Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Illustrator: Kelly Canby
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Bronte Mettlestone’s parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She’s had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons – and no adventures, thank you very much.
But Bronte’s parents have left extremely detailed (and bossy) instructions for Bronte in their will. The instructions must be followed to the letter, or disaster will befall Bronte’s home. She is to travel the kingdoms and empires, perfectly alone, delivering special gifts to her ten other aunts. There is a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard and a veterinarian aunt who specialises in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship together and a former rockstar aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.
Now, armed with only her parents’ instructions, a chest full of strange gifts and her own strong will, Bronte must journey forth to face dragons, Chief Detectives and pirates – and the gathering suspicion that there might be something more to her extremely inconvenient quest than meets the eye…
From the award-winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a fantastic tale of high intrigue, grand adventure and an abundance of aunts.
I fell in love with Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing while reading the Colours of Madeleine series. Oh, how I loved that series. I was in absolute awe of Jaclyn Moriarty and her quirky, unique and imaginative writing, so I was thrilled to see that she had written a series for middle-grade readers.
Jaclyn Moriarty is an inventive, quirky and delightful writer. I am always amazed by her imagination and creativity when reading her books and The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is no exception. Once you start reading you are captured by Moriarty and she does not let you go and once she has let you go, you want more.
What I love about Moriarty is that she isn’t like any other writer. She is incomparable. While reading this book, I was asked to describe what the book was about – I did my best to explain this book, but I think I failed miserably. You have to read Moriarty’s work to understand her refreshing and original imagination.
Moriarty’s world-building is like no other and it isn’t just her world-building, the way she uses words to immerse you in her story is original and delightful.
‘The Upturned…Ha! You mean the Dishevelled Sofa!’
The Dishevelled Sofa is a cafe in Moriarty’s book. If the name hasn’t captured your attention and made you want to visit, then Moriarty’s description will.
Her attention to detail and vocabulary is incredible. Every word counts. Every chapter counts. All one hundred and nine chapters! This world that Moriarty has created is all hers and her work is complemented by Kelly Canby’s delightful, lively and animated illustrations. The illustrations add to the book. Moriarty’s writing can easily stand alone but with Canby’s illustrations an extra depth is attached to the book.
Yes, this is a hefty book, but it isn’t an arduous read instead you will find yourself whipping through the pages and loving Moriarty & Canby’s brave, quirky and humorous work. I am delighted that I can introduce Moriarty’s work to middle-grade readers and I know they will love her as much as I do.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I like a book to tell a story. These books did not. They told about things. It’s true that this is what I needed them to do, and yet honestly. Did they have to? ‘Oh, just stop, you insufferable bore!’ I murmured to the authors.
Moriarty is no insufferable bore and when reading her work, I wonder what it must be like to live inside her head. I am sure that Moriarty could make a to-do list funny and creative. You only have to look at the title! It is enormous, like the book, but Moriarty makes it work. She’s a wonder!
Author: Karen Foxlee
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
The story takes place in Ohio, a state in the USA. It’s set in the 1970s. A time before technology overtook our lives. The main character, Lenny, lives in an apartment with her mum, Cynthia Spink, the proud, hard-working, sharp-witted, anxious mother of two and her younger brother, Davey – her happy-go-lucky brother who has gigantism. Her father, Peter Lenard Spink, has left them. He hopped on a Greyhound bus and never returned.
Lenny’s Book of Everything is captivating, charming and magical. Lenny, her mother and brother, live an ordinary life except for the fact that Davey grows at an alarming rate. At age six, he is four foot and ten inches or the equivalent of about 147 centimetres.
So what makes this book so charming? Is it because it set in the 1970s when life was simpler? The highlight of the children’s week is the arrival of the Burrell’s Build-it-at-Home Encyclopaedia which their mother won for the children through her talented writing. Cynthia Spink’s communication with Burrell’s (through letters) is a memorable part of the book.
The encyclopaedias allow the children a glimpse of the world that exists outside their apartment and their small town. They experience the wonders of the world through the books. Lenny discovers a fascination of beetles and dreams of being a coleopterist. Davey becomes enthralled with birds of prey and travelling to Great Bear Lake. I often wonder if Lenny fulfilled her dream and became a coleopterist.
