Tag Archives: #loveOzYA

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

View all my reviews

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

View all my reviews

Blog Tour (Review & Giveaway): Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

About the book

Words in Deep Blue

Second-hand bookshops are full of mysteries

This is a love story.

It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.

It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea. 

Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

Sometimes you need the poets

My Blurb

Life is the big scheme; death is the little one at the end

I loved visiting second-hand bookshops though these days I don’t actually know whether there is one in my neighbourhood. Nowadays, I buy second-hand books from Vinnies so they don’t usually have that “old” feels to them. And to be honest, I hate seeing things underlined or highlighted in books though I do like the little penciled (not penned) notes. I haven’t, however, found anything that meaningful in my books or maybe I just haven’t the imagination to find meaning in old bus/train tickets. The idea, however, is utterly charming.

The thing about the Letter Library at Howling Books is that you leave actual letters / notes to people who mean something to you. Rachel Sweetie has never been able to grasp the point of this exercise for what use is words? They’re just words. They’re there but they don’t DO anything in the scheme of life. She’s a scientist and she believes in the moon and the tides. Henry Jones, on the other hand, is a poet. He loves words. He believes in the power of words. And yet, they are the best of friends until… they weren’t. Years later, Rachel returned; stricken by grief, angry, and numb. 10 years of friendship, however, cannot be ignored.

I loved Rachel. Her strength impressed me from the very beginning; she’s been struck down by a grief so profound and yet, life still flickered inside of her. It was amazing to see that fire being stoke back to life and seeing her grasp life once again. Henry, on the other hand, didn’t quite impress me. I am fascinated by his family and, most especially, his family home! I wasn’t sure though I could like a real life Henry. His one redeeming fact is that he’s a reader and that he’s really a terrific friend. All the secondary characters though were brilliantly alive. I love the diverse cast of characters: Lola & Hiroko with their music, George (Henry’s sister) & Martin and his mums, etc.

Words in Deep Blue is a book about books (& words), of love and grief, of friendship and finding one’s feet. It is poignant and funny at the same time. It is wonderful collection of words strung into a beautiful story; one I’d highly recommend as it will delight many hearts.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Cath Crowley is a young adult author published in Australia and internationally. She is the author of The Gracie Faltrain trilogy, Chasing Charlie Duskin, and Graffiti Moon. In 2011, Graffiti Moon won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, the Ethel Turner Award for Young People’s Literature, and was named an honour book in the Children’s Book Council, Book of the Year. Cath writes and teaches in Melbourne.

Find Cath on: goodreads  |  website  |  tumblr  |  twitter

Giveaway (AU only)

I have 1 brand new copy of this book to giveaway but Australian address only (sorry, peeps, can’t afford overseas shipping :/). To enter, simply leave me a comment on what book would you leave your letter in and why OR who would you leave a letter to at the Letter Library.

I will contact the winner on Saturday, 1 October for his/her postal details.

Blog Tour: When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah

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Randa Abdel-Fattah was born in Sydney in 1979. She is a Muslim of Palestinian and Egyptian heritage. She grew up in Melbourne and attended a Catholic primary school and Islamic secondary college. Randa has worked as a lawyer, human rights advocate and community volunteer with different human rights and migrant and refugee resource organisations. Randa has used her opinion editorials in newspapers and TV and radio media appearances as a medium for expressing her views about racism, multiculturalism, human rights, the occupation of Palestine and asylum seekers. She is a regular guest at schools around Australia addressing students about her books and the social justice issues they raise. Randa has also been a guest at international writer’s festivals. She recently completed her PhD in the Department of Sociology at Macquarie University, researching Islamophobia, racism and everyday multiculturalism in Australia. Randa lives in Sydney with her husband and three children. She has just released her latest novel, When Michael Met Mina, which was inspired by her PhD fieldwork examining issues of race in Australia.

Find Randa on: goodreads  |  website  |  facebook  |  twitter

Q&A with Randa

Boat Refugees!  What a contentious issue! What kind of research was involved in writing When Michael Met Mina?

