Giveaway, Goodbye 2016 and Four Years of Blogging

Twenty sixteen. The year that took so much and gave so little in return.

The Year That Was

In Australia, we were Googling the United States election and recipes for pancakes, parents were calling their children Charlotte or Oliver and the highest grossing film for twenty sixteen was Finding Dory. Collectively, we mourned the loss of cultural identities Prince, George Michael and David Bowie among others and for readers, none more so than Alan Rickman. A man who brought the beloved Severus Snape to life in the Harry Potter series adaptations.

Racism and ignorance created a volatile United States with the new President Elect, Donald Trump. We witnessed the Bastille Day terrorist attack in Nice, atrocities Iraq, Belgium and Syria, the Orlando nightclub massacre, Brexit and the ongoing genocide in Aleppo. In Australia, we elected our first Muslim and first Aboriginal female to the House of Representatives. We still have Indigenous Australians dying in custody, Asylum Seekers on Naru and Manus Island being denied human rights and we continue to campaign for marriage equality while protesting against Neo Nazi Australians and for Black Lives Matter, along with our American counterparts.

Kanye West announced, I actually don't like thinking. I think people think I like to think a lot. And I don't. I don't like to think. Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston were an item, then not. We stood with Her, we marched against domestic violence and domestic violence within our Indigenous communities and Clementine Ford encouraged women to push back against patriarchy.

And of course, we read.

Favourite #LoveOzYA Reads

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Favourite Contemporaries

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Middle grade awesomeness

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Fantasy Favourites

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Most Anticipated #LoveOzYA reads

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Most Anticipated International Reads

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Fourth Blogaversary

As the new year approaches, I'm celebrating four years of blogging with a giveaway. Thank you to everyone who has followed, commented, engaged me on social media and recommended wonderful new reads. Thank you to Kynndra who continues to be a source of support and motivation and I miss dearly. Thank you to the Australian Young Adult Bloggers and Readers group, my fellow administrators and our friends from New Zealand who continue to support our community, our authors, publishers and most of all, our fellow readers. 

Enter to win a book of choice or an Amazon giftcard to the value of $15.00AU. Winner will be chosen at random. For an Australian winner, your book of choice will be chosen from Booktopia. For an international winner, please ensure The Book Depository ships to your country. If you are under thirteen years of age, please ask parental consent before entering. 

The Sidekicks

The Sidekicks
Written by Will Kostakis
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBT
Published February 29th 2016
256 Pages
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The Swimmer. The Rebel. The Nerd.

All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were sidekicks. And now that Isaac's gone, what does that make them?

Will Kostakis, award winning author of The First Third, perfectly depicts the pain and pleasure of this teenage world, piecing together three points of view with intricate splendour.
Isaac was charismatic, attractive with a smile that could illuminate any room. He was the son, the brother, the best friend and now a legacy to live each moment. Isaac leaves behind Ryan, Harley and Miles, their bond only existing through Isaac who had been the one connection all three boys at their private Catholic school had shared. The Swimmer, The Rebel and The Nerd. Carpe diem.

My Thoughts

The Sidekicks is a magnificent male narrative exploring the harrowing loss of a friend through grief, reflection and remembrance. It's often the quiet, unassuming reads that effect us most, it was beautiful. Isaac is a charismatic young man who the reader connects with through the memories and stories of his peers after his tragic passing. Three young men with one common factor, Isaac.

Ryan is The Swimmer, an Olympic hopeful who's athleticism has afforded him a privileged position within the school. Ryan and Isaac shared a wonderful friendship based on trust, Isaac having kept Ryan's confidence until the very end. Ryan is gay and isn't yet comfortable sharing his sexual preferences with his peers for fear of persecution. Ryan often refers to himself as the third person, Ryan Patrick Thomson, Olympic hopeful and seen as a popular athlete with very little to offer academically.

Harley is The Rebel, he self medicates with alcohol and his friendship with Issac was seemingly based upon addiction and dependence. Harley is a border at Barton House, his mother paying for his tuition after returning to the United States and abandoning him and his father. Underneath the coarse facade, Harley is deeply grieving the loss of his friend, rousing feelings of his mother's abandonment and returns home to his father.

Miles is quietly intelligent and is now reflecting on his friendship with Issac, believing that their friendship was just one of convenience. Months before Issac died, the two formed a partnership to create a short film in which Miles was praised but is now obsessing over the hours of filming between takes, isolating himself within the media room and piecing together their friendship with a series of broken scenes.

