Mr Stink by David Walliams

Published: October 2009
Goodreads badgePublisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Pages: 267
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

“Mr Stink stank. He also stunk. And if it was correct English to say he stinked, then he stinked as well…”

It all starts when Chloe makes friends with Mr Stink, the local tramp. Yes, he smells a bit. But when it looks like he might be driven out of town, Chloe decides to hide him in the garden shed.

Now Chloe’s got to make sure no one finds out her secret. And speaking of secrets, there just might be more to Mr Stink than meets the eye… or the nose.

I think I liked this. I did and then I didn’t then I did again. It had moments of being sweet but then it would go silly again and then weird, then it would circle back to being sweet. At best I think it was a peculiar story, one that certainly left me with a lot of questions. At the core of it Mr Stink is a homeless Mary Poppins. He comes into the lives of the Crumb family and makes it a bit better.

At the start we are introduced to poor Chloe Crumb, living in her sister’s shadow, bullied by her as well as the kids at school, and she is never good enough for her mother. We are also told about Mr Stink, the man who smells so incredibly terrible who sits on a bench all day long with his dog.

I liked the characters Walliams has created. Mrs Crumb has a touch of Hyacinth Bucket in her, while poor suffering Mr Crumb has to put up with her. Chloe’s sister Annabelle is the snobby, bratty little sister who is spoiled and adored by her mother, and seeing her be cruel to Chloe was a bit heartbreaking. There were some jokes around Annabelle I liked; especially the ones about how full Annabelle’s schedule is trying to fit in all her extracurricular activities. I also liked the camaraderie between Chloe and her dad, their small actions of defiance against her mother’s demands.

One character I never fully understood was Mr Stink. Once you get to the core of his story it is quite serious for a children’s book, Walliams goes from silly jokes, to serious moments then back to silly jokes. The seriousness came out of nowhere and I was very surprised. It didn’t feel like it had a place in this light-hearted story, but Walliams throws these moments in there a lot as it goes on, making you think there is going to be a more heartfelt direction, and there is, to his credit, but it never lasts as long and is still surrounded by these obscure and silly jokes.

Another thing that confused me was the changes in Mr Stink’s personality. Sometimes he seems like a normal homeless person, bit eccentric ok, but normal enough. But then other times he seems delusional about what year it is or how money works. It distracted from the story and interrupts your sense of trying to work out who Mr Stink is as a character. He seems to be two people without actually meaning to be, especially after you understand his personal story.

I listened to this as an audio book and Walliams narrated it with the help of Matt Lucus. They both did a great job, the story translated well to audio well and with the pair of them doing a variety of voices it was a fun listen. It had the humour that kids books have with jokes about being dirty and doing gross stuff, but it also had a little bit of heart in it as well. It is sweet but it is weird, and felt like it could have been a bit more than what it was, but that might be asking a bit much of a children’s book that was just meant to be a bit funny with a fun story.

 

You can purchase Mr Stink via the following

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Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Published: 26th February 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 323
Format: Book
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mixtapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose. 

I had been hearing about this book this ages and I finally got to read it last year. I liked it don’t get me wrong, but it certainly wasn’t the Big Grand Amazing YA Book I’d heard it praised as. The amount of love and praise didn’t match up with the book I read. It was, for lack of a better word, sweet.

When you break it down it is also heartbreaking and admirable, and the characters are the best they be at the time, but matter how I tried, I didn’t gush over it. It remained very sweet. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it being sweet though, it is the kind of sweet that touches you a little inside and makes you happy and then breaks your heart while making you smile.

I will say a strong point was most definitely the characters. This book is all about the characters and I loved them; I loved their uniqueness, how different Eleanor is from, dare I say it, most girls. I also loved that Park is who he is regardless and he gets through high school as best he can. I loved that I was surprised and proud of these two, I adored them just a little and Rowell has written them well. I feel their characters were able to shine in the setting they were given, the 80s was a great environment to tell this kind of story, one I think needed the retro feeling.

The narrative was well told, Rowell gives you both Eleanor and Park’s point of view and seeing them interact with one another from both sides is a great example of misconceptions and hiding personal truths. I felt sorry for Eleanor’s life but proud of her at the same time. I felt she was a wonderfully strong character even when she didn’t feel it herself.

Park’s initial reservations and desire not to stand out by helping her is a kick in the gut but you also understand where he is coming from (even if you think him a coward). Social expectations, bullying, and peer pressure are all explored in this novel, and Park is a clear example of trying to remain unnoticed, seeing something is wrong, but not being strong enough to stand up against it. Seeing his development over the book was good, a bit disappointed it took as long as it did, but I ended up being proud of him which is a good result.

I don’t think this needs to be a Big Grand YA, I think this is a beautifully sweet and wonderful story that gets you right in the heart and makes you pity and love these foolish teenagers and their lives. Maybe the very fact that it is sweet and heartbreaking is what makes it wonderful?

You can purchase Eleanor and Park via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia

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Fishpond | A&R Bookworld

Amazon | Amazon Aust

The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 1st September 2011 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 256
Format: ebook 
Genre:
 Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Who wouldn’t want to live in a treehouse? Especially a 13-storey treehouse that has a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a tank full of sharks, a library full of comics, a secret underground laboratory, a games room, self-making beds, vines you can swing on, a vegetable vaporiser and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots your favourite flavoured marshmallows into your mouth whenever it discerns you’re hungry.

