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Friday, February 3, 2017

'Against the Wall' by Jill Sorenson


From the BLURB:

The RITA-nominated author of The Edge of Night returns with another seductive novel, hailed by M. O’Keefe as “a dirty, gritty gem of a book.” As teens, Eric and Meghan fell for each other despite the odds—but now that they’re all grown up, they’re reunited by dangerous secrets.

Eric Hernandez is the bad boy of every schoolgirl’s fantasies—and every mother’s nightmares. But after serving time for manslaughter, he’s ready to turn his life around. He just needs a chance to prove himself as a professional tattoo artist. The one thing that keeps him going is the memory of the innocent beauty he loved and left behind.

Meghan Young’s world isn’t as perfect as it looks. The preacher’s daughter is living a lie, especially now that Eric is back. Tougher, harder, and sexier than ever, he might be the only person she can trust. But there’s no telling what he’ll do to protect her if he learns the truth, and that’s a risk Meghan won’t let him take. And yet, back in the arms of the troubled boy with the artist’s soul, Meghan can’t help surrendering to the man he’s become.

‘Against the Wall’ is the long-awaited sequel to Jill Sorenson’s 2011 romance book, ‘The Edge of Night’.

Okay. I hate that I didn’t love this book. Because I really liked ‘Edge of Night’ when I read it waaaaaay back in 2011, and in my review of that book I plucked out my enthusiasm for the secondary romance of Meghan and Eric, as much of that book’s saving grace. So much so that I actually reached out to Sorenson to see when their book would be coming … at the time I think she alluded to a possible next-year release – but for various reasons that kept getting pushed back and back, and it’s by the grace of the reading gods that I kept checking in every couple of years to see if that sequel status had changed (seriously – the waiting was getting up there with Lisa Valdez’s ‘Passion Quartet’ third book…) So imagine my happy surprise when I did my annual end-of-year check-in and saw that the sequel dropped in February of this year!

I delved into the novel full of expectations and enthusiasm, and things started out okay? … but then it got wonky.

When we met Meghan and Eric in 2011 as a secondary teen romance in ‘Edge of Night’, their story was reminiscent of ‘Perfect Chemistry’ by Simone Elkeles … if Brittany and Alex’s happy ending had been totally flipped on its head, and Alex had ended up in jail for manslaughter (because witnesses to the crime mislead investigators). So when ‘Against the Wall’ begins, its been three years and Eric is getting out of prison to discover Meghan has moved on with an abusive college beau. Thus begins the book’s many false-starts and dead-ends … because ‘Against the Wall’ almost reads like a “Choose Your Own Adventure Novel” for how many different pathways Sorenson sets up for the plot, but lets fall away one-by-one.

For one thing – I don’t know why it’s only been three years since Eric’s imprisonment? Why not build on the momentum of the anticipation for this novel and make it five?! This would have also seriously raised the stakes – if Meghan hadn’t just been in her first serious relationship with a college dude-bro, and instead was maybe engaged to someone and in the middle of building her career when a convicted felon jeopardizes her “good standing” in work or something? I don’t know. I felt Sorenson’s insistence to keep this kinda college-based and New Adult was for the sake of it, and it’s where opportunities were missed early on.

As to that “Choose Your Own Adventure” vibe. Phew. Okay. First there’s the fact that Meghan has an abusive boyfriend … but it seems that Eric’s reappearance in her life is what really pushes him over the edge, and everything prior was heavy emotional abuse and isolation – but clearly leading into something dire. Again though, the stakes weren’t’ quite there – because Meghan repeatedly admits to not being in love with him, and between her Psychology major and having a brother who is a police officer, we get Meghan’s inner-thoughts which reveal an acute understanding of what Chip is doing, and her recognition that it is indeed abusive and she needs to leave him eventually. Also: this storyline ends up going absolutely nowhere.

Then there’s the fact that Meghan and her best friend Kelsea work at a college campus women’s centre, where they do things like organize a SlutWalk and field vile online abuse that comes via their website and call-centre. In the lead-up and following the successful SlutWalk, the centre receives even more abuse that seems targeted at Kelsea directly and becomes increasingly scary … again, the storyline goes nowhere in this book, as it’s really more about setting up a future story for Kelsea and a tattoo artist called Tank.

Then there’s everything that Eric is dealing with – among them, sleeping with the girlfriend and baby-mama of the man he killed and was sent to jail for manslaughter over. This was an interesting turn early on, and I was intrigued to see it explored, weirdly. For one thing, we got to see but a glimpse of what it’s like for women within California gangs and there was serious emotional high-stakes … but again, it peters out.

There’s also stuff with Eric feeling sucked back into his old gang life because of his best friend, Junior – but this was also lacking emotional punch because Eric is so determined not to get drawn back into that life, and his interior thoughts tell readers that’s never at risk of happening anyway. This also feels oddly unresolved and half-assed.

What I really found interesting and wish Sorenson had focused on, was how freakin’ hard it is for Eric to get back to life after prison – because if you don’t already know, the American prison system is fucked (seriously, watch the documentary ‘13th’) and Eric alludes to this quite a few times;

I didn’t have any trouble getting my GED in Chino, though. I’m not a dumbass like some criminals. I was born here and I learned English right off the bat. I can read and write better than most inmates. As a convicted felon, I’m not eligible for government programs like housing assistance or financial aid, but I could save money to pay my own way. I could continue my education. Get an art degree. 
I glance around the library guiltily, as if someone might guess my thoughts and rat me out for overstepping my place. Guys like me don’t become college students. We beat up college students.
 
But he falls on his feet kinda quickly. Between having a place to crash at with family who love and support him, and nabbing a pretty sweet job working at a tattoo parlor, plus finding outlets for his artwork … there were never any stakes here either.

And as for Meghan and Eric – the romance that made me check back in for FIVE FREAKIN’ YEARS to see if it was written yet … meh. The sex scenes were great, but I feel like because the plot was all over the place, they were too. I never really knew how they felt about each other; also because their thoughts belied their actions and whatever hurdles Sorenson was trying to construct for them, they just seemed to jump over easily because they had great sexual attraction and that cured all manner of doubts? I mean … even Eric stupidly sleeping with the baby-mama of the man he killed who’s also affiliated with a rival gang when he says he doesn’t want anything to do with that violence anymore – Meghan is momentarily horrified at his stupidity, but because that storyline for Eric didn’t go anywhere, it likewise didn’t carry much weight when Meghan found out.