I based my book on my own fieldwork (I wrote it while researching Islamophobia, racism and everyday multiculturalism in Australia as part of a PhD in Sociology) my own work with refugees, stories from friends, and information from refugee advocates.

If you conduct any interviews of boat refugees, could you please share one particular story that touched you?

I spoke to a refugee advocate who told me about a young man who turned 18 while he was still studying (he was in community detention). The Department of Immigration told him he had to leave school. They also moved him from youth accommodation to a boarding house where the other residents were older men with alcohol and drug-related problems. The school principal encouraged the boy to remain in school even though Immigration was no longer funding his education. The principal did not realise how short of money he was and that he was not paying his train fares to come to school (in community detention people get a very small allowance). He was caught on the train without a ticket and sent back to Villawood.

Then there was this story: a Palestinian – Iraqi family who came by boat. The advocate helped prevent the Immigration Department from forcing the oldest daughter to leave school (policy once they turn 18 regardless of where they are in their studies).

What particular policies (proposed or otherwise) in Australian politics which are of ‘Aussie Values’ that you think are misconceptions?  What are these misconceptions and what are the facts?

There are misconceptions and there is the racism that structures and inspires a certain way of thinking and emotional posture in relation to multiculturalism, refugees and non-Anglo Australia. First and foremost, the idea of policing ‘our borders’ and deciding who we will allow to come in etc is based on a fundamental erasure of indigenous sovereignty. It is denied. It is taken for granted that all of us–the White dominant majority and ‘everybody  else’– have the right to police Australia’s borders because of a racist presumption of White sovereignty over indigenous sovereignty. Everything else stems from that. As for misconceptions, I don’t even know if that is the right word. There are straightforward facts available to anybody willing to do a Google search regarding all the economic claims around refugees (i.e. they take our jobs/they get more welfare etc). So I’d call it wilful ignorance. Then there are the claims that there is a global ‘queue’, that people get on boats and risk their lives to take advantage of ‘our way of life’, that refugees have values that ‘threaten our values’, that they would set themselves on fire in order to emotionally blackmail us and so on. I don’t see these as misconceptions. There is something nasty and racist and dark at work here which has taken shape over years of strong political and media work to demonise refugees.

Could you provide some practical advices to a teen / young adult on how to influence above change in policies?

Oh yes definitely! Politicians aren’t stupid. If our border policies were unpopular and didn’t win votes, they’d be the first in line to shut down detention centres.  So politicians need to know that their policies are not supported. That means lobbying your local MP, being part of campaigns that counter the dangerous narratives that get widely disseminated. Use as many platforms as possible: social media, vlogs, the arts, op eds, music, story-telling.

Randa’s latest book

when michael met mina

When Michael Met Mina

Before Mina, my life was like a completed jigsaw puzzle but Mina has pushed the puzzle onto the floor. I have to start all over again, figuring out where the pieces go.

When Michael meets Mina, they are at a rally for refugees – standing on opposite sides.

Mina fled Afghanistan with her mother via a refugee camp, a leaky boat and a detention centre.

Michael’s parents have founded a new political party called Aussie Values.

They want to stop the boats. 
Mina wants to stop the hate.

When Mina wins a scholarship to Michael’s private school, their lives crash together blindingly.

A novel for anyone who wants to fight for love, and against injustice.

My Blurb

Do you ever stop being a refugee? Even if at some point in your life the place of refuge becomes home?

Wow! was my first thought when I saw the description for this book. Refugees, especially boat refugees, caused such furore in Australian politics and everybody has an opinion. It’s good that everyone has thoughts about this but sometimes, they need to look a little bit harder, deeper, and further! I’m actually looking at this book with a little trepidation because being a stereotypical Asian, I don’t like confrontation (avoid it like that plague!) even when it’s in books.

Presenting views from different people (pros and cons and everything in between), When Michael Met Mina demands the readers to think also for themselves. What is the right thing to do? And one thing that struck me from Q&A above is Randa’s comment on wilful ignorance ; this phrase has been stuck in my head for a month now because I thought it’s something that’s wrong but is remedial if only you’d take the steps and of course, also because I’m guilty (in some aspects).  Do not live with your head in the sand and parrot others (even those you look up to), do your own research and speak your own unique thoughts.

