Saturday, 13 June 2009
Debut American YA author, Michelle Zink,her posse and Prophecy of the Sisters (Little, Brown for Younger Readers, USA).
Top of my lust-worthy list (as well as my students who would claw my eyes out and knee cap me to get their hands on it), Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire (Scholastic, USA).
Review - Have you ever read a book and been utterly and completely infuriated by it's conclusion? That's how I was feeling after reading the last page of Sara Zarr's Sweethearts. This was not because hated this novel, on the contrary, I really enjoyed it but the ending left me shaking. I found myself dwelling on this conclusion for a couple of hours after as well. It's a sign of a quality book when the reader is left thinking about the events hours and days later. I wanted their journey, Jenna's and Cameron's, to continue.
My first Zarr read, Sweethearts, presents the reader with many fully formed characters. None of them are particularly likeable but they are relatable. Jenna's reinvented herself but finds herself sliding when the one person who loves her for herself returns. Cameron is a bit of an enigma, quiet, determined and battling his own demons. He's such an itinerant character, both in the past and the present, that you don't ever really feel that you get a good hold on him. It's his fate that most frustrated me, I understood but I was still extremely angry at him.
The romance was very understated, which my romance saturated YA palette was unused to. Zarr used a light touch with her characterisation and plot devices, like the effective flashbacks, to create a true representation of the fickleness of school, the strength found in unabashed acceptance and moving through your past. The reemergence of Jenna's coping mechanisms was occasionally heavy handed but generally to good effect. The deftness of touch makes this an enjoyable read with some important themes, intriguing characters and feet firmly planted in reality.
A novel that explores the strength of an unbreakable bond.
Published: February 2008
Format: Paperback,224 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Younger Readers
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In fact, I have been infatuated with the man since I was eight years old. He was a much older man at 12 and played Charlie in the Disney ice hockey movie The Mighty Ducks. That means that I have been crushing on him for twenty years – and the adoration has not dimmed.
Those of you too young to appreciate the wonder that is Josh Jackson might require a list of attributes:
• Beautiful low, sometimes gravelly voice
• Cheeky as all heck
• Tall and built
• Beautiful, mischievous smile
• Infectious laugh
• Toe curling loveliness
But this list doesn’t give much of a picture to the awesomeness that is this man. Six years after Dawson’s Creek went off the air, I still lovingly refer to him as Pacey. (Sidenote – I host a Fringe podcast – Fringe Dwellers – and I always slip up and call him Pace.)
There are three reasons for Pacey Awesomeness:
1. The Wall – in declaring his love for Joey Potter, Pacey rented her a wall for her dismal art work. He rented her a wall! Luckily she never tormented the population of Capeside with her artistic endeavour but it did come in useful in their continuing relationship problem...Douchey Dawson.
2. Sleeping – it’s a beautiful scene. It’s not like Twilight at all because a) this aired in ’98 b) it wasn’t Joey’s bedroom, she feel asleep in a B&B, c) he didn’t have to break and enter to have her in his eye line. It was the first time that it was acknowledged that Pacey loved her and it was completely non-verbal. It’s a scene that still slays me ...every time.
3. The Bracelet – Douchey Dawson forces Joey to got to the Anti-Prom with him and gives the stink eye to Pacey the entire night. There is one dance that Joey/Pacey get to have together and he notes that the earrings (that Douchey D gave her) aren’t “her”, that the bracelet she is wearing (her deceased mother’s) is “her”. You see this moment is great because she realises that he remembers everything she tells him. The scene is scorching.
- When he picked her up from Boston after her date with that guy fell through because he had a "soulmate", this proceeded their first kiss.
- He cooks.
- He taught her to drive.
- He sails.
- He's not judgemental.
- He went to dancing lessons with her.
- He makes pithy, petty and pissy attractive.
Also...the boy managed to look good in a Caesar haircut and with bad facial hair. He’s gifted. Let’s see Rob Pattinson do that!
Share your Pacey’s moments – why is Josh Jackson an actor that encourages such devotion? Youtube links are welcome - I have a weekend open for Pacey sighing :)
Friday, 12 June 2009
But Bianca fell in love with Lucas—a vampire hunter sworn to destroy her kind. They were torn apart when his true identity was revealed, forcing him to flee the school.
Although they may be separated, Bianca and Lucas will not give each other up. She will risk anything for the chance to see him again, even if it means coming face-to-face with the vampire hunters of Black Cross—or deceiving the powerful vampires of Evernight. Bianca's secrets will force her to live a life of lies.