Two new characters – Andy and Terry – live here, make books together, and have a series of completely nutty adventures. Because: ANYTHING can happen in a 13-storey treehouse.

I have been meaning to read this series since it came out and I finally have gotten around to it. I have to say, tiny bit disappointed. It wasn’t the story I was expecting it to be. Not that I really know what I expected it to be.

We are introduced to Andy and Terry, book creators, friends, and treehouse roommates. We are also introduced to their magnificent 13-storey treehouse. It has all sorts of fun things like a bowling alley, shark tank, laboratories and fun inventions. It has very little text and lots of grand and intricate pictures, especially of the treehouse.

Andy and Terry are the odd couple, Andy wanting to write the book for their publisher and Terry keeps having wacky adventures and causing havoc. Fun and silly, not altogether unenjoyable, but it didn’t feel like a story.

It’s a book that breaks the fourth wall, mocks itself and the creators. It’s silly and clever, and certainly a book I can see kids loving. It’s imaginative and nonsensical, absurd and unexplainable which is always fun, but it was just a bit dull, well not dull but lacking a decent narrative.

I dislike when I’m not a fan of books like this, acknowledging they are not for my age, but still disappointed I couldn’t enjoy them regardless. I suppose if I look at this as the start of any other series it is one where we introduce characters, have a little beginners story before kicking it off in the remaining books. With so many yet to read I feel that may happen but I’m not sure. I will be sorely disappointed if they were all like this, I had hoped to read this series and love it.

You can purchase The 13-Storey Treehouse via the following

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Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Published: 26th July 2016 (print)/20th July 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Flatiron Books /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 415/15 discs
Narrator: Caroline Lee
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

First of all, let’s all rejoice, I have read a Moriarty book I didn’t dislike! It was interesting, it had characters I liked and who were interesting, and there was a good plot that had purpose and flow.

After a few unenjoyable books by Moriarty I was worried going into this but it surprised me. The classic “I’m not going to tell you what I’ve been hinting at for most of the book until almost the end” Moriarty approach is there which surprisingly worked very well in this story. In the past, it’s been a frustratingly drawn out longer than need be experience, but this time it works ideally. With the numerous perspectives to cover it spreads the novel out and covers multiple angles and adds depth to the story and more complexities.

With so many characters Moriarty circles around the unspoken event, also known as “the worst day” and just as you get closer she spirals out again. It seamless and I loved that we inch our way closer and closer and then are flung straight back out again into someone else’s point of view and backwards or forwards through time.

The characters are full and brought their lives to the page, Moriarty showing us exactly who they are with a few words or actions that encapsulates them perfectly and Lee adds another level with her excellent voices and narrating ability. Each character felt real to some degree and had their own depth and unique quality. Moriarty made even the briefest characters have something that made them stand out. I enjoyed Oliver’s kind but abrupt nature, and while I disliked Erika’s character, I liked that she was different and could annoy me, which is a weird experience. On the other hand, I can’t tell if I feel sorry for Harry or not. In a way I think we are meant to feel sorry for him, but at the same time not. I liked that Moriarty made me have such conflicting feelings about so many of her characters.

When the surprise does come it’s after much speculation on the reader’s part and Moriarty doesn’t disappoint. The slow reveal is wonderful and linked to so many characters that it adds more questions and sparks a whole other set of problems and dramas.

The ending I think was perfect, it was the best ending for the characters and I am glad Moriarty didn’t try to make it any other way which she easily could have. There are surprises and wonderful moments, it’s not without its problems but it was an enjoyable book that was complicated and messy and revealed how one single event can affect everyone differently and can change everything.

You can purchase Truly Madly Guilty via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia | Wordery

Book Depository | Kobo| Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | QBD

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The Saddler Boys by Fiona Palmer

Published:  23rd September 2015 (print)/11th August 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Penguin Australia/Wavesound
Pages: 371/9 discs
Narrator: Danielle Baynes
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Rural Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

 When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the swarm of inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew. 

 As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her life in Perth and the new community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she’s really made of – and where she truly belongs. 

A big reason why I had a hard time enjoying this was the narrator of the audiobook; she made Natalie sound like a constantly cheery childish girl which was annoying. I know she was meant to be 22, but it changed my perspective of her when she sounded so innocent and naive all the time even when she wasn’t meant to. I had read the first few chapters in a physical book and was really engaged, I think switching to audio changed my enjoyment in part.

There were good parts that I enjoyed, Palmer portrays the country lifestyle well and the characters were interesting. Some parts were predictable but I was surprised by other parts. It was a nice wholesome story that touched on some more serious topics. Even when it did that it didn’t feel as serious though, maybe that was because of how it was read too, I don’t know.

Palmer includes a few different dramas, a few I felt had to be there because it gave Natalie more justification for her decisions rather than a believable character choice. I think a different approach would have been better. But for the most part, I enjoyed the different dynamics, young single father, a child with a few special needs, interesting supporting characters. It worked well on that front.

I was surprised by the ending, I was waiting for a sudden change but Palmer followed through which was impressive. Overall it’s not the best rural story I have read, but it wasn’t too bad either. I’m almost tempted to reread it as a book just to see if I enjoy it more…almost.

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You can purchase The Saddler Boys via the following

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Book Depository | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust

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