Ladies... At Dawn, We Ride!

Fight Like A Girl
Written by Clementine Ford
Non Fiction, Feminism, Cultural
Published October 2016
304 Pages
Thank you to Allen & Unwin
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Online sensation, fearless feminist heroine and scourge of trolls and misogynists everywhere, Clementine Ford is a beacon of hope and inspiration to thousands of Australian women and girls. Her incendiary debut Fight Like A Girl is an essential manifesto for feminists new, old and soon to be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Crucially, it is a call to arms for all women to rediscover the fury that has been suppressed by a society that still considers feminism a threat.

Fight Like A Girl will make you laugh, cry and scream. But above all it will make you demand and fight for a world in which women have real equality and not merely the illusion of it.
Never did I realise I held so much rage against the devaluement of women until reading Fight Like A Girl. Never have I felt so empowered. So inspired. So alive. Fight Like A Girl awakens the Feminist within, providing a sense of togetherness against a world that often devalues, demoralises and silences women who find their voice. A voice that values women, inspires women and tells us we're worthy and we deserve. Feminism is not a dirty word. It's a call to arms.
We aren't delicate little flowers who need to shielded from experiencing or expressing extreme emotions.
Feminism is a call for equality in what is predominately a world in which men are rewarded, praised and valued. A patriarchal dominance. Clementine Ford addresses what it means to be female, or identify as female and our journey from birth to self realisation. Fight Like A Girl is a compelling and hilarious manifesto to challenge ideals, provoke discussion and ignite passion.
Because the fact is, if we don't stand by and for each other, then no one else will.
My mother played the role of the traditional housewife and primary caregiver in a predominantly female environment, raising daughters while she was being emotionally, mentally and physically abused. We were children of domestic violence and alcohol abuse. This became my inauguration into a male dominated world where battle weary women have previously been defeated and precious lives have been lost. It touches on the tragedy of Jill Meagher and how her brutal rape and murder invoked rage without our community. Fight Like A Girl considers the anguish of domestic violence and violence against women, a chapter that resonated deep within me.

Clementine also discusses in depth, the importance of surrounding yourself with strong, positive female friendships and the impact a support network can have on the female subconscious. One aspect I found fascinating was the conversation which dissects the emphasis being placed upon our physical aesthetic, which determines our popularity and often sense of self worth. It's during those years of discovery and exploration where we need to instill in the next generation of young women, the importance of self confidence, how to assert ourselves and not to be ashamed of our bodies or allow men to reduce our valuation to objectification.

Veracious and unapologetic, Clementine addresses abortion, her own personal journey and the freedom of authority over our bodies. How pop culture contributes to the conversation, in the age of social media where women can experience a sense of community and solidarity, which also allows men access to women within our communities. Once again, men encroaching on our spaces often to reduce the impact and reach of our words while asserting themselves.

Fight Like A Girl reiterates that women are entitled to embrace their anger, to be heard, to create safe spaces and circumvent interactions with those who want to challenge our ideals. Often misogynists and chauvinists who resort to aggression when not being afforded attention.
No Feminist I know gives one iota of a fuck about the problems any man has with how we conduct our own movement. And for another thing, fuck off.
Clementine Ford is a remarkable woman who lends her voice to women universally, to inspire, encourage and empower while being Australia's most prominent modern day Feminist. Confronting, immersive and influential.

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My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane
Written by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows
Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Published November 1st 2016
416 Pages
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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Edward is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane who reads too many books is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian. Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed, but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and Gifford are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?
A kingdom is on the verge of collapse, Verities and Eðian have formed a divide while sixteen year old King Edward has been diagnosed with the Affliction. leaving the young Prince with mere months to live. With his trusted adviser Dudley, Edward will need to determine the royal line of succession, bypassing his sisters to name his beneficiary as the firstborn son of his dearest friend and cousin, Lady Jane Grey.

First he must find her a husband.

Sixteen year old Lady Jane Grey is a spirited young woman, self educated through her love of reading. Determined and opinionated, Lady Jane has no intention of marrying despite her mother's insistence but how can she refuse her dearest Edward's request?

