“But she knew better than to trust the false hope of the holidays.” // Review of “A Wild Winter Swan” by Gregory Maguire

Title: A Wild Winter Swan
Author: Gregory Maguire
Genre: Historical fiction/magical realism
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 28/12/20 – 04/01/21
Rating: ★★☆

Review:

This was supposed to be a December book club book, but life got in the way in December and January and we never ended up meeting to discuss it.

I was interested to see if I liked this book. I tried to read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by the same author, around the time I discovered the musical based on it. I was not a fan. I wondered if perhaps not having prior knowledge of the tale being retold would help me be more into this story. I’d never heard of Andersen’s The Wild Swans before.

Alas, this one didn’t really do it for me, either. Partially, I think it was a case of mistaken expectations. I expect a certain amount of lightness or whimsy in fairy tale retellings, and that’s increased when it’s set around Christmas.

But this is grittier, set firmly in the real life of a poor family in the 1960s, and mostly things are not great for any of the characters. It is told in a kind of detached style that I could never get into. It examines issues of class and privilege, which are worthy issues, but at the end of the day, I didn’t really see what Maguire was trying to say. I didn’t get it, and maybe that’s on me, not the book.


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“An invisible hand squeezes my heart for the nameless women history brushed aside.” // Review of “Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know” by Samira Ahmed

Title: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
Author: Samira Ahmed
Genre: Contemporary/mystery/historical
Intended audience: YA
Dates Read: 09/01/2021 – 1/01/21
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Who doesn’t want to read a book bringing to life the story of a woman history forgot in favour of the men around her? Or at least, presenting a fictional possibility of such a woman. I certainly do!

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know presents dual stories of Khayyam, a modern-day budding art historian, and Leyla, who might be the inspiration for heroine of the famous Byron poem, The Giaour.

I admit I found the historical parts more interesting than the modern-day parts. Leyla’s story is incredibly sad, but also a story about a woman making her own way against all odds.

Khayyam spends quite a lot of time mooning over boys. Having said that, part of that is integral to her overall arc of finding her voice and her identity as a French-American, Indian-American and Muslim-American young woman, and the scene where she finally put herself first was awesome.

For most of the book, I felt it was a 3-star read. I wasn’t overly invested and was reading more to find out the mystery than because I was rooting for the characters. But the ending was very powerful, to the point I even got a little teary, and for that, I bumped it up to four.


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January 2021 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

January has been a bit slow for reading and even slower for reviewing. I never really felt settled into a new 2021 routine before I took a week’s holiday to go visit my parents. I feel like I’m finding my groove now but I do think it’s a bit rude that my GoodReads challenge is already saying I’m two books beh

So without further ado:

PAST MONTH’S READING:

  1. A Wild Winter Song by Gregory Maguire (magical realism/historical fantasy – 3 stars – not intending to review)

  2. The Rising Rooks by Celine Jeanjean (fantasy/steampunk – 5 stars – review)

  3. Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed (YA contemporary/historical – 4 stars – review forthcoming

  4. Hard Time by Jodi Taylor (YA sci-fi- 3 stars – review forthcoming)

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. How I nearly completed a readathon for once in 2020 – #AusReads and #Musicalathon Wrap-up
  2. December Library Haul – What I’ll be reading over the holidays

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

This was the library haul I ended up with very early on in the year. Usually I have a decent amount of self-restraint when I go to the library but it failed me a few times in a row .

You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: I have returned to Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis. I am really enjoying this, but I can understand why some people would find it slow or tedious.

Ebook: Nothing at the moment.

Audio book: While in theory I have an audio book in progress, it’s very much on hold at the moment as I really haven’t been in the mood for audio books.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I think next will be Everless and Evermore by Sara Holland. I gave Everless five stars when I read it as an ARC a few years ago, but I never got around to reading the sequel. So I may just skim Everless and then dive into Evermore properly. Or I might get totally sucked in. I can’t remember much so I probably will. Hopefully I enjoy it just as much the second time around!

