carter-pawnKrista:

Cover

Pretty plain cover. I appreciate it because it’s one that doesn’t have a girl in a dress on the cover, even though it could with this story. It’s nice to see something simple.

Characters

There are actually a lot more characters than I was thinking there would be when starting the story. Not only do we meet those people most important in Kitty’s life, but all of the Hart family and their closely trusted circle.

Favourite

By the end of the book my favourite character was Benjy. If I were stuck in this situation, I would want him as my sidekick: dependable, honest, and trustworthy.

Least Favourite

There were more people I didn’t like than I liked in this one! It was very surprising that the further I read, the more dislike I had for each member of the family and their actions. This took me off guard. I would have to say the most hated from the first time we were introduced to her was Augusta, the oldest surviving member  of the family line.

Beginning

Kitty has just taken her test and rated lower than she expected in the cast system her world so depends on. She has just turned 17 and feels that her life has just plummeted to nothing and she would rather die. Her boyfriend Benjy and her “mother” encourage her to live and convince her that she is destined to help the population fight the unfair ranking system.

Storyline

Kitty is picked up off the streets because of her similar look to Lila Hart. Given no reasonable choice, she is forced into pretending to be Lila after being “Masked” to look exactly like her. As she stands in for Lila, the family slowly begins revealing secrets of how they really rule the land and the operate the ranking system. She soon gets caught up with the political labyrinth players and the rebellion.

Ending

You thought you could see what was coming, but I never expected things to go the way they did! It was like being on a roller coaster where you were expecting to drop downwards but it pulled you sideways instead.

Thoughts

I can honestly say that I have not read a teen book with so many twists. I think there were so many big revelations throughout the story that I could actually feel my head spin. I am usually a huge fan of books that are just as fast paced and action packed as this one, but at the end I felt pounded with so much to take in. I felt out of whack, needing to still take it all in. It was a pretty dark and powerful read if you look at it in a more critical way — politically and socially.

Quote

“But the world is out there, and it understands that the illusion of knowledge and freedom is not the same as the real thing. Eventually, it will fade, and there are those who will do whatever it takes to make that happen sooner rather than later.”

 

 

aimee carterBel:

Cover

I borrowed the audio book from the Brisbane City Council Library and Bolinda Online audio books. The cover art is a round maze with an eye visible though most of the paths. A blue chess piece sits in the top right hand corner of the slate grey background. The book is read by Lamecce Issaq.

 Characters

There are so many characters to hate in this book. The lovable ones are certainly a catalyst to continue reading the series.

Favourite

Kitty. Kick ass, and brainy. Some of her decisions are a little questionable but her motivations make sense.

Least Favourite

Hmmm. Augusta. Again you can understand her motives, but that doesn’t make them right, or forgivable in any way.

Beginning

Kitty is given a really low score on the standardised test to see where she will fit into society, which means a menial job and having to move away from the love of her life Benji.

Storyline

Kitty takes an offer to go from a 3 to a 7 with the intention of being able to stay with Benji. Strings are attached however, and what would a good dystopian book be without some totally corrupt political themes.

Ending

I didn’t pick it, and I am desperate to read on.

Thoughts

With the standardised testing in Aussie schools becoming such a focus, the thought that a single exam determines the rest of your life is just a little too close to home.

I was a little weirded out by the masking process and how easily it seemed to be to recover from such dramatic procedures. Anyone who’s ever seen that gosh awful make over TV show The Swan… that’s what I pictured through this section of the book. EWWW!

I was a little perplexed about the lack of reaction from the character Celia over Kitty’s new circumstance. As a Mum, if this happened to me, I’d be beyond not okay with it.

I did LOVE the book. I’ll be looking to read on throughout 2015.

Quote

I picked this quote because it is pretty much the pivotal argument through the whole book, and I would hazard a guess as to the inspiration for the title of the book.

“They may be weak when the game begins, but their potential is remarkable. Most of the time, they’ll be taken by the other side and held captive until the end of the game. But if you’re careful—if you keep your eyes open and pay attention to what your opponent is doing, if you protect your pawns and they reach the other side of the board, do you know what happens then?”
I shook my head, and she smiled.
“Your pawn becomes a queen.” 
~ Kitty having a conversation with Celia about chess.

 

Carter_captiveJoelene:

Cover

A brilliantly blue eye framed by something that resembles machinery. Fits the futuristic dystopian theme.

 

Characters

The cast of characters isn’t huge in Pawn, so it’s easy to keep track of who everyone is. The Prime Minister’s family make up most of the players and it ends up seeming a bit like a political family drama.

