Tonight, over on the #AusYaBloggers group site, I chat with the lovely Star Robinson about things we noticed during Pride month, the importance of W/W in Queer books and being able to see yourself in characters. We also give some W|W reading recommendations. You should definitely go check it out HERE.
This fantastic #AusYABloggers and #macmillanaus tour that I’m taking part in is to celebrate the release of Rogue the second book in the Hive duology by A.J.Betts, but I read the books back to back. I finished the last page of Hive, made a fresh cup of tea and started reading Rogue, so for me it was one 618-page epic dystopian Australian story. I loved it.
Any of you #LoveOZYA aficionados out there, any of you dooms day and dystopian lovers out there, to you I say; if you haven’t already read Hive, get on it. I recommended you buy/borrow them both and read them back to back as I did.
Rogue (Hive #2) by A.J. Betts
Genre: Dystopian #LoveOzYa
Publication: June 25th 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy provided as part of the tour – Thank you
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There was no going back; there was no choice, anymore. I’d chosen out and this was it: hot-cold, dry-wet, bright-dark and lonely.
Hayley has gone rogue.
She’s left everything she’s ever known – her friends, her bees, her whole world – all because her curiosity was too big to fit within the walls of the underwater home she was forced to flee.
But what is this new world she’s come to? Has Hayley finally found somewhere she can belong?
Or will she have to keep running?
I think you could read Rogue as a standalone, but you’d be going in without already having established a connection with the POV character Hayley and you’d be depriving yourself of Hive.
Now for those you that have read Hive. Any questions left from Hive are answered in Rogue and it all ends well for Hayley. There are some super tense times in between and the journey is one you will be immersed in.
I am now going to attempt to sum up the duology without spoilers.
We meet Hayley living what could be described as a cultish life with a few hundred other people in a Beehive like home. A Dystopian world, without any real grasp of when or where they are existing, but they all have this extreme belief in “god”, that causes the inhabitants to never question the world in which they live. Except for Hayley. Hayley always asks questions. Along the course of the first book Hayley makes some new friends/allies who open her mind – this puts her danger… etc etc. Que dramatic ending that makes you need to move onto to Rogue straight way.
ROGUE: Their life. Their world. Their people’s history a fabricated hive of lies.
Hayley is out. Free from the Hive, but not from danger.
Hayley meets new people as she explores this whole other part to the world that she never knew existed. Some people are kind and take her in and help her, not all of them are what they seem, and some are only out to use her for their own gain.
In this book we find out when and where it is; the year 2119, Australia. A hundred years into a terrifyingly possible feeling future.
Up above the water religion has long been outlawed. And there are all sorts of rules about where people can and can’t go. Many species are extinct, including bees and cows.
We find out all about the underwater Vault that Hayley had thought was the whole world, which is located off Australia, down past Tassie, further out and very deep down. With find out why the first people hid down there, what happened to the ones that didn’t and why the one’s that did never came back up.
There are warnings and parallels to our lives now running through Rogue and I think that makes it feel all the more real when you are reading it.
But that’s okay because the ending makes you smile and your heart hum.
Devil’s Ballast by Meg Caddy
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publication: May 7th, 2019
Publisher: Text Publishing
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
– Thanks Text 🖤
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ANNE Bonny was eighteen when she ran away from her
violent husband, James, into the arms of pirate captain
Calico Jack Rackham. Now she’s ensconced aboard Jack’s
ship Ranger, passing as a cabin boy, and playing her
ruthless part in a crew that is raining down mayhem and
murder on the ships of the Caribbean.
But James Bonny is willing to pay to get his ‘property’
back. And pirate-hunter Captain Barnet is happy to take
The Ranger’s a fast ship: Anne might just be able
to outrun Barnet. But can she outrun the consequences
of her relationship with Calico Jack?
