Category Archives: Reviews

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The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

It’s been a while since I’ve read a YA book that grabs you by the shoulders, sits you down, puts a big mug of tea in your hand and very clearly says “You are staying here for HOURS to read this book”.sacred-lives-of-minnow-bly-high-resThe Sacred

Lies of Minnow Bly is that book. It’s a debut YA novel from Stephanie Oakes and it is really quite a tour de force. The writing is so beautiful, descriptive and evocative. Oakes muses on the concept of justice (both poetic and legal), free will, religion (evidence for, corruption of, finding and losing) while presenting a heroine who learns to claim back her identity and freedom.

Minnow Bly is 17, the only survivor of a religious cult that has burned to the ground in the woods of Montana. Minnow has grown up, confined to the “Kevinian’ cult led by a cruel and insane ‘Prophet’ who takes her identity and, when she refuses to marry him, her hands. Isolated, uneducated, but with a thirst for freedom, Minnow has always questioned her world and longed to return to the real world outside of the cult. When she tries to escape, she is punished cruelly. But there is nothing that will stop Minnow from surviving.

This book is dark. Like any fairy-tale, the darkness at it’s core, and the way it breaks to the surface will give you chills. The writing is amazing, but the story is brutal. From the first page we learn the Minnow has had her hands chopped off as punishment, that she escaped a cult, that she hurt a stranger so badly she is thrown into juvenile detention. The story shifts between Minnow’s current life in prison, where she is adjusting to the odd ‘freedom’,  her friendship with her cellmate Angel, her exploration of religion and education; and the past, which she relates to the FBI agent investigating the murder of the prophet and destruction of the community and the loss of her friend Jude. The agent investigating the fire slowly draws the truth of her life out of Minnow and we slowly piece together the events that led to the explosive end of the cult and Minnow’s break for freedom.

I was so amazed by this book and by the author’s talent! The strength of the writing, the mastery of language is something that keeps that the suspense high and the pages turning. This book was so hard to put down! There was some pretty horrific, gory bits in the first half of the book though, definitely launching it into the thriller genre. But when the horror is countered against the almost dead-pan, wry commentary of prison life, and Minnow’s inimitable voice, it just adds to all the reasons you won’t be able to put this book down.

This story is brutal and heart breaking but you will be recommending it to everyone. Minnow is an amazing new heroine for the YA genre and Stephanie Oakes is certainly a new author to watch. Her next novel, The Arsonist is due for 2016.

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3D Printing Pen… Say What!

In terms of amazing technology, we are so excited about the 3Doodler! A 3D Printing Pen.

THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!!

The Co-op is getting has just got a batch of the 3Doodler 2.0, one of the most successful Kickstarter projects that takes the power of 3D printing and puts it in a pen so you can literally draw in the air — The plastics are heated then cooled so rapidly that you can create amazing 3D art in minutes.

 

So what will you create? There are templates and projects online, or be as creative as you like. The limit is your imagination!

The 3Doodler 2.0 will be available in-store and online from June.

 

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The Church of Marvels

From page one I loved this book. It’s beautifully written, captivating and wry and swept me away in an incredible journey through the world’s greatest city. Set in Manhattan and Brooklyn of the 1800s, Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry is a sweeping and marvellous debut novel.

The lives of four characters become irrevocably entwined and altered in this novel. In sparkling and beautiful prose, the plot races from the side shows of Coney Island to the gritty, lower East side of Manhattan, to the forboding asylum on Roosevelt Island.

Odile is a circus performer who lost her mother in the blaze that brought their circus to the ground, and now her talented sister Belle has disappeared in the thick crowd of New York City. While working to clean away filth in his job as a night-soiler, Sylvan finds an abandoned new born, and rather than leave her in an orphanage, adopts her. Alphie, a fallen woman, has now fallen in love. But her overbearing mother-in-law has had her committed to an asylum, where she plots her escape with the help of a mute in-mate.

With the drama and glitter of a circus, this novel is beautifully written with great description and harrowing plot. The dizzying spectacle of the circus meets an element of mystery and mild horror. The streets of 1800s New York are dark and dangerous but Leslie Parry weaves an incredible and breathtaking novel.

