Because Of You

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Limits: A Bogan Book Review

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

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

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

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

Big mistake son.

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

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

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

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

The Dream Walker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living On Hope Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

Countless

Contains sensitivities such as anorexia

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

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

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

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

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

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

If Birds Fly Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Bee

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk. A Must Read

Risk
Written by Fleur Ferris
Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery
279 Pages
Published July 2015
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★★★★★
Taylor and Sierra have been best friends for their whole lives. But Taylor’s fed up. Why does Sierra always get what, and who she wants? From kissing Taylor’s crush to stealing the guy they both met online for herself, Sierra doesn’t seem to notice when she hurts her friends.

So when Sierra says Jacob Jones is the one and asks her friends to cover for her while she goes to meet him for the first time, Taylor rolls her eyes.

But Sierra doesn’t come back when she said she would.

One day. Two days. Three...

What if Taylor’s worrying for nothing? What if Sierra’s just being Sierra, forgetting about everyone else to spend time with her new guy? When Taylor finally tells Sierra’s mum that her daughter is missing, Taylor and her friends are thrown into a dark world they never even knew existed.

Can Taylor find Sierra’s abductor in time? Or should she be looking for a killer?
Fifteen year old Sierra was vivacious, a compassionate young woman, beautiful and captivating until an encounter with online predator Jacob Jones. Sierra is sexually active and her behaviour often characterised as destructive, so when she decides to spend the night with Jacob Jones, fifteen year old Taylor is concerned of the consequences of Sierra's lies.

Sierra isn't answering her phone. As the hours pass, the four young friends begin to speculate where Sierra is. While Riley is skeptical, Callum is concerned for Sierra's well being. Yet, her absence is unreported. Forty eight hours since Sierra disappeared with Jacob Jones and detectives are desperately searching for the fifteen year old. In retrospect, Taylor is left to speculate whether she was a friend to Sierra by allowing her to engage Jacob Jones unaccompanied. Taylor held resentment for Sierra's popularity but is she partially culpable? Mutual friend Riley is venomous, her character continuously shamed Sierra for her confidence and tenacity while Taylor compared herself to Sierra. Neither responsible for Sierra's choices but the toxicity of their friendship resulted in the delay in reporting her disappearance.

Jacob Jones doesn't exist. The online predator perused websites for vulnerable young women to manipulate into online relationships, using the young victim's social media accounts to accumulate information. Technology has introduced unwelcome communication throughout our safe spaces, predators potentially have access to children, posing as teens whilst creating an online persona. In Sierra's situation, the man posing as Jacob Jones used a proxy which allowed the predator to engage with both Sierra and Taylor anonymously.

Sierra's abduction is confronting and the ramifications reverberate throughout the community. Taylor believes she is culpable for Sierra's disappearance and creates a cautionary website to warn other young females about predatory behaviour online, encouraging teens to share their stories. Risk is inundated with young women with similar experiences.

Risk is compelling, exploring the anguish of despair and the cautionary narrative of communicating online often with concealed predators and pedophiles. A distressing realism facing adolescents as lives migrate online. Fleur Ferris examines the consequences, often within safe spaces that are infiltrated and provoking discussion within our adolescence communities. Distressing, poignant and captivating until the final page. 

#LoveOzYABloggers 001: High School

#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 News and Events, or submit your own!

High School

For most adults reminiscing about their adolescence, high school was a moment of being carefree, of learning responsibilities and our place within the world. During my own adolescent years I was preoccupied with fashion and friendship rather than reading. With much regret. #LoveOzYA provides young adults with wonderful coming of age contemporaries, profound narratives and characters that will captivate readers until the final page.

Saving Francesca is a compassionate coming of age story, told from the perspective of a girl who is struggling to find her place in the world without her mother. You can continue the story of Saving Francesca character Jimmy Hailler in When Rosie Met Jim.

Green Valentine is wonderful coming of age with a strong environmental conscious, that proves that friendship and falling in love really knows no bounds.

Summer Skin is a book to empower young women. The snark, the strong female characters, the compassion and tenderness. The message of being your own person and fighting against the stereotypes of both sexes. Buy it. Idolise it. Refer to it as the thinking young woman's bible. 




