Tag Archives: #aww2012

Review: Handpicked

Handpicked by Siew Siang Tay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Each time I come across a young Asian girl with an older Caucasian male couple (which is not a rare occurrence these days), I wonder what their story is. In fact, one of my childhood bestie married an older Caucasian male. I don’t particularly understand her choice but when she was living in Bali, she was dating (attracted to?) mostly older Caucasian males. This is, indeed, her choice and her personal taste.

Laila, however, felt trapped in a world she has come to despise. She longs to move on in the world; to not be poor, to be appreciated as the woman she is, as a person. When a new life in Australia presented itself to her, she will leave all she knows behind for what she hopes is a better future. When she arrives in Australia though, she found things were not what she expected it to be. And life doesn’t appear to be much better at all… And Jim is not who he presented himself to be in his letters…

Jim longs for that someone to cleave to. It’s no wonder really as to why he hasn’t much luck with women. He is a slob – full of good intention but without the will to follow through. Unfortunately, this seems to be due to his upbringing. He is, however, the typical Aussie bloke – easy going, loves his beer & footy and loves a laugh. He does not lie outright but instead wove a net of white lies and omissions of truth from which he cannot escape gracefully.

The novel was very easy to read. I found the language to be quite simple and yet, you could feel the heat of the summer, each breeze as it licked the skin, and of course, Laila’s angst and frustration. I was frustrated quite a lot with this novel: with Laila’s naivety (who am I to judge when I was pretty naïve myself!?), Jim’s failures, and the turn of the story.

Truthfully, I do believe this story is realistic and while it’s not the best type of story / outcome for a young Asian girl throwing herself into the big bad Western world, it’s also not the worst. There were a number of eye-rolling moments, wince worthy instances, and one harrowing incident but I can still imagine worst things that could have happened to someone like Laila. Overall, it was a pretty average read for me.

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Blog Tour: Mystery Falls -Author Interview & Review

Mystery Falls by Marilyn Phillips

Secrets. Lies. Deception. For the past six years, Samantha Hunt has lived with the belief that the untimely death of her parents was the result of an unfortunate accident—that by the cruel hand of fate, she had been left an orphan. But it was a lie, a terrible lie told to her by those who wanted to keep her in the dark.  And the truth… when revealed, will change her life and haunt her forever.

Suddenly plagued by a series of events which find her in danger and in need of a savior, Samantha is repeatedly rescued by the mysterious and elusive Shadow—a stranger who seems to know more about her past and the tragedy which befell her family, than she does. Drawn to him despite the antagonism she feels whenever in his presence, Samantha soon discovers that Shadow is not what he appears to be.  Determined to learn his true identity and why he has come to Mystery Falls, the small town in which she has spent all of her seventeen years, Samantha not only uncovers the secrets he refuses to share, but also the truth about her own past.  A truth which forces her to acknowledge that things are not always as they seem, and sometimes, not even those close to you can be trusted.

Resolved to seeking justice for the unwarranted death of her parents, Samantha embarks on
a journey which brings her perilously close to her own demise. Can Shadow use his angel powers to save her yet again, or this time, will he be too late.

Review (3 stars)

The mystery is what I really enjoyed in this novel.  Admittedly, it was a little slow at the beginning and it took a while before things came to a head however I don’t think the mystery is the ‘main’ attraction to this novel so the slowness was acceptable because of…

Shadow = Yum!  I love Shadow and I love the type of angel he is.  I have to confess of having been avoiding any ‘angelic’ paranormal type of books because I have a certain preconception of angels and am afraid that I would hate the book.  Whilst I don’t hate this book, I quite enjoyed reading the mystery & romance, I am such a stick in the mud that I was slightly disappointed with some of the angel business.  I’m not sure if any other readers will feel the same way as I really do think it’s just me and my preconception getting in the way of total enjoyment of this book.

The romance was quite sweet as Samantha’s faith in Shadow was really quite astounding. Shadow’s protective nature was really endearing but…

The love triangle – or what looks like a love triangle from the outside / the beginning.  I just didn’t particularly like this approach (well, you know me and my view of love triangles: **blearrgh**).  In addition, it all worked out way too easily.

