Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

See my review for book one in the Nevermoor series here
Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow
Nevermoor Book Two
Written by Jessica Townsend
Middle Grade, Fantasy, #LoveOZMG
467 Pages
Published October 30th 2018
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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Wunder is gathering in Nevermoor...

Morrigan Crow may have defeated her deadly curse, passed the dangerous trials and joined the mystical Wundrous Society, but her journey into Nevermoor and all its secrets has only just begun. And she is fast learning that not all magic is used for good.

Morrigan Crow has been invited to join the prestigious Wundrous Society, a place that promised her friendship, protection and belonging for life. She's hoping for an education full of wunder, imagination and discovery but all the Society want to teach her is how evil Wundersmiths are. And someone is blackmailing Morrigan's unit, turning her last few loyal friends against her. Has Morrigan escaped from being the cursed child of Wintersea only to become the most hated figure in Nevermoor?

Worst of all, people have started to go missing. The fantastical city of Nevermoor, once a place of magic and safety, is now riddled with fear and suspicion...
Miss Morrigan Crow, calamitous young lady of the Wintersea Republic is now preparing to become an esteemed scholar of the Wundrous Society, accompanying eight fellow students including the marvellous Hawthorne. Although compelled to confidentiality considering the dastardly mayhem instigated by Wundersmith Ezra Squall, Morrigan's Wundersmith ability is discovered and unscrupulously, an unknown antagonist is conspiring towards the extraordinary children with a bizarre series of anonymous notes and peculiar stipulations.

Fragments throughout the Wundrous Society community have vanished, scholars, colleagues and acquaintances. Instinctively Miss Morrigan Crow is a suspect as an accused nefarious Wundersmith but with the steadfast assistance of the nonchalant Hawthorne, Jupiter North, Jack and an unlikely collaborator, Morrigan is determined to preserve the Wundrous Society, Nevermoor and substantiate that a Wundersmith is fantastically wundrous.

Our Magnificent Morrigan!
Morrigan Crow is a intelligent and practical young woman. Forsaking the calamity and misadventure of the Wintersea Republic, Morrigan is now a resident of Nevermoor, liberated by Jupiter North to compete in the Wondrous Society tournament. As a Wundersmith, Morrigan attends a specialised program consisting of the history of the Wundersmith and their heinous atrocities. 

Throughout the narration, Morrigan discovers that beneath the fantastical facade of Nevermoor, wickedness is awakening. Jupiter North is investigating an illegal marketplace in correlation to the community members. His extended absences further isolating Morrigan as she adjusts to her new environment. Morrigan is challenged by prejudice and at a disadvantage, increasingly isolated from her fellow scholars and Society facility, fearing the Wundersmith notoriety. Her Society companions are disciplined within their individual abilities however, Morrigan is secluded and denied an education despite Jupiter protesting for equality. The demeanour of Wundersmith Ezra Squall reflects on Morrigan and although only twelve years of age, she is held responsible for the actions of her predecessor. Outlandish! 

The Merry Band Of Sidekicks
The grand Hotel Deucalion is resident to a fictionally diverse and eclectic community and although Jupiter is her guardian, Morrigan relies upon the Deucalion residents for guidance and perspective. Fenestra the talking Magnificat, Jack the nephew of Jupiter who returns from boarding school on weekends, the operatic singer and the vampire dwarf with a penchant for lavish carousing. 

Hawthorne Swift is a tremendous character, friend and entourage for Morrigan. His solidarity is unconditional and although his character appears humorous and sprightly, he fiercely defends his friend against Morrigan naysayers. Former antagonist Cadance Blackburn is delightfully surprising. Although adversaries, Cadance recognises the importance of Morrigan and her abilities as they cooperate to solve the mystery of the illegal marketplace.

Step Boldly
The atmospheric enchantment of Nevermoor is an experience. The fantastical Brolly Rail as it bustles throughout the expansive metropolis, the intricate and deceptive thoroughfares and animated diorama of Nevermoor and the residents. Nevermoor is fantastically imagined and beautifully illustrated. Although the world is intricate and voluminous, it's encompassed by a wonderful intimacy and warmth.

Nevermoor transcends children's literature, captivating and enchanting audiences. Categorically breathtaking.

Spotlight - Tales of a New World

To celebrate the release of the third installment of the Tales of a New World by best selling author P. C. Cast, Pan Macmillan Australia in conjunction with the Australian Young Adult Bloggers and Readers Group are hosting a blog celebration! Including reviews, author interviews and competitions. Today I'll be hosting a series spotlight and linking to my fellow participants.

Moon Chosen
Tales of a New World Book One
Published October 25th 2016
600 Pages
Recommended Retail Price $18.99
Available from Pan Macmillan Australia
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Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan; but she has cast her duties aside, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival clan, strays across her path, that Mari experiences something she has never felt before.

Now, darkness is coming, and with it, a force, more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By forming a tumultuous alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik.

Sun Warrior
Tales of a New World Book Two
Published October 31st 2017
576 Pages
Recommended Retail Price $18.99
Available from Pan Macmillan Australia
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The battle lines have been drawn and Mari, an Earth Walker and Nik, a Companion, who were once from rival clans now find themselves fighting to save each other and their people from destruction.

Thaddeus betrayed his own people, killing Nik’s father and destroying their entire clan. But he wants more. He wants the power he believes Mari has stolen from him and his people and he will do anything he must to get them back, even if it means destroying everything in his path. There is only way to stop Thaddeus, but it means a harrowing journey for Mari and Nik into the heart of darkness. Meanwhile, Dead Eye becomes a willing vessel for the newly awakened god, Death. Death has plans of his own and he, too, will use whatever and whomever he must, including the mad Thaddeus

Wind Rider
Tales of a New World
Published October 30th 2018
544 Pages
Recommended Retail Price $18.99
Available from Pan Macmillan
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Mari, Nik, and their newly formed Pack are being hunted. Thaddeus and the God of Death will stop at nothing until they are obliterated from the earth. But Mari and Nik have one goal: to reach the plains of the Wind Riders in order to band together to stop Thaddeus from destroying all that Mari and Nik hold dear.

But will the mysterious Wind Riders accept the Pack, or will Mari and Nik and their people be rejected by the mighty Riders and be forced to flee for their lives? And what happens when a rogue Lead Stallion gets too close to the Pack, rejecting all Wind Riders and turning to a stranger for companionship instead?

In the next installment of the Tales of a New World series love and goodness are put to the ultimate test. Will the Wind Riders and the Pack be strong enough to withstand the God of Death? Will the Great Goddess of Life awaken to join the battle, and if so, will it be as Death's consort, or will the Goddess stand with Mari and her people against the great love of her eternal life?

With her daughter Kristin, P. C. Cast is the author of the House of Night novels. She was born in the Midwest, and grew up being shuttled back and forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology. P.C. Cast is a number one New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.

