A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather was cursed by Death, everyone in her family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime. Esther’s father is agoraphobic and hasn’t left the basement in six years, her twin brother can’t be in the dark without a light on, and her mother is terrified of bad luck. The Solars are consumed by their fears and, according to the legend of the curse, destined to die from them. Esther doesn’t know what her great fear is yet (nor does she want to), a feat achieved by avoiding pretty much everything but she keeps a record of in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares. On a random day, Esther is pickpocketed by Jonah Smallwood, an old elementary school classmate and her first crush. It wasn’t enough Jonah pick pockets her, he also steals her list of fears. Despite the theft, Esther and Jonah become friends, and he sets a challenge for them: in an effort to break the curse that has crippled her family, they will meet every Sunday of senior year to work their way through the list, facing one terrifying fear at a time, including one that Esther hadn’t counted on: love

This book was interesting. I feel the author has grown since her first novel as like everything else, practice and experience makes perfect. This was a great mix of serious and quirky! The author did very well in writing a novel that confused me in the beginning (lol but in a good way) as I wasn’t sure whether this was a Contemporary YA novel or a Fantasy YA novel but turns out it’s a funky, quirky, contemporary novel that has a uniquely clever way of telling an important story. At the end of reading this novel I read the reviews and it was it was interesting to see how one particular reader interpreted the ‘fantasy element’ as potentially the protagonist’s overactive imagination – I guess I will have to let you as the reader decide. The way the story was told made me feel the author had very important issues she really wanted to raise awareness about but through a story that did not making the reader feel so overwhelmed or heavy hearted in the end. The pace of this book was stable from beginning to end – it wasn’t full action packed or info dumped, it just travelled along nicely but as you continue reading the deep, important issues arise. Issues such as mental illness, facing your fears and even self-harm are covered in this book which, in this day in age I felt to be very important for teens to read. The author really did well in using metaphors to describe these facets which made it all so real, even gave me a better understanding as I know people who suffer anxiety and depression – it painted a clearer picture. I have to say I did enjoy this book, I found it to be a clever story with funny dialogue but a frightening storyline. I believe this is more suitable to older teens and adults.

Many thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Due for release: end of August 2017
-Annie

The Things We Promise by J.C Burke

Powerful and an Absolute Tear Jerker

Book Summary
Gemma has been planning her formal from day one and all she cared about is looking great and hoping to catch the attention of the boy she liked. Her brother Billy, who is a renowned make up artist in New York had promised her that he will return home to do her make up for the formal. However nothing is what it seems and Gemma soon discovers the secret that her mum is hiding. Gemma learns about the deadly AIDS epidemic sweeping the world causing fear and intolerance. Gemma realises that her world is changing and it’s not as rose-tinted like before, she learns and navigates through her new experiences; new friendships were forged and old ones broken. “The Things We Promise” is a moving and heartbreaking story that tugs your heart strings.

The Reviews
This book is powerful and an absolute tear jerker, it’s a reminder of a not-so-long ago period where there’s a lot of discrimination and ignorance about AIDS and HIV. I happen to remember these times and it was horrific, the discrimination and isolation the sufferers have to endure is unimaginable. I felt the book was authentic to the times and the setting. It was a confronting time for many families. I liked the exploration of character growth, and the strength of love, family and friendship contrasting against a horrifying disease, and a divisive, ignorant and intolerant society. It was well written and an essential read so we can continue to improve as a diverse and loving society.
-NJ

