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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fence #1 and #2 by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad


From the BLURB:

Sixteen-year-old Nicholas Cox is an outsider to the competitive fencing world. Filled with raw talent but lacking proper training, he signs up for a competition that puts him head-to-head with fencing prodigy Seiji Katayama...and on the road to the elite all-boys school Kings Row. A chance at a real team and a place to belong awaits him—if he can make the cut!

‘Fence’ is a new young adult comic series from Boom! Box, written by C.S. Pacat and illustrated by Johanna the Mad. It launched in November and only two issues have been released so far – but it is going to be a once-a-month schedule, with the first Volume of issues 1-5 due for July 2018 release.

First of all – Boom! Box (or, Boom Studios) is hella smart. They are the publisher behind what feels like a new wave of comic books – ones that are more diverse, inclusive and directly aimed at a young generation who weren’t previously swayed by the offerings of Marvel and DC. Boom is responsible for such groundbreaking and popular series as Giant Days, Goldie Vance, Misfit City and perhaps most popular of all among certain fandom’s  - Lumberjanes.

Boom are also part of a new era in comic books fusing with fiction writers like never before, and especially those who have appeal to younger (teen, mostly) readers – such as Rainbow Rowell partnering with First Second Books for a graphic novel called Pumpkinheads, to be illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks and releasing in 2019.

Boom inviting C.S. Pacat to create her own YA comic book was a bold, and smart move. Given that Pacat didn’t launch her career (into the stratosphere!) with a YA series, rather her debut ‘Captive Prince’ trilogy was LGBT fantasy romance (some would say erotica, at times) that found a huge teen fanbase because it started life as an online serial of original fiction that went viral, before being acquired by traditional publisher Penguin Random House. In any case – Pacat’s series became huge, particularly in the ways it highlighted and proved young people’s craving for more LGBT stories across all genres.

Giving her the reigns to develop her own comic series at the height of this popularity is pure genius – and it pays off (tenfold) in ‘Fence’. Set at the prestigious Kings Row boarding school and following a group of boys trying to come together as an elite fencing team to take out the top-ranked competitors. The series is focused on rivals, teammates and roommates Nicholas Cox and Seiji Katayama.

Two issues in and this world already feels so full and vibrant (a testament to this is how it’s already impressively sparked Tumblr imaginations). There’s a huge focus on rivalries and love affairs, skeletons in the closet and backstabbing afoot. The series has echoes of 2001 film ‘Lost and Delirious’ for me, maybe with a little ‘One Tree Hill’ and a feel of something like ‘Kids on the Slope’ or ‘From Up on Poppy Hill‘ thrown in. But honestly, ‘Fence’ is so wholly original it’s hard to quite put your finger on all that it evokes. Except to say it’s building a wonderfully full cast of characters, based in a small student community and with so much room for drama and emotional action – I’m already salivating at the possibilities!

Illustrations by Johanna the Mad make me crave this being turned into an animated-series, even though it would work equally well as live-action drama there’s just something about the art that sumptuously fits the whole unique story.

If you haven’t already, do start collecting all the ‘Fence’ issues and jump on this series bandwagon – I guarantee that even these two issues will fuel your imagination for what’s to come, and if that’s the case you can easily tap into an already very full and vibrant fandom that’s emerged in the wake of its decadent genius.

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5/5

Saturday, December 30, 2017

18 Books I am Looking Forward to Reading in 2018


Hello Darling Readers,

I really wasn’t going to do this. I really was not going to compile a list of books I’m most looking forward to in 2018. Honestly, I always get a slight case of listicle-fatigue by this time of year (Emily Nussbaum on Twitter goes on *the best* rants against Best-Of lists), and the other day Kelly Jensen summarised it so brilliantly, why these lists are sometimes redundant in books;



And yet, here I am. Going to give you an ’18 Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2018’ list. Because I need to keep a record somewhere of the books I need to pre-order, AND because I’d genuinely like a place to fan-girl about certain titles.

