Jan 29

Review: Spark by Rachael Craw

Review: Spark by Rachael CrawSpark
Author: Rachael Craw (Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Series: Spark #1
Published by Walker Books Australia Pty, Limited, 2014
ISBN: 9781922179623
Genres: fiction, science fiction, young adult fiction
Pages: 461
Source: ARC received from publisher
Buy from Fishpond
Evie doesn't have a choice. One day she's an ordinary seventeen year old, grieving for her mother. The next, she's a Shield, the result of a decades old experiment gone wrong, bound by DNA to defend her best friend from an unknown killer.

The threat could come at home, at school, anywhere. All Evie knows is that it will be a fight to the death.

And then there's Jamie. Irresistible. Off-limits.

NB: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It has taken several months for Spark to appear at the top of my TBR pile, but once I started reading, I found it hard to put down. It took me about two days to read, thanks to numerous interruptions from kids at home on school holidays. In the end, I sat up until 2am to finish the story, unable to go to sleep until I found out how it ended. The excitement built through the final pages until I was almost breathless by the end, simultaneously elated by the conclusion of the story and devastated that I will have to wait almost a year before the second book in the series is available.

As the hook into a new trilogy, Spark ticks all the boxes. There is romance, action, drama, some interesting medical/scientific themes via the genetic engineering aspect, an element of danger and suspense, and some likeable and realistically complex characters.

The plot is intriguingly complex and rich in details including a back story of friendships and family history, as well as information about the genetic engineering program that triggers the ‘Shield’ aspect of Evie’s DNA. These details are revealed as the story unfolds in such a way that I had no trouble keeping everything straight, despite the multiple interruptions while I was reading.

I genuinely cared what happened to Evie, her aunt Miriam, and her friends Kitty and Jamie. I even cared about some of the ‘bad guy’ characters, as their motivations and inner struggles were revealed. Unexpected plot twists and some complex character dynamics kept me turning pages and have ensured that the next book in the trilogy, Stray, will be placed on the very top of my TBR pile when it is published.

Spark is a truly entertaining story, with some relevant themes, and multi-dimensional characters that add a sense of reality despite the sci-fi/supernatural genre. It’s one of those books that you can’t help but enthusiastically recommend to others.

I can’t wait to see how this story develops in the next two books.

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Jan 24

2015 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop

2015 Aust Day giveaway blog hop

I’m very pleased to be joining in the 2015 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop, hosted and organised by the wonderful Shelleyrae at Book’d Out.

I have three different prizes on offer featuring novels by Australian authors. Entry details are at the end of the post.  THIS GIVEAWAY HAS NOW CLOSED.

LISA HEIDKE BOOK PACK

The delightful Lisa Heidke recently visited Reading Upside Down to answer my Books Writers Read questions. I have two of Lisa’s books, including her latest title It Started with a Kiss, to offer as a book pack giveaway.

it started with a kiss

It Started with a Kiss by Lisa Heidke (Allen & Unwin, 2015) (My review)
Friday Jones is distraught when Liam, her husband of nearly twenty years and the father of their teenage daughters, tells her their marriage is over.

Still heartbroken many months later, Friday is deeply flattered when a funny, handsome man takes an interest in her. From their very first kiss, Friday finds it difficult to control her attraction for him despite numerous warning signals.

When Friday’s best friend, Rosie, discovers Friday is risking further emotional pain she convinces her to end the relationship and join a dating website.

But not long after Friday dives into the world of online romance she takes a couple of wrong turns. Could one of her flings have become a little too obsessed with her? And has the time come to step back and take a good look at where she’s going in life?

Funny, poignant and inspiring, It Started with a Kiss is a story about love, desire and how sometimes heartbreak can lead to a much happier life.

stella makes good

Stella Makes Good by Lisa Heidke (Allen & Unwin, 2013) (My review)
Stella Sparks is on good terms with her ex-husband, Terry, despite the fact he left her for another woman. Stella’s philosophical – the marriage had run its course, they remain friends and the wellbeing of their kids is central to both of them.

Stella’s two closest friends, Carly and Jesse, envy her togetherness and wish they could emulate it. Jesse’s husband, Steve, is a control freak who’s driving her crazy, but she has two small children and can’t see a way out. Carly, meanwhile, suspects her husband is having an affair and isn’t sure what to do about it.