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Stone Girl

Contains sensitive themes for mature young adult readers
Stone Girl
Written by Eleni Hale
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, #LoveOZYA
368 Pages
Published April 30th 2018
Thank you to Penguin Books Australia
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An unspeakable event changes everything for twelve year old Sophie. No more Mum, school or bed of her own. She’s made a ward of the state and grows up in a volatile world where kids make their own rules, adults don’t count and the only constant is change.

Until one day she meets Gwen, Matty and Spiral. Spiral is the most furious, beautiful boy Sophie has ever known. And as their bond tightens she finally begins to confront what happened in her past.

I’m at the police station. There’s blood splattered across my face and clothes. In this tiny room with walls the colour of winter sky I hug a black backpack full of treasures. Only one thing is certain... No one can ever forgive me for what I’ve done.
There are currently over forty five thousand children within the foster care system within Australia. These are children without a primary caregiver, children who are casualties of family violence, substance abuse or children without a nurturing environment. Her story is harrowing and confrontational and although Sophie Soukaris is a fictional character, her narrative is indicative of many adolescents placed within the system.

Sophie Soukaris has been placed within temporary care after her mother passed away, child protection authorities attempting to contact her estranged father in Greece. As a young woman with a child, her mother returned to Australia after a dissolution of marriage, raising Sophie as a single parent and substance abuser, known to child protection authorities.

The quivering in my chest feels like frantic butterflies under my skin. They want to get out but can't, their colourful wings trapped in darkness.

Awaiting a permanent position with a foster family and accommodated with adolescents, Sophie begins to assimilate to her environment, susceptible to substance abuse, addiction, manipulation, sexual assault and misdemeanours as a minor. As her environment becomes increasingly treacherous, Family Assistance Services provides Sophie with a sequence of temporary housing, a vulnerable and perceptive young girl a consequence of her environment. Sophie is coerced, abducted and imprisoned by a paedophile. Attempted suicide, narcotics abuse, alcoholism, gender violence and engaging in destructive although consensual relationships.

The narrative is confrontational and controversial. Adolescents abandoned by protection services, ostracised by society without a sense of belonging. Debut author Eleni Hale has created a remarkable, captivating and courageous narrative. Imperative reading. 

We Three Heroes

Contains spoilers for the Medoran Chronicles
We Three Heroes
The Medoran Chronicles Novella Series
Written by Lynette Noni
Fantasy, Adventure, #LoveOZYA
367 Pages
Published August 27th 2018
Thank you to Pantera Press
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Alexandra Jennings might be the hero of The Medoran Chronicles, but she would be lost without her three closest friends. They are her heroes, and like all heroes, they each have their own story.

Meet the real D.C. in Crowns and Curses and discover how she becomes the princess Alex once despised but now adores.

Follow Jordan on his healing journey in Scars and Silence as he struggles in the wake of being rescued from his living nightmare.

Walk beside Bear in Hearts and Headstones as he faces an unspeakable trauma while helping his world prepare for the coming war.

Jordan, Bear and D.C. are the heroes of their own stories.

It is time for their stories to be told.
Crowns And Curses is narrated by Princess Delucia Cavelle, heir to the Medoran Kingdom. As a young girl, D.C was well acquainted with the expectations of representing the Medoran crown, the increasing loneliness as she was sheltered from public life and educated within the palatial residence. D.C yearns for companionship, believing she has found a friend in Maxton, the young son of the High Court Judge but Maxton is deceptive and determined to humiliate the young princess.

As her prophetic ability manifests, Delucia receives an invitation to Akarnae Academy. A new beginning and a chance to connect with her peers. At Akarnae, D.C is without her Princess title but with years of isolation and protecting her emotions, she becomes estranged from her fellow students before being introduced to Alexandra Jennings.

Scars And Silence accompanies Jordan Sparker throughout his journey of empowerment after which his life was claimed and manipulated by Aven Dalmarta. Jordan is experiencing a crisis of identity, betrayal and consumed by his affliction. Through compassion and understanding, Jordan begins to acknowledge his anxiety and is encouraged by Delucia and Hunter, two positive influences within his life.

Jordan continues to blame himself for the death of his brother, adding to his anguish. 

Jordan's narrative is confrontational and distressing. Jordan discovered his brother moments before he had taken his own life, watching in horror but rendered helpless. Jordan shares with D.C the circumstances surrounding Luka's suicide which may distress readers. Luka identified as gay and although in a wonderful relationship with a male partner, their volatile father dismissed Luka's sexuality, going as far to force Luka into an arranged marriage. Luka, feeling as though he had no other option, took his own life. 

Hearts And Headstones is narrated by Barnold Ronnigan, affectionately known as Bear and surrounds the journey to Graevale as diplomatic emissaries, ending in anguish for the Ronnigan family. Bear finds solace within his tentative friendship and potential relationship with Declan. Amidst the devastation, the apprehensive smiles of the potential romance is beautiful.

We Three Heroes offers readers an insight into the significant moments that shape each character throughout the series, from each characters point of view. The brave, tentative and vulnerable moments that add depth and humanity to characters we typically see as indestructible.

The Medoran Chronicles is a phenomenal series, adventurous, imaginative and superbly written. Lynette Noni is a prolific author, creating atmospheric worlds and vibrant characters. I've fallen in love with reading all over again. 

What If It's Us

What If It's Us
Written by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Contemporary, Romance, LGBT
448 Pages
Published October 2018
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia
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Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.
Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his former boyfriend’s things.
But when Arthur and Ben meet at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?
Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated. Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.
But what if they can’t quite nail a first date? Or a second first date or a third? What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?
Although I've never read anything by Becky Albertalli, I'm a great admirer of Adam Silvera. He creates diverse, profound characters that are beautifully complex. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with What If It's Us. As individuals, Arthur is a gentle and sensitive young man, his inexperience is incredibly endearing. Ben is a pensive character, enduring the melancholy of his relationship dissolving, proceeding the loss of mutual friendships. Through serendipity, the two young men meet, are separated, then attempt to reconnect by searching New York for one another.

The character representation was a wonderful aspect. Ben is Puerto Rican and identifies as gay. He often feels ostracised due to his light skin, low socioeconomic status and unable to speak Spanish fluently. Arthur is Jewish, gay and originally from Georgia, yet residing in New York over the summer with his parents. Arthur manages his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder through medication, as does secondary character and Ben's best friend Dylan, to manage his heart condition.

You've Got A Friend In Me
The secondary characters are a fundamental element of the storyline, in particular Dylan. Ben and Dylan share a wonderful relationship, unabashed and companionable. Dylan has a wonderfully flirtatious personality which creates lighthearted moments within the narrative. Ben often referenced Dylan as abandoning their friendship to accommodate a series of unsuccessful relationships. Dylan compassionate and consistently reassured Ben of his companionship. Jessie and Ethan are expendable unfortunately, although allegedly Ethan is a person of contention. Arthur believes Ethan is uncomfortable with his sexuality, creating an excessive intensity within the narrative. 

