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
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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
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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.


Lifelike Book One
Written by Jay Kristoff
Dystopian, Science Fiction, #LoveOzYA
416 Pages
Published May 2018
Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia
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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. 


Written by Sue McPherson
Contemporary, Indigenous, #LoveOzYA
132 Pages
Published June 2018
Thank you to Magabala Books
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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
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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, 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
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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 Series Book One
Written by Lynette Noni
Science Fiction, Romance, #LoveOzYA
261 Pages
Published May 1st 2018
Thank you to Pantera Press
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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
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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.

Middle Grade Mini Reviews

Amal Unbound
Written by Aisha Saeed
Middle Grade, Contemporary, Diverse
240 Pages
Publishing May 28th 2018
Thank you to Text Publishing
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Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when, as the eldest daughter, she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn't lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens. After an accidental run in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her own family's debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal, especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal's growing awareness of the Khans' nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realises she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
In the small farming province of Nabay Chak, Amal is an inquisitive young lady with a penchant for knowledge. Inspired by Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, Amal is an intelligent and inspirational young lady, the eldest daughter who is reluctantly coerced to abandon her education, her mother overcome by postpartum depression.

Amal appreciates her education, acknowledging the ideology that female education is frivolous although vehemently in disagreement. Challenging the educational ideals of her father and although their discussion remaining courteous, Amal is conscientious of the discrimination against females throughout conservative communities.

Jawad Sahib is a tyrannical and oppressive leader within the region, his affluent and privileged family beneficiaries impoverished families throughout Nabay Chai. Displaced by her insolence, Amal will reside at the wealthy estate as compensation, a young life of oppression and servitude. The secondary characters are vividly imagined, especially Fatima, an orphaned child. Fatima and Amal share a wonderfully tender friendship and surprisingly, finding a kindred spirit in Nasreen Baji, lady of the estate and woman within her own gilded cage.

Inspired by Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, Amal Unbound is a beautifully written and extraordinary narrative of one young girl and her determination to invoke change. Essential reading.

The Extremely Weird Thing that Happened in Huggabie Falls
Huggabie Falls Trilogy Book One
Written by Adam Cece and illustrated by Andrew Weldon
Middle Grade, Adventure, Humour, #LoveOZMG
288 Pages
Published April 2nd 2018
Thank you to Text Publishing
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Kipp Kindle and his friends Tobias Treachery and Cymphany Chan live in Huggabie Falls, the weirdest town on Earth. Weird things happen all the time, that’s normal. But when an extremely weird thing happens Kipp and his friends know that something is wrong. They embark on a fast paced, action packed, hilarious adventure to find out what is making everything turn normal, and to return the weirdness to Huggabie Falls.

With an evil villain, Felonious Dark, a creepy scientist and a fierce wand wielding teacher, who has turned Cymphany into a baby hippopotamus, to contend with, not to mention killer vampire bats, vegetarian piranhas and a Portuguese speaking lab rat called Ralf, Kipp, Tobias and Cymphany have quite a task ahead of them.
In the small town of Huggabie Falls, nothing is out of the ordinary. An alliteration of names? Yawn, nothing to see here. Every street called Digmont Drive? Oh, perfectly normal. Late for class and turned into a hippopotamus? Commonplace. Kipp Kindle and his friends Tobias Treachery and Cymphany Chan begin to investigate a series of worrying accounts of normalcy.

The Extremely Weird Thing that Happened in Huggabie Falls is a delightfully eccentric and whimsical mystery adventure. Reiterating the importance of friendship and embracing our differences. 

The Boy from Earth
Written by Darrell Pitt
Middle Grade, Adventure, Space, #LoveOZMG
256 Pages
Published February 26th 2018
Thank you to Text Publishing
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Twelve year old Bobby Baxter’s not the bravest kid on Earth. His list of things that scare him is up to number 689, and includes lightning, crowds, spiders, alien abductions, crocodiles, falling from great heights, falling from small heights and eggs.