My Review
Penguin Australia
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My Review
Allen & Unwin
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My Review
Allen & Unwin
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The next #LoveOzYABloggers is Fantasy recommendations. 

They Both Die at the End

They Both Die at the End
Written by Adam Silvera
Contemporary, Science Fiction, LGBTQIA
304 Pages
Expected publication October 1st 2017
Thank you to Simon & Schuster
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn't know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it's his last chance to get out there and make an impression.

Rufus is busy beating up his ex girlfriend's new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it's time to run.

Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love...
The phone rings moments after midnight. Death Cast wishes to inform you that today will be your last day but for seventeen year old Mateo, today will be day he has chosen to live. Mateo is a wonderfully compassionate young man, conscientious and meticulous. Mateo contemplates his final moments, despondent, isolated and seeking companionship. The Last Friend network encouraging Deckers to atone, to live within the moment and find solace. Mateo lives in solitude, his mother passed away seventeen years prior while his father remains unconscious, debilitated and receiving palliative care. His platonic relationship with Lidia is wonderful, a tremendous support to the young single mother since losing her partner.

Eighteen year old Rufas has also received his Death Cast forecast, several months after the lives of his family members were claimed in an accident Rufas survived. Rufas is indignant, a violent young man evading the authorities after a physical assault, which some readers may find confronting. With his friends detained in custody, Rufas has registered with the Last Friend network and connects with fellow New York resident Mateo. Rufas is an interesting character, an instinctive leader accepting of his forecast. 

The narration takes place within New York City. Wonderfully atmospheric, it explores the ambiance of New York and the colourful, diverse residents. Mateo is Puerto Rican American, Rufas identifies as bisexual. Amidst their journey, the narrative introduces the voices of New York. Migrants, immigrants, same sex couples. Community kindness and fragments of the lives intersecting the Last Day journey, through coincidence and circumstance.

The contemporary science fiction fusion offered no explanation to how Death Cast had evolved or how a death forecast is determined. Which was of little impact overall. A Herald will inform recipients they will meet an untimely death within the next twenty four hours and although they cannot suspend the forecast, they are afforded the opportunity to live a final day. While Rufus seems comfortable within his mortality, Mateo is experiencing anxiety and concerned for those he leaves behind. His unconscious father, Lidia and his neighbours. Rufas begins to gently persuade Mateo to live spontaneously. Mateo is a wonderful influence on Rufas. The blossoming friendship and tentative relationship was captivating.

Adam Silvera is magnificent storyteller and They Both Die at the End is his most prolific release to date. Personal and resonating, to live in the moment, to be spontaneous.
I wasted all those yesterdays and am completely out of tomorrows. 
Mad love Adam Silvera, mad love.

Phwoar! No Limits Cover Reveal!

No Limits
Written by Ellie Marney
Contemporary, Mature Young Adult, Much Hotness
Publishing August 14th 2017
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Boozer, brawler, ladies' man, nineteen year old Harris Derwent is not a good guy.

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

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

Harris and Amie’s connection is sizzling hot, but if the cartel finds out about them, things could get downright explosive. Backed into a corner, with everything at stake, it’s time for Harris and Amie to find out if love really has no limits…
No Limits follows the narration of Harris Derwent. Readers of Ellie Marney's Every series will remember Harris from Every Move, Mike's best friend from Five Mile and local ladies man. No Limits can be read as a standalone novel but if you enjoy slow burning romance, steamy kisses and a captivating contemporary suspense, check out the Every series or click to read my review of Every Breath, Every Word and Every Move.

No Limits will be published on August 14th 2017. Preorder your copy on August 1st 2017.

About Ellie Marney

Ellie Marney was born in Brisbane, and has lived in Indonesia, Singapore and India. Now she writes, teaches, talks about kids' literature at libraries and schools, and gardens when she can, while living in a country idyll, actually a very messy wooden house on ten acres with a dog and lots of chickens, near Castlemaine in north central Victoria. Her partner and four sons still love her, even though she often forgets things and lets the housework go.

Ellie is an Ambassador for the Stella Prize Schools Program, and is a regular speaker at schools, events and festivals.

