Giveaway! Ho ho ho, merry SPARKmas!

'Tis the season. Fa la la la la. With thanks to my dear friend Rachael Craw and Walker Books Australia, they're giving away the entire Spark Trilogy to one lucky Australian or New Zealand resident.

To celebrate, I'm thrilled to be able to share with readers a bonus Christmas scene from the Spark series. Check Rachael's website next week for the final series giveaway!

A Note From Rachael

The following is a scene from a 2012 version of Stray that never went to print. I had forgotten all about it until I was trying to think of Christmassy posts to share with this giveaway. Then I remembered, looong ago in the recesses of time, that I had written a scene where Evie and Jamie exchanged Christmas gifts! How perfect. Of course, it's rather an old bit of writing so go easy on me Merry Christmas Spark Army, I love youse guys!

Merry Christmas from Evie and Jamie

“Merry Christmas.” Jamie’s voice carries down the hall from the front door. I picture the wry twist of his mouth as he bends to kiss Miriam’s cheek. This was all her idea – her and Kitty’s – a belated gathering to break the ice, post-trauma. I hide in the kitchen, pouring drinks and blindly arranging finger food as Leonard and Barb offer stiff greetings and Kitty overcompensates with breezy good cheer.

This is a terrible idea. They’ll never forgive me for putting Kitty in danger. Canapes and champagne for godsake. I glance over my shoulder like a guilty child and drain a crystal flute in a few desperate gulps before refilling it in a seamless manoeuvre.

I’m halfway through my second glass when Jamie’s reflection appears in the dark kitchen window. I spin, sloshing the contents over my hand, remembering his anti-booze speech after the Halloween ball, but Jamie’s reproving glare is nowhere to be found. His eyes skim the neckline and hem of my dress and my skin warms with an all over blush.

“Little early for tippling, love.”

“Shh.” I nod in the direction of the living room.

He takes the glass from my hand and swallows the rest. “Second thoughts, we’ll probably need it.”

I sigh and hang my head. The faint whiff of chimney smoke and winter air lingers on his dinner jacket. I love his crisp white shirt and cufflinks. He’s even combed his hair. He brushes cool fingers across the nape of my neck and I close my eyes. “This is going to be bad, isn’t it?”

“At least they came.” He circles my waist, drawing me close. “You’re very beautiful, you know?”

“Ugh.” I turn in his arms and wrinkle my nose at my hair in the window. “I look like a boy.”

“Hardly.” He rests his chin on my shoulder and places a small pale blue box with a tell-tale ribbon on the counter.

My brain blanks. The pressure of the last few months and all my dread for the future is displaced by another weight – my longing for what I can’t have. Him. I blink like a strobe, terrified to touch the box. “God, Jamie…”

He nudges me with his chin. “Don’t be difficult.”

“You make it impossible to compete. Now my present is going to look lame.”

“You got me something?” He releases me to lean back against the counter, grinning, eyebrows high.

“It’s been sitting in the bottom of my wardrobe since November.”

His lips form a small ‘o’ at the unmentionable season of separation. He ducks his head. “What is it?”

I reach past him for the small box wrapped in cheap Christmas paper on the windowsill and place it on the counter next to his ostentatious gift for me.

“You already have one.” I chew my lip, stupidly embarrassed.

He cocks his head. “I do?”

I can’t look right at him.

He chuckles. “Together?”

I grimace at the pale blue box, picking it up and trying not to watch him as he tears the paper from his present. I loosen the ribbon, lift the lid and hold my breath. There’s a small folded card which reads, Made to Order and under this a pendant.

“Oh…Jamie.” My throat constricts and I choke out a small laugh. “Snap.”

He opens his velvet case and bites his lip, smile spreading wide. “Saint Michael.”

“I don’t think they’re quite in the same league.” I sigh. “So I guess this’s no cubic zirconia?”

“Best not to ask if it makes you twitchy.” He raises the small silver medallion from the case and hands me the chain.

