#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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#LoveOzYA Book Review: “Monuments” by Will Kostakis

Title: Monuments (Monument #1)
Author:
Will Kostakis
Genre: Urban fantasy
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/09/19 – 30/09/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I had been seeing a lot about Monuments in the lead-up to its release so by the time I got my hands on a copy at the Canberra launch last week, I was really looking forward to it.

This is such a fun book! The protagonist, Connor, is a sweetheart. I was on his side immediatley. And he brings all the sass. He and Locky made such a cute pair. Sally was an interesting character with a few surprises up her sleeve – there is a lot we don’t know about her until towards the end.

I did have a few questions about how a bunch of ancient gods ended up in Australia but thankfully those were answered, and in a way that made a lot of sense.

The first two thirds of the story are a fairly straightforward adventure story but then the time travel starts and things do get a bit confusing. There’s a lot of hopping between lots of different times and for a while I lost track of what was what. But that calmed down after a few chapters and I was able to sink back into the story again.

Some of the scenes I liked best weren’t really about the adventuring but about Connor more personally. Connor feels guilty for not visiting his grandfather a lot after dementia took over and his grandfather was put in a home. I don’t want to spoil things but I will say that the way Connor makes amends is pretty epic.

Enough is wrapped up in this book to not feel like you’re left hanging, but the story isn’t over. I am definitely looking forward to book two!


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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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#CBCA2019 #aww2019 Book Review: “His Name Was Walter” by Emily Rodda

Title: His Name Was Walter
Author:
Emily Rodda
Genre: Fantasy/contemporary
Target audience: MG
Date Read: 05/05/19 – 12/05/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I was equal parts excited and nervous to read this book. Excited because Emily Rodda’s books were such a staple of my childhood and teen years and I hoped reading her again would live up to my expectations. And nervous because… well, because Emily Rodda’s books were such a staple of my childhood and teen years and I hoped reading her again would live up to my expectations. 

I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely into the story-within-a-story format of the book. Even though I ultimately enjoyed it, I thought there might have been better ways to integrate Walter’s  story with that of the modern-day school children. Walter’s story was often cut off right in the middle of something so we could see how Colin and Tara were faring; it all felt a bit disjointed. I also found that the story felt a bit superficial – I felt I was told how characters were feeling a lot of the time, rather than it being shown.

But at the end, when it was revealed exactly how Walter was connected to the modern-day characters… I’d already figured out some of it, or at least suspected. But I actually really loved this part, and that’s why the book still gets four stars from me. The final lines of the book made me tear up a little.

And look, I know I’m not the book’s target demographic. I think kid readers would make fewer connections between the real world and the fairytale story earlier on. I think they would find the ghostly bits creepy or even terrifying. I’m a grown-up now and I do have to recognise that Emily Rodda is still writing for kids. But the fact that the story moved me at the end is enough to make me feel her writing stands the test of time.


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

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #cbca2019 Book Review: “The Things That Will Not Stand” by Michael Gerard Bauer

Title: The Things That Will Not Stand
Author:
Michael Gerard Bauer
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 02/05/2019
Rating:
★★

Review:

This book was kind of unexpected. I wasn’t expecting the humour and banter and pathos. I knew it was short but I wasn’t expecting to fly through it in one day. But here we are. 

From the opening chapter, Seb has a really distinct narrative voice. The book is written in first person present tense, which I think really emphasises the immediacy of the action taking place over a single day.

I really enjoyed the banter between Seb and Frida, and how it became more obvious as the book went on that something about Frida didn’t add up. I do have to admit, though, that apart from the three main characters of Seb, Frida and Seb’s best friend, Tolly, the remainder of the characters seemed a little 2D… particularly the burly university security guard who kept seeming to pop up. He seemed a bit of a stereotype.

While I was really struck by the puns and the humour at the start of the book, the continued use of them did start to wear a bit thin as we moved towards the end. I did appreciate the book’s overall message of letting someone know when you think they’re worth it, and that anyone is deserving of that, no matter what they might think of themselves. figured out Frida’s riddle at the end a lot faster than Seb did, though, so I did want him to get a wriggle on with figuring that out. That was probably a little drawn out for my tastes but maybe it was because I did already know what she meant.


I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 Book Review: “Lucid” by Kristy Fairlamb

Title: Lucid (Lucid #1)
Author:
Kristy Fairlamb
Genre: Paranormal/contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 27/04/19 – 05/05/19
Rating:
★★

Review:

I was intrigued by the premise of Lucid, but I have to admit it started off quite slowly for me.

While the blurb is all about how main character, Lucy, experiences real people’s deaths in her dreams, the first half of the book is focused more on the burgeoning romance she has with new boy, Tyler. Yes, Tyler was featured in her dreams about a year ago, and yes, they share a connection through their dreams, but to be honest, it felt like I was reading a straight contemporary. There’s nothing wrong with contemporary, of course, but I was expecting something else.

Fortunately, this does pick up at about the 60% mark. This is where Lucy’s begins to recognise the extent of her powers, and that they’re not simply bad dreams. I think the series has been set up in such a way that some of the repercussions of this power will be explored in the second book, but this one is mostly about Lucy’s relationship with Tyler and how that changes her.

I still enjoyed reading it, but I suppose I was hoping for some more exploration of the implications of Lucy’s dreams and the power they come with, and where that power comes from.


Thank you to NetGalley and Lakewater Press for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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

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#LoveOzYA #aww2019 “The tide was moving in as I ran along the shoreline. Always crashing, always unsettled…” // Review of “P Is For Pearl” by Eliza Henry Jones

Title: P is for Pearl
Author:
Eliza Henry Jones
Genre: Contemporary
Target audience: YA
Date Read: 23/04/19 – 27/04/19
Rating:
★★★

Review:

It’s been a while since I read something small town-y and character-driven. At first, I thought the story was taking a while to get going. But then I realised the characters are the story in this one. And I really loved them. This is a coming of age story about grief and loss and growing up and it explores its themes really well. 

Eliza Henry Jones really captured the small town vibe in this. Little details like everyone calling each other in a storm to check if they’ve still got power or if they need anything really made me feel like everyone knew each other and like I could walk from one end of town to another in an hour. 

Gwen and her two besties made such a great friendship group. I enjoyed their banter a lot. And Ben, who was just the most adorkable love interest. He kept doing such awkward things and he got all stammery and I loved it. I also liked how Gwen helped him help his sister, and how Amber hadn’t been terribly nice to Gwen, she was still willing to help when someone needed it. 

I did think Gwen’s dad was… not terrible, and probably also dealing with grief in his own way. But he was really inattentive to her and I wanted to shake him a lot. Biddy, Gwen’s stepmother, is in a difficult position that I thought she juggled really well, trying to help Gwen through her grief but also sometimes just not knowing how to help. 

This was one of those books where you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to the characters when you reach the end. Even though they were moving on with the next stages of their lives, I wanted to hang out with them in their small town with the beach and the mermaids for longer. 


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

I am trying to read as many of the books as possible on the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notables List. Click here to see the titles.

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