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Thursday, April 29, 2010

What's In The Box?

I checked my mail box today. What was in there you may ask? Well, the fabulous people at Penguin Books Australia have sent me some wonderful goodies to review!

Watch this space in the coming weeks for their reviews :)

The Ring of Five by Eoin McNamee

Title: The Ring of Five
Author: Eoin McNamee

Release Date: 1st April 2010

My Rating: 3/5

Danny thinks he is on his way to boarding school when he is taken instead to a mysterious Academy. When he arrives, some of the students have otherworldly talents, and someone is trying to murder him...
Yet he finds friends: Les, an exceptional thief, Dixie, who has as unsettling ability, and Vandra, a Physick with unusual powers.
It turns out Danny is destined for a terrifying mission. As he embarks on his training, he is determined to be a brilliant spy and keep his friends, but he soon discovers that he can trust no one, not even himself...

This is an exciting story of deceit, action and espionage as we meet the kids at Wilson's Spy School. It questions loyalties and friendship and entwines good and evil as Danny tries to figure out his destiny. I would describe it as a mix of Harry Potter crossed with Cherub for ages 10+.

Read this if you liked the Percy Jackson series, the Charlie Bone series, The Mysterious Benedict Society, the Nightmare Academy series or anything where kids get up to mischief!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beautiful Monster by Kate McCaffrey

Title: Beautiful Monster
Author: Kate McCaffrey

Release Date: 1st May 2010

My Rating: 4/5

It only takes a few blood-stained seconds for Tessa's life to change forever. She wants her old life back. She wants her mum and dad the way they were. She wants her brother.

If it wasn't for Ned, she'd be all alone. He's her greatest support and staunchest ally. He's privy to her deepest secrets, comforts her at night when she cries, holds her and makes her feel loved - when it feels like everyone else has gone. And he knows how to make things okay again. If Tessa can only be perfect, things will get better. The perfect daughter, the perfect marks, the perfect body. But there is a fine line between being in control and being controlled.

Wow where do I start?

Always tackling the important topics for young adults such as cyber-bullying (Destroying Avalon) and drugs use (In Ecstasy), Kate McCaffrey has done it again with Beautiful Monster, focusing on a young girl struggling through her teenage years who has developed an eating disorder following the devastating death of her younger brother.

Beautiful Monster not only deals with the primary issue of body image and eating disorders but also the grief of losing a loved one. As her parents suffer with their own pain, Tessa manages to slip through the cracks, hiding her own pain as she strives to reach her goal weight.

Told in three parts, two years separating each, we accompany Tess as she loses her brother, endeavours to be perfect and keep control over all aspects of her life, copes with her parents, hides her illness, suffers denial and isolates herself from her friends. Then, as her her secret is discovered, we see the aftermath of her treatment and the possibility of a relapse as old foes once again come to light.

Just like her previous books, Beautiful Monster is something every teenage girl should read.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Flyaway by Lucy Christopher

Title: Flyaway
Author: Lucy Christopher

Release Date: 1st April 2010 (Australia)

My Rating: 3/5

One cold, winter morning, while Isla and her father are out waiting for the yearly migration of swans, Isla's father has a heart-attack and goes into hospital. While Isla is at the hospital waiting for news about his condition, she meets Harry, a boy her age who she is surprised to find out has Leukaemia. Harry is the first boy to understand her love of wild swans and is genuinely interested in hearing about them. From his hospital window they watch a wild swan on the lake outside as she tries, and fails, to fly. There is something different about her, truly different, almost magical. As both Harry and her father's health deteriorates, Isla is sure that if she can help the swan, maybe she can help her father and Harry at the same time, and so she embarks upon a breathtakingly magical (not the hocus-pocus kind of magic) journey of her own.

This is beautifully written and I love how Isla throws herself into her school project to help distract her from the reality of whether her father will live, but also in an attempt to make him feel better, and how her sullen grandfather also joins in on the project as a welcome distraction to his own troubles. Even through we are never told how old Isla is (this did somewhat annoy me), sometimes I feel she could only be 9 years old, other times 13 or 14, I feel that her reactions are age appropriate for her state of mind and the events affecting her; the angry outbursts at her brother, running away in the middle of the night and not being able to face the reality of what could happen to her family.

This is the touching story about family, friendship, hope, a young girl, a sick boy and a damaged wild swan. Ages 10+

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver

Release Date: 1st April 2010 (Australia)

My Rating: 5/5

'They say that when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that's not how it happened for me'

Sam Kingston is dead. Except she isn't.

On a rainy February night, eighteen-year-old Sam is killed in a horrific car crash. But then the impossible happens: she wakes up in her own bed, on the morning of the day that she died. Forced to live over and over the last day of her life - the drive to school, skipping classes, the fateful party - she desperately struggles to alter the outcome, but every morning she wakes up on the day of the crash.

This is a story of a girl who dies young, but in the process learns how to live. And who falls in love...a little too late.

I truly loved ‘Before I Fall’ and read it in one sitting. For a debut novel it is amazing! I laughed, I cried, it completely blew me away.

Each day, Samantha learns something new about the type of person she is/has been, as well as discovering new things about those around her. She has seven days to try and fix her own fate and those of the people around her and as she learns along the way that maybe the purpose of her do-overs are not to save her own life, but the lives of her peers.

I have seen in some other reviews that some people feel the book is too long, especially as Sam repeats her days, but I disagree. I find that each day gets told differently as Sam discovers new things and decides to play the day differently, especially day four.

This is a great YA book as it deals with issues that teens are constantly surrounded by; friends, bullies, awkwardness, high school, the highs and the lows, relationships, drinking, sex, drunk driving, drama, pain, love and hate, secrets and lies. It may also help readers dealing with their own insecurities, pain, or identity. It is a story that reminds us what really matters in life and that everyone has their own problems, even if they are not visible on the surface.

Sometimes the smallest action against someone can truly affect them and change their life forever.

**Major Spoiler Alert**
I would have loved a final chapter or epilogue to find out how the characters Sam helped along the way deal with her death. This is probably because when you find a story and/or characters that you really enjoy reading, you never want it to end, but I also recognise the fact that the aftermath is not what the story is about. Still, I would love a follow up book that comes from the perspective of Juliet, starting as she heads to the party (on Sam’s seventh day).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wish by Alexandra Bullen

Title: Wish
Author: Alexandra Bullen

Release Date: 1st April 2010

My Rating: 3/5

For Olivia Larsen, nothing can change the fact that her twin sister, Violet, is gone... until a mysterious, beautiful gown arrives on her doorstep. The dress doesn't just look magical,it is magical. It has the power to grant her one wish, and the only thing Olivia wants is her sister back.

With Violet again by her side, both girls get a second chance at life. And as the sisters soon discover, they have two more dresses-and two more wishes left. But magic can't solve everything, and Olivia is forced to confront her ghosts to learn how to laugh, love, and live again.

At first I thought this would be a silly kind of fairytale book with magical dresses and wishes, but it actually turned out to be quite the opposite, as it has a good message and story line that I feel teenage girls can relate to. Olivia has to deal with moving to a new town, making new friends, and normal teenage girl problems with guys and a new school. She has to do all this while trying to move on with her life after the death of her twin sister, her best and closest friend. She is dealing with the effect Violet's death has had on her relationship with her parents as well as their relationship and the family dynamics.

Despite the sad synopsis of a tragic young death, the author has managed to probe the situation in a lighter way but still get a message of independence, pain, heartache, loss, love and family through to the reader without making the book depressing. This is an easy read, but not flippant and makes you as the reader question 'If you could wish for anything, what would you truly want?'

Ages 13+
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