Tag Archives: YA Fiction

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Book Reviews
September 16, 2012 posted by Nikki

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Josh and Emma are about to discover themselves–fifteen years in the future

It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long–at least, up until last November, when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since, but when Josh’s family gets a free AOL CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto Facebook . . . but Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. Josh and Emma are looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

Their spouses, careers, homes, and status updates–it’s all there. And every time they refresh their pages, their futures change. As they grapple with the ups and downs of what their lives hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right–and wrong–in the present.

In Josh and Emma’s world, the Internet is just taking off. Email and instant messenger is all the rage, and no one has even heard of Facebook. When Emma’s dad gets her a computer, Josh brings over a CD-ROM to install the Internet, and their lives are changed forever. When Emma boots up the CD, this thing called Facebook pops up. It seems to be some kind of Internet page dedicated to their lives in the future.

Josh is married to the hottest girl in school, and Emma, well, Emma’s life changes every few minutes. She goes through several husbands, finds herself living in places she’d never dream of living, and finds things out about friends that she doesn’t really want to know. And then it becomes clear … the things they do in their daily lives now are affecting the lives that exist in the future on this Facebook page. Even the tiniest little thing completely alters their future.

This novel is narrated through a dual perspective. Both Josh and Emma have a voice, which is cool. I really liked Josh, and I feel that teenagers will really relate to him. He’s that average kid that gets overlooked all the time; he’s the nice guy that finishes last; he’s pretty, well, normal. Emma, on the other hand, is less enjoyable to read. She’s selfish, incredibly shallow, and everything always has to be about her. As I read, there were several points in the story where I really wanted to slap some sense into her. Josh is so patient with her and he’s far too good to her. She doesn’t deserve his kindness, especially after the way she continually abuses their relationship.

This story is written so well that it’s impossible to tell it was penned by two different people.  I’ve always been a big fan of both Jay and Carolyn, so I was excited to see how well they worked together, and it gives me great pleasure to say that they’re an amazing team!

This one is an easy read, folks.

Pages: 356

Publication Date: 2011

Publisher: Razorbill

Rating:: ★★★★½

Teaser quote: I have a computer in my car? Josh is going to freak out when he hears this.

Author Interviews
January 27, 2011 posted by Christina

Interview with Beth Revis

Beth Revis is the author of the fantastic new novel, Across the Universe, which is our January Book of the Month! She was nice enough to take time out for a quick Q&A.

Amy and Elder’s life on the Godspeed is incredibly fascinating – where did the idea for the story come from?

The entire story revolves around the ending. I had an idea for that twisty end, and everything else—the setting, the characters, the plot—all of it came about as a way to make that ending happen.

During the early planning stages of the story who came first – Amy or Elder?

Elder. Originally, the first chapter was told in his point of view, and his voice was the easiest for me to write at first. I had to go through rather a lot of revision and rewriting with Amy—it took me awhile to figure her out, but once I had her voice down, she actually became the easier character to write.

There’s a lot of technical info about the way the ship works as well as biology, genes, space travel seen in the book, you must’ve done a lot of research before writing the book?

I had to research mostly in terms of what we don’t have and why we don’t have it. For example, I had to research why cryogenic freezing doesn’t work now (the cell walls burst when frozen) and then invent something that would make it work (the infamous “blue goo” Amy encounters in Chapter 1). In some ways, this made things easier for me—since it’s fiction, I got to do a lot of creative inventing to make the science work, and could use my imagination rather than facts.

During the Plague the ship was cut off from communications with Earth – was that someone’s doing or a computer malfunction?

Oh dear….I’m afraid I’m not going to tell you. That is something that will be addressed in the future books, though!

Most of the reviews on other blogs and on Goodreads are 4 or 5 star ratings, are you surprised by the warm reception?

Happily so! It’s so terrifying to send creative work out into the world. Even though I’m fully aware that writing and reading is an entirely subjective thing, there’s so much of me in my work that to see someone not like it feels like a personal insult when I know logically it isn’t. The wonderful reception AtU has received so far has made me thrilled beyond belief and just confirmed my idea that I have the very best readers in the whole world.

I’m sure it’s still top secret at this stage but is there anything you can share about what we can expect from the next book?

I can only say that at least 2 things you think are true from the first book….are actually lies.

And lastly, let’s finish on a fun one….crunchy or smooth peanut butter? (Would they have that on Godspeed?)

Crunchy for me! Peanuts are a crop that would be easy (and necessary) for the residents to grow, so I imagine there’s lots of peanut butter around Godspeed—and since peanut butter is so easy to make, I’d say that they can have it either way they want, crunchy or smooth!