Don’t expect too much sparks but it is a tingly sweet romance – recommended for a relaxing beachy read.

Author Interview

Quick Qs to warm up with –

White or Dark Chocolate? Dark Chocolate

White or Red Wine?  White Wine

Vegemite or Nutella? Nutella, I can’t go past anything with Chocolate.

Cats or Dogs?  Dogs.

Beach or Bush? This is difficult. I like both. It really depends on the mood I’m in.

I have to admit to curiosity, what did you teach?  And do you miss teaching?

I taught Maths, Science and Biology to High School students for thirteen years before becoming a mum and devoting my time to raising a family. Busy with being a wife, a mother and now, a published author, I can’t say I miss teaching. I probably should mention here, that on occasion, I do some relief teaching. This keeps me in touch enough so that I don’t really have the opportunity to miss it in a big way.

Did you make up stories for your children too (as bedtime stories)?  If so, would you share one of the most fantastical with us, please?

Yes. I do make up stories for my children, but probably not so much now as I did when they were younger. Rather than telling one story which would take too long, I will just give you a brief scenario of the kinds of tales I would make up. To start, they (my son and daughter) would always be the central characters. The setting would always be some magical place with magnificent castles, a dark forest and flowing water. And of course, no fantasy story is complete without a dragon, unicorn, fairy or other mystical creature to either befriend them or wreak havoc. My children love that they are part of these stories and I hope they will always treasure them in their memories.

How did you decide to write a series instead of a stand-alone novel?

When I started to write, I didn’t think about whether the book would be a series or a stand-alone novel. I just wrote. It was while I was creating Mystery Falls, that ideas for a sequel began to form. A similar process is happening now as I write Mystery Rises, so there will be a third. As to a fourth, who can say?

Why YA?

Good question. I’m not sure. I guess it comes from my preference to read YA novels. I like revisiting the idea of first love and all the angst which comes with that. The purity, the innocence, the intensity, It’s kind of fascinating to me.

How did the idea of Mystery Falls first come to you?

Lying in bed one lazy Sunday morning, I was allowing my thoughts to wander freely as I often do, when Samantha just appeared. She was standing by a stream, angry and alone. Curious to know why, I became lost in her world, and slowly, her story began to unfold. By the time I returned to reality and rose from the bed, the first chapter was written.

What is your writing process like?  I understand it’s quite different for each book but in general, do you write the opening lines first / last?  Do you usually know the ending earlier on & therefore, planned, or do you just go with the flow?  Have you drawn diagrams / flow charts to make sure that you’ve got the ‘facts’ straight?

Hmm… the writing process – I don’t really have a process per say. I just start to write. As to whether the first line remains the first, or if it is changed, depends on what happens as the story unfolds. The ending – I have no idea what that is until I am almost there. It might be easier if I explain it this way. As I go through the normal duties of my life, scenes and dialogues appear at random in my imagination. Then when I sit down to write, I piece them together like a jigsaw puzzle. I love being creative, but I can’t say that it’s a planned process. I simply allow my own daydreaming to naturally unfold and I take what I like from there.

Please do share your best reads of 2012 to date.

The Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. The Premonition series by Amy A. Bartol. And of course, Finale, the conclusion to Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush Hush series.

Marilyn lives on the outskirts of Melbourne (Australia) with her wonderfully supportive husband and two beautiful children. When not writing, she likes spending time with her family, taking long walks in dark forests and reading (anything involving paranormal romance / urban fantasy). Her favorite authors include Becca Fitzpatrick, Stephenie Meyer,Claudia Gray and Amanda Hocking. Mystery Falls is her debut novel and the first in a series.

Review: Sorry

SorrySorry by Gail Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: My local library – Get your own copy from The Book Depository

A whisper: sssshh. The thinnest vehicle of breath.
This is a story that can only be told in a whisper.
There is a hush to difficult forms of knowing, an abashment, a sorrow, an inclination towards silence.

A powerful story wove not about the violent crime that happened on one hot afternoon in a remote outback location but of the “crime” surrounding this violence. The “crime” that is hushed, that no one would speak out loud of, and, at the time this story was written, not apologised for.

