#Aww2019 #LoveOzMG Book Review: “Songbird” by Ingrid Laguna

Title: Songbird
Author:
Ingrid Laguna
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 05/10/19
Rating:
★★★★

Review:

This was such a sweet, uplifting book! It’s only short and I read it all in one sitting, and afterwards had a huge smile on my face. It was kind of easy to see where the story was going, but that didn’t take away from it at all.

Jamila, her mother and younger brother are refugees newly arrived in Melbourne from Iraq. Jamila is struggling to balance her new school life where she is the odd one out with her mother’s needs as they all try to adapt. But when Jamila joins the school choir and begins to make friends, she starts to fit in there… if only her father could make it to Australia, too…

I really felt for Jamila. I could feel her distress and not being able to talk to her classmates and being nervous due to her less-than-perfect English. I felt her frustration when her mother called her home from school to help with things like groceries. i have not had the same life experiences as Jamila but music got me through some bad times, too, so I completely related when she found that the school choir rehearsals were one of the only times at school that enjoyed, and how she could lose herself in writing a song.

The book deals with refugee issues, racism, death and terrorism in a way that I think would be accessible to readers in the target age group. I think it would be a great introduction to the topic, with room for discussion afterwards, and without feeling too overwhelming.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2019 // Book Review: “The Women in Black” by Madeleine St. John

Title: The Women in Black
Author: Madeleine St. John
Genre: Historical fiction/slice of life
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 16/08/19 – 22/08/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This book is widely considered to be something of a modern Australian classic, and I have to admit, when I first started reading, I was expecting something a bit deeper. It is really a bit of a fluff piece.

But don’t let that put you off. Sure – not a lot happens, but the descriptions really place you in 1950s Sydney, and the characters are all unique and vibrant.

I enjoyed the framing device of work at Goodes’ Department Store – each of the women in black (so named because of the black dresses they wear at work) has her own story outside that the others may or may not be aware of.

My favourite character was Magda, a Slovenian migrant who works in Model Gowns, and takes new high-school gradute Lisa under her wing. I also felt for Patty, who has an unfeeling, clueless husband and gossipy sisters, but who is heading towards a  proper happy ending by the end of it.

Anyone who reads my reviews regularly knows that I am not generally a fan of character-driven fiction, but I definitely found this one engaging and fun.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2019 // Book Review: “Women of Wasps and War” by Madeleine D’Este

Title: Women of Wasps and War
Author: Madeleine D’Este
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 11/08/19 – 12/08/19
Rating:
★★★☆

Review:

Oof. This was a powerful book. I read about 20% of it one night and then the rest of it the following day because I couldn’t put it down. A lot of my reactions were simply “Argh!” or “Mmngnng” and could probably be summed up better in reaction gifs than a proper review, but I’ll try my best. Here goes.

D’este has crafted a believable patriarchal fantasy world where men do not question their authority and women know their place. This arrangement has been interrupted by war, and many of the women who ran Ambrovna in the men’s absence are not so keen to see it go back to the way it was before.

I was constantly frustrated by the men’s inability to see the women’s point of view, and I appreciated the way D’Este explored the fact that you can love an individual dearly while still not recognising your privilege overall, or conoversely while knowing that your loved one is the oppressor.

Some of the women did terrible things in the hopes of earning their place back as head of the household, and I have to admit that it generally felt completely justified. Of course, these things come at a price and a foreboding feeling I had about one incident turned out to be correct.

I have to admit I did feel the epilogue took away from the power of the final chapter, but that it really the only complaint I had. This book is addicitve.

Trigger warnings for graphic physical and emotional abuse.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2019 “YES is a fine life policy to consider. Just tell a friend where you’re headed, and be choosy.” // Review of “Get the Girls Out” by Lucy Bloom

Title: Get the Girls Out
Author: Lucy Bloom
Genre: Memoir
Target audience: Adult
Date Read:
03/06/19 – 14/06/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I want to preface this review with a quick story about Lucy Bloom. A couple of years ao, she gave a talk at my workplace. I can’t even remember the topic. Maybe it was Women in Leadership or something? Anyway, it was very inspiring and I wrote down a lot of quotes like “Fear should never stop you having an adventurous life”.

It also actually gave me the last push I needed to request the info pack, and eventually register, for the UN Women Trek for Rights in Nepal, and thus I found myself hiking through the Annapurna region in the pouring rain and the mud in April 2018. Thanks, Lucy. 😛

I happened to email Lucy later that day about something else she had said in her talk, and mentioned the Nepal trip. Her response was so enthusiastic, with a capslock “WHOOO YOU’RE GOING TO NEPAL” (I had  only requested the info pack at this point but she was sure already) followed by “Drag me into your fundraising!” Me, the random person she had never met before who had sent her a single email. I never did drag her into my fundraising (though I raised $5500 regardless) but I have no doubt that if I had approached her, she would have thrown herself behind it because she is that kind of person.

