Nix_MisterMondayStarting a new school is tough. You have to make sure you fit in and show no weakness. This is what gets Arthur into all of the trouble. All of his life, he has suffered severe asthma. The last thing that he should be doing is running cross-country. Being a new school, his coach thinks he’s making excuses and, being a new school, Arthur doesn’t want to draw attention to himself by protesting too much.

Rather than look stupid in front of his new classmates, Arthur ignores his better judgement and runs.

The ensuing asthma attack is worse than any Arthur has experienced before. While Leaf and Ed, two other students, go for help, two strange men appear. After a baffling argument, they leave Arthur a clock-hand and disappear again.

The clock-hand turns out to be a key and soon Arthur is on the kind of adventure that most people only dream about.

Mister Monday is the first book in a series of seven novels by acclaimed Australian author, Garth Nix. After having finally read this, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read any of his novels before. While Mister Monday is aimed at a more middle grade audience, the imagination behind it is fantastical enough to appeal to anyone.

The House that Arthur enters with his key is a world that shapes the whole universe. With the minute key Arthur can get into the realm of Mister Monday, a lethargic young man who runs the Lower House. A disorganised Victorian-esque realm drowning in paperwork, Arthur must navigate through the Lower House and take Monday’s hour key from him if there is any hope for Earth. The world of the House itself is enthralling, but the way Nix weaves detail and explanations into the writing without breaking the action completes the story.

The characters, too, are an interesting and motley bunch. From the Will who has one driving purpose and never deviates, to the slothful Mister Monday to Suzy Blue – who isn’t educated but is highly intelligent for all of that.

Mister Monday is a highly imaginative and entertaining novel. The characters and world draw you in and keep you hooked. With a sympathetic protagonist, I’d recommend this to high fantasy and urban fantasy fans alike.


Mister Monday – Garth Nix

Allen & Unwin (July 1, 2003)

ISBN: 9781741142136

beauman_glowThere’s a new drug on the streets for anyone who’s in the know. Glow appeared suddenly and, with the shortage of ecstasy, it is fast becoming popular. Raf and his friend, Isaac, have an interest in unusual narcotics and are both eager to try this elusive latest. Unfortunately, the real thing is not that easy to come by.

And, for Raf at least, Glow may soon be the last thing on his mind because, right now, so much other stuff is going down. Raf catches a glimpse of a stunning girl at a rave, his friend and landlord goes missing and, across London, Burmese men are being kidnapped off the streets.

As Raf begins to sort through the strange occurrences, he realises that they might all be tied to this new drug.

Glow is the third book from Man Booker Prize nominee, Ned Beauman. Not having read previous books by him, I was interested in Glow because of the attention it has garnered in bookstores and with its publishing reps. The scope of Glow is impressive. Set primarily in London, it nevertheless engages in the wider politics of Myanmar, China and, to a degree, the US.

The description of Glow’s London is superb. The eclectic mix of people and the wild, underground night-life brings the city to life. Beauman is also a master at deftly describing scenes, settings, and people.

The difficulty in novels like these is that they are exploring a world that most of their readers know nothing about, and the best way to do this is to introduce the main character to this world so that the readers can learn through him. The issue with this approach is that it plonks a privileged white guy right into the heart of an issue that he has no hope of understanding. And, because of who the main character is, a lot of the central cultural issues in the story are barely touched on, let alone given the depth of analysis needed.

Glow is a difficult book to review. On the one hand, Beauman’s technical talent in writing is evident. His research is also clearly extensive; Glow explores the science behind various drugs and delves into a reality-based sleep disorder that Raf has. On the other hand, half the time I’m not sure what story Beauman is trying to tell. Much of the writing – while lovely – runs off on unnecessary tangents. Where one sentence of description would suffice, we get five. When we need to know about the situation in Myanmar, we find out about Raf’s ex and Isaac’s latest drug experimentation.

Glow is an interesting read purely for its scientific analysis of the way humans work. It has a solid idea at its core and beautiful writing but the one does not necessarily support the other. The authorial voice is unique, though, and enough to make Glow an engaging read.


Glow – Ned Beauman

Sceptre (May 8, 2014)

ISBN: 9781444765526

sugg_Girl OnlineJoelene:


The cover markets the book really well. From the pastel blue background, swirly pink font, heart drawing and photographs, it’s easy to tell that this is a light YA romance set in the real world. I don’t like the cover personally, but that’s more to do with the fact that I never look out for this genre.


The protagonist is a shy fifteen-year-old called Penny Porter. The only time she feels authentic is when she’s writing her blog. The other characters are her friends, her frenemies, her family, and the people she meets when she goes to America.


I didn’t really connect with anyone in this story. Some of them had moments of being okay – but only moments. Megan was probably my favourite, partially because she was so unapologetically demanding, nasty and confident; partially because she moved every bit of the plot in the story – she was the recurrent inciting incident – so as a character she worked.