Thank you Beth! Check out our review of Across the Universe here and Beth’s guest blog here.

There’s still time to enter our Across the Universe giveaway too, click here to enter.

Author Interviews
November 22, 2010 posted by Christina

Interview with Lara Morgan

Lara Morgan is the author of the thrilling new novel, Genesis, the first book in the Rose Black Chronicles.

Set five hundred years into the future, the story follows Rosie Black as she deals with a world much different from the one we know.
The Melt has sunk most of the coastal cities and Newperth is divided into the haves, the “Centrals”; the have-nots, the “Bankers”; and the fringe dwellers, the “Ferals”.

Rosie Black is a Banker. When Rosie finds an unusual box, she has no idea of the grave consequences of her discovery. A mysterious organisation wants it – and will kill to get it.

Forced to rely on two strangers, Rosie is on the run. But who can she trust? Pip, the too attractive Feral, or the secretive man he calls boss?

From Earth to Mars, Rosie must learn the secrets of the box – before it’s too late.

**As always, beware of a few small spoilers**

Genesis has elements of both dystopia and sci fi, and does it quite well, what drew you to writing a book in those genres and where did the idea for Genesis come from?

I’ve been a fan of dystopian futures for years (I think it has to do with being a teenager in the 80s when we were all convinced the Cold War was going to end with a nuclear winter) and although I’m generally a positive person when I look at the way the world is today, I don’t hold out much hope for any kind of utopian future. Given the environmental damage we’ve inflicted, and our politicians’ short term policies for dealing with it, I can’t see any other alternative than for a fairly bleak future. That concern about our environment, the climate change debate, is really where the idea for Genesis came from. I’d been reading a lot of books about it and wanted to explore a future where we are dealing with the possible fallout from our present mistakes.

From the Melt, to Pip, to Riley, the actions of the past have made a huge impact on not only the story and the world but also for the characters personal lives – was that something you wanted to highlight to readers?

The past always informs the present and the more interesting or challenging a past, the higher the stakes are in the present. I like to write about consequence, for both characters and the worlds I create, so having had awful things happen in the past creates for more interesting characters and a more interesting world.

How much research did you do before starting Genesis?

A lot. I’ve always had an interest in space but I’m no scientist so I had to do heaps of research on that. I read a lot of books on climate change and I also had to research Mars, space exploration and try to get my head around the physics of the solar system and travel within it. I have a whole stack of books on astrophysics on my shelf now to add to my collection.

Will we get to hear more of Yuang’s back story?

You will get to hear more about Helios which will lead to a better understanding of why Yuang was the way he was, but Yuang himself, of course, is not in book two.

I was getting the feeling that Riley and Aunt Essie could be a good couple, am I wrong?

You’re not wrong, but love is complicated so let’s not pressure them into anything!

We’re left with a lot of unanswered question and unresolved issues (that I’m dying to get to the bottom of), what can we expect from the next book?

Equinox is going to go further into what/who Helios is and also offer up some new challenges for Rosie. Pip will return but there is also a new boy, Dalton, and the fight against Helios moves into the wild lands of the north, known as Gondwana Nation. Rosie will find out that not everything is as black and white as she thought and she’s going have to make a choice that will alter the course of her future.

In your acknowledgments you mentioned Isobelle Carmody (who I am also a big fan of), what was it like having her input/advice?

Isobelle’s advice was absolutely invaluable. She saw Genesis in its very early stages in 2007 and was really supportive which I very much needed at that stage. I’d been writing for adults beforehand and she gave me the best advice anyone’s who is writing for young adults can get which is; never let your adult characters take over from your teenage protagonist. Oh, and she is a totally awesome person as well, just in case you were wondering.

Any quirky writing rituals or habits? Where do you prefer to write? Cafe, at home…etc

I can’t write in noisy crowded places like cafes, I have to be at my desk or in a quiet place, but I must, must have tea. The writing day starts when I have a cup of tea sitting on my desk, a little to the left as I’m left handed. Irish breakfast, loose leaf, white, no sugar, thanks.

What’s currently in your to-read pile?

Fallen by Lauren Kate, The Poison Diaries by Wood Northumberland, Slights by Kaaron Warren and some research for a future project: Lilith the First Eve and The Book of Enoch

Thanks Lara! Genesis is available in store in Australia and New Zealand and online for international readers.

