Best books, 1-5 stars
*****On Two Feet and Wings, by Abbas Kazerooni. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $15.99
This has to be my book of the month. It is the true story of the author, Abbas, and his flight from Iran when he was nearly ten years old. The time was the mid 1970s and the Shah had been overthrown and replaced by the tyranny of the hardline Muslim ayatollahs. Because of their strong connections with the Shah’s regime, Abbas’ parents decided to flee to Istanbul and then seek asylum in Britain, only to find that they are forbidden to leave Iran. All they can do is send the nine-year-old Abbas, alone to Istanbul, there to make his own way to the British embassy, and then to find asylum with a distant cousin in England, who has agreed to look after him. This book is mostly about the adventures and mishaps experienced by Abbas as he waits in Istanbul, living in a cheap hotel and by his wits, hoping for his refugee visa to Britain to be approved. This story should be read by everyone who protests about unaccompanied children being granted asylum in Australia. It is a vivid, at times shocking, and certainly heart-rending story of a very brave, resourceful and at times lucky little boy, which will haunt readers long after they finish the story. For readers of about 12 to adult.
**The Rumpelgeist, by Fiona McIntosh. PB from Viking and Penguin. RRP $17.99
This book is a loose sequel to the earlier novel called The Whisperer. The rumpelgeist is a child who has been changed to a ghost like creature, who can be seen or heard only by two noble born children, the princess Ellin, and Flynn Jolien, in the kingdom of Drestonia. Lots of children from the capital city of Floris have been captured by the witch Grevilya, in an attempt to blackmail Princess Ellin’s parents into giving up the throne and it is Grevilya who created the rumpelgeist as a ploy to trap the two young nobles. The story tells of how Ellin and Flynn hunt, and then outwit the witch and another wizard, so that the kingdom can relax and live in harmony—but wait, this is not the end of the story as Grevilya manages to escape, so another instalment will arrive sometime. It is quite good reading, for those who like fantasy, of 11-14 years.
*Eagle Strike, the Graphic Novel, by Antony Johnston, Kanako and Yuzuru. PB from Walker Books. RRP about $20
Based on the novel of the same name by Anthony Horowitz, this graphic novel presents the action involving the teenage British spy hero, Alex Rider, as he seeks to outwit Damian Cray, and the man who was responsible for the death of Alex’s uncle. The plot is to use nerve gas to kill the president of the USA and at the same time to launch missiles against enemies of Russia. It’s full of action, with vivid and attractive graphics, and sure to appeal to reluctant readers of 13-16 years—boys mostly I think.
The Games by Carole Wilkinson. From Black Dog Books Walker Books. RRP about $16
This book outlines the history of the modern Olympics since their inception in 1895 in Athens. The information is in snippets, large or small, and covers all the venues, and the sports, together with the records achieved, items of note, and the scandals, including the horror of Munich in 1972, together with a chapter about what the future of the Olympics may be. A topical book and easy to read, with, overall, a very useful summary of Olympic history suitable for children of 8-14 years.
Going for Gold, by Loretta Barnard. PB from Random hose. RRP $14.95
This book contains some similar information from the previous book, but this one concentrates on the history of Australia and Australian competitors in the Olympics. The information is clearly set out and there is a lot more info about what each sport expects, including very short summaries about the rules of each sport. It is easy reading and will be a useful reference as we follow the progress of Australia’s competitors in the next couple of weeks. For readers of 8-14 years.
**Brave Heart. Brett and Hayley Kirk. PB from Random house. RRP $24.95
This is quite an inspiring story about one of the AFL’s best-known recent players, Brett Kirk, formerly of the Sydney Swans. Written with his wife helping, this autobiography tells of the boy, who grew up in country Albury, and of the young man, of some of the stupid things he did in his youth and also of how he found a philosophy of life in Buddhism which turned his life around, and has given him great strength of purpose and character. It is interesting that most of the chapter headings are about personal growth and character. There are plenty of photos, and the reading is easy. My feeling is that this will be a very good book for boys who are interested in sport, or maybe those who don’t really knowing in what direction life is going for them suitable for boys of 12-young adults.
The beginners Guide to Revenge by Marianne Musgrove. PB from Random House. RRP $15.95
This is story of two thirteen year olds, Romolo and Sebastian, each of whom has a problem with parents. The story is told as multiple narratives: Sebastian wants to hurt his mother for giving up on his dad, and wanting to marry someone else, and to hurt the new man. Romolo wants just to stay in one place for a while without always being the new misfit whose dad is away fighting overseas with the army. She wants to be able to make some lasting friendships,. When the two teenagers meet up, they find out that they both have issues which need to be resolved. I didn’t enjoy the hopping about from one story to the next. Maybe teenagers with similar stories themselves will enjoy the book more than I did. For readers of 13-15 years.
Between the lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer. PB from Allen and Unwin. RRP $24.99
This is essentially a modern fairy story, as the hero, Oliver come to life out of the pages of the book that teenager Delilah has always loved. Whilst there are traces in some of the characterisation, and the issues rose, of the Jodi Picoult we know and love from her previous work, the content of this story is decidedly for teenagers, and much of it is contrived and amateurish. I did not enjoy the story, and feel it is a pity that Picoult’s name will be associated with the story.