Action-packed yet nuanced, culturally relevant and
sharp as a cutlass, this new novel by the remarkable
Meg Caddy brings to life one of history’s most fascinating
I was over the moon when this book landed in my PO Box and I was itching to get into it immediately. But alas life got in the way and it took me longer to get to her read than I would have liked.
Devil’s Ballast by Meg Caddy is a fictionalised historical YA tale based on the life of female pirate Anne Bonny, that came out on the 7th of may. The story opens with:
“I counted fifteen dead men working the deck of the Kingston.
Well, they weren’t dead yet, but the day was young and I had a full belt of shot.”
Of yeah, that got me excited for a rip roaring story of pirate-y murder and mayhem.
The book is set at the start of Bonny’s pirating career, when she first runs off to sea and subsequently meets Read (Mary Read, another notoriously famous female pirate from yesteryear). The friendship between Bonny and Read was the shining highlight of the book for me and I would love to read a sequel that follows the two creating pirate-y mayhem together.
Anne Bonny is somewhat considered a historical bisexual figure, so I was a little disappointment when her only sexual love interested was a man. I got over it when a friendship started to develop between Bonny and Read. I felt it was their confiding in each other and the mutual respect and friendship that grew, to be what really picked up the pace of the story and had me racing through the pages until the end.
There is no way to historically prove that Bonny was bisexual, where as her relationship with Calico Jack is documented – so you can’t blame Caddy for using him as her love interest – but personally I would like to have seen those bisexual rumours/suspicions explored, even if only a little.
Both in real life and in this book Anne Bonny and Mary Read partook in cross-dressing: Bonny to hide the fact she was a woman and Read to hide the body he’d been born with. With Read being transgender and the kinship between him and Bonny, ultimately I feel like I did get a queer fix with this book. So yay for that.
I think the authors note at the end of the book sums it up. “…it should be noted that almost every account of her life, including this one, is filled with sensationalism, mysteries, inconsistencies, rumour and outright lies. I think she’d like it that way.” I think both Bonny and Read would like it that way 🙂
“Nothing like a stiff drink after a good murder”, Read murmured.
“Just so.” Darling pulled up a chair. “What are we going to do with the bodies?”
“Harbour after dark.”
“A time-honoured tradition,” he agreed.
Conclusion: If you are a lover of pirate filled tales and strong leading female characters, then this is the book for you. If you were hoping to see a bisexual icon taring up the seas taking up a variation of lovers along the way, then this won’t hit the spot. But it’s still a damn good read that I enjoyed. I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel – so I think that in it’s self says enough.
Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories, a #AusQueerYA anthology
Genre: Young Adult, LGBT fiction, Short Stories
Publication: June 1st 2019
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Source: #AusYABloggers #KindredStories tour
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What does it mean to be queer? What does it mean to be human? In this powerful #LoveOzYA collection, twelve of Australia’s finest writers from the LGBTQ+ community explore the stories of family, friends, lovers and strangers – the connections that form us.
This inclusive and intersectional #OwnVoices anthology for teen readers features work from writers of diverse genders, sexualities and identities, including writers who identify as First Nations, people of colour or disabled. With short stories by bestsellers, award winners and newcomers to young adult fiction including Jax Jacki Brown, Claire G Coleman, Michael Earp, Alison Evans, Erin Gough, Benjamin Law, Omar Sakr, Christos Tsiolkas, Ellen van Neerven, Marlee Jane Ward, Jen Wilde and Nevo Zisin.
Includes a foreword by anthology editor Michael Earp, resources for queer teens, contributor bios and information about the #LoveOzYA movement.
I was super excited when I first heard about Kindred. It’s always fantastic seeing queer fiction make it’s way out into the world. Even better when it’s a Aussie anthology with a diverse range of #OwnVoices authors. I was over the moon when Micheal Earp and Walker Books excepted our (the other #AusYaBloggers & readers group mods and I) pitch for hosting a queer only tour.
