Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend (Nevermoor #2)

Wundersmith.jpgTitle: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

Author: Jessica Townsend

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Lothian

Published: 30th October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 475

Price: $16.99 (PB), $24.99 (HB)

Synopsis: Wunder is gathering in Nevermoor … 

Morrigan Crow may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And she is fast learning that not all magic is used for good.

Return to the magical world of Nevermoor! Morrigan Crow’s perilous adventures continue in the most anticipated sequel of the year, a treat for all fans of magic and Wunder. 

Morrigan Crow has escaped her deadly fate and found a new home in the fantastical city of Nevermoor. She has also discovered that she has a strange and magical ability. But will her unique talent be a blessing or another curse?

Now that Morrigan and her best friend Hawthorne are proud scholars in the elite Wundrous Society, she is sure that she’s found a place to belong at last, but life is far from perfect. Can Morrigan prove that she deserves to be in the Society – or will an unexpected new enemy ruin her new life?

Praise for Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow:

Winner 
Dymocks Book of the Year 2018
Winner Book of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards 2018
Winner Book of the Year for Younger Children, Australian Book Industry
Awards 2018
Winner The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, Australian
Book Industry Awards 2018
Winner Book of the Year, Indie Book Awards 2018
Winner Children’s Category, Indie Book Awards 2018
Winner Nielsen Booksellers’ Choice Award, Australian Booksellers Association Awards 2018
Winner Best Children’s Fiction, Aurealis Awards 2017
Winner Younger Fiction, Waterstones Children’s Book Prize (UK) 2018
Shortlisted The Readings Children’s Book Prize 2018
A CBCA Notable book
Voted #1 in the Dymocks Kids’ Top 51


‘Unexpected, exciting and funny. Like Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and Doctor Who swirled up together.’ – Judith Rossell, ABIA Award-winning author of Withering-by-Sea

‘Exciting, charming, and wonderfully imagined, it’s the sort of delightful, grand adventure destined to be many a reader’s favourite book.’ – Trenton Lee Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of The Mysterious Benedict Society series and The Secret Keepers

‘It really is brilliant, with an engaging plot, plenty of twists, memorable characters and a marvellous sense of humour. Pick it up and the hours disappear, just like magic.’ – Daily Telegraph

‘An exciting and charming middle-grade read that will hook readers aged 10 and up with intricate imaginative detail and its sheer energy … a compulsively readable romp that fans of ‘Harry Potter’, Terry Pratchett or Studio Ghibli will gobble up.’ – Books and Publishing

~*~

Morrigan Crow’s journey began in Nevermoor, where she was whisked away from the Wintersea Republic on Eventide, the day she was destined to die, by Captain Jupiter North, whose red hair and flashy clothes were, and still are, in stark contrast to the black clothing donned by our heroine. Released exactly twelve months and twenty days after Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow picks up shortly after the first book, with Morrigan (Mog to Jupiter North), living at the Hotel Deucalion with its rooms that change depending on what you need at that moment, and the vampire dwarf, Frank, causing mischief and planning epic parties – this time to compete with a new hotel nearby, which is all in good fun amidst Morrigan’s acceptance into WunSoc, and her unit, Unit 919. Accepted by Hawthorne and Miss Cheery, Mog must work to earn the trust of the rest of her unit, as she grapples with her newfound identity as a Wundersmith, and she must fight all the prejudice flung at her because of it, and show everyone that there are good Wundersmiths, that they’re not all like Ezra Squall, who is trying to get back into Nevermoor.

As Morrigan starts her classes – at first, dully with only one class, referring to an abridged edition of the history of Wundersmiths, with a wuntortoise as her teacher – Professor Onstald – and gradually gaining a second class where she discovers the world of Nevermoor and all the sneaky, secret streets that lead to dangerous places like the Ghastly Market, or have rather unpleasant results, like vomiting everywhere. Despite this Tricksy Lanes, and their more nefarious relations, Morrigan finds herself in all sorts of trouble with Ezra Squall as Jupiter is called away more often, to the point where she fears she will have to leave WunSoc and Proudfoot House, but Morrigan will come to learn that loyalty and choice are what will make her the Wundersmith she is, and it is her loyalty to those who are around her in Nevermoor that make her a wunderful character. As she ventures into the world of WunSoc, along with readers, things are  not always as they seem, and there are threads and hints at certain things that are so subtle, the impact their reveal is given is magical and powerful.

