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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Title: Starry Eyes

Author: Jenn Bennett

Genre: Young Adult/Romance

Opens: Spontaneity is overrated.

Blurb: Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets. But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together. What could go wrong? With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

My thoughts: I really, really enjoyed STARRY EYES. Teen angst in the wilderness along with bears, snakes, mountain lions, and no mobile phone service! Zorie is obsessed with planning – everything has to be planned in advance so when her mother arranges for her to go glamping with a school friend she is all of a tizz as she cannot plan for the unknown. What she doesn’t know until the day of departure, is that her ex-boyfriend, Lennon, son of a lesbian couple next door who run a sex shop, is also part of the group. Six underage teens, two of which are bent on making whoopee. As you would expect things turn bad for various reasons and Zorie and Lennon find themselves alone in the wilderness when the other four kids run out on them in the middle of the night. Luckily, it turns out that Lennon is quite the hiking expert and he talks Zorie into hiking out of the park.

This is the gist of the main story, however, there are quite a few sub plots going on in the background which all get woven into the main story as the events in these sub plots impact on the two hikers. The fights between several of the characters for various reasons, secrets that become known, and misunderstandings between people are eventually sorted were each totally realistic. I have to confess that when Zorie headed off on a camping trip with a group of school friends that included the boy she lusts after and the one who annoys her – blind Harry could figure out who she was going to end up with – I enjoyed seeing if (a) I was right, and (b) if I was, then seeing how it happened.

Overall STARRY EYES was fast-paced, easy to read and dealt with some serious issues in a non-confrontational way. There is sex but it is not in your face or graphic, the reader is just aware it happened. Even the scenes set in the sex shop is dealt with well – and had me howling with laughter. This is the first book I have read that was written by Jenn Bennett, and I have another one on my ‘To Read’ shelf so looking forwards to reading that one.

Rating: Excellent Stuff– a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

Want to know more about author Jenn Bennett? Click Here

With thanks to Simon & Schuster – Australia and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

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Title: Mallee Boys

Author: Charlie Archbold

Genre: Young Adult

Opens: You know, when you walk into a murky river you could step on anything.

Blurb: Sandy Douglas knows that life at fifteen is hard, but it’s even harder when your mother died a year ago and nothing’s gone right since. Sandy’s brother Red, on the other hand, is eighteen now and working the farm. He’s amped up on rage and always looking for a fight. And then there’s their dad Tom. He does his best, but – really – he doesn’t have a clue. As Sandy and Red deal with girls, dirt biking, footy and friendship, both boys have to work out who they want to be, without their mum around. The Mallee, where they live, may seem like the middle of nowhere, but it turns out this is going to be one hell of a year.

My thoughts: A coming of age story is a story featuring a teen who makes the scary step from child to adult. MALLEE BOYS is just such a story. Sandy and Red both go through tremendous growth by the time the story ends. For those who don’t know, the Mallee region it is located in the north west of the State of Victoria in Australia. It is semi-arid and flat with mostly sandy soil. Wheat, Barley and sheep are the main produce – but the wild flowers in spring are an amazing sight. This is the back drop to the story which picks up a year after the death of the boy’s mother.

Sandy is a bit of a sook, but is very smart and as he starts year 10 he is urged to apply for scholarships at Boarding School so he can continue his education. Red has finished with school and is helping out his father on the family farm. Red is fast becoming a bad boy, constantly angry, getting into fights and generally misbehaving.

The two brothers take it in turns to tell their stories, both different voices, both grieving in their own way. Very early on the reader learns that Red blames himself for his mother’s death and the reasoning behind this is gradually revealed. Although he doesn’t contribute to the story telling their father is a large figure in the story. Dealing with his own grief he supports his boys as best he can.

MALLEE BOYS is not an edge of the seat thriller. It is a gentle story of the day to day activities of the two boys and their father. There are poignant moments, brawls, girl trouble and laughter – the ongoing battle with the snake had me in fits of laughter. During the course of the next year Sandy and Red make decisions that will affect each of their futures. A wonderful debut book from author Charlie Archbold she has captured Teen angst perfectly and I am not surprised that it has been nominated for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers Award.

For more about author Charlie Archbold – Click Here

Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Wakefield Press for my copy to read and review.

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Title: The Cat at the wall

Author: Deborah Ellis

Genre: Contemporary YA

Opens: My name is still Clare …

Blurb: On Israel’s West Bank, a cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house that has just been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards. When the little boy is discovered, the soldiers don’t know what to do with him. Where are the child’s parents? Why has he been left alone in the house? And what can a cat do?