Stella’s life takes a distinctly upward turn when she meets a handsome, apparently single – no ring, anyway – father at her son’s school speech night. For Carly and Jesse, however, the search for happiness and fulfilment proves more elusive…

With a healthy dose of humour and romance Stella Makes Good is about the games we play, the secrets we keep, the unpredictable nature of life and the importance of female friendship.

 

BACKLIST BOOK PACK

I’ve had these novels sitting on a ‘books I should do something productive with’ pile for some time. They are both unread, but are a few years old. I also have copies on my own bookshelves and really enjoyed both of these books, so I’m pleased to have this opportunity to find a new home for these ‘spare’ copies.

manhattan dreaming - heiss
Manhattan Dreaming by Anita Heiss (Bantam, 2010) (My review)
From Manuka to Manhattan, Lauren’s going all the way!

Lauren is a curator at the NAG – the National Aboriginal Gallery in Canberra. She’s good at her job, passionate about the Arts, and focused on her work – that is, when she’s not focusing on Adam, half-back for the Canberra Cockatoos.

But Adam is a player, on and off the field. Lauren knows he’s the one, but he doesn’t seem to feel the same way about her. If she just waits long enough, though, surely he’ll realise how much he needs her?

Then her boss offers her the chance of a lifetime – a fellowship at the Smithsonian in New York. Lauren has to make some big decisions: The Man or Manhattan?

last summer

Last Summer by Kylie Ladd (Allen & Unwin, 2011)
Rory Buchanan has it all: looks, talent, charisma-an all around good-guy, he’s the centre of every party and a loving father and husband. Then one summer’s afternoon, tragedy strikes. Those who are closest to him struggle to come to terms with their loss. Friendships are strained, marriages falter and loyalties are tested in a gripping and brilliantly crafted novel about loss, grief and desire.

Told from the points of view of nine of the people who are mourning Rory, this riveting novel presents a vivid snapshot of contemporary suburban Australia and how we live now. Marriage, friendship, family-all are dissected with great psychological insight as they start to unravel under the pressure of grief. The characters live on the page; their lives are unfolded and their dilemmas are as real as our own.

Last Summer is a stunning novel about loss-the terrible pain of losing a husband, brother or friend-but also all those smaller losses that everyone must face: the loss of youth, the shattering of dreams, the fading of convictions and the change in our notions of who we thought we were. It is also about what comes after the loss: how we pick up the pieces and the way we remake our lives.

 

YOUNG ADULT BOOK PACK

Australia has some phenomenally talented YA authors and these books are two highlights from the 2014 releases.

the incredible adventures of cinnamon girl

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil (Hardie Grant, 2014)
Alba loves her life just as it is. She loves living behind the bakery, and waking up in a cloud of sugar and cinnamon. She loves drawing comics and watching bad TV with her friends. The only problem is she’s overlooked a few teeny details: Like, the guy she thought long gone has unexpectedly reappeared. And the boy who has been her best friend since forever has suddenly gone off the rails. And even her latest comic-book creation is misbehaving. Also, the world might be ending – which is providing awkward. As Doomsday enthusiasts flock to idyllic Eden Valley, Alba’s life is thrown into chaos. Whatever happens next, it’s the end of the world as she knows it. But when it comes to figuring out her heart, Armageddon might turn out to be the least of her problems.

the book of days

The Book of Days by K A Barker (Pan Macmillan, 2014)
Most people believe the best way to forget someone is to throw them down a well. Or lock them in a room with eight keys, or bury them at a crossroad in the thirteenth hour. But they’re wrong. The best way to forget someone is for them never to have existed in the first place.

When sixteen-year-old Tuesday wakes from sleep for the first time, she opens her eyes to a world filled with wonder – and peril. Left only with a letter from the person she once was, Tuesday sets out to discover her past with the help of her charming and self-serving guide, Quintalion.

