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

Girlish: Teen Feminism and Empowerment

Written by Alana Wulff
Feminism, Interactive, Informative
180 Pages
Published October 30th 2017
Thank you to Nero and Black Inc Books
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Being a girl freakin’ rocks! But despite all the opportunities available to girls today, the fight for equality and self esteem continues. Filled with information, inspiration, truth bombs and surprises, Girlish is a fun filled self led discovery course in feminism for teenage girls.

Embracing all the beauty, chaos, hope and frustration of being a girl in the twenty first century, Girlish encourages the reader to celebrate who they are, define their values and have fun along the way.

With a playful design, illustrations by Frances Cannon, and featuring quotes from inspiring women from all walks of life, such as Michelle Obama, Amy Poehler, Roxane Gay and Lorde, Girlish is the perfect gift for any teenage girl.
An interactive celebration of inspirational women, activists, feminists and intersectionality through education and empowerment.
Dedicated to the loud and proud members of an ever growing and on going movement against inequality, sexism and oppression. Girls, you are seen and you are heard. And you are awesome.
During our adolescent years can be disenfranchising and empowering as a female. Young women are acclimatising to their environments and discovering who they are as young women, their sexuality, appearance and demeanour.

Female popular culture icons Beyoncé Knowles Carter and Demi Lovato, inspirational women Emma Watson, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou and activists Malala Yousafzai reinforce intersectionally and the protection of transgender, queer and females of colour by reiterating the importance of language and communication. Exploring the advancement of feminism from suffrage, libation, white feminism to contemporary gender equality and the inclusion of intersectionality.
Throughout history, women of all ages, races and religions have fiercely battled against inequality and discrimination. They gave their blood, sweat and tears for the rights of women to vote, work, own land, run companies and do what we want with our bodies. For the right to make our own choices about our lives. 

Featuring Australian women of influence, politicians, Indigenous Australian women and female athletes, it encourages young women to create resolutions, to challenge preconceptions and stereotypes thorough interactive activities, also touching upon the male role in supporting women.

Girlish is an empowered and wonderfully composed interactive experience for young women. 

This Is Where It Ends

This Is Where It Ends
Written by Marieke Nijkamp
Contemporary, Violence, Realistic Fiction
304 Pages
International Edition Published May 2017
Thank you to New South Books
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10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

The auditorium doors won't open.

Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
In Opportunity Alabama a rifle echoes throughout the auditorium, the silhouette of Tyler Browne is a solitary figure amidst the anarchy. Firearms legislation is a precarious discussion within the United States, in the aftermath of domestic terrorism and This Is Where It Ends explores similar themes.

Tyler and Autumn Browne lost their mother to road trauma, their grieving father a physically abusive alcoholic. Autumn intends to emulate her mother, an acclaimed dancer. Defying her father, Autumn aspires to attend Juilliard, escaping Opportunity and leaving Tyler behind. Tyler is volatile, despising Autumn's relationship with Sylvia and accusing Sylvia of manipulation, both present within the auditorium.

And I know the auditorium may be big enough to hold a thousand students, but it's too small to hide just one.

The reticulated narratives were captivating, illustrating the experiences of Autumn and Slyvia within the auditorium, Tyler's former girlfriend and athlete Claire and Sylvia's brother Tomás. Claire's younger sibling is inside the auditorium. As a child, Matt was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease which now requires a walking aid. Tomás and Fareed are incredibly courageous. Outside of the auditorium, the young men call emergency services while the onslaught continues behind the barricaded entrances.

Together we could be so strong, but the gun has made us individuals.

Firearms statistics are disquieting in the United States, caucasian domestic terrorists often portrayed as misunderstood or mentally unwell. Tyler Browne felt one dimensional. The narrative theorises possible motives based on Autumn, Sylvia, Claire and Tomás with no singular reasoning behind why Tyler had chosen to seek revenge other than feeling abandoned. Tyler's character is without a perspective, which I partially appreciated as the narrative of This Is Where It Ends centralises the story of survivors and lives lost to firearm violence but disappointed the physiological aspects weren't explored.

Autumn, Sylvia, Tomás and Claire are indistinctive and share similar emotional responses. Anxious although resolute to become the heroic saviour. Fareed is an interesting character who may have offered a differing perspective and the Spanish exclamations a little cliché.

