When The Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth

when the mountains roared.jpgTitle: When The Mountains Roared

Author: Jess Butterworth

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Orion

Published: 10th April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 282

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: A vivid, warm and atmospheric adventure set in the mountains of India, about a girl who is determined to protect the wild leopards of the mountain from poachers, perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell.

I thought we’d live here forever … but then, I thought Mum would be here forever too.

When Ruby’s dad uproots her from Australia to set up a hotel in the mountains of India, Ruby is devastated. Not only are they living in a run-down building in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by scorpions, bears and leopards, but Ruby is sure that India will never truly feel like home – not without her mum there.

Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up.

But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. Ruby vows to do all she can to protect them – if she can only overcome her fears…

~*~

When Ruby arrives home one day, she finds the house in turmoil, with boxes and suitcases half packed. Her father announces they are moving to India, and she needs to pack her own bags. At twelve, Ruby wants nothing to do with this move – she wants to stay in Australia, the only home she knows. To leave now feels like she’d be leaving the memories of her mum, and it also means leaving all her friends and not being able to see them again. When intruders force the family to flee and leave earlier than planned. Soon, they are on a ship, with their dog, Polly, and a baby kangaroo in tow, sailing across the sea to a new life, and a new venture in India.

But the hotel Ruby’s father has been asked to run is not all that it seems. High up in the Himalayas, stories of previous owners being plagued by a vengeful mountain goddess abound, and the stories lend themselves to more sinister goings on, and hint at tragedy when Ruby and her new friend, Praveen, discover what Dad’s bosses are truly up to, and find out about the poaching of the majestic snow leopards. Ruby vows to do all she can to save them – if she can overcome her fears.

Jess Butterworth has again created a story, set in the Himalayas and India, where the characters are full of life and complex, and deals with issues of poaching, and what happens when someone gets involved with the wrong people in a clever and accessible way for younger audiences. Grief is explored through Ruby’s reaction to her move and the changes in her life – how she responds to the dark, and going to sleep, and of cars. But this hurried move, and the smuggled joey, and quest to uncover her dad’s secret drives Ruby to overcome her fears. Together with Praveen and her grandmother, Ruby will follow her heart, and instincts, and use her photography talents to bring some rather evil men to justice.

When The Mountains Roared has diverse characters, and a setting that is vastly different to what many readers will have experienced, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed it – it allows the reader to travel without leaving the comfort of home, and go on an adventure with Ruby and Praveen to save the snow leopards of the mountains that they call home, and save Ruby’s dad from getting into trouble with men like the ones who drove them from their home in Australia.

A great read for middle grade and younger teen readers, or anyone who enjoys a good story.

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Book Bingo Seven – A Book that everyone is talking about, and a book with non-human characters.

book bingo 2018

Week seven of the 2018 Book Bingo, and I’ve managed to mark off 20 of the 25 squares already! This week there are two squares to include in this post: a book that everyone is talking about, and a book with non-human characters.

monty the sad puppyFirst, my book with non-human characters is Monty the Sad Puppy, where the two key characters are dogs – 5 month old Labrador puppy, Monty, and the eight year old dachshund, Daisy. Sad and lonely, Monty feels cast aside with Daisy’s arrival, and both must adjust to being together. It is a charming story, full of cute dogs and funny moments, as well as moments that had me shaking my head at Monty, because he reminded me of the puppy we had years ago.

And my second book, a book that everyone is talking about – The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a powerful story of what the human spirit can endure, and how love came out of one of the darkest places in recent history. It is a story of triumph and pain, and what people in the camps had to do, and were forced into doing to survive one day at a time, and avoid the death carts, mass graves and gas chambers at all costs. It is moving and haunting, and as I said many times in my review, a book that should be read be all.The-Tattooist_FCR_Final

So there are now twenty squares marked off on my bingo card. I have five left, and I know there might be one or two that might be a little tricky to fill but there are some that shouldn’t be too hard to do, especially if there are lots of choices for me for that category.

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Monty the Sad Puppy by Holly Webb

monty the sad puppy.jpgTitle: Monty the Sad Puppy

Author: Holly Webb, illustrated by Sophy Williams.

