stevens-dividedThe MECH power has been reawakened. They have driven the Guardians from their home, taken their powers and Selestia has been plunged into darkness. Trapped on an island off the coast of the Centreland, Mellea can only watch as her home is torn apart by the MECH’s leader, Doctor. When an unlikely ally creates a serum that will restore the Guardians, Mellea must fight the clock to find the Montarus family before Doctor makes her final move. But what good is a key if the lock is missing?

In Divided, the sequel to Bound, MJ Stevens fills us in on the characters’ back stories, enriches the world building and develops the story-lines. Mellea continues to be a very strong character and leader.  She has little time to find the Guardians, fill them in on what’s happening, and try to restore their powers because the MECHS have overrun the land, and there is no way Mellea’s people can win the battle without their powers. Many have given up hope.

I really enjoyed the first book, especially the love/hate relationship between Leo and Mellea. I was very excited to see that we didn’t lose any of that here. There are a lot of characters in this story and as they come together, so new connections form and others break. During this time of war, several of the characters have a hard time dealing with each other, and stress levels are high. There is a also a surprising twist when it comes to the main character, which is fantastic!

A lot of the story is told through dialogue with spots of either intense action or character development. There are times when a lot of information is given, and I had to take a break to digest what was happening. Stevens’ themes focus on family and how important sticking together is.

I have really enjoyed the books so far, and I recommend them to readers who like science fiction adventure. The characterization and world building is great; so are the story lines and conflicts. But best of all are Leo and Mellea–their back and forth relationship is entertaining, and I got a little emotional at times. Love, them!

 

 

 

 



galley-frogsAs a follow up book to Girls Above Society: Steps to Success, Lauren has done a great job of using anecdotal stories to bring awareness to the pursuit of authentic romantic happiness.

By putting her heart on her sleeve, she’s able to let us see some of the many types of ‘frogs’ and ‘toads’ she’s come across–some of who we’ve probably met  on our own journey.

I’m not sure how I feel about the use of the term ‘prince’ to describe the ideal partner (mainly because it propagates the princess myth), but as it would be difficult to find another term that speaks to so many girls, I understand why Lauren used this analogy.

I found the book to be insightful, and I can surely relate to a few of the toads.

By reading both books, you’ll receive plenty of food for thought. Though the books are aimed at girls; I still think guys would benefit from knowing what the girls they’re dating are striving for.

The ‘toads’ Lauren didn’t cover were those who perpetuate domestic violence, but it is an issue becoming more prevalent among couples of all ages. For more information head here… http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/finding-help

Buy KISSING FROGS from Amazon



Panic_HC_JKT_des4.inddBel:

Cover

A girl with blonde hair blowing in her face against a black backdrop is certainly eye catching, and the title in stark white gives the impression of seriousness.

Characters

Desperate teens in a small forgotten town… I can’t help but draw parallels to the small country town I grew up in, and I hope nobody ever does anything this ridiculous up there, because it’s Stupid with a capital S.

Favourite

I’ll pick Dayna, Dodge’s sister, the only sensible-ish character in the whole book.

Least Favourite

Krista, Heather’s Mum. There are no words.

Beginning

The graduating class put money into a pool to be able to ‘play’ an annual dangerous game, dubbed ‘Panic’. Winner takes all. Heather joins to be noticed by a guy she likes, and everyone is in it to get the hell out of town.

Storyline

The games get more and more dangerous, kids die, and everything is incredibly messed up.

Ending

I was amazed I actually kept reading through to the end.

Thoughts

This book triggered such emotion in me. It brought out the mother urges in me to talk some sense into the characters, and the bad parenting just tipped me over the edge. I honest to goodness hope nobody reads this and thinks “Hey, let’s do that.”

I wish there weren’t teens out there desperate enough to do something like this to rise above destitution, but there are so, so many across the world. It makes me both angry and sad.