Although monochromatic, This Is Where It Ends is a confronting narrative and a compelling read.

Moxie: Girls Fight Back!

Written by Jennifer Mathieu
Feminism, Contemporary
340 Pages
Published September 26th 2017
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her high school teachers who think the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv's mum was a tough as nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the nineties, and now Viv takes a page from her mother's past and creates Moxie, a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She's just blowing off steam, but other girls respond and spread the Moxie message. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realises that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.
In the small maritime southern town, the young women of East Rockport are exasperated by the contrasting principles enforced by the teaching facility. Blatant chauvinism and discrimination, young women withstanding abuse within the misogynistic environment. Sixteen year old Vivian Carter is appalled and inspired by the misspent youth of her mother, creating a feminist zine to empower young women.

Enduring blatant sexism and prejudice, institutionalised and commonplace within the small coastal community. Vivian is an exemplary young woman, compassionate, intelligent and captivated by her mother and her rambunctious youth where feminism redefined as intersectional feminism, the inclusion of multiracial, sexually and gender diverse alliances between women.

And it's not just one type of girl but all kinds. Jocks and loud girls and girls on the yearbook and quiet girls and black girls and white girls and brown girls.

Male athletes are immortalised by the East Rockport community, patriarchal masculinity unchallenged while young men wear sexist, sexually offensive slogans, ridiculing defamation and sexual assault. Unaccountable for their behaviour. Furthermore to feminist ideals and gender equality, the young women of East Rockport are sexually assaulted and considered entertainment, groped, molested and male behaviour absolved. Mitchell Wilson is a misogynistic chauvinist and absolutely infuriating.

Please remember that when you get dressed in the morning, you're coming to a learning environment, and we expect you to be dressed as a student, not a distraction.

Moxie is a clandestinely published feminist zine created to encourage the empowerment and solidarity of young women. Discovering feminism and gender equality is a journey, arising from chauvinism and prejudice. Friend Lucy is a passionate young woman who is outspoken and vehement while Claudia is restrained and hesitant, contrasting Latin American characters. Claudia's initial reluctance encouraged confronting but considerate discussions on what constitutes sexism. Love interest Seth Acosta participates in the promotion of Moxie principals but is a subdued advocate for gender equality. His character felt insignificant but I appreciated his support and encouragement of Vivian. The diversity of characters also includes multiracial and same sex female relationships.

Moxie promotes feminism, advocating for equality in a patriarchal dominated environment by challenging ideals, provoking discussion and igniting passion. Inspiring, vehement and confident.

If you enjoyed Moxie you may also enjoy

Now I Rise

See my review for And I Darken

Now I Rise
The Conqueror's Saga Book Two
Written by Kiersten White
Historical Fiction, Young Adult
480 Pages
Published July 3rd 2017
Thank you to Penguin Random House Australia
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Lada Dracul has no allies. No throne. All she has is what she’s always had, herself. After failing to secure the Wallachian throne, Lada is out to punish anyone who dares to cross her blood strewn path. Filled with a white hot rage, she storms the countryside with her men, accompanied by her childhood friend Bogdan, terrorizing the land. But brute force isn’t getting Lada what she wants. And thinking of Mehmed brings little comfort to her thorny heart. There’s no time to wonder whether he still thinks about her, even loves her. She left him before he could leave her.

What Lada needs is her younger brother Radu’s subtlety and skill. But Mehmed has sent him to Constantinople, and it’s no diplomatic mission. Mehmed wants control of the city, and Radu has earned an unwanted place as a double crossing spy behind enemy lines. Radu longs for his sister’s fierce confidence but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. Torn between loyalties to faith, to the Ottomans, and to Mehmed, he knows he owes Lada nothing. If she dies, he could never forgive himself but if he fails in Constantinople, will Mehmed ever forgive him?

As nations fall around them, the Dracul siblings must decide, what will they sacrifice to fulfil their destinies? Empires will topple, thrones will be won and souls will be lost.
Ladislav Dragwlya has abandoned the Ottoman Empire and destined to conquer Wallachia and the throne the Danesti Prince occupies. Lada Dracul is a ferocious young woman, callous, unrelenting and determined to reign as Prince of Wallachia. 
There is no other title. I will be vaivode, prince of Wallachia. And I will make the land into the country my people deserve.
Mehmed is resolved to acquire Constantinople, Sultan, Emperor and Caesar of Rome. The Christian Constantinople welcomes political refugee Radu Dracul and wife Nazira who are escaping persecution. The tender young man is entrusted to infiltrate Constantinople, to manipulate the Roman Christians and substantiate Radu's allegiance to the Ottoman Empire and Mehmed.

