PASSIONATE ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIES

Tag: Australia (Page 1 of 3)

Book Review: The Whaler’s Daughter

The Whaler’s Daughter – Jerry Mikorenda – Fitzroy Books – Published 24 July 2021

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Synopsis

In 1910, twelve-year-old Savannah lives with her widowed father on a whaling station in New South Wales, Australia. For generations, the Dawson family has carried on a very unusual way of life there. They use orcas to help them hunt whales. But Savannah believes the orcas hunted something else—her older brothers, who died mysteriously while fishing. Haunted by their deaths, Savannah wants to become a whaler to prove to her father that she’s good enough to carry on the family legacy and avenge her slain brothers. Meeting an aboriginal boy, Figgie, changes that. Figgie helps Savannah to hone her whaling skills and teaches her about the Law of the Bay. When she is finally able to join the crew, Savannah learns just how dangerous the whole business is. A whale destroys her boat and Savannah sinks into the shark-infested waters. That’s when the mysterious spirit orca Jungay returns to rescue her, and she vows to protect the creatures. That vow tests her mettle when the rapacious owner of a fishing fleet captures the orca pod and plans to slaughter them

My thoughts

The Whaler’s Daughter caught my attention, despite the dull cover, as I knew it was similar to true historical events and I wanted to see how the author would combine history with fiction.

A message of environmental protection, the author does a great job of conveying the historic events and perspectives from an approach that it is relevant for modern readers.

Few might know the story of Eden and the orca’s that worked with whalers in Australia. This story, I hope, will bring that story into the light. While much of the story in The Whaler’s Daughter differs from what is recounted of the events in Eden, there is enough to align the stories.

Along with themes of protecting the environment, caring for and working with animals, The Whaler’s Daughter also raises themes around the roles of women. Savannah is a strong and headstrong character. She knows exactly what she wants and that is to ride in the whaling boats along with her father’s crew. As she fights for her place, she has more encounters with the orcas. She initially fears and hates them, holding them accountable for the death of her family members. But as she gets to know them more, learns of the plans of the nearby towns leaders and gets her first encounter on a whaling boat, Sav must change everything she thought she knew.

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Book Review: Fish Kid

Fish Kid series – Walker Books Australia –  Published 2019, 2020, 2021

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Synopsis

Faster than a speeding mullet … stronger than a bull shark … it’s Fish Kid!

Be sure to take a deep breath before you dive into this hilarious ocean-packed adventure.

My thoughts

Fish Kid is a delightful series, full of adventure and wonderful marine animals. A touch of the magical and illustrations alongside large text bring these adventures to life for young readers.

I was delighted by these books and found I couldn’t stop reading them, quickly working through all three books in the series.

Bodhi is the fish kid. In the first book on the series he gets some pretty cool powers that enable him to stay under water for a long time and swim super fast. He lives with his marine scientist father and nature photographer mother as they explore the oceans of the world. The first book is set in the waters off the Galápagos Islands. Despite his parents love of all things sea, Bodhi isn’t into swimming and do you know how many dangerous sea creature are out there? Lots. But when Bodhi discovers his new swimming abilities and has to use his skills to help save his new friend, and maybe even stop some poachers along the way. He quickly learns to love the ocean and all its wonderful creatures.

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Book Review: When We Are Invisible

When We Are Invisible – Claire Zorn – The Sky So Heavy #2 – University of Queensland Press – Published 30 March 2021

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Synopsis

In the midst of a nuclear winter, Lucy, Fin and Max flee the chaos of Sydney with blood on their clothes, a gun and handwritten directions to safety. When they reach Wattlewood, it seems like their struggle to survive might be over. There is food, warmth and adults in charge. So why can’t Lucy shake the feeling they’re still in danger?

Lucy’s survived the apocalypse, but can she escape a more insidious threat?

My thoughts

I am proud to be sharing this review as part of the AusYABloggers review tour. You can find the tour on the AusYABloggers website.

When We Are Invisible is the sequel to The Sky So Heavy. Published eight years after the first book, some might say this is a very long awaited sequel. It doesn’t disappoint.

Readers are reunited with Lucy, Max and Fin. When We Are Invisible picks up where The Sky So Heavy left off. Lucy, Fin and Max are running for their lives. Fleeing the bloodshed and horror of Sydney, they head for the hope of safety and food at the Wattlewood commune. Finally surrounded by enough food and water, safety, blessed warmth and adults who are taking a stand to protect them, things at Wattlewood are good. But Lucy isn’t sure everything is as safe as it appears.

While When We Are Invisible is a continuation of The Sky So Heavy’s story, it is its own book. The first book was written from Fin’s perspective, while in the sequel, Lucy takes over the narration. It is amazing to see the world through her eyes. We learn more about her family and the life she left behind, as well as the events that haunt her and the things are troubling her now. It creates a different perspective and a different focus for the story.

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Book Review: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling – Wai Chim – Allen and Unwin – Published 5 August 2019

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Synopsis

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.

