The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Published: 1 September 2014 (print)/ 9 May 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hardie Grant Egmont /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 295/7 hrs and 55 mins
Narrator: Roshelle Fong
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

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 proving to be 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. 

I loved this book so much and yet writing this review has been so hard because I never feel like I am doing my complete love and adoration of this story the justice it deserves.

The story takes place during that timeless period over Christmas and New Year where you don’t know what day it is and there’s a strangeness in the air. Alba and all the characters are wonderful and I love how Keil has developed them and expressed them on the page. They felt so real, so alive, and the complexity of their emotions and their lives comes through even with the smallest of interactions.

There are so many little things I adored about this book: the atmosphere of the small town and the impending Doomsday, the exploration of friendships and growing up and making choices. There is no love triangle which was fantastic and there is a wonderful exploration about friendships and how old friends as kids don’t always mean friendships as adults. Keil demonstrates that sometimes these relationships can end up better, but at the same time you can also outgrow one another.

Alba not wanting to leave her small town is a nice change from the desperate need characters have to get out of their small town and never return. The sense of belonging and the attachment she has to her town is sweet and I loved that she enjoyed her home and the people in it. She doesn’t have a hatred towards it, but the understanding that you can’t really have the life you want staying where you are is a profound theme to explore.

As a character Alba is so wonderful. Her love of baking and being an artist was so wholesome and seeing her express herself through both her passions was refreshing and comforting. She is comfortable in herself and her bubbly and chatting nature was never a bad thing. She had such a depth to her personality it was amazing to see it revealed.

While there is a plotline of Doomsday and the end of the world on New Years Eve, the weirdness takes a backseat. There is a focus instead on Alba, Sarah and her friends, their journeys and their friendships take centre stage and I loved that their connections was what the story was about, the other stuff is all secondary.

Through the whole thing I felt so content. Reading it was such an enjoyable experience and it was so great to read an Australia YA that felt Australian without having reference after reference thrown in your face to really remind you it was set in Australia.

I could listen to this book over and over. There was such a loveliness to it but also so many details to get wonderfully lost in and with a slow but never stale plot I relished this journey with all these beautiful characters.

You can purchase The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Theodore the Unsure by Pip Smith

Published: 1st August 2019 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Scholastic Press
Illustrator: Beau Wylie
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

King Theodore is the Ruler of the Whole Animal Kingdom.

When his mane keeps growing and growing and growing, he must decide whether to cut it or keep it.

But Theodore is always so unsure! What will he do?

This is a very cute story. Poor Theodore has been crowned ruler of the animal kingdom but he dislikes making decisions. When the summer heat gets too hot for his growing mane, he can’t decide whether to cut it off or not. Enter the vote!

I liked the humour about Theodore’s reign and how he rules the animal kingdom when he’s never left the savannah. Travelling to the different habitats also showed off the differences in all the animals and their experiences. It was clever how Smith shows the misunderstanding between habitats for while Theodore is too hot with his mane, the polar bears for example worry if he cuts it off he will freeze. The in-jokes about the voting systems were divine, and I loved the comments of the animals because they were clever and had jokes that made adults laugh if they understood the references.

I’m not sure whether Smith or Wylie made the comments for the animals in the pictures but they were the best. I absolutely loved all the illustrations in this book, Wylie’s pictures of the different animals were brilliant; snakes in hats and cockatoos with fancy dos were only some of the joys I experienced reading this. I also loved how the uncontrollable mane started to take over the literal page while Theodore remained undecided.

There is a fun solution to Theodore’s problem and once again it shines through with Wylie’s illustrations. The story itself is very cute, but getting to read it while also seeing the fun, clever and adorable illustrations was a much better bonus.