I help fasten the link behind his neck, breathing in his dizzying scent, and tuck the medallion inside his shirt. I fan my fingers on his chest. “Now he’s not just watching your back.”

His grey eyes sparkle. “Thank you.”

I offer up the little blue box.

“Stop frowning.”

“But it’s so…”

“What?” he murmurs, draping the filigree chain around my neck.

“Beautiful.” It is. Breathtakingly so. A tiny rose gold angel encircled with diamonds and the inscription ‘Saint Michael Protect Us’. I shake my head as he fastens the clasp.

“What?”

“Nothing.” I snort, remembering an old conversation. “I suppose I should be grateful it wasn’t a ring.”

He turns me to the window and my eyes fall first on the pendant then his face.

My soft laugh dies. “What?”

“We should probably go and rescue Miriam from the ice brigade.”

I turn and touch his cheek. “Jamie?”

He narrows his eyes. “What if it had been?”

“A ring?” My mouth dries. “I … um … I …”

“Thank you for my gift, Everton.” He bumps his nose gently against mine, making me cross-eyed. “I love it.” But it feels like, I love you.

My whole body tingles with the electricity of his touch and I stammer, “Well, this is … easily the most beautiful thing … I’ve – I’ve ever been given … and –”

He cuts me off with a kiss, soft, warm, lingering. Not remotely calming. When he finally pulls back I can’t think of a single coherent thing to say. He brushes his knuckle beneath my chin. “You’re welcome.”

Check out my Spark series reviews

 Spark Review
 Stray Review
 Shield Review

Giveaway


Phantom Limbs

Phantom Limbs
Written by Paula Garner
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Diversity
Expected Publication December 1st 2016
368 Pages
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★☆
Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after the terrible accident that left Otis's little brother dead and both of their families changed forever. Since then, it's been three years of radio silence, during which time Otis has become the unlikely protege of eighteen year old Dara, part drill sergeant, part friend, who's hell bent on transforming Otis into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be.

But when Otis learns that Meg is coming back to town, he must face some difficult truths about the girl he's never forgotten and the brother he's never stopped grieving. As it becomes achingly clear that he and Meg are not the same people they were, Otis must decide what to hold on to and what to leave behind. Quietly affecting, this compulsively readable debut novel captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens struggling to accept profound absences in their lives.
For three years, the crisp, cool water has been a constant companion for sixteen year old Otis, his life now irrevocably impaired. Grieving and despondent after losing his best friend, Otis was afforded an opportunity to cultivate his technique with the possibility of the Olympic dream. Dara was once a fierce competitor but after an accident claimed her arm, she sees Otis as a substitute for her own success, once unfulfilled ambitions despite Otis and his insistence that he's incapable of reaching Olympic level. Underneath his once splintered facade, Otis is slowly reclaiming his life once more, coming to terms with Mason's death and expressing sorrow through poetry. Earning him the nickname of Shakespeare amongst his peers.

The kiss under the magnolia tree, the whispered declaration of love, burying Mason and after three harrowing years of silence, Meg is coming home.

My Thoughts

Phantom Limbs is a gentle yet wonderfully written exploration of grief and the imprint left behind by those who touch our lives. Poignant and quietly hopeful, Otis is a character that represents a life once bound by sadness, depicted compassionately and delicately. Simply beautiful.

Otis is a young man wise beyond his years, sensitive and contemplative and I admired his quiet resilience from the very first page. We're first introduced to Otis the athlete, the black line beneath the water his steadfast companion as a surly Dara hurls thinly veiled motivational abuse in her position as coach slash maybe friend slash emotional support. Dara is an significant support in Otis' life, using not only swimming as an anchor but her formula of brutal honesty was often strangely delightful and quite charming. She's a tyrant, he has a cavalier attitude but under their blasé facade these two love, care and nurture one another so tenderly.

