Tag Archives: #magicalrealism

Review: A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley Marr

An exquisite, heartbreakingly beautiful gem of a novel for anyone who loved Wonder, Lenny’s Book of EverythingA Monster Calls or When You Reach Me.

‘Heart-twisting and hopeful, bursting with big feelings and gentle magic. This is a special book from a powerful, compassionate new voice in children’s literature, destined to be read and loved for generations and held close in many hearts (including mine).’ – Jessica Townsend, New York Times bestselling author of the Nevermoor series

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.

Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing’s entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.

Published 4 May 2021 |  Publisher: Penguin Random House  |  RRP: AUD$16.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  |  QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I can’t stop staring at that gorgeous cover! Combined with a magical title and a protagonist with a familiar name (a personal reference which I’ll leave just as vague) who had to face a new strange place, I couldn’t wait to dive in.

As an immigrant myself, I sort of knew what the protagonist was feeling as she first arrived in the New Land and yet, there are enough differences in our experiences that my heart broke for this brave girl. I did think that the author was a bit mean when a particular tragedy strike but life happens and despite my tears, I was glad that the tragedy did bring something good too. I loved Meixing and her friends as they each found their way to rise above their own problems.

To start with, it took a while to adjust my headspace to reading this book. Mostly due to the second person POV but also how places are just so very non-specific/neutral (eg. ‘New House’, ‘New Land’, etc). It is just different than the norm, I think, that I really needed to think differently. Other than that, it was done very well and I do feel very much like I’m stepping in Meixing’s shoes.

My boys and I adored Little Jiang which I read aloud as their bed time read and it was just such a fun read! Unfortunately, I was unable to read this aloud to my boys. I tried for a few nights but my youngest has this aversion against the second person POV. He is only 6 years old and this may have been the first time he came across a second person POV as this isn’t one you’d come across that often in books. He just didn’t feel that it’s right and he got so upset, I had to stop and finished reading on my own. I’ll make a note to try this on him again in a few years’ time!

Magic appears to be an indication of feels in this novel. Mostly it is of hope but at times, it also reflects despair. I do love magic in my books but I am sometimes stumped by magical realism which I feel is where this book leans towards. I’m happy to take the magic as is even as I feel that there is something else going on there.

A Glasshouse of Stars is a powerfully moving novel as readers are, perforce, within protagonist’s headspace and looking out through her eyes so we are privileged in knowing all her thoughts and feelings. Readers can expect to feel the wonder of the New House & Glasshouse, the fear of the unknown, the hope for the future, oh there were just so much! Do read this with your children and persist through the difference in narrative because it’s such a wonderful novel.

My thanks to Shirley Marr for this paperback copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Shirley Marr is a first-generation Chinese-Australian living in Perth and an author of young adult and children’s fiction, including YA novels Fury and Preloved, and children’s novels Little Jiang and A Glasshouse of Stars. She describes herself as having a Western mind and an Eastern heart. She likes to write in the space in the middle where they both collide, basing her stories on her own personal experiences of migration and growing up in Australia, along with the folk and fairy tales from her mother. Arriving in mainland Australia from Christmas Island as a seven-year-old in the 1980s and experiencing the good, the bad and the wonder that comes with culture shock, Shirley has been in love with reading and writing from that early age. Shirley is a universe full of stars and stories and hopes to share the many other novels that she has inside her.

Find Shirley on:  

goodreads  |  website  |  instagram

Review: You Were Made For Me by Jenna Guillaume

You Were Made For Me by Jenna Guillaume

YA author Jenna Guillaume is back with a fun and modern feminist twist on the 1985 pop cult film Weird Science.

Sixteen-year-old Katie Camilleri can’t believe she’s accidentally created a teenage boy. A boy six-feet tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer’s day. A boy whose lips taste like cookie dough and whose skin smells like springtime. A boy completely devoted to Katie. But silly musings and kitchen antics with her best friend, Libby, have definitely taken a whimsical twist into something bigger than Katie could have ever daydreamed. Turns out the consequences of fumbling a human being into existence are rather complicated. More importantly, does Guy, the golden Adonis Katie’s created, like her because he wants to, or because he has to? And will he be Katie’s very first kiss?

