You Were Made For Me

You Were Made For Me
Written by Jenna Guillaume
Contemporary, Friendship, Romance
Publishing August 11th 2020
336 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
The day I created a boy started out like any other.

Katie didn't mean to create a boy. A boy like a long lost Hemsworth brother. Six foot tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer's day, whose lips taste like cookie dough and whose skin smells like springtime.

A boy who is completely devoted to Katie.

He was meant to be perfect.

But he was never meant to exist.
Let's summarise. Single Katie wants a dreamboat boyfriend for her very first kiss. So what happens when you wake up in the middle of the night with six feet of solid, yet alluringly strange boy hunk in your bed? Freak the hell out.

A dash of handsomeness, a pinch of blonde dreamy locks, a sprinkle of smoking hot body and generous amounts of kindness and you too can create your very own Guy. Of course there's more to the recipe and lots of sciencey goodness but now Katie has a very real and very much naked Guy in her room, staring at her adoringly and content to live under her bed until she knows what to do with him.

Girl, have at it.

Thankfully Katie can rely on her always dependable friend and next door neighbour Theo to have her back. If it weren't for Guy's weird and wide eyed wonder, no one would believe this tall, handsome hunk of a boy was only hours old. Kate is a natural storyteller and with input from best friend Libby when she starts rambling or using the word tongue far too often than necessary, Katie shares her story about creating the perfect boy.

Katie, Libby and Theo aren't part of the popular clique, in fact she and best friend Libby have been the target of the downright nasty and pretentious Mikayla. Even her maybe, sometimes boyfriend Declan Bell Jones is perfect, if only Katie could steal him from Mikayla's taloned clutches. Katie's had the hots for him as long as she can remember and all of Libby's eye rolling still isn't enough to douse those burning loins. Declan is no Guy and while he may seem nice, he's just another wanker with the need to feel adored. I believe he's also still looking for his spine.

You Were Made For Me is a feel great, laugh out loud romantic comedy, like a nineties teen film that'll have you swooning and peeing a little, regular toilet breaks are highly recommend. It's utterly delightful, a little bit batshit and hilariously funny. We could all use a hefty dose of fun and fluff and this is perfection.

We first meet Katie as she's pining away over the unobtainable boy, you know the type, he's usually popular, his girlfriend is a horrible bitch and he's typically a bit of a dimwit. On a girl's night in, Kate and bestie Libby are pretending to create the ideal guy, Libby ensuring she added a penis because no one deserves plastic genitals. Feeling better about her lack of boyfriend and kissing, Katie tucks her makeshift tiny boyfriend into bed. Sciencey and magical stuffs occur, which I believe is the technical term and that is how you end up with a hunk in your bed. Probably best not to try this at home kids, results may vary.

What ensues is a journey of learning, hard lessons and realising that there's no such thing as perfection, although Guy comes pretty close. A story of friendship, awesome friends, shitty friends and that guy you thought was hot? He's a massive wanker. You Were Made For Me also touches on grief, Theo having lost his mother to cancer. Infidelity, someone can't seem to keep their own tongue in their mouth and body shaming. Theo is often teased by his family and peers for his weight. 

I loved the diversity of characters. There is a discussion surrounding sexuality when a character identifies as asexual and aromantic and it was brilliant to see that spoken about on the page so positively. Libby is Filipina Australian, she's intelligent, witty and an incredibly loyal friend. She also experiences taunting and racism at the hands of Mikayla and her minions.

Jenna Guillaume has cemented herself as Australia's young adult romantic comedy author and my love her her knows no bounds. This was absolutely delightful, fun, fluffy and super cute. Also, a handy guide when faced with a large, ridiculously good looking man doll come to life in your bed while you're asleep.

The Map from Here to There

The Map from here to There
The Start of Me and You Book Two
Written by Emery Lord
Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Published March 31st 2020
400 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
It's senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions.

Feeling the weight of the rest of her life Paige starts to panic. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be, how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to life after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord's signature storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life's most important questions. There will be break ups, make ups, a road trip, and even a wedding. Through it all, can Paige figure out what happens in the after part of happily ever after?
Paige Hancock's world fell apart after her boyfriend Aaron drowned in a tragic accident, her steadfast friends were there to support her through the trauma and anxiety, including Max, Paige's friend and now boyfriend. Paige and Max have just spent the last few months apart, Paige exploring New York City and her dream of one day becoming a screen writer, while Max has been holidaying in Italy. Reuniting before embarking on their final year of school and together with their group of friends, their final year before scattering across the country for collage.

Paige is a planner, she likes to know where she's going before she begins her journey, to schedule her time and organise her life in an orderly manner, so collage applications are especially stressful, the fear of the unknown. Beneath Paige's anxiety is a brave and fiercely determined young woman wanting to pursue her dreams of becoming a screenwriter, although lately she isn't so sure. The eldest daughter of her journalist father and mother, her parents understand the pressure Paige places upon herself and remind her of the importance of caring for herself, even if Paige herself doesn't quite realise how debilitating her anxiety is becoming. Her parents are in a precarious situation, separated but continue to date one another, her mother placing stability and the emotional welfare of Paige and her younger sister before her own needs. Their family unit might be a little unconventional but it works, the Hancock girls giving their blessing for their parents to remarry again.

In her final year, Paige is determined to shake things up, on the cusp of adulthood, deciding on colleges, careers and finding her feet as Paige, not as Max and Paige. Throwing away her planner to become carefree and spontaneous, creating a final year bucket list of all the cheesy and typical teen experiences before college. Paige is a wonderful character as an individual but she seemingly lost her sense of identity within her relationship with Max. Although Max is supportive, Paige needed to be challenged and trusted, Max all but accusing Paige of being unfaithful for spending time with the delightful Hunter Chan, workmate and friend. A double standard considering how often Max speaks to Tessa, Paige's best friend. I didn't dislike Max, I just didn't like who Paige was in her relationship with him.

Although I enjoyed The Map from Here to There, it wasn't nearly as enchanting as The Start of Me and You which was fun, lighthearted and a feel great read. Paige and Max seemed entirely too serious for two teens on the cusp of adulthood. I appreciated that Paige wanted to spread her wings and shake up her routine, Many young adults will relate to the pressure she places upon herself and the daily struggle of balancing her education, life, family, friendships and also working part time.

There's something just so incredibly lovely and gentle about an Emery Lord novel and although I didn't love it as much as The Start of Me and You, still a wonderful, feel great read.

The Highland Falcon Thief

The Highland Falcon Thief
Adventures on Trains Book One
Written by M. G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman
Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli
Middle Grade, Adventure, Friendship, Mystery
Published January 31st 2020
256 Pages
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
Harrison Beck is reluctantly joining his travel writer Uncle Nate for the last journey of the royal train, The Highland Falcon. But as the train makes its way to Scotland, a priceless brooch goes missing, and things are suddenly a lot more interesting. As suspicions and accusations run high among the passengers, Harrison begins to investigate and uncovers a few surprises along the way. Can he solve the mystery of the jewel thief and catch the culprit before they reach the end of the line?

