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Phantom of Blood Alley

Phantom of Blood Alley (Barnaby Grimes, # 4)Phantom of Blood Alley by Paul Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Barnaby Grimes is an excellent series. The characters are engaging, the plots intriguing and the world building is great. The whole is enhance by the wonderful illustrations from Chris Riddell.

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Mr. Standfast

Mr. Standfast (Richard Hannay, #3)Mr. Standfast by John Buchan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr. Standfast concludes the Hannay trilogy, which begins with The Thirty-Nine Steps, and continues through Greenmantle.
In this instalment, Hannay is called in to help discover the identity of a masterspy. There are the usual characters – Blenkiron and Piennar – and the addition of a female character, Mary.

The novel roams all over the British Isles, and onto the continent. There’s goodies and baddies galore, red-herrings, romance, manoeuvres and more. Buchan doesn’t disappoint. This is another cracking read.

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Greenmantle

Greenmantle (Richard Hannay, #2)Greenmantle by John Buchan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The continuing adventures of Richard Hannay, begun in The Thirty-Nine Steps, and concluded in Mr Standfast. John Buchan is such a classic writer, and a this a novel of its time. Be aware – this book used to terms to discribe different races that we find offensive, but it was written in the period after the war, when different values applied.
In this adventure, Richard is seconded to become a spy. He, and a number of other agents, are tasked with discovering what the Germans have planned for the area around Turkey. Richard must go deep undercover to successfully complete this mission. Can he do it? A ripping yarn.

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Goliath

GoliathGoliath by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is quite simply one of the best steampunk series for young adults. The world building, combining history and speculative fiction, is sublime, the characters are wonderful, the inventions are, well, inventive!

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Inbetween Days

Inbetween DaysInbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jacklin/ Jack is on the cusp of adulthood. At seventeen she still has a foot in both camps. Desperate to be independent, she is also incredibly naive, and desperately searching for love – in all the wrong places.
Set in the fictional yet familiar town of Mobius, Jack’s claustrophobic life begins to unravel. She has been stuck in a rut since she left school and home, unable to move beyond the world of her work at the Bent Bowl Spoon roadhouse, her lust for aloof Luke, and the hero-worship of her older sister, Trudy. Jack is finding it hard to make any decision that doesn’t hurt either herself or others, and although she can see the train wrecks coming, she seems to be powerless to stop herself and the hurt she leaves in her wake.

I really enjoyed Inbetween Days, evidenced by my finishing it in a day. All of the main characters are multi-dimensional: flawed, endearing, infuriating, and loveable. Some of the minor characters are a bit sketchy – Roly is your typical jilted friend and Jack’s dad is probably the weakest of the main players – but no-one is really out of place; each has a part to play. This is a polished effort, exploring big themes with an authentic teenage voice.

A coming-of-age novel that REALLY speaks to that theme, in my opinion, Vikki’s best yet. Highly recommended.

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The Terrible Suitcase

The Terrible SuitcaseThe Terrible Suitcase by Emma Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lovely story about the first day of school, and how one little thing can ruin the day – or does it. Great illustrations and good writing. Blackwood’s trademark pencil and watercolour illustrations are excellently suited to this story for pre-schoolers and preps.

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The Flywheel

The FlywheelThe Flywheel by Erin Gough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This took me a while to read because I got sidetracked testing our OverDrive collection at work – let that be no reflection on how good this book is!
Despite the fact that I wanted to slap Delilah for being a selfish, irritating, judgemental teenager (that was the adult in me) I also identified with her attempts to find direction in her life, and to understand what was going on in her world. Gough captures that teenage ambivalence very well – one minute it’s all about you, and the next you realise what an idiot you’ve been – and how hard it is to make peace with the people in your life that you’ve hurt or ignored. Del’s journey through the book is somewhat melodramatic, but for many teens, that is an absolutely authentic life experience.
Charlie is a delightful character – warm, funny, and open-hearted. It was refreshing to spend reading time with such a caring, emotional young man. Although Del’s school friends become peripheral to the main action in the book, it is, of course, these friends that stick by her, even when she is rude and horrible to them.
Shortlisted for both the Inkys and the CBCA awards, The Flywheel is an uplifting story about growth, love and the meaning of family. Recommended.

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