borsellino_THRIVE cover_1Thrive continues my foray into reading dystopian YA fiction. A few months ago Havoc, by New Zealand author Jane Higgins, jolted my senses into recognition of this wildly popular genre, which explores future worlds (ones where twisted societal developments reign and hope is generally in short supply). I can report that I have now been on a second eye-opening dystopian adventure.

At the centre of Aussie author Mary Borsellino’s Thrive is teenager Olivia. Introspective and awkward, Olivia feels lost in her life as the daughter of wealthy parents. It’s an existence where privilege, looks, and conformity are valued over everything else.

Being kidnapped and held for ransom by a gang of misfits turns out to be an unexpected gift for Olivia. Here she meets Hannah, a teenager who is totally unlike herself. Hannah lives hand-to-mouth, reads banned hard-copy books like John Wyndham’s 1951 post-apocalyptic classic Day of the Triffids and conceals herself from those she doesn’t trust behind a red rabbit mask.

When Olivia is rescued and returned to her family she has trouble letting go of Hannah. She also can’t give up her new appetite for books. It isn’t long before Olivia is fleeing her stifling surrounds in search of a life less ordinary.

‘From the depths of factory oppression to the dizzying heights of vigilante rooftops, Olivia travels the margins of society, where the misfits gather and build homes for themselves out of whatever they can get their hands on – and fight to make a life worth living.’

Olivia is an engaging heroine, but I must say that by book’s end, I wanted to know her better than I did. Her relationships with the young people around her are definitely interesting but as a reader there were times when I wished more depth of feeling would come at me from the page. One example is a fleeting reference made late in the book to Olivia’s sexuality. I really felt this could have been an important thread in the story had it been explored. It may have also helped frame Olivia’s sibling-like relationship with Sam, who is one of the key characters.

The book has a kind of staccato feel to it, and for the most part I think this jumpy style works well with the broken and often bleak world Olivia and her loosely-formed tribe of revolutionaries inhabit. A couple of times though I yearned for a bit more flow, or perhaps follow-through.

On the plus-side I really did enjoy Thrive. There were many parts where both the writing and the story simply soared. The author’s interweaving of references to classic novels and literary fairytales was beautifully done,and this made them both poignant and important to the story being told. Olivia’s period as a masked vigilante known as the Candy Butcher who delivers nourishing soup and clever words to those starving in the streets is electric.

If you’re a dystopian/post-apocoliptic YA enthusiast this one is definitely worth a read.


In a more traditional format of one episode being released weekly on the popular website, Netflix, is the sci-fi drama, Between.

The small town of Pretty Lake is struck down by a mysterious virus that kills anyone 22 or older. So you literally have a modern teen friendly mix of Lord of the Flies, Gone, and Under the Dome.

There are the usual suspects, the rich family, the poor family, the smart family, the religious family and the farming family; each with their own internal struggles as well as their fight to make a place in the new pecking order.

Throw in a few conspiracy theories and you have an intense mix of angst and suspense to keep you coming back for more.

The one stand out character for me was Krystal Hope Nausbaum who plays Amanda. I am impressed that the writers bothered to add such a complex character into the fracas. I have great respect for a script to include a character with Down’s Syndrome, and not only make the character intelligent, but have the other characters interacting in a way where the character’s differences aren’t pointed out in an overt way. She just is. No apologies, no explanations.

Kudos to Michael McGowan on creating an addictive program. I have a feeling we’ll see more stuff like this from him in the future.

I hope you’ll all give Between a chance and let me know what you thought.


sarahHow long have you been writing for MDPWeb, why did you join the group, and what do you like about being part of it?

I have been reviewing for MDPWeb since April 2015. I am loving the opportunity to read books in a wide range of genres. Yes, I have a soft spot for contemporary YA, but as I’m learning through the diverse reading material delivered to me by MDPWeb, there are awesome books to be found in every genre and sub-genre you care to mention. What I find really cool about reviewing books is the idea that maybe I’m helping people discover books they might not otherwise pick up.

What creative piece are you working on, and what author would you liken your work to?

I am working hard to polish and refine the contemporary fiction novel I wrote last year during the Queensland Writer’s Centre Year of the Novel course (novelist Marianne de Pierres was the course’s most excellent presenter). My novel is called New Year’s Eve. The tag line is: Who says coming of age is only for teenagers? Eve Anderson has just turned 30 and this year she’s going to grow up. I’d say my book would appeal to readers of Rainbow Rowell.