Hear whispers in the dining car, find notes in the library, and unknown passengers among the luggage as you help Harrison to solve the mystery aboard one of the world's grandest trains. Fast paced and packed with illustrations and clues, Adventures on Trains is a stop you won't want to miss!
Eleven year old Harrison Beck is spending four days with his eccentric uncle and author Nathaniel Bradshaw, journeying across the British countryside upon The Highland Falcon, his mother heavily pregnant with her second child. bringing a new sibling for Harrison into the world. Harrison reluctantly boards The Highland Falcon, a steam powered locomotive on her final journey before decommissioned into retirement. Harrison isn't a train enthusiast like his uncle, documenting her final journey but adventure awaits onboard the locomotive for the wealthy and infamous passengers, a stowaway and the British Prince and Princess as a jewel thief journeys among them.

Harrison is a lovely young man, courteous and reluctantly boards The Highland Falcon, the only child on the journey from Crewe to Scotland until Harrison discovers a young stowaway. Marlene Singh is a railroad enthusiast and befriends Harrison as they begin their adventure across Britain.

The jewel heist has begun. Someone had been thieving from wealthy socialites and society members and when a brooch, earrings and and absurdly, the Atlas Diamond necklace as worn under security by the royal Princess herself disappears onboard, Harrison and Marlene are determined to unravel the mystery and find the culprit.

The Highland Falcon Thief is unequivocally delightful. A mystery adventure on the railway, surprising and wonderfully engaging. Throughout the narrative, learning about the romance of the railways was lovely, the almost obsolete steam powered locomotives and the journey onboard, an adventure itself. As Harrison sketches various scenes of interest, the illustrations are recreated throughout, enchanting and delighting middle grade readers. Simply brilliant.

Please Don't Hug Me

Please Don't Hug Me
Written by Kay Kerr
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Australia
288 Pages
Published April 28th 2020
Thank you to Text Publishing
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
A funny serious own voices story about what happens when you stop trying to be the person other people expect you to be and give yourself a go.

Erin is looking forward to schoolies, at least she thinks she is. But things are not going to plan. Life is getting messy, and for Erin, who is autistic, that’s a big problem. She’s lost her job at Surf Zone after an incident that clearly was not her fault. Her driving test went badly even though she followed the instructions perfectly. Her boyfriend is not turning out to be the romantic type. And she’s missing her brother, Rudy, who left almost a year ago.

But now that she’s writing letters to him, some things are beginning to make just a tiny bit of sense.
Please Don't Hug Me is compulsory reading. Narrated from the perspective of seventeen year old Erin as she shares her thoughts in a series of letters to her brother Rudy. Rudy was a popular young man and after a disagreement with his parents, escaped the confines of the family home and the expectations of his parents. Five year old Oliver barely remembers his brother, their mother is consumed by keeping her family together while their father searches for understanding at the local tavern, drowning his sorrows in alcohol.

Erin is an intelligent and incredible young woman, navigating a neurotypical environment from the perspective of a person on the spectrum and sharing her intimate, analytical, and often tumultuous thoughts on life, love, friends, family and autism. Erin begins her correspondence as she prepares to look for casual employment, leaving her previous position feeling misunderstood and underappreciated, resulting in an outburst. For Erin, feeling emotional and overwhelmed are two instances in which her psychologist encourages her to practice being present in the moment, while Erin keeps a secret list of her indiscretions each day to release her tension and as she enters her final year of school, Rudy is missing her important milestones.

Beyond her family, Erin has only confided in two friends of her diagnosis, her best friend since childhood Dee and her boyfriend, the disappointing Mitch. Dee is friendly, created from sunshine and laughter and understands when Erin is feeling overwhelmed, arming herself with doughnuts and waiting on her doorstep. Dee is charming, lighthearted and a young woman also finding her place in the world but her friendship with Erin wasn't always a positive influence on Erin's mental health. Especially at school, allowing her friends to make Erin feel uncomfortable. Her friendship is important to Erin but also restricted her personal growth as she transitioned into adulthood.

As Erin begins in her new position at a clothing store predominantly for seniors, she develops a friendship with Agnus, an Indigenous, Quandamooka young woman, musician and activist who endures depression. Aggie is a wonderful influence on Erin, allowing her to guide their friendship so she feels comfortable, offering support and understanding. In comparison to her friendship with Dee, their friendship signified a new and exciting chapter of life for Erin.

Throughout her letters, we see Erin grow in confidence, learning to care for herself and others and coping mechanisms. Please Don't Hug Me encourages awareness of those on the spectrum, empathy and the mentality from neurotypical society. Observing our environment through the thoughts of Erin was remarkable and profoundly intimate, navigating social situations, employment, her education and friendships and relationships. It was beautiful, poignant and an incredibly important read, as neurological conditions are rarely discussed in young adult literature.

Sincere, unflinching and achingly beautiful, Please Don't Hug Me is an exceptional and remarkable debut.

The Near Witch

The Near Witch
Written by V. E. Schwab
Fantasy, Witches, Romance, Paranormal
320 Pages
Published January 2020
Thank you to New South Books
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
In the quaint town of Near, the Near Witch sings the hills to slumber each night from her resting place on the moors, the children sing as they play throughout the village. Sixteen year old Lexi Harris remembers the stories her father told her as a child, of the Near Witch and village children who we welcomed to play in her garden, a centuries old fable told by generations of Near, until a boy was found in her garden and the witch was banished to the moor.

Since her father passed away, Lexi lives with her younger sister Wren and her mother on the fringe of Near, the witch whispering on the winds that swept through the moor each night as a stranger arrives in town and Near is awash with speculation. Whispers on the wind are waking children from their slumber, lured into the forest in their nightgowns and disappearing and the town suspects the stranger is stealing their children.

Centuries past, the Near Witch lived on the Near fringe, her cottage garden captivating the village children on the moor. The children of Near sing the fable of the fated witch who sings the hills to sleep at night. If you listen carefully, you can hear her calling on the winds that swept through the moors.

Near is a grudging, prejudice community, thriving on restlessness and governed with a firm hand by three archaic council members, while a vigilante group gathers to restore order. Lexi and sister Wren lost their father three years prior, their father a wonderful man who believed in the folklore of Near and taught his children consideration, independence and to appreciate the Near folklore, including Magda and Dreska Thorn.

Fear is a strange thing, he used to say. It has the power to make people close their eyes, turn away. Nothing good grows out of fear.
Magda and Dreska are the eldest residents of Near, living on the fringe of town on the moors, as the Near Witch once lived. As a young girl, Lexi and her father would visit the sisters who have been ostracised by the village community. The witch siblings are providing the stranger with refuge as the children begin to disappear during the night. Lexi suspects the Near Witch, the villagers accusing the stranger of abducting their children. Lexi is intrigued by the newcomer, his secrets and his story, the young man with the dark fathomless eyes and ashen skin. He is nameless, homeless and Lexi is determined to prove his innocence.

