5 book releases I’m pumped for in 2017

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  1. Corpselight by Angela Slatter (Out 13 July 2017)

 

Corpselight is the sequel to Vigil which was on my favourite books for 2016. Corpselight sees a very pregnant Verinity Fassbinder investigating insurance claims by Susan Beckett whose home is being inundated with mud. V’s first lead takes her to Chinatown, where she is confronted by Kitsune assassins. But when she suddenly goes into labour, it’s clear the fox spirits are not going to be helpful . . .

 

  1. Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth (Out 17 January)

 

This book technically came out in January, but I haven’t got my hands on it yet, so I’m including it on the list. I wasn’t a fan of the Divergent series but I heard an interview with Roth on the, so you want to be a writer podcast and the premise of Carve the Mark sounded really intriguing. It’s a science-fiction fantasy series where people develop a ‘currentgift’, a power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not – their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

 

  1. Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (Out in March)

 

I can’t remember how I found this one out. It may have been a Queer YA recommendation, but I’m not 100%. Other added bonus is the title references a Crowded House song although I don’t know if that’s intentional. Fifteen-year-old Aki is bisexual although it is in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows. When Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—Aki decides she only has one shot at living an interesting life. But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you’re in love? It’s going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

 

  1. The Things We Promise by J.C. Burke (Out March 2017)

 

The cover has a recommendation from Melina Marchetta, one of my favourite authors, so I’m trusting her judgement on this one. It’s the early 1990s and all Gemma can think about is looking perfect for her first school formal. Gemma’s brother Billy – New York’s up and coming hair and make-up artist – has made her the ultimate promise: he’s returning home especially to ‘create magic’ on her and two friends for their end-of-year formal. Gemma’s best friend, Andrea, is convinced it’ll be their moment to shine; Gemma hopes it’s the night Ralph will finally notice her.But when Billy arrives home from New York, Gemma’s life becomes complicated. Her family’s been keeping secrets; friendships are forged and broken, and suddenly the length of her formal dress is the least of her worries.

 

  1. The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz (Out July 2017)

 

This may have been another Queer YA recommendation, but I’m not sure. Mercedes Moreno can be an artist. At least, she thinks she could possibly be, actually though she was not in a position to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Meals Poisoning #1 this past year. Her insufficient inspiration could be because her Abuela is definitely lying comatose on faraway Puerto Rico following struggling a stroke. Or the actual fact that Mercedes is deeply in love with her best good friend, Victoria, but is as well afraid to admit her accurate feelings. Despite Mercedes’s imaginative block, the art starts showing up in unexpected methods. A piano shows up on her behalf front lawn one morning hours, and a mysterious brand-new neighbour invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Crimson Mangrove Estate. At the Estate, Mercedes can create with techniques she hardly ever has before. She can show her deepest secrets and look and feel secure.

If you’ve noticed a bit of a young adult and queer theme happening through the books, there is a reason for that one. It lines up to what I’m writing at the moment, but I don’t want to talk too much as it is in its very early stages. I tend to go through phases with books, I went through a self-help phase at the end of last year and earlier in 2016 I went through an urban fantasy phase. Do you favour certain genres at certain times or am I just a crazy person? Feel free to comment below!

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My top 6 books for 2016

My favourite books for 2016

I probably should have put this out at the beginning of January, but I’ve been on a writing hiatus after burning myself out with NaNoWriMo.

 

  1. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

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The 2016 Stella Award Winning novel by Charlotte Wood about Yolanda and Verla, two very different women with one thing in common – they both were splashed all over the media as part of a sex scandal and were shamed into hiding. Except instead of being sent away to a resort they are sent to the Australian Outback under prison-like conditions. The narrative is told through the perspective of Yolanda and Verla who are polar opposites of each other. Yolanda is from a working class background and allegedly slept with a group of footballers. Verla is a university educated woman and former mistress to a politician. I read this back in March, and I was immediately pissed off by the ending. It is a difficult book to read the first time, but it has a lot to say about Australian culture and the treatment of women. I am likely to reread this one a few times again.