From sunrise to sunset, Gifford Dudley is a horse. Literally. An Eðian who believes he is cursed, Gifford succumbs to his father's demands and prepares to marry the headstrong young woman. Jane believes Gifford is little more than a philanderer, Gifford believes Jane is far more trouble than she's worth but as the two begin to appreciate one another and the injustice of the world around them, Jane is named as Edwards heir, bypassing his own sisters and ensuring the first Queen of England's place in history.

My Thoughts

My Lady Jane was absolutely delightful, an alternate history of the first Queen of England infused with a touch of fantasy and hilarity. It was incredibly charming and follows the narrative of Lady Jane Grey, the young King Edward and Jane's betrothed Gifford, a chestnut steed. Lady Jane Grey is a fiercely passionate girl in an era in which men dominate and the fairer sex marry, bear children and master the art of needlepoint. But the sixteen year old only wants to explore fantastically worlds through reading. Although Jane harbours resentment for Gifford, the exploration of their relationship was so incredibly lovely. Both Jane and Gifford find common ground through the atrocities of hardship of the lowly class England and a mutual respect for one another begins their tentative romance and entwined narrative.
I fail to see an upside, except for the possibility that I will one day need a quick escape, in which case it will be useful to have a fast horse.
'No horse jokes,' he said.
'My lord, I apologise for the horse joke. If you put down the book unharmed, I will give you a carrot.'
He brandished the book at her. 'Was that a horse joke?'
'Was that a horse joke?'
King Edward has been ruler of England since the tender age of nine years old and until now, has left the fate of his Kingdom to his trusted adviser Dudley. Edward has been diagnosed with the Affliction, a life sentence in which he will never see his seventeenth birthday. Or share his first kiss. Edward is incredibly naive and entitled but throughout the storyline, his narrative matures and he begins to understand the responsibility of leading a country through civil unrest. 

The relationships within My Lady Jane were absolutely charming. Jane's friendship with Edward was lovely, the two cousins having grown up with one another and forming a wonderful friendship despite their differences. Being of the era where women are seen as fragile and delicate, Edward wishes for his dear friend Jane to be taken care of, never mind that the tenacious Jane is a perfectly capable young woman of her own devices. Being unmarried and independent is scandalous and reluctantly, Jane agrees to marry rather than deny Edward's last wishes. But Jane is unaware of Gifford's condition.

The romance between Jane and Gifford was delicate, tender and their sarcastic exchanges were absolutely hilarious. But beneath the banter, Gifford begins to care for Jane and despite the overwhelming sexism of the era, Jane is his equal. 

Within fiction, the reader is a silent observer and authorial intrusion often feels jarring. In My Lady Jane, it's made apparent that it's an alternative historical retelling but yet the charming authorial annotations are a constant reminder. It was unnecessary and a little too slapstick unfortunately. 

Although an alternative history, My Lady Jane explores historical figures such as King Edward, Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots. The Royal dynasty is wonderfully created as a complex network of deceit and deception, infused with humour and animal enchantment. Although occasionally the humour misfired, it was an entertaining and engaging read that captured my attention until the final page.

The Black Key

May contain spoilers for The Jewel and The White Rose

The Black Key
The Lone City Book Three
Written by Amy Ewing
Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance
Published October 1st 2016
352 Pages
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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For too long, Violet and the people of the outer circles of the Lone City have lived in service of the royalty of the Jewel. But now, the secret society known as the Black Key is preparing to seize power.

While Violet knows she is at the center of this rebellion, she has a more personal stake in it, for her sister, Hazel, has been taken by the Duchess of the Lake. Now, after fighting so hard to escape the Jewel, Violet must do everything in her power to return not only to save Hazel, but the future of the Lone City.
Across the Island The Black Key rebellion gathers, mercenaries fighting against enslavement, against poverty and the inhumane treatment of those less fortunate. The Royal Houses have become complacent, infiltrated while young women are rescued from imprisonment where they will be sold as Surrogates and discarded once their purpose has been served.

Violet Lasting is a Paladin, a descendant of a lost civilisation of women who once inhabited the Island and a former Surrogate for the House of The Lake. As the Black Key rebellion gains momentum, the girls of the White Rose are preparing to bring down the oppressive walls that separate the castes. A revolution has begun.