The Creepy Edward Cullen Guide To Dating
The whirlwind romance was rather an infatuation with one another. Although the scenes of intimacy were beautifully portrayed, Ben reassuring Arthur and placing the emphasis on consent, their relationship was overdramatised and inauthentic regardless of character sexuality. In the beginning of the narration, Arthur begins to pursue Ben obsessively. He learns of Ben's former boyfriend and through encroaching on his social media accounts, discovers an image of Ben and proceeds to create posters to ambush him. I found Arthur's behaviour incredibly intrusive.

Ben, a young gay man of colour in a large city could have been endangered by Arthur's actions. Rather than being addressed, his actions were romanticised. 

Potentially Triggering
One incident may be distressing to readers. Ben and Arthur are sitting with one another on public transport when approached by a man and his young child. The man proceeds to use threatening, homophobic and distressing language. Throughout the exchange, Arthur is incredibly distraught, Ben challenges the homophobic patron and another passenger intervenes.

The Conclusion
What If It's Us shares a similar narrative of a character origin story and although the lighthearted and tender moments were wonderfully written, it lacked substance. Two young men, a chance meeting and falling in love under the bright lights of New York City should have been the romance we've all been waiting for. I'm still waiting unfortunately.

Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds

Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds
Jane Doe Chronicles Book One
Written by Jeremy Lachlan
Fantasy, Adventure, #LoveOZYA
432 Pages
Published August 1st 2018
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont
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When a fierce quake strikes the remote island of Bluehaven, and her father disappears, Jane Doe is thrown headfirst into an epic quest to bring him home.

But this ain’t no ordinary rescue mission. Her father is lost in a place between worlds, a dangerous labyrinth of shifting rooms, infernal booby traps and secret gateways. And Jane has to find him fast, because someone else is searching for him, too. A man who knows her father’s secrets. A man who has an army.

With a pyromaniac named Violet and a trickster named Hickory by her side, Jane is about to discover that this adventure is even bigger on the inside than it looks...

This is the blockbuster adventure the worlds have been waiting for.
The island nation of Bluehaven is a picturesque community, a village permeated by earthquakes and immersed in mythology. For thousands of years, the residents of Bluehaven have apotheosised the remnants of the entrance to another world, a decrepit, monument representing adventure and heroism. The entrance dormant since John and infant daughter Jane Doe arrived on the cusp of destruction, the Night of All Catastrophes.

The Cursed Ones
Fifteen year old Jane Doe and her father are undesirables, contaminating the community of Bluehaven. Reluctantly imprisoned within the basement of Beatrice and Bertram Hollow where Jane cares for her father, incapacitated since his unexpected arrival on the island. Each tremor brings accusations of an abomination, Bluehaven remonstrating against John and Jane Doe until the annual Night of All Catastrophes celebration. During the commotion, John Doe is consumed by the labyrinth.

With gallantry and tenacity, Jane embarks on a adventure to recapture her father and return to Bluehaven. Accompanied by whispered words from the peculiar Winifred Robin and a mysterious brass key, Jane evades the vigilante community and enters the labyrinth. Alone. Abandoning Violet Hollow, her friend and coconspirator. 

The Sidekicks
Jane must navigate through wintery wonderlands and arid, desolate conditions as each landscape challenges courageous, accomplished adventurers. Hickory Dawes continues to journey through the decrepit remnants, unable to escape. Hickory understands the extraordinary ecosystem of the labyrinths, entrances infringing upon the otherworld. Jane and Hickory agree on a tentative alliance, reluctantly, Jane still uncertain of his intentions and authenticity.

Violet Hollow is an incredible heroine. Although Jane has journeyed several days, Violet is now sixteen years old and no longer a pyromaniac child seeking adventure. When Jane disappeared, Violet immersed herself within the history of the Otherworld and beneath the instruction of Winifred Robin, will reunite with Jane to salvage the catacombs. Bringing her friend and companion home.

Violet has endured the antagonism and resentment of Bluehaven as she was ostracised by her parents, now residing within the library under the supervision of Winifred. Her journey is miraculous and incredible heroic, creating an inspirational character of determination and perseverance.

The Villian. Dun. Dun. Dun
Roth is man withered by disease, a decomposing illness throughout his decrepit world now infecting the labyrinths. Roth is determined to conquer each world, his artillery composing of soldiers bound in leather and enslaved humans. To escape the Otherworld, Roth must capture Jane and the brass key.

It's Just A Little Crush
Throughout literature written for the middle grade and young adolescent audience, friendships are at the forefront of the narrative. The friendship was beautifully compassionate but beneath the companionship, a wonderful attraction is flourishing. Jane is attracted to Violet, exploring unfamiliar feelings of her first infatuation. A wonderfully tender and delightful inclusion.

Absolutely Phenomenal 
Incredibly atmospheric and intricately engineered. A phenomenal blend of fantastical and dystopian landscapes, meticulously illustrated and beautifully cinematic. 

Jeremy Lachlan is a wonderfully imaginative and ingenious voice in Australian young adult literature. Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds is breathtaking and delightfully captivating until the final page. 

The Traitor's Game

The Traitor's Game
The Traitor's Game Book One
Written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
400 Pages
Published July 1st 2018
Thank you to Scholastic Australia
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Nothing is as it seems in the kingdom of Antora. Kestra Dallisor has spent three years in exile in the Lava Fields, but that won't stop her from being drawn back into her father's palace politics. He's the right hand man of the cruel king, Lord Endrick, which makes Kestra a valuable bargaining chip.

A group of rebels knows this all too well and they snatch Kestra from her carriage as she reluctantly travels home. The kidnappers want her to retrieve the lost Olden Blade, the only object that can destroy the immortal king, but Kestra is not the obedient captive they expected. Simon, one of her kidnappers, will have his hands full as Kestra tries to foil their plot, by force, cunning, or any means necessary.

As motives shift and secrets emerge, both will have to decide what and who it is they're fighting for. Jennifer A. Nielsen introduces us to an unforgettable new heroine in this epic tale of treachery and intrigue, love and deceit.
Kestra Dallisor has been summoned home by her father, a garrison of soldiers ensuring her compliance. Upon her journey, Kestra is captured by the Corack, a rebellion alliance and escorted to her father's palatial residence in Highwyn as handmaiden and footsoldier. The Corack alliance are pursuing the Olden Blade, an artefact to subjugate the immortal Lord Endrick and his oppressive reign.
The Princess
Sixteen year old Kestra Dallisor is a formidable and coarsened young woman, ostracised by her father to the desolate Lava Fields. Henry Dallisor is a malevolent and treacherous persecutor, second in command and enforcer representing the immortal Lord Endrick. Kestra is summoned to Highwyn to be exploited as a commodity for political advantage, her betrothal will ensure the compliance of neighbouring regions under the reign of Lord Endrick, her father unconcerned of the freedom for his daughter. During her journey, Kestra is held captive by the rebellion, a group of unrelenting recruits tenacious in their pursuit for sovereignty, her handmaiden and footsoldier held as assurance for her cooperation and allegiance. 

