Mallee Boys

Mallee Boys
Written by Charlie Archbold
Contemporary, Coming Of Age, #LoveOzYA
205 Pages
Published September 2017
Thank you to Wakefield Press
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Sometimes I feel like I'm neither one thing nor another. I live in the Mallee but I don't like the desert. I live on a farm but I get hay fever and I'm scared of goats. I like school but my best mates don't.

Sandy Douglas knows that life at fifteen is hard, but it's even harder when your mother died a year ago and nothing's gone right since. Sandy's brother Red, on the other hand, is eighteen now and working the farm. He's amped up on rage and always looking for a fight. And then there's their dad Tom. He does his best, but really, he doesn't have a clue.

As Sandy and Red deal with girls, dirt biking, footy and friendship, both boys have to work out who they want to be, without their mum around. The Mallee, where they live, may seem like the middle of nowhere, but it turns out this is going to be one hell of a year.
As the dust blows through the arid Mellee district, fifteen year old Sandy Douglas contemplates life beyond the farm. Eighteen year old Josh labours alongside their father, a widowed man providing for his family through adversity.

Deliberating his education and applying for scholarships to boarding schools in Adelaide, Sandy is an academic, an intelligent and sensitive young man burdened by the loss of his mother, his humility and sensitivity is nurtured by his father. Tom Douglas is a wonderful character and although the narrative centralises Sandy and Josh, their father is a prominent and affirming parent. Their relationship although occasionally turbulent, is tender and compassionate. A wonderful illustration of a father encouraging his children to become emotionally expressive rather than the patriarchal dominance of masculinity.

Since her passing, Josh has become destructive and argumentative, preferring the company of Ryan despite his father's disapproval. Josh is a character of contrasts. Although he appears resilient, he carries the burden of believing his mother's accident is his responsibility, manifesting as destructive behaviour. We also experience the societal expectations placed upon young men, in particular emotional expectations. Josh is argumentative and irate, resenting Sandy's achievements. Underneath his stoic facade, Josh is a young man grieving for his mother alone.

The Australian agricultural community of The Mallee is atmospheric and Charlie Archbold is an exceptional debut author. A dedication to rural communities throughout our sunburnt country. 

In The Dark Spaces

In The Dark Spaces
Written by Cally Black
Science Fiction, Aliens, #LoveOzYA
320 Pages
Published August 1st 2017
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont
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The latest winner of the Ampersand Prize is a genre smashing hostage drama about fourteen year old Tamara, who's faced with an impossible choice when she falls for her kidnappers. Yet this is no ordinary kidnapping.

Tamara has been living on a star freighter in deep space, and her kidnappers are terrifying Crowpeople, the only aliens humanity has ever encountered. No one has ever survived a Crowpeople attack, until now and Tamara must use everything she has just to stay alive. But survival always comes at a price, and there’s no handbook for this hostage crisis.

As Tamara comes to know the Crowpeople's way of life, and the threats they face from humanity's exploration into deep space, she realises she has an impossible choice to make. Should she stay as the only human among the Crows, knowing she'll never see her family again or inevitably betray her new community if she wants to escape?
Tamara Situ converses in hushed whispers, treading lightly across the confined compartment on board the Starweaver Layla. A merchant vessel transporting minerals for the Starweaver Corporation. Although orphaned, Tamara is cared for by Lazella on board the vessel illegally. Tamara is a wonderfully gentle and compassionate young woman, isolated through circumstances and communicates by whispering and facial expressions. Tamara and Tamiki are unauthorised passengers hiding within the shadows as the vessel is commandeered by the Garuwa. The citizen of the Starweaver Layla have been massacred and although Tamiki is concealed and remains on board, Tamara has been captured, presumed incapable and submissive.

The Garuwa are a convoluted species populating interstellar space on conscious vessels requiring minerals to survive, resident to thousands of warrior Garuwa prepared to defend their populace. Humans are a necessary carnage as the Starweaver Corporation vessels are commandeered and pillaged. Tamara is being held captive and begins to assimilate, emulating the intricate language of whistles and forging friendships within the female species.