The villagers are positively dreadful, dishonest and vengeful, incredibly chauvinistic. At sixteen, the girls within the village and allowed to legally marry and often betrothed. Women are bakers, seamstresses or homemakers, Lexi consistently reprimanded for wearing the workboots and knife of her father who taught his daughter independence. The men of the village refusing to listen to the resolute young woman who begins skulking around the village at night in the hope to discover where the children have gone.

The trees all whisper, leaves gossiping. The stones are heavy thinkers, the sullen silent types. He used to make up stories for everything in nature, giving it all voices, lives. If the moor wind ever sings, you mustn’t listen, not with all of your ears. Use only the edges. Listen the way you’d look out the corners of your eyes. The wind is lonely, love, and always looking for company.

The Near Witch is enigmatic and enchanting, immersed in mesmerising folklore of a small village community. The lyrical prose is unequivocally captivating.

Deep Water

Deep water
Written by Sarah Epstein
Mystery, Contemporary, Australian
400 Pages
Published March 2020
$19.99
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
Add to Goodreads
A gripping mystery about a missing boy and a group of teenagers, one of whom knows something but isn't telling, from the award winning author of Small Spaces.

Henry Weaver is missing.

Three months ago, thirteen year old Henry disappeared from The Shallows during a violent storm, leaving behind his muddy mountain bike at the train station.

Mason Weaver is trapped.

While Mason doesn't know who he is or what he's capable of, he knows the one thing binding him to this suffocating small town is his younger brother, Henry.

Chloe Baxter wants answers.

Why would Henry run away without telling her? One of Chloe's friends knows something and she's determined to find out the truth.

As Chloe wades into dangerous waters and mason's past emerges, a chilling question ripples to the surface. How far would you go to keep a secret?
In the small town of The Shallows, the community has endured bushfire that ravaged the land and a torrential storm on the night that thirteen year old Henry Weaver disappeared, three months ago. Chloe Baxter has returned to The Shallows from Sydney, her parents separating when her mother was desperate to escape the small, working class town. Chloe's father manages a small roadside motel once popular with tourists and those passing through The Shallows, now small businesses barely keeping their heads above water since the local economy survived on the tourist trade.

Returning to town, Chloe is determined to find Henry once again, placing missing posters around Sydney provided no information to the whereabouts of her friend and upon return home, plans to begin the search once more. What happened to Henry? Why didn't he tell Chloe he was leaving and why is his older brother Mason so hellbent on destroying his life?

Deep Water begins with the story of the Weaver family, Henry, older brother Mason and their mother, a woman surviving on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling. Growing up in the Weaver household, the boys are being abused by their mother, Mason's father has always been absent and Henry's father left for the big smoke, no longer able to withstand the physical and mental abuse. Mason has always tried to protect Henry from their mother's rage, bearing the brunt of her abuse and neglect as Mason begins to spiral downwards, desperate to escape The Shallows. Mason is an incredibly multilayered character, he's sensitive and hides his feelings in a bottle of alcohol, destructive behaviour and a notorious reputation.

Chloe is an interesting character, she's relatable but often unlikable and still carrying the grief of losing Henry, determined to find her friend and the brother she always wanted. On the night Henry disappeared, Chloe was meeting Raf, her best friends brother. Together they huddled in the small, ramshackle hut in the surrounding bush as Henry braced the storm and never returned home. Chloe and Raf kept their liaison a secret, to their friends and even the local authorities investigating Henry's disappearance, the local police officer once involved in an affair with Chloe's mother before she left The Shallows.

The most striking aspect of Deep Water is the writing, a masterclass in how to write multiple, multilayered characters while creating an exhilarating storyline. Australian young adult book of the year, without a doubt. The reader is introduced to each character as a dual narration from both Chloe and Mason, with sporadic chapters from Henry talking to a new friend he made online, Chloe's privileged life, although not perfect and Mason as he struggles to survive. Their characters are contrasting and once friends, as Henry was adopted into their ragtag group of friends, Mason begun to isolate, feeling left out of his friendship circle as Henry became more embedded. It's an issue that Mason resents Chloe for, choosing Henry's friendship and not reaching out to him. It's messy and realistic and written so beautifully, the delicate threads between friends becoming severed and mended in time.

Besides Chloe and Mason, I enjoyed the sibling relationship between Sabeen, Chloe's best friend and her brother Raf, Chloe's crush. Sabeen and Raf are wonderful, Sabeen a loyal and compassionate young woman and Raf, a quiet young man who has adored Chloe from a distance for the past few years. Sabeen's father is from Pakistan, a sperm donor Sabeen proudly announced when she and Chloe met at the tender age of only six years old, her mother's both own and run the local pizzeria, feeding the small brood of friends. Tom was an interesting character. Also part of their friendship circle since they were children, Tom's father is in prison while he was raised by his grandparents, his grandfather owning the local oddities store come makeshift pawnshop. Tom escaped The Shallows, studying at university while maintaining his friendship with Chloe and although unaware of his intentions, Tom is keen on Chloe despite her feelings for Raf.

Deep Water raises the discussion of several important issues throughout our communities. Poverty and low socioeconomical conditions, family violence, parent infidelity, alcoholism, violence, toxic masculinity and grief. Wonderfully diverse characters and stories threaded together with care and compassion.

It's magnificent.

The Year the Maps Changed

The Year the Maps Changed
Written by Danielle Binks
Middle Grade, Family, Friendship
304 Pages
Published April 28th 2020
Thank you to Hachette Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
I was eleven when everything started and twelve by the end. But that's another way maps lie, because it felt like the distance travelled was a whole lot further than that.

Sorrento, Victoria. 1999.

Fred's family is a mess. Fred's mother died when she was six and she's been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca's girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred's just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.

But even as the world feels like it's spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia's safe havens on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.
Down on the Mornington Peninsula, in the small township of Sorrento, the tides are about to change. It's 1999 and for eleven year old Winifred Owen Ricci, her life is experiencing a shift of seismic proportions. Since losing her mother a few years ago, it's been Fred and her stepfather and police officer Luca against the world, her small family unit including her grandfather, who grieved together and supported one another through the loss of their partner, their mother and their daughter. Luca officially adopted Fred at three years of age but when Anika and her son Sam move into her family home, Fred isn't quite sure where she fits in anymore. Luckily she has the neighbours and best friend Jed, short for Jedi and a nickname given to him by his parents that stuck. Jed has been a part of Fred's life forever, through losing her mum, through her roof climbing escapades and now through Anika and Sam moving into the home she once shared with her mother while her grandfather is in a rehabilitation facility after a fall.

