Loveless by Alice Oseman

Published: 9th July 2020 (print)/9th July 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Children’s Books /HarperCollins Publishers Limited
Pages: 435/12 hrs and 27 mins
Narrator: Elisabeth Hopper
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★ ★   ★  – 5 Stars

It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I had ever met. What did that mean?

Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.

As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.

But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.

Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?

I ADORE this book. I love so many of Oseman’s works but this one I fell into and didn’t want to climb out of again.

Georgia is a great character, she has friends, lives her life, has great plans for after high school, but she also has a weird feeling she isn’t like other people. I loved how this is explored naturally and how it comes about organically and not in a way where the character is aware of what they’re feeling or experiencing. Georgia’s cluelessness until put in certain situations or asked by people makes this story wonderful because we go on Georgia’s journey with her instead of coming to it after the fact and have her explain it to us.

Oseman does a wonderful job at explaining what asexuality is and what it feels like in a way that feels natural in the narrative and never becomes overbearing for the reader. It is used as a way of explaining things to readers who may not know about it through the characters but there never felt like there was a moment where the story stopped so we could get The Explanation.

The story got better and better as it went along, there’s Shakespeare and love, a houseplant that is so metaphorical it would make every English teacher ecstatic, and there are teenagers at uni feeling feelings and working out who they are and it’s messy and beautiful and full of the power of friendship and it is also full of love.

Elisabeth Hopper does a superb job as narrator, her voice is fantastic for these characters and I love how there’s an instant connection, I was into this story immediately. Another bonus is Hopper is a genius and can pronounce all the wonderful “asdkfjugfk” moments in text speak and the random noises that are made when you excitedly text. I have typed them, I have read them, but I don’t think I’d heard them being pronounced until now and it was great.

I am only new to reading books that are clearly about asexuality and not just briefly implied but this might be my favourite because it’s a solid story on its own but it is also a wonderful narrative that explores discovering who you are, realising there’s nothing wrong with being different, and finding acceptance and a place in the world.

You can purchase Loveless via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Things in the Sea are Touching Me! by Linda Jane Keegan

Published: 1st February 2019
Publisher:
Scholastic
Illustrator: Minky Stapleton
Pages: 30
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

‘Look in the water, Ma!
Golly, oh gee!
Some THING in the sea
is TOUCHING ME!’

You’ll squawk, screech, yelp… and laugh out loud at the surprises for all on this funny-sunny family day at the beach.

When a small child goes to the seaside with her Mum and Ma, she is unprepared for ‘things’ floating in the water. Ma explains what each one is and that it is nothing to be afraid of.

As someone who is not a fan of going in the ocean this book is perfect for me. I will admire the ocean, I will be on top of it, watch things under it, but physically being in it is highly stressful. Enter Keegan and their wonderful book.

Of course this isn’t a story about the stress of the ocean, it’s a fun family day out and the little girl is so keen to jump right in…until something touches her. Her reaction is my reaction. Her fantastic dramatic cries of horror are mine and I adored how Keegan uses this as a hilarious story but also a reassuring, loving, and educational one as well. Stapleton’s illustrations are delightful and the mixture of the beautiful ocean scenes and creatures coincides with the drama from the young girl and her cries of terror.

What was wonderful it took me a long time to realise this had a same sex couple in it. I was so caught up in the story and the drama of the things in the sea that it didn’t register. An honestly that’s how it should be, a non-issue in a book because Mum and Ma are in the story but the story isn’t about them.

The rhyming is fantastic, the repetition is brilliant and I loved the different explanations for all the things in the sea, especially because it’s a lot different than the seas I’m used to going in (when I am forced to go in them at all).

You can purchase Things in the Sea are Touching Me! via the following

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Sword in the Stars (#2) by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Published: 7th April 2020 (print)/ 7th Apr 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Rock the Boat/Bolinda audio
Pages: 355/10 Hours 48 min
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

In this epic sequel to Once & Future, to save the future, Ari and her Rainbow knights pull off a heist…thousands of years in the past.

Ari Helix may have won her battle against the tyrannical Mercer corporation, but the larger war has just begun. Ari and her cursed wizard Merlin must travel back in time to the unenlightened Middle Ages and steal the King Arthur’s Grail—the very definition of impossible.

