The Yearbook Committee by Sarah Ayoub

Published: 1st March 2016Goodreads badge
 HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Five teenagers. Five lives. One final year.

The school captain: Ryan has it all … or at least he did, until an accident snatched his dreams away. How will he rebuild his life and what does the future hold for him now?

The newcomer: Charlie’s just moved interstate and she’s determined not to fit in. She’s just biding her time until Year 12 is over and she can head back to her real life and her real friends …

The loner: At school, nobody really notices Matty. But at home, Matty is everything. He’s been single-handedly holding things together since his mum’s breakdown, and he’s never felt so alone.

The popular girl: Well, the popular girl’s best friend … cool by association. Tammi’s always bowed to peer pressure, but when the expectations become too much to handle, will she finally stand up for herself?

The politician’s daughter: Gillian’s dad is one of the most recognisable people in the state and she’s learning the hard way that life in the spotlight comes at a very heavy price.

Five unlikely teammates thrust together against their will. Can they find a way to make their final year a memorable one or will their differences tear their world apart?

I knew a Melina Marchetta recommendation wouldn’t let me down and a reading binge until 4am proves me right. The Yearbook Committee is a beautiful story that encapsulates how people from different situations can come together (albeit unwilling), and can have their lives changed forever.

The story is told through five character perspectives, across nine months of the school year, and reveals the ups and down of teenage life and the experiences of living in contemporary Australia. The joy of reading Aussie books is recognising the locations and references, and Ayoub captures that Aussie feeling, our language and our culture, making this story feel natural and familiar.

The layout revolves around the monthly yearbook meetings and the school terms, and Ayoub’s creative in getting information without needing it to be told in detail. Using character’s traits and personalities to her advantage, Ayoub provides the ideal amount of information keeping it feeling natural with the story at hand. The focus is centred on the yearbook and character personal lives, and though things are mentioned within this space, Ayoub never makes us feel like we need to see them play out.

Being a book about modern teenagers, there’s naturally a lot of social media to include and Ayoub integrates technology and texting seamlessly and creatively. Each character shift is broken up with a Facebook style post and it sets the tone for not only the coming chapter, but it fits into the overall and arching story. Ayoub also ends each chapter with a hanging question, a moment, or thought that can be profound or concerning. Each character is contemplating or observing and it’s a great tactic; it finalises their chapter and can have such an impact on what has happened or what is going to happen.

There are characters you like immediately and certainly those you don’t like for the entire novel. Then there are the few that grow on you as you read. The more Ayoub reveals about them and the more you get to know them your feelings shift until you grow to respect each one for who they are. Again, not everyone, some of them you want to kick in the face, those feelings don’t change. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and hug these people, even now having finished it I still want to give them all a massive hug. One part that I loved was that so many characters connect with each other and overlap and they don’t always know it. Friends of friends and relatives of others know one another and when you notice you realise how connected everyone is.

Getting to see each committee member’s point of view is a powerful tool. You feel sorry for them all in varying degrees and certainly for various reasons. Their life outside of school is opened up and the different struggles and conflicts they face are laid bare, making you realise everyone has something to hide and problems of their own. The Tolstoy quote Gillian posts is a perfect example: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Each of these characters is unhappy in their own way and sometimes these unhappinesses can break your heart.

Ayoub doesn’t placate you with idealistic and fake endings; she offers you solutions and results, consequences and outcomes. And yet, there is also a delightful ambiguity remaining, taunting you with things left open and unanswered. Nothing that says there will be a happily ever after which is why, in those final emotional chapters when you can’t stand it anymore but have to keep reading, Ayoub delivers a realistic and perfect conclusion, one that suits these characters you’ve grown to love, one that feels real, one that crushes your heart and is feels just right, even when you’re trying not to cry.

My only criticism with this story (a minor personal desire), is that I wish that we could have seen the final yearbook layout. It would have been a bittersweet inclusion and if possible I would happily donate to a fund that gets this put into production. Until such time, I am content with this important, beautiful, and divine story that will open your eyes and move your soul.

