Book Reviews Children’s/YA’s older

I’ve read and reviewed heaps of books during 2016 but neglected to add them to the Book Review pages. So today I’m correcting that. This is a series of books by Lian Tanner. I bought Ice Breaker at Somerset Literary Festival in 2016. The following two books I purchased later. Here is my review of all three. Starting with Ice Breaker, then Sunker’s Deep and Fetcher’s Song. All three set in a world were Anti-machinists rule 300 years after a group of scientists set the wheels in motion to keep technology alive.

Book Review by Jill Smith©Mar16    Title: Ice Breaker – The Hidden Series  Author: Lian Tanner

Title: Ice Breaker – The Hidden Series  Author: Lian Tanner   Publisher:  Allen & Unwin


I was in a session at Somerset Literary Festival in March 2016, and attended a session presented by Lian Tanner. I shook her hand and introduced myself. She got ready for her meeting with the students who attended by running on the spot.

The kids came in and she had the kids give her story ideas. They giggled and joked while she helped ask the important what if questions. They answered and a very bad story started to come together. At the end of this exercise she said ‘funnily enough I didn’t write that’.

Then she read the prologue to Ice Breaker. The kids were gobsmacked. It is so good, such a hook. You long to know what happened to the metal child. So, I had to buy the book.

Three hundred years after the initial escape from the anti-machinists, Petrel is ‘a nothing girl’ barely living aboard the Ice Breaker Oyster. Her friends the rats Mister Smoke and Missus Slink are the only people she trusts. She had no idea that everything was about to change when she alerted the crew to a frozen boy on the ice. They rescued the boy then bad things started to happen. Petrel finds out who her parents were, and that she is not a nothing girl. The boy, Fin, had been left on the ice as a trap, the anti-machinists lure. Will the crew of the Oyster, now working against each other as separate factions come together? Will they be able to wake the sleeping Captain?

This book is wonderfully written and the first of three books in The Hidden Series, and I’m looking forward to reading the others.

sunker-s-deep-coverTitle: Sunker’s Deep – The Hidden Series

Author: Lian Tanner

Sharky is a boy who built his reputation on a lie. Everyone on the Rampart, a giant submersible, believes he is a hero. He knows better and keeping it a secret means he has to be tough. He wants to be Admiral one day. When the Hungry Ghosts come in airships and bombard the huge submarine Rampart and sink it. Sharky and his small crew of children on the Claw, the small submarine, had been searching for the boxes when Rampart goes down. They believe that the survivors of the sinking are dead, or eaten by the Ghosts. They are the only Sunker’s left! Sharky is scared, but he must control the crew, this gets harder when he rescues a girl and brings her inside Claw. How will Sharkey command his small team? The singing girl and mechanical rat are telling him what to do, and he doesn’t like it.

Meanwhile, on the Ice Breaker Oyster, Petrel and her fellow shipmates including Fin, the boy she had rescued from the ice, who is now her friend, and the mechanical rats Mister Smoke and Missus Slink, are searching for their Captain, the mechanical boy who has the knowledge to save the world.

Both the Submarines and the Ice Breaker are from the old world and were sent out on a mission to save the world. They don’t know each other exists. When they do discover each other, Sharky realises that the girl he saved Rain, who sings, is not a ghost and that his family and friends were taken aboard the flying craft are still alive. He needs to save them all. Only a small mechanical rat and the girl to guide him they take a perilous journey into shallow water to rescue the Rampart crew from the Devouts.

Lian Tanner has a wonderful way with words and her story makes you believe the odds against the Sunker’s on the Claw, and the crew on Ice Breaker Oyster, are impossible! Especially, when the crew of the Oyster are fighting each other, and not wanting to come to travel away from the south to save the stranded Rampart crewmen.

I knew I’d love this book and read it quickly. I recommend it to anyone who likes adventure, mechanical rats and a hopeful future. This young adult’s book is for anyone and everyone.

fetcher-s-song-coverTitle: Fetcher’s Song – The Hidden Series

Author: Lian Tanner

Again, Lian Tanner had me devouring this book quickly.

