Category Archives: Young Adult

Fruits Basket: Volume 1 by Takaya Natsuki

Image Description: the front cover of a manga-book, Fruits Basket - Volume 1. The front cover depicts a peach-coloured background, while in the foreground there is a female high-school student with long brown hair and brown eyes in a navy-blue and white high-school uniform, kneeling on the ground and smiling up at the reader.
Image Description: the front cover of a manga-book, Fruits Basket – Volume 1. The front cover depicts a peach-coloured background, while in the foreground there is a female high-school student with long brown hair and brown eyes in a navy-blue and white high-school uniform, kneeling on the ground and smiling up at the reader.
Title: Fruits Basket: Volume 1
Author: Takaya Natsuki
Publisher: Chuang Yi Publishing Pte Ltd
Format and Price: Paperback at $15.00 (I bought the series years ago)
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Author/Artist:
Natsuki Takaya (real name Naka Hatake) is the penname of a Japanese manga artist best-known for creating the series Fruits Basket. She was born in Shizuoka, Japan, but was raised in Tokyo, where she made her debut in 1992. She enjoys video games such as the Final Fantasy series or Sakura Wars, or working on her different manga series, such as Fruits Basket, which is the second best-selling shōjo manga ever in Japan, and the top selling shōjo manga in North America. Fruits Basket has also been adapted into a twenty-six-episode anime series. In 2001, Takaya received a Kodansha Manga Award for shōjo manga for Fruits Basket.

According to Takaya (in a sidebar of a Fruits Basket manga volume), she enjoys drawing girls (girly ones) more than she does boys. Takaya also enjoys electronics and music, but dislikes talking about herself. Also revealed in a sidebar of Fruits Basket, Takaya broke her drawing arm (left) after Fruits Basket volume six was published. She had to go into surgery, and as a result, had put Fruits Basket on a brief hiatus. Takaya made a full recovery, but complains that her handwriting had gotten uglier, due to the surgery. During her hospital stay, she gained an interest in baseball.

About The Manga:
A family with an ancient curse…

And the girl who will change their lives forever…

Tohru Honda was an orphan with no place to go until the mysterious Sohma family offered her a place to call home. Now her ordinary high school life is turned upside down as she’s introduced to the Sohma’s world of magical curses and family secrets.

General Observations:
~An Introduction: Volume One is a great introduction of what is to come and the slow progression of meeting the individual members of the Zodiac, one at a time, complete with whacky-antics, shenanigans and surprisingly depressing back-stories (seriously depressing, have your tissues ready). I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the cast of characters were diagnosed with PTSD, especially since Tohru is a pretty good example of a Stephford Smiler.

~Nostalgia Goggles: Fruits Basket is one of the first shojo manga series I ever read so I have a deep love for it and I am completely bias towards it, despite the possibly problematic elements that surface later on. I’m not saying people shouldn’t watch the anime adaptation of the manga, but if you only watch the anime, you missing ENORMOUS chunks from the narrative that only get resolved later on. This manga series is a long term investment, so buckle up and get ready for the ride, I promise it’s worth the wait.

~I Found This Humerus: Despite the fact that its darker as the series progresses, Natsuki Takaya is a great comedy writer and the humour is what brings it back into the light.

~Dysfunction Junction: I don’t want to spoil the series but as the reader slowly gets to know more and more about Tohru Honda, Yuki Sohma, Kyo Sohma, Shigure Sohma, her immediate family members, her friends Uo and Hana (although volumes focusing on them appear much later down the track) as well as other members of The Sohma family, I couldn’t help but notice the common theme: everyone’s family is messed up.

Hana’s family is at the positive end of the scale (mostly positive with some added weird and quirkiness), while The Sohma family belongs at the opposite end the scale (seriously fucked up and emotionally abusive, verbally abusive and occasionally physically abusive in multiple ways/levels). So, while the first few volumes come across as a slap-stick family comedy/drama, I just wanted to put in a family abuse trigger warning in here.