So when he learns that he’s the first Earthling ever chosen to attend the Galactic Space Academy, light years away from home, he’s terrified and that’s before he discovers that someone at the academy wants the boy from Earth gone.
Welcome to the Intergalactic Space Academy. Bobby Baxter is a new cadet and the first scholar recruited to the Academy from Earth. A prestigious although compulsory achievement. Bidding farewell to his father on Earth, Bobby will journey to the expansive Galactic Academy. Expect the unexpected.

Interplanetary sabotage, Earthly misconceptions and a peculiar assortment of friends, Bobby endeavours to become the first Earthling to graduate the academy.

The Boy From Earth is a galactic, exuberant adventure, ludicrously hilarious and absurdly charismatic. Bobby Baxter is an irrationally apprehensive young man although intelligent and inquisitive. Throughout his journey, Bobby discovers courage and determination, an ability to conquer anxiety. Beneath the brilliantly absurd, entertaining adventure, is a narrative of compassion, solidarity and confidence.

Wildly entertaining for the adventurous middle grade reader.

Ash Princess

Ash Princess
Ash Princess Trilogy Book One
Written by Laura Sebastian
Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
448 Pages
Published April 24th 2018
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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Princess. Prisoner. Orphan. Rebel.

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered. On that day the Kaiser took Theodosia's land and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess, a title of shame to wear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realises that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon, her mind is sharper than any sword.

And power isn't always won on the battlefield.
The communities of Astrea were decimated by Kalovaxian soldiers, captured or slain by the totalitarian monarch Kaiser. The Ash Princess comforted her mother in her final moments, the revered Fire Queen of Astrean, her young daughter and heir to the Astrean monarchy, held captive and tortured. Astrean Guardians were imprisoned, bludgeoned to an existence of servitude.

While her kingdom was ravaged by the Kalovaxian empire, Theodosia lived within her gilded cage, a prisoner to remind the Astrean populace of their enslavement and ownership. Adorned by a crown of ashes. Theodosia is not the quintessential heroine, rather a nuanced character acclimatising to her environment. Her only companion is Crescentia, her father The Theyn accountable for the genocide of Astrea and the massacre of the Fire Queen. Her name is Theodosia Eirene Houzzara, the Ash Princess. Queen of Astrea. Pursuing retribution for her sovereignty.

Prinz Søren has returned to Astrea, the revered young warrior proclaiming of conquered lands in the distinguished name of his father, the Kaiser. Crescentia is a formidable courtesan and aspiring monarch, destined to become the companion of the returning Prinz, strengthening the Kalovaxian militant capabilities. Søren is enamoured by enigmatic, unattainable Theodosia, the young captive dangerously and defiantly confronting his moral compass. Søren is captivated and although Theodosia reciprocates, she is determined to capture freedom for Astera. Despite her affections for the handsome Prinz.

A revolution carries upon the wind, infiltration of the palace and the promise to dissolve the Kalovaxian empire. Theodosia is a demoralised young woman enduring retribution for the whispers of the rebellion uprising, resistance among the enslaved Astreans for the genocidal colonisation of Astrea. Although Theodosia appears to be a demure young woman, there is an insidious ferocity to her endurance and determination. Her deception and fortitude is breathtaking.

Crescentia is a character of contrasts, her resentment of Theodosia, evasive and treacherous under the pretence of companionship, attesting to the inhumane treatment and slavery. Her purposeful ignorance is frustrating. Blaise is a wonderful character. Blaise was raised within the palace during the Fire Queen reign. Their comfortable companionship is a contradiction to her acquaintance with Søren. He has escaped incarceration and has infiltrated the palace to assist Theodosia in her escape.

The reoccurring theme of colonisation is momentous. The apprehension of assimilation and endurance of the Kalovaxian migration is devastating and antagonistic, portrayed with a compassionate realism. The Germanic references to the monarchy accompanies the atmospheric and political narrative, establishing an intensive impasse between characters. Ash Princess is an exhilarating narrative, exquisitely inspirational.

