Quicksand

Nine Open Arms

A mysterious house along a road called Sjlammbams Sahara is at the centre of 'Nine Open Arms' by Benny Lindelauf.

'Nine Open Arms' is an extraordinary novel for teens that has been translated to English from Dutch by the acclaimed translator, John Nieuwenhuizen.

A large motherless family move from place to place, their father trying to seek his fortune through various business ventures that remain unsuccessful.

'Fing' is the narrator of the story, and around her orbit circle a family with eccentricities that keep the reader amused and entertained.
Take, for instance, her father's efforts to create a cigar making empire. Many trials and mishap ensue when 'the Dad' purchases  bales of 'ready-to-use filler' from a tobacco grower.
After making five cigars and lighting them, 'the Dad' and Fing's four brothers race out to the garden where they are sick.

The house along Sjlammbams Sahara is hiding many secrets and as the story continues, moving back and forth from the 1930's to the 1860's, its secrets are revealed.

Beautiful, evocative writing and well fleshed out characters.
Highly recommended.

-Ann

Pushing The Limits

Title: Pushing The Limits
Author: Katie McGarry

Pushing the limits’ by Katie McGarry is such a good read. Echo Emerson has experienced a traumatic event. The thing is, she can’t remember it. Echo tries and discovers what happened to her while dealing with the emotional and physical scars that this event has left behind and why it had drastically changed her life.
Noah Hutchins is a bad boy. But he also has his own secrets and insecurities. An event changes his happy, care free life into a complicated journey of ups and downs. He has to make the right decisions without the help of many.
But, when Echo and Noah meet, a romance blossoms. They overcome barriers and learn to trust each other with some of their deepest secrets…
Michaela H
Age: 14

Heart Beat...

What do you do when the person you love the most is dead,How do you cope when they’re still aroundHow do you love when everything you once believed is goneLife, Death, Love…they change everything

Emma is lost in a sea of grieve, her mother is dead but not, being kept alive by machines that beat her heart to save the baby she carries. Emma resents her step-father for the choices he’s made, resents herself for the choices she makes and is drowning in sorrow and despair. What can Emma do when everything that once mattered the most never really mattered at all? Enter Caleb Harrison, the old Emma would not have spared this car stealing, reformed drug addict a second thought but new Emma, the one who is slowly dying, can only find relief in Caleb, a kindred spirit drowning in his own sea of grieve and despair. Death is hard but living is harder, together Emma and Caleb will find that life with another, life with love is always better. Emma is on the hard road learning that life doesn’t always  let us make our own fates, that sometimes life is bigger than one person’s plans, but there’s always a silver lining, a beauty to life that can be difficult to see in the mists of despair. Sometimes just living, loving and being happy can be the hardest choice of all. And it’s the choice Emma must make? Love or Hate? Life or Death? Happiness or Sorrow. No one ever said life was easy…and for Emma it sure isn’t
Scott is known for the romantic writings, the star-crossed, forbidden romances of the teen years but in Heartbeat she goes one further exploring all the other loves that define a teen; the love shared between a mother and her daughter, the love of a parent and a child, a brother and a sister, a girl and her best friend. It’s a coming of age tale told in the most complex of situations and while I time I found myself frustrated by the characters, especially Emma, her step-father and her best friend, the plot made for some dramatic and life-affirming moments. The one thing I do feel is missing from this story is Caleb’s voice because Caleb intrigued me; while he’s story is told through Emma’s I would have loved to have heard from him, to experience what his pain is like from his perspective, to see how he pulled himself together alone. Emma is a typical broken protagonist blaming the rest of the world when she is mad at herself, Caleb is not so much a bad boy as a broken one as are other characters including Emma’s mum and step-father. I do have to say that I absolutely loved Olivia, the best friend, for her aversion to technology. How interesting to see the complex of technology addiction reflected in adults rather than the teen.  Overall I really enjoyed this novel, which unlike Scott’s other works was less about young love and more about living life and making every second count. A wonderful all-compassing love story about growing up and finding out what truly matters; the one we love and who love us back.

Courtney :)

HANG IN THERE BOZO

HANG IN THERE BOZO : the Ruby Redfort emergency survival guide for some tricky predicaments by Lauren Child.

A follow on from the Ruby Redfort adventures, this pocket size guide has it all. Everything from finding your way without the aide of a compass, how to survive a bear attack, lighting a fire without matches to deciding whether an alien is friend or foe. Do love the handy at-a-glance ID chart…how else would I have discovered the difference between the Queen of England and a stick of dynamite?

A sometimes humorous, sometimes deadly serious look at survival. Must admit the section on dealing with individuals who you know are dangerously dull is vital reading!

 As Ruby says REMEMBER: NEVER SAY DIE.
·      Stop.
·      Think.
·      Decide to be calm.
·      Focus on that glass of ice-cold lemonade.
AND HANG ON IN THERE, BOZO….

Good read – Vicki @ Pakenham

Why we took the car

I always keep my eyes and ears out for translated junior and young adult fiction as I know they will be top class reads!

'Why we took the car' by Wolfgang Herrndorf won the German Youth Literature prize, and has been translated into English by Tim Mohr.
Mike Klingenberg is an awkward teenager with delusions of grandeur who somehow befriends Andrej Tshichatschow (known as Tschick). Tschick has recently arrived in Germany from Russia, and is quite an enigma with his cool attitude and alcoholic breath.
Mike's adventures begin with Tschick arrives at his house in a beaten up Russian car (a Lada). Tschick is an under-age driver and the car has been 'borrowed.'
Neither boy has been invited to the popular girl Tatiana's party and they are both p....ed off and ready for action.
Off on a road trip they go to Wallachia - a German euphemism for the 'middle of nowhere' and also a region of Romania. They meet some crazy, fascinating people along the way.
As you can imagine, the teenagers get into all sorts of trouble.
Tatiana is never far from Mike's thoughts and Tschick gives Mike an insight into why his peers aren't particularly friendly towards him. Things are not always what they seem and maybe Mike is not as boring as he thought he was.
Each chapter begins with a picture of the Lada - the car's headlights shining on the chapter number. This adds to the overall quirkiness of the book. I loved this clever, very appealing novel and I recommend it to Quicksand readers.
-Ann    

Me since you

A girl rebelling against her fatherA boy struggling with the loss of his fatherOne choice and one moment will bring these two togetherAnd change their lives forever…
Rowan Areno is a teenager struggling to find herself in the adult world; her life is a balancing act of responsibility and rebellion but with a cop for a father Rowan’s lives with higher expectations of behaviour, expectations she doesn't always meet. When one day Rowan decides to skip school she could never imagine the ripple effect that would follow that one minor indecision. Lives are lost and destroyed in a heartbeat. For Rowan she will struggle to deal with the consequences that follow that day and in the process will learn what and who really matters. A heart wrenching tale about a father and daughter who both struggle to grow in a dangerously frightening and vindictive world. It will take the compassion of one boy for Rowan to truly understand what life is all about and accept that in life we disappoint the ones we love but it does not make us love one another any less. Life will never stop because of one’s pain, for Rowan this means accepting the choices she and others have made because that will be her only way forward. To live, love and forgive; it’s never easy but always necessary.
Weiss doesn't hold back one inch in this captivating and heartbreaking tale of love and loss. At times Me after you is quite harrowing and sad but none the less an honest and heart-warming portrayal of life in the everyday world. I will admit that I was shocked by the plot twists in this tale, from the immediate consequences of Rowan's decisions to the shocking aftermath months down the road. I was stunned, this tale will take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride from the very heights of young love to the very depths of despair in grief and depression. As a protagonist Rowan is likeable without being annoying or condescending. Eli is so endearing and it was great to see a young character with maturity beyond his year; I can only say that I would have liked to have seen more of him and heard more of his story because he was the character who intrigued me the most. Ultimately what grabs about this novel is the surprises and plot twists nothing in this book was what I was expecting and that in itself makes it a great read. All in all Weiss has delivered a phenomenal tale about life, love, loss and forgiveness; one that I recommend everyone read, it may break your heart but it will also uplift you with the hope that there’s always something more. A must read for YA readers in 2014.
Courtney :)

