Tag Archives: #ownvoices

Blog Tour: Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman

Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman

Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Publication Date: 2 February 2021
Australian RRP: $24.99

A gifted student, Nia longs to attend high school so she can follow her dream and become a writer. She has notebooks filled with stories she’s created about the mythological Dewi Kadita, Princess of the Southern Sea. But her family has barely enough money for food, let alone an education, so Nia’s days are spent running their food cart and raising her younger brother.

Following a miraculous escape from a bus accident, Nia is gifted with good-luck magic. Or at least that’s what everyone’s saying. Soon their family business is booming and there might even be enough money to return to school. But how long can her good luck last?

When a secret promise threatens everything she’s hoped for, Nia must find a way to break the mould and write her own future.

Buy at:  booktopia  |  Dymocks  | A&R  | QBD

My Blurb (4/5 stars)

A beautiful eye-catching cover but the thing that the book called to me about is its setting. It is set in Jakarta (capital of Indonesia) which was where I was born. I also spent my first 15 years there so I am mostly excited in being able to reminisce about my childhood and maybe also to be able to share with my own children, what it was like.

I am embarrassed to admit that I’m not familiar with this particular mythology of Dewi Kadita. It is possible though that I’ve just forgotten a lot of the stories as I have spent more years living in Australia than Indonesia. However, the way these stories are told in the book sound just like they would be told except, of course, in a different language.

Nia is certainly a strong character and she grew to be even stronger, at the end. Her experiences are not to be envied but luckily, she has her own guardian angels. She is definitely a character I can empathise with, even when her naivety nearly brings her to ruins. Her passion for writing and education, her love for her brother, and her diligence are admirable and truly aspiring.

Not all her friends are like Nia, of course. In fact, all her best friend wanted is to buy a new mobile phone and that’s what she’s saving for. She may sound rather shallow from this one sentence but do not underestimate her resourcefulness! Nia’s father is a drunkard and basically useless but there is another older male character for which I’m still scratching my head over as I just don’t understand the different pictures portrayed of him. I’d really like him to be better developed.

My childhood is not at all like Nia’s, the protagonist of this novel, as I’ve been so very blessed in life but I have seen with my own eyes those slums she lives in. I’ve worn the red & white uniform her brother wears to school. I’ve bought & eaten my share of fried bananas and martabak (I’ve introduced my boys to this last delicious dessert and now they’d fight me for the last piece!). To me, this novel is a trip through memory lanes and such a wonderful journey as I read this all in a single sitting. I loved it but unfortunately, due to the serious note of this novel, I’ve not been able to get the boys interested. Maybe another time…

Girl of the Southern Sea is a delightful coming-of-age story of a young girl chasing after her dreams. It is a novel which helps you see a little bit of how the other half of the world live and one that encourages all to never never give up.

Thanks to University of Queensland Press for copy of book in exchange of honest review. And thanks, AusYABloggers for organising the tour.

Find all the other stops by following the Tour Schedule 

About the author

Michelle Kadarusman is an Australian-Indonesian children’s author. She grew up in Melbourne and has lived many years throughout Indonesia, and in Canada. Her novels have been nominated for various awards, including the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Awards and the Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature. They have also earned numerous honours, including USBBY Outstanding International Book, two Junior Library Guild Selections, and a nomination for the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch Fiction Award.

Find Michelle on: goodreads  |  facebook  |  twitter  | instagram

Review: Ponti by Sharlene Teo

Ponti by Sharlene Teo

2003, Singapore. Friendless and fatherless, sixteen-year-old Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa, once a beautiful actress and now a hack medium performing seances with her sister in a rusty house. When Szu meets the privileged, acid-tongued Circe, an unlikely encounter develops into an intense friendship and offers Szu a means of escape from her mother’s alarming solitariness.

Seventeen years later, Circe is struggling through a divorce in fraught and ever-changing Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series ‘Ponti’, the very project that defined Amisa’s short-lived film career. Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance: by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that threatens her conscience.

Told from the perspectives of all three women, Ponti is about friendship and memory, about the things we do when we’re on the cusp of adulthood that haunt us years later. Beautifully written by debut author Sharlene Teo, and enormously atmospheric, Ponti marks the launch of an exciting new literary voice in the vein of Zadie Smith.

Published 24 April 2018 |  Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$29.9

My Blurb (3.5 stars)

I can’t say that the book cover and/or description was attractive to me but I try to support Asian authors to I really gave this book a fair go. I read it from beginning to end and whilst I find the plot to be haunting, it really was too sad for me. In addition, the alternate POVs in different time periods were slightly unhelpful to my focus.

I am sixteen and a half and beginning to realize that life sometimes happens like this: quickly, with no further allowances.

The story began with Szu’s POV in 2003, in her teens and struggling with her body image, her family, and suffering all the emotional upheavals puberty can give a girl. Her father disappeared a long time ago and she does not relate well to her mother. This brings us to the next POV, Amisa’s, Szu’s mother, beginning from her childhood in 1975 until the time of the main story (2003). Most of her story is about her young-adulthood in which she made her choices and hence, had to live with the consequences.

Then enters a third and outside POV, Circe’s, Szu’s only friend in high school. Circe’s POV is set in 2020, 17 years after the main story but events in her life brought her back her memories. She was 16 in 2003 and was also struggling with her own issues. Her friendship with Szu was full of sharp edges but they were friends.

Because it is comforting to know that there is someone similar to you in the world, it helps a person to feel less faulty and alone.

On the whole, I cannot say that I love this book. I wish I do but it’s just not for me. I found it a little difficult following the 3 strands of not-so-link-able stories though each came with their own wisodm. I like that there were moments this book just jabbed right at you and I can totally empathise with these teen girls but despite its hypnotic pull, I am also a tad repulsed (was I meant to be repulsed? I honestly don’t know…). My recommendation is please do read it and let me know your thoughts! This book could totally be for you.

And by the by, WTH is ‘chendol espresso martini’?! Is this thing for REAL? Where can I get some in Sydney?!?!

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

About the author

Sharlene Teo (b. 1987) is a Singaporean writer based in the UK. She is the winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers’ Award for Ponti, her first novel, released by Picador and Simon & Schuster in 2018. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Esquire (Singapore), Magma Poetry, The Penny Dreadful, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, New Writing Net and Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume Two. In 2012, she was awarded the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship to undertake an MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia, where she is currently in her second year of a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. She is the recipient of the 2013 David TK Wong Creative Writing Fellowship and the 2014 Sozopol Fiction Fellowship.

Find Sharlene on:  goodreads  |  instagram  | twitter  |  tumblr