Category Archives: Womens Lit

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 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! 😀

Review: Ambulance Girls

Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: Paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Ever since I fell completely in adoration of Deborrah Burrows’ last book, A Time of Secrets a couple of years ago, I’ve been waiting for another book. And while I was waiting, I kinda stalk her on Goodreads and twitter so I knew she’s been traipsing (sorry, researching) all over London when living there. I greeted the cover reveal of Ambulance Girls with a squeal of excitement and I think my heart might have stopped for mo when I received a copy in the mail.

Firstly, I do love this cover and I really like war historical fiction especially when this particular book’s main character was inspired by a real life historical Aussie woman serving in the London Auxiliary Ambulance Station during the Blitz. There were a lot of things I learnt from this novel about women during the Blitz. I guess there have been quite a number of books or even documentaries but the way it was written here made it all the more real to me. It was obvious that a lot of research was done in the writing of this novel and not just about the women or the Blitz as novel itself feels like veritable literary tour of London.

The novel opens with Lily on duty and having to face one of her fears of enclosed spaces. It was a great start to the novel and you’d easily fall in love with Lily. Her other fears though were not as easily conquered… Aside from her courage, empathy, and her wish to do well unto others, she’s also got a great sense of humour. Maybe that’s her Aussie flavoured humour that coloured her interactions with her friends and gave the book a reminiscent air. We follow Lily through her struggles with daily life during the Blitz; the grief of losing a friend and the joy of falling in love. There were some shaky moments where I thought things were just not going to be right with this book but thankfully, all was made quite well! I had to give the book a bit of a hug from relief and an affectionate pat when I finished reading for I was well & truly shaken.

There were a number of characters both likeable and despicable in this book and the variety and dynamics between these characters were really quite interesting. The book is told from Lily’s perspective only so in a way, we miss out on a lot about the other characters as only a few were well developed. However, as this is the first book of a trilogy, I do believe we will get to know some of the others quite well later on (and I look forward to this!). What you cannot mistake in this novel is the author’s views on anti-semitism (ignorant) and Hitler (evil); she’s loud and clear on that front. Hear! Hear! These things can never be stated enough and whilst Hitler is gone, there are still those like him & share his views.

If you loved the show, Call the Midwife, or the books that inspired it, you would love Ambulance Girls. Lily Brennan may not be English but she’s as brave as those midwives in facing uncertainties & adversities of the time. And I dare say that her Australian personality shone through especially against the foil of English reserved façade.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: The Fifth Letter

the-fifth-letter
The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Do you have a group of best friends? Do they know everything about you or do you think you know all there is to know about each other? I have a group of my own best friends; four of us grew close during high school – almost like Joni, Deb, Eden, & Trina. Like them, 3 of us are married with children and one has just found The One and about to tie the knot in a few months’ time. *sniffs – am so very happy for her*

The beginning of their friendship is almost laughable. It was pointed out to them that they all have 2 things in common: surnames starting with “C” and their star signs (Scorpios). It’s not the silliest thing that have begun deep friendships, of course, but this was the basis that Joni decided that the four of them are meant to be best friends forever. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most innocent start of the group…

scorpio

Years later, they were still good friends. They see each other regularly and even have girls weekend away sometimes. This weekend though, things rather fell apart. They decided to each write an anonymous letter of secrets to tell each other. It really wasn’t that easy to be anonymous when you know each other well and in addition to that, Joni found a fifth letter with a rather menacing tone. What is she to do with it? Is she supposed to do anything about it?

I really enjoyed the beginning of The Fifth Letter. The stage was being set with Joni finding the letter, her confessional conversation with a Catholic priest (my favourite character), then flashbacks to their teen years. I started smiling on page 3 and found at the end of my train trip, that I still had a wide smile on my face. It wasn’t just funny but the flashbacks also remind me of my own memories of my friends. I didn’t actually like any of these 4 ladies even though I can identify/empathise with all of them in one thing or another. Joni, being the main protagonist and whose perspective we read from, can be very frustrating! She is lovely really but oh, she can be so blind! In saying that, however, I also couldn’t really pick the fifth letter writer. And that precious ending, oh wow, I was literally choking with laughter!

