HomeTeen fiction
June 5, 2010

It’s a mix of genres this month in the Mixed Bag, which includes Deborah Locke’s memoir—a must-read for fans of Underbelly.

Don’t Bargain With The Devil by Sabrina Jeffries (School For Heiresses #5)

Dont Bargain With The Devil by Sabrina Jeffries (School For Heiresses, Book 5)

Dont Bargain With The Devil by Sabrina Jeffries (School For Heiresses, Book 5)

When Lucy Seton discovers that famous magician Diego Montalvo plans to build a pleasure garden next door to Charlotte Harris’s finishing, she’s determined to thwart his plans. But he’s sneaky and charming and continually makes Lucy forget her vow to be the paragon of propriety. Diego has ulterior motives, however. He intends to return Lucy to her long-lost grandfather even if he has to kidnap her.

Don’t Bargain With The Devil is the kind of book I might have enjoyed when I was just discovering historical romance, with its over-the-top dashing hero and the heroine who tries to be a good girl but can’t help herself in the hero’s presence. But I’ve been reading historical romance for a long time, and this one didn’t stand out above the rest. I skimmed bits of it, and while Jeffries comes up with some good lines here and there, the most interesting bit about the book is the mystery of who the hero in the final book of the series will be.

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June 2, 2010
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Not to to be effusive or anything, but this is the book that began my love affair with Melina Marchetta’s books.

When I read fiction, regardless of genre, I automatically seek a sense of connection with the words on the page. Sometimes a scene will get me, or a character, or a turn of phrase. I long for these moments of empathy that can turn an otherwise forgettable book into a treasure in my bookshelf.

Saving Francesca gives me diamonds on every page.

Francesca Spinelli is one of thirty girls at St Sebastian’s, a previously ‘all-boys’ school that has opened its doors to girls in Year Eleven for the first time ever.’ She misses the feeling of belonging she had at her old school with her old friends:

St Sebastian’s pretends it’s co-ed by giving us our own toilet. The rest of the place is all male and I know what you’re thinking if you’re a girl. What a dream come true, right? Seven hundred and fifty boys and thirty girls?

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May 11, 2010
Meridian by Amber Kizer (Fenestra, Book 1)

Meridian by Amber Kizer (Fenestra, Book 1)

The beginning shows promise, but the plot is heavy-handed and it’s frustrating that so many aspects remain unknown by the end of the book.

From the day she was born Meridian Sozu seemed to be surrounded by death. On her sixteenth birthday she’s suddenly wrenched from her family with instructions to seek out her great-aunt, her namesake who Meridian has never met.

The beginning of the story is intriguing, but there’s something inexplicable about the way Meridian’s family fails to prepare her for her destiny, especially knowing that she’d have to leave when she turns sixteen and her special power comes to fruition.

Fenestra vs Aternocti

Meridian is told that she’s a Fenestra, a conduit for the dying to get to the afterlife. She’s pursued by the Aternocti, who ‘carry souls to the lightless place’. Her aunt is 106 years old and Meridian must master her power so she can help her aunt transition to her afterlife.

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April 22, 2010
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 2)

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 2)

Although not as good as The Hunger Games, this book is still an excellent read and has only whetted my appetite for more.

If there’s one thing about about Suzanne Collins, it’s that she can spin a good yarn. Catching Fire is the sequel to Collins’s bestselling novel, The Hunger Games, which I found to be a great read—a bit shallow on the character development but excellent in plot development.

Catching Fire follows on from the ending of The Hunger Games and it’s not a standalone book. A few months have passed since Katniss returned home as a victor in The Hunger Games, and she’s trying to manage the consequences of her actions at the games.

She and fellow District 12 winner, Peeta, are due to start their Victory Tour, and she intends to pretend that she’s madly in love with Peeta, hoping to appease the Capitol—the central governement—that their act of rebellion in the games was due to love.

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March 16, 2010
Solace & Grief by Foz Meadows (The Rare, Book 1)

Solace & Grief by Foz Meadows (The Rare, Book 1)

If you’ve ever wondered what Sydney would be like with paranormal beings lurking about, Foz Meadows’s debut YA novel pits vampires and psychics and a swan-obsessed cat in a medieval dungeon under Hyde Park.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Read on for a chance to win a signed copy of Solace & Grief. Ends Wednesday, March 24 AEST.

In all my years at Sydney Uni, I’ve always wondered about this door. It’s hidden in a little garden between the Main Quad and the Pharmacy building. Every time I walked past it I wondered. So imagine my delight when I realised that Foz Meadows opens that door for me in Solace & Grief … and leads me to a world of magic, vampires and prophecies.

Solace Morgan walks out of her foster home the day she turns 17, convinced she’s a vampire and that she no longer belongs to her old life. She ends up at the Downstairs Club and meets a bunch of squatters, gets drunk, and before she knows it she’s living with her new set of best friends.