Favourite

Greyson. He’s probably the smartest guy in the book. Trying to sort out that mess of family is way too complicated. He’s also more empathetic than the others; accepting people as they are rather than forcing them into what he wants them to be.

Least Favourite

Kitty. She really does live up to the book title. She never risks herself; she just lets the larger players push her to where they need her to be.

 Beginning

When Kitty scores low on the test that will decide her future, she thinks that any chance of a good life is forfeit. Then the Prime Minister makes her an offer that she can’t refuse.

Storyline

In a futuristic dystopia, Kitty is an unwanted extra child. When the Prime Minister offers her a chance at more than she could have dreamed, she takes it. What she doesn’t realise is that taking the offer might mean losing herself and becoming someone else – specifically the Prime Minister’s niece, Lila Hart.

 Ending

There’s more upheaval in the end of Pawn than I was expecting. The game is going to change drastically in book two!

Thoughts

Carter took a lot of the issues with growth and technology that worry us today and incorporated them into Pawn. What if technology existed that meant we could replace one figurehead with another without anyone knowing? If humans don’t regulate the population now, what will it mean in the future?

There are also some truths in the novel. Even now the world is told to believe that if a person works hard enough – wants something desperately enough – they will achieve it. We believe the lie, and don’t question the ugliness beneath it. Pawn builds its foundation on that unpleasant notion with the idea that a test given to the poor and rich alike is not equal.

Quote

“On my birthday, you gave me a present,” I said. “It was a purple flower from a vendor selling perfumes. A violet. You said – you said they never gave up, like me.”

 

 

Carter_TestLisa:

Cover

I absolutely love this cover. If you have the US hardback version, the book jacket slips off, and reveals something even more beautiful. Looking at this cover before indulging in the book, it completely suckers you in. It’s mysterious, different, and bold in a strange way. After reading Pawn and looking back at the cover, you find a whole new meaning to it and each of its elements. Gorgeous!

Characters

There are quite a few characters in Pawn, but each and every one of them is unique and interesting. Obviously, some are meant for you to hate, but I can appreciate an amazing villain!

Favourite

Of course my favourite character would be Kitty, and I’m sure many of you will agree with me. She’s totally kick butt and doesn’t let anything scare her. She’s the perfect character for this role; she’s someone strong who won’t back down on her beliefs.

Least Favourite

As I said before, I can appreciate an amazing villain. When I think of my least favourite character, my mind automatically goes to Augusta or Daxton, simply because the reader is made to despise them. But looking back at them, they are perfect. Daxton is crazy in the head, and does some really messed up stuff, while Augusta is the older lady, who thinks she can still rule a modern world in the old ways.

Overall, I LOVED these two characters, but if I had to choose my “least favourite” it would be them.

Beginning

Pawn follows the story of a teenage girl named Kitty Doe. Anyone with the last name “Doe” is the child that was illegally born, because there is a one child minimum law. While most Does are sent to a place called Elsewhere, some are lucky enough to go to local group homes.

Once teenagers turn seventeen years old, they take an aptitude test, that determines what their ranks are in society. Ones and twos are usually sent to Elsewhere, while threes do the dirty work, fours and fives live comfortable while sixes and sevens are royalty.

After taking her test, Kitty scores low, and is tattooed a three on the back of her neck. She knows she will spend the rest of life working in the underground sewers, or renting out her body to disgusting men for money.

Middle

But when Kitty is approached by a man, who she later discovers is part of the royal family, with an offer to become a seven, Kitty can’t turn it down. She doesn’t know what the catch is, or what he expects of her, but becoming a seven is much better than staying a three, or being sent to Denver, or Elsewhere.

End

While I wish I could give you as much detail about the end, as I did with the beginning, I can’t. I want you to feel the same excitement, nervousness, and anxiety I felt with I was completely wrapped up in Pawn.

All I can tell you is that this story was absolutely amazing! And I’m dying to go out and buy myself a copy of the second book in The Black Coat Rebellion series: Captive.

Overall

I love Aimee Carter and have read all of her books, so this month’s read was a very exciting one for me!

When I first started Pawn, it reminded me of The Selection. Obviously, there are thirty-five girls standing here, to fight for the position that Kitty is in, but the general idea of a poor girl comes into the kingdom and starts to change this in their society is the same. Pawn also had different rankings in society. In The Selection, the higher numbers where lower ranking, in Pawn the lower numbers where lower ranking.

Overall, I enjoyed Pawn, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Selection series as well as The Chemical Garden trilogy.