What began as a rather humorous and reminiscing read, this novel took a turn into a dark complex of human emotions. These women each have their own issues which they feel they cannot voice yet that is the first step towards healing. The Fifth Letter engages the reader to look beyond the surface, to check our unrealistic expectations of women and see them as a person, an individual, who is not perfect (no one is perfect) and needs loving supports.

Thank you, Nicola Moriarty, for this novel and the chance to reflect of my own friendships. Like Joni, Deb, Eden, & Trina, I’m sure that we do not know everything about each other and that’s okay… I am certain, however, that none of us harbours any ill will towards anyone in the group 😀

Thank you Harper Collins Publishers Australia for providing paperback copy in exchange of honest review

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Review: Between The Vines

 

between the vinesBetween the Vines by Tricia Stringer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

Between the Vines is a novel of beautiful and intriguing setting. Set in the famed South Australian vineyards, in Coonawarra, it lends a gorgeous & sunny air as the atmosphere of the novel. Being set within the vineyard itself with characters involved in winemaking engages my curiosity and also reminds me that I need another holiday!

The initial attraction between Taylor and Ed was thrilling. Taylor hasn’t had the best of luck in the men department so whilst she wanted to take the chance with Ed, she also needed to take it slow. As it turned out, he wasn’t what he seemed. Pete, on the other hand, is a bit like the boy next door –a lovely man whom you’d not glance twice if you walk past them on the street. Tension between these three characters were drawn taut but with a clear line of what’s really the best outcome for them all.

For some reason, I got really confused between Ed and Pete (I kept forgetting which brother is which!) in the beginning so I needed my full concentration reading that I even missed my train stop (*grump*) but I got into the swing of it pretty soon. I also seemed to have missed the humour in the F’s… I found this penchant of Taylor actually annoying and could do without it.

Overall, Between the Vines is a fine leisure read. Unfortunately, as this was a train-read for me, I could not have a glass a wine whilst reading though I really really wanted to –this would have improved my reading experience.

Thanks Harlequin Australia for eARC via NetGalley in exchange of honest review

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Review: The Secret Years

the secret yearsThe Secret Years by Barbara Hannay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

I find that I’m fascinated by love story in war time… The preciousness of life, of happiness, are just so keenly felt that finding love is such a bittersweet experience. This is what drew me to The Secret Years… asides from my penchant for rural romance, of course 😉

The novel tells of a love story which spans three generations though the middle one is somewhat neglected. It tells of the glorious once-in-a-lifetime love of Harry and Georgina who found each other in the midst of great uncertainty but the fates were quite generous to them as proven by the existence of the next generations.

In the present times, we follow Lucy, Harry and Georgina’s granddaughter, as she returned home from being deployed in Afghanistan. Home, however, didn’t quite turn out the way she dreamed of. Being at loose ends and burdened by a great curiosity of her family’s mysterious past, she goes to England in order to unveil some of her family’s secrets.

Lucy and Georgina are two loveable characters. They are both courageous women; strong, intelligent, grounded, and just so easy to be with. Rosie, on the other hand, was a bit of a mess. Unfortunately, her perspectives is very limited in this novel. I found it a little strange that the “secret” weren’t more fleshed out the novel. The secret was revealed in an almost-dry voice and it was over very quickly. I am comparing it to Kate Morton’s works where the dirty secret hung over you right from the very first word and when it was all revealed, you’d have this stab-in-the-heart sort of pain. There’s no such pain in The Secret Years.

If you adjust your expectation to a good rural romantic novel, I think you will really enjoyed this book. It was so easy to get into and proved to be a delightful relaxation companion. This was my first Barbara Hannay though I just found out that she’s really a prolific writer so can’t you just see my tbr becoming ever more insurmountable?

Thanks to Penguin Australia for paperback copy in exchange of honest review

Pssst, there’s an excerpt that you can check out.

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Review: Did Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man?

Did  Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man? by Ruby Mayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: complete digital copy courtesy of publisher

Book blurb

“A Good man can break your heart but a bad man should never have the right.”