All in all, a great beginning to a complex series, completely worthy of 5 stars and I’m happy to recommend to anyone and everyone

Available for purchase: Amazon and Book Depository

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Graffiti Moon
Title: Graffiti Moon
Author: Cath Crowley
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr and Twitter
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Format and Price: Paperback at $16.99

About The Author:
Cath Crowley is an award-winning author of young adult novels, The Gracie Faltrain series, Chasing Charlie Duskin and Graffiti Moon. She lives, writes, and teaches creative writing in Melbourne. Her next book, The Howling Boy, will be out in 2016.

About The Book:
Lucy is in love with Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist.
Ed thought he was in love with Lucy, until she broke his nose.
Dylan loves Daisy, but throwing eggs at her probably wasn’t the best way to show it. Jazz and Leo are slowly encircling each other.

An intense and exhilarating 24 hours in the lives of four teenagers on the verge: of adulthood, of HSC, of finding out just who they are, and who they want to be. A lyrical new YA novel from the award-winning author of Chasing Charlie Duskin and the Gracie Faltrain series.

General Observations:
~It’s Personal: Now I will admit, there is a small amount of personal bias involved here. I met Cath Crowley once at a Melbourne Writer’s Festival workshop when Graffiti Moon had just come out. Cath Crowley kept the room entertained and engaged with inspirational anecdotes, like when she was out late looking at inner city graffiti art and she thought was going to be robbed by a trio of teenagers. It turns out they didn’t want to rob her, but they did ask her if she could pretend to be their mum so they could get a tattoo (to which she politely declined).

Cath Crowley also spoke of the thought process of how she wrote Graffiti Moon, the motivations behind Lucy learning glass-blowing and how she changed the relationship of Lucy’s parents from divorced to dysfunctional by overall happy (which I thought was the better choice). Anyone wishing to hire Cath Crowley for Writing Workshops, I highly recommend her, you can contact her through her website (links are above).

~Engaging Narrative Elements: The narrative takes place over twenty-four hours, the pacing is fast and well written to make the plot urgency. I liked how even though the readers are introduced to the basic premise to the plot (“Will they rob the school and get away with it?), the author keeps throwing in other things like Malcolm Dove and Beth (the Beth situation was handled really well). The characters were interesting and they all bonded well together (the three guys, the three girls, the six of them together).

~Representation Matters: Now, there’s not a lot of representation in terms of race, in fact it might just be me looking for something that’s not there (or perhaps I’m being racist and buying into stereotypes). I’m not sure if Jazz is an ethnic minority (not a lot of evidence outside of the fact that she has dark hair and braids), but I like to think of her as an ethnic minority. However if Jazz is a woman of colour, am I buying into the Magical Negro stereotype?

Are Leo and his brother Jake of Aboriginal or Samoan background? I got in the impression they were described as large solid guys with dark features but live with their grandmother due to alcoholic parents. Am I racist for thinking they could be Aboriginal or Samoan? After all, there are plenty of white families with dysfunctional alcoholic parents.

While I understand the importance of Young Adult readers being able to slot themselves into the skins of the characters, I think that vague character descriptions are a bigger problem, if Cath Crowley had been more specific with certain details, it would have made it easier for me to understand the characters and their struggles. However I could have this all wrong (and my apologies if I have come across as racist), maybe all the characters are white, which leads to a bigger problem. After all, Cath Crowley is writing about inner city artists, who have a history of living in low socio-economic areas that are heavily populated by ethnic minorities.

All in all, a great read that I regret not reading sooner by an engaging Australian Author. However, I want to ask Readers if the issue of race in Young Adult books (or books in general) bother you? Is the racial issue I have with this book just me? Feel free to leave a comment.

Links:
“Race in YA Lit: Wake Up & Smell the Coffee-Colored Skin, White Authors!” by Sarah Ockler

It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers by Annie Schutte
RMFAO Genre Challenge 2016
AWWC 2016

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising
Title: Red Rising (Red Rising #1)
Author: Pierce Brown
Social Media: Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group, Imprint: Del Rey
Price and Format: eBook at $12.99
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Pierce Brown’s first novel, RED RISING (Del Rey Books), debuts January 28, 2014. It is the first installment in The Red Rising Trilogy.Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for his cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate Campaign. Now he lives in Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.

