After the lights go out

Author – Lili Wilkinson

Age – 14+

Imagine it – suddenly, without warning or reason, there is no electricity. Anywhere. Modern cars are useless and even pacemakers fail.

The isolated Australian outback town of Jubilee begin to struggle with this after a few days, and even more so when their men don’t return from the mine where they work.

After she finds an old Holden to travel in, 17 yr-old Pru Palmer decides to go to the mine to look for her father. They have a secret. Her father Rick is a doomsday prepper and they have a bunker not far from their house packed with supplies to last years underground. Pru and her sisters have been trained to survive in almost any situation. But Pru is now in charge. She always thought her dad would be there too.

Along with a stranger in town (whose mother was facilitating a safety seminar at the mine), Pru finds disaster at the mine. They return to Jubilee to find her usually docile community beginning to attack eachother – just like her father said they would. But can she just walk away and leave them all to starve?

Her dad always said “Family first,” and Pru is torn between how she was raised and the people in town.

This story drew me in early and surprised me again and again. Pru is an authentic character, suddenly dealing with so much responsibility and guilt. She feels surrounded by anger, fear and even death and has to find solutions. But realistically, she doesn’t have to cope all on her own – until the unthinkable happens.

(Doomsday prepper, Apocalypse, Bunker, Romance, Siblings, Twins, Family, Courage, Australia, Outback, Secret)

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The Price Guide to the Occult

Author – Leslye Walton35879387

Age – 13+

Nor Blackburn likes being invisible. As much as possible anyway. She never joins teams or groups at school and doesn’t have lots of friends. She likes to run alone on the island where she lives with her grandmother and her aging wolf hound Antiquity.

But her island isn’t any old island. It has a long history of witches who bore only daughters to bewitched island men. Nor is a fifth generation witch, keeping her skills a secret – even from her grandmother.

Nor’s memories of her mother are cruel and pain-filled and she is just as shocked as the rest of the island to see her mother (Fern) on TV talking about her new book – The Price Guide to the Occult. Suddenly Fern is everywhere, casting amazing spells, healings and fortunes to anyone who will pay. And pay they do. But Nor knows her mother well. She knows what skills her mother has and that someone else is ‘paying’ in blood for them.

A thrilling tale of family, black magic, good witches and bad. Although Nor is keen to blend into the background, she must face up to who she was is born to be – a nemesis to her powerful mother. Loved it.

(Witches, Thriller, Romance, Action, Curse, Island, Control, Family, Conflict)

 

Girl Mans Up

Author – M-E Girard28217802

Age – 14+

Pen loves hanging out with her friends, gaming, wearing her brother’s clothes and just being herself.

She hates being called Penelope, people thinking she dresses and acts the way she does because she wants to be a boy, her mother wanting her to be a pink, sparkly, princess type of girl, and guys acting like douche bags.

Her best friend (since age about 9) is Coby. He’s popular, good looking, shares her love of gaming (even though she can thrash him at it), but he can be a douche bag to girls.

Coby is always talking about loyalty, so when Pen learns about a girl he has treated badly and tries to help, he calls her out on it. Pen is torn at first. She’s already angry at people who just won’t let her be herself, always trying to stick a  label on her. Bi, Trans, Lesbian, Gay. Pen just wants to be Pen – it’s that simple.

Her parents are always talking about respect, but the only person in her family Pen has respect for is her brother Johnny who has come to her rescue multiple times. She feels she can look after herself, but their bond is what keeps her sane.

Dealing with family pressures, toxic friendships and new relationships, Pen finally finds her own identity, her own tribe (without Coby), and a deeper understanding of the people who share her life – at home and high school.

I loved Pen. She was strong, brave and determined. She loves her parents but has to come to terms with the fact they may never understand who she really is. The friendships were real, the banter convincing and the relationships (both toxic and supportive) were intense. I wanted to climb into the book and slap some of the characters. You’ll have to read it and find out who!

(Diversity, Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, School, Friendships, Secret, Relationships, High School, Family, Portuguese)

Not if I save you first

Author – Ally Carter35238072

Age – 12+

Maddie and Logan were best friends. She is the daughter of the President’s top security agent, and he is the President’s son. But that friendship dies after a failed kidnapping and someone gets shot.

Now all Maddie has for Logan is anger. He never once replied to the weekly letters she sent him from Alaska where she now lives with her dad. How could he call her his best friend then cut her off like that?

