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.

10:03
The auditorium doors won't open.

10:05
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!

Moxie
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
Add to Goodreads
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
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Fiona Wood
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Simmone Howell
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Thanks to Cath, Fiona, Simmone and the wonderful Pan Macmillan

The Bone Sparrow

The Bone Sparrow
Written by Zana Fraillon
Middle Grade, Australia, Realistic Fiction
234 Pages
Published June 28th 2016
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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★★★★★
Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But as he grows, his imagination gets bigger too, until it is bursting at the limits of his world. The night sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears from the other side of the wires, and brings a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it, she relies on Subhi to unravel her own family's love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.
Eight year old Subhi survives behind within the wire compound of the detention centre, overcrowded bodies neglected under the parched Australian sun. Subhi is one child of thousands of men, women and children escaping their homeland and applying for asylum in Australia. Born within the compound, his family surviving the harrowing journey from Burma where his father is under political incarceration. Persecuted and malnourished, families are placed within the compound and abandoned by the Australian government, segregated from their family members while abused and tormented by confinement.

Subhi is a remarkable young man, Intelligent and compassionate. The narrative is incredibly confronting, the lack of empathy towards those who seek asylum, the impoverished conditions and atrocious deficiency of humanity. Subhi imagines a freedom for his ailing mother and sister Queeny, a resilient young woman who has become Subhi's guardian. 

Nine year old Jimmie lives within the remote community, occupied by exploring since her mother passed away. While her father is a single parent living below the poverty threshold, all that remains of Jimmie's late mother is her treasured book of stories and her Bone Sparrow necklace. An insufficient education and inadequate parenting, Jimmie is illiterate and continues to grieve for her mother's stories.

Although Subhi is a fictional character, he represents the thousands of children and families denied refuge and placed within detention centres and incarcerated, his narrative instigating important conversations about human rights and the Australian refugee legislation. The conditions within the refugee compound are appalling. Inadequate basic necessities, dehumanised and often brutalised by government employed wardens. Their meagre possessions confiscated upon arrival. Mental and physical health deteriorate as families are segregated. Their voices left unheard.
Jimmie looks at me and nods. 'I know,' she says. 'I hear you.'
The Bone Sparrow is a conscientious and impassioned narrative of the abhorrent treatment and conditions asylum seekers face in Australia. Captivating and confronting.

How you can make a difference

Author Zana Fraillon is raising funds for #authorsforasylum on behalf of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre supporting the #letthemstay campaign. Bid or donate now. Follow the ASRC or Zana Fraillon for more information. Online auction ends at 11:00pm AEST on September 7th 2017.

Blog Tour: Take Three Girls

Take Three Girls
Written by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood
Contemporary, Social Issues, #LoveOzYA
423 Pages
Publishing 29th August 2017
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
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 private boarding school of Saint Hilda's promotes excellence in academic pursuits so when a website begins to engage in targeted student abuse, the prestigious school begins a Wellness initiative to promote well being and self reflection. The Private School Secrets Tracker website engages in defamation to humiliates female students, sharing personal information and encouraging concealed users to engage in abuse. Young women defined by their bodies, sexuality and social standing.

The improbable companionship between Kate, Clementine and Adelaide is wonderful. Kate is an astute and enthusiastic music student and although wistful, Kate relies upon her scholarship to attend school. Adelaide is an extrovert who is often callous and judgemental, enduring her father's addiction and dissolution of marriage while exploring a bisexual relationship. Clementine is a former athlete rediscovering her personal identity and navigating her first sexual relationship. Her relationship with sister Iris has surpassed the boundaries of sibling rivalry and often socially isolated one another. 

The Private School Secrets Tracker degrades female adolescents and the societal and psychological and ramifications are disquieting. I enjoyed the discussion of the toxicity of online communities. The website was incredibly confronting and reminiscent of the online abuse women on social media experience consistently. Take Three Girls reinforces the significance of female solidarity and empowerment, encouraged by the Wellness initiative as part of the school curriculum in response to the toxic, damaging website.

I imagine the girl friendly world. Streets at night full of girls and women, god, it would be so lovely. Walking anywhere we want, wearing anything we want, staying out late, shouting, singing, drinking. Never worrying about attracting unwanted attention from dickheads. All the taxis and Ubers driven by women, so you don't have to sit there holding your phone, ready to instant dial for help if they take a wrong turn on the way home. 

Take Three Girls is a journey of discovery, identity and acceptance. I enjoyed the journal aspects throughout the storyline, each narrative examining how rumour and innuendo influences our mental wellness, confidence and self esteem. Beautifully written, significant and empowering.

Imagine slipping out for a full moon midnight walk just because you could. We'd start to swagger, we'd own the streets, own the night.

Wouldn't we just.

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
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
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.
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