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The Things We Promise is an impactful read. Set in Sydney, during 1990, this story highlights the AIDS epidemic. The story is from the perspective of a teenage girl and follows her in the lead up to her school formal. The countdown to the formal is Intertwined with her relationships with her friends and family. This includes her relationship with her brother and his partner. As history shows, this was a horrifying time for the LGBT+ community. This community faced discrimination at a time where AIDS was killing off entire friendship groups. I have seen that some other reviewers have had issues with the homophobic language in this book. This is a good thing. We should absolutely be horrified and offended by the derogatory language used by characters to describe LGBT+ characters in this book. We should be horrified because this happened. It is still happening. If the book didn’t use this kind of language it would be doing a disservice as it would downplay the discrimination of that time. I certainly remember hearing that kind of language in the late 90s. I imagine it was worse in 1990 when AIDS was on everyone’s mind. We should be offended by derogatory slurs. But at the same time it is important to not censor the past. Rather we should use this as a tool for discussion. Due to the topics discussed in this book it is not an easy read. It is painful to read about a time when a lot of people died and to learn about the hardships that these characters  faced. However, this story highlights a period of time that isn’t covered enough in literature. Especially in YA. The Things We Promise tells a story that shows how far we have come and still how far we have to go for true equality. It highlights the horrors of a disease which has killed millions of people worldwide. I think that it’s important that people read more books like The Things We Promise. So that we don’t forget the horrors of that time.
-Amanda

Curio Boutque special: designer swag inspired by the book

Special thanks to Allen and Unwin Publishers for sending us Review Copies in exchange for our honest review.

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Release Date: October 2017
Publisher: The Realm – Hachette Publishers

When I first saw this book, I saw the caption: “A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world–but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination.” And yes.. I agree!!! This book was very enchanting and sends you into a world of Wunder and Magic!!! I loved it so much, I wish I had a magic umbrella now. The book is very well written and the storyline captivated me from page one. Although the characters are young in age, the content is definitely suitable for fans of YA Fantasy Fiction – or fans of Harry Potter!!

An interesting story of a girl, Morrigan, who was born on ‘Eventide’ which is deemed a very unlucky day for a child to be born and all her life she’s believed to be cursed – the cause of all misfortune around her and she her life was to end at midnight on her eleventh birthday however as she waits for this terrible fate to come, Jupiter North appears – whether he’s her saviour or the channel that simply prolongs her fate is yet to be seen – however, Morrigan finds herself swept into this new world, Nevermoor – where she is to engage in several trials to deem her work in the Wundrous Society.I found the trials and magic to be very creative and the world of Nevermoor to be quite unique. A great storyline, interesting and funny characters – witty dialogue and very easy to follow.

There were moments I couldn’t put this book down.. the story is very engaging and OMG.. THAT TWIST!!! (wont say anymore for fear of spoilers).

Due for release this October, I highly recommend this to fans of Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman or fans of general YA Fantasy Fiction.

Special thanks to The Realm: Hachette Publishers for giving me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

Enchantment by Brittany Riley + Exclusive Q&A

I had the pleasure of meeting Brittany at the Allen and Unwin YA Fan Fest in 2016. When Brittany told me she published her first book, I was most excited to read it… And did not disappoint!!! Having read this book, I can highly recommend it to fans of mythology, folklore, fae and YA urban fantasy. Brittany gave me a copy of her book and once I read it, I managed to do a quick Q&A with her to share with you all..

Enchantment
The protagonist is Elise Dawson and she has led a pretty sheltered life being home-schooled and protected by her parents from the suspicious eyes of the world. Like thousands of others, the Dawsons are the descendants of the UndeAdlic Acolitus, or Immortal Lightbearers–a subspecies of faerie with only one enemy: the Banshees – an evil version of the Lightbearers however, Elise has no idea who she is, what her power or destiny is as she feels suffocated under the overbearing protection of her parents. Little does she know she is the descendant of the first water elemental, Lennox Henderson, and that she has the ability to control all water sources on Earth. This is a story of a young woman who discovers her true identity and must choose between her destiny as an elemental or someone who should be her enemy.

Again, I recommend this for fans of YA fantasy/urban fantasy fiction who like reading about elementals and fae. The book is very well written and I was gripped from the prologue right to the end – it’s very easy to read and the suspense keeps you hanging, wanting to know what will happen next. The family dynamic and friendship was illustrated very well and I also like how the author illustrated the initial meeting between unlikely allies: Elise and Christian- their initial meeting and continued interaction, I found, set itself apart from other YA characters interaction, it wasn’t so cliché. The characters and the storyline progressed quite well and the structure was very easy to understand and follow. A great debut novel!!!

