The Intern (#1) by Gabrielle Tozer

Published: 1st February 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins AU
Pages: 327
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Josie Browning dreams of having it all.

A stellar academic record, an amazing career in journalism – and for her current crush to realise she actually exists. The only problem? Josie can’t get through twenty-four hours without embarrassing her sister Kat or her best friend Angel, let alone herself.

Josie’s luck changes though when she lands an internship at the glossy fashion magazine Sash. A coveted columnist job is up for grabs, but Josie’s got some tough competition in the form of two other interns. Battle lines are drawn and Josie quickly learns that the magazine industry is far from easy, especially under the reign of powerful editor, Rae Swanson.

From the lows of coffee-fetching and working 10-hour days, to the highs of mingling with celebrities, scoring endless free beauty products (plus falling for her cousin’s seriously gorgeous flatmate James) this is one year Josie will never forget.

Totally fresh and funny, this debut novel from industry insider Gabrielle Tozer reveals just what is behind the seeming glamour and sparkle of the magazine industry.

This is a light, fun story that is good but doesn’t really have a lot of substance. It was new for me to have a YA where the character was solely at a job and not in high school, Josie is at university for some parts but even that is something different.

I have mixed feelings about this story, I enjoyed it but things were annoying as well. Perfect coincidences, unrealistic situations, and I couldn’t connect with the main character. I never felt that fond of Josie, she was nice, but I never clicked with her. I really had to remind myself that she was only 17 because it made me not excuse, but understand her behaviour a little better. Her impulsiveness, her complaints, even her behaviour didn’t fit in with the good student she was meant to be and it was jarring to see contrasts in her portrayal.

I can see how Josie is meant to be a reflection on real life; good grades, great opportunity but the strange and daft moments of being human and human behaviour can still get in the way. Josie’s flaws are there to have her be flawed but they were annoying after a while.

All the characters have stories and complexities, whether they all get explored in detail is another thing. There were stereotypical characters and different personality types but even if there was a reason for their actions the characters weren’t given enough depth for me to understand who these people were and why they do what they do.

Tozer captures the chaos of working for a magazine and the behind the scenes of what goes on for photoshoots and getting articles out. Josie is thrown into this world with her internship and after a rocky start starts having opportunities conveniently thrown at her which is a win for her but is slightly unbelievable for the reader.

I wanted to enjoy this more, and I think I did reading it, but reviewing it has made me think more about the problems I saw. While there are entertaining moments and funny parts, you have to suspend some parts of believability to really enjoy the story. Overall it was a nice story that has a bit of drama, romance, and humour but nothing too serious either.

You can purchase The Intern via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery 

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (#2) by Mackenzi Lee

Published: 2nd October 2018 (print)/2nd October 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 450/11 hrs and 16 mins
Narrator: Moira Quirk
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★ – 4 Stars

A year after an accidentally whirlwind grand tour with her brother Monty, Felicity Montague has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a window of opportunity opens—a doctor she idolises is marrying an old friend of hers in Germany. Felicity believes if she could meet this man he could change her future, but she has no money of her own to make the trip. Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid.

In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that leads them from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

Naturally after finished Gentleman’s Guide I had to pick up book two to see what our favourite sister Felicity was getting up to. Admittedly with a slow start it took me a while to get into the story but once I did it was engaging and full of wonderful surprises. It had so much to live up to compared to Gentleman’s Guide and while it isn’t quite the same story, it is its own story and Felicity needed her own story too. There was a lot more humour in Gentleman’s but I think that comes from Monty, he steals the show in every scene in this book too which is completely on form.

The story takes place a year after the events of the previous book and seeing how they have all fared after those events is delightful. Felicity is the main character this time around with new characters and a new adventure ahead we understand a lot more of her character than what we got to see before.

One thing I missed was that I didn’t see the sarcastic Felicity that I loved from the first book in this. Having said that her interactions with Monty and Percy were as fantastic as before; the three of them together radiate family and sibling relationships. On her own though, Lee shows off a lot more of her insecurities and her determination, which isn’t to say it wasn’t there before, but now we have her own perspective to give us more insight than a few off the hand remarks about the annoyances of her brother and his melodramatics.

Felicity recaps much of the previous book but not in an unnatural way, more like reminders to herself of all she has achieved and what she is capable of. These moments of unfairness where she talks about injustices can come across as repetitive but I chose to look at it as ongoing pep talks Felicity gives herself when faced with challenges or defeat.

Quirk does a wonderful job as narrator for the audio and the inflections and voices for each character suited them so I was never once removed from the story. With each voice it brought out the characters and it was amazing to see how the assigned voice to the characters reflected their personalities.

There’s a lot of adventure and drama as well as great character exploration and growth. While it may not have been as hilarious, there is still humour and a fierceness I enjoyed a lot. Lee doesn’t try and replicate the events or style of the first book, but it still fits in perfectly as a sequel and gives an adventure just as daring and dangerous.

