Tag Archives: #aww2018

Review: Stone Girl by Eleni Hale

Stone Girl by Eleni Hale

A heartbreaking novel of raw survival and hope, and the children society likes to forget.A stunning and unforgettable debut YA for older readers.

An unspeakable event changes everything for twelve-year-old Sophie. No more Mum, school or bed of her own. She’s made a ward of the state and grows up in a volatile world where kids make their own rules, adults don’t count and the only constant is change.

Until one day she meets Gwen, Matty and Spiral. Spiral is the most furious, beautiful boy Sophie has ever known. And as their bond tightens she finally begins to confront what happened in her past.

I’m at the police station. There’s blood splattered across my face and clothes. In this tiny room with walls the colour of winter sky I hug a black backpack full of treasures. Only one thing is certain . . . no one can ever forgive me for what I’ve done.

Published 30 April 2018 |  Publisher: Penguin Books Australia  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

Truthfully, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I saw the chance and grabbed it; I’m spontaneous like that because otherwise, I’m rather indecisive and will take forever and a day to make up my mind. I don’t think I even looked at the blurb at the back of the book and just started reading… boy, did I get the shock of my life!

The novel opens with a shocked twelve-year-old Sophie sitting at the police station. Her mother had died and it is all her fault. Her father is in Greece and she has no other family to care for her. She was placed in the care of social workers and hence begins her journey through the system. About 1/3 through the book, we skipped to 2 years later and Sophie’s life did not get any better… is it possible to even be worse than it already is? Her life is like a roller coaster and she’s about to hit rock bottom…

We only have each other

Stone Girl tells of brutal lives of teens who have been betrayed again and again. First by their parents who reversed the roles by having the children as carers then to disappoint them by leaving (or dying) and/or breaking promises again and again. No wonder these children do not and cannot place any kind of trust in adults. How can you when all they’ve learnt are betrayals and disappointments?

The homes have taught me some important life lessons: need no one, rely on no one, trust no one. Cry inside. Feel but don’t show. If you think you need someone to talk to about deep stuff? Don’t. Sort it out alone. Mask up and survive.

I can’t tell you just how heartbreaking this story is. And to read in the author’s note that she herself has lived through this system back in the 1990s made this book all the more heartbreaking and powerful in its inspiration of hope. It wasn’t an easy book to read and whilst it holds no trigger moments for me, it came quite close. I won’t say that it’s a must-read for anyone because not everyone could survive reading this but I do very much hope that the message it brings will reach those who need it.

It’s not too late…You can if you are tenacious, determined. Try, and never give up… You have a choice to make and pretending you don’t is a choice in itself.

Thanks to the author, Eleni Hale, for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Eleni Hale was a reporter at the Herald Sun, a communications strategist for the union movement and has written for many print and online news publications. Her short story fig was published as part of the ABC’s In their branches project and she has received three Varuna awards. She lives in Melbourne, and is currently working on her second book. Stone Girl is her first novel.

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

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Eleni! 😀

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Review: The Juliet Code by Christine Wells

The Juliet Code by Christine Wells

It’s 1947 and the war is over, but Juliet Barnard is still tormented by secrets. She was a British agent and wireless operator in occupied Paris until her mission went critically wrong. Juliet was caught by the Germans, imprisoned and tortured in a mansion in Paris’s Avenue Foch.

Now that she’s home, Juliet can’t – or won’t – relive the horrors that occurred in that place. Nor will she speak about Sturmbannführer Strasser, the manipulative Nazi who held her captive. . .

Haunted by the guilt of betrayal, the last thing Juliet wants is to return to Paris. But when Mac, an SAS officer turned Nazi-hunter, demands her help searching for his sister, Denise, she can’t refuse. Denise and Juliet trained together before being dropped behind enemy lines. Unlike Juliet, Denise never made it home. Certain Strasser is the key to discovering what happened to his sister, Mac is determined to find answers – but will the truth destroy Juliet?