Although following Otis, Phantom Limbs is very much Dara's journey, a character I loved fiercely and found her narrative more compelling. Still a young woman, Dara conceals her anguish beneath the surface of a hardened facade, the loss of her mother, her wealthy single father, a Russian businessman who provides Dara with little more than financial support. Although seemingly at ease after the loss of her limb in a devastating accident, Dara experiences phantom limb pains, a condition often experienced by amputees and in Dara's circumstance, subdued by deceiving her cognition into believing her arm is still physically present through the use of a mirror. It was fascinating and a condition I hadn't heard of prior to reading Phantom Limbs. Dara is a private person and internalises her anxiety, both with her condition and sexuality. She's angry, scared and imperfectly flawed to perfection.

After three years of silence, Meg is coming back to town and it's abundantly clear that Otis is still in love with his former friend and childhood sweetheart. Meg left town while Otis was still grieving for his brother Mason. Before Meg's arrival, Otis begins to distance himself from Dara unconsciously which left me feeling irate. In conjunction with professional therapy, Dara was a comfort for Otis during his darkest moments and offered him purpose and an outlet to channel his grief. That bastard. It felt as though he only cared for his own needs.

I found Meg to be quite charming. She's matured and grown as a young woman since leaving town, returning with a reserved perspective. She isn't the strong, free spirited girl she once was and I felt Otis was pushing the boundaries of their tentative friendship even knowing that Meg was in a relationship.

Meg, Otis and Dara are three contrasting and multifaceted individuals that authenticates how complex, delicate and imperfect we are. Our adolescent years are often when we discover our sense of self, self worth and our own ideals and beliefs that debut author Paula Garner portrayed beautifully and faithfully. Loved it immensely.

Hotel For The Lost

Hotel For The Lost
Written by Suzanne Young
Mystery, Paranormal
Published October 4th 2016
304 Pages
Thank you to Simon And Schuster Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★
Stay tonight. Stay forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions, including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She's torn in different directions, the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an inbetween in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.
Amid the silence, Audrey Casella remembers her mother. After her mother passed mere months ago, Audrey and older brother Daniel were emotionally abandoned by their father, a man unable to come to terms with his despair and have arranged for both Audrey and Daniel to live with their estranged grandmother. Weary travellers, Audrey and her family check into the Hotel Ruby, an opulent hotel offering the illusion of contentment and indulgence. For just one night, Audrey wants to forget.
Truth is, Dad stopped seeing us. he looks through us like he can't bear our resemblance to our mother. Like we're invisible. Daniel and I have lost both our parents, even though one is sitting next to me now.
The Ruby is breathtaking. The lavish invitational grand ballroom soiree, her gilded and ornate suites and the dashing Elias Lange who has captured Audrey's curiosity. Her glamour and prestige, the essence of the Ruby is exuberance, indulgence and passion that mask the mystery of the grand old hotel and Audrey is determined to discover her secrets.

My Thoughts

Hotel For The Lost is haunting and peculiarly entertaining, a concoction of mystery and paranormal with the opulence of a charming historical fiction novel. The hotel was magnificent, the protagonist, not so much.

Audrey's destructive behaviour after her mother's passing sees Audrey and Daniel being taken in by their estranged grandmother, their father not able to care for his children and since the death of his wife months prior. Audrey and Daniel continue to emotionally support one another, their own grief internalised while their father continues to withdraw from society. Audrey was incredibly judgemental of others, her honesty was often disrespectful and not as charming which may have been seemingly intended.

Weary, Audrey's father decides to reserve three rooms at the grand Hotel Ruby, continuing with their journey once the sun rises. The Hotel Ruby was vividly imagined, beautifully breathtaking and indulgent, her colourful patrons a blend of wealthy elites or travellers resting before their final destinations. The hotel herself is a mystery, captivating my interest until the final page. Intoxicating for both patrons and readers alike.