It's a quiet part of the world but lately Fred has felt an ache in her chest, the news from overseas blasting in every home across the country, Kosovo Albanian refugees are driven from their homes by the Serbian army, their country left in ruins, destroyed lives and displaced families. The Australian government were adamant that Australia wouldn't help provide refuge but under public pressure, brought the Kosovo Albanian refugees to Australia under the cover of darkness and hid them away in inhumane detention centres. Fred has a beautiful sense of rightness instilled in her, she isn't sure why anyone in town would protest against helping these people flee their wartorn country, like Mister McMillan who owns the cafe on the main strip. For the most part, the people of the Mornington Peninsula are welcoming, including Fred, Anika, Sam and Luca, who is volunteering at the former army barracks now accommodation for the refugee community.

Being eleven is dreadful sometimes. Fred is in her final year of primary school, a new younger brother who's not really your brother and another on the way, Fred feeling increasingly isolated as Anika and Luca gently announce that their family is expanding. Fred's world is being turned upside down and she doesn't like it. One. Bit. The Trần family next door are wonderful, especially Jed's mother Vi, who has been a mother figure for Fred and an incredibly warm, maternal woman. Vi and her husband are both Vietnamese and met in Australia after fleeing their homeland. With so many diverse, non nuclear and blended families within our communities, it was wonderful to see Fred and Jed's families so beautifully written with compassion and care.

This is very much a coming of age story for Fred but where it differs from most middle grade, is that this isn't only Fred's journey, it's the journey of healing and growing for an entire community through the eyes of an intelligent and astute young woman. I see so much of myself in Fred at that age, learning about the many facets of  love, our place within the world and who we want to become. Fred has so many positive role models in her life, Luca and especially Anika. Anika is learning how to parent an almost teen girl and allowed Fred the space to grow and form her own opinions. Although it took a while for Fred to see Anika as someone loving and caring in her life, Anika loved Fred so dearly and is a beautiful example of step parenting written in a positive light.

The secondary characters are lovingly created such as Mr Khouri, their geography teacher who created a fun and inclusive learning environment and Nora, who is a heavily pregnant refugee Fred meets at a hospital visit during Anika's pregnancy. Although most of small town Sorrento and the wider community are welcoming, Fred's friend Aiden begins coming to school with the wildly racist opinions of his father, repeating what's being said at home. Seeing Aiden grow and form his own opinions was such an incredible moment and although he respected his father, he begun to see that he wasn't always right and Aiden didn't need to agree. It was a yes! moment that readers will enjoy.

This isn't a heavy read by any means, there's plenty of lighthearted moments of mischief and laughter but it also raises serious issues such as asylum seekers and how they're treated as less than, especially in Australia. Australia has a terrible history of colonisation and the treatment of First Nations people, we've learnt nothing about the treatment of people and basic human rights. Our current government is the same government who was in power in 1999, when The Year the Maps Changed takes place, same party with interchangeable white men with money. Heartless bastards, the politicians and those who voted for them. The Year the Maps Changed isn't political, instead it provides middle grade readers with the human side of seeking asylum, Nora and children Merjeme and Arta are the fictional faces of those who have been forced to leave their homeland, travel to a strange, new country and then locked up like petty criminals for seeking safety. It only highlights that we're no better than the governments that we vote for and we desperately need to bring about change for the people that Nora, Merjeme and Arta represent.

The Year the Maps Changed is heartachingly beautiful. Danielle Binks has created an exceptional debut novel of warmth, compassion and finding your place in our ever changing world.

follow the review tour here

The Vanishing Deep

The Vanishing Deep
Written by Astrid Scholte
Fantasy, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance
416 Pages
Published March 2020
R.R.P $19.99
Thank you to Allen & Unwin Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Two sisters. One dangerous secret. Twenty-four hours to uncover the truth.

Seventeen year old Tempest was born into a world of water. The most skilled diver on the Equinox Reef, she searches drowned cities with her older sister Elysea, seeking out old world treasures to trade for Notes. After Elysea mysteriously drowns, Tempest scavenges the ruins alone, driven to collect enough Notes to buy her sister's life for 24 hours, and to finally learn the secret she had kept until her last breath.

However, once revived, Elysea convinces Tempest to break her out of the Palindromena research facility and they embark on a dangerous journey to discover the truth about their parents' death. But they're pursued by two Palindromena employees desperate to find them before Elysea's time is up, and to prevent them from uncovering the secrets behind the revival process and the true cost of restored lives.

Dead or living, everyone must pay the price.
The Great Waves decimated the planet, creating underwater graves as the cities were submerged. Tempest lives in a towering building upon the waves, exploring the ruins below the water to survive. It's been five years since her parents passed away, shortly before her sister Elysea drowned, grieving for the loss of her family.

Those who have drowned upon the water are retrieved, their bodies placed in a cryogenic state until their loved ones pay handsomely for one last day. The dead are awoken for twenty four hours and then put to rest once more. Tempe plans to revive her sister, believing Elysea is responsible for the death of their parents. Palindromena promises the lasting memory of a reunion with your loved one, a final goodbye for those who have been left behind. While the communities of the Equinox Reef live in apartments above the waves, Palindromena monopolises the small island upon the reef and for Lor, the facility provides a sense of solace and isolation. Hiding among the tanks that hold the deceased until they are revived by their families or discarded, Lor retreats into his own thoughts, of the friend he once lost and the survivor guilt he endures each day.

Tempe and Lor are both wonderful characters and not too dissimilar, both share a strong moral compass and analytical view of their world. Lor resides within the substructure of the Palindromena facility, the basement his respite from the unethical procedure of restoring lives. Lor is a gentle character, emotional and wears his heart on his sleeve. His thoughts are consumed of the guilt of losing his friend in a rock climbing accident, Lor survived and the guilt has caused him to live his life hidden among the dead, isolated and secluded from the world.

Tempe and Elysea are contrasting characters and although Tempe is angry a deeply feels what she believes is her sister's betrayal, the two siblings care for one another. Elysea is spirited and carefree and despite her current circumstances, wants to spend her final day experiencing the yearly Equinox festival, dancing and enjoying what little of her life remains. Through Elysea's experience, Tempe realises that she wasn't living but simply surviving and although Lor provides an attractive distraction, Tempe continues to place her sister's well being first and foremost.

The Earth flooded in a historical disaster known as the Great Waves, land disappearing beneath the ocean and those who survived now live in salt laden highrise towers jutting from the sea. Relics from the Old World are now hidden below the waves, treasures looted by divers brave enough to endure the waves that decimated their world. The ocean has become a source to sustain communities, providing a livelihood for those living above the watery graveyards. The world building is eerily beautiful and one of my favourite aspects of The Vanishing Deep.

The world flooded and valuable land and resources disappearing beneath the sea. A frightfully prophetic world that raises discussion of environmental impact and global warming, issues rarely mentioned in young adult literature. At the centre of the narrative is the moral dilemma of life and playing God. Resurrection, only to spend the next twenty four hours isolated in a concrete room within the Palindromena facility. You can't leave and you need to lie your way through every conversation because they can't discover they've died. What isn't clear to the grieving loved ones, is how the process works. Without giving too much away, the how provided an intense urgency throughout the storyline which blended beautifully with the emotional impact of Tempe and Elysea's reunion, the secret surrounding the death of their parents and coming to terms with losing your sister all over again. 

