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.

Consent
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.



Skylarks
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.

Legendary

Check out my review for book one Caraval

Legendary
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.

Save The Date

Save The Date
Written by Morgan Matson
Contemporary, Romance
432 Pages
Publishing July 2018
Thank you to Simon & Schuster
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait. For the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster, all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the awful girl her favourite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractedly… Cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.
Guests are descending on the Connecticut Grant residence for the pending nuptials of daughter Linnea Grant and fiancée Rodney Daniels, an extravagant farewell to the stately home. Youngest sibling Charlotte Grant is delighted that her siblings will be in attendance, the idolised Sheridan now residing in California, bride Linnea, Jameison and estranged brother Michael. The Grant siblings have embellished syndicate pages for over twenty five years within the fictional Grant Central Station, a weekly illustrated comic created by their mother Eleanor Grant, now reaching a conclusion with a series of celebratory events and appearances coinciding with the pending nuptials of sister Linnea and nostalgic farewell to the endearing family residence.

Big, loud, delightfully messy families


The Grant siblings are wonderful. Typically families portrayed within young adult literature are rarely present or created as a character of superiority, the Grant siblings are blemished. The narrative focus is on seventeen year old Charlie. Charlie understands the significance of the upcoming celebrations, the youngest Grant sibling is feeling displaced. Eldest sibling Danny is Charlie's partner in crime, so when Danny surprises the family by bringing home a new girlfriend from California, Charlie begins to see the imperfections within the brother she idolised. Linnie is becoming increasingly overwhelmed by her nuptials, a missing wedding planner and feuding relatives, brother J.J is desperately seeking a date to the event and estranged brother Mike has chosen to stay with friend James, Charlie's crush. Over the course of three days of celebrations, I fell in love with the compassionate, boisterous and completely imperfect Grant family.

A touch of swoon


For a narrative that takes place during wedding celebrations, the romance was virtually non existent. There is however, plenty of moments to swoon. For the past several years, Charlie has held a flame for James, Mike's best friend that until recently, seemed to be an unrequited love affair. James is a nice young man but he's certainly no Bill, the nephew of the new wedding planner. Bill and Charlie together are lovely and I enjoyed their subtle flirtations. With the amount of mayhem and adventure afoot, their friendship and attraction felt genuine. #TeamBill

Pee your pants a little


Snorting, unattractive laughter. The kitchen is often the heart of every home, especially for the Grant family. The reader is welcomed into their boisterous, frantic home where the coffee is freshly brewed and siblings feud over the last doughnut. Their familiarity is lovely. The banter and sarcasm providing plenty of laugh out loud moments.

I absolutely loved it. Morgan Matson is a phenomenal contemporary author, creating genuine characters and a sincere storyline of perfectly imperfect families. Infused with humour, mayhem and adventure, Save The Date is a feel great read and instant classic.

Follow the tour here with thanks to Simon & Schuster and the #AusYABloggers.

LIFEL1K3

LIFEL1K3
Lifelike Book One
Written by Jay Kristoff
Dystopian, Science Fiction, #LoveOzYA
416 Pages
Published May 2018
Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
On an island junkyard beneath a sky that glows with radiation, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Seventeen year old Eve isn't looking for trouble, she's too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, she's on the local gangster's wanted list, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive is the money she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she's discovered she can somehow destroy machines with the power of her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size because of it. If she's ever had a worse day, Eve can't remember it.

The problem is, Eve has had a worse day, one that lingers in her nightmares and the cybernetic implant where her memories used to be. Her discovery of a handsome android named Ezekiel, called a 'Lifelike' because they resemble humans, will bring her world crashing down and make her question whether her entire life is a lie.

With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic sidekick Cricket in tow, Eve will trek across deserts of glass, battle unkillable bots, and infiltrate towering megacities to save the ones she loves... And learn the truth about the bloody secrets of her past.
Once known as Kalifornya, now a desolate wasteland of recycled technology and radiation, decimated by conflict. Scavenging among the ruins, Eve Carpenter continues to endure the loss of her family, incarcerated by the authorities and slain while the seventeen year old was extradited by her grandfather. In an emerging world evolved by technology, human life is a commodity within the dystopic environment inciting syndicate violence. Eve is an intelligent and tenacious young woman, now caring for her elderly grandfather amongst the destruction, a cancer patient exposed to radiation.