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January 5, 2010
Tallow by Karen Brooks (The Curse of the Bond Riders, Book 1)

Tallow by Karen Brooks (The Curse of the Bond Riders, Book 1)

As artisans, magic and prophecies meet politics and superstition, there’s enough to like in this new fantasy series set in Venice—but the first 200 pages are hit and miss.

I was prepared to be enchanted by Tallow. The title is the name of the book’s protagonist, a candlemaker’s apprentice whose candles have suddenly turned strange. Although perfectly shaped and crafted, as soon as Tallow’s candles are lit, ‘things would start to happen—intangible, eerie things.’ Like causing people to weep for no reason, or to feed cats, or to suffer from insomnia.

Tallow’s adoptive family consists of Pillar, the candlemaker, and his resentful mother, Quinn, whose response to Tallow’s unusual abilities is to try and beat it out of her. But we soon learn that there’s a deeper mystery behind Tallow’s presence. Why, for example, is she never allowed to look people in eye? And why must she pretend to be a boy?

When a stranger, a Bond Rider, comes looking for Tallow,

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September 21, 2009
Marked by P. C. and Kristin Cast (House of Night, Book 1)

Marked by P. C. and Kristin Cast (House of Night, Book 1)

Marked has an interesting premise, but it’s let down by preachy writing, stilted dialogue and heavy-handed foreshadowing. (But it’s still not as bad as Twilight.)

When 16-year old Zoey Redbird is Marked as a vampyre, she leaves her family and friends to live in the House of Night—referred to by human kids as the Vampyre Finishing School—to spend 4 years learning about her new life and undergoing profound physical changes. Although she’s Marked, there’s no guarantee that she’ll survive the Change from human to vampyre.

On the way to the House of Night, Zoey has a vision of the vampire Goddess, Nyx, who tells Zoey that she’ll be the first of Nyx’s true disciples. But first Zoey has to figure out her new high school. The school’s most powerful student, Aphrodite, has it in for her. And what’s more, Zoey kind of likes Erik, who happens to be Aphrodite’s not-by-choice-ex-boyfriend.

It soon becomes apparent that Zoey has powers beyond that of a newly Marked

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September 18, 2009
Blue Noise by Debra Oswald

Blue Noise by Debra Oswald

Despite its straightforward storytelling style—or maybe because of it—there’s something rather charming about Debra Oswald’s latest young adult novel about a group of high school students who form a blues band.

Blue Noise is the fledgling blues band formed by a group of reluctant year 10 students who find themselves a little bewildered by the whirlwind who is Charlie, a new boy in the neighbourhood.

When Ash meets Charlie, he’s talked into an impromptu jam session, right there in the middle of the music shop. For 16-year old Ash, whose family provides him no sense of optimism for the future, Charlie’s enthusiasm is infectious, even though he doesn’t think the band will last—they never do.

Shy classical pianist Erin tends to overthink things, and by the time her words are ready to say no to Charlie’s request that she join the band, it’s too late—she’s in. And then she can’t quite figure out how to back out.

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August 5, 2009
The Eternal Kiss: Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire edited by Trisha Telep

The Eternal Kiss: Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire edited by Trisha Telep

If you’re thinking of reading The Eternal Kiss to wean yourself off a Twilight high, think again. Pitting Twilight against this feast of words and emotions would be like comparing Passion Pop with a full-bodied Shiraz.

The Eternal Kiss is a collection of 13 vampire stories for young adults written by some of the most popular authors in the genre. The stories in this luscious anthology are indeed bound by blood, but it’s the complexity of desire that gives the authors room to flex their skills.

This isn’t a romance anthology, but most of the stories incorporate some flavour of love, lust or both. Desire wars with reason, and the passion of youth is explored—sometimes tenderly, sometimes with violence. The authors offer different points of view—guys and girls, vampires and humans, predator and prey.

Most touch on one’s sense of identity and asks the question, What makes us unique? There’s no common sense of morality, and this is what makes the anthology, as a whole, so compelling.

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May 7, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan - Australian/UK editionLacks some depth, but beautifully written, heartbreaking, and kept me reading furiously until the end

I first heard of this book over at the Whatever, where author Carrie Ryan talks about how she got the idea for her debut novel. (Tell me that’s not one of the most romantic story idea stories ever.) When I saw it again at Tez Says, I emailed Hachette for a review copy because I loved the premise and the US cover. The Twilight-esque Aussie cover is a much more elegant black with a red graphic that looks like a flower but in fact reminds me of bandages on a mummy. (Different kind of undead, I know.) Ryan’s writing is at times so beautiful, and the novel begins with such heartbreak, that it’s impossible not to get caught up in Mary’s narrative. And even though I was disappointed by the story’s lack of depth, The Forest of Hands and Teeth kept me reading furiously until the end.

Mary lives a simple existence in an isolated village surrounded by forest. It’s a forest she can never set foot in—the Forest of Hands and Teeth—because beyond the village fence are the Unconsecrated, humans infected with a virus that turns them into the walking dead. Mary’s father disappeared into the forest one day, and the story begins with a glimpse of how this has affected her family and how, despite her grim surroundings,

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