My Thoughts: The little cat that is the narrator of the story is not your typical cat. This cat is Clare, or was Clare rather, as Clare is apparently dead and cat is her reincarnated form. The cat tells of how she just woke up a cat on the wall between Israel and Palestine, retaining her memories of her former human life – and how she has to hunt for food and evade other cats that beat her up. Life for a cat on a warfront is portrayed very well, and a clever way to get the reader to understand the issues and see the humanity of both sides. In the news reports you just get to see the atrocities, without a thought for what drives people to these actions. I still don’t sympathise with cruelty from either side – but do understand to a small extent why they might happen. So the little cat tells two stories – the story of the boy and the soldiers, and the story of Clare’s life just before she arrived in cat form.

Towards the end the little cat ponders its future – is life here temporary and she just needs to do some good deed before she can continue onto heaven? Is ‘Clare’ in a coma back in the USA and this is all a crazy dream? Will she be a cat forever? These are unanswered questions; long after the adventure is finished the reader gets to contemplate what they would like the final outcome to be. My view? I’d go for the coma theory – but I would have liked a finite answer to the little cat’s fate.

The Cat at the wall simplifies the complex issues between the two warring parties and wil help younger teens understand, a little, of why this is happening today. There is a balanced mix of adventure, drama and history. The escalating violence being tempered by the point of view of the little cat:

"…If people insist on shooting other people, they should do it quietly so that a cat can have a decent nap…"

The Desiderata poem plays an important part as it links the two children together, past American girl and present Palestinian boy both know the poem well – for one it is comfort, the other torture. Here is the poem:

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful.

Strive to be happy.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $16.99

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Title: The Book of Ivy

Author: Amy Engel

Genre: YA Dystopian

Opens: No one wears white wedding dresses anymore …

Blurb: After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together after more conflict over which family would govern the few survivors. The Westfalls, my family, lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual. This year, it is my turn. My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

My Thoughts: I have had THE BOOK OF IVY sitting on my TBR pile for a few months now and am so glad I picked it up because I really enjoyed it. After a nuclear war little bands of survivors were scattered around and gradually banded together and erected a large fence around a small town that had escaped the worst of the damage. Then the fighting started again – two families jostled for power, The Westfalls who had started the community and the Lattimers who came along later. The Lattimers won and the head of the family called himself President Lattimer and it became a hereditary title rather than a democratically decided one. The Westfalls and their followers were relegated to a lesser position in the community. In order to ensure peace a law was brought in that made every 16-year-old girl on the Westfall side of town present herself for a wedding to a 16-year-old Lattimer boy. They all had to fill out a questionnaire to be perfectly matched. The idea behind this is that the Westfalls would not risk rebelling and killing their daughters and grandchildren. Punishment for disobedience was harsh – the convicted person would be pushed outside the fence to try and survive on their own.

Ivy Westfall’s father has come up with a plan to overthrow the Lattimer’s, His youngest daughter Ivy is scheduled to marry President Lattimer’s only child – Bishop. Ivy must kill Bishop and the rest of the Westfall’s will kill the President. Her older sister was groomed to be the killer, but when she presents herself at 16 to marry Bishop he announces he doesn’t want to marry until he is 18. This meant that Ivy was to be the one he married and she had just two years to be turned into a killer, an instinct she is not really comfortable with, but resigned to do. Trouble is once Ivy moves in with Bishop, and she sees that maybe things are not as her father has portrayed, her attitude begin to change.

THE BOOK OF IVY is not a fast paced story – but it keeps you riveted with a storyline that contains murder plots, betrayal, uncovered truths and love. To save her people Ivy has to make a sacrifice, she has to kill her husband and risk execution. But as she gets to know her new spouse, and realise he is nothing like his father, she comes to love and admire him and so becomes torn between allegiance to her family and love of her husband.

Ivy was a wonderful complex character – strong yet vulnerable, determined not to love her husband but being deeply attracted to him, trained to kill yet hating violence. Eventually she alone finds the courage and strength to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Then there is Bishop. What a wonderful male lead he is. Not a bad boy come good – he IS good. He is thoughtful, considerate, able to cook and clean, is determined, a strong sense of right and wrong – and if there was a little old lady I am sure he would have helped her across the road.

THE BOOK OF IVY is very thought provoking – the story is definitely character driven and it really makes you think – what would you do if you were Ivy? I am not sure I would have the strength of mind and courage to do what she does. And what did she do? Well you will have to buy the book for yourself and see – and along the way you will meet some very good support characters, both good and wicked. If I had a gripe at all then it would be the world building was not as in depth as I would have liked – the reader is certainly given a sense of everyday life, but not enough to really see what deprivations they must have had after an all-out nuclear holocaust. The next book THE REVOLUTION OF IVY is due out in November and I have already got it on pre-order

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

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Title: Pandora Jones: Reckoning

Author: Barry Jonsburg

Genre: YA Sci-Fi /Thriller

Quote: Pan blinked. Something strange was happening to her mind and body. She felt relaxed, but at the same time, acutely aware of everything. She remembered the Professor’s words: she was the cause of the destruction of humanity. And she felt the truth of those words…

Blurb: Pandora Jones now knows the truth, but she is alone and seemingly powerless against the might of The School. Pandora’s problems appear insurmountable. She must convince her team that nothing is as it seems and that they must escape and expose The School to save the world. The only thing Pan has on her side is her gift of intuition, and her belief in the people she cares about.

