Blog Tour: Sylvie the Second, by Kaeli Baker + a giveaway

I loved this book!

cv_sylvie_the_secondI have spent a great proportion of the last 19 years reading YA material, thinking of how to engage teenage boys, my target readers at Scot’s College (fact of life: where you work to some extent dictates what you read first!).

So to read this was a delightful, tearful, poignant, thought-provoking , feminist-in-a-good-way, funny, clever and all too short treat! Thanks, Kaeli Baker. Keep writing please.

So down to more thoughtful critique:

Kaeli Baker clearly has a handle on teenage behaviour. And on adult behaviour. And on psychological difficulties in kids and adults. And generally on life. For such a young writer, she demonstrates a wealth of understanding which many people can only imagine exists.

The novel is about Sylvie, the second of two daughters, who has poor self-esteem (she’s maybe a bit chubbier than she’d like), few friends (see previous comment) and a sister who is in and out of psychiatric care; Sylvie feels that her parents simply don’t see her. She flips out a bit, and ends up in a seriously horrible situation. So far, similar plot and problems to many other YA novels.

Where this one differs is primarily in the writing, which flows well and carries the reader along, and has enough humour to get you through the tough parts. The characters are all credible and Baker’s insight into the teenage psyche just makes Sylvie and her friends leap off the pages.

I variously wanted to take characters by the scruff of the neck and shake some sense into them, take them out somewhere and quietly dispose of them, or name and shame them. I am not often stirred to such thoughts when I read.

Also, I think that although the protagonist is a girl; the challenges, the turmoil, the innocence (or lack of street-smarts) are all things which are relevant to teenagers of whatever gender or orientation, so there’s no reason to label this as a book “for girls”. When a book works, as this one does, it does not need a designated target market. But it does deserve wide, wide readership. If you know a teenager, give them this book.

It’s a timely, gutsy, thought-provoking read, and I encourage all schools and public libraries to promote it widely. Yes, even the single-sex boys’ schools. It may not get wide readership there, but for each boy who reads it and takes on the points Baker is making, that’s a win in my opinion.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman, former Library Manager at Scot’s College, Wellington

Sylvie the Second
by Kaeli Baker
Published by Makaro Press
ISBN 9780994106537

We have a copy of Sylvie the Second to give away, to be in to win just leave a comment below by the end of Friday 18 March, telling us the most recent book you have read that has made you go “Wow.” 

Sylvie is on a blog tour! Check out these other blogs and dates for more reviews and interviews:

Mon 14 March:
Tues 15 March:
Wed 16 March:
Thur 17 March:
Fri 18 March:
Sat 19 March:


Book Review: Recon Team Angel – Vengeance, by Brian Falkner

Available in bookstores nationwide.

This is the best action writing that I have read.cv_recon_team_angel_vengeance

Structured in three parts, each part builds on the other and leads to a great ending. The action is brilliant, with outstanding dialogue and relationships details.

Falkner has a great sense of the absurd and the obvious in dealing with action talk. It made me laugh. His metaphors can be illuminating, as when he describes something as “standing out like skid marks on a wedding dress.”

The best part for me is that the Bzadians are not bad aliens. They have a crime-free society. They have a spiritual leader, Azoh, and they are neat and tidy. They have their faults and importantly, they have developed a bomb – the positronium bomb – that makes nuclear weapons look like firecrackers. The point is will they use it when chips are really down? More importantly, would humans use it in the same position?

An excellent novel for a wide range of age groups from intermediate to young adults. Its depth and its humour set this novel aside from most action books. I am sorry to see the end of the series; it would be great if it had been longer. I can imagine more twists that could lead to a whole new series.

Reviewed by Isaac Gilbert-Woodbury, Year 9, Scots College

Recon Team Angel: Vengeance
by Brian Falkner
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 9781921720574

Previous three books in the series, all published by Walker Books here, and Random House in the USA:
Recon Team Angel: Assault  9781921720543
Recon Team Angel: Task Force 
Recon Team Angel: Ice War 

Book Review: The Book of Hat, by Harriet Rowland

Harriet Rowland was diagnosed with a rare cancer cv_the_book_of_hatwhen she was 17. This book is based on the blogs she decided to keep, and which she continued to write until shortly before she died in March 2014, at the age of 20.

What comes through every entry and all the photos is Hat’s wonderful personality, strength and sense of humour. Throughout the book are quotations from another remarkable book about terminal illness, John Green’s The Fault in our Stars, which clearly had a huge impact on Harriet, who has her own collection of remarkable comments and stories.

Hat’s story is one of a hugely courageous young woman, determined to make the most of every minute that she was well enough to enjoy. Her family and friends provided total support and love, as would any family in similar circumstances, and she talks about that a great deal. What stands out to me is her total commitment to doing as much as she possibly could, despite the rigours of cancer treatment, operations and long periods of hospitalisation. Her blog does not spare any details, and so even if you knew nothing about chemotherapy drugs before you read this book, you certainly will afterwards!

But her story is told with a total lack of self-pity, as in this quote: “It’s simple, I am dying, there is no changing this fact, so if something makes me happy I have been doing it”.
And also with such a nutty sense of humour, like this: “Later I went to my boyfriend’s house and watched him get dressed up in his beautiful prefect’s uniform. It left me howling on the floor. I suggest if anyone is feeling down they should watch their boyfriend dress up in a kilt!”

Despite the awful treatments and side effects of cancer drugs, Harriet was able to enjoy the short time she had remaining, and even managed a trip to Europe with a dear friend. Her positive attitude shines through everything and this is a gutsy, inspiring book.

I recommend it to anyone – but particularly to those who have friends or relatives who are dealing with cancer or any other life-threatening illness. It is happy, sad, funny, poignant, thought-provoking and inspiring all at once. Harriet Rowland was a remarkable, brave, clever, loving young woman whose life was tragically all too brief.

Read her book.

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

The Book of Hat
by Harriet Rowland
Published by Submarine Books
ISBN 9780473272852

Giveaway here.