Genre: Animal Stories, Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Scholastic

Published: 12th January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 126

Price: $15.98

Synopsis:Is going from no dogs to two dogs as perfect as it sounds? Amelie has always wanted a dog, but she never dreamed she’d end up with TWO! First, her family adopt cuddly little puppy Monty. But almost right away, another furry friend needs their help. Grandad is going into a care home, so his beloved dachshund Daisy has to come and live with them. Amelie can’t wait – but when Daisy arrives, she’s unhappy and scared. Meanwhile, poor little Monty has no idea what’s going on. Who is this strange new arrival? Why is everyone fussing over her? Doesn’t Amelie care about him anymore?

Blurb on book: Amelie has only had her gorgeous puppy Monty for a few months when her grandad falls ill He desperately needs someone to look after his beloved dachshund Daisy so Mum and Dad agree to give her a home. Amelie promises Grandad she will look after Daisy brilliantly.

But when Daisy arrives, she is unhappy and scared. Meanwhile, Monty doesn’t understand why Amelie is making such a fuss of the new arrival. Doesn’t Amelie love him anymore?

~*~

Monty’s life as a puppy is perfect – at five months old, he’s full of bounce and energy, and a strength he is unaware of. The little black Labrador loves to play with Amelie and her brother, Josh, and go on walks. But when Grandad’s dog, Daisy, comes to live with them, Monty is confused and sad because Amelie spends a lot of time with Daisy, and seems to be cross with him all the time. Monty is left wondering if Amelie still loves him, and whether he should run away or stay at home.

This was the second book I wrote a quiz for, and that I am also reviewing here. Monty the Sad Puppy is aimed at seven to nine year olds, and is a book they can progress to reading confidently on their own. It is a cute story, that explores responsibility for pets and within a family, where Amelie and Josh are given the job of taking care of Monty and Daisy, along with school, homework and football/soccer training. I enjoyed this charming little story as it followed Monty and his owners, and how they came to have two dogs. Monty was a very  cute character and seeing the world through the eyes of a puppy was fun to do.

I fell in love with Monty when I read this, and wanted to give him lots of hugs when he was sad. Holly Webb has written a delightful story that can be enjoyed by many, either read by themselves or read to them, and I hope other readers get as much enjoyment out of it as I did.

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I Am Sasha by Anita Selzer

I am Sasha.jpgTitle: I Am Sasha

Author: Anita Selzer

Genre: Historical Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published:  2nd April, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 325

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: One boy’s extraordinary experience of wartime survival. One mother’s incredible courage. Based on an astounding true story.  It is German-occupied Poland in 1942, and Jewish lives are at risk. Nazi soldiers order young boys to pull down their trousers to see if they are circumcised. Many are summarily shot or sent to the camps.
A devoted mother takes an ingenious step. To avoid suspicion, she trains her teenage son the be a girl: his clothing, voice, hair, manners and more. Together, mother and son face incredible odds as their story sweeps backwards and forwards across occupied Europe.

~*~

Based on a true story, I am Sasha is the story of the author’s father, who spent his teenage years from 1942-1944, after the Soviet liberation of Poland, hiding as a girl, under false papers that also hid his, and his mother’s Jewish identity from the Nazis as they marched and invaded their way across Europe. Larissa, Sasha’s mother, ensures his safety as they move back and forth between Polish towns, avoiding the ghettos and transports to camp. After seeing what happens to boys from their hiding place in a barn, Larissa concocts a plan to turn Sasha into a girl – Sala – to keep him safe. Their lives are constantly under threat though, and they’re always moving finding new places to live and settle, until they find somewhere they are able to stay until the Soviets liberate Poland, and a place where Sasha’s mother begins work for the Zegota, a Jewish underground resistance that helps Jewish people escape the Nazis.

At the end of the war, their story is followed until their arrival in Australia, and their reconnections with their family, friends and the new friends they make in the displacement and refugee camps as they journey to their new home in Melbourne.

AWW-2018-badge-roseI am Sasha was inspired by a family’s history, a grandmother’s memoir and a father’s short story, given to a daughter and granddaughter to retell for the world. In 1994, Larissa gave Anita the manuscript, written in English – because she wanted to reach as many people as possible with her story, explaining to Anita that she wrote it in English to reach a wide audience – an audience that would include those affected and those not affected, and those all over the world who wanted to know more.

It is a story of sacrifice and the drive to do whatever one can to survive, whilst witnessing the depravity of humanity, and what humans are capable of at their worst, but also, what people will risk to save themselves, and keep others safe – what they will sacrifice or potentially lose just to keep friends safe – as Bella, Larissa’s gentile friend did for Larissa and Sasha throughout the years, before disappearing to Warsaw shortly before the end of the war.