I just … I feel like ‘Against the Wall’ didn’t actually have an editor? Because I think any beta readers would have come in and said “You’ve already set up emotional high-stakes in ‘Edge of Night’ for these two, they already have a story – you just need to pick a lane for the plot to be in, and stick with it!”

Yeah, this was disappointing. It just had so much potential, and as a reader I was totally there for Sorenson, Meghan and Eric – I was rooting for them and this book for so, so long. But this was a mess … a hot mess, to be sure for those sex scenes (which is the only reason this isn’t get a 1-star) … but a hot mess nonetheless. Sorry.

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2/5

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

'This Adventure Ends' by Emma Mills


From the BLURB:

Sloane isn't expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that's exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera's twin brother and the most serious person Sloane's ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins' late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins' lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

‘This Adventure Ends’ was the 2016 contemporary young adult novel by Emma Mills.

This was a really interesting book … one of those books that while you’re reading you really want to know what happens next, but at the end you can’t really recall what the actual plot was, only that you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Ostensibly it’s about a young girl called Sloane whose father is a Nicholas Sparks-esque author of tragi-romance and currently going through a writing slump. To help spark her father’s creativity again, Sloane, her mother, and little sister all move with him from New York to Florida in the hopes it will get the creative juices flowing. The move is really neither here nor there for Sloane, who has never formed truly meaningful attachments to anyone outside her immediate family … but then she finds herself the reluctant attendant of a house party with her new classmates, and sticking up for one called Gabe when a bully boy jock gets in his face.

From there, Sloane becomes the new pet friendship project of Gabe’s twin Vera (a social media sensation) and their friends Aubrey, Remy and Frank. When Sloane discovers that the twins’ artist mother recently passed away and that their new (pregnant) stepmother accidentally sold Gabe’s favourite painting of hers to a local art gallery, Sloane sets off on a mission to retrieve it.

This is not the book to read if contemporary fiction bores you to tears. But if you love the in’s and out’s of daily life and putting your emotions and typical teen dramas under the microscope, you’ll love this.

And while I did indeed enjoy the unfolding, I can’t help but feel this book lacked some necessary oomph. A lot of it reminded me of ‘How to Say Goodbye in Robot’ by Natalie Standiford, a lot of which was this really lovely meandering through quirky and off-kilter teen lives, but that eventually ratcheted up to a reveal and heavy hearted finale. In that sense too, ‘This Adventure Ends’ is like the days before in John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’, where it starts off unfolding in this very charming but lackadaisical chronological order until the middle sparks an entirely new trajectory … likewise ‘The Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky which is also up there for being very astute contemporary teen fiction, until the denouement starts picking at different wounds. And all these books – contemporary teen fiction – are throwbacks to ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger, which to a certain point is also just a meandering stream of consciousness and encounters until it reaches a zenith of purpose and underlining meaning … and I think that’s what ‘This Adventure Ends’ was missing. A pack-a-punch denouement. True meaning.

There are even a few random threads of story established that go nowhere – like Sloane getting a job at a deli working with Gabe. There are pages establishing this, and then we never see her or Gabe at work again. Likewise, Vera’s social-media instagram fame is set-up as a somewhat crucial aspect of her character, but then it falls away. And I think these are two examples of a symptom of contemporary fiction that lacks real direction or message.

FanFiction also plays a role in this – as Sloane’s father gets hooked on a teen werewolf TV show and the fic that others writer for it. But – again – this doesn’t really go anywhere truly meaningful to entirely warrant its mention.

Still, I can’t deny that I did enjoy this book. Mills has a very true and candid way of writing. Her voice and dialogue work is particularly commendable;

“Everyone should have punched-in-the-face-for kinds of friends. Everyone should have … you know. Like the people you call when you need to hide the body.” 
“Why is there a body?” 
“If there was a body. Hypothetically.” 
“I’d like to avoid all forms of murder, including hypothetical.” 
He lets out a breath of laughter, and then: “I think everyone has it in them.” 
“Hypothetical murder?” 
“No. That kind of friendship. When they meet the right people. I think anyone can have that kind of friend or … be that kind of friend.” He looks off down the street. “Especially you. I think you’re a hide-the-body friend.”

… But I do look forward to reading a work of hers that has a real message. Something to say, when she’s so very capable of saying it so well.

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3/5

Sunday, January 15, 2017

'Fearless' by Fiona Higgins


From the BLURB:

What happens when six pampered Westerners on a spiritual retreat in Bali end up fighting for their lives?

Six strangers from across the world meet on the tropical island of Bali to attend a course designed to help them face their fears. Their backgrounds are as diverse as their fears - which range from flying, public speaking and heights, through to intimacy, failure and death.

Friendships and even romance blossom as the participants are put through a series of challenges which are unusual, confronting and sometimes hilarious. A week of fun in the sun suddenly turns into something far more serious, however, when the unthinkable happens - a tragic disaster that puts the group in deadly danger, testing the individual courage of every member.

‘Fearless’ is a new fiction novel from Australian author, Fiona Higgins.

I was really excited to read this novel, as I’d thoroughly enjoyed Higgins’ ‘Wife on the Run’ back in 2014, and everything about ‘Fearless’ was broadcasting being a “great summer read” to me. But what really pushed me into reading this one was my catching the 2012 movie ‘The Impossible’ on TV one night. It’s a great movie based on a true story, about a British family on holiday in Thailand, who are separated by the destruction and chaotic aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The blurb of ‘Fearless’ alludes to ‘an unspeakable act’ happening in Bali, that throws six strangers’ lives into mayhem – and of course that’s alluding to an event similar to the 2002 Bali Bombings – but ‘The Impossible’ reminded me of the power in such stories where an unfathomable disaster happens in the middle of “paradise” … so I delved into ‘Fearless’, and hated it. Absolutely hated it.

