Category Archives: Australia

Review: Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

1948. The world is struggling to regain a sense of balance after the devastation of World War II, and the sugar cane-growing community of Piri River in northern Queensland is no exception.

As returned servicemen endeavour to adjust to their pre-war lives, women who had worked for the war effort are expected to embrace traditional roles once more.

Rosie Stanton finds it difficult to return to the family farm after years working for the Australian Women’s Army Service. Reminders are everywhere of the brothers she lost in the war and she is unable to understand her father’s contempt for Italians, especially the Conti family next door. When her father takes ill, Rosie challenges tradition by managing the farm, but outside influences are determined to see her fail.

Desperate to leave his turbulent history behind, Tomas Conti has left Italy to join his family in Piri River. Tomas struggles to adapt in Australia—until he meets Rosie. Her easy-going nature and positive outlook help him forget the life he’s escaped. But as their relationship grows, so do tensions between the two families until the situation becomes explosive.

When a long-hidden family secret is discovered and Tomas’s mysterious past is revealed, everything Rosie believes is shattered. Will she risk all to rebuild her family or will she lose the only man she’s ever loved?

Published 21 May 2018 |  Publisher: Harlequin MIRA  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

Burning Fields is a novel set in post-war Australia where men struggled with the things they saw in war & women struggled at being expected to step back to their relegated role in the home. This novel tries to reconcile these 2 issues in a typically Australian outback setting. The lush and promising land beguiled all to believe that anything is possible.

This novel opens with Rosie Stanton returning to her family farm after she lost her bid for independence. Both her brothers went to war and neither returned. She is reluctant to face her parents and their grief. Despite her love for the farm and her capabilities, her father will not have her working at the farm. Her mother appears to be struggling with her own demons. Rosie is determined for her father to recognise her abilities and help her mother. There is also the attractive newcomer at the next farm…

Tomas Conti & his family are the new neighbours. Despite their attraction, Tomas is a troubled man. His recognition of Rosie’s independence is a big plus but will he be able to put the past behind to live in the present?

The story is mainly told from Rosie’s perspective in the present. Every few of Rosie’s chapter is broken by a chapter of Tomas’ perspective from the past (the war in Italy). I must say that each of Tomas’ chapters filled me with dread as I expected whatever horrid thing to happen then. Both characters are easily likeable and I enjoyed Rosie’s persistent effort to be recognise as being capable as any man.

Burning Fields is an easy and enjoyable read. It was rather easy to put down & pick back up again. It is a sweet romance and I love how the town people (or rather most of them anyway) get together as a community to support each other.

Thanks to Harlequin MIRA & Netgalley for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Alli Sinclair is an Australian multi-award winning author published who has lived in Argentina, Peru, and Canada. She’s climbed some of the world’s highest mountains and worked as a tour guide in South and Central America. Australia has always been close to Alli’s heart as she loves the diverse landscapes and the rich multicultural heritage of this wonderful land.

Alli’s books explore history, culture, love and grief, and relationships between family, friends and lovers. She captures the romance and thrill of discovering old and new worlds and loves taking readers on a journey of discovery.

Find Alli on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook

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Review: Meet Me at the Intersection

Meet Me at the Intersection edited by Rebecca Lim & Ambelin Kwaymullina

Meet Me at the Intersection is an anthology of short fiction, memoir and poetry by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ or living with disability. The focus of the anthology is on Australian life as seen through each author’s unique, and seldom heard, perspective.

With works by Ellen van Neerven, Graham Akhurst, Kyle Lynch, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Olivia Muscat, Mimi Lee, Jessica Walton, Kelly Gardiner, Rafeif Ismail, Yvette Walker, Amra Pajalic, Melanie Rodriga, Omar Sakr, Wendy Chen, Jordi Kerr, Rebecca Lim, Michelle Aung Thin and Alice Pung, this anthology is designed to challenge the dominant, homogenous story of privilege and power that rarely admits ‘outsider’ voices.

Published September 2018 |  Publisher: Fremantle Press  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I’m so excited to see a book, an anthology, dedicated to #ownvoices ! Finally, something for everyone (or almost). Editors did a fine job in collating stories of representation from a cross-section of those who are different, unique; of voices whom we rarely hear.

There are a couple of poetry which I struggled with… I don’t know how to read poetry! Although what really helps is the blurb at the beginning of each chapter describing who the authors are and sometimes, what their pieces are about. Each one of these authors are amazing humans!

Of course, I am absolutely partial to the Asian stories / authors as I understood them better from the cultural perspective. However, this did not diminish my enjoyment of the other stories (except for poetry as I mentioned above) for each of these stories help me to better understand their side of the story. I mean why else do we read but to open our minds to others and in listening to them, be better able to love as they deserve to be loved. I highly recommend this anthology for all who seek to understand.

Thanks to Fremantle Press for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Rebecca Lim is a writer, illustrator and lawyer based in Melbourne. Rebecca is the author of eighteen books, and has been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award, INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award, Aurealis Award and Davitt Award for YA. Rebecca’s work has also been longlisted for the Gold Inky Award and the David Gemmell Legend Award. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Turkish, Portuguese and Polish.

Find Rebecca on:  goodreads

Ambelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer and illustrator who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is the author and illustrator of a number of award-winning picture books as well as a YA dystopian series. Her books have been published in the United States, South Korea and China. Ambelin is a prolific commentator on diversity in children’s literature and a law academic at the University of Western Australia.

Find Ambelin on:  goodreads

Review: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

The setting is the Mallee, wide flat scrubland in north-western Victoria, country where men are bred quiet, women stoic and the gothic is never far away. Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve. She is smart, fanciful and brave and on the cusp of something darker than the small world she has known her entire life.

When she learns that she once had a baby sister who died — a child unacknowledged by her close but challenging family — Olive becomes convinced it was murder. Her obsession with the mystery and relentless quest to find out what happened have seismic repercussions for the rest of her family and their community. As everything starts to change it is Olive herself who has the most to lose as the secrets she unearths multiply and take on complicated lives of their own.

Little Gods is a novel about the mess of family, about vengeance and innocence lost. It explores resilience and girlhood and questions how families live with all of their complexities and contradictions. Resonating with echoes of Australian classics like Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, and Jasper Jones, Little Gods is told with similar idiosyncrasy, insight and style. Funny and heartbreaking, this is a rare and original novel about a remarkable girl who learns the hard way that the truth doesn’t always set you free.

Published March 2018 |  Publisher: Allen & Unwin  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (2.5 / 5 stars)

I struggled with this novel. According to GR, I started reading at the end of April. I think I tried for 2 days’ commuting’s worth (approx 3.5 hours) and gave up. Usually, I would’ve nearly finished a novel but I read only about 1/3 of this novel. This was months ago so all I vaguely remember is the jumbled confusion on who’s who. The novel is told from solely from Olive’s perspective and most of the time, she refers to her mother by her name (the same applies to her aunts & uncles). There were 3 sisters and 3 brothers and somehow they formed one big family. It took me absolutely forever to sort them out. Actually, I don’t think I did then…

Today, I decided that the book deserves one last chance. Unbelievably, I caught on fairly quickly and finished the novel in no time at all. I guess the story did pick up after the confusing first third of the book. All the background set up is done and we can actually progress with what’s happened next. It’s obvious from the book’s description that the mystery was a tragedy and it’s something the family does not speak about. I admired Olive’s persistence in finding out the truth and when it hurt (a lot of inferences need to be drawn by the readers as to what’s actually happened; I was rather annoyed with this), she dealt and lived.

I wanted to read this book as it supposedly echoed Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, & Jasper Jones. I loved these three Aussie classics but unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Little Gods. Maybe, I picked it up at the wrong time and so struggled badly with the beginning of it, who knows?! Whilst I totally agree that this novel has a very Aussie vibes, I’m left dissatisfied at the close of the book.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for copy of book in exchange of honest review


About the author

Jenny Ackland is a writer and teacher from Melbourne. She has worked in offices, sold textbooks in a university bookshop, taught English overseas and worked as a proof-reader and freelance editor. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines and listed in prizes and awards. Her debut novel The Secret Son – a “Ned Kelly-Gallipoli mash-up” about truth and history – was published in 2015. Little Gods is her second novel.