Living in isolation, Tamara has never experienced a sense of community beyond observing those on board the Starweaver Layla through the ventilation system. Her relationship with Lazella is maternal and tender, providing Tamara with comfort after the loss of her parents. Tamiki is a perceptive young boy, gentle and understanding the importance of quiet whispers. Throughout her narration, Tamara's distress is palpable as Tamiki remains on board the desolate vessel. I admired Tamara's intelligence and determination to survive. Her compassion allows her to recognise that although the Garuwa appear hostile, the species embrace Tamara as a member of their community. A wonderful illustration of inclusion.

In The Dark Spaces obscures the boundaries of morality, humans and Garuwa have created a hostile environment and interspecies conflict. It also explores colonisation and the mining of resources, a reference to the aggressive infringement on Indigenous land. An ingenious, introspective and remarkable young adult debut. 

Ballad For A Mad Girl

Ballad For A Mad Girl
Written by Vikki Wakefield
Contemporary, Mystery, Paranormal, #LoveOzYA
309 Pages
Published May 2017
Published by Text Publishing
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Everyone knows seventeen year old Grace Foley is a bit mad. She’s a prankster and a risk taker, and she’s not afraid of anything, except losing. As part of the long running feud between two local schools in Swanston, Grace accepts a challenge to walk the pipe.

That night she experiences something she can’t explain. The funny girl isn’t laughing anymore. She’s haunted by voices and visions, but nobody believes a girl who cries wolf.

As she’s drawn deeper into a twenty year old mystery surrounding missing girl Hannah Holt, the thin veil between this world and the next begins to slip. She can no longer tell what’s real or imagined, all she knows is the ghosts of Swanston, including that of her own mother, are restless. It seems one of them has granted her an extraordinary gift at a terrible price.

Everything about her is changing, her body, her thoughts, even her actions seem to belong to a stranger. Grace is losing herself, and her friends don’t understand. Is she moving closer to the truth? Or is she heading for madness?
Grace Foley is an adventurer, creating mischief and mayhem in the rural town of Swanston while continuing to endure the loss of her mother, the causality of a pedestrian accident. Swanston is acquainted with despair when Hannah Holt disappeared over twenty years ago, a presumed casualty of local teen William Dean who was then ostracised from the Swanston community, committing suicide and plunging from the quarry. Now Swanston adolescents are descending on the abandoned quarry including seventeen year old Grace. A night of frivolity is interrupted as Grace begins to hallucinate.

At home Grace is barely surviving, her father and brother Cody continue to mourn while Grace is increasingly isolated. Best friend Kenzie has become estranged and tiring of Grace and her antics, preferring the company of boyfriend Mitchell. While her friends have matured, frustratingly Grace believes they have abandoned her, except for her delightfully freeloading friend Gummer. Her terror is palpable as Grace begins to experience an apparition, believing Hannah Holt has materialised seeing Hannah's body has never been found. Authorities believe William Dean's unrequited love for Hannah lead to the young woman's demise, fascinating and incredibly disturbing.

Grace is an unreliable narrator compensating for her anguish with exhilaration. As children, Grace created bilateral friendships with other remnant children, those who were ostracised. On the verge of becoming adults, Grace displays an incredible amount of resentment especially towards best friend Kenzie, her relationship with Mitchell and popular friend Amber. Although Grace often appears conceited and obnoxious, Kenzie had already begun to distance herself from Grace's destructive behaviour. The circumstances of Hannah Holt and William Dean are sobering for Grace as she withstands an incredible character transformation.

Ballad For A Mad Girl may become a point of contention for readers, is Grace psychologically unwell or spiritual, a contemporary novel or paranormal. Determined by the disposition of the reader. Vikki Wakefield is a formidable author, the ambiguous narrative is intriguing and captivating. Absolutely phenomenal.