You can purchase The Yearbook Committee via the following

Booktopia | Amazon Aust

Book Depository | QBD


Readings | Publisher

A&R Bookworld| Boomerang Books


Book Launch: The Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney

Yesterday I attended the wonderful book launch for Kaz Delaney’s new young adult novel, The Reluctant Jillaroo. Delayed from its release in January the day finally arrived to celebrate this fantastic book at Cardiff Library.

20160305_143559Kaz and her wonderful team and support put on a great event; there were delicious nibblies (an excellent brownie or three) and punch to enjoy, and there were games and prizes to be won as well. With a solid pink and rural theme there were games and fun to be had by all. There was a horseshoe toss, props to dress up in, a lucky door prize up for grabs, even a Guess the Number of Lolly Snakes game.





The Reluctant Jillaroo is a fantastic book (review to come tomorrow) and seeing Kaz celebrate it with so much support was well deserved. Fellow author Susan Whelan launched the book and spoke of Kaz’s great friendship and work ethic, then Kaz spoke about the journey and long road to getting The Reluctant Jillaroo on the shelves. Broken armed but filled with high spirits she spoke about the trials of launching and the joys of celebrating things that are worth celebrating. With two years worth of work behind her, celebrations were most definitely in order. But not, as she said, to celebrate herself for having written the book, instead it was to celebrate having written the book and coming out the other side with her friends and those who helped her.

Kaz told us the origins of The Reluctant Jillaroo, first ideas, drafts, and rewrites. From wild fantasies about Jillaroo and Jackaroo camps to the rule it needed a snake in it. Not to mention the extreme research that went into it and all the skills Kaz had to learn (she is a theoretical master at so many things now). All that worked paid off, in her words she is older, wiser, and more grey under the blonde now but it was a lot of fun to write and I assure you it’s a lot of fun to read as well.



I loved Kaz’s adopted philosophy from an old colleague about celebrating the little things, and while publishing a book is not a little thing, it was a fun afternoon of celebration. I think little things need to be celebrated more often and while the negatives can take up so much of our thoughts, and big things get a lot of accolades; occasionally the little things need a glass of champagne of their own.

20160305_150930Kaz, as always, was such a sweetie, she laughed at the hassles of getting the launch off the ground, the kept going despite breaking her arm literally the day before, and with a smile on her face she made the event as heartfelt and inviting as any of her previous events. I may not have walked away with a lucky door prize, though a few numbers came frustratingly close to my own, I had a ball. I caught up with a bunch of book friends and met new faces, and came away glad I got to share the experience with so many enthusiastic people.


If you would like to learn more about the book or about Kaz check out the links below.


All Your Bits & Pieces Needs


Kaz’s Website

Kaz’s Twitter

Kaz’s Facebook

Aussie Books State by State

With Australia Day behind us and the Aussie Blog Hop over, you may be on the hunt for even more great Aussie reads. Booksellers Angus and Robinson have offered up a selection of books as part of their ‘Australia in Focus’, and provided some great books that are set in Australia’s states and territories. For those looking to read something set in their state, or to read about other states and territories, it’s a great starting place. Angus and Robinson have compiled this selection and it is in no way complete but it’s filled with great Aussie names and titles. They have also compiled a great image that highlights the great Australian classics state by state which you can find here along with a few additional titles or you can click on the image below. And apologies, ACT, you don’t seem to have any, surely not all your books are about politicians…

Oz books









Happy Australia Day!

Australia DayAustralia Day has arrived! The sun is trying to shine, rain has stayed away, and we can all have a day off, eat lamingtons, and celebrate Australia.