You can find Ellie via her Website  Twitter  Facebook Instagram sign up to her Newsletter  Goodreads or join her #LoveOzYA bookclub.

Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey contains sensitivities such as sexual assault

Milk and Honey
Written by Rupi Kaur
Poetry
196 Pages
Published December 2015
Thank you to Hardie Grant Books
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★★★★★
Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.

The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache.

Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.
A compilation of prose, Milk and Honey is impassioned and inspiring.

From her first kiss and subsequent sexual abuse, The Hurting explores the objectification of the female physique and the the capacity in which our personal spaces are permeated by men. The parental relationship nurturing and an alcoholic parent devoid of maternal capacity.
when my mother opens her mouth
to have a conversation at dinner
my father shoves the word hush
between her lips and tells her to
never speak with her mouth full
this is how the women in my family
learned to live with their mouths closed

The Loving examines the facets of affection. Both parental and the all encompassing intensity of an intoxicating relationship.
he says
i am sorry i am not an easy person to want
i look at him surprised
who said i wanted easy
i don't crave easy
i crave goddamn difficult
you might not have been my first love
but you were the love that made
all the other loves
irrelevant

The despair of a relationship dissolving explored throughout The Breaking. Anguish, exasperation, resentment and nostalgia.
this is where you must
understand the difference
between want and need
you may want that boy
but you certainly
don't need him
the thing
worth holding on to
would not have let go

The Healing is an empowering discussion of courage and fortitude. To be content within yourself and solitude. To break free of the constraints we place upon ourselves and learn to appreciate femininity and the female perspective. 
i like the way the stretch marks
on my thighs look human and
that we're so soft yet
rough and jungle wild
when we need to be
i love that about us
how capable we are of feeling
how unafraid we are of breaking
and tend to our wounds with grace
just being a woman
calling myself
a woman
makes me utterly whole
and complete
losing you
was the becoming
of myself

The narration is segregated by four moments throughout Rupi Kaur's journey. Passionate and confronting. From the depths of despair, a physical exploitation stripping young women of their tenacity, courage germinates. Life flourishing in the most desolate of lands. Milk and Honey is an extraordinary compilation of anguish and empowerment, the fragility and fortitude of women. Remarkable.

ACOWAR: A Most Excellent Bogan Book Review

A Court of Wings and Ruin
A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Three
Written by Sarah J Maas
Fantasy, Romance, New Adult
720 Pages
Published 2nd May 2017
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit  and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords and hunt for allies in unexpected places.
Our sheila Feyre is back and a bad arsed. She's finally gone and got herself a spine and has returned to Tamlin's shithole Spring Court, ballsy and ready to pull the wool over their eyes by leaving them up shit creek without a paddle. Mate, they've got Buckley's. Tamlin is still a wanker and beating his chest like it'll impress the sheila's and Feyre isn't having a bar of that. So once Feyre knows what that shifty prick is up to she's all hooroo dickheads, I'm going back to my hot man. Until Lucien pulls a swifty and says, I've got the hots for your sister, she's my mate and the two set off on a ripper of an adventure.

Shit's about to hit the fan. Rhysand is growling up a storm mate and the King is chucking a tanty. You see, this bloke is a bit ambitious and the greedy bastard wants to take over everything. Because the Night Court is a ripper, they're having none of that and plan on taking him on. Fistycuffs and all.

That Maas chick is shit hot right now, the sheila knows how to spin a tale and it's pretty fucking epic. Knocked my socks right off. Feyre is as cunning as a shithouse rat now, a sly sheila that's thinking bugger this shit and takes the bull by the horns. Of course it'll take a chick to get shit done. Fark oath mate.

Which brings me to why I'm speaking in bogan. For most Aussies, everyone is mate. See Dano over there? He's me mate. Robbo? Mate. Pulling at the pub on a Friday? That's not a mate, that's just pulling. I get it. Feyre and Rhysand are hot for each other and having a shag in the back paddock but fair go, when you're in the middle of epic fisticuffs with a deranged whacker, keep it in your pants son. There's a time and place to go hammer and tongs.

Translation

I really enjoyed it. Sarah J Maas is a wonderfully accomplished storyteller. Emotional and captivating.