Of course, I would like to list every singe book that I represent as agent (and that should just go without saying forevermore!) But I’ve narrowed this list of 18 books down to only those that have firm release-dates and covers. If you would like a list of those books I rep that you should absolutely look out for in 2018 (and beyond!) then please to visit here --- https://daniellebinks.com/freelance/

The whole release-date and cover proviso also means that the below list (of only 18 books!) is also not extensive, obviously. I would, for instance, love to include Kristan Higgins’ new book ‘Good Luck With That’, scheduled for August 2018 release – but I can’t. Because there’s no cover yet. Just know that I am *terribly* excited and remaining in a permanent state of fingers-crossed that I’ll be approved on NetGalley for it. Also – I think I will literally cry when I get to hold a copy of ‘The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy’ by Mackenzi Lee in my hands (October 2nd. WHYYYYYY!!!?!)

As it is – please enjoy my very brief list of 18 Books I am Very Much Looking Forward to Reading in 2018.

Oh – and Happy New Year!
Here’s to kindness following us into a clean-slate.
And level-heads prevailing, everywhere.

*** 


The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
January 30th 2018

I seriously know so little about this book, except that a bunch of Australian booksellers who I trust 1000% were given early-copies and RAVED about it. Luckily I won’t have to wait long to know what all the fuss is about with this fantasy YA, as it’s a January release and I’ve already pre-ordered it. I am THAT confident in bookseller taste. Of course.


Women of War series
Book #1 – February 20th 2018
It’s pretty safe to say 2017 was a horror show. But there were some bright spark moments. Case in point: the first season of AFL Women's national Australian rules football league began in February 2017 with eight teams for female players. It was a landmark moment, and I am absolutely positive that it has already spawned a whole new generation of young people who just accept that women and girls can do any damn thing they want to. So I am absolutely onboard with Escape Publishing putting out a romance series that puts these women front and centre of their own romance stories. 
Right now all three of these instalments appear to be centred on female-male romance pairings (I think? Forgive me if I'm wrong!), and I do hope if that's the case that the series expands to include lesbian and other romances too. Because of course, part of what’s been great about Women’s AFL coming in has been seeing how these players have opened up conversations about LGBT+ rep in Australian sports.


R Is for Rebel by J. Anderson Coats
February 20th 2018
This blurb for the middle-grade book sounds like pure gold to me: “Princess Academy meets Megan Whalen Turner in this stunning novel about a girl who won’t let anything tame her spirit—not the government that conquered her people, and definitely not reform school!”


A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) by Alyssa Cole
February 27th 2018
Obviously I am a staunch Republican (American readers – don’t worry, it just means I want Australia to become a republic. Something you lot did back in 1783.) However, it goes without saying that the No.1 romance I am looking forward to in 2018 is the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Also naturally – I want everyone to bring me ALLLLLLLLL the royals romances in 2018 (I already thank Netflix profusely for A Christmas Prince, obvs).
I am eyeing YA offering Royals by Rachel Hawkins (May 2018) but the one that is giving me serious goosebumps is from one of my favourite romance authors, Alyssa Cole. The blurb alone already has me envisioning a Netflix adaptation, okay?! “Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.”


All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages by edited by Saundra Mitchell
February 27th 2018
Naturally, I love a YA short-story anthology. This US one does indeed sound exceptional, and I don’t think it’s unkind to say that any other YA Anthologies planned for next year’s slate and beyond will have to work hard to meet or surpass the bar that this one is sure to set: “From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.”


Hello Stranger (The Ravenels #4) by Lisa Kleypas
February 27th 2018
Considering the first book in this series – ‘Cold-Hearted Rake’ – left me, well, cold and I didn’t even attempt to crack open second book ‘Marrying Winterborne’, it’s pretty impressive that the fourth instalment of Kleypas’ historical romance series makes the cut here. But, she turned it all around with 2017’s ‘Devil in Spring’, which featured the offspring of beloved ‘Wallflowers’ couple, Evie and Sebastian in his very own romance. I was hooked, and ‘Devil’ was a favourite book of 2017 for me. ‘Hell Stranger’ will be all about a couple we met in ‘Devil in Spring’ – one half of which is Dr. Garrett Gibson, the only female physician in England. YAAAAAAAAAAAAS.