Published 30 April 2018 |  Publisher: Penguin Random House  |  RRP: AUD$32.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I read Code Name Verity a few weeks ago so found the premise of this book even more compelling. Unlike Code Name Verity, however, The Juliet Code follows the aftermath of captivity. There is a dual timeline, albeit only a few years apart, of course, to provide the background of her capture and ultimately, on her survival.

Juliet Barnard is not one of those ‘kick-ass-heroine’ or at least, she’s not described as such to begin with. In the opening chapter, she’s a broken woman, fearful of what’s happened during her incarceration in France. In the earlier timeline, she’s compared unfavourably against other women who are better physically & mentally. She is intelligent and determined but not particularly capable as an agent in training but the country is desperate and cannot spare anyone. I love this characterisation of Juliet because it made her completely relate-able.

I loved the glamorously romantic cover and my chronically romantic self fell head over heels over this love story. If you are not a fan of insta-love, however, this book is not for you. Whilst I’m fascinated by war stories, for me, The Juliet Code is a beautiful romance story than anything else. In fact, this romantic story haunts me over the past week since I’ve finished reading and I’ll probably continue to daydream about Juliet & Felix for the next few months at least.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Christine Wells worked as a corporate lawyer in a city firm before exchanging contracts and prospectuses for a different kind of fiction. In her novels, she draws on a lifelong love of British history and an abiding fascination for the way laws shape and reflect society. Christine is devoted to big dogs, good coffee, beachside holidays and Antiques Roadshow, but above all to her two sons who live with her in Brisbane.

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

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: Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills


Dyschronia
by Jennifer Mills

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

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

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

My Blurb

Baffled.

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

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

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

Source: I borrowed this book from my local library

About the author

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

Find her on: goodreads  |  website  |  twitter

 

Review: Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Born on an unlucky day, she is blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s there that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart. Except for Morrigan, who doesn’t seem to have any special talent at all.

To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

My Blurb (5 stars)

I bought this book as a gift for my 8yo. I don’t particularly know what an advance reader is for his age but he’s in the top reading group in his class so I thought this might be readable for him. Nevertheless, he was intimidated by all the words and NO illustrations which makes it a monster of a book for him. I wanted to read it too so we read it together aloud. Honestly, I would probably inhale this book in a single sitting (or two) because it was really so much fun! A light-hearted read filled with incredible characters and magical world, Nevermoor is an absolute gem of a book.

I love that nothing is as it seems in Nevermoor just like there is always 2 sides to every story. And there is all sorts of creatures too; a talking giant cat, a vampire, a dwarf, zombies, dragons, unicorns… you name it! The funny bits and the magic especially excite us. Nevermoor is the bright star at the end of our day.

We took the whole of February to read this aloud. He has to read 4-5 pages per night and I read 20ish… My voicebox is feeling a little overused atm. It has been a pretty good month though because the promise of reading this book helps him get ready for bed without too much nagging/shouting from me! That’s a smasher of a praise for this book, I tell you. It’s been amazing and now I’ve got to find another with, hopefully, the same impact on him.

He says: (4.5/5 stars)

The book is actually pretty good. I rate 4 and a half at the because at the end its sort of scary. But the rest of the book is awesome my favourite character is Fenestra and my least favourite character is Ezra squall. My favourite place in Nevermore is the Gossamer Line because you can travel to a different place and you are sort of like a ghost.

About the author

JESSICA TOWNSEND lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. She was a copywriter for eight years, and was once the editor of a children’s wildlife magazine for Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow is her first novel.

Find her on: goodreads  |  twitter  | instagram

 

Review: If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman

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

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

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

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

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

My Blurb (5 stars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author

 

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

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

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

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

Find Alicia on: goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter  |  facebook

Kim Lock: Q&A

Thank you, Kim, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing.

Quick Qs
Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Milk

Coffee or Tea? Definitely tea.

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark? I have approximately 1000 bookmarks. There is always one lying around.

Plot or Character? Both! Also voice.

HEA or unexpected twist? Anything that suits the story, and is well executed.

Q: How long have you been writing and/or reading? Have the written words always been a big part of your life?
A: I’ve been reading (and writing) for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a child I have
always had a book with me; I grew up with The Baby-Sitters Club, The Gymnasts and Nancy Drew.
My first ‘novels’ were written on a typewriter, cut down into little pages and stapled into books. I
still have them! They have intriguing titles such as, ‘I Want Some Cake’ and ‘The Mushroom Ring at the Bottom of My Garden’.