The narrative accompanies siblings Lada and Radu Dracul, once held captive by the Ottoman Empire to ensure the compliance of their late father. Lada is on a journey of discovery as violence will not allow Lada to conquer the Wallachian throne and she's compelled to forge diplomatic relationships.  In an era where women are often demoralised, Lada is a remarkable young woman that refuses to adhere to societal measures and I admire her tenacity and fortitude. Radu is a contrasting character, passionate and devout while Mehmet manipulates Radu's gentle compassion for both political and personal dominance. Mehmed is emotionally distant, conscious of the fabrication and innuendo of his friendship with Radu, he manipulates Radu to infiltrate the Roman Constantinople and ambassador Cyprian. Cyprian is compassionate, virtuous and enticed by Radu.
You love with all your heart, Radu, and deserve someone who can answer that with all of theirs.
The diversity of characters is wonderful, an amalgamation of religion and sexuality. Muslim, Christian, same sex relationships and Radu's exploration of sexuality and faith. Women in positions of domination are inconceivable. Male lineages occupy Europe, women are wives, concubines and adhere to the traditional female roles prevalent throughout the European kingdoms. Janissaries are traditionally retained by the Ottoman Empire and now accompany the menacing young woman across Eastern Europe where sexism and chauvinism are prevalent. I enjoyed Lada's camaraderie with Hunyadi who provided both tactical and emotional encouragement. Nicolae is a staunch defender but childhood companion Bogdan creates an intensity within the group of Janissaries.

The Conqueror's Saga is a breathtaking, historical alternative of the Ottoman Empire during fifteenth century Europe. Mehmed the Conqueror abolished the Eastern Roman Empire and the conquest of Constantinople, while Ladislav Dragwlya decimates South Eastern Europe. Unrelenting and frenetic. Absolutely remarkable.

The Trials Of Morrigan Crow

The Trials of Morrigan Crow
Nevermoor Book One
Written by Jessica Townsend
Middle Grade, Fantasy, #LoveOzYA
449 Pages
Published October 10th 2017
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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Morrigan Crow is cursed. Born on an unlucky day, she is blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks, and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It's there that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organisation, the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart. Except for Morrigan, who doesn't seem to have any special talent at all.

To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests. or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
Miss Morrigan Crow, daughter of the illustrious Chancellor Corvus Crow will not be mourned as she passes for she has brought misfortune and calamity to the shire of Jackalfax. Morrogan Crow is a catastrophic young lady that has been condemned as unfortunate, spreading hullabaloo and pandemonium throughout the community. On the eve of the Sixteenth Age of the Wintersea Republic, Morrigan receives an intriguing invitation extended by Jupiter North and The Wundrous Society. Her survival and Nevermoor awaits.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow is a fantastical, wondrous and whimsical adventure. Eleven year old Morrigan Crow is an unfortunate child and the origin of mayhem who will come to pass on the eve of Eventide. Morrigan is a wonderful young lady, intelligent and whimsical although resignated to accept responsibility for Jackalfax's outrageous predicaments. On the even of Eventide, Jupiter North offers Morrigan salvation, accompany him to Nevermoor to compete in the Wundrous Society tournament. Morrigan is sceptical but intrigued nevertheless and steps boldly into the enchanted world. Throughout the narration, we discover Morrigan is a young woman who has never known a sense of belonging. Her father has remained cold and distant while the citizens of Jackalfax believe Morrigan to be a blight upon their community. In Nevermoor, Morrigan is considered to have entered illegally and the authorities are determined to send her home.

Jupiter North is a mysterious, bearded man and a member of the prestigious Wundrous Society. Jupiter is the proprietor of the distinguished Hotel Deucalion, a debutante Patron and Morrigan's guardian. A remarkably diligent man, Jupiter is an integral aspect of Nevermoor and often called abroad on official business. The Hotel Deucalion is home to a wonderfully, eclectic assortment of characters. Fenestra the talking Magnificat, Jack the sullen nephew of Jupiter and a vampire dwarf throughout the wondrous and fantastical floors, the smoking room with scented vapour to ignite the senses, the hall of shadows where imagination will run amok.