My Thoughts: RECKONING picks up where ‘Deception’ leaves off; time is running out for the world and RECKONING reflects this by having the pace pick up from the very first page. Pandora’s quandary is that she alone knows the truth about the end of the world and the inhabitants of the school being the only ones left to start the world over. Her team mates have been convinced by the school authorities that Pandora is, well, nuts – so all she needs to do is convince the team she’s not, escape the school and save the world – in 30 days. Not a problem!!! Of course it is not as easy at is all sounds, and she has to do some pretty invasive persuasion to get their attention. When the tensions rise there are a few twists and towards the end an ‘Oh NO!!” moment where I had to flick back the pages to make sure I had read it right! I had. Damn!

Pandora has been an amazing character and she drives the story along – she is tough, she is determined, and she has a very important ability which she starts to gain control over, and frightens her team to death in process. Speaking of the team, she is supported by a very able cast of secondary characters. All of them demonstrate growth in their characters. They are trained to be tough and the school hadn’t considered that the training of these teens might be used against them. Unlike a lot of teen dystopian series there is no over the top drama, no angst-ridden love triangles and even when two of the team members couple up and become pregnant – their decision making is absolutely without emotion other than to survive.

Barry Jonsberg created an incredibly real world, and an incredibly believable scenario. In this final instalment of the Pandora Jones trilogy all is revealed, and it is not really left-field, it is terribly, terribly plausible. The actually ending was an edge of the seat concluding battle as they made their final bid to escape and save the world, but, that is where it stopped, at the beginning of the end, no more story, just the end. Oh and lots of hugging.

I need an epilogue –I need to believe that what I read during the final escape did happen – we thought it had happened before – but it hadn’t – will it, could it happen again? If I can’t have an epilogue then I need book 4

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $17.99

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Title: The Last Place

Author: Michael Adams

Genre: YA Dystopian Thriller

Opens: That’s me sprawled dead in the street, beneath the brown sky, amid dry bodies and dusty cars…

Blurb: Danby is desperately fighting to save the last of humanity but with Jack’s sinister influence more powerful than ever, Danby’s one hope for freeing his minions – and her little brother – is unlikely to happen. The only option now for the few survivors not under Jack’s control is to escape. But to do this Danby has to confront a danger much closer to home as she finds that she may have risked her own sanity in her ferocious battle to live. Embracing a brutal warrior code might save Danby’s life, but the price is high. Danby must save who she can, but before there is any chance for safety there are soldiers, marauders and toxic bushfires all closing in, is there any hope at all?

My Thoughts: THE LAST PLACE is the final book in the edge of your seat series set after the end of the world as we know it. The main character, Danby, has finally turned feral – kill or be killed is how she is living – and there is a lot of killing. There is absolutely no hope – the cavalry is not going to arrive

“…I thought about all the people who’d had to do this through history. The millions taking flight from disasters, fleeing tyrannical despots, making exodus from pogroms, escaping warring soldiers and pouring out of bombed cities. What had kept them going was the promise of safe haven, whether in some sprawling refugee camp or under the protection of a friendly army. We didn’t have that…”

Set in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and further north in Central Coast Danby now lives in a world gone mad – on Christmas day ‘The Snap’ happened. What is the snap I hear you ask? Well, in the first book The Last Girl it is explained in detail but in summary in a split second all humans become part of a massed mind meld. Instantly each person could hear what everyone else was thinking, thousands of thoughts invaded each mind at the same time and couldn’t be stopped. Eventually everyone’s mind just snaps in reaction to the information overload and they become catatonic, they go into shut down mode. Well not quite everyone there are a few who are unaffected and these were ‘the specials’ and they are wide awake and moving around. Danby is caring for her autistic brother, Evan, and meets up with Nathan and they start trying to save the unconscious – is quite a simple procedure involving an injection. Then there’s Jack – enter stage left the evil villain! Jack raises the unconscious by melding his mind with them, he brings around Evan. But there is a catch, everyone who Jack brings around IS Jack it is like he is adding his mind into one multi-faceted entity. He can learn through them and he can hear and see through them and they have no idea they are not themselves. This is all expanded on in the second book The Last Shot. This is where it becomes not just survival to live in a world that has died – it is survival against the living. Danby has to make a choice as to who she is going to survive with – well she knows, but how to escape his clutches and save those under his influence is the problem. Three weeks after the world shuts down – there is a final confrontation between Jack and Danby and a trigger is pulled.

