It has all your favourite things! Adventure, maps… and a sad ending.

The-Girl-of-Ink-and-Stars-by-Kiran-Millwood-HargraveTitle: The Girl of Ink and Stars
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Interest Level: Year 7 +

They say the day the Governor arrived, so did the ravens. And the songbirds, in their despair, flew backwards into the sea. That’s why there are no songbirds on Joya.

Isabella loves stories and her father, an explorer and renowned cartographer, is a master storyteller. But since the Governor arrived on their island, there has been no need for map making – exploration is forbidden and no one is allowed to leave the island.

When her best friend Lupe, the Governor’s daughter, goes missing – Isabella is determined to help find her. Armed with only ink, parchment, her knowledge of the stars and the stories of her father, Isabella joins the search party to navigate the island’s forgotten territories. But the monsters in her father’s stories are more real than she could have imagined, Isabella must face her fears to find her friend. The vivid descriptions and stunning rendering of the book itself will draw you into this beautiful tale of courage and wonder. The debut novel of Kiran Millwood Hargrave showcases her flair for poetry and love of short stories, embedded within this fantasy tale.

Highly recommended: **** (ofr)

 

 

An unusual recipe for a brilliant book

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METHOD:
1. Find a desiccated bat.
2. Mix it with some water.
3. Drink it, and
4. see what the future holds for the offspring of each and every person you come across in the next few weeks.
What could go wrong?
Glory’s present isn’t easy. Her mother has died, and her father doesn’t want to leave his chair, his computer, or the copious amounts of comfort food that seems to provide little consolation for life’s miseries. Glory’s only friend is not so friendly, and she is about to graduate school with no plans for her future. Glory obviously needs the soothsaying bat juice to provide direction for her life!

But it seems that the future is not so bright. The second American Civil War is only decades away, and Glory has a vital role to play…
This is another thought provoking book from the author of Everyone Sees the Ants, Ask the Passengers, and Reality Boy. A.S. King is an extraordinary writer, who successfully twists and morphs genre in such a way so as the reader never loses the sense that every event in the book could happen in real life. This is a book for older readers who enjoy dystopian themes but who are looking for more than a rehashed The Hunger Games.

Wonderful: (ipe) *****
Author: A.S.King
Interest Level: Year 9+

Weird but wonderful

Title:  Grasshopper Junglegrasshopper

Author: Andrew Smith

Interest Level:  Year 10 +

At the outset it must be said that Andrew Smith is a great story teller, with a gift for straightforward, thought provoking prose. Smith created a protagonist, Austin, who is not just confused about his life and sexuality, but finds himself grappling with the oftentimes strange (and meaningless) coincidences that occur in history. What differentiates this book from other YA fiction is the “genre morphing” that occurs. Initially the reader is so caught up in Austin’s “everyday” story, there is no way they could predict the twist in events (and genre)  that lead to Austin and his friend Robby being partly responsible for humanity’s destruction by “Unstoppable Soldiers” (which bare a striking resemblance to 6 feet tall Praying Mantises). That people from his small town, his country and the world may be abandoned to face brutal deaths barely registers on Austin’s radar, except as commentary in his oftentimes myopic family and town history. Austin has his own, more important issues to sort through: is he in love with Shann? is he in love with Robby?…can he experiment and still be straight? Ironically, he and Robby have the knowledge and power to halt the Unstoppable Soldiers, but they must choose to act. Will they?

This book is quite extraordinary, and a must read (with the warning that the themes and language are appropriate for a mature Young Adult audience) (Year 10+). Grasshopper Jungle is certainly worth the challenge, but readers should prepare to suspend disbelief before they venture into the book.  I’m not entirely sure if the conclusion is hopeful or hopeless, or in fact, whether Austin is in any way likeable. What do you think?

Recommended (ipe): *****

The final breathtaking instalment in a popular series

Allegiant_DemiJacket_WetProofTest.inddTITLE = THE DIVERGENT SERIES #3: Allegiant

AUTHOR = VERONICA ROTH

GENRE = DYSTOPIAN FICTION, ACTION, ROMANCE, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8+

There may be a bit less action in this conclusion to the Divergent trilogy, and more political intrigue – as we (and the main characters) finally the truth behind the factional system that has governed their country for so long. But some things remain the same – Tris and Tobias once again seem to be targeted for involvement in revolution and rebellion … but will they agree on the best course of action or will their determination to see a better world finally pull apart these 2 strong-minded young people? Will more lives be lost in the hope of a better future … and where does love, family and friendship fit into all of this confusion?