 What book have you most enjoyed reviewing for MDPWeb?

Ooh, that’s a hard one. OK, I’m going to say The Prophecy of Bees. This book really took me by surprise. I did not think I was going to like it, let alone love it and I totally did. I am definitely looking forward to diving into my next suspense novel now.

cusackWhat’s your favourite thing to do in your downtime?

Read of course!

Is there somewhere else online/in bookstores we can find your work?

You can visit my blog

What’s your favourite TV series?

Not long ago my sister suggested I watch a show called Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It is totally whack…hilarious…awesome! I think Tina Fey was one of the creators. I was so sad when I’d watched my way through the season. Seriously, if you’re looking for a laugh, check it out.

Who or what is your current crush?

Past, present, future: Lloyd Dobler (AKA John Cusack) in the truly brilliant 80s movie Say Anything. Check out my blog and you’ll understand why.



black -Darkest part of the forestCover

The white title nestled in twisting green foliage suits the novel. The font is reminiscent of old-fashioned hand-lettering and has sharp edges that give the impression of violence.


In a town twined so closely with magic, you’d hardly expect to find ordinary characters here. And happily, you don’t. The characters in Darkest Part are all unique – some of them making themselves unique because they were not born, blessed or cursed so. There’s the human and his changeling ‘brother’, the girl who hunts Fae and her brother who cannot escape what they gave him – no matter how much he tries.


I’d really want to say all of them, but I guess that Hazel stands out the most for me. A bit dull considering that it’s a point in the book that everyone loves her – but I’m no exception. She’s fierce and determined and happy to be selfish if it means finding her vocation even when she knows that her vocation is not the slightest bit nice.

Least Favourite

Probably Alderking. Not because he was evil and you were supposed to hate him, but because I didn’t really feel much of anything for him.


A horned boy sleeps in a glass coffin nestled in the woods. Through the long years, parties have pulsed around him, artists have painted him and two siblings have tried everything they could think of to free him.


Fairfold is a town buried in the heart of an enchanted forest. Its citizens have learnt to adapt to the strange and sometimes terrifying creatures they live alongside. When the horned boy wakes, Fairfold is about to get a whole lot more dangerous.


I wasn’t sure that I liked where this story was going, but wound up loving the ending.


I read this in about a day while I was visiting my aunt because I’m the kind of person who will abandon my own kin if a book is good enough. Holly Black just has this way of writing characters that you want to spend time with – and one book was not enough with these guys. This feels like a stand-alone, but I will live in hope that it will turn into a trilogy.


There’s a monster in our wood

She’ll get you if you’re not good

Drag you under leaves and sticks

Punish you for all your tricks

A nest of hair and gnawed bone

You are never, ever coming –”


black_forect blackCover

There are a couple of different covers to this book. I have an ARC (advanced review copy) Mine has the forestry against a brownie-orange backdrop, much like the ebook and the hardcover.


Holly has crafted some truly fun characters in this one.


I would have to say Hazel. The girl kicks butt and is unapologetic about keeping her people safe.

Least Favourite

Hmmm… Ainsel.


There’s a boy in the darkest part of the forest, in an enchanted sleep, held within a glass coffin.


Hazel wakes him up and the crap hits the fan.


Dude! Read it and find out.


Holly Black can be a little hit and miss for me, but this book was a bullseye. I adore stand alone books that have you chomping at the bit for more. It would be great to have a bunch of books from the same reality, but not necessarily needing to be read in any particular order.


“Maybe. Just the other day, she made Carter carry dried holly berries in the pocket of his jacket. He got mad and chucked one at me. They sting like a bitch.” ~Jack talking to Ben


Krista McKeeth_2_tnKrista:


It’s eye catching, cute yet ominous. I prefer the white background over the the orange/brown one, personal preference.


Main character, Hazel she’s a very strong character, opinionated, and unselfish. Speaks her mind and is loyal.

Ben- Hazel’s brother. Somewhat competitive and some protective. He was bestowed the magic of music talent when he was young and is very gifted.

