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.
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