About The Book:
“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”
“I live for you,” I say sadly.
Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

General Observations:

Excellent Narrative Elements: The plot is fascinating, the world building is brilliant, the motley crew of characters are engaging and the narrative has fast pacing. Red Rising is definitely one of those “Oops, I accidentally stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading” books. I understand how some critics are comparing Red Rising to The Hunger Games, but I enjoyed Red Rising far more than the predictable Hunger Games. In my view, Katniss always made the safe choice, there were no emotional stakes or morale ambiguity involved, this is not the case with Red Rising (and it is glorious!).

Didn’t Think This Through: While I get the premise of the Narrative, it does make me question, just how many Reds have been through the transformation process? Just where are the Sons of Ares getting funding for these clearly expensive transformation techniques? How are they keeping tabs on the situation? I understand that a certain select few of people will be watching Darrow perform at The Institute but do the Sons of Ares have connections to those people? It just seems like their “message in a bottle” mentality isn’t going to yield high results or it’s going to take an extraordinarily long time to make any sort of head way.

Stuffed into the Fridge: If it wasn’t for the fact that this writing trope is the narrative catalyst for the trilogy, I would have given it five stars, but alas.

RMFAO Genre Challenge 2016

Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed In Blood
Title: Anna Dressed In Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Social Media: Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates, Imprint for Tor Teen
Price and Format: eBook at $10.99
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Kendare Blake is the author of several novels and short stories, most of which you can find information about via the links above. Her work is sort of dark, always violent, and features passages describing food from when she writes while hungry. She was born in July (for those of you doing book reports) in Seoul, South Korea, but doesn’t speak a lick of Korean, as she was packed off at a very early age to her adoptive parents in the United States. That might be just an excuse, though, as she is pretty bad at learning foreign languages. She enjoys the work of Milan Kundera, Caitlin R Kiernan, Bret Easton Ellis, Richard Linklater, and the late, great Michael Jackson, I mean, come on, he gave us Thriller.
She lives and writes in Kent, Washington, with her husband, their two cat sons (Tybalt and Tyrion Cattister) and their red Doberman dog son, Obi Dog Kenobi.

About The Book:
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
Yet she spares Cas’s life.

General Observations:
~Interesting Narrative: I really like the narrative situation, people die, there’s a massive plot twist and the lone-wolf main character figures out he’s an arsehole and needs friends, and it’s through the power of friendship that the “bad-guy” gets defeated (which I approve of). Speaking of the “bad-guy”, I’m glad that the author is mentioning different cultures, I felt the author could have gone into more details about Voodoo, but then again the narrative pacing is fast and keeps the reader on edge so there might not have been time for Voodoo 101 lesson.

~Engaging Characters: I loved Thomas, I just wanted to pick him up and hug him like the adorable puppy he is. I also liked how Carmel is included as a character, on the surface she appears to be the stereotypical Queen Bee, but she’s actually a good person and is nice to people, she even got a pretty good action scene as well (never underestimate the power of a metal baseball bat, even if you’re dealing with ghosts and whatnot). There’s also no love triangles at all, Huzzah!

~World Building: The setting Thunder Bay could have used some more description and world building, the reader was only ever exposed to four places: Home, Antiques shop, Anna’s Place and School. Thunder Bay is set in Canada but I honestly could not have told you that, but then again Australian media is so over-saturated with US orientated media, so most people assume that Canadian schools and schools from the US are exactly alike, and I don’t think that’s the case.

Overall, great book really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series Girl of Nightmares

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

The Sin Eater's Daughter
Title: The Sin Eater’s Daughter
Author: Melinda Salisbury
Social Media: Twitter and Tumblr
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Book supplied by Collins Booksellers – Bacchus Marsh
Rating: 3 out of 5

Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers

About The Author:
Melinda Salisbury lives by the sea, somewhere in the south of England. As a child she genuinely thought Roald Dahl’s Matilda was her biography, in part helped by her grandfather often mistakenly calling her Matilda, and the local library having a pretty cavalier attitude to the books she borrowed. Sadly she never manifested telekinetic powers. She likes to travel, and have adventures. She also likes medieval castles, non-medieval aquariums, Richard III, and all things Scandinavian The Sin Eater’s Daughter is her first novel.