Her Captor
Captain Grey Tenger, leader of the Coracks has assigned Simon Hatch to accompany the Princess, his objective to retain the Olden Blade. Simon is acquainted with the Dallisor lineage, as a young boy within the palace compound until accused and sentenced for theft.

Often in young adult literature, characters placed within precarious positions find solace within one another, consumed by the intensity of the narrative. Kestra and Simon are coincidental companions, physically attracted to one another. Their tentative companionship is disingenuous and mistrustful. Simon wasn't anticipating a young woman, tenacious and spirited to challenge his patriotism to the Corack revolution, creating a precarious alliance.
The Blade
The Olden Blade is believed to be buried beneath the dungeons of the Dallisor Highwyn residence, infused with Endrean alchemy by Lord Endrick. The mythology maintains that the blade was wielded during the War of Devastation by a young woman before her capture and sentence. Only those of Halderian lineage can wield the blade and the denouement of the Endrick reign. To ensure the survival of her Footman and Handmaiden, Kestra is coerced to find the blade, endangering the lives of the Corack if captured. She's placed in an inconceivable, treasonous position.

Tell Me More
I'm optimistic that the next installment will traverse the greater Antora kingdom and the politics between regions under Lord Endrick. The Traitor's game only touches upon the impoverished conditions beyond Highwyn. Is the desolate landscape and socioeconomic collapse consequences of conflict?

In Conclusion
While the overall young adult fantasy narrative was marginally repetitive and conventional, I really enjoyed the characterisation and the mythology infused narrative. Highly recommended for reluctant fantasy readers.

The Virginia Shreves Series

May contain minor spoilers throughout discussion

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
The Virginia Shreves Series Book One
Written by Carolyn Mackler
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
251 Pages
Published April 2018
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Fifteen year old Virginia Shreves has a larger than average body and a plus size inferiority complex. She lives on the Web, snarfs junk food, and follows the Fat Girl Code of Conduct. Her stuttering best friend has just moved to Walla Walla, of all places. Her new companion, Froggy Welsh the Fourth has just succeeded in getting his hand up her shirt, and she lives in fear that he'll look underneath. Then there are the other Shreves, Mom, the successful psychologist and exercise fiend, Dad, a top executive who ogles thin women on TV and older siblings Ana's and rugby god Byron, both of them slim and brilliant. Delete Virginia, and the Shreves would be a picture perfect family. Or so she's convinced. And then a shocking phone call changes everything.

With irreverent humor, insight, and surprising gravity, Carolyn Mackler creates an endearingly blunt heroine whose story will speak to every teen who struggles with family expectations and serve as a welcome reminder that the most impressive achievement is to be true to yourself.

Carolyn Mackler's acclaimed book has been updated for a new audience and is as relevant, funny and full of heart as it was when it was first published fifteen years ago.

The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I
The Virginia Shreves Series Book Two
Written by Carolyn Mackler
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Published October 1st 2018
288 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Six months after Virginia decides to ignore the Fat Girl Code of Conduct and make her relationship with Froggy Welsh the Fourth official, things are getting complicated. She's not sure she still likes Froggy, her mum has betrayed her to the meanest girl in school, and her feelings about her brother Byron are still a mess since he was suspended from university for date rape.

But then police come to their apartment and arrest Byron. As Virginia tries to figure it all out, she meets Sebastian, a guy with his own private drama. They make a pact not to talk about their troubles, but then a terrible secret comes out that could ruin everything.
Fifteen year old Virginia Shreves believes she's an imperfection within her wealthy, flourishing family. Her father a womaniser within his monogamous marriage, her mother a former overweight adolescent, overcompensating. Existing within the shadow of sister Anaïs, presently volunteering in a remote village in Burkina Faso, Africa and brother Byron, the Shreves family paragon and Columbia University honour student, Virginia experiences moments of body negativity based on her weight. Her mother Phyllis Shreves is an adolescent psychologist and overweight as an adolescent, reprimands her youngest daughter on the importance of young women maintaining an attractive appearance.

At Brewster Academy, the prestigious New York Private college, Virginia is ostracised and tormented, her childhood and only friend Shannon studying abroad this year and her Monday rendezvous with Froggy Welsh the Forth in her family penthouse apartment, an often mortifying experience. Her mother again counting calories, Virginia attempting another diet regime under duress and Byron has been suspended from Columbia University pending an investigation.

Body Negativity
Adolescent young women, women and bodies identifying as women are measured by our appearance. From a young age, we're conditioned to believe femininity as pliable and lithe, luminescent skin. Females existing in traditional positions as the caregiver, for male objectification. Humiliated and ridiculed at the Academy, Virginia has created a Fat Girl Code of Conduct. A series of guidelines to ensure she remains unnoticed.
There is an unspoken rule that if you're not on the popular side of things, you shouldn't take up too much space. 
At home, Virginia is coerced into healthier eating options, her father continues to reiterate that only slenderised bodies are attractive, commentating unnecessarily on Virginia's weight and body. Virginia experiences abdominal discomfort from starvation, confronting and a controversial aspect of the narration as she is praised for depriving her body.

No Such Thing As Perfection
The Virginia Shreves Series illiterates the importance of perception. How we perceive ourselves and others. How we continuously reprimand ourselves and place others on infeasible pedestals, unable to meet our unrealistic expectations and our behaviour attracting consequences. Throughout the narrative, Virginia realises that acceptance begins with confidence, that she is deserving of love and acceptance.

Curvaceous Chicks Deserve Pleasure
Cognitive, physical and emotional stimulation. Although Virginia is conscious of her body, she allows herself to enjoy intimacy without being sexually active. Her relationship with Froggy Welsh the Forth in particular. It is a positive experience, ensuring she is comfortable and consenting. A wonderful precedent for physical adolescent relationships and learning about your partner.

Although the narrative is chronicled from Virginia's perspective, Byron Shreves is a character of significance. A  Columbia University student, acclaimed sportsman and exemplification. After an intoxicated incident, Byron is accused of sexual assault and suspended from University pending an investigation. Virginia is disgusted although her parents are only concerned for Byron and his future, how his actions will leave lasting consequences on his family. It's Virginia who is concerned for his victim, a young woman attempting to reclaim empowerment after the terrifying incident.

In The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, the narrative explores the consequences for Byron, Virginia's frustration is palpable as her parents remain deliberately ignorant. During The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I, we experience the trauma of sexual assault from a survivor standpoint.

The Virginia Shreves Series is a wonderful, conversational and often confrontational read that I cannot emphasise enough the significance of reading both novels consecutively. Thoroughly enjoyed it. 

