Writing Herstory: A YA Event

It’s true dedication (or a type of madness) to endure the four-hour round trip for an often one hour or one and a half hour event in Sydney, but while some can be a letdown, others are truly wonderful and this was one of those times.

On Saturday, Jeann from Happy Indulgence hosted a panel called Writing Herstory: Today’s female experience in contemporary YA in the fabulous bookstore, Kinokuniya. It was a great afternoon listening to five fabulous women discuss important issues in YA novels and how important they can be to readers.

I often feel guilty, or feel like not a “true YA reader” (whatever that is even supposed to mean) for not knowing some of the authors on panels, but then I remind myself that I’ve been given a chance to discover some new authors. And of course, now I know of them I can read their work and fall in love with them.

Kirsty Eager, Gabrielle Tozer, Sarah Ayoub, Tamar Chnorhokian, Erin Gough. Courtesy of Kinokuniya’s Twitter.

Making up the panel of excellent women were Kirsty Eager (Summer Skin), Sarah Ayoub (The Yearbook Committee), Gabrielle Tozer (The Intern), Tamar Chnorhokian (The Diet Starts on Monday), and Erin Gough (The Flywheel). Having already fallen in love with Sarah and Kirsty, I was eager to discover these other YA authors and it didn’t take long for that to happen or for my admiration to follow.

Jeann did a great job as host, she asked wonderful questions and the discussion ranged from bullying, diversity, minority representation, and why the Aussie YA community is so wonderful. She asked the panel why they thought diversity was important and there were excellent responses such as needing your experience represented and seeing the less represented shown in a different light than they may be on TV or in films. Gabrielle made a wonderful point about it how it makes people feel included; they pick up a book and see themselves on the page. I also loved Sarah’s thought that it gives people a sense of self-worth and value when their experiences are in stories. Gabriella also pointed out that you can’t include everyone which is why there is a need for diverse writers and books.

The panel also discussed the various issues portrayed in each of their novels; peer pressure in The Yearbook Committee, sexual preference in The Flywheel, feminism in Summer Skin, body image in The Diet Starts on Monday, as well as the big issue of bullying and why it’s included in so many YA novels. The fact is, as Sarah pointed out, is that it is happening, and continues to happen not only to young people, and to ignore it is often detrimental and damaging. Erin mentioned the reason YA features bullying is because it happens and it sucks. And as Tamar pointed out, even when you are brave enough to stick up for yourself, it doesn’t mean it isn’t bullying, and it affects you in some way. As Sarah said, we tend to have a hopeful outlook on bullying, never looking at the consequences it can have.

The discussion was real and profound; it was wonderful to hear an open discussion about things like the different opinions of men and women in terms of sexual activity, and what body image is and where pressure can come from. I loved that Kirsty told us women don’t have to be role models and that Erin highlighted that there are more pressures out there than just from ones peers.

It was lovely to hear the panel talk about why they love the Aussie YA community, praising our passion and how engaging we are. Kirsty loving our open mindedness and how open-hearted we are, while Sarah loved how vocal we are about the books we love. Tamar mentioning along the same lines how she loved seeing readers react with books and characters. The common opinion from all five was how accepting the YA community is, which is a wonderful thing to have recognised by other people.

I came out of the event with five new books which I’m classing as a win. I’ve discovered new authors who were a delight to meet, so very friendly and cheerful, and I got to hear an important discussion about women and literature. I’m glad I made the trip down and so stoked to have discovered some more Aussie YA ladies to enjoy!

Signed and ready for reading!

 

 

Copper Veins (#3) by Jennifer Allis Provost

Published: 26th July 2016
Goodreads badgePublisher: Spence City
Pages: 264
Format: ebook via Netgalley
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Sara’s pretty sure her life is perfect.

Not only are she and Micah finally married, her father, who’d been missing since the Magic Wars, has been found. Actually, he just strode up to the manor’s front door, but whatever. Sara knows better than to look a gift horse in the mouth.

But Baudoin Corbeau isn’t content to return to family life. He’s decided that he will be the force of change in the Mundane world, and lead the Elemental resistance to victory with his children at his side. What’s worse, Baudoin doesn’t approve of Sara’s marriage, and makes every attempt to separate her from Micah.

After a visit to the Mundane realm leaves Sara, Max and Sadie imprisoned by the Peacekeepers, Sara’s doubts creep to the surface. Is her father right? Does she belong in the Mundane realm, not the Otherworld? Is Micah really the right man—make that elf—for her?
Was marrying him a mistake?

