carman-dark edenFifteen-year-old Will Besting is sent by his doctor to Fort Eden, an institution meant to help patients suffering from crippling phobias. Once there, Will and six other teenagers take turns in mysterious fear chambers and confront their worst nightmares—with the help of the group facilitator, Rainsford, an enigmatic guide. When the patients emerge from the chamber, they feel emboldened by the previous night’s experiences. But each person soon discovers strange, unexplained aches and pains. . . . What is really happening to the seven teens trapped in this dark Eden? Patrick Carman’s Dark Eden is a provocative exploration of fear, betrayal, memory, and— ultimately—immortality.

Hardcover, First Edition, 336 pages Published November 1st 2011 by Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN  0062009702 (ISBN13: 9780062009708)

Characters:  We are introduced to Will through sessions with his therapist. We learn he is an introvert who spends most of his time thinking about being at home with his little brother. However, he develops an interest in the other patients and sneakily begins taking files from the therapist’s computer.

Originality:  I found this story to be very unique; the seven kids are taken to a “summer camp” which is a place for them to face their fears. The therapist tells Will that there is some connection between all of them and that this treatment facility will be the only thing that can finally cure them because the therapy sessions for this group haven’t been working.

Plot: Will soon realizes that the “summer camp” is not what he originally thought and becomes paranoid. He breaks off from the group upon arrival and hides in a basement room where he watches the other kids become “healed”, one at a time, through a camera security system. He falls for one of the other patients and wants to try to warn her about what he’s been seeing before she goes to her final “healing” session. But that means coming out of hiding.

Writing:  While I really enjoyed how the story ended (it had a great twist), it took me a while to get through this short book because of the slow pacing.  The story kept a mysterious overtone, but I couldn’t feel a connection to the main character who spent all of his time hiding in a room watching a camera and hypothesizing about what he was seeing, instead of being part of the action.

Krista’s Rating:  It’s definitely a book that I was glad that I stuck with. It’s always nice to be surprised at the end of a story, and this one sure did that!



Belinda_kisses_tnSince Marianne is on a sugar fee-ish kick, I have a cottage cheese pie recipe I’d like to challenge you with Mandy (and I think it’s gluten free). It’s about the only recipe I make that people outside my family actually enjoy. It could make a snack for the Wrangles troops.

 

SONY DSCRecipe

1/2 cup white rice

2 tblsp snipped chives (optional)

30g melted butter

500g cottage cheese

6 eggs

6 rashers of bacon (diced)

5 spring onions (snipped finely)

1 spanish onion (diced)

pinch of salt

 

Method

Cook rice and allow to cool

Sweat off the bacon, onion, spring onion and allow to cool

Preheat oven to 200c

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix gently until combined

Pour mix into a greased pie dish

Cook until set and is a nice golden colour

*use a fork to stir the pie gently every 15-20 minutes during the cooking process

 



Joelene_tnTomorrowland reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

 

tomorrowland-movieThe world is hovering on the brink of crisis. Wars are escalating, climate change is an ever increasing threat, and too few people are doing anything to combat it. For Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) letting the world fail around her is not an option. She has high hopes for the future and is willing to break the law to see them realised.

When Casey is bailed out of jail, the unfamiliar ‘60s pin she finds in her effects seems innocuous enough. It’s only when she touches it that she realises that it is like nothing she has encountered before. When against her skin, the pin transports her to an advanced and beautiful world; the kind of world that she can’t help but want to be a part of.

Tomorrowland is a wonderfully hopeful movie about the future – especially given how many gloomy dystopias have been popping up lately. I mean, I love a solid dystopia as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s nice to think of the world in terms of positives as well.

There’s quite a lot to see in Tomorrowland. The special effects are terrific, the storyline is solid – if simple, and the scenery and cinematography is stunning. It’s the characters that kept me riveted though. They’re by turns funny, admirable and compelling. Athena (Raffey Cassidy) is a robot who is amazing at finding people with vision and integrity and is pretty handy in a fight but lacks the ability to understand the emotions of those she recruits. Casey is a visionary – a dreamer who will do what it takes to make the world something better. Frank (George Clooney) is jaded after being rejected by Tomorrowland and finding himself unable to fit back into the real world. On their own these characters are interesting, but together they have a dynamic that is difficult to ignore.

There could have been more depth to the world of Tomorrowland. We see very little of it in the movie and there is so much anticipation of it that it is a little of a disappointment. That said there are some really inventive scenes involving contraptions made by Frank, which makes up for a lot of that.

