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Stone Girl

Stone GirlStone Girl by Eleni Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not for the faint-hearted, Stone Girl is an uncompromising look at what life was/is/can be like for wards of the state, at how a bureaucracy of ‘safety’ creates a state of loneliness and despair, of rudderless-ness, of deep, deep self-loathing. Of misunderstanding. On all sides.
This books is one of those for which there will be cries of ‘not in our school’, of ‘not on our shelves’, of ‘we don’t want our kids knowing about drugs/ sex/ death/ fear/ despair’. But how will they know it when they see it? How will the safe kids in schools be able to resist the pull of the forbidden if they have no understanding of the cost? Would you rather them read about it, or do it for real?
Heart-breaking. Hopeful. Worth reading.

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Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holy moley! Bray turns up the fear-factor in this second instalment of The Diviners series. This is the sort of writing that makes you yell out loud to the characters – “Run! For f@&%s sake, Run!” Genuinely scary and suspenseful, and beautifully read by January LaVoy. She has a great range of voices across all characters – especially the really nasty, scary ones!
Can recommend the audio version as a great listen.

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Exchange of Heart

Exchange of HeartExchange of Heart by Darren Groth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Munro is on exchange to Australia from Canada. We are privy to his history, but he is choosing to keep the death of his sister on the lowdown. But huge secrets like this one are hard to keep quiet – especially with the Coyote yapping away in Munro’s ears.

Exchange of Heart (Munro v the Coyote in the northern hemisphere) successfully explores a range of issues. Grief, guilt, difability (not a typo), friendship, trust, and love. The story is simple – boy leaves home to try to escape his past – but Groth handles Munro’s situation with compassionate aplomb. He affectionately and accurately explores the ‘Australian-ness’ of our country: our language, our obsessions and our idiosyncrasies, whilst also giving Munro a Canadian-ness of his own. Each character has a part to play, and the diversity of the cast never feels tokenistic or forced.

Exchange of Heart is a fantastic upper-middle grade novel. Nothing ever feels too over-the-top, and the depth of the subject matter is pitched just right. Recommended.

PS. Long read-time is due to only reading EoH during my lunch breaks – and not even every day!

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Welcome to Hell

Library Monitor’s excellent review of Welcome to Orphancorp.

Worth Reading? Worth Sharing!

Welcome to OrphancorpWelcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is one I had been wanting to read for some time and I was not disappointed. Ward’s depiction of a world where children are a commodity to be bought, sold and treated as merchandise is chilling and brilliantly realised. Mirii is a damaged and defiant protagonist. Having survived as a child of the industrial, government-sanctioned orphanage, Mirii is weeks off turning 18: the age where she will be released into the outside world to fend for herself. Within Orphancorp Mirii has used her time to educate herself (as much as the system will allow her to – an ignorant slave is easier to control than an educated one), and to refine her tattooing skills so she has something to keep her alive when the time comes. When Mirii meets Vu, and finds herself in a…

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Welcome to Orphancorp

Welcome To OrphancorpWelcome To Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an extraordinary novella. Set in a not-too-distant future, the story is visceral, frightening, and all too realistic.
Mirii is a survivor, a young woman on the edge of adulthood and ‘freedom’. But how free are you, really, when your whole life has been one of institutionalisation and brutal control? Orphancorp has a ready supply of orphan children at their disposal. Ostensibly a place of caring, Orphancorp is actually state-sanctioned slavery, where only the strongest and smartest have any chance of getting out ‘alive’. The system is rigging against any of the orphans actually having a better life on the outside. Undereducated and the under the boot, most children are submissive and compliant.
But not Mirii, and not Vu, a fellow orphan around about the same age. Mirii and Vu form an attachment, of sorts, a desperate and necessarily furtive meeting of mind and body which might compromise all of Mirii’s plans for the future.
My only minor gripe is that the novella format didn’t allow for a satisfactory resolution to Mirii’s story. Thankfully,
is now published. Can’t wait to read it.

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Take Three Girls

Take Three GirlsTake Three Girls by Cath Crowley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

St. Hilda’s Grammar School. Hotbed of teenage girl angst. Ady, Clem and Kate have nothing in common other than the school they attend.

At first it’s hard to distinguish the individual voices of the characters. The tone and language used for each girl is so similar that they don’t appear to have any differences, but there are enough hooks thrown out to keep you reading. Intriguing, was what I posted to the feed.

However, the further I read, the more I learned about each girl, and they began to un-homogenise. Ady, Kate and Clem are reluctantly grouped together through a random school exercise. And as they learn about each other, so do we. We begin to care. We begin to care a lot.

As I read, I was thrown back to being a teenager. On the cusp of adulthood, but without the life experience to make smart choices. To invest everything in another, only to be kicked to the curb. To be oblivious to the snide remarks while they are being made, later mortified in the realisation, and hot with shame at the implications and injustice of it all. With no voice to protest, to tell the truth, to set the story straight.

I found myself wishing that I had read this book back then. Perhaps I would have made some better choices. Perhaps it might not have taken so long to like myself for who I am, to be able to stand tall in my needy nerdiness, to stand with others in their own quirky, interesting world.


Or not.

Teenagers are weird. I remember it well. Sometimes, if everything aligns in the right way, you can embrace the weirdness. Maybe not every day. But most days. In their author bio, Cath, Simmone and Fiona are described as being ‘in touch with their respective inner teenagers’. That they are, dear readers, that they are.

Read Take Three Girls. You won’t regret it. And you may also recognise yourself along the way.

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All The Crooked Saints

All the Crooked SaintsAll the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, I don’t know what I was I expecting, but it wasn’t this. And yet, when I was given it, I loved it! Beatriz and Pete and Joachin and Daniel, and the Pilgrims, and the Soria’s, and the history, and mystery, and mysticism, and the feels! Everyone is looking for a miracle from the Saint of Bicho Raro, but you can’t always get what you want. Sometimes, you get what you need.

Audiobook review:
An audiobook experience is often different to reading a book yourself – usually in a good way. It takes longer to listen to someone else read than to ‘inhale’ the book under your own steam. I find that I spend longer with the characters in my head. And the narrator usually brings a deeper dimension to the reading – an accent, an interpretation, depth.

So it is with All the Crooked Saints. Thom Riviera takes Maggie’s words and expands them, illuminates them, broadens them. As an Australian reader, it’s unlikely that I would have read the narrator’s voice in anything other than Strayun, so it was a welcome experience to hear a Latino accent coming out of the speakers, and be instantly immersed from the very first words in a culture that is largely unknown to me. Stiefvater’s characterisation is always top-notch, and the diverse range of personalities and stories is woven together intricately and carefully, creating a story that is both unusual and universal, and the 20th century setting adds both nostalgia and a feeling of currency, as if it wouldn’t not be a huge leap for this to be occurring right now in the Colorado desert.

A Stiefvater book is always a beautiful and delightful learning experience for me. She is thorough, and knows just how much to put in, and what to leave out. Tight, emotional, and compelling. Loved it.

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