Yet Bianca isn't the only one keeping secrets. When Evernight is attacked by an evil force that seems to target her, she discovers the truth she thought she knew is only the beginning. . . .
Review - Well Claudia Gray lost me on this one. Sure there was heaps more Balthazar (always a good thing) but there wasn't enough in this novel to really capture my interest or enthrall me. The only thing that excited me what a scene between Bianca and Balty that was rudely interrupted by a wraith. That's not enough to make the other 331 pages worth the read.
Lucas bores me. Raquel annoys me. There's not enough of Vic or Ranulph. Charity is a bland and boring villain. In fact, Bianca is pretty bland and boring herself. That being said, I will read Hourglass just to find out what happens. But my interest in the Black Cross is non-existent and the only person (scrap that, vampire) I give two hoots about is left behind.
Overrated, underwritten and clearly created as a paper thin bridge in a larger series. Not good enough. A lukewarm twist doesn't a good book make.
Published: June 2009
Format: Paperback, 332 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Aust.
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Thursday, 11 June 2009
see more Funny Graphs
Though I did point out that Pacey watched Joey sleep in one episode of Dawson's Creek. I did not and still don't find that creepy but I guess it's all contextual.
The great choice of factual information combined with the gorgeous, detailed illustrations (usually in the form of pop ups) make this a great resource, sure to excite kids on the wonders of space. It’s also a great way to commemorate the fortieth year anniversary of man on the moon. Having had a gaggle of excitable year five students pouring over it for the past thirty minutes, I can attest to this one being a hit with the young. Simply put, Moon Landing is freaking awesome.
“This book is cool. The pop up pictures are very detailed and it has a lot of information about everything in space.” M, Aged 10.Published: 2008
Jade is a girl who knows what she wants. She knows how to get it too. But when a knee injury interrupts her plans, she feels lost and unsure. It's a bad time to get her annoyed. When a sexist remark gets her blood boiling, Jade thinks she's found something to fight for. If she sets up a race to prove that girls aren't soft, then maybe she'll also prove to herself that she can still find The Zone. But will her single-minded approach to proving her point win her the race, and the boy? Or will she learn that maybe - just maybe - winning isn't everything?
Review - What Supergirl Did Next is one of the newest titles in Allen and Unwin's Girlfriend series. After an unfortunate landing at a gymnastics meet, Jade is forced to reassess what she holds important.
Jade is a single minded athletic machine created by a strong willed mother who is always pressing her daughter for more. With the fear of possible further injury, Jade starts involving herself in school life for the first time. However, her need to be competitive risks the new friendships she has made. There are some interesting themes in Kalkipsakis' novel - self-esteem, parental pressure, gender equality and starting fresh. That being said, some of the dialogue is a little forced, trying to hard to sound like teen speak both in the interpersonal and internal dialogue. It improved as the novel continued.
Readers will enjoy Jade staking a claim of her own, both in her family and at school. The boys versus girls swimming race is fun, the outcomes very relatable. The pacing is a little inconsistent, which can be expected with the multitude of areas of Jade's life that compete with one another. The romance is light with an emphasis on Jade, her family and her decisions which is a nice direction. A fun read.
Published: June 2009
Format: Paperback, 166 pages
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
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Wednesday, 10 June 2009
Review - It wasn't until I was a fair way into this novel that I realised how invested I was in Win and the rest of the Schwenk family. DJ's older brothers, Win and Bill, had been peripheral characters for Dairy Queen and with Win's injury, I realised how much I had bought into the concept of this family that worked a dairy.
The Off Season picks up from where we left off. DJ's successfully integrated into the Red Bend football team, re-established her friendship with Amber, secretly (kinda) dating Brian and juggling all her other responsibilities. Then her life begins to fall apart at the seams. Her mum triggers an old injury, Win gets hurt, Curtis goes off the rails and Brian's being cagey. DJ is required to step up and ultimately be the lynch pin that keeps her family from shattering to pieces.
There is no self-pity in this character and this is what makes Murdock's novels so winning. DJ shares the same self-doubt as many girls in YA, but unlike her fellow protagonists, she doesn't dwell. DJ keeps on keeping on until she can't anymore and then she goes a little further. She realised what she was truly capable of in the previous title but in The Off Season, DJ realises how strong she is, as well as her true worth. She makes some hard decisions in this novel and it's easy to take this character to heart.
