Weekend Readings # 006

Whatever you're doing this weekend, check out Sporadic Reads and join in on her Weekend Readings.
This weekend I plan on seeing Catching Fire, having waited for the fanatical crowds to have died down. I'll be having a dystopian weekend and plan on starting...

The Last Girl By Michael Adams

The Last Girl The Last Girl Book One
Written By Michael Adams
Dystopian, Science Fiction
Published October 1st 2013
400 Pages
Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia
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The end of the world happened quickly. The sun still shone, there was no explosion, just a tsunami sized wave of human thought drowning the world in telepathic noise as everyone's inner most secrets became audible. Everyone's thoughts, that is, except sixteen year old Danby.

Everyone looked like bad actors in a poorly dubbed movie. Their expressions didn't match their emotions and their lips didn't sync with what they were saying. But they were all so loud.
The end of the world happens in the blink of an eye.

When The Snap sweeps the globe, everyone can instantly hear everything that everyone else is thinking. As secrets and lies are laid bare, suburbs and cities explode into insanity and violence. What might have been an evolutionary leap instead initiates the apocalypse.

Sixteen year old Danby Armstrong's telepathy works very differently. She can tune into other people but they can't tune into her. With only this slender defense, Danby must protect her little brother and reach the safety of her mother's mountain retreat. But it's 100 kilometers away and the highways are blocked by thousands of cars and surrounded by millions of people coming apart at the psychic seams.

Danby's escape is made even more dangerous by another cataclysm that threatens humanity's extinction. And her ability to survive this new world will be tested by a charismatic young man whose power to save lives may be worse than death itself.
It could have happened any number of ways, climate change, a virus pandemic, aliens, even a zombie invasion, but Danby Armstrong would never have guessed that when she attended Mollie's party, that it could have been the beginning of the collapse of civilization... And she certainly wouldn't have known that a pair of novelty socks would have torn her world apart. Sixteen year old Danby is like any other teen, she lives her life online, saves every dollar from her part time position at The Grocery and dreams of the day she finishes school, when she buys a ticket to freedom and travels the world. She lives with her half brother Evan, her father who married her former nanny Stephanie. Stephanie is shallow, vain and put an end to Danby's dream of having her mother return from her disconnected retreat in the mountains.

The Morning that changed her life, also changed the world forever. While families should have been exchanging gifts, The Snap left devastation and destruction in it's wake. Inner thoughts were no longer private, secrets were exposed and the guilty were persecuted, none more so than Stephanie. Her step mother has been having an affair with her personal trainer, her inner thoughts shedding more than any child should hear. Thoughts fly back and forth until the confrontation between Danby's father and Stephanie becomes physical, it's that point where Danby realises that although she can hear the thoughts of others, her inner voice is silent to everyone else around her. Sydney is self destructing and angry rioting is rife through Beautopia Point, with communal consciousness cheering for cold blooded murder. But Danby had seen the signs much earlier. Being brought their meals at Rubber Thaime without ordering, knowing that best friend Jacinta wants crush Finn for herself, or that a friend's boyfriend is upstairs at the party, having sex with someone else in the bathroom. Hearing a couple silently auguring in The Grocery, after the girl's partner had thought she was fat. But when mental illness runs in your family, this is one instance where medication won't prepare you for what's to come.

A suicide pilot playing Highway To Hell takes his life and countless others, as he flew the Sydney to Bali bound Airbus into the Harbour Bridge. A shockwave triggered a tsunami that flooded the harbour, glass across the suburbs shattered while a thunderous explosion of ash and debit clogged the air. Amongst the mayhem, Danby hears a lone voice from upstairs, little brother Evan. With the new world closing in, Danby knows they need to leave and their best chance to escape the horrific scene is the long journey to her mothers mountain retreat... If they can survive.

But when the silence strikes and the world feels desolate, all but a select few are immune to their thoughts and body shutting down. Nathan is a second year medical student, who finds himself tagging along with Danby as she explores the masses of unconscious and near death bodies littering the streets. But what makes them so special? When they discover that a popular anti psychosis medication may breathe life back into those that are catatonic, who do they decide which people to reanimate? The plan is to dose one person, leave instructions and medication so that they may dose the next person, creating a chain reaction of citizens aiding one another... Until Jack enters the picture.

Jack is amassing an army, gathering supplies and the strong and healthy to help him on his way. He too has been awaking the catatonic, but without the means of medication. Jack seems to have the knowledge and know how to survive, but what is it that Jack, Nathan and Danby share in common? She may not be able to hear Jack's thoughts, but she'll need to instill trust in someone. It may be Danby's best chance at making it back to her mother.

Kelly's Thoughts

The Last Girl was unlike anything I've read before. It was intense, on edge and I absolutely loved it. The story takes place in Sydney, where The Snap occurred and suddenly the population's thoughts were being broadcast to family, friends and neighbours. Affairs were exposed, buried secrets making themselves known, and it's clear that most everyone has held back the truth at one point of another, culminating in a catastrophic explosion which was too much to bear. The atrocities that Danby and special needs brother Evan witnessed were confronting and terrifying, Michael Adams created a world that was self destructing and didn't hold back. I can't recall how many scenes through the initial few chapters after The Snap where I read with my hand over my mouth, but it was brilliant.

Too often young adult authors assume that the intended audience only ever want to read about a dashing love interest or a hero or heroine swinging in to save the day, but this was raw and the emotional reactions were realistic and what you would expect during what people believe is the end of the world. This is what young adult should be about, a slow building and well crafted story that will leave you breathless and on the edge of your seat. Just when I thought I couldn't take any more, Michael Adams slaps me over the head with and ending that I now can't stop wondering about. I can't bring myself to read The Last Shot sneak peek, it's dangling a carrot when I'm desperately after the whole vegetable garden.

