I really, really enjoyed this debut title. I loved the fresh prose right from the start but there was a bit of a lull in the first half of the novel wI really, really enjoyed this debut title. I loved the fresh prose right from the start but there was a bit of a lull in the first half of the novel where I just wasn’t sucked into a central pivotal event. But the second half was deliciously brilliant and had more of an unputdownable vibe (by then the characters had grown on me) and I could see the character arcs and complications and it was clear that Mills has skill in drawing out themes in subtle, natural ways that perfectly take you back to those teenage years.
My fave parts of this were the totally-worth-every-moment pay-off in the crush department. I love novels where less is more when handling romance and this is so awesomely done.
I loved the cousin/sibling relationship. So much goodness and depth.
The secrets different characters had -- all felt so genuine and true -- no melodrama, just real and relational and perfectly well handled.
I am impressed with this book, you guys. I am hoping Mills has more contemporary YA coming up because I am thinking she and I are going to be a great fit (give me more!). I think if you have missed out on this book in 2015, you should bump it up your TBR for 2016 because it was a stand-out read for me and I know so many of you guys who love good contemporary YA are going to fall for this novel and it’s characters like I have. I think fans of Emery Lord would love Emma Mills style. One of my fave contemporary YA reads of 2015 <3...more
Love this Aussie YA debut set in the Blue Mountains (my hometown :)). The plot is compelling and the characters felt real -- this is one for fans of TLove this Aussie YA debut set in the Blue Mountains (my hometown :)). The plot is compelling and the characters felt real -- this is one for fans of Tomorrow, When the World Began and Life As We Knew It. Looking forward to more of Zorn's work (quietly hoping for a sequel?) ...more
Melina Marchetta blurbs Will Kostakis' sophomore novel: 'The relationships in this novel are gems. Funny dialogue, wonderful characters, a st3.5 stars
Melina Marchetta blurbs Will Kostakis' sophomore novel: 'The relationships in this novel are gems. Funny dialogue, wonderful characters, a story told with so much heart.'
I love this blurb as it nails the essence of this book. I came away from it thinking 'what an incredibly heartfelt book.' Here's what Kostakis says on his site about The First Third:
The First Third is out now. It started out as a kernel of an idea: what if my grandmother gave me her bucket list to complete? And from that, out grew this novel about what it means to be a grandson, a son and yourself.
It’s a more personal novel than I expected to write… It’s not about me, but there’s a lot of me in there.
And it’s definitely a lot of fun. (from Will Kostakis' site)
I love the premise of this book. Having said that, it got off to a really slow start. I felt a smidgen lost in the first 20% -- if it wasn't for the grin-worthy humour and enjoying meeting the characters I'm not sure I would have been hooked enough to keep going. But I am glad I did. I love how all the threads and characters started coming together and the last 20% was just deliciously addictive and smiley and completely worthwhile. Some of the plot threads were predictable (in an appealing way - I wanted to see them play out like that) but others left me wondering where they would go and there were a few surprises.
As Kostakis' says in the blurb above, it feels like a personal novel. In between the funny narration and Greek comedy/drama/tragedy, a lot of the insights and relationships felt like the truth. Bill was so earnest and sensitive and hopeful and you can feel him just wanting things to work out while bumbling around and often making more of a mess of things. Underneath his bravado and humour was a really relateable teenage guy and I know Bill will resound with many Aussie teens.
The First Third was a breezy and fun read - it was easy to keep the pages turning. The humour in it highlighted the heart. Also, it was such boy humour - I think the humour Bill expressed towards his family (often the butt of his inner jokes) came from a place of love and teenage awkwardness/embarrassment and was not at all intended to put people down or to be taken too seriously.