About The Book:
I am the perfect weapon.
I kill with a single touch.

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it’s price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla’s fatal touch. Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla’s chilling role to the girls she truly is. Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen’s, some truths should not be told…

Aspects I Enjoyed:
~Book Cover Art: I love the cover of this book, it’s the reason I picked up the book in the first place.

~Strong World Building: The author has put a lot of effort into constructing the religion, history and geography of Twylla’s world, despite being a completely different world (maybe magic or maybe mundane?), it was realistic and believable. I found the role of Sin Eater to be fascinating, I loved the food symbolism.

~Interesting Plot: The premise of the novel’s plot, a mixture of The Sleeping Prince and a Deadly Decadent Court were intriguing, however the Stupid Pointless Love Triangle takes over and pushes these sub-plots to the side.

Aspects I Had Problems With:
~Stupid Pointless Love Triangle I despise Love Triangles, mostly because they are tedious, predictable, and take up valuable narrative space that could have been devoted to the much more interesting Fantasy Plot and unfortunately The Sin Eater’s Daughter suffers from that. I kept waiting for Twylla to realise both sides of the love triangle were assholes. The Prince and Lief needed her far more than she needed them and that she was better off without either of them. My interpretation of the confrontation scene with Lief and The Prince was that both men valued Twylla’s virginity more so than Twylla herself.

~The Prince: In my honest opinion, while I understand the guy hasn’t had the best childhood, the Prince is an asshole. When Twylla was first “adopted” into the family, The Prince spent zero amount of time with her, then he went traveling around the neighboring countries for FOUR years (only coming home when he absolutely had to and practically ignored Twylla), while he was traveling (before and after he was betrothed to Twylla) he never sent letters to Twylla or bothered to get to know her until he was forced to come home. The Prince barely knew her. So his anguished declaration that he “prayed for her” and that he was in love with Twylla the entire time makes no sense and is completely unbelievable.
Either The Prince is an excellent manipulator, specializing in unnecessary guilt trips, or he’s a massive hypocrite. After all, The Prince is 21 years old (in comparison, Twylla is only 17 years old, why is this a theme in Young Adult Books?), he’s been able to make choices about his life (however limited) and he’s been able to break away from the sheltered experiences of Palace Life, something Twylla is repeatedly denied. Also, I very much doubt the Prince was celibate in the FOUR LONG YEARS he spent away from the palace.

~Evil Queen Cliche: There’s a lot of double standards and internalized misogyny involved when evoking the Evil Matriarch stereotype, especially when drawn in comparison to the Princess archetype. The problem is that the Queen isn’t just a lazy sterotype, she’s Cersie Lannister 2.0, nor does she have any likable or relatable aspects.

~Tacked On Epilogue: For me, the epilogue didn’t add anything to the story and it ruined all the hard work the author had put into the relationship conflict. Had the author left the story with Twylla pondering “Which path do I choose?” that would have been a good sequel hook, instead I was disappointed and really confused about what had happened.

Overall, I felt that The Sin Eater’s Daughter had a lot of potential however the author chose to focus on the detrimental romantic relationship aspect instead, so while it might not be aligned with my particular interests, I can see the book achieving mainstream success and popularity

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Noughts and Crosses
Title: Noughts & Crosses (Book 1 of the Noughts and Crosses series)
Author: Malorie Blackman
Social Media: Facebook and Twitter
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format and Price: eBook at $10.99
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Malorie Blackman has written over fifty books and is acknowledged as one of today’s most imaginative and convincing writers for young readers. She has been awarded numerous prizes for her work, including the Red House Children’s Book Award and the Fantastic Fiction Award. Malorie has also been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. In 2005 she was honoured with the Eleanor Farjeon Award in recognition of her contribution to children’s books, and in 2008 she received an OBE for her services to children’s literature. She has been described by The Times as ‘a national treasure’. Malorie is also the Children’s Laureate since 2013 until 2015.