 

 

Discussion Questions

Kitty has dyslexia and it has an affect on her test results. How do you feel about the very generalized way of ranking people this book has
Would you sacrifice yourself for the greater good?

How does the book compare to Kiera Cass’s The Selection?

Do our other club members use audio books often, and out of the three formats (ebook, physical book, audio book) which did they use for this month’s pick?

How close are we, as a global society, to using standardised testing to ‘match’ people to their ideal jobs?

Feel free to take the discussion to out GoodReads home.

 

 

 



almond_Song for Ella GreyIn the Easter holidays, Clair and her friends go to Northumberland to escape parents, the icy cold of the north and mundane life. Claire’s best friend, Ella Grey, was meant to join them but her strict parents forbade it at the last minute. Still, when a strange and gorgeous lyre-wielding man shows up to play music for the group on the windy Bamburgh beach, Claire’s first thought is of Ella. She calls her; and Ella, hearing the magical music through the phone, falls in love.

A Song for Ella Grey is a modern retelling of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. As such it works. The writing is lyrical and the story follows the themes of the original tale faithfully. Orpheus is a musician who can charm the earth itself, but cannot protect the woman he loves. He and Eurydice – or Ella – are fated to be torn apart before their time.

Tragedy soaks this book from the opening lines, ‘I’m the one who’s left behind. I’m the one to tell the tale. I knew them both, knew how they lived and how they died.’ The tone of the novel is melancholy and relentless. As in the epic tales, the fate of Orpheus and Ella is ordained from the outset. There is no escape; the only option is to see how the fate unfolds.

On most levels, A Song for Ella Grey follows epic tradition. Emotionally the characters are obscure rather than distinct. They are more akin to characters in myth and fairy-tales where the emotions are told rather than shown, and there is little subtlety or complexity to them. This is the part of the novel that didn’t work for me, though I think it is one of those ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ things.

What I look for in a modern retelling is very different to what this retelling is aiming for. I love fairy-tales and original myths, but I don’t expect to understand all – or any – of the character’s emotions or decisions. The story is about the magic and the imagination – there’s so much of it that I don’t need to ask why a man would send his daughter off to a beast or why a woman would turn men into animals.

In a modern retelling, I love the humanity that characters develop. Even if the basic story line is exactly the same, I expect the love to be deeper and more complex. I expect characters to explore the confines of their myth or fairy-tale with a modern perspective. A Song for Ella Grey stuck much more closely with the original myth. However, there is some wider exploration of Ella/Eurydice’s character. Her parents and best friend play a much larger part than they ever did in the myth, providing the scope to explore why she was so exceptional that someone could breach the underworld to try and find her. But even though everyone says how much they love her, the why is not explored.

Ultimately, David Almond wrote a different story to the one that I expected. As the tragic legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, A Song for Ella Grey more than succeeds. It stays true to the original myth even with a new setting and new characters. The voice is lyrical and the tone melancholy in keeping with the epic nature of this tale. If you have an interest in Greek mythology and know the Orpheus and Eurydice myth then this is a must read. Without a back-ground knowledge however, the story may be far too surreal to attempt.

A Song for Ella Grey – David Almond

Hodder Children’s Books (October 2, 2014)

ISBN: 9781444919547



Joelene_tnJoelene

 

Black_coldestThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black

Entire cities blocked off to control world-wide vampiric outbreaks. A girl wakes up to find that all of her friends are dead. Now she has no choice but to enter a Coldtown.

 

Bitterwood Bible – Angela Slatter

A strange and deadly man wanders the pages of this book of overlapping short stories, destroying anything in his path.

 

How the Light Gets In – Louise Penny

Almost a cosy mystery but with more political scope and scandal than any I’ve read before.

 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor

Doors that only open from the inside and lead to places that you would never imagine. This novel has immense and mind-blowing imagination in its world-building.

 

All Our Yesterdays – Cristin Terrill

Would you go back in time to kill the one person you had loved all of your life? If it meant saving the world? A fun time-travel novel that actually deals with some serious ethical issues.

taylor_god and monstersMost Anticipated

I admit I haven’t kept up with books that much this year, and I have a massive TBR pile at home so next year most of the ones I’m looking forward to are already out.

 

Darkest Part of the Forest – Holly Black

I don’t even know what it’s about. It’s Holly Black and usually that’s enough.

 

Unmade – Sarah Rees Brennan

The third in the Lynburn Legacy trilogy. Though the second in the series wasn’t amazing, I have great hopes for this one.