A lot of the charm and magic of the book lies with the characters. Every character adds an element to the story from Lenny’s best friends CJ Bartholomew and Matthew Milford to the school principal Mrs Dalrymple – keep an eye out for Mrs Dalrymple and Mrs Oliver towards the end of the book!
My favourite character was Mrs Gaspar. The odd old Hungarian woman who lives in their apartment block and who looks after the children when Cynthia works. Every child should experience a Mrs Gaspar when growing up – she’s so beautifully disagreeable.
“The abominable snowman,” said Davey.
“Pah,” said Mrs. Gaspar, and she waved her hand as though we bored her. “I saw him once when I was walking home from school in Hungary.”
This bittersweet tale is full of so many perfect moments that remind you that our best life is experienced through kindness, hope and love. Lenny’s Book of Everything is gorgeous and borders on perfection. Thank you, Karen Foxlee, for giving me the reading collywobbles ♥
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publisher: Walker Books
I loved this book! I fell in love with the characters. I devoured it and I wanted more. I was utterly enthralled by Kate DiCamillo’ beautiful writing. I wanted Louisana’s story to go on and on and I was disappointed when the book finished.
In a compelling first-person voice, twelve-year-old Louisana relates the story of her journey to Richford, Georgia. The year is 1977, and this adds to the charm of the story. Louisana tells her story with great detail and always includes her thoughts and opinions – which are heartfelt and at times hilarious.
Louisana’s impulsive, erratic grandmother awakens her one night because the day of reckoning has arrived, insisting that they must leave town immediately. Louisana and her grandmother travel through Florida and stop in Richford, Georgia, at the Good Night Sleep Tight motel. The trip from Florida to Georgia is far from uneventful, and ending up at the Good Night Sleep Tight motel is due to circumstances from their action-packed journey.
Lousiana finds out many truths while in Richford, Georgia that throw her into great turmoil. All that she has believed to be true isn’t and Louisana feels alone, shattered and unanchored.
The characters in this book are delightful and funny. I was captured by this small town and the characters that live within the town. In particular, DiCamillo builds a resilient and compassionate character in Louisana, and her observations of the people around her are hilariously both down-to-earth and whimsical. Louisana’s comments give us so much more than if DiCamillo had described the so-called character trait.
I was starting to see what kind of person he was. He was the kind of person who, if you asked him for one of something, gave you two instead.
I did not understand how someone could play the organ so poorly, just as I did not understand how someone could have a seemingly lifetime supply of chocolate caramels and not share them.
“OK,’ I said. “And maybe as an extra-special surprise for me, you will actually remove the curlers from your hair.”
Much of what happens to Louisana is heartbreaking, but Louisana always makes you smile and her sharp observations of the world make you laugh through the tears.
Louisana’s Way Home is a beautifully written book. It also a beautifully presented book and would sit proudly on many bookshelves. The characters are charming and the language so exquisitely crafted. A special book that deserves to sit on many gorgeous bookshelves.
Author: Courtney Summers
I have read a lot of young adult books over the years and you always have your troubled teenager, but Sadie was the first young adult book where I felt that there was no hope for the main character. You can feel the insurmountable battle she is up against and your heart breaks for her. Every step of her journey is disheartening. You do wonder if by some miracle Sadie will get her happy ending, but then again Sadie isn’t looking for a happy ending, she just wants justice and justice isn’t always happy or satisfying.
Sadie will haunt you long after you have finished reading. Yes, the story is intense and uncompromising, but this a story that should be heard. We see and hear so much from celebrities on the #MeToo movement that we forget that there are victims out there who will never be heard and who will never be able to free themselves from the legacy of abuse and poverty.
Courtney Summers is a writer who doesn’t hold back. Her honesty is unflinching.
Nineteen-year-old Sadie is determined to find who she believes to be her younger sister Maddie’s killer. Sadie knows who killed Maddie; she just needs to find him and make him pay for what he did.
Interwoven with Sadie’s first-person account is the transcript of West McCray’s podcast series, The Girls, tracking his efforts to learn what’s happened to Sadie. Summers use of the podcast transcript becomes an effective way to build a backstory to Sadie and to let a multitude of characters have their say. Summers writing is taut and she keeps you captivated and you find yourself wanting to skip forward to Sadie’s narrative but also wanting to know what McCray has discovered. Sadie’s chapters are fast-paced and compelling. Sadie is determined to find Maddie’s killer and along the way she discovers many dirty secrets. McCray’s investigation follows Sadie and he talks to people who Sadie has shaken down to get information from to find her sister’s killer. The two perspectives work well together and you will become engaged entirely with both stories.