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book for review.

 This is the third book in the Copper Legacy series and it’s still such a delight to read about Sara and Micah and this fascinating world with Elementals and Mundanes.

Though only a few months have passed since the first story, a lot has happened. Micah and Sara’s relationship have gotten more serious and there are consequences and aftermaths of the previous book to deal with. Provost draws on past events and brings together existing ones wonderfully and previous books aren’t treated as separate things entirely. Conversations, situations, and scenes of past novels are still referred to and are important; they are treated like living memories rather than events of a different book. Provost does a wonderful job of filling in the previous book events without making it clunky or tedious, and aside from the Prologue that brings you up to speed, there are still numerous references blended throughout to fill in additional details.

Not all the story is tied up with past books, with the return of Sara’s father there is a new direction taken and a whole new set of things to explore. There is a different kind of drama this time. Not that there isn’t excitement or suspense, but it has a family focus that ties in with bigger things. Provost threads these all together naturally and the seamless transition of events really feels like real life, interruptions and best laid plans falling to the wayside, family drama and serious problems colliding and tangled together.

I have to admit it was slightly predictable at times, but also with a few surprises. We learn even more about the Elementals and their abilities and seeing Sara and Micah settle into their new life was great. Their relationship isn’t overdone, nor is it bland. Provost balances their affection and love for one another without making it cheesy or unbelievable. Both Sara and Micah have responsibilities and the contrast and conflict between their love and their duty makes for great reading.

Whether this is your first read of the Legacy series or you’ve been in it from the start, this is still a good read. From the beginning I was engaged and knowing the stories already I was instantly back in the world of Elementals and Mundanes with the magic, politics, and war. If I didn’t know the story I think Provost does an excellent job of introducing it while still moving the story forward. You could easily pick up this book and start reading without having read the previous two. The writing is descriptive and draws you in, and though the story isn’t action filled or intense all the time, you still find yourself eager to see what happens. Provost brings drama without making it seem dramatic.

With another book yet to come, Provost directs us towards the next one well, without making it too obvious in the lead up. The story is allowed to conclude naturally while still feeling like there is somewhere to go. I think book four is going to bring even more excitement and surprises and I can’t wait to read it. I’ve enjoyed this series and loved these characters from the start and I’m eager to see where it goes.

You can purchase Copper Veins via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Angus and Robertson | Booktopia

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (spoiler free) by Jack Thorne & John Tiffany, J.K. Rowling

Published: 31st July 2016 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little Brown UK
Pages: 343
Format: Hardcover book of the script
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.

I had mixed feelings about reading this script. I was excited for a new Harry Potter story, but I was also unsure how it would be treated. After years of Rowling feeding us new information and revealing more of the story I was eager to see how the kids of the famous trio were getting on. How the original gang were all enjoying their adult lives and new jobs. I was, however, also worried that it would ruin the magic and the near perfection of the original series. I was worried that it would be a half hearted extension that didn’t have the same depth and feel and immense pleasure of reading. How wrong I was. Don’t get me wrong, there are things about this that make it not perfect, but I stayed with the five stars because while the faults are there, I did so incredibly enjoy it.

From the first page I was back in the Harry Potter world, I could picture it, feel it, it was like we’d never left. I fell hopelessly into the story and fell in love with characters new and old. My heart was overjoyed and breaking for so many reasons and I was barely ten pages in. For a script it felt so much like a story, I have no doubt the one actually used was a bit different again, and no doubt will be changed as the performances go on, but for now I like to imagine this is the one that will be seen on the stage.

A few stage directions are included, as a script would have, and it was fascinating to try and picture how this would be performed on stage, but when I wasn’t doing that I was picturing it in my mind as a novel, the back and forward of my imagination wasn’t an issue, and it was remarkable how a play script could be as evocative as a fully fledged novel that has scenery and more detail given to surroundings and character thoughts.

There are old names I would have loved to have seen included, but understandable this is the next generation’s story and you can’t include the old guard just for nostalgia purposes and to satisfy the long time fans. But those that are included are a joy to read about.

There are surprises, wonderful surprises, and less wonderful surprises, and I can already see opinions divided about the story, but as I say, I loved it, I devoured it. I loved every character for so many reasons, they have come across complex and full as any novel could make them, and it’s wonderful in a way to see the idiolised characters with faults and human mistakes of their own, even in the wonderful wizarding world.

