed. The great thing about books is that personal recommendations mean more than in any other popular art form I know of – for that reason the highly-respected book store, staffed by knowledgeable people, will always play a crucial role in this whole enterprise. On-line stores may have a role to play and present real challenges but they will not replace a good bookstore any more than Wal-Mart replaced great local shopping areas.

Buy I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes…