AWW 2019 Update: Jan-Mar

March has ended which marks the first quarter of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. As I mentioned in my starting post I am aiming for 30 this year and I am going really well looking at the numbers but also feel like I could be doing better since so many of these books are picture books. I am not deterred, however, I will use this pit stop as a boost and it gives me a goal to strive for in the next quarter. It’s not only picture books though, I have read a range of books by a variety of women so far with non fiction and fiction thrown into the mix.

My reviews are fairing a lot better, a lot of these books have reviews scheduled to post in the coming weeks so I will update their links on the next update. For now though, it’s a start and definitely a motivator for a better number next quarter. I can already see my goal being raised so that’s a nice bonus.

AWW19 BOOKS Jan-Mar

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – Review

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – Review

The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer – Review

It’s Not Scribble to Me by Kate Ritchie

December’s Wish by Karly Lane – Review

The Greatest Gift by Rachel Johns – Review

Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina

It’s A Long Way to the Shop by Heidi McKinnon

Did You Take the B from my _ook? by Beck and Matt Stanton

Millie Loves Ants by Jackie French

Sorry Day by Coral Vass

An Aussie Year by Tania McCartney

The Easter Bunny’s Helpers by Ann Mangan

We Love School by Lucie Billingsley

Amazing Babes by Eliza Sarlos

Beginnings: An Australian Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Austin Sheehan

 

AWW19 TOTAL

Read: 19/30

Reviewed: 5/20

 

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Published: 23rd October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Macmillan Australia
Pages: 362
Format: Paperback
Genre: Crime
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

This is definitely my new favourite Jane Harper book. From the start I was immediately pulled in, the voice and tone drew me in and I wanted to stay in this story and keep reading.

Nathan doesn’t set out the solve the mystery of his brother’s death, but a few things don’t sit right with him and little by little he tries to fill in the gaps. This is not a police procedural story however, the focus is on trying to come to terms with his brother’s death and while the family wonder about what happened to him, it is also about getting through the grief together.

Harper hints at secrets and events, baits us into keep reading and honestly it works. Not quite so much to get answers, the anomalies are not followed up like a detective would, but the tone feels so comfortable that you want to keep following this narrative. She lays down clues and hints that you don’t even realise long before but at the same time once she has planted a seed the tone shifts and a whole other component is explored. It never felt out of place, or unconnected, and I couldn’t help but marvel at how she mixed everything together so seamlessly, never breaking from the flow of the story. She doesn’t focus constantly on speaking in riddles, she gets on with the story while making well placed and relevant hints about characters throughout which could easily mean nothing as they could everything.

Harper captures the outback environment brilliantly without resorting to long details and descriptions. She uses the characters and the story itself to reflect the harshness of the land and the dangers it holds. One great surprise was the blink and you miss it reference to some familiar faces from Harper’s debut novel, The Dry. I enjoyed the connection to the two stories but Harper also uses it to add an entire new layer to the characters as well.

I loved being in this story and I loved everything about this story. I loved these characters and their honesty and their secrets. I loved Nathan and his fractured, broken self but still with a strong family commitment buried deep inside. His character is one of honesty but also one of damaged resilience. Harper could have gone so many different ways with his personality but she dances on the edge of the line skilfully instead of making him cross it which I adored.

People are right when they say this is Harper’s best book to date because there is a comfortableness about this book, but it is one that still contains mystery and heartache, and complications that don’t overwhelm one another but coexist side by side remarkably, balanced back and forth as the story progresses.

You can purchase The Lost Man via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Long Lost Review: Breath by Tim Winton

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 27th May 2008Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Australia
Pages: 265
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★ – 2 Stars

On the wild, lonely coast of Western Australia, two thrillseeking and barely adolescent boys fall into the enigmatic thrall of veteran big-wave surfer Sando. Together they form an odd but elite trio. The grown man initiates the boys into a kind of Spartan ethos, a regimen of risk and challenge, where they test themselves in storm swells on remote and shark-infested reefs, pushing each other to the edges of endurance, courage, and sanity. But where is all this heading? Why is their mentor’s past such forbidden territory? And what can explain his American wife’s peculiar behavior? Venturing beyond all limits—in relationships, in physical challenge, and in sexual behavior—there is a point where oblivion is the only outcome.

I was discussing this book yesterday so I decided to make this my Long Lost Review this month. I read this in 2008 for uni and it wasn’t that great; the only things I remember was that it was about surfing and it was not that interesting. I guess I can add forgettable as well. The thing with Tim Winton is if people don’t tell you they like to read Tim Winton it’s hard to recommend him. He has such a style of his own, and he’s so very much obsessed with writing about WA and in such lyrical metaphorical words that it’s not always to everyone’s taste. Though, to his credit, he can write a “literary” style book with a restraint so many others lack. You don’t quite feel like clawing your eyes out but you get bogged down in his detailed description of the dirt and the landscape and his Big Ideas.

But back to the actual book. I remember it having surfing and…that’s it. Even reading the blurb has not sparked any recognition about what this is about. Again though, if you like the lyrical language and the literary tone of Winton then go for it because this has a lot of that in there. Cloudstreet was great so I am not anti any Winton, but so often most of his books are forgettable to me so it makes it a hard sell. But, the people do love him so who am I to judge?

Novascapes: A Speculative Fiction Anthology compiled by C. E. Page

Published: 30th September 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Invisible Elephant Press
Pages: 228
Format: ebook
Genre: Speculative Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Each story in this collection is a brief glimpse into a world both like and unlike anything we could ever imagine. The light and dark aspects of human nature are played out on the canvases of these worlds, though the players are not always human. Minotaurs, mermaids, vampires and dinosaurs compete for space alongside devils, angels, aliens and completely indescribable entities. Novascapes transports you from one side of the multi-verse to the other and leaves you breathless and wide eyed at the possibilities of simple existence.

Novascapes is a collection of short speculative fiction stories by authors either from or originally born (or connected in some major way) to the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast regions of NSW, Australia. The stories are as varied and wonderful as the authors who penned them.

There’s nothing quite as good as a great collection of short stories to give you little mini adventures and insights into strange and mystical worlds. What makes these short stories wonderful are the speculative nature and the fact that each of these authors have created stories that covers so many different narratives no two are alike.

The stories vary in length and there is a mixture of light hearted and darker stories. The speculative fiction aspect makes them wild and fanciful but not too outrageous or unbelievable. There is suspense, magic, and adventure and the range of different characters means you aren’t always reading about humans, even if it speculative humans.

There are dark tales about dark creatures and humorous exhilarating tales about magic and creatures from other world. Each author tells an intriguing story and the collection offers an array of different approaches to the speculative genre. If you are interested in short stories this is a wonderful collection, and a great chance to read some stories of authors that you may have never read before.

You can purchase Novascapes via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon

Does my Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Published: 1st August 2005Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Pan Australia
Pages: 293
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

The slide opened and I heard a gentle, kind voice: What is your confession, my child? 
I was stuffed. The Priest would declare me a heretic; my parents would call me a traitor… 
The Priest asked me again: What is your confession, my child? 
I’m Muslim. I whispered.

Welcome to my world. I’m Amal Abdel-Hakim, a seventeen year-old Australian-Palestinian-Muslim still trying to come to grips with my various identity hyphens.

It’s hard enough being cool as a teenager when being one issue behind the latest Cosmo is enough to disqualify you from the in-group. Try wearing a veil on your head and practicing the bum’s up position at lunchtime and you know you’re in for a tough time at school.

Luckily my friends support me, although they’ve got a few troubles of their own. Simone, blonde, gorgeous and overweight – she’s got serious image issues, and Leila’s really intelligent but her parents are more interested in her getting a marriage certificate than her high school certificate!

I thought I would like this more. I didn’t dislike it, but it wasn’t the amazing book people made it out to be. It felt clunky and uneventful, and while there are great moments that shine through, the moments that falter stand out more.

The dialogue was…awkward. Conversations didn’t feel natural and Abdel-Fattah uses a lot of them to explain everyone’s back stories or Amal to educate the character (or us) about various topics and situations. They never seem to talk about anything else. The language was stilted and while what they are saying is valid and important, it doesn’t sit comfortably in the story. I don’t mind being told these things, but I think a more seamless inclusion was needed. This includes the excessive amount of metaphors and examples used, I understood that Amal wearing the veil sparked a need to educate the people around her but I felt overloaded with them.

I enjoyed the parts where Amal talks about why she wants to wear the veil and why it is important to her. I loved that I got to dislike the principal because of her own opinions and prejudices, no matter how subtle they were. And I liked Amal not putting up with anyone’s ignorance or preconception; her confusion, real or mocking, over why there is a problem at all is wonderful.

What was weird was being late reading this, it feels so old but it wasn’t at the time of course. I did not realise this was published in 2005, I thought it was the early twenty tweens, not the mid-2000s. The benefit of this however was I did enjoy reliving 2002 when Big Brother and Craig David were hot topics of discussion, I even think a bum bag reference was made which was fun.

It wasn’t all bad. There are some good moments like Amal’s frustration of being the token Muslim and I enjoyed getting to read about Muslim practice and faith. But it remained an average book, one I couldn’t connect with and whose clunky writing never let me fall into the story completely.

You can purchase Does My Head Look Big in This via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

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