Tomorrowland is everything that the teaser trailer promised – a fantastical journey through a visually stunning landscape. It is adventure at its best with wonderful characters, a lashing of humour and vibrant visuals. It’s a refreshing break from all of the dismal futuristic visions out there.



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnMandy Wrangles – sometimes known as Amanda – has lived by the beach on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula most of her life. She likes to grow food and bake cupcakes and write about murder and monsters and steampunk ships. She likes big action superhero movies, and movies that make you cry. Her home is filled with boys, dogs, skateboards and books. Lots and lots of books.

 

MandyHow long have you been writing for MDPWeb, why did you join the group, and what do you like about being part of it?

I’ve been with MDPWeb since late 2010. I think?

I love being part of such a like-minded group, and have made some cherished friends from the team over the last few years. We’re a really eclectic mix of people, all with different areas of specific interest, but we all share the same passion – great stories.

Also having the opportunity to read and meet some of my all-time favourite authors has been pretty amazing…did you hear about the morning I had breakfast with Charlaine Harris, creator of Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood? Yep. For real.

What creative piece are you working on, and which author would you liken your work too?

I’m currently working hard on a couple of short stories for competition, so can’t say anything about them right now. I’ve also recently dived back into a SF novel that’s been burning away in my bottom drawer – and my heart! – for a couple of years. Thanks to awesome feedback and encouragement (you rock, MDP and AG) I think it might actually get finished this year.

I don’t know who I write like!? That’s a really tough question. I do know my style has changed a lot over the last couple of years to be more lyrical than it used to be. I’m influenced by a bunch of incredible Australian authors: Alison Goodman, Margo Lanagan, Isobelle Carmody and of course our own Marianne de Pierres.

Lanagan_Sea HeartsWhat book have you most enjoyed reviewing for MDPWeb?

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan.

It was a difficult book to review – quite daunting actually – it’s just so beautiful. I always worry if my reviews can ever do a book like that justice. Sea Hearts is one of those books I just can’t get out of my head. It’s breathtaking. Read it!

What’s your favourite thing to do in your downtime?

With three sons, I rarely get downtime. As well as being a hairdresser and dive master, I’m a qualified bookbinder, so I used to spend a lot of time in my art studio making leather-bound journals or painting in oils to chill out. These days, most afternoons and weekends you’ll find me by the bowl at one of Melbourne’s skateparks, watching my boys do their thing. I love it. I also really enjoy growing edible plants and baking – but again, more time sitting at skateparks than anything else lately!

Is there somewhere else online/in bookstores we can find your work?

Umm…yes.

You can find me – and lots of yummy food – over at www.mandywrangles.com and on Instagram where I go by mandy_wrangles.

I’m also one half of writing duo A.K. Wrox, with Kylie Fox. Our novel, fantasy spoof ‘Arrabella Candellarbra & the Questy Thing to End All Questy Things’ can be found at  http://www.clandestinepress.com.au/paperback/arrabella-candellarbra

It’s available as both paperback and ebook.

You can find A.K. Wrox on Facebook and sometimes Twitter.

Clan Destine Press also publish ‘Scarlet Stiletto – The Second Cut – Award Winning Thrillers’ where my Scarlet Stiletto winning short story ‘Persia Bloom’ appears. Again, pb and ebook available at http://www.clandestinepress.com.au/paperback/scarlet-stiletto-second-cut

My short crime story ‘Plotting Jasper/A Forgiving Kind of Nature’ is published in ‘Hard Labour’ by Crime Factory. You can get your copy here:

http://www.thecrimefactory.com/shop/

aiden turnerAll these books should also be available through Amazon etc, your local library or bookshop. If not – you could always order them in :-) I also have a couple of things on the horizon – an ebook collection of my short crime stories, and an appearance in an upcoming Spec Fic anthology.

What’s your favourite TV series?

Of all time? Buffy the Vampire Slayer, without a doubt. I was with Buffy and the Scooby Gang right from the start, and still watch the entire series at least once a year. It’s like comfort food for my brain. More recently, Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead.

 Who or what is your current crush?

I don’t think I’ll ever lose my crush on Joss Whedon’s brain. I’ll also happily watch anything with Charlie Hunnam in it. Or Aiden Turner.

Shout out to big-time Hollywood blockbuster producers: Can you please organise a Whedon/Hunnam/Turner mega-project in the near future? Yeah? With Jessica Morais as a fabulously strong, intelligent lead? Thank you.