Larissa and Sasha showed great resilience through their years of hiding and Sasha pretending to be a girl – Sala – under false papers, in a regime where you never knew who you could trust and where your landlady, or neighbours could turn you into the Gestapo at any time, on the mere suspicion of being Jewish, or a Communist or anyone who was against the Nazi regime. It is just one of many stories about the Holocaust and the horrors of World War Two around today.

Never forget are the final two words in the author’s note, and the horrors of the Holocaust, of stories like Sasha’s, Anne Frank and many more are a part of history we should never forget, and never let happen again. We should never forget the millions of people the Nazi’s persecuted based on religion, race, politics, sexuality or anyone who simply tried to resist them, and the brutality that these people faced, and the survival stories as well as the tragic ends. None of this should be forgotten. This is why Sasha’s story is an important one, and why it was important for Anita, his daughter, to tell.

Stories like this remind us of why we must resist regimes and abuse, and why we must speak out and stand up for what we believe in, because otherwise, the people who commit these atrocities and who support them win. I found this story to be powerful and moving, and as such, I read it very quickly. Whilst it is aimed at a Young Adult audience, I feel anyone interested will be able to read this and understand it.

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Some of the authors appearing at the Sydney Writer’s Festival…

It’s that time of year again, when the programs and author schedules for the annual Sydney Writer’s Festival are announced. Held between the first and the sixth of May, mostly at Carriageworks but with some events at a variety of other places around Sydney, there will be many events to choose from, and many authors to meet and hear speak.

Below is a sampling of the authors published by Hachette who will be attending this year, which has a diverse and intriguing calendar of events that I am sure will sell out quickly! So here are some of the authors appearing, and when and where they will be appearing.

American author, Jennifer Egan, author of Emerald City and Other Stories, The Invisible Circus,The Keep,Look at Me, Black Box,A Visit From the Goon Squad, and Manhattan Beach. Jennifer will be appearing at the following events, all in Bay 17 at Carriageworks.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 3pm – On the Record: Historical Fiction

Saturday the 5th of May at 6pm – Jennifer Egan: Manhattan Beach

Sunday the 6th of May at 6pm: Closing Address: Jennifer Egan.

Also from America, Zack McDermott, author of Gorilla and the Bird, will be appearing on the following dates at the following locations:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20: The Full Catastrophe

Friday, the 4th of May, at 11.30am, Carriageworks, Track 8: Zack McDermott: Gorilla and the Bird

Alexis Okeowo, author of A Moonless, Starless Sky, also from America, will be appearing at four different events over the course of the week, all at Carriageworks, where the majority of the events are held.

Tuesday, the 1st of May at 6.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Opening Address: André Aciman, Min Jin Lee and Alexis Okeowo

Friday the 4th of May, 3pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Conflicting Narratives

Saturday, the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Resisting Unjust Authority

Sunday, the 6th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Alexis Okeowo, A Moonless, Starless Sky

 

Michael Mohammed Ahmad, an Arab-Australian writer, editor, teacher and community art s worker will also be appearing. His book, The Lebs, is about breaking down stereotypes and showing people that a small minority don’t determine the majority of a culture. Michael will be appearing at the following events at the Seymour Centre, and the Riverside Theatres.

Monday, the 30th of April, at 9.30am, Seymour Centre, Workshop Room 1: Michael Mohammed Ahmad: Good Writing versus Bad Writing.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 11.15am Seymour Centre York Theatre: Student Session: The Next Wave.

Friday, the 4th of May, Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge, 4.30PM: New Australian Voices.

Saturday, the 5th of May, Riverside Theatres, Lennox Theatre, 10am: From the Sidelines AND at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing.

Walkley Award winning journalist, Michael Brissenden will also be appearing at the festival, at will have one event at the Seymour Centre.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 1.30pm, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Straight from the Headlines,

The third Australian author published by Hachette to appear is Indigenous author, Claire G Coleman, author of Terra Nullius, a speculative fiction looking at the concept of invasion and settlement, using aliens taking over the world as a metaphor and symbol. It was an interesting and eye-opening book to read, my review is here. Claire will be appearing at three events across each precinct of the festival.

terra nullius

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Home Truths: Telling Australian Stories.

