#AWW2019 // Book Review: “Beneath the Surface” by Rebecca Langham

Title: Beneath the Surface (Outsiders Project #1)
Author: Rebecca Langham
Genre: Sci-fi
Target audience: Adult
Dates read:
24/12/2019 – 30/12/2019
Rating: ★★


This is kind of a slow book, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. It has a lot going on in terms of themes, characters and plot, and explores a lot of it really well. Unfortunately I didn’t engage quite enough with it to bump my rating any higher.

Lydia is a politician’s daughter and has grown up believing that segregation of the alien race they call Outsiders is only natural. But when she takes a teaching contract at the Outside colony, she realises all is not as it seems. And there’s one particular Outsider, Alessia, to whom she feels particularly drawn…

Often I find that I am interested in the development of a relationship up until the point where the characters get together, at which point it gets boring. I actually found the opposite with Lydia and Alessia. I didn’t actually feel there was much build-up or reason for them to feel so strongly about each other, but I loved reading about them together! Once that happened, I really felt the depth of feeling between them.

I mentioned before that there a lot of themes, and a lot of them are talked about. Literally, the characters have a lot of conversations. There is a lot of talking. I’m sure many readers might find this irritating, and it is slow-moving for that reason. There are some dramatic scenes, but I wouldn’t say there’s any action to speak of.

Still, I was  interested enough in the world-building and characters to continue reading. There are some pretty big reveals dropped towards the end that pave the way nicely for the conclusion of the story in the second book, and I defintiely want to see the fallout from the events in this one.

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

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“It’s all a mix here in Appalachia.” // Review of “Cleaning House” by Jeanne G’Fellers

Title: Cleaning House (Appalachian Elementals #1)
Author: Jeanne G’Fellers
Genre: Queer fantasy
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 18/07/19 – 03/08/19
Rating: ★★★


There is a lot to really like in this book. I have realised over the past year or so that I much prefer the homey, witchy kind of fantasy with personal stakes over epic sword-and-sorcery save-the-whole-world kind of fantasy. Cleaning House very much falls into the former category, with its blend of Appalachian folklore and witchcraft with Chrsitianity and other spiritual elements. I really enjoyed Cent’s family group, and how they were tied to each to each other throughout centuries of iterations. I also really loved Cent’s Chicago friend, Betty, and how they supported each other.

I did find that the story itself dragged, as so much of the book is given to world-building and the history of the characters (they have a long history). I know that this is a matter of personal preference as other readers will love the slow-moving narrative exploring those relationships. Another thing where personal preference probably affected my enjoyment is that I prefer to read about characters falling in love and getting together… an established relationship such as Cent and Stowne’s is less interesting to me, even if they are rediscovering each other.

Long story short, while parts of this book were right up my alley, other aspects of it just weren’t rewlly my thing. I’m pretty sure the right reader will love this.

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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


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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“What will this experiment hold for her?” // Review of “Heat and Light” by Ellen van Neerven #aww2016

Title: Heat and Light
Author: ellen van Neerven
Genre: Literary fiction/queer fiction
Date Read:
28/11/2016 – 30/11/2016
Rating: ★★★


This is quite an interesting book, split into three sections. The first two, I really enjoyed, though I have to admit, I didn’t quite “get” the third one. Still, the writing is gorgeous and this is a fabulous debut novel.

In Heat, we meet several generations of the Kresinger family, and see the effects of the matriarch, Pearl, on her descendents. In Water, we see a dystopian Australian future, where an ancient spirit still thrives, and in Water, we see the effects of familial ties on a struggle for identity.

In these stories, aboriginality, sexuality, and womanhood all intersect. These three themes are not usually dealt with all at once and it was really interesting seeing them explored together. Water was my favourite of the three stories, perhaps because it took the form of a genre I prefer over the other two, which were more literary and contemporary.  It also dealt with issues of displacement and race, using a metaphor that was , while fairly obviousk still nuanced and never heavy-handed. Water was also more linear in its storytelling, while the other two parts are more fragmented, jumping between characters and between time periods.

The characters in all three stories read as genuinely Australian, and genuinely aboriginal (from my, admittedly limited, experience). The writing style is really beautiful; it flows really naturally and never feels like it is trying too hard (apart from maybe that fragmented style). As I said earlier, I didn’t really get the third part quite as much. It did seem more disjointed than the other two pieces. I read in some other reviews that this part actually tied in with the first, but if that is the case, I missed the connection.

Ellen van Neerven is definitely an author to keep an eye on. She has a great way with words and a way of exploring complex issues without feeling too pretentious or over-the-top.

This review forms part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge for 2016. Click here for more information.

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