Lovingly imagined, atmospheric and beautifully portrayed, The Vanishing Deep is exquisite. 

Infinity Son

Infinity Son
Infinity Cycle Book One
Written by Adam Silvera
Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, LGBT
368 Pages
Published January 2020
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★☆
Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers, a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own, one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.
In a borough of New York City, brothers Emilio and Brighton live in a society where bloodlines determine your allegiance. Spell Walkers are assigned to protect the local community, Celestial beings who have inherited abilities, manipulating elements to defend the mundane against malevolent Blood Casters, those with abilities derived from consuming the blood of a Phoenix.

Brighton idolises the Spell Walkers, believing his own ability will manifest upon their eighteenth birthday. Brighton is an online sensation, documenting infamous Spell Walkers on his Celestials of New York channel for subscribers. Brighton and Emil are contrasting characters, Emil abhors confrontation and violence, Brighton is pursuing the limelight and although the brothers are on vastly different journeys, encourage and strengthen one another unconditionally.

The Spell Walkers are engaged in warfare with a syndicate of Blood Casters when Brighton, Emil and friend Prudencia are accosted and pursued through the bustling streets of New York. Confronted on the underground subway, Brighton is seconds away from his demise when Emil conjures Phoenix Fire.

Infinity Son is an interesting read. New York City on the threshold of conflict, Emil becoming the reluctant chosen one in a metropolis segregated by those with abilities, Celestials and the mundane population. Specters illegally consume the blood of mythical creatures and Spell Walkers protect the community from Specters and an organised crime syndicate. The premise is wonderful and although entertaining, I'm left with more questions than answers and at times, confused by the multiple characters and points of view.

I'm not entirely sure how to review Infinity Son and find no pleasure in writing less than favourable reviews but unfortunately, I was disappointed by Adam Silvera's first fantasy novel. In the beginning, I found it difficult to differentiate between the voices of siblings Brighton and Emil and although they are contrasting characters, the multiple narratives didn't allow me to feel a sense of who they were beneath the surface. Emil is the likeable brother of the two, he's selfless and compassionate, supportive of his brother and mother, who barely rates a mention until nearing the end. Brighton is a character that represents the often stereotypical judgement from adults, aggressively obsessed with social media, narcissistic and needing validation. His character seemed like a caricature of an adolescent and becomes increasingly irritating as the narrative progresses.

The diversity of characters is wonderful. Brighton and Emil are Latinx, Emil identifies as gay, Ness is of Dominican heritage, sapphic secondary characters and characters of colour. The sapphic relationship between two secondary characters was lovely and wonderfully gentle and seeing same sex relationships explored in young adult literature is commendable, adolescents finding solace within characters. Emil and Ness share an attraction but their relationship felt dubious, not entirely certain that Ness wasn't manipulating Emil's emotions or because characters were underdeveloped, their connection felt insincere.

The narrative would have been better suited to a middle grade novel, the absence of elementary world building and characterisation created a storyline that lacked conviction and spirit, two elements readers find synonymous with Adam Silvera novels. I'm still confused how a decapitated character came back to life in the next chapter. Infinity Son is better suited for younger young adult readers or Adam Silvera fans and although this one missed the mark for me, I'm looking forward to seeing what he's working on next.

The Mercies

The Mercies
Written by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
256 Pages
Published January 28th 2020
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves, the menfolk of Vardø wiped out in an instant.

Now the women must fend for themselves.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilised world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardø to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty and terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave's The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.
Throughout the island fishing village of Vardø, the women grieve for their husbands, their sons and their fathers as the weather churned the ocean, the fishermen losing their lives. The women of Vardø gathered their deceased loved ones, waiting until the season thawed the hardest terrain and farewelled those captured by the ocean as a man arrives on the Norwegian island. A man of the church to guide the female community spiritually and morally.

Maren Magnusdatter has lost her father, her betrothed and her brother, a newlywed young man expecting his first child. To survive, the women must become self reliant and although the newly appointed Christian Pastor believes it to be improper, food is scarce and the women, more than capable, embrace the role of hunters and gatherers.

The Mercies is based on an event that occurred during the early seventeenth century. A storm decimated Finnmark, forty men lost their lives in Vardø where it is said that the sky and sea merged to drown ten fishing vessels, resulting in the now infamous Vardøhus witch trials and genocide of Indigenous Sámi communities.

Maren is a formidable young woman, intelligent and resilient. Since the storm claimed the lives of the men of Vardø, including her father, brother and her betrothed, the atmosphere within the small coastal village is precarious, women who place their faith in Christianity and those who are tenaciously pursuing their independence. Neither mutually exclusive. The Christian women of Vardø are relying upon the Pastor and Lensmann Absolom Cornet, a Scotsman on behalf of the Monarchy instilled to ensure Christian values are being adhered and practised. The brutality and violence against women is confrontational, women are expected to marry and bear children, serve their community and attend church services. The Lensmann appointment has reverberated throughout the village, creating fissures within the community. On his journey to the small fishing village, Lensmann Cornet married Ursula, a dispirited young woman who reluctantly abandoned her family, her once privileged life and stately home for a small homestead on the island.

The tentative companionship of Maren and Ursula is tender and beautiful, Ursula enlisting the guidance of Maren to learn the customs of the Vardø community and tending to her home. As the Lensmann travelled under his appointment of the monarch, Ursula and Maren begun to depend on one another. Although Maren was betrothed to the young son of a village fishermen, she is attracted to women, preferring their company. Especially Ursula.

Maren's mother is becoming increasingly volatile, choosing the company of the Christian townswomen and isolating Diina and her grandson. Diina's shamanic faith victimising the young mother still grieving for her husband. The courage and fortitude of the women of  Vardø is inspirational, especially Kirsten Sorensdatter, trouser wearer and reindeer caretaker. Kirsten's independence reverberates in whispers throughout the village, those who disobey the Lensmann and refuse to follow the teachings of Christianity are branded as witches, held responsible for the storm. The women guided by Kirsten didn't survive, they thrived until the Lensmann arrived.

The Mercies is a narrative of quiet feminism and the fortitude of woman. The women of Vardø refusing to yield as they are sentenced to death by those shielding behind their faith. Women who refuse to adhere to Christianity and traditional female roles of caregivers, wives and homemakers are branded and sentenced. A remarkable story and beautifully told, The Mercies is unequivocally breathtaking.

Dark Blade

Dark Blade
Whispers of the Gods Book One
Written by Steve Feasey
Fantasy, Mythology, Magic
352 Pages
Published August 5th 2019
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★☆
A sweeping epic fantasy perfect for fans of the summoner trilogy by Taran Matharu and shadow and bone by Leigh Bardugo.