It’s imperative that the time travellers not skew the timeline and alter the course of history. Coming face-to-face with the original Arthurian legend could produce a ripple effect that changes everything. Somehow Merlin forgot that the past can be even more dangerous than the future…

After the first book I was expecting a lot from this sequel and a lot of answers and it certainly delivers. The old problems and new problems, as well as the world threatening and personal issues all coincide as each character makes their move through history and plays their roles.

Once again the creativity these authors show with creating a whole new, fantastically complex and stunning story but entwined seamlessly into the established Arthurian myth is something to marvel. These rich, flawed characters are in depth and unique and their complicated relationships with one another are never trivialised.

The diversity of the characters are highlighted further as they step into the past and I loved how the characters manage and reflect on their surroundings as a result. There’s conversations, so casual and important at the same time about identity. Coming from the future, even our future, it shows how far their society has come that this is such an everyday thing it isn’t even a big deal. Discussions about pronouns and having to be misgendered in the middle ages with the danger of hiding gender for protection – female and nonbinary knights are a hurdle but one that isn’t brushed over as a minor inconvenience. The characters talk openly about how it feels awful to be misgendered all day and how it wears them down. Capetta and McCarthy use the characters to remind us how whitewashed and male dominated this story has become over the centuries and how the middle ages were a lot more diverse than what has been told, even with the constraints of misogyny and sexism.

One of the things I loved, and it’s something that didn’t need to be included but I am so glad it did, was how the story breaks the fourth wall in a way with wonderful references to how the Arthurian legend has survived. Completely in narrative but the references are real with in jokes about the various versions of the legend told and retold throughout history in TV shows, movies, and other various books and retellings.

There’s so much contained within this story and it all works so well. There’s heart-warming romance, suspense and tension, action and drama all within a story of magic, time travel, space, and capitalism. I would love nothing more than to read more about this world and these characters but I also love that it’s confined to two books because those two books pack a punch I don’t know if I could handle another.

The conclusion is positively amazing. The way it fills in details and gaps, answers questions you didn’t even know were being asked and becomes a fabulous rich and complicated set of circumstances makes it the perfect story. This is the Arthurian retelling I didn’t know I needed but it one I will absolutely cherish.

You can purchase Sword in the Stars via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Book Launch: The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough

Last week I attended the virtual book launch for Gary Lonesborough’s debut YA The Boy from the Mish. The event was hosted by Better Read than Dead bookshop with fellow YA author Will Kostakis as moderator. The interview was fun and friendly and having seen Will interview a range of authors he has a wonderful mix in his interviewing style that makes it both fun and informative.

Hearing about Gary’s story and his journey to becoming an author was interesting. Originally from Bega Gary told us that he went to film school and loves to write and loves to be creative. The Boy from the Mish came about because Gary saw a gap in the market for queer Aboriginal protagonists written by an Aboriginal author. It was a story he began writing when he was 23 but he had been thinking about what would have helped him when he was a teenager. Gary told us that as a teenager he struggled a lot and a lot of his experiences and struggles are in the book through the character of Jackson.

Will mentioned that so often first books are steeped in lived experience and asked Gary how much of himself is in Jackson and what he goes through. Gary replied that roughly 40-50% of himself is in Jackson. All of the things that Jackson felt he’s felt, and things like the experience of being racially profiled more than once, and Jackson’s inner monologue comes from a train of thought but Gary also made clear that everything is still a fictional story and hasn’t happened to Gary exactly.

When discussing the subject of queer identity and its role in both the book and Gary’s life, Will asked how the experience of writing Jackson’s story was, especially the aforementioned struggles. Gary revealed he started writing not long after he came out and it felt incredibly vulnerable writing down the story, sitting by himself at a desk but also with no intention of showing the story to anyone. He also admitted that the experience was also pretty freeing – he had the power to put in scenes that are nice and portray the romantic side and express himself that way, not to mention the excitement to write an Aboriginal character who was gay.

In fact Gary told us that through the entire writing process the love story was the whole focus. Before subplots and side stories and anything else there was the love story. From early drafts when the story was told through Thomas’ perspective, the love story was the continual drive and motivation to finish. Built upon an idea from a short film script Gary wrote about two Aboriginal boys in love the story evolved and one month, a change of narrator, and 65 thousand words later Gary had his first draft.

What was interesting to hear was that US author David Levithan heard of the book and the book is now in the process of being released for US audiences. I will admit when I heard this I was wary, confirmed instantly when Will spoke to Gary about how while the US market is a big deal, they often edit out the “Australianness” of it which takes out a lot of nuance and the voice by changing all the words. The pair spoke about US audiences often love the Australian language and are intrigued by words like ‘ute’ and how some Aussie authors now are putting glossaries in the backs of their books which is a fantastic idea.