If I had to describe Murdock's writing in one word, it would be charming. These books depict how hard life can be on the farm, breaking down barriers, being good to your family and valuing yourself. But she never looses sight of the humour in these situations (rats immediately come to mind).
Rural storytelling with heart.
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
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Author - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Release Date - October 19, 2009
After five months of sheer absolute craziness I was going back to being plain old background D.J. In photographs of course I’m always in the background—it’s a family joke, actually, that us Schwenk kids could go to school naked on picture day, we’re all so crazy tall. But I mean I was returning to the background of life. Where no one would really notice me or talk about me or even talk to me much except to say things like “nice shot,” and I could just hang out without too many worries at all.
But, it turns out, other folks have big plans for D.J. Like her coach. College scouts. All the town hoops fans. A certain Red Bend High School junior who’s keen for romance and karaoke. Not to mention Brian Nelson, who she should not be thinking about! Who she is DONE WITH, thank you very much. But who keeps showing up anyway . . .
What’s going to happen if she lets these people down? What’s going to happen when she does? Because let’s face it: there’s no way, on court or off, that awkward, tongue-tied D.J. Schwenk can manage all this attention. No way at all. Not without a brain transplant. Not without breaking her heart.
Having read Dairy Queen and The Off Season this week, I am dying to get my hands on the third in the DJ Schwenk/Dairy Queen Trilogy. In reading the first chapter on Catherine Gilbert Murdock's website, I am even more keen to see this book out on the shelves.
But there is one thing...I want DJ to be done with Brian. I swear if she goes back to him I will have a freaking conniption. There's no point cheering on a 'ship if the guy's a douche bag. He's treated her like crap, it's time to move on.
Only a few months to wait!
Review - Dairy Queen managed to make American football and farming interesting to me. That's how miraculous this book is! The book has been give positive reviews from many bloggers that I trust and I went in expecting really big things. The truth is, DQ wasn't what I expect but it was exactly what I needed.
DJ is a fantastically complex female protagonist. She's not flawed as much as burdened by responsibility. She's the ultimate good girl, she does all (and beyond) what is asked of her by her family. She's strong, capable, loyal, hardworking and struggling to keep all her balls in the air. She's an external individual, she rarely realises why she's done something until well after it's occurred. I love this girl but you are constantly waiting for her to buckle under the strain of her life.
The introduction of Brian onto the Schwenk's farm combined with the recent family division and inability to speak honestly with one another, upsets the balance of DJ's life. DJ isn't what you would call an internal person, she's exactly like the cows that Brian relates her to. His presence in her life, as her football pupil, brings a certain amount of self awareness that she didn't possess previously. It allows her to see her life and her family from an external perspective, which ultimately acts as a catalyst for a huge decision about what she wants.
Despite my relatively brief discussion, this story covers the gamut of themes in a natural, flowing style that allows room for humour. DJ's interest in football brings up the expected sexuality and equality themes, as well as the importance of communication, confidence, support and love.
An awesome, empowering read.
Format: Paperback, 278 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
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Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Monday, 8 June 2009
Review - Have you ever run cool, dry sand through your fingers? That delicious feeling is the closest experience I can relate to reading this book. Many reviewers have spoken of similarities between Prophecy of the Sisters and Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty - they are both stormy Gothic tales but Zink is the clear winner. The storytelling, characterisation and overarching mythos is stronger and better formed than the latter option.
It's such a lush read that it's easy to find yourself two hundred pages deep and not even notice. Zink's created a mythos that runs throughout the story, each clue in Lia's investigation reveals more about herself, her family and friends and ultimately, the prophecy itself. The story is complex, involving and deep.
The characters are delightful, puzzling and difficult to decipher. The sister's roles contrast with with their personalities, wants and needs and sets up an inevitable clash that I am longing to read. Lia is a character that is quickly thrust into the centre of a prophecy she has no knowledge or understanding of. Her sister, Alice, is not as conflicted, her purpose has been clearly delineated for many a year and this sets the stage for the family conflict that will flow through the expected trilogy. Family plays a strong role in prophecy. Each member is involved to varying degrees that both surprise and shock.