Stalking Jack The Ripper Series

Stalking Jack The Ripper
Stalking Jack The Ripper Book One
Written by Kerri Maniscalco
Historical Fiction, Mystery, Horror
352 Pages
Published October 2016
Available from Hachette Australia
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Seventeen year old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.
A victim is found in East London, a commoner woman and sex worker dissected by the perpetrator. Prohibited by her widowed father and reluctantly encouraged by sibling Jonathan, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has an inquisitive perception for forensic science and investigation, assisting her father's estranged brother Jonathon to analyse and preserve evidence, dissecting cadavers to determine the cause of death.

Audrey Rose is a determined, tenacious young woman redefining societal gender roles during the Victorian London period. Since her mother passed, her widowed father is distant, preoccupied and believes son Jonathon is responsible for Audrey Rose in his absence. As the daughter of Lord Wadsworth, Audrey Rose is a character of contrasts. Inquisitive and courageous in the pursuant of forensic science although remaining feminine and aristocratic. Unconventional in young adult literature and wonderfully distinctive. 

Thomas Cresswell is a student of forensic science and protege of Uncle Jonathon. An intelligent scoundrel investigating the infamous Leather Apron homicides. Thomas is a handsome, charismatic character and although enigmatic, is conscientious and perceptive. Beneath his mischievous disposition, Thomas encourages Audrey Rose and considers the seventeen year old his equal.

Thomas incites discussion and reasoning as the two investigate the slain sex workers, Audrey Rose is confronted by the gratuitous violence against women and compelled in the pursuit of justice. The narrative also explores the relationship between Audrey Rose and her father Lord Wadsworth, widowed and estranged from his brother. Although Audrey Rose strives for his approval, her father forbades her pursuant of forensic science. Victorian East London is exquisite and atmospheric, societal women accustomed to traditional decorum although the modernist feministic philosophy of Audrey Rose is inspirational.

Stalking Jack The Ripper is a remarkable and meticulous narrative, extraordinary and captivating.

Hunting Prince Dracula
Stalking Jack The Ripper Book Two
Written by Kerri Maniscalco
Historical Fiction, Mystery, Horror
320 Pages
Published October 2017
Available from Hachette Australia
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Bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer... Or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine... And to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.
The snow falls softly in Bucharest as the carriage journey reaches Institutului Național de Criminalistică și Medicană Legală, the Academy of Forensic Medicine and Science in Romania. The prestigious program is discerning and only permits astute, ingenious scholars from Europe and abroad. The villagers of Brașov are speculating the return of the Prince of Wallachia as mortal remains are discovered, the institute castle once home to The Prince of Darkness and a region immersed in Strigoi mythology.

Audrey Rose continues to endure traumatic distress often hallucinating, the remnants of her East London experience. The Romanian school of Forensic Medicine and Science suggests no reprieve as Audrey Rose and Thomas observe a young man slain before arriving at the prestigious institute. The ritualistic slaughter continues as victims are exsanguinated and brought to the institute for a postmortem examination to determine the cause of death.

Once again Audrey Rose is challenged by the male dominated environment, headmaster Moldoveanu a misogynistic, authoritarian man and warden to a charming young woman who is lodging at the institute during the winter. Anastasia provides Audrey Rose with companionship and along with chambermaid Ileana, begin a tentative and supportive friendship. Throughout the narration, mental wellness is a point of contention for Audrey Rose and Thomas, impacting their friendship as Thomas undermines Audrey Rose and her capacity at the institute. Thomas often contends with self impassiveness, preserving his sensitivity but in Hunting Prince Dracula, Thomas begins to dismantle those barriers.

Inspired by Romanian folklore and The Impaler, Hunting Prince Dracula is wonderfully composed, opulent and theatrical. Kerri Maniscalco is a remarkable author, grandiose and accomplished.

This Mortal Coil

This Mortal Coil
This Mortal Coil Book One
Written by Emily Suvada
Science Fiction, Dystopian
448 Pages
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
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When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta's death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world's leading geneticist, and humanity's best hope of beating a devastating virus.

Then, hidden beneath Cole's genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope.

Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world's genetic tech. But it's too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.
The earth is a desolate wasteland, a virus decimating humanity, survivors abandoned to starvation. Catarina Agatta is a survivor. Catarina is the seventeen year old daughter of the renowned geneticist Lachlan Agatta, a magnate and former Cartaxus programmer and genetic engineer, now recaptured along with his assistant to manufacture an antidote.

Catarina has survived within the isolated Black Hills, a resourceful young woman evading Cartaxus capture. At birth, humans are implanted with advanced technology to allow gene manipulation, applications are downloaded to enhance humans physically, cognitively and aesthetically. Diagnosed with Hypergenesis, Catarina remains genetically unenhanced, relying upon her intellect and perception to survive. As the pandemic escalates, thousands shelter in underground communities, sacrificing their freedom to Cartaxus.

Although an agent of Cartaxus and a young man with enhanced abilities, disciplined in warfare, Lieutenant Cole Franklin has been assigned to protect Catarina after an explosion at the Cartaxus laboratory claimed her father and the vaccine. Humanity will depend on Catarina.

The essence of This Mortal Coil is genetic manipulation and biotechnology, developed by Lachlan Agatta and administered to infants as nanotechnology. It allows programmers to create applications that download directly into the body, collaborating with our human genetics. Cartaxus monopolises the genetic applications, abandoning and denying survivors essential health enhancements. The airborne virus infects healthy humans, accelerating before causalities detonate, bodies vaporising into a contagious, airborne cloud. Survivors can inoculate themselves by consuming the flesh of those infected, ensuring their immediate survival but Catarina is determined to preserve her humanity. The scientific elements are surprisingly uncomplicated and woven throughout the narration, rather than overhwleming expositions.

Catarina's relationship with her father Lachlan is portrayed as distant and indifferent, a young woman pursuing approval. Catarina begins a tentative relationship with Lachlan's assistant, a conventional young man who also appeared manipulative and egotistical. Their relationship seemed little more than based on convenience and no genuine connection between the two other than her father.

Catarina reluctantly establishes a companionship with Cole and I enjoyed their interactions. The attraction between the two is undeniable but Cole is preoccupied with the former Cartaxus programmer, the mysterious Jun Bei. Catarina is physically malnourished, she refuses to allow Cole to become her saviour and appreciated that although intellectually superior, is never pretentious or conceited.

Oh and those plot twists. Surprised eyebrows for days.

This Mortal Coil is an intelligent, captivating and atmospheric science fiction dystopian. Absolutely phenomenal.

Contemporary Quickies

Written by Sarah Crossan
Verse, Contemporary, Mature Themes
400 Pages
Published September 7th 2017
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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They think I hurt someone.
But I didn't. You hear?
Coz people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.

Joe hasn't seen his brother for ten years, and it's for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed's execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think...
Edward Moon was coerced to sign a confession of homicide at seventeen years of age, legally binding and convicting the innocent young man. Moonrise is a poignant and provoking narrative of seventeen year old Joseph Moon and his brother who is scheduled to be executed in Kirkland Texas.

As children, Edward, Angela and Joseph were often neglected, their mother a verbally abusive alcoholic. Parental responsibilities are entrusted to Karen, their mother's single, Christian sister. At seventeen years of age, Edward escaped the confines of their regimented home only to be incarcerated for the death of a police officer. Edward's execution has been scheduled and despite Karen's disapproval, Joseph begins his journey to farewell his brother. The narrative is incredibly distressing as the responsibility is placed upon Joseph, temporarily living within the decrepit Kirkland motel, abandoned by Karen and Angela. 

Capital punishment is a contentious discussion, sanctioned throughout the United States although abolished in Australia. Intense and confronting, the nonlinear narrative explores the familial relationship between siblings. Edward has been imprisoned for ten years and estranged from his siblings and with their mother absent, Karen has denied Angela and Joseph access to their brother.  

Sarah Crossan is a monumental storyteller and with so few words is, able to captivate and immerse readers. Tragically, poignantly beautiful.

