Title: Space Dumplins

Author: Craig Thompson

Genre: Children’s Science Fiction

Blurb: For Violet Marlocke, family is the most important thing in the whole galaxy. So when her father goes missing while on a hazardous job, she can’t just sit around and do nothing. To get him back, Violet throws caution to the stars and sets out with a group of misfit friends on a quest to find him. But space is vast and dangerous, and she soon discovers that her dad is in big, BIG trouble. With her father’s life on the line, nothing is going to stop Violet from trying to rescue him and keep her family together.

My Thoughts: SPACE DUMPLINS is a children’s graphic story marketed as a “…grand space adventure filled with quirky aliens, awesome space-ships, and sharp commentary on our environmentally challenged world…” it certainly filled its brief. However the biggest problem I had was with the word ‘dumplins’ in the title. All I could focus on was that word, and how I strongly believed it was spelt wrong (even my spell check thinks it’s wrong) – it should have been dumplings. Rightly or wrongly that word jarred on my senses so may have made me more critical than I would normally. This could also have something to do with the fact that I am not in the target age group and deliberately misspelling words for effect seem to be the trend nowadays which grumps like me really hate but doesn’t bother the sweet young things.

The artwork of the graphics was beautiful, Craig Thompson’s outer space is not empty there is a lot going on so once you’ve read the words there is a whole lot of looking to do. Sometimes the graphics were a little too busy for me as there was so much squeezed into a scene. The story itself is simple with Violet going off to rescue her father who collects space whale poop that the huge corporation that rules space can convert to fuel. There are enough gross things in the story to keep the average kid very happy – all that space poo for a start! But, within that simplicity of the plot there are a whole lot of deeper issues going on – racism, haves and have-nots, religion, the environment, consumerism and of course saving the whales. For such a basic story there is almost too many issues going on which is why I can see this will be popular with teachers, but maybe not so popular with kids because they will just want to read it and enjoy it – not moralise over it.

For more about the author – Click Here

C – Above average – was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $27.99

Title: Palace of Tears

Author: Julian Leatherdale

Genre: Historical/Contemporary/Family Saga

Opens: The promise of fire was in the air that morning …

Blurb: A sweltering summer’s day, January 1914: the charismatic and ruthless Adam Fox throws a lavish birthday party for his son and heir at his elegant clifftop hotel in the Blue Mountains. Everyone is invited except Angie, the girl from the cottage next door. The day will end in tragedy, a punishment for a family’s secrets and lies. Almost 100 years later in 2013, Fox’s granddaughter Lisa, seeks the truth about the past. Who is this Angie her mother speaks of: ‘the girl who broke all our hearts‘? Why do locals call Fox’s hotel the ‘Palace of Tears’? Behind the grandeur and glamour of its famous guests and glittering parties, Lisa discovers a hidden history of passion and revenge, loyalty and love. A grand piano burns in the night, a séance promises death or forgiveness, a fire rages in a snowstorm, a painter’s final masterpiece inspires betrayal, and a child is given away. With twist upon twist, this lush, strange mystery withholds its shocking truth to the very end.

My Thoughts: I have just read my 2015 book of the year; a book that kept me enthralled; a book that I actually deliberately read slowly because I didn’t want it to end; a book that moved me to my very core.

Set in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney in Australia PALACE OF TEARS covers a hundred years, 2 world wars and a family that is stuffed full of secrets and haunted by a tragedy. Told from the point of view of mostly female characters, the story is gradually revealed. The story is not linear, it goes back and forth between the different time periods and narrators, but the story doesn’t once miss a beat.

The main narrators are six of women that are connected to Adam Fox – Angie and her mother Freya; both of Adam’s wives, Adelina and Laura; Laura’s daughter, Monika who is suffering from early stages Alzheimer’s; and finally in the present day, Lisa, who is Monika’s daughter. Adam Fox does relate the odd part – to fill in the bits the women aren’t privy to.

Lisa, the granddaughter of Adam, starts an investigation into her family history when her mother mentions a girl named Angie in a lucid moment. Lisa decides to find out who Angie is, why she broke everyone’s heart, and what became of her. In the process the reader gets to learn lots about Australia’s social history – and at times feel a sense of shame at the actions of civilized people. As I was reading I made the following note:

I have just read a very distressing scene where narrow minded Australians raise their arms against fellow Australians. During WWI innocent Australians born in Australia but descended from Germans, along with German born Australians, were treated with utmost contempt by the ‘holier than thou’ non-German born/descended Australians. I wept at the scene – and then thought – nothing changes. Just swap the word German for Middle Eastern!"

