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. 

Small Spaces

Small Spaces
Written by Sarah Epstein
Contemporary, Thriller, #LoveOzYA
384 Pages
Publishing April 1st 2018
Thank you to Walker Books Australia
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★★★★★
We don’t pick and choose what to be afraid of. Our fears pick us.

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing.

As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?
The New South Wales coastal town of Port Bellamy is synonymous with Mallory Fisher, abducted from the promenade carnival and discovered wandering the surrounding forest physically unharmed. Natasha Carmody wandered the carnival alone, visiting the small rural community as her brother was welcomed into the world. Child psychiatrist Ingrid Ballantine believes Sparrow is a manifestation of isolation, a fabrication created by a child displaced by a sibling. Natasha has endured the degradation and resentment of her mother, a woman disengaging with her daughter over the fabricated account.  Detectives interviewed Natasha Carmody who was present the day Mallory was abducted by Sparrow, a nondescript shadow disregarded as a suspect.

Natasha Carmody is a photography enthusiast, a conscientious young woman and diligent daughter. Sparrow is a constant and menacing presence, a figure cloaked in shadows believed to be the vivid imaginings of a narcissistic child. It begun at Willow Creek, the derelict childhood home of her father. Sparrow would enter through the bedroom window, coercing eight year old Natasha into dangerous predicaments for his own amusement and gratification. His manipulation culminating with the disappearance of Mallory. Although Sparrow engages in predatory behaviour, cruelty and manipulation, he is not a sexual predator. 

Mallory now communicates through non verbal cues, diagnosed with selective mutism, her recollection of her ordeal unable to assist the authorities. Mallory experiences anxiety, preferring the sanctuary of her bedroom and online friendships. Morgan Fisher was present at the carnival when Mallory disappeared, accepting culpability for her abduction. Morgan is an interesting character, although self condemning his positivity is infectious. His tentative friendship with Natasha is sincere and compassionate, although Morgan unsuspects Natasha's involvement in the abduction investigation.

Although Natasha concedes that Sparrow is a manifestation, she is an unreliable protagonist. The nonlinear narrative blends present tense with the childhood psychiatric transcripts succeeding the abduction. Natasha now experiences social anxiety, apprehensive of forming new friendships. Her friendship with Sadie is wonderful, a young Māori woman identifying as lesbian, her single mother operating a small catering business is inspirational.

Another extraordinary aspect is Sarah Epstein's ingenuity to create an atmospheric environment, as a bystander encompassed by the narrative, menacing and foreboding. Small Spaces is a compelling, unpredictable and consuming debut. Phenomenal. 

The Poet X

The Poet X
Written by Elizabeth Acevedo
Poetry, Contemporary, Social Issues
320 Pages
Publishing April 1st 2018
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont
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★★★★
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers, especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Sixteen year old Xiomara Batista is a beautiful young woman, intelligent and compassionate, whispering words between the pages of her worn leather journal of a life never her own. Altagracia and her husband migrated to America from the Dominican Republic, surrendering her celibacy to a womaniser and embracing her Catholicism, residing in the community of East Harlem.

My parents probably wanted a girl who would sit in the pews
wearing pretty florals and a soft smile.
They got combat boots and a mouth silent until it's sharp as an island machete.

Brother Xavier was birthed as a whisper moments before Xiomara, wailing, entering the world. Xavier attends a prestigious private school, incapable of confronting his tormentors, incapable of confronting the men who sexualise Xiomara, now conscientious of her physique.

Her mother is antagonistic woman, disapproving, abusing and degrading Xiomara and the young woman her daughter represents. An independent feminist young lady. Emotionally absent, her father is a complacent bystander, creating a turbulent and oppressive environment.

We're wild women, flinging verses at each other
like grenades in a battlefield, a cacophony of violent poems
and then we're both gasping, wordless.

Xiomara's exploration of the world as a young woman is analytical, faith, femininity, relationships and the expectancy of young women and women of colour. Inspired by the poetry of women of colour, creative writing encourages Xiomara to articulate her thoughts. A formidable young woman who will confront, inspire and empower her captive audience throughout her verse narration.

To grab my notebook,
and write, and write and write
all the things I wish I could have said.
Make poems from the sharp feelings inside,
that feel like they could
carve me wide
open.

Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone
Legacy of Orïsha Book One
Written by Tomi Adeyemi
Fantasy, Magic, Diversity
352 Pages
Published March 13th 2018
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★★★
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for the enemy.
Heaven and Earth once blessed the lands of Orïsha until the Maji community was slain, a genocide ordered by King Saran. Zélie Adebola remembers the night her small wind swept community was pillaged, her mother slain by atrocities of the Monarchy. The vibrant white mane of the Divĩner children continue to be oppressed and persecuted by the King, in retribution for the atrocities of the Kosidán.

Zélie Adebola is a defiant young woman, her village of Ilorin decimated by the Monarchy of Orïsha as her mother was captured and slain. The young women of Ilorin are disciplined in the artistry of non lethal defence, taught to protect their bodies against the brutality of the Guard, Mama Agba ensuring the Ilorin godlaw is preserved. Brother Tzain is a gentle man, Zélie and Tzain caring for their windowed father and one another. Zélie inherited her tenacity and defiance from her mother, a vivacious woman compassion and inspiration, her husband and children bereaved by their loss.