The awesome Greek family vibe was one of my favourite aspects of the book. It definitely made me feel like I was transported to another culture in much the same way Marchetta's Looking For Alibrandi had me all Italian for the duration of the book. Will Kostakis has a fantastic voice for Aussie teenagers and I can only imagine his future work will go from strength to strength -- looking forward to more of his work. ...more
Wow. Tim Sinclair's debut verse novel on parkour is really something else. For starters, it's everything I like my verse novels to be: that deliciousWow. Tim Sinclair's debut verse novel on parkour is really something else. For starters, it's everything I like my verse novels to be: that delicious exploration of words and rhythm (not rhyme) and experimentation in typography variation. It's a visual masterpiece with so many pages set out in a unique and arresting format. Truly stunning, the pages are an artwork. There's an energy to the writing that drives it forward, at the same time, the words are put together so carefully that you have to stop and let the moment linger, before pushing ahead for more.
I can honestly say I have never read a book like it: the subject (so much action and thrills and paranoia and also this whole underground world I had no idea about). It's exhilarating and vivid -- I found myself being tempted by parkour, (haha, I can't even walk down stairs without tripping over imaginary cracks). I loved the Sydney setting and the relationships and the adrenalin in this book.
Finely crafted, Sinclair breathes so much life into this book. I have seen not a lot about Run out there and I truly hope it gets the attention it deserves. ...more
I was pretty pumped about the premise of this book. Ever since I went to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat (as a girl) I have been fascinated with the bush-rI was pretty pumped about the premise of this book. Ever since I went to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat (as a girl) I have been fascinated with the bush-ranger/gold panning era and haunted by the story of the Eureka Stockade.
Plus, who doesn't love an Irish narrator?
The Valley of Blood and Gold is a book you easily sink into . It begins with an authentic flavour that matches the era and the narrators heritage. Like the Australian landscape in the 1800's, the book has a dusty, raw, brave and tough vibe to it.
Our narrator, Fintan, is an Irish teen, orphaned and living with an enigmatic and unaffectionate widowed Aunt and his two little cousins. His uncle (aunt's brother) is around a bit, jovial and caring ~ yet no one will talk to Fintan about what happened to his parents or who they were ~ the plot-line about the mystery surrounding his deceased parents deepens and builds throughout the book, creating mystery and leading into the climax.
As for Fintan ~ he's right on the cusp of no longer being a child and not quite an adult.
There's a sense of adventure and wonderment buzzing in the book despite how hard life was for immigrants during that era.
So... as for the vibe of this book? It very much reminded me of some of Jackie French's work. Historic and authentic and a great mix of English and Irish settlers who have the unmistakable beginnings of an Aussie spirit. The setting and era really make the work stand out as a fantastic backdrop for one boys story.
As for the plot? The actual Eureka Stockade battle is only a small slice of the climax (I actually would have liked more detail with the battle ~ it did inspire me to google and refresh my memory about it all). The story itself is one of forbidden friendship, family secrets, bush-rangers and life and survival in early Australian times.
Bonus stuff: I LOVED lots of the characters names which felt authentic and, well, full of character: Kilkenny Pat (Fintan's uncle), Lawson King (a bush-ranger), Niamh Donovan, Mumyareum (aboriginal lady) There's bush-rangers. And murders. And a hanging of a beloved character ~ which is sad and startling. There's a cool plot-line about building a bridge and a sense of beginning something new in a wild and exciting land. I loved the Epilogue. I think it worked brilliantly to bring a greater depth to the story ~ being able to revisit the characters years on and see what the future held for them. Recommended: The Valley of Blood and Gold is a fine addition to the Aussie YA scene ~ with it's vivid depiction of Australian life in the 1800's. The characters are true 'characters', lively and raw, they keep the pages turning. With it's quiet sense of humour and a steady pacing, it's a historical book that can capture your mind and transport you to a fascinating time and place. I really enjoyed it and think it will have great appeal to Aussie teens, and boys especially ~ with it's relatable male narrator....more
Fantastic prose and intriguing premise (where the reader is mystified about what is going on? Is it paranormal? Is it something else?). The climax andFantastic prose and intriguing premise (where the reader is mystified about what is going on? Is it paranormal? Is it something else?). The climax and reveal are stunning (and startling) and heartbreaking and shine a whole new light on everything -- Kuehn tackled everything about this masterfully. ...more
I have always had a thing for books which feature redemption. They emotionally grip and resonate strongly with me. Many of my personal favourite booksI have always had a thing for books which feature redemption. They emotionally grip and resonate strongly with me. Many of my personal favourite books usually have a sliver of redemption running through them:
Think The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta, Carly in Kirsty Eagar's Raw Blue, Francine River's Redeeming Love, Sherryl Jordan's (amazing) Winter of Fire which all had me weeping and aching and so drawn in with the protagonists story/search/ache for redemption.