I’ve been with this series since the first book came out last year, and it is absolutely delightful. Filled with everything from snarky cats to best friends, magical doors and rooms that change the type of bed you have based on what you need, I enjoyed my latest stay at the Hotel Deucalion, and spending time with Fen and Jupiter again. Fen is a character who doesn’t hold back, she tells it like it is. She is one of those characters who you really want to get behind and cheer on because, well, she’s magnificent and even though she’s full of snark and sarcasm, she truly cares for Mog and Jupiter.

Like many fantasy series before it, this series begins with an orphaned, or unwanted child, living a rather mundane experience until someone – in this case the enigmatic Jupiter North, arrives to whisk Morrigan away to a new, colourful world of magic and wonder, where good and evil fight each other and dastardly people lurk in the shadows, trying to disrupt the lives of those wanting to get by in Nevermoor peacefully. And, like in similar series, the threat of Squall will grow until a face-off – but the execution of Morrigan’s journey is as unique as every other story in the same genre. What Morrigan has to do is and will be unique, she is unique, and she shows people that they can overcome the bad things and shows that just because a certain fate is ascribed arbitrarily to you, it doesn’t mean you have to fulfil this fate. You can change it, and with Jupiter and Hawthorne’s help, that is just what Morrigan does.

Morrigan and Hawthorne are the heroes and friends we need – loyal, not perfect, and willing to learn from mistakes. Hawthorne’s loyalty to Morrigan, following certain events that turn the rest of their unit against her, and his willingness to do anything he can to help his friend, are what make him one of my favourite characters. There is nothing Hawthorne wouldn’t do for his friend, and I absolutely loved that.

The entire book from beginning to end is amazing, and fits in so well with the previous book, naturally, and gives a deeper look into the characters, but still with enough mystery to ensure there are secrets to come out in later books. I look forward to the continuation of this series, and where Mog goes from here.

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Total Quack Up by Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

total quack up.jpgTitle: Total Quack Up

Author: Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

Genre: Children’s fiction/humour

Publisher:  Penguin Random House/Puffin

Published: 15th October, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: 14.99

Synopsis: Authors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have gathered together an awesome line-up of writers and their funniest stories. Not only will the stories make you laugh out loud and feel good, royalties from sales of the book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities – so you can feel extra good!

Total Quack Up! features stories from Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton, plus a prize-winning story from a child!

~*~

Total Quack Up is a new anthology of short stories aimed at children, and published by Puffin for the Dymocks Children’s Charities, with royalties going towards these charities to help children learn to read and engage with reading. In these stories, there are superheroes, animals and magic, as well as robots and siblings, and practical jokes – all the things that kids find enjoyable and funny, in stories that they will enjoy and engage with, at all levels.

Each story is a quick read, starting with How to Be A Superhero by Deborah Abela – and ending with a story from a schoolkid, Ella Wallace, who won a competition to be included in the anthology. Each story stars a child as the protagonist, navigating life at school, at sport, or as a superhero, and with family, friends and siblings. Written by some of Australia’s most popular male and female authors, this makes my count for the Australian Women Writers Challenge seventy – with another review to write for a quiz book, and many more reviews to come – I hope. This will be included in my next challenge catch up post.

AWW-2018-badge-roseWith a uniqueness to each story, every reader who picks up this book will find a story and character they will enjoy, love and laugh with. From Arabella von Champion, a superhero who sees herself as extraordinary and is quite daring, to the little brother at the end who blocks up the dunny with everything imaginable, and the soccer team with the pig as a mascot – all other animals are banned from the sports field, to everything in between from some of the best-loved Australian authors, and some new voices to discover between these red covers, all aimed at raising money to help with children’s charities in Australia.

The variety of stories shows just how diverse and eclectic Australian authors are, and how different stories and characters will appeal to different children, and what will hook them into reading. This book offers bite-sized pieces of Australian talent for new readers to discover, and for old readers of these authors who have enjoyed their previous works and books over the years, and for the adults who would have read some as children, now able to pass these authors down.

Another great book aimed at kids, and with stories to enjoy and laugh with, I hope all those who get to read this enjoy it.

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Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

early riser .jpgTitle: Early Riser

Author: Jasper Fforde

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Adventure/Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Hodder & Stoughton

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Jasper Fforde’s first standalone novel – full of the imagination, wit and intelligence that has made Fforde a Number One bestseller.

The new standalone novel from Number 1 bestselling author Jasper Fforde. 

Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies dangerously close to death as they enter an ultra-low metabolic state of utterly dreamless sleep. All humans, that is, apart from the Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens.

