Tag Archives: Australia

Review: The Silent Invasion by James Bradley

The Silent Invasion (The Change #1) by James Bradley

The Earth is dying.

Plants, animals and humans are being infected by spores from space and becoming part of a vast alien intelligence.

When 16-year-old Callie discovers her little sister Gracie is Changing, she flees with Gracie to the Zone to escape termination by the ruthless officers of quarantine.

What Callie finds in the Zone will alter her forever and send her on a journey to the stars, and beyond.

The first book in an heart-stopping trilogy from award-winning author James Bradley.

My Blurb

There aren’t many post-apocalyptic / dystopian novels set in Australia. I can think of 2 others besides this one and only this one is YA. That is one of the main reason I was interested in this book.

We were told that people disappear. They disappear because they’re sick and will have to be quarantined. Callie’s dad ‘disappeared’ a long time ago but now her little sister, Gracie, seems to be falling sick. Gracie is basically the only family Callie has left and she wasn’t going to let Gracie go just like that despite what everyone says and so began her journey to find sanctuary for them both.

Callie is one amazing character. She was so strong and courageous yet very gentle with Gracie. The landscape was frightening as people are losing hopes and yet, there are still pockets of humanity. I’m still conflicted about the love interest though despite liking Matt and enjoying the romance, I think this story can stand on its own. I think Callie can stand on her own. The ending was tense but I’m surprised that I wasn’t actually surprised with that last word…

Despite being un-surprised, I’d love to get onto the next book as The Silent Invasion was quite an adventure and I’d like some closure too! In the meantime, if you know & liked any other post-apocalyptic / dystopian set in Australia, I’d love to hear from you!

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 her on: goodreads  |  website |  twitter  

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Review: Crimson Lake

crimson-lakeCrimson Lake by Candice Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was soooo excited to see Candice Fox was to release a new book. I must admit to being a teeny weeny disappointed to find out that it is NOT an Archer & Bennett but still… It’s a must-read. If you love crime novels, Candice Fox’s books are must-reads!

Despite being told that this is her best book yet, I can NOT make this distinction. I love ALL her books fairly equally and they are ALL my favourites. The mysteries are terrific but the characters and what she made them go through are just mind-boggling. They are fragile. They are broken. They are survivors.

The main difference in Crimson Lake to the Archer & Bennett books to my mind is that it’s cracking hilarious. Wait a minute, Amanda Pharrell is horrendously hilarious. I can see some people might find her annoying and if she’s someone I know IRL, I’d probably want to kill her myself but seriously the stuff she said were Lough Out Loud Funny. Err, yes, I’m most probably that crazy lady on the train… Here’s one of the things she said that cracked me up to no end & I kept going back to it:

“… I’m dead fascinated with your case. I’m so fascinated, someone should pin me in their hair and wear me to the races.”

We don’t know very much how Amanda’s mind works as the novel is told from Ted Conkaffey’s perspective but one thing we do know is that she’s full on contradictions. She’d slunk away for certain confrontations and yet,

“…doesn’t anything scare you anymore?”
“Not really,” she said brightly…

Ted Conkaffey is hiding. He’s tired and he’s sad. He has had no choice but to accept what fate has dealt him to date. The geese found him. Amanda baffled him. Her cases interest his mind and his brain geared up to put these puzzles together. Maybe there is something else he could do even now… Despite being told from Ted’s perspective; Amanda completely took over the whole book. Maybe we’ll have her perspective in the next book?

Aside from these amazing characterisation, I also love Fox’s prose; the way she draws you to the characters then the setting and then weaves tangled weave of mysterious circumstances which leave you guessing ‘til the end. Crimson Lake, with its tightly developed plot, unique characters and a snapping end, is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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

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Review: The Strays

wp-1484100547222.jpgThe Strays by Emily Bitto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Library copy

On her first day at a new school, Lily meets Eva, one of the daughters of the infamous avant-garde painter Evan Trentham. He and his wife are attempting to escape the stifling conservatism of 1930s Australia by inviting other like-minded artists to live and work with them at their family home. As Lily’s friendship with Eva grows, she becomes infatuated with this makeshift family and longs to truly be a part of it.