Special thanks to author, Brittany Riley, for giving me a copy of her debut novel in exchange for my honest review…

Pictured: Brittany Riley

Exclusive Q&A with author Brittany Riley

Your debut novel, “Enchantment” was published in 2016. What was your inspiration to write your first novel?
I actually come up with the idea when I was in high school. I’m not sure of the exact ‘lightbulb’ moment, but I remember sitting in class and getting excited over the opportunity to see this idea through. Mind you, it was a very different version back then, in almost every respect. It was only over the following years that I fully developed the storyline, characters, cliff-hangers and aspirations for worldwide publication.

Is there any particular reason you chose fantasy fiction as the genre for your debut novel?
I’ve always been obsessed with fairy tales and magic. Even as a child, my favourite creatures were fairies. I guess the most amazing thing about writing and even Y.A is that I can explore these concepts while adding my own dark, personal twist.

How did you come up with the characters and their interaction? I liked Elise’s interaction with Christian throughout the story – I guess forbidden fruit is always interesting…
I wanted to be different in how my characters came together and interacted. I didn’t want my book to be your average fairy tale, because too often, even in real life, love stories are messy and beautiful and catastrophic all at once. I’ve always loved the idea of forbidden fruit; it’s far sweeter. I think Christian and Elise’s love story is very different from all the rest.

I found “Enchantment” touches on real life themes such as family relations – when Elise is struggling to understand her parent’s decisions which they believe are in her best interests but with limited to no context of these decisions, Elise felt so suffocated and tempted to rebel, were these sorts of themes inspired by real life stories you may have heard or even experienced yourself?
I personally have never felt Elise’s level of suffocation, but I think the concept of constriction, in whatever context, can relate to many people on many levels. I empathise with both Elise and her parents in a way, because I know if it was my child I would want to protect them, but if I was put in Elise’s positon, I’d be frustrated beyond comprehension too. It’s a fine balancing act between what’s “right and wrong” and how these definitions differ in the eyes of those around you.

It looks like a lot of research went into your novel – I liked how there is a lot of information presented in the book so the reader can read exactly what Elise was reading when she was researching her history – without revealing ‘trade secrets’ how did you go about your research?
I’ve always loved European history, so it was actually fun to write! I had to find a medium between factual and fantastical to suit the story. Obviously Elise was in need of information about her own identity and the audience needed context because it was the first book, so I thought this particular presentation of information was the best option.

I won’t give anything away other than – at the end of the book, I felt it was a bit of a cliff hanger… will we see a sequel? When?
I’m working on the sequel as we speak, however, I still have a day job and need to dedicate time to that as well. In terms of release date and publication, I am currently querying agents so I can get the book/TV deal I’ve always dreamed of! I’m hoping doors of opportunity open soon so everyone can immerse themselves in my books on a far larger scale!

There are five books in the series. I know exactly how each goes and how the whole story ends, and believe me when I say there is a whole lot of love, heartbreak, scandal and breathtaking moments to come in the series!

When you’re not writing, what could we find you doing?
I love coffee, so you’ll generally find me at cafes watching the world go by. I’m very close to my family as well, so I love spending time with my mum at the gym or shopping. I love watching TV series too, especially Shadowhunters, Reign, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries; anything Y.A based, really. I find it inspiring as I want a TV adaption for my own series one day. Apart from all these activities, I love scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and finding inspiring stories, writing quotes and opportunities for discovery.

Do you enjoy reading yourself? What genre/s do you enjoy?
I do love reading, and I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a Y.A writer myself or my age, but I rarely read anything that isn’t Y.A. I love Becca Fitzpatrick and Fleur Ferris, and any author that can transport me to another exciting, heart-pounding universe.

How can readers contact you or get hold of a copy of “Enchantment?”
My website contains all the relevant information! It’s: http://www.brittanyrileyauthor.com. I also have a Facebook page (Brittany Riley – YA Author), Twitter page (@brileyauthor) and a few other social media links. My website has specific links to all the online stores where my book is available! I love seeing comments from readers and am aiming to continue building my online presence.