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  instagram

Review: The Buried Ark by James Bradley

The Buried Ark (The Change #2) by James Bradley

Callie risked everything to get her little sister Gracie to the safety of the Zone. But Matt, the boy she loves, has been killed by Quarantine and Gracie has been absorbed into the Change.

Now Callie must learn to survive in the alien landscape of the Zone, a place where the Change is everywhere, and nothing is what it seems. That is, until she stumbles on a secret from her past that may hold the key to defeating the Change.

Hunted and alone, she finds refuge in the most unexpected of places. Only to find she is in more danger than ever.

Published 29 May 2018 |  Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$14.99

My Blurb (4 stars)

Please note this review is for the second book of the trilogy and may contain spoilers. Here is a link if you’d like to check out my review of the first book: The Silent Invasion

If you’ve read book 1, you know how it ended and I’m sure you were just as frustrated as I was that we had to wait a full year to know what happens next. Thankfully, this book picked up immediately after that ending and what a touching scene it was….

Of course, nothing is ever as it seems! Callie, heartbroken & missing Matt & Gracie, had to figure out how she was going to survive in a place where she stood out as foreign; she is the ‘alien’, the one who does not belong. Strangely, despite her frequent contact with the changes, she remains herself. Is there a way to save the world from being changed?

I must confess to being rather sad as I missed the dynamics of Callie, Matt, & Gracie. In this second instalment of the trilogy, Without giving away too much, I did like a few of secondary characters introduced as her ‘sidekicks’. They were an interesting bunch but I just didn’t feel as connected to them as I did with Matt & Gracie though this could be that these new characters were not there with Callie throughout the whole book like Matt & Gracie did in The Silent Invasion.

The Buried Ark did not disappoint. It is a thrilling read and each time you’d think things are just getting better, they fell apart even more disastrously. James Bradley had aimed for an even bigger explosion to end book 2 and my world, didn’t he just blow the world apart?!

Thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

James Bradley was born in 1967. He is the author of three novels, Wrack, The Deep Field and his most recent, The Resurrectionist; a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus; and the editor of Blur, a collection of stories by young Australian writers. He is a well-respected critic and regularly reviews for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He lives in Sydney with his partner, novelist Mardi McConnochie.

Find James on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter

Review: Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills


Dyschronia
by Jennifer Mills

An electrifying novel about an oracle. A small town. And the end of the world as we know it…

One morning, the residents of a small coastal town somewhere in Australia wake to discover the sea has disappeared. One among them has been plagued by troubling visions of this cataclysm for years. Is she a prophet? Does she have a disorder that skews her perception of time? Or is she a gifted and compulsive liar?

Oscillating between the future and the past, Dyschronia is a novel that tantalises and dazzles, as one woman’s pescient nightmares become entangled with her town’s uncertain fate. Blazing with questions of consciousness, trust, and destiny, this is a wildly imaginative and extraordinary novel from award-winning author Jennifer Mills.

My Blurb

Baffled.

Hence my star rating of 2 probably doesn’t worth much. I loved the cover and I was intrigued by the blurb, “One morning, the residents of a small coastal town somewhere in Australia wake to discover the sea has disappeared.” I, therefore, expected some sort of post-apocalyptic sort of novel and while it was in a way ‘post-apocalyptic’, it wasn’t… not really.

I struggled by the time shifts; I can’t even tell you how many there were supposed to be… There were the future (in visions?), the present, and the past; I know these for certain but there were time strands for each time anyway and there’s no particular warning, they can change within a chapter, a space or an asterix to indicate end of a section does not particularly help. Thankfully, there were only 2 perspectives: Sam’s (though she’s the one having visions so that didn’t help in anyway) and the town people’s (using the royal ‘We’).