The premise of ‘Fearless’ is these six strangers from all corners of the globe come to Bali to attend a Fearless retreat where they intend to combat everything from a snake phobia, to fear of heights and flying, to general dissatisfaction with life. We get a chapter that follows each of the six strangers, to understand the deeper meanings behind their wish to combat fear. And straight away from meeting these characters, the story started to fall down for me because there’s so much cliché … there’s Annie, an older mid-Westerner who is (of course) an outspoken devout Christian and overweight American. Remy is a Frenchman who falls for Australian Janelle while she’s wearing a rash-vest and zinc on her nose (because of course he does – Frenchmen are so very romantic). Henry is a paunchy, British bird-watcher and quintessential geek (because he’s British?). Cara is a broken mother … and even her, who has one of the more compelling and believable backstories, I wish there’d be a decision to make a subversive gender-flip and have her be a father grieving the loss of his child, just so that not every character was so darn predictable. And then there’s Lorenzo – an Italian photographer who has experienced some Bill Henson-esque backlash in his home country, amid accusations that his artistic photographs of ingénue girls are inappropriate …  his introspective story takes a bizarrely sharp turn towards the end, and I couldn’t help but feel he got lugged with this exploration on the cliché that Italian men are sleazy and pervy or something?

It wasn’t just that these characters all felt built on the most typical of tourism clichés, it’s also that they’re all kind of unbearable. At one point, the Australian Janelle puts on a saccharine “presentation” to be filmed for her bulimic teenage niece, wherein she quotes bumper-sticker philosophy while stripping down to her underwear and Taylor Swift’s ‘Fifteen’ plays from her iPod in the background. I just … my eyes were so busy rolling, I could barely focus on the page during that scene (which is also when Frenchman Remy really falls in love with her, because … of course.)

‘Of course,’ said Remy, impressed by how much Janelle seemed to care. About the orangutans of Borneo, the world’s rainforests, the gamelan orchestras of Bali, teenagers with eating disorders and, naturally, her own family. He considered what he cared about. The last time he’d cried was after the defeat of Paris Saint-Germain to archrivals Montpellier in round 32 of the Ligue 1 football season. Janelle’s compassion is more than refreshing, he thought. It’s intoxicating.

But the book was also off-putting to me for the presentation of Bali, as seen through the eyes of these Westerners … it reminded me of a Kirkus book review I read once, of Heidi R. Kling’s YA book ‘Sea’ in which the reviewer accused the story of being; “Disaster tourism masquerading as romance…” and the last line of the review was also apt for Higgins’ ‘Fearless’; “Well-meaning, but ultimately about slumming in disaster zones for a summer’s recuperative fun.” Because Higgins does present Bali as a “disaster zone”, essentially. Everything from Annie’s observations of their abuse of street dogs, to Remy watching a woman defecate in the street and all six hearing locals bad-mouth the Javanese … none of this sat well with me.

So, nothing in this book was really working for me – why did I keep reading? Well, I wanted to get to the “unspeakable act” tagline on the cover … I thought everything at the Fearless retreat and getting to know these strangers was boring or infuriating, but maybe they’d rise to the occasion in the midst of a disaster? But this plot-turn doesn’t happen until around page 220 (of a 391-page book) and it did feel utterly disjointed from the rest of the story … it felt cheap, actually – as did the whole book for me, unfortunately and ultimately.

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1/5

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

'Ghosts' by Raina Telgemeier


 From the BLURB:

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake — and her own.

Raina Telgemeier has masterfully created a moving and insightful story about the power of family and friendship, and how it gives us the courage to do what we never thought possible.

‘Ghosts’ is the 2016 middle grade graphic novel from Eisner Award-winning creator, Raina Telgemeier.

I read this novel over the Christmas break, and it was exactly the perfect kind of reading for hot summer nights, and middle-of-the-day food-coma recovery. I love Telgemeier, and reading her latest ‘Ghosts’ made me fall in love with her storytelling anew, and had me reaching to re-read two other favourites from her in ‘Smile’ and ‘Drama’. The latter hasn’t been usurped as my favourite Telgemeier book yet, but ‘Ghosts’ comes pretty darn close…

The story follows Catrina, who along with her family moves to the fictional Northern California town of Bahía de la Luna (‘Moon Bay’) for the sake of her little sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis and whose lungs will benefit from the seaside location and year-round fog.


The book’s entire premise provides a really interesting emotional conundrum - as we see Catrina dealing with her conflicted feelings of wanting what’s best for Maya’s health, alongside her disgruntlement at being uprooted from her home and friends for Maya’s sake. And while Telgemeier’s books in the past have been wholly contemporary in genre, and could well have spent the entire novel unpicking that one conundrum – ‘Ghosts’ is a little change-up for the author, who has added in a magical element to elevate the story …

Because Bahía de la Luna is famous for being a ghostly haven – a particular township in America where ghosts can be easily found, thanks to the perfect climate conditions that allows them to be carried on the wind, and take nourishment from the natural earth. Catrina and Maya are in town on their first day, on a mini-exploration trek when they come across local boy (and ghost-tour operator) Carlos, who fuels Maya’s interests in their new ghostly neighbours.

The culmination of the town’s ghostly affection and the story itself, is Día de Muertos – the ‘Day of the Dead’ Mexican holiday. It’s a multi-day holiday that focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey – but in Bahía de la Luna, it also means physically meeting with ghosts and dearly departed loved ones, for a literal celebration.


I’ll admit that I thought the ghostly addition to this story would be heavy-handed, for how it sits alongside Catrina grappling with her sister’s Cystic Fibrosis, and her coming to understand that a move to Bahía is meant to improve Maya’s quality of life, but won’t cure her of the degenerative disease. But this is Telgemeier after all; one of the best writers for young, middle-grade audiences and while the lessons and connections are there to be made, it’s actually quite subtle and lovely what she’s imparting; about acceptance and how multi-layered grief can be.