And, boy, does Jace from SPLIT join their ranks.
Jace is someone who is so conflicted. He has the weight of guilt on him, a shroud of claustrophobic fear, doubt, self-loathing and then through it all he harbours a tiny spark of hope that flares and gets stamped down. Again and again.
He is someone who has been abandoned by those who should love him the most.
And yet his capacity for love is huge. And painful to bear witness too.
Sorry for starting my review out so intensely, but this book causes an intense response.
I have read stories of abuse before (fiction and non-fiction) and this one is truly exceptional. The whole scenario is beautifully, achingly portrayed from all sides of the story: the abused, the abuser, the mum, the two brothers and how it impacts them in different ways.
Not only does the story seem true and impeccably well researched and presented, but Avasthi is a gifted writer: her prose is stunning, her ability to create atmosphere, to bring light into darkness, to add levity to intensity, and to draw a reader in and build a story towards a gripping rising climax.
Despite the hard punch this book packs I do want you to know it is not just one big tension-filled, heart-aching angst. Jace is a captivating character. His male POV is one of the finest examples I have come across in YA literature. It is as genuine as Tom in The Piper's Son and Adam in Where She Went.
I adored Jace: his love of books and soccer/running, his sweet attempts at cooking, his sarcasm and intelligence and his bruised but enormous capacity for love. He's utterly endearing despite his rough edges. He often made me grin and also swoon. His POV is easy to slip into, compelling and addictive.
Also, while the romance was not the main plot thread ~ it is just wonderfully done. It's as if Avasthi has pared it down to the finest, most choice tender and conflicted moments so that the scenes that are portrayed are like a picture that paints a thousand words. I was so rooting for him and his new interest (be on the look-out for some tender and swoon-y scenes that will make you ache ~ and keep your fingers crossed).
Avasthi has a character who is so conflicted in himself, having secretly endured a nightmare and also having done some despicable acts himself. Yet he is not beneath redemption. And I teared up as the story was coming to a close ~ touched and moved and just blown-away by what he endured and who he had become and what he was becoming.
I want to shred my own skin, yank every thread of DNA out, and give it to her as an offering. But would that be enough? Is there any way I can fix this? I shouldn't even apologize since that will shove the burden of forgiveness onto her. Who the hell am I to ask for her forgiveness? Who the hell am I to twist her into someone who could forgive the unforgivable? I know exactly who I can turn her into. (jace. page 109)
Recommended: An exceptional story that will stand the test of time. I think you should read this.
Confession: I would not normally be drawn to a book with this title/cover. So when it rocked up I wasn't too sure it would be my thing.
But, mate: itConfession: I would not normally be drawn to a book with this title/cover. So when it rocked up I wasn't too sure it would be my thing.
But, mate: it was insanely compelling, fascinating and just, ugh, I LOVED it.
I read it within two sittings.
It is a New Zealand YA book ~ released in NZ in 2007, and just now released in Australia.
It's the story of one fourteen year old New Zealand boy ~ who is transferred to yet another juvenile detention centre.
He's not a troubled kid with a sad past. He's a mini genius from a good home. A very violent mini genius. Being in his head is completely riveting: from the way he thinks to the things he loves and admires and seeing why he did some of the outrageous and horrifying things he did.
He is the sort of kid that could grow up to be Dexter (from Jeff Lindsay's books, now made into a TV show).