I was constantly wondering how the children who were caught up in the hopelessness of the Devouts rule would escape. Would the world ever be free of their tyranny? Would Gwin keep her blind brother and listless father safe? The world was very dangerous if you were a Fetcher and they were the last to survive the three hundred years of the Devouts dismantling of the machines of the world. The singing minstrel troupe, are on their guard, every performance. Gwin is keeping the songs alive.

The Ice Breaker Oyster’s crew, including Petrel, and Fin from the Sunkers, go in search of their lost sleeping Captain. The silver boy will save the world and help rebuild it. But the Devouts mean and conniving Brother Poosk needs to be outwitted first. How can they when the siege of the Citadel continues? When the Devouts make a bid to get away, using the bratlings of the villagers as hostages, they walk away from the Citadel their base of power. The odds are impossible.

The ending is wonderful and clever. I loved every word.

Now, I need to indulge in more of her books, as I’m certain to find that these are wonderfully entertaining and enthralling young adult’s books. But, why should young adults have all the fun?


Obernewtyn book cover

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody reviewed by Jill Smith©Sep15

Elspeth Gordie lived in fear. She did not make friends, and kept to herself. The Herders ruled the land. An orphan, sent to gather white stick, a poison from the Great White left by the Beforetimers. Once cleansed, the white stick, became sleeping potions, or potent medicines, prepared by the Herders.

Her brother Jess had once been close to her. Now he wore the armband of Herders assistant. She got headaches and as their parents had been burnt for Sedition she and Jess could both meet the same fate. Her secret talent tainted her, a Misfit. Maruman an old grey cat had foretelling visions and she spoke to him in her mind. He told her that she would be leaving the city and going to the Mountains, and that he must follow her. Elspeth was afraid. The rumours she’d heard about the only place in the mountains was Obernewtyn.

Maruman’s prediction that the darkOne would seek Elspeth and take her away came true. The journey was terrifying for the orphan. She left Jess her brother behind believing he did not care for her. His position as assistant Herder would be more difficult with his sister taken away.  As they had no proof she was a Misfit, he was safe.

What she found at Obernewtyn was not what she had expected. She was set to work in the kitchens and made to work hard. She wondered why the lord of Obernewtyn, Lukas Seraphim, did not appear. Madam Vega who had found her and brought her there was. Selmar, another misfit, had gone mad. Elspeth could not understand how a treatment used to cure Misfits, could cause such deterioration. When she met Doctor Seraphim, she discovered him ineffectual. Alexi, a tall flaxen-haired man, introduced as the Doctors assistant, was the instigator of the treatments. His eyes were cold, with Madam Vega his ally, they were searching for a particular Misfit. Elspeth wondered who did run Obernewtyn?carmody-isobelle pic

Her answer came while she was still trying to hide her talents. Transferred to work on the farm, Elspeth found herself with Rushton, the overseer, supervising her work with horses. He did not know she could bespeak with the animals but was grateful for her calming influence on the beasts. Her talent, when discovered, caused her to be a subject of investigation.  Madam Vega and Alexi, taking her to a Beforetimers machine, unleased part of her talent she didn’t know existed. The result was a mighty upset of power at Obernewtyn and changed Elspeth Gordie’s life forever.

I’ve been meaning to read this series for a long time. I’m glad I finally did it. This is the first book in a remarkable series. Isobelle wrote this first book while she was at high school! There are now six books in the series.


Dust by Christine Bongers reviewed by Jill Smith©Aug15

dust coverThis is a brilliant story with many layers. It begins with a mother driving her two children, in a rushed trip to attend a funeral, from Brisbane to a remote outback community in the heart of outback Queensland.

The back cover blurb starts with this:

Twelve year old Celia Maria was named after saints and martyrs to give her something to live up to.

Over my dead body, she vows.

Celia Maria has to be tough, she has five brothers. Punk especially likes to torment her. The Kapernicky’s live next door and were often the butt of their games. ‘Sis, you’ve got Aileen Kapernicky’s germs!’ The game of ‘tag’ or ‘thump and tag’ began. They had to have loopholes to get around that one in Confession. A fortnightly trial they had to endure as Catholics in a largely agnostic area.

Having been in an audience session at Somerset Literary Festival earlier this year and enjoying her speak, I recall she said ‘It’s a wonder I survived my childhood.’  As much of what she put in this book was drawn from her own childhood, I can only wonder how Christine made it to adulthood.