When gods fail, who will keep the darkness out?

Lann knows nothing of his mysterious past, but by his fifteenth birthday he will come face to face with destiny. For Lann must wield the Dreadblade, an ancient sword forged to defeat terrible monsters.

Across the mountains a king has been murdered. His daughter, Astrid, is a warrior with no desire to bear the crown. Only she can uncover her father's killer before her brother is framed for the crime.

Evil is stirring. Lann and Astrid are the kingdom's last defence. Together, they must face the greatest darkness their world has ever known.
The Dreadblade speaks the language of the old Gods, a weapon forged to eradicate monsters and evil from the world. Once wielded to destroy the darkness brought upon the world, a warrior consumed by the power of the black sword attempted to kill the gods, drowned for his bloodthirst and greed.

Lannigon Fetlanger is a farm boy but rather than working the land, Lannigon immerses himself in books, knowledge instilled in him by his late mother. Since her passing, Lannigon's father has becoming increasingly volatile, a drunkard who mourns his wife after she passed giving birth to his stillborn son. When his father is slaughtered by a monster, Lannigon barely escaped with his life, losing his sight during the attack as he lay crumpled on the forest floor.

Lannigon is taken in by Fleya, a witch versed in old magik and craft, teaching the now vision impaired boy about botany. Lannigon seeking solace in the rich earth tending to his seedlings. As Fleya is needed in a neighbouring town, Lannigon is awoken by a man offering to restore his sight if he chooses to wield the blade drenched in blood, a weapon as fierce as it is frightening and Lannigon agrees to the offer.

Lannigon Fetlanger is an intriguing young man, gentle and considerate, still grieving the loss of his mother. Escaping the monster who slain his father, Lannigon falls and a sharp blow to the head results in his vision impairment, engulfed by darkness as he finds himself alone. Fleya is a witch and healer, tending to the local community with her homegrown medicinal elixirs. She offers to take Lanningon in while farmhands manage the family farm, teaching him about botany and how to care and grow ingredients within her small garden. Seeking solace in the rich soil, Lannigon feels at ease within the her presence and although Fleya appears to be a youthful and beautiful woman, it isn't until he takes possession of the Dreadblade that he sees the world for what it truly is, Fleya included.

The Dreadblade itself has a long, sorrowful history. Forged and last wielded by a man who had planned to kill the Gods, Lannigon unaware of the blade's history upon accepting the position of sword keeper, the Dreadblade is bloodthirsty and acts of its own accord. A war is brewing, a thin veil separating Lannigon's world and a world of hideous monsters unleashed by a mere boy, a young man determined to make the world suffer for his own grief and the hand he's been dealt. Dabbling in necromancy and dark magik.

Across the Kingdom, the King has been slain. Astrid Rivengeld is the daughter of the slain King, her brother ascending the throne until he is held captive, assumed responsible for the death of their father. Astrid has no desire to attend court as a Princess, she's a Shield Maiden and the first royal of her kind. Sharing the same goal as Lannigon and along with Fleya, the three set off across the Kingdom to save the throne and stop the rift into the netherworld from opening. I loved Astrid, such a formidable young lady and although her character is a stark contrast to Lannigon, the two compliment each other wonderfully and forge a tentative friendship.

Dark Blade draws upon the Viking civilisations and mythology, fictional Nordic Gods and monsters crossing a divide between worlds. The world was beautifully imagined and wonderfully portrayed. Absolutely loved it!

Only Mostly Devastated

Only Mostly Devastated
Written by Sophie Gonzales
Contemporary, Romance, LGBT
368 Pages
Published March 10th 2020
Thank you to Hachette Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country, Will’s school, where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted and to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship. But as Will starts coincidentally popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.

Right?

Right.
Californian local Ollie has just spent the summer of his life in North Carolina, his parents caring for his Aunt Linda as she battles cancer while Ollie could quite possibly be the best babysitter to ever have babysat. With his two young cousins nipping at his heels, Ollie spent the warm summer days on the beach and it was there he met Will, total dreamboat, music novice and basketball god. Over the course of the summer, Ollie and Will fell in love, though neither were brave enough to admit it and swore that when Ollie returned to California, the two smitten boys would certainly, most definitely keep in touch. Now the summer is over and Will is totally ghosting Ollie, ignoring text messages as Ollie becomes increasingly more heartbroken.

Ollie's Aunt Linda isn't doing too great and with two small children, Ollie's parents decide to stay in Collinswood and help while Linda recovers. Despite Ollie putting in a protest. The likelihood of running into Will again is pretty slim to none, it was summer and he's likely moved on with his memories and now someone else's dreamboat. Grumbling aside, Ollie loves his family, his super supportive parents and although he's leaving his life behind in California, his band that's most certainly on the cusp of greatness and his friends, he agrees and enrols at Collinswood High School.

Of all the schools in all the world, Will just happens to be at Collinswood High. Well, it's not that unlikely but it makes getting over him a smidge more difficult. Before Ollie sinks into a post summer sulk, he's swept up by a group of girls all sporting rose gold rose necklaces in some sort of misguided non couples dressing. Turns out Ollie is just what they need to complete their group and suddenly the year isn't looking so bad after all if he can avoid Will everyday for the rest of the year. Or when hell freezes over, whichever comes first.

Will isn't the same guy that Ollie fell in love with. He's the star basketballer, he laughs at homophobic jokes and ignores the fact that he spent an amazing summer with Ollie and unlike Danny Zuko, doesn't tell all his friends about the boy he met at the beach. Most definitely not with a musical number and interpretive dance. Unaware that his new circle of necklace clad friends know Will, Ollie accidentally outs him and in the small North Carolina town where apparently no one is gay, Will has never felt comfortable coming out to his boof head mates.

Throughout the storyline, we're treated to flashbacks of the perfect summer. Playing with the kids on the beach, not quite naked swimming in the middle of the night and all with a dose of kissing someone's face off. Ollie's summer was perfect. You know when you meet that person that's your person? Will could possibly be Ollie's person but the summer is over and with it, Ollie and Will's relationship.

Although Only Mostly Devastated is utterly joyous, it tackles serious issues such as grief and seeing a loved one battling illness, queerphobia and being outed, blended with a beautiful story of summer flings, heartbroken boys and figuring out your place in the world.

I loved Ollie's character. He's wonderfully compassionate although sarcastic and internally, hilariously bitchy. I loved his kindness and sense of who he was and his own self worth. He isn't without his faults but he's just so inherently good. Although we see flashbacks of Will during the summer, within his circle of friends, he comes across as arrogant and willing to laugh at others expenses. Underneath the cocky facade lies a young man who's scared to be outed. Throughout the narrative, we see Ollie incredibly hurt that Will wants their friendship to remain a secret, worried about the reactions of his friends and family. Both boys are justified in their feelings and it was wonderful to see Ollie addressing his error by outing Will, realising how potentially dangerous and damaging his actions were and although he's entitled to feeling hurt, that Will shouldn't feel pressured to label his sexuality until he's ready. If he's ready.