It is really well written and the settings and circumstances are vivid in their depiction. I’m sure this was what Lauren was aiming for when writing the book. Bullseye!

Quote

“After Bill Kelly … it’s not worth it. It’s not right.” ~ Dayna trying to talk Dodge out of competing in Panic.

 

Lauren OliverJoelene:

Cover

A girl with blonde hair blowing in the wind against a stark, black backdrop. Gives the idea of isolation.

Characters

A group of teens struggling to get away from the only lives they know. Same goal, but different motives.

Favourite

Bishop. Probably the only one whose actions make sense. Would have liked part of it to be from his perspective.

Least Favourite

Dodge. The kid has no idea what he wants. I have no idea what he wants.

Beginning

In the impoverished town of Carp, the only hope students have of getting out and making it is a dangerous game that they pool their cash into all year.

Storyline

As the challenges get more dangerous, bonds form and fall apart. With the stakes so high, friendships fray and players are left wondering if they really know each other.

Ending

Wasn’t exactly neat…As far as I can tell this will be a stand-alone, and there were a few loose ends that didn’t sit well with me.

Thoughts

I love books that explore teens from a disadvantaged background. Panic does a great job of showing the desperation that can arise from those kinds of situations. I would have liked to see the hopelessness the parents experienced too. They wouldn’t have had any more options than the kids, but they’re only painted as another obstacle to rail against.

Quote

My point is, when you love someone, when you care for someone, you have to do it through the good and the bad. Not just when you’re happy and it’s easy.

 

 

deliriumlaurenLisa:

Cover

I’ll have to say, that I’m not too amazed with this cover. I don’t dislike or hate it. But I don’t think that it isn’t special or sticks out. It’s not really eye catching, and doesn’t give the reader any hints at the story inside. AGAIN, I’m not saying it’s horrific, but I do feel that this story deserves a better cover.

Characters

Overall, I thought the cast of characters were okay. There was one or two that I absolutely loved, and a handful that I just wanted to give a good shake.

Favorite

The two that I couldn’t get enough of were Heather, the main character, and Dodge. Heather wasn’t some crazy life risking teenager who just graduated high school. She didn’t take part in Panic just for the fun of it. She had to. She desperately needed the money to support herself and her little sister, and made the tough decision of joining.

Dodge on the other hand, had his own motives for joining, which the money wasn’t one of them. He was in it for something completely different. He has been craving for his chance to play in Panic, so when it finally came around, there was no way he wasn’t going to take it.

Least Favorite

Most of the characters I wanted to grab and shake played very small roles. I can’t remember any specific thing they did, but it was usually what they said.

One character that did bother, and that I can recall, is Heather’s best friend, Natalie. She didn’t really have much of a reason to play, but just like a lot of her fellow classmates, she decided to enter for the “fun.” But the last straw, that made me officially dislike her, was when she made deals with both Dodge and Heather; if either one of them would win, they would split the money down the middle. Obviously, Natalie didn’t think very far into it, because if she won, she would have to give half to Heather and half to Dodge…so after going through all this crazy stuff, she would get nothing…

SO FRUSTRATING!

Beginning:

Panic dives right into the action. It begins with the initiation of Panic, and introduces our main character, Heather. The beginning is where we learn about the entire idea of Panic and how it works. We also learn a little bit about our characters, but not too much.

Middle:

Through the middle section of Panic, we witness a lot of the different (AND VERY SCARY) things these teenagers have to go to, to move onto the next round–from crossing a five lane high with their eyes closed, to sneaking into a man’s house and stealing his gun. We also are introduced to the real reasons as to why Heather and Dodge decided to play in Panic and some of their life stories.

End

The one thing I was happiest about when it comes to the ending was that Natalie was exposed for the deals she made with both Heather and Dodge. I mean the deal wasn’t the smartest thing to do anyways, but come on, you’re supposed to be her best friend?

We also witness who the ultimate winner is to Panic, and all of the consequences that come along with the game–tiger’s running wild, to friendships ending, and new ones blooming.