You can purchase Theodore the Unsure via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

 

Long Lost Review: Darkest Place by Jaye Ford

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: 1st February 2016
Publisher:
Random House Australia
Pages: 390
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

Carly Townsend is starting over after a decade of tragedy and pain. In a new town and a new apartment she’s determined to leave the memories and failures of her past behind. However that dream is shattered in the dead of night when she is woken by the shadow of a man next to her bed, silently watching her. And it happens week after week.Yet there is no way an intruder could have entered the apartment. It’s on the fourth floor, the doors are locked and there is no evidence that anyone has been inside. With the police doubting her story, and her psychologist suggesting it’s all just a dream, Carly is on her own. And being alone isn’t so appealing when you’re scared to go to sleep.

This is a perfectly suited Long Lost Review because I remember bits and pieces of this book but not enough to write a proper review about it.

Looking at the literal one sentence note I wrote about it when I read it in 2016 I determined it was clever and “You understand Carly’s reasoning for what she does, and even at the end, she leaves you wondering about her and what her future holds.” All very important pieces of information.

I remember feeling unsettled as I read, the nature of the story and how Ford plays with your mind that you get caught up in Carly’s own paranoia. As she suspects the people around her so do you and the unknown is a very good fear factor. The simplicity of this thriller is what makes it works. It isn’t anything over the top, it relies on playing with the human experience, the unsettling nature of the unexplainable and our own fears and using that against us. The everyday nature of the narrative is what connects you, the fact this could happen to anyone is where it becomes most unnerving.

I would be interested in a revisit to this story because I think I remember how this ends but getting caught up in Ford’s gripping, dark and twisted story again could be worth it.

You can purchase Darkest Place via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

  Amazon Aust

Book Launch: Crackenback by Lee Christine

My last in-person book event was March 2020 so it was curious that my next in-person one was March 2021 almost to the exact day. Also wonderfully coincidental, both of those events were to celebrate the release of a new book by Aussie author Lee Christine. I didn’t get to do a write up of the first event because the world broke soon after and my attention was diverted elsewhere, but this time I am excited to share my adventures (I may still write up the other launch, we’ll see what happens).

The book launch was held at Belmont Library in Lake Macquarie and we were told by wonderful host Julie that it was also their first event since COVID put a stop to in-person events. Lee was in conversation with Jamie Lewis about her new book Crackenback, set among the Snowy Mountains and it was a delightful couple of hours to learn about how it came about.

Jamie Lewis in conversation with Lee Christine at Belmont Library

Crackenback isn’t a sequel to Lee’s previous book Charlotte Pass it is a standalone novel, however a few of the characters might be familiar. Lee told us she tried to not put too many references to Charlotte Pass in there, but there are a few vague mentions given the same detective is involved; as Jamie put it, it’s a separate story but part of the same world Lee has created.

Jamie spoke with Lee about given Australians love the outdoors so much, it’s only fair our serial killers would too and Lee told us how real life killer Malcom Naden was the main focus of her research. The way he lived for so long on the run, how he was resourceful, hardened, and knew how to live off the land was the information she needed for the story. She also spoke about how our National Parks are so vast and so intimidating themselves that they are often the perfect place to hide out and become victim to.

Lee spoke about the characters in Crackenback and how small actions give us insight into who they are, and how sometimes even the slightest thing can change a reader’s view of a character. This is why she was so careful in how her villain was portrayed and how the other characters behave too. They are all counterpoints to one another, reminding readers of the stakes and relieving some tension for the reader.

Jamie brought us back to the landscape and how it is a point of tension itself within the book, and how it and the weather is like another menacing character to contend with. Lee described the area around the Snowy Mountains as being dotted with huge granite boulders and snow and wind, ice, mist and fog all adding to the perilousness of the place. It also heightens the sense of claustrophobia of being trapped in the lodge with no way out without succumbing to the elements.

Lee’s book with our complimentary merch.