People of German origin were considered to be the enemy, even if their sons were fighting in the Australian Army. They were bashed, their houses stoned and set fire too, their belongings desecrated, and then, the men at least, were shut up in concentration camps, sorry internment camps, treated as possible German spies. Even in the camps they were kept them in appalling conditions while the rest of Australia jumped up and down at the treatment of Australian prisoners of war, not caring we were doing the same. OK we didn’t kill our internee’s – but we are not on the moral high ground here. Then some 20 odd years later we did the same again – only Japanese people and Italians were thrown into the mix as well. The whole story thread was handled very well all out in the open – a warts and all look at the historical events. The treatment of foreign nationals was unfair, it was unjust, it was created out of ignorance and it was an unsubstantiated fear and author Julian Leatherdale used it in his story brilliantly.

This debut novel of Julian’s melds history and fiction together seamlessly and I was absolutely hooked from the very first page, and devastated when it came to end – no matter how good the ending was. The story is well paced, easy to follow despite the twists and turns and different time periods. Julian Leatherdale has gone onto that small list of mine where I write the names of authors who I would read their shopping list if they published it.

Do yourself a favour and read it.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $29.99

Title: The Secret Chord

Author: Geraldine Brooks

Genre: Historical

Opens: A man alone in the room…

Blurb: a unique and vivid novel that retells the story of King David’s extraordinary rise to power and fall from grace. Set 1000 BC in the second Iron Age. Anointed as the chosen one when just a young shepherd boy, David will rise to be king, grasping the throne and establishing his empire. But his journey is a tumultuous one and the consequences of his choices will resound for generations. In a life that arcs from obscurity to fame, he is by turns hero and traitor, glamorous young tyrant and beloved king, murderous despot and remorseful, diminished patriarch. His wives love and fear him, his sons will betray him. It falls to Natan, the courtier and prophet who both counsels and castigates David, to tell the truth about the path he must take

My Thoughts: My expectations were very high, maybe too high, because in all honesty I was a bit disappointed. THE SECRET CHORD was certainly richly detailed and beautifully written, descriptive without being wordy. However, overall it just didn’t enthral me – I didn’t LOVE it. At times the story was slow moving, certainly in the beginning, and the chronological order chopped and changed as Natan related the story and for some reason decided to do this when he pleased rather than starting at the beginning and going to the end. In the end I was at times left feeling very confused. I understand that the point was to get different perceptions of David at various times of his life – but surely they could have been put in chronological order? Add to this the fact that sometimes the beautifully detailed descriptions were just too graphic, I am referring to the savagery of the battle and rape scenes here, along with some pretty horrific actions. I understand that there were part of life then – but even though I know from the Biblical David that bad things happen – and that Geraldine Brooks was fleshing out the bare bones given in the bible – I was not comfortable with it.

David’s story from the Bible is very familiar to me and he wrote some of my most favourite psalms. The David in THE SECRET CHORD was not so familiar to me. I know Brooks wanted to portray the historical rather than the Biblical David – but my heart wanted the man who humbled himself and repented – not the cruel and unfeeling man who I found on the pages of this book. The other problem I had was the use of the Hebrew versions of the names of the characters, so at once I was struggling to connect the book to the Biblical stories and characters I knew and loved. I confess I wrote a little note and kept it beside me so I could remind myself that Shaul was Saul, Slomo was Solomon, Batsheva was Bathsheba, Avshalom was Absalom and Jonathon became Yonatan. Even the narrator is Natan the prophet rather than the Nathan I am familier with. I am sure Brooks did this for authenticity – but it didn’t work well for me. And don’t get me started on all the tribes – I couldn’t even keep track of them all in the Bible!!! And yes I know the whole point is that David united them so they needed to be in the story – but boy oh boy!

In the end I stuck with the story and came to know a little better the David in the book – he was a complex character who did unspeakably horrible things but also did some wonderful things. A man who could kill without a second thought to get his own way, and then write the most beautiful poetry.

For more about the author – Click Here

Average – it was OK, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish.

With thanks to Hachette Australia and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: The Cat at the wall

Author: Deborah Ellis

Genre: Contemporary YA

Opens: My name is still Clare …

Blurb: On Israel’s West Bank, a cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house that has just been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards. When the little boy is discovered, the soldiers don’t know what to do with him. Where are the child’s parents? Why has he been left alone in the house? And what can a cat do?