 



alexander_WolfWolf is the second book in the Were Chronicles series, which began with Random and will close with Shifter. The series focuses on the lives of one particular Were family and the struggles they face assimilating into regular society. The overall story is complex and deals with issues such as the importance of identity, family ties, the binding nature of loyalty and how these forces compel us to action.

Malcolm Marsh is the middle child in a family of ‘Random’ Were-people who have immigrated to a new country to escape persecution. Hunted in the old land and now marginalised in the new, they soon discover that tolerance of their kind comes with strict rules and restrictions. Here, the public face of acceptance has simply made bigotry more insidious.

Armed with a new identity and a name that he can scarcely pronounce, Mal suffers his way through the full force of bullying at school. Despite this toxic unpopularity, he manages to gain an unassuming ally who goes by the name of Chalky. It is a kinship of spirits, and as their friendship strengthens, it becomes apparent that Chalky has secrets of his own. If Mal’s random Were-blood puts him in the minority of the minority, Chalky is a true outlier – he exists somewhere just beyond the rules.

Their friendship made life just about bearable for Mal, until, at the age of twelve, a tragic event caused his fragile world to shatter completely. This becomes the harbinger of a series of changes in Mal, which takes him through his teen years on a path of self-loathing, isolation and destruction. Fuelled by guilt and anguish, and further ignited by his own inadequacies, he finally hits on an opportunity for redemption through vengeance.

With the help of Chalky, Mal hastily knocks together a plan and throws himself at it, body and soul. Against the odds, his half-baked strategy works and continues to work. Before Mal has time to get his bearings, he is once again saying goodbye to everything familiar and taking on a new identity.  All he can do now is hold on and try to stay ahead of the game, but the people he has taken on are serious and have a long-standing agenda of their own. It soon becomes apparent that Mal had only a vague notion of what he was getting into and that this time he might not make it back out.

I enjoy a good hare-brained, emotion-driven, revenge plan and this one is a classic of its kind. It really does take on a life of its own, and Mal spends most of the second half of the book trying to keep up with it. He manages to achieve so much without anything going wrong that when disaster eventually strikes, it does so in spectacular fashion. But by now, Mal is somewhat impervious to disaster. He succeeds in building a strong support team, despite his habit of placing them all in danger, and they bond together through his mission.

Through it all, Mal never loses his stubborn, headstrong determination. While this behaviour certainly rings true for his age and emotional state, after a while it began to seem a little callous. I started to wonder if he’d ever learn anything because he repeatedly drags those close to him through the wringer, without much thought for consequences. That said, there certainly are times when it is an advantage to act, and Mal finds that he has gumption to spare.

I also found his internal voice to be quite mature, and it jarred with the way he comported himself in the outside world. He often muses like a student of Philosophy, pondering the big questions. Similarly, his character arc seemed to jolt in places. He changes from unreachable, surly teen to compliant worker bee almost overnight and with little complaint. Readers who had spent the first part of the book identifying with his misunderstood, loner status might find his new ‘can-do’ persona difficult to like. However, people are complex and different environments do change behaviours. Mal takes the opportunity to step up and this is certainly a positive approach.

There are many familiar teen issues in this story, with the pain of adolescence very much at the heart. Whilst the main themes tend towards the masculine side of things, female readers in this age group will certainly be able to identify with experiences of isolation, guilt, loyalty and rebellion. Sadly, many will also recognise the slow torture of self-loathing.

I particularly enjoyed the science underpinning ‘Wolf’. It tends to get pushed to the background by the action, but it is well thought out and convincingly written. The daily lives of Were-people, along with the concept of the ‘Random’ Were, were interesting and presented with compassion. The larger issues, such as genetic manipulation and the use of drugs to control nature, are perfectly pitched and relevant. Setting the whole thing against a background of bigotry and the threat of a Master Race scenario – while not particularly original – created an appropriate sense of scale and consequence. Although the pacing tended to drag in parts, there is some terrific descriptive writing, (eg ‘…an agonizing oily slowness that comes with waiting.’), which made the long stretches worth it.

Mal does spend a lot of his time raging against the injustices that life has dealt him. This will certainly be a familiar tune for most YA readers, or anyone who has had a child, or been one. It is this very thing that makes it so easy to identify with his story. In ‘Wolf’, Alma Alexander holds a light to the feelings beneath the surface, the emotions that unite us all, and that makes for a moving experience.

 


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