Because Of You

Because Of You
Written by Pip Harry
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, #LoveOzYA
264 Pages
Published August 1st 2017
Thank you to UQP
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★★★★★
Meet Tiny and Nola. Two very different girls with two very different stories who are just trying to find a place to belong. A powerful and compelling novel about friendship, love and acceptance.

Tiny is an eighteen year old girl living on the streets in Sydney, running from her small town past. She finds short term accommodation at Hope Lane, a shelter for the homeless where she meets Nola, a high school student on volunteer placement.

Both girls share their love of words through the Hope Lane writing group. Can they share their secrets, too?
Seventeen year old Lola Piper is an intelligent young woman, attractive, wealthy and privileged. As a curricular activity required by her prestigious Sydney college, Lola has reluctantly volunteered to assist at Hope House, a shelter for the homeless community that offers activities for residents, sharing their stories through creativity. Lola is the offspring of two wonderful parents, coparenting friends. Both Lola's mother and father are gay, her father a nurturing transgender woman who became Lola's primary caregiver while postponing her celebrated career. Lola's parents are a wonderful, guiding influence in her life, inspiring equality, compassion and tenacity.

Eighteen year old Tiny has been sleeping on the streets of Sydney since escaping her home town of Dubbo, sleep deprived and depressed. As winter begins to descend upon the city, Tiny is offered a three month residency at Hope Lane and through the compassion of others, also begins to change Lola's perceptions. Tiny is a captivating character, a wonderful young woman who is a casualty of her circumstances, homeless and not afforded the same opportunities as privileged Australians. Through creative poetry, Tiny begins to confide in Lola.

Throughout the narrative, Pip Harry illustrates the callous installation of defence architecture, metal spikes used as a deterrent to erase homelessness from public exposure. While our governments allocate funding to frivolous enterprises, councils prohibit homeless communities sleeping within the city centre, denying those seeking safety in public places. In Melbourne, the Lord Mayor has amended the legislation to allow police to remove provisional forms of accommodation, further displacing the homeless members of our community.

Pip Harry is remarkable. Because Of You is the immaculate and captivating narrative of the Hope Lane community, a homeless initiative that encourages our most vulnerable community members to communicate through creativity. Inspirational and influential. 

No Limits: A Bogan Book Review

No Limits
Written by Ellie Marney
Contemporary, Romance, Suspense, New Adult
508 Pages
Expected Publication August 14th 2017
Thank you to Ellie Marney
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★★★★☆
Boozer, brawler, ladies' man, nineteen year old Harris Derwent is not a good guy.

His one attempt to play the hero, helping out his old flame, Rachel Watts, has landed him in hospital. Now injured, broke, and unemployed, he’s stuck back in the country, at his father’s mercy. Harris needs to pay off his dad’s debts, and fast. But working as a runner for a drug cartel is a dangerous path, especially if Harris agrees to narc…

Eighteen year old Amita Blunt is the perfect police sergeant’s daughter, practical, trustworthy, and oh-so responsible. Getting involved in Harris’s case was never part of the plan. But working at the hospital, she’s invisible, which makes her the ideal contact for a boy feeding information back to the police...

Harris and Amie’s connection is sizzling hot, but if the cartel finds out about them, things could get downright explosive. Backed into a corner, with everything at stake, it’s time for Harris and Amie to find out if love really has no limits…
Feeling like a dickhead after telling Rachel Watts he had the hots for her, Harrison Derwent has pissed off back to Ouyen. His leg is cactus after being banged up at the quarry. Harris may be a hot spunk but he's had a pretty shit life, his old man is a shitfaced bastard who knocked him around after his mum nicked of with the ankle biter. So the dunny rat offers him a deal. He'll tell Harris where his mum pissed off to and Harris will put up with his abuse and fuckery. The old prick is sick and Harris being a bit of a softie, says why the hell not.

Big mistake son.

Amita Blunt is a top chick. The daughter of the local copper, it's been Amie and her old man since her mum died. Amie works at the Ouyen hospital mending brawlers, guys knocked about after a night on the piss and the odd ice addict. She's heard the rumours about Harris, a knockabout guy who likes to get his kit off but no one prepared her for the shit that's gonna go down. It'll be fucking epic.