Competitor and friend Hawthorne is a delight. He and Morrigan become inseparable friends and a tremendous support throughout the competition. The Wundrous Society tournament consists of four stages to assess the children of Nevermoor. Shenanigans are inevitable with hundreds of competitors in contention, deception and terribly treacherous children determined to be victorious. Darkness descends over Nevermoor when the villainous and unpleasant Wundersmith inconceivably is causing pandemonium. Despite being banished.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow is whimsical and atmospheric, the epitome of fantastical and imaginative fairytales. Delightfully written and a breathtaking debut from author a Jessica Townsend.

A Semi Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares

Contains sensitivities such as mental illness, addiction and suicide

A Semi Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares
Written by Krystal Sutherland
Contemporary, Mental Illness, Romance
272 Pages
Published August 28th 2017
Thank you to Penguin Random House Australia
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Ever since Esther Solar's grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther's father is agoraphobic and hasn't left the basement in six years, her twin brother can t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck.

The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them.

Esther doesn't know what her great fear is yet, nor does she want to, a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, and crowds are all off limits. So are haircuts, spiders, dolls, mirrors and three dozen other phobias she keeps a record of in her semi definitive list of worst nightmares.

Then Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate. Along with her phone, money and a fruit roll up she'd been saving, Jonah also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them. In an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn't counted on. Love.
Esther Solar is predestined to be cursed. Her brother is afraid of what dwells within the shadows, her father confined to the basement by anxiety while her mother squanders their meagre possessions to finance her addiction. Grandfather Reginald Solar was a young man during the Vietnam war when he encountered Jack Horowitz, a young soldier recruited to become the reaper and now their lives will subsequently succumb to their fears.

Esther is an eccentric, luminous young woman and an entrepreneur, selling baked delicacies to the teaching and student faculty to finance her escape from the small, podunk town. It's inevitable that Esther too will be consumed by fear. Until Jonah. Jonah Smallwood is a charlatan, an opportunistic young man who has retracted to the nondescript town where he now lives with his alcoholic father and sister. After discovering Esther's list of Worst Nightmares, Jonah challenges Esther to confront her anxiety.

I really enjoyed the adventure of Esther's challenges and the encouragement Jonah provided within their tentative friendship and the acceptance of Esther's family. The familial relationships were interesting. Esther often referred to her mother as an enchanting presence in their lives but now neglects her children, frequently selling their meagre possessions to finance her addiction. Her father is a former veterinarian and now agoraphobic, living within the basement of the family home where his wife and children no longer visit. Esther has a wonderful relationship with brother Eugene, a lovely young man incapacitated by the darkness and monsters who dwell within the shadows. Consumed by her own journey, Esther often neglected Eugene's distress. Although Esther is anxious, I admired her bravery but sensed she distanced herself from her family's predicaments, often appearing to be ignorant.  

I enjoyed the overall narrative but found issues with the portrayal of suicide and dialect chosen for characters. In particular, Esther.
Ugh. Sink the scalpel a little deeper next time, oh wise and annoying one.

Although it was remarked as banter, it's incredibly insensitive and may perturb readers who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. It changed my perception of Esther and her familial relationships. I was concerned that Esther herself was unable to acknowledge she was unwell, her perception of the addiction and mental illness of her family members manifesting as a curse rather than their distress and disorder.

The diverse character representation was wonderful. Jonah is black, friend Hephzibah is a selective mute of Israeli heritage, her father is a stroke survivor and her grandfather has been diagnosed with dementia. Characters also experiencing addiction and family violence. Although a #LoveOzYA read, the narration takes place within a nondescript American town. 

A Semi Definitive List Of Worst Nightmares is an entertaining and charismatic read but not without nuisance. 

Beautiful Mess

Beautiful Mess
Written by Claire Christian
Contemporary, Mental Illness, #LoveOzYA
304 Pages
Published August 28th 2017
Thank you to Text Publishing
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Since Ava lost Kelly, things haven’t been going so well. Even before she gets thrown out of school for shouting at the principal, there’s the simmering rage and all the weird destructive choices. The only thing going right for Ava is her job at Magic Kebab.