Overall I think the writers did a wonderful job capturing the original Rowling style, and Thorne’s play reflects the amazing world Rowling spent so long creating. I was surprised, delighted, shocked, and concerned about so much in the story and it has certainly provided enough new material and controversial topics for lengthy debating to occur. Whether that is a good thing overall I’m not sure.

I hope your own Harry Potter experience has been spoiler free, and that you derived some enjoyment from the story if you were one of those who were not thrilled at the plot, or the fact it exists at all. Personally, I’m glad it is a play and not a new book, and I’m glad, that while I won’t get to see the play, I could experience it all the same. I could easily and happily see this as a fitting end to Harry’s life and story, but whether that is to be the case, we’ll have to wait and see.

The Exclusion Wars by Sheila Agnew

Published: 21st December 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Oxiana Road Publishing
Pages: 204
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/ Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A thriller set in 2025, in which teenager, Mateo Rivera, is in hiding as “Matt” in New York City where he must avoid capture by Mr. Rienham, the new chief of the Deportation of Latinos Agency, hand-picked for the job by President Trent himself. 

But Matt isn’t alone; he’s got the Underground, an organisation which advocates peaceful resistance. He’s been trained by the mysterious Underground leader, Polaris; harboured by reluctant shepherd and drop-out lawyer, Steve; and he has the not always helpful but well-intentioned support of his best friend, fifteen year-old, wannabe Navy Seal, Danni Singh. 

Rienham, the DLA and its roving pack of DepoDogs aren’t Matt’s only problems. There’s a new enemy on the horizon, and it calls itself The Latino Alliance. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

I really liked this book; it is every bit the thriller it claims to be while still balancing the storyline, drama, emotion, and all the other wonderful elements as well. With the Latinos being sent into exile or worse, those who haven’t fled are in hiding, and those who can pass are constantly worrying about being found out.

It’s a fascinating story with a wonderful insight into what fear and hatred can do to a country if the right voice is convincing enough. It also shows how laws and views of the few can shape the opinions of the many, influencing them in how they see others. What’s great about Agnew’s writing is that this can all be read into it, it doesn’t come across on the page as a blatant message about acceptance and about prejudice, Agnew uses the writing to subtly say things through the story rather than shoving it down our throats.

Agnew has created a story that is slightly prophetic in a way, because Agnew based Trent on a Trump like figure but wrote it years before Trump decided to run which makes it even eerier. It depicts a future that, honestly, is on the closer side to believable than not, the explanations are there about how this came about, gradually, and with the right set of circumstances, snowballing before it could be stopped, all really quite plausible. The dictator style of Trent and the control he and his lackeys have created bring this future to life with detail and well roundedness that makes it real.

The characters are fantastic and definitely a highlight of the story. They are all so unique, fully fledged, each with a passion of their own and not just there to play a role around Matt’s story.  Matt is a great kid and an excellent narrator. He tells his story well and Agnew uses his voice and conversations to inform the reader without needing to include large amounts of back story. Matt never forgets where he’s come from or who he is, but he is smart enough to keep the thoughts to himself, and always remember his training. He is adult in some ways, having to keep secrets about his heritage, knowing delicate information and constantly having to check his behaviour and actions so as not to get caught, but at the same time he is also very much the 14-year-old as well. He has an attitude, he has crushes on girls, he has friends to hang out with and get in trouble with, and he misses his mum immensely.

There is a continual sense of thrill and suspense, but all for different reasons. It’s the suspense of Matt thinking he’s about to be found out at school, the anticipation about whether someone knows his secret, tension when he is trapped and unable to send for help, the constant feeling you’ve developed that something is about to go wrong at any given moment. Agnew definitely makes you become involved with the varying levels of thrill and suspense she’s created and when there’s actual drama and action is brings it to a whole other level entirely.

You can’t ignore the similarities to the current situation in America when reading this story, but it is a fascinating read and doesn’t read like a response to current events, it remains in the futuristic realm, even if it is barely ten years in the future. Agnew begins and concludes this story wonderfully and it’s the right balances of everything in the middle. I would definitely love to read a second book so I can keep reading about these characters and this strange yet familiar world they live in.