The Start of Me and You
Written by Emery Lord
Contemporary, Romance, Friendship
416 Pages
Edition Published September 2017
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it's never too late for second chances.

It's been a year since it happened, when Paige Hancock's first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school and she has a plan. First, get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her, the perfect way to convince everyone she's back to normal. Next, join a club simple, it's high school after all. But when Ryan's sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team, her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?
In the small town of Oakhurst Indiana, Paige Hancock is defined by her relationship with Aaron Rosenthal and the memory of the young, vibrant man. Paige is an intelligent young woman and aspiring screen writer, encouraged by her family and friends to create new memories once more. Paige's sorrow was portrayed wonderfully and meticulously with compassion as she bravely begins to immerse herself in new experiences, reprising her infatuation with athlete Ryan Chase and participating in extracurricular activities.

Captain of the interschool quiz challenge and science fiction aficionado, Max Watson is a compassionate and endearing young man, his tentative friendship with Paige, captivating. Although suggesting a whirlwind romance, the essence of The Start of Me and You is friendship. Paige has a remarkable company of friends, creating a wonderful dynamic between characters. I also appreciated the inclusion of the Hancock family, a reoccurring theme in Emery Lord novels while so many young adult authors neglect parental influence.

Emery Lord is a prolific contemporary young adult author, creating charismatic characters with compassion and endearment.

The Wonderling

The Wonderling
The Wonderling Book One
Written by Mira Bartok
Middle Grade, Fantasy
464 Pages
Published October 1st 2017
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent hearted, one eared, fox like eleven year old with only a number rather than a proper name, a Thirteen etched on a medallion around his neck, it is the only home he has ever known.

But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home's loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts. A real name, Arthur, like the good king in the old stories and a best friend. Using Trinket's ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur's true destiny.
Miss Carbunkles Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures is an austere orphanage, Groundling children restrained within the oppressive, debilitated compound, labouring for their survival. Number Thirteen is a misbegotten, lonely, one eared Foxling, gallant and courageous as he encounters a small, flightless feathered friend. Trinket is an wondrous inventor, sharing stories of fantastical worlds of knights and kingdoms, declaring Thirteen shall now be known as Arthur for his bravery, the little Foxling destined for valiancy.
And in his sleep he began to form a song from their sorrow. But he had far to go before he would sing it.

Eleven year old Arthur is a delicate and compassionate young Foxling, a discarded orphan at the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. Unbeknownst to Arthur, destiny awaits. Arthur and Trinket are wonderful companions. With a key, an address, a blanket fragment and a bygone lullaby, Arthur and his feathered companion embark on an adventure to fantastical worlds, on a journey of self discovery.

Miss Carbunkle is a tyrannical, callous woman, her blundering assistant Mister Sneezeweed, a snivelling, loathsome man. As Arthur discovers a world brimming with vibrancy, the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures remains silent, melodies as forbidden as imagination is prohibited. Miss Carbunkle has devious intentions. Beyond the orphanage compound is a malevolent world of privilege and poverty, Groundlings are considered insignificant and segregated. 
Arthur's heart ached. But it wasn't that he was terribly sad. It just simply ached, as if it were too full and the contents had nowhere to go.

Along their journey, Arthur and Trinket discover stupendous characters before separating, namely forest dweller Pinecone and his family. As Trinket visits her tinkering Uncle, Arthur traverses the Great White City of Lumentown, a city of contrasts and castes, only to discover Quintus, a pilfering rodent who guides Arthur on his journey. Pevill is magnificent, an astute little mouse, thespian and poet. The essence of The Wonderling is acceptance and belonging, emphasising the need for compassion. A breathtaking and atmospheric middle grade adventure, exquisite and captivating until the final page.

#LoveOzYABloggers 009: Spring Reads

#LoveOzYABloggers is hosted by #LoveOzYA, a community led organisation dedicated to promoting Australian young adult literature. Keep up to date with all new Aussie YA releases with their monthly newsletter, or find out what’s happening with NewsEvents or submit your own!

My Spring Reading List

The next #LoveOzYABloggers prompt is Maps
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