I find myself infuriated on one page, teary on another, and smiling on the next one. Written in the perspectives of teenagers from both ‘sides of the fence’, When Michael Met Mina seeks to inform and to encourage the young to form their own views based on genuine hard facts. An absolute gem of a read with real life issues & implications, this book speaks not only to your heart but also to your mind.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Blog Tour: A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

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Moriarty Jaclyn med

Jaclyn Moriarty grew up in Sydney’s north-west and studied Law and English on three continents – at Sydney University in Australia, Yale in the US and Cambridge in England. She spent four years working as a media and entertainment lawyer and now writes full-time so that she can sleep in each day. She lives in Sydney.

On books/writing

I can’t believe that it’s ending!  How do you feel about your latest visit to the Kingdom of Cello?

It was a wild trip.  I felt very sad when it was done, and I’d definitely like to visit again one day.  For now I will make a slide show out of my Cellian holiday pictures and invite friends around to watch.

Which are your favourite characters in this trilogy and why?

Well, I feel very fond of the central characters, Elliot and Madeleine. I always had fun writing Samuel of Olde Quainte because I never knew what he was going to say; I loved Sergio because I like people who turn out to be unexpected heroes and I liked his passion and dance moves; and I like Princess Ko because she was doing her best even if she was doing it badly.   Also Elliot’s cousin, little Corrie-Lynn, I thought she was very cool.  I’d like to see her grow up. 

A Couple of years ago, at Concord Library, (if I remember correctly) I believe you mentioned there are certain music / songs you listen you as per characters you were writing.  Could you please share some songs you were listening to whilst writing in Madeleine’s perspective?  And Elliot’s?

You have a sharp memory. Well done.  That’s a funny question because I was doing an interview for ABC Radio National the other day and I was talking about how I always choose a favourite song for each character.  The interviewer seemed very interested and I felt proud of myself for saying something interesting.  Then she asked me which song I had chosen for Madeleine for the last book and I could not remember.  I do not have a sharp memory like you.  I mean, I could hear the song inside my head but I couldn’t recall the title or even the band name.

Anyway, I went home and looked up the song names. The songs changed between books as the characters developed.  Madeleine’s songs included Sprawl II (Mountains beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire, Let’s go down to the tennis court by Lorde, and All this and Heaven too by Florence and the Machine.  Elliot’s songs included Bloodbuzz Ohio by the National, Kamera by Wilco, and Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons.

If possible, please share the pictures you’ve drawn of the Kingdom of Cello or any of the characters?

I would love to but I’m such a terrible artist!  I think you would only be disappointed.  I have a very, very messy, scribbled map of Bonfire, the Farms, where Elliot lives, which is hanging on the wall beside my desk.  I consulted it often when I was writing.  I just looked at it and decided you don’t want to see it.  My friend, the artist Elizabeth Pulie, turned another very messy, scribbled map of the Kingdom of Cello itself into the map that is in the opening pages of the Australian edition of the book.  She did a beautiful job.

Do you ever read parts of this trilogy to your son, Charlie?  If so, what was his reaction/s & which part was it?

A friend of mine is reading the books to her 8-year-old daughter, which has made my 9-year-old, Charlie, feel suddenly competitive.  He has decided he is going to read A Corner of White.  He told me sternly that he hopes it has a ‘sizzling start’.  He’s a tough critic. I feel uneasy.

Do you think some of his (boy’s!) humour influenced you in this very quirky trilogy?

In some ways Charlie’s humour is a lot like the humour you expect from small boys, and I am getting very weary of that sort of humour.  So maybe it influenced me in that I was hiding from it.  In other ways Charlie’s humour is unique and offbeat, and he likes wordplay and ambiguity, so maybe that was a sort of influence too?  It’s a great question.

What’s the next bookish project for you?

I’m working on a few books at once.  An adult book about a woman who enrols in a seminar series that promises to teach her the secret to human flight; a time travel book; a young adult book that returns to Ashbury and Brookfield; a book about my great-grandmother; and a book about a girl whose parents have run away to have adventures with pirates and left her instructions to deliver a chest full of treasures to ten different aunts.