THE LAST PLACE starts 3 months after the events in The Last Shot – and Danby has certainly used those months to grow in character. She is now a kick ass military expert using hunting techniques and computer technology (who needs the Internet) to survive. But she is not perfect, in fact for most of THE LAST PLACE the reader is left wondering if Danby is just a little insane, after what she goes through you would not blame her. In order to survive, protect and maybe rescue those she loves she has to become as ruthless as those who are trying to destroy them. The story is told as a series of flashbacks over the last 3 months that bring them up to the ‘present’ and what increasingly builds up to be the final confrontation. And what a great finale it is – I can see it on the big screen now.

Be warned in this series there are a lot of deaths – nice people die – I shed more than one tear I can assure you. All Danby wants to do is escape ‘Jack’ and rescue her brother Evan.

I found that author, Michael Adams, portrayal of life after the snap to be very realistic. Not everyone could be brought around so there are millions of decaying dead bodies everywhere. The domestic animals are turning ferrel, those that haven’t died as they are trapped when their human carers die. And nature is starting to make a comeback. Urban centres are both a source of food and medicine, and a place of death and disease. They are also great for sieges and battles. The wilderness is good to hide in and plot and plan. The story switches between the urban and country locations – with the last stand taking place in a seaside town on the Central Coast just north of Sydney. There is not a lot I can say about the final book as to do so would be a real spoiler. What I can say is that it is edge of the seat stuff, and the ending will astound you, and while part of it is foreshadowed in a scene earlier in THE LAST PLACE it was a real surprise and yet made so much sense when you are reading a book where the mind is almost a central character.

I am sorry the journey has come to an end. I invested a lot of reading time into the trilogy and was not disappointed for one second – ok maybe just for one as I realised what was happening in the final show down, but when I thought about it, then it all made sense. If you like apocalyptic thrillers and haven’t started the trilogy then I suggest you do so now – you will not be disappointed.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $19.99.

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Title: Moon at Nine

Author: Deborah Ellis

Genre: Young Adult

Opening line: "You’re writing about demons." Principal Kobra’s voice was hard and humourless.

Blurb: Fifteen-year-old Farrin has many secrets. Although she goes to a school for gifted girls in Tehran, as the daughter of an aristocratic mother and wealthy father, Farrin must keep a low profile. It is 1988; ever since the Shah was overthrown, the deeply conservative and religious government controls every facet of life in Iran. If the Revolutionary Guard finds out about her mother’s ‘Bring Back the Shah’ activities, her family could be thrown in jail, or worse. The day she meets Sadira, Farrin’s life changes forever. Sadira is funny, wise, and outgoing; the two girls become inseparable. But as their friendship deepens into romance, the relationship takes a dangerous turn. It is against the law to be gay in Iran; the punishment is death.

My Thoughts: Set in Iran MOON AT NINE is a very quick read and gently approaches the subject of gay rights – in fact any rights – under a strict religious regime. Many teens in the western world take their rights for granted – scream their right to this, that or the other on electronic media, at school and in their homes. But there are millions of teens in the world that do not enjoy this freedom. Farrin is just one example. As a female she has virtually no rights, and as a female child even less. She is despised by the other children at school as she is wealthy, and her mother shows her no love at home either. Life at home may be privileged but there is no happiness. Yet against the background of her mother’s endless cocktail and dinner parties the reader is given a glimpse into real life in Tehran; the daily bombings, the oppression of the people, the indiscriminate arrests for anything resulting in torture and brutal deaths without trials. Sorry, correction, without fair trials. Farrin is a clever girl, she is a kind girl – she helps her father’s driver steal food from her mother’s kitchen to feed the poor, he in return keeps some of her secrets. Into this sad lonely life comes Sadira and Farrin blossoms at the attention she is given; there is now someone who cares for what she thinks, how she is feeling, and what her dreams are. The girls become very close then one day they kiss. A very chaste kiss, but just right for the age group this book is aimed at. Feelings like these can’t be hidden and they are so caught up in their feelings for each other that don’t see the dangers around them, still plotting their continued relationship even when they are forcibly kept apart. Then the Revolutionary Guard turn up and the two very young teens are taken off to be interrogated.

Deborah Ellis has based MOON AT NINE on a true story that was told to her by a woman she met –she has changed the names to protect the living. While it is written in an easy to read manner the subject is heart wrenching – and I just couldn’t bear to read what Farrin had to endure in the jail. At the end of the book there is a brief history of the conflicts in Iran and on the treatment of gays and lesbians that goes on even today – 4,000 gay and lesbian Iranians have been executed since 1979. In the end – I am so grateful that I can talk about my rights, that I do I have rights, and I have the right to post a cartoon on my Facebook page mocking whichever political figure has acted like an idiot today. But I am very aware that millions can’t, and hope (probably in vain) that one day all will be able to express their opinions, or follow their hearts without fear.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $16.99

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