One of the best parts of this is the female camaraderie and the friendships. There’s unity and ferociousness and seeing these women plan to take on the world and the patriarchy and the inequalities of their time is fantastic. It was excellent to see these women band together and fight for the lives that they want and deserve and Lee never makes it preachy, though so much of it can easily be applied today.

There’re some harrowing moments and the realities of exploring Englishman and Europeans on the world ring true but there is a wonderful representation of other cultures and great diversity in characters as well. This is definitely a fabulous adventure to go on and a story that was full of surprises.

You can purchase The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Wordery

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (#1) by Mackenzi Lee

Published: 27th June 2017 (print)/27th June 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 513/10 hrs and 47 mins
Narrator: Christian Coulson
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  ★  ★ – 5 Stars

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and travelling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

There is so much I love about this book. Lee develops her characters brilliantly and seeing how rich and complicated they are and then also see them grow but remain their same essential selves is all you could ever want from a novel. The story is captivating with adventure and intrigue, but there are also moments of compassion and intimacy which bring out each character’s uniqueness and these are the moments we get to know them best.

Monty and Percy’s relationship is fabulous and is heart-warming and heartbreaking all at the same time, and Felicity and Monty’s sibling dynamics are hilarious and believable. Monty is the main character but his interactions and travels with the other two help us understand their world and the wider society and expectations. Lee brings in the scandals and the dangers of the era and through these three characters you also see the day to day life so you are completely immersed in this time and how 18th century society operated. Lee doesn’t dwell on too much explanation though as it all blends together wonderfully as she uses the characters and their circumstances to add in detail and background.

Monty is such a fantastically complicated person. I went from loving his roguish attitude at the start, then properly hating him as a scoundrel but when you start to realise who he truly is I fell in love with him.  It was such a wild ride to go on with him. I respected Lee’s character choice to have this villainous person as a main charcater so I told myself it was author’s choice to do so, don’t hate the book because the character is truly horrible, but when you realise, and it isn’t long until you realise, oh the heartache and the realisation hits you in the face and it is painful and perfect and incredible. I felt sad for him at times and it breaks your heart because you want him to be happy and safe which isn’t always entirely possible. He is the kind of character you hate at the start and would completely die for by the end.

The audio is amazing because Coulson puts in the perfect tone and accent for Monty which is a pure joy to listen to. His snark and attitude, Felicity’s exasperations, and Percy’s sweetness come across so well they really feel like actual people and each character stands out on their own and with their own voice. The inflections and the humour bring all the joy of this story to life and I loved the narration immediately.

Characters aside, the plot is wonderful, it is creative, not overly complicated but has enough daring and adventure to make it captivating. Lee manages to capture how people have always very much been people and mixing it together with the chaos of a manhunt and drama of every kind creates a brilliant story that I loved from start to finish.

You can purchase The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel

Published: 30th August 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Chronicle Books
Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel
Pages: 44
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . .

In this celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many views of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?

I was pleasantly surprised by this story. The narrative is simple as it describes the cat walking through the world and telling readers who saw the cat, not much more than that. The cleverness is in the illustrations because they show not only that the creatures saw the cat, but what the cat looked like to them when they saw it.

Wenzel’s drawings show how the cat changes depending on the perspective of whoever is looking be it worm, bee, or child. It is incredibly clever and while the story is simple and basic, the illustrations add another level. In an unspoken way it teaches kids that animals see differently to us, and perspective changes depending on the eyes, the vantage point, and the intent.

This is a different type of story as there isn’t so much a story than an exploration of perspective. It’s a good teaching tool about how animals see the world and the journeys of a cat.

You can purchase They All Saw A Cat via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Coffee, Cake and Contemporary Women’s Stories

Saturday was my big bookish day and after I had spent my morning up at the Wallsend book sale, I headed down to Lake Macquarie for a coffee, cake and books event in the afternoon. The event was held in a cute little café opposite the lake in Warners Bay and there was a wonderful view of the water from the tables. The authors in conversation were Trish Morey, Fiona McArthur, and special guest for the day Cathryn Hein with Jaye Ford as interviewer. Julie from Lake Macquarie libraries welcomed everyone and said that the event was the first of hopefully many like it. For a first time event it was well attended, the tables were full and there were delectable nibbles provided before and during the event from the café. The authors themselves were lovely as well. I’d met most of them at various other things before and being able to enjoy their conversations, their friendship and their stories was special and not only allowed you to get to know these talented women a bit better, but gain an insight into their craft.

Jaye, Cathryn, Trish, and Fiona

Jaye started the afternoon off introducing everyone and explained that this was part of their Summer With Friends Tour that herself, Trish and Fiona were doing, this time with an extra friend in Cathryn. Jaye spoke to each of the authors about their latest books, their inspirations and how the story developed. Trish explained how her latest book, One Summer Between Friends, got to be set on Lord Howe Island after a holiday there reminded her of its beauty. With a desire for a small town type setting, a place where everyone knows everything and you can’t easily escape, Lord Howe was the perfect location. She explained how she wanted to test the boundaries of friendship, wanted it to be fractured and see if it could be put together again. Trish also explained how life imitating art in her own world helped to make her book stronger because she was able to put personal experience into it. The hands on research she used didn’t change her story a great deal, she explained, but the detail and emotion she was able to now include was based on her real reactions, something which I thought was brave and amazing.