What are you reading? 🙂

Book Review: “The Rising Rooks” by Celine Jeanjean

Title: The Rising Rooks (The Viper and the Urchin #9)
Author: Celine Jeanjean
Genre: Steampunk/fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 04/01/2021 – 07/01/21
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

risingrookscover

I can’t believe this is the last book in the Viper and the Urchin series! What a journey it has been.

This is a fitting finale for this series. There’s action and high stakes as our ragtag favourites attempt to take back Damsport from invaders. The action begins straight away, with a sabotage attempt failing due to the characteristic grudges of the Rookery folks preventing them from working together.

A lot of strands from previous books are brought back and tied up. We get to find out a little more about Rory’s origins, and old foes with questionable loyalties reappear.

Some things did seem to get tied up a little too quickly at the end, but I was left with a smile on my face, sad to say goodbye to my favourite characters but knowing that there’s so much more possibility for them (and maybe a new series?) on the horizon.

I truly recommend the whole Viper and the Urchin series if you enjoy light-hearted fantasy/steampunk. There’s such a great cast of characters, banter, adventure, all tied up in fantastic, well-written stories.


Thank you to Celine Jeanjean for a gratis copy of The Rising Rooks in exchange for a review.

You can read my reviews of The Bloodless Assassin (book 1),  The Black Orchid (book 2), The Slave City (book 3), The Doll Maker (book 4), The White Hornet (book 5), The Shadow Palace (book 6), The Opium Smuggler (book 7) and The Veiled War (book 8) by clicking their titles.

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December 2020 Reading Wrap-up

An emoji of two books next to each other, with the text "Monthly Reading Wrap-up"

December was not only a good reading month, but I managed to get back into reviewing regularly! Apparently having an accountability thread on Twitter can work wonders! I’ve still got two books to review, but those will be coming in the next few days. So without further ado:

PAST MONTH’S READING:

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles, Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle, The Binding by Bridget Collins
  1. The Binding by Bridget Collins (fantasy – 4 stars – review)

  2. Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle (comic – 5 stars – not intending to review)

  3. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (YA contemporary – 3 stars – review

  4. Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle (comic – 5 stars – not intending to review)

  5. Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles (YA fantasy – 4 stars – review

  6. The Iron Line by L. M. Merrington (historical fiction – 3.5 stars – review

  7. A Very Krampy Christmas (Gretchens [Mis]Adventures #8) by P. A. Mason (fantasy/humour – 4 stars – review

  8. She’s Having a Laugh, edited by George McInroe (creative non-fiction – 3 stars – review

  9. Universal Love: Stories by Alexander Weinstein (short stories/sci-fi – 4 stars – review forthcoming

  10. A Whole New World by Liz Braswell (fantasy/fairytale retelling – 3 stars – review forthcoming

A Whole New World by Liz Braswell, Universal Love: Stories by Alexander Weinstein, She’s Having A Laugh, edited George McInroe, A Very Krampy Christmas by P. A. Mason, The Iron Line by L. M. Merrington

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. How I nearly completed a readathon for once in 2020 – #AusReads and #Musicalathon Wrap-up
  2. December Library Haul – What I’ll be reading over the holidays

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

Whoops, I didn’t post a single bookish photo throughout December. (In my defence, I spent the month feeling exhausted). Here’s one I just posted yesterday, an aesthetic for my circus fantasy, Facing the Music, which I’m hoping to finish writing this year.

a 3-by-3 grid with nine images. The images are as follows: 

top-left: a man in a red shirt tosses a hat in the air. 
top-centre: a couple kiss in the sunshine - in sillhouette
top-right: a woman plays the violin surrounded by golden magical swirls
middle-left: a long-distance shot of a circus ring with cast members parading around with lots of coloured lights. 
centre: a roll of tickets saying "Admit one" .
middle-right: a ticket booth with a circus tent in the background
bottom-left: a woman in a pink leotard hangs upsidedown from a trapeze. 
bottom-centre: four acrobats stacked in a pyramid. They are mostly doubled over backwards, but the person on top     is doing a handstand and has their legs in the splits. 
bottom-right: a woman twirling flaming torches. She is also on fire, but she is smiling. It's a bit magical.