As Zélie encounters the Monarch heir attempting to abscond the Orïsha marketplace she is reluctantly embroiled in the heist, enticing the Guard to Ilorin to retrieve the sacred artefact. The Divĩners are an enslaved lineage, children with dormant abilities and artefacts once lost to time have now resurfaced to awaken the Divĩners, their ashê laden blood a language of the gods and expendable to King Saran. 

Amari is the daughter of King Saran and a reluctant heir to the Orïsha Kingdom alongside brother Inan, a general of the Orïshan forces. Unaware of atrocities of her Kingdom, Amari is held captive within her palatial tower, maligned by her mother for her dark complexion, her vitality quelled by her oppressive confinement. Brother Inan is a morally ambiguous young man pursuing validation from his father. With the Monarch wealth comes privilege but Inan and Amari are burdened by parental expectations. Amari is a treasonous deflector pursued by Inan under instruction of King Saran, loyal to the Orïsha kingdom and the crown.

The narrative Tomi Adeyemi has conceived is transcendent, intertwined with meticulous folklore. Children of Blood and Bone emphasises the lives of the African American youth lost to violence, inspiring readers and invoking discussion about prejudice. The prose is exquisite, the celebration of  West African mythology and the Yorùbá dialect is captivating. A breathtaking debut.
Abogbo wa ni ọmọ r1ẹ nínú 1j1 àti egungun.
We are all children of blood and bone.

Tempests and Slaughter

Tempests and Slaughter
The Numair Chronicles Book One
Written by Tamora Pierce
Fantasy, Magic, Coming Of Age
464 Pages
Published February 13th 2018
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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★★★★☆
Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends, Varice, a clever girl with an often overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the leftover prince with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never before told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.
The Imperial University of Carthak is a prestigious school, educating the brightest adolescent Mages throughout the kingdom, including promising young mage Arram Draper, the ten year old son of a thread merchant. Mages are a revered member of the community, educated in the artistry of healing, spell casting and the combative arts. Arram Draper is an intelligent, gentle young boy and an advanced learning academic of The Imperial University of Carthak.

Prince Ozorne is an interesting character and although charismatic, isolates himself from his peers at university. Beneath the debonair facade is a volatile and passive aggressive young man, his despair exoneration for the threatening and abusive behaviour towards friends and acquaintances.

Varice Kingsford is a wonderful young woman, a culinary artiste despite the displeasure of her family. Established friends Varice and Ozorne welcome Arram to the independent learning program where he will receive private tuition in each discipline.

In a kingdom where slavery is celebrated in the gladiator area, the Sirajit revolutionaries oppose the barbarism of the royal family, Prince Ozorne's father slain during the uprising and his son determined to avenge his father. Encouraged by his mother, Princess Mahira, Varice and Arram are concerned for Ozorne, the Emperor's nephew now second heir to the Emperor throne. Arram is introduced to the gladiator arena when rescued by Musenda, Gladiator and slave. Under the Carthak empire, slaves are imprisoned to serve nobility or destined for the arena where death is inevitable. Musenda is a gentle, compassionate man, financially supporting his widowed sister and her two children on the arena. Arram has seen the despair, the hunger of enslavement and the life threatening wounds throughout his placement as an apprentice medic, believing in freedom against slavery and a prosperous Kingdom.

Carthak is atmospheric and meticulously illustrated. The linear narrative traverses several years throughout Arram's education, as he begins to specialise in healing. Throughout his interactions with each discipline Master, Arram learns humility, compassion and the atrocities of slavery within the Kingdom.

Tamora Pierce is an esteemed and accomplished fantasy author, exploring a world enduring exploitation and injustice, revenge and slavery. Racially and sexually diverse characters epitomise a vibrant origin story of gallantry and valour. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tin Heart

Tin Heart
Written by Shivaun Plozza
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, #LoveOzYA
310 Pages
Expected Publication February 26th 2018
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
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★★★★★
When Marlowe gets a heart transplant and a second chance at life, all she wants is to thank her donor’s family. Maybe then she can move on. Maybe then she’ll discover who she is if she’s no longer The Dying Girl.

But with a little brother who dresses like every day is Halloween, a vegan warrior for a mother and an all out war with the hot butcher’s apprentice next door, Marlowe’s life is already pretty complicated. And her second chance is about to take an unexpected turn…
Seventeen year old Marlowe Jensen was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition, the resilient young woman the recipient of an organ transplant bestowed by a sixteen year old young man. Since the transplant, Marlowe is experiencing a dissociation of identity. Recipients are forbidden to contact donor families but Marlowe is resolved to uncover her anonymous donor, compelled by gratitude and appreciation for the perpetual sixteen year old boy.