A Shadow's Breath and Giveaway

A Shadow's Breath
Written by Nicole Hayes
Contemporary, Romance, Survival, #LoveOzYA
263 Pages
Published January 30th 2017
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★★★★
Then, things were looking up for Tessa. Her mum was finally getting her life back on track. Tessa had started seeing Nick. She was making new friends. She'd even begun to paint again.

Now, Tessa and Nick are trapped in the car after a corner taken too fast. Injured, stranded in the wilderness, at the mercy of the elements, the question becomes one of survival.

But Tessa isn't sure she wants to be found. Not after what she saw. Not after what she remembered.
Sixteen year old Tessa is conscious, her arm dislocated, bloodied and bruised as the car left the highway that promised a new direction. Nick rests behind the wheel and on a lonely, isolated road in country Victoria, the fragmented debris a contrast to the Australian landscape. 

After her father's passing, the darkness emerged. Her mother unable to care for her only child and used alcohol to paralyse her grief while her daughter felt isolated and alone. Alcoholism is an illness that in many cases also accompanies domestic violence, incidences which continue to haunt Tessa. During the depths of despair, the handsome and intelligent Nick reaches out to Tessa and offers her solace from the alcoholic fueled violence of home.

The narrative is profoundly resonating. Alcoholism and domestic violence are issues rarely encountered in young adult novels although predominant within our communities. Ellen is an alcoholic. Throughout the nonlinear narrative Ellen is determined to maintain her sobriety after the breakdown of her former relationship, her partner abusive and creating a toxic environment. The remnants of abuse and neglect weigh heavily upon the parental and daughter relationship and understandably, Tessa is reluctant to place her confidence in Ellen.
Family violence. No one had been brave enough to use that term, given there were no charges, no evidence.

Atmospheric and vibrant, the portrayal of our arid land was immaculate as the two adolescents attempt to survive. The arduous Australian climate scorching the barren Victorian landscape while on the horizon, fire approaches. It was captivating.

A Shadow's Breath is a compelling nonlinear narrative, breathtaking and atmospheric. Resonating and personal, a reminder of human fragility.
When Nicole Hayes isn't yelling at the Hawks on TV or sharing hosting duties on the all female AFL podcast The Outer Sanctum, she teaches writing and writes fiction, essays and scripts. Her debut novel, The Whole of My World was published in 2013 and was shortlisted for a Young Australians Best Book Award and longlisted for the Gold Inky Award. One True Thing, Nicole's second novel, won the Children's Peace Literature Award, is a CBCA Notable Book and was shortlisted for the WA Premier's Book Awards.

#ashadowsbreathcontest 

To celebrate our love for A Shadow's Breath, Nicole Hayes is giving away a choice of two of her titles and a $20.00AU gift voucher. To win, simply head over to Eugenia's Instagram page for more details.

Giveaway


The Names They Gave Us

The Names The Gave Us
Written by Emery Lord
Contemporary, Spirituality, Romance
400 Pages
Published June 1st 2017
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★
Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom's cancer reappears, Lucy falters, in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend pauses their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp, one for troubled kids, Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle.

Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?
Lucy Hansson finds glory in the inspiration of Our Father, a passionate parishioner honouring thy father and thy mother. A wonderful community of support for the sixteen year old high achiever. Lucy's character is delightful. She's a wonderfully positive young woman with a tremendous sense of community for her fellow parishioners. Her strong Christian beliefs extend to her relationship with fellow Christian Lukas until Lucy challenges the boundaries of their physical relationship.

Daybreak is a summer program for children and teens enduring grief, displacement and despite Lucy's reluctance, she accepts the position of counselor to satisfy her mother. The Names They Gave Us explores adolescence grief and acceptance. Lucy's mother is breast cancer survivor although in the summer of Lucy's senior year, her mother is rediagnosed and scheduled for surgery.

Lucy begins to challenge her Christian ideology, an aspect of the narrative I found fascinating. Lucy is a compassionate humanitarian but her ideology often leads to the judgement of others, including a pregnant young lady seeking guidance. Lucy's character encounters a diverse and wonderful company of counselors who have all experienced trauma or loss throughout their young lives. In particular gentle Anna and the magnificent Henry. The delicate romance between Lucy and Henry was captivating. Daybreak is a positive and maternal environment and the counselors all share a wonderfully affirming perspective.