The secondary characters and hotel personnel were cursory but incredibly charismatic and engaging, breathing life into the old establishment. Elias was absolutely lovely, a boyish rogue and philanderer who's family once owned the Ruby. Although Audrey had only recently ended a long term relationship with a young man she disregarded, she now finds herself attracted to Elias, a handsome distraction for the night. The romance didn't appeal to me unfortunately. I enjoyed the passion and attraction between Audrey and Elias but Audrey conceding she was falling in love after only a few moments together felt insincere. She was generally more concerned with Elias and gallivanting around the Hotel Ruby, than the absence of emotional responses from her Daniel and her father, besides her hallucinations.

Nevertheless, Hotel For The Lost was engaging, entertaining and unexpected, holding me captive until the final page. 

Replica

Replica
Replica Book One
Written by Lauren Oliver
Science Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Published October 11th 2016
336 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
Lyra's story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family's past and discovers her father's mysterious connection to the secretive Haven Institute. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.
The night carries the calls of monster while girls sit in solitary, their human voices carried by the wind across the island. At birth they are assigned a number, not to be afforded an education, to be cherished or loved. They are Monsters. Clones. They are engineered Replicas.

Lyra is a Replica at the Haven Institute, surviving where routine is enforced and residents are despised for existing. Lyra's meagre contraband possessions tuck neatly under her mattress, a children's book with worn pages and the memory of the gentle doctor who departed Lyra with the legacy of reading, a luxury not afforded at Haven. Threatened, segregated and kept compliant, Replicas throughout the institute are falling ill, the chemicals fuelling their bodies no longer able to starve off the illnesses effecting those needlessly, haphazardly and Lyra is determined to uncover the truth.

Once believed to be incurable, Gemma has earned the name of Frankenstein from her tormentors, girls who appear to be offended by Gemma's mere existence. But when persecution leads to criminal damage, Gemma begins to suspect her father may be involved. Gemma's journey leads her to the Haven Institute to discover a world concealed in secrecy.

My Thoughts

Replica is a unique narrative that places the reader in command. A storyline of two girls as distinct as their points of view. I begun reading Replica in alternating chapters but found Lyra's point of view much more engaging and read her narrative to completion. Lyra was inquisitive, emotive and lives a solitary existence within the walls of the institute. She's charmingly naive as she begins to explore her world and the existence beyond the compound where she meets a male Replica. Only known as Seventy Two, the engineered teen is confused and disorientated before domestic terrorists strike the facility.

Escaping confinement, Lyra and Seventy Two discover a world beyond the Haven Institute, a world in which Gemma and her companion Pete are seeking answers.
When she was little, she'd liked to pretend that stars were really lights anchoring distant islands, as if she wasn't looking up but only out across a dark sea. She knew the truth now but still found stars comforting, especially in their sameness. A sky full of burning replicas.
Once a fragile and sickly young girl, Gemma is now a young woman who has been victimised by the taunting of her peers. While her mother is determined to ensconce her only child, it's Gemma's relationship with her father that has deteriorated and provokes Gemma to pursue answers. Although Gemma's character was engaging, she felt incredibly tedious and accepting of her circumstances. What begins as a road trip with Gemma and the local pervert, soon develops into a tentative yet awkward romance. Two virtual strangers thrown together and finding love, thankfully the romance didn't overwhelm the storyline although I would prefer a friendship or alliance as an alternative.

At Haven, the female and male Replica population were segregated and Lyra was in the process of forming an emotional connection with her fellow female Replicas. She understood the concept of love but not the realisation and I felt may have been a missed opportunity to explore a same sex relationship rather than the physical attraction to Seventy Two.

Lauren Oliver is an author who is imaginative and prolific, but her narratives can appear hollow and passive. Her middle grade series is absolutely wonderful and I wonder if perhaps that's where her imagination and creativity resides. I enjoyed Replica but had expected more, although the lyrical aspect woven throughout was lovely. I anticipate that the next installation in the series will focus on character development so readers can form an emotional attachment and invest in their plight. Fingers crossed.

