The 26-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 3rd September 2012 (print)/28 September 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 348/1 Disc
Narrator: Stig Wemyss
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

If you’re like most readers, you’re probably wondering just how Andy and Terry met. Well, it’s a long story, but a pretty exciting one, and it’s mostly true! Come on up, choose a hammock, and they’ll tell you all about it (just don’t go in the maze they’re still ironing out a few bugs…). 

I read the 13-Storey Treehouse as an ebook and discovered this is a very text and picture supportive book. When I realised this I couldn’t fathom how this would possibly work as an audiobook but it works really well. I might have to listen to the rest as audiobooks, it was like a wonderful audio drama. The pictures aren’t explained, but there is a change in tone and style that does end up giving a little side comment that accompanies what Andy is telling us about. It also goes one step extra by adding sound effects and musical accompaniment to the narrative. There are some bits when you know you’re missing out on a great and detailed picture, but honestly, that’s the same with any audiobook, especially junior ones. With these additions I quite liked the audiobook experience, maybe a bit more than reading the book. Stig Wemyss does a great job in conveying tone and the adventure and humour of the book, but I think it’s also that the story is much better than the one in The 13 Storey Treehouse.

This time around we’ve added 13 new storeys and the boys are still writing their books and having fun in their grand treehouse. This time Andy wants to tell us how he met Terry but one thing leads to another and we’re thrown into a great pirate adventure. Griffiths links together this seemingly silly story and while it seems like it jumps all over the place it doesn’t really. Everything connects to one another and builds up a great narrative. Overall it’s quirky and absurd but it’s also delightful without being too silly. There are some great jokes in there, 78 flavours of ice creams, Jill’s numerous animals, and Andy and Terry’s numerous inventions. If you haven’t yet picked up Griffith’s Treehouse series you definitely should.

You can purchase The 26-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Bookworld | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

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Bro by Helen Chebatte

Published: 1st February 2016 (print)/1st June 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Hardie Grant Egmont/ABC Audio
Pages: 240/MP3
Narrator: Julian Maroun
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

What happens when you mix teenage boys, a fight club, and ethnic rivalries? 

You get war.

Romeo Makhlouf knows the rules.

Stick with your own kind. Don’t dob on your mates or even on your enemies. Respect the family.

But even unwritten rules are made for breaking.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like Bro but Chebatte definitely surprised me. It isn’t a long book but it one that is important as it talks about trying to fit in when people class you as different on both sides, and the pressure of being loyal to your family roots, all with a delightfully Australian feel.

This is Boys ‘R’ Us meets Hate is Such a Strong Word  in all the best ways. It is, I’ll admit, very Australian. One could say too Australian, but I have heard teenage boys speak to one another and aside from the lack of swearing, it sounds like this for the most part (so many bros!). It takes some getting used to but I quite liked the tone of voice Chebatte used, especially how Julian Maroun narrated, it felt very real; you really get the sense of these teenage boys who are trying to be cooler and tougher than they actually are and the tired effort the adults are going to to try and help them

Chebatte uses the male point of view quite well, demonstrating the conflicts between the races at school, girl trouble, and trying to find where you belong, something which reminded me of Ayoub’s Hate is Such a Strong Word for the female perspective. I liked Romeo as a narrator, I also liked that Chebatte balanced him but not too evenly. He has some sensibilities but he is still a young boy with wild ideas and a feeling of invincibility. You clearly understand his conflict about who he is and whether he is Lebanese or Australian, and how even though he was born here he still doesn’t feel like he belongs. This conflict drives his decisions and affects the decisions he makes, right or wrong they may be.

There are many aspects I recall from my own high school days in here, just the scenes Chebatte has set up about classes, canteen lines, and group dynamics, even though my experience wasn’t the same as Romeo’s school in a lot of ways, it still feels familiar. The plot can be criticised as childish and absurd, but in the way that most teenage conflicts are, they are petty and ridiculous and fought for nothing, and yet at the time, it’s the fight you are willing to stand for no matter the consequences.

I was apprehensive about this book, I genuinely thought I wouldn’t like it but I’m glad I read it. It tells the story of the danger of boys and their masculinity, peer pressure, “national pride”, racism, and trying to belong. It’s a book people should read about feeling different, and the consequences of male pride.

You can purchase Bro via the following

Dymocks | QBD

Booktopia | BookWorld

Amazon | Amazon Aust

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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

Dymocks | Booktopia

Book Depository | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust

BookWorldQBD

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Published: May 2010Goodreads badge
Publisher:
PanMacmillan Australia
Pages: 476
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

I could not get excited by this book. I couldn’t understand why Alice couldn’t just simply state things outright and ask people what she wanted to know. I get she may have been in shock and what have you, and her personality wasn’t the tough assertive one she develops, but she lets people just talk at her, or ignore her. It annoyed me so much she didn’t just shout out ‘what part of I remember nothing do you not understand?’ Even when she doesn’t tell anyone she never asks questions, just wonders what it all means, what she has to do. Even when she does outright ask who someone is or what is happening, people don’t just answer her. I can’t understand, why wouldn’t you tell someone the full details? It would make them look like less of a fool and not annoy me as much I assure you.