My thoughts

This book caught my eye (seriously, how could I ignore that gorgeous cover), but I rushed to read it after learning I had the opportunity to meet the author. The Surprising Power of A Good Dumpling celebrates the harsh complexity of family relationships, the love and hurt shared and the determination it takes to carry on. It celebrates community and friendship, the bond between sisters, and food. This book will have you hungry, so I highly recommend you have snacks on hand. It’s a bittersweet read, and one that is as authentic as it is honest and caring.

Anna Chiu cares for her family while her mother can’t bring herself to get out of bed and her father never comes home from working at their family restaurant. It is up to Anna to make sure her little brother gets to school and her sister knows to keep quiet about what happens at home. But the chance to work with her father at the restaurant means she can finally share the cooking skills and ideas she has and gives her the opportunity to get to know the new delivery boy, Rory. But when her mother does get out of bed, things spiral into manic midnight cleaning and angry tirades that Anna feels powerless to control.

This book doesn’t shy away from the authentic, messy details of real life, mental illness or it’s effect on families. It is honest and hopeful. It’s also not an easy book to read, despite it being so readable. It is challenging in parts, confronting and sad in others. But it doesn’t judge. It leaves room for understanding and acceptance.

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Book Review: A Girl’s Guide to the Outback

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback – Jessica Kate – Thomas Nelson – Published 28 January 2020

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Synopsis

Samuel Payton is a passionate youth pastor in Virginia, but beneath the surface, Sam’s still recovering from a failed business. His coworker—start-up expert Kimberly Foster—is brilliant, fearless, and capable, but her mother’s rejection from a young age till now has left her defensive and longing for a family. Two people have never been more at odds—or more attracted to one another. And every day at work, the sparks are flying.

When Kimberly’s ambitious plans for Sam’s ministry butt up against his risk-averse nature, Sam decides that obligations to family trump his work for the church. He quits the ministry and flies home to Australia to help his family save their struggling farm—much to Kimberly’s chagrin. As Kimberly’s grand plans flounder, she is forced to face the truth: that no one can replace Sam. To what lengths will she go to get him back?

My thoughts

Full of Aussie slangs and humour, this delightful book will have you laughing and crying as the characters wade their way through major life decisions and romantic entanglements (and a whole heap of cow muck).

Kimberley does everything she can to keep Wildfire, a youth drop-in Center, surviving. She even has big plans for expansion, if she could just get founder and youth pastor Sam on board. But instead, they constantly butt heads. When Sam up and leaves the program after rejecting her expansion plan she has no choice but to follow him to his family dairy farm in rural Australia in the hopes of winning him back. While in Australia, Kim falls in love with Sam’s tenacious sister and the family history that is wrapped up in the farm – everything she’s never had. But as she and Sam form a tenuous truce to start working together, the sparks start to fly as each reveals a hidden side of themselves. But can their relationship last if their plans fall apart?

While I enjoyed the story of youth ministry start ups, big dreams and a dairy farm to save, it was the characters that I really fell in love with. Kim is so outwardly strong and confident. But I could relate to the quivering, hurt mess she is inside. She has never felt like she belonged, never felt like she was worth anything, constantly striving to be good enough for her demanding mother. And Sam, through his blinded fear, has contributed to that. Sam, for his part, has been burnt from past failures and from misplaced criticism. His fear drives him, leaving him constantly at odds with Kim’s ambitious plans. While their new plans succeed and fail, it is the mending of the heart that drives this story. Kim and Sam start, not quite as enemies, but with plenty of shared hurt and past inflicted wounds. As they work together on Sam’s family’s farm – and Kim doesn’t hold back, jumping straight into the messy work- they share more of themselves and learn to really listen to each other. Their growing relationship is slow to start and certainly doesn’t jump from enemies to attraction. But once that spark does creep in, whoa boy, talk about chemistry.

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Book Review: Rogue

Rogue – A.J. Betts – The Vault #1 – Pan Australia – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

There was no going back; there was no choice, anymore. I’d chosen out and this was it: hot-cold, dry-wet, bright-dark and lonely.

Hayley has gone rogue.

She’s left everything she’s ever known – her friends, her bees, her whole world – all because her curiosity was too big to fit within the walls of the underwater home she was forced to flee.

But what is this new world she’s come to? Has Hayley finally found somewhere she can belong?

Or will she have to keep running?

My thoughts

Rogue is the second book in the two book dystopian series, The Vault. As the follow-up to Hive, Rogue took the world of Hive and blew it wide open. With the same curious and ever-searching main character and even more incredible descriptions of the surrounding landscape, Rogue gives readers and Hayley the answers they were searching for in book one.

Hayley had so many questions and when the son gave her the option to leave her confined life behind and explore what else was out there, she took it. Now, Hayley finds herself in a place she never could have imagined, with new creatures, landscapes and rules. But she can’t forget the people she left behind, and, as she learns more about this new world, she isn’t sure if she should let her old world go or if she should share her new-found discoveries.

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Book Review: Hive

Hive – A.J. Betts – The Vault #1 – Pan Australia – Published 26 June 2018

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Synopsis

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.

Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.

Curiosity is a hook.

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.