Along the way she runs into mercenaries, flying cities, airships, and a blind librarian. But what is her connection with the mysterious Book of Days – a book that holds untold power…

 

ENTRY DETAILS

  • To enter the giveaway, simply comment below and let me know the name of your favourite Australian author and/or book. Let me know which giveaway you want to enter by adding ‘Heidke’, ‘Backlist’ or ‘YA’ to your comment. You can enter for just one of the prizes or all three in the same comment.
  • THIS GIVEAWAY HAS NOW CLOSED.
  • Winning entries will be chosen at random.
  • Entry is only open to Australian residents. Books will be sent via Australia Post standard mail.
  • The winners will be contacted by email and announced on my Facebook page by the 29th January 2015. If a winner fails to contact me with postal details within one week of the announcement, a new name will be drawn for the relevant prize.
  • It isn’t a condition of entry, but I’d love for you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Visit Shelleyrae at Book’d Out for the master list of the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop participants. There are lots of wonderful books on offer and you’ll discover some amazing Australian authors as you visit the various blogs.
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Jan 23

Books Writers Read with Rachael Johns

Author Interview
Author: Rachael Johns

Rachael JohnsI am very pleased to welcome Rachael Johns to Reading Upside Down to answer my Books Writers Read questions…

 

What book are you currently reading?
I’m just heading to bed to finished Lisa Heidke’s IT STARTED WITH A KISS. There’s something magic about Lisa’s books. I love that they are about REAL women and issues but have such great humour in them!! Love a book that can make me laugh! And cringe alongside the characters.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
I read mostly contemporary romance and women’s fiction but I also quite enjoy the odd crime/thriller. I love the feel-good aspect of romance; yes, I like being made to swoon and in women’s fiction I love that the characters and situations are relatable. I particularly like books that make me laugh – ones that come to mind are Sophie Kinsella’s WEDDING NIGHT and Alice Clayton’s WALLBANGER! Could read both of those books again. 

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
Hah – I’m pre-empting your questions. To be honest, although there are some books I’d love to reread, I mostly don’t have time because there are so many NEW books I want to devour. But one book I recently bought to reread (first time I borrowed it from a library) is NORTHERN LIGHTS by Nora Roberts. It was my first ever Nora Roberts novel but since then I’ve read (and loved) many more.

Where do you read most often? Why?
In bed. Mostly late at night when the kids and hubby are asleep. It’s the only place I get any peace. Although during the school holidays I’ve taken to TRYING to read by the pool while the kids swim. A couple of problems with this – my pages get frequently splashed and I’m constantly being yelled at to “Watch Me” while someone bombies into the pool – but I’m persevering and getting better at blocking out the world!

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
I have a whole favourite series and it is THE BABYSITTERS CLUB books by Ann M Martin. I had EVERY single one and read them all at least ten times. Sadly I sold them to a second hand shop in my early teens to get money for a school trip to Sydney and Canberra and spent it all on collectible spoons. Woe… I’d much rather have those books now than all those tarnished spoons. One day I’d like to reread at least one Babysitter’s Club book but I’m scared they won’t be as fabulous as I remember.

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Tough question. I buy SO many more books that I can actually read, because I buy all my favourite authors from way back (like Marian Keyes and Lisa Jewell) but I also buy books of authors I know personally and want to support. So whenever I finish one book I have LOADS more in the pile to choose from and it’s usually a mood thing I think. I can’t quite explain it but I’ll run my fingers along the spines on my bookshelf and something will just call to me! Make sense?

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
BRIDGET JONES DIARY because it was one of the books that inspired me to write and I absolutely love it. It’s like a modern day Jane Austen. As for my books – I think I’d choose MAN DROUGHT, because I had SO much fun writing that and the random vibrator (read the book to understand) deserves to go down in history!

Can you share a little bit about your current or latest writing project?
I’ve just submitted and will soon be starting the editing process of THE PATTERSON GIRLS, which is due for release in late 2015. While I wrote this the story was entitled THE FAMILY CURSE because it is about four sisters who discover reference to a family curse when packing up their late mother’s things. They are divided on whether or not they want to find out what it is but when their dad refuses to tell them, their curiosity makes them want to know. The book is about how the discovery of this curse changes their lives and the craziness they get up to because of it. It was a lot of fun to write about four sisters and focus more on their relationship than one main romance, but I couldn’t resist adding in some romance, so I hope it’ll appeal to my faithful readers still.

outback ghostthe road to hope

Rachael Johns is a best-selling Australian author of romance fiction. Her books include Jilted, Outback Dreams, the recently released Outback Ghost and soon to be released The Road to Hope (March 2015). You can find our more about Rachael and her writing by visiting her website. You can also chat with Rachael on her Facebook page or on Twitter.