Life In Outer Space By Melissa Keil

Life In Outer Space
Written By Melissa Keil
Published February 1st 2013
316 Pages
Thank you to Netgalley and Peachtree Publishers
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Life in Outer Space is a romantic comedy about a movie geek & the dream girl he refuses to fall in love with. Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft, and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, worry about girls he won't. Then Camilla Carter arrives on the scene. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his plan. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a plan of her own, and he seems to be a part of it.
Sam Kinnison is a fully fledged nerd. World of Warcraft player, Battlestar Galactica debater, wannabe screenwriter and horror movie expert. You'll find Sam hanging out in the computer room at Bowen Lakes Secondary School, he and friends Mike, Adrian and Allison will do just about anything to avoid Justin Zigoni and his group of minions known as The Vessels of Wank. Mike is secretly gay, only telling his close friends after a weekend of watching Dirty Dancing and his non response to big breasted woman posing provocatively over farm equipment had failed. But lately, Mike has withdrawn from the group. He has stopped his Karate training, to which he was once obsessed. Adrian has been known as the Troll since he was eight, slightly overweight, unruly curly hair and a light layer of whiskers that is trying it's darn hardest to become a beard. He's easily distracted by food, fiercely protective of his friends and can slot a Star Trek reference into any sentence. Allison is the only girl within the group, wispy blonde hair who's expression rarely changes beyond a grimace. The small group of awkward teens have always relied on one another, because that's all they've ever had... Until new girl Camilla Carter strolls into their classroom.

Camilla is the attractive new girl. Having only just moved back to Australia with her music journalist father, having last lived in New York, but picking up her British accent from the years of living in London. Instantly, she's a hit. The Vessels idolize her and her musical connections, she dresses like a seventies housewife, complete with Princess Leia buns. She's a member of every social circle, the girls volleyball team, the chess club and a committee member organising the spring dance. Camilla is now the fifth member of Sam's group, staying for dinner each Friday night at Sam's after study group and playing World of Warcraft together. Camilla has become a permanent fixture in their lives, luring the group into the cafeteria to eat lunch and even somehow convincing them each to buy a ticket to the spring dance. But the biggest influence she's had in their lives? Justin Zigoni ignores them completely.

But as Sam and Camilla fall into an easy friendship, Sam's world starts developing cracks, threatening to fall apart. His parents have never had a close relationship, his father spending more time in his study to the point where Sam's suspects he may actually be Batman, and naturally his mother is a neglected mess trying to keep herself together. Mike is clearly troubled, but refuses to talk to anyone. But when Allison kisses Sam, Adrian tells Camilla resulting in Sam lashing out and Mike picking arguments for no apparent reason, Sam doesn't know how to cope with the mess that's become his life. To make matter's worse, he releases that the girl he swore he didn't want, the one who indulges his love of horror, who shares his love of video games and isn't afraid to be herself, he likes her. He really likes her. Pity about that motorcycle riding, guitar playing boyfriend Dave.

Camilla insists on driving Sam out of his comfort zone, whether it be guitar lessons, a beach party or watching something other than horror or science fiction. While Sam is trying to distance himself from the girl he's determined not to fall in love with... And failing miserably. But Camilla has a few secrets of her own. Will Sam be the nice guy who doesn't finish last for once?

Kelly's Thoughts

Life In Outer Space was cute. It's a light and fluffy read set in Melbourne and tells the story of Sam, nerd, gamer and awkward teen. Sam is really likable, his character is mostly polite, a quiet achiever and just wants to fit in. He and his group of friends find themselves spending high school, ducking and weaving their way to escape the popular group, which always ends up with someone being hurt. Camilla is instantly popular, especially when the popular kids realise her links to the celebrity world. She's effortlessly cool and takes a shine to Sam, who really has no idea what to do with this new information. But as the months pass by, Camilla seems to bridge the gap between the popular kids and Sam's group without even trying, and being ignored by a bully is certainly better than being noticed by one.

Camilla is a darling. She's quirky, free spirited and genuine. And although the storyline is kept lighthearted, it had the potential for something more substantial with Mike's storyline, Camilla's neglectful father and the torment the group experiences at the hands of Justin. It barely skims the surface though, which is great for the young teen reader and intended audience. I needed a little more substance though, which would have pushed it up to a four star read. If you're looking for a feel good, light read, this one is perfect.

Stacking The Shelves #003

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical stores or online bookshops, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks. Hosted by Tyngas Reviews.

Thanks to Harlequin Australia, Scholastic Australia, and Putnam Penguin Books in the U.S (my first international ARC paperbacks), this week I received through publishers and purchase:

The Well's End by Seth Fishman and Scan by Walter Jury and S. E Fine. I also have a paperback copy of SCAN to giveaway in the new year for my fellow Aussies. Thank you to Putnam U.S.
Twelve (The Last Thirteen) by James Phelan (cover not pictured) and The Skull In The Wood by Sandra Greaves. Thank you to Scholastic Australia.
Captivate by Vanessa Garden. Thank you to Harlequin Australia.

And a very special extra thank you to the lovely folk at Scholastic, for sending me a copy of:

Catching Fire, the New York Times bestseller by Suzanne Collins, is now a major motion picture, and this is your guide to all of the movie's excitement, both in front of the camera and behind it.  

Go behind the scenes of the making of Catching Fire with exclusive materials, including back-stage photos and interviews. From the screenwriting process to the casting decisions, from the fantastic new sets and gorgeous costumes to the actors' performances and the director's vision, this is the definitive companion to the second Hunger Games film.

This week I also purchased: Heart On My Sleeve by Ellen Wittlinger, Two Steps Forward by Rachel Cohn and Cupid Painted Blind by Charlotte Calder. 

I treated myself to:  The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. This is the Australian signed, hard cover edition available from Dymocks Books Australia.

As an extra special gift for my fellow Aussies, thanks to Dymocks, I'll be giving away an unsigned hard cover copy of The Fault In Our Stars closer to Christmas.

So look out for the giveaway running during December until I celebrate my first blog birthday in the new year.

What are you stacking your shelves with this week?

These Broken Stars By Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars Starbound Book One
Written by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Science Fiction, Romance
Published November 20th 2013
374 Pages
Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia
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It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets to the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they're worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other's arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder, would they be better off staying in this place forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won't be the same people who landed on it.