Marlowe is an extraordinary young woman. Although the transplant was successful, Marlowe attends monthly hospital appointments to ensure her body remains healthy. Encouraged by her progress, Marlow is returning complete her education. Naturally her peers are curious and Marlowe is feeling overwhelmed by the unwanted attention. Especially the effortlessly stylish and popular Zan Cheung. The tentative friendship between Marlowe and Zan was lovely. Zan is a Chinese Australian young woman who challenges stereotypes, sexuality, racism and advocates for equality.

Marlowe's single mother is a vegan warrior, opening a small business selling vegan products next to a family owned butcher. Her brother Pip's flamboyant costumes and idolisation of David Bowie is infectious, her mother's protests are theatrical and wonderfully confrontational, igniting a rivalry between Marlowe and apprentice butcher Leo. Leo is charismatic and incredibly attractive but beneath the debonair exterior, Leo and Marlowe both share parental constraint. Leo is pressured to abandon his education for the family owned business while Marlowe's mother is affectionately overbearing. The romance was wonderfully tender and delightfully entertaining. 

Through the online group established to introduce donor families and transplant recipients, Marlowe believes she may have found her donor. Although morally ambiguous, Marlowe finds her donor's sister Carmen and befriends her under an assumed name, convoluted by Zan's attraction to Carmen's friend Kari. Although I don't condone her deception, I sympathise with Marlowe as unconsciously, she had been preparing for her own passing with only her mother and brother unable to accept her diagnosis.

The transition to recovering survivor is a journey of realisation and acceptance for Marlowe, gradually feeling a sense of control and empowerment of her environment. Marlowe's experience is prevalent throughout Australia. Last year in Australia, over fourteen hundred members of our communities were the recipients of an organ transfer from over fife hundred patients. Marlowe's journey represents the thousands of organ and tissue donors and recipients throughout our communities each year. Those waiting for the opportunity to begin their lives. Organ donation is rarely spoken about until a family is confronted with the death of a loved one and although Marlowe is a fictional character, the narrative encourages discussion.

Shivaun Plozza is an exceptional and revered Australian young adult author. Captivating until the final page.
For more information on organ and tissue donation in Australia, visit the Donate Life website.

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
Written by Jaclyn Moriarty
Fantasy, Adventure, Middle Grade, #LoveOZMG
November 2017
512 Pages
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
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★★★★★
I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates. This did not bother me as much as you might think, I hardly knew my parents.

Bronte Mettlestone's parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She's had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons and no adventures, thank you very much.

But Bronte's parents have left extremely detailed and bossy instructions for Bronte in their will. The instructions must be followed to the letter, or disaster will befall Bronte's home. She is to travel the kingdoms and empires, perfectly alone, delivering special gifts to her ten other aunts. There is a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard and a veterinarian aunt who specialises in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship together and a former rockstar aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.

Now, armed with only her parents' instructions, a chest full of strange gifts and her own strong will, Bronte must journey forth to face dragons, Chief Detectives and pirates and the gathering suspicion that there might be something more to her extremely inconvenient quest than meets the eye...

From the award winning Jaclyn Moriarty comes a fantastic tale of high intrigue, grand adventure and an abundance of aunts.
Ten year old Bronte Mettlestone is embarking on a wondrous adventure, adhering to her late parents legacy despite the concerns of Isabelle, her Aunt and guardian. Patrick and Lida Mettlestone were adventurers, abandoning their only child with Isabelle then captured by pirates. The news of their demise delivered during afternoon tea. To receive her inheritance, Bronte is to travel the kingdom and empires to deliver keepsakes to ten of her father's sisters, adhering to the specific instructions precisely or fracture the Faery thread binding her itinerary. Each fracture brings impending destruction to the town of Gainsleigh and Bronte must embark on her journey alone.
Bronte Mettlestone is a wonderful young lady, curious and dependable. Abandoned as an infant, Bronte has been raised by Isabelle in the shire of Gainsleigh, her parents traipsing around the kingdom discovering new worlds and adventures before their demise. 

Her first destination is Livingston and the Elivish Festival of Matchsticks. Emma has been imprisoned for thievery of a pepper grinder. Claire organises Spellbinder conventions and Sophy is a veterinarian at the animal hospital for dragons. At the precise moment, Bronte presents her offering of cinnamon, chilli flakes or sugar cubes, rousing fond memories of her patents spanning the continent. Bronte growing increasingly exasperated towards her deceased parents she was never afforded the opportunity to appreciate. An avalanche in the mountain village, Katherine Valley Boarding School, the Riddle And Popcorn Cruise Ship and the Kingdom of music, culminating in a gathering in Nina Bay to celebrate the lives of her parents.
Bronte's journey is enchanting and at only ten years of age, her adventures are gallant and delightfully whimsical. Following the instructions, Bronte discovers new friends in each town including the mysterious young barefoot boy, adding intrigue. The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is wonderfully endearing, imaginative and effervescent. 

Blog Tour: Goodbye, Perfect

Goodbye, Perfect
Written by Sara Barnard
Contemporary, Young Adult
Published January 1st 2018
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
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★★★
When I was wild, you were steady...

Now you are wild, what am I?

