Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

A story that will stick with you forever

A heart wrenching story that asks huge questions like how do you say goodbye to the one person who was everything in your life?

Told from the perspective of a young boy, Joe, Joe is from a dysfunctional family and has had to face the cold, harsh reality of dealing with his brother being on death row. An incredible story that gives insightful detail on a situation we never really think about – how does an adolescent deal with not only being misloved by his own mother but losing his brother to prison for a crime he may or may not have committed and then facing a dreaded possibility of his brother’s execution? How do you deal with a dysfunctional family, dealing with a brother on death row and the convoluded justice system that may or may not prevail justice. The story really demonstrates the domino effect this has on a family and those around them.

Told in short verse, it is definitely a book I wont forget in a hurry. Never have I felt so wrapped into a story. I’m not normally someone who has an emotional reaction to fiction but this one really takes the cake and when you have a reaction like that, you know it’s a fantastic read. I found this book really put me in Joe’s mind. It was thought provoking – so many questions running through my head at the time – how!? why!? what!? It definitely is a heart wrenching read..

Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.

-Annie

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

—-

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.

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

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness + Exclusive Q&A with Patrick Ness

At 12:07am, A monster shows up.. As they do..

A monster that is wild, ancient.. different.. not one you would expect..

Connor O’Mally is the central focus of this monster and he wants the most dangerous thing of all.. Connor’s truth.

Author Patrick Ness has released a few epic novels – titles you may recall: ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go” and “Release” however “A Monster Calls” is the first of his novels to hit the box office!!!

Thoughts on the book:
I flew through this book in a matter of days, it was an amazing story one I believe is suitable for all ages. It has a strong element of truth to the storyline with the added magical twist that makes it work so very well. I found it very fast paced and enjoyable. What was also very notable was the words of wisdom that is intertwined with this fantastical story – the truth will always set you free no matter how bad you believe the truth is. I highly recommend readers of all ages to pick this one up before watching the movie.

Thoughts on the movie:
Patrick Ness not only wrote the book “A Monster Calls” he also wrote the screen play for the movie adaptation. I had the pleasure of attending a private screening courtesy of Walker Books Publishers and I have to say, having often felt the deflation of watching a film adaptation that goes against a favourite book, I found the movie did the book justice. It’s a family movie that has everything – a visual feast, humour.. even a tear jerker – though I must admit, some scenes may be scary for younger viewers. The cast all delivered their parts extremely well – I was engrossed in the film from start to finish.

“A Monster Calls” kicks off in cinemas around Australia on 27 July 2017. For a sneak peek of this awesome movie, here’s the trailer!!

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of “A Monster Calls” and for inviting me to a private screening of the movie adaptation.

Exclusive Q&A with Patrick Ness:

How did you feel when you found out that the book was going to be turned into a film?
Well, it was great, but I am always skeptical. I’m skeptical about everything, even my books – I never believe they’re going to exist until they do, with a film even more so. So much had to be in place that was completely out of my hands. I was optimistic: there were really great creative partners, who knew what they were doing and really wanted to make this happen. But I thought, movies don’t happen to people like me! So I didn’t ever count my chickens – I’m still not counting my chickens!

You have written several screenplays. What did you find interesting about adapting your own book into a screenplay? How different a writing experience was it?
I’d been very protective of the material right the way through so I held off from selling it for a very long time. Then I thought I’d actually like to write the screenplay because I thought I knew how the story works and how it could be changed. You don’t always know that something’s going to work; you just hope.

I’ll always consider myself a novelist because in a novel, for good or ill, all the choices are yours. You’re in charge of it and it’s one hundred per cent an expression of you. That’s a great freedom and a great responsibility and a great challenge – the tyranny of all that choice! It’s hard, but really rewarding, and I love it.

Screenplays, on the other hand, are kind of like puzzles: a movie at best if a long short story, so how do you take the essence of your story and communicate everything in it in a shorter space? That kind of creative challenge can spur you on. I’ve always found limitations can be a great spurt to creativity.

What needed to change in the story? How did you feel about altering things from the book? Was there a strand from the book that you wanted to be emphasized in the film?
The bullies get emphasized in the film because they’re Conor’s connection to the outside world and, given Conor’s world is so interior (he’s always in his home, or his grandmother’s house, or in the tales), it’s important to have this visual link to the outside world in his film. We need to know what the outside looks like, and how the world regards him, and how small his world has shrunk.

There were some changed Director J.A. Bayona wanted – the director always brings things. He was very interested in the idea of legacy and what a parent leaves behind. So he had the idea that Conor loves drawing because his mother is an artist, and this works perfectly visually because it links right into the tales, which erupt from his drawings. It comes together just gorgeously at the end. Throughout the whole film there’s been a locked room in Conor’s grandmother’s house. At the end we discover that the grandmother has been making it into a room for Conor and it’s full of all his artworks and all his mother’s old drawing pads. The final shot shows him opening one up and finding a drawing of the monster on his mother’s shoulder, so she has clearly seen the monster herself, probably when she lost her father. So the monster had come for her as well and they share that. It’s a beautiful addition.

