The final stunning chapter in a heartfelt series

TITLE = PARVANA’S PROMISE

AUTHOR = DEBORAH ELLIS

GENRE = REFUGEES, WAR, POLITICS, CHILDHOOD, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

The opening of this book may well surprise readers of the Parvana series: for it is set in a US Army base in Afghanistan and it appears that the young girl who is being questioned as a suspected terrorist is, in fact, Parvana! Readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering how this has come about and what lies ahead for Parvana.

And so the story unfolds in dual paths: part of the story recounts the interrogation process and Parvana’s imprisonment whilst alternating chapters take us back to see how events unfolded to bring Parvana to this point. We see Parvana working with her mother and sisters in setting up a school, trying to help her fellow refugees against great odds. For this education project is not welcomed by local villagers especially some very traditional men who see it as inappropriate for girls to be wasting their time on an education. The hatred that the school inspires may seem inexplicable to modern Aussie teens, but it is credibly portrayed and provides a threatening backdrop to the book.

Yet balanced against this is the more immediate threat of the Army officers who see Parvana as a potential source of danger. Will she survive against the emotional drain of interrogations or will she gain her freedom?? And why is she staying so silent anyway??

This novel cleverly brings the reader up to date with Parvana’s story whilst also introducing readers to the idea that foreign troops may be trying to bring peace to this region but they may in fact bring further torment for the surviving people of this war-ravaged land. A thought-provoking novel, in keeping with the rest of this wonderful series (“Parvana“, “Parvana’s Journey“, “Shauzia” are the previous titles in the series) .

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A moving insight into life in a refugee camp

TITLE = SHAUZIA

AUTHOR = DEBORAH ELLIS

GENRE = REFUGEES, WAR, POLITICS, CHILDHOOD, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Readers of the “Parvana” series will recall that Shauzia was Parvana’s best friend in the first book. Together they worked in the Kabul market and dreamed of one day escaping from the toil and trouble of Afghanistan and travelling to France to lie in fields of lavender.

As the title suggests, this book focusses on Shauzia’s story and how she is surviving in the refugee camp in Pakistan. Shauzia was every bit as headstrong and determined as Parvana and she is frustrated at the way of life around her. She rebels against the older women in the refugee camp and sets off alone, hoping to make it to the sea so she can travel to France, and maybe meet up with Parvana there.

However, Shauzia soon discovers that surviving on her own in the city of Peshawar is fraught with danger.  Will her headstrong nature actually prove to be a curse for Shauzia or will it give her  the will to survive??

For those who have enjoyed the “Parvana” series, this book will be a welcome addition: with strong, credible child characters and plenty of action, drama and emotion. This book is a real page turner and offers a welcome insight into refugee life which should be quite eye-opening for young Australian readers.  

 Highly Recommended (dma) *****

 

The journey continues for a brave young girl

TITLE = PARVANA’S JOURNEY

AUTHOR = DEBORAH ELLIS

GENRE = REFUGEES, WAR, POLITICS, CHILDHOOD, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

 In some ways, this book is even tougher to read than the first story about Parvana, because now Paravana is on her own or without adults, for most of her journey. She does have other children with her: Hassan (a baby who demands her attention), crippled Asif (with whom she bickers) and friendly Leila. Unfortunately, the adults that Parvana meets on her travels seem to simply let her down: they either withdraw from the horror of their daily lives (like Leila’s grandmother) or they are unkind and selfish. Life is tough and the children must be brave and resilient and resourceful to survive; as we would expect from reading book 1, Parvana certainly rises to the occasion.

One of the refreshing things in this story is that although these kids must be brave and adult-like on a daily basis, they are clearly still kids: Parvana gets annoyed easily and in angry outbursts she can behave badly (as you would expect, under the circumstances). The humorous banter between Asif and Parvana (where he pretends to do exactly the opposite of what she wants) also provide one of the few glimpses of lightness and humour in the book.

This is a worthy sequel to Parvana and readers who loved the first book are sure to be thoroughly engaged in reading more about her adventures.

Read a review of Parvana here.