Least Favourite

Penny. While Megan owns her awfulness, Penny seems to think that she’s a wonderful person. Despite the fact that she genuinely has no idea what’s going on in her best friend’s life and, in fact, forgets about him at significant moments without ever seeming to feel guilty about it. Oh, and she lies to him – about things that make no sense to lie about.


Things aren’t going well for Penny. Her school-friend, Megan, is being crueller to her than usual. She keeps embarrassing herself in front of Ollie, the guy she has been crushing on but who is way out of her league (and possibly a little too in love with himself). At least she has her best friend, Elliot; and her blog.


When Penny’s parents have the chance to fly them all to America, it may be the answer to all of Penny’s problems or her worst nightmare.


It’s a rocky journey, but the end delivers everything the cover promises. Light, fluffy romance galore.


I’m significantly outside of the target audience and, with this book at least, it shows. It wasn’t my thing. It felt a little like the author/s threw every romantic movie/book cliché ever in there and hoped that it would all work out. There were moments of genuine sweetness; Elliot helping Penny overcome her fears by teaching her about superhero alter egos was cute. Less cute is the fact that while Penny is the central character she initiates no action.



“…don’t you just love the way photos are able to freeze special moments in time forever?”





I loved that Zoe and the publishers held a competition for her followers to add an image to the cover of her book, for both the US and the UK editions. Daisy Trodd’s picture of the Brighton Carousel is on the cover of the copy I own. Zoe’s personality comes through in the instagram type pictures and fairy lights. The font is bright and airy. The background is a pretty duck egg blue. Over all it is very relevant for the story inside and visibly fresh.


There are really no surprises to be found, bullies, cute guy, loving yet slightly distant parents, great best friend and our introverted leading lady.


Elliot has to be my favourite because he’s what I’d want in a best friend.

Least Favourite

Ollie, oil isn’t as slippery as that sucker.


Penny is making her way through life in high school and starts an anonymous blog to sort through her angst. Her parents are contracted to organise an event in the US.


Penny, her best friend, Elliot, and her parents head to the US, and Penny meets Noah.


Expected, but still enjoyable.


I enjoyed this book for its light and airy feel. I like the journey of self discovery Penny goes on. The themes of cyber bullying and dealing with fame are covered and though both are quite vicious, I was able to find an abundance of positivity.


“OK, from now on can you please just assume that my response to anything you say is prefixed with a “WTF”!” ~ Elliot talking to Penny.




The cover of the book reminds me of a background image on what we may find today on a blog online. It fits the story perfectly.


Penny and Noah are the main characters, but we also get to get to know Elliot (Penny’s best friend) very well and he’s a great side character.


Noah was my favorite character, his story is very touching. I felt he added a lot to the character growth of Penny. The story really wouldn’t be as thought provoking without him.

Least Favourite

Megan. There is always a mean girl and she fits the bill. Her actions are all selfish and she seems to relish in the drama.


Penny decides to start an anonymous blog and a place that she would feel more comfortable writing her feelings. Anonymously.


Penny is a quiet, self conscious girl who tends to stay out of the crowd; she’s insecure and only comfortable with her close family and best friend. They take a trip from the UK to the US as Penny’s mom gets a job assignment, and they are lucky enough to stay for a week or so over the Holiday season.


With the help and encouragement of Noah, Penny learns how to focus on what is important to her in life and become more self aware and positive.


I thought that this was a very cute story. It relayed a very important storyline of staying strong, positive and courageous when times get hard. Sure, it’s unlikely that any of us would go through the extreme publicity that Penny goes through in this story. But we all can relate to her story in some way; not only being unsure about yourself, but how staying positive on a daily basis is hard! Sometimes turning everything off is the best coping method, but no matter who the bullies or haters are, your personal willingness to persevere and communication is the key. Surrounding yourself with people who really want the best for you is best and staying as true to yourself as possible. These are the things that I walked away with from this story, and I am impressed with the way this book handled these hard subjects.


“Every time you post something online. You have a choice, you can either make it something that adds to the happiness levels in the world or you can make it something that takes away from them. I tried to add something by starting girl online and for a while it really seemed to be working. So next time you go to post a comment and update or share a link, ask yourself is this going to add to the happiness in the world, and if the answer is going to be no, please delete there is enough sadness in the world today, you don’t need to add to it.”

Discussion Topics:

Today the norm is social media. Online security, privacy and anonymity are all subjects up for discussion with people of all ages. In today’s world do you believe that subjects of online security and privacy should be taught at school?

Zoella makes no secret of her anxiety attacks and how she manages them, both in the book, in her YouTube videos and on her blog. Do you have anything special you do to beat the stress?

Do you think the book glossed over the cyber-bullying a little too much?