A breathing debut by author Laura Sebastian.

Defy The Worlds

May contain spoilers for Defy The Stars. Read my review here
Defy The Worlds
Constellation Book Two
Written by Claudia Gray
Science Fiction, Space Opera, Romance
432 Pages
Published April 2018
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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Noemi Vidal has returned to her planet, Genesis, as an outsider, ostracised for refusing to end the Liberty War by sacrificing Abel, the most advanced mechanical man ever made. She dreams of travelling through the stars again, and when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. The only soldier to have ever left her planet, it will be up to her to save its people. If only she wasn't flying right into a trap.

Abel, now fully aware of his soul and captaining his own Vagabond ship, never dreamed he'd see Noemi again, not when the entire universe stands between them. But when his creator Burton Mansfield delivers news of Noemi's entrapment, Abel knows he must save her, even if it means risking his own life.

Danger lurks in the dark corners of the galaxy, and Abel and Noemi will discover a secret that could save Genesis and Earth... Or destroy them all.
Weaponised biological warfare has incapacitated the communities of Genesis, the small and unassuming planet sanctioned for colonisation by the wealthy, indulgent and elite residents of Earth. Noemi Vidal is a once revered soldier of Genesis, understanding that her refusal to destroy the Genesis portal by sacrificing the life of Abel is confronted with hostility and ostracisation. Through the intergalactic gateway, the stars begin to fall, unleashing biological genocide.

Abel Mansfield is a Vagabond upon the Persephone, the prototype of entrepreneur Burton Mansfield, creator of mechanised humanoid military technology, now liberated from isolation. Burton Mansfield continues to pursue his prototype creation, capturing Noemi to coerce Abel to surrender, his conscious and humanity eradicated to ensure the survival of his surrogate father, Directive One. Created as a prototype, Abel continuously evolves, revered for his humanity and perception.

Earth has revolutionised humanoid technology, Organically Mechanised Automation's developed to accommodate the human conscious achieving immortality for the wealthy and elite humans of Earth. Organic humanoid engineering poses deliberation for Abel, an unprecedented paradigm. As Abel discovered his identity, he increasingly experiences a sense of alienation. The new technology appeals to his sense of acceptance and understanding the desire for parentage.

The terrorist organisation Remedy are prevalent throughout the narration, formulating the assistance of medicinal intervention while simultaneously capturing the Osiris, an opulent vessel from Earth carrying the elite to a distant world, including and entrapped Noemi. The considerable characterisation of Noemi and Abel throughout the series is captivating, predominantly as individuals and potentially romantic companions. I enjoyed the secondary character inclusions, Virginia, Harriet, Zayan, Ephraim and the daughter of Burton Mansfield, the nefarious Gillian Shearer.

The narrative challenges the definition of humanity, technological advances and religious faith. Earth is a technologically advanced environment, entrepreneurs privately sponsoring the exploration of habitable planets, the Earth increasingly unable to sustain life. On Genesis, the population are environmentally sustainable and spiritual. Although they possess ancient technology, the civilisation is not dependant on technological advances, preferring sustainability and natural resources.

Defy The Worlds is spectacularly atmospheric and imaginative, eagerly awaiting the breathtaking final instalment. 

Ace of Shades

Ace of Shades
The Shadow Game Book One
Written by Amanda Foody
Fantasy, Magic, Romance
464 Pages
Published April 23rd 2018
Thank you to Harlequin Australia
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Welcome to the city of sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets... And secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school and her reputation behind to follow her mother's trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, Enne has only one lead, the name Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected, he's a street lord and con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unravelling investment scam, so he doesn't have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne's offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless Mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi's enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she'll need to play.
New Reynes is notorious for the corruption of the innocent, a decrepit, polluted metropolis thriving on underworld corruption. Lourdes Alfero arrived in New Reynes on whispered secrets and a sheltered existence for adoptive daughter Erienne, attending a prestigious finishing school for young women. Sixteen year old Enne is a virtuous, aristocratic young woman pursuing her mother through the ostentatious streets of New Reynes, intoxicated by immorality, prohibition and inappropriate for modest young ladies of virtue.

