Reading in 2015 and Clariel and Young James Bond

It is the start of the school year and there are many English classes coming in to find something to read. I have been reading quite a lot over my summer holidays and have tried to be disciplined enough to write something about all the YA books I read.  One of the books I finally got around to reading in January was Clariel by Garth Nix. I loved Sabriel when it first came out and enjoyed the other books in The Old Kingdom series. It was interesting to read a new book about The Old kingdom after so many years.

I have also challenged myself to read 100 books in the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge. The challenge  for me is not simply the reading but making sure I review/comment on each of the books as I finish them.

One review of the Clariel  is here and a longer one here. There is also a teacher’s review can be downloaded from Allen and Unwin.

Clariel (Abhorsen, #4)I greatly enjoyed this new fantasy and my Goodreads review of Clariel by Garth Nix

As it is billed as a prequel, this book provides a completely different view of the Old Kingdom from the previous three stories. The Abhorsen and the royal families are less vigilant and lazier than previous publications and there is a lot more political intrigue.
The main character, Clariel, is a part of the Abhorsen family. She is alone and isolated in her new home in Belisaere, the capital of the kingdom, and is frustrated and angry. Her parents have brought her to the city with the expectation that she will comply with their schemes for promotion and wealth. This behaviour is familiar to Clariel but she misses her home and the solitude of the Great Forest. The city is also a dangerous place that seethes with intrigues that seemingly involve almost everyone. The thwarting of her desires stir an anger that she has struggled to control in the past but now realises that it is part of her heritage. If it can be harnessed it is a very powerful weapon that might be used to her advantage. The appearance of a dangerous “Free Magic” entity is the catalyst for events escalating with catastrophic results. For all her growing power, Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever. She starts to question the motivations of not just everyone around her but also herself.
This fourth Old Kingdom novel is set 600 years prior to the birth of Sabriel, the first story. Although it is published as a prequel to the Old Kingdom series, Clariel an also be read as a standalone novel. Note: Clariel is a character has surfaced before and is known under another name in Lirael, as is another of the “free magic” creatures.
This is a satisfying story of a courageous and talented young woman who is surrounded by other equally colourful characters.

Another YA book I read this summer was number 6 in the Young Bond series. I have enjoyed all the previous stories written by Charlie Higson and was interested to see that Stephen Cole has written the latest.  We have quite a few books by Steve in our library and he has captured the “derring do” of the previous books in the series very well.

Shoot to Kill (Young Bond, #6)Shoot to Kill by Steve Cole
In the sixth book, young James has left Eton and is at a loose end waiting to begin the next phase of his education.

Action is never far away and before long James finds himself travelling from the England to Los Angeles, via a zeppelin. The intrigue begin straight away as James discovers that he has become caught up in a web of blackmail and murder. There are American gangsters, dastardly plots and friends in danger. It will be a good book for our younger student who like spy and action stories
View all my reviews

Melina Marchetta Podcast

The ABC’s Life Matters program today ran an interview with Melina Marchetta.

In this interview Melina explains that the story of The Piper’s Son and the character of Tom Mackee began forming in Melina’s head during an episode of Australian Story. In the interview Melina describes how her ideas formed for the story and the characters and something about the processes she used when writing this book. 

It is a 15 minute interview and well worth listening to. Budding writers would also enjoy her thoughtful discussion. 

New novel from Melina Marchetta

This week as I was rushing past a book display I saw The Piper’s Son has been published. It had not been brought to my attention by my regular book suppliers so I had not seen it before this. This is the latest book by Melina Marchetta. Two of her earlier books that have been widely read and enjoyed in our school were Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca. This new novel is a companion to Saving Francesca, set five years later and the character Thomas Mackee seems to have lost the plot and his life is out of control.

I have only had time to have a quick glance though it but the story appears to be about family, grief, and love. As always the writing in the parts I have had a chance to look at make it for the reader to identify with the characters and the situations. I think this will be another book that will interest our male teenage readers and I really like the cover that has been chosen. I thought of the classic Catcher in the Rye when I first saw it! We have a 3-day weekend and so I am looking forward to reading this book properly (perhaps with coffee and cake for some of the time!)

One of my pet hates are the bad/inappropriate covers that are given to great/interesting books. This is where I then have to spend the first few  minutes convincing  our readers to pick up a book that I know they will like once they get past that cover. In our library we put up copies of the covers of many of the new novels to let the students know what new books have come in and to entice them into reading them.

Speaking of advertising books I also found out that Allen and Unwin have some author posters that you can download and/or print for your library or classrooms. 

From the Insideadog site:

If you live in Victoria you can meet Melina Marchetta, one of Australia’s very good YA authors, (and Printz Award winner) on Sunday March 14 at 2pm at Experimedia at the State Library of Victoria. (The venue has changed from the earlier advertised one – Village Roadshow Theatrette.)

The Piper’s Son, Melina’s new book, will be under discussion with Penni Russon.

Bookings here. Cost is $5 on the door and includes cake. Readings will be there for book sales and a signing session will follow the talks and questions.