It Looks Like This

A gentle warning that this review contains anti religious sentiments 

It Looks Like This
Written by Rafi Mittlefehldt
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBT
Expected Publication December 1st 2016
336 Pages
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
A new state, a new city, a new high school. Mike's father has already found a new evangelical church for the family to attend, even if Mike and his plainspoken little sister, Toby, don't want to go. Dad wants Mike to ditch art for sports, to toughen up, but there's something uneasy behind his demands. Then Mike meets Sean, the new kid, and hey becomes games of basketball, partnering on a French project, hanging out after school. A night at the beach. The fierce colours of sunrise. But Mike's father is always watching. And so is Victor from school, cell phone in hand.

In guarded, Carveresque prose that propels you forward with a sense of stomachdropping inevitability, Rafi Mittlefehldt tells a wrenching tale of first love and loss that exposes the undercurrents of a tidy suburban world. Heartbreaking and ultimately life affirming, It Looks Like This is a novel of love and family and forgiveness, not just of others, but of yourself.
Fifteen year old Mike is a wonderful young man. An artist, attentive student and a son who honours thy father and thy mother. His father is a deeply religious man and an active participant in his local church since moving from Wisconsin to Somerdale a few months prior. Their religious teachings are of abstinence and romantic relationships are exclusively between a male and female union. That doesn't cease the taunting from his peers and whispers of queer within the halls. Whispers also echoed at home.

When new student Sean arrives, Mike begins to push the boundaries of his same sex attraction, despite what the church has preached. When Sean and Mike are chosen to work on a media project together, the two soon become inseparable. Beyond the carefree friendship and genuine smiles, Mike and Sean are attracted to one another. Shared moments, feather light touches and an exploration of their feelings. Emotionally and physically.

Until being caught.

In a deeply religious town, same sex relationships are unnatural, forbidden and while Sean is beaten and abused, Mike is forced into a program provided by the ministry, freeing teens of their impure thoughts. Mike wants to love freely, passionately and without abandon. Peers, parents and church be damned.

My Thoughts

It Looks Like This is phenomenal, rage inducing and absolutely heartbreaking. Having only just turned the final page, I was compelled to gather my thoughts and emotions, frantically, passionately through tears and sorrow.

The narrative is told from almost fifteen year old Michael's point of view. Although young, he's a mature young man that finds himself taking an interest in the same sex. Mike never identifies himself to the reader as being gay, but finds himself attracted to boys. He's intelligent and sensitive, passionate about his art and despite his lack of enthusiasm, indulges in his father's strong religious beliefs. His only ally is his younger sister Toby, who herself is intuitive and wise beyond her years. The accusatory whisper queer of his peers are echoed by his father, a tense relationship of unrealistic expectations.

Sean is attractive and charismatic, capturing Mike's attention when the two teens are assigned to collaborate on a media project. The boys develop a blossoming friendship and start to explore their feelings for one another. Even as Mike and Sean explore their sexuality, their relationship was defined by gentle touches without labels. It was exquisite and quietly beautiful.
I stare back because I don't know what else to do and all I can think about is how green those eyes are. Then the corner of his mouth turns up, just barely. He says, I'm Sean. I Say, Yeah. Mike. And then people start coming inside the classroom.
The Grace Fellowship are adamant in their view towards same sex relationships, impure thoughts are not only forbidden but punishable. I can't even begin to articulate how infuriating and intolerant Michael's parents were, especially his father. He allowed the church to dictate and impede on his relationship with his son and through his own prejudice, he seemed to believe Michael was ill with a cure that only faith could provide. I felt irate. So fucking irate. Sexuality is not an illness nor a condition that requires remedying. Our sexuality doesn't equate to being insignificant and although I'm not a religious person, the church seems to define being queer with being impure. Oh. Fuck. No. It Looks Like This highlights the influence of the church and their intolerant and outdated judgement.

