Thursday 23 June 2016

Kind Words from a Literary Hero

Some kind words from a literary hero of mine, Marita Conlon-McKenna.

Sunday 19 June 2016


This is the story of teenager, Olivia (Liv) Bloom who lives with her alcoholic mum and older sister, Hatty. When her mum is taken into rehab, Liv must face the trials and tribulations of teenage life alone. And even if the readers life differs from Liv's, teenagers will immediately relate to the problems in Liv's - friendships, peer pressure, bullying, poverty, sibling rivalry and school. Added to the mix is the fact that Liv knows almost nothing about her absentee father, and naturally is curious.

The real strength of this book is in the characters. Each is especially well developed, flawed and believable. Liv herself is kind-hearted but fiery in temperament, stubborn, and appropriately immature. The other characters that populate the book are equally flawed which made me empathise with them - even the bully, Mad Dog. I particularly liked the fragile and fuel-soaked relationship she has with Liv. There is one particular gruelling bully scene, but the other encounters between the two are equally as frightening, and painfully real.

Because Murray's characters are so well-rounded and complex, the relationships between them feel very real to the reader. In fact, everything about this book feels REAL, which is why I loved it. The events and characters are so realistic, one wonders if there's quite a bit of autobiographical detail in here?

I thought the way the novel was structured around a recipe book was inspired and original. Indeed, I loved the title of Liv's recipe book so much I thought it would make a great title for the actual novel - Recipes to Make Happiness Bloom. But I like Caramel Hearts too!

This book is immensely readable, written in a language to reflect Li'v's life - simple, but underscored with emotion and complexity. A most enjoyable read!

Monday 6 June 2016


The Black Lotus Quiz

Test your knowledge of The Black Lotus. Only smart ninjas need apply.

Which of these is NOT one of the Swords of Sarumara?

The Blood Sword
The Moon Sword
The Butterfly Sword

Which of these characters has a scar?


On what part of the body do Kyatapira police officers (Kats) wear a tattoo?


Renkondo is...

...the underground headquarters of the Black Lotus.
...a historical Japanese coming-of-age ceremony.
...a traditional Japanese food.

What superhero does Cormac have on his boxer shorts?


What superpower does the Jonin have?

Master of machines
Mind reading

How many horses do Cormac, Kate and Ghost steal from Yosa Castle?


Which of these creatures does NOT appear in the story?

A bat
A dinosaur
A mouse

What colour is Kate's hair?


The final part of the book is set in which US city?

New York City
San Francisco

Your Ninja Rank: Novice

This ninja must try harder.

Your Ninja Rank: Average

You have performed well in your test but could have scored higher. As punishment, please adopt the above pose for 2-3 hours.

Your Ninja Rank: Expert

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This thrilling novel, set in early 1900s London primarily centres around orphan, Sophie, who has just got a job in the magnificent department store, Sinclairs. But when the priceless Clockwork Sparrow is stolen, Sophie is led on a wild adventure in which she meets many foes but also friends like Lil, Billy and Joe. The narrative shifts seamlessly between these four characters as they try to solve the mystery and outwit the notorious Baron.

As a lover of fashion, my daughter was very much drawn to this book because it's full of decadence and style. The descriptions of the luxurious department store are particularly evocative of a different era and the reader is immediately drawn into this world.

Well written and researched, the tale keeps its readers on their toes with constant twists, double-crossings, surprises and danger by the bucketful. The ending in particular is extremely pacey and action-packed.

I particular loved the bit where Sophie escapes a locked room using the newspaper under the door trick because this was a trick (in games only!) we used to do as kids. I also liked the fleeting villain, the Baron, and how his identity is not revealed. I'm guessing he reappears in later books. I for one, have a sneaking suspicion that he is... Better not say!

Great story, full of wonderful characters. Kids (especially girls) will love it!