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.
Sixteen year old Eden Rose McKinley had a precarious transition from childhood to adolescence, her narcotics dependent mother unable to provide for her children, placing Eden and Daisy into foster care, adopted by nurturing Carolyn and Bob McKinley. Although Eden has transitioned from difficult child to destructive adolescent and now discourteous young woman, Bonnie Wiston Stanley is an astute young woman. The authorities are demanding answers, where is Bonnie and why did she escape the confines of her life?

Bonnie is involved in an illicit sexual relationship with Jack Cohen, a member of the teaching facility, now absconding and evading authorities. The nonlinear narrative centers on Eden, the friend and confidant Bonnie has embroiled in her precarious circumstances. While the authorities continue to investigate Jack Cohen, Eden and Bonnie covertly communicate through messages, Bonnie insisting their four month relationship is consensual.

A friend coerced by a paedophile is confronting and distressing and Eden was determined to disregard the severity of the authoritative adult and adolescent sexual relationship. Contemplating her interactions with Bonnie during the illicit relationship, Eden concedes that Bonnie appeared despondent and burdened by ambition, unusual for the perceptive and accomplished student. Bonnie claimed she was in a relationship that Eden assumed was fabricated. 

Jack Cohen is accountable for the manipulation and coercion of a minor, using his authority to segregate a vulnerable adolescent. Bonnie was abandoned by the faculty, previously informed of the inappropriate relationships with female students and Bonnie's parents, unable to recognise the behavioural changes in their daughter.

Eden continued to deliberate whether to disclose Bonnie's location, seemingly only concerned with her own consequences rather than Bonnie's safety. Her character was insufferable and abrasive.  Despite her dishonesty, Eden continues to conceal information from the authorities. 

Goodbye, Perfect is an important discussion surrounding boundaries by an adult in a position of authority, coercion and consent. Unfortunately the narrative is monotonous and frustrating, aggravated by indecision, inadequate character realisation and an unsatisfying conclusion.

Between Us

Between Us
Written by Clare Atkins
Diverse, Political & Social Issues, Romance, #LoveOZYA
Published January 29th 2018
304 Pages
Thank you to Black Inc
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★★★★★
Is it possible for two very different teenagers to fall in love despite high barbed wire fences and a political wilderness between them?

Anahita is passionate, curious and determined. She is also an Iranian asylum seeker who is only allowed out of detention to attend school. On weekdays, during school hours, she can be a regular Australian girl.

Jono needs the distraction of an infatuation. In the past year his mum has walked out, he’s been dumped and his sister has moved away. Lost and depressed, Jono feels as if he’s been left behind with his Vietnamese single father, Kenny.

Kenny is struggling to work out the rules in his new job, he recently started work as a guard at the Wickham Point Detention Centre. He tells Anahita to look out for Jono at school, but quickly comes to regret this, spiraling into suspicion and mistrust. Who is this girl, really? What is her story? Is she a genuine refugee or a queue jumper? As Jono and Anahita grow closer, Kenny starts snooping behind the scenes...
Jonathan Do is the biracial son of an Australian mother and Vietnamese immigrant single father, living within the parched landscape of Darwin in the Northern Territory. Jonathan disinterested in his education and preferring intoxication rather than accountability, choosing to isolate himself from his estranged mother living in Sydney. The relationship Jonathan shares with his father is distant and impersonal, preferring the company of Minh, Dzoung's sister. After the collapse of his relationship with girlfriend Priya, Jonathan became increasingly depressed, his father now concerned is the cause of Jonathan's destruction.

Anahita Shirdel is an Iranian asylum seeker at Wickham Point Detention Centre, previously located on Nauru and Manus Island. Wickham Point is a fortress to asylum seekers from Burma, Afghanistan, Iran, Vietnam and New Zealand, pregnant women and children have been transported to Darwin without their partners, the Australian Human Rights Commission convicting the centre as inhumane, ignored by the Australian government. Anahita's mother is pregnant to partner Abdul who remains on Manus Island, transported to the mainland after being diagnosed with preeclampsia along with Abdul's son, three year old Arash. Anahita is a beautiful young woman, gentle and compassionate. The devastating conditions experienced in Iran have left Anahita traumatised, overwhelmed by nightly terrors. Australia offered an opportunity of freedom and safety, now left behind the cyclone fence and kept in oppressive, inhumane conditions.

Dzoung Do is a guard at the regimented detention compound, his narrative often confronting and intolerant. Dzoung is a Vietnamese immigrant, sponsored by his sister Minh to journey to Australia, marrying an Australian citizen and forgoing his traditional Vietnamese heritage. Determined to integrate into western society. Dzoung initially facilitates the friendship between Jonathan and Anahita, as Anahita begins her education at the local secondary college. The guards at the Wickham Point facility are often cruel, some regarding those seeking asylum as subhuman. Dzoung is an infuriating character, judgemental and increasingly without compassion. He allowed his own moral compass to be poisoned by the racist, bigoted employees at the Wickham Point facility.

The tentative friendship between Jonathan and Anahita is gentle and compassionate. Jonathan allowed Anahita to set boundaries within their friendship concerning her personal and cultural principles. Although Jonathan continues to experience casual racism, Anahita's peers are considerate and courteous. Friend Zahra's journey to Australia is indicative of the harrowing journey made by asylum seekers. Boarding substandard transport with family members often lost to the treacherous conditions.