You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

The cover of "A Wild Winter Swan" by Gregory Maguire. The background is grey paintstrokes. The title and author's name are at the top, above a hand holding a snow globe that depicts the New York City skyline.

Physical book: A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire. I’m reading this for the Swell Publications book club, but I have to be honest, I’m not really into it. It’s a bit too literary/magical realism for my tastes.

The cover of "The Rising Rooks" by Celine Jeanjean. An armoured, mechanical hand sticks out of a hole surrounded by cogs and clockwork on a blue background.

Ebook: The Rising Rooks by Celine Jeanjean. This is the last book in the Viper and the Urchin series and I can’t believe it’s coming to an end. This is an ARC and the book comes out on January 9, so I geuss I’d better get a wriggle on!

The cover of "Hench" by Natalie Zina Walshots. The title is in mint green all caps. A red sillhouette stands near a wall at the back of the image. Her shadow is taller than her and also wears a cape.

Audio book: Hench by Natalie Zina Walshots. This is a really interesting deconstruction of the superhero genre. While superheroes aren’t generally my cup of tea, this one was highly recommended by Seanan McGuire and so far I am liking it.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

The cover of "Plain Bad Heroines" by Emily M. Danforth. The title is white on a black background, the first two words in a plain font, the word "heroines" in a more gothic font. Around the edge are red line drawings of various flowers. It looks ominous.

I have a huge pile of library books all due back on January 16, so it’ll need to be one of those. I’m not 100% sure which yet, though Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth is fairly high up on the list.

What are you reading? 🙂

Top Books of 2020

At the time of writing this post, I have read 72 books this year. I might just make it to 73 if I knuckle down on my current read.

Throughout the year, I’ve been keeping a list of my favourite book each month and now that we’ve reached the end, it’s time to share those! Here goes!

JANUARY:

The cover of Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith. Each word of the title is a speech bubble, like it's a text message screen. There is a teenage girl with headphones on one side, and a boy looking his phone on the other.

Don’t Read The Comments by Eric Smith. Diversity! Kick-ass ladies! A sensitive depiction of the aftermath of sexual assault. Non-toxic masculinity. A realistic depiction of online streaming, particularly as a woman, and the trolling one receives. The cutest online romance you will ever read. I didn’t expect this book to keep me up late at night… but it absolutely did.

FEBRUARY:

The covers of The Thornthwaite Inheritance and The Thornthwaite Betrayal by Gareth P. Jones. In the first, a boy saws off the bottom of a ladder that a girl is sitting at the top of. Meanwhile the girl is about to cut a rope attached to a large rock hanging over the boys head. In the second, the boy and girl are seated at a table. There is a cake between them with dynmamite sticking out the top. There are knives everywhere and a chandelier looks like it is about to fall on them.

The Thornthwaite Inheritance and The Thornthwaite Betrayal by Gareth P. Jones. I’m a little bit biased on this one, as I was reading these books in preparation for auditioning for a musical based on the first one (and read it again after being cast). Book two came at just the right time. I’d had a rough week at work and I read it in one sitting on a Friday night. These books are a weird Addams Family/Series of Unfortunate Events mishmash and I loved every moment.

MARCH:

I was in a massive reading slump for the whole of March and only finished one book, which I didn’t like, so let’s not even talk about March.

APRIL:

The cover of Peta Lyre's Rating Normal by Anna Whateley. It shows a teenage girl against a snowy backdrop, rendered mostly in blue and white. Her ski mask has a rainbow across it.

Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley. I wanted to hug this book. Such a wonderful, honest, authentic depiction of someone living with ASD/ADHD/SPD, and all the messiness that comes with falling in love for the first time.

MAY:

The cover of Greythorne by L. M. Merrington. The cover is in very dark tones, with large ominious house. The moon shines on it, but there are clouds all around.

And this isn’t just because I know the author! I really enjoyed the Gothic atmosphere and claustrophobic, isolated setting that L. M. Merrington created in Greythorne. She played with the Mad Scientist trope really well. For a while, it seemed to be going straight down a Frankenstein route and I was little skeptical, but there was a unexpected twist on that aspect that I really enjoyed.