The first in a sweeping science fiction trilogy, These Broken Stars is a timeless love story about hope and survival in the face of unthinkable odds.
The Icarus is by far the most luxurious ship to come from the orbital dock. Boasting over fifty thousand people aboard, from the rich social heiress and media darling Lilac LaRoux, to the decorated war hero Major Tarver Merendsen, the general population of the ship taking the fastest route to their destination, to friends, family and the soldiers in the lower decks who are on their way to one of the colonies, to stop the latest rebellion. During a lavish party upon the ship, Tarver notices Lilac waiting for her traveling companions. A natural beauty that is as cruel as she is unobtainable. But Lilac can't be seen enjoying the company of a backwater boy, even if he is a decorated soldier. Being an only child of an overprotective father means Lilac's social interactions are limited. She's the heiress to LaRoux Industries and the wealthiest girl in the galaxy, but Major Merendsen doesn't seem to know who she is.

A strange shudder begins to roll throughout the decks, bouts of passengers being spacesick has never been seen before on a luxury ship. An announcement attempting to calm the passengers blares over he digital screens, the Icarus is having difficulty with the hyperspace engines and has suffered substantial damage as a result of the dimensional displacement. The ship is being torn out of hyperspace when Tarver catches a glimpse of an enormous metallic object through the ship windows, large enough to pull the Icarus from her flight path. The panicked passengers being to surge into a riotous sea, fleeing to the escape pods when Tarver hears a distinctive scream and rushes through the crowd to save Miss LaRoux. No one on board could have predicted what was to come.

For a moment the image before us is frozen. Our world, our lives, reduced to a handful broken stars half lost in uncharted space. Then it's gone, the view swallowed by the hyperspace winds streaming past, blue green auroras wiping the after images away.

Until all that's left is us.

The standard escape pod the unlikely pair have boarded is still firmly attached to the Icarus, and without Lilac's intimate knowledge of the ship the two would have perished. Rerouting the wires, the pod careers past the same reflective metallic object and tumbles towards an unknown planet. Lilac is battered and bruised, insisting they remain with the pod as their best chance of rescue, but Tarver is in his element. The planet has been terraformed, trees dotting the landscape with signs of plant life, and clean air. Still dressed in an evening gown and shoes that are impossible to navigate the rough terrain in, Lilac follows Tarver to explore the new world as pieces of flaming debris are falling from the sky. The Icarus is dying, her father's ship is in ruins, falling from the sky and heading towards her final resting place within the mountain range beyond the vast plains. Lilac worries what will happen to Major Meredsen when their rescue arrives, to be seen alone with the social darling could not only end his career, but his life. And for Lilac, it wouldn't be the first time.

They need to make it to the wreckage site of the Icarus if they want any chance to be rescued, they'll need to walk for what could possibly be days, if they don't stumble upon a colony first. Already on edge with one another, they set off for the mountain range. Lilac is determined not to become a liability, but with strange big cats roaming the forest, they both walk with a weary unease. It isn't until they camp for the night, when Lilac hears the first signs of human life, whispers beyond the forest and a woman quietly sobbing. But there is no sign of anyone there, there are no rescue crafts in the atmosphere, and no other signs of life... Except for the whispers that plague Lilac. The voices are nothing more than muffled whispers, causing Lilac to shake and sweat through what Tarver believes are hallucinations as he can't hear the gentle and softly spoken words.

Lilac knows the voices want to help them on their journey, guiding their way to safety. But as they approach the fallen ship, it becomes clear that there is something greater the voices are guiding them towards, but will they survive the new alien world until their rescue comes... If it comes at all.

Kelly's Thoughts

These Broken Stars was phenomenal. Rarely does a book lure me in so quickly, but it was simply perfection. Told in dual points of view, the illustrious Lilac, wealthy socialite and oppressed teen. She's the only daughter of a single parent, her over protective and controlling father having lost Lilac's mother years ago. He's wealthy, powerful and influential which is the reason why Lilac keeps acquaintances at an arm's length, including Tarver. Tarver is a simple boy that has returned from war as a hero. His new found status has thrust him into a vain and materialistic world. Two worlds collide when the Icarus hits trouble and the soldier and heiress learn to enable one another to survive.

It's clear the annoyance with one another is fused with an attraction that neither of them cares to admit, but slowly a romance blossoms, a deep respect and mutual admiration forms between the two. I absolutely loved the fusion between science fiction, romance, fantasy and survival. It was intriguing, the storyline was unpredictable and kept me on the edge of my seat. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner have created a completely seamless partnership, a beautiful yet dangerous world, a multitude of secrets and phenomenons and a romance that defies boundaries. These girls are utterly brilliant, I'd read their shopping list if they stuck a cover on it.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf By Ambelin Kwaymullina

The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf The Tribe Book One
Written By Ambelin Kwaymullina
Dystopian, Science Fiction
Published July 2012
397 Pages
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The Reckoning destroyed civilisation. Rising from the ashes, some people have developed unique abilities, and society is scared of them. Guided by the ancient spirits of the land, Ashala Wolf will do anything to keep them safe. When Ashala is captured, she realises she has been betrayed by someone she trusted. When her interrogator starts digging in her memories for information, she doubts she can protect her people forever. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?
Ashala lives in a world where those with unique abilities, are forced from society into detention. History tells us the story of The Reckoning, where the world was left with nothing when devastation wiped through societies and damaged our environment. Now three hundred years into the future, the earth still continues to heal and an authoritarian society has taken the place of freedom and justice for it's citizens. Ash is the leader of an illegal Tribe, where a group of children with abilities are able to live freely within the Firstwood forest, without adult intervention. Each child possesses an unnatural ability in which the new society sees as an abomination, with those not registered with the council, are captured and tortured.

Ash is with one in The Firstwood, the site where nature is said to have fought against The Reckoning and emerging with new growth and brimming with new life. The forest is alive, breathing and speaking to the Tribe. In exchange for a home to call their own, the youngsters care for the mighty Tuart trees by laying down their lives to protect the forest from the atrocities that man brought upon them centuries ago. The Saurs that roam the grasslands abide by a treaty established by the Tribe, with the giant lizards and kids sharing Firstwood peacefully.

