Friday, 3 July 2020

Review: Kristy's Great Idea by Ann M Martin

With the new Baby-Sitters Club TV series making its debut on Netflix this week and with the first six Baby-Sitters Club books being released with some fun and pretty new covers, I just couldn't resist re-reading this one and adding a review on here. Kristy's Great Idea is, obviously the book that kicked off the series. Originally intended as a four book miniseries, it tells the story of how Kristy Thomas comes up with the idea of setting up a baby-sitting business after her mother struggles to find a baby-sitter for her younger brother, David Michael. She rounds up three very different girls, cool and creative Claudia Kishi, who lives across the street and provides not only the venue, but the phone line for the club, Claudia's new friend, cool girl Stacey McGill, who has recently moved to the small town of Stoneybrook from New York and shy and quiet Mary Anne, who lives alone with her strict father in the house next door to Kristy. From there, the reader is treated to a number of misadventures that all four club members experience on their first baby-sitting jobs--including how Kristy is tricked into looking after two very boisterous dogs. There is also a glimpse into the private lives of each of the girls, all of whom have their problems. Stacey has a secret from the other girls, and it has a lot to do with the real reason she left New York. Claudia is smart, but in a creative way and often struggles at school, in contrast to her extremely intelligent but boorish older sister. Mary Anne is struggling not only to overcome her shyness, but to stand up to her over-protective father. And, as for Kristy, well she's struggling to accept her mother's new relationship with a man named Watson. She has a good reason--after all, her own father let the family down in the worst possible way, and her mother has worked very hard to look after four kids and hold down a full time job. Why risk inviting someone else in to the family and losing everything that they have worked so hard for? Then again, what if Watson really is the dad that Kristy and her brothers needed all along?

This was a fun nostalgia trip. I remembered most of the story--after all, I read it several times between the ages of nine and thirteen--but I found myself surprised on a number of occasions just how well written the story was. Ann M Martin handles the conflict between Kristy and Watson well, treating the protagonists feelings as though they are valid, while showing that perhaps she is being too harsh. The resolution is, of course, lovely. And, as is the trademark of the series, the problems experienced by the main characters are usually resolved by, or between, themselves with little intervention by the adults, though characters like Elizabeth and Watson, and Claudia's grandmother, Mimi, offer support.  

Anyway, this is a great read for kids in their middle and upper years of primary school. I know that the television series will have a bit more of a contemporary feel--and the changes are more than cool with me*--but I hope that viewers will be inspired to pick up the books and see where it all began.

Highly recommended. 

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Review: Peta Lyre's Rating Normal by Anna Whateley

Peta Lyre is a teenage living in a world that just isn't designed for the way her mind works. She's on the autism spectrum, has ADHD and SPD. She's academically gifted, but she doesn't always do well at school. And she's also the main character of this very awesome book about first loves and self-acceptance. Peta is aware that she's not the same as a "typical" teenager, but she follows the advice of her therapist that will help her fit in. And since she moved in with her aunt, and away from her fighting parents and her mother who does not--and will not try--to understand her, life has been getting better. At her new school, she can be with her best friend Jeb, a savvy streetwise kid whose home life is far from ideal. And she's found a friend in the new girl--Sam. Their friendship blossoms in a surprising, but wonderful way, on a school skiing trip.

Then things start to fall apart and Peta needs to decide whether the rules that she has been living by really matter.

This was a charming own voices read written with a whole lot of heart and understanding for the main character. Adolescence is a tough time, and its even tougher for someone who has to stop and think about whether following their natural impulses is okay, or if it will just cause them more trouble. It gave me a real appreciation for the way that people feel the need to mask themselves in public, to deny their sense of self in the hope of being considered socially acceptable. The ratings that Peta gave herself broke my heart a little, but something about it also made the story feel very real. 

Highly recommended 

This book was read for the Aussie Author Challenge 2020

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Review: The Swap by Robyn Harding

The Swap
is a wicked, scandalous page-turner about one night, a very nasty woman playing a dangerous game and a lonely teenager intent on revenge.