Charlie Worthing is a novice, chosen by a highflying hero Winter Consul to accompany him to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of Wales, to investigate a dream which is somehow spreading amongst those in the hibernational state, causing paranoia, hallucination and a psychotic episode that can end in murder.

Worthing has been trained to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation, leaving only one or two skills and an incredible hunger; he’s been trained to stay alive through the bleakest and loneliest of winters – but he is in no way prepared for what awaits him in Sector Twelve. There are no heroes in Winter, Worthing has been told. And he’s about to find out why…

~*~

It has been many years since a Jasper Fforde novel has been released, and of all his books, my two favourite series are the Thursday Next books, and the Nursery Crimes books – both of which I hope get updates soon, so I can find out what happens to my favourite characters. In Early Riser, the first stand-alone novel by Fforde, which is filled with the same satire, the same references to history, popular culture, entertainment and reading, as the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series his readers have come to know and love. Yet this is a different world to that of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, set in another alternate United Kingdom, this time in Wales, where humans spend the entire winter hibernating – and where a select few have volunteered to stay awake through winter to ensure everyone makes it through.

Charlie Worthing is one such volunteer. It is his first Winter awake, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time – there is an outbreak of viral dreams that start to kill people, and Charlie must work with the Winter Consul, and contend with the Wintervolk and those infecting the dreams of the hibernating folk and killing them.

This is a sort of dystopian, alternate universe that is quintessentially British, and charmingly so, with the presence of After Eights, Tunnocks Tea Cakes and a tongue-in-cheek humour that I have come to expect and love in Fforde’s works. It is a humour that knowing some of the references, such as his cheeky nods to The Sound of Music, that knowing where they are from helps you appreciate them all the more, and it is so typically Fforde – he manages to get the balance of respect and satire just right, and it suits the book and the character of Charlie so well -one wonders if Charlie has ever crossed paths with the Nursery Crime Division and Thursday Next – books I must read again, and am hoping for continuations of.

The cruelty of Charlie’s first Winter is evident in how the Consul treats him, in the hints at hazing and how different departments perform this – where one might be akin to pranks and drills, Charlie’s hazing is said to be more like making tea and doing laundry – that is, until he is given a promotion to take on heavier duties and investigations into the dream deaths. Fforde cleverly shows how this happens but using subversive and discreet language – nothing is obviously stated, and Charlie is constantly warned about the consequences of falling asleep. Part mystery as well as satire as Charlie investigates what happens, he soon finds himself uncovering secrets about people he thought he knew and finding out things he never thought he would.

Fforde manages to capture something unique about the world, about history and literature, and British culture that is entertaining, informative and amusing. He uses the punching up rule of humour, mixed in with equal delectable dollops of parody and satire to complement the seemingly insane and odd mystery that makes sense in the dystopian alternate universe of Wales that Fforde has created for Charlie to live in, with an ending that is both conclusive and open enough for readers to imagine what happens next. It is a novel that will appeal to Fforde fans and hopefully those who appreciate a tongue in cheek humour and nods to things we’ve all encountered or heard of at some stage, which makes the reading experience richer and more enticing when you can understand these references.

Jasper’s first novel in about four years, Early Riser is the beginning of what will hopefully be a barrage of new books, and updates on our favourite characters and stories. I enjoyed being back in the world of Jasper Fforde and can’t wait for his next offering – which I hope will be soon. In the meantime, I plan to re-read the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series, that latter of which only has two books at this stage.

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The Upside of Over by JD Barrett

upside of overTitle: The Upside of Over

Author: J.D. Barrett

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 29th May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 298

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A scathingly brilliant new novel from TV scriptwriter J.D. Barrett, author of THE SECRET RECIPE FOR SECOND CHANCES, that explores sex, love and all the stuff in-between.

What happens when one of the country’s most popular identities goes from reading the news to being the news?

Olivia Law had always been the good girl. Great grades, perfect career, husband, house and hairdo. She’d learnt image was everything, so she refused to look below the surface of her life. When not at work, her minutes were filled with causes, chairing boards and dining at fabulous restaurants with her equally fabulous husband, David. She kept up the Botox, blow-dries and worked hard. It wasn’t enough, but whenever doubt crept in she’d head to a Pilates class or plan a renovation on her trophy house.

Then she turned 45.
Olivia wasn’t prepared for David to leave. The fact that they hadn’t had sex for two years should have triggered warning bells … it didn’t.