You can purchase The Exclusion Wars via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

Riot: A 1960’s Love Story by Charles S. Isaacs

Published: 8th September 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harpers Ferry Press
Pages: 458
Format: ebook
Genre: Historical fiction
★   ★  – 2 Stars

It’s September 1967. As the Vietnam War and a militant Antiwar Movement hurtle toward explosive confrontation, Steve Harris – white, idealistic, and naïve — begins his freshman year. During that year, he will fight to end the war, fall in love, confront painful truths about his family, and be jailed and beaten by police. Through this crucible, he emerges with a transformed consciousness, of the world and of himself.

The change begins with a rousing antiwar speech delivered by Emma Gold, a Depression-era radical. When Emma introduces him to young Cat Crawford — inter-racial, brilliant and exotically beautiful – his bewitching is complete. The two students’ instant friendship blossoms before long into a passionate love affair. Their bond is tested, though, by the mounting demands of the Antiwar and Black Power Movements, and by their own deep-seated psychological issues.

1968 is marked by campus unrest, urban rebellion, assassinations, and political violence that leads the two into clashes with the Chicago Police and the National Guard. The story builds to a heartrending climax during the street battles surrounding the Democratic National Convention.

This is a complex, fast-paced journey on an emotional roller coaster, punctuated by flashes of self-discovery, and bursting with political and sexual passions. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

I have mixed feelings about this story. The content was interesting; I learnt a few things and felt I was reading through history, but at the same time I didn’t really connect with the characters or their story. I am fully prepared to accept it may have been me so don’t let that deter you, there is no denying the effort and creativity Isaacs has gone to to bring this story to life and pack it with so much history.

Described as a 1960s love story there is a blossoming love but romance isn’t the sole focus of the novel. Steve is a college student who finds love and friendship during a critical time in late 1960s America; the Vietnam War has begun and the civil rights movement is underway. These important moments of history get embroiled with his life and Isaacs tells a story about the life of students and regular Americans who are trying to stop a war no one wanted and survive the tensions between black and white America.

After being fairly oblivious and uninterested in politics and racial conflicts, Steve has his eyes opened when he befriends bookshop owner Emma and fellow student Cat and soon he discovers the world of anti-war protests, boycotts, and the civil rights movement. In doing so you see Steve find his feet and a sense of purpose, he jumps at the chance to become involved.

Steve, Emma, and Cat are the three central characters, detailed and complicated enough which makes them well rounded. Steve is naive but willing to learn, and his eagerness to contribute is admirable. When he meets Emma and Cat you begin to see him grow and become more aware, which in turn affects other aspects of his life and the decisions he makes. Emma is a fiery, strong willed woman who is passionate and willing to fight for what she believes in, she goes out of her way to help people and her generosity and good nature compliments her fierceness really well. Cat is similar in her own way, though her past holds her back and she wavers between fighting for what’s right and holding back. Throughout the story you see the stress of fighting a war affect everyone, especially Steve and Cat, and the strain adds drama to their relationship.

Isaacs mentions at the end that only a very small part of the book is fiction, many names, events, books, and songs mentioned are real and historically accurate, something which helps to bring the late 1960s to life. As you read you recognise key moments in history like protest marches, Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, flowers in rifles, and the fight for civil rights. If you love history then this would probably be a fascinating account of American history to dive into. At almost 500 pages there is a lot of detail and Isaacs paces it accordingly. Things follow at a realistic pace, day by day almost rather than large jumps and in doing so it shows how much actually happened in such a short period of time and the ongoing effort people did behind the scenes before grand demonstrations. This does make it a slow read when nothing seems to happen for a long time, but this  is where the romance and personal relationship elements balance with historical events.

There are a lot of positives about this book, the research is incredible, the detailed exploration of key historical moments, and the subject is interesting, but despite that I found that I couldn’t get into the story. It wasn’t the length, being an ebook I didn’t actually notice it until much later, I just found I wasn’t connecting with the characters or their lives and the writing style was hard to get into. I say this of course contrasted with the fact that it was interesting to read about all the protests and the effort students and people went to show their disapproval of the war, and the campaigns they ran to boycott products. I did enjoy reading about the civil rights, the reactions to King’s speech and the fight for equality. But aside from recognising these moments and learning the details I still couldn’t connect.

There are surprises and a few unexpected moments that add emotion and drama as Isaacs links history with the romance and the fiction, and seeing the everyday person react and interact with history offers great insight away from it being simply a past event. I’m disappointed I didn’t love this book more, but there is no denying that it was an interesting read.

You can purchase Riot via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

Previous Older Entries