There were 3 points of view to this tale which to me felt like I was looking from a distance, then was looking in closer, then in minutiae details. This is Perdita’s tale which began with the adult Perdita telling her story with some reflection on her childhood. The focus changes alternatively then between this to a third person view of Perdita’s childhood and the child Perdita’s perspective. This sounds quite complicated but truthfully, it flowed very well that I didn’t notice til after halfway.

Perdita, once a loquacious child, became a stutterer of a sudden. As an adult, Perdita explored this unfortunate event, the circumstances leading to it and afterwards. A child, she was then, and bereft of her words, unable to produce the words necessary to expound the truth. Will she discover this truth before it’s too late? If so, what will she do with it? Can she do anything with the truth in her hands?

A breathtaking & lyrical writing of Australia, its people, and their brokenness, ‘Sorry’ was the missing word needed / wanted at the time of this being written (am happy to be able to say this). Whilst the work is fiction, I have no doubt that something similar have taken place. Some atrocities were just beyond words and this literary work is for us to remember those broken and never to forget.

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Review: The Secret Keeper (+ GIVEAWAY -AU only)

The Secret Keeper
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected Proof courtesy of The Reading Room and Allen & Unwin -get your own copy from The Book Depository (psst… check out the giveaway at the bottom of the page too!)

My reaction at the end of chapter 1:


*No, she did not just do that!!?!?*

*flicked the page*

*Yes, she did… Golly!*

And with that, I’ve bitten the bait, was totally hooked and reeled through the story.

Due to some personal issue, I am not a fan of The Forgotten Garden. I am very sensitive about it and would usually avoid a story that’s blatantly obvious that’s where it was going. With The Forgotten Garden though, I wasn’t really sure until maybe midway where it’s going but (my compliments to the author), I really had to know the ending so I just couldn’t put the book down. Unfortunately, the book not only breached my comfort zone, it nearly killed me! Hence, am not really a fan. I can’t tell you what this personal issue is as it will give away the story a bit much… The Secret Keeper, on the other hand, was borderline but the ending was on a very acceptable level to me so it was a story I enjoyed reading, overall.

A dark secret is overshadowing the Nicolson family though not all knew or even felt the shadow but Laurel does. She was a part of the shadow whilst not fully aware of the secret. As her mother lay close to the end of her life, Laurel was compelled to explore this mystery and in effect, came to know her mother for who she really was –as a person, a woman, and not just ‘Ma’. This story spans over a century and over the ocean, through war, filled with friendship, love, and betrayals.

A totally heartbreaking story that stays with you long after you read it. I finished reading this quite late at night and I just couldn’t get to sleep as the book continues to haunt me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it even now! Thank you, Kate Morton, I believe your tales will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Thank you Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room for providing me with the Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review


A kind and generous offer by Allen & Unwin – I have 3 uncorrected proofs to giveaway to anyone with an Australian mailing address.  Sorry, peeps – Aussie publisher plus am paying for the post 😉

Edited: I’ve tried setting up a Rafflecopter but there’s been some glitch that Rafflecopter just isn’t loading for us in Australia *humph!* so… just leave a comment (don’t include your email address within the comment body just include it in the comment form) and I’ll draw 3 random winners this coming Sunday (28th October 2012).  Please do respond to my email within 48 hours with your mailing address.

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Review: Lola’s Secret

Lola's Secret
Lola’s Secret by Monica McInerney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Print copy provided by The Reading Room in exchange for an honest review – get your own copy from The Book Depository

Lola is in her 80s and let’s face it, she’s been through a lot in life. She’s had the joys, the losses, had loved, has a child, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Her life is full and now that another Hot Christmas is approaching (note: she’s in Australia), she’s keen to have some time to herself. Or is she really wanting some time to herself for herself?

At first, I thought I’d really like Lola – the humorous introduction of Lola joking around with her son and of her fashion statement as well! I can really picture her walking down the street and even working at my local St. Vincent de Paul! She’s loud (not necessarily in volume), blunt, and a totally out-there type of personality. And then… we are told her One Big Fault, she’s a busybody. Someone who just had to involve herself because she thinks no one else will or can fix a problem! Oh, I really wasn’t sure if I was gonna like this grandmother!