Amie and Harris are a goer. She's treating his leg and he's trying hard not to pitch a tent. Harris needs cash. His old man owes a shitload in gambling debts and bar tabs and being the dickhead that he is, Harris will have to clean up after the fucker. The local weed drongos are offering cash to move up to Mildura and run ice to the junkies. Harris is tempted but he's sweet on Amie and dobs to her copper dad instead.

That Marney chick is sick mate. The eye rooting and pashing is bang on. Amie is an Indian Australian chick and it was a corker seeing a biracial sheila thrown in. Australia's a massive country and we've all mates who migrated here. Even Harris being a bit of a knob at times, Amie's nanna had the hots for him too. When you're sex on legs like that piece of man candy, can't blame a woman for wanting him to put his shoes under her bed.

Look mate, you don't need to read Marney's Every series to give these two dags a fair go but I reckon she'll be right. You'll remember Harris from Every Move when he as trying to give it a burl with Rachel Watts and deadset he's come a long way. Ellie Marney is a fair dinkum Aussie icon. Like Acca Dacca, moccos and flannies. I love this sheila.

The Dream Walker

The Dream Walker
Written by Victoria Carless
Contemporary, Magical Realism, #LoveOzYA
256 Pages
Published June 27th 2017
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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★★★☆
The weight of a secret can drag you under.

Sixteen year old Lucy Hart has been counting the days till she can get the hell out of Digger's Landing, a small Queensland fishing hamlet home to fifteen families, a posse of mongrel dogs and Parkers Corner Store. No apostrophe and nowhere near a corner.

But just like the tides, Lucy's luck is on the turn, and as graduation nears her escape plans begin to falter, her best friend, Polly, is dropping out of school to help pay the bills, and Tom has been shipped off to boarding school, away from the flotsam of this place. And then there's Lucy's nightlife, which is filled with dreams that just don't seem to belong to her at all...

When the fish stop biting, like they did when her mum was still around, Lucy realises she isn't the only one with a secret.
Digger's Landing is a barren landscape of decrepit dwellings, residents livelihoods flowing with the tides of the local creek that sustains the small coastal town. Sixteen year old Lucy Hart is grieving for her spontaneous and spirited mother, her body salvaged from the water forsaking those she leaves behind. Lucy walks among the subconscious minds of slumbering Digger's Landing residents, observing their aspirations and desires sharing a prevailing theme. Lucy's mother.

Digger's Landing is an underprivileged socioeconomic community in Far North Queensland and sustained by the local creek. Lucy and her widowed father are residents of the predominantly Australian and Indigenous Australian community, where the emphasis is placed upon labour of the land rather than education in order to support those living in impoverished conditions. Lucy aspires to leave Digger's Landing, displaced since the suicide of her mother while her father is disengaged. The relationship between Lucy and her father is constrained and Lucy feels progressively isolated.

I enjoyed the friendship between Lucy and friend Polly, a wonderful young lady who is believed to be Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander. While Lucy continues her education, Polly abandons school to financially support her family. Mutual friend Tom is an interesting character and potential love interest for Lucy. Comparatively, all three adolescents experience the burden of parental expectations of varying degrees.

The magical realism elements were captivating. Since a car accident months prior, Lucy has been able to walk among the dreamers of Digger's Landing as a bystander. It's through the subconscious minds of others where she is able to see her mother, a woman who had a profound effect on the small coastal community. The narrative also explores impoverishment, suicide, environmental sustainability and parental neglect. Often confronting whilst challenging the privilege of readers.

The rural location was breathtaking and incredibly atmospheric, although I found the narrative languished at times and was disappointed the Indigenous Australian aspect wasn't further explored. The Dream Walker is a confident and enchanting debut novel from a fresh and wonderful new voice in Australian young adult literature.

Living On Hope Street

Living On Hope Street
Written by Demet Divaroren
Contemporary, #LoveOzYA
256 Pages
Published June 2017
Thank you to Allen & Unwin
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★★★★★
We all love someone. We all fear something. Sometimes they live right next door or even closer.

Kane will do everything he can to save his mother and his little brother Sam from the violence of his father, even if it means becoming a monster himself. Mrs Aslan will protect the boys no matter what, even though her own family is in pieces. Ada wants a family she can count on, while she faces new questions about herself. Mr Bailey is afraid of the refugees next door, but his worst fear will take another form. And Gugulethu is just trying to make a life away from terror.

