Quiet #LoveOZYA Contemporaries

Review may contain mild spoilers
Girl Running, Boy Falling
Written by Kate Gordon
Contemporary, Suicide, #LoveOZYA
238 Pages
Published October 15th 2019
Thank you to Rhiza Edge
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★★★★★
Do you ever look at the sky and think that’s where we belong? Like maybe the world is the wrong way around and we’re meant to be up there, floating?

Sixteen year old Therese lives in a small town on a small island. Her Aunt Kath calls her Tiger. Her friends call her Resey. The boy she loves calls her Champ. She’s a lot of different things for a lot of different people.

Therese has always had her feet on the ground. She’s running through high school, but someone in her life is about to fall...

And when he does, her perfect world falls with him. For the first time in her life, Therese can’t stand being on the ground.

Girl Running, Boy Falling is a raw read about a girl and boy, who are beautifully flawed.
Therese Geeves isn't golden, as Nicholas Wallace would have you believe. She's grieving for the promise of a life beyond her reach. A life of musicals, of obscure eighties references and of escaping to the chicken house on her grandmothers property where adventures are created from childhood imaginations. Her mother who sought adventure and her father who fell in love with a woman with a wanderlust penchant are distant memories, Therese is raised by her beloved Aunt and grandmother, continuing to write letters to her absent parents so one day they may know their estranged daughter. Her one constant is Nicholas Wally Wallace. Popular student, athlete and baked goods connoisseur.

Therese is a wonderful young woman and incredibly authentic. She's a daughter, granddaughter, beloved niece, peer, coworker and friend and although she's not considered popular by any means, Therese is well known around the small community as Wally's best friend, the young man destined for a lucrative sports career on the mainland and Therese is apprehensive about being abandoned, her unrequited love for Wally left unanswered.

I enjoy confrontational narratives, it encourages important discussions and often difficult conversations. A suicide results in many victims, family, friends and those touched by the traumatic loss of life and Therese seemingly prefers avoidance. Her Aunt is a wonderful means of support, allowing Therese to find solace and acceptance within her friends while gently suggesting counselling when ready. Old wounds begin to reemerge as the incident reminds Therese of her own abandonment. Her spirited mother appeared to be postnatally depressed and unable to care for her only child. Her father barely a presence in her life. To compensate, Therese collects thoughts and adventures to send to her absent parents.

The narrative was wonderfully gentle, captivating and beautifully composed. Girl Running, Boy Falling is a tender coming of age narrative of living after a suicide and the multitude of ways in which we grieve. 



Can't Beat The Chemistry
Written by Kat Colmer
Contemporary, Romance, #LoveOZYA
274 Pages
Published April 20th 2019
Thank you to Rhiza Edge
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★★★☆
Ionic and covalent bonds are a piece of cake for MJ. But human bonds are a little harder...

There are only two things MJ wants in her final year of high school, glowing grades and to convince uber smart, chiselled jaw Jason they’d be a winning team outside the science lab as well as in.

Tutoring deadbeat drummer, Luke, isn’t part of the plan. After all, he has average intelligence, takes disorganised notes and looks like a partied out zombie at their study sessions! Not even his taut biceps will win MJ over.

But MJ learns that she could be tutored in a few life lessons too. That sometimes there’s good reason to skip chemistry tutorials. That intelligence is so much more than a grade average.

And that sometimes you can’t beat the chemistry.
Mackenzie Olsen - Wang is an aspirational young woman and attentive student, revered for her intelligence. A quality held in high esteem in the Olsen - Wang home. Aspiring to become a medical professional, MJ attends Head Start University, a program for secondary school students where she's developed a fondness for fellow scholar Jason McNeil. MJ lives her life according to schedules, distinctions and her mother's preapproved assignment topics, she's assuming, judgemental and often appears condescending and patronising. She's aware of her intellect and believes intelligence is out most attractive attributes. Socially, MJ is unable to connect with others and her factual, no nonsense approach to others is abrasive and often insulting.

Luke Bains is wonderful. Although a musician, Luke wants to become a teacher and is studying Chemistry in the hope to become employable. And failing. He's a gentle young man and despite being accused of being the stereotypical musician, Luke spends his free time caring for his sister and her local special education school as a voluntary music teacher for adolescents with Down Syndrome.