The book was told mostly from Lola’s perspective so we were given permission into her minds and hearts. It’s a great journey reading a coming-of-age novel but it is amazing journey to read that as people we can continue to develop & learn; maturity isn’t a condition of age but a state of wisdom. Lola may have lived a long life but she wasn’t stuck in the past. She may reminisce but she has also gone with the flow (even my 60yo mother isn’t as techy as she is!) and moseyed along with The Age- the 21st century.

Whilst the book is looking toward Christmas, it wasn’t too suffocating with all the “good cheer” but of course, you cannot have Christmas without a ‘good cheer’. We only want good things come Christmas time but this isn’t always the case however, that doesn’t mean that we cannot have ‘good cheer’. Even when things aren’t going the way it’s supposed to, that’s life! And that doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing. In fact, it might be just magical in conclusion.

An enjoyable pre-Christmas reading -I know, it’s only October but the major department stores have their Christmas decorations up already! In any case, I’ve got to get this review out so you can have a good pre-Christmas reading prior to all the rush, right? While you’re at it, get some Clare Valley wine into you too and chillax 😉

Thank you The Reading Room for providing a print copy

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Author Interview: Louise Cusack (+Giveaway INTL)

I’m very excited to welcome Louise Cusak to my blog today – a fellow Aussie though she lives on the other side of the stateline (I won’t hold that against you, Louise!).  I have thoroughly enjoyed 2 of Louise’s Shadow Through Time trilogy and am hankering to get into book 3!  Thank you, Louise, for dropping by…

Quick Qs

Tea or Coffee? Definitely the latter. I have a Delonghi coffee machine I call Marcello and he keeps me up all night!

Aaah… I sense… a kindred spirit… a potential bosom friend…

Red Wine or White Wine? Not much of a drinker, but I do like a good Sav Blanc.

Vegemite or Nutella? Veg-E-Mite! Nothing nicer than veg on fruit toast.

Errr… couldn’t help making a face (says one who just had stir-fried lettuce for dinner -with rice & steamed fish) but a challenge is a challenge and I DID try it -can’t say that I loved it but it was oh-kay.  I’d prefer Nutella any day ♥

Cats or Dogs? Meow! I adore their independence. Dogs are a bit too needy for me.

Oh dear, this might be a deal-breaker, Louise!  I love my pug to bits but you are right, he is very needy – each to her own 😉

Blues or Maroons? This is football right? (joking) I’m a cricket tragic myself, but will always support Queensland if I can.

Errr… Boo!  I don’t think you’re ever going to get this question right, Louise, LOL.  FYI – this is about State of Origin: an annual interstate footy games between NSW (Blues) & QLD (Maroons) only. Not that I’m much of a fan.

On a more serious level…

Tell us how you came to create the worlds in Shadow Through Time.  Did the elemental basis of the worlds come first or was it the ‘sepia’ idea of a world?

The sepia world was definitely first. That’s how I’ve always seen Ennae, from when I first dreamed it up as a child. It was only as an adult while I was writing the world that I discovered it was connected to a fire and air world, and of course our ‘water’ world where we see rainbows of colour.

I read that you are a Vegetarian.  Could you please share with us how you came to decide on becoming a Vegetarian?

Thirty years ago… (wow, that makes me feel old!) I was on the committee of Animal Liberation and we had a film night. It was about a day in the life of an animal at the abattoir. I fainted half way through, and came home that night and said to my husband of six months, “I can’t cook meat any more.” I was cruelty-free on so many fronts and it just made sense to stop eating animals as well. If I was stranded in the outback and starving I might kill to survive, but I live in the city and forage at the supermarket where there are heaps of vegetarian options, so I choose not to eat animals. I don’t want to die with their lives on my conscience. It’s a very personal choice, however, and I never judge other people on their diet. We all have to do what we think is right for us, and this is right for me.

I think that’s the reason why I’ve avoided watching any sort of butchery work (I can’t even watched the Discovery Channel when a carnivore goes for food!) – I love my meat too much.  It’s very admirable, Louise, that you’ve stuck to your guns for 30+ years!  An amazing effort!

Does being a Vegetarian have any impact your writing & how?

I hadn’t imagined it would have an impact, but my answer to the next question will dispel that thought!

Also, does the above have to do why Ennae is without animals?  Why did you decide to not include animals at all?