Sadie isn’t a likeable character and she’s probably not even sympathetic. Sadie has never had a lucky break and most likely never will. She left school, struggled to find a job because of her stutter. People think she’s stupid because of her stutter. She’s sarcastic but not in a light-hearted way. Her mother was a drug addict. She lives in a trailer park. She has suffered from both emotional and physical abuse. Her sister has been murdered.
Summers doesn’t write her as the beautiful, broken, misunderstood but sassy character. What found compelling about Sadie is that she’s tough, smart, perceptive and vulnerable. It is her vulnerability that will have you fighting for her and her story. You want Sadie to have the justice that she so deserves. Sadie’s relentless search isn’t about revenge, but justice.
This is a book that should be read. It is a frightening revelation of what many children have to deal with every day. Children who live with neglectful parents, abuse and poverty.
Sadie is an edgy, suspenseful book about abuse and power. It is a harrowing, intense and challenging read. A powerful book and one that I hope makes its way into many hands. Sadie isn’t an easy read, but that’s what I liked about it. I liked that it made me uncomfortable. Sadie will leave you gutted.
Author: Lili Wilkinson
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
I was captivated by this book. I find preppers endlessly fascinating. Full-on doomsday preppers and conspiracy theorists seem driven by paranoia and pessimism and I find that sort of mindset curious.
Before I read this book, I thought that doomsday preppers were a little eccentric, maybe slightly mad. Pru’s father would certainly fit that bill, but what I also learnt is that doomsday preppers have some fantastic skills and are certainly prepared for any disaster that may prevail.
Pru, her two sisters and her doomsday prepper father live on the outskirts of Jubilee, a remote mining town in the Kimberley. The girls are home-schooled and live a relatively isolated existence as their father has forbidden any social media and they aren’t encouraged to make friends or become a part of the community. They spent most of their time learning skills and practising drills for the apocalypse. The girls humour their father, but unlike him, they don’t believe that one day the world will cease to exist as we know it.
So what happens when their dad is right? When a solar flare triggers a shutdown of all power and electronics and Pru and her sisters are thrown into a world that their father has prepared them for, or has he?
Pru’s father is away at work on the mines hundreds of miles away and Pru, as the oldest sister, must take charge and make decisions for her and her sisters. With a bunker of supplies and survival skills provided by their conspiracy-theory obsessed father, the girls know how to keep themselves safe. Pru’s dad has been prepping the girls for this event for years.
But the girls don’t think like their father and that’s where the problems arise. Pru’s dad has trained her for this event and in that training comes the mantra, ‘family first’. But Pru isn’t like her dad and she feels a connection to the people in the town. As each day passes and Pru feels the severity of the situation, she begins to wonder whether her father was right.
Would you share supplies, even if it meant depriving your family? Would you keep your family safe? Would you keep your secrets from a community that needed you? As an introvert and someone who doesn’t particularly like people, my first thought was that I would bunker down and not worry about the community. But I have to admit that Wilkinson made me question this decision and that’s the beauty of this book. I can understand Pru’s dilemma, she is following her dad’s directions and she feels an obligation to the only person who has ever taken care of her but is her dad right?
The book chronicles a disaster and its aftermath, but it is also a story of community, friendship and love. There is also a lot of humour in the book. The characters are beautifully written and you find yourself, like Pru, drawn to them. The people are realistically and honestly portrayed and Wilkinson has done an excellent job of making you care for each and every member of the community.
‘In the past,’ he says slowly, ‘the holiest priests were the ones who kept themselves apart from the world. They formed monasteries in harsh, remote places. They saw only one another, and spent their lives devoted to prayer. This, they told themselves, brought them closer to God.’ He uses a tea towel to wipe the mugs clean. ‘I respect their devotion, but honestly I think that’s nonsense. Prayer brings me comfort, but it doesn’t bring me closer to God. People do. Hard work. Helping others.’
After the Lights Go Out has a dramatic premise of a disaster placing Australia and most of the world in a situation that is scary and unthinkable for most, but like most Australian young adult writers Wilkinson writes with such humour that you find yourself laughing throughout the book. I love how Australian authors use humour to balance their stories.