Although Christianity and illness are components of Lucy's narrative, The essence of The Names They Gave Us is compassion. Through her interactions with fellow councilors, Lucy experiences a sense of belonging and immeasurable admiration, now accepting of new experiences guided by the group of diverse, young individuals. African American adolescents, transgender, exploring sexuality, displacement, socioeconomics, race, religion, anxiety, grief, adoption and illness. Both children and councilors were wonderfully representative of our diverse communities.

Unfortunately it ended rather abruptly and I needed closure.

Emery Lord is a prolific contemporary author, creating socially conscious characters with compassion and consideration. The Names They Gave Us is marvelously delightful, beautifully written and enchanting.

Release

Release
Written by Patrick Ness
Contemporary, LGBT, Paranormal
288 Pages
Published May 4th 2017
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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★★★
Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume's Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn It's a big day. Things go wrong. It's intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches...

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything.

It's a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won't come out of it unchanged.

And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.
Adam Thorn is sensitive, compassionate, beautiful, complicated. His grief is palpable, poignant and often confrontational. The Thorn family believe in the capacity of faith. To rehabilitate and to offer judgement especially concerning Adam's sexuality. Emotionally depleted after his relationship dissolved, Adam is navigating the parameters of a new relationship, desperate to find love once more.

Adam identifies as gay, his father using his faith to thinly veil his homophobic beliefs and whilst his sexuality isn't acknowledged categorically, he is often discussed as being dishonourable and needing to rediscover his own faith. Adam is nursing the heartbreak of first love while trying to commit to a new relationship. Adam's narration was wonderful, profound, often poignant and takes place over the span of a single day. Throughout his narration, Adam questions his own faith by being in a same sex relationship and when reaching out his evangelist father, he is ridiculed and dismissed.

Release touches on issues such as homophobia, substance abuse, manslaughter, sexual assault and the religion verses sexuality contention. Courageously and compassionately. The incorporation of sexual relationships was wonderful, a mature inclusion rarely seen in young adult novels accentuating same sex relationships.

The emphasis of Release is familiar relationships and in particular, the relationship Adam shares with his father. LGBTQIA teens and adult readers as an extension may find these particular passages confronting as it explores homophobia and erasure. Adam's family is homophobic, expressing the view that gay love is fraudulent.
It's not real love. Everybody's convinced themselves that it is, but it isn't. And it never will be.
Angela is a tremendous support to Adam, compassionate and maternal. Angela's adoptive family are wonderfully inclusive of her Korean ancestry, supporting Angela who identifies as bisexual and offering sanctuary to Adam.

The magical realism elements of Release were enchantingly lyrical, perplexing and synonymous within Patrick Ness narrations. A Queen infused with the spirit of a young women, dying from asphyxiation by her narcotic effected partner. Her companion is an anxious Faun. The two narratives converge and although peculiar and lyrically enchanting, the significance was nonsensical other than two characters seeking release


Patrick Ness is a magnificent author and Release is a tender and compassionate read, confronting and captivating until the final page.

Defy The Stars

Defy The Stars
Constellation Book One
Written by Claudia Gray
Science Fiction, Space Opera
432 Pages
Published April 2017
Thank you to Allen & Unwin and Hot Key
RRP $19.95
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★★★★☆
Noemi is a young and fearless soldier of Genesis, a colony planet of a dying Earth. But the citizens of Genesis are rising up, they know that Earth's settlers will only destroy this planet the way they destroyed their own. And so a terrible war has begun.

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth's robotic mech warriors, she realizes that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis' salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her, even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He's a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth's various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer, both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world's fate, and Abel's.
The Earth is dying. Countless generations of Earth residents have survived famine, contamination and the consumption of resources. Genesis is environmentally conscious and a sustainable civilisation, believed to be technologically inferior. The young inhabitants of Genesis have been conscripted for the Masada Run, a suicidal mission against the mechanised humanoid military technology, artificially intelligent beings sent to decimate Genesis assembly in order to recolonise the planet.