Were you involved in the casting process for the film? What do the individual actors bring to your characters?
Casting is half desperate desire and half chance. You make lists of actors you want and they’re just ridiculous because, if you were to get them all, the salaries alone would be $300 million. Liam Neeson is so perfect for the role it’s almost slightly obvious, but we thought, let’s try him anyway. And he turned out to love the book, and he’s a truly lovely man so getting him involved felt like a bit of a blessing.

As for Sigourney Weaver, I don’t think we thought she’d be available, but then Bayona called me one day and said, “We’ve got Sigourney Weaver,” and I thought, whoa! And she’s perfect – she is physically perfect and her manner is perfect.

Bayona and the producer Belén Atienza suggested Felicity Jones and got her before The Theory of Everything – before she was too busy! So that was a great bit of timing. I once talked to a director who said casting is important but, in some ways, if you get good people, the film will sort of shape itself to fit them. But still, how amazing to get Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver for a film that didn’t have a huge budget! And among all the kids who were auditioned, Lewis MacDougall just stood out. He’s auditioned for three things in his life and he’s got all three, so that says it all really.

Did you spend much time on set? What did you enjoy most about the film-making process?
I was involved in the process all the way through. The director, J.A. Bayona, and the producer, Belén Atienza, were very generous and very collaborative. There were lots of script meetings in Barcelona where we’d talk and talk about scripts, scenes and order. We hashed it out until we were all happy. I was on set about ten or twelves times. It was a fairly lengthy shoot because they had a juvenile lead, so could only shoot a certain amount of hours a day. Throughout the whole process they would send me scenes. They would always ask me about additions to the dialogue – every single line of dialogue they were thinking of adding in. Sometimes actors suggest things on set, and some of it’s just fantastic and needs to be woven in.

The first two weeks were spent with Liam Neeson in a suit doing motion capture for the CGI monster. Because the monster is created using CGI, they had a big model of the monster’s head on set to give Lewis something to act to. And the final tale, which is set in a graveyard, was filmed in an abandoned hospital-studio on the outskirts of Barcelona, with a huge construction of a graveyard. It looked half impressive and half not there, but then in the film it looks amazing.

A Monster Calls is a very emotional novel. How difficult was it to translate into motion onto the screen?
I think we’re a good match, me and Bayona (Director J.A. Bayona). He’s very outwardly emotional and passionate, like a lot of directors are, and I’m very reserved (which doesn’t mean unemotional, just privately emotional). So I thought between us we could probably get to a really good central point which neither of us could get to on our own. I would always want to make sure the emotion is really true. I want ugly crying, not pretty crying. I don’t want any easy outs (not that Bayona would have gone for easy outs), and he probably instinctively distrusts lack of expression in emotion. So, together, we find the right path that most people are going to fall into.

In a movie it’s the performances that are going to do it, and all the actors understood that it’s not a movie about grief, but about sadness and anger. 

Both film and illustration are activities that transform a writer’s words into images. What do you feel about that visual process?
I’m not an artist, and I’m not a film director, so I felt a huge curiosity about how Jim Kay, the book’s illustrator, and Bayona would respond to my work. Jim is so talented! Some of the stuff he drew I could never have thought of and some of the stuff Bayona shot I could ever have thought of. That’s what you wish for – somebody who knows different things than you know and brings those to the work. The important thing for me always is to keep learning. I never want to be complacent – that’s why I wanted to do the screenplay myself. Even if I failed I wanted at least to try.

-Annie

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

“What is really important in this life?”

A wonderful page turner… A story of hope among family, friendship with a hint of romance…
You will laugh, sigh and shed a
tear.. or two..

A story of three best friends who embark on a luxury cruise and long-held secrets that spill in the confines of a cruise ship

 

Release Date: September 2017

Before I read this novel, I read that this is the first time the author had written something that was not a rural romance as it is set in the city and on the coast so I was interested in giving this a go as I’m sure writing this story would have taken the author out of her comfort zone. I also don’t normally read adult contemporary fiction so this book really was a nice change of pace for me.. and I was not disappointed.

This story follows besties Abbie, Jess and Ricki who are about to set sail on a cruise ship as they did when they were still in school and without meaning to, their secrets are exposed while they’re on their voyage. As the story flows, it explores such deep issues that I didn’t expect to see in a story – issues that are common among adults that everyone seems to take for granted – things like domestic violence, terminal illness or on a smaller scale, how adults feel when they are stuck in ruts whether in their jobs or social spheres.

Set in Australia, the story was so beautifully written and for someone who doesn’t normally cry whilst reading fiction, this story felt real – it felt like I was listening to a conversation among my girlfriends. I would recommend this to readers of adult contemporary fiction and if you are a Fiona Palmer fan and are used to her normal style of writing, I am sure you would enjoy this one too.

Special thanks to Hachette Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy + the cute novelty beach chair in exchange for my honest review!

-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