JUNE:

The cover of Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer.

I’ll admit there’s a lot of nostalgia involved with me choosing Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer for this month. I first read it back in 2001/2002 when it was originally released, and followed the series until the end. It was such a trip to revisit this world, even if some of it does feel a bit dated now (Wow, Artemis bought a camera over the Internet!). I re-read this in preparation for the movie finally releasing, and… I would have to say it’s one of the worst book-to-movie adaptations I’ve ever watched. I was so disappointed. I’d been waiting 18 years!

JULY:

Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. This was a reread and my first time reading in print a book I’d already listened to on audio. I enjoyed it so much better in this format! I hadn’t realised until I looked at the print book how much of the text is written in poetry form – that didn’t come through for me in the audio version. There are so many themes of storytelling in the book and how the words are presented really helped to solidify those themes.

AUGUST:

None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney. I was so excited to win a copy of this! Ellie is my favourite Australian YA author and so I was really looking forward to her new release. I’m also a fan of serial killer fiction in general. Ellie did not disappoint. This was a rocking good read.

SEPTEMBER:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This was a re-read for Swell Publications Book Club and while I still have some issues with certain aspects of the story, I do love the setting and the imagery and writing is beautiful.

OCTOBER:

Where to even start with It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian. This was not only my favourite book for October, I’d say it was probably my favourite book of the year. I nearly read it in one sitting. It was affirming and inspiring and I want to go on my own Pleasure Quest. I’m trying to be like Noni and follow my own desires rather than looking after other people at the expense of myself.

NOVEMBER:

A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson. This wasn’t anything too deep but it was one of those books that I picked up exactly the right time and it really hit the spot. It was a fun mystery with enjoyable characters and a fun setting.

DECEMBER:

Universal Love – Stories by Alexander Weinstein. This was a collection of thought-provoking short stories examining the ways that technology may affect our relationships and how we love one another going into the future. I’m trying to read more short stories and I feel like this collection is kind of what I would like to emulate in my own short story writing.

Honestly, I read a lot of good books this year, and you can see them all on my 2020 GoodReads reading challenge page here. Some months, the stand-out was obvious but other months it was really hard to pick just one!

Let me know your favourite 2020 reads!

November 2020 Reading Wrap-up

November was a much better reading month than the past couple, I’m glad to say.

SEPTEMBER READING:

Cosi by Louis Nowra, Ripper by Angela Slatter, Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque, Breaking the Surface by RebeccaLangham, Who Could That Be At This Hour? by Lemony Snicket
  1. Cosi by Louis Nowra (play script – 3 stars – not intending to review)

  2. Ripper by Angela Slatter (historical fantasy – 4 stars – review)

  3. Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque (non-fiction – 5 stars – not intending to review)

  4. Breaking the Surface (Outsiders Project #2) by Rebecca Langham (sci-fi/LGBTI – 4 stars – review)

  5. Who Could That Be At This Hour? (All the Wrong Questions #1) by Lemony Snicket (MG humour – 3 stars – not intending to review)

  6. A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson (YA contemporary/mystery- 4 stars – review)

  7. Doing Time (Time Police #1) by Jodi Taylor (YA sci-fi – 3 stars – not intending to review)

  8. The Lefthanded Booksellers of London (YA historical fantasy – 2 stars – not intending to review)

A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson, Doing Time by Jodi Taylor, The Left-handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. #AusReads #Musicalathon November TBR

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

The book “The Binding” by Bridget Collins sits on a wooden table at an angle. There is a latte in a tall glass next to it. .

You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: The Binding by Bridget Collins. I’m reading this for one of my book clubs. It’s a slow burn, definitely. And there are a few world-building things that are bothering me. But other than that, I’m enjoying it.

Ebook: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m going to see this through. The worldbuilding is incredibly flimsy and the main character is kind of awful… but some reviewers and friends whose bookish opinions I respect a lot say it is surprisingly touching and fun, so I’m trying to give it a chance.