After blog-hopping around so many amazing blogs for the Australia Day Giveaway I’ve become inspired about all things Aussie. Today’s post is going to be about things I love about Australia. Not just the Tim Tams or the weather, but the little things like our laid back approach to things, our animals, and even just the fact that we have a language all of our own that is nearly impossible to understand by anyone else. Of course one must realise this isn’t 1970s anymore and while a few things remain, we don’t all walk around sounding like Alf Stewart, Mick Dundee, or say half the things on those ‘Understanding Aussie Slang’ cheat cards. I know this is a slightly unconventional list of favourite Aussie things than just listing things like Tim Tam Slams or Home and Away, but I think it’s nice to remember we are actually more than just the stereotypes we may seem to be, but on the other hand we are also sometimes exactly like that so it’s hard to win!

The first thing is Vegemite. I love vegemite. I know it sounds so stereotypical but I do love it. I once made an awesome vegemite and red wine gravy, it was so delicious. I have also been asked whether I would like some toast with my vegemite because I apparently put too much on. I do draw the line at vegemite chocolate because that’s a big no no.

Another stereotypical answer is the landscape. I love the harbour, I love the outback, but I love the bush more. I love the trees and the different shades of green. It isn’t fluoro green or dark shades of green, it’s like a pale green, bits of brown, bits of yellow. It’s beautiful.

I love that people are scared of our animals despite the fact we haven’t got any bears, lions, tigers, or massive constricting snakes. We have tiny spiders and snakes that stay out of your way 99% of the time unless you are in the middle of nowhere where they all live under the toilet seat.

I love the fact we have an unspoken rule about convincing foreigners to believe things about our country. Not just drop bears (they of course are real and very dangerous), but trying to convince them with a straight face we say certain phrases, or do certain things. Even not just making things up, I love seeing people freak out over actual Aussie animals like the Cassowary or the Numbat. Or see them trying to work out what a servo is, an arvo is, or what a u-ey is and why we’re chucking it. It’s wonderful innocent fun.

I love our summer Christmases, I cannot imagine any other way that sitting in the sun with Christmas music playing (as odd as it is to sing about snow in 35 degree heat). Ham and prawns and pressies, it’s fantastic.

I love our food, and I love that it’s so different than anywhere else. We have lamingtons and fairy bread, Fantails and Ice Vo-vos, Milo and Malteasers. How could we have gone on as a country without having that to spur us on? I also love you can’t talk about most of these things without getting strange looks from other people like you are saying a bunch of gibberish words.

I also love that we have this culture and common understanding practically ingrained in us. We understand when someone says ‘Not happy, Jan’, or ‘Look at moi’. We know the Happy Little Vegemite song practically from birth, as well as the Aeroplane Jelly song and Louie the Fly despite the fact they probably haven’t been on TV in years. We know about the Boxing Day arguments over whether to watch the cricket or the sailing. We can finish the line ‘Have you ever, ever felt like this’, and we had a favourite Play School window. It’s amazing how much shared knowledge and experience we actually have, it’s awesome.

So that’s my list! My strange collections of things I love about being an Aussie and wouldn’t give up for the world. I know everyone has different things they love, are any the same? Totally different? Whatever you love about Australia Day I hope you’re having a fantastic time celebrating wherever you are and however you are choosing to enjoy it. I myself am going to have my second lamington of the day (no doubt not my last) before having a sausage sandwich and supervise the making of ANZAC bikkies. I think that’s as Australian as I will get today luckily.

I hope the sun keeps shining on all your merriments and that in between the barbeque and backyard cricket games you get to read something spectacular, or maybe even pop over to enter a giveaway or two on the blog-hop *wink wink*.

Dark Southern Sun by Shaun J McLaughlin

Published: 1st December 2014Goodreads badge
 Raiders and Rebels Press
Pages: 284
Format: ebook
Genre: Historical Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Dark Southern Sun is a story about love, friendship, and honour in the goldfields of old Australia.

