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The Most Important Thing: Stories of Sons, Fathers and Grandfathers

The Most Important Thing: : Stories about Sons, Fathers and GrandfathersThe Most Important Thing: : Stories about Sons, Fathers and Grandfathers by Avi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some stories are more successfully executed than others, but overall, this is an insightful collection of stories about male family relationships. Covering a wide range of scenarios, Avi explores the dynamics of the successful and not-so-successful interactions in everyday life. Some are poignant, some are infuriating, and all feel authentic.
Recommended for middle-school readers – Yr 5-9.

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Blossom

BlossomBlossom by Tamsin Janu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s lots to like about this story. Lottie is a sweetie. She’s had a lot to contend with in her life so far, and when a waif in a potato sack appears on her doorstep, Lottie knows exactly what to do – take her in and love her fiercely.
Parts of the plot are very thin, but, overall, it’s a good middle years story.

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#LoveOzYA – a cause for celebration

(Originally written for the CBCA Vic in 2015, but it seems to have “dropped off” the inter webs – so I give myself permission to republish it (and edit it) here!)

At the 2015 Reading Matters conference, in a storm of twitter moments, there was a tiny moment that created a ripple. In the scheme of things, a single tweet over a two-day conference wouldn’t normally create much of a stir beyond the attendees and followers on the day.

The first incidence of the #LoveOzYA hashtag appears to have been in a conversation started in February of 2014 by the Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library of Victoria.

Youth Literature ‏‪@CentreYouthLit 13 Feb 2014

So many YA romance lists, so little in the way of Australian titles.  Let’s start brainstormin’ using ‪#loveOZYA

There was a bit of interest in the tag, with followers sharing their favourite book titles and photos. But when Emily Gale tweeted out a question about promoting and celebrating Australian YA books at SLV Reading Matters 2015, it hit a nerve with both the attendees and the tweeting public.

EmilyGale ‏‪@EmilyGale May 26

‪@elliemarney@AnnaNotKarenina @nichmelbourne Meantime, how about we all post a stack of OZYA & use #buyorborrowaussieya (see my Instagram)?

In the ensuing discussion, which included input from Nicole Hayes and Anna Burkey, Ellie Marney tweeted this:

elliemarney ‏‪@elliemarney May 26

‪@AnnaNotKarenina@EmilyGale @nichmelbourne #bbbozya #buybegborrowozya #loveozya ?

By the next day, the #LoveOzYA hashtag was trending in Australia. And it had another surge recently.  Link here.

In the months since, Readings has held a #LoveOzYA panel discussion, publishers are using the tag to promote their lists, and a Facebook group has been started to talk about ways that Australian YA novels can be brought to the attention of readers in Australia and around the world. Through the group, Trinity Doyle (author of Pieces of Sky) created a poster based on recommendations that Danielle Binks made in an article for the online journal “Kill Your Darlings”, which then became a series of posts on her blog. And in school libraries, staff are using the hashtag in their displays, both alone and in combination with other initiatives, such as the CBCA Books Light Up Our World.

Regardless of the genesis of the tag, it seems that #LoveOzYA is being embraced by all sectors of the community that brings YA fiction to young people. How will you be celebrating OzYA? For ideas you can ask to join the Facebook group, follow the #LoveOzYA tag on Twitter or Instagram, and try searching on the web. Can’t wait to see your work!

#LoveOzYA on twitter:

Danielle Binks @danielle_binks

Anna Burkey @AnnaNotKarenina

Centre for Youth Literature @CentreYouthLit

Trinity Doyle @trinja

Emily Gale @EmilyGale

Nicole Hayes @nichmelbourne

Ellie Marney @elliemarney

 

#LoveOzYA on the web:

Poster link – https://www.dropbox.com/sh/r7i18n4gc658q42/AACFOrMPQdlglpHktK-isTiCa?dl=0

Kill Your Darlings article link – http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/2015/07/loveozya/

Danielle’s blog “Bookstore Panel recap” – http://alphareader.blogspot.com.au/2015/07/loveozya-readings-bookstore-panel-recap.html

Trending Australia tweet link – https://twitter.com/trendinaliaAU/status/620878419027324928/photo/1

Thanks to CYL, Danielle, Ellie, and Emily for permission to use their tweets and blog posts!