When Jasmine’s crappy relationship with a crappy man falls apart, she goes on an adventure.  An adventure to Tel Aviv.  What follows is a passionate and wonderful journey, filled with food, love, bombs, and Shula.

Ruby Mayer moved to London from the Middle East at six, but returned to Israel in her twenties.  There she worked in a war survivors’ charity while learning the 1950s feminist approach to life from her indomitable grandmother.  These experiences form the basis of her first book.

My blurb

This is the second book I’m reviewing for thepigeonhole and I am ever so grateful for being given this second chance.  Did Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man? was an absolute delight to read.  It was funny.  It was sad.  It was light-hearted.  It was serious.  I’ve had a most wonderful journey, thanks to Ruby Mayer & thepigeonhole.

If you’re not familiar with thepigeonhole, they publish books online but in parts (‘staves’).  The first stave of this particular read was set in London and described the emptiness of Jasmine’s life.  Whilst the reader can sympathise with Jasmine’s frustration, there were many moments of hilarity especially in relation to her parents and two colleagues.  I just love her colleagues!  They were not what you’d call BFF but they should be, seeing the things they get away with!  I truly adore these two and was sorry that they weren’t anywhere else in the book.

As the book’s blurb mentioned, Jasmine went off to Tel Aviv… Stave II.  She’s staying with her adorable grandmother, Shulla, who is determined that she should be married as soon as possible.  Henceforth, Shulla’s lessons…

‘Number one,’ she says, ‘be beautiful from your insides to your outsides.’ …

‘You need all your fingers to catch a man – it helps.’ …

‘Number two,’ she says with renewed vigour. ‘Write this down! The most important person to be beautiful for is you.’

Jasmine proceeded to discover herself and Tel Aviv in Staves III & IV.  There were many laughter and just as much tears were shed.

Did Your Mother Never Teach You How To Catch A Man? was a well balanced read.  It was brilliantly written to continually engage in the reader in a variety of ways: humour, heartbreak, grief, love, etc.  It felt like a light and fun sort of read but at the same time, I also felt I have learnt so much!  I’d highly recommend this to everyone to read!

PS: Shulla is based on author’s real grandmother, check out Q+A with Ruby Mayer for more on Shulla

You can also stalk follow Ruby Mayer on twitter

Thanks to The Pigeonhole for copy of book in exchange of honest review

Review: Evergreen Falls: A Novel

evergreen fallsEvergreen Falls: A Novel by Kimberley Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

The Blue Mountains hold a special place in my heart. Asides for having been there numerous times in my teens for youth Christian camps, it is also where I met my husband (during one of these camps). No, it wasn’t insta love… in fact, we barely spoke and only really got to know each other afterwards. Nevertheless, this is one reason why I was drawn to this novel: the setting.

There were a few things which fascinated me in the novel: the era (the 1920s always drew me in), the area (I have visions of going on a bushwalk and seeing the falls), and the image of exploring an old ruin of a hotel. Evergreen Falls was a fairly easygoing read –an easy slow dip into another world for a leisurely stroll through other lives and to emerge, contented with life.

Neither of the two main protagonists really drew me, unfortunately, I was actually more drawn to (& very curious) about other minor characters (Lauren’s brother, Adam, and Flora, Violet’s love-interest’s sister). Violet I found to be to be frustratingly blind, sometimes due to naivety but sometimes, stubbornly and foolishly so! I also found that I just can’t make myself believe the insta-love moment she had with Sam. There were other insta-love moments I believe in but for some reason, this moment between Violet and Sam just didn’t register in the ‘believable’ spectrum. It may be that I’ve already guessed what Sam’s issue is right from the very beginning so everything he did / said is coloured by doubt on my part. Plus, reading it from Violet’s perspective (see blindness above), I was distrustful of her truth.

Lauren posed an interesting character at the beginning because of her background / family. And due to this background, she’s a bit hot and cold for me. Sometimes, she just plunges into a situation while other times, she’s so timid, you just wonder at it. Overall, Lauren is an average likeable character who sometimes amuses the reader by her actions.

