Worthy Thoughts

Books, reading, life & other worthy thoughts

Image result for nullaboo hullabaloo - reviews

Author: Fleur Ferris
Publisher: Puffin

I have always enjoyed Fleur Ferris’ young adult novels and was delighted to see that she had written a book for younger readers. I had high expectations for this book and Ferris did not let me down.

The book is set in a town called Nullaboo and our young protagonist is Gemma Hart. The story opens with Gemma waiting to see what topic she will receive in the science competition. Her heart is set on butterflies, but that topic goes to Nina (last’s year competition winner). Gemma’s topic will be march flies. To say that Gemma is disappointed is an understatement. How can she possibly beat Nina in the science competition when her topic is march flies. March flies!!

Gemma’s mother is an entomologist and has lent Gemma her bug catcher which magnifies things two hundred and fifty times their size and has a microphone and earbuds. Gemma heads off with her bug catcher to catch some march files, but instead of finding march files Gemma captures a fairy. A fairy named Janomi. A fairy who needs help. Fairies aren’t supposed to talk to humans and so Janomi is breaking many rules by seeking out Gemma’s help. Her grandfather has been captured by silver spiders and she needs Gemma’s help to find and rescue him.

Gemma’s bug catcher records this conversation and Nina finds it and uploads it to the Internet. Suddenly there’s hullabaloo in Nullaboo. Nina’s small town finds itself the centre of a media frenzy. A secret government agency barges in to take control and suddenly the fairy colony that Gemma promised to protect is under threat.

There’s so much to love about this book. Gemma is a charming character. Beautifully innocent, funny and so, so likeable. Gemma’s family are gorgeously eccentric. You will also fall in love with the people of Nullaboo.

Ferris has always written rural communities so beautifully – how they pull together when one of their own is in crisis. She continues this theme with Nullaboo Hullabaloo.

I love that the fairies (just like humans) are snarky towards each other. I love that Gemma’s family have their own problems, but when it is needed, they pull together. I love that the book is full of humour and love.

I love how Ferris uses language in this novel. From the secret government agency being called DUD to Gemma’s mother’s nemesis being called Colin Snider.

What I love the most though that this is a story about heart. Once you finish reading this book, you will feel happy. This book made me smile and it made me feel good.

Yes, this is a story about fairies, but it is also a story about community. Nullaboo Hullabaloo tells the story of a community rallying around one of their own to help them protect and save the fairies. And amazingly enough underneath all that Ferris has written about how important it is to put egos and enmities aside to help others in need.

It is a delightful book that will be enjoyed by both boys and girls. It is beautifully illustrated by Briony Stewart. The illustrations capture the story brilliantly. Let’s hope that Ferris writes more stories featuring Gemma and her wonderfully unconventional family and community.

Image result for nullaboo hullabaloo - illustrations

And I love all the sewing references – Janomi, Bernini, Elna and so on.

Author: Nat Amoore
Publisher: Puffin

Tess Heckelston is the heroine that younger readers need. She is feisty, intelligent, witty and has an active entrepreneurial streak. Boys and girls alike will love her and her best friend, Toby.

What I loved in particular about Tess was her advice-giving. Throughout the book, Tess gives her young readers tips on life.

Tip 9: THINGS ARE CLASSIC FOR A REASON. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about bigger, better and faster. I can’t imagine a world without the internet, or Google, or online banking, or Spotify. But Dad has shown me how to appreciate the old stuff too. Music, movies and, most importantly, business. While I totally love entrepreneurs like Alexa Hirschfield and Daniel Ek, I have learnt heaps from old people like Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey. If something is old and we still know about it today, there’s a reason why it’s stuck around. It’s probably pretty good.

Some of Tess’ other tips include— ‘use Google’ to ‘your people are everything’, ‘learn from your mistakes’ and ‘own your decisions’. I am sure a lot of young readers will take these tips to heart (well, I hope so!).