On this street, everyone comes from different places, but to find peace they will have to discover what unites them.
Kane and his family are casualties of alcoholism and domestic violence. His father a violent man who has held his family to ransom, his mother recovering from her fractured marriage. Terrified his father will return, Kane is resolute and will sacrifice his benevolence to defend his family. While Kane is resentful, brother Sam continues to regress and is plagued by nightmares of his father. The narrative commences with perspectives from brothers Kane and Sam, their father physically assaulting their mother before the police are notified and child welfare services intervene. The residents of Hope Street understand the volatile environment of domestic violence, refusing to intervene.

Mrs Aslan cares for Sam and Kane as though they were her own grandchildren, estranged from granddaughter Ada after an altercation with her mother. Ms Aslan now lives alone, migrating to Australia as a young woman from Türkiye, her devoted husband passing away shortly before her abandonment. Elderly neighbour Mrs Aslan is a compassionate woman and a thirty year resident of the suburban Hope Street. While neighbour Angie is hospitalised, Mrs Aslan cares for her children while aspiring to reconnect with her granddaughter Ada. Ada is a young woman exploring her sexual identity and pushing against her parental guidelines.

Gugulethu's family have very few possessions but are among the wealthiest families on Hope Street, the Bulawayo family sought refuge in Australia and are blessed to live with freedom and opportunity. Mr Bailey is a Vietnam war veteran, living with his wife and experiences debilitating post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the conflict. Perched at his window all day watching his neighbours, bigoted and judgemental. 

The houses are debilitated, the gardens parched by the unforgiving Australian climate but in the suburbs of Melbourne resides the residents of Hope Street. Wonderfully diverse characters representative of our families, our neighbours and communities throughout Melbourne. Living on Hope Street explores the lives of immigrant, asylum seeking and Australian families, examining socioeconomic, faith, domestic violence, racism, prejudice and sexuality from considerable and compassionate perspectives. A remarkable and compelling debut from author Demet Divaroren. 

Countless

Contains sensitivities such as anorexia

Countless
Written by Karen Gregory
Contemporary, Mental Health, Realistic Fiction
384 Pages
Published June 1st 2017
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★☆
When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name, Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision. She and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time.

Heartbreaking and hopeful by turns, Karen Gregory’s debut novel is a story of love, heartache and human resilience. And how the things that matter most can’t be counted. Perfect for fans of Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt and Sarah Crossan.
At seventeen years of age, Hedda is anorexic and living alone in a small, damp apartment with threadbare flooring, without a pension and without parental support. After a one night stand, now discovers she's pregnant. Hedda has spent her teen years unable to maintain control over her body image, resulting in an eating disorder that has consumed Hedda whilst devastating her family. Living within the treatment centre, the predominantly female adolescent residents have attended counselling and while in eagerness to remain thin, become competitive. Then Hedda is released as an out patient.

Hedda is unwell, still unable to come to terms with the disorder but discovering she's expecting a child may have saved her life. At twenty weeks pregnant, abortion isn't an option for Hedda who is considering placing the baby up for adoption, believing she is unable to take responsibility for the new life that will depend on Hedda to remain well. Forcing herself to consume was incredibly confronting. Hedda's narration also explores mental illness although Hedda is never officially diagnosed. She refers to her eating disorder as Nia, allowing her anorexia to consume her as a perpetual and influential presence. Hedda continues to count calories, only allowing herself to consume to maintain the health of her unborn child.

Throughout her pregnancy, Hedda continues counselling as a component of her release. Her relationship with her parents is constrained and while Hedda's father is compassionate, her mother is an authoritarian woman who sees Hedda as a noxious presence, advocating for her accomplished daughter while Hedda is deprived of support. Her derelict apartment is unbefitting for a young mother and child but Hedda's mother is unwilling to allow her daughter to return home.

Robin provides tremendous encouragement to Hedda throughout her pregnancy, nutrition and companionship and considering the confronting nature of Hedda's illness, I appreciated the amicable friendship. Hedda's assistance consists of counsellors who attempt to guide her throughout her recovery and children's welfare, who seemingly cared more for the adoption of her unborn child rather than Hedda's well being and fragility. 

Author Karen Gregory mentions that Countless is a work of fiction but had referenced her own journey within the acknowledgements and should be applauded for a brave and exceptional debut novel. Confronting, captivating and compulsory reading.

