The poppy factory by Liz Trenow

Cynthia The Poppy FactoryWhat a beautiful cover, with a promise of a good story blending the present and the past. The storyline was good and I enjoyed the stories of people dealing with the aftermath of war and finally getting the help they needed. Rose welcomes home her husband from the first world war, but married life is not all joyous reunion. Rose’s story was told in diary format and was a great method of telling her story to Jess, a returned medic from Afghanistan struggling with her own demons. Overall this was a good story but I was not emotionally involved as I have been with similar stories, not sure why?

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After you’d gone by Maggie O’Farrell

Amy After You'd GoneMaggie O’Farrell is one of my favourite authors, a fact which has sneaked up on me. This is her first novel, and like the others I have read is clever, moving and compelling. Alice makes an impromptu visit to Edinburgh from London, but sees something at the station that makes her turn back again; that night she is in a coma after an accident. The story is told from various viewpoints, and different stages in her life and it is through the patchwork of memories and current events that we put together what has happened. Delightful setting, engaging characters, thought-provoking plotting and lovely writing.

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A great and terrible beauty by Libba Bray

Amy A Great and Terrible BeautyI was on the verge of abandoning this book, it really didn’t hold me, but I kept going just in case. After beginning in India, it is set in Victorian England where Gemma Doyle has been sent to a stuffy finishing school after her mother’s mysterious death. Gemma and her friends discover a way into a different realm and struggle with that power, and the evil that awaits. It wasn’t quite convincingly Victorian, or English, enough for me; the girls were too modern, but the real problem was that I didn’t find the plot that exciting. Plenty of nasty girls and angst plus a little bit of mystery, magic and steamy dreaming. I’ll give the rest a miss.

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Because you’ll never meet me by Leah Thomas

Because you'll never meet me by Leah ThomasA debut novel for Leah Thomas this story is a very unusual exploration of a friendship between two teens who will never meet. Contact with electricity sends Ollie into debilitating seizures, while Moritz has no eyes, a heart defect and is kept alive by an electronic pacemaker. Written as series of letters, the story plays with the emotional connection between the two boys as they try to deal with adolescence and the revelation of their shared past, a past filled with experimentation at THE LAB. This book, although contemporary in nature, has elements of evolving supernatural powers, so you do need to sacrifice logic. If you like this you might like quirky literary quality of Mosquitoland by David Arnold and  Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Students might also like to consider this book for their HSC AOS –Discovery.

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Men we reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Amy Men we reapedThis is a powerful book; not an easy subject, though beautifully written and compelling. It is a memoir of a southern, Black woman, who lost five men in her life. They died because of drugs, accidents and suicide, but their deaths were about more than that; the extraordinary disadvantage of their heritage in Mississippi. Ward’s grief is raw and harsh, not lessening as the years go past, and the questions raised are worth raising, and worth deliberating on, particularly given what has been happening. This is an American story, but black lives matter everywhere.

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One true thing by Nicole Hayes

One true thing by Nicole HayesA story of contrasts from the viewpoint of a politician’s teen whose life seems to be public property. I felt Frankie’s distress as the power of the media tried to pull a happy family apart. Events escalate, depriving Frankie of her music, her friends and her boyfriend. I was torn for Frankie once she discovered her mother’s secret. She equally admired the love and commitment of her parents and fumed at their inaction.  I won’t tell you the secret because it is the basis for the story. Just know that the secret is not what the media has made it out to be and when it is revealed you will find yourself taking sides. Continue reading

The White Mouse by Peter Gouldthorpe

DONEAmy White MouseNominated for a 2016 Children’s Book Council Award – The White Mouse : The Story of Nancy Wake by Peter Gouldthorpe. This looks like a picture book, but it is pretty dense with information so it’s definitely for older kids. The story of Nancy Wake, the Allies’ most decorated woman in WWII, is packed full of danger and excitement and it is well illustrated with big, realistic drawings. Every child should know about the amazing life of Nancy Wake!

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