The whole premise is Alice is missing ten years of her life, and in that time she loses friends, makes new ones, and becomes a person with a new personality. It’s not good just telling her that she’ll understand when she gets her memory back, or that she won’t feel as confused, it doesn’t help her in the moment. Yes Moriarty is trying to create suspense, and make us realise that there is more than just memory loss at stake, but truly. It was so frustrating having to put up with so many non-answers and people somehow unable to comprehend what no memory means. Even Alice’s mother just prattles on at her, not even having a proper conversation. Ugh. Of course when we do find out even a tiny something of what happened it comes in a weird one scene rush and answers are given and it feels like a trick having this information just given to us after we’ve suffered so far unawares.

Anyway. I could complain about this book for ages and not say anything constructive. You do start to get a small hint that something isn’t as it seems around halfway through. You’ve accepted Alice is Alice, and all these characters are just being their own weird selves so you focus on the story. Moriarty draws out the suspense in that way, you are meant to hang on as Alice almost gets answers and then loses them, almost gets her memory back but fails.

The story takes place over a week or so since Alice’s accident but a lot happens in that time. You see how Alice’s family have changed and evolved, you see how personalities have shifted, friends aren’t as close anymore. I really liked Alice’s sister Elizabeth; her chapters are fun and interesting, filled with emotion and intrigue. I also didn’t mind Franny’s parts either; it was a nice change having her blog provide bits of info and a commentary on what’s going on. Having that alongside Elizabeth’s journal you get relief from Alice doing all her stuff. Those two characters make the novel worth reading in my opinion, them and perhaps Alice’s children, they were quite fun.

You can purchase What Alice Forgot via the following

QBD | Book Depository | Amazon

Wordery | Dymocks

Fishpond | Booktopia

 

Good News, Bad News (#2) by Maggie Groff

Published: 1st March 2013 (print)/1st March 2013 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Pan Macmillan Australia/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 369 pages/7 discs
Narrator: Catherine Milte
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Intrepid investigative journalist Scout Davis has given herself a holiday, but when Hermione Longfellow floats towards her in the supermarket, wanting to engage her services, she stops to listen.

Most people in Byron Bay are aware of the eccentric Anemone sisters. Always dressed in black, they rarely leave their home nestled in the hills – but Scout is sure that the drinking of chicken blood is just idle gossip. When Hermione asks Scout to track down sister Nemony’s AWOL husband, believed to have died at sea thirty years ago, but recently popped up again on the Great Barrier Reef, Scout, checking there is no eye of newt in Hermione’s shopping trolley, jumps at the chance.

Another source of intrigue falls close to home when Scout’s sister Harper despairs over her husband’s odd behaviour. And if that weren’t enough, Scout’s journalist boyfriend is finally coming home from Afghanistan. Trouble is, Scout thinks she may be falling in love with irresistible local cop Rafe – who coincidentally is also Toby’s best friend…

Catherine Milte was a much better narrator than Parker was in book one. Once you get past the vast difference – Scout becoming a very proper sounding woman with a tinge of British in her – you settle into the story and forget how she sounded originally. One of the challenges of audio books that reading doesn’t have I suppose but you get used to the narration fairly quickly.

I originally thought the case wasn’t going to be as interesting as the first one. How does one compete with a cult? But it actually was rather interesting. Scout investigates a man who was presumed dead over thirty years ago and seeks to prove he is alive and living up in Queensland. There are quirky new characters and the same familiar characters we grew fond of in book. Scout’s sister Harper adds her own drama and flair to the story once more, another reason why this was an interesting read.

There are quite a few surprises which I enjoyed. Groff drops them in all the right places to give a nice burst of unexpectedness as the story goes on. There are also many secrets to uncover; not only for the case but for her friends and family around her. The elusive and secretive GKI makes another appearance and fits a little better into the story, it feels a bit more natural that it is in there, less like it was tacked on as a side story.

One of the things I liked about this second book was that Groff doesn’t focus as much on Scout’s condition. Her diabetes takes a backseat as it should, and only is mentioned when it is actually necessary. I actually forgot she had the disease at times which was something I couldn’t do in book one. The lack of constant diabetes talk is swapped, however, with a description of what everyone is wearing. Again, whether the audio book made this stand more or if it’s just me I’m not sure, but it felt unnecessary a lot of the time or at least a tad clunky.

Scout’s relationship with Rafe continues and comes to a resolution of sorts. I can’t say I like them being together any more than I did the first time, but Groff provides a weak excuse and justification that almost works. I still think Scout is a bit selfish and feels almost guiltless about it.

Overall this series is fun and enjoyable with more things that I liked than didn’t. Scout is a great investigative journalist and her approach to her stories and her method of tracking information down is always delightful and filled with adventure.

aww2017-badgeYou can purchase Good News, Bad News via the following

Print

Pan Macmillan Aus | QBD

Angus & Robertson

Audio

Booktopia | Angus & Robertson

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