 

  1. Vigil by Angela Slatter

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I’ve already done a detailed review of Angela Slatter’s Vigil, but I couldn’t leave it off my list. Vigil is about Verity Fassbinder trying to police the supernatural community of Brisbane called the Weyrd. The premise is hardly revolutionary, and yet the sheer mastery of skill from Slatter as a writer makes this more than your typical urban fantasy novel. Vigil is distinctly Australian without feeling forced. I found myself loving every word and Verity’s voice.

 

  1. Welcome to Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward

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This was the first review on my blog. I read this over a weekend and was enthralled with the idea of a world where in the near future, Australia privatises the foster and prison systems, and they are now run by a corporation. At first, the idea seemed a bit far-fetched but after watching a documentary about how the US prison systems works and the scandal at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre it suddenly seems an incredibly realistic prospect. It’s a great book with an authentic voice, and I have seen talk on Marlee’s Twitter that she is working on some sequels which I am pumped for. No word on when they will be released.

 

  1. Goodwood by Holly Throsby

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I found this book completely by accident; I was listening to an interview with Holly on the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast and was immediately enthralled about the concept of this book that I bought it straight away and read it over four days, despite being in the middle of NaNoWriMo. It is set in 1992 in a small town called Goodwood. Seventeen-year-old Jean finds $500 in a tree near a creek where all the teenagers of the town hang out. A few days later Rosie White, the coolest girl in town disappears. Then one week later, Bart McDonald goes on a fishing trip and never comes home. I grew up in a small town in Queensland in the 1990’s and 2000’s, and she captures the small town politics and culture so well without falling into stereotypes. Despite the fact Jean isn’t the main driver of events it never feels boring as we do not only see a mystery unfold, but we’re also seeing Jean deal with being on the cusp of adulthood and all that comes with it. It’s such an excellent example of Australian fiction.

 

  1. Air Awaken Series by Elise Kova

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Technically this covers five books as I read the entire series this year. I discovered Air Awakens on a podcast like Goodwood, so it is proof that author interviews do in fact sell books. I devoured the first three books in a few days as I was travelling and had the time to do so. The fourth and fifth book are a little uneven, and it feels like the story could have been told over three books instead of five, but it’s a solid YA fantasy series that I enjoyed.

 

6. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

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I actually almost missed this book as for some reason I thought I read it in 2015. But according to my blog, I did, in fact, read it this year. I really loved the concept of this book, and the writing style was enjoyable and easy to read. I don’t think it will age well as it is a reflection of our current attitudes and trends, so it will be a book that says something about a particular place and time. Which there is nothing wrong with as I’ve previously discussed. I read out a specific section to my husband about a man speaking about his last conversation on the phone with his co-workers and using corporate speak which I felt was so pointed and relevant. It’s an excellent book with a fantastic writing style and straddles the line between speculative fiction and literary fiction.

 

I realised that I completely forgot about reading some books in 2016 as I read around 50 books a year so this year I’m keeping a list and will keep you updated on what I’m reading fiction wise as you probably don’t want to hear about the self-help books I’m reading. What were your favourite books of 2016 and how did you discover them?

Is this Australia’s best YA novel?

As much as I love Looking for Alibrandi, On the Jellicoe Road is Melina Marchetta’s magnum opus.

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What If: a young woman abandoned by her mother as a child starts examining her past.

 

The Execution:

 

Seventeen year old Taylor Markham is a student at the Jellicoe School, a state run boarding school. Her past is a mystery she tries to unravel. All she knows is she was abandoned by her mother at eleven years old at the 7/11 outside Jellicoe. Then only a few minutes later she was found by Hannah, who lives at the Jellicoe School. She feels like Hannah knows something about her past and her mother but won’t tell her.

 

Thrown in a bunch of sub plots that all interconnect such as the wars between the school, the townies and the cadets, a serial killer, Hannah’s manuscript and a will they won’t they romance and it all combines to make such a richly layered work.

 

This story is the type of book you’re not really sure about when you first read it and then you get to the end and realise it all connects. Then you want to go back and read it again with a more critical eye.

 

I have read this book many times and it’s the execution that keeps me going back. The first read you’re spending so much time trying to figure out how it all connects but the second read you realise how multilayered and rich all the characters are.