I think I understood that the book’s themes revolve around the environment, climate, and corporate scams that in the end, only the plebeians suffer the consequences. I’m just not sure whether getting your point across despite the baffled reader is enough. I do have now an appreciation of the cuttlefish… not enough not to eat them (not that I eat them all the time). I am just so sorry that I could not love the book!

Source: I borrowed this book from my local library

About the author

Jennifer Mills is the author of the novels Gone (UQP, 2011) and The Diamond Anchor (UQP, 2009) and a collection of short stories, The Rest is Weight (UQP, 2012). The Rest is Weight. Mills’ fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been widely published, appearing in Meanjin, Hecate, Overland, Heat, Island, the Lifted Brow, the Griffith Review, Best Australian Stories, New Australian Stories, and the Review of Australian Fiction, as well as being broadcast, recorded and performed from Adelaide to Berlin. She is a regular writer for Overland literary journal and has contributed criticism to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Wheeler Centre, and the Sydney Review of Books. She is currently the fiction editor at Overland.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  |  twitter

 

Review: If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

‘The second our eyes lock in the dark is all the time I need to know that whatever happens next, my life will never be the same.’

Life and love don’t wait until you’re ready, but what if finding yourself means losing everything you’ve ever known?

Seventeen-year-old Alex Summers lives with a secret and the constant fear someone will find out. But when a new family moves to town, they bring with them their teenage daughter Phoenix Stone. When Alex falls for Phoenix, there is no warning. In a small town with small minds, girls don’t go out with other girls, even if they want to.

In fear there is bravery – you can either cling to the edge or have the courage to jump. But what do you do when you’re left spiralling through the freefall?

This is a heart-wrenching story of love in an unloving Australian landscape.

My Blurb (5 stars)

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect from this book. I don’t read many LGBT books though not because I purposely avoid them but more that they’re not particularly books I usually come across without having to research or specifically look for. I’ve done a lot of reading challenges so it’s come up a few times and I would usually have to really look for them. In addition, If I Tell You, is geared towards young adult… there are even less LGBT/YA books.

Alex Summers is an easily likeable character. She has dreams and wishes for her wedding day though there is one particular details which would differ from what her mother would’ve dreamed or planned. This is a secret Alex has kept from everyone. When Phoenix Stone arrived in town though, she was a temptation Alex cannot resist.

If I Tell You is told solely from Alex’s perspective and from it, I must say that it’s a pretty UN-likeable town (and I’m being nice here!) despite her supportive friends (I adore Lin!). I think Lin is the bright shining star in this book for me and that’s because I could identify with her better being Asian in ancestry. Which makes me think that Alex may be the bright shining star for those who have been and/or are experiencing the same sort of situation. How can you be happy when you can’t be yourself?

I was caught by story from the very first sentence. And I just couldn’t put the book down. I love that it’s very Aussie in setting & feel though I don’t know if I actually want to visit this town; it’s more of a homey sort of feeling that I’m sure we can all identify with. I cannot condone the behaviours of some of the people especially the mother. As a mother of 2 young children, I feel conflicted; I wanted to know further the reason for her reaction as I can think of dozens!

Writing this review is very hard for me. I feel like I am also treading a fine line as I may accidentally have written something which sounded okay to me in my head but due to missing the nuances of spoken words, they may be misconstrued. So, I’m just going to wrap it up by saying explicitly that I loved this book for its potential in the LGBTQIA+ community but also for the wider audience. I loved this book for all the feels; the giddiness of first love to the heartbreak of loss. If I Tell You is a compelling coming-of-age tale and all of you should jump into it.

Thanks to Pantera Press for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

 

Alicia Tuckerman is a driving force for young LGBT voices within Australia. Raised in rural NSW before she left home at the age of sixteen, she accepted a position to study at the Hunter School of Performing Arts.

Described as having an overactive imagination as a child, she recalls writing stories her entire life. Alicia attributes surviving her teenage years to the comfort, release and escape writing offered and she hopes to inspire the next generation of readers and writers to embrace their true passions.