What ensues is a beautiful and tentative friendship of acceptance, challenging stereotypes and following the path less travelled. Wonderfully written, Kat Colmer is an author creating diverse and realistic characters and Can't Beat The Chemistry is a feel great read.

On The Come Up

On The Come Up
Written by Angie Thomas
Contemporary, Fiction
448 Pages
Published February 5th 2019
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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★★★☆
Sixteen year old Brianna wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighbourhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it. She has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be and of the desperate realities of poor and working class black families.
On The Come Up follows the narrative of sixteen year old Brianna Jackson, the princess of Garden Heights. Brianna is the daughter of Lawless, slain at the pinnacle of his music career. Brianna creates lyrics from her experiences, the death of her father, her mother dependant on narcotics, Brianna and older brother Trey abandoned on the doorstep of their grandparents, their mother withdrawing from society to overcome her addiction and now facilitates group counselling for recovering addicts.

Tensions are high in Garden Heights since a young black man was killed by police officers, the subsequent rioting has resulted in a heavy police presence throughout the suburb, including Midtown School of the Arts where Brianna attends school. Her mother wants Brianna to concentrate on her education but for Brianna, since the tender age of only ten years old, she's wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father and rap her to a better life for her mother and brother.

Brianna is a tenacious young woman, proud of her African American heritage and culture, of who is she and where she's from. Garden Heights. Readers will remember the Garden Heights community from Angie Thomas' debut novel The Hate U Give and although the two narratives do not converge, we're reintroduced to the Disciples, the local gang and the Crowns, a rival gang on the east side and those responsible for taking the life of Lawless. Brianna and her family live below the poverty line, working is a necessity to make ends meet. We're introduced to Brianna as their gas has been shut off and her mother is struggling to pay their rent, the cupboards are all but bare and her college graduate brother has returned home and now works in a small pizzeria and yet, there's little money to afford food never mind to replace Brianna's shoes.

The hardship the Jackson family are experiencing is harrowing so when Brianna's mother Jay loses her job, she has no other option but to quit night school and seek welfare, handouts and food stamps to survive. With winter fast approaching, the chill in the air is a reminder of why so many young people of Garden Heights turn to gang life. The companionship of family and making money to survive despite the odds, including Brianna's Aunt Pooh who begun running with the Disciples shortly after her brother was murdered.

Rapping is in Brianna's blood. Affectionately known as Lil' Law, Brianna is about to make her debut at the Ring, a local club known for it's amateur rap battles and star making potential. Think Eminem's 8 Mile. Through her lyrics, Brianna tells the story of being a young black woman in a world created for white people, about the assumptions made upon black communities, stereotyping and racial profiling. She raps about real world problems facing her community, drugs, violence and being all about that life. Who you run with and who you run from. After her success in the Ring, when she's roughed up at school by security guards and thrown to the floor, something has to give. While students begin to protest against the racial profiling of black and latinx students, Brianna begins penning her breakout track, On The Come Up.

Brianna Jackson refuses to become a stereotype based on assumptions. She is determine to rap about her experiences, she's a contender not a pretender. She comes up against a sexist and opportunistic industry where young artists are taken advantage of. Their image no longer their own as they are shaped and modelled into a product for consumers, told to play their part and luring often underprivileged young adults with gifts and the promise of a easier life for their families, not necessarily better.

No doubt readers will compare On The Come Up to The Hate U Give but where Starr Carter was finding her voice in a hostile environment fulled by revolution, Brianna demands to be heard, a beacon of hope within her community and for young black women wanting to thrive in the male dominated rap industry. I enjoyed the narrative but not Brianna herself. I understand the animosity of your only parent unable to care for her children and choosing their drug dependency but Brianna showed very little respect for her mother who fought her way back from addiction for her children. Brianna calls her mother by her first name and held her at arms length. I felt an incredible amount of sadness for her mother who is an inspiring woman in her own right. Understandably the experience has hardened Brianna but I felt she often treated her mother with undeserving disrespect while holding her Aunt Pooh, a gang member and drug dealer on a pedestal.

On The Come Up is a quiet novel, challenging stereotypes and the prejudiced faced by young black men and women in particular. How young black women are spoken over, how they fight to create safe spaces for themselves and their voices. Although I didn't like Brianna, I loved what she represented. A strong, young black woman on the cusp of great things without compromising who she is and what she stands for. 