My Thoughts: The little cat that is the narrator of the story is not your typical cat. This cat is Clare, or was Clare rather, as Clare is apparently dead and cat is her reincarnated form. The cat tells of how she just woke up a cat on the wall between Israel and Palestine, retaining her memories of her former human life – and how she has to hunt for food and evade other cats that beat her up. Life for a cat on a warfront is portrayed very well, and a clever way to get the reader to understand the issues and see the humanity of both sides. In the news reports you just get to see the atrocities, without a thought for what drives people to these actions. I still don’t sympathise with cruelty from either side – but do understand to a small extent why they might happen. So the little cat tells two stories – the story of the boy and the soldiers, and the story of Clare’s life just before she arrived in cat form.

Towards the end the little cat ponders its future – is life here temporary and she just needs to do some good deed before she can continue onto heaven? Is ‘Clare’ in a coma back in the USA and this is all a crazy dream? Will she be a cat forever? These are unanswered questions; long after the adventure is finished the reader gets to contemplate what they would like the final outcome to be. My view? I’d go for the coma theory – but I would have liked a finite answer to the little cat’s fate.

The Cat at the wall simplifies the complex issues between the two warring parties and wil help younger teens understand, a little, of why this is happening today. There is a balanced mix of adventure, drama and history. The escalating violence being tempered by the point of view of the little cat:

"…If people insist on shooting other people, they should do it quietly so that a cat can have a decent nap…"

The Desiderata poem plays an important part as it links the two children together, past American girl and present Palestinian boy both know the poem well – for one it is comfort, the other torture. Here is the poem:

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful.

Strive to be happy.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $16.99

October Reading Wrap Up

October Reading Wrap Up

Welcome to my October reading wrap-up

Total Books Read: 18

Physical books: 3

E-books: 15

New for me Authors: 12

Australian Authors: 4

Best Book(s) of the month: I only had one ‘A’ book this month. I give ‘A’s (or 5 stars) to books that, regardless of genre, are complete page turners for me, that have me reading late into the night, suck me straight into the story and leaves me wanting more at the end; and of course, it should go without saying, I utterly recommend you read it. If I give a high score to a book it means it is a top example of whatever genre it belongs to. Someone else may turn their nose up at giving 5 stars to a light and fluffy romance, but if it is the best example of a light and fluffy romance then it is just as worthy of a 5 star score than a dreary angst ridden book that wins some great literary award. If I give a high score to a book it means it is a top example of whatever genre it belongs to. So this month it was PALACE OF TEARS by Julian Leatherdale, and I think unless something comes along that blows it out of the water – this will probably be my book of the year!

Least Favourite Book(s):

I say ‘least favourite’ because my lowest ‘score’ still means it is very readable, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish. This month there were two books that fitted into this category – The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks and Touch not the Cat by Mary Stewart. Of these Touch not the Cat has won the dubious honour of being my least favourite book of the month. This is just my personal opinion and you may find that it may very well be perfect for you, and The Secret Chord is getting rave reviews elsewhere at the moment.

General Summary:

Because I am an eclectic reader I read many different genres, sometimes at the same time! This month the different genres covered were Young Adult, Romance, Mystery, Paranormal, Historical (set over 50 years ago), Contemporary Fiction (set in the last 50 years), General Fiction (not sure where to put it) and non-fiction. Many of the books were a blend of two or more genre.

The Australian authors I read this month were Steven Herrick, Julian Leatherdale (they are both new authors for me as well) along with Geraldine Brooks and Kate Forsyth. Just to clarify an Australian author is defined by me as either an Australian born author no matter where they live and write in the world now, or an author who currently lives and writes in Australia even though they have been born elsewhere.

Finally, the 12 ‘new-for-me’ authors this month were two of my Australians Steven Herrick and Julian Leatherdale, along with J.A. Lang, Lowell H. Press, Rose Pressey, Sarah M Barton, Yangsze Choo, Ita Ryan, Aya Ling, Vaseem Khan, J. A. Whiting and Leslie Leigh. I would happily read all of these new authors again.

The Reading List

So let’s get onto what this post is about – what did I read during October? Here is the list of books that I read during the last month (each group is in the order I read them):

A (5 stars) = Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down

Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale – General Fiction

B (4 stars) = Really Good Read

Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle by J.A. Lang – Mystery

Melody and Murder by Leslie Leigh – Mystery

Never Forgotten by Terri Reid – Paranormal Mystery

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen – Contemporary

Princesses Don’t get fat by Aya Ling – Fantasy

Killer Summer by Sarah M Barton – Mystery/short stories

The Drowned Kingdom by Kate Forsyth – YA Fantasy

The Cat on the wall by Deborah Ellis – Contemporary YA

IT Can Be Dangerous by Ita Ryan – Mystery

The Sweet Dreams Bake Shop by J A Whiting – Mystery

C (3 stars) = Above Average – very readable and enjoyable

The Kingdom of the Sun and Moon by Lowell H. Press – YA Fantasy

How to Date a Werewolf by Rose Pressey – Paranormal Romance

Bratwurst and bicycles by Steven Herrick – Non-Fiction

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan – Mystery

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo – Historical

D (2 stars) = Average – it was OK, a bit of a struggle to finish

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks – Historical

Touch not the Cat by Mary Stewart – Mystery

So onward to November – Woo Hoo! I wonder what book goodies I will discover this month?