 In this sequel to Counter Currents, Ryan washes up on the southern shore of Australia near death in 1845. Rescued by two Wathaurung native children and nursed to health by their parents, his life and theirs are entwined through good and sorrow for the next ten years. Set against the historical backdrop of Australia’s formative years, Ryan witnesses the displacement of the Aboriginal people, and he faces the chaos of the world’s largest alluvial gold rush and the bloodshed of Australia’s only armed uprising.

Throughout, two very different women—one white, one black—tug at his heart as he struggles from penury to prosperity. As he rises in social esteem as an astute businessman and cunning street fighter, Ryan creates two bitter enemies—one white, one black. In time, they set aside their vast racial and emotional hatreds and combine forces. Can Ryan survive their vicious attempt to destroy him and save the good life he has built?

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review

Across ten years and coinciding with the gold rush, McLaughlin’s story is a beautiful and tragic story about life in Australia and the expansion of one culture and the decline of another. This is not the sole focus of course, at the heart there is a fantastic tale about the power of friendship and the life and successes of a former convict.

While this is a sequel to McLaughlin’s other work Counter Currents, it can also be read as a standalone. Counter Currents tells the story of how Ryan came to be sent to Australia and Van Diemen’s Land but these reasons and his story are adequately covered in this novel to make it understandable.

There are a few varying points of view but Ryan’s is the main viewpoint we are given. Ryan is an admirable character and someone who is proud and honest, and who stands up for what he believes in. His past makes him streetwise and clever but he is also fair and honourable.

It is not just Ryan who is shown to have honourable strengths and weaknesses, each one of McLaughlin’s characters is depicted as their own person; they are complicated, unique, and not just a background figure to Ryan’s life. Having such detailed characters draws you into their lives easily and adds emotion and affection to each of their actions. By staying alongside many of these characters for the ten year period you are able to see them grow and develop, understanding who they are people and what they represent. Such an approach is brilliant on McLaughlin’s part because it makes every event and action that happens hold a lot more meaning and deeper importance than it may not have if the characters were not as understood as much as they are.

The downside of the strong attachments that develop is that you become quite invested in each and every character. With the rejoicing of successes and the mourning of losses there are a lot of unexpected and multiple emotions to experience. Within this story that looks relatively innocent on the surface, lies a deeper and darker one lurking in the background. Given the context and era such a story was expected, but the way McLaughlin uses words and emotions as well as his characters to bring this story to life is marvellous.

One of my favourite discoveries about this story was just how many historical elements had been included and McLaughlin’s attention to detail and creativity for bringing together so many stories, lives, and events is astounding. The Eureka Stockade, Aboriginal culture, and life in 1800s Australia are brought to life, intertwining with Ryan’s story and there are also historical people dotted throughout adding an additional element of reality and history.

With McLaughlin’s writing there is never a moment where he begins to preach or demonise, and yet by capturing the society and conflicts so wonderfully within a brilliant story, it cannot help but highlight the issues of the era. He shows a lot of respect for both cultures and with impressive skill cleverly and effortlessly weaves many aspects of the turmoil of the time into the narrative such as bushrangers, settlement expansion, abuse and cruelty to Aborigines, as well as the legal and social laws of the time.

Knowing this story is based deeply on history and real events it can be quite a depressing and melancholic read. McLaughlin’s story captures beautifully and tragically the takeover of the Aborigine’s land and culture and seeing the opinions expressed by characters towards them is painful. But at the same time it is strangely fascinating and captivating to see it play out before you, knowing this is so close to what happened and how the arrival of white culture eradicated and erased much of the indigenous culture.

McLaughlin is a great storyteller and someone who manages to encapsulate the lives of people in a way that breaks your heart and fills you with admiration, sometimes even at the same time. Dark Southern Sun brings a moment of Australia’s past to life in its glory and its failings and offers up a stunning tale filled with strong friendships and unbreakable bonds making it a story that will stay with you for a long time.


You can purchase Dark Southern Sun via the following


Amazon          Amazon AU

Amazon CA          Amazon UK



Amazon         Createspace

Amazon CA          Amazon UK


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