My Thoughts

The Black Key is an entertaining and captivating dystopian series, blending fantasy with an oppressive rule and a band of heroines that are determined to end the oppression. The Jewel begun Violet's journey as a Surrogate, chosen by the Duchess of The Lake to bare her an heir and a sibling for Garnet, the former playboy Prince. After their brazen escape, Violet, Raven and former Companion Ash have retreated to the White Rose, a rural haven for those seeking solace from the merciless royal court. Throughout the series, we've seen Violet mature into a young woman who understands that her mistakes no longer define who she is, a leader among women on the verge of a revolution. But unlike previous installments, Violet now finds herself returning to The Jewel to rescue sister Hazel, despite Ash's protest. I loved Violet for her strength, which could often be seen as condescending as she asks Ash to remain at the White Rose.

Dejected and a wanted fugitive, Ash believes he is beneficial to the rebellion and is able to assemble the Royal Companions to which Violet is opposed, refusing to allow Ash to jeopardise his freedom for the cause. With Lucian's assistance, Violet returns to the House of The Lake under the guise of a new Lady In Waiting for Garnet's betrothed. Returning to the wealth of the castle felt remarkably like an adaptation of The Jewel and a regression in terms of character development and storyline. Violet is reckless and makes incredibly careless decisions which may threaten the Black Key revolution. She feels responsible for Hazel's abduction, the Duchess having seized Hazel to take Violet's place as Surrogate and her internal guilt fuels her desire to make dangerous decisions which are generally not the best cause of action.

As Violet masks her identity in The Jewel, the former surrogates are being guided by Raven, a former surrogate herself who was tortured in her time within The Jewel. Raven is one of my favourite characters and I was disappointed that she wasn't able to play a greater role in The Black Key as her strength and resilience is one of the aspects that endeared me to The Lone City series. I would have liked to have experienced the girls exploring their Augury abilities, especially given the oppression of the Surrogates throughout the series and their journey to freedom. 

Although it felt anticlimactic throughout the storyline, the final few chapters were brilliantly written, emotional and vividly imagined with friends reuniting, although not everyone will make it through unscathed. Such a wonderful debut series that is often underestimated by readers. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Deliciously Beautiful Furthermore

Written by Tahereh Mafi
Middle Grade, Fantasy
Published September 1st
400 Pages
Thank you to the lovely Valerie
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Born as blank as canvas in a world brimming with colour and magic, Alice's pale skin and milk white hair mark her as an outcast. Because, for the people of Ferenwood, colour and magic are one and the same. And since the disappearance of her beloved father, Alice is more determined than ever to prove herself and her own magical abilities.

To do so she'll have to travel into the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, with the help of a fiercely annoying boy named Oliver. But nothing in Furthermore is as it seems, and it will take all of Alice's wits to find her father and return him safely home.
The small town of Ferenwood is an eruption of colour, radiant as the magic that consumes the community. Where up is down and night is day, the sun rarely rains and the blossoming flowers are delicious. But for twelve year old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow, her world has been reduced to monochrome. Born without colour, Alice lives within the shadows as a mere servant of her cantankerous mother, yearning for the man who illuminated her life. Since her father mysteriously disappeared several years ago, the Surrender will ensure Alice will be valued as a member of her community and tasked with a immense quest based on her magical abilities. Except Alice wants to dance and dance she will.

Oliver Newbanks is a bothersome nuisance and despite her defiance, Alice aches to find her father and accepts Oliver's proposition. Alice and Oliver will need to navigate the rules of Furthermore, an enchanting world in which time is a commodity and children are delectable. Alice is on the verge of a tremendous adventure. To survive Furthermore, find her father and paint her own canvas.

My Thoughts

Alice is magnificent, unique and incredibly lovely. The reader is introduced to Alice on the eve of her twelfth birthday, a day that poses great significance in the small town of Ferenwood, a community flushed with colour and magic. With her bangle adorned limbs and ravenous taste for eating blooms, Alice is a monochrome canvas which ensures her unseemly status as a pariah. At the tender age of nine years old, Alice's father mysteriously vanished leaving Alice a wistful version of the girl she one was. But it seems childhood nemesis Oliver knows where her father has gone and although Oliver is an insufferable bore, Alice believes once she finds her father, her world will become radiant once more.