Overall Thoughts

When I first heard of Panic, I was automatically interested. Lauren Oliver has an amazing writing style and she’s an amazing person. I’ve even had the opportunity to meet her! But as I was reading reviews and listening to peoples’ rants, a lot of them were claiming that the game was dumb and pointless–that these kids were crazy to do it.

So I went into reading Panic, feeling okay about it. I didn’t want to hold my expectations to high, but I was still pretty excited.

Now that I’ve read it, I would have to say I disagree with those reviews. I thought the games were crazy, and there would be no way that I would ever play, but I know a lot of kids who could use that huge chunk of money, for school, or even for food. I don’t think it’s that crazy that these kids would join, a lot of people have valid reasons.

Overall, I loved Panic. Heather and Dodge made the story for me. The games were mind blowing. The jackpot was worth it. And I still can’t get enough of Lauren Oliver’s writing.

 

pandemonium-by-lauren-oliver-297x450Krista:

Cover

Black cover with blonde girl’s hair blowing across it. I don’t feel it represents the actual details of the story, simplistic but not bad.


Characters

Told from 2 POV’s: Heather and Dodge in rotating chapters, with major side characters of Nat and Bishop.

Favourite

I have to say I couldn’t pick a favorite in this book. I liked all 4 of the major players in this story and what they brought to it.

Least Favourite

Heather’s mother is the worst! I didn’t like anything about her from beginning to end.

Beginning

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Heather decides to join in the senior game of PANIC, to the shock of her friends Nat and Bishop. They didn’t think she had it in her. Dodge, on the other hand, has no fear of participating in the game and looks forward to the challenges. He’s determined even, but not for the title of winner, or the grand prize!

Storyline

In a small town like Carp, the game of Panic has become a yearly thing for graduating seniors. The challenges are composed of trials in which they must overcome their fears, and not die trying. As the challenges get harder, and contestants are ruled out, changes in their lives also change their reasons and determination for winning.

Ending

Kidnappings, explosions and….tigers?

Thoughts

I really enjoyed the majority of this story: how the characters lives changed throughout the story, which in turn changes who they are as people; how the decisions you make can change the course of your life, or how you view life. Being a senior about to graduate already brings a lot of changes to a person’s life, but including such a dangerous game in the mix really added so much more to the story. It was well written, and there was only small things that I didn’t absolutely love about it; but a great and entertaining read, something I recommend to thrill seekers, adventure lovers, and those that like a pinch of survival stories.

Quote

“She knew that this day, this feeling, couldn’t last forever. Everything passed; that was partly why it was so beautiful. Things would get difficult again. But that was okay too.

The bravery was in moving forward, no matter what.”

 

Discussion Topics

Krista: In my opinion, this quote fits Heather’s character, “Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed.” – Anonymous. Do you agree? What are some specific times throughout the story that Heather really focused on the big picture and didn’t just act spur of the moment?

I personally felt that the addition of the tigers to the story was out of left field and didn’t quite fit the rest of the story. Was there any part of this story that did not feel realistic to you?

Joelene: This theme seems to be running through the story: Is poverty a cycle or a choice?

 

Join us on GoodReads for the discussion!

 



 

Mandy Wrangles_2_tnFor this month’s cook club, Mandy shows us how to make CARAMEL POPCORN CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES (for cheats!)

 

 

popcorn 4WHAT YOU NEED:

* As all good Kitchen-Cheats understand, keeping the odd box of instant cake mix in the pantry is a must. For this recipe, I used a Chocolate Fudge Cake mix, but you could use any chocolate or chocolate mud cake mixture. Find one that suits YOU.

*Butter / oil. eggs and milk or water – depending on what your Cheat-mix requires.

*Instant chocolate frosting. I prefer the Betty Crocker range.

*400g of Jersey Caramels.

*1/4 cup of full cream.