On a serious note

On your profile you said that your “PhD was on the law relating to young people and the media – especially the privacy rights of young people—…“; what advice would you give young people these days noting the usage of social media these days?  Or to the parents?!  (My son is only 6 and I’m already not looking forward to the time he’ll be getting on to these platforms).

That’s a big question. I went to a seminar on cyber safety not long ago.  It was run by expert Susan McLean, and was terrifying.  Maybe a good start would be to read Susan McLean’s book, Sexts, Texts and Selfies.  I read it, and was once again terrified.

On a lighter note

The book you most enjoyed reading in 2015

I’m terrible at these questions because I’m too indecisive and I have read and loved many, many books this year.  So I’ll choose Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (which is coming out this year, but I’ve read the manuscript and it’s mesmerising), A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Clariel by Garth Nix.  I honestly meant to choose just one but I kept going.

The book you’re most looking forward to in 2016 (aside from A Tangle of Gold)

I’m looking forward to reading Justine Larbalestier’s My Sister Rosa and Kirsty Eagar’s Summer Skin, because I keep hearing great things about them.  I’m also excited about reading my sister Nicola’s new novel, The Fifth Letter,which I’m sure will be brilliant.

An author you’d most like to meet (who’s still alive) and what would you ask him/her?

Elizabeth McCracken, and I would ask her how she got such a super cool name.  I really love that name. (I also love her writing, which crackles).

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A Tangle of Gold (The Colours of Madeleine #3) by Jaclyn Moriarty

The dazzling conclusion to the award-winning The Colours of Madeleine trilogy, from one of the most original writers in YA fiction.

The Kingdom of Cello is in crisis. Princess Ko’s deception has been revealed and the Elite have taken control, placing the Princess, Samuel and Sergio under arrest and ordering their execution. Elliot is being held captive by the Hostiles and Colour storms are raging through the land. The Cello Wind has been silent for months.

Plans are in place to bring the remaining Royals home from the World but then all communication between Cello and the World will cease. That means Madeleine will lose Elliot, forever.

Madeleine and Elliot must solve the mystery of Cello before it is too late.

My Blurb (5 stars)

What an utterly satisfying conclusion!  The prettiest cover, the thickest book of the trilogy, and it will absolutely charm the pants off you.  The language was just as quirky (amazingly consistent throughout the trilogy) gave the story a very whimsical atmosphere.  Despite all the lightness, however, there was betrayal, harmful intent, and a very dark void.

Madeleine is a different girl in this final book.  She’s grown so much and gone through so many trials but she’s finally found herself.  I really liked Madeleine the first time I met her though you know, of course, there is something behind her brightness (just as Belle knew!).  Parts of it were revealed in books 1 & 2 but it all comes crashing on you in this latest instalment.  I kid you not, full-blown screaming involved and not just on my part 😉

She’s not the only one who has grown though as Elliott comes to the understanding that the Kingdom needs help, Keira coming onto her own, etc.  I feel quite a few of characters have matured though of course, some never do change!  I’m a little sad that Corrie-Lyn was only featured in a couple of snippets and I’m going to miss these characters so much!  On the other hand, I’m looking forward to Jaclyn Moriarty’s next works (especially the time travel one – I just Adore time travel!)

Thanks to MacMillan Australia for copy of Uncorrected Proof in exchange of honest review and the opportunity to participate in this blog tour.

Do visit all the other stops!  And if you’re in Sydney, Jaclyn will be at Dymocks George St. for Dymocks YA Bookmeet at 2:30pm (Sat, 5th March)

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Blog Tour: Cloudwish ~a Review + Giveaway

cloudwishCloudwish by Fiona Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected Proof courtesy of publisher

For Vân Uoc Phan, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing, or pointless. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, for example? Pointless. It always left her feeling sick, as though she’d eaten too much sugar.  And there was zero chance of a pay-off, because it was a truth universally acknowledged that he only ever went out with girls like Pippa or Tiff or Ava.