Which is where she meets Gideon. Skinny, shy, anxious Gideon. A mad poet and collector of vinyl records with an aversion to social media. He lives in his head. She lives in her grief. The only people who can help them move on with their lives are each other.
Ava is barely surviving in the depths of despair after her friend takes her own life. As the moments pass Ava is inconsolable, engaging in abusive and destructive behaviour, now expelled while involved in a non committal sexual relationship with Lincoln. Seeking solace in one another. Ava is an incredible character, her despair is palpable as she navigates life after Kelly, a vivacious young woman who was diagnosed with depression and committed suicide.

Gideon is a quiet, young poet with anxiety, baring the pain of self harm. With the assistance of his councillor and medication, Gideon performs Slam poetry by sharing his experience with small audiences. Throughout the quiet, solitary moments, Gideon meticulously considers scenarios, moments of reflection while retreating to the sanctuary of his bedroom until bravery ignites.

Beautiful Mess is a wonderful reflection of complexities of adolescence. Palpable, poignant and captivating, the narration of two adolescents finding moments of solace in one another. Six months prior, Ava lost her childhood friend Kelly to depression, leaving behind a family in despair. Ava feels unsupported by her peers and teaching facility, offered counselling without compassion and understanding. Ava's father is a single parent and a wonderful support, compassionate and maternal while Ava momentarily finds comfort in a physical, although considerably toxic relationship with Lincoln. Ava's narrative also examines mental health through her own undiagnosed depression after losing Kelly and enrolling in The Alternative Program, who offer counselling and education for teens unsupported by the traditional education system.

Gideon is an extraordinary young man who upon the advice of his therapist, composes slam poetry as a instrument to express his experiences with illness. Gideon is often socially incapacitated and with the encouragement of his family, engages in acts of bravery to defy his social anxiety. A wonderfully peculiar young man, Gideon is disengaged with the online world and preferring to communicate through the artistry of writing letters in which he and Ava communicate. The concept was charming and allowed both Gideon and Ava to share their experiences while easing Gideon's transition into the tentative friendship.
Kintsukuroi they call it. They take broken pieces of porcelain and they repair the cracks with gold. Making it as it was, but new again. They believe that the cracks can make something more beautiful, more valuable.
A wonderful inclusion of diversity. The late Kelly is bisexual and Maori, Ava is of Greek heritage, Gideon's parents are in a female, same sex relationship and the discussion of depression, suicide and anxiety was magnificent and wonderfully represented. I appreciated the reiterating of the importance of prescription medication and counselling. Too often young adult literature promotes the mental well being of adolescents as an illness to be remedied by a love interest and I applauded the discussion of mental illness as a chronic condition that fluctuates upon a wellness spectrum, Gideon a quintessential example.

Claire Christian is a captivating, compassionate and remarkable debut author composing a narrative that will linger long after the final page. Exquisite Australian young adult literature.

Tower Of Dawn: A Bogan Book Review

Heads up mate, contains spoilers for other books in the series

Tower of Dawn
Throne of Glass Book Six
Written by Sarah J Maas
Fantasy, Romance
672 Pages
Published September 5th 2017
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken. His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica, the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both, and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.
Chaol and random guard Nesryn rock up to Antica to ask the weird assortment of the asshole royal family to join their epic punch on, trying to win them over with trunks of tacky bling like a pair of cashed up bogans. They've got Buckley's as they're all flat out whinging who's going to be the next King. Chaol wants to see the magical Sheila they keep in a tower, hoping to get mates rates to fix his getaway sticks. Yrene is a Healer who couldn't give a shit about the new King's wingman but since she can't wait to piss off and go home, thinks fuck it and goes to work on the cranky prick. Fear not Shelia's, he's still up for a root as we're reminded until the cows come home.

Say g'day to Yrene. This little corker is still wet behind the ears but she's tough as old boots, living in a tower with other magical sheila's. Yrene thinks Chaol is a dead set mongrel by making a quid for the old King of Adarlan. While the kingdom was in all sorts, Chaol and Nesryn racked off and leaving Dorian and Chaol's former misses Aelin while Chaol pulls a sickie, legging it to find a few dipsticks to join their epic blue. No piece of piss mate.