The plight of asylum seekers is a precarious discussion for Australians. Men, women and children journey to Australia in dangerous conditions only to be denied basic human rights. They are detained behind cyclone fences in remand compounds on Nauru or Manus Island. Those granted refugee status will never be afforded the opportunity of freedom, treated inhumanely and exposes vulnerable asylum seekers to sexual, physical and psychological abuse, withheld in indefinite detention.

Clare Atkins is one of Australia's finest young adult literature authors. Between Us is a passionate conversation of Australia's inhumane treatment of those seeking asylum, reminding us of our understanding and our compassion. Compelling and influential reading. 

Sky In The Deep

Sky in the Deep
Written by Adrienne Young
Fantasy, Historical, Violence
Publishing April 24th 2018
352 Pages
Thank you to St. Martin's Press
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★★★★☆
Ond Eldr. Breathe Fire.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen year old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple, fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield, her brother, fighting with the enemy. The brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible, unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.
The Aska villages strengthen for battle every five years in the name of Sigr, including seventeen year old Eelyn and her father. Occupying the coastal villages of the fjord, it is an honour for a warrior to represent her clan, wielding her weapons beside Mýra, her friend and fellow warrior. Five years after the loss of her brother during battle, he is seen in the forest depths, ending the lives of those who wept for the young man taken from their community, now warring alongside those he had once vowed to destroy.

Seventeen year old shield maiden Eelyn is gallant and courageous, an Aska warrior compelled by the memory of her deceased brother. Five years has elapsed as the violent crusade commenced in the name of Sigr, as Eelyn strengthens her resolve alongside her father and friend Mýra. The Riki converge to defend their honour and sanctity when Eelyn is overwhelmed by a Riki combatant, shielded by her brother upon the killing fields of Hylli. Her brother whose body was ostensibly forsaken to the wintry landscape.

Eelyn is wounded and captured by Fiske, a Riki warrior and kinsman to Eelyn's brother, transported to the village of Fela. Eelyn is hostile, denouncing her brother who has brought disgrace upon her family, the Aska and Sigr, the Scandinavian deity. An Aska warrior is a disposable commodity and to ensure Eelyn's protection while recovering from her wounds, Eelyn unwillingly becomes a dýr of servitude, to be traded after the winter dissolves. Eelyn is placed in the steel collar of a dýr and although Fiske's family are initially mistrusting, Eelyn is only expected to perform domestic duties rather than sexual as the narrative insinuates. 

The Aska and Riki are being decimated by the Herja. The Herja are ruthless and inhumane, indiscriminately pillaging villages along the fjord by massacring entire communities. It is a moment of unification for the Aska and Riki villages, centuries of conflict have created a prejudice between alliances and to reconcile will ensure the survival of both communities. 

I enjoyed the broad mythology of the Viking Iron Age despite being devoid of any significant historical information. The narrative appears to take place within the Nordic Viking Scandinavia homeland rather than maritime, although the Aska villages are situated along the fjord, a ravine created by a glacier. The native language used is also fictionalised throughout the advanced readers copy and I hope the finalised novel will provide readers with a glossary. 

Sky In The Deep is magnificent. I was captivated by Eelyn and her resistance, her strength and humanity. The prose is captivating, the fictional wintry Scandinavian landscape is beautifully cinematic, exhilarating and atmospheric. 

The Secrets We Share

The Secrets We Share
The Secrets We Keep Book Two
Written by Nova Weetman
Contemporary, Early Teen, Family, #LoveOzYA
Published October 2017
Thank you to UQP
Add to Goodreads
See my review for book one here
★★★★☆
You’ve probably figured out by now that I love this tree. I love it because it’s no longer beautiful, no longer a tree that would stop a tourist, begging to be photographed. And I love it because it reminds me of my mum.

Clem is slowly rebuilding her life after a house fire destroyed everything. She’s about to start high school with her best friends, Bridge and Ellie, and she’s happy living with her dad in their tiny flat.

So when her mum unexpectedly moves back in, Clem feels like there’s no space for her anymore.

But then she meets Matt, a funny and rebellious fourteen year old who has family troubles of his own. Clem feels like she can tell him anything... All except her deepest fear. When everything starts to unravel, Clem must decide which secrets to keep and which to share.
Clem Timmins is on the verge of starting high school with best friends Bridge and Ellie to share the daunting experience, as they slowly rebuild their lives after the fire destroyed their house. Living in the small, cramped flat has brought Clem and her father closer together, new friend and neighbour Maggie can solve any Clem related crisis with tea and cake and they've begun to rebuild their home with the insurance pay out. For the first time since the fire, things are finally going Clem's way.

Until her mother returns from her health retreat and is moving into their rented flat, her two best friends are placed in the same homeroom without Clem and Maggie has a visitor, her troubled nephew Matt has moved in.