About The Book:
Callum is a nought, a second-class citizen in a society run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, and daughter of the man slated to become prime minister. In their world, white naughts and black Crosses simply don’t mix – and they certainly don’t fall in love. But that’s exactly what they’ve done.
When they were younger, they played together. Now Callum and Sephy meet in secret and make excuses. But excuses no longer cut it when Sephy and her mother are nearly caught in a terrorist bombing planned by the Liberation Militia, with which Callum’s family is linked. Callum’s father is the prime suspect and Sephy’s father will stop at nothing to see him hanged. The blood hunt that ensues will threaten not only Callum and Sephy’s love for each other, but their very lives.
In this shocking thriller, UK sensation Malorie Blackman turns the world inside out. What’s white is black, what’s black is white, and only one thing is clear: Assumptions can be deadly.

General Observations:
~Required Reading: I think that everyone should read this book, if The Secret River and Rabbit Proof Fence are standards for VCE, Noughts and Crosses should be standard reading for secondary students as well

~Intense Subject Matter As much as I enjoyed this book, I did have to take a couple of breaks from reading it, one of the major themes in this novel is Racism (as a multi-layered and inter-generational struggle), but it also addresses Alcoholism, Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality. All of these subjects were handled well and without unfortunate implications and that is not an easy thing to do.

~Tear Jerker Ending: I don’t want to spoil the ending, however be prepared to have a box of tissues ready. I suppose the worst part is that these racism issues have still not been resolved or acknowledged. We need more books like this in the world.

RMFAO 2015 Genre Challenge

Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Dollhouse
Title: Dollhouse (Book 1 in the Dark Carousel series)
Author: Anya Allyn
Social Media: Facebook and Twitter
Publisher: The Studio, a Paper Lantern Lit imprint
Rating: 4 out of 5
Format and Price: eBook at $4.21

About The Author:
A dreamy girl betwixt the clouds and space, she was given the thing she desired most for her tenth birthday–a microscope–and subsequently developed a penchant for small things: frogs and ants and microbes, and the earth (when viewed from other planets). She considers a mind and body that do not roam free are the living dead.

Anya lives in a house by the sea–and slips in and out of forests and through a day, where the wild things are. She has four adventure-seeking boys and a bookcase filled with adventures.Anya Allyn enjoys fiction that is a little on the dark side. Also, she enjoys Black Forest Cake just a little too much. She lives with her partner and four children, about an hour away from the Sydney (Australia) rush. She has previously worked as a Features’ Editor for Fairfax Media and in promotions.

She is the author of The Dark Carousel series and the Lake Ephemeral dark sci fi novel. Dollhouse, her first novel, was published by PLL in May 2014 (Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer).

About The Book:
When Dress-up turns deadly…

When Cassie’s best friend, Aisha, disappears during a school hike, Cassie sets off with Aisha’s boyfriend Ethan and their best friend Lacey, determined to find her. But the mist-enshrouded mountains hold many secrets, and what the three teens discover is far more disturbing than any of them imagined: beneath a rundown mansion in the woods lies an underground cavern full of life-size toys and kidnapped girls forced to dress as dolls.

Even as Cassie desperately tries to escape the Dollhouse, she finds herself torn between her forbidden feelings for Ethan, and her intense, instinctive attraction to The Provider, a man Cassie swears she has known before. Because Cassie’s capture wasn’t accidental, and the Dollhouse is more than just a prison where her deepest fears come true—it’s a portal for the powers of darkness. And Cassie may be the only one who can stop it.

General Observations:
~Engaging Narrative: I was hooked from page one and had great difficulty putting it down, the plot was intriguing, the characters were believable and complex, everything all fitted together. I can’t wait to get started on Paper Dolls

~Location and Setting: It may seem a little biased, but I do enjoy the fact that, while the main character Cassie is an American from Miami (Florida), the story is primarily set in the Australian bush-land. The Dollhouse itself is super creepy with vivid descriptions.

~Romantic Conflict While I hate Love Triangles (it’s the principle of the thing), and this story did have one, it was handled surprisingly well given the narrative circumstances and it was used a genuinely good source of conflict and character development.

Overall, an excellent read by a talented Australian Author and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series

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