While Nesryn pissed off to visit her family, he was flat out whinging to pay her any attention anyway and in walks Prince Sartaq. He's hot as and who can blame a sheila for having a perve. At least Yrene wasn't standing for his bullshit. Chaol's living in the royal castle like a bludger, with his own servant ready for happy endings. Fucked up royal wankers assuming he's rooting Nesryn but let's give him a half naked sheila to pull him off anyway. Thank fuck for Yrene. She cottoned on that he's not the prick she thought he was and wants to help him but Chaol thinks he'll be apples with his legs working again. Nice try son. Chaol was flogged with the King's magical lightning and is now feeling guilty for leaving his mates Dorian and Aelin and needs to stop telling furphies. He's not in good nick and needs to have a chin wag to someone.

Let me earbash you about Nesryn. This sheila is a glorified security guard for that Adarlan shithole and as exciting as watching paint dry. She's legging it because she's had a gut full of Chaol's whining and joins a royal gang of people who ride big birds. I shit you not. They'll all be cactus soon. That Duke Perrington prick is land grabbing and sending his army of demonic halfwits to mess shit up like Bogans at an Aldi sale. I was stoked the dack dropping was kept to a minimum. I don't care if characters are going at it but there's a time and place for it. Don't just whip out your old fellow.

It was a dog's breakfast in the beginning but went like the clappers once they all got their shit together. Chaol was hard done by in Empire of Storms but stoked he's got his own yarn to spin. I'm fanging for Yrene to meet Manon. Either they'll shack up or it'll be game on. Give it a burl, the second half goes off like a frog in a sock.

Gap Year In Ghost Town

Gap Year In Ghost Town
Written by Michael Prior
Fantasy, Paranormal, #LoveOzYA
336 Pages
Published August 2017
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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Let's get this straight, ghosts are everywhere. I can see them. You can't. And, see them or not, they're dangerous. This is why my family has hunted ghosts for hundreds of years to protect people like you.
The Marin family are outcasts of the ghost hunting world. They run a two man operation in inner city Melbourne. Anton has the Ghost sight, but his father does not.

Rani Cross is supremely skilled in hand to hand combat, with enhanced speed and strength thanks to her magical initiation into the Company of the Righteous.

When it comes to ghost hunting methodology, Anton and Rani don't see eye to eye, Anton likes to ease their passage to the next world, while Rani's all about the slashing. But Melbourne is under threat, with a massive spike in violent ghost manifestations, Anton and Rani must find a way to work together to keep supernatural forces at bay.

And what with all the blindingly terrifying brushes with death, Anton must decide if he really wants in on the whole ghost hunting biz anyway.
Throughout the quiet, darkened streets of Melbourne, eighteen year old Anton Marin searches for ghosts, delicately releasing their spirits from Earth by easing their passage. Anton is a delightfully charming young man who is reluctantly pursuing paranormal investigation to appease his father. The Marin spectre legacy now falls upon Anton, the Sight ability escaping his father who documents each encounter, maintaining the Marin archives from a hidden retreat in the family owned bookstore.

Rani Cross is a graduating member of the Company of The Righteous, a prosperous organisation abundant in tradition, emigrating from London with her foster parents, Company of The Righteous employees. The Company of The Righteous believes in the disposing of spirits through violent methods, disciplined soldiers instructed in weaponed combat and Rani is conflicted by Anton's gentle approach.

Gap Year In Ghost Town is magnificent. Melbourne provides an affluent Victorian landscape of ghostly apparitions, Weepers, Moaners, Lingerers and ghosts who manifest as Ragers. Anton and Rani begin to investigate the increase in spectre apparitions when they discover a slain body and a grieving widow summoning Rogue spirits.

Readers will appreciate Anton and Rani's tentative and platonic friendship, Anton and friend Rebecca and in addendum, Rebecca and Rani. Facile and charming. Anton's relationship with his father was lovely, a wonderful presence who challenged Anton. Anton's father is a fascinating character who continues to mourn his the death of his youngest child, his marriage and his sister's disappearance. 

From the city to the suburbs of Melbourne was enchanting and atmospheric. As Anton accompanied Rani throughout the city and her suburbs, I was fascinated by the history of Melbourne folklore. Readers will appreciate the diverse Australian characters and Rani, who although from Britain is of Assamese, Chinese and Malaysian heritage.

Theatrical and charismatic, Gap Year In Ghost Town is wonderfully written with humour and finesse. Simply brilliant. 

