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)  **** 

Magic, witchcraft and curses … a brand new series kicks off!

TITLE = SPELLCASTER

AUTHOR = CLAUDIA GRAY

GENRE = FANTASY, WITCHES, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8-10

Claudia Gray has abandoned her vampires, vampire hunters and werewolves and replaced them with Witches and Steadfasts in her latest spellbinding novel.  Nadia is a young Witch or Spellcaster who was being trained by her mother. However, when her mother left home she not only abandoned her family she also effectively ended Nadia’s training. So Nadia has plenty of skill at spellcasting but lacks the ability to control her spells.

One of the rules of witchcraft with which Nadia is all too familiar, however, is that spellcasting is a female task and no witch should ever share her knowledge of magic with a male. Nor is a Steadfast (a companion who enhances a witch’s spellcasting abilities) ever likely to be a male. So the last thing that Nadia expects when she moves to a new town is that her Steadfast could potentially be the young man who she admires from afar, the same young man who is a town outcast due to the family curse which is likely to end in insanity! Worse still, this same young man just happens to be a pawn in the power of a very, very strong witch who seems set on destroying the town and all its inhabitants.

Unless Nadia can harness her powers in time to save herself and her new friends. So the scene is set for a tale of magic, mystery and romance set against a ticking clock … will Nadia’s plans succeed in time … and at what cost?? This is sure to be a hit with fans of Claudia Gray’s and all those teen girls looking for a quick, light read.

Recommended (dma) ****

An intriguing paranormal series begins

TITLE = DARKNESS RISING Book 1: THE GATHERING

AUTHOR = KELLEY ARMSTRONG

GENRE = NATIVE AMERICAN INDIAN MYTHOLOGY, PARANORMAL ROMANCE, IDENTITY, FRIENDSHIP, SCHOOL, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10, 11

This is a compelling and engaging story. At the beginning it seems like it will be just a teen story about high school romances and friendship but as it goes on, more mysterious elements begin to emerge. Maya has always had a strong affinity to nature and amazing powers to heal animals. But are these powers linked to her pawprint birthmark?? Are they a sign from her Native American background? Could she be a witch … or something more?

And what about bad boy Rafe – is he as bad as he pretends to be? And what is so strange about his sister?

With the death of her best friend Serena hanging over both Maya and her best friend, Daniel, there seems to be an edge to the story that lurks mysteriously and gradually takes on a more urgent note. When an unwelcome journalist turns up dead, both Maya and Daniel are concerned about the implications – what is there to hide in this small town of St Clouds?

Readers will be sitting on the edge of their seats as the pace and action increases over the final chapters. A real cliffhanger of an ending ensures that readers will eagerly await Book2 in this engaging paranormal series.

Recommended (dma) ****

An enticing opening to a fascinating fantasy series

TITLE = THE COLOURS OF MADELEINE: Book 1 – A CORNER OF WHITE

AUTHOR = JACLYN MORIARTY

GENRE = FANTASY, FATHERS, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 – 12

This is a truly enchanting book by Jaclyn Moriarty who writes in an evocative and original manner. It may take some readers a while to truly get into the book as it really contains two stories in one: the story of Madeleine and her Cambridge friends, set in the world we know as ours and the story of Elliott and his friends, in the Kingdom of Cello. But when a letter moves through a crack between these 2 worlds, the stories begin to merge and Elliott and Madeleine begin to tell each other about themselves and their worlds.

Both Madeleine and Elliott are living alone with their mothers and have missing fathers. But whereas Madeleine left her father by choice, for Elliott, there is a deep mystery surrounding his father’s disappearance. Over the course of the novel both teens must face the reality about their fathers, face the fact that these men who they loved dearly may in fact have been quite flawed. Both teens worry about their own failings and how much they may have followed in their father’s footsteps.