Tess lives next door to a dodgy character named Scotty. One day the police arrive at Scotty’s house and Tess sees him place a bag in her treasure chest just before he gets arrested. In this bag is one million dollars. Of course, Tess (who we must remember is only ten years old) believes the old adage of finders keepers. Tess has spent her whole (short) life coming up with schemes to make money and suddenly she has been gifted one million dollars. The book then proceeds to follow Tess and her best friend Toby as they decide the best way to spend a million dollars.

But of course Tess is only ten years old and she soon realises that spending one million dollars when you are ten years is quite difficult to do – even when you want to spend the money on good causes. Nothing puts adults on high alert more than a ten-year-old kid throwing cash around.

Tess and Toby find themselves on quite an adventure as they try to spend their one million dollars and of course they find themselves in some interesting dilemmas. Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire could have been entirely predictable, but it isn’t. Nat Amoore has created a book that is fresh, fun and original.

Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire is a brilliant book and Tess is the perfect heroine for young readers. It is a dynamic, thoughtful and extremely intelligent middle-grade reading. An enjoyable rollicking romp.

Australian, Dollar, Money, Currency

 

Author: Helen Castles
Illustrator: Beatriz Castro
Publisher: New Frontier

Scoop McLaren : Detective Editor - Helen Castles

Scoop McLaren is a great character – editor of ‘Click, an online newspaper. Her father is the editor of the town’s print newspaper, ‘Higgity Harbour’, so journalism runs in Scoop’s family.

Higgity Harbour, usually a sleepy little coastal town, appears to be besieged by numerous disasters. I have to admit that the catastrophes that overwhelm the town are a bit hard to comprehend at times – but that was my rational inner adult voice. I realised that these disasters are precisely what makes the book so engaging for a young reader.

Higgity Harbour is engulfed by alligators, storms of frogs, snowstorms in summer, children being turned into stone and mysterious buildings being burnt to the ground. Higgity Harbour is a town in peril and Scoop is determined to work out what is happening to her beloved town.

Scoop runs the online newspaper and her newspaper is widely read (more so than her dad’s print newspaper), so when a new online publication is launched, she is upset. More distressing for Scoop is that ‘The Dark News’ appears to have the inside scoop on all the calamities occurring in her town. Published at precisely one minute past midnight every night, it predicts all the disasters that the town will experience causing more upheaval and distress to the locals.

Scoop and her trusted sidekick Evie are determined to expose the editor of ‘The Dark News’, the wicked Sonny Fink as the person responsible for all the disasters occurring in Higgity Harbour.  But the trouble is that Sonny Fink appears to have the upper hand and Scoop and Evie appear to be on the backfoot to Sonny’s evil reign of confusion and chaos.

Scoop McLaren: Detective Editor is a fun, captivating story for middle-grade readers. Along with Scoop and Evie, the reader can figure out the clues and determine who Sonny Fink is. It is a great mystery novel and a wonderful book to introduce children to this genre. Helen Castles has pitched the style of writing to younger readers beautifully with enough suspense to keep a younger reader hooked, but without overwhelming them. The reader feels like they are investigating the case alongside Sonny and Evie and are taken on every twist and turn that Sonny and Evie experience.

Not only is the book a great mystery, but it is also funny and witty. It is smart humour. Castles had assembled a great cast of characters that all play an integral part in the novel – every aspect adds to the story and sets the reader up to be invested in the town of Higgity Harbour. Scoop Mclaren: Detective Editor is also cleverly illustrated by Beatriz Castro and the illustrations, particularly the front cover adds another layer to the story.

Helen Castles is on to a winner with this book and hopefully series. It is exciting to see a smart, humorous and engaging mystery book being written for younger readers.

Camera, Photography, Photograph, Dslr, Slr Camera, Slr

As part of my job as a teacher-librarian, I have to read books aimed at the middle school reader. I find books aimed at this age group, difficult to read and I realised that there are a lot of books pitched at this age group that aren’t particularly good reads.

I do tend to pick and choose which books in this category I will read. I should read more widely in this age group, but for the most part, I find these books a chore and the reading is more a requirement of my job than for pleasure.