Noemi is a wonderful character, abrasive, determined and willing to self sacrifice for the preservation of Genesis. Seeking medical attention, Noemi embarks upon the Daedalus, the abandoned, aging and debilitated Earth spacecraft. Noemi is human, her Polynesian and Latin American ancestry the only remnants of her biological genealogy.

Abel has lived isolated on board the Daedalus for decades, his father and crew members having abandoned the vessel leaving Abel behind. Abel is a prototype of entrepreneur Burton Mansfield, creator of mechanised humanoid military technology. In isolation for thirty years has allowed Abel's technology to evolve, humanised emotions, to dream and through evolution, Noemi and Abel develop a tentative amnesty.

One aspect I really appreciated was the subtle discussion of religious spirituality and empirical science. Noemi follows the teachings of the Second Catholic Church of Genesis, her interactions with Abel were approached without intolerance. I enjoyed Noemi and Abel's comfortable companionship, a gentle progression as Abel discovers his own humanity. Delicate and captivating.

Greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of natural resources and increased population and pollution have led to the environmental decimation of Earth and Defy The Stars explores scientific, spiritualistic and environmental aspects of humanity. Defy The Stars is spectacularly atmospheric, captivating and breathtakingly celestial.
We are this world. Its next generation. If you’re not trying to save us, then what exactly are you trying to save?

This Side Of Home

This Side Of Home
Written by Renée Watson
Contemporary, Diverse, Realistic Fiction
352 Pages
Published April 1st 2017
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★
Maya Younger and her identical twin sister, Nikki, have always agreed on the important things. Friends. Boys. School. They even plan to attend the same historically African American college. But nothing can always remain the same.

As their Portland neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up and coming, Maya feels her connection to Nikki and their community slipping away. Nikki spends more time at trendy coffee shops than backyard barbecues, and their new high school principal is more committed to erasing the neighborhood's ghetto reputation than honoring its history.

Home doesn't feel like home anymore. As Maya struggles to hold on to her black heritage, she begins to wonder with whom, or where she belongs. Does growing up have to mean growing apart?
Senior Maya Younger is a remarkable young woman, articulate, intelligent and ambitious. Identical siblings Maya and Nikki aspire to attend Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women. The Portland neighbourhood is evolving, a predominantly black community displaced by white residents and corporate franchise stores.
They've painted and planted and made beauty out of decaying dreams. Block after block, strangers kept coming to Jackson Avenue, kept coming and changing and remaking and adding on to and taking away from.
Best friend and neighbour Essence is forced from the rental property she shares with her alcohol dependant mother, the landlord an opportunistic man exploiting the real estate demand. Another white family are now residents within the Portland community while her suburban school begins to diversify.

Maya's frustration was palpable. Her community flourishing black family homes are being acquired and businesses financially constrained while residents acclimatise. Maya has inherited her parental legacy, her mother and father community activists while encouraging Maya to uphold her ideals. As Maya and Nikki form a tentative friendship with new neighbours, Nikki is thriving, exploring the contention of Caucasians encroaching on black communities.

As senior president, Maya will collaborate with the new principle who is determined to innovate and positively influence education for all students. As Richmond tradition, the school celebrates Black History Month but as the new diversification has been introduced, African American students will celebrate diversity. The principal seemed awfully misguided. While attempting to promote inclusion, he erased the cultural signification of black teens and as a black educator he was inconsiderate and dismissive.

Instinctive prejudice and stereotyping of the African American community is predominant within the Portland suburb and touches upon black residents campaigning for community safety, beautification and infrastructure. Landlords evicting tenants from debilitated homes, refurbishing to satisfy white families. The community seems reluctantly accepting of the suburb transformation, Nikki in particular and Maya begins to challenge her sister and her ideals, causing a fracture within their relationship.

A point of contention is the flourishing interracial relationship between Maya and new neighbour Tony, shortly after her dissolving relationship with Devin.
And women throughout our neighborhood pull me aside, saying things like, "I'm glad he's dating you and not one of them." And by them they either mean a white girl or hood girl.
Although Tony is attentive and considerate, Maya experiences a sense of expectations within the wider community. Her concern of being hypocritical, dating a Caucasian Tony in contrast to diversifying her Portland town with the influx of white families. While at Richmond, white and Hispanic students are instrumental in a new diversity inclusion policy, at the detriment of black students and Black History Month. It raises the discussion of marginalisation and the erasure of racial identities in favour of inclusion. Inclusion is paramount in creating safe spaces especially with adolescents but the cultural and historical significance of Black History Month in particular should be celebrated. Black teens should be celebrated. One month per year shouldn't be infringed upon.