When I was writing the first book of the series I was exploring the sepia world of Ennae for the first time as one of the characters, and because I write seat-of-the-pants I was discovering things along the way – like the fact that there were no animals or insects. I thought it was odd, but I just accepted it, and it turned out to be something that publishers liked about the story. A point of difference. It wasn’t until the first novel was published and a close  friend said, “I bet you created this world with no animals so the gorgeous champions would all be vegetarian!” I was shocked, but later had to agree. It was completely subconsciously, but I’m sure she’s right.

Ah, don’t you just love the Power of the Subconcious Mind!  It worked wonders here – ‘vegetarian gorgeous champions’!

Did you always know that you’d want to write fantasy / romance? Why?  Or how did you come to write fantasy / romance?

I actually started my career trying to write Mills & Boon novels and I was terrible at sticking with one romance per book, but I made some great friends in Romance Writers of Australia and they encouraged me to try different things. I had a few erotic short stories published, got an agent, then had a romantic novella about voodoo, “Goddess & the Geek” published by Harper Collins (this has just been re-released as part of my Hapless Heroes series of romances). It went on to win an International award, then my agent asked me what I wanted to do next and I told her about this fairytale I’d had in my mind since I was little, about a princess who goes to another world looking for her missing brother. She said, “Perfect darling, fantasy is so hot right now,” and to be honest that’s the first time I thought of that story as being a fantasy. It had no dragons or dwarves or elves or any of the other elements I’d considered to be fantasy, but there was magic and it was on an otherworld, so it fitted the genre and went on to be selected by the Doubleday Book Club as their Editors Choice.

Which author/s would you say have impacted on your writing to date?  In what way?

I love a good love story, no matter the genre, and most of the great books do have some form of love story in them. But my career focus as a writer is the ‘stranger in a strange land’ theme, so that’s also what I like to read – someone going from our world into a fantasy world, like John Carter to Barsoom or Jake Sully to Pandora in the movie Avatar. I grew up reading sci fi, mostly the classics (in fact my first big crush was Capt James T Kirk!), and they were all about man meeting the unknown. My favourite SF novels were Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, Frank Herbert’s Dune and Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter series. Add to which, my all-time favourite book is Alice in Wonderland which I must have read a hundred times, at least!

I’ve also had a lifelong fascinating with Leonardo da Vinci, whose perception of the world around him was unique. It was almost as if he was a stranger in our world observing things from a fresh perspective. I think there’s something to learn from that, and I try to bring that to my own work, seeing the world I’m writing about through completely fresh eyes, taking nothing for granted.

Thanks for the recommendations, Louise!  Dune’s been on my TBR for nearly forever.  I’ve read LeGuin & Alice but I’ll have to check out the others 🙂

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’ve just launched my Hapless Heroes series of quirky romances exclusive to Amazon Kindle. Two of the three were previously print published, so it’s thrilling to see them getting a fresh start as ebooks with a new audience!


Louise has generously offered to giveaway an ebook copy of Destiny of the Light (Shadow Through Time #1) to a random commenter.  Please do NOT include your email in your comment but please DO note your email in the comment form. I will ‘randomly’ draw a winner next week (Wednesday, 3 October 2012).  Please respond to my email within 48 hours or I will draw another winner.

Book Blurb

DESTINY OF THE LIGHT is the first novel of my “Shadow Through Time” fantasy trilogy published by Simon & Schuster Australia.  It contains elements of romance, magic and horror, taking a woman from our world into the earthworld of Ennae; a sepia world joined to ours by the Sacred Pool.  Talis, her appointed Guardian helps her through the dangerous terrain of Ennae, sacrificing everything to love, ensuring her safety in a land where magic prevails and nothing is as it seems.  To fulfill her destiny as The Light – the woman whose child will join the four elemental worlds – Khatrene must overcome her amnesia and regain her childhood memories of Ennae while thwarting the plans of an erotic Shadow Woman, a mysterious tattooed man, a warrior Plainswoman, Ennae’s best swordsman and ultimately her own beloved brother.