Spectacular, lucid, full of imagery – I loved this book. It was a beautiful glimpse into a meticulously researched world of history, circus folk, desperate workers, rising stars and orphans. It has elements of Charles Dickens in its examination of the society and cities in the end of the 19th Century. Church of Marvels is a book to read and love as soon as it is released in May.

Church of Marvels will be available in-store and online, May 5th 2015. Order now.

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You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About

Tim is repeating the HSC, but he can’t focus on his studies when he’s trying to pursue his music career. Mandy is taking a gap year before starting uni, but she has no idea what she wants to do. As the pair drift through Sydney, they meet at a band night at their favourite pub. For Tim, Mandy is the dream girl, the girl he writes songs about. While they try to decide the direction of their lives and futures, they fall in love… You’re The Kind of Girl I Write Songs About is a début novel from a new Australian author, David Herborn. Filled with young romance and music, this is a sweet book to read.

Things I liked about this book – it was witty, cute, and nicely written. David Herborn has amazing talent for driving the narrative along in a laconic, dreamy way. If you’re a fan of music this is the book for you, with indie-alternative bands, bands so hipster they don’t exist yet and the greatest hits of the 1980s all given pride of place and lovingly referenced in this awesome YA novel.

Also, this book is set in Sydney. It’s so exciting to read about the characters hanging out in pubs that actually exist!

As a début novel, it’s a well-written and uplifting book. If you love music and romance then be sure to get You’re The Kind of Girl I Write Songs About when it arrives in-store and online on May 1, 2015.

 

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A Thousand Pieces of You

This is my new favourite YA novel. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is an incredible novel with beautiful, sweeping prose and incredible imagination. This is the kind of book that has to be read, as the plotline is not easy to explain – it’s great science fiction meeting a suspenseful mystery, with plenty of action and romance.

Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two brilliant physicists who have done the impossible and created a device that allows the wearer to jump through dimensions. The Firebird is a brilliant and dangerous piece of technology, and when Maguerite’s father is betrayed and killed for it, she races across dimensions to catch the murderer – Paul Markov, her parents’ brilliant research assistant. Once her friend and now her enemy, Marguerite, with the help of her childhood friend Theo, is determined to find and kill Paul.

As Marguerite jumps dimensions, from a technologically advanced London to Imperial Russia, she uncovers a deadly conspiracy and many plot twists that threaten her and her loved ones. Finding that the reason for her father’s murder is so much more complicated than theft of the Firebird gone wrong, Marguerite finds that she and her friends must stand against a deadly corporation.

Unsure of who to trust or where to turn, Marguerite tries to keep the lines of her life and dimensions straight. But in every jump she meets different versions of both herself and Paul… and finds that love doesn’t stop at the border of another dimension.

A Thousand Pieces of You is brilliant in it’s adventurous plot and swoon-worthy romance. Marguerite is an incredible heroine who is written with depth and wit. I couldn’t put the book down and cannot believe I now have to wait so long for the next book in the series, Ten Thousand Skies Above You.

Imaginative and spectacularly well written, this is not a book to miss.

Also, just look at that divine cover art…

 

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The Buried Giant

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro is set in a time when mythical creatures like ogres and dragons walked the earth. This book by the internationally renowned author tells the tale of an old couple, living in a life they have long forgotten.

The Buried GiantA strange mist envelopes the country of Britain, making people forget memories from a year, a month, a day, or even an hour ago. The old couple can barely remember anything, but they remember their love for each other, and their love for their long-lost son.

The couple embark on a sometimes whimsical journey, that takes them through the Britain of olden times, first to find their forgotten son, and then to uncover the cause of the mist that makes everyone forget.

The Buried Giant starts off slowly, but is so sweet, whimsical and enchanting, that over time you fall into the pages. The story is described as being about lost memories, revenge and war. But most importantly it is about love that cannot be lost or forgotten.

By the end of the book, the story gets more curious and intriguing, and you want to keep turning the pages to find out if it really is a ‘happily-ever-after’ ending.