While Sean is being physically punished, Michael is consigned to Inner Peace, a wellness program for teens with impure thoughts which is not only uncomfortable but alludes to indecency within the parish.
Timothy says, The harm is that you're more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases, Practising homosexuals are also more likely to suffer from depression and drug abuse, and their relationships are at least twice as likely to fail as heterosexual relationships. According to studies, it's also not an ideal environment in which to raise children.
It's the same bullshit argument in which the church uses to platform against same sex marriage, which still is yet to be legalised in Australia. Any individual or organisation who seeks to deny marriage equality has no fucking right to dictate who we can and cannot love. Click here to learn more about marriage equality and to lend your support.

It Looks Like This is ultimately a cautionary depiction, emphasising the brave and often heartbreaking reality of prejudice and bigotry. Beautifully written and all consuming, debut author Rafi Mittlefehldt has composed a compelling narrative with veracity and compassion. Just phenomenal.

Contemporary #LoveOzYA

Everything Is Changed
Written by Nova Weetman
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published October 3rd 2016
262 Pages
Thank you to UQP
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
Lifelong friends Jake and Alex are torn apart when they make a terrible split second decision that ends in tragedy.

As guilt closes in on Jake, he becomes increasingly determined to confess to the police. But Alex just wants to move on with life. He's got a cool new girlfriend, fancy new house and posh new school, and doesn't want his future to be ruined by a mistake in his past.

Told backwards in alternating viewpoints, this gritty novel takes us through the wreckage of a broken friendship, back to the moment when everything changed.
Before the accident, Jake and Alex had been raised in a leafy, family oriented suburb of Melbourne. Jake lives with his single mother in a small unit, working long hours as a nurse to provide Jake with a bright future he would otherwise have never been afforded, Science being his chosen field of study. Alex is about to embark on a new adventure, moving to an affluent suburb, a new home and a private school education, while leaving Jake and new girlfriend Ellie behind. Regrettably. Until the accident.

Two very distinct characters who both endeavour to overcome grief and in Alex's case, culpability. Jake's internal struggle with his guilt felt incredibly honest and genuine. His grief is palpable as he copes with the aftermath of the accident and feelings of isolation as Alex begins to distance himself both physically and emotionally. It soon becomes apparent that Jake harbours feelings for Alex's girlfriend, the two having bonded over Alex's departure and becoming close friends in his absence.

Alex wants to forget the accident and Jake is the constant reminder Alex is determined to distance himself from. Alex felt incredibly narcissistic and seemingly only cared for himself while under his flawless exterior he was terrified of repercussions, escaping into his new life, new friends and abandoned twelve years of friendship.

Although the storyline was captivating, the regressive storyline didn't allow for me to connect with either character, as the reader is unaware exactly what the referred to accident is, or how it was caused. As the storyline regressed, I felt myself holding back from an emotional connection until learning what role Alex and Jake had played, not committing to either character as an emotional defence.

The most intriguing aspect was the difference in emotion from both Alex and Jake and how each young man dealt with his internal struggle. Their twelve year friendship has left the boys heavily influenced by one another, but the introduction of distance, environment and socioeconomic factors also seemingly factored into their individual reactions and ongoing turmoil. As the boys drift apart, it's Alex's girlfriend Ellie who becomes the link that ties their lives together. The storyline begins with a single narrative from Ellie's point of view, but it lacked an emotional impact which may have been more effective as an epilogue.

Alex and Jake have always been inseparable, until their drunken stupor and a night that will have repercussions for them both. Everything Has Changed is captivating and intelligent with a unique narrative from the accident, then regressing throughout both Alex and Jake's lives. Refreshing and wonderfully written from the male perspective as a multifaceted narration dealing with the emotional struggle between grief and guilt.

Another Night In Mullet Town
Written by Steven Herrick
Verse, Contemporary, Australian
Published June 27th 2016
224 Pages
Thank you to UQP
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
People like you and me, Jonah, we drag down the price of everything we touch.

Life for Jonah and Manx means fishing for mullet at the lake, watching their school mates party on Friday night and wishing they had the courage to talk to Ella and Rachel.