Low Morrison is a lonely kid in her final year of high school. Life on an isolated island with her hippy, polygamist parents has left her bereft of the usual teenage experiences and consequently, she is struggling to find not only her place in the world, but an ability to form meaningful relationships with others. That all begins to change when she encounters the glamorous and worldly Freya, a former small time actress who is married to a former hockey player. The lives of Freya and Maxime have more or less been ruined by a massive scandal that has played out openly in the media. but to Low, Freya is nothing but wonderful and exciting. Then along comes Jamie, a woman who has moved to the island with her husband, an English teacher turned author. The adults all have a lot more in common and Low is soon ditched. And that is where the story should end, right?


At a drug fuelled party for four Freya comes out with a surprising suggestion. One that everyone concerned will regret and brush off afterward. Until it turns out that Low knows everything. 

And that Freya is playing a very different, and deadly, game ...

This was quite a page turner, filled with situations that just seemed to get stranger and stranger with every twist. Freya is a deadly psychopath, the kind of villain that readers will love to hate, while simultaneously feeling sorry for Jamie and Low. (And maybe just hating them a little for being so stupid.) I found myself reading this one over the course of a raining afternoon and I was both shocked and entertained by a lot of the crazy hijinks. I do not envy any of the characters in this book, but they were most certainly a lot of fun to read about.


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC of The Swap

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I doubt that anyone ever expected that there would one day be a prequel to The Hunger Games, least of all me. And if I had ever, for a moment, expected one, I never would have dreamed that the prequel would focus on a young Coriolanus Snow. After all, President Snow from The Hunger Games was old, horribly corrupt and selfish to the core. And YA heroes are supposed to have a heart of gold ... aren't they?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes readers on a very surprising ride. Set during the Tenth Hunger Games, the novel introduces us to Coriolanus Snow as an eighteen year old student living in the Capital. On the outside, his family have it all, tradition, a good name and wealth. But as Snow knows only too well, appearances can be deceiving. His family have little money following on from the war and he knows that the only way out is to get a good education. But, it seems, his school will require him to mentor the Female tribute from District Twelve for this years Hunger Games. And, it seems, there are also some very sinister forces at work within the school. Who can Coriolanus trust? 

More importantly, who will he be willing to betray?

Some of the twists and turns in this one amazed me. Lucy Gray was not only a force to be reckoned with, but one too good for her mentor in every respect. Her part in the story is as tragic as what one would expect. Snow is arrogant from the outset, though the influence of a professor and manipulations who is as insane as she is evil, certainly help to bring out the worst in him. Snow's a difficult character to feel sorry for, but he's also in a near impossible situation. 

Although this one isn't quite as memorable as the series that inspired it, I enjoyed the many twists and turns and reading about a main character that I loved ... to hate. 


Monday, 29 June 2020

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Review: Clubland by Tara Jenkinson

Adelaide based author Tara Jenkinson's debut novel gives readers a glimpse into a glitzy, glamorous inner city nightclub and the life of a young woman who is a part of the club's privileged inner circle. By day, Lexie Perkins is a cadet journalist with loving parents, a circle of supportive friends and a devoted boyfriend. At night, she lives to dance and to party. Hard. And there's nothing wrong with taking a little something extra to help keep the party going, is there? And all of her friends are trustworthy ... right? As Lexie's life both on and off the dance floor begins to spiral out of control, she learns some harsh realities about trust and addiction.

This was entertaining read and a glimpse into the lives of people whose first years out of high school were very different from mine. Lexie is basically a nice person who has been led astray, and the dynamic between her and Tegan the toxic friend from hell was interesting to read about. Meanwhile, Lexie's relationship with Troy comes with a surprising complication--to the point that I was surprised that he was a passive as he was about Lexie's behaviour. Although the story was entertaining, I felt that the pacing could have been improved and that some situations could have been fleshed out a little more. (For example, the big event at Cosmic Gate is over within a few pages.) On the plus side, the way that Lexie gets an interview with Nick Morano, the organiser of Cosmic Gate left me with a big smile on my face. Clever!

Although this in no way altered my opinion or ruined my enjoyment of the story, the formatting inside my paperback copy is nowhere near as good as it could be and is something that the author will, hopefully, address in future print runs. 

On the whole this is a fun and entertaining read set mainly inside an inner city nightclub. Perfect for fans of Gossip Girl.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2020 

Friday, 26 June 2020

Curiosity Show: A Coffee Conundrum Puzzle