Title: They Found a Cave

Author: Nan Chauncy

Genre: Children’s Adventure

Opens: Hollow Tree was a fine mark on the landscape…

My Thoughts: Written in 1947 THEY FOUND A CAVE is a story of four children, Nigel, Cherry, Brickenden (Brick) and Anthony (Nippy) who have been sent from war-torn England by their parents to live in safety with their Aunt Jandie in rural Tasmania in 1939. Their arrival is greeted with enthusiasm by young farm boy Tas, whose mother (Ma Pinner) and step-father (Pa Pinner) work on Aunt Jandie’s property as the housekeeper and general hand. Tas is not well treated and he loves having kids near his age to interact with. While the children all have chores to do on the farm there is plenty of time to explore the surrounding bush and enjoy themselves. The four siblings get upset over the way the Pinner’s ill-treat Tas, and them if their aunt is not around, and soon learn to keep out of their way

Then Aunt Jandie has to go into goes to hospital, and leave the children in the care of the despised Pinner’s. It only takes a day or so for the children’s lives to be made unbearable so Tas help them move to a nearby cave up in the hills overlooking the farm and they set up a home away from home there while they wait for their aunt to return. They all thrive in the rough conditions; complimented by raids on the farm for extra supplies, then they discover the Pinner’s are out to swindle their aunt the kids decide to expose them.

This is a really good adventure story and I loved the old fashioned fun the kids had, and how they managed to thwart evil adults.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

Title: The Kingdom of the Sun and Moon

Author: Lowell H. Press

Genre: Fantasy

Opens: Nesbit awoke in his underground nest with a start…

Blurb: The Konig is a tyrant. His subjects are starving. And all-out war is fast approaching. An emissary sent by the Konig stops by the remote mouse colony of Long Meadow, the peaceful life Sommer and Nesbit have shared is turned upside down and the brothers are catapulted into separate death-defying adventures. Sommer, level-headed and clever, is ordered to the palace to join the Konig’s illustrious Eagle Guard as it prepares to face a full-scale invasion by the much feared neighbour, Emperor Wolfsmilch, and his army of a hundred thousand forest mice. The small but spirited Nesbit is banished to the Forest of Lost Life for insulting the Konig, and must dodge hungry predators, and mice assassins, to stay alive. The brothers struggle to defy the oppressor who threatens everyone and everything they have ever known and loved. But time is quickly running out for both of them—and the fate of the kingdom hinges on one last, daring mission.

My Thoughts:

When I saw that this historical fantasy was set in the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, I jumped at the chance to read it. I will be visiting the palace myself in in 2016 and thought it would help me get my bearings; even if it is a mouse-eyed bearing! THE KINGDOM OF THE SUN AND MOON is a fantasy adventure story marketed for children – however I think it should be read by older children, advanced readers, and young adults because while there is not a lot of blood and guts there is quite a bit of violence – mice being assassinated, peaceful mice being slaughtered, cats eating mice and the like. There is even a scene where a brave little mouse nearly gets his tail chopped off when he hides in carrot leaves in the kitchen!

The Konig is a chilling little character, a deliciously twisted and evil little mouse – a mouse equivalent of all the cruel despots that we have read about over the past 100 years plus. But like all tyrants – and an end to their reign does come eventually – and great sacrifices occur to get that outcome. I liked the adventure component of the story was well plotted and had interesting variations of the human world. The story did drag for me a bit in some parts, and was a little bit repetitious in other parts, and a couple of threads weren’t closed off for me satisfactorily – or else I missed the closure – an example of this was the owl and how/why it fitted in.

I liked how the author made up his own mouse words from the Austrian language around him; humans are menschen, food is essen and cheese is goldenessen. There was a glossary (and maps) but when you read an e-book these are virtually impossible to access without a lot of palaver.

Overall I think kids will love this story – mouse customs and fables, adventure, bullies, good guys, bad guys and lots of twists and turns.

For more information – Click Here

C – Above average – was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to Parkers Mill Publishing and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.


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