White Night by Ellie Marney
March 1st 2018
“In Bo Mitchell's country town, a 'White Night' light-show event has the potential to raise vital funds to save the skate park. And out of town, a girl from a secretive off-the-grid community called Garden of Eden has the potential to change the way Bo sees the world. But are there too many secrets in Eden?”
Ellie Marney owns my bookish heart and I will read anything and everything she writes, forever more. Because she’s a genius, and a national Australian treasure. And she writes the HANDS-DOWN best romances this side of the Southern Hemisphere.


Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega #5) by Patricia Briggs
March 6th 2018
So if you didn’t know, in January 2017 Patricia Briggs’ husband Mike passed away suddenly.  The entire book-community built around Briggs’ ‘Mercy Thompson’ and other series were devastated, since Mike played a big role in updating her website, blog and communicating to her fandom generally. None of us would have been surprised or upset if Briggs announced her publishing schedule was on-hold in the wake of his passing. But here we are, with the fifth instalment in her spin-off ‘Alpha and Omega’ series (the first we’ve had since 2015) due for 2018 release, and I know I am in absolute awe of her, and incredibly grateful that she’s still creating. 


In Search Of Us by Ava Dellaira
March 6th 2018
Dellaira’s contemporary 2014 debut ‘Love Letters to the Dead’ remains one of the best YA novels I have read – easily – in the last decade. An epistolary novel framed around one young woman expounding her grief over her sister’s death by writing letters to her dead heroes – from Kurt Cobain to Judy Garland. It is a heartbreakingly earnest premise that packs a wallop with Dellaira’s pitch-perfect voice. But 2014 was also the year of Jandy Nelson’s ‘I'll Give You the Sun’ (a book, which – don’t hate me! – I really don’t rate) and I feel like Dellaira wasn’t given the proper contemporary-YA kudos she deserved. I hope with this second novel from her, she makes a bigger landing and marks herself as one of the best authors writing for teens since Stephen Chbosky.  From the sounds of it, ‘In Search Of’ could most definitely be a book to make everyone sit up and take notice; “The parallel story of a mother and daughter each at age seventeen. Marilyn's tale recounts the summer she fell in love and set out on her own path. Angie's story is about her search for her unknown father.”


The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
March 19th 2018
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story about stories: those we inherit, those we select to define us, and those we decide to hide.”
This Australian debut is giving me ‘The Language of Flowers’ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh vibes, maybe with the literary styling of Jessie Burton. In any case, it has had a stellar turn of international sales (http://www.hollyringland.com/) which is always a good sign that something groundbreaking is afoot … I have my eye on this one, and a very good feeling about it.


Neverland by Margot McGovern
April 1st 2018
AH! See. One of my authors I rep – but since it has a cover and release date, I absolutely had to include this one. Also because I have loved and wanted to own a flesh-and-blood book of this tale since I first read the blurb when Margot’s manuscript was shortlisted for an unpublished prize back in 2015. But don’t just take my word for it – the book is racking up some impressive endorsement quotes from authors I thoroughly admire. Like this from Allyse Near: “Darkly sublime, subversive and haunting, lush and honeyed – everything I love in a book. ”
Me too, Allyse. Me too.


Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough
April 2nd 2018
From the Blurb: “Harriet Price is the perfect Rosemead Grammar student – wealthy, smart, overachieving – while Will Everhart is a social-justice warrior with a chip on her shoulder. But when a worrying incident with their swimming coach goes unnoticed by the authorities, the unlikely pair creates an elaborate hoax to bring him down.”
Hello. I love Erin Gough, and have been waiting for her follow-up book for exactly 435-years (that’s book-years, from 2015). That this second book from her sounds like ‘The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks’ by E. Lockhart meets 1998 film ‘All I Wanna Do’ (or, ‘Strike!’ depending on your region) just fills my feminist heart with pure, fizzing joy. Also - this cover by Jess Cruickshank is to die for. 
Up your ziggy with a wa-wa brush, indeed.