Kindred with Michael Earp

Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories
Edited by Michael Earp
Written by Jax Jacki Brown, Claire G Coleman, Michael Earp, Alison Evans, Erin Gough, Benjamin Law, Omar Sakr, Christos Tsiolkas, Ellen van Neerven, Marlee Jane Ward, Jen Wilde and Nevo Zisin
Publishing June 2019
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Twelve of Australia’s best writers from the queer community are brought together in this groundbreaking collection of YA short stories.

What does it mean to be queer?

What does it mean to be human?

In this powerful #LoveOzYA collection, twelve of Australia’s finest queer writers explore the stories of family, friends, lovers and strangers. The connections that form us. This inclusive and intersectional #OwnVoices anthology for teen readers features work from writers of diverse genders, sexualities and identities, including writers who identify as First Nations, people of colour or disabled.

Includes a foreword by anthology editor Michael Earp, resources for queer teens, contributor bios and information about the #LoveOZYA movement.

He's a champion for Australian young adult literature, a bookseller extraordinaire, an author, an editor and he can rock a pair of overalls like nobodies business. I had the pleasure of talking to the always wonderful Michael Earp about the upcoming release of Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOZYA Stories.

Interview


I wanted to begin by asking how the concept of Kindred begun and how you were able to curate what is a landmark release for young adult literature in Australia.
The idea for Kindred was spawned at the launch of Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology. Danielle Binks had previously been the Chair of the #LoveOZYA committee and at that time, I was the Chair and so I had lots of people asking me if I would be editing the next anthology. This is not at all how it works. Being Chair did not mean we automatically edited an anthology, Danielle had worked tirelessly outside of her role as Chair to usher Begin, End, Begin into the world. And so while there wasn’t a justifiable correlation, I started to think, maybe I could edit an anthology. But, if I did, I’d want it to be a dedicated queer anthology. Because, let’s face it, I spend most of my time daydreaming about how to make my own world a little bit gayer… It’s only natural.

Then the work begun.

However, Kindred isn’t the first dedicated queer anthology for young adults published in Australia. There were actually two published in the nineties, Hide and Seek edited by Jenny Pausacker, and Ready or Not edited by Mark Macleod which, unfortunately, are out of print. I was privileged to be able to read Hide and Seek and it holds some wonderful stories in it. But to be able to work on this project has been an amazing experience and I’m so thrilled I’m able to offer contemporary readers something. Because I really do feel like it’s time that such a celebration of queer authors and queer Australian YA be out there in the world.

Could you tell us a little about the story you contributed to the anthology?
My own story in the anthology is a fantasy called Bitter Draught. I don’t want to say too much about it, other than I knew I wanted to write a gender non-binary witch, and I was going through a rough patch personally when I wrote it. Don’t at me.

The anthology features various genders, identities and sexualities and also includes Indigenous authors, authors of colour or disability. How important is it for adolescents to see themselves reflected on the pages of Kindred?
When I was working out who to approach to write for Kindred with my editor, Nicola Santilli, we knew we wanted it to reflect the diversity of the Australian people. After all, it’s supposed to be a snapshot of who we are and what we’re thinking about at this point in time, having as many identities represented as possible was incredibly important to us. When you’re dealing with a minority that is as broad as the queer community, intersectionality is bound to come into play. And try as we did, there are still many identities that aren’t represented. (we only had twelve places!) But I’d love to hear from Aro / Ace and Intersex authors next time! I believe that whether we were conscious of it or not, we all look for ourselves when we read, especially as teenagers. And what a happy thing to discover a reflection of yourself in the pages of a book!

What messages do you hope readers take away from Kindred?
Above all else, I hope that Kindred is just a thoroughly enjoyable read. As for other takeaways? That there is hope, regardless of what you’re currently facing. I don’t want to sound too schmaltzy, but I’m still learning that now. What’s going on right now is not for always, and there’s always joy to chase around the corner, and hold onto while you can. But you have to turn the page to find out.

Calling Australian and New Zealand Queer Reviewers

Walker Books Australia, together with Michael Earp and the #AusYABloggers are celebrating the release of the Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories anthology. This is an own voices tour and open to bloggers, reviewers, Instagrammers and Youtubers from Australia and New Zealand and will begin on the 1st of June and run until the 10th June 2019.

Simply fill out the form found here.