The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper. PB from Random House RRP $18.95
Another book for teenage girls mainly, telling the story of World War 2 as it affected life in England, seen through the eyes of the so-called Princess Sophia FitzOsborne of Montmaray. This is the third book in the series about members of the FitzOsborne family and is just as readable as the first two. There is quite a lot of social and military history included as it impacts on this fictional family. For girls of 14-16 years.
Starter, by Lissa Price. PB from Random House. RRP $24.95
This is a dystopian novel about Callie, who is sixteen when the action begins and everyone who has not been vaccinated against the genocide spore is wiped out, including Callie’s parents. Callie goes on the run, with her little brother. They find refuge with a strange group, called the Body Bank. It is possible for Callie to rent out her body to an older person who wants to be young again but when Callie discovers that this person actually intends to kill her, it becomes a real battle to regain her own body and youth. It’s quite a long story but quite readable, if you like fantasy, and should appeal to girls of 14-16 years.
**The Colour of Trouble by Gerry Bobsien. PB from Walker books. RRP about $20
Maddy is heavily into art and fashion, but she is also a bit of a social isolate, with only one best friend, Darcy, himself a bit way out, for reliable friendship and company. They have even set up a company marketing trendy gear for teenagers. Maddy’s mum, a doctor, is working a long way away from home to make money y to support Maddy and her brother Jack while the two are living with their grandmother. When Maddy decides to copy a small painting which she has found and really likes, trouble strikes again, when the forgery wins an art award. How can Maddy extricate herself from trouble this time? This is a very readable, and interesting story for teenagers of 13-16 years.
**The Obsidian Blade, by Pete Hautman. HB from Walker Books RRP $19.95
This is the first of what is to be a trilogy. The trilogy is called the Klaatu Diskos. It’s another dystopian theme, but this first novel was surprisingly readable. In it, Tucker, a young lad living in rural Minnesota sees his father disappear into a weird looking disc suspended above their home. A few days later it appears that his father has reappeared, but strangely and unpleasantly transformed into what seems to be a totally different character. Tucker’s mother cannot comprehend, or live with the new version of her husband, and becomes demented. Tucker is sent to live with his uncle, and together, when they come to understand that both are aware of the strange happenings and the time travel involved, start to work together to solve the mystery. For readers of 13-16 years, probably mainly boys.
*The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, by Ambelin Kwaymullina. PB from Walker Books. RRP about $17.95
For a couple of years, Ashala has been the leader of a large group of young illegals—people who have special talents which the Administrator and his cohort want to wipe out so that the people will be more amenable to government by the oligarchy. When Ashala is captured the administrator forces her to submit to a brain scanning and cleansing machine. What makes this all the more galling is that her betrayer Justin, who was formerly her good friend is watching her punishment and interrogation. How Ashala, helped by friends outthinks the administrator and ends up releasing all the imprisoned illegals makes for good reading, although at times the multiple narratives are hard to follow. For readers of 13-16 years.
*The Look, by Sophia Bennett. PB from Chicken house. RRP about $15
Ted is tall and most attractive, and when she is spotted by a model agency she doesn’t believe that it is really her that they are after. This happens just as her beloved sister is diagnosed with cancer and it seems as if Ted’s career will not take off, but Ava insists that she continue to keep her modelling appointments. It’s an interesting story about the vagaries and bitchiness of the fashion world and would be excellent reading for any girl who has ambitions of becoming a model. The story of Ava’s illness unfolds at the same time, and this is also interesting reading; although it has a happy ending, there is a lot of pain and traipsing around hospitals for parents and family members when a child has cancer. The book is realistic but maybe it could be called sobering reading for girls of 13-16 years.
**Changeling, by Philippa Gregory. PB form Simon and Schuster. RRP $19.99
This is a novel set in late mediaeval Europe. Luka Vero has been appointed by a bishop of the Church to investigate strange events in various religions houses across Europe. When Isolde is sent by her brother, to a nunnery after the sudden death of her father, strange events begin to occur there, and Luca has to investigate. With his offsider, he discovers a network of criminals, and the reason why Isolde’s brother did not want her to inherit what her father had promised her. I expected this to be a gothic fantasy, but surprisingly, I found the story to have a lot more to it than that, and it is good reading for 13-16 year old girls.
*The Hunt, by Andrew Fukuda. PB from Simon and Schuster. RRP $19.99
Gene describes himself as a fake person, because he is different from everyone else around him, now that his father has been bitten, and has disappeared. Gene is truly person, but doesn’t eat everyone else around him as the rest do—rather, he is their delicious target! After faking his nature, Gene finally has to run away when the ten year hunt for the hepers begin because he realises there is no way he can escape any longer. This is another surprisingly good story, written by an author with a superb imagination, but also the skills to hold his story together. Really good reading for adolescent boys of 14-16 or so.
Death Cure, by James Dasher. PB form Scholastic. RRP $16.99
This is the last in the Maze Runner trilogy. I read the first book—it was OK–the story was a bit repetitive although the character of Thomas was appealing, and consistent, Now, we reach the end, and after a bruising series of adventures and the pain of Theresa’s death, Thomas is finally able to hope that life will sort of be normal after this. It’s another story with a chase, lots of adventures and danger, but survival at the end. Suitable for boys of 13-16 years.