There is much to enjoy in this book. The letter writing and gradual friendship between Elliott and Madeleine does not run smoothly as she is initially quite dismissive of him, refusing to believe that he really exists. But they both help each other thorough some difficult times and by novel’s end may in fact need each other to survive the future. Certainly, Elliott’s friendship with Madeleine is daring: for in his world contact with the Other World is shunned, punishable by death…but surely, when you are a popular heroic boy like Elliott, your life couldn’t be at risk??

There are some very clever twists in the plot of this story that will keep the reader intrigued till the last page and eagerly awaiting the next instalment in this fantasy series. The author has said that she likes making her readers think and she has certainly achieved this with this amazing new book.

This novel is a worthy Notable Book for the 2013 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A brilliant update on an old classic

TITLE = BLACK SPRING

AUTHOR = ALISON CROGGON

GENRE = GOTHIC, FANTASY, LITERARY REVAMP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9 – 12

A fresh and brilliant take on a literary classic (Wuthering Heights), this novel is an absolute masterpiece. For those who have read the story on which it is based, this will be a wonderful read: the intense gothic atmosphere is rendered effectively, the characters are well drawn and familiar, the inclusion of supernatural elements only heightens the effect and gives it a more credible context. The writing is brilliant: the sense of place and mood is created with succinct yet evocative imagery, which recalls the harsh beauty of the original Bronte creation. Croggon has even kept the structure of the original – with the finicky character (here named  Hammel), whose commentary frames the real story of the relationship of 2 compelling and passionate characters (in this case Lina and Damek, rather than Cathy and Heathcliff).

For those who are new to the story line, they will be equally captivated. The front cover is haunting and truly creepy, to match the narrative style which reflects the writing of the 19th century without being too old-fashioned to put off readers who are more used to modern novels.  The ensuing tale of intense emotions – love, anger, hatred and revenge – is wrapped up in a haunting atmosphere where darkness lurks and where passion is never far from the surface.

This novel could be a great introduction for many to the Bronte world for after reading this book, many will be drawn to the original and may well find it more accessible. Alison Croggon is to be commended for taking a literary classic and breathing new life into it – for complementing the original work so cleverly.

A must read for lovers of YA literature and for lovers of literature in general

This novel is a worthy selection as a Notable Book for the 2013 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers).

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An exciting and moving tale of the aftermath of war

TITLE = THE GIRL FROM SNOWY RIVER  

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = WAR, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, FRIENDSHIP, ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a most engaging novel. It picks up a few years after the conclusion of “Waltzing Matilda” and is set in a similar area (indeed, Matilda makes a brief appearance). The story focuses on Flinty, a resourceful 16 year old who finds herself running the family farm, as both her parents have died and her older brother has gone droving. Yet in many ways , this book is about the impact of WW1 on families and friends, for Flinty’s life has been irrevocably changed by this war – as have the lives of most of the folk who live in her valley. Hardly a family remains untouched – either by loss of a son in battle or by the mental scars carried by the returning soldiers – be they sons, brothers or sweethearts.

We watch as Flinty struggles to cope both emotionally and physically and we see the importance of not only family but also the broader community. There is a lot to enjoy in this novel and the mysterious ghost that Flinty meets only adds to the anticipation felt by the reader as the story unfolds.

Sure to be a big hit with teen readers especially those who enjoy stories with links to Australian history. Whilst Jackie French believes that this book is number 3 in her sweeping “Matilda” saga, each of the 3 books she has written so far are also capable of standing alone. So the reader does not need to have read “Waltzing Matilda” or “A Rose for the Anzac boys” to enjoy this novel.

(However, you may like to check out a review on this blog for A Rose for the Anzac boys)

No wonder this book was longlisted for the 2012 CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A heartbreakingly beautiful romance

TITLE = DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE

AUTHOR =LAINI TAYLOR

GENRE = FANTASY, ANGELS, DEMONS, ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10 +

 

Intense, dramatic, romantic and compelling – this is how best to describe this new book!