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Jan 22

Review: Outback Blaze by Rachael Johns

Review: Outback Blaze by Rachael JohnsOutback Blaze
Author: Rachael Johns Published by Harlequin Mira, May 2014
ISBN: 9781743569986
Genres: fiction, romance & chicklit
Pages: 367
Source: Purchased
Buy from Fishpond
Ruby wasn't looking for love, Drew wasn't looking to stay...until they found each other. Can their fling survive the darkness of Ruby's past and Drew's desire to move on? Ruby Jones was always an optimist, but the trauma of her past had made her wary. So when she flees to the small rural community of Bunyip Bay to start afresh, she has her sights firmly set on establishing her horse-riding business and rebuilding her life. The last thing Ruby wants is a romance. In fact, after all she has been through, she can't imagine she will ever believe in love again.

Police officer Drew Noble has no intention of staying in Bunyip Bay -- he is just an outsider seeking temporary refuge. But as the charm of the town sways him, Drew finds himself increasingly drawn to the community and its inhabitants, as well as another newcomer, the lovely Ruby Jones. When Drew investigates a suspicious fire at Ruby's parents' business, he finds himself feeling strangely protective of the girl with the flowers in her hair. As the details of Ruby's past emerge and she comes once more under threat, Drew realises he will do all in his power to save her. Soon these outsiders discover they have both lost their hearts -- not only to the town but to each other.

Outback Blaze is the second title by Rachael Johns set in the fictional West Australian rural town of Bunyip Bay. I read the first book, Outback Dreams, late last year and will be tracking down the third book, Outback Ghost, soon.

While the setting is definitely rural and the central female character does have horses, it was really the sense of community and small-town connection that conveyed the country aspect of this story for me. In the town of Bunyip Bay, everyone knows everyone else – who they talked to, whose teens have been playing pranks, and whose car is parked outside a house that isn’t their own until the small hours of the morning. It’s about care and support, but there is also an undercurrent of gossip and judgement.

Outback Blaze contains the expected romance, good-looking country boys and feisty country girls. The burning down of the local ag store also provides a mystery to solve, something to bring together new-to-town English policeman Drew Noble and relationship-shy daughter of the ag store owners, Ruby Jones. There is also a local charity event, the Undies Run, to provide some gratuitous sighing over well-defined abs and sun-bronzed skin.

While the personalities and back stories of the central and secondary characters are entertaining and quite engaging, what I am enjoying most about reading Rachael’s books is the way she weaves real world challenges and issues into the storyline, a layer below the romance and drama. In Outback Blaze, this comes through with Ruby’s personal relationship history and Drew’s family background in England and, most significantly, through Ruby’s parents, who are dealing with the diagnosis of a significant, life-limiting medical condition for Ruby’s mother.

As Ruby finds out about her mother’s illness and processes all that it means, readers are also offered information about the disease. I particularly appreciated how the factor of Mrs Jones’ illness impacts on all aspects of the Jones’ life, as it does in real life when a member of a family is diagnosed with a significant or life-threatening condition.

There is humour in Outback Blaze (how can there not be when there is an Undies Run to organise), as well as romance, family, friendship, mystery, danger, and a glimpse at the highs and lows of being part of a small community. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, which was a great easy-to-read romance with just the right amount of substance. I’ll definitely be picking up a copy of the third Bunyip Bay book as well as looking for other titles by Rachael Johns including Jilted and Man Drought.

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Jan 20

It’s Monday. What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. I’m using it as a way of tracking my reading and, hopefully, inspiring me to work through my TBR pile a little faster.

OK. It’s actually Tuesday, but I was way too busy reading yesterday to write about what I was reading.

So, a day late, here is my reading summary for the past week:

 

What I’ve Read

These are the books that I’ve read since my last What Are You Reading? post.

The husband's secrets

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (Adult Fiction, Penguin UK, Pan Macmillan AU)
A gripping contemporary fiction novel set mostly in Sydney, The Husband’s Secret drew me in from the first pages. I did get a little lost when the second chapter suddenly focused on a completely different character, but by the fourth chapter I was back on track and could hardly bear to put the book down until I reached the final pages.

There are three central characters whose stories run alongside each other, with secondary characters featuring in multiple storylines, both past and present, so I did need to concentrate to make sure I wasn’t losing track of what was happening. Everything built towards a point where all three stories intersected in an unexpected way.

This was my first Liane Moriarty book, but it certainly won’t be my last. You can read my review here.

inner fire
Inner Fire by R L Stedman (YA Fiction, Waverley Productions)
The central character of this YA thriller, 16-year-old Corinne, has a genetic condition that means she radiates heat when she becomes upset. When she’s very upset, she can actually set things on fire.