From the author of What I Like About Me comes a hilarious feminist twist on a classic narrative, loaded with laughs, mishaps, and plenty of 80s and 90s pop-culture callbacks. Jenna Guillaume’s entertaining romantic comedy novel features a humorous and relatable voice and will appeal to fans of Jenny Han.

Published (ed) 1 April 2021|  Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

My Blurb (3 / 5 stars)

Being Australian, I have been aware of this author for a few years and of this book, sometime in 2020 (noting Australian publishing date was August 2020). For some reason, however, I never thought to add this to my TBR as it just didn’t seem to be my kind of read. I do love this cover though and as it popped up as a ‘Read Now’ on Netgalley, I just had to click that button, don’t I…

I have to admit that I jumped into the novel not knowing exactly what I’m in for. At the start, this novel was quite fascinating where two teenage girls ‘made’ a perfect boy out of clay to meet the dreams of the main protagonist. The story is easy to read and I do love the growth of characters but the structure of the telling bothered me so I didn’t particularly enjoy the read.

We have Katie Camilleri, the protagonist, who is writing this story down while her best friend, Libby, is standing over her shoulder, reading & interrupting with certain inputs of when to fast forward the story and what’s to include in the story. At first, I really liked Libby’s comments (snarkiness between BFFs are to be appreciated) but about halfway, I just found it disruptive and annoying. So, I guess, this structure didn’t quite work for me.

Thank you Peachtree Publishing Company via Netgalley for the e-copy of this book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

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

Review: Dirt Circus League by Maree Kimberley

Dirt Circus League by Maree Kimberley

I stumbled towards the Meat House, my body shaking with the violence that raged within me, as the realisation of the mistake I had made in coming here rose to the surface of my mind. This was the last place I should be. That thought was crossed by another, even more terrifying.

This is exactly where I belong.

Asa’s running from a troubled past. To a remote outback town, a disappointing father and a fresh start that’s already souring.

But then the notorious Dirt Circus League arrives. A troupe of outcast teens performing spectacular fight sequences and challenging any who dares to take part.

They’re ruthless. Menacing. Thrilling. And led by the magnetic Quarter. He’s dark, powerful and intensely attractive—and he faces a threat only Asa can see.

Will Asa be drawn into the league’s mysterious community?

And, as she discovers the violent secrets at its heart, will she delve into her own untapped abilities to save herself—and heal those caught in its evil web?

Dirt Circus League is a compelling and fast-paced novel about the powerful allure of danger and the battles we face with our demons in a world beyond our control.

Published 30 March 2021|  Publisher: Text Publishing  |  RRP: AUD$19.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  | QBD

My Blurb (2.5 / 5 stars)

Such an eye-catching cover! That bright pink on background of pure black with title in eye-popping neon yellow; overall, one of the best covers I’ve ever seen. And when you add the word ‘circus’ to the title, I’m a goner. I have to read this book!

Going by the book description, this book could be contemporary or it could be fantasy. Truthfully, I’m finding it hard to place this book in a certain category but I think I’d actually place it as magical realism which is a bit hit and miss for me so unfortunately, this book was closer to a miss.

The setting is a fictional outback town of Australia (possibly in QLD) and it is set in the present time. Asa, the protagonist, is running away from a mother who does not care for her but also of her grief and anger at losing her grandmother who loved her. She came across the Dirt Circus League, became fascinated by the violence, and decided that it may be a good space for her and her anger. What she found at their headquarters, however, was beyond even her imagining and Asa had to decide whether to give in to her anger or accept herself and become better.

