Monday, 26 August 2013

The Ink Bridge

'The Ink Bridge' by Neil Grant is one of the shortlisted books for the Australian Children's Book Awards.
'The Ink Bridge' is a captivating read that confronts us with the harsh realities of refugees, asylum seekers and people smugglers.
The initial setting for the book is Afghanistan, and the story begins with the vivid spectacle of local Hazara men forced by the Taliban to destroy the ancient Buddha statues of Bamiyan.
The day is one of complete horror for Omed, who witnesses the destruction of the fifteen hundred year old statues, the death of his friend, and another atrocity which I will leave readers to discover for themselves. The Taliban come looking for Omed and he must escape. He teams up with 'The Snake'; a sinister man. Unfortunately for Omed their relationship is co-dependant.
The pair make their way to a refugee camp in Pakistan and then travel to Australia by boat.
After fleeing a detention centre they arrive in Melbourne. Both men end up working in a candle-making factory in Melbourne.
Omed meets Hec-both teens are mute for one reason or another-and their stories become intertwined. Without giving away too many details, in the last phase of the book Hec travels to Afghanistan to look for Omed. He witnesses modern Afghanistan and travels through regions dominated by warlords and landmines.
'The Ink Bridge' explores complex issues of illegal immigration and people-smuggling and challenges the readers' perception of right and wrong.
The story of Omed will leave you wondering long after you have finished reading this book. It gives a human insight into what is currently a hot political debate.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

This is a brilliantly funny, heartbreaking book and the début of author Jesse Andrews. It's been a little while between YA books I have loved, and I am glad I got to experience that whole can't-put-it-down thing once again. Andrews has a style similar to John Green, but a bit earthier (much more swearing and slightly less introspection). The similarity to Green is echoed in the fact that both Green's recent book The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl are both about teens suffering from cancer. Both, however, skip the Life Lesson style of writing, and both are better for it.

Greg Gaines doesn't really have friends . He exists on the edges of his high school carefully maintaining good relationships with all cliques but not belonging to any particular one. His only real friend is Earl and he only really hangs out with him in order to shoot movies - his one passion in life. When Greg's mum finds out that a classmate of Greg has cancer she corrals him into becoming friends with her. This is not a heart-warming tale in which Greg learns great life lessons but rather a funny and raw account of a dorky teenage boy coming to grips with the concepts of death and friendship.

The author has a strong sense of style, and the conversational tone if the book makes it extremely readable - even for reluctant readers I would imagine. Many scenes in the book are written as movie scripts or in dialogue only and organised into bullet point format. It sounds confusing but works so well to describe events and the differing internal voices that make up Greg's narrative.

And did I mention it was funny? A funny cancer book - very hard to pull off. Congrats to Jess Andrews. Greg has a great way of describing his world and especially his parents - particularly his mother.

This one is for guys and girls, reluctant readers and passionate readers, and all those in between. Highly recommended!

- Celia

Monday, 19 August 2013

Mystic: Alyson Noel

Daire and Dace have made the ultimate sacrifice for good
Can they go back?
How do they move forward?
And can Daire bring herself to do the one thing she now needs to do…save Cade’s life?

Series: Fated, Echo, Mystic

Since arriving in Enchantment Daire has had one sole purpose, to the Richters by killing Cade. But it was
Daire and her love Dace who died in the end, now Daire must do the unthinkable, save Cade in order to save Dace. Accepting her destiny as a Soul seeker Daire must now deal with her ailing grandmother, finding her lost love, a stranger with secrets and a mad prophet and his daughter intending to end the world and all those deemed unworthy. The final countdown has begun and Daire is racing against the clock to save not only Dace and Cade but all of Enchantment as well. For Daire and Dace nothing will ever be the same again…the question is can they accept that?