If Birds Fly Back

If Birds Fly Back
Written by Carlie Sorosiak
Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
352 Pages
Published June 27th 2017
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★★
Linny has been living life in black and white since her sister Grace ran away, and she's scared that Grace might never come back.
When Linny witnesses the return to Miami of a cult movie star long presumed dead, she is certain it's a sign. Surely Álvaro Herrera, of all people, can tell her why people come back and how to bring her sister home?

Sebastian has come to Miami seeking his father, a man whose name he's only just learned. An aspiring astrophysicist, he can tell Linny how many galaxies there are, how much plutonium weighs and how likely she is to be struck by a meteorite. But none of the theories he knows are enough to answer his own questions about why his father abandoned him, and why it left him in pieces.

As Sebastian and Linny converge around the mystery of Álvaro's disappearance and return, their planets start to collide. Linny's life is about to become technicolor, but finding the answers to her questions might mean losing everything that matters.
Prolific author and filmmaker Álvaro Herrera had disappeared, presumed dead. Emerging from the wilderness, Álvaro is the newest resident at Silver Springs Retirement Community where sixteen year old Marilyn and seventeen year old Sebastian have both volunteered for the Florida summer.

Untraceable and elusive, Grace abandoned her family taking her guitar and the colour from Marilyn's world. At sixteen years of age Linny carries the weight of parental expectations, suffocating within the sterile environment her meticulous mother has established. Linny is reluctantly coerced to volunteer at Silver Sounds Retirement Community, a predecessor to a medical profession. Álvaro represents the population who succumbed to wanderlust, those who have sought adventure only to reunite with their families and uncovering their motives may guide Grace home.

Sebastian is a young aspiring astrophysicist who has recently discovered the identity of his biological father. On a journey from Los Angeles to Miami, Sebastian plans to confront the man who abandoned his mother but upon arriving at Silver Springs Retirement Community, discovers an elderly ambiguous man. Sebastian has wonderful support to shoulder his heavy burden. Best friend Micah who is Korean American and adopted by two Caucasian Christians, his mother and aunt Ana, where he is currently residing. 

Linny confides within her journal pages. Her parents are grief stricken and although continue to leave their home illuminated each night, are gradually erasing Grace from their lives. Her closest friends are conceited and emphatically condescending, trivialising what may be perceived as undiagnosed depression. Wonderfully diverse, Marilyn a Nigerian American and Sebastian who is experiencing identity loss once his mother remarried and abstains from speaking Spanish. Cuban American Álvaro is an enigmatic character, a commanding presence throughout the narration which unites both adolescents for a common cause.

Debut author Carlie Sorosiak has composed a compelling narrative of compassion and discovery with vibrant, diverse characters. Delicate, tender and ingenuous.

How To Bee

How To Bee
Written by Bren MacDibble
Middle Grade, Science Fiction
213 Pages
Published May 2017
Thank you to Allen & Unwin
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★★★★★
Peony lives with her sister and grandfather on a fruit farm outside the city. In a world where real bees are extinct, the quickest, bravest kids climb the fruit trees and pollinate the flowers by hand. All Peony really wants is to be a bee. Life on the farm is a scrabble, but there is enough to eat and a place to sleep, and there is love. Then Peony's mother arrives to take her away from everything she has ever known, and all Peony's grit and quick thinking might not be enough to keep her safe.

How To Bee is a beautiful and fierce novel for younger readers, and the voice of Peony will stay with you long after you read the last page.
Nine year old Peony aspires to become a Bee, a member of the team of children who hand pollinate the orchards at the Goulburn Valley plantation. Peony and sister Magnolia live with their ageing grandfather while their mother migrated to the city, supporting the family to purchase medicine and trade for the ferocious winter season. The Goulburn Valley community is responsible for producing fresh produce for wealthy, urban residents.

Peony is a perceptive and ambitious young lady, agile and slight, the perfect candidate to be awarded with the prestigious delegation of Bee. Peony and Magnolia share a wonderful relationship, their grandfather a tender and gentle man guiding two wonderful young ladies in the absence of their mother. The Goulburn Valley community is considerate, compassionate and although physically exhausting, the orchard is an invaluable resource. 