I made my way down to the Sydney Writers Festival’s YA day at Parramatta’s Riverside Theater buzzing with excitement to attend the Kindred panel. Hearing Micheal talk about how Kindred came to be and hearing some of the authors talk about their writing, only made me more excited to see the book in our tour participants hands. It’s now day five of the tour and it’s my stop.
This is the first anthology I’ve read that swaps genre. Anthology’s always have a theme, be it first kisses, summer holidays, landing on new planet etc. and in Kindred case, being Queer. I’ve only ever read anthologies where the stories are all sci-fi or contemporary romances etc.
When I first heard of Kindred I thought/assumed it was going to be a series of contemporary short stories where the authors fictionalised a positive queer experience for the benefit of teen readers new/struggling with their queerness. You know, to give them hope, and so they could see themselves represented etc. I guess really, this is what I had hoped Kindred would be.
Never the less the moving around of genres didn’t really bother me (most were contemporary anyways) as I do try to read a little of all genres for variety. I LOVED the variety of own voices rep! So ****ing awesome to see! It makes my heart sing!
BUUUUUT, Trigger warnings – homophobia, death of loved one, ableism, depression, racism, transphobia, pedophilia. Yeah it gets heavy folks. But life is heavy. Okay, I get that. But a story can get heavy and hard and dark, then still end up leaving you filled with light and hope and love. As far as positive examples for teens, I think Kindred may have missed the mark – but you’ll have to ask a teens option on that. I wanted happy queer stories to combat the ugly of the real world. But that’s what I wanted. I still think this is a brilliant and much needed collection and I hope it opens the door to more queer collections.
RATS by Marlee Jane Ward. F/F romance. I found this story a little odd. A semi futuristic world. Homeless teens know as rats. Some insta-love with a trouble seeking open air ”babe” and a “rat” tunnel dweller. Mostly I liked it.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS by Erin Gough. Questioning protagonist, f/f romance. A sweet and heartwarming contemporary story with a magical realism twist. I found it a delight to read.
BITTER DRAUGHT by Michael Earp. M/M relationship. Two young men, a sick little sister and a journey to see a witch to get a cure. I enjoyed it for the most part, but it had a sad ending. Why Micheal, why.
I LIKE YOUR ROTATION by Jax Jacki Brown. Lesbian wheelchair-using protagonist and love interest. Super sweet self discovery story focusing on the intersection of disability and identity, exploring friendship and sexuality. I really enjoyed it and would have loved to be able to have kept reading.
SWEET by Claire G. Coleman. POC non-binary protagonist. This one left me feeling really unsettled. It was a swap around story where the oppressed became the oppressors. It just felt harsh and bitter. And I worry it might be harmful to some younger readers.
LIGHT BULB by Nevo Zisin. Non-binary protagonist. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Dark and deep. I wholeheartedly loved it. It spoke to the darkness in my soul. My Jam! Maybe you’d class the story as horror? But to me there was nothing horrific about it. Please Nevo write more fiction!!!
WAITING by Jen Wilde. Autistic bisexual protagonist. Contemporary tale dealing with toxic friendships. A story with a happy ending! The protagonist finds people she feels comfortable being herself with. True friends in the making. And brownie points to Jen for the Brooklyn 99, Stephanie Beatriz nods!
LAURA NYRO AT THE WEDDING by Christos Tsiolkas. M/M relationship. No, just no. Totally inappropriate for a teen anthology! – The story is not even YA and the side subject matter (student/teacher relationship). I just…no. No.
EACH CITY by Ellen van Neerven. POC protagonist, f/f relationship. I found the story to have an abrupt unresolved ending. Didn’t feel like the story got to finish, felt like it was only just beginning and I want the rest. This just left me feeling empty and unsettled. Ellen, did she make it home? I need/want to know how it all played out.
AN ARAB WEREWOLF IN LONDON by Omar Sakr. Muslim gay protagonist, Muslim m/m love interest. Without the werewolf element this could have been a smoking hot m/m contemporary. But I really liked it as it was. I’ve got Omar’s These Wild Houses sitting on my shelf to read, but i’d also love to read more fiction like this from Omar!!