But now their lakeside town is being sold off, life doesn't seem so simple. Manx holds a grudge against the wealthy blow ins from the city and Jonah just wants his parents to stop arguing.

One memorable night at the lake will change everything.
Sixteen year old Jonah sits on the bank of Coraki Lake silently watching his town being bought by developers. The sleepy town of Turon is a community of pride, the Australian spirit flourishing despite the financial strain of local business on the verge of ruin. Jonah and best friend Manx are inseparable, Manx is determined to reclaim his town while Jonah's parents are separating due to the financial strain on their relationship.

Steven Herrick is without a doubt one of my favourite authors. With so few words, he can paint a vivid landscape of our communities and can capture the Australian spirit and determination. The fictional Australian town of Turon represents our coastal cities in which overdevelopment is destroying our landscape and community prosperity, an issue sixteen year old Manx feels deeply and personally.

Told in verse, Steven Herrick is able to capture Australian communities with appreciation, lyricism and authenticity in depicting the human condition. Gentle, lyrical and a ballad to Australia and our passionate patriotism. A little piece of Australia that you read, you rejoice and you treasure.

Heartless Blog Tour

Heartless
Standalone
Written by Marissa Meyer
Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Expected Publication November 8th 2016
464 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★☆
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, the infamous Queen of Hearts, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
In the kingdom of Hearts, Lady Catherine Pinkerton aspires to become a renowned pastry chef, her sugary creations having caught the attention of the King himself. The daughter of the Marchioness and heiress to the Rock Turtle Cove, Lady Pinkerton lives beneath her mother's judgemental glare and expectations to marry, which soon becomes apparent when the King himself is looking for his life companion. Catherine's mother aspires for her only child to become the Queen of Hearts but Lady Pinkerton has other plans.

The King's new Court Joker is mesmerising and Catherine finds herself captivated in his presence. While the King announces his intention to marry lady Pinkerton, Jest convinces the playful and childlike Royal to unconventionally court Catherine as Jest himself falls in love with the young future Queen.

My Thoughts

In the Kingdom of Hearts, Lady Catherine Pinkerton is acclaimed for her delicious delicacies, with the King himself her greatest connoisseur. Catherine is a lovely young woman, she's passionate and considerate, appeasing her mother the Marchioness who is determined to ensure her daughter becomes the Queen of Hearts while being forced to cast her aspirations aside.

The Kingdom of Hearts is imaginative and lavish landscape, wonderfully portrayed with enchantment and whimsy. Set within the confines of Wonderland, Heartless is a reimagined narrative of the Queen of Hearts from Catherine's origins, to her portrayal as a ruthless Queen. Her relationship with her parents consists of Catherine placating her mother, an often mean spirited woman living vicariously through her only child. Catherine's only friend and confidante is the kindhearted and intelligent Mary Ann, who is employed as a servant within the family's estate. Their warm and compassionate friendship was lovely despite her mother's disapproval, but it was Catherine's rivalry with Margaret where readers may foreshadow an indication of a ruthless Queen.

Although the King of Hearts is frivolous and whimsical, Catherine is apathetic and yearns for a passionate courtship, not anticipating Jest, the King of Hearts' enchanting Court Joker and the two engage in a tentative love affair. I absolutely cherished Jest, his character was so incredibly precious. But behind his jovial and dashing persona lies a boy on a covert mission.
The easiest way to steal something, is for it to be given willingly.
Although I enjoyed the attraction between Catherine and Jest, Jest was an enigma and the romance was seemingly that Catherine had fallen in love with the adventure and freedom Jest provided rather than the character himself.
Sometimes your heart is the only thing worth listening to.
The secondary characters were lovingly crafted, a reimagining of the original characters from Alice's Adventure's In Wonderland. The Jabberwock terrorising the residents of Hearts, extraordinary tea parties, Cheshire and the White Rabbit. Although the storyline was wonderful, the characters themselves felt superficial, leaving me unable to invest in Catherine and Jest as a romantic partnership. Regardless, it was incredibly entertaining.