Supporting characters are just as enthralling as the sisters. Aunt Virginia is a remarkably complex and sad character, the victim of the prophecy already, doomed to see it continue with those that remain. Brother Henry, the silent observer, watchmen to his family's dismantling at the hands of a greater good (or evil). Luisa, stubborn and gorgeous, and Sonia, possessing of abilities that are invaluable but taxing, are fabulous additions to a wider mystery involving the prophecy. James is the only character I wish were more fully formed, he's Lia's beau but I don't really see his appeal past their physical attraction and history. This is sure to be played out more fully in the forthcoming volumes.
The intricate weaving of plot involves the reader immediately. The shadowy foreboding and tension that permeate Lia's journey of discovery, propel the reader along with the story making you fully involved in the events that unfold.
Intoxicating and mysterious.
Published: August 2009
Format: ARC, 352 pages
Published: Little, Brown Young Readers
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Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries. Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.
Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention. But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. His is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost-regardless of her plans or desires. Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; everything.
Review - There was enormous hype proceeding this novel, but unlike many other titles I was excited and hopeful. Marr didn't let me down. The world of Aislinn and Seth is small, quiet and soothing and with the introduction of Keenan, everything changes. Sure Ash could see the faeries (in all their variations) before but now they are integrating in her life in a way that pulls her firmly into the sphere of the Winter Queen and the Summer King.
The mythos behind the Royal Court of Faeries is vast but quickly and clearly unfurls for the reader. There are so many characters of differing loyalties and personalities that the world becomes real (rather than chaotic), Marr succeeds where many others have failed. While it may be easy to get whisked away with the faeries, there is a real sense of the grime and the street that removes most of the whimsicality of the typical faery-dom.
The characters are incredibly well formed, clear in motivation and purpose. I felt sympathy for those with ulterior motives, a sign that these characters were extremely well crafted and three dimensional. The relationship between Seth and Aislinn was sweet but it didn't rock my world. There are bound to be shippers everywhere but I wanted to know more about their beginning. I loved the grandmother and hope to learn more about her in the future (fingers crossed). My favourite character has to be the tortured Donia of the switching allegiances. This character cannot help but love the selfish Keenan and has been suffering because of him. Seth is interesting as he's strong without being depicted in the stereotypical male way. He's quiet, supportive, understanding but strong and unique. He gets his action moment at the end but his role is to support the smart and capable Aislinn. She doesn't require a knight swooping in and take point, she just needs her knight to hold her hand as she takes charge. It's refreshing.
Unlike some supernatural driven YA titles, this is quality story making. You need and want more having read this and thankfully Ink Exchange is in my hot, little hands.
Published: May 31, 2007
Format: Paperback, 328 pages
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Sunday, 7 June 2009
Rebel Angels - Libba Bray
Ah, Christmas! Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy, spending time with her friends in the city, attending ritzy balls, and on a somber note, tending to her ailing father. As she prepares to ring in the New Year, 1896, a handsome young man, Lord Denby, has set his sights on Gemma, or so it seems. Yet amidst the distractions of London, Gemma’s visions intensify–visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened, something only the realms can explain. . . . The lure is strong, and before long, Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world of the realms that Gemma alone can bring them to. To the girls’ great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship. But all is not well in the realms–or out. The mysterious Kartik has reappeared, telling Gemma she must find the Temple and bind the magic, else great disaster will befall her. Gemma’s willing to do his intrusive bidding, despite the dangers it brings, for it means she will meet up with her mother’s greatest friend–and now her foe, Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task.
The first title in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy didn't live up to the hype for me but by all accounts this second one will answer many of the questions I have. I am looking forward to seeing what is actually going on and hopefully more about Gemma's mother.
Ink Exchange - Melissa Marr
Unbeknownst to mortals, a power struggle is unfolding in a world of shadows and danger. After centuries of stability, the balance among the Faery Courts has altered, and Irial, ruler of the Dark Court, is battling to hold his rebellious and newly vulnerable fey together. If he fails, bloodshed and brutality will follow.
Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of faeries or their intrigues. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo of eyes and wings, all she knows is that she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she desperately craves for her own life.
The tattoo does bring changes; not the kind Leslie has dreamed of, but sinister, compelling changes that are more than symbolic. Those changes will bind Leslie and Irial together, drawing Leslie deeper and deeper into the faery world, unable to resist its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils. . . .
I have a faerie addiction - I needed to get my hands on this title asap as I have just completed Wicked Lovely. That being said, I know I am going to have to order Fragile Eternity in from the States and that's going to be $36 (no, I am NOT kidding). So much pleasure for so much wallet pain.