A Curse Dark As Gold – Elizabeth C. Bunce
Book Reviews
September 14, 2010 posted by Christina

A Curse Dark As Gold – Elizabeth C. Bunce

“Upon the death of her father, seventeen-year-old Charlotte struggles to keep the family’s woolen mill running in the face of an overwhelming mortgage and what the local villagers believe is a curse, but when a man capable of spinning straw into gold appears on the scene she must decide if his help is worth the price.”

A Curse Dark As Gold is the award winning debut novel from Elizabeth C. Bunce, which gives a new interpretation to the classic story of Rumpelstiltskin.

When looking at the original story, one of the main messages is – what’s in a name? Though every character, from the King to the miller, to Rumpelstiltskin himself has a name, the main character – the miller’s daughter, is nameless. Thus our protagonist, Charlotte Miller, was created.

Set in the country town of Shearing in England during the late 1700s, we meet Charlotte and her younger sister, Rosie, on the gloomy day of their father’s funeral. With no one else to take over the family’s woolen mill, Stirwaters, Charlotte must take charge to ensure the workplace the whole village depends on for income, stays afloat. This is by no means a small feat.

On top of battling the mill’s debts, deadlines for wool production and maintaining her authority as a woman during the 1700s, the mill itself is cursed. Not only does it seem to have a mind of its own – sometimes causing injuries to the workers, but a son born to the current owner of the mill has never survive into adulthood. While the mill’s debts are the biggest concern, the mysterious Jack Spinner comes on the scene. He makes himself and his unique abilities to turn everyday material into anything you desire (such as gold) available to the Millers – but at what cost?

A Curse Dark As Gold is the third historical novel in a row that I’ve read lately and I must say, I’m really loving it. As mentioned, it’s a reinterpretation of the story of Rumpelstiltskin, which was done very well considering it was retold while staying in the same time period as the original was set. Considering we know the ending to the fairytale, you’re still left in suspense wondering just how everything will come together in the end of this book.

There are so many different themes and issues that came up in this book but were blended and balanced out very well. The first is showing how the Industrial Revolution impacted the “cottage industry” or more traditional manufacturing methods of items such as wool and fabric which is the case in this story. The plot also brings together the superstitions and hidden secrets found in quite country villages. Not only that but the villagers themselves are gutsy people who work hard and approach any problem head on such as the big city business trying to make a move on their mill and stamp out their way of life.

It also shows the difference between a woman’s place in society in the city versus the country. Charlotte and her sister work hard on the mill, and though it is accepted in the country; we see that in the city, she’d be expected to do no more than be a pretty young lady, leaving servants to take care of anything else. This is highlighted by the arrival of the girl’s only living relative, their Uncle Wheeler. Though he shows up in fine clothes and powdered wig, under his refined exterior lie dark secrets and betrayals.

Love is shown in many forms throughout the story. We see the Charlotte’s love for the Stirwaters and the people in it who are her extended family, her love for her sister as well as her love for Randall. I adored Randall; I thought he was such a great character and an example of the perfect gentleman who works hard to protect the ones he loves. Charlotte’s love for Stirwaters however, almost jeopardized her relationship with Randall, as she let her pride and her want to protect others by handling the entire burden herself get in the way, as she became secretive and progressively distant from him. We definitely see the importance of communication and knowing that you shouldn’t underestimate those around you.

A Curse Dark As Gold is a thrilling read that takes on a classic fairytale and makes it something new a different while giving you insight the mysteries that lie beneath seemingly quite country towns. A terrific addition to the historical novels coming out recently.

Pages: 395
Publication Date: August 2010
Rating: : ★★★★☆

Teaser Quote: “Oh,” he said considering the idea, “let’s say Jack Spinner.”
“That’s no kind of name”
“It’s all the name I need here.” He gave a slight smile and tipped his hat. “Tonight, then. I’ll be back at sundown.”

The Unwritten Rule – Elizabeth Scott
Book Reviews
September 11, 2010 posted by Nikki

The Unwritten Rule – Elizabeth Scott

He’s looking at me like – well, like he wants to look at me. Like he likes what he sees, and he’s smiling and his eyes are so blue, even in the faint glow of the porch light they shine, and I nod dumbly, blindly, then grope for the door handle, telling myself to look away and not yet able to do it.

“Sarah,” he says, softly, almost hesitantly, and my heart slam bangs, beating hard, and this is what it’s like to want someone you can’t have. To want someone you shouldn’t even be looking at.

Sarah is in quite the predicament. She’s riding that rollercoaster of first love – the pain, the exhilaration, the ups and downs. Only problem is, she’s doing it solo – unrequited style. She’s been in love with Ryan since the eighth grade, but now he’s dating her emotionally stunted best friend, Brianna, and Sarah is forced to stumble through each day, the pain of seeing them together pulling at her insides with every second that passes.