Aileen and Janeen Kapernicky were new to their school. Celia only knew there was something different about them.Christine Bongers Aileen would do cart wheels in the playground while Janeen would sit silently by. They invaded Celia’s space as she loved to swing on the monkey bars. Worse still her best sanctuary was the library, one day Janeen was there with her. Celia took an instant dislike to Aileen and fighting was another sin she would have to Confess. Janeen was distant, and Celia realised they shared a love of books, so why did she find it hard to get to know her better?

The small town community suffered the drought, the dust, the gossip and small town scandals. I loved how Christine gets the reader into the heart of the family, the struggles and life of the dust bowl of rural community in the heat of outback Queensland.

Christine Bongers grew up in Biloela, Central Queensland. She left to go to University, became a broadcast journalist, in Brisbane and London. At Somerset she described radio as a fantastic way to have fun, then television was even better. This book shares the memories of her youth and her boundless enthusiasm for life born out of surviving her own brothers, the heat and dust. I loved it and will happily recommend this to anyone who loves reading Young Adults books and coming of age stories.


Book Review by Jill Smith©Nov14

My unforgetable year cover Adem BesimTitle: My Unforgettable Year

Author: Adem Besim

Publisher: Morris Publishing Australia

This coming of age story is told from 17 year old Nathan Thompson’s viewpoint. He has grown up in the small Victorian town of Kyabram. He is the town football hero. He and his friends are going through their last year at school. They face pressures to succeed from parents and teachers, along with other pressures from piers.

The inherent aggression Nathan feels towards his father is the result of his fathers’ constant demands that he to train harder, to get noticed by the big league AFL football clubs, so he can forge a career there. That’s not what Nathan wants to do and his father seems to not listen to this. Coach Garry becomes his mentor in football and in life.AdemBesim pic

His best friend Matt is like a brother and his parents are his second family. They both play football, along with Jarryd who constantly antagonises Nathan. It is a small town and everyone knows everyone, so when the beautiful Katie arrives mid-year to finish her final year of school, gossip spreads through the town. Nathan falls in love, while his ex-girlfriend Sarah, not liking the situation, spreads some choice and untrue gossip.

I really enjoyed the fact that this book was written from a male perspective with all the testosterone and teenage anger clearly described. It was written in the first person, and although the publisher suggested it was a kind of diary, I enjoyed the narrative. Having recently read two female coming of age stories in ‘Crashing Down’ by Kate McCaffrey and ‘That’s Why I Wrote this Song’ by Susanne Gervay, it was great to get something from a totally different perspective.

This is Adems’ debut novel and I certainly look forward to more enjoyable reads from him.



Book Review by Jill Smith©Sep14

The Summoning of The One coverTitle: The Summoning of The Oneroyce bond pic

Author: Royce Bond

Publisher: Morris Publishing Australia


Andy Weatherby, is an ordinary Queensland school boy, or he was yesterday. He’s being bullied at school, he loves his computer classes and isn’t much at P E. But this morning he woke with a fright at the sight of a huge eagle perched on his windowsill. Then he was amazed to see the eagle attacking a swordsman, who is fighting him off. A white snake slipped from the man’s chest and slithered towards Andy’s home. Then the eagle left the swordsman and pounced on the snake. The swordsman disappeared while the snake is being devoured. Even crazier, when he goes for a shower he finds he’s grown a beard. Not only was he different, but so was his house. What was happening?

Would school be the same? The technology building was his sanctuary, his escape to friends on line, but like the first school bus he’d seen on the way, it was different. The technology building was now an art complex. Thackery the PE teacher was just the same, he still hated Andy, and happily singled him out for physical torture. Then there was a new teacher, Mr Lin Chow from China, a Kung Fu master come to teach martial arts. Why had he insisted Andy demonstrate the martial art? How did he evade and even attack the fully trained teacher?

He had to get some answers and Lin was the key. Before he could reach the new teacher he was cornered by Gavin Buckmeister and his gang. Andy was amazed at how he fought off his former tormentors. When the day couldn’t get worse, he went home searching for somewhere normal. He met up with Lin again and his whole world was turned upside down. His house set on fire and he and the teacher were running for their lives, but, from what?