 

Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

This is one that I’ve been seeing around for ages as well as having customers recommend it. Hearing that Lynch has Pirate Queens sealed the deal.

 

The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah

I’m a massive Agatha Christie fan so when I heard that Sophie Hannah was writing a new Hercule Poirot, I was sceptical. I really like Hannah’s writing style though and, when I read the blurb, I knew I had to have it.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Laini Taylor

The first two were great, so my expectations for the final are high. It helps that Bel enjoyed it so much too.



hunter-parfizz pitchWhen Parfitt’s, the struggling local soft drink company, decides to sell to a global brand it looks as though Katie’s mother will lose her job and with it the huge rambling house that Katie’s great-grandfather built. The Old Queenslander is the only home that Katie has ever known. All of her friends live in her street and her garden is their local hang-out. Desperate to save her mother’s job, Katie recruits her friends to begin an advertising campaign that will draw Parfitt’s away from its simple roots and into the modern world.

A group of Australian teens making their own company and finding a mystery to solve in the process sounds so delightfully Teen Power Inc. that I had to check Parfizz Pitch out. It lived up to expectations in many ways – and in some ways did not.

Like the members of Teen Power Inc. the group of friends who band together to make the Mosquito Advertising agency are very different to each other and have equally dissimilar backgrounds. Katie is the only child of a single mother. Clementine is the youngest in a large family of intellectuals. Dominic goes to boarding school while his family work overseas. Their differences mean that the group does not always get along and on occasion will misunderstand one another. Though they have strong ties, they sometimes work toward opposing goals or toward the same goal but with different methods.

Unlike Teen Power Inc., Parfizz Pitch does not embrace racial diversity. The only character that is identified as a person of colour is unpleasant from his first appearance, and never redeems himself. And sure, every race has its share of terrible people but that shouldn’t be the only thing that’s depicted.

Hopefully this is something that will be addressed further as the series progresses. Adventure-mysteries for teens don’t come along nearly as often as they should and the Mosquito Advertising series has a different take on it as well as having a strong cast of female characters.

This series has been likened to the Famous Five, and it’s true, but Parfizz Pitch is modern take on the children’s mystery genre. More of a middle-grade read than teen, it perfectly captures the long, balmy days of a Brisbane summer.

 

The Parfizz Pitch – Kate Hunter

University of Queensland Press (May 31, 2010)

ISBN: 9780702237713



coates_axinstoneWar is breaking out in the draconic lands. For the first time in many generations humans have invaded. With their advanced weaponry, the forty-two dragon clans are going to have to put aside their differences and work together to survive. If they can retrieve the stolen Axinstone – a powerful magical talisman – from the humans they may manage it.

Haeraig Anzig is chosen to lead the expedition, and several clans offer dragons to undertake it with him. Though he has been leading his own clan since his father left to battle in the south, he is not confident that he can keep his small group under control. Keeping different clans in line will be difficult enough without expecting them to follow the visions of a seer that no one else trusts.

Dragon books are not something that I’ve read much of. Don’t get me wrong, I love dragons, I just haven’t gotten around to that section of the fantasy genre yet. Despite not knowing much of the genre, it’s easy to deduce that Coates’s dragons are quite different to the norm. They’re small, for one. More the size of a dog than a mini-van. Like most reptiles, they need sunlight to heat up and are lethargic without it. The different dragon clans are also interesting, with some built for fighting, some for magic and others for tough terrain. The thought and effort Coates has put into how the dragons function goes a long way to making the world-building work.

Having the story told from three different first person perspectives is probably the most jarring aspect of the novel. The voices are not distinctive enough to be able to identify the sections by tone alone, so I was regularly flicking back pages to remind myself who I was reading.

Information trickles rather than flows into Axinstone. As the story is told from the perspective of the dragons, it’s hard to tell what stage humans are at technologically. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that this isn’t the traditional medieval dragon novel that we might have been expecting. Assumptions are often wrong in Axinstone, and it’s a lot of fun to see where Coates turns dragon lore tradition on its head.

Axinstone is a great transitional novel for teens who are moving into high fantasy. It has a lot of those trade-marks; epic quests, political intrigue and magical artefacts, but is accessible and a little simpler.

Axinstone – J.F.R. Coates

Jaffa Books (December 19, 2013)

 

ISBN: 9781922061133



Keep in contact through the following social networks or via RSS feed:

  • Follow on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Follow on Pinterest
  • Follow on Google+
  • Follow on GoodReads
  • Follow on Tumblr
  • Follow on LinkedIn
  • Follow on Keek
  • Follow on YouTube
  • Subscribe