In an attempt to fix her broken marriage Olivia exposes herself like never before. But when her confession goes viral, the husband, house and job disappear. The woman who once offered glamorous reassurance and a steady gaze is labelled a princess of perversion. Humiliated, defeated, facing fifty shades of failure, she’s left wondering who the hell she really is? Stripped bare, she abandons perfection … and something remarkable happens.

Olivia Law just might get her sass back (and this time, it’s the real thing).

The brilliant new novel from J.D. Barrett about break ups, breakdowns and break throughs. Batteries not included.

 

~*~

Olivia Law has enjoyed a well-respected career as a newsreader and in the media for many years. And then her marriage falls apart, and she sends a private video to her ex-husband that is a little risqué, which somehow goes viral. What follows is the epic fallout that sees Olivia hit rock bottom, and it takes best friend Darcy, stepson, Finn, her best gay friends, Hugo and Ricky, and a few unexpected allies to pull her through. Escaping up to Byron, Olivia confronts her own sexuality and identity, finding friends in Leo, and Ace, and a new identity that she forges through an online personality, which is encouraged by her friends and her stepson’s mother, Karen and sister Ava. As she ventures into this new life, hints of why she was fired and how the video was leaked to the public start to come out, and sexual harassment cases start to emerge as Olivia’s videos begin to empower women to speak out about anything and everything and stand up for themselves. What will follow results in the reactions to what happens in these cases and how people try to make sure the least harm is done, and what happens when people are caught out.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Upside of Over looks at how women in the entertainment industry can and at times, are treated once they reach a certain age, as though they have a use by date that society seems to impose on them for career, family, marriage. After her unsuccessful marriage, Olivia feels lost for a while and is questioning where she fits in, and whether she really has a place in the world anymore, which leads to her exploration of self. When she fails, that failure is what catapults her into a new life, and with a renewed sense of self. It is a funny book, that readers at cross roads of their life, and wondering about where they are going, J.D. Barrett writes about the forced invisibility and compliance of Olivia with humour and sass that ensures each page is a surprise and creates a story with charm as well as humour.

Of all the characters, I think Ricky, Hugo and Finn ended up being my favourites, and I was surprised by Karen, and the way she turned out to be such a good friend to Olivia in the end and backed her at every stage in the case that the network Olivia had worked for brought against her. I loved the diversity in this book – the ages, the genders, everything and the way the plot and everything else all flowed so seamlessly together, showing that the world isn’t always what we see on the surface, that there is more to people than meets the eye and peeling back the layers shows who we truly are.

In today’s world, where the #TimesUp movement was started with the revelations last year about Harvey Weinstein, this is an eerily prophetic book that looks at the inner workings of the television and media industries – what we see onscreen doesn’t reveal what happens behind the scenes, and the way the media treated Olivia in the novel – when it had never been her intention for the video to be leaked – illustrated the different ways media reports scandals depending on who is involved and the perspective they want to present. Where Olivia’s network tried to throw her under  the bus, when one of her former colleagues came through for her, I liked that, and thought it sent a powerful message that sometimes standing up for what is right, and doing everything possible to uncover the truth, even if it means risking your own career, is better than kowtowing to executives and what they want.

With the current wave of stories coming out against Hollywood producers, this could not be a more timely novel in my mind, and even though it doesn’t directly reference the #TimesUp movement or Weinstein, the shadows and hints about it are there, showing the fickleness of the outward appearance of perfection, and how quickly things can go wrong, but the upside of this is what Olivia made of it, and the voice that she gave to women all over through her venture – even those she didn’t expect to hear from.

Interview with J.D. Barret appears on this blog too.

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Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan

burning bridges.jpgTitle: Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies

Author: Kitty Flanagan

Genre: Essays/Non-Fiction/Comedy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 21st March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: One of Australia’s favourite and most multi-talented entertainers, Kitty Flanagan, provides hilarious and honest life advice in this candid collection of cautionary tales.

Kitty Flanagan has been locked in an industrial freezer in Western Australia, insulted about the size of her lady parts in Singapore and borne witness to the world’s most successful wife swap in suburban Sydney. It’s these valuable lessons from The University of Life that have taught her so many things, including the fact that clichés like ‘The University of Life’ are reeeally annoying.

In these funny, true stories, Kitty provides advice you didn’t even know you needed. Useful tips on how not to get murdered while hitch-hiking, how to break up with someone the wrong way, and the right way, why it’s important to keep your top on while waitressing, and why women between the ages of thirty-seven and forty-two should be banned from internet dating.

Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies is a collection of laugh-out-loud, cautionary tales from one of Australia’s favourite comedians.