I loved the action/thriller plotline of this novel, especially the Big Brother overtones of the SecurEYEs surveillance system and the spunky great grandmother character of Elsie was quite interesting too. The romance elements of the story (Corinne and 17-year-old Rowan) did feel a little rushed, but I was intrigued by the story and would love to see it developed further in a follow-up novel.

spark

Spark by Rachael Craw (YA Fiction, Walker Books)
I stayed up until 2am this morning finishing this amazing novel. I have had it on my shelf for ages, received as an ARC for Kids’ Book Review. I got two chapters into the book last year, but when one of the other KBR team members reviewed it, I put it aside, a victim of my constant ‘too many books, too little time’ problems.

Over the past few months, I have chatted regularly with author Rachael Craw on Twitter, so I decided it was time to grab my copy of Spark and read it anyway and I’m so glad I did. The genetic-engineering aspects of the story were complex, but well constructed and clearly explained so I never felt that I was losing track of what was happening. The characterisation is wonderful. I genuinely cared about what would happen to multiple characters, including the ‘villain’ of the story.

I can’t wait for the second book in the trilogy, Stray, which will be released this year. It will definitely go straight to my bedside table reading pile.

 

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Picture books. Lots and lots of picture books.
I don’t usually share the picture books and junior fiction titles I read each week here, simply because there are rather a lot of them and I usually review them at Kids’ Book Review. However, in the interests of showing just why I’m not always as punctual as I should be with my blog posts, this gallery of photos is all of the picture books I read yesterday. There are 19 of them and one junior fiction novel (just in case you were wondering). Titles are:

  • Alfie in the Garden by Debi Gliori (Bloomsbury)
  • Duelgum: The Story of Mother Eel by Uncle Joe Kirk with Greer Casey and Sandi Harrold (Scholastic)
  • We are Different by Jodie McMahon and Mark Curnow (Little Steps Publishing)
  • Journey by Aaron Becker (Candlewick Press)
  • Chu’s First Day at School by Neil Gaimon and Adam Rex (Bloomsbury)
  • Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar by Emily McKenzie (Bloomsbury)
  • Gus & Me: The Story of my Granddad and my First Guitar by Keith Richards (Orion)
  • On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster)
  • I am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon and Vivianne Schwarz (Walker Books)
  • The Book with No Pictures by B J Novak (Puffin)
  • What’s Your Story by Rose Giannone and Ben Emmerichs (Berbay Publishing)
  • Guess How Much I Love You (20th Anniversary Edition) by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram (Walker Books)
  • Stormy Night by Salina Yoon (Bloomsbury)
  • My Hiroshima by Junko Morimoto (Lothian)
  • Square Eyes by Craig Smith and Scott Tulloch (Scholastic)
  • Count with Maisy, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep! by Lucy Cousins (Walker Books)
  • One World Together by Catherine and Laurence Anholt (Frances Lincoln)
  • Meet Captain Cook (Meet…) by Rae Murdie and Chris Nixon (Random House)
  • Meet Mary MacKillop (Meet…) by Sally Murphy and Sonia Martinez (Random House)
  • When Lollipop Ladies Attack by Vicki Englund (Australian ebook Publisher)

 

What I’m Reading

love-in-the-time-of-contempt

Love in the Time of Contempt by Joanne Fedler (Non-Fiction, Hardie Grant)
I’m really enjoying Joanne Fedler’s warm, honest writing style in this non-fiction parenting companion. I have an e-book copy and no ereader, so my pace has been slowed down only by the logistics of needing to be at my computer to read it. I have recently printed out several chapters and carry them around with me so that I have it on hand to read and the pages are already marked with several sections of underlined text where Joanne has made a comment that particularly resonates with me.

The Eye of Zoltar

The Eye of Zoltar (Last Dragonslayer #3) by Jasper Fforde (Middle Fiction, Hodder & Stoughton)
I love Jasper Fforde’s quirky humour and clever writing. This is the third book in the Last Dragonslayer series and I’m enjoying it so far, although I’m finding that it’s taking a little longer to get into the story than it usually does with Fforde’s books. A great fantasy adventure series for confident readers aged 8+.

 

What are you reading?