AS the final instalment in a riveting series, ALLEGIANT is all about honesty, trust and forgiveness. IT is about self-knowledge and knowing what makes us human. Ultimately, our main characters have to learn the true meaning of bravery – which isn’t just about having the courage to fight violence with violence, it can also be about the strength needed to live each day, even when in pain and grief from the loss of loved ones … it is having the strength to carry on.

Fans of the series will be on the edge of their seats as the read about Tris and Tobias’ tortuous adventures – and most should be satisfied with the conclusion that Veronica Roth has woven .. but keep the tissue box handy! For newcomers to the series, read about Book 1 (Divergent) here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Sleeping beauty wakes up in 2128

when we wake coverTITLE = WHEN WE WAKE

AUTHOR = KAREN HEALEY

GENRE = SCIENCE FICTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8, 9

Tegan Oglietti is having the best day of her life, in Melbourne, in 2027, a few years in our future. But the next thing she knows, she wakes up in a hospital – in 2128, having been asleep for over 100 years. She is the first patient who has ever woken up from stasis, and immediately becomes a celebrity, followed at the supermarket and at school. She manages to make some friends (and introduce her music class to the Beatles) but as she discovers more about the world she has woken in, she finds out that not all the changes between the Melbourne she grew up in and this new Melbourne are good, or for good reasons.

This adventure shows us what our future might be; how our decisions can change the world, even if we are sixteen year old girls who have been asleep for a century.

The author, Karen Healey, is from New Zealand but lived in Melbourne for a few years. On her website she has some extras for When We Wake: you can have a look at what the characters are wearing, listen to the book’s soundtrack, or read her essays on the Sleeping Beauty archetype that inspired the story!

This book has been Longlisted for the 2014 Silver Inky awards.

Highly recommended (emc) *****

The Industry

 

TITLE = THE INDUSTRY

AUTHOR = ROSE FOSTER

GENRE = DYSTOPIAN FUTURE, ACTION, THRILLER 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10

 

This book starts slowly as we meet Kirra , a bright maths students at an ordinary school in an ordinary suburb. When she is kidnapped, simply because she was able to answer an online coded puzzle, readers may at first be a tad disbelieving. Could such an organisation exist and thrive in the modern world: an organisation which kidnaps students and imprisons them, tortures them until they agree to work for them? Could such a group really survive and not be caught?

 

As the plot thickens and more characters appear, the action comes thick and fast and soon readers are on the edge of their seats, trying to determine who can be trusted. Is there such a thing as a good guy amidst the attacks and counterattacks?

 

What began slowly ends with a real punch!

 

 

 

Recommended  (DMA)

 

Sequel lives up to expectations

TITLE = PRODIGY (A Legend Novel)

AUTHOR = MARIE LU

GENRE = DYSTOPIAN FUTURE, POLITICS, ACTION, THRILLER, ROMANCE, FAMILY 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 – 10

Marie Lu has written an exciting sequel to “Legend” in this novel. Once again, June and Day take it in turns to tell the story, chapter by chapter; a clever ploy as the two main protagonists are at times separated in their adventures.

Once more the action is fast-paced as June and Day attempt to stay alive and find a future for themselves and their countrymen. It becomes a game of political intrigue as they try and gauge who they can trust because it is clear from the start of this book that they cannot survive on their own. But can the Patriots be trusted to help them or should they simply head for the Colonies? And will their differing backgrounds and past history finally get in their way: can they continue to trust each other and most importantly, can their love survive, especially when their hearts are tested by their relationships with others?

A great blend of action, politics and romance with plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep readers guessing. Fans of “Legend” will be well satisfied with this sequel.

Check out the author’s website here.

