Book Reviews Children’s/YA’s older

A-Corner-of-White coverBook Review by Jill Smith©Apr18

Title: A Corner of White

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Publisher: Pan McMillan Australia

Madeline Tully lives in Cambridge with her mother. They used to be rich in their life before with her father. She had run away again, being rebellious, and she was surprised when her mother ran away with her.

Cambridge is cold and dreary with drizzling rain, and their attic flat cramped. Her mother sews to make a living with the sewing machine she’d won on a game show. Madeline’s homeschooling is unconventional and her friends close, but when friendships become strained she starts to rely on another friendship from a boy she’s never met.

The corner of white in a parking meter caught her eye. She read the letter and replied.Jacklyn Moriarty bio black and white The boy who she talks to is Elliott Baranski. Is he real? Does he really live in the Farms, in a town called Bonfire, in the Kingdom of Cello? How could seasons roam and colours be dangerous? Was there really a Butterfly Child living in a glass jar who had magical abilities moriarty-jaclyn-bio picto end droughts or even save lives?

Elliott’s father had disappeared and everyone in Bonfire thought he’d run away with a teacher from the school. Elliott didn’t believe that and he was out searching for his father who he believed had been captured and taken to dangerous territory in the Kingdom. Madeline’s mother was ill. Could they solve the mystery of where Elliott’s father had gone, and find a cure for Madeline’s mother?

I loved the way the viewpoint of each of the characters makes their worldsa corner of white alternate cover real to the reader. Elliott’s world often feels more real than Cambridge feels to Madeline. Mainly because Madeline is still hoping her father will come and take them back to his wealthy world. Was this ever going to happen?
Great book, quirky, fun and I couldn’t guess the ending, for those who love YA and fantasy this is a must-read.

This is an enchanting book and the glimpse of the next story enticing. I can’t wait to read the continuing journey of the people in the World and the people in the Kingdom of Cello.

Ruben by Bruce Whatley reviewed by Jill Smith


Ruben coverThis is an amazing book. A children’s picture book is hardly a true description.

I love every detailed drawing, every feature that Ruben abides in.

Everything black and white and grey, especially the shadows. Ruben is safe in the shadows of Block City. His life changes when he decides that he has to go outside of the section of the city he knows. He moves carefully through the dead world to the train terminus. There was always a train coming. He hid watching the train being unloaded by the machines. The streets in this part of the city were different, higher, darker. He was not comfortable.Bruce Whatley illustrator

That’s when he sees a movement on the other side of the street. A small figure just like him.

They stay hidden from Controllers and The Listeners. All robotic human figures. Together they moved to places Ruben hadn’t been before. Through a maze of cogs and machinery, through the engine room, past the Sweepers. The train carriages were locked, there was no way out of Block City.

Bruce Whatley RubenThey rested together in her safe place, in a space between things, before Ruben left to go back to his safe place. It didn’t seem so safe now.

The Epilogue is brilliant with Ruben and Koji in the train carriage and Ruben with a copy of Gulliver’s Travels in his pocket.

This is a picture book for everyone who hopes and dreams to go beyond a dark and frightening world and move onto new places.

Thanks, Bruce Whatley.


Quest Chasers – The Deadly Cavern book review by Jill Smith

Quest Chasers – The Deadly Cavern

by Grace LockhavenThomas LockhavenDavid Aretha 

Goodreads review by Jill Smith July 2017

This book starts with a simple fantastic story well told by a student in front of his class.

Quest Chasers -The Deadly Cavern cover

Drew Morris has his audience is spellbound as he describes his life and death struggle, until, the class laugh and dismiss the whole story as fantasy. Only two of members of the class believe the tale could be based in fact.

Eevie and Tommy are inseparable best friends who tell Drew they believe his story. They decide to get proof that the knarled and creepy tree in the local park could really be killing people. They don’t plan on being trapped in a cavern facing menacing obstacles. The dangers they meet are simply horrendous but their devotion to each other overcomes the odds.

The ending is perfect in that their escape should mean an end to the ordeal, but, is it? Clearly, this is the first book in series and one I intend to follow up on.

This is another surprising book that I wouldn’t normally read but for The Book Review Directory review requests.

This is a well-written polished book. I enjoyed it very much.


when the lyrebird calls cover‘When the Lyrebird Calls’ by Kim Kane.

I’d put this book on Goodreads before going on holiday in June 2017 kim kane bio picand read it in two days on our return mid-July.

That means it grabbed me from the start and was a real page turner.

