the-girl-in-the-blue-coatSet in Amsterdam during World War II, Hanneke expresses her defiance of the overbearing invasion of the German Army into her homeland by secretly sourcing and delivering sought after black market goods, a job she has taken to support her ailing parents.  When one of her customers begs her to help locate a young Jewish girl who mysteriously disappeared from a hiding place in her home, Hanneke starts to see the reality of what is taking place in her home.   Monica Hesse writes with clarity and empathy.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction: 
Historical Fiction
Suitability:  Year 9-12+

Fourteen year old Lorenzo, a loner who tries very hard to ‘fit in’ tells his parents that he has been invited to go on a skiing holiday for a week with a group of kids from school.  Instead of going, he hides out in the cellar of his apartment block.  All is well until his half sister, Olivia, appears and wants to share his hiding place.  Ammaniti is a gifted writer who chooses difficult issues and confronts them head on.  The Italian title of this book is “io e te”.

Although this could be a somewhat confusing read for a YA reader, the message it sends is powerful.

Rating:  ****
Theme Fiction: 
Social Problems
Suitability:  Year 10-12

murder-in-mt-marthaNick Szabo, who enlists the support of an elderly man he was randomly paired with by local council to help him glean a picture of what life was like in the ‘50s, discovers a ‘cold case’ of an horrific murder of a young girl which occurred in 1953.  Unfortunately, with many characters introduced without sufficient dialogue to connect them to each other and the chapters constantly slipping back and forth between past and present, I found it hard to keep a handle on who was who.  While the writing style is an excellent exposition of a real life murder which actually occurred in Mt Martha in the ‘50s, I found Simpson’s novel somewhat disjointed.

Rating:  ****
Theme Fiction:  Mystery
Suitability:  11-12+

The Last Bookstore

I came across a post about The Last Bookstore on Open Culture a couple of months ago.

Apart from being an interesting story about how a young paraplegic decided he wanted to open a bookstore in downtown LA, there are some absolutely awesome display ideas featured in this bookstore.

The video is quite long, so if you are interested in the display ideas, watch the first minute or so.  If you’re interested in the story of how and why this young man set up this bookstore, just keep watching.


A recent article in the New York Times Read books, live longer? cites a study which concludes that the more you read, the longer you will live!

The study divided the 3,635 people aged over 50 into three groups: those who read no books, those who read books up to three and a half hours a week, and those who read books for more than three and a half hours a week.

Compared with those who did not read books, those who read for up to three and a half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up, and those who read more than that were 23 percent less likely to die. Book readers lived an average of almost two years longer than those who did not read at all.”

It’s always good to have some convincing stats on hand to convince others of the value of reading!

Beach Library in Bulgaria

Early last year, I blogged about an amazing find: a beach library in Coogee, Sydney

Well …… I’ve just found another one, this time in Albena on the Bulgarian Black Sea.


With over 2,500 books in 10 languages, the 140 library shelves extend for more than 12 linear meters.  Like many open space libraries being established around the world, readers are encouraged to borrow a book and leave their own.

I’ll have to keep this one on my ‘discover Albena list’ when I head that way one day!  Meantime, read more about The Beach Library on the Albena website.

dark-matterWhen Jason Dessen leaves home one evening to attend a congratulatory get-together with his friend he never imagined that his life would change so dramatically.  When he doesn’t make it home, the lives of his wife and son also, unwittingly, alter.  With masterful writing, Crouch leads us through the maze which becomes Jason’s life.  It is a science fiction thriller flashing through multiple universes while dipping into quantum physics which makes us think deeply about unseen paradoxes that can result when forced to decide which of two opposing life altering paths to follow. The sequence of events which follow one decision differ dramatically from the other.  Skillful writing around a complex plot leaves us pondering the many twists and turns our own lives have taken.

Rating:  ****
Theme Fiction:
Science Fiction
Suitability:  Year 10-12+