Clem is feeling overwhelmed and neglected. Starting high school is a nervous and exciting time for Clem until she finds out that she's placed in a homeroom separate to Bridge and Ellie, who will be together. Throughout Clem's high school transition, her two friends begin to leave Clem out of conversations and although unintentionally, Clem understandably is feeling incredibly hurt and isolates herself. I liked Clem's new and tentative friendship with Matt, Maggie's nephew who is also starting a new school as he enters year nine. They were wonderful companions. Matt encourages Clem to take risks, she gains self confidence and finds her voice along their journey while Clem helps Matt connect with Maggie and appreciate his kind, tender Aunt.

In The Secrets We Keep, Clem's mother was diagnosed with depression and after the fire that destroyed their home, was able seek treatment. The discussion of mental illness was  written with a gentle hand and I really appreciated how Nova Weetman touched upon how Clem's mother's illness effected her relationship, her relationship with her daughter and her approach to her own mental health. It's also a wonderful introduction for younger readers to allow parents to guide discussions about mental wellness.

Clem's relationship with her father is lovingly tender, he's also attempting to salvage his marriage while caring for Clem and planning for the new house. Clem still harbours an incredible amount of resentment towards her mother who accidentally started the fire with her meditative candle, panicking and running from their burning home rather than call the emergency services. Her mother was attempting to make an effort but both parents were clearly frustrated with Clem, her refusal to speak, longing for inclusion and reassurance.

I enjoyed the complexity of Clem's relationships, the often awkward phase of not quite a teenager but no longer a child. Clem has already experienced so much in her young life and the residual trauma of the fire I feel played a role in her relationships. It was wonderful to experience Clem's growth as a character and young woman finding her way out into the world. Through the tolerance of those around her and positive role models, she was able to learn from her experiences. An important message for the intended audience about learning to compromise and see other perspectives.

Clem Timmins is a character that represents the wonderful adventure of growing up and finding your place in the world. The feeling of being lost but eventually making your way back home. Of learning who you are and who you are to others, a daughter, a best friend or your neighbour who loves cake and will share your love of roofing. Nova Weetman has created a character so full of life that she leaps straight from the pages.

And into your heart. 

Alex, Approximately

Alex, Approximately
Written by Jenn Bennett
Contemporary, Romance
400 Pages
Published April 2017
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia
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★★★★☆
Bailey Mink Rydell has met the boy of her dreams. They share a love of films and talk all day, Alex is perfect. Well, apart from the fact that they’ve never actually met... And neither of them knows the other’s real name.

When Bailey moves to sunny California to live with her dad, who happens to live in the same town as Alex, she decides to track him down. But finding someone based on online conversations alone proves harder than Bailey thought, and with her irritating but charismatic and potentially attractive colleague Porter Roth distracting her at every turn, will she ever get to meet the mysterious Alex?

From the author of Night Owls comes a story of summer, first love and hidden identities.
Bailey Rydell is embarking on a new adventure, moving from Washington to the coastal tourist town of Coronado Cove in California, where her father has lived since separating from his wife, in avoidance of perpetual arguments between her mother and her new husband. Bailey's internet friend Alex also resides in Coronado Cove, a young man who shares her love of classic films.

Seventeen year old Bailey is a wonderfully practical young woman, spirited although has a strong tendency of avoidance. In the online Lumière Film Fanatics Community she's referred to as Mink, ascribed by her love of vintage clothing. Alex has invited Bailey to the annual Coronado Springs Film Festival and unaware she has already moved to the Californian coastal town, Bailey attempts to find Alex before introducing herself, uncertain of her online friend and his authenticity.

Although Bailey and Alex are friends, one aspect I appreciated was how both adolescents were reluctant to explore aspects online in which they could be identified. An important reminder. With her fabulously restored vintage scooter, Bailey is employed at The Cavern Palace, a local tourist attraction along the seashore boardwalk and meets Grace Achebe, a effervescent American Nigerian young lady employed throughout the summer. Not all the employees at the The Cavern Palace are as accommodating.

Porter Roth is a third generation surfer, Polynesian Chinese American, handsome and grandson of the legendary Pennywise Roth, working as The Cavern Palace security and supervisor. The progression of their companionship was wonderful, Bailey is infuriated by Porter but gradually glimpses the boy beneath the confident and disarming exterior, a tender and charismatic young man and I applaud young adult authors that include intimacy and female masturbation as a relationship progresses.

The relationship with Bailey's father was gentle and a wonderfully positive influence, encouraging her ambition and providing Bailey with responsibility. Although once distraught by the infidelity and dissolution of his marriage, it was wonderful to see him exploring a new relationship and Bailey's acceptance. A lovely aspect of their familial relationship. The narrative also discusses trauma that both Bailey and Porter have experienced within their young lives.

Jenn Bennett is phenomenal. Alex, Approximately is a nostalgic and whimsical contemporary romance, enchanting and beautifully written. Captivating until the final page.

Five Stella Middle Grade Ladies

The Stella Prize invites you to join the Stella Sparks campaign and show your support for writing by Australian women! To get involved, share your favourite book by an Australian woman that you read in the past year and use the hashtag #StellaSpark. For more information please visit their website.


Today I'm featuring five remarkable middle reads by female Australian authors.

