Monday, January 28, 2013

What's left of me by Kat Zhang

It is normal to have only one soul, but everyone has two souls when they are born, it is only as they grow from child to teenager one of the souls fades away and the body settles with only the dominant soul left behind.  It is the way things are, any body that fails to settles and leaves the two souls intact is considered an abomination that must be fixed - the person is labelled a hybrid and the government will stop at nothing to make sure the hybrid is cured. 

Because Addie and Eva failed to settle at the normal time they were watched closely, subjected to tests, and were only left to settle in their own time because their parents begged for them to be left alone until they were ten years old.  It was a plea that worked because Addie finally settled, with Eva fading away into nothing - the general consensus was better late than never.  Three years later and the family is settled in their new home, away from the stigma of being the family with the child that settled late, the child that was a danger to all those around them.  Addie is enjoying being normal, except for the little voice only she can hear - the voice of Eva who is hidden away rather than gone.

Addie is the dominant soul, the one with control of their voice and body, the one that everyone sees and hears.  The only person who can hear Eva is Addie, and while most of the time they are content, Eva does dream of more sometimes.  When they meet another hybrid it seems as though the dream Eva never dared dream, the hope she never dared to hope for has come true - this hybrid has dual control of their body, both souls can use the same body and speak with their own voices.  But now Addie and Eva are in danger, danger that they may not be able to escape without paying a terrible price.

If you like this book then you may also enjoy The hunger games by Suzanne Collins, XVI by Julia Karr, Variant by Robison Wells, and Eve by Anna Carey.

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman

Thursday, January 24, 2013

When we wake by Karen Healey

Tegan Oglietti was a normal sixteen year old girl, until she woke up one day and discovered that she has been in cryogenic status for just over a hundred years, that the world she once knew is now dust and memories.  Adjusting to her new world is not easy, there is new technology to master and while the people around her still speak English they also have a confusing amount of slang that means nothing to a teenager from Tegan's time.  As she adjusts to her new world, Tegan comes to realise that things are not as they should be, that the military is keeping secrets from her - the military that owns her because they are the ones that brought her back to life and gave her a new start in their world.

Tegan quickly settles into a new rhythm of life, but she can't quite get used to the bodyguards that follow her everywhere - especially when one of them acts to protect her.  The world Tegan is coming to know is not a land of plenty, it is a country where you can not cross the border unless you are Australian or have a special visa - you can only be an Australian if you are born there.  To make matters worse, there are people who want to see Tegan dead because of what she appears to stand for - for some she is a soul less abomination who should make every effort to return to her god, and for others she needs to be dealt with because she can never be Australian again.

If you liked this book then you may also like Revived by Cat Patrick, The interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina, Arrival by Chris Morphew, and Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans.

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Croc and bird by Alexis Deacon

Two eggs lie side by side on the sand and one hatches out as a crocodile, while the other hatches out as a bird - it seems like a recipe for disaster, but it is actually the recipe for one of the sweetest and charming books I have read in the past few years.  What could easily have become a saccharine sweet story is instead a touching story with charm that makes you laugh out loud at times - especially when you see what the two different "brothers" get up to.

I loved this book and have shown it to everyone I can find at work, and everyone has had a similar reaction - they found it touching, and charming, and enjoyed reading it before passing it on to the next person.  The illustrations are part of the charm of this story, simple illustrations that appear to be watercolour, against a sad coloured paper, and with many of the pages framed rather than using the whole page.  The characters are drawn, but not in incredible detail, and in many ways it adds to the story, making it feel a little like a story from another time - but a story that is still relevant today.

A great story about how being different is not actually a problem - and that you don't have to be the same to get along (and that sometimes your brother may not look quite how you expected!).

If you like this book then try: Beegu by Alexis Deacon, Kitten's first full moon by Kevin Henkes, Tadpole's promise by Jeanne Willis; illustrated by Tony Ross, and Bark, George by Jules Feiffer.

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Little elephants by Graeme Base

A little boy named Jim has to give up his pet mouse because, even though Pipsqueak is only one little mouse, Jim and his mother live on a wheat farm - and wheat farms are always in danger from plagues of mice, locusts, and weevils.  After letting Pipsqueak go in the fields far from the house, Jim returns home to find that the harvester is broken and they may not be able to bring in the harvest.  Not one to give up hope, Jim knows they will make it work somehow.  The next day Jim sees a stranger in their fields, gathering some of the wheat - rather than telling the man to go away, Jim offers him some wheat and asks if he can help with the harvest.  This is just the beginning of a strange and fantastical series of events for Jim and his mother.

Graeme Base is a gifted storyteller who creates fantastical adventures for children which are matched with some of the most beautiful and detailed illustrations in children's books today.  Each image is detailed with little touches that you discover only after you have read the story over and over again, images that keep the stories fresh and interesting - thoroughly dragging you into make believe worlds that are almost beyond belief.  While Little elephants is set in "our world" and does not have the detail of some of his other works, it is completely absorbing and heart warming - a reminder that a small kindness may be repaid ten fold (or a thousand fold).

If you like this book then try:  The eleventh hour by Graeme Base, The discovery of dragons by Graeme Base, TruckDogs by Graeme Base, Croc and bird by Alexis Deacon, and Possum magic by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas.

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Welcome to the future, a world devastated and reformed to be very different from the world we know now.  It is a world where the Balance is the most important thing, where laws have been created to protect the Earth and people from another disaster - one that could spell the end of man for all time.  In this world Ashala and the people of her Tribe live off the grid, hiding in the forest to avoid detection and Detention.  But now Ashala has been captured, and the whole Tribe could be at risk because Neville Rose from Detention Centre 3 is determined to learn the secrets Ashala holds - secrets that he can reach with the Machine.

The interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a gripping read with little twists and turns that keep you guessing about what is coming next, and the tension and pace keeps up through the entire novel.  If you can make the time this is definitely a book to read in one session, but if you don't have the time for that then snatch whatever you can whenever you can until you reach the amazing conclusion.  This is one of my favourite reads for 2012 and I am looking forward to the next book in the series to see if the story of Ashala and her Tribe remains so addictive and gripping.

If you enjoyed this book then you may also like Revived by Cat Patrick, Origin by Jessica Khoury, Arrival by Chris Morphew and Enclave by Ann Aguirre

~ Reviewed by Elspeth Sweetman

Better than fiction : true travel tales from great fiction writers - edited by Don George

There are times when it is the perfect time to read short stories, on the bus, coffee break time, how many excuses do we need. In this little treasure there are more than 30 stories to enjoy. Reading the first story by Kurt Anderson called 'Going South' had me totally engrossed. You can imagine the Summer of '72, an old school bus and a group of boys .. all the ingredients for an adventure. From there I went to 'Off the beaten track in Malawi' by Marina Lewycka. I look forward to reading anything written by this author and this travel tale was no exception. Looking for a place to stay off the beaten track, this is beautifully written, be taken in by the views, the sunlight and the warmth surrounding you.

Reviewed by ~ Thyme