This Side Of Home is an intelligent read, wonderfully diverse and encourages discussion about cultural significance and inclusion. Compelling, compassionate reading.

The Blue Cat

The Blue Cat
Written by Ursula Dubosarsky
Middle Grade, Historical, Magical Realism
180 Pages
Published April 2017
Thank you  to Allen & Unwin
RRP $19.99
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★★★☆
A boy stood in the playground under the big fig tree. 'He can't speak English,' the children whispered.

Sydney, 1942. The war is coming to Australia, not only with the threat of bombardment, but also the arrival of refugees from Europe. Dreamy Columba's world is growing larger. She is drawn to Ellery, the little boy from far away, and, together with her highly practical best friend Hilda, the three children embark on an adventure through the harbourside streets. A journey of discovery and terror, in pursuit of the mysterious blue cat...
The air raid siren wails throughout Sydney harbour while American Warships dapple across the horizon. The war has reached the Australian shoreline with the Japanese military threatening a hostile destruction of the land. For Columba this is simply how we survive, we live in each moment.

While the city of Paris falls to the Germanic forces, European refugees are migrating to Australia, fractured and displaced by conflict. Ellery is a Jewish boy, withdrawn and unable to verbally communicate. Children are remarkably resilient and Columba was a wonderfully compassionate young girl and curiously, approaches Ellery.
I had never heard Ellery laugh before, not out loud. I loved the sound, it filled me up. It tinkled like a magic bird.
Ellery and Columba engage in apprehensive smiles and amiable silences, a tentative companionship leading to adventure. Columba is influenced by friend Hilda, a young girl fond of telling tales and repeating rumours. I found Hilda's character quite manipulate and relentless, insisting Ellery has migrated from Germany where his mother had perished, a casualty of war. The narrative being told through the narration of a young girl although charming, is unreliable.

At the essence of the narration is a stray Blue Cat, suspected to have escaped from the Warships dappled throughout the harbour. The role of the feline is of little significance, temporarily residing at an elderly neighbours residence when it disappears into the night. Is the Blue Cat mere symbolism for a greater relevance? Bringing communities together? The infusion of magical realism felt incoherent and as though an integral aspect of the storyline was absent, creating an incredibly abrupt ending. 

The Blue Cat is beautifully written, lyrical and delicate, within the nineteen forties atmospheric Sydney harbour. Although the narrative required direction, author Ursula Dubosarsky has created a wonderfully Australian ambiance, breathing life into our historical city landscapes.

Swoony C. J. Duggan

See my review for book one Paradise City

Paradise Road
Paradise Book Two
Written by C. J. Duggan
New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
306 Pages
Published November 22nd 2015
Thank you to Hachette Australia
★★☆
The Road to Paradise is never easy
After a year on the coast, Lexie Atkinson can't settle back into country life. She’s missing the glitzy, gritty nightlife of the big city and the group of misfit friends she’d loved to hate. She knows to move forward she has to go back, back to face the guy who stole her heart.

But when Lexie arrives in Paradise City to work out if her future includes bad boy surfer, Luke Ballantine, he is nowhere to be found.

With no home, no money and no Luke, Lexie gets a job slinging drinks at the wild Wipe Out Bar. Soon her heartache is eased when broody bar owner, Dean Saville, starts taking an interest and stirs more than just her drinks. But nothing is ever as it seems in Paradise City and when Luke barrels back into town, Lexie has a choice to make. But who will end up with the broken heart. Luke, Dean... Or Lexie?
Lexie Atkinson is back in her sleepy home town of Red Hill for the summer, grieving for the relationship what could have been. With the bright lights of Paradise City in her sights, Lexie plans to return to the city. I adored Paradise City. A small town, home schooled Lexie Atkinson was a breath of fresh air as she navigated her new life in the city. In Paradise Road, unfortunately Lexie now is under the illusion that with her aunt and uncle unable to offer her accommodation, she'll be able to find work, complete her education and become independent. The one condition that will allow her to stay.