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The Elephant

The ElephantThe Elephant by Peter Carnavas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, this is divine. Just the most beautiful, beautiful, book. So much heart, so thoughtful, such a wonderful twist in the tale. 5 glorious, wonderful, colourful stars!

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Still Life with Tornado

Still Life With TornadoStill Life With Tornado by A.S. King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars
I’ll tell you straight up, this isn’t my favourite A.S. King book, but it’s still pretty good. The main character in this book, Sarah, is pretty messed up. She’s dropped out of school (it’s unclear why), she’s withdrawn from her family (also unclear why), and she’s seeing alternate realities (really unclear why). This is a book that deals with really, really angsty stuff, so no spoilers. Eventually, it all becomes clear.
What really dissatisfied me about this book was that I felt that King didn’t go in hard enough. There was obviously something really crap that happened in Sarah’s past, but it took too long to reveal it, and not enough time working on a resolution. So, for me, the timing was off.
Sarah was a pretty annoying protagonist, in that King had her dance around the issues again and again. The story was circular, and repetitive, and, at the end, largely unresolved.
Characters are great, as usual. Multidimensional and realistic (although get ready to suspend disbelief at times), and I would have loved to see more of Sarah’s brother, as he felt like the only person that had a handle on reality.
If you’ve never read an A.S. King, start with this one.

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Obernewtyn

Obernewtyn (Obernewtyn Chronicles, #1)Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have I said before how much I love audio books? They are the best way to read and do something else! So, with the long wait between titles, I’ve not wanted to get into The Red Queen, (Obernewtyn #7), because I’ve forgotten so much of the original story. Listening to Isobelle read her own work is magical, and despite how long ago it was written, Obernewtyn stands the test of time. Elspeth Gordie is the quintessential ‘clueless’ hero. Kept intentionally ignorant (an uneducated population is a compliant population) the people of the Land are oppressed and fearful. Misfits are shunned, at the most extreme they are burned, and when Elspeth is outed as a Misfit she is sent to the mountains to live at Obernewtyn.
This is a story told within a complete ‘world’, which has been clearly and believably brought to life by Carmody, and the variety of characters and situations, although many, are deftly controlled to benefit the story. This was a most enjoyable reread, and I’m off to borrow the next in the Obernewtyn Chronicles, The Farseekers.

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A Shadow’s Breath

A Shadow's BreathA Shadow’s Breath by Nicole Hayes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The date I read this may be a little out, but the timing is not. I devoured this book in a sitting. It is a compelling and heart-wrenching story, and the writing is spot-on. I was taking with a friend recently about reading books that have a moment where you are thrown out of the story because of a bum note in either the plot or the characterisation – there’s none of that in here. From the first page I was sucked into the claustrophobic, despairing and tense predicament that Tessa finds herself in. Hayes deftly weaves the past and present together in chapters named ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, slowly revealing Tessa’s life in all its gritty, difficult, messy, shameful detail. This is reality fiction at its finest. Tessa’s mother, Ellen, is clearly realised. A recovering alcoholic, we are privy to Tessa’s contempt for her and her promises to go straight this time.

Then…She wanted to believe her mum – that this was it. That things would be different…But…Tessa had to fight off this feeling like she did all the other things she knew would lead to disappointment. How else would she hold it together?
Still. It had been two months, and her mum was really trying. Three weeks straight of making lunches and asking about Tessa’s day. Curling up in front of the TV at night, both of them, together.
Two months of no arsehole and no booze. Half of it spent out of bed too.

Tessa’s longing and distrust are palpable. Kids want their parents to be the adult, no matter how much they push against the confines of being a teenager, but it is clear that Tessa has had to be her own parent.
In addition, Tessa is negotiating her way through the endless minefield that is high school. Despite having Nick as a boyfriend, most of the students at Carrima High treat Tessa as someone to be avoided at best, and, at worst, a total weirdo to be mercilessly mocked.
Just as in real life, every character in this story has secrets, and as Hayes reveals them we are slowly dragged into terrible and shocking realisations about Tessa’s past life and present situation.
To say any more would be to reveal too much. Suffice to say that tissues will be required.
I recommend this to all readers teenaged and above. All the feels.

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