Keller pulls his shirt over his head and follows her. He doesn’t react to the coldness of the water in any way, because he would think it unmanly to squeal. That’s the kind of dickhead he is.
Wilkinson is a brilliant writer. Her writing pulled me into the story and I was mesmerised from beginning to end. After the Lights Go Out is uncompromising, shocking, thrilling and yes, funny.
Author: Carlie Sorosiak
Publisher: Harper Teen
Wild Blue Wonder is a quirky, original and beautiful book about grief and guilt.
The story alternates between two timelines, both narrated by Quinn. We follow Quinn in the present day during fall/winter, as well as the previous summer when Quinn’s life changed forever.
Quinn is seventeen years old and the middle child in a family that has drifted apart. As well as Quinn, there is her gay older brother Reed and her rebellious younger sister, Fern.
Quinn’s life was turned upside down when her best friend Dylan died in the summer. Dylan was adored by all three siblings and his death tore a once close-knit family apart. We find out that Quinn feels responsible for Dylan’s death and it would appear that her siblings blame her as well. She feels ostracized by not only her family but the small town that her family live within. The siblings are grieving and rather than turn to each other for support; they have decided to deal with Dylan’s death alone.
Instinctively, I roll my eyes, noticing that Fern and Reed do, too, and for a split second we forget not to smile at each other. When we remember, even the room sighs, all the hardwoods letting out a collective whoosh.
Quinn’s family owns a summer camp called The Hundreds, which serves as the setting for the majority of the book. The Hundreds is a magical place and Sorosiak makes you want to live in such a place. Her writing makes The Hundreds come alive both in summer and winter with her beautiful descriptions – blueberries grow in winter, sick cats wander into the woods and suddenly they’re cured, ghosts wander through the camp and according to the family, an aquatic monster roams the depth of their cove.
The Hundreds, the summer camp that my family owns and operates – where we live. It’s aggressively pretty under the moonlight and dusting of snow. Small rustic cabins. A meadow of dormant wildflowers. A hundred acres of birch, ash and maple trees that whisper to one another in the wind. No matter how green it is in June, The Hundreds is most striking in fall and winter.
In the flashbacks to the summer, we are given glimpses of life for the family before Dylan’s death. The siblings were inseparable and loving. They were the perfect family. The happiness and love you feel during the summer months contrast entirely with the emptiness, anger and despair that you feel in the winter months. Quinn was present when Dylan lost his life and she blames herself. She has decided that she is not worthy of living a happy, full life when Dylan’s is gone. Her siblings are confused and angry and all this is enhanced by the cold winter backdrop.
Wild Blue Wonder is a story of grief, but it is also a story of friendship and family. Sorosiak lightens the read by introducing us to some beautiful supporting characters including Quinn’s best friend, Korean-American Hana Chang and Alexander Kostopoulos, a Greek-British student grappling with family issues of his own. Hana and Alexander provide a humorous element to the book so that you aren’t overwhelmed by the guilt, anger and grief felt by the family characters. Also add to the mix, Quinn’s eccentric, hilarious grandmother Nana Eden who is determined to put the family back together again.
The plot is compelling and you will be drawn in by the mystery of what happened to Dylan, the fun of the summer camp, the beauty of winter in Maine and the characters who will make you laugh, cry and scream.
Sorosiak has masterfully written some likeable and well-developed characters and you will want everything to work out for them. This family deserves a happy ending. This is the first book of Sorosiak ’s that I have read and I was mesmerized by her writing.
She can write snark:
Fern can walk out of a room like she’s slamming a door in your face.
And she can write so so beautifully:
Outside it’s foggy, tendrils of haze crawling along the ground like vines. Even though the birch trees are whispering to each other, it feels empty. Beautiful, but empty. I miss the summer – the chaos of voices in the mess hall, sunshine against emerald glass, and fullness. Now the only moving things aren’t living at all: icicles on the ropes course swaying with the wind, haloed mist swirling above the wildflower meadow, and vague, shadowy shapes on the Yoga and Meditation Cabin’s porch. When I pass, they drift back and forth like splinters of moonlight, dispersing in the air as squid ink does in water.
Carlie Sorosiak, I am happy I found your beautiful book.