Brianna has crappy parents who clearly don’t want her around, and Ryan seems to make Brianna feel like she matters to someone. At least, that’s how it looks to Sarah, which is why Sarah is so hell bent on keeping her feelings completely and totally to herself. How could she take Ryan away from Brianna, when she has so little to start with?

Besides, there’s no way Sarah could compete with the sassy, sexiness that is Brianna – and Brianna makes sure Sarah knows it every single day. Brianna might have crappy parents, but that’s no excuse for the way she treats those around her. Its obvious to the reader that Ryan is nothing more than a self-esteem booster for Brianna, and while she might actually love Sarah, she doesn’t know how to show it. I couldn’t help but wonder if Brianna only kept Sarah around to make herself feel better.

But then, it seems, Ryan sees through Brianna’s dance, and decides to take his affections elsewhere – right into the garden of Sarah! Turns out, Ryan has kind of been in love with Sarah for ages, but got all caught up in the whirlwind that is Brianna and time just got away. But he wont stand for that anymore. He wants Sarah, and nothing – nothing – will stand in his way.

Not even Brianna, when she walks in on Ryan and Sarah lying curled up together in Sarah’s bed.

The Unwritten Rule is interesting exploration through the rules of dating and friendship. Were Ryan and Sarah wrong to pursue each other when Brianna was still so clearly caught in the middle. Did they consider her feelings enough? With the way Brianna was treating the pair of them, should they have considered her feelings at all? When is it okay to break the rules of friendship for matters of the heart? These are all questions I asked myself repeatedly throughout this story.

Sarah and Ryan are both likable characters, but I found Brianna to be shallow, callous and difficult to read. She’s clearly got some emotional issues, but the way she treats those around her makes my stomach squirm. You’d think, with her home life being so terrible and all, she’d value the love of her friends a little more.

The Unwritten Rule is a home run for Elizabeth Scott. This is a great, contemporary chick lit read!

Publication date: 2010

Pages: 210

Rating:: ★★★★☆

Teaser Quote: “I wasn’t happy with you? Brianna says. “Almost eight weeks, Ryan. And then you go and – ” she glares at me. “Is this my anniversary present? You could have at least picked someone decent. Someone I’d believe you want and not just who you used to make yourself feel better.”

Book Reviews
September 8, 2010 posted by Christina

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3) – Suzanne Collins

“Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.”

This August there was only one word on everyone’s lips – Mockingjay. Have you got it? Have you read it? Have you seen it? Reviewers, readers and fans alike were camped outside their letterboxes and bookstores, poised for the moment the conclusion to the Hunger Games series finally arrived. However none of the excitement or anticipation could’ve prepared us for the emotional roller coaster 455 pages could bring.

Mockingjay brings us to Panem a few months after Katniss was rescued from the Hunger Games arena by the District 13 rebels. This fact also reminds us that Peeta was not. He is still in the hands of the Capitol, under known conditions.

The rebellion has begun in earnest now. However there are still Districts under the control of the Capitol and there is a disjointed feeling among the rebels. They need a symbol, something to unify them and lead the spirit of the cause. They need the Mockingjay, Katniss. But after all she’s been through can she find the strength be that face? Can she bear being a puppet on show again? How far does she have to go just to be free?

It’s a good thing I had time to process just how I felt about this book after I read it otherwise it would’ve looked like Kanye West took over the blog, writing a review strictly in caps lock. I was only a few pages in when I realized I should’ve eaten or gone to the bathroom beforehand because I was so entranced, engaged, engrossed, totally sucked into this book I knew I wasn’t going to be able to move till I read every last word.

Was I disappointed? That the series was over, yes. By the book itself, no.  The story is so emotional it leaves you feeling shell shocked. The pace of the plot means Katniss never really gets a break, she’s always in the thick of the action which you can see slowly wears away at her already frayed nerves. This also takes its toll on everyone else as the strain and fear push them to breaking point.

There’s no doubt that what the characters face is an outright war and Suzanne Collins gives us everything that goes with it – the heroics and the aftermath. Facing the kind of sights these characters do means you can’t remain unaffected, which is what gives the story a very raw, realistic quality.
Collins never comes across as preachy about the war but she does make you question, just how far are you willing to go and where do you draw the line?

The realism that she brought to the story meant Collins definitely had a no holds barred approach to her characters and nothing was sacred. As a reader I was constantly kept on my toes, not being able to predict what would happen next, you’re left guessing the whole time.