Evergreen Falls is a story of courage –of braving oneself in stepping out of the mould as made by your family. There wasn’t much in the way of twists and the ‘tragic’ circumstance wasn’t really that bad but I was happy that the ending was not depressing.

Thanks to Touchstone via NetGalley for eARC in exchange of honest review

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Review: Close to Home

close to homeClose to Home by Pamela Cook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

I have really enjoyed reading outback romances as they usually involve animals and nature. In a way, this is like a sea-change or tree-change vicariously through these characters. The sounds and smell of the train fade away and I’ll be in the wide open spaces of the Australian outback. If you’ve not tried any outback romances yet, I’d recommend it. This is also my first Pamela Cook and I’m keen to check out her other 2 books.

I found Close to Home a little bit like one of those science thrillers (deadly disease etc) with a full dose of romance set in my own backyard. I can’t say that it’s as suspenseful as a thriller as it’s not meant to be one but it does give the story a bit of an edge which I’ve appreciated.

Close to Home is an enchanting tale of love and forgiveness. Amidst the threat of an outbreak of a contagious disease, a reunion of family and meetings of new friends will see them working together to fight for the wellbeing of the small hometown. A dark past is overshadowing the present but with acceptance, forgiveness, and an open heart, the future doesn’t have to be just as dark.

A lovely and engaging read in which time will fly pleasantly unnoticed. An easy book to get into and it warms the cockles of one’s heart.

Thanks to Hachette Australia via The Reading Room for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Season of Shadow and Light

seasonSeason of Shadow and Light by Jenn J. McLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected Proof courtesy of publisher (in conjunction with blog tour ~check out my stop tomorrow with author’s guest post)

This is my first Jenn J. McLeod and I was a little intimidated with the size (almost 500 pages!) after finishing 2 books which were slow to pick up. However, I was hooked by Season of Shadow and Light by page 3 and I, seriously, said out loud, “thank God!” I don’t know if anyone else found this but I was intrigue by the randomly-kinda-creepy incident; it probably had something to do with the reference to ‘long lost love’. Yep, I’m another sappy reader 😉

Season of Shadow and Light is more than just romantic love. It is also a tale of familial love; of loving someone so much that you would do everything to protect them. But what does protecting them mean? Is it best to keep a secret as such? Is it best to manoeuver for a ‘normal’ family life to ensure the least disruption all around?

Paige has had a pretty tough time in the last 2 years; recovering from a stroke and a miscarriage which basically terminated her career, she’s no longer sure of her identity. There seems to be a conspiracy that drove Paige to go on a holiday in a small-in-the-middle-of-nowhere town but which found her in woop woop town instead. The most unlikely circumstance found Paige with her daughter, Matilda, and Nana Alice living at a place where the long-kept secret is threatened to unravel. You really can’t keep much of a secret in a small town.

Aiden was firstly introduced as a grump but surely, everybody’s entitled to a bad mood now and again. After receiving the biggest blow of betrayal, Aiden had no other choice but to return home. As Paige and Aiden are thrown in together more and more, it was patently clear that they found in each other a best friend. I’ve really enjoyed the easy interaction between Paige and Aiden.

Nana Alice was not enjoying this trip at all. She didn’t want to go but neither could she let Paige go without her. She was tense pretty much the whole time and her attitude with Paige was hot and cold. Alice always thought honesty is the best policy so this secret is weighing her down but yet she’s promised to keep it. I found Alice to be the most interesting character in this book; a very tightly-held together lady but this lady’s got some pluck!

There were a number of perspectives in Season of Shadow and Light, Paige’s primarily but there were snippets of Aiden, Alice, and another’s in the last part of the story. It was pretty easy to distinguish the perspectives by the feelings they exude –each of their voices were unique and their feelings real. I was quickly drawn into the story (page 3, remember) and it was told a good even pace until nearly the end. I found the ending a bit rushed but I guess after 450 pages, you need to wrap it up.

Season of Shadow and Light is a cleverly woven tale with each thread being laced tightly together, some with fancy knots, with no loose thread left behind (even the ‘random incident’ had a resolution!). If enjoy a story of self-discovery, of betrayal and healing, of lies and trust, I’d recommend Season of Shadow and Light.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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