This is Book Two of The Chronicles of The Knights of Katesch.   I feared when receiving it that I would be wishing I’d read the first book before delving into the tale. Royce Bond has presented a whole book not reliant on the original, yet clearly complimentary to the Knights journey. The Prologue is a brief background of the Knights of Katesch and their battle across all the dimensions of the known universe against the wizard Maligor. I really enjoyed this book and now must read the first, and I eagerly anticipate the next in the series.


perf5.000x8.000.inddBook Review by Jill Smith©May14

Karen Stop the Bully karate

Title: STOP the Bully

Author: Karen Tyrrell

Publisher: Digital Future Press 2014

Brian, and his little sister Tara, are starting at Wymore State School. He isn’t looking forward to his first day and he feels responsible for Tara.

With chunky glasses and red curly hair he knew kids would label him geek. Miss Bliss is a first year teacher and she is battling to keep control of the class. She sits him next to Amelia with freckles. Things don’t start well when the class laughs when he doesn’t have his math workbook and asks for a pencil. The kid in the desk behind jerked back Amelia’s chair so she goes flying. Brian dives for Amelia, saving her but got hurt in the process. Why would the Bully do that?stop the bully karen books

It gets worse when his bag goes missing. It had his house key, and now he wonders how he and Tara can get in the house, if he can’t find it. His new hat has been thrown in the toilet and he has to throw it out. Knowing his mum can’t afford to get another one, and missing his dad, made it all so much worse. Brian really wants to go into the SUPER RACE, but his mum has to sign the permission note. They can’t afford new shoes, but he hopes she’ll sign it anyway.

Brian made a friend in Pete who helped him look for his bag. With help from another anonymous friend leaving him a note, they find his bag, but the key is missing. At the end of the day, he has money for the bus, once he finds his sister they can go home, but he still had no idea what they would do when they got home. Finally, when Tara appeared and he did get on the bus, the Bully gets on too.

Karen T Stop the Bully posterHis new friends, Amelia and Pete, show Brian how to be strong and stand up to the Bully. With the teachers support in a special project, they learn more about the Bully and can share with the results of their project with the whole school.

This book is aimed at kids who find themselves in situations they can’t handle, and gives ideas about how to fight back, how to STOP the BULLY.

Kate book cover Kevin BBook Review by Jill Smith©Dec13

Title: Kate Author: Kevin Burgemeestre

Publisher: Morris Publishing

 Kate is an awkward teenager getting over the tragic loss of her mother. Her idol is Frida Kahlo who she admires for her paintings and strength of character. Her friend Jess has moved to Canada, her father works a lot, she feels alone and is afraid of the school bully Jake, and his meathead mates. She doesn’t feel much like her idol until she sees a battered dog and rescues him. That was when she met the dog’s former owner, who was belligerent, and slammed the door in her face.

What follows is a dramatic set of events encroaching on Kate’s life. The bullying Kevin Burgemeestre picborders on physical abuse when she’s walking home through the park, after going to the dog pound to spend time with the battered dog, she called Wilde. Mal, the dog’s former owner comes to her rescue. Kate relies on her own feelings and finds Mal a loner and streetwise, someone she can trust. At the same time she doesn’t realize that Mal is putting her in danger.

The chapters are short and sharp, driving the fast paced story through the chase scenes and eventual alliance with Mal which leaves Kate following this strange boy to the country. Will they get away from their pursuers, and why are they being chased by these criminals?

frida kahlo pic and quoteI love the sketches drawn by Kate that give further insight into this character, the self portrait in Frida Kahlo style, and the doodle of a streetscape with Mal lingering in the shadows. This is a thrilling fast paced YA’s book that immediately grabs the reader by the heartstrings covering grief, puberty, lost friendships, animal abuse, bullying, drug dealers and abandonment issues. That’s a lot to pack in such a slim 254 page volume, but it is well covered in an entertaining way, the characters are people to care about.

I recommend this to the teenagers in your family. They will be gripped by the journey of self discovery and the very satisfactory conclusion, which is definitely a twist at the end.