How To Bee by Bren MacDibble

How To Bee
Written by Bren MacDibble
Published by Allen & Unwin
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★★★★★
My Review
Peony lives with her sister and grandfather on a fruit farm outside the city. In a world where real bees are extinct, the quickest, bravest kids climb the fruit trees and pollinate the flowers by hand. All Peony really wants is to be a bee. Life on the farm is a scrabble, but there is enough to eat and a place to sleep, and there is love. Then Peony's mother arrives to take her away from everything she has ever known, and all Peony's grit and quick thinking might not be enough to keep her safe.

How To Bee is a beautiful and fierce novel for younger readers, and the voice of Peony will stay with you long after you read the last page.
How To Bee introduces middle grade readers to the environmental impact human development, pesticides, disease and climate change have affected populations. The narrative may also be perceived as a gentle reminder of Australia's colonisation. Enchanting and atmospheric, achingly beautiful. Captivating until the final page.

The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale

The Other Side of Summer
Written by Emily Gale
Published by Random House Australia
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★★★★★
My Review
Summer is trying to recover from a tragedy, but it seems impossible when her family is falling apart around her. Having an extraordinary best friend like Mal helps a little, but Summer's secret source of happiness is a link to the past, one very special guitar.

Now her dad's plan to save them is turning Summer's life upside down again. The next thing she knows, they've moved to the other side of the world.

In Australia, Summer makes an unlikely friend, who seems to be magically connected to her guitar. Is this for real? Has a mysterious boy been sent to help Summer? Or could it be the other way around?

This sweet and spellbinding story about family, friends and believing in yourself will warm your heart.
Magical realism is quite often explored within middle grade and coming of age stories, but none more so beautiful than The Other Side of Summer. Enchanting and wonderfully written, The Other Side of Summer was simply beautiful. A charming coming of age story that bridges the gap between middle grade and young adult and a poignant and hopeful story for the young and young at heart. I loved it immensely.

The Secrets We Keep by Nova Weetman

The Secrets We Keep
Written by Nova Weetman
Published by UPQ
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★★★★☆
My Review
I don't know if you've ever seen a house burn, but it's not like anything else...

Clem Timmins has lost everything, her clothes, her possessions, her house and her mum. Now living in a tiny flat with her dad, Clem has to start a new school and make new friends. On her first day, Clem tells Ellie that her mum died in a house fire and immediately regrets it when Ellie latches on and confides that her own mother is dying of cancer.

When Clem receives a letter she doesn't want to read, it becomes clear she can't run from her past forever, especially when the truth appears right in front of her face.
The essence of The Secrets We Keep is rebuilding, understanding and compassion, Clem able to find forgiveness through the kindness that was extended to her. It was absolutely lovely. Nova Weetman has a remarkable style of narration, creating characters that are irrevocably flawed yet will captivate and delight readers.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

The Trials of Morrigan Crow
Written by Jessica Townsend
Published by Hachette Australia
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★★★★★
My Review
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Born on an unlucky day, she is blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks, and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide.

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

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

To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests. or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
The Trials of Morrigan Crow is a fantastical, wondrous and whimsical adventure. Eleven year old Morrigan Crow is an unfortunate child and the origin of mayhem who will come to pass on the eve of Eventide. Morrigan is a wonderful young lady, intelligent and whimsical although resignated to accept responsibility for Jackalfax's outrageous predicaments. On the even of Eventide, Jupiter North offers Morrigan salvation, accompany him to Nevermoor to compete in the Wundrous Society tournament

Whimsical and atmospheric, the epitome of fantastical and imaginative fairytales. Delightfully written and a breathtaking debut from author a Jessica Townsend.

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

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

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

Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.
Although Subhi is a fictional character, he represents the thousands of children and families denied refuge and placed within detention centres and incarcerated, his narrative instigating important conversations about human rights and the Australian refugee legislation. The conditions within the refugee compound are appalling. Inadequate basic necessities, dehumanised and often brutalised by government employed wardens. Their meagre possessions confiscated upon arrival. Mental and physical health deteriorate as families are segregated. Their voices left unheard.

The Bone Sparrow is a conscientious and impassioned narrative of the abhorrent treatment and conditions asylum seekers face in Australia. Captivating and confronting.

More Information

The Stella Prize is a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing, and an organisation that champions cultural change. The Stella Prize is a non for profit organisation run entirely off donations. To donate please visit their website here.

Five Stella Young Adult Ladies of 2017

The Stella Prize invites you to join the Stella Sparks campaign and show your support for writing by Australian women! To get involved, share your favourite book by an Australian woman that you read in the past year and use the hashtag #StellaSpark. For more information please visit their website.

I'm an advocate for Australian female authors, women who bring our stories ​to the world. Women and authors identifying as women who write about small towns, our cities, our relationships, injustices and our beautiful sunburnt country. Today I'm featuring five remarkable young adult reads of twenty seventeen by female Australian authors who lend us their words and welcome us home.


The Build Up Season by Megan Jacobson

The Build Up Season
Written by Megan Jacobson
Published by Penguin Teen Australia
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★★★★★
My Review
He’s back.

The monster.

