ARC Review – ‘Beyond The Black Door’ by A. M. Strickland

Title: Beyond The Black Door
Author: A. M. Strickland
Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT
Word/Page Count: 400 pages (hardcover)
Publication Details: by Imprint on October 29th, 2019
Pre-order from: Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Amazon (further options here)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen …

Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.

But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.

When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.

A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom …

Do you like dark fantasy? Did you watch Labyrinth and wish that the Goblin King would romantically sweep you around a ballroom? Are you one of the Phantom of the Opera fans that think Christine made a mistake and should’ve chosen Erik? Fascinated by the myth of Hades and Persephone? Well, here’s the perfect book for you!

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ARC Review – ‘Becoming Dinah’ by Kit de Waal

Title: Becoming Dinah
Author:  Kit de Waal
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 288 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on July 23rd, 2019
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

A YA coming-of-age road trip novel about obsession, self-discovery, female power, and the people we meet along the way – by Costa Award shortlisted author Kit de Waal. The perfect read for anyone who’s ever wondered where they came from and where they might be going next.

In her first YA novel, Costa-shortlisted Kit de Waal responds to classic Moby Dick by tearing the power away from obsessive Captain Ahab and giving it to a teenage girl.

Dinah’s whole world is upside down, dead things and angry men and cuts all over her head that are beginning to sting….

Seventeen-year-old Dinah needs to leave her home, the weird commune where she grew up. She needs a whole new identity, starting with how she looks, starting with shaving off her hair, her ‘crowning glory’. She has to do it quickly, because she has to go now.

Dinah was going to go alone and hitch a ride down south. Except, she ends up being persuaded to illegally drive a VW campervan for hundreds of miles, accompanied by a grumpy man with one leg. This wasn’t the plan.

But while she’s driving, Dinah will be forced to confront everything that led her here, everything that will finally show her which direction to turn…

In her first YA novel, Costa-shortlisted author Kit de Waal responds to the classic Moby Dick with entirely new characters, a VW campervan, and by tearing the power away from obsessive Captain Ahab and giving it to a teenage girl who’s determined to find a new life, far away from her unconventional upbringing.

Becoming Dinah‘ is the first in the Bellatrix collection of YA books recently launched by Hachette Children’s Group which is focused on bringing attention to a diverse range of women’s stories written by leading female voices. Kit de Waal reimagines the classic 1851 novel ‘Moby Dick‘ by Herman Melville via our present-day society with the male sailor Ishmael going from a minor player in Captain Ahab’s quest for revenge to a young woman important in her own right at the center of her coming-of-age story.

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ARC Review – ‘Wilder Girls’ by Rory Power

Title: Wilder Girls
Author: Rory Power
Genre: Young Adult, Horror
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Pan Macmillan Australia on July 9th, 2019
RRP: $16.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

I added this book to my Goodreads TBR on December 22nd 2018, and now that I’ve finally closed the last page on this book, I’m reeling. This is a brutally dark and engrossing read, and while I don’t think ‘enjoyed’ is the right word, it definitely met my high expectations which only increased from anticipation after waiting for all these months!

Btw, in case you think I’m exaggerating about how dark this is, make sure you check out the list of trigger and content warnings posted by the author so that you can prepare yourself!

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Book Review – ‘Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution’ by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Title: Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution
Author: e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Word/Page Count: 352 pages (hardcover)
Publication Details: by Walker Books Australia on May 1st, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (hardcover)

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

More trouble at school and at home — and the discovery of a missive from her late soldier sister — send Angie and a long-ago friend on an RV road trip across Ohio.

Sophomore year has just begun, and Angie is miserable. Her girlfriend, KC, has moved away; her good friend, Jake, is keeping his distance; and the resident bully has ramped up an increasingly vicious and targeted campaign to humiliate her. An over-the-top statue dedication planned for her sister, who died in Iraq, is almost too much to bear, and it doesn’t help that her mother has placed a symbolic empty urn on their mantel. At the ceremony, a soldier hands Angie a final letter from her sister, including a list of places she wanted the two of them to visit when she got home from the war. With her mother threatening to send Angie to a “treatment center” and the situation at school becoming violent, Angie enlists the help of her estranged childhood friend, Jamboree. Along with a few other outsiders, they pack into an RV and head across the state on the road trip Angie’s sister did not live to take. It might be just what Angie needs to find a way to let her sister go, and find herself in the process.

Note: I haven’t read the first book and thought this functioned fine as a standalone

I knew from the synopsis that this was going to be a tough confronting read. I took a chance on this anyway because I desperately crave representation for queer girls and because this promised a road trip with friends so I figured there would be light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how difficult the first few chapters may be.

The good part was that the road trip portion of the book was excellent, a much-needed relief from the angst and suffering of Angie’s everyday life. The down side was that this road trip actually didn’t happen til close to half way through the book! I struggled to make it that far because the first half of ‘Fat Angie’ was so heartbreaking and made me waver between despair and fury.

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ARC Review – ‘Keep This To Yourself’ by Tom Ryan

Title: Keep This To Yourself
Author: Tom Ryan
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Publication Date: May 21st, 2019
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (hardcover)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace.

Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him—easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer—who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

I had such a good time reading this! I found it really engaging and raced through it, completely hooked by the twists and turns, and legitimately shocked and impressed by the end. YA mysteries can be hit-and-miss, but I thought this was very satisfying and tightly plotted.

