Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

moonriseTitle: Moonrise

Author: Sarah Crossan

Genre: YA

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 1st September 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: The astonishing new novel from Carnegie Medal, CliPPA Poetry Award, YA Book Prize and CBI Book of the Year Award winning author Sarah Crossan.

They think I hurt someone.
But I didn’t. You hear?
Cos people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.

Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think …

From one-time winner and two-time Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this poignant, stirring, huge-hearted novel asks big questions. What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye?

~*~

Moonrise is the latest extraordinary offering from Sarah Crossan. Another novel told in verse, something Sarah pulls off extremely well, it tackles another story of the underdogs, the ones who are disadvantaged by a justice system, and other systems skewed in the favour of others and those who hold the fate of innocent people in their hands. Through the eyes of Joe, in poems that occasionally flashback to a childhood before his brother went to jail, and the years in between his journey to Texas to save his brother, Joe tells the story of what it was like growing up with a mother who didn’t care, a brother and sister who did, and who did everything they could to keep him safe, and an aunt who, after his mother left, refused to help his brother, Ed. It is a story that has few rays of hope and happiness within it, showing the gritty reality of a broken justice system that shackles and condemns people without proper investigation, and that varies from state to state, as Joe says in one of the verses, that the crime his brother had committed in Texas and earned him the death penalty would have carried a life sentence in another state.

Throughout the novel, which is solely seen through the eyes of Joe, we catch glimpses into his family members and how he responds to them. He is closest to Ed and his sister, Angela, whilst his mother has gone off. His aunt cares but in a harsh way – in a way that at the time, Joe sees as repressive and cold. She brings religion and a strict nature into the house, ensuring Joe and Angela will not end up in the same place as Ed, but as Joe relates through his poetry, people still associate what Ed has supposedly done with them, and they become isolated.

It is a poignant novel about the injustice of a justice system that serves to punish based on circumstance and misfortune of a casual link to a person, without evidence, leading to an inevitable conclusion that the reader hopes won’t happen. The grim reality that the Moon family face is something that many families face in America, and Sarah Crossan has done a sensitive job taking on a challenging topic that may not be understood by those not affected. Through the eyes of a teenager, she has shown how something like this can not only change the life of the accused, but the life of a family, and those who come to know them and who try to help them.

It is a powerful story that does have an effect on the reader, making your mind tick over about the issues dealt with in the book. To date, I have read two of Sarah’s books told in verse, and in both she has taken characters who are not fully accepted by society and not properly seen, and has told their story, opening up a world beyond what many readers might know, and evoking empathy and sympathy for those less fortunate, and those whose lives are affected by events that not everyone will experience. Telling it in verse makes it all the more powerful, and though it is a quick read, you still get the gist of the story, and the emotions that drive it.

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New York Nights by CJ Duggan

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Title: New York Nights

Author: CJ Duggan

Genre: Fiction/New Adult

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 306

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: Sarah Williams is a spirited, independent Aussie who has always dreamed of New York City. So when a job opportunity arises to become an au pair for a successful businessman in the heart of Manhattan, Sarah jumps at the chance to follow her dream.

What she didn’t bet on was a beautiful newborn and a distant, abrasive man whose eyes hold a million anguished secrets. Determined to care for his daughter and face the challenges of the impossible Ben Worthington, Sarah was always prepared to follow her heart; she just wasn’t prepared to lose it to a complicated man like Ben.

 

~*~

 

As someone who steers away from romance as much as possible, mainly because it’s not a genre I tend to enjoy unless there’s more to the storyline than a man and a woman chasing each other around without any obstacles or complications that make the plot more interesting, this was my first encounter with CJ Duggan, and my first encounter with what is referred to as New Adult, a classification that comes after Young Adult, aimed at people perhaps in their twenties. In New York Nights, we meet Sarah, an Australian who has travelled abroad to become an au pair for a single father and his newborn daughter, Grace. In a house and family filled with secrets and a seemingly cold greeting from all but Nikki, the one sister, Sarah is isolated in the Greenwich Village apartment with Sarah.

 

As Sarah and Ben grow closer, secrets are brought into the open and the very real possibility of betrayal starts to emerge. It was the lingering secrets and mystery, and the conflict these caused within the family that intrigued me more than the romance. On the surface, one might say this is just a romance, but go a little deeper, and it is about a scarred family, trying to recover, and doing so through hidden secrets and cold facades.

 

It is the sort of book that can be read quickly – a good summer read for a beach day, or just for when you want something quick and easy to read in between everything else and between heavier reads. I may not be heading off to read this again, but there is an audience out there for these books and this author. I hope that these readers enjoy these books as much as I enjoy books by my favourite authors.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by JK Rowling

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Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Author: J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy/Screenplay

Publisher: Little, Brown/Hachette

Published: 18/11/16

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 291

Price: $39.99

Synopsis: When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone . . .

Inspired by the original Hogwart’s textbook by Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original screenplay marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved and internationally bestselling Harry Potter books. A feat of imagination and featuring a cast of remarkable characters and magical creatures, this is epic adventure-packed storytelling at its very best. Whether an existing fan or new to the wizarding world, this is a perfect addition for any film lover or reader’s bookshelf.

The film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will have its theatrical release on 18th November 2016.