TITLE = DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT

AUTHOR = LAINI TAYLOR

GENRE = FANTASY, ACTION, ADVENTURE, ANGELS, WAR

INTEREST LEVEL = 10+

Wow!This is a wonderful sequel to a brilliant first novel. Given that the first book left readers on a knife edge wondering about the future between Karou and her angel lover, Akiva, readers will be keen to know how this situation has been resolved.

However, readers are likely to spend much of this novel on the edge of their seats wondering whether either of the main protagonists is alive or will remain alive for much longer. Because the odds are stacked against them: both the angels and the monsters are intent upon furthering the war between them and exacting revenge upon their opponents.

Indeed, it is hard to tell one side from the other: are the monsters any more monster-like than the angels when they start mimicking their retribution upon them? And can Akiva really be blamed for his revenge that took Karou’s  family from her when she seems intent on causing even more bloodshed than he and when she appears to have aligned herself with her old enemies??

There may be paralells between the worlds of these angels and monsters and current world events when it is so easy to typecast opponents as “monsters” and overlook one’s own monster-like behaviour – and for some time it seems that only Akiva can see this.

Are Karou and Akiva destined to remain on opposite sides forever, are they destined to remain separated by past actions and current allegiances – or  are they really soulmates and can  love transcend it all??

An absolute page turner with another powerful ending… who will still be standing for book 3 which will be eagerly awaited by fans??? Don’t forget to catch all the latest news about this exciting trilogy from the author’s blog.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A dark and spooky surfing story

TITLE = NIGHT BEACH

AUTHOR = KIRSTY EAGAR

GENRE = IDENTITY, FRIENDSHIP, ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 11, 12

This is a dark novel. At its heart is a gothic story about supernatural, ghostly elements which have taken over a young surfer (Kane) and are threatening to take over his step-cousin, Abbie. But even darker than this is the undercurrent of violence that lurks behind the surfing world that Abbie and Kane inhabit. From the moment Kane returns to town and punches the local surfing bully, the threat of further violence lingers around the edges of the story as we await to see if the town bully exacts revenge on Kane.

Against this dark backdrop is the central story about Abbie, a lonely girl who is looking for love and lusts after Kane, even though she fears he is not good for her and recognises that her obsession is unlikely to be returned. Abbie comes from a broken home: her dad is loving but he is starting a new family in Brisbane, so Abbie has reluctantly begun living with her Mum who seems aloof at best and critical at worst.  Her sister offers sage advice but she too is largely absent from Abbie’s world as she is off in Canberra studying and exploring her own romances. Abbies’s best friend is holidaying in Darwin and her sole remaining friend is bitter about her obsession with Kane. Whilst the artistic and creative Abbie attempts to make sense of her feelings, and discover the truth behind Kane’s ghostly haunting, she is also trying to complete her HSC project.

Eagar often writes about the surfing world, but in her hands this world has a far more sinister feel than in the world presented by other Aussie authors such as Tim Winton, largely due to the violence and power plays inherent in the male surfing fraternity.

This is dark and compelling novel and has been shortlisted for the Gold Inky 2012 (dma) ***

 

A strange and violent world …that may just drive you mad!

TITLE = BZRK

AUTHOR = MICHAEL GRANT

GENRE = SCIENCE FICTION, GAMING,

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8,9

This is a weird and rather dark book. The opening chapters introduce us to a number of characters and a number of plot lines – a young teen visits his brother who is chained in a mental institute and screams insanely “beserk”. Another teen dies in an explosive plane crash which seriously injures his sister. So far we are in a violent and angry world but not a strange one.

And then we learn that a character named “The Bug Man” created the plane crash by rewiring the brain of the pilot – using bugs or biots. Sounds wrong. Sounds evil. But what if the “good guys” use a similar technology to try and combat the baddies. What if they use nanbots to rewire people’s brains too?? It takes skill to do this – to enter a person’s body and move inside to the right part of the eye or the brain so that you can control them. If you get it wrong … then you might die..or you might go mad! And why are they doing this? BugMan’s bosses  want to control everyone – so we can all live happy lives. The good guys want freedom of thought. But is freedom more important than happiness?? So important that they will risk madness?? And should freedom be gained by any means??

