Falling in love can take you out of your comfort zone…

TITLE = LIFE IN OUTER SPACE

AUTHOR = MELISSA KEIL

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, ROMANCE, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

Sam is a self-confessed geek – perfectly at home with computers, WOW and obsessed with horror films. But girls are another matter altogether. He has a well-established core of friends including fellow geeks Mike, Adrian and Allison (who is clearly a friend rather than a girl!). So when the beautiful and popular Camilla comes to his (boring) school, in the most (boring) of suburbs, Sam is not prepared for her to become his friend. This does not fit into his ordered world at all – the popular kids mix with the jocks not the nerds. So what is a boy supposed to do?? Especially when other parts of his life appear to be spinning out of control: are his parents splitting up? Why aren’t he and Mike able to talk anymore and why does he punch his friend in the face?? It truly does seem like Sam has wondered out of his comfort zone and into some alien landscape.

An engaging and credible story in which Sam has to learn a few home truths – including the fact that school smarts don’t always translate into people smarts …. But the latter can be learned .. if given enough time. Humorous and touching with a cast of engaging teens – sure to be a hit with girls but boys should enjoy it too.

No wonder this book was Shortlisted for the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year (Older Readers)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An exciting Steampunk sequel

TITLE = CHANGING YESTERDAY

AUTHOR = SEAN McMULLEN

GENRE = TIME TRAVEL, SCIENCE FICTION, STEAMPUNK

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

This is an engaging sequel to “Before the Storm” with plenty of action and lots of plot twists. This time around, the story focuses more on Daniel, who is heartbroken when Muriel abandons him for Fox and heads off to Paris. After Daniel mopes at home for weeks, his family decides to ship him off to England to finish his schooling and prepare him for university; so most of the action takes place on board an array of ships. And what amazing action there is!

For central to this story is a race: a race against time and a race against “bad guys” – what complicates matters is that our sense of who the bad guys are, keeps changing! For Daniel’s street smart and greedy friend, Barry the Rat, sets in train a series of events that threatens his future, Daniel’s future and maybe even the future of the world.

BC, the warrior woman from the future must join forces with Madeleine, a spunky and intelligent waitress from Ballarat (!), to set right the innumerable wrongs that Barry’s actions have caused. But will Daniel help them in their cause? Or is he implicated in wrongdoing?

Daniel may start the novel as a lovesick young man … but he will learn a lot during the course of his travels … about himself, about women and about love. He may turn out to be more of a hero than he thought he could be??

Plenty of action, plenty of plot twists and turns and plenty of humour ensure that this rollicking novel will keep readers amused and engaged from beginning to end. An absolute treat!

Whilst the novel could be enjoyed as a stand alone book, readers will probably get most out of the fun if they read book 1 first –  Read a review here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An exciting mix of gaslamp romance and steampunk adventure

TITLE = SONG OF THE SLUMS

AUTHOR = RICHARD HARLAND

GENRE = GASLIGHT ROMANCE, STEAMPUNK

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Astor Vance believes she is to marry Phillidas Swale, from the wealthy industrialist family of Swales. The marriage means she is to leave her mother and stepfather and move into the luxurious Swale residence but at least she has been able to bring along some of her favourite musical instruments. For Astor loves music, a love she shared with her beloved musician father, before he was killed by a bullet during street gang riots in London.

So imagine Astor’s surprise when she arrives at the Swale residence to find that her intended engagement is not entirely as expected. Alone in a new, enormous household, the only person she can turn to is the one servant her stepfather has left behind: the rather smug, Verrol, who she barely knows.

Astor is a strong young lady, determined to survive against whatever life throws at her, even if this means abandoning her beloved classical music for the newer style from the slums near her home: loud, brash and with an unmistakable beat, this music stirs the soul of all who hear it. Will Astor be won over to its rhythms and passion?? And will she find her feelings for Verrol go from friendship to something deeper…. despite his hidden past??

This is a thoroughly engaging story from Richard Harland; a gaslight romance that is full of action and adventure and set against a steampunk London in the mid 1850s. Readers will be eager to turn each page to follow Astor’s adventures as she battles the wealthy Swales, the streetgangs and her own heart!