Recommended (dma) ****

An exciting new dystopian series

TITLE = THE DARKEST MINDS

AUTHOR = ALEXANDRA BRACKEN

GENRE = DYSTOPIAN FUTURE, ACTION, THRILLER

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10

Ruby has grown up in a strange and scary world where children suddenly started dying at age 10. And those who didn’t die seemed to have strange powers which meant they were seen as a threat. Rounded up on her 10th birthday, Ruby has spent the last 6 years in a prison, friendless and intimidated by the guards, fearful that her secret would be revealed. Because all the prison inmates have been classified according to their powers: blues and greens (as Ruby has been graded) are less feared – they can simply move objects with their minds. It is the Orange children who are feared most because these kids can get into other people’s minds and change their thinking – obviously a skill that is feared not just by the guards but also by the govt. Ruby believes that most Oranges have been rounded up and eliminated – hence her fear.

Not only does she possess Orange power, worse still she really doesn’t know how to control it. The few times she has used her power, inadvertently entering another’s mind, she has also managed to wipe their minds clear of any memory of her. This is not a great way to keep friends… so Ruby hides her skills from everyone.

It makes her wary of others too. And her trust takes a further beating when supposed friends who help her escape from her prison turn out to be hiding their true cause from her. Fleeing again, she is fearful of the help she receives from 3 other escapees – even as she begins to form friendships with them.

This is a fast-paced action adventure. The dystopian world may not be fully explained but it is certainly threatening and Ruby’s struggles are credible. An exciting addition to the dystopian fiction genre.

Recommended (dma)  **** 

An exciting new dystopian series

TITLE = 1.4

AUTHOR =MIKE LANCASTER

GENRE = DYSTOPIAN FUTURE, SCIENCE FICTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8,9

This is a compelling science fiction thriller which poses an intriguing future world. Mention of the WorldBrain and filaments which extend from the hands, would suggest this is a future where technological advances have progressed beyond our expectations. However, key elements of this new world have a familiar ring: a communication network called the Link accessed by LinkPads and SocNetworking (including FaceSpace and MyBook).

And at first, the central story line seems comfortingly familiar: filled with classrooms, college courses and a boy afraid to tell his science loving dad about taking a course in literature. However, gradually, it becomes a story about power and control and how science and technology can contribute to both. If all the world is connected by the Link then can’t this be used (or misused) to control people?? For who, ultimately, controls the Link??

Just as importantly, if a brilliant scientific mind has failed to see a key element in the problem he is trying to resolve, couldn’t this mean that his solution could be more dangerous than the problem itself? This theory is put forward by a student in a class discussion at the beginning of the story but quickly repudiated by the teacher. However, when the same claim is made at the end of the story it will resonate more strongly with the reader because by this stage, there is far more at stake: this is no longer a class discussion, this affects the future of the world and in particular, Vincent and Alpha, two characters  we have come to care about.

This is a very clever story which will make readers think about the connectedness of our own world and the future that may lie ahead. Although it is a sequel, readers don’t have to know the first book to enjoy this one, as enough detail is provided to acquaint us with the storyline. Intriguingly, whilst the ending is quite powerful, the door is left open for further books.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An action packed sequel to keep you guessing

TITLE = INSURGENT

AUTHOR = VERONICA ROTH

GENRE = WAR, ACTION, ADVENTURE, FAMILY, ROMANCE, POLITICAL INTRIGUE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9, 10

As expected, this sequel picks up where the action left off at the end of the first exciting book: Tris & Tobias have escaped from the fighting with her brother, Caleb and Tobias’ hated father, Marcuc. They have taken refuge in the Amity faction whilst they determine their approach for the future. Tris is racked with guilt over the deathy of Will and feels unable to share this with Tobias, which only deepens her sense of gulit and grief.

However, when they are forced to flee from the Amity and take refuge with candour, they find that they are both on the Wanted List for commiting crimes against humanity, in their supposed role in the Dauntless rebellion. Will they survive the truth serum that is a necessary part of their trial?? And if so, what lies ahead??

As they try to unravel the politics and lies of the differing faction leaders – does their best chance lie with the factionless? Or should they follow Marcus … despite Tobias’ feelings for him?? And should Tris follow her instincts even if this means lying to the one person she truly loves?

The stakes are even higher for Tris in this exciting sequel – she is battling against powerful forces once again but this time she is also battling against herself. How do you trust others when you no longer trust yourself? Is revenge more important than truth?

THis novel is action packed right till the last page … a great read!

Highly Recommended (dma) *****