It’s a tall order to write a story that teeters on the brink of exploring one of the most devastating losses a family will one day endure, while also choosing to highlight how a life cut short can still be celebrated, instead of only mourned … but Telgemeier does it, and with her trademark humour and cast of flawed, multi-dimensional young characters – this is why she’s one of the best writing for middle-grade audiences right now (not just one of the best graphic novelists writing for them, but one of the best authors – period.)

‘Ghosts’ was a smart and delightful read, and while the end felt just a little bit too convenient and rushed, overall I thought there was a lot of good to be unpacked and praised here, making it a truly heartfelt MG read – particularly for the unique angle it takes in exploring grief and loss for young people, and through the lens of such a beautiful cultural celebration as Día de Muertos. Outstanding.

5/5

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

'Hamilton: The Revolution' by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter


From the BLURB:

Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Eleven Tony Awards, including Best Musical 

Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country's origins for a diverse new generation. 

HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages--"since before this was even a show," according to Miranda--traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here. 

Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don't throw away their shot.

I think the first I heard anything about a musical called HAMILTON was on the Book Riot blog last year – one of those typical ‘What to read now that you’ve seen/watched/read…’ recommendation posts. Except it was giving readers recs to quench their thirst for – what sounded like – an American history lesson set to rap music? I guess little subversive mentions of HAMILTON popped up in other cross-reverential ways within pop-culture, but the next I can remember going “Huh?” was when my friend who’d attended Books Expo America came back with all her tales, among them that this musical called HAMILTON was becoming such a thing that a sing-along was organised for teen fans at BEA (I think her commentary was “Check it out on Tumblr!”)

But that was all in 2015, and apart from a quick Wikipedia-read to get brushed up, I put HAMILTON out of my mind … until it came back again in June this year. That was when the Orlando nightclub shooting happened – now known as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history – and when some guy called Lin-Manuel Miranda won a Tony award for his scoring on the musical HAMILTON, and read a poem he quickly wrote as part of his acceptance speech;

Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside. Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.

Wow.
Who is this guy?

A little more research and HAMILTON sounded intriguing, but I distinctly remember walking into the Hill of Content bookshop earlier this same year, picking up a copy of the tome Hamilton: The Revolution and scoffing at the prize/size/entire concept of the show as somewhat baffling. “I’ve listened to the soundtrack,” a helpful bookstore clerk piped up, “and it’s actually really great. I’m obsessed.” I may have raised my eyebrow. I’m not a *huge* fan of musicals (more than once during one I’ve thought/said “why do they have to sing everything?!”) and given that I’ve not been much moved by the soundtracks to the few musicals I have actually seen and enjoyed, I highly doubted I’d get much out of listening to the cast recording of a show I’ve never seen about America’s first Secretary of the Treasury.


But Lin-Manuel Mirand intrigued me (his poetry, and Twitter account alike) and the global growing obsession with HAMILTON moved me enough to at least purchase the soundtrack on iTunes … and I was done.

Officially obsessed.

Pre-ordered the Mixtape. Obsessed.

Left some not-so-subtle (emailed) hints to the folks that I’d quite like that Hamilton tome at Christmas. Obsessed.

Lucky for me I have kind parents who bought me the book by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Jeremy McCarter for Christmas (but not without a side-note of sarcasm; “Oh, did the Broadway tickets we put in there fall out? What a shame.”)

And I’ve got to say – if the hype around Miranda and this musical he’s created didn’t feel really real (even before I finally listened to the soundtrack) reading Hamilton: The Revolution cements it for me.

This is at once a thick volume tracking the creation of the musical – from Miranda’s holiday reading of Ron Chernow’s Hamilton autobiography – to the two years it took Lin-Manuel to write the first two songs. And while I’m not a fanatic of many musicals, I was made a fan of a show about the making of musicals – the somewhat doomed 2012 television show Smash about the pitfalls of bringing a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe from concept to stage. Hamilton: The Revolution explores the daily grind of making big ideas come to life – right down on chapters dedicated to the staging and lighting of tricky technical storytelling moments. And it’s all – believe it or not – fascinating.


It’s also good value to actually have the lyrics to all the songs laid out (if only to have mondegreens corrected – I thought the line in the opening number went “ruined brides” not “ruined pride” and been thinking that Hamilton’s cousin had made a profession as a charlatan matchmaker or something?!). But it’s really spectacular for the notes in the margins from Lin-Manuel. Everything from Miranda dropping a reference to Jordan Catalano as inspiration for a lyric in Angelica Schuyler’s rapid-fire number Satisfied, to discovering that the inspiration for Dear Theodosia wasn’t so much the arrival of Miranda’s son … but of a stray dog he and his wife adopted while on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

What I got out of reading Hamilton: The Revolution (from cover-to-cover, like the obsessive I have now become) was actually similar to what I enjoyed about reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, bizarrely enough. They both track the creative process from a kernel of an idea to working at it, growing and finishing it; and Gilbert and Miranda also seem to embrace the electrifying power of coincidence and fate lining everything up for a special project… and they pay serious ode to the fact that one doesn’t have to be actively creating to always be working and thinking;

He sequestered himself in a quiet corner of the Public [theatre], composing music, scribbling verses, occasionally wandering the halls. The staff got used to seeing him pacing in his slippers. One day he realized that his inability to grasp the enormity of Alexander and Eliza’s loss wasn’t a barrier to writing the song, it was the song.
“Once I got the line, ‘There are moments that the words don’t reach,’ I had the song,” he says. He wrote it in a day.
 

I also quite liked that in Hamilton: The Revolution a few bruises are poked at in chapters focused on the actors in the originating roles. Like how all of the principal actors playing Founding Fathers had to reconcile with themselves as black men, playing influential historical figures that owned slaves. Christopher Jackson who plays George Washington had particularly powerful insights into this, and it’s satisfying to know that there are little tells (as subtle as a bowed head at the right time) that acknowledge this dichotomy throughout the play.


I will say that I came away from my reading of Hamilton: The Revolution … and immediately checked the price of tickets (in both New York and Chicago) and seriously, seriously considered just splurging (especially because it’s a big birthday for me next year). And I honestly think that while HAMILTON will enjoy a long-run (a Phantom of the Opera-long run) in America, I don’t know how it would go elsewhere.