The Three Laws of Robotics once constrained artificially intelligent automations to perpetuate human lives, now rogue and resolute in achieving freedom from human oppression and servitude. Among the fragments lies a fractured Lifelike, a young male android and harbinger of truth. Accompanying Eve on her journey of identity and discovery is a multifarious contingent of reinforcements.

Stronger together. Together forever.

Fifteen year old Lemon Fresh is a valiant and tenacious orphan, abandoned as an infant, now colleagues within the gladiatorial amphitheatre creating an enduring friendship and familial alliance. Created with recycled fragments, Cricket is perceptive and conscious of his physical environment. Accompanied by blitzhund Kaiser, they make a formidable contingent and compelling aspect of the narrative. Eve is an anomaly accused of deactivating technology through technokenesis. Lifelike android Ezekiel is attractive but importantly, appreciates the gravity of their challenge. To evade the syndicate and a bounty hunter on behalf of The Brotherhood, idealists who demand the surrender of genetic deviates for purification

Atmospherically breathtaking, Kalifornya is a desolate frontier. The collapse of Gnosis and the Monrova family have preceded the rise of technology corporations Bio Maas and Daedalus,  corporations elevated to authority and dominance. The post apocalyptic world is vividly and cinematically imagined, an oppressive and contaminated environment, radiation continuing to diminish the populous as the Gnosis tower erupted.

The essence of Lifelike is humanity and creation, capitalism and environment interlaced with an atmospheric and compelling narrative. Captivating characters and breathtaking revelations. Compulsive reading. 

Brontide

Brontide
Written by Sue McPherson
Contemporary, Indigenous, #LoveOzYA
132 Pages
Published June 2018
Thank you to Magabala Books
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
Brontide is a coming of age story about four boys and their lot in life. Recounted through storytelling sessions at their school over a period of five days, these boys chronicle their lives.

They are at times demanding, occasionally rude, always funny and unexpectedly profound. The boys like to challenge themselves and the rules, and soon realise that not everything goes to plan...
In the small town of Taralune on the Sunshine Coast, four adolescent young men reluctantly commence their stories. Acclaimed author Sue McPherson was invited to Taralune Secondary College and St Nicholas Lutheran College to participate in a storytelling workshop with adolescents. Emerging were four young men, interrelated narratives sharing their ambition, unease and lives within the small coastal town.

Taralune is atmospheric and wonderfully illustrated through the perspective of each young man. The Bower brothers are characters of contrasts. A sensitive and compassionate young man, respected by adults and peers while the other is perceived as ignorant, intimidating  the young men of Taralune and promoting toxic masculinity.

The thunder you hear miles away, that's the brontide. 

Seventeen year old Jack Trainer is a interesting young man in particular, his narrative captivating and characteristic of the wonderful diversity of Taralune. Unable to care for her biological son, Jack was adopted by a wonderful Indigenous extended family. I enjoyed the discussion of societal influences, Black Lives Matter and racial stereotypes.

The narrative structure is captivating, guided with gentle questioning and allowing each young man to determine the boundaries within their discussion without coercion. A confrontational, authentic  and mesmeric narrative.

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.

A Thousand Perfect Notes, an interview with C.G. Drews

A Thousand Perfect Notes
Written by C. G. Drews
Contemporary, Music, Realistic Fiction, #LoveOzYA
282 Pages
Publishing June 12th 2018
Thank you to Hachette Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★☆
Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music, because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?
She's an Instagram, blog and social media aficionado, her tweets achieving thousands of dedicated followers. Her lengthy list of achievements include the championing of her fellow bloggers and authors, reaching fifty thousand words in three days during National Novel Writing Month, reading hundreds of books per year and writing almost as many. 

C. G Drews debut novel A Thousand Perfect Notes, is a breathtaking and confronting narrative of family violence and gentle optimism, harmonised with delicate moments of sincerity and compassion.

She's a creator of terrible puns and cake advocate. Meet my friend, the incredibly fabulous and inspirational C. G. Drews, debut author of A Thousand Perfect Notes

The Interview


Your debut novel, A Thousand Perfect Notes is absolutely beautiful. Being an author and practically writing straight from the womb, can you share with us the day that you found out you were being published?