Audio book: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles. This was one of my most anticipated 2020 releases and so far it’s living up to expectations. Steve West is also one of the narrators and I loved his performances of the Strange the Dreamer books; it’s really great to be hearing his voice again.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

I’m really looking forward to Hollowpox (Nevermoor #3) by Jessica Townsend! Even if the Hollowpox is a mysterious illness affecting Wunimals. I wonder if that aspect of the plot was part of the reason for delaying the original early-2020 release. Anyway, I need to read three more books to complete my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge and this is definitely high on the list.

What are you reading? 🙂

#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “A Pocketful of Eyes” by Lili Wilkinson

Title: A Pocketful of Eyes
Author: Lili Wilkinson
Genre: Mystery/contemporary 
Audience: YA
Date Read: 15/11/2020
Rating: 
★★★★

Review:

I read this book over the course of one afternoon. I had to suspend my disbelief quite often, but gosh darn it, it was fun!

Bee has a summer job working for a taxidermist called Gus, and she’s enjoying the routine they’ve built up. Then suddenly a new guy called Toby is also in the office. And Gus is behaving strangely, just before he winds up dead. The police rule it a suicide, but Bee isn’t so sure. Drawing on her lifelong obsession with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, Bee is determined to solve the mystery of who killed her mentor.

I had to wonder whether Bee was supposed to autistic, or perhaps ADHD. She definitely displayed traits of both, though it is never mentioned on the page. I’ve seen this before where authors give themselves an out in case they get it ‘wrong’ – “what, no, I didn’t write them as autistic! I never mentioned anything about that!” Perhaps it’s just that Bee is very observant and logical and just likes routine, and gets very focused on things to the point of basically ignoring all else. But I did have to wonder.

I really enjoyed lots of the details of taxidermy and that it included a lot of details about the behind-the-scenes of a museum. I work in the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) sector, so a lot of it was stuff I already knew, but I liked that it was included. There were a few times where I picked up on things that probably weren’t quite right, but most readers aren’t going to notice that.

The mystery was a bit convoluted but it actually all makes a lot of sense. I probably didn’t pick up on all the clues at the time, but they were all there. It does rely on the police being a bit useless at their job in order for the teenagers to come in with the big reveal at the end (was there no autopsy?), but look, it’s a YA mystery. Just roll with it.

I enjoyed the romance aspect as well. Toby is such a nerd! (Though I sometimes wondered if he was a nerd so that Lili Wilkinson had an excuse to just dump random animal mating facts into the dialogue – there didn’t seem a whole lot of point to it happening so often). There were times when I was like “Guys, you have each other’s numbers, why are you not just picking up the phone!” I appreciated that Toby cooled off when Bee came out and accused him of murder [would have been weird if he’d been so in love with her to not do that!], but that it all worked out.

I recommend this one when you need something light and fun, with an unusual setting and quirky characters. Spend your Sunday afternoon on it!


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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September/October 2020 Reading Wrap-up

It’s another “monthly” wrap-up covering two months, as I didn’t really read enough during September to warrant the effort of writing a post. October improved, even as I was madly scrabbling to finish my last book to make it count for this month.

SEPTEMBER READING:

  1. Sleep No More by Ellie Marney (YA crime – 4 stars – review) (read August, reviewed September)

  2. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (gothic horror – 3 stars – review) (read August, reviewed September)

  3. The Blood Countess (Pandora English #1) by Tara Moss (YA urban fantasy – 3 stars – review)

  4. Holiday Brew (Belladonna U #2) by Tansy Rayner Roberts (urban fantasy – 4 stars – review)

  5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (historical fantasy – 4 stars – re-read, no review)

OCTOBER READING:

  1. People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield (historical fiction – 4 stars – review)

  2. Veiled War by Celine Jeanjean (steampunk fantasy – 5 stars – review)

  3. Future Girl by Asphyxia (YA contemporary/sci-fi – 5 stars – review)

  4. It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian (contemporary romance/comedy – 5 stars – review)

  5. Lovely War by Julie Berry (historical/magical realism – 4 stars – not intending to review)

  6. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (MG horror- 2 stars – not intending to review)

BOOKTUBE:

I have a YouTube channel where I promote Australian books using the hashtag #AusReads, and also indulge my compulsion for signing up to readathons. Here are the latest videos:

  1. August 2020 Trope-ical Readathon Wrap-up
  2. How I Failed at #AusReadsSept
  3. #AusReads Mid-month Update

FAVOURITE BOOKISH PHOTO:

I didn’t post any bookish photos in September, so have a couple from October:

The book “Future Girl” by Asphyxia being held up in front of a sign that says “Paperchain Manuka”. The photo was taken for Love Your Bookshop Day on October 03.
The book “Lovely War” by Julie Berry sitting on a wooden table, with a bunch of white flowers next to it.