This is at times a fascinating story as we are literally taken inside people’s heads and over their eyeballs. It is often a violent book – as there are battles waged on the nanoscale and (more conventionally) on the macro scale (with fists and guns). It is also a dark book – with so many deaths, the stakes are high. The similarity of the strategies employed by both the good guys and the bad guys certainly makes for an interesting moral dilemma. There is no doubt the good guys have greater integrity and are more appealing – whether they are the cool Vincent or the newbies Sadie and Noah. However, it is somewhat disturbing that the good guys have all taken on names of people who have all gone mad: Vincent (van Gogh), Plath (Sylivia), Keats …

Michael Grant wrote the compelling “Gone” series but this new books is more complex and less easy to read, partly due to the nanotechnology and partly because it is less easy to emotionally engage with some of these characters – like those figures in the Gone series, they are all flawed.

BugMan is clearly a gamer and there are Games and iPad apps to accompany the novel. Check out the book’s website.

Intriguing. (dma) ***

A thriller set in a small Italian village

TITLE = I’M NOT SCARED

AUTHOR = NICCOLO AMMANITI

GENRE = GROWING UP, MYSTERY, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10, 11

It is a long hot summer in the small village in Italy which young Michele calls home. There are only 4 dwellings in the village and the few children tend to roam around the surrounding hillsides for amusement. It is whilst out with his friends that Michele comes across a hole which appears to hold a body. Closer inspection by 9 yo Michele proves that the body is that of a young boy who is being kept captive.

Michele keeps his discovery a secret from his friends. But just as he is ready to turn to his parents for help, he discovers that they, and all the other adults in the village) are involved in the kidnapping of this boy.  With the introduction of other adults who are mean and bullies, Michele realises that his life is in danger, too, not just the hostage boys. Who can a 9 yo turn to for help .. or should he just forget about the youngster?? Is he wiling to risk his own life for the sake of a boy he barely knows??

A compelling drama with enough twists and turns in the plot to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

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 nail biting adventure series begins

TITLE = THE POWER OF FIVE: Raven’s Gate

AUTHOR = ANTHONY HOROWITZ

GENRE = FANTASY, ACTION, ADVENTURE, ANCIENT CIVILISATIONS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-10

When Matt Freeman is caught breaking and entering, he knows that his life will change, but he has no idea of the horrifying direction that it is about to take. At 14 yo, the authorities decide that Matt should become part of the LEAF project, which is meant to support his rehab but instead he finds himself locked into a world of drudgery on a farm. But worse still, it appears he is trapped here; trapped by a village determined that he will not escape, trapped by forces that wish him harm. Is he up against some kind of weird magic?

Who can he turn to for help? Who can he trust? As Matt does his best to flee, it seems that anyone who tries to help him gets killed, which only ramps up his fear & suspicion. When he seeks outside help from a local journalist he is mocked. Is all hope lost?? And why are these strange people after him anyway? Is it linked to the weird power that occasionally rises to the surface in Matt, a power he is unable to control.

Thriller action and eerie mystery are brilliantly woven together in this exciting book, the first in “The Power of Five”. As the mystery of Matt’s powers are gradually revealed it is clear that there is plenty more adventure and horror in store for both Matt and the reader. Four more titles await – with the action ramping up in each one.

Not to be missed. An exciting new series from the gifted author of “The Alex Rider series”, Anthony Horowitz. Read more about the series and the author.

Highly Highly Recommended (dma) *****    

Part action, part thriller … all entertainment!

TITLE = LEGEND

AUTHOR = MARIE LU

GENRE = DYSTOPIAN FUTURE, ACTION, THRILLER, ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 – 10

June has lost her parents so when her sole surviving relative (her beloved brother Metias) is brutally killed, she is keen for revenge.  As a prodigy in her republic she is a well-trained soldier, perceptive and courageous, a good match for the prime suspect in her brother’s death: fugitive and wanted criminal, Day. He is also a prodigy of sorts, having escaped capture for so long. Can June bring him to justice or will her search for revenge also lead her to more questions than she bargained for??

Action packed from the opening scene, with a strong female lead and an equally endearing male opponent, this novel is sure to be enthusiastically received by lovers of dystopian fiction and thrillers. The story is told in alternating chapters by the 2 main protagonists which readers will find very satisfying. Fans of “The Hunger Games” and the “Gone” series will love this book and be especially pleased that it is the first in a trilogy.

Recommended (dma) ****