It’s the middle of the night and I’m awake, because even though I’m seventeen I still haven’t outgrown the childhood monster that haunts you in the dark. I haven’t outgrown it, because when I was a child, the monster was real.

He was my father.

But the thing is, the monster was the person I was closest to in the whole world, closer than I’ve been to anyone since.

That will tell you everything you need to know about me.

And still, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill the monster.

That will tell you even more about me.

Seventeen year old Iliad Piper is named after war and angry at the world. Growing up with a violent father and abused mother, she doesn’t know how to do relationships, family or friends. A love hate friendship with Max turns into a prank war, and she nearly destroys her first true friendship with misfit Mia. Iliad takes off her armour for nobody, until she meets Jared, someone who's as complicated as she is.
The essence of The Build Up Season is new beginnings and learning to forgive, reiterating the importance of holding perpetrators of violence accountable. The narrative although confrontational, are incredibly important for adolescents. If you haven't experienced family violence, it's likely you unknowingly know someone who has. The Build Up Season is an important discussion as a community in support of those family violence has touched.

Ballad For A Mad Girl by Vikki Wakefield

Ballad For A Mad Girl
Written by Vikki Wakefield
Published by Text Publishing
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★★★★★
My Review
Everyone knows seventeen year old Grace Foley is a bit mad. She’s a prankster and a risk taker, and she’s not afraid of anything, except losing. As part of the long running feud between two local schools in Swanston, Grace accepts a challenge to walk the pipe.

That night she experiences something she can’t explain. The funny girl isn’t laughing anymore. She’s haunted by voices and visions, but nobody believes a girl who cries wolf.

As she’s drawn deeper into a twenty year old mystery surrounding missing girl Hannah Holt, the thin veil between this world and the next begins to slip. She can no longer tell what’s real or imagined, all she knows is the ghosts of Swanston, including that of her own mother, are restless. It seems one of them has granted her an extraordinary gift at a terrible price.

Everything about her is changing, her body, her thoughts, even her actions seem to belong to a stranger. Grace is losing herself, and her friends don’t understand. Is she moving closer to the truth? Or is she heading for madness?
Ballad For A Mad Girl may become a point of contention for readers, is Grace psychologically unwell or spiritual, a contemporary novel or paranormal. Determined by the disposition of the reader. Vikki Wakefield is a formidable author, the ambiguous narrative is intriguing and captivating. Absolutely phenomenal.

Because of You by Pip Harry

Because Of You
Written by Pip Harry
Published by UQP
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★★★★★
My Review
Meet Tiny and Nola. Two very different girls with two very different stories who are just trying to find a place to belong. A powerful and compelling novel about friendship, love and acceptance.

Tiny is an eighteen year old girl living on the streets in Sydney, running from her small town past. She finds short term accommodation at Hope Lane, a shelter for the homeless where she meets Nola, a high school student on volunteer placement.

Both girls share their love of words through the Hope Lane writing group. Can they share their secrets, too?
Throughout the narrative, Pip Harry illustrates the callous installation of defence architecture, metal spikes used as a deterrent to erase homelessness from public exposure. While our governments allocate funding to frivolous enterprises, councils prohibit homeless communities sleeping within the city centre, denying those seeking safety in public places. Pip Harry is remarkable. Because Of You is the immaculate and captivating narrative of the Hope Lane community, a homeless initiative that encourages our most vulnerable community members to communicate through creativity. Inspirational and influential.

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

This Mortal Coil
Written by Emily Suvada
Published by Penguin Teen Australia
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★★★★★
My Review
When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta's death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world's leading geneticist, and humanity's best hope of beating a devastating virus.

Then, hidden beneath Cole's genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope.

Lachlan created a vaccine.
Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world's genetic tech. But it's too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.
The essence of This Mortal Coil is genetic manipulation and biotechnology, developed by Lachlan Agatta and administered to infants as nanotechnology. It allows programmers to create applications that download directly into the body, collaborating with our human genetics. This Mortal Coil is an intelligent, captivating and atmospheric science fiction dystopian. Absolutely phenomenal.

Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian

Beautiful Mess
Written by Claire Christian
Published by Text Publishing
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★★★★★
My Review
Since Ava lost Kelly, things haven’t been going so well. Even before she gets thrown out of school for shouting at the principal, there’s the simmering rage and all the weird destructive choices. The only thing going right for Ava is her job at Magic Kebab.

Which is where she meets Gideon. Skinny, shy, anxious Gideon. A mad poet and collector of vinyl records with an aversion to social media. He lives in his head. She lives in her grief. The only people who can help them move on with their lives are each other.
Too often young adult literature promotes the mental well being of adolescents as an illness to be remedied by a love interest and I applauded the discussion of mental illness as a chronic condition that fluctuates upon a wellness spectrum.

A wonderful inclusion of diversity. The late Kelly is bisexual and Maori, Ava is of Greek heritage, Gideon's parents are in a female, same sex relationship and the discussion of depression, suicide and anxiety was magnificent and wonderfully represented. Claire Christian is a captivating, compassionate and remarkable debut author composing a narrative that will linger long after the final page. Exquisite Australian young adult literature.

More Information

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