Then suddenly after 6 years, he is in her house, taller, stronger and undeniably and infuriatingly more handsome. Maddie has become tough in her years in Alaska. And she will use all her strength to remain angry at him. Until his life is in danger. All her skills will be needed to help them escape their pursuers and survive in the wilderness.

Told in both viewpoints of Maddie and Logan, this is a thriller wrapped around a love story. It’s not mushy though, full of action, twists and turns right until the end. Great read.

(Action, Romance, Alaska, Thriller, Trust)

The Children of Blood and Bone

Author – Tomi Adeyemi

Age – 13+

Orisha’s lands are made up of Kosidan (nobles and non-magical people) and Maji (those with powers to heal, bring fire, move water or summon spirits.)

But the Maji with their all-telling white hair and sometimes strange eyes have had their magic taken from them by force with much bloodshed and murder.

Zelie lost her mother in ‘The Raid’ that extinguised Maji magic, leaving her with an intense hatred of King Saran and his regime. But one day she comes closer to his regime than ever before and is drawn into a quest to take three magical objects to an island. This island and these objects have the power to bring magic back to their people. With magic comes power, and a way to strike back at those that have repressed them with tyranny.

With her brother Tzain at her side, she is forced to overcome her prejudice of their enemy and she encounters many unexpected things on their journey – including love. Can she get to the island? Will her own new magic be powerful enough to stir the gods or will Saran defeat them once and for all?

An epic 1st part of a trilogy, Children of Blood and Bone is a gripping African Fantasy. Told in the viewpoints of three strong characters, the story has great pace, power and intrigue as to whether they will achieve their quest. Brutal in parts with much blood spilled, this book captured me right to the last page, which left me wondering and wanting more.

(Fantasy, Series, Africa, Quest, Magic, Siblings, Romance, Power, Kingdom)

Rainfall

Author – Ella West

Age – 12+

Annie lives in a small town called Westport (west coast, Sth Island, NZ). Westport has endless rain, struggling coal mines and small town gossip. When Annie’s neighbour’s house is surrounded by armed defenders, it is the most exciting thing that’s happened for a while.

Annie doesn’t believe her neighbour Pete did any of the things they say he did. He’s always been friendly and quiet. But he’s gone missing and the longer he’s gone, the more suspicious he looks.

A police detective from the city arrives from Christchurch for the case, and his son Jack has come with him. Jack loves horses as much as Annie, and they meet by chance on the beach in the rain. More horse rides on the deserted beach build something between them. But surely it’s just for fun?

Annie’s comfortable life is turning on its head. There’s Jack and his smile, the local coalmine upsetting whole families by laying off staff, and Pete still on the run. Will things ever be back to normal?

I felt I was right there in Westport with the rain and the worries Annie and her family faced. I learnt about the dwindling coal mining industry and the upheaval it caused, and also a little about the mining disasters that have occurred there over the years. Rich with horse lore, animal lovers will enjoy this story. The mystery woven throughout the narrative will keep you guessing.

(Coalmine, Mystery, Romance, Fugitive, West Coast, Horses, Murder)

 

How to Hang a Witch

Author – Adriana Mather37819386

Age – 13+

Sam (Samantha) and her step-mum Vivian have moved to her dead grandmother’s house in Salem, a small town where Sam’s dad grew up. She is instantly disliked at her new high school and she knows why. Her ancestor Cotton Mather was largely responsible for the Witch Trials in Salem centuries before.

‘The Descendants’ (a group of 5 teens always dressed in black, and true descendants of the so-called witches that died) are scathing of Sam and make life difficult. If it wasn’t for the neighbours, handsome Jaxon who sticks up for her and his mum; Sam would be just like she’s always been – friendless and feared.

People around Sam often end up hurt and she’s felt cursed since small. When this ‘curse’ follows her to Salem, it becomes much more serious. Is it all her fault? Where did this curse come from? Can she defeat it?

How to Hang a Witch is not only a fantastic read, it makes the reader aware of how close the 17th century witch trials were compared to the cyber-bullying of today. The phrase ‘Witch Hunt’ is applied to people in all sorts of conflict and this novel makes it clear why.

The other fascinating fact is the author is a descendant of Cotton Mather herself. Salem is a real town in America and she wanted to know more about both the Witch Trials and her own family history. Loved it!

(History, Witches, Ghost, Spell, Curse, High School, Popularity, Romance)