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Jan 16

Books Writers Read with Gabrielle Tozer

Author Interview
Author: Gabrielle Tozer (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

Gabrielle Tozer 3I am very pleased to welcome Gabrielle Tozer to Reading Upside Down to answer my Books Writers Read questions…

 

What book are you currently reading?
I always cheat when I answer this question because I’ve fallen into the terrible habit of having a few novels on the go. At the moment, I’m jumping between The Rosie Effect, She’s Having Her Baby, Two Wolves and End Game.

Do you have a favourite genre? What do you enjoy most about it?
Not really – I read everything from contemporary and dystopian, to romance and non-fiction and everything in between. I may not have my parents’ patience or organisational skills, but I’ve certainly inherited their passion for reading!

Do you have a book you like to re-read? If yes, which book?
Stephen King’s On Writing, which is a brilliant book for writers, both new and established. Also, the Harry Potter series has had a few* runs. (Hermione and Ron forever!)

*OK, OK… quite a few runs.

Where do you read most often? Why?
In bed and on the couch. Why? Because I’m lazy and when I get absorbed in a book, it goes on for hours so I better be damn comfortable.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
So many! I have soft spots for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Two Weeks With The Queen, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The BFG, Looking For Alibrandi, Tomorrow When The War Began and Living With Leanne. Sorry, there I go, cheating again!

How do you choose which book to read next – Cover? Blurb? Recommendation from a friend? Reviews?
Word of mouth, usually, whether that’s via friends, reviews, Twitter…

You can put one book you have written and one book by another author into a time capsule that will be opened in 100 years. Which books would you choose and why?
Tough! Probably FAKING IT (sorry to THE INTERN… I feel like a guilty mum choosing between her book babies!) – the ending of the book makes me feel all warm and cosy. (Now I feel bad not bringing my debut novel… I’ve already cheated twice on this Q&A, maybe I’ll try to smuggle THE INTERN in to the time capsule, too!). As for another author’s book? Maybe High Fidelity. I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

Can you share little bit about your current or latest writing project?
You bet! My second book FAKING IT has recently landed on shelves, so that’s pretty exciting. Next up, I’m hoping to carve out some serious time to work on another YA book – this time, a standalone set in senior high school. I can’t reveal more than that as I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m excited and terrified to dive into a new project. Twelve years writing professionally (including three years writing books) and I feel like a beginner all over again – incredible!

Faking It

Gabrielle Tozer is an Australian author, journalist and editor. She has written for publications including Cosmopolitan, TV WEEK, Bride to Be, DOLLY and Girlfriend. Her YA novels THE INTERN and FAKING IT (my review), published by HarperCollins, are out now. You can find out more about Gabrielle’s writing at her website and chat with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Feel free to squeeze in the hashtags #fakingitau #theinternau and #gabrielletozer if you fancy, too. Distractions are always welcome. Clearly.

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Jan 15

Authors by Alphabet – D is for Kylie Dunstan

Authors by Alphabet
Author: Kylie Dunstan (Website, Facebook, Goodreads)

The next installment of my Authors by Alphabet series featuring Australian picture book authors. This week’s post: D is for Kylie Dunstan.

Collecting colour

Kylie Dunstan is an award-winning author and illustrator. She studied art and has worked in museums and galleries in Adelaide, Melbourne and Arnhem Land, as well as spending three years with her family in Vietnam. Her first picture book, which she both wrote and illustrated, was the 2009 CBCA Picture Book of the Year, Collecting Colour.

Collecting Colour was my first introduction to Kylie’s work. I borrowed it from my local library and loved both the illustrations and the engaging way Kylie integrated different cultures into the story. Her 2012 book Same, but little bit diff’rent has a similar cross cultural message. I also love This Way Up, which is a wonderful story for young children dealing with the sometimes overwhelming experience of moving house, especially if it involves moving a significant distance.

 

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As I’ve been sourcing book covers and details for this post, I’ve come across The Red Bridge, a book no doubt inspired by Kylie’s time in Vietnam. With my recent interest in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, I think this book would be a wonderful addition to my book shelves and I’ve just added it to my book wishlist.

I love the collage technique Kylie uses with her illustrations. While it has a wonderful, simple appeal, the illustrations also add so much to the story and have a lovely sense of movement and fun at different times.

You can find out more about Kylie Dunstan at her website and Facebook page.

This post is part of a series inspired by the Authors by Alphabet posts found at Suz’s Space.