Ryan, Issac and Miles are three distinct individuals, all reeling over the loss of their friend. Their grief was palpable.
Time is pulling is apart. With every second that passes, the space between us widens. Today, I saw him yesterday. In a few days, it will have been last week. Then, last month. And there is nothing I can do to keep time from wedging more of itself between us. It is inevitable.
My heart. The Sidekicks is an honest, captivating and illumination of the male narrative of the many facets of grief, self doubt and the intricacy of male friendships. It was incredible. I enjoyed how the narrative was three separate, although interconnecting viewpoints surrounding the loss of Issac. I felt Ryan was the more engaging character, his narrative of losing the only person who he had confided in, the pressure of being an athlete and the casual homophobic slurs overheard from teachers and peers alike added to his anguish.

The Sidekicks is magnificent. Poignant, endearing and bittersweet, Will Kostakis is a remarkable author creating a narrative with a quiet intensity and conviction. I loved it. Immensely.

#DiverseReads2017 Book Challenge

In the new year, I'll be joining hosts Mishma at Chasing Faerytales and Shelly at Read Sleep Repeat and participating in the #DiverseReads2017 book challenge. My reading focus will be on Indigenous and Australian authors who write diversely. I love Australian young adult fiction and it often tends to be overlooked for more popular, American authors. Remember that to read diversely is to read from more than one experience. Experiences that transcend borders, heritage and your own experiences.

A selection of my #DiverseReads2017 book challenge

Becoming Kirrali Lewis


The First Third


The Piper's Son


No Stars To Wish On
Jasper Jones
The Stars At Oktober Bend

If you're interested in joining the challenge, visit Chasing Faerytales for more details.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

Tales From The Shadowhunter Academy
Novella Series
Written by Cassandra Clare and friends
Fantasy, Romance
Published November 15th 2016
656 Pages
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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An illustrated collection of ten stories about Simon Lewis, star of Cassandra Clare's internationally bestselling series The Mortal Instruments, as he trains to become a Shadowhunter.

Simon has been a human and a vampire, but after the events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, he isn't sure who he is any more. When the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon hunting, determined to find himself again. Whomever this Simon might be... Join him on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy's illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. These moving and hilarious short stories are perfect for fans who just can't get enough of the Shadowhunters. The series features characters from Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments, Infernal Devices, Dark Artifices and the upcoming Last Hours series.
Once a vampire and now a mundane, Simon Lewis has enrolled at the Shadowhunter Academy with fragments of a bewildered memory. Simon will decide whether to remain a Mundane or become a revered Shadowhunter, his reputation as a saviour paving his path to becoming an elite scholar despite being unable to recollect his role in Alicante, the Glass City and capital Idris. With the support of his childhood friend Clary and he's beloved yet estranged Shadowhunter girlfriend Isabelle, Simon will begin his journey to becoming the ultimate protector while uncovering the memories of a former life.

Who is Simon Lewis?

My Thoughts

Simon Lewis, former vampire now a mundane in vintage band shirts and awkward sharp angles is embarking on a new adventure as a Shadowhunter. The first few novella installments were wonderfully written, charming and engaging. It wasn't until I had reached Nothing But Shadows, where the storyline became tedious. Among the copious amount of historical information about characters from both The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series, Simon's narrative becomes increasingly frustrating and his journey as Mundane to Shadowhunter is overwhelmed by monotonous tales.

The appeal of Simon's character is that of a humble, boy next door quality and it was disappointing that although his character is on a journey of self discovery, spent most of it bitching. His recollection of significant events may be lost, but he's been given a second chance at life, an opportunity to make a difference and he has a smoking hot girlfriend. Stupid Mundane.

As I was unable to read the finale instalment of The Mortal Instruments series due to the overwhelming number of new characters being introduced, Tales of The Shadowhunter Academy has helped bridge the gap between the Shadowhunter franchise and Lady Midnight, I enjoyed seeing Emma and Julian's Parabatai ceremony. The reader is also introduced to Helen and Mark Blackthorn and the Blackthorn family chronicles, characters from Lady Midnight. James Herondale and Matthew Fairchild, Will and Tessa from The Infernal Devices and the creation of Valentine's circle.

The allure of Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy is Alec and Magnus.

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy will appease fans, but little more. It was a blend of Simon whining and historical chapters of information that I found incredibly boring. I loved Lady Midnight but apart from Alec and Magnus, I won't return to the original Shadowhunter world again. I commend Cassandra Clare for listening to her readers and providing new adventures but the series has been exhausted.

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.


“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


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
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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.
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