This question momentarily pops up in Hamilton: The Revolution – in a chapter titled ‘An Account of Rapping for the Children Who Will One Day Rap For Themselves’ – in which the musical’s alliance with the Theatre Development Fund in schools is discussed, and Miranda muses on its next stage of life when HAMILTON is licensed for student and amateur productions … they beg the question of how well HAMILTON will go in Asia, Europe and Australia. Is there really worldwide appeal for a musical that is so steeped in American history and has little relevance (particularly for school study) to outside countries?

Putting aside my desperate wish to go and see this musical (without having to take out a bank loan to do so) I really don’t know. It’s certainly taken me a while to warm to the idea of even listening to the soundtrack. BUT … to be fair – there’s not a lot of history-based musicals that have especial relevance to Australia anyway, baby country that we are. And to give you further context to that; in 1770 Captain Cook made the first European landing on Australia's east coast, and a mere six year later The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Just to give you some idea of how much America and Australia’s paths veered at this time … Australians don’t learn about the American Revolutionary War in our core history studies in high school, often because our studies are focused on what was happening in our own country at that time. So certainly – the historic context is a hard barrier to get through for non-Americans, I’d say.

BUT, but, but … and maybe I’m grasping at straws here … but if HAMILTON the Musical was to time an Australia tour just right – were there to be renewed public debate around a Republic referendum? Could you imagine the publicity campaign? If nothing else, I certainly think the Australian Republican Movement should be quietly reaching out to any channels they can to see if a HAMILTON tour announcement would like to join with them in some tongue-in-cheek capacity!


And also; the world is turning again to America to see what happens with their political sideshow, much as they did in 1775... The atmosphere is bizarrely – inversely? – ripe to re-examine the “American Experiment” with Donald Trump and all his “draining the swamp” talk becoming the 55th President of the United States of America. Right down to what Lin-Manuel summarises as the true message of HAMILTON and the revolution is essentially about;

When Lin told the audience at the White House that Alexander Hamilton “embodies the word’s ability to make a difference,” he was thinking of all the good things that language can do. 
Hamilton reminds us that the American Revolution was a writers’ revolution, that the founders created the nation one paragraph at a time. But words can also wreak havoc. They also tear down.

… now think about that in the context of Donald Trump’s inane/insane Twitter account. Certainly, History Has It’s Eyes On You has already taken on a new, even more sombre meaning as January 20 looms - and already, the HAMILTON musical cast have contributed their voice to this new phase in American history, becoming part of the narrative in a way I’m sure they could have never foreseen (but won’t shy away from more crucial opportunities in future).

Listening to HAMILTON has been a revolution in itself for me, but reading Hamilton: The Revolution has made me keep thinking and connecting aspects of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece to the real world and what the future holds.

-->
5/5

Friday, December 9, 2016

Most Anticipated Books of 2017


Hello Darling Readers,

It’s that most wondrous time of the year again – Most Anticipated Books list time! 
 Here in Melbourne we just had the Centre for Youth Literature’s annual (and always sold-out) ‘YA Showcase’ – where publishers stand up in front of a crowd of hundreds and give us all a teaser of what we’ll be reading next year … you can check out the Storify of that event, or watch the Slideshow. 
 So below is my attempt to corral my already unwieldy wish-list of books coming out in 2017. But this list is nowhere near definitive or complete – there were some books at the YA Showcase that I am extraordinarily excited for, but they don’t appear down below because they don’t have book covers yet, or release dates or even 100% official blurbs… 
 Some of those elusive TBD books are; 
- Untidy Towns – the YA debut from “talent-to-watch” Kate O’Donnell (coming out with UQP) I've known for a while now that Kate was a writer, as well as amazing bookseller and freelance editor ... she seriously, seriously knows her YA stuff - so I'm beyond excited to read her knowledge funnelled into this debut! 
- Take Three Girls is the PanMacmillan YA collaboration between Aussie YA superstars Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell, and Fiona Wood. The trio actually all read brief excerpts from each of their story-parts and it was INCREDIBLE. Some of us have known this book has been coming for a while now, and are salivating for this one --- but if you’d like even more of a teaser and understanding of just how well these three bounce off each other; listen to their appearance on the fabulous podcast Unladylike! 
- Erin Gough (she of The Flywheel fame!) has her second book coming out in late 2017 with Hardie Grant. Amelia Westlake was described as being about a feminist rebellion against private school boys, when the two female instigators of the rebel alliance fall for each other ... YES! 
- Separate to the YA Showcase - I am also ridiculously excited for Sally Thorne's second book ... I don't know if you realised, but I was pretty gosh darn obsessed with her romance debut The Hating Game this year (I've only re-read it X3 times since August!) - she has a book coming out Summer 2017 called The Comfort Zone ... and I'm willing to give up a kidney for an ARC of that one. Mmkay?! 
Now - without further ado, - to the best of my ability for accuracy (and with profuse apologies for any titles I’ve completely overlooked!) - here is my Most Anticipated Books of 2017 list …

***

JANUARY

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

Those Moriarty sisters are a talented bunch! This new one from Nicola sounds exquisite – a little bit ‘New Adult’ and Women’s Fiction, The Big Chill for the next generation, mixed with I Know What You Did Last Summer…? Yes. Please!

Best friends are supposed to keep your darkest secrets. But the revelations Joni, Deb, Eden and Trina have shared will ripple through their lives with unforeseen consequences . . . and things will never be the same.

Me and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King

1.     It’s A.S. King – whom I am devoted to. Utterly.
2.     Ms King will be at Reading Matters next year and I am going to have NO. CHILL around her.
3.     I can’t wait to hear her talk about writing her first middle-grade book that (of course it does!) sounds like it has a quirky-subversive message about the environment underneath a monster tale.
 
Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt.

So much yes to this.
SO. MUCH. YES!

 
Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson

If you don’t already know the harrowing true story of Emmett Till, you may want to brace yourself for this book with some research

[trigger warning; you will find some awful photos of Till’s corpse on the internet, so maybe avoid searching via Google Images especially?]