Severin-Horned boy coffin. He is focused and determined; on a mission, but finds time to make friends and build relationships with other characters.


Severin- Because he’s different and has a great back story.

Least Favourite

Ben and Hazel’s parents. Nothing specifically regarding each, but I felt that the way they raised Hazel and Ben, and it’s contrast to how they are now, was sad.


The introduction of the world and characters. They live next to a forest that has creatures of all kinds. Hazel likes to fight with her sword and pretend she is a knight. She is very protective of her brother. We learn of her guilt regarding a kiss that went horribly wrong, and Ben’s loss of his magic of music. Also there are ominous hints regarding a bargain that Hazel made, unknown to the other characters and readers until further along in the book.


From the jacket: “Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the centre of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground, and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

“Until one day, he does…

“As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?”


I really enjoyed the ending, things came full circle nicely, even though there was a bit of a surprise decision made. It fitted with the overall emotions of the book and made sense.


Once I finished reading the book, I sat and thought about if for a while. The characters really made the story for me and I found them admirable. The world building is imaginative and story line is exciting and full of adventure. I liked this book, and I recommend  it.


“Hazel kissed boys for all kinds of reasons — because they were cute, because she was a little drunk, because she was bored, because they let her, because it was fun, because they looked lonely, because it blotted out her fears for a while, because she wasn’t sure how many kisses she had left.”

“You and your sister are very dear to each other. To show your regard, you give each other lovely bouquets of lies.”

Hardcover, 328 pages

Published February 5th 2015 by Indigo (first published January 13th 2015)

ISBN 1780621736 (ISBN13: 9781780621739


Discussion Topics

Everyone has more than one self – though maybe not as noticeably as Hazel. Which of your selves do you not trust?

Hazel is overwhelmingly filled with thoughts of kissing. Funny side topic or distracting angst?

There are some side stories in which we learn about the townsfolk’s interactions with the creatures of the forest; which was your favourite?

Chris Glabbwoods_ShanghaiRecently, I’ve had the pleasure to review the book Shanghai Street Style by Toni Johnson-Woods and Vicki Karaminas with photography by Fung Chan.

This book was a pleasure to read as it was chocked full of interesting info on ‘The Fashion World’ in Shanghai. Shanghai is extremely fashion forward, compared to the rest of the world, and this is extremely evident in this book! Between the gorgeous photos and rich wording, this book brought me (mentally) to a city that I’ve never visited. Every page was like an amazing adventure to some magical fashion land, and I simply could not get enough!

The writing expresses the importance of making a statement. Anybody can wear khakis and a polo, but when you match that up with a pair of statement shoes you make the outfit your own. While reading and admiring the pictures, I learned about an abundance of styles, from Vintage to Contemporary and Chic to Hipster.


One thing this book really illustrated, which I feel is often overlooked in the fashion world, is the importance of accessories. The book has a playful, but informative grasp on accessories. Some of my favourite features have to be the owl hanging from a Smart phone, or the large pink and red ‘Piece Sign’ necklace that’s slightly on the verge of being tacky. Either way, I absorbed every bit of inspiration possible from these accessories and I feel like I’ll benefit immensely from the statement pieces photographed in the book.


Along with this theme of accessories, I loved the parts of the book that illustrated the works that are bags and shoes. My favourite tidbit that really exposes the use of a bag would have to be this one:

“The Shanghainese put a lot of thought in choosing the perfect bag, and that’s how it should be. Bags tell us so much about a person’s personality, about what they like to do and where they like to go. Teamed up with an outfit, bags are an essential accessory for any city slicker on the move.”

I love this piece of writing because I think it’s so true to the purpose of bags and explains the personality behind the person carrying it.


One part of the book that I thought was a quite comedic was when they were talking about how to choose a perfect shoe. Some of the reasons they gave were things like taste, brand loyalty and of course – price. This piece was just so real that it cracked me up a bit. Of course, I wouldn’t buy a shoe that I didn’t like the look of — taste. I wouldn’t buy a shoe if I didn’t know the brand, or if I knew they were unreliable or not well constructed – brand loyalty. And I wouldn’t spend anything over $200 on a pair of shoes – price. And so, I just really connected with this part of the book!


Thanks sooo much to Marianne, for hooking me up with this amazing book, and to Shanghai for the inspiration!

Chris :)

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