All The Little Bones

All The Little Bones
Circus Hearts Book One
Written by Ellie Marney
Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Published September 1st 2018
179 Pages
Thank you to Ellie Marney
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A teenage trapeze artist and an apprentice strongman on the run from a terrible crime…

Seventeen year old Sorsha Neary’s life is changed in one night when she defends herself behind the vans of her family circus troupe. Now Sorsha and apprentice strongman Colm Mackay are travelling south, to evade the fallout and escape the long arm of the law. All they have in their favour is talent, an old promise, and slim acquaintance with the crew members and performers of their new home, Klatsch’s Karnival. But the question for Sorsha and Colm isn’t if the police will catch up with them, but when…

Dark YA romance, with a criminal twist. Circus Hearts. Step. Right. Up.
Saoirse Neary is evading the authorities. Defending herself against a sexual assault, the seventeen year old trapeze performer is escaping persecution accompanied by strongman, nineteen year old Colm Mackay.

The Performers
Sorsha Neary is a beautiful young woman. Orphaned as a child, Sorsha lives with caregiver, aunt Morrighan. Fostered by the stoic woman, also a fortune teller within the northern travelling circus. Frightened for the repercussions after the attempted assault, Sorsha flees. Escaping the intimate northern family troupe, Sorsha and Colm travel south.

Colm Mackay is a gentle, compassionate young man, protective of Sorsha although the two performers are virtual strangers. Colm joined the intimate northern troupe several years prior, his mother an abusive, exploitative woman. Sharing the small confined space of Colm's car is an intimate experience, establishing a tentative friendship encompassed by their shared experience.

Swoony Sexy Times
A tentative friendship, a smouldering attraction creating an intense, sensual romance. As her protector, Colm is gentle and understanding and relies upon verbal consent before touching affectionately or intimately, apprehensive and compassionately the gentleman. Moments of intimacy are beautifully written with fragility and vulnerability. Considering the possibility of being captured, while Sorsha performs, Colm is employed within the mechanics yard, the troupe unable to provide a position for the former performer. Colm embraces his new position, his priority is to ensure Sorsha is protected.

Step Right Up
Klatsch’s Karnival is a company of distinguished characters and performers. Unbeknown to the troupe performers, the significance of the attempted sexual assault induces anxiety and trepidation for Sorsha. Immersing herself within the atmosphere of the carnival and despite expressed caution from Morrighan, Sorsha is unwilling to appease Fleur Klatsch, daughter of the Ringmaster and traipse performer. Fleur is a hostile and antagonistic young woman and expeditiously, is suspicious of Sorsha and her capacity within the troupe. Fleur embraces her notoriety intensely and is determined to ostracise Sorsha.

Atmospherically exhilarative, All The Broken Bones embraces the essence of anticipation amid the performance, awakening the decadent and historical carnivals of yesteryear through intrigue and romanticism.

Ellie Marney, you are exceptional.

Out now from Amazon US  Amazon AU  iTunes  Kobo and other great retailers

Contemporary Quickies

Open Road Summer
Written by Emery Lord
Contemporary, Road Trip, Romance
368 Pages
Edition Publishing September 1st 2018
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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After breaking up with her bad news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s twenty four city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls only summer of break up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy next door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.
Seventeen year old Reagan O'Neill is embarking on a summer of tour buses, plush hotel suites and watching from the wings as best friend and America's country music darling Lilah Montgomery completes the leg of her Southern tour. Behind the stage presence, Dee is heartbroken and nursing the breakup of her teenage sweetheart. Although the narrative follows Reagan's journey, best friend and superstar Dee is a wonderful secondary character, reminiscent of Taylor Swift's beginnings as a country music darling. 

For Reagan, the summer long tour is an opportunity to mend, having escaped an abusive relationship, her alcoholism and underage drink driving charges. Her once single, now remarried father is repairing their parental relationship while maintaining his sobriety with the support of his new wife. When vicious rumours begin to surface surrounding Dee's private life and wholesome image, long time friend and fellow musician Matt Finch joins the tour creating a media distraction. With his boyish good looks and southern charm, the last thing Reagan needs is another distraction.

Reagan portrays a tough girl image, confident and often shallow. Beneath the surface lies an insecure young woman who is beginning to piece her life back together for her father she feels abandoned by, for her friend Dee but most importantly, for herself. The issue I found with Reagan is her assumptions and judgement of other females around her, especially in regards to Matt, after joining the tour.

Matt is lovely and clearly attracted to Reagan, she challenges him, frustrates him and the two share wonderful banter and chemistry. As a performer, Matt is also a heartthrob for teens and the young female audience, to which Reagan takes issue. Wearing slim, short, revealing clothing or heavy makeup does not equate to being sexually promiscuous. Even if a character chose to engage in sex with multiple partners, that's great as long as they're being safe and the sex is consensual.

Apart from the slut shaming not being addressed, it was a fun, wonderfully written, summer read with a loving friendship, swoony romance and beautiful moments of imperfections that make life perfect.

Written by Karen Gregory
Contemporary, Activism, LGBT, Romance
320 Pages
Published July 1st 2018
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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We watch the bird as it flies high above us, singing like it's the only thing in the world that matters.

And I feel it, that life can be beautiful. That there are possibilities.

Keep your head down and don't borrow trouble is the motto Joni lives by, and so far it's seen her family through some tough times. It's not as if she has the power to change anything important anyway. Like Dad's bad back, or the threat of losing their house.

So when Annabel breezes into her life, Joni's sure they're destined to clash. Pretty, poised, privileged, the daughter of the richest family in town must have it easy.

But sometimes you find a matching spirit where you least expect it. Sometimes love can defy difference. And sometimes life asks you to be bigger and braver...
Karen Gregory creates such wonderfully realistic narratives about life and human struggles. The honest, working class family on the verge of financial ruin due to big corporation purchasing their small, low income housing estate with plans to raise the rent beyond the means of residents. Working parents with young families, single parents on pensions and the elderly that call Cherry Tree estate home. Including the Cooper family.

To help make ends meet, Joni Cooper works at her local library over the summer holidays alongside Annabel Huntington, a girl from the wealthy side of the tracks. I loved their tentative friendship as they begin to understand one another, those uncertain moments of whether their friendship is venturing into romantic love. It was so lovely and gentle, one of my favourite aspects of the storyline.

While it's often easier to deny the inevitable for Joni's parents, older brother Jamie is determined to fight against the injustice of eviction. The central focus is on the socioeconomic repercussions of the small estate takeover will potentially leave hundreds of families homeless, it's a David verses Goliath battle that begins to unite the community. I enjoyed the political activism and grass roots campaign that Joni involved herself with, although it placed further strain on her family, relationship and also employment.

Overall, it was a quick yet satisfying read. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Grace And Fury

Grace And Fury
Grace And Fury Book One
Written by Tracy Banghart
Fantasy, Dystopian, Survival
Published July 31st 2018
320 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other on an island prison where women must fight to survive.

Serina has spent her whole life preparing to become a Grace, selected to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining example of the perfect woman.

But her headstrong and rebellious younger sister has a dangerous secret and one wrong move could cost both sisters everything.