Rose Lee Carter, a 13-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955. Her world is rocked when a 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

That cover, title and blurb have me hooked; Everyone who really knows Brooklyn knows Devonairre Street girls are different. They’re the ones you shouldn’t fall in love with. The ones with the curse. The ones who can get you killed.

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

This will be Talley’s fourth book, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t actually read anything from her – yet! This book of hers sounds the most up  my alley, and that cover is utterly gorgeous! Fifteen-year-old Aki Hunter knows she’s bisexual, but up until now she's only dated guys—and her best friend, Lori, is the only person she’s out to. When she and Lori set off on a four-week youth-group mission trip in a small Mexican town, it never crosses Aki's mind that there might be anyone in the group she’d be interested in dating. But that all goes out the window when Aki meets Christa.

Breathless (Old West #2) by Beverly Jenkins

I discovered Jenkins this year when I read the first book in this series, ‘Forbidden’ and it made it’s way onto my Favourites List! She is incredible, and is fast-becoming one of my favourite romance writers … ever!

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

I’ve yet to read Silvera’s critically-acclaimed ‘More Happy Than Not’, but I am eagerly awaiting his second novel … about a young man getting over the death of his ex-boyfriend, by seeking comfort from the deceased’s current boyfriend.

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen

Look, I might be biased *cough* #LoveOzYA! *cough* – but 2017 is shaping up to be The Year of the Anthology and this non-fiction offering sounds especially great, not least for it’s editor in Jensen.

Here We Are is a scrapbook-style teen guide to understanding what it really means to be a feminist. It’s packed with essays, lists, poems, comics, and illustrations from a diverse range of voices, including TV, film, and pop-culture celebrities and public figures such as ballet dancer Michaela DePrince and her sister Mia, politician Wendy Davis, as well as popular YA authors like Nova Ren Suma, Malinda Lo, Brandy Colbert, Courtney Summers, and many more. Altogether, the book features more than forty-four pieces, with an eight-page insert of full-color illustrations.

Good Boy (WAGs #1) by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

*HYPERVENTILATES* are you kidding me with this?! It’s really unfair how many of my romance pleasure buttons this cover and synopsis are hitting …

A Shadow's Breath by Nicole Hayes

New Nicole Hayes, new Nicole Hayes, new Nicole Hayes, new Nicole Hayes!!! Nuff’ said.

Ida by Alison Evans

I think this was one of the most buzzed-about books at the YA Showcase the other night, and for good reason! Ida struggles more than other young people to work this out. She can shift between parallel universes, allowing her to follow alternative paths. One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability, and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered.

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

1.     I loved Goldberg Sloan’s book ‘I’ll Be There
2.     The blurb for this middle grade book is right up my alley: Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of  The Wizard of Oz, she'll realize how big she is inside, where it counts.
 
Wait for Me by Caroline Leech

I’m down for this; It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

1.     That cover by artist Adams Carvalho is perfection.
2.     It’s Nina LaCour. Need I say more?

 
The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

This one has some serious and seriously good early-buzz. I personally don’t think the cover screams “Fantasy!” but apparently this is *the* debut fantasy YA coming out of 2017 … we shall see.

On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

I really didn’t like Higgins’ first foray into ‘women’s fiction’ with her 2015 novel ‘If You Only Knew’. I feel like she veered so far away from what makes her romances great – humour and heart – that the story felt … empty? BUT, given that I’ve already read ‘On Second Thought’ (thanks, NetGalley!) I can assure you that’s not the case with this second stand-alone women’s fic from Higgins. This one has tragedy and torment aplenty, but there’s also an incredibly sweet romance and focus again on a sisterly bond that makes this one of Higgins’ absolute best.

FEBRUARY

Valentine by Jodi McAlister

Valentine is the first in a smart, witty and page-turning YA series with a paranormal twist for fans of Holly Black and Sarah J. Maas … if you’re not already; follow Jodi on Twitter (especially around Bachelor and Bachelorette time!) and jump on the bandwagon for this YA book which is already generating some serious, serious buzz in Australia!

Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky by Robert Newton

A violent incident sparks an unlikely and surprising friendship between a young girl and an old man, leading to an adventure that brings drama and understanding to their lives in contemporary Melbourne.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

This is one of my most-most-most anticipated books of 2017. I love short stories, and I love George Saunder’s short stories in particular. He is a God among writers! … but this is his foray into historical fiction, and it sounds utterly compelling (and I will say, having been on a ‘Hamilton’ soundtrack kick in the latter half of this year, I am more endeared than ever to US History!);

On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son’s body. Set over the course of that one night and populated by ghosts of the recently passed and the long dead, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief, the powers of good and evil, a novel - in its form and voice - completely unlike anything you have read before. It is also, in the end, an exploration of the deeper meaning and possibilities of life, written as only George Saunders can: with humor, pathos, and grace.

The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy

I’ve been lucky enough to receive an ARC of this, and it’s incredible! It’s kinda, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Penny Dreadful … if that makes any enticing sense?!

In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances.

Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin

This is one of my Top 5 Most-Anticipated books, because; Pamela L. Laskin’s beautiful and lyrical novel in verse delivers a fresh and captivating retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that transports the star-crossed lovers to the modern-day Israel-Palestine conflict.

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

A middle-grade book with Carl Sagan’s name in the title? GET OUT OF MY HEAD, CHENG! This is so far up my alley, it’s not even funny – this blurb has me all aquiver in excitement; A space-obsessed boy and his dog, Carl Sagan, take a journey toward family, love, hope, and awe in this funny and moving novel for fans of Counting by 7s and Walk Two Moons (ß also one of my favourite books, ever!)

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

1.     It’s Garth-freakin’-Nix!
2.     This has been described as being a bit ‘Princess Bride’-ish
3.     It’s about a girl who doesn’t need a prince.
4.     *GRABBY HANDS*!
5.     David Levithan at Melbourne Writers Festival said this was one of his favourite Aussie YA’s – ever!

Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3) by Lisa Kleypas

Not only is this a new Lisa Kleypas – so, YAY! – but this is a book that connects to her beloved ‘Wallflowers’ series … and not just any book from that series, but ‘Devil in Winter’ – Evangeline and Sebastian’s book! And the excerpt we’ve already got is beyond amazing.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

John Green recently tweeted that he thinks this book is destined to be a classic. It certainly feels like it’s releasing at an incredible time in American politics and society – not dissimilar to Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ coming right at the apex of the Civil Rights Movement. I’m not surprised that it’s a contemp YA novel that has its finger so much on the pulse either …
 
Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1) by Julie Cross

Ice-hockey YA (that actually sounds more New Adult). The blurb is angsty as all get-out … but there’s a kinda Mighty Ducks vibe to it that I’m digging? Quack, Quack, Quack, Quack …

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

We had a lot of contemporary YA stories exploring immigrant families and illegal immigrant families in particular this year – Nicola Yoon’s ‘The Sun is Also a Star’ and ‘Something in Between’ by Melissa de la Cruz among them … But given the divided fallout of the US election, and the next four years under Trump – not to mention the elections happening across Europe where anti-immigration platforms are winning votes for the right-wing of every political party … I’d say more of these books are sorely needed, and should be welcomed in YA especially.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family's property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past... and the present.

This sounds downright awesome, and I think that cover is *stunning*!

Agent Nomad #1: The Eleventh Hour (Agent Nomad Series #1) by Skye Melki-Wegner

New Skye Melki-Wegner is freakin’ amazing! This one promises to be about ‘Spies. Secrets. Sorcery.’ And we get two books in one year – second is called ‘Deadly Magic’ and it’ll be out in May! *happy dancing*!

MARCH

You're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

On the one hand – this story sounds great, and the first line of the blurb has me all goosebumpy with excitement; When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.

But then to make this even more alluring – the book is apparently going to have “interior graffiti”!

Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson #10) by Patricia Briggs

I’ve already read this (um, thanks NetGalley?) and I did not like it. At all. It has the feel of being a “filler” instalment in Brigg’s otherwise meticulous ‘Mercy Thompson’ series … sorry.

Vigilante by Kady Cross

I am excited for this YA novel - described as a teen mystery perfect for teens who like Veronica Mars ... but I only like the sounds of it on the proviso that it's AS GOOD if not better than new MTV show, 'Sweet Vicious' ... which is a vigilante comedy about rape culture on college campuses and it's *superb*. So - like - yes to Kady Cross' version of this in theory ... but it has a lot to live up to, sandwiched between a Veronica Mars reference and Sweet Vicious already on offer. Just sayin'. 

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

I’ll read anything that references the Roanoke Colony in as interesting a way as this; Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

It’s set in Tokyo. Do you need to know more? – because I do not.

Hunted (Hunted #1) by Meagan Spooner

Beauty and the Beast subversive retelling. Say no more. I’m there.

Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer

If a YA novel has ‘FanFiction’ in the title, I’m so there. While I haven’t read any of Colfer’s other children’s books, I did enjoy the movie he wrote Struck by Lightning, and I think he’s a generally pretty fascinating celebrity who seems to have an unfair amount of talent across multiple industries.

The Things We Promise by J.C. Burke

This one was mentioned at the YA Showcase with a proviso to “bring the tissues” – and given that Burke is the author of ‘The Story of Tom Brennan’ , ‘Pig Boy’ and ‘The Red Cardigan’, that’s no idle threat. Bring on the snotty-tears!

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Um, how has this not been a YA setting before? When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

 
The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family … OH, I am so *so* into this blurb! It sounds like historical Kelly Link meets ‘The Craft’

Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

I am so interested to see how poetic language is used to explore this story: A girl with Tourette syndrome starts a new school and tries to hide her quirks in this debut middle-grade novel in verse.

Under the Love Umbrella by Davina Bell, illustrations by Allison Colpoys

This is a picture book (!) on my list because LOOK AT IT! And look who wrote and has illustrated it! That is some top-notch Aussie children’s book legends, right there. Scribe have been hitting it out of the park lately, and this book has me giddy with excitement – I just want to own it, and stroke it and admire the pretty and messages!

APRIL

Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology edited by Danielle Binks, with short stories from Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer, and Lili Wilkinson

Yes – this is a flagrant bit of self-promotion. Sorry (not sorry). I’m incredibly proud of this anthology, and the Australian youth literature it champions. There really is a story in here for everyone – time-travel stories, adventure stories, love stories, family and surreal stories … it’s a kaleidoscopic slice of Aussie YA and I can’t wait for everyone to read it!

The book is now available for pre-order, and throughout 2017 I’m sure you’ll see all of the authors (and me!) at various Festivals and Events talking about the anthology and the #LoveOzYA movement that created it!

Remind Me How This Ends by Gabrielle Tozer

Soooooo … I might already have this. And started reading it. And I’m here to tell you IT’S FREAKIN’ AMAZING! Not that I’d expect any less from a past winner of the prestigious Gold Inky Award, but Tozer has outdone herself with this contemporary YA boy-meets-girl-(again!) story.

The Secret Science of Magic by Melissa Keil

At this year’s YA Showcase, Keil was described as Aussie YA’s “Rom-Com Queen” and that title is beyond apt! This – her third book – sounds like more sparkling lovely brilliance from our Queen!

The Beast of Hushing Wood by Gabrielle Wang

Read this post on the author’s blog, and tell me you don’t want to read this stunning novel! OMG!

Geekerella by Ashley Poston 

Sssshhhh... you had me at that title. 

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

1.     Follow-up from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
2.     Duh.
The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

Brashares is the author of ‘The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’ … UH-HUH! Blurb promises; she’s back with a beautifully written novel about love, class differences, and betrayal playing out over the course of a fractured American family’s Long Island summer. Kinda sounds like E. Lockhart’s ‘We Were Liars’, but I’m down for that!

Night Swimming by Steph Bowe

First off – Bowe is one of Aussie YA’s most enduring talents, and I am so freakin’ excited that she’s back with her third contemporary YA book! Secondly; just the first line of this blurb gives me all the feels; Imagine being the only two seventeen-year-olds in a small town. That’s life for Kirby Arrow—named after the most dissenting judge in Australia’s history—and her best friend Clancy Lee, would-be musical star.