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
April 24th 2018
Remember that really mediocre 2016 movie starring Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and Jessica Chastain – ‘The Huntsman’? Well this debut book kinda sounds like that, minus the mediocrity. It’s also got a big ‘Vikings’ vibe going on (I think? I dunno? – I haven’t seen the show, but the word “fjord” is used in the blurb?) and I am here for it and I really need a new YA fantasy to get excited about in 2018.


My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
April 24th 2018
Well, this is awkward. Julia Whelan is an actress who starred in one of my all-time favourite TV shows, ‘Once & Again’ … a show I used to write FanFiction for, including stepbrother-stepsister pairings of her Grace character and Shane West’s Eli. Nowadays, Julia has become one of the BEST (and my fave) audiobook narrators in the industry, and NOW she’s gone even higher in my estimation (I did not think that was possible?!) by writing a contemporary romance. And – HERE’S THE KICKER – there’s already a major motion picture adaptation in the works, starring Supergirl’s Melissa Benosist and (hold. me.) Outlander’s Sam Heughan.

Julia Whelan – I am ridiculously excited to read this, and you have exceeded my wildest FanFic imaginings by having Grace Manning grow up to write romances that Jamie Fraser will act out. I tip my hat to you, and if you’re ever in Australia let me take you out to dinner because I think we need to become best friends? Mmkay? And please don’t let this entire paragraph make me sound utterly bonkers.


Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
May 1st 2018
Look, I was already going to read this because Rebecca Stead is one of my favourite writers of all time. I worship the woman. And this new book of hers (coupled with the literary might of ‘A Mango-Shaped Space’ Wendy Mass) means this is a no-brainer. That the blurb is also evoking a bit of E.T. feels doesn’t hurt either; “A classic middle-grade tale of magic and friendship, about a girl who helps an old friend find home.”


Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) by Ilona Andrews
May 8th 2018
Okay. *BREATHE*. I can barely contain my excitement and sadness for THE VERY LAST BOOK, EVER in Ilona Andrews’ ‘Kate Daniels’ series. I just … I can’t even begin thinking about all the fan-theories floating around out there and I will need to put myself in a bunker for the few HOURS it’ll take me to consume this book. And – OMFG! – please tell me that Julie is going to get her own series with Derek and Ascanio featuring. Please please please. I have been harping on about this since forever, but now with Kate’s wrapping up I feel like I can practically taste the very real possibility of it. PLEASE. Please.


The Fortress by S.A. Jones
June 1st 2018
Full-disclosure: this is an author repp’ed by the Jacinta di Mase Agency that I work for. BUT – I have not read it yet. Delayed satisfaction, ftw! All I know is this book is a gutsy inversion of Charlotte Wood’s ‘The Natural Way of Things’ and Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. For me, knowing the pitch, it also sounds right up the alley of anyone who loves Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro’s ‘Bitch Planet’ comic book series.
Ummmm – hell yes. Gimme. The blurb also promises that; “This absorbing, confronting and moving novel asks questions about consent, power, love and fulfilment. It asks what it takes for a man to change, and whether change is possible without a radical reversal of the conditions that seem normal.” SIGN ME THE FUCK, UP.


Wicked and the Wallflower (Bareknuckle Bastard #1) by Sarah MacLean
June 19th 2018
Sarah Maclean is one of the best historical romance authors writing today, and a new series from her should be celebrated with a ticker tape parade. This one sounds particularly spirited and sparkly; “When a mysterious stranger finds his way into her bedchamber and offers his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees—on one condition. She's seen enough of the world to believe in passion, and won't accept a marriage without it.” 
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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Favourite Books of 2017


Hello Darling Readers,

It’s that time of year again – looking back on the books that accompanied me on the journey this year. And, truth be told, 2017 has been a rollercoaster. A real doozy.

Donald Trump and all that that entails has been ludicrous and dangerous, mostly. #MeToo probably best encapsulates the lowest-lows and triumphant (fight-back) highs of the year. Australia is still spitting all over the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers, and we spent millions of dollars deciding people’s worth by straw-poll … we won, but at what cost?

Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology’ released this year, and it has been my honour to go round talking about this book and the supportive movement behind it. The cherry on top has undoubtedly been when the Anthology was voted for in the ABC Book Club’s finale episode as a reader-favourite, landing at No. 3 on the ‘Five of the Best’ list! I cannot even begin to thank you all enough for the #LoveOzYA love you’ve shown us!




And, personally, I became an Auntie this year! He’s only been here for a few weeks, but already I’m thinking of the bigger picture – and how I’m so lucky to be working as a literary agent now, and someone who will have a little bit of a say in the books Harrison and his generation will be reading. Maybe. Hopefully. And how I really don’t want to disappoint them, and I want to ensure they all have a book to recognise themselves in.

Below are some of the books that I certainly saw myself in this year – and appreciated having in my life. But it has been a tough one, and honestly – some days or weeks I didn’t feel like delving into a book, or working on a review. Sometimes it was just too hard, with all that was going on. And I gave myself permission to have recreational-reading ruts (because of course, the other part of this is I’m now reading a lot more in my working life).

I also eased up on myself for not reading ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING that was new and fresh from *this* year. And I’m glad. Because I got to (finally) discover for myself, the wonders of Toni Jordan – and I absolutely inhaled her backlist. Ditto the sheer delight of Georgette Heyer. And I found a new middle grade favourite in 2008 book 'My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park' by Steve Kluger. Part of this was also remembering that I love my local library, and the solace it brings – the books it gifts me.  

I also pushed my reading boundaries this year – by reading some non-fiction (which I *never* normally do!) and absolutely falling in fascinated love with three of them. I’m also slowly getting into audiobooks (that aren’t just re-reads of my old favourites) and I found a whole new level of enjoyment, to memoir in particular.

So – yes – overall maybe I didn’t read quite as many books this year (manuscripts are a whole other story) but I gravitated, I think as we all do, to the ones I needed to read this year, to help me on my way. And I thank them for finding me.

… of course – part of my finding them was thanks to bookshops. Whether they were my steadfast locals (hello Farrells, Robinsons & Readings!) or the ones I stumbled across (like the *incredible* international bookshop at Denpasar airport!) – I am forever thinking of this quote from Adam Gopnik, in an essay of his, titled; ‘When a Bookstore Closes, an Argument Ends.’

At a minor level, once a bookstore is gone we lose the particular opportunities for adjacency it offers, determined by something other than an algorithm. It is rarely the book you came to seek, but the book next to that book, which changes your mind and heart.

So without further ado – here is a brief list of the books next to that book, which ended up being good friends to me in 2017.

Enjoy!

****

'The Good Daughter' by Karin Slaughter

Slaughter is my favourite crime-writer, and this latest stand-alone from her may even be pretty high up on my list of All Time Favourite Crime Novels. A heart-hurting slice of Georgia dark, from a crime-writer who has managed to pivot into family drama with such fine characterisations, that I find myself in awe of an author I already considered a favourite. I will only say that I’d have liked more courtroom drama – but I’ll quietly hope we get more, should this book prove to be the first in a series …

'Beautiful Messy Love' by Tess Woods

I absolutely adored this book, and gobbled it up in two days. I was actually surprised that I connected so viscerally with both couples and their stories – especially because one romance, between med-student Lily and the very tricky coupling with a grieving ex-husband Toby, sounds absolutely shocking in theory … but on the page, Woods teased this couple out with so much heat and sensuality, it was hard not to fall for them and root for them, even as all their biggest problems and obstacles were still painfully obvious. It’s romance that packs a punch, tender and thoughtful with a fantastic hot-streak. Tess Woods has now leapt to my auto-buy list, and I cannot wait to read more from her!


Devil in Spring’ The Ravenels #3 by Lisa Kleypas

Pandora is most definitely a throwback to Kleypas’s archetype ‘Wallflowers’ heroines – the shy but brilliant young lady with quirks and secrets. Her background is both tragic and admirable, and it’s easy to see why Gabriel is fascinated enough to warrant getting to know her better, only to fall in love with her … And Gabriel takes after his father as one of Kleypas’s better rakes. He’s thoughtful and kind, secretly feeling the pressure of his family and title and in need of someone like Pandora to keep him on his toes. It does feel really, really good to be back in the reading groove with Kleypas, who is one of those authors I come to rely on for a once-a-year release and guaranteed good read. And ‘Devil in Spring’ was a good way to get back in the groove.