My first foray into a world recreated and reimagined by Marissa Meyer was captivating and delightfully charming. The prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is delicate, enchanting and deliciously spectacular with a fusion of fantastically vivid imagining and childlike wonder.

Kathleen Glasgow Speaks


Girl In Pieces is a remarkable narrative. Beautifully lyrical, yet dark and confronting, rarely seen in young adult novels. I commend Kathleen for her courage, composure and her ability to create a character who readers will see themselves within. Charlie's narrative was compelling and I reached out to debut author Kathleen Glasgow about Charlie, her own personal journey and portraying addiction, mental illness and toxic relationships with realism for the teen audience. Thanks for joining me Kathleen and you can read my review for Girl In Pieces here.

Charlie's narrative is confronting but ultimately hopeful and is an extension of your own experiences. For those yet to read Girl In Pieces, can you share your own experience and what inspired you to tell Charlie's story?
From fourteen to my early twenties, I was a a self harmer. I hurt myself because I didn't know how to manage my emotions or depression. I hid my scars for a very long, long time. One day, much later, on my way to work, I saw a girl on the bus with fresh scars on her arms. She was about the age I was when I first started cutting. I let her get off the bus without talking to her and I shouldn't have. Girl in Pieces is my letter to that girl, and to any kid who is harming, or feels alone, or doesn't have a voice.
Girl In Pieces is an incredibly courageous debut novel that also explores addiction. Why do you think it's important for authors to explore mental health and addiction realistically for the teen audience?
Depression, mental health, addiction, assault, it's a crime to think they don't exist for teens or that teens aren't able to handle discussing these issues. How do you think it feels to be fifteen, and the victim of sexual assault, but your school library isn't allowed to stock a novel that might help you through your experience? That's like telling you that you, and your experiences, don't matter. Someone is trying to make you invisible. The realistic side is: you don't just get better because you talk to a doctor, or take a pill. Those things can help, but there's a lot of other work that needs to be done for you to reach a good place, a place you can be safe. You need nonjudgemental friends, you need people who can listen, you need to read books that offer glimmers of hope.
One of the bravest aspects for me was the realism, often when young adult authors tend to romanticise mental illness. Charlie's relationship with Riley was interesting. Do you think with young adult contemporary reads, authors should be more aware of creating romantic interests for characters struggling with mental illness and what should they perhaps be mindful of?
Charlie was always going to fall for Riley. Charlie was always going to fall for someone who picked her, who made her feel special, because she was aching to be seen, to be recognized. You can see this earlier with Ellis. But Riley has his own struggles; it's not a healthy relationship, but it is a realistically portrayed unhealthy relationship between two unhealthy people. Even though Charlie has mental health issues, even though she is worried about her scars, she never stops wanting to be loved, to be touched, to feel pleasure. Just because you are suffering from mental illness does not mean you stop wanting touch, love, companionship, the feel of skin on skin. Even to just have someone hold your hand, just once, for five minutes, can sometimes be the difference between life and death.
With Charlie's narrative being so personal, I can imagine the emotion of revisiting your own experiences. Being a survivor, what does it mean for you to be able to reach teens who may also be currently experiencing feelings of misplacement?
It was difficult to revisit some dark feelings, to let them out of the box. They will never go away. I just know how to manage them now, through a lot of hard work. But I was committed to letting it all out for the book, because I think teens, anyone, really, struggling with harm or depression or loneliness, deserves to have that reality depicted honestly. And I can tell you one hundred million percent that receiving such beautiful, touching, lovely emails and messages from readers has made it all worth it.

About Kathleen

Kathleen Glasgow lives in Tucson, Arizona. She likes Tyrion and Shireen, musty old paperbacks from used bookstores that have cats wandering the aisles, cheesecake, coffee, and the Isle of Skye.

You can find Kathleen via Twitter  Goodreads  Instagram  Facebook and her Website  
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