But now Ash now finds herself at the Detention Center, where she's been brought in By Justin Connor. Once part of her life, Connor was sent to infiltrate the Tribe to gather information to detain members, children who have the abilities that society seems to live in fear of. A Skychanger that once destroyed modern society through the ability to call on torrential rain, wiping out cities in her wake has left the government with no choice, bring them in and protect the planet. Ashala Ambrose, now known as Ashala Wolf, is sixteen and a Sleepwalker. At only eight years old, Ash realised that her dreams were more than just that, they allowed her to explore and experience the world. Ash ran away at twelve years old, Fleeing Gull City in the hopes to avoid the Citizenship Assessment at fourteen, as do most illegals. Those with abilities are put in detention or branded with a tattoo, and Ash wanted neither one. Neville Rose is the chef administrator at the detention center, who's reputation proceeds him. Neville expects Ash to give up the secrets of the only family she now has, after an accident had taken the lives of her parents and little sister Cassie. But Ash is a fighter, and her strength of character sees her being strapped into The Machine, designed to extract the information they want from her by force by delving into her memories.

Connor isn't the only one who has betrayed Ash, as one of her own from the Tribe has been working with Neville in exchange for her freedom. Ash fears she'll never return to Firstwood, where no doubt her friends Georgie and Ember must know she's been captured and that Connor has betrayed them. But as the interrogation reveals Ash's meeting with the elusive Serpent, there are memories that dance around Ash's mind that seem just out of reach. Of Connor, who Ash seems to share a connection with. Georgie who can manipulate the mind. Ember, who can infiltrate Ash's memories as the machine seeks to find her secrets and why Neville Rose wants to destroy her.

Kelly's Thoughts

The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf can be described in one word, awesome. This is not your average dystopian, a blend of Indigenous Dreamtime and a post apocalyptic world in which man destroyed our environment. Ashala is a tough and feisty heroine, she possesses an inner strength rarely seen in most young adult protagonists. She's socially aware and an environmental warrior, sharing a connection with both fauna and flora alike. She's given a sense of peace, stability and a home within the spiritual Firstwood forest for children like herself, who have gained abilities through evolution, possibly to aid in survival while the earth was reborn. The government see them as an abomination, the Sleepwalkers such as Ash, Rumblers who can cause earthquakes, Firestarters, Skychangers who can alter the weather and Menders, natural doctors who can heal.

I loved how the storyline was set within the detention center, as the machine pulls memories from Ash's mind. Her relationships, friendships and hardships, as she leads her Tribe against what is essentially the government who believe they upset the balance in society, while protecting the fragile earth. Each character is unique and share a bond with the animals they share Firstwood with. Friend Georgie has a strange connection with spiders and can manipulate to either attack or aid, just as Ash has a bond with wolves.

The Final Verdict

The spiritual aspects were beautiful and readers will appreciate the uniqueness that is Dreamtime. I didn't love The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf, I adored it.

Saving Francesca By Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca
Written By Melina Marchetta
Published March 31st 2003
252 Pages
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Francesca battles her mother, Mia, constantly over what's best for her. All Francesca wants is her old friends and her old school, but instead Mia sends her to St. Sebastian's, an all boys' school that has just opened its doors to girls. Now Francesca's surrounded by hundreds of boys, with only a few other girls for company. All of them weirdos, or worse.

Then one day, Mia is too depressed to get out of bed. One day turns into months, and as her family begins to fall apart, Francesca realizes that without her mother's high spirits, she hardly knows who she is. But she doesn't yet realize that she's more like Mia than she thinks. With a little unlikely help from St. Sebastian's, she just might be able to save her family, her friends, and, especially, herself
Being one of only thirty girls at Saint Sebastian's with over seven hundred boys isn't ideal, but Francesca Spinelli hasn't any other choice. Frankie's previous all girls school only held classes until the girls reached year ten, with most of her friends moving onto another secondary collage, one in which Francesca's mother refused to send her to. Her mother is a feisty woman, always pushing Francesca to be more, to want more and never settle for less. She's dramatic, argumentative and expects Frankie to push the limits, to question everything and to liberate the remanding twenty nine girls who are attending Saint Sebastian's. When Mia fails to play her random motivational song before school, Frankie realises that something is wrong. Her mother refuses to rest when she's been ill, so why isn't she now getting out of bed?

Francesca's father is a simple man, but it's clear that he lives for Mia and his children are a close second. Not only is Mia an educated career woman, but also the main caregiver, the pillar of strength and the domestic motivator, so now it's up to Francesca to care for younger brother Luca. At school, a revolution is brewing. Tara Finke is gathering a group of girls, who aren't afraid to fight for the injustices against the small female population at Saint Sebastian's. It's not that Francesca is interested in joining the cause, she just doesn't have anything better to do. But somehow she's become the voice of the female student body, and is nominated to discuss their concerns with their representative, the serious William Trombal. Will doesn't like being put in his place, and he certainly doesn't appreciate sharing his school with the female variety, but strangely, Francesca seems to make him nervous.

It's now been over two weeks since Mia has confined herself to her bedroom, with relatives now saying that Frankie's mum has had a breakdown. The household duties are now relegated to their father, who only seems to know how to cook eggs and refuses to tell them why Mia has isolated herself. Instead, Frankie and Luca are separated, one sent to live with Nonna and the other with Aunt Teresa. Life with her grandparents is a bevy of game shows in which they don't understand, seemingly excited by money and coloured lights. The only way Frankie can see Luca is at school, and mixing with the younger students is forbidden, landing Francesca in detention along with Jimmy Hailler. Jimmy is a self confessed pot smoking, foul mouthed lout. But he's honest and seems as lonely as Frankie is, the two striking up a strange friendship of sorts. The bus ride home is where a small group of teens, some misguided, some disliked or just lost, come together and begin to rely upon one another. No one knows that Frankie's mother is ill, but rather she decides to confide in a former friend from her previous school.