Can Serina fight? And will Nomi win?
In the Kingdom of Viridia, young women compete for the prestige of Grace, chosen to reign without influence or authority. Gender inequality is prevalent throughout Viridia. Attractive young women are cultivated to become subservient, representing the throne and Kingdom respectfully. Women are refused an education, disciplined as concubines or handmaidens, both subservient positions.

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves
Serina Tessaro is a Grace, a young woman of impeccable benevolence and revered for her physique and sensuality. Nomi Tessaro is a young lady of servitude in her position as handmaiden, ensuring Serina is overindulged. To be chosen as concubine to their heir of Viridia is an accomplishment, families are reimbursed monetarily, surviving poverty and low socioeconomic conditions, incentive for labour weary families. Nomi advocates for gender equality, the freedom to be educated, to be literate, to eradicate concubines and the female voice to be acknowledged and celebrated. Rebelliously, Nomi has learnt to read, a crime punishable by life imprisonment, her defiance capturing the heir, Prince Malachi and brother Asa, as Nomi is chosen to become a Grace in Serina's place.

And Though She Be But Little, She Is Fierce
The essence of Grace and Fury is liberation against the patriarchy and oppression of women. Although a Grace, Serina is a resilient young woman accused of concealing forbidden literature and removed as the appointed handmaiden, incarcerated on Mount Ruin, an island prison for women ostracised from society. Nomi is reluctantly navigating her new position as Grace, determined to pursue the disappearance of Serina as revolution within the palace begins to rouse. 

Serina's awakening is remarkable. Viridian women are sentenced to the island penitentiary, patrolled by armed and opportunistic male wardens. Estranged women are segregated, contending for meagre rations to survive. Girls are competitively conditioned throughout their lives, prevalent on the island where violence reigns. Afflicted by an insurmountable loss, Serina invokes change inspired by Nomi and her own defiance.

The Tale Of Two Princes And An Extra Guy
Prince Malachi is heir to the Viridian throne, a restrained, commanding presence. Asa is tender young man, unequivocally determined to revolutionise society, challenging inequality. His ideals captivate Nomi, sharing his fear for a tyrannical reign as the health of his father deteriorates. Supposedly, Nomi is an elementary challenge for Malachi to conquer as heir as the young Grace is manipulated and exploited.

On the island, Serina finds companionship in Valentino, a young soldier under the command of the Viridian monarch. Entrusting Valentino, Serina is desperate to escape the island, fearing persecution for inciting revolutionary conflict. The imprisoned female population of Mount Ruin is uprising.

Misogynist Bastards
Deception and betrayal reign within the kingdom, the patriarchy have ensured women remain docile and ignorant. Viridia hides an abhorrent history of misogyny, women in positions of authority were eradicated and now viewed as subordinate, deserving of servitude or to be aesthetically pleasing. Nae feckin' way. Rise up ladies.

Author Tracy Banghart has created a scintillating narrative, young women non conforming, demolishing the confines of traditional societal positions. Empowering, captivating and inciting until the final page.
For every woman who has been told to sit down and be quiet... And who stood up anyway.

Bright We Burn: The Finale To My Most Loved Series

See reviews for And I Darken and Now I Rise
Bright We Burn
The Conquerors Saga Book Three
Written by Kiersten White
Historical, Alternative History, Young Adult
Published July 16th 2018
400 Pages
Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia
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Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed and would he even want it?

Lada's rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won't rest until everyone knows that her country's borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed's peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister's indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before, including her relationships, can Lada truly build the country she wants.

Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.
The Prince of Wallachia is a revolutionary leader among her European borders, a young woman guiding her beloved country to freedom from the Ottoman Empire.

Lada Dragwyla
Lada Dragwyla is an unprecedented character in young adult literature, malevolent and ferociously inhumane. Raised as a young woman destined for traditional female servitude, Lada has escaped for the freedom of Wallachia, reestablishing control alongside her trusted Emissaries. Her journey is contravened by inequality, ignorance and chauvinism, her position as Prince inconceivable. Lada has established the admiration of her compatriots and an equitable Wallachia.

Radu Dragwyla
Radu Dragwyla is a spiritual and compassionate young man, sheltered from atrocities and brutality until the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman forces. The legitimate heir to the Wallachia throne, Radu circumvented his homeland and responsibilities to advocate for the Mehmed the Conqueror and the Ottoman Empire. Abandoning Lada and the dishevelled, presumably incorrigible, antagonistic relationship. As abandoned children of servitude, Lada and Radu are educated on the Ottoman occupation and prophet Muhammad. Radu embraced the Muslim faith, Lada's determination and defiance captivating Mehmed, the young Ottoman heir.

Mehmed The Conqueror
Mehmed is an aggravating antagonist. As a child heir guided by the Sultan, Mehmed is an idealistic young man possessing grandeur illusions of a region united under Islam. Although Lada and Radu were captivates of the Sultan, Lada establishes a physical relationship with Mehmed creating resentment and hostility in gentle Radu, who is exploring his sexuality. Mehmed often exploits Radu's attraction, therein lies the issue with his character. Appointing Radu as an adviser and attempting to subdue Lada as a compatriot and companion.

Gender Inequality
In Bright We Burn, Lada is tenacious, unrelenting and although aggravated in retaliation, she's accused of genocidal atrocities. Mehmed conquers Constantinople and is applauded and revered for his initiative. As Prince of Wallachia, Lada is held accountable, male counterparts exonerated for the savagery against humanity. 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 and Lada Dragwyla, a young woman of influence, revolutionising Europe against the Ottoman occupation.

Character Diversity
An amalgamation of religion and sexuality. Muslim, Christian, same sex relationships and Radu's exploration of sexuality and faith. Radu particularly is confronted by the Wallachian Christianity and upon his captivation by the Sultan, embraced Islam by engaging in sessions of prayer and the Holy Month, experiencing the peaceful teaching of Islam throughout Radu's narrative. The gentle relationship between Nazira, her partner Fatima and Radu is exquisite and although society recognises heteronormative relationships, Nazira and Radu share a familial, nonsexual relationship of affection and tenderness.

Historically, Mehmed the Conqueror was rumoured to have been sexually attracted to men which is unclear throughout The Conquerors Saga. Mehmed shares intimate moments with Radu, gentle gesturing, alluding to the rumours that his harem as Sultan contains consenting men for the Sultan's sexual gratification. To disperse rumours, Mehmed ostracises Radu to Constantinople, unclear if Mehmed is sexually attracted to Radu or exploiting the young Dragwyla's affections. 

The Conquerors Saga is a brutal alternative history of the Prince of Wallachia, blending historical fiction with a cruel and calculating antihero that pushes gender roles, stereotypes and labels. A breathtaking, historical alternative of the Ottoman Empire during fifteenth century Europe and an impeccable finale to what is an outstanding young adult series.