STORMLINES by Allison Evans. Non-binary protagonist. A heartwarming story about finding somewhere that feels like home.
QUESTIONS TO ASK STRAIGHT RELATIVES by Benjamin Law. Chinese/Australian gay protagonist, background m/m relationship. More personal essay then short story. But I loved it and felt it was the perfect way to finish of a queer anthology.
Follow along with the tour here > > The AusYABloggers Tour Schedule
If you purchase the book from The Little Bookroom you can have it signed By Michael Earp. All you have to do is mention in the order notes that you followed the Kindred Tour and would like your copy signed by Michael.
For people looking to find a bookshop near them: Find A Bookshop.
Total books read in May: 4
Comics/ Graphic Novels = 0 | #LoveOzYA / #LoveNzYA = 1 | the remainder = 3
River Stone by Rachel Hennessy #LoveOZYA
River Stone is the first book in a new dystopian trilogy. It has a fresh and unique feel that drew me in right from the start and kept me hooked until the last page. It is a story of survival, of adapting, of friendship, of being human, and of being a teenager living in the shadow of expectation.
Published May 1st 2019 by MidnightSun Publishing [My Full Review] [View on Goodreads]
The Little Wave by Pip Harry #LoveOZMG
The Little is a delightful Middle Grade verse novel, and even though it deals with grief, bullying, navigating new friendships and the struggles of low-SES families, it is an immensely enjoyable read. Regardless of your age it will leave you with a smile on your face and warmth in your heart.
Published May 7th 2019 by UQP Books [My Full Review] [View on Goodreads]
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
An adorable YA graphic novel about friendship, family, young love, expectations, identity, fancy fashion and following your dreams.
Published February 13th 2018 by First Second [View on Goodreads]
Concrete Queers – issue 5 (poetry), 8 (music) and 11 (home).
Concrete Queers is a zine made by queer people for queer people, edited by Katherine Back and Alison Evans.
I enjoyed reading all three of the zines, but maybe Poetry and Music slightly more – I’ve always had an affinity for both.
Find out more at the Concrete Queers Website and Alison Evan’s etsy zine store.
Conclusion: It was a bit of a slow reading month unfortunately, but I had a lot of other things going on (non-bookish). Fingers crossed I get to devour more books this month.
I made the trek from Newcastle down to Parramatta for the Sydney Writers Festival all day YA love fest. And It was well worth the effort. I got to catch up with some fellow book bloggers and bookstagrammers and attended some fantastic sessions.
I only managed to post two reviews up on the blog during May BUT….. I published a personal essay I wrote about social expectations, sexuality and realisations that come with age. Titled: Me, myself and the land of self-reflection. You check it out HERE. And I published a post titled: Promises to my sons. Part poem, part letter, written to my sons. Check it out if you dare, HERE.
I will lose my shit and yell at you.
I will lose my cool and fly off the rails. It’s what I do.
I will swear repeatedly, and I don’t fucking care if you swear, as long as you grow up to care about the world and the people around you.
As long as you always try your hardest, I don’t care if you fail.
I don’t care who you love as long as you are happy, and that person isn’t human trash.
I will love you even when you make me angry.
I will love you even when you hate me.
I will show you that women hold the power of life.
I will teach you that you should worship the women in your life.
I will teach you not to force yourself onto anyone; emotionally or sexually.
I will teach you that consent can only be given when someone is sober and of sound mind, that consent cannot be coerced or pressured.
You are white,
and you are male,
and if I ever catch you abusing that privilege I will knock you down.
I will raise you as an equalist.
I will teach you that human is human.
Love is love and blood is blood.
Race, religion, gender, sexuality and bank accounts mean nothing to a bullet, mean nothing as your body decomposes.
I will raise you to see that every living thing has value.
I will raise you to be a hu-man.