Tag Archives: #aww2017

Review: Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette & Gabrielle Carey

Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette & Gabrielle Carey

Written twenty years ago, Puberty Blues is the bestselling account of growing up in the 1970s that took Australia by storm and spawned an eponymous cult movie. It also marked the starting point of Kathy Lette’s writing career, which sees her now as an author at the forefront of her field.

Puberty Blues is about top chicks and surfie spunks and the kids who don’t quite make the cut: it recreates with fascinating honesty a world where only the gang and the surf count. It’s a hilarious and horrifying account of the way many teenagers live and some of them die. Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey’s insightful novel is as painfully true today as it ever was.

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

Ok, wow, now I get all the controversy surrounding this book! I still don’t know whether to cry or laugh…

Cry because it’s saddened me, as an older woman, to hear these young teens (starting at 13 when they still haven’t had their periods yet) giving in to sex just cuz it’s what the boys wanted. And sorry but those boys sound like such losers! Gorgeous maybe but err all the girls did was what the boys wanted to do; I wanted to scream!!

Laugh because well, weren’t we all boy crazy at that age? I didn’t get to any of the shenanigans these girls got up to but then again, my life was very sheltered and I did go to a private Catholic girls school where most girls in my class are rather intelligent so yea… but I did remember the slathering baby oil to sunbath; ah, those were the days.

This book was set in the 70s so please do take that into consideration when reading. If you are a parent, be prepared for a fully open & honest conversation with your teens. If you are a teen, please please please have a chat with a trusted adult especially with your questions.

Really, these girls were just dreaming of romance and why shouldn’t they? We dream of romance at any and every age; I still do 😉 I am, however, thoroughly GLAD (capitals required to stress my feelings) with the ending. You go, girls!

 

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Review: Draekora by Lynette Noni

Draekora (The Medoran Chronicles #3) by Lynette Noni

“I swear by the stars that you and the others slain tonight will be the first of many. Of that you have my word.”

With Aven Dalmarta now hiding in the shadows of Meya, Alex is desperate to save Jordan and keep the Rebel Prince from taking more lives.

Training day and night to master the enhanced immortal blood in her veins, Alex undertakes a dangerous Meyarin warrior trial that separates her from those she loves and leaves her stranded in a place where nothing is as it should be.

As friends become enemies and enemies become friends, Alex must decide who to trust as powerful new allies—and adversaries—push her towards a future of either light… or darkness.

One way or another, the world will change…

My Blurb

The future was a terrifying thing… But she did have a choice. 

Woah, a fantastic installment of The Medoran Chronicles especially since it’s got one of my fave bits in books (possible (view spoiler) – I won’t specify though it probably won’t be hard to find, I’m sure someone will have mentioned it somewhere). I’m just going to state some points of what I love in this book:

💗 New Mayeran character (a real toughie!)
💗 Different perspectives to some familiar characters
💗 Alex consistently being funny, kind, and generous
💗 Oh, that heartache!!!
💗 A very good conclusion to that problem from book 2

I don’t want to give anything away so this is oh so very vague. Despite the missing ‘romance’, Draekora will not disappoint you because all of the above points. It has fantastic setting with some literally awesome characters (*wink wink*) and great plotting. The best book in the series yet! I cannot wait for Graevale! *Is it February yet?*

About the author

Lynette Noni grew up on a farm in outback Australia until she moved to the beautiful Sunshine Coast and swapped her mud-stained boots for sand-splashed flip-flops. She has always been an avid reader and most of her childhood was spent lost in daydreams of far-off places and magical worlds. She was devastated when her Hogwarts letter didn’t arrive, but she consoled herself by looking inside every wardrobe she could find, and she’s still determined to find her way to Narnia one day. While waiting for that to happen, she creates her own fantasy worlds and enjoys spending time with the characters she meets along the way.

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  | facebook  |  instagram

 

A.V. Mather: Q&A

Thank you, Alison, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing. I enjoyed Refuge very much and am looking forward to your soon upcoming book!

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?  Both have a place in my heart and my greedy little mitts. 
Coffee or Tea?  Tea is my first choice. I can only drink decaf coffee, but I love the flavour and the smell. 
Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark?   I use whatever comes to hand. Failing that, I have been known to dog-ear and to lay books face- down but only in extreme circumstances. I hate losing my place.
Plot or Character? Generally, I would say Character. I have written two books and one is driven by Character and the other by Plot, so I guess it depends on what I want to say with each story.
HEA or unexpected twist? I delight in an unexpected twist.