Recently I read four books in this category and all four books are solid reads for the middle-grade reader. Over the next few days, I will write about each book. The three books are How to Make a Movie in 12 days by Fiona Hardy, Scoop McLaren Detective Editor by Helen Castles Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by Nat Amoore and Nullaboo Hullabaloo by Fleur Ferris.

I had high hopes for this novel. I thought it was going to be a stand out amongst a pretty ordinary crowd.

‘Fiona Hardy has written a cracker of a story. Budding filmmakers, scriptwriters or any readers with annoying siblings and a sense of humour will enjoy this book.’ Books + Publishing magazine 4-star review

High praise from Books & Publishing, but I am not sure I would agree to the four-star rating. Most reviewers gave this book a big thumbs-up. I did read that Fiona Hardy is a bookseller, so maybe they are supporting one of their own – I am not quite sure.

Maybe I am too critical. When you compare this book to some of the garbage that is written for this age group, this novel is worthy of four stars.

How to Make a Movie in 12 days is a lovely change from most books in this category – a good story with relatable characters.  It isn’t stupid humour. It isn’t over-the-top storytelling. It doesn’t have any significant issues that it is trying to tackle.

The story revolves around eleven-year-old Hayley who loves movies. Her love for film comes from her family, mainly her father and her grandmother. Hayley and her grandmother had always planned to make a movie together. Hayley as the director and her grandmother as the star. Hayley’s grandmother has passed and Hayley is determined to make the movie as a tribute to her grandmother.

Of course, making a movie is a vast undertaking and Hayley finds herself under a great deal of stress. Lots of things go wrong and Hayley is suspicious. Who is sabotaging her movie and why? The story revolves around Hayley, her friends and family making her movie and it also adds the element of who is disrupting Hayley’s movie.

I did think the novel went on too much and I do believe that at least a third of the book could have been cut. I do worry that a typical middle-grade reader won’t persevere with the story, which would be disappointing because the ending is a highlight of the book.

What I did love about the book was that Hayley was making a horror movie which gives the story a different edge and I love that Hayley’s grandmother wasn’t your “stereotypical” grandmother.

This conversation wasn’t going well. If Grandma had actually been listening, she would’ve said something like, ‘Get to the point before I stab myself in the eye with it.’

Hayley’s grandmother wasn’t your classic grandmother and nor was her best friend. I love that Hayley’s grandmother and her friend Annabel were portrayed as two feisty, bad-tempered (at times) and fiercely independent women. I hope when I am older, someone describes me as Hayley describes Annabel.

As always, with Annabel, I couldn’t tell what she meant. She was so perpetually irritated, and almost always rude, and it was hard to tell if she liked you or not.

A highlight of the book was the different characters. Fiona Hardy writes characters well. She challenges the reader to think differently.

As I write this review I realise there is a lot to like about How to Make a Movie in 12 days; I guess I wished it wasn’t as long because at times I found it dragged out – like a movie that goes for two and half hours and should have gone for two hours.

Rose, Rose Bush, Rosewood, Red Rose, Red, Nature, Plant

 

Recently I posted this photo to my Instagram account. The post was meant to keep a friend overseas updated on what I was doing at home but suddenly though there were likes from everywhere which informed me that this book is off the scales popular and so I couldn’t wait to start reading. I bought the books after watching the television series on Foxtel. I was intrigued by the premise of the television series…

Brilliant historian Diana Bishop is a witch denying her own heritage. But when she unexpectedly calls up an ancient, bewitched manuscript, she finds herself thrown into the heart of a dangerous mystery – and into the path of the enigmatic geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont.

I wanted to watch something easy and fun and this looked like just the show. I enjoyed the series and so, of course, I decided to buy the books. I thought the books might give me more background on the characters and fill in all those details that sometimes a movie or television show can leave out.

The first book, titled A Discovery of Witches was quite good. I think coming straight off the series I found that it wasn’t surprising or shocking and I knew all the twists and turns, but I did enjoy Deborah Harkness’ writing and I loved the details she gave about Oxford. Though it wasn’t as gripping as I thought it would be, I blamed this on the fact that I had just finished watching the TV series.