Alicia was inspired to write If I Tell You after finding a lack of YA novels featuring two central lesbian characters. She draws on her life experiences to explore the joys, triumphs and cruelties of modern day adolescence and considers there is no fantasy world she could create that is more terrifyingly beautiful than the one we’re expected to live in.

Alicia is a Law Clerk and now lives in the Swan Valley region of Perth with her wife and two children, where she does most of her writing in the small hours before the kids wake up, or on her daily commute to the office!

Find Alicia on: goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter  |  facebook

Review: The Three of Us by Kim Lock

The Three of Us by Kim Lock

A life lived in the shadows. A love that should never have been hidden.

In the small town of Gawler, South Australia, the tang of cut grass and eucalyptus mingles on the warm air. The neat houses perched under the big gum trees on Church Street have been home to many over the years. Years of sprinklers stuttering over clipped lawns, children playing behind low brick walls. Family barbecues. Gossipy neighbours. Arguments. Accidents. Births, deaths, marriages. This ordinary street has seen it all.

Until the arrival of newlyweds Thomas and Elsie Mullet. And when one day Elsie spies a face in the window of the silent house next door, nothing will ever be ordinary again…

In Kim Lock’s third novel of what really goes on behind closed doors, she weaves the tale of three people with one big secret; a story of fifty years of friendship, betrayal, loss and laughter in a heartwarming depiction of love against the odds.

My Blurb (5 stars)

The one sure thing I know I’ll come across in this novel is a female character giving birth. Well, okay, maybe I don’t actually know for sure but that’s 3 out of 3! It’s not the focus of this particular novel but it’s there… I remember my reading experience of Lock’s novel (Peace, Love, and Khaki Socks) and I could never forget that birthing scene and it will always forever colour my view of Kim Lock’s novels. She’s just gone from strength to strength!

The Three of Us opens with Thomas Mullet, a 70+ year old man, at his first appointment with a counselor. He’s there because he’s running out of time and needed guidance on what to do before time’s up. And within 5 pages, the first bomb was dropped. And it was a pretty big one…

There isn’t much I could say about the book without giving hints which may spoil it for you. Whatever your first expectation is… that’s not it. What I can say, however, was that it’s a love story; there is heartbreak and there is happiness. This book spans about 50 years of these characters’ lives. It began in the 60s when Thomas & Elsie just begun their lives as husband & wife. When brides are to give up their fulfilling jobs and maintain an efficient sparkling household. It ended in more recent times when wives and/or mothers are expected to work full time and maintain an efficient sparkling household. But still… in the span of half a century, society has not change all that much

‘Society is more tolerant?’

Thomas gave a wry laugh. ‘We like to think so, don’t we? But I reckon it’s just different versions of the same intolerance. There’s still criticism – horrible things still happen because of narrow minds.’

It was a very uncomfortable read for the first third of the book. Mainly because I have an aversion towards a certain trope and I was very anxious for it not to be employed here. By the end of the first third, the second bomb detonated. A little relief with the way the plot is taking but it was still a rather uncomfortable read. Uncomfortable because we do not speak of these things; we do not expect it in our mundane daily life (as an aside, I actually do know one household and… whatever works for them to be happy, you know).

This is the best of Kim Lock to date even though I still preferred her first work (being lighter in mood). However, The Three of Us is a novel we currently need in the world. The world does not change by itself. We change it. And sometimes, we need a prompt, a push, a nudge, a shove, to change it. In The Three of Us, you will find a love story like no other. I would highly recommend it for a bookclub read. I can guarantee you a very lively discussion! Some wine and chocolates are warranted to chill things a little.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Kim Lock was born in 1981. She is the author of two previous novels Like I can Love and Peace, Love and Khaki Socks. Her non-fiction has appeared in the Guardian, Daily Life, and the Sydney Morning Herald onlineShe lives in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, with her partner and their children, a dog and a couple of cats.

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Kim! 😀