The tentative companionship between Alice and Oliver was incredibly charming. Oliver is conventional and often demure while Alice is loud, boisterous and fond of adventure. Together Alice and Oliver must navigate Furthermore, an enchanting world in which time shall not be wasted and visitors are appetising. Nevertheless, Alice is absolutely delighted by Furthermore despite Oliver's insistence to keep her oblivious to the dangers the two young travellers are facing.

The world Tahereh Mafi has created is imaginative, whimsical and incredibly vivid. It was devastatingly spectacular. Furthermore also touches on feelings of abandonment, deception and a sense of belonging in a world in which you are labelled a pariah. Alice feels desolate, her lack of aesthetic colour leaves her detached from her community and will resonate with readers. Her loneliness is palpable. One of my favourite aspects of middle grade reads is the absence of romance. It allows authors to create wonderful friendships between characters, as is the case with Alice and Oliver. 

Futhermore is a beautiful exploration of middle grade fantasy, captivating and a fantastically fanciful narrative. Tahereh Mafi is an exquisite author who crafts words delicately, lovingly, ethereally and Furthermore is immaculate.


May contain spoilers. See my review for book one Spark and book two Stray

Spark Trilogy Book Three
Written by Rachael Craw
Science Fiction, Romance
Published September 1st 2016
429 Pages
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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Evie is out of options. She must comply with the Affinity Project, obey their rules, play their deadly games, give up Jamie. And her losses keep growing...

When she decides to help a small group of Shields trying to affect change, Evie finds herself in the firing line. Counsellor Knox is intent on revealing her secrets and shackling her to the Affinity Project for life. To protect her family, Evie must betray those closest to her.

The odds of success, let alone survival, are slim.
The final instalment in the Spark Trilogy is absolutely breathtaking. Rachael Craw is an exquisite storyteller, creating an intelligent and intricate narrative that will captivate and consume readers until the final page.

Evie is an intense and fiercely devoted heroine, a girl who has survived The Infinity Project and now returning to the compound where change in policy is fermenting, a potential cure for the Stray mutation is on the horizon. This time Evie is unsure of who to trust.

Evie is a formidable character. She's tenacious but still remains charismatic and pragmatic. She's conflicted when it comes to Jamie and her controversial attraction to her fellow Shield, her Aunt Miriam still remains silent on her enhanced bandwidth and being the child of a Synergist relationship ensures Evie's impeccable pedigree, hiding her true identity from Knox who will ensure Evie's life is never her own. Beyond the realm of The Infinity Project and their rigorous legislation, Shield also touches on Evie's basic freedoms of owning her own body as The Infinity Project determines approval for relationships and pregnancy.

Leader Knox is a fascist and his internal conflict with Ethan only fuelled the intensity throughout the storyline. Ethan is determined to protect Evie, especially while Miriam lies unresponsive. Evie's relationship with Ethan begins to develop, gently, tentatively and was lovely to experience. Ethan is integral to The Affinity Project, which often amplifies the tension placed upon his familial bonds.

The secondary characters were superb and so wonderfully written, Davis especially. Davis is a character who captivated my attention, his maturity and vulnerability was incredibly charming. Despite my previous animosity towards her character, Helena's character was wonderful and I've discovered a new found appreciation for who she is as an individual furthermore to her connection with Jamie.

The romance.

Hot. The connection between Evie and Jamie is intense, sultry and incredibly awkward. Hilariously so. Jamie has an opportunity to deactivate and despite his own safety, wants nothing more than to share his life with Evie. Their friendship and tentative relationship throughout the series has been fiercely passionate while the physical aspects of their bond, tender and gratifying.

The greatest aspect of the Spark series is the writing. Rachael Craw has created an engaging and utterly captivating narrative. Evie is magnificent, maturing and adapting while allowing readers to share her journey of evolution and self discovery. The romance is achingly beautiful, the intimate scenes breathtaking.

Rachael Craw is an exceptional author and has crafted a sensational series that will enthral and enchant readers.

You brilliant woman.