Song Of The Current

Song Of The Current
Song Of The Current Book One
Written by Sarah Tolcser
Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
384 Pages
Published July 1st 2017
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Caroline Oresteia has always been destined for the river. Her father is a wherryman, as was her grandmother. All Caro needs is for the river god to whisper her name, and her fate is sealed. But at seventeen, Caro may be too late.

So when pirates burn ships and her father is arrested, Caro volunteers to transport a dangerous cargo in exchange for his release. Secretly, Caro hopes that by piloting her own wherry, the river god will finally speak her name.

But when the cargo becomes more than Caro expected, she finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies. With much more than her father’s life at stake, Caro must choose between the future she knows, and the one she never could have imagined.

This immersive fantasy debut set along the waterways of a magical world will entrance fans of Sabaa Tahir and Victoria Aveyard. Sarah Tolcser weaves an epic story of danger and destiny with enchanting world building and captivating characters.
The River God speaks in the language of small things, whispers throughout the everglades to protect those who navigate her waters, favoured by the river and her guidance. Seventeen year old Caroline Oresteia is a privateer on board the Cormorant, her father a humbled Wherryman, now incarcerated. His livelihood threatened by unlawful, concealed merchandise. In order to exonerate her father, Caroline must navigate the treacherous Black Dog territory, evading apprehension.

Caroline Oresteia is a fascinating and tenacious young woman, biracial and an impassioned privateer upon the hallowed Cormorant. Upon returning to Hespera's Watch, marauders have pillaged and ravaged the Wherry harbour and the Kynthessa authorities have apprehended her father. Capable and resolute, Caroline agrees to deliver the consignment on her first adventure commanding the Cormorant with Fee, a Frogman and adept privateer.

Shenanigans are afoot my friends.

I enjoyed the reluctant companionship between Caroline and Tarquin, the courier for the Akhaian Consul. Tarquin is a genteel aristocrat contrast to Caroline who appears to be prudent although sincere. An important aspect of the conversation discusses consent, Caroline adamant consent should be obtained, echoed throughout the narration. A wonderful precedent for teen readers.

Atmospheric and lyrically captivating, Sarah Tolcser has created a wonderfully ambient world.
When the reeds along the banks whisper that a squall is rushing across the marshland, we listen. When the tide flows up from the sea, flooding the river with muddy brown water, we know enough to watch.

The god in the river speaks to us in the language of small things.
The decisive and enterprising women of Song Of The Current are celebrated. Captain Brixton, a gay privateer and commander challenging gender equality. Fee, Caroline's second in command, perceptive and ardent. Caroline's mother, a ruthless merchant and cousin Kenté who is a tremendous support to Caroline, moralistic and principled. Prosperous and flourishing women celebrated for their achievements.

Spectacularly lyrical, Song of The Current is a celebration of women, their strength and fortitude. Debut author Sarah Tolcser is remarkable. Avast ye swashbucklers and hornswagglers! Song Of The Current is an enchantin' and beautifully lyrical narration o' wonder.

#LoveOzYA Author Talks: Cath, Simmone and Fiona

#LoveOzYA authors Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood have released an empowering, influential collaboration Take Three Girls, a fictional insight into toxic online environments, fighting the patriarchy and girls supporting one another. Remarkable ladies of Australian young adult fiction. Thanks for joining me ladies, with thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia.

Take Three Girls
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia
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Check out my review Here
Kate, a quiet boarder, making some risky choices to pursue the experimental music she loves.

Clem, shrugging off her old swim team persona, exploring her first sexual relationship, and trying to keep her annoying twin, Iris, at arm’s length.

Ady, grappling with a chaotic family, and wondering who her real friends are, she’s not the confident Alister she appears to be.

When St Hilda’s establishes a Year 10 Wellness Program in response to the era of cyberbullying, the three girls are thrown together and an unlikely friendship is sparked. One thing they have in common, each is targeted by PSST, a site devoted to gossip and slander that must have a source within St Hilda’s. Who can you trust when rumour is the new truth?
The Wellness initiative was a wonderful concept and an initiative that should be incorporated into the school curriculum. Can I ask what the inspiration behind the program was and how it could be expanded upon as a community outreach program for teens?

Cath Crowley

I think, and I’m not a hundred percent sure I’m remembering properly, that it came about after discussions about how a school might tackle a problem like this one. Also, we love the idea that these ‘worksheets’ could be used in a classroom situation, to encourage talk about some of the issues raised in the book. I love the idea that teens might feel empowered by the book (if not the Wellness sheets) to start feminist groups, to talk about online culture, and to feel as if they’re not alone.