Conveniently, the Wipe Out Bar is looking for employees and with a small room available for lodgings, Lexie is now reluctantly employed by Dean Saville. Lexie is determined and begins to assert her dominance, believing she has the authority to transform the bar into a family friendly atmosphere. Her vision was innovative but ultimately, she is a young woman who knows nothing about small business management and infringed on her employment boundaries. While Lexie is coming to terms with her relationship falling apart, Luke is consistently in her thoughts even while beginning to pursue Dean as a romantic interest.

I found the romance between Lexie and Dean improbable unfortunately due to Lexie's demeanor, interchanging one brother for another. The pleasant, country charm is replaced by a determined and arrogant young woman, naive and frustrating. Although wonderfully written, Lexie was incredibly unpleasant and hindered my enjoyment of the duology finale.



Paris Lights
Heart Of The City Book One
Written by C. J. Duggan
Adult, Contemporary, Romance
251 Pages
Published November 2016
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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★★★★
Twenty five year old Claire Shorten had looked forward to spending a romantic weekend in Paris for as long as she could remember, and now it was here, three blissful days of strolling through cobbled streets arm in arm with her beloved, eating copious amounts of baked goods and soaking up the culture through each and every pore of her body. Well, at least, that was how she'd pictured it.

Even after her boyfriend dumps her rather unceremoniously in the most romantic place on earth, Claire is determined not to give up on her dream altogether, with or without a boyfriend. She finds herself a job in the kitchen of a small hotel. Michelin starred it most certainly is not, but somehow Claire makes a place for herself amidst the dirty dishes and the foreign misfits who run the place.

When the restaurant attracts the attention of the enigmatic, if not slightly terrifying, tycoon Louis Delarue and Claire manages to survive his high powered business luncheon from hell, she knows that she can survive anything, surely. But all bets are off when Louis makes a game changing decision, he's coming back for a second course...
Delicacies, Parisian art galleries and boutique hotels but for Claire Shorten, Paris is an experience. Compromising her itinerary to placate Liam, Claire is astonished when her partner declares they should see other people. Claire is devastated and upon returning to the Hotel Trocadero will determine whether to return to London and the apartment she shares with Liam or Melbourne. Stricken and collapsing in the hotel foyer, the hotel personnel places Claire in a new suite at the Trocadero where the twenty five tear old Australian continues to despair. The once grand Hotel Trocadero is a commotion of anxiety and elation as they've been chosen to partake in Renovation or Detonation. Impressing the merciless Louis Delarue is paramount to the Hotel Trocadero's application and with a background in event organising, Claire will guide and motivate hotel personnel as compensation for her accommodation.

Louis Delarue is infuriating and arrogant as he is handsome, wielding wealth and influence as his weapon. Confident, capable and determined, Claire will not become a casualty to anguish, she is tenacious and will reclaim Paris and she most definitely will not succumb to the charm and sex appeal of Louis Delarue.

My Thoughts

Claire is a passive, passionate girl who departed her home town of Melbourne for London to ensure her partner Liam achieved his aspirations. As their relationship evolved, Claire relinquished her sense of identity and Liam isn't manipulative or abusive, despite the circumstances surrounding their relationship seperation. On their final day sightseeing, Liam returns to London as a bachelor while Claire remains in Paris, grieving from the loss of her disproportional relationship.

Single. In Paris. Hello Pierre.


Rather than embrace the singleton lifestyle, Claire finds herself fantasising about Louis, sexy, domineering and sexy. Yes, I mentioned sexy twice. Rather than the typical male protagonist, Louis is mature, greying temples and although described as lean, Louis is an intellect. Passionate and ambitious. Claire offered very little resistance against Louis and his charismatic innuendo and I felt slightly disappointed by the relationship between Claire and Louis as it felt purely sexual.

Sexual tension y'all.

Paris Lights is mischievous, enticing and one young woman who is determined to embrace life. A brisk, pleasant read for an afternoon on the couch. 
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