Muse of Nightmares

Contains spoilers for Strange The Dreamer. Read my review here.
Muse of Nightmares
Strange the Dreamer Book Two
Written by Laini Taylor
Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Publishing October 2nd 2018
432 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old. She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise. She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice, save the woman he loves, or everyone else, while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected. Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed, must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.
Lazlo Strange perches high above the city in the Citadel where the body of Sarai lies, her soul consumed by the malevolent, warmongering Minya and tethered to the Unseen City. The citadel continues to conceal the history of the Mesarthim and their offspring, the humans of the metropolis enduring captivity and enforced to procreate. Thousands of Mesarthim were slain throughout the Citadel, an eternally preserved mausoleum above the City of Weep.

Siblings Novali and Korako Vasa are interesting characters and indispensable to the narrative. The Mesarthim journeyed provinces and communities pursuing exceptional young individuals for servitude. Novali and Korako are the offspring of Nyoka, a Mesarthim combatant. Korako is a superior being, collared and separated from her sister. The nonlinear narratives converge spectacularly in an abundance of breathtaking revelations.

Lazlo Strange is Mesarthim, orphaned and his identity concealed and now feeling a sense of acceptance and belonging. Lazlo, a child of thousands conceived within the Citadel, created by coercion and a nonconsensual relationship. The abuse is addressed and condemned within the narrative, reiterating the importance of consent. Sarai is tethered to Minya and the Citadel and although her physical body is cremated, her spirit remains corporeal and able to interact with her environment. Including Lazlo. Lazlo and Sarai continue their relationship, able to explore one another within the safety of Lazlo's conscious, lucid dreaming.

The blue of her skin, the silver stars and moon. She was the sky. Heavy, bewitched, he leaned forward and brushed his lips over a star.

An adult captured within perpetual juniority, Minya is an intriguing character and often misunderstood. A tender child as the Citadel was decimated by the Godslayer Eril Fane, Minya is resolved to protect her family, the surviving offspring of the Mesarthim and is acrimoniously vengeful. Although appearing heinous, Minya is a causality of her environment and has nurtured the Godspawn children since infancy. Throughout the narration, Muse of Nightmares touches upon learning from our ancestral transgressions, resolution beginning when we absolve others. Warmongering is not our only recourse. 
Minya's conviction was absolute. The humans has slain her kind. She had stood in the passage and heard the screams dwindle, baby by baby, until silence has reigned. 

Laini Taylor is a remarkable author, weaving imaginative and atmospheric narratives. The lyricism is breathtaking, intricate and incredibly enchanting, transcending fantasy literature. Absolutely exceptional.

I anticipate the beginning of a new adventure.

Whisper of the Tide

Check out my review for Song of the Current
Whisper of the Tide
Song of the Current Book Two
Written by Sarah Tolcser
Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
416 Pages
Published July 2018
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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Caro Oresteia spent her life waiting to be called by the river god, as those in her family had been for generations. But when she’s swept away on an adventure to save the Akhaian royal prince, Markos, her destiny is sealed by the sea god instead.

For now, Caro is landlocked, helping Markos reclaim his throne after nearly his entire family was assassinated in a political coup. Without any financial or military support, Markos is desperate for allies, and Caro has fought off more than one attempt on his life. When a powerful Archon offers his army in exchange for Markos’s marriage to his daughter, Caro must choose.

Her love for Markos, or the fate of Akhaia? And more importantly: How much is she willing to risk to defy the sea god’s wishes and chart her own course?

With shipwrecks, lost treasure, old and new enemies, dark magic, and breathtaking romance, Sarah Tolcser weaves another epic story about chasing your fate.
Seventeen year old Caroline Oresteia was a privateer on board the Cormorant, alongside her father, a humbled Wherryman, now evading capture for her thievery upon the everglades of Kynthessa. Caroline is a tenacious young woman, her fortitude is inspiring. Altruistically, she is now assisting Markos as he attempts to converge military and political allies. Markos Andela is the legitimate Emparch of Akhaia, his family slain by Konto Theucinian and displaced from his kingdom.

Mitigation emerges from Lord Pherenekian, Archon of Eryth. A proposal of a fifteen thousand person artillery in exchange for the political union of Markos and his daughter Agnes Pherenekian, an unconventional young woman interested in academics and potential Emparchess. Quite the conundrum for Caroline, conflicted between her fondness for the Prince and a Kingdom in disarray.

Whisper of the Tide is a maritime adventure of resilience and endurance. Generations of Oresteria Wherrymen have been guided by the River God, speaking the language of the Everglades. Except for Caroline, claimed by the Sea Goddess and destined for adventure. The relationship between Caroline and Markos is convoluted and apprehensive, Caroline placing her aspirations aside to preserve the revolution and subjugate Konto Theucinian, while desperately yearning for the wild blue yonder.

A ship was not meant to sit at anchor in the harbor, and neither was I.

The secondary characters are meticulously created, including a former adversary. Cousin and apprentice Shadowman Kenté. Merchant manager Docia Argyrus. Opportunist Sophronia Hypatos. Dido Brilliante the Pirate Queen and capitalist merchant Tamaré Bollard. Distinctly tenacious women who have challenged gender equality and celebrated the female achievement.

Sarah Tolcser has created an enchanting and captivating narrative, an entertaining adventure for the marauder at heart. Avast ye scalawags and buccaneers, all hands ahoy!

From Twinkle, With Love

From Twinkle, With Love
Written by Sandhya Menon
Contemporary, Romance
Published May 22nd 2018
336 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen.

So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy, Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true.

When mystery man N begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily ever after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile. The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favourite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.
Twinkle Maher is an aspiring director, destined to share the untold stories of the world. As a young Indian American woman of a low socioeconomic status, Twinkle is determined to persevere within the patriarchal dominated society with tenacity. Twinkle is the primary caregiver for her grandmother, her father an aide for displaced adolescents, her mother tormented by undiagnosed depression and unable to return to India. Her grandmother is an inspiring and wonderful support for Twinkle, also offering perspective in the absence of parental influence.

I admired her fortitude but Twinkle is often unable to compromise. Whether a necessity for perfection or to control her environment, she describes it as not having her voice heard, often accompanied by feelings of being a woman of colour within a patriarchal system. It intensifies the need to raise marginalised voices but often excuses her demanding behaviour throughout the narrative. Twinkle's journey of realisation is difficult as her popularity cultivates, friendships are constrained as her world becomes increasingly more exclusive, alienating Hannah her childhood companion.

Sahil Roy is a film aficionado, a connoisseur of stories told. Dissimilar to sibling Neil, Sahil is an academic who is determined to be recognised for his own achievements. Serendipitously, Twinkle and Sahil collaborate on a film tor the Pikes Peak Charter Midsummer Night, an annual event celebrating cinematography.

The tentative companionship is lovely, Sahil encouraging Twinkle foremost as a creative young woman and professionally, financing the film. I appreciated that Sahil was incredibly gentlemanly throughout the process, allowing Twinkle freedom of creativity. Through interactions with friends and an anonymous online journal, Sahil is incredibly attracted to Twinkle. Unfortunately, although Twinkle has developed a fondness for Sahil, she believes Neil Roy is the ideal brother to enhance her social status, unbeknownst to Sahil. The romance is convoluted, tumultuous but entirely authentic as Twinkle discovers Neil represents an ideal, rather than the connection she shares with Sahil.