‘Trust’ by Kylie Scott

Sexy and smart, very gritty and ... did I mention, sexy? It explores trauma, body-positivity, social classes ... and the central romance is strong and complex. Kylie Scott described it as: 'The Duff' meets 'Die Hard.' Sort of. Less Nakatomi Plaza and more mini-mart. I LOVED it!



‘Breath of Fire’ (Kingmaker Chronicles, #2) by Amanda Bouchet

I have been meaning to get my thoughts down about this series (first book was 2016’s ‘A Promise of Fire’) but then I just end up delving into the books, having a rollicking good time, and being unable to come up with anything except OMG I LOVE IT! I have been recommending these books to friends though, and will continue to do so. It’s fantasy-paranormal and very romance-heavy and just flat-out brilliant. Seriously – this series if up there with Patricia Briggs’ ‘Mercy Thompson’ and Ilona Andrews’ ‘Kate Daniels’ for me.


‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders

This was so very deserving of the Man Booker win. Totally. I already loved George Saunders, but this book almost made me fear him  … so sharply brilliant and intimidating is this book; it honestly felt like a turning-point in modern literature to read this masterpiece.



‘Fence’ #1 by C.S. Pacat, illustrated by Johanna the Mad

It’s the first instalment in a young adult comic-book series by Australian author Pacat, about the competitive world of high school fencing and featuring an M/M romance. This could have almost been too decadently good to be properly enjoyed, but honestly – it’s downright fabulous and fun. I cannot wait for more!

‘The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue’ by Mackenzi Lee

As I read this book, I swear, all I could hear was the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's 'Marie Antoinette' movie - in particular, New Order's 'Age of Consent' song. Something about this book just had that cavorting, saucy & sumptuous feel to it ... This is 100%, hands-down a favourite YA book of 2017 and a new favourite in general for me. It was SUPERB. Brilliant romance, mystery, genuinely *fun* historical fiction that managed to feel thoroughly modern and subversive even as it's so deeply immersed in the historic period. Must, must, must-read. I cannot wait for ‘The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy’ coming in 2018.

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman

Very rarely does the adult-literary hype machine work on me, and compel me to go out and buy a buzzed-about book to read … but in the case of Honeyman’s debut, I’m glad I succumbed. It’s intricate and warm, there’s a little romance and a lot of heart and it’s an all-round FEEL GOOD, thoughtful read.

‘Tash Hearts Tolstoy’ by Kathryn Ormsbee

First of all – I adore this cover. I know lots of people *hated* it with a fiery passion, but it honestly made me laugh AND – sit up and take notice. And I’m glad I judged by that cover, because this one packed a wallop. Mental health, LGBT rep, cancer … there were so many ways that Ormsbee could have potentially overdone it with this book – but she wrote something so tender and true, honest and funny. It was honestly just a fantastic coming-of-age read for me.

‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas

I loved getting my heart broken/mind opened by this book. All the praise it received this year was entirely earned, and cannot be underplayed - this really is one of the "Must Read Books of 2017" ... heck, it might even be one of the most important YA books of this decade. And it was my great honour to participate in a Melbourne Writers Festival event with Angie Thomas this year, and discover she’s as kind in person and so utterly deserving all the success.




This is my favourite book of 2017, I’ve decided. Hands down. ‘The Radium Girls’ was an important book for me to read – a story I am so grateful to now know about. But it is not a story that ends in 1938 (and not just because to this day the women’s bodies are projecting radioactivity from their graves). Rather – it’s a testimony to ongoing battles; to hold big businesses accountable (not give them bigger tax-breaks) and to never put profit before people. The legacy of these women is one of speaking truth to power. Which they did – with their dying breaths.

‘No Way! Okay, Fine.’ by Brodie Lancaster

This was a cathartic, compulsive and capricious read - I was laughing one minute, then welling up the next. It's a love-letter to pop-culture, a thrilling ode to the "little things" that matter, and the stories that raise us. And a smartly observant look at how the osmosis of story and consumption creates our communities. I loved it. Utterly, thoroughly LOVED it!