When the issue of setting a novel in 2020 came up Lee told us her worries about whether to mention the COVID issue. Luck was on her side because there was still a snow season and the police kept working so her story was realistic, but there was also a worry that including a mention of the pandemic would not only date the book, but be a turn off for those who had lived through it and didn’t want to then read about it. With Lee’s books used as an entertaining escape, people wouldn’t want to read about their daily lives and in the end there is only a brief and vague mention as recognition.

Jame mentioned that there is a lot playing with reader’s minds in the book. The aim of writing, Lee said, is wanting the readers to be emotionally invested in her characters. She needs readers to worry so much they will wonder how the characters will get out of the situations she puts them in. With crime stories we know there are goodies and baddies, ultimately knowing how it will go, but it’s the how in between – as Jamie said it’s the playing with reader emotions. Jamie also mentioned there are strong themes of revenge and second chances, Lee agreed and said with second chances there’s always a chance of hope which is important. There are also themes of fate and the intrusion of the past which make this a beautifully complicated sounding story.

The conversation carried on to cover how characters are named and the importance and fun that can be had with secondary characters before Lee and Jamie discussed how tough it was writing parallel story lines. Exposing readers to what was happening at the lodge while also what is happening with the police meant there was a need to keep readers informed but the police one step behind. This, Lee said, was another chance to worry the reader if the two would ever converge or if it would be too late.

As the afternoon drew to a close Lee teased us with information about the third book, set in the same region and another crime to solve. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’ll be attending the book launch for that book as well!

Crackenback is now available for purchase, as is Lee’s previous book Charlotte Pass. If you love books filled with intrigue, mystery, a touch of danger on all sides as well as a plot that keeps you guessing that Charlotte Pass is for you. I have yet to read Crackenback but based on what I heard this weekend and what I have heard from others it’s a thriller that sounds just as compelling.

You can purchase Crackenback via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Author Info

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Meet Me at the Intersection ed. Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina

Published: 3rd September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Fremantle Press
Pages: 296
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Meet Me at the Intersection is an anthology of short fiction, memoir and poetry by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ or living with disability. The focus of the anthology is on Australian life as seen through each author’s unique, and seldom heard, perspective.

With works by Ellen van Neerven, Graham Akhurst, Kyle Lynch, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, Olivia Muscat, Mimi Lee, Jessica Walton, Kelly Gardiner, Rafeif Ismail, Yvette Walker, Amra Pajalic, Melanie Rodriga, Omar Sakr, Wendy Chen, Jordi Kerr, Rebecca Lim, Michelle Aung Thin and Alice Pung, this anthology is designed to challenge the dominant, homogenous story of privilege and power that rarely admits ‘outsider’ voices. 

Meet Me at the Intersection is filled with some brilliant stories and pieces of work by authors who are showing that those marginalised and seldom heard voices can be just as powerful and have just as important stories to tell. It is filled with the voices of Young Adult authors and stories but is an anthology that can and should be read by everyone.

The collection is filled with a range of forms and styles from poetry, memoirs and short stories. Each author brings their own style of writing and it was a nice to see so many different voices through the book. There are little explanations of each author and their background before each piece and it is clear there is diversity across all kinds.

In terms of content, each piece takes place in a different time period and it was refreshing to see not every story was contemporary; and while this makes sense for memoir, some of the other stories were from other time periods as well. I also loved the way these stories have been ordered in the collection. In the introduction it mentions that the oldest culture of storytellers deserves to go first and I loved that that was acknowledged.

What made this anthology stand out to me was it never felt like there was a single message being highlighted, instead it was about representation. The blurb mentions that the focus of the work is to represent the everyday lives of Australians and it has succeeded brilliantly. In doing so you gain an understanding by reading about these fictional, semi fictional, and real lives about the ordinariness and extraordinariness of a diverse group of writers. it is wonderfully eye opening and showcases that these lesser heard and unique voices have some amazing stories to tell. It is an anthology filled with own voices and is beautifully, distinctly Australian. What more could you ask for?

You can purchase Meet Me at the Intersection via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

DymocksAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

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