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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Title: The Island

Author: M.A. Bennett

Genre: Young Adult

Opens:

The first thing I remember about the island is opening my eyes and seeing nothing but sand, up really close like it was under a microscope.

Blurb:

Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived in the UK from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad – however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others. When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. But when his parents say he can only leave Osney School if he goes on the trip, Link decides to endure it to get out of the school. As the seven students fly to their destination something goes wrong with the plane and they find themselves alone on a deserted island.

My thoughts:

When I briefly lived in England – Desert Island Discs was must do listening at my grandparent’s house. We loved to hear what type of music various celebrities would like to listen to. Sometimes the music choices were nothing like we would expect. The theme of Desert Island discs runs through THE ISLAND as Link and his parents are fans – and Link guesses what the choices might be for the others. He states what they might be at the start and as the story unfolds we find out what they actually would have chosen.

Link is an American. His parents are scientists who move from the USA to the UK for work. Link has been home-schooled up until now, but now is enrolled at a prestige school. Link is very smart, however at Osney School the focus is not in the academic talents of the students – but how athletic they are. His very first day, his very first hour, Link is told to run around the quadrangle. The time he takes will dictate his order in the school. The top kid is a one and the lowest is an eleven. Home-schooled, nerdy Link comes in as a 12. For the next few years Link is at the bottom of the school food chain. Everyone picks on him at worse, ignores him at best. He might be the smartest boy in school – but he cannot get himself out of this situation and school is a daily torment for him. Then comes the plane crash.

The island changes the group dynamics. The bullies have no survival skills at all – Link is book smart and is able to provide fire, food and shelter. Slowly the victim becomes leader and with leadership comes power. Power can be abused – is it time for Link to get revenge for years of abuse? He makes choices that are quite horrible, he is everything you think of when it comes to a creepy person. To be fair he is copying his literary character, and TV show idols – he even names his coconut after a famous volleyball – and eventually Links true character comes to the fore. Out of this time on the island comes hope – a chance for the teens to change their lives around should they chose to.

For most of the book Link is a very unlikable person – at the start when he was the victim he had my sympathy – however, as the leader he changes and becomes – well – not nice. But his character development is terrific, and the epilogue brings out a twist which I personally think is perfect!!! I enjoyed M.A. Bennett’s writing style – was easy to read and evoked the nastiness of bullying going on without delving into it too much – something happens – move on. She has written another book – however this is the first one of hers I have read. I will certainly read more of her work.

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

Want to know more about author M.A. Bennett? Click Here

With thanks to Allen and Unwin and the author for my copy to read and review.

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Title: After the lights go out

Author: Lili Wilkinson

Genre: Apocalyptic

Opens:

‘They’re here’

I look up from my book. My limbs go heavy and my heart sinks. The twins freeze in the middle of their card game.

Blurb:

Pru Palmer’s father is a doomsday prepper. He dragged Pru and her twin sisters to the outskirts of a remote Kimberley mining town, trained them in survival skills and built a secret bunker filled with non-perishable food and a year’s worth of water. Pru finds it all pointless and boring, until one day while their father is working at the mine, the power goes out. At the Palmers’ house, and in the town. No one knows why. All communication is cut. It doesn’t take long for everything to unravel. In town, supplies run out and people get desperate. The sisters obey their father utterly and tell no one about their bunker. Their father has drilled into them since birth that survival is everything, and family comes first.

What happened when the lights went off after what might truly be an end-of-the-world event? How do the girls stay alive? Who can they trust? How much do they have to sacrifice?

My thoughts: AFTER THE LIGHTS GO OUT is a brilliant coming of age disaster survival story. It started to pop up on my radar as many blogger were starting to include it in their ‘Most anticipated releases for the second half of 2018’ lists. So when I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy I was overjoyed.

Pru Palmer is the main character and her father is a hard-core survivalist and conspiracy theorist. He is also a tad insane. Actually he has completely lost the plot but Prue and her sister’s trust their dad as he keeps them isolated and the little contact they do have with the local community he drums into them to not trust anyone; family comes first. One could even say that to a certain extent they are brainwashed, or too scared to go against their father’s demands.

He keeps the girl’s on their toes by running practice emergency situations – training them to get to the bunker from the house without being seen and as quickly as possible. Each girl has a ‘bug out’ bag – a bug out bag (or B.O.B) is a grab and go bag for a wide variety of emergencies and survival situations. It contains a week’s rations, water purification tablets and the like. The three girls can hunt for food, light a fire without matches and make water out of nothing more easily that put their make-up on. In other words they are prepared for anything. Except when the power goes out and their father is away at work hundreds of kilometres away.

The general consensus of opinion is that a massive solar storm has fried all the electrics – cars won’t go, communication is out – the world comes to a halt. The girls know that family comes first, to look out for themselves and not help anyone else. They have the bunker and they can live for a couple of years BUT reality sets in when they see the suffering of the rest of the community and they have the agony of being torn between obeying their father or following their hearts to help others survive.

Human nature being what it is, one person is let in on the secret and then the rest of the community eventually learn what the girls have:

‘You’ve been hoarding resources,’ he says. ‘What makes you think they are not going to do the same? You think they’re going to let us queue up with everyone else to receive rations? The way I see it, there are two scenarios here. One – we are turned out into the wilderness to fend for ourselves, or two – we get executed.

Author, Lili Wilkinson, has captured the situation perfectly. There are deaths – can’t have a disaster without death – but two in particular come as a shock – well for me anyway. But there is a pulling together to survive attitude. Good people, bad people and a complete nutter all come alive on the pages. Pru is an exceptional character and there is a definite personal growth in her by the end of the book. The end of the book is massively suspenseful and had me almost shouting out loud for a good outcome.

AFTER THE LIGHTS GO OUT is due for release in August 2018 – and if coming of age apocalyptic books are your thing then run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookshop and grab yourself a copy. I utterly recommend it – was a 5 star read!!

Rating: Excellent Stuffa 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 Lili Wilkinson? Click Here

With thanks to Allen and Unwin and the author for my copy to read and review.

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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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