The Buried Giant is definitely a book you want to try for yourself – don’t get disenchanted by the slow beginning, because by the end of it, you will want to go back and read this beautiful book again.

Be sure to grab a copy of The Buried Giant from The Co-op when it is released in March!

Reviewed by Guest Blogger Michelle, a Co-op Member since 2010.

 

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Looking For Alaska 10th Anniversary

First love, last words.

Last week marked the 10-year anniversary of John Green’s heartbreaking novel, Looking for Alaska. It is hard to think it’s been a decade, as it remains just as relevant and tear-jerking to this day. To celebrate, Looking For Alaska is being re-released in a beautiful anniversary edition containing exclusive notes, deleted scenes and an introduction from John Green.

Looking For AlaskaLooking For Alaska is a beautiful, deeply emotional novel about the pain of growing up, first love and dealing with grief for the first time. Miles packs his bags for boarding school, inspired by a need “to seek a great perhaps”. There he meets Alaska, the beautiful and tragic heroine who, while struggling with her own labryinth of demons, helps Miles discover his great perhaps. As the school year progresses, through great pranks and first romance, tragedy strikes the group. John Green delivers a poignant and impactful exploration of love and loss. It’s also one of the most poetically written books that perfectly blends the philosophy and the rawness of being sixteen.

It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed. I feel so lucky that Alaska is still in print and still finding readers (some of whom were in preschool when it was first published). Thanks to everyone who has read it and shared it this past decade, and I hope you enjoy the anniversary edition! — John Green, posted on his tumblr

I am really looking forward to this special edition, especially being able to read more from John Green. I love his books so much, seeing some of the ‘deleted scenes’ of Looking For Alaska will be awesome.

This 10 Year Anniversary edition is available for pre-order online.

 

 

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The Girl on The Train

I commute to work so this tensely written, observant thriller was a grippingly good read. I could not put it down and this is the only time a lengthy commute is a blessing – it meant more time to read this amazing book! The Girl on The Train is a fast-paced thriller and début novel by Paula Hawkins that will hit shelves this month.

The Girl on the Train is a British crime thriller, with great characters and a good story. It’s tense, enthralling and full of backstabbing and betrayal, detective work and healthy dose of mistrust and uncertainty. It’s a brilliant read.

Rachel is a hot mess… still reeling after her husband left her for a younger woman, she commutes back and forth between London and Easton. She’s not going to work, she’s already lost her job and struggles with alcoholism. Instead she watches the world go by and fantasises about the beautiful couple who live in a townhouse that overlooks the train line. A townhouse on the street she used to live on. Through her imagination, ‘Jess’ and ‘John’ are the golden couple, but when Rachel sees ‘Jess’ in the arms of another man, her fantasy is ruined. Then ‘Jess’, whose real name is Megan, goes missing in suspiscious circumstances.

Megan is found dead and the pool of suspects consists of the neighbours… and Rachel.

There’s a killer on the loose and Rachel has a pretty flaky alibi for the night in question – not to mention that she blacked out and has no memory of the night. Playing amateur detective, she tries to pinpoint who could be Megan’s killer before it’s too late… Going behind the backs of the police, Megan’s husband and her ex-husband, Rachel confronts the dangerous situation she has fallen into and races to solve a murder before her own life is put at risk.

Told from the point of view of three very different and complex women, The Girl on The Train races along plot wise. Compelling and gritty, this is a trio of unlikable but ultimately redeemable heroes, and a thrilling murder mystery that is a true page turner. If you liked S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep, then this is an excellent book to read next.

 

 

 

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All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Sometimes it’s nice to get an advanced copy of the book that you know, just know, will be HUGE in 2015. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is a beautifully written, heart-wrenching book. It’s about grief, loss, mental illness, being an outsider and finding the true love that springboards you to a better place. I sincerely hope everyone who reads it will love it as much as I do.