Simmone Howell

For the last year I’ve been doing some writing work around young people’s mental health issues as well as running creative writing and journaling workshops. I’m interested in how YA fiction can have therapeutic benefits for young people, and this was a fun way into exploring that.

Fiona Wood

The Wellness program was also a way in which we could represent the fact of schools and parents knowing that something needs to be done, but not quite sure what that might be. In this case there is some resistance to the Wellness program, but the girls all end up benefiting from the way it makes them rethink things such as friendship and identity. We would love to see the Wellness sheets being used as a prompt for school classroom discussions. Many schools do formally engage with the idea of student wellbeing, and the more of that, the better.

The three protagonists were all wonderfully unique individuals, their narratives blended seamlessly. Did you see yourself within the adolescent characters and draw from your own experiences?

Cath Crowley

I definitely see a little of myself in Kate. I grew up in the country. I was a bit of a dreamer. (Although I didn’t play the cello, I did write.) I was certainly quiet.

Simmone Howell

Yes, I was a pretty messy, avaricious, angry teenager - I didn’t always know where I fit in. I don’t have a twin, but I do have siblings and I always wished to be sent away to boarding school (alas it never happened).

Fiona Wood

Like Ady, I had a parent with addiction problems which had huge repercussions on my self-confidence and the face I thought I needed to show in public. I also poured quite a bit of creativity into messing around with clothes.

Another aspect I found relevant to teens and adults, was the toxic nature of online communities. The Private School Secrets Tracker website was incredibly confronting and was reminiscent of the online trolling outspoken women on Twitter are subjected to consistently. Is that something you were mindful of during the writing process and did you visit online communities as research?

Cath Crowley

We wanted the references to online material to be confronting – because women (young and old) are subjected to these kinds of comments all the time. I did some research. I hadn’t realised just how ugly the online world can be. So I did dip in to write my comments.

Simmone Howell

Yes. I read comments. In a way it wasn’t hard to write that stuff, It was like thinking in worst-case mode. You don’t have to go very far to find hate-speak online. I also watched great stuff: videos and TED talks, women like Clementine Ford and Anita Sarkeesian, (like the girls in the school’s Feminist Collective.)

Fiona Wood

This sort of commentary is, unfortunately, like surround sound, online. We were also influenced by a deluge of media reporting of abuses of girls and young women at schools, universities, colleges and in the workplace.

The strong female friendships were a tremendous support beyond the Wellness classes and I really enjoyed how their friendship also encouraged one another and promoted confidence and self esteem. How do you feel these friendships influenced the girls and their fight against the toxicity of their peers?

Simmone Howell

I think because the characters were able to be honest with each other, they could then channel that ‘good fight’ energy - they had each other’s backs.

Fiona Wood

Yes, we definitely wanted to show that the three characters gained strength from each other, and, as Simmone says, the key to that is that they are able to be honest.

I appreciated that although the narration takes place within the boarding school, the families of the girls are still very much an important part of their lives. Why do you feel it's important to include parents and grandparents within young adult novels?

Simmone Howell

I personally feel that whatever the story is will dictate whether or not there is parent / grandparent presence. If they are relevant to the character, if we, the reader needs to know about them, then we can, but I don’t think it’s a prerequisite.

Fiona Wood

I like to include family details – for Ady, it’s mainly her sister, Clare – because it adds further complexity to the character. For me, the decision about whether or not to create other family characters is purely about how those characters will support the main character and the story.

The essence of Take Three Girls is about empowerment of females pushing back against the patriarchy of a male dominated society. If you could revist your teen self, what important knowledge would you like to pass on?

Cath Crowley

I’d tell my teenage self that she has something important to say. I’d tell her she has just as much right to be heard as everyone else.

Simmone Howell

I’d tell her that everything she does has a knock-on effect, that she doesn’t HAVE to do what everyone else is doing, and I’d give her a big hug and tell her she’s ok as is.

Fiona Wood

Don’t be so fearful - stick your neck out.

Meet the authors

Cath Crowley
Connect with Cath via
Her website
Fiona Wood
Connect with Fiona via
Her website
Simmone Howell
Connect with Simmone via
Her Website

Thanks to Cath, Fiona, Simmone and the wonderful Pan Macmillan
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