Please tell us a little of yourself including when you first started to write.
I came to writing late in life, when I was nearing forty. I suppose that I had to live a while first and build up a store of observations and experiences. I had spent most of my twenties working as a Scenic Artist and my thirties as a high school Art teacher. I am a person who finds it difficult to do several things at once. I tend to give my total attention to whatever I am working on, so I didn’t really think about writing until I had quit my job as a teacher. Despite leaving the education system, I still felt a passion for communicating concepts and messages. I didn’t really have an ‘Aha!’ moment. The story and characters came to me in little flashes for about
six months before I wrote anything down. Once a couple of the characters had dug in I was able to concentrate on those images and flesh them out. My first story was an adventure for children, which grew from a unit of work I had developed as a teacher and became Violet Green. Once I started writing in earnest, I found it difficult to stop and the rest has evolved from there.

What was the road to publication like for you? How did you come to a decision to publish via Amazon?
I wrote the first finished draft of Refuge nine years ago, and then took a further two years to edit it. The road since then has been bumpy and taken many a turn. Attempting to forge a career as a writer is very hard work and there is more competition than ever for publisher attention. I decided to publish Refuge on Amazon after parting company with my agent of four years. I had almost made the decision to put it all in a drawer and walk away, when my husband urged me to back myself one more time and give Amazon a go. A couple of writer friends who ePublish were equally encouraging and helpful. The response so far has been hugely positive, and I am so glad that I took the leap.

What inspired you to write ‘Refuge’?
I had been thinking about the main themes behind Refuge for about a year before I started to write it. I knew that I wanted to write for an early teen audience and the message that I wanted to convey. My studies and experiences as a teacher, combined with my own childhood memories, had provided an insight into the psychology of youth and the challenges and dangers young people face. It is often a very turbulent time in a person’s life, fraught with challenges and issues around identity and self- worth. If you throw in any kind of instability it can be very easy for a young person to become lost, confused, or lured into dangerous situations. Sometimes they are irrevocably altered, or lost forever. Although the narrative of Refuge is an adventure story, I also wanted it to highlight these themes and serve as a cautionary tale.

What came first:
1. The characters: Nell or Fray?
2. The beginning or the ending?
My first peek into the world of Refuge was a scene between Dr Fray and Gideon, virtually in the
middle of the book. The story grew backwards and forwards from there. It may be unusual not to begin with the protagonist but when I was just setting everything up it really was all about Fray. Once I had him and his motivations completely fleshed out, I had a world for my story to inhabit and I could view it within those parameters. Working on his character involved a lot of research and the story really came to life.
I suppose starting in the middle of the story seems odd. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I
began with that scene, which then ended up in the middle as the story evolved. I think that the
drama of that scene really defines who the Doctor is and the reasons for his power. Once I had that example of him on paper, I could think about how he came to be this way and who might be affected by his mission. It was a very exciting and satisfying process.

Could you please tell us more about Bedlam and why you used it as part of the story?
My mother was a student of psychology. As I was growing up, she passed on bits and pieces that she had learned or experienced. She often talked about how badly people suffering from mental illness have been treated through history, which fostered in me a sympathetic interest.
Bethlem Royal Hospital, or Bedlam, has always been a place of morbid fascination for me. It was the first hospital of its kind, established in London in 1247 to house and study the mentally ill. They moved and enlarged it in 1676 and it is still used to this day. It is this second incarnation of the hospital that I chose as the setting for Dr Fray’s practise. It was the obvious choice for a man who could be seen as the great, great-grandfather of modern psychiatry. Bedlam was a place of extreme darkness and light – daily acts of torture committed under the guise of care – and the inmates had no rights at all. In its early days, the hospital served as a kind of catch-all for all kinds of people who were outcast from society. Bedlam was run by the Monro family, father to son, who were all members of the Royal College of Physicians and known for their unsympathetic views on mental illness. Fray starts out as something of a shining light against this attitude, living at a time of discovery and advancement and driven by a desire to do away with barbaric treatments. This concept of darkness and light features heavily in the Bedlam scenes, and is symbolic of the struggle in Fray’s own character.

Are you a planner? Do you known how the story will end and how it will get there?