At sixteen, Vân Uoc Phan, a scholarship student, has always believed in keeping a low profile: real life will start when school finishes.  But when she attracts the attention of popular Billy Gardiner, she finds herself in an unwelcome spotlight.  As she struggles to reconcile fantasy Billy with real Billy, she is also grappling with the growing suspicion that she may have accidentally wished his affection into existence.  But that can’t possibly happened, can it?

Vân Uoc has always tried to live according to the Jane Eyre standard: What would Jane do?

If only things were that simple!

Real life in no longer on hold, and Vân Uoc is quickly discovering who she really is.

Review (5 stars)

Cloudwish was, in the first instance, a cover crush for me. It was beautifully design and very catchy! The thousandth of second after I read the name of the main character (note: 2nd word in blurb), I MUST READ THIS Potentially Awesome Book. And let me just assure you now, it did NOT disappoint. The promises of ‘magic’, of ‘Jane Eyre’, and romance were met but in addition to all this an in-depth look of what it means to be an Asian teen in the Australian landscape.

Vân Uoc was first introduced as the typical ABC (or rather ABV, that’s Australian Born wpid-20150914_220331.jpgVietnamese): parents who barely speak English, parent who’s pushing her towards the high-prestige high-earning profession, very intelligent (on scholarship at a private school), plays musical instrument (though in this case, an atypical instrument: the oboe),… in summary, an overachiever. Just like any average teen though, she also has dreams… dreams that she can be just like the others, to blend in, rather than being invisible. So, when she was given the chance, she made a wish…

I felt an immediate connection to Vân Uoc, not only because of my background (as an immigrant), but because I love instant coffee with condensed milk! Forget GJ’s Caramel Lattes, this is da-bomb! As Vân Uoc puts it…

It made you fly on a little cloud of sugar and caffeine.

And then this… this is EXACTLY what happened to me when I was learning to read English books;

And something miraculous happened when they were about a quarter of the way through reading it. After weeks of ploughing and hesitating, something clicked; she stopped stumbling over the unknown words and long sentences. Words magically started to reveal meaning, most of the time anyway, through context. And the sentences themselves stopped being obstacles and started telling a story. Her eyes were racing ahead; she was comprehending the shape and rhythm of the language.

Do you know just how exciting it is when an author has put into words the same exact feelings / experiences you have had?! I love you, Fiona! Apple's Face Throwing a Kiss

Cloudwish may, on the outset, sound like a girly romance fluff but Don’t Be Fooled! Fiona Wood has outdone herself in creating this masterpiece! The authenticity of feel/thought of an Asian Australian teen girl (I can testify to this!) and the inclusion of a number of contemporary issues including but not limited to boat refugees, the ‘white-ness’ of beauty adverts, etc, made a very solid content of a YA fiction.

I have always wished to have the Asian equivalent of Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi and / or Saving Francesca (Italian) and in Cloudwish, my wish has come true! Thank you, Fiona, for writing such a beautiful, compelling, and relevant tale. It has spoken true to my heart and a definite top read of the year for me. I will never stop recommending this to everybody -along with Alibrandi 😉

Note to the parents: if you’re concerned about sexual content, I’d suggest that you read the book first so you are prepared or, feel free to PM me for better details.

Thanks Pan MacMillan Australia for copy of Uncorrected Proof in exchange of honest review

About Author

fiona wood

Fiona Wood’s first young adult novel, Six Impossible Things, was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year, Older Readers. Her second, Wildlife, won the CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers and was shortlisted for a number of other awards. Her third book, Cloudwish, will be published in 2015. Her books are published internationally.  Before writing YA fiction, Fiona wrote television scripts. She lives in Melbourne with her family.

Find Fiona: website  |  twitter

Giveaway (AU only)

My very many thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia for inviting me on this blog tour.  They are also giving away a copy of Cloudwish to one of you lucky blog reader!   To enter, leave me a meaningful comment (below) or… if you can’t think of anything meaningful, tell me a joke!  Something my soon-to-be-six year old can understand 😉

I will draw the winner on Monday morning (21st September 2015).