About Michael

Michael Earp is a book obsessed author with a love of children’s and young literature. He's read it, sold it, blogged about it, studied it and written it. He's the editor of Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories which will be released in June 2019 by Walker Books Australia. He is also a contributor to Underdog: #LoveOzYA Short Stories which is out now through Black Inc Books.

You can find Michael on his Blog  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram and Goodreads

What I Like About Me

What I Like About Me
Written by Jenna Guillaume
Contemporary, Coming Of Age, #LoveOZYA
256 Pages
Published February 26th 2019
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★★★
You know all those movies where teenagers have the summer of their lives?

This summer is probably not going to be that.

Here lies Maisie Martin, dead from embarrassment, aged sixteen.

The last thing sixteen year old Maisie Martin thought she'd be doing this summer is entering a beauty pageant.

Not when she's spent most of her life hiding her body from everyone.

Not when her Dad is AWOL for Christmas and her gorgeous older sister has returned to rock Maisie's shaky confidence. And her best friend starts going out with the boy she's always loved.

But Maisie's got something to prove.

As she writes down all the ways this summer is going from bad to worse in her school assignment journal, what starts as a homework torture device might just end up being an account of how Maisie didn't let anything, or anyone, hold her back.
Good day to you Discovery Journal.

Unlike Maisie Martin, I am writing this journal entry entirely of my own free will. Maisie on the other hand is being forced under extreme parental duress to write in her school appointed, fire breathing teacher approved journal each day. That's what happens when your mother is also a teacher, you can never escape school.

Now I'm sure Maisie will tell you that even though her father is staying in the city, working, this summer promises to be epic as she's allowed to invite totally gorgeous best friend Anna along for company. More like a buffer against her overbearing mother and her almost but not quite estranged yet perfect sister who is bringing her new and probably equally as perfect girlfriend to Cobbers Bay. Not that Maisie plans on spending time with either of them, it's summer which means sun, sand, dodgy barbecues watching others swim like a totally non perverted creeper and summer crushes. For the last few years Maisie has been making serious heart eyes at smoking hot, resting dreamy faced Sebastian Lee. If only his annoyingly flatulent best friend Beamer wasn't always around. That and if Maisie could work up the courage to take a chance.

Discovery Journal, I feel that. At sixteen and convinced I was the ugly friend, you know the one. She's the funny but less attractive sidekick and she most certainly never gets the boy. Even as a married adult who's reasonably confident and no longer the ugly friend, you still convince yourself that people only like you in small doses. Which is bullshit. Sometimes you just need to pull up your Maisie pants and realise that is people don't like you then that's their own damn fault for not spending the time getting to know you. The difference between us at sixteen is that Maisie is about to have the summer of her life.

I think most of us have had a friend like Anna. She's beautiful, popular and although you don't spend much time together any more since she started dating, you'll always be there for her. Especially during the breakup with her dickhead boyfriend when she's utterly miserable. Because that's just what friends do, only Anna seems to be spending more time with resting dreamy face Sebastian than she is Maisie. Maisie is so not okay with this recent development because you should be happy when your hot heartbroken friend starts hooking up with your hot forever crush. Best friends, the reason why we can't have nice things.

Maisie is hitching up those britches and making new friends, proving that you can't keep a good woman down. Leila is a local, a fashion designer and just bloody fabulous. Discovery Journal, this is why you you need friends that empower you and at the risk of breaking into a rendition of Wing Beneath My Wings, friends that help you soar. They don't suck face with your crush fully knowing how so not over him that you are.

Don't get me wrong Discovery Journal, Sebastian is a stand up guy but what happens when all the things Maisie thinks she loves about him, he isn't actually worthy of... Unexpected shit happens with delightful results. Now the real sucking face begins. Like an Italian chef, I am kissing my fingers to show you how delicious these developments are. Have at it girl.

Maisie is the heroine. She's me at sixteen, she's probably you at sixteen, she's the girl that lives next door or the girl that sits in front of you in social studies while you draw genitals in your text book. She's the girl with moxie and doesn't know it, the girl who is constantly evolving and finding herself. She's the girl who'll set the world ablaze, who deserves more than the assholes trying to extinguish her fire. She's the fat, funny and beautiful girl. She's us.

What I Like About Me is a feel great, utterly charming read about friendship, finding love and finding yourself along the way. It's about loving yourself and stuff what anyone else thinks. It's confidence building, it's empowering and it's embracing your inner Maisie and unleashing her on the world.