Mystic is by far the best book in the series thus far while Echo acted as a “fill in” book for the overall plot, Mystic ramps things up with a full throttle plot, with twists and turns, all the way from the very first page to the very last. What I enjoyed most about Mystic was the added perspectives of secondary characters such as Xochitel and also the appearance of Phyre, who as a character is both infuriatingly frustrating yet sympathetic; she is nothing more than a brainwashed girl with little hope…sad. Dace begins to develop much more throughout Mystic as well; with a piece of his brother soul within him Dace must now struggle with the age of dilemma of right and wrong. Whereas previously Dace was purely good with no thoughts of wrong, the tables have now turned with Dace actually having to make an effort to be good. In a character this flawed nature is much more appealing and changes his relationship with Daire, more than the other books Daire and Dace’s relationship felt real and in fact for me it was this changing dynamic that really made this book shine. Daire too becomes more likable within this story she begins to assert herself and challenge her destiny. As always Noels writing style is evocative, all her research and talent makes for a very visual read. Not only can the reader envision Enchantment but also the mystical worlds of upper and lower. Overall Mystic brings this series to a head, it has everything, romance, action, madness, magic, loyalty loss etc and it is wonderfully delivered. Of course there’s still one book to go and Noel leaves plenty of room for the epic finale Horizon due out in November.

Courtney :)

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Are you excited yet?

Because I am!

- Celia

Destroying Avalon

Destroying Avalon by Kate McCaffrey

 A young Avalon is moved from her tight-knit country town to the big city, where her parents have found new teaching jobs at a local High School. She doesn't really know what to expect at her new high school, but she certainly wasn't expecting this.

Destroying Avalon is an extraordinary text that any teenager can relate to. It tackles strong issues like bullying and discrimination, which helps you connect with Avalon from the second you turn the first page. I've read this book multiple times and it still forces a few tears out of me every time without fail. There's loss, happiness, the gain and loss of friends, and eventually death.

If you are a teenager or are starting out at a new school, then you'll feel all Avalon's angst though out the novel. It's magnificently written, and is a definite must for all young people out there.

Age: 17

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


DEAD BOYS CLUB  by Geoffrey Malone

Imagine dawn- a strange quiet,
no cockerels crowing.
You step outside your hut, curious.
Then you see them – children, with rifles.
Racing at you. Yelling. Firing.

This story is often hard to read because of its truth. Every year thousands of children are taken from their homes and families and used as child soldiers.  Children, boys and girls, as young as five are taken and forced into a dark reality.

This is Sam’s story. He is twelve when his village is attacked, his mother and sisters killed. Forced to become one of the soldiers in God’s Freedom Army, led by the deranged self proclaimed Colonel Dada.

Sam has seen what happens if you don’t obey. Death. Soon he is given a gun, taught how to fight, to kill, aware that any day could be his last. How can you dream of home and family when men with machine guns guard you day and night. Escape is impossible. Or is it?

A good read but be warned that it will make you shudder with what is happening out there in the real world.

Vicki @ Pakenham.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Never Fall Down

Generally I'm not a fan of war books. I'm an emotional reader and I find them way too upsetting to read. However I have had my eye on Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick for a couple of weeks because I saw that it was about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia which I knew nothing about, apart from the phrase 'The Killing Fields', and a hazy idea of injustice.

I just finished Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher for out Teen Book Group at Narre Warren (which all are welcome to join by the way) and deciding I may as well continue with a bit of depressing reading I picked up Never Fall Down. It is a novel based on the real experiences of a man called Arn Chorn-Pond, a man who was a boy when the Khmer Rouge took power Cambodia in the 1970s. The narrative is told in the first person by McCormick based on interviews she undertook with Arn, and the other people mentioned in the story. It is a very powerful narrative, and feels very immediate for this reason. 

This is an amazing story of a kid who managed to survive while hundreds were killed around him. He survived initially by becoming part of a musical group that was taught to play revolutionary themed songs and eventually even joined with his oppressors in an effort to survive. This story is told with compassion but also does not flinch from the hard truths that those in terrible circumstances must face. You may not like this man after reading his story but you will certainly understand him and something of the terrible things the people of Cambodia went through during this period.

Ultimately however, this is a story of hope. While the human race can do some truly despicable things, our capacity for forgiveness, of ourselves and of others, and our ability to continue to hope for the best in the direst of circumstances gives this story some light within the darkness.

- Celia

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