Levi Glaisyer is the Iron Lord of New Reynes. Throughout the narrative, Enne and Levi develop a subtle companionship and attraction.  A machiavellian luminary and an endearing young man, Levi is a disarmingly charismatic, professional charlatan and the surviving affiliation Enne has to her adoptive mother. 

Each resident is recognised by their bisected capabilities, their abilities manifest through their individual heritage, from entertainers to illusionists to alchemists. Electrical currents are used as monetary value, extricated from the vitality of unsuspecting patrons of New Reynes. The corruption and anarchy of a metropolis is founded upon the illegal gambling industry. Within the kingdom, the monarchy and sympathisers were eradicated during the revolution, corruption infiltrating as the Augustine and Torren families reigned the Scarhands, Doves and the Iron syndicates. Beneath the atmospheric metropolis, an amalgamation of anonymous journalists whisper the atrocities of the anarchic new world, including the notorious Séance, a monarchist sympathiser. 

Characters are eclectic and diversified. A bisexual protagonist of colour, gender fluidity and socioeconomic representation, a gentle reminder of the importance of inclusion within young adult narratives. Unfortunately an instance of implied paedophilia is present. Unbeknown to Enne, she is coerced into a abhorrent and vulnerable position with a paedophile, believing she is immensely younger than she appears. Although condemned during the narration, it's confronting, uncomfortable and unnecessary.

New Reynes is atmospheric and distinctly imagined, a city of debauchery and immorality. Wonderfully portrayed, vibrantly diversified and captivating until the final page.

Dark Dreams. Australian Refugee Stories

Dark Dreams
Australian Refugee Stories
Edited by Sonja Dechian, Eva Sallis and Heather Millar
Non Fiction, Young Adult
224 Pages
Published September 2012
Thank you to Wakefield Press
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Dark Dreams, Australian refugee stories is a unique anthology of essays, interviews, and stories written by children and young adults. The stories are the finest of hundreds collected through a nationwide schools competition in 2002. The essays and stories represent many different countries and themes. Some focus on survival, some on horrors, some on the experiences and alienation of a new world. This book will have a key role to play in schools across Australia.

Eva Sallis's first novel Hiam won The Australian Vogel and the Dobbie Literary Awards. She is cofounder of Australians Against Racism and is a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide.
Australia has a tumultuous history. In seventeen seventy eight, Australia was colonised by Great Britain, destined to establish the first European settlement in Australia. The Australian indigenous communities were decimated by violence, displacement and diseases introduced as a consequence of colonisation.

Australia is a multicultural landscape of migration. Since the White Australia Policy was abolished after the Second World War, over seven million migrants have immigrated to Australia, our population of twenty four million people comprising over six million immigrants, speaking over two hundred languages. A multicultural, multilingual country, forcibly removed from Indigenous communities, now imprisoning refugees escaping persecution.

Their journey to freedom is tumultuous, emphasised in the incredible Journey to Freedom written by Hai Van Nguyen, the winning entrant and one of over thirty narratives included in Dark Dreams. Fourteen years after arriving in Australia, the trauma of their journey remains.

We had lived to tell a story some never could. But the battle was not over, in fact, it was just beginning. We had fought with the elements and the authorities, but the real battle started the day we arrived in Australia. My parents have since learned that language barriers can be as insurmountable as giant waves, that exclusions leave a void far greater than the size of any ocean and that numbers last long after they have been removed. 
There’s nothing like having to cling to every bare breath, to see life reduced to a scarce trickle, to walk the tightrope separating life and death, at times not knowing one from the other. Very rarely do we get to see human nature stripped of all that it depends on to learn that human nature is itself enough.