The Last Tiger-front-cover_thumbBook Review By Jill Smith©Feb2012

Title: The Last Tiger

Author: Andrew McDermott

Publisher: Publicious

Wang is a South China tiger happily learning survival skills from his mother as Andy-at-Brdersthey travel around their territory in the forest in China. They are going to his father’s territory, on the boundary of his mother’s part of the forest. Wang is excited about meeting his powerful father again.  When they get to the edge of his mothers territory, she senses something is wrong. Poachers take his mother away and leave Wang alone. What can he do now? He is visited by the spirit of ‘The Blue Tiger’ who sends him on a journey to the mythical animal sanctuary ’Blue Tiger Mountain’ and safety. But how will he find it when no one knows how to get there?

Wang is befriended by an Australian Cassowary and English pine martin, all are endangered species. Along the way the three animal friends discover adventures and surprises that bring them closer together.  They journey to seek the same goal. Later they meet up with a young boy and a golden monkey, who have been following and sharing the adventure in a magical way.

Andy SomersetThis book has a delightful tale entwined with facts about endangered species, and giving an environmental message for young readers to soak up. The pages will turn quickly as they will easily be drawn into the plight of our young tiger and his friends. Andy wrote this children’s book as a result of all his research into his adults book ‘The Tiger Chase’. He did say at a recent Gold Coast Writers meeting that it would be his first and last venture into writing for children. I think it is a very worthy addition to his list of works and one to be proud of.

Book Review By Jill Smith ©April 2011

Title: The Mystery of Nida Valleyelaineoustonpub009001

Author: E J Ouston

Publisher: Morris Publishing

This book draws you in from the first sentence and the pace keeps going from there.  Meg Sealy is just an ordinary school girl, or so she believes. Her best friend Amanda is missing so she goes to help in the search. She meets up with a ghostly house guest at Millson Manor, before she and her cousin Jaiden find a secret passage, and end up getting lost themselves. Nida Valley is a magical place where hidden prehistoric animals live.Elaine Ouston

The research Elaine has taken to bring to life the fossils of Australian ancient animals is a wonderful layer to the story. The valley is more than a setting, it is more than a backdrop, it is the destiny of Meg and her friends to be part of the Guardians and protect the existence of the creatures within. Elaine cleverly puts a hook at the end of each chapter that begs the reader to continue.

The cover of the book has banner at the bottom; Read the Books – Play the Game – Win Prizes – Collect Cards. It is really well targeted at the YA market and delivers an adventure, battle against evil, along with a journey of self discovery and teenage romance.

I loved this book and look forward to reading more from this talented Australian writer.

the-youngest-cameleerBook Review By Jill Smith©August 2011

Title: The Youngest Cameleer

Author: Goldie Alexander

Publisher: A Five Senses Publication

Ahmed Ackbar is 13, through his diary letters to family back home; we journey with him in Australia with his Uncle Kamran and two fellow Afghan cameleers. He is the youngest cameleer joining an English explorer’s journey across a continent. The country he crosses is so unlike his Afghan homeland, yet shares a desert that camels are best equipped to cross. Although arriving in Australia speaking Pashto his native language and very little English. He quickly learns to increase his meager knowledge of English, so helping his cameleers cope with the strain of dealing with infidels.

Ahmed works hard and proves to be a valuable member of the expedition as an story_telling Goldie Ainterpreter. The culture is a shock, as people he comes to treat as friends, do things that are not acceptable to his religion. They are equally tolerated by some of the party, thought of as odd by others, because they stop for prayers, and are despised by another.

At one point when they reach an isolated station to rest, Ahmed befriends the three children living there.  He finds himself playing competitive games with the boy and allowing the girls to ride his camel. Just being alone with a female is not something he wants his Uncle to discover as it is taboo.

The book is a wonderful and accurate, drawn upon history, account of the W C Gosse exploration, tracing the journey along the inland telegraph route to Alice Springs and the discovery of Ayers Rock now known as Uluru. The naming of the landmarks along the way is also interesting, Goss contributed a great deal to Australia’s history. The journey is a self discovery and coming of age event for Ahmed, as he is also wanting to learn how his beloved father recently died. To him, it is a mystery, and his Uncle Kamran holds the answer. He must be man enough to ask the questions burning in his mind.

Goldie has produced a book that is sure to be a school staple, as it invites young readers to question their outlook on the world and to investigate our own past. Exploration of Australia would not have been as successful without the assistance of cameleers.

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