 

More ‘D’ Aussie Picture Book Authors

  • Ursula Dubosarsky
  • Aleesah Darlison

 

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Jan 14

Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane MoriartyThe Husband's Secret
Author: Liane Moriarty (Website, Blog, Facebook, Goodreads)
Published by Penguin Books, Limited, 2013
ISBN: 9781405911665
Genres: fiction, general fiction
Pages: 448
Source: Purchased
Buy from Fishpond
At the heart of the top ten bestselling The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty is a letter that's not meant to be read . . . Mother of three and wife of John-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic. Written in her husband's hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my death. Curious, she opens it - and time stops. John-Paul's letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, if revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others. Cecilia - betrayed, angry and distraught - wants to do the right thing, but right for who? If she protects her family by staying silent, the truth will worm through her heart. But if she reveals her husband's secret, she will hurt those she loves most . . . Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, or anyone who enjoyed One Moment, One Morning or The Midwife's Confession, The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty is about the things we know, the things we don't, and whether or not we ever get to choose. Above all, though, it's about how we must live with the consequences of our actions - whether we like it or not.

I’m not sure what I expected when I started reading The Husband’s Secrets, but it wasn’t this intricate network of personal stories, secrets, small moments and big heartaches.

While I was intrigued by the story from the first pages, it did take me a few chapters to really engage with the characters. I wasn’t expecting the multiple viewpoints of the story and at first the apparent disconnect between the three main characters – Tess, Cecilia and Rachel – left me feeling a little bit confused.

As the narrative pattern started repeating, however, and the common ground became more apparent, I became increasingly involved with the unfolding drama. Each individual was dealing with their own issues and relationship challenges, but they were also connected by past and present actions that were, unknown to them, both running in parallel and heading towards a moment where their stories would intersect.

There are so many layers to appreciate in this novel. It is a story of motherhood, love, relationships, secrets, friendship, grief and forgiveness. It is a story of possibilities, both known and unknown, and a reminder that small acts (and more significant ones) can have consequences that we might never know or anticipate.

The action of the story unfolds over one week, but it is also determined by decisions made by several of the characters years earlier. By the final 100 pages, I couldn’t put the book down as I could feel the tension building and as the story seemed to be moving towards a conclusion that would result in heartbreak for one or more of the central characters and others. I confess I even shed a few tears at the end of the novel as the characters dealt with the unavoidable consequences of their actions.

It is impossible to talk about the details of the story without ruining the tension that builds so cleverly as the plot unfolds. I loved the complexity of the characters and their lives, and I think the true brilliance of the novel lies in revealing both the fragility and strength of people and relationships.

This is my first Liane Moriarty novel and it certainly won’t be my last. Highly recommended.

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Jan 13

Review: Faking It by Gabrielle Tozer

Review: Faking It by Gabrielle TozerFaking It
Author: Gabrielle Tozer (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Series: The Intern #2
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia, 01-01-2015
ISBN: 978073229706
Genres: humour, romance & chicklit, young adult fiction
Pages: 336
Source: ARC received from publisher
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Things are finally looking up for 18-year-old Josie Browning. Her hot new boyfriend James can't keep his hands off her, she's moved into a share house in the city and - fresh from her roller-coaster ride at the now defunct Sash magazine - she's scored a coveted job as indi website's junior writer. Life wasn't meant to go that smoothly, so when indi's features editor Sia announces she's pregnant and needs time off, the pressure is on for Josie to prove to her editor Liani that she's got what it takes to be a real journalist. Loved-up Josie is also on a mission to lose her virginity to James (if they can get past second base without laughing, arguing, being interrupted or freaking out!). And if that's not enough, Josie's battling with bong-smoking room-mates, mag-girl frenemies and confusing feelings for jaded travel writer, Alex. High on the fabulous perks from her new job at indi, Josie's life seems pretty close to perfect - even though she still hasn't mastered her hair straightener. But when Josie is suspected of stealing from one of magazines' rising queen bees at a luxurious media junket, she is thrown into a mystery of lies, theft and deceit that threatens to ruin her reputation, love life and career forever. Does Josie have what it takes to be a real journalist? Will she be able to prove her innocence without losing her job at indi (and her mind)? Or will the bitchy magazine girls win once and for all? And what will Josie do when Alex comes to her rescue when no-one else does, not even James...? Yep. 18 just got a whole lot more complicated.

NB: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

There is so much to love about this fun YA fiction novel.