It's everything.
Love, Kelly.

Blog Tour: Enchantée

Enchantée
Enchantée Book One
Written by Gita Trelease
Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance
464 Pages
Published February 26th 2019
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★☆
Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries and magicians...

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic, la magie ordinaire, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won't hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family's savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark, the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist, who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.

But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she's playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose, love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic, before Paris burns.
In eighteenth century Paris, the streets whisper with discontent. The wealthy aristocratic community collecting taxation payments from the lower socioeconomic castes, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette holding lavish parties for the affluent society. Camille Durbonne provides for her sister Sophie, recovering from the small pox virus that their parents succumbed, her brother Alain an alcoholic indebted to the dazzling lights of the royal casino.

Camille relies upon magie ordinaire and her ability to manipulate metal into currency, using sorrow as motivation for the transformation. Once celebrated for their abilities, magicians were revered by royalty and aristocrats to transform the Palace of Versailles into a glittering showcase of wealth, beauty and privilege. For a lowly printers daughter, Camille needs money for Sophie's medication and to keep the roof over their heads, brother Alain is unable to hold down a job and has sold anything of value within their crumbling, rented rooms. On a drunken rampage, Alain ransacks their home, assaults Camille and flees to Versailles with their overdue rent money.

Camille is a resilient young woman, using whatever means are at her disposal to earn money to care for her younger sister Sophie. Sophie is recovering from small pox, a disease which had taken both their parents lives and left the siblings for fend for themselves. And one another. While Camille and Sophie have been a means of support for one another, Alain begun gambling, seduced by the bright lights of Versailles and the careless life of an aristocrat.

Alain is an abusive character. He cares little for the welfare of his sisters, rather his own lifestyle of drinking and gambling which has lead him debt with dangerous creditors. Not only does he attempt to manipulate Camille but also threatens to sell Camille and Sophie with the implication of selling their bodies to clear his debts. Sophie is awestruck by this lavish life Alain leads and idolises her brother, Alain filling her head with false promises of Sophie meeting a wealthy aristocrat and marrying. Sophie is frustrating. Although incredibly naive at only fifteen years of age, she's only beginning to realise the toll that magic takes on Camille and begins working for a local milliner creating hats for the wealthy women of Paris. Unfortunately it still isn't enough money to survive.

Using her mother's glamoire gown and the last of their savings, Camille uses magic to manipulate her appearance to join the aristocrats at Versailles, where she's taken into the fold as the young widow Baroness de la Fontaine. For Camille, it's impossible not to lose her sense of identity within the dazzling atmosphere of Versailles and the privileged aristocrat lifestyle. Although Camille is seduced by her new lifestyle, she returns home with her winnings each day to provide for sister Sophie.

Sophie's loyalties seem to lie with Alain, her brother convincing the fifteen year old that she will one day become an aristocrat with influence, marrying a wealthy man and living a life of affluence. She becomes increasingly jealous of Camille, even as magie ordinaire slowly begins to destroy her sister. I found Sophie incredibly self centred and it's not a term I use lightly. Understanding that she is only fifteen years of age and recovering from a life threatening illness, she showed such little compassion for Camille except for wanting her sister to pursue relationships for societal gain.

The subtle romance was lovely. Meeting in the most unconventional manner, the aeronautic Lazare is dashing, charming and oh so chivalrous. His wonderment at Camille is absolutely delightful and he cares not for her societal standing. Leading her double life, Camille meets the wealthy, mysterious Seguin, an acquaintance of her new friends. Seguin is incredibly forward with his intentions, he likes Camille as her alternative ego but Camille also suspects he is aware there is more to her than the wealthy, lonely widow she portrays. 

It was incredibly atmospheric. I was lured into the world of Versailles and the the lavish romanticism of the wealthy aristocrats. Gita Trelease has sprinkled words and phrases in French throughout the prose, creating such a lovely narrative and authenticity. An inclusion I really enjoyed.

My only complain is of the pacing. It's incredibly slow to begin. We follow Camille throughout the streets of Paris as she collects scrap metal to transform into coins and gambling to create a better life for her and Sophie. There was so much emphasis on the gambling and Camille stumbling home each night from exhaustion that there was little left for romance or developing Sophie's character. 