Aww thank you! You're making me blush! So I found out I had a book deal at about 4:00am because insomnia is a beast and I thought, 'Hey! Why not check my email and see if my agent has sent anything?' Well, wow, I only got the best email of my life. I also did not go back to sleep. And I want to take a moment to tell my family that they should be grateful I didn't wake them up screaming right then and there.

A Thousand Perfect Notes is quite emotional and explores social issues such as physical, emotional an mental abuse, child neglect and poverty. How difficult is it as an author to write confronting scenes where characters are the victims of abuse?

I definitely spent a lot of time on those scenes, with plenty of revisions to get the intensity and thought process right. I wanted to talk really candidly about these things, but also keep some hope and light in the room.

The Maestro is a horrible, infuriating woman. Personally I found the abuse not only confronting but also incredibly realistic. Isolating Beck, using Joey to threaten Beck and the barrage of abuse of being worthless. All symptoms of an abusive relationship. Is that something you needed to research to create the toxic and abusive environment?

I definitely did plenty of research and also lot of just thinking of what it'd be like to be in Beck's shoes. I think most people in the world have felt worthless at some point... Or unable to control their environment or worried about someone they loved. Obviously this is a more extreme circumstance than most would face, but writing it was about escalating those feelings.

Let's talk about darling Beck, such a well written and in depth character. He seems like a typical male character, grumpy and weary of anyone taking an interest in him but beneath the surface, he's such a complex young man. What was the inspiration behind his character?

My biggest inspiration for Beck is actually a bit of a spoiler, but you'll know it when you read the book! But his character has several nods to a famous classical composer of the past! Apart from that, he sort of tumbled around the page and then grew his personality the more I wrote and explored his story.

Beck's relationship with his little sister Joey was a delight and another of my favourite aspects. He sees her as a puddle splashing, glitter wearing free spirit and endures his mother's abuse to protect her. What angered me is how the adults in both their lives let them down, a harsh reality for so many kids isn't it.

It is... And not as uncommon as it should be. One thing Beck did his best to do was to shelter Joey as much as he could and make sure she didn't suffer alone. While Beck only had an abusive and manipulative mother, Joey at least also had Beck to look up to. Their relationship was one of my favourites to write!

The barefoot, animal loving, dog rescuing August, if ever there was a character most you like, August wins. Hands down. She's absolutely delightful. I loved how she was just there, never pushing Beck out of his comfort zone but to let him know he wasn't alone. Is that something you were mindful of, the friendship and support foremost rather than creating a romance between Beck and August?

Ha! August is the actual definition of puppies and rainbows, isn't she?! And yes I absolutely wanted their relationship to first focus on friendship, since Beck has literally never had a friend before August busts into his life. I also wanted August to show she wanted to be there for Beck. She wasn't about to force him to take action or pretend she knew what his life was like. She wasn't there to save him: she was there to tell him he was worth saving so he could take those steps himself.

Readers know you from your wildly successful blog, Paper Fury where you talk about books and cake with a fondness for stabby characters. Do you think readers will be surprised by the darker themes in A Thousand Perfect Notes?

My blog is definitely a collision of rainbows but also stabbiness, so I can see how some readers might be surprised that A Thousand Perfect Notes isn't a fluffy book! But knowing I always review and flail about the 'dark books' and have been warning people I'm writing books to make them cry... Hopefully it's not too much of a shock.

What do you hope readers take away from reading A Thousand Perfect Notes?

Just that little whisper that you are absolutely worthwhile, no matter what you do or don't achieve in life.

Where to find her


C.G. Drews lives in Australia with her dog, a piano, and the goal of reading every book in existence. Consequently, her brain has overflowed with words and she spends her days writing novel after novel. She blogs at paperfury.com, never sleeps, and believes in cake for breakfast.

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes
Written by Jenn Bennett
Contemporary, Romance
432 Pages
Published June 2018
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia and Netgalley
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends turned worst enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day version of the Montagues and Capulets. But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to try to make their way to safety. But as the two travel deeper into the rugged Californian countryside, secrets and hidden feelings surface. Soon it's not simply a matter of enduring each other’s company, but taming their growing feelings for each other.
To placate her concerned mother, Zorie reluctantly concedes to accompany friend Reagan on a camping vacation throughout the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Northern California, before attending the Perseid meteor observation with the astronomy society. Neighbours Lennon Mackenzie and Zorie Everhart haven't spoken since the fateful homecoming dance that ended their friendship and their official relationship debut. Zorie has endured the heartbreak of their separation only to discover Lennon has also been invited.