I am definitely a ‘seat of your pants’ type of writer at heart and have had to learn how to plot when inspiration runs out. I have never studied literature or creative writing, so I’ve learned everything through my own research and trial and error.
I literally wrote the ending of Refuge at the ending. I had an idea of where I wanted Nell to end up, but the logic of the how, why and who did not happen until I got there. Quite a bit of the story happens at the end and it took a lot of rewriting before I was satisfied. This made for a frustrating time, but I feel that the story took some wonderful twists and turns that I would not have entertained if it had all been mapped out from the beginning.

What’s next for you?
I am publishing the first story that I wrote, Violet Green. It is a Fantasy adventure story for young readers and will be available as an ebook on Amazon.

Before you go, please share your favourite books where there is a door to another world (asidefrom ‘Refuge’)

Readers will expect me to say the Chronicles of Narnia but I did not particularly enjoy them. I am expanding ‘door’ to ‘doorway’ to include many of my favourite stories that explore the theme but do not feature a traditional door.
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll – feature a hole in the ground and a mirror as doorways to a world that is at once familiar and bizarre. I love the imagery, the imagination and the overriding presence of danger. I enjoy it as a metaphor for a child trying to navigate the world of adults and as symbolic of childhood alienation and isolation. I love the character of Alice. She is courageous and pragmatic, emotional and logical. She solves problems by asking questions and thinking.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – a wonderful urban fantasy featuring a character called ‘Door’, who has the ability to open anything. Neverwhere is an exciting, intriguing and mysterious tale in which an act of kindness leads a misfit to discover a world beneath London. I love the symbolism in this story, particularly of the ways in which experience can shape and change us.
Peter Pan by JM Barrie – I may be stretching the ‘doorway’ theme a bit here to include fairy dust but I think it qualifies as a portal to another world. The idea that there is a place just for lost children is a fascinating one for me and provided inspiration for the world of Refuge.
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – doorways are bountiful in this story, beginning with the lovely round one in Bilbo’s hobbit hole. The Fellowship are always stepping, or falling through openings and ending up in unexpected places. I particularly like the abundance of secret, or hidden doorways, that often belie the nature of the place that they lead to. The magnificent gate to the Mines of Moria is an image that has stayed with me since my first reading.

You can check out my thoughts on Refuge, here, and you can purchase it, here 

About the author

I was born an only child in a remote gold mining town in Canada, My family moved to Australia when I was very young and I grew up on stories of eccentric characters in wild places; of exciting rescues, bears that destroyed helicopters and the silence of wolves. My life since has continued to take a few eccentric turns of its own, from studying Visual Arts in Northern NSW, to set painting on a TV series, to teaching art at a boy’s boarding school in Central QLD. Through it all, my love of stories — telling, watching, reading and hearing them — grew stronger and eventually I answered the compulsion to write. I enjoy reading widely across genres and am also interested in art, nature, satire, history, photography, popular culture, psychology, road trips and good stories – real and imagined. I live in Brisbane, Australia with my husband and a constant sense of foreboding.

Find Alison: website | facebook | twitter | goodreads | instagram

Review: The Impossible Story of Olive in Love by Tonya Alexandra


The Impossible Story of Olive in Love by Tonya Alexandra
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was taken by the title and the premise of a gypsy curse. Described as a quirky novel, I thought it’d be humorous and easy to read. While the language was easy to read, I was unfortunately disappointed with the book. In fact, this book got me so angry and as I started reading it on the Friday commute, it also ruined my weekend for me. I was that upset!

I’m not going to bang on about how upset I was as it was quite hard for me to actually understand myself why I was so worked up about this book. The only reason I could think of is Olive’s self-absorption and utter selfishness! My goodness, I really don’t know how anyone stay around her… I do understand that due to her unusual situation & therefore, the very atypical childhood, Olive became who she is and through her experience with true love, the joy and disappointment and all that came with it, is how she came to learn & accept herself. It is truly a coming of age story.

After all the angst I went through reading this book and the supernatural twist on a contemporary tale, I was also let down by the non-fairytale non-Hollywood ending. I’m all for girl power but seriously, my emotions need a balm this book did not provide. I still want to cry now months after I finished reading this book. Sorry but this one is definitely not for me 😥

Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: Refuge

Refuge
Refuge by A.V. Mather
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Opening a normal-looking door into a whole new world is one of my favourite trope because there are just so many possibilities. In this novel, Refuge, our heroine, Nell McLennan, wanted to run away from her problems, her life. I bet each one of us has felt like that at one time or another… escape the daily drudge or any relationship difficulties and see how they cope when we’re not around or will they miss us at all?