* One 175g pack of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs. Or caramel popcorn. Or plain popcorn…depends how sweet your tooth is!

*Cupcake wrappers. I used gold foil wrappers for this recipe, because pretty. And it matches the caramel.

 

popcorn 3HOW IT’S DONE:

Bake your cupcakes according to the packet directions, but be wary of over-filling each cupcake (fill to 2/3 maximum) My mix was only supposed to be enough for 12 cupcakes, but in fact it made 18.

Allow cakes to cool completely, then, using a teaspoon, carefully scoop out a well from the centre of each one.

Chop Jersey Caramels and add to a medium sized pot along with cream. Over a medium heat, stirring constantly, melt caramels and cream together. This takes a little while, and will give your arms a good workout before it all comes together. Try not to allow the mixture to boil. Once combined, spoon aprox a teaspoon full of melted caramel into the well you made in each cupcake. Work quickly here, before the mixture begins to stiffen. Also – HOT. Be careful. Follow with a quick smothering of pre-prepared chocolate frosting over the whole lot. I just used a knife to smooth it over rather than a piping bag this time.

POPCORN 1Add the packet of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs to your caramel mixture, carefully spooning through so the entire packet is coated with caramel. A metal tablespoon is easier to work with here rather than a wooden one. Once combined, spoon a large tablespoon of popcorn on to the top of each cupcake and allow to set.

You could follow this up with a drizzling of melted chocolate, but the verdict from my family was that these are pretty full-on in the sweet department already and wouldn’t need it. The surprise dollop of caramel inside the cupcake will set to a gooey consistency, lots of fun for small people and adults alike.

 

 

 

and now… Belinda tries it out!

 



randall_dreams300Sixteen-year-old Kara Foster is an outsider in Japan, but is doing her best to fit at the private school where her father is teaching English for the year. Fortunately she’s befriended by Sakura, a fellow outsider struggling to make sense of her sister’s unsolved murder some months ago. No one seems to care about the beautiful girl who was so brutally murdered, and the other students go on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the calm doesn’t last for long. Kara begins to have nightmares, and soon other students in the school turn up dead, viciously attacked by someone . . . or something. Is Sakura getting back at those she thinks are responsible for her sister’s death? Or has her dead sister come back to take revenge for herself?
Kara’s mother has just died and her father takes a post in Japan as an English teacher. She is fluent enough in Japanese, that the language is not much of a barrier, but the understandings of their local legends becomes one. Upon arriving to her new school Kara discovers a girl has been murdered, and nobody has been captured. She is referred to as “Bonsai‘- Loosely translated as being cut away and moved from her home, no roots to grow on.  She is not laving luck making a lot of new friends, but there are some that feel that she belongs and she begins to settle in. There is still some taunting and rudeness from the other kids, and then the bad dreams come. And she is not the only one experiencing them. Then students begin to die. Is there a killer loose at the Monju-no-chie School and will the nightmares stop?

Every time I had to set it down, I thought ‘What is going to happen next?’ I was very happy to find that there were no slow parts in the story. It moves along at a great pace and there are plenty of scary happenings. The dream scenes will give you goose bumps and make your heart beat a little faster. Kara is an intelligent character and does not back away from her other schoolmates when she needs to. She is also curious, which brings an element of detective work and problem solving.

The author spells out the Japanese words to help readers pronounce them. This book includes great supporting characters, but my favourite character is the main one, Kara. She is so down-to-earth and easy to relate to, but I also found Sakura very entertaining. Most of the kids at the school are having the same bad dreams, and seeing or hearing the same cat, and then the cherry blossom smell appears. These are awesome scene set-ups that make you ask, ‘Is it time for somebody else to die? Are these the signs of death?’

This story will keep you on the edge of your seat. I was ecstatic to see that there will be two more books for The Waking series. I loved this book. I recommend it to those who like the movie The Ring or The Grudge. It’s a fantastic read for when you want something creepy, as well as a new international setting.


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