The intensity between Zorie and Lennon is palpable as they discover they've been abandoned and with inadequate alternatives, decide to journey towards the national park where Zorie is due to meet her astronomy club, the two adolescents reconnecting along their journey.

Zorie Everhart is a meticulous young woman, anxious and fastidious. Her parents operate a small acupuncture and remedial massage surgery, the once successful business heading towards receivership and blamed on their neighbours, an adult store coincidentally operated by the Mackenzie family. Lennon is  wonderfully contrasting character. Zorie recognises her limitations while Lennon is a pioneer, confident in his abilities. Two accomplished individuals who compliment one another. The tentative friendship was lovely and although Zorie and Lennon have lived on the periphery of one another's lives during their separation, both adolescents longed for the intimacy of their former friendship.

The parental relationships were wonderful. Zorie has a wonderful relationship with her Korean American step mother, her mother passed away during her infancy and rendering her father emotionally absent. Lennon's parents are magnificent and an instrumental influence on Lennon, maintaining a wonderful relationship with Lennon's biological father, an Egyptian American musician. Although Lennon is unable to see his father as often growing up, it was beautiful to see a diverse, blended family who co parented to raise such a wonderful young man. Sexually positive women who own and manage an adult store with the focus on female pleasure. Their discussions on sex and sexuality are a positive influence on Lennon and his upbringing, creating a respectful and courteous young man.

While Zorie's mother is wonderful, her father is incredibly offensive. To conceal his own impropriety, he is incredibly aggressive towards the Mackenzie parents, his lesphobic comments of the same sex, long term, loving relationship are offensive and ignorant.

Jenn Bennett is a phenomenal author, creating resonating characters with charisma and compassion.  Starry Eyes is a beautiful journey of discovery, captivating until the final page.

Click here to see the Starry Eyes Tour schedule.

Whisper

Whisper
Whisper Series Book One
Written by Lynette Noni
Science Fiction, Romance, #LoveOzYA
261 Pages
Published May 1st 2018
Thank you to Pantera Press
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
Lengard is a secret government facility for extraordinary people, they told me.

I believed them. That was my mistake.

There isn’t anyone else in the world like me.

I’m different. I’m an anomaly. I’m a monster.

For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes, Subject Six Eight Four, Jane Doe, has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word.

As Jane’s resolve begins to crack under the influence of her new and unexpectedly kind evaluator, she uncovers the truth about Lengard’s mysterious program, discovering that her own secret is at the heart of a sinister plot... And one wrong move, one wrong word, could change the world.
Transferred from a psychiatric institute and forced into isolation, Jane Doe has remained silent despite the invasive experimentation throughout the underground facility. Disciplined in the artistry of combat, patient six eight four endures experimental procedures to fracture her fortitude. Landon Ward is an abnormally, a kind and compassionate young man and considers Jane as his intellect rather than an allocated number.

The violation and exploitation of Jane Doe is confrontational, especially throughout her intensive mandatory appointments with Doctor Vanik. Throughout her narrative, Jane endures elective mutism to control her environment, determined to conceal her identity from her captors. Landon Ward is disarming, often morally ambiguous and although Ward appears compassionate, he continued to manipulate the young woman in his company.

The Exodus Project facilities Speakers, genetically altered humans that possess abilities. The introduction of the Speakers is an interesting concept, children born to parents of Speaker lineage or participants of the Lengard initiative. Women inoculated with a fertility serum, offspring abilities manifesting throughout their adolescent years. Opposed to the invasive tactics, a rebellion attempts to capture Speakers, educating adolescents of the Exodus Project to encourage informed decisions. Although the rebellious Remnants are forthcoming and provide Jane with information about her identity and infiltrated informants, Jane is reluctant to place her faith within either faction, wisely. The Remnant rebels introduce Jane to Kael, a young man versed in the torturous conditions of the initiative and the consequences of escape.