Nell did not have a particularly close relationship with her parents. In fact, they were too busy with work to bother too much with her. And then, just before Christmas holidays, she managed to botch things with her best friend who won’t ever speak to her again. The final kick came when her parents decided to go on a holiday without her. She is being sent to a grandfather she’s never met who lives in woop woop. When the chance of escape was presented, Nell jumped for it.

It was a bit of a slow start or maybe I was just too impatient to get to the other world behind the door. It felt like there were too much setting up in the beginning; a steamrolling of events to drive Nell to truly want/need a ‘refuge’ from ever having to face up to her troubles. However, ‘Refuge’ really isn’t a haven where you do not have problems instead Nell came across a set of different yet the same sort of issues. Refuge is a dark world filled with madness and supernatural talents. Everyone came to Refuge for the same reason and all have their own sets of secrets, enemies, and allies. Who can Nell trust? Will she stay or will she return home?

I didn’t expect Refuge to be such a dark world but I do love the variety & dynamics of characters in this world. Nell was a little frustrating but it’s one of those passenger-driver issue, if you get what I mean. I am fascinated by the mad scientist and ever curious on the backgrounds of the other Refuge-ans (we don’t get to hear very much about them). The ending also makes me think that this is really only the first in a series; am keeping my fingers crossed that there will be more Refuge tales.

My sincere thanks to the author for providing e-copy of this book in exchange of honest review

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Deborah Burrows: Q&A

 

Thank you, Deborah, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing. I adored A Time of Secrets and have been keeping a careful eye for your next book so am very very happy with having one in my hands now 🙂

Thank you, Tien, for those kind words. I’m so happy that you liked Stella in Secrets – she’s one of my favourite people too. I do hope that you like Lily in Ambulance Girls, too. She’s a feisty Aussie girl in the thick of the Blitz mayhem.

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate?  It’s chocolate!! Whatever way it comes, I’m happy.

Coffee or Tea?  Coffee in the morning (crucial!) and tea in the afternoon (preferably with scones).

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark?  Ummm. I was known to dog-ear in my misspent youth, but now I’m a scrupulous bookmarker. I use anything, leaves, twigs, postcards, envelopes, pamphlets, anything available – even a real bookmark occasionally.

Plot or Character?   Definitely character, but this comes after I’ve decided on what themes I want to explore.

I usually begin a book with a couple of themes, for instance, anti-Semitism in WW2 Britain, the Australian Intelligence Service, the effect of war on those who fight, the impact of hordes of young American servicemen on a small city like Perth, what it is like to discover that your first love has died in battle in a country far away.

But I can’t begin writing until I know who my heroine will be, and I have a good idea of her back-story. I need to know where and when she was born, her family circumstances, where she grew up and what she is passionate about before I am able to imagine what she will undergo in the course of my book. Then other characters begin to appear in my mind and I need to know their back-stories in detail as well. Every character in my books (even quite a minor one) has a detailed back-story in my mind.

HEA or unexpected twist? Happily ever after! Always!!

What fascinates you so much about history that you have 3 history degrees?

I have always been fascinated by the past. Even as a child I would walk through the streets of Perth imagining how it had looked when my mother was a girl, or when her mother was young. My favourite books as a child were ones set or written in the past.

Also, history is about stories, and I adore stories.

And the study of history allows you to have some insight into why the world is the way it is today. It offers explanations, which I like.

Any other era in history that you like aside from WWII?

The 1920s. Like WW2 it was a time of enormous change for women. But it was a time of hope also, as people wanted to forget the horrors of WW1. And it has the added bonus of great clothes and music!

Any era in history you dislike? Why?

I don’t really dislike any historical period, but some don’t interest me as much as others. I doubt that I would write about the eighteenth century, for example, because I don’t know much about it.

When did you first start writing and what was the road to publication like for you?

I began to write in 2009, finished A Stranger in my Street in January 2011, and by April 2011 I had an agent and a publisher. So I can’t share any stories about having to paper my walls with rejections.

I will say in all humility, though, that I doubt a publisher would ever have considered my first book if I hadn’t paid to have the manuscript professionally edited before trying to find an agent. That really made all the difference. The editor suggested that I make a lot of changes to the pacing of the book. She also suggested that I write new scenes and remove others. Because of my editor I was able to see my ‘baby’ from an entirely new point of view and the flaws of the first time writer were horribly apparent. It’s not easy to accept that what you thought was wonderful needs a lot more work, but I’m so glad that I accepted her advice, because after re-writing I was able to offer a polished manuscript to literary agents, and I was accepted almost immediately.