But as Mia seems to deteriorate,Frankie is unknowingly building a small group of friends. Justine who rides the bus each day, the quiet achiever who plays the accordion, Justine is waiting for the boy with the tuba at the bus stop to notice her. Tara is fanatically the equal opportunist, she enjoys being argumentative and protesting against the injustice of the Saint Sebastian's of the world. Once a former friend Siobhan, now enjoys the company of boys who are intent on hurting her. Frankie was once her partner in crime, but was led astray by a group of girls who insisted on rescuing her, and her social status. It's only now that Frankie is beginning to find her feet without them. While school seems to become far more interesting, at home, things couldn't be worse. No one will talk to Francesca about about her mother, her relationship with her father is now reduced to accusations and raised voices, and she realises that she may be falling in love with a boy she can't have.

Her only release comes in the form of a boy who dances badly, the girl who shares her bus ride, the snarky girl who fights the system and reconciling a long lost friendship, while her life seems to fall apart. Francesca can't save her own family, until she saves herself first.

Kelly's Thoughts

Saving Francesca is a deep, compassionate coming of age story, told from the perspective of a girl who is struggling to find her place in the world without her mother. Francesca's mother has depression, the vivacious and educated woman had shut herself off from the world, her family and her children, and Francesca can't cope without her. Her mother has always told her who to be, what to do and has involved herself in every aspect of Frankie's life, so when Frankie needs to stand on her own two feet, she doesn't know how.

Melina Marchetta crafted a realistic world that would remind most adults of those awkward high school days, but touches on the very serious diagnosis of depression. That even the strong can be struck down, and most of us are unaware of the early signs. Frankie's character is your average teen, she struggles to fit into any particular social group, and finds herself avoiding others that could be seen as committing social suicide. But she learns to march to the beat of her own drum, and it isn't until she lets go of what others think of her and her choices, that she finds she has a support network of amassed friends that she didn't expect. I didn't particularly like Will, Francesca's love interest, he was pompous, boring and under any other circumstances, Frankie probably wouldn't have given him a second thought. Like most young adult contemporaries, Saving Francesca doesn't have a definite ending, but her novel The Piper's Son continues the story somewhat from another point of view.

Zac & Mia By A.J Betts

Zac And Mia
Written By A.J Betts
Published July 24th 2013
272 Pages
Thank you to Text Publishing
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The last person Zac expects in the room next door is a girl like Mia, angry and feisty with questionable taste in music. In the real world, he wouldn’t, couldn’t, be friends with her. In hospital different rules apply, and what begins as a knock on the wall leads to a note, then a friendship neither of them sees coming.

You need courage to be in hospital; different courage to be back in the real world. In one of these worlds Zac needs Mia. And in the other Mia needs Zac. Or maybe they both need each other, always.
It's been ten months since Zac's life changed. Always feeling tired and unwell, he was admitted into Perth's oncology ward and since, his life has been a flurry of tests, precautions and animal hair clips, courtesy of nurse Nina. Zac has been in confinement since his bone marrow transplant, his mother never leaving his bedside. His mother is the unofficial welcoming committee on the ward, if something is going on, she'll know all about it. Need a shoulder to cry on? She'll come baring scones and tea. But a new resident? Surely she would have been told. The walls adjoining Zac's room one and room two are paper thin, the raised voice of a young female penetrates the wall, followed by the thumping beat of Lady Gaga. Dealing with having cancer is traumatic enough, but it's still no excuse for a bad taste in music. But Zac's been there and knows exactly how the new resident is feeling. It's a world he needed to navigate when diagnosed with leukemia, the chemotherapy hadn't worked, so now he finds himself in isolation, with German marrow in his bones, wondering if he'll morph into a buxom beer wench before the five weeks is over.

When the Lady Gaga song begins again for the twentieth time on repeat, Zac knocks on the adjoining wall... The music stops and the tapping begins. Just knowing there is someone on the other side of the wall, knowing how they're feeling and only being separated by six centimeters of plaster, still feels like a world away. Since the night of tapping, there's been no sound from the other side of the wall, apart from the occasional raised voice between the girl and her mother, until Zac can feel he's being watched. Peering inside Zac's room is the girl, and Zac can't look away. The new girl is only seventeen, diagnosed with osteosarcoma localised in her lower leg. Zac deals in statistics, searching the internet for death rates, percentages and worse case scenarios, and the new girl is lucky in comparison.

Zac tries to communicate via notes with Mia next door, but when she passes a copy of her Lady Gaga disc under the door, is she assuming that Zac is gay? The nurse on duty relays valuable information, but sadly no return note. That Mia is moody, she won't eat, she's shut the outside world out and the way she speaks to her mother... She's fighting everyone around her and Zac is in no position to help. But Mia leaves and her room is occupied by another patient, Cam, who's in for another round of treatment. Zac wants to keep in contact with Cam, so passes along his mobile number and Facebook account, but when Cam moves into another room to make way for Mia's return, Zac finds himself with a new Facebook friend request. It's strangely comforting to have only six centimeters of wall between them, and as soon as he accepts Mia's friend request, the tapping begins. On further inspection of Mia's page, there is no mention of cancer or chemotherapy, her friends under the impression that Mia isn't sick. The two begin chatting on Facebook, finding a strange solace in one another in the early hours of the morning.

With only days before release, Zac finds himself with a virus that his body is struggling to fight, and all alone as he needs to be isolated, even from his mother. Armed with his iPad and thoughts of the girl on the other side of the wall, Mia decides to contact Zac by phone. The two nervous teens talk long into the night, Zac sharing his obsession with Google death statistics and aims to make Mia feel at ease. But Mia isn't coping, her hair is falling out with treatment and decides to take her frustration out on Zac, the only person that knows exactly what she's going through. But Mia's cancer isn't clear cut and treatment isn't working, the specialists are suggesting a limb salvage.

Now that Zac is back at home on the olive farm, he hasn't heard from Mia in months. On his last night in the ward, did he dream that Mia snuck into his room? He has no way of contacting her, she's removed her Facebook profile, and he regrets not learning more about her in the early morning hours. How can she just vanish from his life completely?But when Mia turns up at the olive farm, running from her mother, the ex boyfriend that no longer wanted her after recovering and friends that have long since given up on her, she has no where else to turn. Rather than steal her way interstate, she's given a room and a bed by Zac's sister and slowly starts to open up. Mia isn't just hiding, she's running for her life. She believes that she has nothing and cannot hold onto her sense of self. But Zac is a fighter and may just show her how to live life again.