 

 

Setting:

 

The majority of the story is set in and around the Jellicoe School which is roughly located a few hours from Sydney. Despite Jellicoe being entirely fictional, Marchetta paints the picture of the school and the surrounds with such loving language. The Prayer Tree, Hannah’s House, the Jellicoe Road, the School and the town felt like real living places rather than just a backdrop. The setting is critically important which is why the setting is the title. The word pictures to paint the description of Jellicoe make it seem like a dream like place with a soporific quality.

 

“It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La.”

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Characters:

 

Marchetta does characters well. They feel like people you’d meet in the street, that you’d want to be friends with. One of the reasons I re-read the story so much is that I love the characters. Even the small ones like Santangelo’s mother who only gets like two scenes in the entire novel. Those two scenes make me want to hear an entire story about her.

 

Main Characters:

 

Taylor Markham is the narrator and protagonist of the story. Her voice is incredibly strong and distinct but also works as an unreliable narrator due to the trauma of her early childhood. How Taylor describes the other characters makes them feel like living breathing people, even the very minor characters. The book is obviously set in Australia and the characters are Australian but it doesn’t feel heavy handed or jarring.

 

Jonah Griggs is the antagonist of the story. He is the leader of the army cadets from Sydney that come to Jellicoe every summer to camp. He comes across as gruff and hard but like Taylor has had a life filled with grief. He is incredibly strong and has fun antagonising the students of Jellicoe as part of the ‘war’.

 

Chaz Santangelo is the leader of the Townies, the teens who live in Jellicoe. He is of Aboriginal and Italian descent and his parents are the Mayor and the Chief of Police respectively. He has the type of confident that comes from living in a small close knit community and is very sure of himself. However, it has it downsides such as getting thrown into the watch house by your dad for causing a fight. He and Raffy have crazy sexual tension although he does develop a nice bro-mance with Jonah as the story goes on.

 

Raffy is a townie but goes to the Jellicoe School as her parents are teachers at the Jellicoe high school. She has known Chaz since she was a child and the familiarity with each other’s history makes for great interest. Her mothering nature clashes with Taylor’s fierce independent nature but she’s the closest friend Taylor has.

 

Hannah is the closest thing Taylor has to family yet they have a distant relationship as Taylor senses Hannah knows the answers to her deepest darkest questions about her mother and her father. Hannah’s absence is one of the main drivers of the story. She is also the author of the parallel story told about the young people living in Jellicoe in the 1980’s that Taylor reads.

 

The Brigadier is the mysterious presence that found Taylor and Jonah when they ran away years ago. Taylor believes he is connected to a series of disappearances that have been happening around Jellicoe for the last decade.

 

 

Themes:

 

Identity:

 

Taylor believes she doesn’t know who she is as she has little connection or memory to her past. This is reinforced by Raffy and Santangelo’s relationship that is based on shared history having grown up together in a small town. She feels disconnected from everyone and doesn’t feel she fits in despite being the leader of the School.

 

Family:

 

Taylor’s lack of family is such a strong theme throughout the book however she realises she has an unconventional family in the students of the school and in Hannah. The contrast to Taylor and Jonah’s experience of families to Raffy’s and Santangelo’s close knit families shows the wide spectrum of how families operate.

 

Friendship:

Hannah’s manuscript about the five young people living in Jellicoe serves as a parallel story to the main storyline. The theme of friendship, family and identity are echoed in this story within the story. Marchetta shows the idealistic friendships of youth so well in both the main storyline and the story within the story.

 

Final Thoughts:

 

Melina Marchetta is best known for her 1992 young adult smash hit Looking for Alibrandi. She is incredibly talented at writing compelling characters that you want to read over and over. As much as I love Looking for Alibrandi, On the Jellicoe Road is Melina Marchetta’s magnum opus. The layers of character, setting and subplots make it the type of book you’ll read over and over.

 

About the Book:

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta won the US Printz Award and was shortlisted for the ABIA Awards and the Queensland Premier’s Awards.

 

Agree? Disagree? Other thoughts? Start a conversation by commenting below or sharing on social media.