For a start, there are lots of laugh out loud moments, largely courtesy of the rather klutzy, accident-prone Josie Browning, our not-sure-what-I-should-be-doing-but-it’s-probably-not-this heroine.

There is also the appeal of getting to glimpse behind-the-scenes of a glossy magazine – the freebies, the competition between publications, the big personalities dominating the decisions and trends, the cliques, snarky comments and passive-aggressive backhand compliments. We know it’s all fiction, of course, but it’s kind of nice to indulge in poking fun at stereotypes every now and then.

Despite all that fun and entertainment, there is also a wonderful sense of ‘realness’ to Josie’s character and her experiences. We might roll our eyes as she makes yet another klutzy mistake and brush off the fashionista dramas, but at its heart, Faking It is a novel about the doubts and insecurities felt during the transition from teenager to adult. The driving need to have everyone else think that you know exactly what you are doing even when you are confused and uncertain about almost everything is something that both teen and adult readers can’t help but relate to.

I love the emotion and depth present in so much YA fiction at the moment – the meaningful themes, the big issue messages, the intense drama, the heartbreaking pathos. Despite that, I also love that there are wonderful, well-written novels such as The Intern and Faking It that offer an engaging narrative style with characters facing the kinds of everyday challenges that readers can easily relate too. (See also Melissa Keil’s The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl and Will Kostakis’ The First Third for a similar blend of light-hearted humour and coming-of-age revelations.)

Publisher recommendation is for readers aged 12+, however I think that there are lots of references throughout the novel that won’t necessarily connect with readers quite this young. One of the ‘growing up’ issues Josie is wrestling with is the timing of telling her boyfriend she loves him and losing her virginity, which is hopefully more relevant to an audience slightly older than 12. I think that the teen/adult transition and the insecurity and doubt stirred by making career choices and taking those first steps away from the familiarity of home, however, are more likely to fail to capture the interest of such young readers than the very general references to Josie’s potential sexual relationship with James.

While I did find the younger sister a tad annoying (perhaps a more reflection on my own older sister hang-ups than flaws in the character of Kat), overall I really enjoyed reading Faking It, as I did reading The Intern last year. This is smart chick-lit for teens with some real substance beneath the glossy-magazine façade.

My recommendation is for readers aged 14+ years.

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Jan 12

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. I’m using it as a way of tracking my reading and, hopefully, inspiring me to work through my TBR pile a little faster.

There have been lots of distractions and social commitments over the past few weeks, so I haven’t read much since my last update. I’m hoping to be more focused in my reading in 2015. Fewer books on my bedside table at one time and a conscious effort to read more diversely – adult fiction as well as YA and children’s fiction, unread books from by bookshelves as well as new releases.

What I’ve Read
These are the books (excluding picture books) that I have read since the beginning of the year.

Faking It

Faking It by Gabrielle Tozer (Young Adult, HarperCollins)
I was really looking forward to reading this sequel to The Intern. Funny, entertaining and quite thought-provoking at times, Faking It was lots of fun to read and is sure to be popular with teen readers. My review at Kids’ Book Review here.

it started with a kiss

It Started with a Kiss by Lisa Heidke (Adult Fiction, Allen & Unwin)
Another great contemporary fiction novel by Australian author Lisa Heidke. Interesting characters dealing with relationship issues that are very relatable. I’m very pleased to once again have one of Lisa’s books to start my reading year. My review here.

the book of you - rania

Rania (The Book of You #2) by Randa Abdel-Fattah (Junior Fiction, Scholastic)
The second book in The Book of You series for older junior fiction readers, Rania deals with family jealousy and the pressure to achieve experienced by some students as they approach the transition to high school. A great novel about friendship, family and priorities.

the winter bride

The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie (Adult Fiction, Penguin)
This was a re-read, taken off the shelf because I felt like something interesting but light in the middle of the busyness of the start of the New Year. I love historical romance and am glad I stumbled across Anne Gracie’s books thanks to a recommendation by a friend on Facebook. This novel is part of ‘The Chance Sisters’ series, set in England in the early 1800s.

What I’m Reading

The husband's secrets

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (Adult Fiction, Penguin UK, Pan Macmillan AU)

love-in-the-time-of-contempt

Love in the Time of Contempt by Joanne Fedler (Non-Fiction, Hardie Grant)

The Eye of Zoltar

The Eye of Zoltar (Last Dragonslayer #3) by Jasper Fforde (Middle Fiction, Hodder & Stoughton)

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