I promised to keep this spoiler free, so highlight the text if you want to see it. (Don’t say you weren’t warned)

My only complaint with Mockingjay is that the ending felt rushed. There needed to be more detail particularly between Peeta and Katniss. The book was so starved of him already; we needed to see that reconnection.

There are no winners or losers in a war, just survivors left to pick up the pieces. But throughout all the pain and despair, there is still hope and love. Katniss has been an incredible character to follow, her bravery and strength never ceased to amaze me I felt so proud of her in Mockingjay.

This book hit me on a new level where I was left nothing but stunned afterwards. I’m DEVASTATED that it’s all over but it’s been an amazing ride with an amazing series. If you’re looking for a happy ending, you’re not going to find it here. You will however find an incredible story that’ll stay with you days later, you won’t be the same again.

Pages: 455
Publication Date: August 2010
Rating: : ★★★★★

Teaser Quote: “So, what do you think they’ll do to him?” I ask.
Prim sounds a thousand years old when she speaks.
“Whatever it takes to break you.”

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher – Doug MacLeod
Book Reviews
August 21, 2010 posted by Christina

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher – Doug MacLeod

“Thomas Timewell is sixteen and a gentleman. When he meets a body-snatcher called Plentitude, his whole life changes. He is pursued by cutthroats, a tattooed gypsy with a meat cleaver, and even the Grim Reaper. More disturbing still, Thomas has to spend an evening with the worst novelist in the world.”

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher is a black comedy set in England in 1828 and is the 12th book written by Doug MacLeod. We meet sixteen-year-old protagonist, Thomas Timewell, on the evening of his grandfather’s funeral. Thomas’ Grandfather’s dying wish was for his body to be donated to science to help in the advancement of the medical and scientific fields. Like in many cases, those wishes were ignored and he was buried anyway. So, as you do, Thomas takes matters into his own hands and digs up the grave to take the body where it rightfully belongs, as per his Grandfather’s wishes.

As he digs, we meet Plentitude – a body snatcher. An uneasy alliance is made between the two as Plentitude shows Thomas the tricks of the body snatching trade and delivers the body to the desired destination. From there Plentitude convinces Thomas to continue fulfilling the final wishes of the recently deceased.

Body snatching is not a simple game though – there’s competition. Disgruntled former partners of Plentitude’s want the bodies (and the payment that comes with their sale) for themselves. That, plus a gypsy with a taste for throwing meat cleavers, a teacher who ritually tortures his best friend and a mother in a constant opium daze, Thomas’s life gets really bizarre, really fast. Not to mention the lovely Victoria, who he can’t keep from offending every time their paths cross.

As some of you may know, I spend most of my day studying fashion and trends, but I’m picking up on a book trend here –  more stories being set during the Georgian and Victorian eras (18th and 19th century) – and I have to say I’m really liking it. Think Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and Emily Bronte, but teen friendly. Now don’t get me wrong, these authors and many others of that period were very talented and have written some of the best loved classic literature of all time. I’ve read a fair few books from the period either for study or by choice but try as I might I just don’t know what they’re saying. Since times and social customs have changed you need to read between the lines, and understand the contextual history to know why it’s so scandalous for a girl to leave the house without a hat and gloves. This, plus the language itself means the message of those books are unfortunately lost on me, it just feels like a chore to read. I don’t doubt they’re still valuable and the themes and issues they express are important and still relevant today (and should still be read and studied)….but they’re just not fun for me.

What I’m trying to get at here, is that books such as The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher and others that are coming out recently, are quite faithful to the period and allow you to enjoy a story set in the age of gentlemen in top hats and ladies in corsets without getting lost in the writing of classic literature.

There was a great plot here, quite different to things I’ve read lately – very dark and gruesome at times but also with a sense of sarcasm and humor that kept it light. I loved the surprise ending, as well as the reference to Sweeney Todd, and to the issues of women who had to pose as males to be taken seriously as authors and the extend of opium use of the time.

The characters were a delight and I loved the witty interaction between them. Particularly between Thomas and his adopted younger brother John, who at fourteen has moved out into his deceased grandfather’s mansion and considers himself an important adult, high power business man. I also liked that body snatchers (or resurrectionists) never revealed their names; each one had a unique name chosen by them.

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher is a great period novel that was witty and engaging, that gives a dark insight to an unusual occupation.

Publication Date: June 2010
Rating: : ★★★½☆

Teaser Quote: “You must think it strange that I’m digging up my grandfather.”
“Not at all. I’m sure many men dig up their grandfathers.”