Throughout each unfathomable circumstance, we are confronted by our own privilege and the mistreatment of migrants and asylum seekers. Dark Dreams is a collection literary memoirs from young, emerging authors chronicling the harrowing journey of immigrants and those escaping violent, ravaged communities from a multitude of destinations and circumstances. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Albania, Sudan and Germany. It is imperative for their stories to be recounted, to be heard. The human experience to be felt. Essential reading.

Amelia Westlake

Amelia Westlake
Written by Erin Gough
Contemporary, LGBT, Social Issues, Romance, #LoveOzYA
352 Pages
Published April 1st 2018
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont
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Harriet Price has the perfect life, she’s a prefect at Rosemead Grammar, she lives in a mansion, and her gorgeous girlfriend is a future prime minister. So when she decides to risk it all by helping bad girl Will Everhart expose the school’s many ongoing issues, Harriet tells herself it’s because she too is seeking justice. And definitely not because she finds Will oddly fascinating. Will Everhart can’t stand posh people like Harriet, but even she has to admit Harriet's ideas are good and they’ll keep Will from being expelled.

That’s why she teams up with Harriet to create Amelia Westlake, a fake student who can take the credit for a series of provocative pranks at their school. But the further Will and Harriet’s hoax goes, the harder it is for the girls to remember they’re sworn enemies and to keep Amelia Westlake’s true identity hidden. As tensions burn throughout the school, how far will they go to keep Amelia Westlake and their feelings for each other a secret?
Rosemead Grammar is a prestigious girls college in the affluent lower north shore of Sydney, achieving academic excellence for young women of the wealthy and elite community. It is imperative of students to preserve the sanctity of the Academy and Harriet Price is the epitome of exemplary students. Harriet is an achiever, an enterprising young woman immersed within the community, a virtuous prefect representative of the academy. Wilhelmina Everhart is a social and political activist, challenging the archaic, nepotism of the administration of the Rosemead Grammar. Conspirators responsible for Amelia Westlake.

Amelia Westlake is a pseudonym, conceived to emphasise the predatory behaviour of a member of the teaching facility, a former Olympian and esteemed member of the community. The sexualised and indecent commentary of student bodies, innuendo and suggestive expression are disparaged, Rosemead Grammar absolved of their responsibility as the student concerns are disregarded.

The allegations of sexual intimidation and predatory behaviour are a significant component of the narration and encourages conversations surrounding boundaries, consent and abuse. The girls of Rosemead Grammar are conditioned to tolerate the behaviour, including Harriet Price. Harriet's awakening is admirable. Superficially, Harriet is a sheltered, wilfully ignorant young woman of wealth. Beneath the naive, effervescent facade is a compassionate, intelligent woman, exploited for her appetite for gratification. Their unequivocal attraction engenders an incident of unintentional unfaithfulness, each young woman is in a respective, female relationship, each concealing their alliance from partners.

Amelia Westlake is representative of young women who remain unheard, casualties of a patriarchal dominated society. A rudimentary and fundamental introduction to feminism, challenging socioeconism, elitism, chauvinism, institutional homophobia and ineptly, racism on several occasions towards a character of Asian appearance that was challenged belatedly within the narration.

Reiterating the importance of the overwhelming necessity to create inclusive, affirming environments, Amelia Westlake encourages dialogue and camaraderie, sharing ideologies and empowering young women.

Erin Gough, you are magnificent.

The Price Guide to the Occult

Contains sensitivities such as abuse, post traumatic stress disorder and self harm
The Price Guide to the Occult
Written by Leslye Walton
Magical Realism, Witches, Romance
288 Pages
Published April 1st 2018
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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From the author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender comes a haunting maelstrom of magic and murder in the lush, moody Pacific Northwest.