It was amusing. Okay, and a tad horrifying... Absolutely. I read it wide-eyed, smirking in parts, stunned in others.
Hamish relates his story in journal entries, and he's a precocious, intelligent little thing ~ there's a great sense of humour in there. Smattered among the journal entries is a present day narrative which includes staff meetings (from an omnipresent POV) and Hamish's life unfolding in the correctional facility. The staff so amused me. The author is a high school teacher, and he nails that dynamic of different staff members grating against one another with differing strong opinions. Funny stuff, hey.
As the story unfolds, Hamish relates different violent episodes from his childhood and each one is equal parts horrifying and intriguing, but above all, original. I don't want to give away spoilers, but some of the acts he did ~ whoa, they were creative and stunning and intelligent. Also, completely mad, yet utterly logical to him.
He's not formally diagnosed in the book, but he's some kind of sociopathic genius. He has delusions of grandeur and a strong sense of honour and justice. He sees the world differently to the rest of us.
There's clues along the way and a perfectly paced unveiling of some of Hamish's crimes ~ which include his most famous crime: manslaughter at the age of ten. As the story hurtles along I kept wondering where it was headed and there's a sense that anything could happen, an undercurrent of dread and suspense.
So... the climax. It was a bit wild (okay, I chuckled a little, incredulously). It made for some great drama and I loved the direction the story took ~ but (sorry to be cryptic) when a certain character appeared, I found it a little incredulous and dramatic for my tastes. It still didn't stop me from enjoying it though.
It's well written and compelling and I am thrilled this book has been imported from New Zealand with and Aussie publisher. It is also available internationally. It's a fascinating and strong addition to the New Zealand YA scene.
I absolutely recommend this book: To anyone who is fascinated by psychology and the human mind, to reluctant readers, and especially boys. Even though it is YA, it is a book that will easily be appreciated and enjoyed by adults (my husbands got it on his bedside table to read next).
Bonus stuff: Hamish has heroes who he aims to live up to. He's obsessed with them: Alexander the Great, Sir Robert Falcon Scott (Scottish explorer), prison escape artists, Joan of Arc, Hitler gets a mention, Charles Upham, Te Rauparaha (New Zealand warrior) and other historically fascinating characters are sprinkled throughout the book. It's like little pockets of intrigue weaved into the story ~ like reading the engrossing stuff out of a Guiness Book of Records ~ it's an engrossing look at some violent and impressive heroes from the past.
At 174 pages, Violence 101 packs a lot of punch. I devoured it and so enjoyed it. It's a perfect length for a riveting story.
Quote: He (Alexander the Great) was probably responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, some historians say 750, 000. And how is he remembered today? Alexander the Brutal? Alexander the Freak? Alexander the Sadistic Psycho? No way - he is simply referred to as Alexander the Great. How do you think he would get on today? I think he'd get a hard time like me, and be regarded as a dangerous lunatic....more
I made it to page 93 and still wasn't feeling it. I think it was just a touch too random and there were so many tangents from thme + this book = fail.
I made it to page 93 and still wasn't feeling it. I think it was just a touch too random and there were so many tangents from the main story-line that I wasn't engaged enough.
Also, the quirky anecdotes and asides just didn't do anything for me. Perhaps as an Aussie I just have a different sense of humour and found it too hard to relate?
Once I started doing the skimming thing (I was trying to zoom ahead and see if I could stumble across the plot, somewhere, hidden in there...) I just decided to move on altogether.
it is a unique book and very much loved ~ just not for me.
On a side note: I am kind of proud of myself for giving up on books I'm not into lately. I used to hang in there gritting my teeth until the bitter end. Kind of liberating, allowing myself to ditch a book that doesn't match me :)...more
I automatically wanted to read this book regardless of the premise because I really love the way C K Kelly Martin writes. (Not that the premise was soI automatically wanted to read this book regardless of the premise because I really love the way C K Kelly Martin writes. (Not that the premise was so bad, just that I plan on reading her books regardless of the blurb)
C K Kelly Martin captures the teen voice so authentically and without any sentimentality ~ it really is refreshing to read. Her books just feel honest.