Fiona’s book, The Desert Midwife, came from a previous version which had been rejected from the publisher but had now been reworked into something similar but new. Jaye spoke with Fiona about the concept of love at first sight and Fiona admitted she knew three people who’d experienced the phenomenon, herself included with her own husband. This notion is explored in her novel and how a woman is able to cope when her loving husband suddenly no longer remembers her. Jaye asked about Fiona’s research and we heard stories of travelling around communities near Uluru and how interactions with the communities influenced Fiona’s story. She spoke about midwifery and how she always likes to promote that birth is natural, how if left to nature it usually sorts itself out and she joked that often midwives instruct doctors on better ways to do things. Their conversation turned to Fiona’s new endeavour into indie publishing with her book Midwife on the Orient Express and she expressed how nice it was to be able to select her own cover, keep the title she wanted and how she had been inspired by others, like Cathryn, who had gone out on their own.

Cathryn’s own story, Eddie and the Show Queen – the fifth in her series set in the Levenham’s area, goes to some emotional places but it is one filled with humour too. Jaye spoke to Cathryn about how she came up with her ideas for the various, amusing fundraising solutions in the story and Cathryn admitted it was the most fun she’d had coming up with all of those options. Bringing it back to the dual tones, Jaye asked how it felt to write both emotions and Cathryn said she enjoyed the contrast between the two. She said it wasn’t real if people were happy all the time and if she can make herself cry when she’s writing it, that’s good. Being the fifth book in a series, Cathryn spoke about how after writing the first – Rocking Horse Hill – she wanted to explore the stories of more characters. She explained how she comes up with the titles and then writes the book to that title. Cathryn explained with this new one, Show Queen was originally Show Girl but in an international market Show Girl means something different entirely and so she changed it.

Jaye spoke with the women about creative blocks, Cathryn explaining how some medical issues recently had halted her creativity, but she was slowly gaining it back as she got better. She explained the fear she had when she couldn’t write, she told us writing was her dream and not being able to write was horrible. One thing that really resonated with me was Cathryn saying that “100 words a day gives you a book in the end” which I think I might need to paint in large letters on my wall. It is a wonderful piece of advice and one I know I need. Trish spoke about how writing intense books was hard when her own life had become intense with family issues and so she needed to write a different kind of book, this also included not writing about sex all the time. Fiona told us that in the beginning she had trouble finding the time to write with children and a husband to care for and so she found some hours in the early morning that were all hers. Between 4:30am and 6am there was time no one wanted her for anything and it allowed her to write. Now she had retired she has all day which is even better. Fiona also offered some more fabulous advice telling us “if you keep going, eventually you get there”. Another for my wall.

Jaye spoke with the women about their routines and how they started their days, where their writing process took them. From long walks to doing Sudoku and taking afternoon naps there were numerous routines to get the brain kicked into gear and allowing time for plot points to be nutted out. Cathryn reminded everyone that you have to be disciplined because it is a business, and Jaye invited each author to talk about their writing process and how they gain their ideas and start planning (a plotter), or whether they make it up on the fly (a pantser). Trish acknowledged everyone has a different process, she likes to start with a ‘what if?’ situation and a character then venture into a story. Fiona is a pantser, and while Cathryn admitted she too is a pantser, she also mentioned that she needs to know how her story starts and she needs a crisis moment before she can start.

By now we’d all been served our afternoon tea and cakes and the audience was able to ask questions. There were some great questions like further clarification on the plotters vs pantsers and how do you start a story in the first place. Fiona sees her scenes like one would a movie and she builds on that first scene, Cathryn told us that the story takes as many pages as it takes to tell the story, whatever that length may be, as long as it doesn’t bore the reader.

Another question from the audience was how to identify and keep track of continuity. Fiona told us that when you start you don’t know your characters well, but you get to know them as you write the book. You get the story out then you can go back and fix it later. Trish said you need to keep your characters grounded, you give them a description at the start and use it as a reference and do the same for personality, find words and titles that go with the characters. I loved Cathryn’s approach, she mentioned she finds three things for her characters: something physical that sets them apart, some verbal tick/saying that is theirs alone, and a gesture that identifies them.

The two hours flew by and I easily could have sat there listening for two hours more. A whole lot more was spoken about, laughed about, and explored but I wrote eight pages of notes and to recap the afternoon in its entirety would be never ending. I will say though, if you ever get a chance to go to an event similar to this I insist you do; it is so wonderful to be allowed access into this world where authors discuss their work, their inspirations and to see the friendships and support that have formed over decades. I was entertained, I was moved, I was inspired not only in my writing but in many other ways too. It was a wholly delightful afternoon.

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