Friday the 4th of May, at 11.30am at Carriageworks Blacksmith’s Workshop: Claire G Coleman: On Fiction, Villains and the Nature of Evil

Saturday the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Riverside Theatres: Architects of New Worlds.

fairvale

Another Australian author appearing at the festival is Sophie Green, author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, reviewed on this blog as well and it, and the previous book, Terra Nullius, were included in my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge last year. Sophie will be appearing at one event this year.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Family Ties.

Royce Kurmelovs is another author appearing, and he has written the following books: Death of Holden, Rogue Nation, and Boom and Bust (2018). He will be appearing at an event about the rise of Australian populism.

Saturday the 6th of May, at 11.30 at the Seymour Centre, York Theatre: The Rise of Australian Populism.

Peter Polites, author of Down the Hume will also be in attendance at the following events and is another new Australian author whose book has come out recently.

Peter will be appearing at two events this year:

Saturday, the 5th of May at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing, with Michael Mohammed Ahmad.

Sunday, the 6th of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge: Pajtim Statovci: My Cat Yugoslavia

Award winning journalist, Hugh Riminton, a news presenter and foreign correspondent, will be at the festival chatting about his book, Minefields. Hugh will be appearing at three events across the week of the festival.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Becoming the Story.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Hurstville Library: Hugh Riminton: Minefields/

Saturday, the 5th of May, 11.30am, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Peter Greste: The First Casualty.

Michael Robotham will also be appearing, and has written the following books: The Suspect,The Drowning Man, The Night Ferry Shatter,Bombproof,Bleed For Me,The Wreckage,Say You’re Sorry, Watching You,Life or Death,Close Your Eyes,The Secret She Keeps, and The Other Wife (2018).  Michael will be appearing at the following events:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 1.30pm at Carriageworks, Blacksmith’s Workshop: Michael Robotham: On Plotting the Perfect Crime.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 6.30pm at Blacktown City Max Webber Library: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 10.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 7pm, The Concourse Concert Hall: Jane Harper: Force of Nature.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Gabriel Talent: My Absolute Darling.

Sha’an d’Anthes, a new Australian author based in Sydney who has had a career as an artist and illustrator and has travelled all over the world. She will be speaking at two events on the final day of the festival. Her picture book, Zoom, was published by Hachette Australia.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May at 2.15pm. Carriageworks, Track 8: Illustrator Battle Grounds.

Libby Hathorn, well known Australian author of books for children and young adults will also be appearing. Some of her books are: Thunderwith, The Blue Dress, Georgiana, Dear Venny, Dear Saffron, Volcano Boy, The Painter, Feral Kid, Chrysalis, Love Me Tender, Eventual Poppy Day, A Soldier, A Dog and A Boy, and Butterfly, We’re Expecting You!

eventual poppy day

Libby will be appearing at the following events:

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 11.15am, Carriageworks, Track 12: Outside: A Feast of the Senses.

Binny Talib will also be appearing, at the same event as Libby Hathorn and Sha’an d’Anthes on the Sunday morning of the festival. Binny has two books published by Hachette Australia, Origami Heart and Hark It’s Me, Ruby Lee!

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Another Australian author to appear will be Shaun Tan. who has worked in theatre and films as concept artists and designers. His works include Lost Thing, Memorial, The Red Tree, The Rabbits, The Viewer, Rules of Summer, The Arrival (an acclaimed wordless novel), and Cicada, published in 2018. Shaun will be appearing at one event on the Saturday.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 3pm, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: Bringing Imaginary Worlds to Life.

Hachette’s final author to be appearing is Debra Tindall, author of The Scared Book. she began her career as a social worker before becoming an author. The Scared Book is a CBCA notable book for children. She will be appearing at the same event as Libby Hathorn, Binny Talib and Sha’an d’Anthes.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Check out the Sydney Writer’s Festival website for more events and authors.

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The Freedom Finders Series: Touch the Sun (Book #2) by Emily Conolan

touch the sky.jpgTitle: The Freedom Finders Series: Touch the Sun (Book #2)

Author: Emily Conolan

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Choose your own destiny and step into the shoes of a Somalian boy escaping war-torn Mogadishu for Australia in 2011 in this exciting interactive series.

To find freedom, you must leave behind everything you’ve ever known.

It is 2011. You want nothing more than to be a journalist in Somalia like your aunty. But the truth can be dangerous – and when you and your little sister are left alone, you find yourself facing life-and-death choices at every turn.