The Off Season - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Life is looking up for D.J. Schwenk. She's in eleventh grade, finally. After a rocky summer, she's reconnecting in a big way with her best friend, Amber. She's got kind of a thing going with Brian Nelson, who's cute and popular and smart but seems to like her anyway. And then there's the fact she's starting for the Red Bend High School football team—the first girl linebacker in northern Wisconsin, probably. Which just shows you can't predict the future. As autumn progresses, D.J. struggles to understand Amber, Schwenk Farm, her relationship with Brian, and most of all her family. As a whole herd of trouble comes her way, she discovers she's a lot stronger than she—or anyone—ever thought. This hilarious, heartbreaking and triumphant sequel to the critically acclaimed Dairy Queen takes D.J. and all the Schwenks from Labor Day to a Thanksgiving football game that you will never forget.
If I could aspire to write like anyone, it would be Catherine G Murdock. Her DJ Schwenk books are so charming, so funny and yet so much about overcoming obstacles in a completely honest, no frills way. Review coming soon.
Shug - Jenny Han
Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there's nothing worse than being twelve. She's too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there's not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren't acting so dear anymore -- especially Mark, the boy she's known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there's just no figuring out today?
You know life's bad when you chest is flat! Okay that was some healthy sarcasm but this book kept coming up on my radar so I think I am supposed to read it.
A Ghost in My Suitcase - Gabrielle Wang
The flute music stops, and my breath catches in my throat. Silence falls like a veil. Then I hear something - no, I feel it in my chest. 'Steady yourself,' Por Por whispers. 'It's here . . . '
When Celeste travels to China to visit her grandmother, she uncovers an incredible family secret. And with this secret comes danger and adventure.If Celeste is to save her family and friends, she must learn to harness her rare and powerful gift as a ghost-hunter. . .
Intrigue and some supernatural elements - my kind of book.
Little Bird - Penni Russon
Everything I know about love I learned in one short year. Somehow I'd coasted along all my life and then I fell in love twice, bam bam, just like that, and it left my heart spinning...Ruby-lee is cynical about love; after all, she's watched her sister Shandra call off her wedding three times a week. But when Shandra volunteers her to babysit her friend's seven month old baby, Ruby-lee discovers just what love means. First she's overcome by powerful feelings for tiny Maisy, then she starts spending time with Maisy's dad, Spence. She even begins to imagine a future together, as a family. But where will Ruby-lee's fantasies lead? And what sort of trouble could they get her into? When it looks like Ruby-lee might lose everything, she has to discover what love truly is to find her own heart.
LOVE this cover. Really excited to read another of the Girlfriend titles.
What Supergirl Did Next - Thalia Kalkipsakis
'I was very clear about my future from here - first, nail my floor routine; next, qualify for the state squad, and finally, compete at the Australian Championships. It was all so sharp - my path lit with a spotlight that put everything else in dreary shadows.'Jade is a girl who knows what she wants. She knows how to get it too. But when a knee injury interrupts her plans, she feels lost and unsure. It's a bad time to get her annoyed. When a sexist remark gets her blood boiling, Jade thinks she's found something to fight for. If she sets up a race to prove that girls aren't soft, then maybe she'll also prove to herself that she can still find The Zone. But will her single-minded approach to proving her point win her the race, and the boy? Or will she learn that maybe - just maybe - winning isn't everything?
I loathe the title of this book but I think I am prejudiced as I loathed the previous title written by this author. I have to admit that the summary doesn't fill me with hope. I will try to regain some objectivity.
The Fury in the Fire - Henning Mankell
'I learned to see the future in the flames. Fire is mysterious and unpredictable; it warms and it causes pain. And sometimes it is full of fury.'Sofia's first love was Armando - the Moonboy who appeared to her one night, taking off his clothes so she could mend them. She had learned to sew in the hospital, ten years ago, after a terrible landmine accident. Now Sofia and Armando have little children, and while Sofia supports her family in the village, Armando works in the city and comes home on weekends. Life is hard, but things become much worse when, one Saturday, Armando does not return. With her baby on her back, Sofia makes her way to town, and when she discovers what Armando is doing, she is shaken to her very core. Now Sofia must summon all her strength and courage to face the danger that lies ahead.
This is the third in the Sofia trilogy and I have not read the previous two. I am excited to read it though as I haven't read many titles that take place in Africa.
Thanks for sharing in the joys that I have received through various means. Having finally searched out my local library, I can see myself getting more and more and more titles. Happy reading this week!