Her journey takes her to the royal Volcastle atop an active volcano, through the Forest of Desire where every sexual fantasy is fulfilled, the labyrinth of the Altar Caves, soul-destroying Rue Marsh and the haze enshrouded Plains where danger lies in every shadow.  Murder and betrayal follows Khatrene, and as the horrifying secrets of the past are revealed, she must struggle to stay alive and protect the powerful child growing within her from its own father, a man who she discovers has systematically destroyed her whole family.

Destiny of The Light combines heroic courage and sacrifice with believable human frailties, and the purest of love with the most despicable betrayals of trust.

Tien’s Blurb

Author’s Whereabouts

You can find Louise at her website / blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  You could also email her at mail@louisecusack.com.

Once more, Thank YOU, Louise!  It’s been a blast – as you can see, I was truly curious about your creation of Ennae & Shadow Through Time. 

Best of luck for your next endeavours and I’d definitely be on the lookout for more from you 😀

Review: Destiny of the Light

Destiny of the Light (Shadow Through Time #1) by Louise Cusack

Source: Won giveaway – thanks to ARRA, Louise Cusack, and Momentum Books

Book Blurb

Ennae is a parallel world joined to our own world by the Sacred Pool, a portal that can only be opened by one with the Guardian blood running through their veins. It is through this watery gateway that Khatrene leaves her modern-day life behind forever, drawn into a quest that will take her into the depths of the unknown.Khatrene must fulfil her destiny as The Light, the woman whose child will unite the four elemental worlds. At each turn are real and imagined enemies who will do everything in their power to prevent her from fulfilling the prophecy, including the ethereal and erotic shadow woman, the enigmatic tattooed man, even her beloved brother Mihale.Talis, her appointed Guardian, must help her through the dangerous terrain of Ennae, sacrificing everything to ensure her safety in a land where magic prevails and nothing is as it seems.From an exciting new voice in Australian fantasy fiction comes the first book in the ‘Shadow Through Time’ trilogy. Beautifully crafted and written, Destiny of the Light combines intrigue, magic and horror to create a reality that is out of this world.

My Blurb (4 stars)

Fantasy is a staple for me, especially when it contains strong female character (preferably one who kicks ass either by sword or magic) in an alternate world.  Add a sprinkle of romance and I’m a happy camper.  It’s easy to see that this book is soooo for me.  I was so absorbed in this book world that I finished it within 24 hours, fitting in reads between errands.

Kathrene took the plunge, literally, into Ennae.  In Ennae, everything is in shades of brown (think Sepia) and there are no animals (which means no insects, *bonus!* but you’d have to walk everywhere L). My first thought was, why would you create a world where everything is brown?  How freaking boring!  This led me, of course, to be thankful for our colourful world 😉  After I got over my first thought, I truly began to invest my interest in Kathrene’s adventures in Ennae plus noting that the worlds are based on elements and Ennae’s Earth, it makes sense from everything to be in shades of brown.  The hardest thing was to imagine (in my head) remember that everything is brown in Ennae.  I keep finding myself being jarred by reminders (in the book) of the world I’m currently immersed in – whispers: it’s in sepia.  Usually, I’d find this annoying because it’s kind of repetitive and at times, condescending, but I’d really needed them this time; the reminders were paced just at the right moments.

Talis is a Guardian and he was the one to help Kathrene through between worlds.  When he saw her though, she has changed significantly but she looked very much like the Queen that there is no doubt of who she really is. Unfortunately, Kathrene has no memories of Ennae or of her childhood in Ennae but Talis felt safe to her and she placed her trust in him.  Together, they will traverse the dangerous world of Ennae where trees will prickle you when your emotions are too strong, where water is kind of thick (think: melted jelly or, if you’re not Aussie, melted jell-o), and where political intrigue’s so rife, nobody really knows who the true enemy is.

Kathrene is a resourceful woman – that is her most admirable trait for me.  She is beautiful, brave, and kind.  My only complaint is that she doesn’t wield a sword! See the cover? Yeah, I thought she wields a sword… 😦  Don’t worry, this is will not spoil your reading at all.  In fact, if you know this point, you’d probably enjoy better than I did.  I kept waiting for the moment that she’d take up the sword although I gradually had to accept the fact that her destiny is all that matters in this book.