The secondary characters are as diverse as they are wonderful. Lara is exploring her sexuality and identifies as bisexual as does Will. Niamh is a young woman of colour and has aspirations of becoming a plus size model. It also explores casual fat shaming by suggesting Niamh could only be successful as a model by losing weight. Niamh has also been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, only the second time I've encountered the condition in young adult, the other being the incredible It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood. 

It was ahhhmaaaaazing. Big, big love for books that explore positive queer experiences for teens, helping reading audiences relate and to feel not so alone. It's about living your life, learning from your mistakes and shaping up because you need a man.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Butterfly Yellow

Butterfly Yellow
Written by Thanhhà Lai
Historical Fiction, Cultural, Diverse, Friendship
296 Pages
Published March 3rd 2020
Thank you to UQP
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Hằng doesn’t believe in adventures.

There are steps that must be done, and once done, another step awaits. The last step, after six years of minute planning by her grandmother, is a bus ride away. In Amarillo her baby brother has to be waiting. In her imaginings, he is always waiting.

National Book Award and Newbery Honor winning author Thanhhà Lại makes her young adult debut in this deeply moving story of courage, redemption, friendship, family and new beginnings.
The conflict in Việt Nam created impoverished conditions, families malnourished, communities decimated as the communist government occupied Southern Việt Nam. Hằng has escaped Việt Nam, her journey as an asylum seeker harrowing as she is resettled with her uncle Chú Quốc and her cousins in the American South. As the conflict in Việt Nam concluded, authorities begun evacuating orphans from Saigon. Hằng and her brother Linh prepared for evacuation among the children experiencing the devastation of losing their families. Their mother and grandmother sacrificing to provide the children with safe passage amidst the conflict.

A young girl only twelve years of age, Hằng was denied passage, Linh forcibly removed from his sister and taken onboard for evacuation. Hằng returning to their small Việt Nam village devastated and grieving for her brother. In his absence, his grandmother became inflicted with illness, his father passing, believing his son was abducted. Hằng has endured famine and conflict as a young woman evading the attention of soldiers settled within the community.

Tens of millions of communities around the world are displaced, seeking asylum from persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations within their native countries. In Australia, where many refugees from Việt Nam were brought, our human rights violations are deplorable, denying those seeking asylum refuge. Hằng and her mother boarded a small, crowded fishing vessel en voyage to find Linh. Their journey is fraught with uncertainty, dangerous conditions on a small ramshackle vessel unable to elude pirates on the open waters. Passengers slain, women and girls captured, Hằng disguised as a young boy, surviving as a nonthreatening figure and disregarded.

Arriving in Dallas, Hằng is homed with her uncle Chú Quốc and his family, Vietnamese Americans living affluent lives. The contrast between Hằng and her cousin, both of Vietnamese descent is immense. Hằng isn't consumed by material possessions, she's fixated with finding Linh and although her uncle suggests seeking legal advice, Hằng journeys alone to retrieve her brother.

Leeroy is an aspiring cowboy, modelling himself on a local legendary rodeo champion and travelling the infamous Panhandle in search of the American dream despite his parents insistence on attending college. Ambushed by an Christian couple on Southern hospitality, Leeroy is coerced to accompany a destitute Hằng to her brothers last known address. An unlikely and tentative companionship begins as the two young adults find employment as ranch hands on a sprawling homestead neighbouring Linh and his adoptive mother, his horse lodging at the ranch. It's a precarious situation, Linh or David as he's now known, is twelve years old and seemingly remembers little from Việt Nam, including Hằng. Hằng's intensity is balanced by Leeroy's humour and carefree attitude, David and Leeroy developing an easy rapport while Hằng observes from a distance.

Hằng's narrative is heartachingly tender. Her journey unravels to reveal her ordeal, the traumatic circumstances of leaving Việt Nam, losing her family, losing her brother, the traumatisation she endures in silence. Hằng's character is based on a photograph Thanhhà Lai encountered of a young girl at a Buddhist temple she visited, photographs of lives lost. Her journey is distressing and confronting, encouraging readers to examine our privileges. Although Butterfly Yellow is a fictional narrative of the refugee experience, it represents the precarious and volatile conditions in which those seeking asylum are escaping. Encouraging compassion and understanding throughout the western world. A remarkable and thought provoking read that will ignite discussion.

Achingly beautiful.

Reverie

Reverie
Written by Ryan La Sala
Fantasy, Magic, LGBT
384 Pages
Published December 2019
Thank you to New South Books
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different.

As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialise out of nowhere, the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery, Kane realises that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.

This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.
Kane Montgomery was found on the embankment in the Cobalt Complex among the scorched remains, an abandoned industrial estate and landmark in the small town of East Amity. The local authorities are questioning Kane. Why was he trespassing on private property and why did he set the landmark ablaze? Unable to remember the incident or the months preceding, Kane is appointed a counsellor, assigned a journal and coerced into providing information in exchange for his freedom from incarceration. It's an impossible situation. Kane believes he's ostracised by his peers and Doctor Posey offers a sense of belonging and kinship, seemingly understanding of his precarious situation. What Doctor Posey lacks in subtlety, they more than compensate in cryptic information, knowing all too well how Kane has lost his memories.

Investigating the scene of the incident, Kane is no closer to discovering his memories, the town believing the ostracised young man many have attempted suicide. Did he? Boisterous and opinionated sibling Sophie doesn't agree. Doctor Posey is fabulously sinister, an extravagant drag queen sorceress who may hold the key to unlocking Kane's memories. Quite literally. Posey sees the injustice of the world and wants to fashion a new version of the sleepy Connecticut town. Everyone shall live within the new reality of a Reverie, their narratives controlled and forever trapped within their world of elaborate trinkets and fabulous coiffed hair while living their best life. The Others must put an end to Posey's madness, who would want to live in such a world? I ask as the entire reading audience raises their hand.

The Others are a small alliance of local adolescents who guide the Reverie, appearing as characters within the dreamscape and remaining lucid throughout. Although Kane cannot remember, he is responsible for guiding the Reverie narrative to completion. It isn't until he overhears a ragtag group of students talking about strange new worlds that he learns who he truly is and he's not alone, he has friends, although somewhat peculiar and slightly terrifying for a multitude of reasons. Kane's sexuality has always been the target of ignorant and homophobic peers so to find out he has friends is a delight. Gosh I felt for the poor confused boy, Kane is so lovely and kindhearted and deserves to be surrounded by people who care deeply for him. Ursula was that person. An old friend who suddenly feels like a new friend who is passionate and athletic and makes absolutely no excuses for herself.

