The Wonderling

The Wonderling
The Wonderling Book One
Written by Mira Bartok
Middle Grade, Fantasy
464 Pages
Published October 1st 2017
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent hearted, one eared, fox like eleven year old with only a number rather than a proper name, a Thirteen etched on a medallion around his neck, it is the only home he has ever known.

But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home's loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts. A real name, Arthur, like the good king in the old stories and a best friend. Using Trinket's ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur's true destiny.
Miss Carbunkles Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures is an austere orphanage, Groundling children restrained within the oppressive, debilitated compound, labouring for their survival. Number Thirteen is a misbegotten, lonely, one eared Foxling, gallant and courageous as he encounters a small, flightless feathered friend. Trinket is an wondrous inventor, sharing stories of fantastical worlds of knights and kingdoms, declaring Thirteen shall now be known as Arthur for his bravery, the little Foxling destined for valiancy.
And in his sleep he began to form a song from their sorrow. But he had far to go before he would sing it.

Eleven year old Arthur is a delicate and compassionate young Foxling, a discarded orphan at the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. Unbeknownst to Arthur, destiny awaits. Arthur and Trinket are wonderful companions. With a key, an address, a blanket fragment and a bygone lullaby, Arthur and his feathered companion embark on an adventure to fantastical worlds, on a journey of self discovery.

Miss Carbunkle is a tyrannical, callous woman, her blundering assistant Mister Sneezeweed, a snivelling, loathsome man. As Arthur discovers a world brimming with vibrancy, the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures remains silent, melodies as forbidden as imagination is prohibited. Miss Carbunkle has devious intentions. Beyond the orphanage compound is a malevolent world of privilege and poverty, Groundlings are considered insignificant and segregated. 
Arthur's heart ached. But it wasn't that he was terribly sad. It just simply ached, as if it were too full and the contents had nowhere to go.

Along their journey, Arthur and Trinket discover stupendous characters before separating, namely forest dweller Pinecone and his family. As Trinket visits her tinkering Uncle, Arthur traverses the Great White City of Lumentown, a city of contrasts and castes, only to discover Quintus, a pilfering rodent who guides Arthur on his journey. Pevill is magnificent, an astute little mouse, thespian and poet. The essence of The Wonderling is acceptance and belonging, emphasising the need for compassion. A breathtaking and atmospheric middle grade adventure, exquisite and captivating until the final page.

#LoveOzYABloggers 009: Spring Reads

#LoveOzYABloggers is hosted by #LoveOzYA, a community led organisation dedicated to promoting Australian young adult literature. Keep up to date with all new Aussie YA releases with their monthly newsletter, or find out what’s happening with NewsEvents or submit your own!

My Spring Reading List

The next #LoveOzYABloggers prompt is Maps

Girlish: Teen Feminism and Empowerment

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Is Where It Ends

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

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

The auditorium doors won't open.

Someone starts shooting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moxie: Girls Fight Back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you enjoyed Moxie you may also enjoy

Now I Rise

See my review for And I Darken

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

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

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

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

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

The Trials Of Morrigan Crow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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