Galax-Arena

Long before anyone had heard of the 'Hunger Games,' Gillian Rubinstein wrote a magnificent novel for teens called
'Galax-Arena'.
I was reminded of the similarities between the 'Hunter Games' and 'Galax-Arena' in a recent article I read, which then led me to re-read 'Galax-Arena'.
In 'Galax-Arena', three young people are kidnapped and transported to a whole new world where they are forced to perform as acrobats in an inter-gallactic arena with dozens of other performers.
Their situation is chilling - they must perform or face dire consequences.
Of the three young kidnapped people one is not a gymnast. Peter was the golden child of the family: a talented and gifted sportsperson. Liane excelled in ballet and Joella, well, Joella had lots of pets.
But Joella is intuitive and has an uncanny ability to see things clearly. It is Joella who discovers a fly in their new surroundings which leads her to question all she has been led to believe. Are they really in another galaxy after all?
Gillian Rubinstein has produced an amazing storyline with gripping characters.
Who can forget 'Bro Rabbit' - a hand puppet belonging to Liane who somehow comes to life.
'Hip, hop, hai' says Bro Rabbit 'Ya gon die.'
Unforgettable.
-Ann

Harry Potter Series

The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling has 7 different books that goes through the life of Harry Potter and his journey throughout Hogwarts, the school for wizards and witches. I have re-read the whole series twice, as I find it very intriguing and Rowling’s use of language and techniques builds up the suspense which makes me want to read it more. Most people would have seen the movie, but wouldn’t read the books as they are too long. But honestly reading the book is much more enjoyable as it goes through everything in much more depth, and you would understand everything better. Each book brings out new adventures and mysteries making you want to follow them in their journey. My favourite book out of the series would be the 5th one, Order of the Phoenix. I don’t know why I like that one the most, but every time I want to find something to read in my spare time my mind automatically thinks towards Order of the Phoenix, though it may be long.

At first when I started the first book of the Harry Potter series I wasn’t really into it, but as I continued reading I found myself wanting to read it more which then lead me to read the whole series and I’m  glad I didn’t stop at the first book otherwise I would have missed out on reading a book that was well worth my time. If you haven’t read any of the Harry Potter books, I suggest you go and do so now because I know for sure, even if you  aren’t into books to do with the supernatural theme, it doesn’t matter as this series will not disappoint you.





- Emily, age 15

Vampire Academy Film

Go and see the Vampire Academy film! Out now! Reviews welcome for the blog.


BLOOD FAMILY

BLOOD FAMILY by Anne Fine

The pain in your past never goes.
It’s always there in the background,
like a lurking enemy, waiting to trip you up.
Or worse, waiting for you to trip yourself.


Eddie is seven when rescued from years of neglect. Hidden away, no one has seen him leave the flat for over three years. What sort of person hides their child away? What sort of person puts up with continual physical abuse from an alcoholic partner?

The answer is Eddie’s mother.

Finally he is given the chance of a real life. Taken into foster care and then adopted it is hoped that Eddie now known as Edward will be able to lead a normal life. But the years of emotional damage have taken their toll. He struggles to fit in, struggles to have a ‘normal’ life.

One day Edward sees a photograph of himself, horrified to see the monster Harris’s face. Does this mean that blood will always tell? That he too will turn into an abusive animal?

I don’t like happy ever after stories. I like darkness and sharpness….this book has it all. Fine does a great job of taking the reader to  untangle Edward’s life. The change of point of view is an intriguing way of offering up information that the central character, Edward, has no way of knowing.

We see his life from his foster parent’s point of view, as well as his adoptive parents, but we also dip into that of his adopted sister, the nurse at the hospital, his school teacher, class mate, social worker, psychotherapist.

And finally we understand Edward’s struggle and hope he discovers that blood doesn’t always make family.