Overall, it was slow but incredibly lovely. I expected more from the brewing revolution subplot rather than glittering casinos but really enjoyed it despite the slow beginning. Fans of lavish historical romances will love this one and looking forward to the next installment. 

LET QUEENDOM REIGN!

As part of the Bloomsbury Australia blog tour, I'm celebrating the release of The Priory of the Orange Tree by celebrating the the magnificent females of acclaimed author Samantha Shannon's Queendom.

The Priory of the Orange Tree
Written by Samantha Shannon
Adult, Fantasy, Dragons
848 Pages
Gifted by Bloomsbury Australia
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A world divided.

A queendom without an heir.

An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady in waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

Eadaz Duryan

Eadaz is a young woman placed within a foreign kingdom to safeguard the Queen. Eadaz resides within the palatial compound, her forthright sincerity winning the favour of the Queen as she is elevated to a lady of the bedchamber and secretly safeguarding Sabran against cutthroats. Although committed to the mages of the Priory of The Orange Tree, Eadaz is conflicted by her affection for Sabran. Her close proximity to Sabran will endanger the Queendom and her life.

Queen Sabran Berethnet

The Nameless One, a dragon that brought upon the Grief of Ages that decimated Queendoms is rousing once more, the prophesy leading Sabran, a young Queen coerced into matrimony for political alliance to conceive a daughter. Sabran is an independent woman and although tenacious and resolute, her anxiety and affliction is palpable. Suitors for her affections are presented to the court, Sabran expected to choose a notable partner and conceive to protect her Queendom against the slumbering dragons. She is plagued by nightmares of children lost within the forest, of mages who practice forbidden magic.

Without a Berethnet heir, the Queendom will be overthrown.

Tané Miduchi

Tané Miduchi is a young woman born of a lowly caste and an aspiring dragonrider. On the eve the Choosing Day when riders will learn heir fate, she rescues a young man that emerges from the ocean and risking the Draconic Plague, arranges the stranger to be concealed illegally upon the island peninsula. In her position as student, Tané has experienced blatant socioeconomic and classist prejudice. Degraded and tormented as a successful young woman on the threshold of entering the prestigious Dragonriders.

Females Of The Queendom

The Donmata Marosa, Crown Princess of the Draconic Kingdom of Yscalin.
The Dowager Duchess of Zeedeur. Kalyba, the Lady of the Woods.
The Pirate Captain, sovereign of the Sundance Sea with forty thousand pirates under her command.
Mita Yedanya, The Prioress.
And, Dragon Nayimathun of the Deep Snows.

Who run the world

Of our matriarchal societies. Of women in authority. Women who aspire. Women who achieve. It's diverse women. It's women who love women. It's females who are vulnerable, resilient and determined. It's women at our finest. The heroine. The villainous. The Priory of the Orange Tree is a celebration of women. Let queendom reign!

No woman should be made to fear that she was not enough.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely
A Curse So Dark and Lonely Book One
Written by Brigid Kemmerer
Retelling, Fantasy, Romance
496 Pages
Published February 2nd 2019
Thank you to Bloomsury Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she's instead somehow sucked into Rhen's cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall... And it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.
Harper is a formidable character, determined and resourceful. Growing up with cerebral palsy has shaped her into a fierce young woman, capable and never to be underestimated. Since her father left his family with debt they couldn't repay, Harper's brother Jake was forced into a life of thuggery, working as a shakedown man for their local debt collector while their mother battles cancer. Harper is tagging along on Jake's latest job as a lookout when she witnesses a young, unconscious woman being taken from the streets of Washington. Harper intervenes, saving the young woman's life but is taken herself and transported to Emberfall.

Prince Rhen hasn't been seen by the good folk of Emberfall since the curse was placed upon him, most believing the royal family had fled the castle due to the monster roaming the lands. For Rhen, his life is on constant replay each season of his eighteenth birthday. To break the curse, he must find a young woman to fall in love with him. He may be a Prince but the ladies of Emberfall aren't so easily impressed, the ones who've survived the monster, so he's been sending his trusted footman Grey to the earthly plane to find a woman to break the curse. They didn't bargain for the streetwise, ballsy Harper though.