Even though Ennae is a world in sepia, this is a very dark world filled with ‘magical’ creatures (that even now, I’m not sure whether they’re evil or not!), evil men (cannibals), some perverted desires… but, there is also love, kindness, faith, loyalty, etc.  It’s definitely not a world without hope.  The plot took me to unexpected places which I absolutely adored in a book and I bet you do too!  I loved being pulled up short of my expectations and taken to a different place.  It wasn’t just the once either!  That’s one of the reason I just kept reading through my son’s swimming lesson, my dog begging for food, my husband asking if I wanted dessert after dinner…  If you’re a strictly romance lover, this may not be the book for you but if you’re just like me (see above), then this could be the perfect book for you.

Review: Monkey Grip

Monkey Grip by Helen Garner

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:

In “Monkey Grip”, Helen Garner charts the lives of a generation. Her characters are exploring new ways of loving and living – and nothing is harder than learning to love lightly. Nora and Javo are trapped in a desperate relationship. Nora’s addiction is romantic love; Javo’s is hard drugs. The harder they pull away, the tighter the monkey grip. A lyrical, gritty, rough-edged novel that deserves its place as a classic of Australian fiction.

This book is told by the voice of Nora as she looked for that which is missing from her life.  She does not appear to be able to particularly grasp what it is and when the opportunity presents itself, she backs up in fear.  Doesn’t that just speak for all of us?!  If it’s not one thing then it’s another thing.

I was starting to notice that I hadn’t fucked for a long time.  It wasn’t fucking I missed: I wanted love.  I felt sad and hungry, or greedy rather, wishing to comfort myself.  I ate small snacks all morning, felt disgusted with myself, and returned to my room, upstairs to pick away at the walls hour after hour.

This is Nora’s life inMelbourne’s 70s where it appears promiscuity is rife and drugs readily available & acceptable in some level.  She and her mates wanted to break from the mould of fidelity and yet at the same time, felt the pain of betrayal when her lovers turn to others.  She, however, ended up falling in love with a junkie; knew it to be foolhardy and yet unable to help herself.  She cares for him and at the same time is worried that she’s becoming his ‘mother’ rather than lover / partner.  All the time, she worries what this relationship will do to her and yet, each time she sees him, she falls all over him yet again, unable to move on.

I wished for him as he had been, occasionally, in the past.  I wished there were no such thing as junk.  I didn’t wish I’d never known him.  I wished there were some way for us to love each other.  And I wished he were out of trouble so my mind could rest.

There was a life to be made.

Nora is apparently a ‘straight’, as opposed to junkies.  Nevertheless, she seems to be using, a lot!  However, she doesn’t appear to be as sneaky as the ‘junkies’ so maybe there is a fine line there.  One that is very easy to cross…

‘Nora. What are you up to?’

‘I’ve just had a huge snort of coke,’ I cheerfully announced.

‘Ooh, you lucky thing!  Haven’t got any more, have you?’

‘No,’ I lied, sitting there in her room with an envelope of it in my back pocket.

What’s happening to me?

But, as if in revenge for my greed, as I left her house the coke turned around, gave a twist and a wriggle, and fled away, dumping me unceremoniously in a limbo, skew-whiff and desolate.  I drifted through the rest of the afternoon in a puzzled dream.

And when I came home I decided not to waste another snort, but to wait till my body was clear.  I sat down at the table to transfer the coke to an uncrushed wrapper, and idly sniffed up the residue as I worked.  How thoughtlessly you can persuade yourself that what you’re doing at any particular moment is not actually getting into dope, or eating, or smoking, or whatever it is you’ve rationally decided not to do; that it’s just a small aberration, or to make sure something is not wasted – or it’s not anything at all because your mind has slipped its moorings, disconnected itself for that moment from your body.  The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

It’s definitely not a fun read but written so well that you’d want to finish it – you need to see that light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunday Shorts

It has been another busy week.  Make that one busy MONTH (May) and June doesn’t seem to be slowing down either.  The one good thing I’m looking forward to is this coming Long Weekend which is going to be extra long for me since I’m taking a day off work too.  We’ll be going away for 4-5 days, can’t wait!