~*~

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them started life as a text book by magizoologist Newt Scamander, used by students at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books. From that mention, it became a book for fans to buy, with the proceeds going to charity. Fifteen years later, a screenplay has been written for a movie, featuring the renowned (and fictional) Newt Scamander as he journeys to New York to continue his journey of discovery. However, his magical suitcase goes missing, and it is not long before things start to go wrong, and before MACUSA, the American equivalent of the Ministry for Magic, and No-Majs (Muggles), start to notice. One poor Muggle gets caught up, and it is up to him, Newt and two sisters to find the beasts and ensure the secrets of the wizarding world are kept a secret. Alongside this adventure is the subplot of the Second Salem group, trying to enforce their views and bring back a new age of witch hunting. Though it is just the screenplay of the film that was released on the same day, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is delightful, and it ties in nicely with the backstory to the Harry Potter novels, giving fans insight into the days of a text book author, how another nation viewed magic and dealt with secrecy, and also hinted at things to come with mention of a wizard who history told the wizarding world was dangerous, in the days before Voldemort attended Hogwarts and rose to become the most feared wizard within the world of Harry Potter.

Set in 1926, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a tight, well-told story that has the potential to continue on in further movies. I have not yet seen the movie, and do not feel that reading the screenplay first will ruin the experience for me when I am able to: it has given me a peek at the New York wizarding world, and some insight into the characters, but only a little, and the movie will only build on that. Reading a screenplay can be a little different to reading the book: as it is less descriptive, imagining the settings and characters takes a little more time than with a novel, however, if you know the actors in the movie, then knowing what to imagine is a little easier, and I have an idea of who to expect in the role.

Another great story of the wizarding world from JK Rowling; I look foward to seeing the movie.

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society

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Title: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society
Author: Joy Callaway
Genre: Fiction/Popular Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 23rd November 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 358
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: Devastated after being jilted by the boy next door, Ginny Loftin turns to writing in an attempt to rewrite their story with a better ending. But it is among the painters, musicians, actors and other writers she meets at a Fifth Avenue salon that she finds new purpose and a second chance at love. A richly told historical novel of family loyalties, loss and artistic desires.
‘The creative sisterhood of Little Women, the social scandal of Edith Wharton and the courtship mishaps of Jane Austen . . . The Fifth Avenue Artists Society is a delightful, and at times touching, tale of Gilded Age society and creative ambition with an inspiring heroine.’ New York Daily News

The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin, the boldest of four artistic sisters in a family living in genteel poverty, knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, the boy next door and her first love.

When Charlie instead proposes to a woman from a wealthy family, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up in her room and turns their story into fiction, obsessively rewriting a better ending. Though she works with newfound intensity, literary success eludes her-until she attends an elite salon hosted at her brother’s friend John Hopper’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Among painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under the handsome, enigmatic John’s increasingly romantic attentions.

But just as she and her siblings have become swept up in the society, Charlie throws himself back into her path, and Ginny learns that the salon’s bright lights may be obscuring some dark shadows. Torn between two worlds that aren’t quite as she’d imagined them, Ginny will realise how high the stakes are for her family, her writing, and her chance at love.

~*~

A story that has romance within its pages, yet it is the kind that doesn’t take over everything else in the story that the characters experience and go through, and nor does it turn Ginny, the main character, into less than she is at the beginning of the novel. Virginia Loftin comes from a family of artistic ambition. Sister Bessie is a milliner, her twin brother Franklin is a painter, her younger sister Alevia is a musician, and Virginia is a writer. Only her oldest sister Mae isn’t an artist, taking to teaching orphans instead, yet supportive of the pursuits of her siblings. The years since her father’s death have been hard on Virginia’s family, all doing whatever they can with their creativity to bring in the money. Virginia’s best friend Charlie is an artist too, and together, they have grown up, sharing their love of art, painting and the written word. And an undying loyalty to each other that rarely wavers, and Virginia is sure that they will marry – until Charlie proposes to another woman.

As an aspiring writer, Virginia has faced sexism from other artists and writing groups because of her gender – because of how the society she was a part of at the time viewed the genders and what they were supposedly capable of. Virginia and her family, and Charlie, know that she is capable of anything. But Virginia still must find a way to prove herself, and it is The Fifth Avenue Artists Society that she attends where she uncovers a way to unlock her talent and to meet like-minded men and women. It all seems too good to be true, and perhaps it is: because nothing ever happens so easily.

Escaping as most writers do into her words, Virginia joins a society of artists – The Fifth Avenue Artists Society in New York, where she meets several characters who will change her life and the course of the lives of her family over the course of the novel. A courtship with fellow society member, John Hopper, encourages Virginia to share her writing, and to aim for publication of her work that is inspired by her feelings and the people around her. As she works on her novel, a shadow of mystery about Franklin’s new job begins to emerge, and it is not long before a series of tragic events unravel and reveal secrets that threaten to bring shame upon the family and alienate them from the upper class society that they are a part of.

A story that is based on the family history of the author, which gives the characters a depth and authenticity that makes one feel as though they are in late nineteenth century New York less than thirty years after the end of the American Civil War, where the war is briefly mentioned a few times to set the scene and the background to the families, The Fifth Avenue Artists Society celebrates the value of art to the individual, and society. It explores what society expected of men and women at the time, and what was accepted, but also shows a woman who, though she sees the value in the conventional, does not always ascribe to the roles society deems right. She is an intriguing character who ends up following her heart for love and for her goals of publication. An intriguing read that brings society life to light and shows how attitudes have changed in many ways.