Sandhya Menon is an exceptional author, creating vibrant and diverse characters and beautifully imperfect narratives of adolescent exploration and actualisation. In a series of letters written to accomplished female filmmakers, From Twinkle, With Love will captivate and delight readers until the final page. 

Grace Beside Me

Grace Beside Me contains sensitivities such as racism, abuse and attempted sexual assault.
Grace Beside Me
Written by Sue McPherson
Contemporary, Indigenous, #LoveOZYA
Published December 2012
224 Pages
Thank you to Magabala Books
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A warmly rendered story of life in a small town that interweaves the mundane with the profound and the spiritual.

Told through the eyes of teenager, Fuzzy Mac, awkward episodes of teen rivalry and romance sit alongside the mystery of Nan’s visions and a ghostly encounter. Against a backdrop of quirky characters, including the holocaust survivor who went to school with Einstein and the little priest always rushing off to bury someone before the heat gets to them, Grace Beside Me is full of humour and timely wisdom.
Thirteen year old Ocean Skye McCardell, affectionately known as Fuzzy Mac, lives within the small outback town of Laurel Dale. Since her mother passed, Fuzzy has lived with her grandparents, known to the town as Nan and Pop, her father employed in the mining industry and unable to care for his only child. Thirteen years of age will become a monumental year for Fuzzy as she begins to see spirits, a long held tradition of Seer passed down through the McCardell women. Navigating adolescence as Fuzzy finds her sense of self, her ancestry and her role as an Indigenous, Irish and South Sea Islander young woman.

It's the listening and telling of stories that bring our people close, both young and old. Stories keep our culture strong and our faith alive. 

Politically, the landscape of Australia is changing. The Australian government have announced a national day of apology, a small step towards the process of healing Indigenous communities, touching on long held racism, prejudice and the Stolen Generation. Grace Beside Me places the focus on family and the small community of Laurel Dale's societal issues. The neighbours experiencing domestic violence, Holocaust survivors, Uncle Lefty who through loss of identity, is now on the straight and narrow. Nan and Pop are pillars of the small town community, caring for the downtrodden.

The diversity of characters are wonderful. Nan is biracial Indigenous and Irish, her mother Koori and father of Irish heritage. Nan and her sisters were only young girls when they were stolen from their families. Pop is a descendant of the South Sea Islanders, enslaved and brought to Australia. Indigenous Australian, Māori, European and white Australia coexist within the small community that is beautifully portrayed. 

The writing is incredibly organic, Sue McPherson engages readers within the narrative as I felt as though I was part of the Laurel Dale community. Simple, wonderful storytelling at its finest.

Watch the Adaptation

Kyliric Masella shines as the character of Fuzzy Mac, a beautiful young Indigenous girl who is coming of age. After her mother died of an overdose, Fuzzy has been raised by her grandparents, her father working in the mines and unable to care for his daughter. Her journey begins on the morning of her thirteenth birthday, coinciding with the spiritual Spooky Month, leading Fuzzy to learn she is to become a Seer of spiritual insight, guided by the spirits of her ancestors.

Each episode of the thirteen part series follows Fuzzy as she learns about her gift and the spirits that need assistance before moving on. It entwines the Indigenous spiritual beliefs with a wonderful sense of family, as Nan and Pop are always a positive influence in Fuzzy's life, helping guide her moral compass. 

Navigating her adolescence, friendship, family and responsibilities, Grace Beside Me is a beautiful blend of diverse Australiana and the celebration of Indigenous country, spirit and history. Adapted from the award winning novel by Sue McPherson, published by Magabala Books and previously screened on NITV, you can watch season one of Grace Beside Me on ABC iView here. Or check out the trailer by clicking here.

 Grace Beside Me
Magabala books is a non for profit arts organisation and independent Aboriginal Corporation with the objective of restoring, preserving and maintaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and the rights of traditional storytellers and artists. To read more about Magabala Books and to donate, visit their website.


Check out my review for book one Caraval

Caraval Book Two
Written by Stephanie Garber
Fantasy, Romance
Published May 29th 2018
432 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
Add to Goodreads
A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn't yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver. Caraval Master Legend's true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend's identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets. Including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can't fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend's name, she'll lose everything she cares about, maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval... The games have only just begun.

Donatella and Scarlett escaped the Isle of Trisda, journeying to De Los Sueños as participants of Caraval to escape the oppression and violence of their father on the eve of Scarlett's pending nuptials. In an unprecedented event, the Caraval entertainers are preparing for a second performance, invited to the Meridian Empire by the illustrious Empress Elantine. Donatella will reluctantly compete in Caraval for the honour of learning the identity of the elusive Legend, the master of ceremonies at Caraval.

The Players

Siblings Scarlett and Donatella are wonderful characters of contrast. Scarlett is an observationalist, Donatella is spontaneous, appearing nonchalant and indulgent. Comparatively, Donatella is an alluring character, her resolute and altruistic personality challenged misogyny and embraced her sexuality. Donatella is seduced by the centuries old mythological enchantment of the Meridian Empire and those who fabricated the human destiny and to conquer Caraval. As the participants disembark, peculiarly, Donatella is refused admittance and masquerades as the fiancé of heir to the Meridian Kingdom, the murderous Jacks. Suggested by the conceited Dante.

Although sexually attracted to Dante, Donatella understands the seduction of Caraval and Dante's character as a womanising charlatan. I found her constant need to evoke an emotional response in Dante exhausting, considering Donatella is a confident and assured young woman. Jacks is an interesting character, the nephew of Empress Elantine and heir to the Meridian kingdom. Notorious for his cruelty and violence, Jacks and Donatella establish an compromise. Their relationship is convoluted and exasperating, especially for Dante, unsuspecting that affection from the heir of Meridian kingdom is manipulation.

The Game

Caraval was believed to have been an illusion, participants indulging themselves within the festivities for the atmospheric experience. In this unprecedented event, Caraval will journey to Idyllwild Castle, an esteemed invitation by Empress Elantine on the eve of the Fated Ball. Once revered guardians now banished, the Fates are a foreboding folklore. As a child, Donetella reminisces the forbidden cards her mother kept, the Deck of Destiny, cards representing each Fate and the potential to foretell the future. A wonderful element of intrigue throughout the narrative. To conquer Caraval, Donatella will encounter ominous conundrum. Caraval and Legend eradicated from the Meridian kingdom to establish freedom for her mother. An insurmountable quandary.

Caraval is a breathtaking and atmospheric adventure of illusion and deception, Legendary is an exceptional sequel inciting intrigue, adventure and sensuality. Stephanie Garber is extraordinary, creating a lyrically exquisite narrative of wonderment and revelations. Dark, sinister and delicious. Absolutely superb.
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