As you’d know, magical realism is usually full of strange and at times, wonderful things. In this novel, though, it mostly strange, violent, and more violence. Language wise, I found the novel easy to read and Asa is a pretty easy protag to like despite her anger issues but yet, that’s understandable and she came out strong in the end. I just couldn’t appreciate all the imagery so this is all on me.

Thank you Text Publishing via Netgalley for the e-copy of this book in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Find author on:  goodreads  |  website  |  twitter  |  instagram

Review: Man Tiger: A Novel

man tigerMan Tiger: A Novel by Eka Kurniawan
translated by Labodalih Sembiring
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher

I can no longer say that I speak Bahasa Indonesia fluently. I have an Aussie accent now though really, my Indonesian isn’t that bad! In any case, there are always certain things which do not ever translate well and it’s to my advantage that I can mix the two languages. I have, however, a keen interest in translated works especially from Bahasa Indonesia. This was the only basis I had as interest in Man Tiger and boy, I was blown away.

Man Tiger drew me in right from the very beginning and kept me in its grip all the way to the end. The mystery isn’t a whodunit but rather ‘whydunit’. I thought this was a rather a fresh proposal but since I already know who, it might rather be difficult to keep me interested but I was kept spellbound through to the end of the book. The story of the town and of Margio and his family fascinated me with their brokenness, their zest for life, and most of all, their passions.

There were a few things, translation-wise, which threw me off. I think sometimes, you just cannot translate certain things especially when it is a native food with no western world equivalent. It just didn’t sound right. I was also surprised at the sexual content and thought that I probably would not like it if I was reading the book in its original language. For some reason, sexual scenes just sound rather vulgar in Indonesian. A week later, I read an interview of the author, Eka Kurniawan, who stated this exact same thought! Nevertheless, I’m looking to source this when I go overseas next month.

Overall, I found the novel to be reminiscent of Haruki Murakami‘s. The magical realism aspect of the novel was slightly similar to Murakami’s works though the strange factor is not quite at the same level. The ending, I feel, could be Murakami too… It was so abrupt though I really could not imagine what else there is to be so really it was abrupt but perfect.

Man Tiger is a very passionate tale –Passion which drives us to live, to feel, to need, and even drive us crazy. I’m a huge fan of Murakami and I believe, Eka Kurniawan belongs on the same spot in my heart. If you’re a fan of Murakami, I don’t think you’d be disappointed with Man Tiger.

Thanks Verso Books (US) via NetGalley for eARC in exchange of honest review

View all my reviews

Review: I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes

pancakesI Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes by Jaclyn Moriarty
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Source: purchased own paperback copy

This was another cover crush for me… I just couldn’t resist hot air balloon on cover, for some reason, and since I loved Jaclyn Moriarty’s The Colours of Madelaine series, I had certain expectations of this book.

As always, there are good reviews and bad though they all agreed that the writing is quirky. The Colours of Madelaine books were quirky and I loved it though I found it hard to sell to my book-club mates (most of them think she tried too hard) so I don’t have an issue with quirkiness. I was really looking forward to this, actually, and as I began reading, really enjoyed it… I even nearly snort-laughed which was a pretty good effort.

I think if you’re not an Aussie and specifically, Sydney-sider, you’d miss the references to ‘Banana Bar’, frozen chocolate coated banana, ‘Pie in the Sky’, etc. But as I happened to be one, I can understand her wistfulness in each of these things and wishing for them too! Time for a family road trip, methinks.

Halfway through the book, however, I started to be disillusioned with the book. Yes, it was fun but oh, there was too many secrets and betrayals that the whole story felt fractured. There is “the secret” which was supposed to be the twist but I didn’t even enjoy it… Did not like “the secret” and it didn’t catch me by surprise either.

On the book cover, this is marketed as “a fairytale for grown-up”. I’m sorry, this isn’t much of a ‘fairytale’… I could not pin point true-love and what was the moral of the story again? Hhhmmm, I’m just not convinced. In summary, as my 1 year old would say, ‘Beh!’

View all my reviews