Ursula understands what it feels like to be labelled, being a tall young woman with an athletic build, she's labelled a lesbian as though it's an insult. She's incredibly kind and patient with Kane and their friendship seemed to ease Kane's anxiety. Each member of The Others holds a special power, Ursula has speed and strength on her side, cheerleader and aloof Adeline can wipe your memories and Elliot can cast illusions, which comes in handy when you're sneaking around trying to thwart the plans of a villainous drag queen. Regardless of how fabulous her wigs are.

A Reverie is a vividly imagined narrative that manifests as a dreamscape, depicting our wildest desires, aspirations or turmoil. Worlds created from our sprawling imagination. of romance, betrayal and heroism. The Others remain lucid throughout the experience, assisting the Reverie to conclusion without interfering regardless of the dreamscape. The premise is breathtaking and beautifully imagined.

Reverie also touches on queer communities and the queerphobia they endure. Kane was isolated by his peers for being gay. At a young age, Kane was outed due to his eccentricities and avoided by other boys in elementary school, no longer invited to sleepovers as if being gay was contagious, causing Kane to withdraw from his peers. Ursula understands. Why does society feel the need to label athletic women as lesbians? It happens in all aspects of women's sport. Regardless of their sexual orientation, females have every right to play sport without being labelled or objectified. If society and in particular men, learnt to respect women and shut their damn mouths, I dare say more females would feel comfortable being active. Adeline isn't without her detractors. Being a cheerleader, she's assumed to be unintelligent or even dimwitted when in fact, it's quite the opposite. She's feisty, fierce and someone you need on your team when battling Posey in all her evil fabulousness.

Posey may be the villain but she's absolutely fabulous! At first Posey describes herself as a man in mascara but throughout the narration, Posey is referred to as she or her. I'm not certain if Posey is a drag queen or transgender but she's a phenomenal character who struts onto the page to her own theme music, tinkling in trinkets on her wrist and coiffed wigs to the nines. I adored her.

Reverie is a fantastical journey of adventure, breaking stereotypes and coiffed hair with a side dish of jazz hands. Outrageously fabulous!

A Guide to the This Mortal Coil Trilogy

This Mortal Coil
This Mortal Coil Book One
Written by Emily Suvada
Science Fiction, Dystopian
448 Pages
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
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.
To celebrate the release of This Vicious Cure, the conclusion to the This Mortal Coil Trilogy by Emily Suvada, I'll take you on a journey to explore the desolate wasteland, the plague decimating the population and the technology and characters who are entrusted to salvage humanity.

The Characters
Protagionist Catarina Agatta is an intelligent and resourceful young woman evading Cartaxus capture. Catarina is the seventeen year old daughter of the renowned geneticist Lachlan Agatta, a former Cartaxus programmer and genetic engineer, now recaptured along with his assistant to manufacture an antidote for the contagion decimating the country. Surviving within the isolated Black Hills and diagnosed with Hypergenesis, Catarina remains genetically unenhanced, relying upon her intellect and perception to survive.

Lieutenant Cole Franklin is an enhanced Cartaxus agent, the organisation who is holding her father captive in addition to his programming assistant. Cole has deflected and been assigned by Lachlan Agatta to protect Catarina and although she's malnourished, isolated and her only companion an elderly neighbour, is determined to become her own saviour. Cole is an interesting character and although he remains an agent of Cartaxus, he was raised within the confines of a laboratory and endured invasive experimentation under the guise of genetic manipulation.

The children, now adolescents of the genetic program have escaped the Cartaxus corporation, the remainder enlisted as soldiers. Leoben, Ziana, Cole, Anna and Jun Bei, children who endured torture and experimentation of consumer technology and programming under the guidance of Lachlan Agatta. Each character is tangible, created distinctly and introduced throughout the series.

World Building
The series is created within a desolate and American dystopian. The virus has ravaged the land and communities are living underground within Cartaxus bunkers. Those who remain on the surface live in isolation or in communities established with fortresses to protect the living from those effected by the virus. Throughout the series, several characters are collaborating on the coding that may inoculate the population, currently the only method of protection is to consume the flesh of the effected before they detonate vaporising into a mist and infecting those in the vicinity.

Entropia is an independent genehacker community, those living above ground protesting the invasiveness of the Cartaxus corporation and their militant methods. Throughout the series, Entropia becomes an important aspect of the narrative, introducing influential characters and emerging confrontations.

The Technology
Our lives are consumed by programming. Through a panel located on your forearm, applications are downloaded to change your appearance, regenerate our bodies, our senses, programming to create superior beings. 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. Cartaxus monopolises the genetic applications, with the ability to deny survivors essential health enhancements.

Why You Need This Series in Your Life
Emily Suvada has studied mathematics and astrophysics, she's created a world where females are thriving as programmers, as soldiers and survivalists. Strong, remarkable women as heroines, villains and the morally ambiguous surviving against all odds. An airborne virus morphing formerly healthy individuals into bloodthirsty monsters and an all encompassing corporation determined to regulate and manipulate the civilian population as opposed by a community of genehackers. A science fiction thriller blending friendship, romance and a revolution of mammoth proportions. 

The This Mortal Coil Trilogy is an intelligent, captivating and atmospheric science fiction dystopian. Absolutely phenomenal.



This Cruel Design
This Mortal Coil Book Two
Written by Emily Suvada
Science Fiction, Dystopian, Survival
448 Pages
Thank you to Penguin Teen Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Catarina thought they'd stopped the Hydra virus. She was wrong.

After laying everything on the line to decrypt the vaccine, Cat realises that Lachlan's daemon code is in the panel of every person on the planet's surface. With it, he can reprogram humanity.

She, Cole and Leoben set out to stop him, but they're on a timer. Cartaxus, the shadowy corporation that's both helped and hindered them, has a deadly end game in play. The virus is evolving, the vaccine is dying, and if Cat can't find Lachlan in three days, they'll use lethal code to wipe out every person on the planet.

Their path takes them to Entropia, an underground city deep in the desert and home to the most extreme gene hackers, run by the queen of coding, Regina.

Struggling with the revelations about her past, and plagued by strange visions, what Cat finds in Entropia is more than just a trail to Lachlan. Because in the vaulted chambers of Regina's kingdom, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts, and discovers that the biggest threat of all may be buried in her own mind.

This Vicious Cure
This Mortal Coil Book Three
Written by Emily Suvada
Science Fiction, Dystopian, Survival
400 Pages
Add to Goodreads
★★★★★
Two factions at war.

A plague that can't be stopped. A cure that could destroy them all.

Cat's hacking skills weren't enough to keep her from losing everything, her identity, her past, and now her freedom.

Meanwhile, the person who's stolen everything from her is close to realising a hacker's dream, the solution to humanity's problems in gene form. Or so she thinks.

But now a new threat has emerged, a threat that could bring the world to the brink of a devastating war.

Both sides will stop at nothing to seize control of humanity's future, and that the centre of this war is Cat, and a race against the clock save millions of lives.
© Diva Booknerd. Design by Fearne.