There are many angel romance stories around at the minute but this one is definitely in a class of its own. Laini Taylor writes beautifully – whether it be descriptions of Prague (a beautiful character in the story) or descriptions of characters. Dialogue is sparkling and very real. So initially, the novel doesn’t feel like a fantasy story at all – in fact, it feels very grounded in the real world, except that the main character, art student Karou, works for a strange creature and slips between portals to other countries. And midway through the novel …we meet a strikingly beautiful angel, Akiva … then we learn about the ongoing war between the “monsters” and the angels… but can an angel soldier who kills be called angelic – despite his heavenly beauty?

And is the monstrous looking Brimstone, who trades in life and death, truly a monster?? More importantly, what happens if an angel and a monster fall in love?? This novel truly tugs on the heart and the mind – and the good news is – there are two more books to come!!

Read more about the author and her upcoming books on her fantastic blog.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

 

A quirky gothic fantasy tale

TITLE = THE GRIMSTONES: Whirlwind (Book 3)

AUTHOR = ASPHYXIA

GENRE = GOTHIC, DIARY, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is a delightful story, part novel, part picture book, part diary. Martha Grimstone is the young child whose diary provides the story. She comes from an unusual family in an unusual gothic world. Her mother sews (and grieves for her dead husband) her grandfather is an apothecary (who weaves spells to heal illness and hopes to control the weather), her brother is a cute toddler with 3 legs and magical ability and her rather stern aunt is Martha’s teacher. Martha is inquisitive and perceptive. She desperately wants to help her family and is great at making plans for new ventures. Unfortunately her projects do not always turn out quite as she expected them to, often resulting in chaotic outcomes for both Martha and those around her.

This story is based on the puppet theatre created by the author, Asphyxia, so many of the illustrations are photos of the puppets and models that the puppeteer has created . As the story is told in dairy format, the pages do indeed look exactly like pages in a dairy – with Martha’s sketches and plans stuck in or taped down. These notes and drawings and the illustrations in general, add a visual depth and richness to the story, providing an air of credibility to a very gothic fantasy tale.

The rich illustrations complement the rich language and vocabulary of the story – providing a perfect match for the charming imagery. All in all, a delightfully quirky tale told in a delightfully quirky way.

Check out the author’s website for more info.about the author herself, her creations and her other books.

Highly Recommended (dma) ******

Final instalment was worth the wait.

TITLE = THE POWER OF FIVE: OBLIVION

AUTHOR = ANTHONY HOROWITZ

GENRE = FANTASY, ACTION, ADVENTURE, ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-10

When we last left the 5 teens who represent “the Power of 5” they were racing against the elements – diving through a gate in Hong Kong, in the hope of saving themselves and the future of the world. “Oblivion” is the final instalment of this highly charged fantasy-adventure series. It is double the size of previous volumes for a very good reason: each of the 5 main characters has been separated as they travelled through the gate, so each of their stories is told separately. They have landed on separate continents, sometimes alone, sometimes with another but there is a certain unity to their situations: firstly, time has progressed at an alarming rate and secondly, they are also ALL in a life and death struggle – almost on a daily basis.

Matthew has been the leader of the group in past series and he shoulders this mantle again, somewhat reluctantly. Can the five meet in the dream world? Can they each survive, let alone find each other and save the world?

Or in this strange new world of the future, is it all too late? Are the human race saving? And will 5 teens really stand alone against their longtime enemy … or is help at hand? Each character will be tested… but who will win?

Another exciting instalment with action and drama aplenty, as is to be expected from Anthony Horowitz. A fitting conclusion to what has been an amazing journey for Matt and his peers … and for readers, too

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A FAST-PACED THRILLER WITH A DARK TWIST

TITLE = EVIL STAR

AUTHOR =ANTHONY HOROWITZ

GENRE =FANTASY, ACTION, SUPERNATURAL, HORROR

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

 

Check out the short book trailer below:

You might also like to look at the publisher’s website based on the series – plenty of games and info to entertain and intrigue.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****