What was the inspiration behind ‘Ambulance Girls’?

A 1941 newspaper article headed: “WA Girl is ARP Heroine”. It was about Stella O’Keefe, the first Australian A.R.P. [Air Raid Precautions] worker in Britain to be presented to the Queen for outstanding bravery in the London Blitz. Stella was born in a small town 160kms out of Kalgoorlie and (like me!) was a petite girl. (She was known to her colleagues in the London Auxiliary Ambulance Station where she worked as “The Mighty Atom,” which amused me.) In November 1940, at the height of the Blitz, she climbed up to the ninth floor of a bombed and dangerously unstable building in the blackout to rescue a trapped family.

In the article, Stella was quoted as saying, “Other girls at my station have done stickier jobs than this rescue. I am the only driver who so far has not crashed an ambulance into a bomb crater while going to hospital with wounded in the darkened streets. Many times bombs have been so close that I saw the explosion and disintegration of buildings, but the pressure of the job is so intense that there is no time for fear.”

After reading that article the character of Lily Brennan appeared in my mind, and the story soon followed.

Hmmm, I would love to know what’s happened to Stella O’Keefe after the Blitz!

What kind of research was involved in the writing of Ambulance Girls?

I was living in Oxford, UK at the time, and had access to Oxford University’s marvellous Bodleian Library. It is a deposit library, so every book ever published in the UK is in there. I just had to ask and books magically appeared in a few hours. This meant that I was able to read a lot of out of print novels written in WW2, and could peruse any books about the period that seemed interesting.

But I also like to visit the places I write about in my books. So I wandered around central London with a bomb map and worked out which buildings had been destroyed or damaged, so that I could get a sense of the city under siege. I also visited wonderful museums, such as the Imperial War Museum, the Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall, and Bletchley Park (where they broke the German Enigma Codes).

And I went to the Westminster City Archives, where I was able to inspect the actual records of the Blitz. I touched the detailed incident reports filled out by the ARP Wardens each day. They listed what bombs were dropped on what streets, the time they hit, the damage they caused to property, and the casualties. That was an amazing experience, because even after 75 years there was still a faint scent of smoke in the yellowing paper.

Was there a particular historical incident you came across during research that really touched you? Could you please share it with us?

This story, from a book that set out people’s memories of the Blitz, really affected me. It still makes me want to cry, for so many reasons:

“She was a beautiful little girl, about eight years old, blonde, the sort of girl you’d see in the old Pears soap advertisements. She was lying on the ground and she was dead. We checked her over but there was no injury except that a piece of shrapnel had taken off the back of her skull. She had a beautiful smile on her face. We took her to the hospital and asked for a doctor to certify her as dead and a young doctor came out. He took one look at her and took off his white coat and said he was going off to join the air force, because he wanted to drop bombs on people who were dropping bombs on us.”

Could you share your top 5 favourite WWII novels, please?

(in alphabetical order)

Enigma by Robert Harris

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer

A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Black-out/All Clear by Connie Willis

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve read 3, have got Blackout off the shelf to read, and added the other 2 to my tbr (ack!) ~Tien

What’s next for you?

Ambulance Girls is the first of a trilogy, which all deal with women ambulance drivers in the blitz. The books are loosely connected, so that Lily from Ambulance Girls will appear in the other two, but as a more minor character.

So, at present I’m writing the second in the trilogy, Ambulance Girls: Under Fire.

Eeeek!! I can’t wait 😀

You can check out my thoughts on Ambulance Girls, here

About the author

Deborah Burrows was born and grew up in Perth, Western Australia. She is the author of four novels, all set in the Second World War. Deborah’s inspiration is her late mother, who was widowed by the long shadow of that war and who loved to tell stories about life in wartime. Deborah’s latest novel is Ambulance Girls, which is the first of a trilogy set during the London Blitz.

Deborah’s ‘day job’ is in the law, but she has a passion for history. Perhaps that is why, although she adores the clear skies, beautiful beaches and easy-going atmosphere of her home town, she so loves spending time in dreamy Oxford, where she completed a post-graduate degree in medical history. She now divides her time between the two cities.

Find Deborah: website | facebook | twitter | goodreads

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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