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Review – ‘All The Lonely People’ by David Owen

Title: All The Lonely People
Author: David Owen
Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT
Publication Details: by Hachette Australia on 8th January, 2019
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (paperback)

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Everyone tells Kat that her online personality – confident, funny, opinionated – isn’t her true self. Kat knows otherwise. The internet is her only way to cope with a bad day, chat with friends who get all her references, make someone laugh. But when she becomes the target of an alt-right trolling campaign, she feels she has no option but to Escape, Delete, Disappear.

With her social media shut down, her website erased, her entire online identity void, Kat feels she has cut away her very core: without her virtual self, who is she?

She brought it on herself. Or so Wesley keeps telling himself as he dismantles Kat’s world. It’s different, seeing one of his victims in real life and not inside a computer screen – but he’s in too far to back out now.

As soon as Kat disappears from the online world, her physical body begins to fade and while everybody else forgets that she exists, Wesley realises he is the only one left who remembers her. Overcome by remorse for what he has done, Wesley resolves to stop her disappearing completely. It might just be the only way to save himself.

I really wanted to love this and it had all the ingredients to be the perfect dish for me, but it didn’t quite come together in the way I hoped. I still encourage anyone interested in reading it as there are a lot of timely issues explored in this book and the premise is absolutely killer – what if cyber bullying caused one victim to LITERALLY fade away?

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ARC Review – ‘All The Invisible Things’ by Orlagh Collins

Title: All The Invisible Things
Author: Orlagh Collins
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publication Details: by Bloomsbury Australia on 7th March, 2019
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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A warm, witty, important story about being a young woman today, and what it’s like to find a real connection amid all the noise. Perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Laura Steven’s The Exact Opposite of Okay.

Vetty’s family is moving back to London, and all she can think about is seeing Pez again. They were inseparable when they were small – roaming the city in the long summers, sharing everything. But everyone’s telling her it’ll be different now. After all, a boy and a girl can’t really be friends without feelings getting in the way, can they?

Vetty thinks differently … until Pez tells her she’s ‘not like other girls’. But what does that even mean? Is it a good thing or not? Suddenly she’s wondering whether she wants him to see her like the others – like the ultra-glamorous March, who’s worked some sort of spell on Pez, or the girls in the videos that Pez has hidden on his laptop.

How can she measure up to them? And who says that’s what a girl is supposed to be like anyway?

I really appreciate the themes running through this novel and I think it’s going to resonate with a lot of readers because of the focus on being true to oneself, finding out who you are to begin with, navigating the complex maze of teenage relationships as well as forging new friendships and trying to maintain old ones. These are universal experiences and Vetty’s journey is very relatable as a result, even if you haven’t faced exactly the same set of circumstances.

From the blurb, I made the assumption that the central romance would focus on Vetty and Pez, and I’m so glad that it wasn’t as cliche and obvious as that! Instead Vetty explores a relationship with one of Pez’s friends plus develops a crush on another girl in their group, which throws a spanner in the works! I feel like this is going to be such an important book for bisexual teens in real life because Vetty’s insecurity over her ‘greedy heart’, fretting over whether her peers can tell and agonizing over how to come out (including an aborted attempt with a well-meaning lesbian aunt who inadvertently stifles Vetty) will offer a lot of validation and comfort.

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ARC Review – ‘Beneath The Citadel’ by Destiny Soria

Title: Beneath The Citadel
Author: Destiny Soria
Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT
Date of Publication: 9th October, 2018
Word/Page Count: 480 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.

In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.

I’ve been having a streak of good luck with my Netgalley ARCs – this is yet another that has fallen in the category of ‘addictive enough to keep me up all night reading’! I’m really in love with this one, I need to add it to my collection once it’s published! ❤

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ARC Review – ‘The Cursebreaker Countess’ by Sasha L Miller

Title: The Cursebreaker Countess
Author: Sasha L Miller
Genre: Fantasy
Date of Publication: 15th August, 2018
Word/Page Count: 42,000 words/106 pages (ebook)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Kas is a wanderer, exploring the country and keeping out of the reach of her stepfather’s plots to marry her off and steal her fortune. When she stumbles across a field of towers one stormy night, she promptly takes shelter in the sturdiest-looking of the bunch, only to find a woman trapped in a bespelled sleep.

Breaking the curse takes seconds, but dealing with the aftermath may force Kas to return to the home she’s been avoiding—and right into the sights of the mage who cursed the princess sleeping in the tower…

This is a sweet fairytale featuring a well-written f/f romance, which I am the target audience for, so it was a no-brainer that I loved this! ❤

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I went in thinking that it was a genderbent retelling of Sleeping Beauty but aside from Princess Anika being placed under a sleeping curse, there isn’t any other connection as the author has created an entirely fresh new plot. Kas wakes up Anika not with a kiss of true love, but her ability to break curses (roll credits!) which frees Anika from her slumber after sixty-six years. Normally that would be the end point or at least the climax of the story, but their adventure is only just beginning as they discover that Anika’s tower was merely one in a cluster of many towers which imprisoned other women with magical abilities, with no clue as to who was responsible or why.

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ARC Review – ‘The Dark Beneath the Ice’ by Amelinda Bérubé

Title: The Dark Beneath the Ice
Author: Amelinda Bérubé
Genre: YA Horror/Fantasy
Expected Date of Publication: 7th August, 2018
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Something is wrong with Marianne.

It’s not just that her parents have split up, or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close.

Something is after her. But a first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. And Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it think it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.

I really enjoyed this one! I’m much on a YA horror kick and this satisfied that craving quite well with a relatable lead in harrowing circumstances, interesting family dynamics and a cute f/f ship!

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