Peony and Magnolia's mother is a woman who is effortlessly manipulated. Rosie relinquished her responsibilities and migrated to the urban district to provide for her family. Returning to Goulburn Valley, Rosie insists Peony accompany her, expected to serve a wealthy urban family. Peony is inconsolable. Rosie has embarked on a new relationship with a degenerate and violent man, examining domestic violence, child endangerment and parental neglect. The friendship between Peony and Esmeralda is endearing. Esmeralda is the daughter of Peony's new employer who experiences social agoraphobia. Through compassion, Peony and Esmeralda reach an understanding. Peony will encourage Esmeralda to alleviate her anxiety and sequentially, Peony will return to Goulburn Valley.

The honey bee is obsolete, famine resulted in the decimation of organic pollination and How To Bee introduces middle grade readers to the environmental impact human development, pesticides, disease and climate change have affected populations. Displaced families throughout the urban district are living below the poverty line, at Goulburn Valley, families reside in meagre dwellings and although the sense of community is wonderfully portrayed, the socioeconomic divide is prevalent. Displaced and forcibly removed from the Goulburn Valley environment, the narrative may also be perceived as a gentle reminder of Australia's colonisation.

How To Bee is enchanting and atmospheric, achingly beautiful. Captivating until the final page.

Trust

Contains sensitivities such as violence, assault, substance abuse and intimidation

Trust
Written by Kylie Scott
Mature Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
382 Pages
Publishing July 18th 2017
Thank you to Kylie Scott and Netgalley
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★★★★
After being held hostage during a robbery at the local convenience store, seventeen year old Edie finds her attitude about life shattered. Unwilling to put up with the snobbery and bullying at her private school, she enrolls at the local public high school, crossing paths with John. The boy who risked his life to save hers.

While Edie’s beginning to run wild, however, John’s just starting to settle down. After years of partying and dealing drugs with his older brother, he’s going straight, getting to class on time, and thinking about the future.

An unlikely bond grows between the two as John keeps Edie out of trouble and helps her broaden her horizons. But when he helps her out with another first, losing her virginity, their friendship gets complicated.

Meanwhile, Edie and John are pulled back into the dangerous world they narrowly escaped. They were lucky to survive the first time, but this time they have more to lose. Each other.
Seventeen year old Edith has been taken hostage. Lying on the floor of the convince store bloodied and terrified. While Edie survived the volatile hostage the repercussions of her trauma have altered Edie's perspective, abandoning her private school education and enrolling at the local public school in Northern California where she will become another young woman within the nondescript student community.

John is plagued by nightmares. Surviving the convenience store ordeal, the former narcotics trafficker is determined to change perceptions, returning to solitary and exclusion. Although John internalises the confrontation, Edie reluctantly attends counselling. Tethered by the harrowing experience, Edie and John discover companionship in one another, a tentative friendship flourishing.

Edie is a quiet, intellectual young woman who survived a terrifying and violent hostage incident. Although experiencing anxiety, the incident has emphasised how fragile our lives are when faced with adversity and encourages Edie to appreciate each moment. Edie is magnificent. Mostly. Her tenacity to confront her oppressor was a culmination of abuse and torment because she's a voluptuous young woman. Edie is confident but experiences moments of insecurity but with her positive perspective, refuses to allow others to demoralise or degrade her. It was wonderfully portrayed. 

John is an intriguing young man who was coerced into dispensing narcotics after his parents relocated, placing John under the supervision of his brother. John is afflicted by post traumatic stress disorder and although often agitated and sullen, remained resilient although tormented by nightmares. Aesthetically, John is a prototypical male protagonist. Attractive, indifferent and assured. In an act of altruism, John valiantly liberates Edie by confronting the perpetrator. Throughout their tentative friendship, John and Edie are a tremendous support to one another.

If rumours are to be believed, John prefers sexual encounters with various consenting partners. Positive sexual liberation is a wonderful exploration for teens but John and Edie became too dependant on their friendship to allow the other to explore relationships beyond their companionship. The gradual relationship between John and Edie was lovely but the decision to begin their physical relationship felt contrived. The narrative ventured into what is typically viewed as a conventional new adult romance and although I applaud authors who create positive sexual content, I felt mildly disappointed. Trust also touches upon post traumatic stress disorder, abuse, substance abuse and domestic violence. Delicately. 

Kylie Scott is a wonderfully accomplished author.  Trust is a pragmatic and conscientious narrative, captivating and tender, emphasising our fragility when faced with adversity. To appreciate each moment.
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