Looking back on those years later in life, Lily realises that this utopian circle involved the same themes as Evan Trentham’s art: Faustian bargains and terrible recompense; spectacular fortunes and falls from grace. Yet it was not Evan, nor the other artists he gathered around him, but his own daughters, who paid the debt that was owing.

My Blurb

This book pulled me in two opposite directions. On the one hand, I am just like the young Lily who was fascinated and absolutely loved the freedom in the Trentham’s family home. But on the other hand, as a young parent, I was absolutely horrified by the way the children’s needs were ignored. Of course, these children, whilst appreciating their freedom, also resented their parents for not being parents.

The novel opens with the adult Lily, with a grown child of her own, living a ‘normal’ boring life. She received a letter from her best friend whom she has not been in contact for a very long time. We didn’t find out exactly the reason why until near the end but this reason blew me away. I expected a tragedy in the shape of a death, an accident, or something just as devastating but a ‘that’s life’ kind of reaction from me BUT the reason repulsed me. I can’t say anything more without spoiling the ending so suffice to say, I was bowled over and I love it.

Years later, the consequences of the Trenthams’ lifestyle (parenting) choice are still reverberating in their lives. The author, via the oldest child (Bea), also acknowledged in a ‘you reap what you sow’ kind of way. The Strays was very easy to get lost in; Lily’s reminiscence and regrets were clearly felt throughout the story. I loved immersing myself in 1930s Melbourne though I did get quite worked up at the end so I can only afford a 4-stars rating.

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First Chapter, First Paragraph: The Drifter by Anthea Hodgson

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Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Introsto share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or planning to read soon.

When Cate Christie has left the city, she had known it wasn’t going to be for good. And when she drove her tiny car through the vast, open paddocks of wheat and sheep, she knew that she wasn’t going to stay. That this was just temporary. And she knew that, no matter the distance between her and the bright, shining lights of the city, Brigit was still dead, and that she was going to be dead forever.

the-drifterThe Drifter by Anthea Hodgson

Cate Christie is a party girl, unable to commit to anything, until she is involved in a tragic accident that changes everything. To escape her guilt and her parents’ bitter disapproval, Cate leaves Perth for her aunt Ida’s isolated farm in country Western Australia.

Henry is a drifter, a young swagman-like character who wanders onto the Christie family property and takes up residence in a disused shed. With secrets of his own, the last thing he wants is to get tangled up in Cate and Ida’s lives.

Against their own better judgement, the fates of Cate and Henry and Ida inexorably intertwine and they learn to face the realities of life, death and letting go.

A witty, charming and moving debut rural romance about what makes a good death and, more importantly, what makes a good life.

Based on this intro, would you read more or pass on this book?

 

Review: The Big Smoke

big smokeThe Big Smoke by D’Arcy Niland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: hardcover copy borrowed from library

My interest in D’Arcy Niland was only sparked when I read Ruth Park’s autobiography, A Fence Around the Cuckoo & Fishing in the Styx which of course, referred quite a bit to Niland being a happily married couple who also spurred each other on in their writing jobs. Unfortunately, most of his books are out of print except for one, The Shiralee. Thankfully, my library has a decent collection and carried a few of his works.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel as there wasn’t much information online about it. I’ve amended the Goodreads page with the blurb from the inside jacket noting the only other review about this book noted (uncertainly) that it was set in 1950’s Sydney but… it’s not. It is actually from beginning of 20th century to mid ‘20s. It is a novel of interconnected stories surrounding “Jack Johnson’s boy”.

The story began, of course, just before the conception of this boy from the perspective of a fight promoter, Chiddy Hay, who never really made it and is down on his luck. It ended, at a full circle, with Chiddy Hay, a pensioner still down on his luck (though this was during the Great Depression) and the boy grown. Out of the 10 chapters/stories, only one short one is from the perspective of the boy. All other 9 stories are told from people connected to him either directly or indirectly but most assuredly connected by living in the Big Smoke (ie. City of Sydney).

This novel really isn’t about the boy or anyone in particular but rather of the city and its effects on the residents of said city.

”…this city is a character. It talks. It works on its own. It plays fair and it plays foul. I’m what it’s done to me.”

The variety of the characters, their warmth and vitality, was just amazing. At the end of each chapter, I want to know more about that particular character though of course, we’d have to move on. There was a steeplejack, a street sweeper, owner of a burger joint, a night watcher, a housewife, and many others who work in and for the city. Yet, despite everything they do, the city lives on when they fade away.