I was going to take a break between the first book and the second. I hadn’t found the first book all that exciting and wasn’t sure I wanted to read the second book. I thought though that I would find the second book much more readable because it hadn’t been covered in the series. A second season is currently being filmed.

Well, the second book titled Shadow of Night was excruciating to read. Initially, I was quite excited. I love books about witches, vampires and creatures living amongst us and I love a good historical novel – this was a mixture of both.

Shadow of Night was excruciatingly dull. It was so slow and Harkness spends about five hundred pages just writing about details of the time that aren’t that interesting. Only about one hundred pages of the book are plot-driven and that’s being generous. I could sum up in a paragraph the plot of this book. Usually, I love learning details about different times in history, but there was nothing in this book that lingered with me. I could not tell you one thing that I learnt from this book that was even remotely interesting.

I should have given this book away after the first two hundred pages, but I kept on reading. I kept on thinking that surely something was going to happen. I mean the book is almost seven hundred pages long. At about page five hundred, I reached my limit – how I managed to get that far, I have no idea. I wasn’t enjoying the book. It had become hard work and reading should be fun. I wanted to get lost in the pages. I wished not to be able to put it down but instead I was dreading having to pick it up. The last few hundred pages I skimmed read and honestly nothing much happened.

Also, another part of the book that annoyed me was that Matthew, a vampire that has been alive for several hundred years, knew everyone of importance in previous lives. I mean everyone. If they were famous or noteworthy in history, Matthew knew them. I mean everyone!!!!!!!!!!!! After a while, you just begin to roll your eyes.

So, I still have the third book to read, but I just can’t do it. I don’t think I will ever be able to read the third book in the series. I honestly don’t have the strength. I am utterly exhausted and drained after reading the first two books. I can’t even stand to look at the books on my bookshelf and feel I may have to give them away. Will I watch the second season of the series. Maybe. At the moment I need to take a BIG break from Discovery of Witches.

I know that this is a HUGELY popular series. It wasn’t to my liking, but I know that there are many out there who LOVED this series of books. It has a four-star rating on Goodreads, so I think I’m the anomaly in this equation.

 

Thomas Malton, Sky, Clouds, City, Oxford, England

 

 

 

 

Savethedate

Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

I had heard such great things about this book and when I bought it, I saved it for a weekend when I knew I would have no distractions because I wanted to enjoy it. Well, I was happy that I read it quickly because this book annoyed me no end. It wasn’t a book, it was a script for a BAD romantic-comedy. You know one of those movies you wait to come onto Netflix – that you don’t waste good money to go see at the cinema.

Save the Date revolves around the Grant family who have grown up in the public eye through their mother’s national comic strip. The Grant family consists of mum, dad and five siblings. The comic strip is adored by many and as such Charlie’s family is considered a national treasure.

The story is told through the eyes of Charlie, 17, who is the youngest and the only child still at home. Charlie adores her family. In her eyes, they are perfect. Charlie’s sister, Linnie is getting married, which means all the Grant siblings will be reunited and Charlie is thrilled about her whole family being together for the weekend. Though the entire weekend is a debacle and it is one error after another. The writer missed the mark completely. What could have been a funny story about a not-so-perfect family just became annoying and tedious. I just wanted it all to end.

It is quite disappointing because I have heard such great things about Morgan Matson’s books and I wanted to like this book. What should have been an easy read is instead a difficult read.

There wasn’t much I liked at all. I did like the comics and I wished there had been more of them because they were great.

I did write notes about this book and every time something annoyed me I wrote it on an index card, but I seem to have lost my notes (which is probably a good thing) because most of my notes were quite snarky.

Of course, this is my opinion entirely. I have read MANY wonderful reviews of this book, particularly in Australia and I am incredibly suspicious of this because this book did receive a lot of publicity here in Australia. I have also read that Morgan Matson is a great author and reviewers who didn’t particularly like this book have praised her other books. Though, I am hesitant because I found this book hard work and I am not sure I could wade through another book that is so excessive and indulgent.