Can you escape a terrorist organisation and find a safe place to call home? You’ll be asked to cross a desert on foot, hide below deck in a leaky boat, and put your life in the hands of people smugglers.

At every turn, the choice is yours. How far will you go for freedom?

Author bio:

Emily Conolan is a writer and teacher, who is also known for her humanitarian work. For her role in establishing a volunteer support network for asylum seekers in Tasmania, she has been awarded Tasmanian of the Year, Hobart Citizen of the Year, and the Tasmanian Human Rights Award. The stories of courage and resilience she has heard in the course of her work with refugees, combined with tales from her own family history, inspired her to write the Freedom Finders series. Emily has never escaped from terrorists or risked her life on a leaky boat, but she has been inside immigration detention and does own a pen with a secret compartment inside.

~*~

The Freedom Finders is a new series of books, that use the Choose Your Own Adventure, or for this series, Choose Your Own Destiny. Two are coming out in April this year, Break Your Chains, set in 1825, where you’re an Irish girl trying to get from London to Australia, and the second, which I was sent to review by the publisher, Touch The Sky, set in 2011, where you are a Somalian boy escaping Mogadishu for Australia.

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn Touch The Sky, you are the main character, as you and your sister, Jamilah are forced to run from a group called al-Shabaab that is after your aunt, and when they can’t find her, they come for you. The choices you make as you read will determine the outcome, and the pace at which your story ends, and where. As a Choose Your Own Destiny book, you are given the chance to try again, and there are fact sheets at the back relating to refugees, people smuggling, and the struggles and complexities faced by those who go through this process. It is an experience, an interactive story that evokes a range of emotions: fear, horror, empathy and a desire to get through every adversity and barrier that is thrown your way. In reading it, I tested out a few different outcomes, and went back and forth during the book to discover what would happen if I picked a certain option over another – and not every option led to a desirable outcome. Though some took me to the same place twice, choosing a different outcome changed everything, and I could be sent back to the last decision I made to try again.

Because you as the reader are making the choices, it is written in second person, which is effective for this kind of interactive book, a format I haven’t seen for a while, and that can be quite fun, or in this case, educational as well, teaching readers about what refugees go through and how they are treated, and what they sometimes have to do just to survive their world. It is moving, and the journey is not easy, nor are the choices that you as the reader have to make: they are often life and death and filled with uncertainty. But which of these will get you to freedom and reunite you with your family?

Having not read a book in this format for a very long time, and also, not having read many as a child, I found this to be an interesting exercise in engaging the reader. It definitely kept me just as hooked and intrigued as if it had just been a novel telling the story. By involving the reader in this kind of story, it evokes empathy within them and helps them gain an understanding beyond what is presented by other sources. It is about choices; freedom and the lengths people will go to reveal the truth to people who don’t understand or are trying to understand – and the risks taken to get dangerous information to the right people. I am hoping to read the other book that is to be published at the same time, Break Your Chains, to see what happens there.

This is a great book for anyone aged nine and older, to gain an understanding of what really happens, and how it happens, and why these people are driven to such desperate measures. It can begin a conversation and be used as an educational tool to teach school students about refugees and human rights, and possibly make people question their preconceptions and understanding of the refugee situation.

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Winners of the Indie Book Awards Announcement.

Congratulations to the following books and their fabulous home-grown authors for winning in the following categories for the Indie Book Awards, especially Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend, which won in two categories! These winners were announced today and what a wonderful surprise to get home to!

nevermoor

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend: Children’s Book of the Year and Book of the Year

The Choke by Sophie Laguna: Fiction Winner

Wimmera by Michael Brandi: Debut Fiction Winner

Native: Art & Design with Australian Plants by Kate Herd & Jela Ivankovic-Waters: Illustrated Non-Fiction Winner

Wilder Country by Mark Smith: Young Adult Winner

2018 is the first year that a children’s book – Nevermoor – has won overall, and it is even more special as this is the tenth year the Indie Awards have been running!

I’ve read Nevermoor and can say it’s well deserving of all the nominations, shortlists and prizes it has been winning as it is an engaging story and full of wonder and magic. Much like some other prize winners I have read, it captures the reader and their imagination, and opens up a world of possibilities to them. Of the others, I have Wimmera on my reading pile, as well as several of the long listed and shortlisted works, some of which I have also read.

Seeing such amazing books and many Australian authors getting the recognition they deserve is amazing, and shows that the love of books is still around.

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