After seeing Kim Kane at Somerset Literature Festival earlier this year, I was intrigued to see how her detailed research would help the book evolve. I was delighted to see how the history of pre-Federation Australia wound its way into this time slip story.

carole wilkinson bio picTwo days later I’d read ‘Dragonkeeper’ by Carole Dragonkeeper coverWilkinson.

This is an amazing book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

A slave girl without a name learns how to look after a dragon and discovers her own inner strength and abilities. Ancient China, Han Dynasty comes alive within these pages.

This is a series I will need to complete, and soon.




Book Review – Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky by Robert Newton reviewed by Jill Smith


Mr Romanov's Garden in the sky coverLexie felt her whole world was grey. The Commission building, she lived in sucked the life out of her. Her mother was a junkie and mostly not around, and when she was, she wasn’t with her.  It was Lexie’s thirteenth birthday and she planned to celebrate. She raced to the shop, dodging Gordo, the tough bully who was squeezing money out of everyone in the complex. That’s when she spied a lonely figure on the roof. The Creeper was an old guy and Lexie couldn’t just watch him jump from the roof. A couple of days before the Creepers’ dog had been thrown off the roof. She raced up to the top of the building to talk. From then on everything changed for Lexie.

She discovered Mr Romanov was just a lonely old man living in squalor. She decided that she would get his place cleaned up. The managed to get her friend Davey to come and help. They talked to Mr Romanov and discovered he was harmless and had a secret plan to build a roof garden. It was a crazy idea and before they knew it the three of them were putting the boxes together and shovelling in the soil Mr Romanov had been bringing up, bit by bit, over the previous few years. He was called the Creeper because he always Robet Newton Somerset 2017wore a trench coat went out in the early evenings, now they knew why he’d been doing this.

Lexie had a dream to go to Surfer’s Paradise. When her dad was alive they camped in her room and he would lay out maps and ask where she wanted to go. She always said the same destination. It was her dream to get away from a grey world and find one filled with colour. Davey had his own dream destination and now their new friend Mr Romanov had a car and could take them away. The three set off on a road trip after a run in with Gordo, when Mr Romanov got the upper hand he made an enemy that would have repercussions.

The journey takes them to unexpected places. Lexie and Davy discover Mr Romanov is unwell, the old car is unregistered, and the old man doesn’t even have a licence. They learn about friendship and what their real goals are. Lexie keeps going even when she finds out her mother has had an overdose and is in the hospital.

I loved how these three misfits discovered their respective goals were not what they imagined. That returning to the Commission wasn’t so bad. I’m sure that kids of all ages will relate to the feeling of not belonging and trying to find a place to be yourself.

robert newton book reading firefighterI had the pleasure of seeing Robert speak at Somerset Literary Festival earlier this year and to get a signed copy of this book. He is an engaging speaker, as a fellow writer, I loved that he told the kids; ‘I can see me stop being a firefighter but not stop being a writer.’ It is an all-encompassing obsession we share.

This is my Goodreads review: In brief, this is a YA’s coming of age story. Fitzroy Commission units couldn’t be greyer and the friendship forged by simply being able to share the worst cards life can deal out, brilliantly woven into the story. Would Lexie ever get to Surfer’s Paradise? Would Davey get his wish? And why did Mr Romanov have a dream about building a garden in the sky?


Jack of Spades by Sophie Masson reviewed by Jill Smith©May17

jack-of-spades-final-front-cover-pubLinda is not your normal sixteen-year-old. She is feisty and adventurous in a genteel age when girls are expected to be polite, chaperoned and groomed to marry.

It is May 1910 and her father is in Paris on a research trip. Linda is worried about him. Even more so when she receives a Jack of Spades playing card in the mail. The envelope was not in her father’s hand, or was there anything with it to give her a clue, but, she knows it’s a sign from him, a code they both know. The Jack of Spades is a sign of danger.

Without alerting anyone Linda decides to leave for Paris immediately. She has been there with her father and has friends she hopes to stay with while she searches for her father. She knows his favourite places and where he usually works. Feeling confident in her own competence she leaves Britain.sophie masson bio pic

On arriving in Paris, she is accosted but the thief is thwarted when she is assisted by a gallant young man, who offers to help her.

The illustrations throughout the book are delightful. The Victorian railway station illustration with Linda gathering up her belongings and meeting her new friend is a clue to where the story leads.

What she finds in Paris is intrigue and mystery filled with danger. What was her father really doing? Where is he now? Who can she trust? Her friends are not at home and she has nowhere to stay. A single unchaperoned girl alone in a city. Her new friend offers to refer her to acceptable accommodation and there she meets interesting characters and a scoundrel.

While searching for her father Linda finds a trail of murders and shady characters. Her investigations put herself and her new friends in peril.



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?


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