‘No Limits’ by Ellie Marney

This is modern Australia for so many growing up on the periphery right now, picked apart with exquisite and smart insight from one of Australia's best crime and YA writers. A novel of bruising empathy and excitable romance - with so much potential for a subversive new crime series, I'm practically salivating just thinking of the possibilities.

‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ by Maurene Goo

A young adult romance with a focus on the young protagonist’s obsession with Korean “K” dramas, and a storyline that becomes just as outlandish as those she relishes watching? Yes. Yes please.




‘The Woman Who Fooled The World’ is an attempt by the two journalists who first broke the story to wade through all the horseshit – and what they’ve come up with is a deeply fascinating and infuriating examination of not just one woman’s deception, but a confluence of users and abusers who have a lot to answer for. They examine rising social media alongside misinformation and – yes – “fake news”. They dig deep but still find little information on the woman herself, who remains a bit of an enigma for the journalists throughout … what saves the book from being a frustrating half-take though, is their spreading the blame (/horseshit) around and laying it at the feet of an industry that has conflated “health” and “beauty”, the rise of Insta-celebrities as snake oil salesmen, and profit over common sense. They also lay a hefty load of blame at their own door – on a new landscape of journalism that’s more interested in getting clicks than checking facts, and being first instead of being right.

I will warn that this is a powerful read. If you’re like me and this all hits very close to home, it’ll definitely make you cry. But, look – the final chapter is called ‘The Kids Are All Right’. Because they are, and will be. Because no matter the outcome of this marriage equality survey, or the hate-filled propaganda of those who fear change … it’s already here – in the young queer kids Benjamin Law speaks to, and the communities who are supporting and striving to understand them, instill respect for them.

'How Not To Be A Boy' by Robert Webb

I learnt a lot about Webb that I didn’t know, but has actually given new dimension to his writing and comedy for me – and actually, the creative process generally. Extraordinary to know the heartache and bullshit he went through, to be the kind of man he is today – who can confidently say that society’s male constructs are codswallop.

‘Hamilton's Battalion: A Trio of Romances’ by Courtney Milan Author, Alyssa Cole, and Rose Lerner

This has been a year in which I read some really, truly bad Hamilton-inspired novels (*cough* Alex & Eliza *cough*) but ‘Hamilton's Battalion’ made up for all the bad by being really, ridiculously good. Hamilton and Co. don’t really appear except as guest-stars, because it’s very much more about “love in the time of Hamilton” – but if the musical got you interested in the American Revolutionary War as a setting and time-period, then THIS is the romance book for you.

‘Seven Stones to Stand or Fall’ by Diana Gabaldon
I love that the ‘Outlander’ TV show is going from strength to strength, and I am waiting OH SO PATIENTLY for No. 9 ‘Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone’ – but in the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of ‘Outlander’ short-stories. Some have appeared in other Anthology publications, but my favorite was one written specifically for this collection. “A Fugitive Green” is all about how Harold Grey (Lord John’s elder brother) came to meet his wife, Minnie – and it is SO. HOT. and sad and lovely and just this story alone, made the entire book worthwhile for me.

‘The Harper Effect’ by Taryn Bashford

This is the #LoveOzYA debut from Bashford, and I was so looking forward to reading a YA! Tennis! Romance! … I am so glad it 1000% fulfilled all my expectations. I have always thought the world of competitive tennis is a great one to set a YA series (and I did enjoy one from 2013, by Jennifer Iacopelli), but Bashford’s takes it to a whole other level. It’s a little bit 2004 movie ‘Wimbledon’ meets the writing sensibilities of Liz Tigelaar.

'Ballad for a Mad Girl' by Vikki Wakefield

Vikki Wakefield is one of the most creative and daring authors writing for young adults today. Ballad for a Mad Girl is an Aussie YA Gothic tale that smartly uses the supernatural to explore the depths of grief and growing up, and the pain to be found in both. This is a caring and keening novel, creepy but tender and wholly marvellous.