All The Bright Places will be The Fault in Our Stars of 2015 – an epic love story between two doomed teenagers… But it’s something about the writing – pretentious and goofy and heartwrenching and poetic all at once – that elevates it from a YA novel into a truly resonating reading experience. Jennifer Niven writes in a style and class that could rival the great writers. The characters are all richly detailed, so vivid and complicated and human – every page makes you love them a little more. Be prepared to cry your heart out in this romantic, poetic novel about living life to the full even when it seems impossible to move on.

Theodore Finch has always been an outsider. Bullied at school, dealing with depression, he has just come out of a coma-like sleep and is determined to stay awake. Up on the school bell tower, with thoughts of throwing himself off, he meets Violet Markey. After losing her sister in a car accident, Violet has been shrinking into herself, withdrawing from the world to try and survive her grief. They both need the other to survive – Finch can be himself around Violet rather than the myriad of personas he uses to survive the school day, and Violet finds the colour coming back into her world with Finch’s zest for life and possibility.  Working together on a school project, Finch and Violet road trip around Indiana… slowly healing, slowly falling in love, all the while leaving their mark on the world.

But while Violet’s world takes shape again, Finch’s starts to shrink. Despite his attempts at living life to the full, and encouraging Violet to reclaim all the things she was passionate about before the accident, something inside him is holding back.

I give this book all the stars in the sky for the complete and utter perfection it is. The writing is breathtaking, the characters are vivid, complex, the plot is perfection. I am blown away from reading All The Bright Places and feel like this is the kind of book that will stay with me forever. It is a sad, powerful, poignant novel.

This book is an absolute must read for 2015 and I won’t be surprised if a film will be announced soon too. I actually feel privileged to have been able to read this book and will be recommending it to everyone next year.

 

*I will advise however that this book can be quite triggering to some, it deals with difficult topics of mental illness, self-harm and suicide so please be aware of the content, and know that support is available.*

 Lifeline Australia

Ph: 13 11 14

Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English

 

 

 

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

So, I’ll start by saying that I definitely love this book. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is great. It’s got everything a good YA novel needs – a dystopic world, a heroine, superpowers, romance… it’s witty, sharp and clever. When it hits the shelves in 2015 Red Queen is a must read for fans of YA novels!

Mare Barrow is 17, living in the slums and scraping by as a petty thief and pickpocket. The world she lives in is divided by Red and Silver. Reds are powerless, doomed to a life of oppression and service for the mighty, powerful Silvers who have mutant powers over the mind and elements and live in luxury. For generations, the Reds have been sent to the frontlines of an unwinnable war while Silvers remain elite and rule with an iron fist.

While desperately searching for a way to escape conscription for her best friend Kilorn and herself, Mare finds herself in a deadly web – caught up in a trial where she is forced to reveal that (despite the impossibility) she has mutant powers herself – controlling and creating lightning. Since the King and Queen can’t silence Mare easily, they hide her in plain sight, passing her off as a long lost member of the royal family. Now in the public eye and betrothed to Maven, the prince – while finding her feelings are developing for his older brother, Cal –  Mare has no way out.

But she will turn her power into rebellion, fighting to change the society that keeps Reds oppressed from inside the elite Silver circles by working as an insider and figurehead for The Red Guard… but in a world where anyone can betray anyone, Mare must keep her feet in a dangerous game or risk losing her life and the people she loves…

I love the writing style, it’s witty and definitely keeps you reading. It does rely on the romance and the action a lot though, I would have liked to see more history and world building. And while this is a fantastic début novel, Red Queen is a pastiche of the best YA novels of the past year… there are complete sentences and the entire plot that is basically a rip of The Hunger GamesThe Selection and X-Men: First Class. Even the heroine, Mare, is nicknamed The Little Lightning Girl, which is not at all dissimilar to The Girl on Fire.

But here’s the thing, Red Queen is basically a really awesome fanfic of all my favourite books, and this meant I absolutely loved reading it!

At the end of the day, the most important thing is this – I couldn’t put the book down and I’m truly looking forward to getting the second book in this fantastic new series.

I think Red Queen stands a fighting chance at being a favourite in 2015’s round up of YA Novels. Give it a shot (of lightning).