Vicki @ Pak​

Fireblood: Trisha Wolfe

A land in turmoilAn evil king plottingA rebel force assemblingA prince on the cusp…good or bad?And one girl stuck in the middle of it allLet the war begin…
In the tradition of dystopian fiction Fireblood is set in a futuristic time where a virus has devastated the human population. One man, a King, has built his own kingdom modelled on the old legends of Camelot, Karm, where those who survive live sheltered by a domed force field from the terrors of the outside. Living within Karm is one Zara Dane, a simple girl who unlike those around her doesn't dream of princes, pretty dresses and a life lived in luxury. Instead Zara craves nothing more than to be with her father and the animals they care for. So when the prince, and next King of Karm, announces his betrothal to Zara a series of events will unfold that will sweep Zara up in an intricate web of lies, deceit and a struggle for power. Zara is about to find herself cast as pawn in the raging battle between King Hart and the Rebels who wish to overthrow him. A storybook fairy-tale this is not. Zara is in the battle of her life…for her life…and the lives of those she holds dear. Failure is not an option….
This novel surprised me, I really enjoyed reading an Arthurian style story with its knights, kingdoms, royalty and secret plots mixed in with a dystopian future. It made for a refreshing read blending the old world-ness of the traditional fairy-tale story with modern dystopian plots. Zara as the protagonist was engaging; she is smart and quick witted with an independent mind. At times she comes across as selfish, focused only on what she wants but I found this to be an appealing trait that is easier to connect with than the self-sacrificing protagonists of most tales. Prince Sebastian was an intriguing and complex character and I have to say I was disappointed not to see more of him or his back story. Just what was life like for him? What happened to make him the man he becomes? Perhaps if the story had been told from his point of view it would have added to the story.
Overall the story flowed nicely with the plot keeping a nice pace so that pieces of the story were revealed to keep the reader on edge for what was to come next. I think what particularly grabs me about this book is the strong female presence, not only is Zara a strong independent woman undertaking a massive tasks but her maid, her best friend, the Rebels leader and other female character show strong independent streaks that can only be praised in YA fiction. The male characters are present but they do not protect they fight alongside the women…standing as equals. The only deterrent from this of course if the strong focus on the romantic side of the story for several characters which somewhat deters me from the story but only because the setting, the characters and the plot where strong enough to stand without the romance aspect. Otherwise however I enjoyed the refreshing mix of Arthurian/dystopian traits. Fireblood has something for everyone; romance, action, adventure, secrets and mystery. Worth the read J

Courtney :)

The Time Machine

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

A Victorian scientist constructs a Time Machine. In which (I'm sure you'll be able to guess the next part) he travels 800,000 years into the future. He's astounded by the ruined state of the world around him. He encounters a slightly altered species of human, and another one - The Morlocks. These creatures live underground and only come out at night. They petrify everything and everyone.He stumbles across some obstacles on his way back to the present, which make this story unbelievably
hard to put down. The unknown just got the better of you, and you just HAD to know what happened next.
If you've by any chance seen the movie version, and assume this to be a replica of the film, then you may be disappointed.
Yes, it still has the main plots of the movie, but it just seems to lack detail.
I'm not usually one to 'judge a book by its movie', but I think that - even though it was still a captivating read, it could have used with more detail of the events that took place, and its duration possibly could have even extended a little more.
If you're into vintage, olden-day reads, then definitely have a crack at this one. But unless you're dedicated to science fiction and the idea of time travel, it's probably not the book for you.

Chantelle
Age: 17

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

This book is one of those that keeps playing back in your mind. I really didn't know whether to review this book here, or even to recommend it, because on one level this book is terrible. It really upset me. But on another level it is absolutely brilliant, perhaps because it had the power to really upset me!
Unwind by Neal Shusterman is really popular in the U.S. It was published back in 2007 and is still talked about in YA circles today, so I thought I should have a read of it.
A 'Bill of Life' precedes the novel, describing how a war was eventually fought in America over the issue of abortion. An agreement was reached whereby a child cannot be touched from the moment of conception to the age of 13, but that between the ages of 13 and 18, parents can choose to retroactively 'abort' their child - on the condition that the life of that child does not technically end. At this point I was confused. What did that mean? The process by which this retroactive abortion happens is called 'unwinding'.
Putting my confusion aside, I started the novel. It begins like any of the increasingly popular dystopian fiction around at the moment, with an outsider character who likes to rebel (could be The Hunger Games at this point). The action revs up and as a reader you get carried away by the story line. Connor, Risa and Lev have just turned 13 and for various reasons they are in danger of being unwound. They run away together (Lev somewhat unwillingly). But how do you hide from the authorities when you are only 13? And if one of you is convinced that unwinding is your destiny? Connor also manages to pick up a newborn baby on the way that hardly makes things easier. Through their journey we get little hints of what exactly unwinding means, and what it has done to society. 
Unwinding, we discover eventually, is the process of harvesting parts of the human body for transplants. The scene in which one character is unwound made me feel physically ill, so I warn you that you may feel likewise reading it. 
Tackling issues of abortion, human transplants, ethics, children's rights and society 'norms' makes this a hugely interesting read. Shusterman is an incredibly talented writer, but I am a little scared of whatever he writes next...
Read it if you dare. 
- Celia