While Mia has the chance at a full and happy life, Zac's potential at relapsing in the next five years isn't as positive. But what the Google statistics don't tell you, when you have someone in your corner to fight for you, there isn't anything you can't survive.

Kelly's Thoughts

The story of Zac and Mia was one of the biggest challenges I've ever had the privilege of reading. It was funny, heartbreaking and poignant. A coming of age novel where two teens from different worlds, find themselves both battling cancer. I had read a few reviews before beginning Zac and Mia and the similarities between this and John Green's The Fault In Our Stars, as both were written in the same time frame, but apart from both basing the storyline around two teens with cancer that's where the similarities end. Zac and Mia is based in Australia, written by an Australian author and I found I could relate far more to the characters. It's not just the highs of beating a disease or the lows of Mia being in denial, but it was a far more thoughtful and positive storyline. It touched upon not only how each teen coped, but their families, how life changes and whether others see you as a victim or a survivor.

A.J Betts beautifully crafted a positive storyline, that felt realistic. I loved Zac's character, his attitude and outlook was intelligent beyond his years. The banter between Zac and his mother was simply brilliant. Zac asks for a hat similar to that of Ryan Reynolds, mum purchases one as worn by Burt Reynolds. I would love to see where Zac and Mia are in a few years, and unlike The Fault In Our Stars, you won't be left a hysterical mess.

FREE On Amazon. Download Fire Country NOW

Free now on Amazon. Download the revolution.

In a changed world where the sky bleeds red, winter is hotter than hell and full of sandstorms, and summer's even hotter with raging fires that roam the desert-like country, the Heaters manage to survive, barely.

Due to toxic air, life expectancies are so low the only way the tribe can survive is by forcing women to procreate when they turn sixteen and every three years thereafter. It is their duty as Bearers.

Fifteen-year-old Siena is a Youngling, soon to be a Bearer, when she starts hearing rumors of another tribe of all women, called the Wild Ones. They are known to kidnap Youngling girls before the Call, the ceremony in which Bearers are given a husband with whom to bear children with.

As the desert sands run out on her life's hourglass, Siena must uncover the truth about the Wild Ones while untangling the web of lies and deceit her father has masterfully spun.

Buy on Amazon

The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay By Rebecca Sparrow

The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay
Written By Rebecca Sparrow
Contemporary, Coming of Age
Published June 1st 2006
208 Pages
Add to Goodreads
Seventeen year old Rachel Hill is the girl most likely to succeed. And the girl most likely to have everything under control... That is, until her dad invites Nick McGowan, the cutest boy at school, to live with them. Rachel worries that this could only be a recipe for disaster, but her best friend Zoe thinks it’s the perfect opportunity for lurve. Sparks start to fly for all the wrong reasons. Nick finds Rachel spoiled and uptight and Rachel dismisses Nick as lazy and directionless. But a secret from Nick’s past draws them together and makes the year Nick McGowan came to stay one that Rachel will never forget.
It's 1989, and Rachel Hill is about to learn how to live, courtesy of Nick McGowan.

Rachel is in her final year of school, she's seventeen and a girl that any parent would be proud of. She works part time as a clown, hosting parties for children. She's an attentive student, a caring friend and a straight laced Prefect, awarding punishments to her fellow students where she sees fit. And she's just been told that Nick McGowan is coming to stay. Nick is going to move into Caitlin's room for the rest of the school year, vacated by Rachel's sister who is studying in France. Her parents offering their home to the wayward teen,while Rachel has be allowed to move into the downstairs spare bedroom. In what can be seen as a bribe, with her own privacy, air conditioning and bathroom, but still isn't compensation for her new housemate seeing her bed hair first thing in the morning, her Fido Dido pajamas or that she enjoys tomato sauce on toast for breakfast.

According to best friend Zoe, this will be the perfect opportunity for Rachel to have sex, much to Rachel's disgust, she's just hoping to make it through the rest of the year unscathed. While the two are in the library seeking information to bring Nick down, who should catch them, but Nick himself. In a moment of stupidity and surprise, Rachel announces she has a boyfriend. Nick of course doesn't believe her and Zoe is delightfully entertained at Nick's amusement of Rachel's love of Huey Lewis and the News. Clearly this isn't the impression she was hoping to create, so Rachel decides to inject some coolness into her life and skips school for Brisbane's coolest independent record store. This is the new, delinquent, truant Rachel, the one who now owns two new Ramones posters and a new cassette tape. The only problem? Rachel hates The Ramones, and stares lovingly at her Bangles and Eurythmics tapes.
All Rachel needs to do is break up with pretend boyfriend Paul, ensure her parents stick to her list of not what to do in Nick's company and she should come out unscathed. But when it seems that Nick is too tall to squeeze into Caitlin's bed, he's given Rachel's new room. Her cool room with her new posters and air conditioning. But not to worry, Rachel's mum announces that she's already moved Rachel's things back upstairs, including her Kirk Cameron and Huey Lewis posters, to which now Nick hums Hip To Be Square and Rachel couldn't be more mortified.

But Nick's life isn't so great. After Rachel eavesdrops on a phone conversation, she makes it her business to help Nick find some direction in his life. The rumors around school have painted Nick as being suicidal, but Nick had a wake up call of the cruelest kind. He wants to live in the moment, something Rachel knows nothing about, but she's about to be taught that there is more to life than rules, regulations and taking advice from a psychic lettuce.

Kelly's Thoughts

Funniest. Book. Ever.

This book was one of the biggest surprises I've stumbled across so far. It was funny, heartwarming and funny. Yes, it was just that humorous I felt the need to mention it twice. I was nine years old in 1989 and the pop culture references throughout, helped me form a connection to the storyline and characters. Although some of Rachel's musical tastes are cringe worthy, back in the era, that's what the majority were listening to. Remembering Molly's death on A Country Practice, watching It's A Knockout, I absolutely loved reminiscing. Rachel's inner monologues are hilarious, but the real star is best friend Zoe. Some of the funniest lines in literature are courtesy of Rebecca Sparrow, and I'm an instant fan.