Will gave Gary some excellent advice in how to approach being edited for the US while still keeping his text unique and not Americanised which was amazing. I am so glad Aussie authors are getting to push back against changing our stories to suit their audiences. If I have to spend my life never knowing the difference between a sophomore, a junior, and a freshman or have a reference for any of their food then they can learn what a ute is.

Back on the writing process, Will asked what the most challenging part of the process was to which Gary replied adding all the extra things like subplots, but also to stop himself self-editing and allowing himself to write intimate scenes.

When asked about his own reading influencing the writing Gary admitted he has a love/hate relationship with reading and has always come in and out of it. But The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian drew him back in when he was 17 or 18 and after reading it he thought he could write his own story about Aboriginal kids growing up.

Being a zoom event the audience questions were scattered throughout and people asked general questions about the writing and editing process, but there were some great ones from people like fellow YA author Holden Sheppard who asked Gary about considerations made when writing regarding harder topics and subjects. Gary said it was absolutely something he considered when he was writing. He wanted to approach the sexual scenes with feeling rather than making them graphic. He treaded carefully with drafting and worried about the sexual scenes, but not much was edited in the revision, it was mainly the amount of smoking scenes that were cut down.

Will asked Gary about whether he had a second book and Gary revealed he had a manuscript underway, and even has a few more stories up his sleeve. Since Gary wrote to fill a gap, Will asked him whether he was worried he would be pigeonholed. Gary admitted he was worried but that there was a lot more ground to be explored. Will added that being pigeonholed is not always a bad thing because readers love it as do publishers.

Gary admitted trying to write the second book is hard because he’s not writing something as good as The Boy from the Mish but that he needs to get through the doubt. Will advised Gary that as queer writers they write from the margins anyway and not to listen to what reviewers say on Goodreads or the people on the back of the book because it’s not important. The idea is to compare first drafts to first drafts, not first drafts to finished copies, it’s instincts that created the first book.

After an absolutely rewarding hour the interview wrapped up with a crucial question left till last – what was Gary’s favourite Kylie Minogue song (a question with several wrong answers according to Will) but Gary seemed to pass with his answer of the album edit Disco Needs You.

You can purchase The Boy from the Mish via the following

Better Read Than Dead | QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Once & Future (#1) by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Published: 26th March 2019 (print)/29th August 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company/Bolinda Publishing
Pages: 336/10 hrs and 54 mins
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

First and foremost this story is phenomenal! It’s the King Arthur legend, set in the future, set in space, with a female Arthur and a fabulous, beautifully constructed time loop of curses and legends and a beautiful cast of diverse characters that you will fall in love with.

The world building is definitely something to love – the world that’s been created is incredibly clever and diverse, not only in the planets and their various structures but in the community and the characters as well. Honestly the detail throughout is a constant delight every time something else pops up and the way the original characters and established mythology is woven into this entirely new story is brilliant. It is the myth we all know but it also has a new story unfolding too which was amazing to read about.

The reimagining of Arthur and his legend is incredible; the fact that it feels like a completely new story but also a well told one at the same time is a credit to the imagination and writing skill of these authors. There’s intricate, complicated magic and age old magic being used alongside new players and it’s in these overlaps that you see the remnants of the old stories come through and the mythology stand out in this new construction.

The characters are such a huge part of the magic of this story as well. Ari and her brother, their sibling dynamics as well as their bond over being fugitives is a solid connection. I loved the other bonds between characters and how even with Merlin as the newcomer he fits into this established group really well. There’s a beautifully fluid introduction of the characters and their relationships to Ari are well understood, often with their own backstories seamlessly included. The dialogue and casual conversations never felt clunky or forced, this is a huge benefit of setting the story in the future, it normalises conversations and makes debatable things in the present day feel like outdated issues. There was no need for explanations, things just were and it is well understood.

There is so much I could gush about in regards to this story. Truly from start to finish I was captivated; I was in awe, and I was blown away by how beautiful and smart and funny this entire book was. Even the conclusion was perfect. This is only book one in a duology but the way details and gaps in the story are filled and how answers are given for questions you didn’t even know were being asked is astounding, and the absolute majesty of how it becomes a fabulously rich and complicated set of circumstances makes it a perfect story and one I could reread until the end of time.

You can purchase Once & Future via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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