So, yesterday, I fit in a Short Story with a BIG title:

Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice by Nam Le (source: Netgalley)

Description from Penguin’s site:

A young  Vietnamese-Australian named Nam, in his final year at the famed Iowa Writers’  Workshop, is trying to find his voice on the page. When his father, a man with a  painful past, comes to visit, Nam’s writing and sense of self are both deeply  changed.

Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and  Sacrifice is a deeply moving story of identity, family and the wellsprings of  creativity, from Nam Le’s multi-award-winning collection The  Boat.

I have to say that when I first heard Penguin was coming out with these ‘Shorts’, I wasn’t really impressed.  I was never a novella / short stories sort of person but when I saw Nam Le’s above story available on netgalley, I couldn’t help myself.  I’ve been wanting to read his ‘The Boat’ and just never got around to it and this short story definitely whet my appetite.  My interest, of course, lies in the basis of a second generation Asian background living in Australia.  I’m really first generation but since I’ve been here since I was 15, I’m more like second generation however my husband was born in a refugee camp in Thailand – parents running from the Vietnam war – and arrived on Australian soil, by plane, when he was barely 3 months old.  So, you can see exactly why I’m interested.

Not only was this story Short with Big title but it also delivers such a Punch!  The title says it all, this story is all about Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and  Sacrifice .  I mean how do you fit all that in 20 pages?  But Nam Le has definitely done that.  This story portrays what most Asian families would experience, especially those second generation living in the Western world.  The struggle with of who we really are; the difficulty in mixing the 2/3 cultures and ideologies.  This gap between the Asian parents and their westernised children are sometimes too wide and yet… if you are willing to reach out and compromise, anything is possible.

Rating: 4/5

Note: Hhhhmmm… I’ve just noticed the ‘Shorts’ bit in my weekly feature to the Penguin branding.  This is totally coincidental as I meant it to be short reviews Not short books / stories.

Review: Night Beach

Night Beach
Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars


This book got me hooked by page 2.


After the initial long description of the opening scene, I liked Abbie straight away from her encounter with the dog. What can I say, I luurrrvee dogs! Here’s my darling (sorry, can’t help myself)

Getting back to the book, even though I’m not a surfie, I love the beach and I can straightaway tell from the descriptions of the beach, the surf, etc, that Abbie is a fanatic. Yes, she surfs everyday (literally!). We were also told straightaway that Abbie is Arty farty. Everything has to be in pictures for her; a visual type of person. Hence, she excels in Visual Arts at school. I just love this combination of beach / surf and art. Okay, well, I just love the beach. Truly, Kirsty Eagar has a way to describe the beach that I want to go there right now.

All good things come in threes, right? Abbie’s addicted to the surf to forget. She loves art because that’s how she learns to understand. And… she’s absolutely nuts about Kane, just because… 😉

But of course when you’ve got it bad for somebody, you aren’t really sane. You’re a stalker and a groupie combined, and you do things even you don’t want to try and understand.

Would anyone else understand what I’m doing? I silently argue my case before an invisible jury. I’m saying, imagine there is someone you like so much that just thinking about them leaves you desperate and reckless. You crave them in a way that’s not rational, not right, and you’re becoming somebody you don’t recognise, and certainly don’t respect, but you don’t even care.

Yup, she’s completely crazy about Kane. But Kane returned from his trip with an extra baggage. Something dark and menacing and it wants… Abbie. **wwhoooo** [Trust me, this book isn’t scary. I was reading in the dark on my laptop and I am usually a scaredy cat – haven’t been able to read any Stephen King’s]

Not only does Abbie has to fight with an unknown entity, she is struggling with her own individual issues. Mostly, she just wants to feel like she belongs… in a family… somewhere… anywhere…

In normal families, unbroken families, the mother and the father are like two hands cupped together, and held by those hands are the children. In my family, the hands have pulled apart and the children have been dropped… You find out you don’t really belong anywhere.

I rate books with my heart and whilst my head said this book is worth the whole 5 stars, my heart complains of something missing. I just can’t tell you what it is as it’ll be a spoiler issue; maybe I’m just that shallow to want that extra bit but… can’t have everything in life. In any case, I read this book in 1 day (thanks to work interrupting). It was just that engrossing that I needed to read it and read it to the end pronto!

Night Beach is an absolutely completely totally captivating read.

Read it!

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