That Burning Summer

'That Burning Summer' is the second teen novel written by English author Lydia Syson.
Lydia takes us back in time to the year 1940.
Ordinary people's lives have been turned upside down and the world is in chaos as World War Two is in progress.
The setting for this novel is Romney Marsh, Great Britain. Germany is threatening to invade Great Britain and the inhabitants of Romney Marsh are attempting to live their lives amidst the ongoing terror of daily air strikes.
Guidelines and instructions are issued by authorities for the general public. For instance, 'Do not rush about spreading vague rumours', and 'Do not give any German anything. Do not tell him anything. Hide your food and your bicycles. Hide your maps.'
There are many strengths to  this novel. One notable strength is the characterization within the novel - characters are well developed and totally believable. For instance, sixteen year old Peggy is growing into maturity and finds herself facing a huge moral dillemma when she befriends a Polish pilot whose plane crashes in the marsh. Does she hand him over to the authorities? What is right and wrong?
Her younger brother, Ernie, is perceived by others to be shy and under confident. He tries to do the right thing and agonises over the instructions he receives. He, too, discovers the Polish pilot and the danger for the pilot escalates.
Another strength in this novel is the strong sense of place and time. Lydia has obviously researched her subject well to include meticulous details and viewpoints that depict the era. To give you an example, Peggy and Ernie's father is a conscientious objector to the war and as such is scorned by some members of the family and community.
'That Burning Summer' is an outstanding novel that I would recommend to all teens, especially those who enjoy historical fiction.
-Ann 

Beautiful Malice

Title: Beautiful Malice 
Author Rebecca James

‘Truth or dare?’ She asks.
I hesitate. ‘Truth,’ I say finally. ‘I can imagine one of your dares, and I don’t fancy running down Oxford Street naked tonight.’
‘Truth,’ Alice says slowly, drawing out the vowel sound as if she’s savouring the word. ‘Are you sure? Are you sure you can be completely honest?’
‘I think so. Try me.’
‘Okay.’ And then she looks at me curiously. ‘So. Were you glad, deep down? Were you glad to be rid of her? Your perfect sister? Were you secretly glad when she was killed?’

Katherine has moved away from her shattered family to start afresh in Sydney. There she keeps her head down until she is befriended by the charismatic, party-loving Alice, who brings her out of her shell. But there is a dark side to Alice, something seductive yet threatening. And as Katherine learns the truth about Alice, their tangled destinies spiral to an explosive and devastating finale.

Firstly, I would like to say this Beautiful Malice is by far the best novel I have ever read.
I've read a lot of novels in my time, but this one takes the cake.
I'm not really into teen angst, lovey-dovey novels, which is what I thought this one was going to be. But boy was I wrong.
If you're into those types of books that leave you biting your nails down to the core, or falling off the edge of your seat, then this is the one read for you.
It was beautiful, scary, lovely and awful at the same time, all in a good way!
I've since recommended ALL of my friends to read this beautiful book. And so far, they have all returned to me baffled by how great it was.
If you've ever lost someone special in your life, or even had an enemy, than this book is as close as you get to re-living it all.

Chantelle
Age 17

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park landed on my desk a few days ago. I had forgotten why I had ordered it, and it appeared to be a romance, a genre I generally steer clear of. However, I figured there must have been a good reason I wanted it, so I started to read.

Eleanor has just moved to a new school. She's a chubby redhead with terrible fashion sense, so she's not really kicking any goals in high school. Park is half Korean in an all-white American town, as well as being interested in comic books. Despite this he manages to be vaguely accepted by the popular kids, so he doesn't want anything to do with Eleanor. He knows that she could damage his hard-won acceptance.

This is one of the brilliant things that Rainbow Rowell does in this book. She writes so truthfully about adolescence. It really brought back the sting of high school. Park is a decent kid, and he feels guilty about the way he avoids Eleanor, but doing crappy things like that is something we have all experienced in our teen years.

The the slow and inevitable fall into love is captivating to read, and heartbreaking.

So why did I order it? Well, the official Captain of Awesome (according to me, anyway) John Green loved this book. Read his review of the book here.

So now you have to read it.

This was published in the US as a YA book, but we appear to have copies that have been published in the UK as adult books. Both adults and teen welcome!

- Celia

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