Likewise ~ I adore her prose. It is neither overly literary or simply commercial. I love the way she tells her stories ~ her sentences often have a perfect rhythm and her dialogue flows so effortlessly.
I loved Mason's voice in this story. He's charming and aching and 100% teen man-child. I find it easy to crush on a male POV done well and this ranks up at the top for me among YA fiction.
As for the actual story. Gosh ~ I was so into it (really, I read it in one day) but at the same time, it didn't entirely sit well with me. I found myself wondering a couple of times just what the book was really about, what Martin's intentions with the story were, what that first original nugget of idea was that sparked the whole thing. I am concluding it really is just about one guys first experiences with sex/lust and how messed up it can make everything. It is tastefully done, gorgeous and genuinely heart-breaking (as I expected it would be having read her previous two books) but... sigh, I don't know. I think I would have handled it better if Mason had been bumped up to 18 years. Which, I guess, would undermine the premise...
I was left wondering at Collette's motives (her being 23 and getting it on with a 16 year old boy). I wish it had been made clearer (apart from her finding him "beguiling" and being unable to resist). Baffled :/
I loved all the high school theatre stuff. Adored the conflict in Mason's family ~ it was such a great backdrop for the sexual/relationship dramas ~ and it never felt melodramatic or cliche.
I have enjoyed all C K Kelly Martin's books and this one is no different. I am finding it hard to balance my immense enjoyment of Mason and appreciation of the gorgeously-flowing story against my distaste for some of the events in the book :/
In the end, I'm going all four stars. I was hooked and I just admire her so much as an author... (and I have a crush on Mason ~ not a perverted one, LOL ~ just on him as a person, in all his confidence and insecurities and hopes and dreams and failures...)
Shame about that cover. Ugh. Who are they marketing this to?> It's intelligent lit and absolutely would appeal to teen guys to read. I don't think they would get past the cover though (I even felt embarrassed reading it near my 9 year old son, haha)...more
I was so looking forward to Adrian Stirling's sophomore novel after pretty much being blown away by his debut . My expectations were high and he absoI was so looking forward to Adrian Stirling's sophomore novel after pretty much being blown away by his debut . My expectations were high and he absolutely delivered.
The Comet Box is quite different in tone and atmosphere to Broken Glass. In Broken Glass, Stirling nails that gritty, claustrophobic and tight knit feel of a dusty small country town community. It was a sensory and gripping read, tense, vivid, absorbing and featured an astonishing climax.
While the Comet Box is different in setting, era and themes, it still shines with the same brilliance that blew me away in Broken Glass: it's a vivid and absorbing portrayal of life in the Aussie suburbs. I was continually impressed with how completely Stirling immerses the reader in the era ~ mid 1980's Aussie suburban life ~ utterly authentic and absolutely undeniably Australian.
There was just so much to love about this novel. Of course, there's the mystery surrounding why Andrew's sister has run away ~ and the suspense bubbles quietly under the surface throughout the novel:
'If I told you the truth, you'd run away as well,' she said so quietly that I could barely hear it. 'Go to bed, Andrew, and forget about everything.' p109
But it wasn't just the hook that captivated me while reading The Comet Box. It was the way Stirling holds a mirror up to suburban life, to human nature, to each character in the novel. He should win some sort of award for delving effortlessly into the minds of all the neighbourhood characters and beautifully, astonishingly, scarily depicting them. I could have been reading about a number of people I know and have grown up with O.O
I don't like to compare books, but reading The Comet Box reminded me very much so of the way Christos Tsiolkas explores Aussie themes/lifestyle/etc in which won so many awards for it's honest & startling depiction) although The Comet Box is still entirely different. I didn't particularly enjoy The Slap but I so very immensely liked The Comet Box. And I think it was because our protagonist is so relate-able ~ and also due to the gritty, grinning sense of humour ~ OH MY GOSH there are some completely brilliant lines in there. It's pretty much an entirely quotable book.