Girl In Pieces

Girl In Pieces
Written by Kathleen Glasgow
Contemporary, Mental Health, Realistic Fiction
Published September 19th 2016
416 Pages
Thank you to Harper Collins Australia
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Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At eighteen she's already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she's learned how to forget it. The thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep and the pain washes out the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don't have to think about your father and the bridge. Your best friend who is gone forever. Or your mother who has nothing left to give you. Every new scar hardens Charlie's heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen to find your way back from the edge.
Charlotte Davis mourns for the life she's never known. A life without loss, without abuse and for the love she so desperately deserves. Charlie has endured the loss of her father, an abusive mother and Ellis, a friend who attempted to take her own life. Within the confined walls of the institute, Charlie sits alone, silent and sharing her story through art. Charlie is parasuicidal, self harming to ease the emotional suffering of living on the streets and being sold into sexual slavery. 
I cut because I can't deal. It's as simple as that. The world becomes an ocean, the ocean washes over me, the sound of water is deafening, the water drowns my heart, my panic becomes as large as planets. I need release, I need to hurt myself more than the world can hurt me, and then I can comfort myself.
Charlie's physical wounds have healed and although emotionally vulnerable, funding is no longer available for treatment and the seventeen year old is released, supposedly into her mothers care. With a bus ticket and her birth certificate, Charlie is on her way to Arizona, her relationship with her mother damaged beyond repair. Michael is a former friend and has offered Charlie a home, rarely extended to damaged girls who feel they're undeserving of love. 

Charlie is determined to forge a new path in the world, toiling for minimum wage at a local coffee house with the charming and charismatic Riley, a former musician who provides Charlie with kindness and tenderness. It's Riley that threatens Charlie's recovery. He's an alcoholic and drug dependant, manipulating the young woman to enable his addition.

Overwhelmed and afflicted, Charlie begins regress until a small act of kindness provides Charlie with a lifeline. With hope. And most of all, a reason to live again, not merely survive.

 My Thoughts

Girl in Pieces is momentous, a narrative beautifully written with tenderness, emotion and conviction. Kathleen Glasgow is a remarkable author, drawing on her own experiences to lend voice to Charlie, a girl who feels irrevocably tarnished and uses self harm to soothe her emotional ache. Charlie's character represents so many young women within our communities. Girls who have been abused, who haven't been afforded the opportunity of a loving family, to experience kindness or sanctuary. After her father was cruelly taken from her, her mother became her tormentor and precursor.

Charlie's narrative is poignant yet incredibly captivating. The reader is introduced to Charlie's character as she is brought into the institute, bleeding and abandoned after trying to end her own life. Her grief and longing are palpable, my heart ached for Charlie and her sense of abandonment. Self harm is her coping mechanism, using broken fragile pieces of mason glass to lacerate her arms, mutilating her body as tenderly as she creates her art. Charlie may have recovered from her physical anguish but her emotional scars remain and she becomes a fatality of the mental health system, the institute no longer able to treat the seventeen year old due to the lack of financial aide and releases her into the care of a mother who has no intention to care for her daughter.

Charlie's journey is confronting. Her Tender Kit she holds dear but determined to not only survive but flourish against adversity which begins with the kindness of Michael. Although Michael and Charlie were once friends, Michael can only provide Charlie with the bare necessities to survive while he's away. With a warm bed and the security of Michael's bungalow, Charlie's employment search finds her washing dishes at a small coffee house where Riley is regrettably employed.

The charismatic and charming Riley, a former musician whose life is a calamity of alcohol fuelled drug dependency, provides Charlie with a tenderness of a physical relationship beyond the confines of an intimacy. While Charlie begins to rebuild her life, Riley's addiction threatens to consume him. Riley was an interesting character. Although I didn't particularly like his character, it felt as though so many in his life enabled his drug and alcohol abuse and he held an heir of entitlement. Their relationship was toxic, but an incredibly important pinnacle in Charlie's journey.

Kathleen Glasgow's debut is courageous and unapologetic. Mental illness and addiction are often lifelong issues that so many in our community confront. Charlie's journey of healing is anguished, confronting and proving that even fictionally, there is no antidote.

The Final Verdict

Kathleen Glasgow is a remarkable woman who has breathed life into her characters through her own experiences, exposing herself so that others may find empowerment. Girl In Pieces was 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 was beautiful yet so incredibly brave. The story of a girl who longs to feel loved, to feel safe and still dares to hope for what so many take for granted. Dark and captivating, Girl In Pieces is a narrative to be cherished.
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