When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbours. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn the witch out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast forward one hundred some years, all Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope. First, her supernatural powers, if they can be called that, are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price.

Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure she’ll be smack in the eye of it. In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author, Nor’s own mother, looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.
Flames consumed Anathema Island as the Blackburn matriarch retaliated against the patriarchal society, men who colonised the small north western island. Accusations of witchcraft coincide with eight generations of Blackburn women, blighted abominations including the estranged Fern Blackburn.

Abandoned by her neglectful and abusive mother, Nor Blackburn is a wonderful young woman, friend and granddaughter, her grandmother and her partner creating a nurturing and environment. Although Nor is supported within a fostering environment, she continues to endure the torment and violence of her mother, comforted upon the harm she inflicts upon her body. Her anxiety is palpable and as the youngest Blackburn daughter, she was a causality of abuse and family violence.

The legacy of each Blackburn child is her ability, each generation fostering aptitudes from their matriarch. The village smouldered as the lineage is condemned to isolation, each Blackburn woman enchanting a lover for three days of passion to produce an heir. Fern Blackburn was consumed by her unwilling suitor, using incantations and her daughter as a blood sacrifice as entrapment. Fern has returned from isolation with The Price Guide to the Occult, monetising the Blackburn legacy, amassing a congregation of loyal disciples and darkness is descending upon Anathema Island. 

The mysticism is captivating, predestined to isolation through the legacy of their matriarch. The Blackburn name continues to be a formidable presence throughout the Pacific Northwest Islands. Unfortunately the narrative is incomplete. Characters are introduced without significance to the narration and despite the compelling compensation, the characterisation is rudimentary and the narration becomes monotonous. 

Although I enjoyed aspects of the narration, The Price Guide to the Occult is an exasperating novel. Unfortunately not for me.

The Astonishing Colour of After

The Astonishing Colour of After
Written by Emily X.R. Pan
Contemporary, Magical Realism, Own Voices
480 Pages
Published March 27th 2018
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note, 'I want you to remember'. Leigh doesn't know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.

Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died, leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn't home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life.

Overwhelmed by grief, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.

With lyrical prose and magical elements, Emily X.R. Pan's stunning debut novel alternates between past and present, romance and despair, as one girl attempts to find herself through family history, art, friendship, and love.
Identifying her environment with colours, Leigh Chen Sanders reminisces the brightness of laughter, the gentle caressing of keys as the house is bathed in music, the hues of romance muted, the darkness slowly pulling her mother into depression.

Leigh is a biracial, a Taiwanese Irish American young woman, an artist of smudging and hues. Once a house awash with the melodious sound of her mother is now enveloped by despair, returning home to find her mother unresponsive, her life taken by clinical depression.

I try to think of a colour to match it, but all that comes to mind is the blackness of dried blood. I can only hope that in becoming a bird my mother has shed her suffering.

The nonlinear narrative accompanies Leigh in the moments after discovering her mother, despair reverberating throughout the family home. Dorothy Chen Sanders was diagnosed with depression, characterised compassionately and reiterating that mental illness is an incurable, continual and indiscriminate diagnosis.

Here is my mother, with wings instead of hands, and feathers instead of hair. Here is my mother, the reddest of brilliant reds, the colour of my love and my fear, all of my fiercest feelings trailing after her in the sky like the tail of a comet.

With a discarded note and a promise to remember, Leigh is doused in shades of sterile white, her colours now depleted. Leigh will journey to Taipei to uncover a life shrouded in whispers, perusing the elusive crimson feathers her mother has adorned after passing. The infusion of Taiwanese mythology is ethereal. As Leigh immerses herself in the Taiwanese landscape, she experiences moments of dissociation carried on the whispers of foreigner by curious bystanders, raised without the influence of her Taiwanese parentage.