Tour Stops

Do visit some of these stops too… some will host a giveaway as well 😉

The Tales Compendium

Words Read and Written

YA Midnight Reads

Reading Lark

Confessions From Romaholics

Loony Literate

The Peony Lantern: Q&A

I mentioned yesterday in my review of The Peony Lantern that we were able to ask questions to Frances Watts as we read along.  Here are the Q&As (excluding spoilers).  I’ve also removed names except for mine or Frances.

the peony lantern

Q: Frances, love the cover for The Peony Lantern! Did you choose it?
A: So glad you like it! It’s all the work of the wonderful designer at HarperCollins – with some special criteria I supplied to make sure the girl was true to Kasumi in the book.

Q: The haiku are beautiful! Did you write them, Frances?
A: I did write the haiku, Tien – thank you so much for noticing them!

Q: Did you write the haiku after the book? Is there a particular reason there are haiku? Is it just to replace headings? Or just to set the atmosphere for the chapter?
A: I did write the haiku last – I liked the idea of including a form of literature unique to Japan and, as you suggest, Tien, felt they would add to the atmosphere. That marriage of simplicity and minimalism with depth makes haiku so beautiful.

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Left: Setting for chapter 1 ~ the village of Tsumago
Right: The torii at the foot of the shrine

Q: Are there actually 65 steps there? Did you count or was it a local knowledge? Is that a significant number?
A: Yes, there are 65 steps (I counted) but I don’t think the number was significant. I just liked that the shrine was high above the village, in the trees, and wanted to give a sense of the climb.

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Left: The Torii pass on the Nakasendo Highway (chapter 3)
Right: A summer kimono – note the cooling design

Q: Is the story about the samurai and the servant and the broken plate based on a real
folk tale?
A: The story about the samurai, the servant and the broken plate is an actual Japanese
ghost story.

Q: I was trying to look up an image of a peony lantern but all I get is the ghost story… is a peony lantern different from a normal lantern? How?
A: A peony lantern is basically a lantern with peonies painted on the rice paper. If you google images of “peony lantern” you can find illustrations of the story with the lantern pictured. (There are lots of variations.)

wpid-img-20150825-wa0003.jpgQ: Frances, how did you research flower arrangements?
A:This is how I researched flower arrangements!  I did an ikebana class in Tokyo.  SO difficult, I am not a natural!

Q: Frances, is it a low – born female thing back then? That they’re not being taught to read / write.
A: I’m afraid educating low-born girls wasn’t a priority – especially in the country areas.

Q: Do you have any pics of Edo?
A: And here’s an amazing fact: Edo is what Tokyo was called until 1868, when the shogunate ended.

Q: Frances, the beauty prints that Isamu shows to Kasumi in the book sounds interesting. Are they like posters?
A: They were a little like posters – about A4 in size.wpid-img-20150831-wa0002.jpg

Q: is there any significance to this painting other than the feeling that it triggered in Kasumi?  I thought, at first, it’s somewhat equivalent to “Playboy” or something lol Please correct me, Frances hahaha… in my defence, Isamu is a teen & a boy ;p
A: Interesting question about the beauty print! The women were fully dressed, I can assure you! I think Isamu’s interest was artistic

Q: Oh I realise they’re fully dressed but the mention of the way the line was of the neck etc… made it sound a little more risqué ;p
A: The bare nape of the neck was considered rather risqué!

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Left: The inscription is the artist’s description of seeing the moon on a beautiful night in mid-autumn.
Right: A kaiawase

wpid-img-20150816-wa0001.jpgFrances Watts was born in Switzerland and grew up in Australia. She has published 20 books for children, including picture books and books for younger readers, including Goodnight Mice!, the winner of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Award for Children’s Fiction, and 2008 Children’s Book Council of Australia award-winnerParsley Rabbit’s Book about Books. Her latest book, The Raven’s Wing, is her first novel for young adults. Frances lives in Sydney and divides her time between writing and editing.

Pictured on left: Frances on her research tour in Tokyo; in front of a temple in Ueno Park

My thanks to Frances Watts and the ladies at Read3r’Z Re-Vu