Prince Rhen is dashing and handsome, clearly intended as the love interest for Harper and readers alike. I wasn't shipping it folks. He's nice enough, when not in monster form but he was too busy trying to woo Harper rather than treating her as an intellectual and his equal. It was Grey that realised Harper's potential and because she begun to feel comfortable in his presence, they soon became friends. Apart from stealing Harper from the streets of Washington, Grey is a gentleman. He refers to Harper as my lady and I can imagine the intense hat tipping as a result. He reminded me of Chaol earlier in the Throne of Glass series, with the difference being that Grey is incredibly polite rather than gruff.

I was shipping Grey and Harper. Hard. They shared a chemistry that just wasn't present between Harper and Rhen, whether or not that's due to the pressure of Rhen's curse and Harper feeling overwhelmed or even obligated but I could help but ship the wrong couple. Let me live in ignorant bliss. Being taken and the age old discussion of Stockholm Syndrome will always be raised with kidnapping narratives and rightly so. Often the captor manipulates the person being held captive into believing they need their captor to survive, they're a nice person who's misunderstood and soon enough, feelings are skewed. Harper isn't being manipulated and herein lies the difference, throughout the narrative she isn't forced into a romantic relationship and although she's aware of the curse, she isn't under any obligation to fall in love with Rhen. In fact, he soon releases Harper's independence and tenacity as a strong, independent young woman are the qualities he most admires within her personality.

Harper is a character with a disability. Her cerebral palsy is never romanticised nor seen as a weakness, quite the opposite. Those of Emberfall believe her limp is a result of an injury, something she fiercely defends and embraces. Within the narrative, she mentions the multiple operations she experiences as a child to make her the woman she is today. She realises her limitations but also knows she can work around them. It's wonderful to see a character with a disability simply be and their disability not used as a device to further the storyline.

From the opulent palatial grounds to the humble merchant towns, the Essence of A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a beautiful retelling of a quiet resistance. A modern fairytale, a tenacious young woman and a ship you can sail into the sunset. Cannot wait for the next installment!

We Are Okay

We Are Okay
Written by Nina LaCour
Contemporary, LGBT, Realistic Fiction
240 Pages
Publishing in Australia March 5th 2019
Thank you to UQP
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★★★★★
Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even far away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

An intimate whisper that packs an indelible punch, We Are Okay is Nina LaCour at her finest. This gorgeously crafted and achingly honest portrayal of grief will leave you urgent to reach across any distance to reconnect with the people you love.
The snow continues to fall in New York City, washing the landscape in flutters while students prepare to journey home for the holiday season. Except Marin Delaney, a permanent dormitory resident since the death of her grandfather, the man who raised her after the passing of her mother. Marin has escaped her hometown in San Francisco for the anonymity of New York, her immeasurable sorrow isolating her from her hometown and her best friend Mabel. Mabel is now travelling to New York and after months of avoidance, Marin will need to confront her past, her isolation and the revelations of the death of her grandfather.

Marin's anguish is palpable as she grieves not only for her grandfather but for the life she has left behind. After her mother passed in a tragic drowning accident, Marin has lived with her grandfather in their small, San Francisco beachside home. Marin's relationship with her grandfather was wonderfully gentle and considerate and although residing within the same home, both lived separate lives. Her grandfather enjoyed using moments throughout their day as teaching moments, instilling important wisdom upon Marin, preparing her for the challenges of attending university and becoming an independent young woman.

Marin and her grandfather shared an unspoken agreement as not to encroach on the others personal space, Marin not entering his study or bedroom and her grandfather, allowing Marin the privacy of her bedroom. As Marin gained her independence, her grandfather became increasingly isolated within his study and Marin, grief stricken long before her grandfather passed. The once sprightly elderly gentleman is sustained by his correspondence with the mysterious Birdie, a woman that has captivated his attention and as Marin matures, she observes his health deteriorating.

We observe as Marin and Mabel's friendship transformed from friends to tentative lovers, exploring their sexuality and the new parameters of their relationship. As Mabel visits New York, Marin is confronted as to why she left San Francisco behind. The tenderness between the two young women is beautiful and although they've been separated from one another, Mabel is a wonderful friend who is determined to remain a part of Marin's life.

Throughout the narration, Marin's sorrow becomes a tangible element and arbours resentment towards the man who raised her, perpetuated by the isolating, wintry landscape. We Are Okay is a gentle narrative of bereavement and isolation, of solidarity that's encompassed by a quiet artistry that's rarely seen in young adult literature. Simply exquisite. 
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