Hardcover, 352 pages

Published November 25th 2014 by Atria / Keywords Press (first published January 1st 2014)

ISBN 0141357274 (ISBN13: 9780141357270)


degoldi-10pm questionTwelve-year-old Frankie is the youngest child in his family. He’s also the one who holds all of the pieces of it together. His anxiety makes him worry about the flat batteries in the fire-alarm, the lack of change for bus money, and the dwindling food supplies in the house. When the stress becomes too much – which is often – he consults his mother about the things that keep him up at night.

Every evening at 10pm, she is ready for the questions about his rash (is it cancer?), about the cat (might he give the family worms?) and about the health of the kids at school (could Frankie catch something off them?). Ma is the only comfort Frankie knows when life becomes too frightening.

But he is growing up and with Sydney, the new girl at school, asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions about Frankie’s family – and about his mother in particular – it might just be time for Frankie to face up to the reality of his family life. No matter how terrifying it might be.

The 10pm Question is a sweet novel that is aimed at middle grade students, but is relevant to a much wider age-group. Exploring themes of friendship, family and the uncertainty of growing up, this novel delves into difficult issues with warmth and care.

With anxiety being a huge problem for children – and for their parents – it’s good to see a novel acknowledge the matter in an engaging way that takes into account the complexities of the issue. This isn’t a social problem novel by any means. All of the characters in 10pm Question are multifaceted with their own thoughts and goals and ways of dealing with things. Frankie suffers from sometimes debilitating anxiety, but is no less human for that. He’s not a vehicle for a story about anxiety. He’s an intelligent child with a range of interests that include birds, drawing, language and sport. He has friends and can socialise with ease. He is also prone to blocking out things that he doesn’t want to see.

Frankie’s friends and family are just as well-rounded as he is. They have their own ways of dealing with the abnormalities in their families and lives – not all of them healthy. It’s in seeing how these flawed and complex characters interact with each other that 10pm Question really shines. By exploring the relationships Frankie has with the other characters, De Goldi emphasises that a person suffering anxiety is no more or less flawed than anyone else.

10pm Question is one of those books that is a good read for a myriad of reasons. It’s funny, has some amazing characters, and it follows the kinds of characters that chose their own path. Aside from that though, it’s the kind of book that will be a delight for readers who empathise with Frankie’s worries. It doesn’t promise miracle cures – but explores some valid issues in an understanding and positive way.


10pm Question – Kate De Goldi

Longacre Child (2008)

ISBN: 9781877460203

osterlund-Academy 7Aerin Renning has been alone since her father died. Without him, her only chance of survival was to learn to fight and to be of more use than the people around her. When the chance to escape arises, it’s not even a question. She takes it knowing that if she’s caught, the penalty is death.

Dane Madousin was born to privilege. With it comes freedom, safety, and education. But not love.

When Academy 7 – the exacting but prestigious school that was built to train leaders – offers each of them a place, they accept. Aerin has nowhere else to go, and Dane would do anything to anger his distant father.

I’ve had Academy 7 sitting on my shelves for several years now. After having it pop up under Amazon recommendations and having book bloggers speak highly of it, I ordered and bought a copy. Then proceeded not to read it for several years. Having noticed it again after a recent clean, I decided to give it a go. I regret not having done so sooner.

Academy 7 is just as good as all of those bloggers kept saying. The characters are strong and sympathetic. Their struggles are affecting without being melodramatic. Despite being a futuristic sci-fi, Osterlund doesn’t get caught up in dazzling us with the world, preferring to tell a compelling story.

On the other side of that, readers who are sci-fi lovers may find Academy 7 too bland for their tastes. The story is good, but it’s a story that could as easily be set in modern times or in the past with a few tweaks.

Much of the story revolves around the two main characters and if they were less compelling than Aerin and Dane, this story would have fallen flat. Both Aerin and Dane are amazing characters in their own rights, though. They have enough similarities that their friendship makes perfect sense, but on the surface they’re very different. Dane is over-confident and tends to make light of things while Aerin is constantly anxious and is very serious about issues that she’s passionate about.

They strike sparks off each other because Aerin wants Dane to care about issues but he’s too scared to care about anything. And he wants her to open up, when staying closed keeps her safe. In some ways they’re both self-made. Aerin had to teach herself everything after her father died, and Dane may as well have not had a father so he had to figure most of it out for himself too.

The only issue that I had with Academy 7 is the backstory. While Aerin and Dane’s relationship is painstakingly honest – rarely falling back on convention, but forging its own path – the backstory is stereotypical and overdramatic. It serves its purpose, but Osterlund did such a good job of injecting real humanity into the relationship between Aerin and Dane that I sort of wish she had pushed their parents’ stories to the same level.

Academy 7 is a genuinely fantastic read. The characters are amazing, and while it is romantic, the focus is more on being a wonderful story than a love story.


Academy 7 – Anne Osterlund

Speak (May 2009)

ISBN: 9780142414378

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