‘Finally, a book that doesn’t tell you to stop eating sugar.’
KITTY – CAKE ENTHUSIAST

‘Shut your mouth Flanagan or you’ll do fifteen in the freezer.’
GARY – FACTORY FOREMAN

‘I was hoping there’d be more about arson.’
BERNIE – LOCAL FIRESTARTER

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseKitty Flanagan’s biography – well, more a series of essays on her adventures throughout life, showcases her sense of humour from the very first page. From her early childhood through to now, Kitty has had many careers, including waitressing, a brief appearance as a child actor and as a copywriter – all of which have led her to becoming one of Australia’s best loved comedians. From her adventures hitch-hiking to her disastrous attempts to break off relationships, Kitty’s true stories are filled with her special brand of humour and proves that clichés like the University of Life are really annoying and cultural misunderstandings can lead to disastrous or at least, unseen, consequences.

Kitty’s sense of humour is unique to her, but also incorporates elements of the Australian sense of humour within her comedy, and makes her relatable and funny, and she has excelled in doing this in writing as well. Each chapter is a snippet, a story from Kitty’s life that illustrate what life was like for her as a child – being dropped off at a party where the only parents there were those of the birthday child – and the other parents weren’t around. Having experienced parties like this myself, this was a story I could relate to. Of the others, I laughed, and enjoyed the ride with Kitty.

It’s very hard not to laugh or smile while reading this book – it is like reading a stand-up comedy routine from the comfort of your home, with Kitty’s voice as clear as it would be live. As Kitty cast a humourous eye over her travels across the world and through a series of unsuccessful relationships, she showed how words – spoken or written have power and can impact you in a variety of ways. Her time in Singapore illustrated the cultural differences she has encountered in her career, and how what in one country might be funny, in another can be offensive and have repercussions that she was unaware of – but in true Kitty style, she managed to turn this into an instance of rolling with the punches, lessons learned and the sort of story that can be funny and awkward.

It is biographical but also, reads like a series of comedy sketches – perfect for when you can’t get to her shows and need a dose of Kitty to brighten your day. It is one that having read the whole way through once, I could dip into random stories when I felt like it, and it will be just as entertaining as reading them in order. It was clear that she was a comedic genius from a young age, and I absolutely loved her recollection of the party when she was five and the dress her Mum had made from a pattern – cute and funny in equal helpings!

Kitty is one of my favourite comedians, which was a deciding factor in me choosing this book as part of my 2018 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. It is an excellent read and I hope many of Kitty’s fans will enjoy her book and have a good laugh along with Kitty as she navigates life through comedy.

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Five Go Down Under (Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for Grown-Ups with text by Sophie Hamley

five go down under.jpgTitle: Five Go Down Under (Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for Grown-Ups)

Author: Sophie Hamley

Genre: Humour, Parody

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st October 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 106

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: The Famous Five have gone on their greatest adventure yet – a trip Down Under to Oz for some gap year fun.

Enid Blyton’s books are beloved the world over and The Famous Five have been the perennial favourite of her fans. Now, in this new Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, Julian, George, Dick, Anne and Timmy head Down Under for some relaxing holiday fun. But will it be the adventure they had hoped for?

Setting up camp in Bondi they soon meet the Sydney Six, a couple of guitar-strumming Kiwis and a rogue South African and find themselves in the thick of Sydney’s real estate perils and the attempts of their omnipresent cousin Rupert Kirrin to buy up the local media.

But when the sun, surf and bluebottles have their revenge and things don’t quite go to plan, it’s time to head for the country for a spot of sheep-shearing and quad-bike riding. Will the country be kinder to them or will their close calls with the Australian wildlife have them heading back to the city before you can say decaff soy latte?

~*~

In Five Go Down Under, Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy decide to take a year off of work and the cold of England, and travel to warmer climates. They choose Australia, warm enough year around and far enough away to warrant a long trip, rather than heading to the usual destinations in Spain they’re used to. Of course, nothing will prepare them for the heat, the killer wildlife and the strange linguistic differences and slang that will greet them upon their arrival in Australia. And what will they make of their neighbours in Bondi, the trendy beach suburb of Sydney famous with tourists from all over the world?