Bouquet, Celebration, Color, Colorful

THE KISS QUOTIENT by Helen Hoang

Author: Helen Hoang
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

KIRKUS REVIEW

A woman with Asperger’s falls in love with the escort she hires to teach her about sex and relationships.

Stella Lane’s job as an econometrician is perfectly satisfying, but now that she’s 30, her mother expects her to look for a husband and start producing babies. Stella has never enjoyed dating or sex, so when a male colleague she’s cautiously interested in rudely suggests she should “get some practice,” she takes his advice to heart. Enter Michael Phan, a man as gorgeous as any K-drama star, who abandoned his promising career as a fashion designer and started escorting to pay for his mother’s cancer treatments. At their first appointment, Michael refuses to rush into sex with a woman so frozen with discomfort, regardless of whether or not she’s paid him. Stella, both deeply attracted to him and grateful for his kindness, asks him to consider a long-term arrangement. Michael is hesitant after a past experience with a stalker client, but he recognizes her vulnerability and is overcome by an instinct to protect her. Hoang is sure-footed in her character development; Michael and Stella both have robust, sympathetic stories and complicated, loving families. The initial sizzling sexual chemistry deepens into a satisfying romantic relationship. Both of them are plagued with insecurities even though they are generous and nonjudgmental with each other. Stella is nervous about revealing her Asperger’s to Michael, but he accepts her unconditionally. Michael keeps his escorting a secret from his family and struggles to separate his own identity from that of his con-man father, but Stella judges him on his own merits. An unnecessary late-stage plot twist feels forced and inorganic, but it’s a small misstep.

A well-crafted and charming debut romance.

When I want to read an honest review of a book, my go-to reviews is Kirkus Reviews. I find their reviews concise and truthful. The majority of the time, I feel we are on the same page, but not this time.

I couldn’t connect with The Kiss Quotient. I wanted a fun holiday read and instead, I found myself cringing and wanting it all to end. The Kiss Quotient isn’t a terrible book, it is well written and I am in the minority for not liking this book. This book is LOVED. I think many, many years ago I would have loved this book and I would have been caught up in the romance and attraction of Stella and Michael, but I am not that reader any more. Which I think is a good thing. I am a different reader these days. I would highly recommend this book if you like fun, well-written romances.

There were many reasons I didn’t like The Kiss Quotient, but I will limit it to three.

After he took them out of the city and merged into the light traffic on 101S…

Michael ALWAYS drives – always. There isn’t even a discussion. Not once does Stella ever say that she doesn’t like driving and she would prefer Michael to drive. He always assumes the position of the driver. This bugged me a lot!

They didn’t approve of me at first. Why would they want him marrying a Vietnamese girl with only an eighth-grade education who barely spoke English?…

“I didn’t know that…” It made him look at his grandparents in a new, rather unfavourable light.

Michael learns that his grandparents on his father’s side didn’t like his mother…at first. Obviously, his grandparents came around, which says a lot for them as people, but Michael decides that he’s going to think less of his grandparents because they were worried about who was marrying. Why was this important to the storyline? Are we supposed to think more of Michael because this makes him enlightened? This is barely a blip in the storyline, but it irked me.

Her petite body was composed of elegant shoulders and arms, a little waist that flared to gently curved hips, and shapely legs with delicate ankles.

It irritated me that Stella and Michael were both stunning. I am not sure why this annoyed me so much, but both of them were drop-dead gorgeous and I couldn’t quite relate to either of them because of this. I know that I watch movies and TV shows all the time where the characters are gorgeous, so why did it bother me so much that Stella and Michael were so attractive? Maybe because I found it all so unrelatable and I found the characters were very stereotyped. Stella is a gorgeous, petite and smart econometrician and Michael is the sexy biracial Viet-Swedish escort. My eyes are rolling into the back of my head as I write that sentence. Oh, but apparently Stella is autistic, so that makes her relatable and Michael has issues because of his father, so he’s flawed too. Once again, eye roll. Oh, and I forgot to add that; apparently, Stella is “quirky” – need I say more.