My thoughts

Hive is a unique dystopian story. Intricately crafted, the world beautifully written, this gentle and compelling story is just the start of an exciting two-book series. The narrator, alongside the reader, knows only of the day-to-day rhythm of life and the stories she has been told. As she questions, explores and discovers scant details, she, and the reader, learns there is far more to the world than she could have expected.

Hayley is a beekeeper. It is her job to tend the Hive, just one of the gardeners in the gardener house, one of the six houses, that rely on water from the source and follow the patterns set out by the generations before them. But Hayley has a secret, one that has her questioning everything around and soon the walls of her world seem to hem her in. But will questioning provide the answers she is looking for?

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Book Review: Promise Me Happy

Promise Me Happy – Robert Newton – Penguin Books Australia – Published 7 May 2019

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Synopsis

Nate’s had it tough. An abusive father. His mother dead. He’s done things he regrets.

But he’s never met anyone like Gem. She’s a tiny piece of wonderful and she’ll change everything he knows about himself. Is this the beginning of happiness? Or is there more hardship around the corner?

My thoughts

Promise Me Happy – a moving, authentically Aussie coming of age story at its best. Perfect for fans of YA contemporary fiction about relationships, family and finding a place to belong, Promise Me Happy is a soothing, gently-paced and touching novel.

Nate knows this is his last chance. Leaving juvie to live with an uncle he doesn’t know, Nate has low expectations about this next phase in his life, yet it can’t be worse than returning to live with his drunk and abusive father and memories of his dead mother. But living with uncle isn’t at all what he expects, nor the charming little fishing town, the slower lifestyle, space to breath, quirky young neighbour, Henry or the intriguing, combat-boot and tartan-wearing Gem. It may be just the second chance Nate needs, if he can hang on to it.

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Book Review: The Happiness Quest

The Happiness Quest – Richard Yaxley – Omnibus Books – Published 1 August 2018

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Synopsis

Tillie Bassett is sad, and she doesn’t understand why. Her parents and friends suggest very different, allegedly helpful, remedies. But it is the suggestion of her counsellor, Gilbert the Goldfish, that the answer may lie in finding the nature of happiness. 

As Tillie embarks upon her project she discovers that, when it comes to family and friends, nothing is quite as it seems. Secrets are uncovered, old tensions resurface, relationships tangle and untangle, and Tillie realises that everyone struggles balancing sadness and happiness, and living truthfully.

My thoughts

Surprising, unexpected. The Happiness Quest caught my eye with its bright yellow cover. The story inside – unique, slightly disjointed and searching – was not what I expected. Yet, ultimately, it’s hard not to like this quirky story about family, accepting yourself, and, yes, finding happiness.

Tillie’s sad. She’s not sure why, doesn’t really have a reason and anyone’s attempts to help – from yoga, sleeping tablets and mindfulness to ‘its time to move on and shake it off’ – aren’t really helping. Until Tillie and her mum find the Happiness Clinic where Tillie is encouraged to start a quest to find out what happiness is. As she asks her friends and family what happiness means to them, she is surprised by their responses and how, maybe, it’s starting to help her discover what happiness means to her.

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Book Review: All Made Up

All Made Up – Kara Isaac – Bellbird Press – Published 28 September 2018

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Synopsis

Everyone thinks Katriona McLeod is living the dream. Her professional career as a make up artist sees her traveling the world working with the stars and she’s got no shortage of men wanting her affection. Only problem is she’s never gotten over Caleb Murphy, the one guy she’s ever loved. When she accepts a job on the latest looking-for-love reality TV show, Falling for the Farmer, she discovers to her horror that Caleb is the leading man and she’s cast as one of his harem. But she hides a secret that means that even if she wanted a second chance with the guy who broke her heart she could never have it.

Caleb Murphy couldn’t care less about C-Class celebrity fame or reality TV and he certainly doesn’t believe it could lead him to love. The one thing he does care about is fulfilling his mother’s last wish. Kat’s presence on the show seems to offer up a solution that will make both the network and his mother happy. It might have been almost ten years since they split but he knows he can trust her with his plan. Just as long as he doesn’t fall in love all over again with the woman who will never stay.

My thoughts

I wasn’t sure about reading this book. On one hand I absolutely love Kara Isaac’s books and writing style, so I knew I was sure to love this book. But on the other hand the premise was centred around a finding love reality tv show. No shame to people who like those shows but they are really not my thing. So, with a little trepidation I started All Made Up. And I’m so glad I did. I was captured from the very first page. I have loved Kat since she first appeared in Isaac’s debut Close To You. Strong and determined, Kat is simply lots of fun to be around. But in All Made Up we finally learn that there is so much more to her, so much more to her story, so much heartache. I loved this chance to get to know her and for her to finally get a chance to tell her story and, hopefully, get a happy ending. And that reality TV setting? Well, when your two main characters are reluctant participants, a lot of fun is made at the expense of the other contestants and the drama of the show itself, and there is an endless reel of mishaps and hilarity, the show and the situation it puts Kat and Caleb in is just another facet of All Made Up that is so fantastic and loveable.

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