You can see all my bookish photos (plus some RL as well) on my Instagram.

CURRENTLY READING:

Physical book: Harlequin’s Riddle by Rachel Nightingale. I have to admit this hasn’t really grabbed me, but I’m about two thirds of the way through and I plan to finish it.

Ebook: Nothing on the go at the moment.

Audio book: Doing Time by Jodi Taylor… i have to admit I’m less than an hour in and I already have a few issues with the writing style, but I’m giving it a bit more of a chance before I write it off.

PLANNING TO READ NEXT:

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta has been on my monthly TBRs for a while now but this is the month it definitely gets read! Promise!

What are you reading? 🙂

#LoveOzYA #AWW2020 Book Review: “Future Girl” by Asphyxia

Title: Future Girl
Author: Asphyxia
Genre: Scifi/dystopia/contemporary 
Audience: YA
Date Read: 10/10/2020– 14/10/2020
Rating: 
★★★★★

Review:

This book is unlike anything I’ve read before. It snuck up on me a bit. At first I was finding it a bit slow and then I reached a point where I couldn’t put it down.

Future Girl is set in a near-future Melbourne and there’s the temptation to call it a dystopia, but it’s not really that. Well, maybe kind of. It’s not like your usual YA Dystopia where the oppressive regime is really obvious about it and you don’t understand why the revolution hasn’t happened earlier.

It’s the more insidious oppression, where the government is doing some good stuff, which makes the population a little less inclined to question the iffy stuff. And that aspect is done really well. In fact, I suspect a lot of the population in the book had no idea the dodgy stuff was going on.

This is an Own Voices book. Asphyxia is a Deaf author/artist/activist and so is the MC, Piper. Piper has grown up wearing hearing aids and lip-reading, and it’s not until she meets Marley, a CODA (child of a Deaf adult), that she begins to learn Auslan. I loved seeing her enthusiasm for her new language, and the scenes where she interacts with Robbie, Marley’s Deaf mother, were wonderful. The descriptions are amazing! I tried doing some of the signs based on the written descriptions and I am sure I did a miserable job, but I am planning on spending some time on Asphyxia’s website watching her introductory Auslan videos.

I was actually surprised to discover I still remembered how to fingerspell the entire alphabet in Auslan, after learning in primary school. It wasn’t taught in class, and I can’t even remember how we ended up learning it, but we did, and… maybe that should be an official thing in primary schools? Just maybe?

It also reminded me of being a kid in the 90s and trying to replicate the signing described in the Baby-sitter’s Club books when Jessie was sitting a Deaf kid and learning ASL. Which makes you realise how few Deaf characters there are in books for kids and YA, since the only other book I can think of where characters use sign language is Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep, which I read earlier this year.

The book is also a bit of introduction to activism for those who might be interested in it. We follow Piper as she becomes aware of issues around her, and starts trying to find a way she can advocate for her beliefs. We’re there when things go wrong and when she has the courage to really stand up for herself.

The idea of the book is that you are reading Piper’s art journal, and it is absolutely beautiful! Every page is illustrated in some way, even if it’s just a border made to look like washi tape around the edges. There are also artworks that Piper talks about drawing, which you often actually see a couple of pages before the entry where she writes about drawing it.

One of my favourite aspects of the format was that as I was reading, I noticed many times the word “deaf” had a capital D over it in red. It’s not until the last third of the book where Marley explains to Piper the difference between dead and Deaf, and she describes going through the journal and making the corrections.

You won’t find another book quite like this one and I definitely recommend picking this up.


This review is part of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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