The journey to Taipei is cathartic and although abandoned by her father on arrival, her grandparents Waipo and Waigong are welcoming and affectionate towards their granddaughter despite the language barrier. Her father is a contentious aspect of the narrative. A sinologist and scholar fluent in Mandarin, her father prioritised his career preferably to the deteriorating mental health of his wife. As her father increasingly travelled abroad, Leigh assumed the responsibility of primary caregiver and upon his return, he remained inaccessible and isolated. He continuously chastised Leigh for her creative medium, creating tension and frustration.

The racially and sexually diverse characters are wonderful. The narrative also pertains to the American Asian identity and the sense of acceptance towards biracial, multiracial and migrant communities.

My mother's hands have turned to wings. Her hair, to feathers. Her pale complexion now red as blood, red as wine, every shade of every red in the universe.

The Astonishing Colour of After is exquisite. The Mandarin Chinese dialect complements the affluent and atmospheric tapestry of Taipei and Taiwanese elegance. Debut author Emily X.R. Pan is extraordinary, a lyricist captivating readers. An impeccable read.

Contains sensitivities such as mental illness and suicide

White Night: A Bogan Book Review

White Night
Written by Ellie Marney
Contemporary, #LoveOzYA
384 Pages
Published March 1st 2018
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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Bo Mitchell has little on his mind except school, footy and friends. Rory Wild has grown up on a nearby commune and is attending a normal high school for the first time. Bo is determined to find out everything about her, even her secrets...

In Bo Mitchell's country town, a White Night light show event has the potential to raise vital funds to save the skate park. And out of town, a girl from a secretive off the grid community called Garden of Eden has the potential to change the way Bo sees the world. But are there too many secrets in Eden?

As Bo is drawn away from his friends and towards Rory, he gradually comes to believe that Eden may not be utopia after all, and that their group leader's goal to go off the grid may be more permanent and more dangerous than anyone could have predicted.

A wonderfully compelling novel from the acclaimed author of the Every series.
G'day and welcome to the town of Lamistead Victoria, where everyone knows your business and doesn't mind a gander in your windows. There's not much to do in Lamistead for sixteen year old knockabout kid Bo, footy, school, hanging round the soon to be demolished skate park. And no cooking. Definitely no cooking. Bo just wants to make his old man proud, a hard ask with all those bloody rules, the tough old bastard.

Just outside of town, the locals will have a yarn, there's a place where all the tree huggers live called Eden. No one knows what's going on in Eden but most will tell you there's a roo loose in the top paddock. Including that tough old bastard. So when Rory Wild rocks up at school one day with her hairy pits and getaway sticks, she's a punching bag for the halfwits of Lamistead.

Naturally Bo has got the hots for Rory and not just for her hairy pins. If that was the case I'd have to beat them off with a stick. This chick is smart and doesn't think Bo's a dickhead. Bonus. Starting out as mates, I loved those kiddos. Rory gave Bo the guts to want more than bring a local frothy drinking footy player and even though his dad'll be devo, he wants a cook tucker. Rory learns what a wasteful pack of mongrels Lamistead is until Bo adopts the recycling lifestyle, even giving his mates a serve for being wasteful.

Eden isn't the great unwashed that the pricks of Lamistead want you to think, it's a whole village of veggoes growing their own carrots and saving the planet. Probably should have called it Flatulence Town just quietly. The message at the heart of Eden is getting your hand off it and taking care of your own back paddock. Grown your own tucker and reuse shit you have laying round the house. We might not all want to be Greenies, live in a commune and meditate but we need to pitch in before this world goes down the gurgler. Whip up an Eden in your own back paddock and teach your ankle biters the value of reusing and recycling.

I'm always banging on about Aussie authors because let's face it, they're grouse and Ellie Marney is the top chick of Aussie authors. Let me tell you a bit about my mate Marno, she's a fair dinkum Aussie legend, she's a hard working mum living out in the sticks and raising a group of ankle biters. She knows her shit. She writes no bullshit books with heart and White Night is a bloody ripper. She's a beaut mate. 
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