In Australia, the Famous Five will encounter ferries, and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, sheep shearing and the harsh sun that burns without prejudice. They encounter things they never thought they would, and find that all their dreams of life in Sydney might not be quite what they thought it would be, as they try to navigate the culture that in some ways is similar yet so different from what they are used to. In a madcap series of events, they will come to find that the Australia that the Sydney Six are determined to show them is not quite the Australia they imagined, and that no country is immune to the evils of the world. As laid-back as the Australians they meet might be, the Five soon come to realise this only the surface – and their journey in Australia has just begun as they seek work during their gap year.

aww2017-badgeUsing Enid Blyton’s popular characters, Australian author Sophie Hamley has written a text that beautifully reproduces the original style and characters, whilst balancing this with new characteristics they displays as adults, and contrasts this with the current generation and the Australian way of speaking. She seamlessly weaves in references to current diet trends and the stereotypical Australians, as well as references to politics and popular culture – in true Australian satirical style, poking fun at the things about our country that need to be laughed about. Sophie Hamley’s text is accompanied by illustrations originals by Eileen Soper, who illustrated other editions of the original Famous Five stories, which gives a sense of character and nostalgia to the texts.

Using tongue-in-cheek humour, Sophie Hamley’s text is uniquely Australian whilst keeping the tone of the original stories intact, if not somewhat exaggerated for comedic impact. The Famous Five For Grown-Ups Series brings the beloved childhood characters back to life for adults, and into an unknown world, where poking fun at current trends and cultural phenomena all play a part in creating a fun read.

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Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl

royce rolls.jpg

 

Title: Royce Rolls
Author: Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Published: 1st May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Price: $15.99
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Bentley Royce is the wild-child of a super-glam reality TV dynasty. She has it all – designer clothes, a fancy school and an actual Bentley to drive around in. Her ambitious mom Mercedes has dragged the family from trailer park to Hollywood stardom. But Bentley wants out – she wants to go to college, escape her own storyline, be NORMAL – but Royces don’t do normal (or college).

Rolling with the Royces is running out of ways to keep viewers hooked and suddenly the show is threatened with cancellation. Bentley faces an impossible choice. Without the show, she could live the college dream – but her family will crumble (and is $20million in debt). Bentley Royce has a mission. She must use her brains to save the show; if she saves the show, she can save her family – and she’ll do whatever it takes …

Royce Rolls is a laugh-out-loud funny romp with a twist of mystery – a behind-the-scenes comedy with a brilliant voice, a hilarious and subversive antidote to the Kardashians and TOWIE (which will still work for fans of both!).

~*~

In Royce Rolls, the main character, Bentley Royce, is tired of playing the role of wild child in the reality television show, Rolling with the Royces. She’s tired of having her every waking minute filmed, and tired of being told how to act, and what to wear and humiliated by her sister, Porsche and her mother, Mercedes. After six seasons of the humiliation, Bentley’s only hope for a normal life and college – something that goes against everything Mercedes has instilled in her children and everything the show runners have encouraged for the Bentley character – is for the show to be cancelled. But when the threat of cancellation, her family will be faced with a large debt they’d have no chance of paying off. And so, Bentley must make a choice between family and a life that she has yearned for over many years.

Starting with an incident that shocks the reader, and inevitably, the characters, the novel switches back to the events that led to the tragedy. Each chapter ends or begins with relevant articles that would probably be found on a celebrity gossip site that blow things out of proportion with sensationalist headlines and stories, these do little to reflect the reality Bentley and her family manage to live when the cameras aren’t rolling during hiatus, or those rare hours when they’re studying their characters and Mercedes is probing them to be a person that they aren’t.

Bentley’s only solace is a local library, where she meets fellow library patron, Venice, and for the first time, experiences a real friendship, outside of a scripted “reality” that has been coerced to bring in ratings. She manages to get away at a certain time of day for this time out, and realises through these meetings that there is more than life on the show, and she wants more. Venice is the only person she can be the real Bentley with, not the scripted wild child “Bad Bentley” that everyone expects on the show.

Royce Rolls takes the reality television format and makes a mockery of it, revealing that what viewers see in the shows that populate television screens claiming to be reality television, television of real life, is really scripted and carefully produced and created using real people – acting as characters who are projected as the true selves of those on the screen, as opposed to fictional characters played by actors in television shows that often have much more interesting story lines.

As a rather anti-reality television fan, or at least, a viewer of shows like Masterchef who looks at the way things are edited for story telling purposes, this was an amusing read, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it. It shed light on the fallacy of reality television and indicates the power of reality comes from who a person really is, not what the world sees. It establishes the flaws of celebrity as well, and shows that that world is not as perfect as it may seem.

An interesting read for the YA audience, fans of reality television and those who don’t enjoy it. It is an antidote to the saturation of this genre and it uses humour and satire to show what this world is really like in an accessible and fun way.

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