-Review and Interview by Annie

Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin

Girl boy he she him her they them daughter son teacher student friend gay bi lesbian trans homo Jew dyke masculine feminine androgynousqueer

Nevo was not born in the wrong body.
Nevo just wants everyone to catch up with all that Nevo is. 

 

Review
This is not your typical coming of age book but the struggles Nevo introduces are very relatable no matter your gender which is exactly what sets it apart from other coming of age books.

First Nevo takes you through the childhood struggles and explains intimately what gender dysphoria is like while also making references to the resources and services that can help pave the way for any teen going through the same experiences.  

Nevo is a very thought provoking read and raises a lot of questions around what it means to be an activist and how important activists have been in shaping some pivotal moments in history.

With this book Nevo shows it’s ok to be raw and open and I thank Nevo for opening my eyes up to how important it is that I you me they them need to keep paving the way so that others can find their own path much more easily.

Recomendation
All teens, parents of teenagers, anyone identifying or wanting to know more about LGBTQIA+ obstacles and lastly anyone who loves activism and feminism with a dash of masculinity 

Many thanks to Walker Books Publishers for supplying this book in exchange for my honest review.

-Crystal

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

“Live by the Sword.. Die by the Sword.. No matter how often the Sword yells at you.. “

Release Date: 31 October 2017

Get ready boys and girls.. it’s time for a chivalrous quest!!!

This is an epic story that follows the Odo, Eleanor and Biter – an unlikely knight, a stubborn, head strong girl and.. a talking sword as they embark on a thrilling adventure to save their kingdom from the danger that comes in both human and dragon form. This is one fantastic collaboration between Garth Nix and Sean Williams. A very fun story to read that I was easily engrossed in, I always wanted to know what happened next and I grew fond of the characters very quickly. Yes I even enjoyed a laugh or two. I particularly liked the use of ‘medieval’ font for each time the sword, Biter, would speak – the setting of the scene really puts you there. I also loved the witty dialogue between Odo and Eleanor that presents a strong friendship and importance of team work. I found Eleanor’s character to be an important part of the story – being quite intelligent and head strong, Eleanor demonstrated strength in female characters which I find to be important for middle grade literature – it doesn’t always have to be a heroic prince or a male knight who has ability to embark on a quest and to save their kingdom. Although I can see this story is suitable for a younger audience, it would also be suitable for older readers and fans of adventure reads for young adults. It’s definitely a family friendly adventure that’s well written, easy to read that pulls you in from page one. I certainly enjoyed this one, another favourite for 2017.

Special thanks to author, Garth Nix for giving me this Advanced Review Copy at the Read3r’z Re-Vu session held in May as we hosted the “Author in Focus: Garth Nix” theme.

-Annie

Exchange of Heart by Darren Groth

“Sometimes, Life takes on a life of its own…”

How does someone in their late teens deal with the sudden death of his younger sister?

This book follows the story of Munro, a boy living in Canada who is struggling with an inner battle to come to terms with the untimely loss of his sister Evie who had down syndrome. He is suffering flashbacks, depression – even anger and he’s dealing with a voice inside his head which is known as “The Coyote”. Upon losing interest in school and life itself, one way Munro finds to deal with this is embarking on a student exchange program to Australia. Once in the land down under, Munro starts a new life, makes new friends and even takes part in a volunteer program, Fair Go which is to help him move past this rough patch in his life and may even help silence “The Coyote”.

A story of tragedy, friendship, dealing with real youth issues. I found the flow of this story quite interesting even if the voice of the coyote creeped me out a little. The dialogue was quite whitty and what I enjoyed most was even though Munro was dealing with a lot in his life, his character did not come across as “whiny” like a lot of YA characters do. Munro was in the dumps but took it upon himself to do something about it – albeit a trip to the other side of the world. I found this story was real – honestly, how does a teenage boy deal with something like this? Especially when there’s a voice in his head that springs to life upon his sister’s death and in taking the steps to deal with this – does he succeed?

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Publishers for providing me with an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
This book is due to hit the shelves by the end of July 2017.

-Annie