I ate an apple and forgot to take the sticker off first - my mother was probably wishing that I'd saved it for the scrapbook.' p123 (loved Andrew's scrap-booking mum. So easy to imagine her)
Andrew is curious and right at that point in life where he is searching for answers and thinking about life and what it should be against how it is. And finding out things are not at all how they seem. Perfect YA themes. Kind of disturbing and addictive ~ as if reading you are spying on Andrew's neighbourhood. Andrew puts himself right in the thick of things and the climax of the novel really is heart-pounding. There's this feeling that anything could happen and things get perfectly wild and edgy and it's taut and everything a climax should be.
Apart from the main themes in the novel ~ I pretty much LOVED all the smaller events that took place. I have lots of favourite grin-worthy parts. A lot of them made me feel quite nostalgic. Here's some of my favourite scenes/moments:
Going camping at the caravan park ~ just brilliant
MAGIC MOUNTAIN (!) so perfect (I went there too!) and the day there made me LOL
buying lollies from the corner shop <3
all the media and anticipation of Haley's comet (gosh ~ awesome idea to weave into the premise!)
Christmas day ~ so easy to visualise and feel the atmosphere
the BBQ's ~ and the cornflake salad, haha. PRICELESS
Romeo and Andrew in the abandoned house. that scene is so made of teenage win!
I wondered why people were so happy when they were camping, when they left the things they owned. p 83 (adore Andrew's observations)
For a second, I wondered if the road in front of us and the hills in the distance were real or just a backdrop that could tear apart at any moment and leave us hanging in space. p159
Set in Katoomba ~ and I read it while in Katoomba on holidays :) Okay, that's irrelevant to the review, but it made the experience just that more coolSet in Katoomba ~ and I read it while in Katoomba on holidays :) Okay, that's irrelevant to the review, but it made the experience just that more cool, you know?
It's funny and brilliant and everything you'd expect from Steven Herrick.
See the watermelon on the cover? It's grinning. I couldn't stop smiling when I read this one.
It was also, sneakily, powerful and life-affirming.
And that's what I LOVE about Steven Herrick. He has characters that feel like you've known them forever. Characters that sneak up on you and then BAM you care about them completely and feel like you're the one sitting down at the dinner table with them. He takes those ordinary, mundane parts of day-to-day life and makes you appreciate them ~ and find the awesomeness in just being alive and being in the moment.
Okay, so this review just got a little Oprah-esque ~ so putting it back on track... This book is FUNNY. Grin-achingly, laugh-out-loud witty and clever and, mate, how I loved it. It's a male POV that makes you simultaneously love all male characters and also feel sorry for them in a lovingly-cringe-y way. Life is not always easy for the adolescent male. Particularly for Darcy who just can't keep his mouth shut (much to my amusement and to his detriment)
I loved it all but in particular, LOVED: the school kayaking trip on the river the shaving scenes the awkward father/son sex talk moments, haha. the romance with Darcy and Audrey. Cute and hilarious and when the kissing scene arrives ~ ahh, it's just grin-worthy and sigh-worthy and makes me all nostalgic :) the whole side-plot with Noah's dad. That's the kind of stuff that just blows me away in books. LOVED it.
Steven Herrick is one of my all-time (I'm talking ALL-TIME) fave authors. His books are brilliant for teens and still just perfect for adults or anyone really. And he has another book coming out this year WAHOO WAHEY! :D...more
I love this book. Funny and sexy and a little bit crazy. Brilliant male POV set in Sydney. Good times. Whole-heartedly recommend :) What I wouldn't doI love this book. Funny and sexy and a little bit crazy. Brilliant male POV set in Sydney. Good times. Whole-heartedly recommend :) What I wouldn't do to track down a copy of this for my shelf...
blurb: When John falls for Johanna it's a riot. The Americans. The police. The government. They're all involved. Because Johanna's father is a diplomat. And John is anything but diplomatic.........more