MAY

Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin

This book is releasing in May, just ahead of Reading Matters – where Nevo is also appearing! This is the memoir of a young trans teen, and I have a feeling it’s going to be essential reading for more than just teens.

In a Perfect World by Trish Doller

1.     It’s Trish Doller – we bow down to Trish Doller’s YA.
2.     YA set in Egypt. EGYPT!

 
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

This is – easily – one of my Top 5 Most Anticipated Books of 2017. Easily!

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

It's Not Like It's a Secret by Misa Sugiura

YES! --- Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

1.     It’s Molly Harper.
2.     THERE’S A DOG ON THE COVER!! Dogs on romance covers are – ironically – my catnip.
Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth

I’ve got a few 1940’s romance on this list, so I must be craving that era or something? à Set during the 1940s and the present and inspired by a real-life ballroom, Stars Over Clear Lake is a moving story of forbidden love, lost love, everlasting love - and self love.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

I heard about this book, thanks to a Guardian article; ‘She gave her mother 40 whacks’: the lasting fascination with Lizzie Borden. Yep, this book is described as; re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

 
The Hot Guy by Mel Campbell & Anthony Morris

Do you follow Mel Campbell on Twitter? You should, she’s hilarious! And she’s teamed up with her equally hilarious film critic partner, Anthony Morris for this fictional rom-com about a serious (and seriously hot!) cinema nerd guy and a female sports publicist … this kinda sounds like Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Attachments’ meets Roger Ebert = H-O-T!

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

New Julie Murphy is always cause for celebration, and when the blurb is this darn tantalizing? Happy-dancing all the way, baby!

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. One of only two out lesbians in her small town and standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the responsible adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, her responsibilities weigh more heavily than ever. The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.

JUNE

Boundless by Jillian Tamaki

From the cartoonist of ‘This One Summer’ (with writer Mariko Tamaki), comes a new graphic novel. Tamaki offered a sneak-peek into the work back in February, and it’s absolutely stunning. Described as exploring; ‘the virtual and IRL world of contemporary women via a lens both surreal and wry,’ this sounds exactly up my alley – like a particularly smart and subversive episode of ‘Black Mirror’ in graphic-novel form. YES. PLEASE!

Wren written by Katrina Lehman, illustrated by Sophie Beer

Another picture book on my list! I couldn’t go past this one – coming out with Scribble Kids – because I recently started following Sophie on Instagram, and now she’s one of my favourite artists, and I’d love to work with her someday on something!

Maybe in Paris by Rebecca Christiansen

Bring the tissues – this one kinda sounds like ‘Are You Seeing Me?’ by Darren Groth, which is not a bad thing at all!

Keira Braidwood lands in Paris with her autistic brother, Levi, and high hopes. Levi has just survived a suicide attempt and months in the psych ward—he’s ready for a dose of the wider world. Unlike their helicopter mom and the doctors who hover over Levi, Keira doesn’t think Levi’s certifiable. He’s just . . . quirky. Always has been.

Mad as Hell by Gabrielle Williams

I loves me some new Gabrielle Williams, and this one promises to be about the fallout of a friendship – thanks to technology. I can’t wait!

 
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

1.     This is YA
2.     This is historical YA
3.     This is historical LGBT+ YA
4.     Wendy Darling (‘The Midnight Garden’) describes the book thus; Boys fighting pirates and their feelings for each other in 18th century Paris and Venice! *swoon*
Indigo

Gotta admit, I don’t know a lot about this … but I’m excited because Charlaine Harris (QUEEN!) is involved; In a brilliant collaboration by New York Times and critically acclaimed coauthors Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Kelley Armstrong, Jonathan Maberry, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, Tim Lebbon, Cherie Priest, James Moore, and Mark Morris join forces to bring you a crime-solving novel like you ve never read before.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

1.     Author of ‘The Accident Season’
2.     Witches! 

 
Ballad for a Mad Girl by Vikki Wakefield

Hi, my name is Danielle and I’m obsessed with Vikki Wakefield’s words. Seriously – I’d be happy reading her grocery list. But as it stands we’re getting this – Vikki’s fourth YA book! – which she describes as “spooky” and a total departure from her other contemporary books … WANT!!!

JULY

Our Story Begins: Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

Gotta admit, before I knew anything about this book I just loved the cover. But the blurb is actually pretty good too – a collection of quirky, smart, and vulnerable childhood works by some of today’s foremost children’s authors and illustrators—revealing young talent, the storytellers they would one day become, and the creativity they inspire today.

This does sound similar to the Australian, Walker Books book edited by Judith Ridge ‘The Book That Made Me’ – but that’s okay, stories about storytellers never get old, right?

Gap Year in Ghost Town by Michael Pryor

Not gonna lie, this one has some ‘Supernatural’ vibes … that title alone is making me really eager to see what kind of a cover such an intriguingly spooky and snappy story will get!

Solo by Kwame Alexander & Mary Rand Hess

a YA novel written in poetic verse. Solo tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback.

Because You Love to Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy edited by Ameriie

July is clearly anthologies-month in America! This unique YA anthology presents classic and original fairy tales from the villain's point of view … I am intrigued, and I can’t get over what a great idea it was to pair authors with popular bloggers and vloggers to provide them writing prompts. Genius! Evil, evil genius!

AUGUST

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons) by Leigh Bardugo

I am possibly more excited for this book than the Wonder Woman movie coming out in June. I could not think of a more perfect pairing than Bardugo and Diana Prince, and this is sure to be a blockbuster amongst blockbusters in 2017.

The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

Gorgeously written and emotionally charged, The Secret History of Us explores the difficult journey of a teenage girl who must piece her life together after losing her memory in a near-fatal accident.

 SEPTEMBER

Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian

This is the 2016 Text Prize winner, so of course it's on my list! But what's really sealed its placement on here is Claire herself, who I now follow on Instagram and she's such a lovely bubble of positivity who really gives a shit about teenagers (see this video!) I'm excited to see what she brings to Aussie YA. 

OCTOBER

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

I loves me some Marcus Sedgwick, and this new one sounds both timely and on-topic terrifying …  A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border.



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