Highly Recommended (dma) *****    

An amusing romance novel with a literary twist

TITLE = THE ROMANCE DIARIES

AUTHOR = JENNA AUSTEN

GENRE = ROMANCE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7, 8

This is a very clever and engaging romance novel which is sure to appeal to teen girls. Ruby is determined to act as a matchmaker to her friends and her mother (who has eschewed all thoughts of romance since her husband died some years ago). But Ruby is working on a plan, a plan founded in literature (which is fitting, cos she works part-time in a bookshop). Ruby’s theory is that there are 2 sorts of men: Jane Austen heroes (a la Darcy from Pride and Prejudice) and Jane Eyre heroes (a la Rochester) – and the problem for her mum and her friends is that they keep falling for the wrong one. According to Ruby, if you behave like a Jane Austen heroine then clearly you should aim for Darcy whereas if you behanve like Jane Eyre then it is better that you aim for a Richester.

So with this plan in mind, she sets to work. Unfortunately, things don’t go quite to (her)plan! Especially disconcerting is that some of the boys she beleievd to be Darcy’s may in fact be Rochesters … ooops! Especially if the Rochester is keener on her than on the girl she has set him up with. Are hearts set to be broken.. including her own??

This is a truly engaging romantic novel which gives the reader a bit more to think about than the average love story  especially with the inclusion of lots of pop and literary references (inlcuidng an amusing essay topic comparing Darcy and Edward Cullen!!)

Sure to be a big hit with the girls – may take over the gap left by the discontinuation of the Girlfriend series.

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) *****

A bit of magic, a bit of mystery and a bit of romance

TITLE = THE ZIGZAG EFFECT

AUTHOR = LILI WILKINSON

GENRE = MYSTERY, MAGIC, ROMANCE 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8-10

Sage is new to Melbourne and pleased to find a job with a magician, as she hopes the funds will help pay for the photography course she has dreamed of completing. However, she does not bargain for falling into the middle of a mystery when the magician goes missing – nor does she expect to fall in love (maybe) with the aptly named, Herb (a magician-in-training who dreams of going solo one day). Add into the mix the beautiful but enigmatic Bianca (magician’s assistant) and a rival magician and the scene is sent for a wonderfully entertaining romp, in true ili Wilkinson style.

Fans of “A pocketful of Eyes” will love the Melbourne setting, the hint of a girl detective in the making and the heart-tugging beginnings of romance that are to be found between the covers of Lili Wilkinson’s latest book. And they will not be disappointed.  New fans are sure to be made as well – and readers are sure to be enlightened and engaged by the world og magic that they enter in this highly entertaining novel.

Recommended (dma) ****

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 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) *****

 

Cinderella revisited

TITLE = MOONLIGHT & ASHES

AUTHOR = SOPHIE MASSON

GENRE = FANTASY, FAIRY TALES

INTEREST LEVEL = YEAR 7

This is a new version of the Cinderella fairytale which is sure to appeal to young readers. Like Cinderella, Selena finds herself reduced to being a servant girl for her father and his new wife after her own mother has died. Like Cinderella, Selena has two stepsisters who bully her. But unlike Cinderella, Selena has a magical past, she has a destiny which may well set her on a collision course with the young prince. Indeed, far from finding the royal heir to be a “Prince Charming”, Selena believes him to be a thoroughly unpleasant young man who may well be set to destroy her homeland.

If Selena’s heart has been stolen, it is certainly not by the prince but rather she may be falling for his bestfriend, Max, who the prince has thrown in gaol. Can the two work together to stay alive and save the kingdom or is it safer for Selena to work on her own??

An intriguing story that adds a touch of magic to an old favourite. Read more about the author here.

Recommended (dma) ***    

An intriguing story

TITLE = SHIFT

AUTHOR = EM BAILEY

GENRE = FANTASY, PEER PRESSURE, MENTAL ILLNESS, MYSTERY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10, 11

Olive isn’t the happiest of girls. She used to be part of the popular crew with her best friend, Kate. But life has taken a dramatic turn around. Her father has left home and she clearly blames herself for his departure. She has spent time in hospital after “the incident” and no longer speaks to Kate. Indeed, her only friend now is Ami, with whom she sneers at those around her. So when new boy, Lachlan, smiles at her, Olive is suspicious.

Then a new girl arrives at school: the quiet, waif-like Miranda. Soon Olive notices that Miranda is following Kate around like a shadow and before long it appears that as Miranda grows, Kate shrinks … dangerously so. Could Miranda really be a shifter … a parasite who feeds off others? And if so, what will happen when she has fed off Kate … will Olive become her next victim?

This is a compelling novel. Olive is both credible and engaging. Readers will be keen to know more about her past (including “the incident”) and on the edge of their seats as the battle with Miranda plays out. Of equal import, of course, is her burgeoning relationship with Lachlan.

It is no surprise that this novel is the GOLD INKY winner for 2012!!

Highly Recommended (dma) ****