The presumed romance is virtually nonexistent. Landon is physically attracted to Jane Doe, although rebel Kael seems to share a familiarity with the mysterious young woman. I appreciated that Jane is on a journey of discovering her identity, romantic expectation is excluded within her narrative and her unease and fragility a priority. I enjoyed the character of Camelot, a gentle, tender young woman and contrast to sibling Landon. Camelot is a wonderfully serene influence, encouraging Jane and assists her in non verbalised communication. Their tentative friendship a lovely aspect of the narrative.

The large paragraphs of information throughout the latter chapters is overwhelming as the mystery surrounding Jane occupied the duration of the narration. The use of the affectionate term princess felt condescending rather than demonstrating a character familiarity.

Whisper is a captivating and charismatic read, blending traditional young adult science fiction with compelling characters and a familiar storyline. Thoroughly entertaining.

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia
Edited by Anita Heiss
Non Fiction, Anthology, Australian, Indigenous
320 Pages
Published April 2018
Thank you to Black Inc Books Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
What is it like to grow up Aboriginal in Australia? This anthology, compiled by award winning author Anita Heiss, showcases many diverse voices, experiences and stories in order to answer that question.

Accounts from well known authors and high-profile identities sit alongside those from newly discovered writers of all ages. All of the contributors speak from the heart, sometimes calling for empathy, oftentimes challenging stereotypes, always demanding respect.

This groundbreaking collection will enlighten, inspire and educate about the lives of Aboriginal people in Australia today.
Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous Australians share a tumultuous history of colonisation, genocide and displacement from their land. European settlement by Great Britain has resulted in intergenerational trauma, associated violence and the trauma of the removal of Indigenous children from communities. Although Indigenous communities continue to experience displacement and injustice, the Indigenous identity is also celebrated. Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia reiterates that there is no singular Indigenous experience and shares the voices of our traditional land owners with compassion, consideration and celebration.

Ambelin Kwaymullina
Ambelin tells the narrative of growing up of the Palyku community of the Pilbara region of Western Australia among the purple hills, red earth and blue sky. A breathtaking and unforgiving landscape. Ambelin describes the prejudice of vintage Australia as unrelenting and although Australia is an evolving landscape of diversity, we must recognise privilege, reiterating the continuing barricades placed upon Indigenous Australians and the optimism of future generations to challenge society and the bias created and carried by colonialism.

Tara June Winch
Tara is a prolific Wiradjuri Indigenous Australian author, raised in saltwater country, her narrative of feeling displaced and realising her journey within her community as an individual. Using the Corroboree as a metaphor of Indigenous Australia, the sense of identity is often misplaced within the wider, white community. Being from the world and of the world. Her optimism for her own daughter prevalent and she shares the experience of three generations of Indigenous women. Inspirational reading.

Vale Alice Eather
Alice Eather was a beautiful spirit, a prominent Arnhem Land Indigenous community leader and activist. Plagued by anxiety and depression, a life taken too soon. Her contribution of Yúya Karrabúrra is exquisite. Her forefathers convicts on board the second fleet, her mother a Wúrnal woman and Alice, a child of the between finding her identity.

Now I welcome you to sit by my fire
I'm allowing you to digest my confusion
I will not point my finger and blame
Cause when we start blaming each other
We make no room for changing each other

Anita Heiss
Doctor Anita Heiss is a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales, an accomplished and esteemed author of Indigenous literature. Throughout the introduction, Anita shares her experience of Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, the consideration of each submission and experiencing moments of interconnection and reflection. Igniting, uniting and inspiring reading.

I have been involved in early childhood Indigenous education through Indigenous advancement and children's leagues in Victoria, with an emphasis on the celebration of heritage alongside Victoria's most accomplished Indigenous educators. I'm Caucasian Australian of Irish heritage and through recognition my own privilege, it's imperative for non Indigenous readers to be reminded that support and compassion cannot replicate the experiences of Indigenous Australians. Compassion is not a substitute for the trauma and prejudice Indigenous communities continue to endure. We must condemn and challenge microaggressions and uplift Indigenous voices. 

With contributions by Tony Birch, Deborah Cheetham, Adam Goodes, Terri Janke, Patrick Johnson, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Jack Latimore, Celeste Liddle, Amy McQuire, Kerry Reed Gilbert, Miranda Tapsell, Jared Thomas, Aileen Walsh, Alexis West, Tara June Winch, and many more, Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia is ground breaking, inspirational and essential reading.
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