Okay, so maybe that story wasn’t so quick but I wanted to give you an idea of why I was so keen to read this memoir when I saw a staff recommendation on my local library’s Facebook page.

A lot of this memoir is about the last four or five years of Lucy’s life. In 2015, she was fired from her job as the CEO of a high-profile charity, and soon after, her husband of twenty years asked hehr for  a divorce. While this tore her apart, it also gve her the opportunity to pursue opportunities and a side of herself that she may never have otherwise, instead always bowing to obligation.

Lucy is incredibly gutsy and that really comes through in this book. She writes in a really conversational way; you feel a bit like you’ve been friends with her for years and you’re sitting around a table on her back porch with a drink while she tells you these stories from her life.

The only problem I found with this was sometimes we’d be in the middle of one story and the narrative would go off onto something else entirely… only to come back around to the original point at the end of the section. It is definitely a memoir in terms of organisation, with chapters based around themes of attributes that Lucy aspires to, rather than an autobiography with a linear story.

Much like Lucy’s talk which I went to a few years ago, picking up this book may inspire you to the next adventure in your life. I encourage you to check it out!


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2019 “I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates.” // Review of “The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone” by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 13/05/19 – 21/05/19
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

I read this book at the end of a long streak of MG and YA reads, thanks to a self-imposted challenge, and I suspect that might be why I didn’t love it quite as much as I’d hoped. I was needing a change of pace and not quite ready to give it to myself.

But here we are.

Actually, when I started out, I was completely in love with the style of this book. It has vibes of Nevermoor by fellow Aussie writer Jessica Townsend. It’s whimsical and charming without being silly. Unfortunately, for me personally, the novelty wore thin after a while.

I did really love the world of the Kingdoms and Empires. It is some kind of fantastical early twentieth century mishmash. Some people seem to live in a world closer to that of our 1900, while otherse have contraptions closer to those of the 1950s (like refrigerators). It’s actually kind of hard to explain.

There are a lot of characters, which made it hard to keep track of sometimes. The plot relies on Bronte travelling to her ten aunts delivering them gifts from her dead parents, and after a while, I had trouble keeping the aunts and their families straight.  As an adult reader, I know I am not this book’s target audience, so when I say I thought things were solved a bit too easily, that is something that may well not apply to younger readers. Ditto the fact that I saw some of the twists coming. It is a charming adventure story that I think that younger age group will really enjoy .


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2019 // Book Review: “Finding Aurora” by Rebecca Langham

Title: Finding Aurora
Author: Rebecca Langham
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: YA/Adult? (I’m honestly not sure)
Date Read: 02/02/18
Rating:
★★☆

Review:

This will be a fairly short review, as the story itself was also quite short! It was originally published in the anthology Once Upon a Rainbow (Volume 2). I wasn’t aware of that until after, so I did get a bit of a surprise when I got through it so quickly.

And that was my main thing about this book. I wanted more! I wanted to know about Amir and Talia growing up together, and more about how Talia first met Red, and more about the legend of the Sleeping Princess.

I know. I’m greedy.

None of this is to say that I didn’t enjoy the story. It’s a well done Sleeping Beauty re-telling, without a lot of the questionable bits from the original story. And it even addresses the fact that it’s weird to kiss a sleeping stranger (don’t worry – there is actually consent in this version). I already knew from following the author on Twitter than this had at least a bisexual character and an asexual character, and I loved how this tied in with the story and the character dynamics.

I did predict the twist but I don’t think that it is an issue of predictability. I think it rounded out the story nicely.


This review is part of my 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#AWW2018 // Book Review: “Girl Reporter” by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Title: Girl Reporter
Author:
 Tansy Rayner Roberts
Genre: Sci-fi (superheroes)
Intended audience: New adult
Date Read: 22/11/18 – 25/11/18
Rating:
★★

Review:

I was really torn about what to rate this. There are some really well done sections, but I was kind of put off by a main character who didn’t take anything seriously, so it made it hard to feel like the stakes were ever very high. This was the same issue I had with The Martian: he’s stuck on a different planet and may well never get home and he’s making jokes about Aquaman and disco music.

This book did have some really good conversations about representation in media and whose voices should be privileged when it comes to particular stories. It handles racial tensions, sexuality crises and disability awareness really well.

I didn’t mind Friday’s quirkiness at first, in fact, I quoted a few lines in my GoodReads status updates that amused me a lot. But when it kept up, it got a bit old. There was also no build-up to the romance – literally the superhero she has been crushing on says “Hey, we’re going to be here a while, wanna make out?” and then they did. And then they were a couple. I need a bit of build-up!

The plot is a bit of a satire of the superhero genre, but I think the fact that I am not that into superhero books to begin with (I know, I know, I should just stop reading them if that is the case. I know, and yet I keep doing it!) made it all feel a little bit too OTT.