If you're an Aussie, thirty plus years old or remember the 1980's with a fondness, definitely add this one.

I Dream Of Johnny By Juliet Madison: Novella Review

I Dream Of Johnny
Written By Juliet Madison
Published September 1st 2013
42 Page Novella
Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin Australia
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Getting three wishes isn't all it's cracked up to be when an unfortunate spelling error in Mandy's high tech magic lamp changes her wish for a Greek God to a Geek God. His fashion IQ is in the negatives, he’s clingier than cling wrap, and he has a penchant for breaking into song at inappropriate moments.

Before Mandy can request a replacement wish, she has to put up with him for twenty four hours, and the timing couldn’t be worse, it's her friend’s wedding day, her ex will be there, and the God of Geeks insists on coming along for the ride!
Mandy is on the end of yet another failed relationship, she's thirty six, single and struggling to keep her business afloat. She has plenty to be grateful for, her friends, family but not falling over yet another box in her apartment that is inundated with art supplies. When she spots an unopened birthday present given to her by her parents eccentric neighbour Valarie, opening it may just prove to be far more entertaining than she had first thought.

The tacky pink Aladdin lamp with a touch screen, promises Many that her life is about to change, complete with magical jingles and three wishes shall be granted. But asking to drop two dress sizes and bigger breasts violates the novelty item's terms and conditions. So when Mandy's next three wishes are actually granted, she realises she should have rechecked what in fact, she was wishing for.

A beautiful, tidy house that will never need cleaning? Not only does Mandy have a beautifully furnished and clean apartment, but it now features her ideal studio space. Spills and stains vanish before taking hold, what more could a girl ask for?

How about an endless supply of credit that never needs to be paid off?

But when you wish for a Greek God, it's important to check the spelling before pressing submit. The result is Jonathan Fortran Schnecklmyer, her very own Geek God. Wearing high waisted shorts and suspenders, thick black glasses and sporting a charming pair of socks and sandals, he can set up a Wii, has a random fact to share for any occasion and according to the lamp instructions, is not to be left alone while Mandy's return is being processed. She only needs to endure the overly affectionate and doting geek for twenty four hours until her return request is processed... Sounds simple enough.

But Jonathan can't be left alone and Mandy has a wedding to attend. Serenading bus passengers with a preschool song, an underwear zip mishap, and not only stopping the wedding with a horrifying announcement, but serenading party goers at the reception... Perhaps Mandy's spelling mistake will be worth hanging onto.

Kelly's Thoughts

I absolutely loved I Dream Of Johnny. It was fun and laugh out loud funny. Author Juliet Madison has certainly found her calling with comedic writing, my only complaint is that I wanted it to be longer. I could have easily read a full length novel with the adorkable Jonathan Fortran Schnecklmyer. It'll be the best half hour of reading you're likely to have had all year.

Finding Home By Lauren K McKellar

When Amy’s mum dies, the last thing she expects is to be kicked off her dad’s music tour all the way to her Aunt Lou in a depressing hole of a seaside town. But it’s okay, Amy learned how to cope with the best, and soon finds a hard drinking, party loving crowd to help ease the pain.

The only solace is her music class, but even there she can’t seem to keep it together, sabotaging her grade and her one chance at a meaningful relationship. It takes a hard truth from her only friend before Amy realises that she has to come to terms with her past, before she destroys her future.

Almost eighteen year old Amy has just moved to the country, despite her protesting, and never plans to speak to her father again. Since her mother died four months ago, Amy has been on the road, touring venues and stage shows with her Father, well known rocker Stevie D. But Amy's father can't give her the stable life she needs and sends her to finish her schooling with Aunt Lou, hoping that clean country living will straighten out her alcohol issues.

Feeling abandoned, Amy Detrinella starts her new life at Cherrybrook High, having been homeschooled for the past three years. Wearing a hideous tartan uniform and feeling overwhelmed, she stumbles upon the alluring Luke and is instantly hooked. Luke is polite and absolutely gorgeous... He's also taken, as Amy is introduced to his sneering and territorial girlfriend, Coral. The awkward hallway exchange, catches the eye of Lily, cool girl and anti Coral enthusiast and what could possibly be the first friend Amy has had in years. But when Lily drags Amy along to a Friday night party, her world is about to become far more complicated.

Accosted by three teens, Amy is saved from a potential sexual assault by Luke. Luke is adamant that the boys were only playing and that the police wouldn't believe her once they smelt the alcohol on her breath, that it would be best if she keep the attack a secret and Amy is conflicted. The not so single Luke claims that he feels a connection with Amy, flirting secretly within the Cherrybrook halls, and the simple heated touches in their shared music class, which hasn't gone unnoticed by Nick.

Nick is a tattooed rock god, repeating his final year of school, plays in a band and bartends part time. He's everything that Amy isn't looking for, except single. The life of a musician only reminds Amy of her father, and she has no desire to be an afterthought to anyone's music, following in the footsteps of her parents. Amy continues to drown herself in alcohol, detach herself from new friend Lily and and ostracise herself from her Aunt, but when Luke admits that he is going to end his relationship with Coral, it's just the push that Amy wanted to take things further.

What ensues is a web of lies, deceit and cruel taunts as Amy's life is yet again turned upside down. Sometimes you can't judge a book by it's cover, and Amy is about to discover how true that is.

Finding Home is a novella told from Amy's point of view, daughter of an aging well known rocker. Amy is ridiculously naive, seemingly only picking up a love of alcohol from being on tour. Her father wants a stable environment for Amy, where she can stop binge drinking and interact with teens her own age, but Amy seems to involve herself in situations that could only stand to damage her further. We're offered insights into how Amy's love of binge drinking began, but the only explanation of her chasing Luke, who's already in a relationship, is purely her own stupidity.

It was engaging but touched on serious issues facing teens today, alcoholism, drug use, sexual assault and the story of a girl trying to find her own feet again.

Finding Home
Written By Lauren K. McKellar
Published 01 / 10 /2013
156 Pages

Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin Australia for the opportunity to read and review.

Stacking The Shelves #002

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical stores or online bookshops, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course eBooks. Hosted by Tyngas Reviews.