Sydney, of course, is my city, my home and I have loved each moment I read this novel as I imagine myself as life was back in the last century. These characters expressed what each city dwellers would have felt at one time or another; the beauty of the city, the smog, the loneliness, etc. The Great Depression surely was not a good age to live in but each of these characters felt so real and their stories (regardless of whether it ends well or not) were heartfelt.

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Review: For Love of Country

for love of countryFor Love of Country by Anthony Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source; paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Whilst I read quite a number of memoirs, I’ve never actually read any ANZAC related ones so this is a first for me and really quite heartbreaking. The author has done a fantastic job in pulling all your interest for this particular family who has lost so, so much in building and protecting this country we call home. There were quite a few things that you could just assume from the outset but still when they happened, I felt teary just like I was part of the family.

For Love of Country tells the story of the Eddison family as they sought a new home and their struggle in and for this home. Captain Walter Eddison did not come from a wealthy family. Even though, his uncles and aunts managed to prosper in their endeavours, his father did not. And when he and Marion met, Walter also has not succeeded in any of his toils but he is not afraid of hard work. As they sought for opportunities outside of England, the war (WW1) broke out as Walter was visiting Australia. He, cajoled by his jackeroo colleagues, enlisted along with them. Thus began the family’s military journey.

Despite their struggle with the work of the land, they loved it nonetheless. And while young men are drawn by the glory of military careers, they come quickly to the realisation of how their services protect their families and home and this only spurred them further. There is no predictable outcome for the soldiers. There is no guarantee of coming home. Yet, we always hope. I wanted this so much for the Eddison family and my heart broke for them.

It does not matter if you don’t know your history well because Anthony Hill have done a marvellous job is summarising the wars and how they affected the world and more particularly, the Eddison family. ”Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) But their deaths were for all Australians, then and now.

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

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Review: The Soldier’s Curse

the soldiers curseThe Soldier’s Curse by Meg Keneally and Tom Keneally
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Truthfully, it was the cover which first attracted my attention. It’s just so lusciously green! Mystery novels are one of my first book loves so I thought this definitely fit the bill. Also, it being a series set in Colonial Australia, finally! There have been quite a few Aussie crime / mystery series but none in this particular setting (none that I know of, anyway).

The most fascinating factor of this novel, for me, is the setting. The time period and the location as Port Macquarie is a family holiday destination for us so it was interesting looking at it from a summery friendly beaches to an uncivilised harsh environment. The harshness wasn’t just from the natural environment but also the regime employed in keeping the convicts in line. It’s amazing that anybody survive, really! Unfortunately (or rather fortunately for him), as our main character distinguished himself by being literary, he was not part of any work gangs so we are spared from reading much of the suffering.

Most of the characters are also easily likeable especially the main ones. And as the tale is told from Hugh Monsarrat’s perspective, we learnt a lot of his background so it was very easy to empathise with him although at times you do feel like shaking him up a little. Whilst these flashbacks to the past are necessary, they are in effect slowed the pace of the book. And despite the fact that this series is based on Monsarrat, I feel there were too much information on Hugh and barely anything on other characters especially Mrs Mulrooney whom I’m really curious about. I especially enjoyed the cloth-flicking-head habit that Mrs. Mulrooney appear to be getting into nearing the end of the novel and I’m looking forward to more of that.

It is with a heavy heart that I find the mystery factor of the book quite disappointing. I’m not the best at guessing but I don’t think I do too badly at guessing the villain in mystery novels. But there were too many clues that made it all too obvious even if you’re not a professional sleuth. Starting from the covers to the main suspect being a very pointedly red herring… then, when it’s taken awhile for Monsarrat to churn these clues in his little grey cells, it gets somewhat frustrating.

I would recommend that you approach this novel as an historical fiction as it was still a very enjoyable read for me from this perspective. It’s very clear that the authors have done their research though as authors do, have taken certain liberties to suit the plotlines (which they are very open about in the Author’s Note). The view of colonial Australia and the witty exchanges between characters were what made this novel pleasing to me.

Thanks to Vintage / Random House for paperback copy in exchange of honest review

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