All in all, while this was… fine, I guess, I much prefer Roberts’ Fake Geek Girl series. The characters and world-building in that series just worked better for me.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#StepBoldly #aww2018 “The point is—as far as the Society is concerned—if you are not honest, and determined, and brave, then it doesn’t matter how talented you are.” // Review of “Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow” by Jessica Townsend

Title: Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1)
Author: Jessica Townsend
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: Middle-grade
Date Read: 11/09/18 – 17/09/18
Rating: 
★★★

Review:

Well, this was just delightful. I knew that Nevermoor won a whole slew of awards when it came out, but all the “it’s the next Harry Potter” proclamations still made me wary. But actually, I think this is one time when those comparisons are actually justified. 

Nevermoor is a whimsical, charming world where inhabitants ride the Brolly Rail (a version of London’s Tube where riders hook onto the system with the handles of their umbrellas) and it is perfectly normal for a hotel housekeeper to be a giant cat. The descriptions of Christmas were so lovely that I was able to ignore the fact that Christmas has no reason to exist in a fantasy land. Everything was just a little bit fairytale. 

The characters also all had a fairytale quality about them. There was a bit of David Tennant’s 10th Doctor in Jupiter North, and a bit of Alice in Morrigan Crow. But as well as the whimsy there’s also a real depth to them. 

I do admit the book felt a little long at times, but I would also be hard-pressed to tell you which parts I would cut out. It is a bit like the fourth Harry Potter book in that there was training, then an event, then training for the next event, then the next event happens… but I always wanted to know what happened next. And I think because the characters were engaging and the writing was so lovely, I was able to forgive it. The only thing I worry about is that the size of the book may be intimidating to readers of the target age. But I think any avid reader will be hooked immediately and push through regardless.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#aww2018 #LoveOzYA “You thought your community was gone? Think again, babe.” // Review of “White Night” by Ellie Marney

Title: White Night
Author: Ellie Marney
Genre: Contemporary/romance
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 05/09/18 – 10/09/18
Rating:
★★★☆

Review:

This book  totally found its way under my skin. I was thinking about it all the time when I wasn’t reading, and I had ideas about where the story was going and was supremely worried for the characters.

Bo has a lot on his mind, between footy, the end of high school and crisis in his family that his parents aren’t talking about. When Rory, a girl from the local off-the-grid commune, begins attending his high school and he finds himself drawn into her way of life.

One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve started reading Ellie Marney’s books this year is that she has the ability to really capture the Australian experience of being a young adult. These aren’t just teenagers that could be lifted out of her book and transplanted somewhere else. These are very definitely Australian teenagers. This is an Australian small town. There’s just something about the descriptions and the way the characters speak that wouldn’t work anywhere else.

I loved Bo’s character development and Rory’s. Their romance is affected by things like Rory not having access to a phone, and it was interesting to see that explored. Bo’s wider friendship circle is also great; everyone felt real. Sprog in particular has a great arc that’s central to the plot.

The off-the-grid community was also well-written. I liked that it wasn’t presented as a crazy cult from the get-go, and that the majority of people living there genuinely wanted to do something good for the world. A sense of unease begins to develop and by the last fifty pages, I couldn’t have put the book down even if I had wanted to. The only reason I knocked off half a star was because I did feel that sometimes the speeches given by Ray, the sort-of-head of the commune, were often a bit info-dumpy. They served a purpose but I did find myself skimming them a bit.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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#aww2018 #LoveOzYA “I’m improvising, but I’ve been doing that my whole life.” // Review of “Unearthed” by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Title: Unearthed (Unearthed #1)
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Genre: Sci-fi
Target Age Group: YA
Dates read: 20/06/2018 – 26/06/2018
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This book was marketed as “Indiana Jones in space” and while I can see that somewhat… I feel like that ended up giving me expectations for something this book wasn’t. So while I enjoyed it for what it was, I was disappointed it wasn’t what I was expecting.

So what was I expecting? Okay, so I love doing escape rooms, right? My partner finds them a little stressful but he humours me because in return I go to karaoke with him on wekeends. I was expecting this book to be some kind of epic scale escape room in book form, lots of solving puzzles and boobie-trapped rooms and such. And there was a bit of that. But there was really only one interesting puzzle (a musical one which was quite clever). The characters are out of the temple by about halfway to two-thirds of the way through the book and it becomes something completely different.

I liked Jules and Amelia, though I don’t think first person narration works when you have two POV characters. They sound much the same. Yes, they have different personalities and quirks, but I feel like probably everyone sounds fairly similar inside their head. It is different when you can hear different voices, but on the page, there’s not much to differentiate. I couldn’t get too engaged in the romance, as the action takes place over only a few days, maybe a week. I am more of a fan of a slow-burn over “we’re high on adrenaline and running for our lives and I’m gonig to kiss you now”.

Still, the action in the last quarter ramped right up, and the cliffhanger at the end was intriguing enough that I kind want to check out the next book when it’s released just to see where they go with that.


This review is part of my 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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