Inky Awards Shortlist

InsideadogThe Inkys short list was decided a few weeks ago. These are all great books. The highlighted ones are those we have at our school and, although a couple of stories I liked have not made the cut, I am quite satisfied with those that have (I should say – Of those I have read, I am happy with their inclusion).


Golden Inky (for Australian titles)

  • Broken Glass (Adrian Stirling) This is a dark story of life in a fairly remote country town, with a confronting conclusion that makes this novel more suitable for older or more mature readers. It has a grim scenario involving violence and intimidation. I found Broken Glass a good read but it is also very confronting at times and I find similarities with the book Wake in fright as it shows a less savory view of Australian male friendships.
  • Jarvis 24 (David Metzenthen) This the story of 15yr old Marc Jarvis, who is from the very comfortable Melbourne suburb of Camberwell. He, like many of his contemporaries, spends a lot of time dreaming about girls and his future. Work experience brings him into contact with Electra, a verygifted runner, from another very different world and his life will never be the quite the same. It is a gently told story that touches the emotions as well sees the humour in life.
  • Where the Streets had a Name (Randa Abdel-Fattah) The Middle East is still a rare setting for YA literature. This is an interesting, intelligent and thought-provoking novel that is told through the stories about the protagonists and various people they meet. The reader learns about a human side of the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and the Middle East ‘conflict’, one which has often been reported about in our daily media. It is interesting that the author has managed to be funny, despite such heavy content. This story is one of family love, survival and hope.
  • Worldshaker (Richard Harland) We only recently purchased Worldshaker and it forms part of the collection of steampunk fiction that we are building. I have only skim read it as yet but it looks good. The Worldshaker is a juggernaut, an enormous city that moves around the world, through sea and over land, crushing all in its path under giant rollers. It and the juggernauts of other nations were created after the Industrial Revolution, and exist in a world that has turned out very differently to the one we know. The story starts with an exciting incident and then, after many twists and turns, it builds inevitably towards a violent conclusion.
  • Everything Beautiful (Simmone Howell)

 Silver Inky (International titles)

  • Exposure (Mal Peet)  An interesting and good adaptation of Othello, set in the world of today’s football (soccer). It could make a good companion novel for a study of Othello. 
  • Paper Towns (John Green) The College fiction blog has a good discussion about John Green and his writing  (with links) here
  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) (My favourite) Dystopian societies seem to have become the next major after vampires. This was a gripping story. In this dystopian world teens, between the ages of 12-18, are all possible candidates for what are called the Hunger Games, a contest to the death. It is a bleak world with enough of a reflection of our current reality to see how this might have come about. However the power of humanity also shines through some of the chacaters
  • Skim (Mariko and Jillian Tamaki)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)

These are great books and I want to encourage all our students to vote. 

Vote in the Inkys

To vote you go here and there are very simple rules: Voters must be aged under 20 and they can only vote once. They can live anywhere in the world. Voting closes on Nov 20th.

For library staff: Don’t forget to go to shelftalkers for help in getting your students started.

The Inkys and other stuff

The Inkys longlist is out. I unfortunately didn’t get there (vitually or otherwise). However you can read about the list in the insidadog site and also listen to the recording.

Golden Inky (for Australian titles)

Silver Inky (International titles)

  • Exposure (Mal Peet)
  • Girl at Sea (Maureen Johnson)
  • If I Stay (Gayle Forman)
  • Love, Aubrey (Suzanne La Fleur)
  • Paper Towns (John Green)
  • Skim (Mariko and Jillian Tamaki)
  • Ten Mile River (Paul Griffin)
  • The 10PM Question (Kate de Goldi)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)
  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

I have linked to the titles I have read (or skimmed). I really enjoyed reading Anthony Eaton’s Into White Silence and Broken Glass was very confronting at times. It reminded me of how uncomfortable I felt when I read Wake in fright (many years ago now). I have been saying I must read Jarvis 24 properly as I find that David Metzenthen’s voice is very Australian and he captures a lot of our character. It is a great list of Australian titles and the International titles that I have read are certainly worthy of being on the list.

Speaking of lists, Tristan Bancks (author of the Mac Slater series) is going to be a guest-blogger at least twice a week on the Boys, Blokes, Books and Bytes site. He has started with the question “what is the best book for boys ever? and he would like everyone to answer. It should get some great conversations started.

To start with he asked a handful of Australia’s favourite children’s writers to give their tip on the best book for boys ever and got the following results:

  • James Roy: The Machine Gunners (by Robert Westall)
  • David Metzenthen: The Really Nearly Deadly Canoe Ride (by David Metzenethen)
  • Pat Flynn: Holes by Louis Sachar and Ishmael and the Return of the Dugongs (by Gerard Michael Bauer)
  • Nick Place: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (by Douglas Adams)
  • And my tip? My Side of the Mountain (by Jean Craighead George)

This is such a great question I am going to ask my colleagues at work for their nominations. I want to then share the results with the students and try to get some ideas from them. It should fit in well with the Book Week activities next week.

It will be interesting to see if there is much of an overlap. There are usually quite a few differences between the winners lists of the CBCA  book awards and the Yabba and Inky winners.

I would love to get any other thoughts as well. If you don’t know Mac Slater, have a look at the little video trailers below;

and listen to the ideas behind Tristan’s books