This week I received a brilliant assortment of paperbacks, thanks to the lovely people at Walker Books, Harlequin Books Australia, Allen And Unwin and Harper Collins.

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken, the second book in The Darkest Minds series. I absolutely loved book one and looking forward to reading this one throughout December. Thank you to the lovelies at Harper Collins Australia.
The Interrogation Of Ashala Wolf and The Disappearance Of Ember Crow by Aussie author Ambelin Kwaymullina. Both look awesome, mixing my love of Aussie authors with dystopian. I'm on the verge of a bookgasm. Courtesy of the awesome peeps at Walker Books.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. This book not only has a cover to die for, but it sounds utterly incredible. The early reviews have described it as magical and I can't wait to read this one come December. Thank you to the super cool people at Allen And Unwin.
Pawn by Aimee Carter. This is the perfect example of the type of book I salivate over, and Crash Into You by Katie McGarry. I was enamored with the Pushing The Limits series and can't wait to read Isaiah's story. Thank you to the fabulous folk at Harlequin Books Australia.

What are you stacking your shelves with this week?

Jump: Twinmaker By Sean Williams

Jump Twinmaker Book One
Written By Sean Williams
Science Fiction, Dystopian
Published November 1st 2013
416 Pages
Thank you to Allen And Unwin
Add to Goodreads
Clair lives in a world revolutionised by DMat, a global teleport system that allows people to transport themselves instantaneously around the world. When a coded note promises improvement, the chance to change your body any way you want, making it stronger, taller, more beautiful, Clair thinks it’s too good to be true, but her best friend, Libby, is determined to give it a try.

What starts as Libby’s dream turns into Clair’s nightmare when Libby falls foul of a deadly trap. With the help of Jesse, the school freak, and a mysterious online friend called Q, Clair’s attempt to protect Libby leads her to an unimagined world of conspiracies and cover-ups. Soon her own life is at risk, and Clair is chased across the world in a desperate race against time.
In a future where you can travel anywhere in the world within minutes through portals, the Lucky Jump separates society's cliques. The group calling themselves the Crashlanders, and finding he ultimate party destination will gain you instant celebrity. Clair's best friend Libby is vying for the Crashlander status, using the DMat booth to find their party location. On their seventeenth jump that lands in an abandoned warehouse in Switzerland, their status is sealed. For Clair, she has no idea how hectic and dangerous her life is about to become.

Clair is already playing with fire, her attraction with Libby's boyfriend Zep proving to be dangerous ground. Libby is unstoppable, taking credit for the Crashlader site that Clair found and fueling her already inflated ego. The new meme making the cyber rounds is called Improvement, what is seemingly an innocent trend in which the idea is to write a series of code words on a piece of paper of what you wanted to change about yourself, whether it be height, intellect or physical appearance. Hide the note on your person when using the DMat, and your wish will be grated... And Libby is involved. She wants to hide her birthmark, her insecurity caused by the hunch that boyfriend Zep is being unfaithful. Zep and Clair had shared a kiss, could their mistake be the reason for Libby's change? Then why at the Crashlander's party, does she find herself in the same position again?

When Libby fails to show for school, Clair knows that something isn't right. No doubt she had heard the rumor that Clair was referred to as Zep's girlfriend during the coverage of the party, but when a strange message from Libby comes through, gloating how beautiful she is and that the Improvement worked. Now Libby is receiving strange messages, and her headaches and mood swings are slowly destroying her. But surely the Improvement couldn't be real, the Virtual Transport Infrastructure Authority that oversees the safety of the DMat system wouldn't allow it. The official word is that Improvement is an urban myth, the authorities have dismissed it, the peacekeepers believe it's harmless, but when a grainy Air video call with Libby proves that her birthmark is no longer visible, Clair knows Improvement is more than the authorities are claiming, much, much more.

Jesse Linwood is the school freak who is involved with a group known as the Stainers, after their founder. The Stainers refrain from using the DMat portals, and generally labelled as terrorists linked with the WHOLE organisation, but it's Jesse's father Dylan that may just have the answers she seeks, but dismisses her entirely and leaves her back where she began. It isn't until Dylan Linwood is being broadcast in a heated argument with Principal Gordon of Manteca New Campus High School, Clair was justified not to trust him. But who can she trust? Answers may come in the form of the voice in her ear, simply known as Q. Q has been following the meme and after Clair attempts to use the Improvement herself, Q contacts her, having attempted to help Libby but to no avail. Q speaks in garbled quotes, all while Libby's condition is worsening. But Clair believes she may be onto something, and with the help of Q, Jesse and Zep tagging along for the ride, what they are about to explore is a world of hacked networks, coding, government assassin's, clones and the members of WHOLE, sending the teens on a race against the clock to save Libby's life. They aren't being improved, they're being taken over.

Kelly's Thoughts

Jump, or Twinmaker as it's known in the U.S, is an incredibly intricate young adult science fiction world, in which technology is the base for how we live, sustain ourselves, travel and interact. In the first in the Twinmaker series, the storyline follows Clair's point of view and although she's on a mission to save Libby's life after her transformation, she begins as a fairly ordinary friend, and I use the term friend loosely. The reader will possibly see her as a villain and the basis for Libby's breakdown, as is Zep, and in trying to help Libby when the Improvement takes hold, puts her own life in danger.

The real star of Jump is Q, she has the knowledge and know how to unravel the world that relies on technology to survive. She seems to live within the virtual world known as Air, that combines the internet, social media, chat and even a message system. This is where the reader will be kept on their toes and encouraged to use their imagination, with little insight into how we interact with the technology. Personally, I seen the system as somewhat of a Google Glass, which seems to be less than twelve months from release, but I can't imagine Jumping to ever be a part of our reality. Imagine just popping out to the shops... In Paris... When you live in Australia, and still be home within the hour? Now that is a droolworthy thought.

The Final Verdict

Don't be fooled into thinking this is a flimsy, lightweight teen science fiction, it's not. You're thrust into a world where you need to find your own way and it'll keep you on your toes. Fans of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series and Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky will really enjoy the world Sean Williams created, as will hardcore young adult science fiction fans.
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