Q: Could you please share with us your publication journey?
A: After spending several years working on a manuscript alone, my debut novel was picked up from the ‘slush pile’ of an independent press, which gave me great insights into revision and editing as well as invaluable industry experience. My second novel was selected to participate in the QWC/Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program in 2013, and it was after this that I signed with my agent and was offered a two-book contract with Pan Macmillan Australia – those books are Like I Can Love and The Three of Us.

Q: So far, ‘motherhood’ seems to play a big part in your novels… is there any particular scene that was actually a real life incident? Could you also share with us your motherhood journey so far? How are you finding juggling kids and writing?
A: Though no scenes (so far!) are based on any of my own real life experiences, I certainly draw on my own feelings when writing characters’ ‘motherhoods’. When my first baby was born, one of the particular challenges, for me, was trying to reconcile the disparity between how I thought I was supposed to feel (in love, tender, deferential) and how I actually did feel – which was often
bewildered and lonely! The biologically female act of childbearing isn’t always easy in a male-centric world. So I think there are lots of conversations to be had there.
To answer your question about kids and writing – I write when I can! I have to be flexible. Some days I’m able to write a lot, and some days I’m not able to write at all. I spend a lot of time mulling stories over in my head and jotting down notes.

Q: How do you write? Are you a planner? Do you chart a plot before you start writing? Do you listen to music while writing? Just for fun, could you share a picture of your workspace with us (especially if you mainly write at home)
A: That’s a great question! Each book has been slightly different, but I’m definitely not a planner. I begin with a basic idea, a character’s name, and perhaps a rough idea of setting. Then I just start writing, keep writing, and see what comes up. I’m pretty linear – I write from the beginning to the end, with only the occasional deviation if something strikes. My first drafts are awful things, terribly rough, and there are usually tens of thousands of words that get dumped and rewritten within the first few drafts. It’s usually around draft three or four when I’ll write something of a scene map. I can be several drafts in and still adding or subtracting or fixing major storylines. (Luckily for me, I thoroughly enjoy editing.) I’m one of those writers who needs quiet – I find music too distracting. It’s why I also can’t write in cafes or public libraries. I write in my home office with the door closed, or when I’m home alone, or sometimes in the car.

 

My desk is a complete mess! There’s always a rotation of books coming and going, trinkets and pieces of craft that the kids bring me, notebooks and draft manuscripts piling up. My pride and joy is a beautiful Orée keyboard, a treat that I bought myself with a book advance. Please don’t mind the grotty window …

Q: I see you also work as freelance graphic designer, did you design your own covers and/or how much say do you have with your covers?
A: My first novel was published by a small press, and I had the unique experience of being able to design my own cover (with a brief from the publisher, of course!). With my next two books, I was able to enjoy the experience of taking my designer hat off, and just being the author. Which I have loved!

Q: Congratulations on the publication of your Third book (fifth baby?) What’s next for you, Kim?
A: Thank you, Tien! It’s been an amazing three years in the making, this one. I have another book in the works, but this one seems to be coming through a little slower. But I’m taking plenty of notes, and daydreaming…

Q: Please share with us: your top 5 reads in 2017 and your 5 most anticipated releases in 2018

Oh, it’s always hard to narrow it down! A non-exhaustive selection of books that I read last year and loved (not necessarily published in 2017): Plane Tree Drive by Lynette Washington; Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman; I Am, I Am, I Am, by Maggie O’Farrell; Whisky Charlie Foxtrot by Annabel Smith, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.
And no doubt 2018 will deliver plenty of excellent books, but here’s just a few I’m looking forward to: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht (March); Trick of the Light by Laura Elvery (March); You Wish by Lia Weston (April); and, later in the year, new books from Sarah Ridout and Les Zig.

 

 

You can check out my thoughts on Kim’s books by clicking on these links: Peace, Love, and Khaki Socks, Like I Can Love, The Three of Us

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