Waiting on Wednesday: The Divers' Game

Wednesday, 7 August 2019


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly prompt hosted by Breaking the Spine where the participants tell their readers about an upcoming release they are looking forward to. This week I've picked The Divers' Game by Jesse Ball.


From the inimitable mind of award-winning author Jesse Ball, a novel about an unsettlingly familiar society that has renounced the concept of equality—and the devastating consequences of unmitigated power. The old-fashioned struggle for fairness has finally been abandoned. It was a misguided endeavour.

The world is divided into two groups, pats and quads. The pats may kill the quads as they like, and do. The quads have no recourse but to continue with their lives. The Divers’ Gameis a thinly veiled description of our society, an extreme case that demonstrates a truth: we must change or our world will collapse. What is the effect of constant fear on a life, or on a culture?

Brilliantly constructed and achingly tender, The Divers’ Game shatters the notion of common decency as the binding agent between individuals, forcing us to consider whether compassion is intrinsic to the human experience.

With his signature empathy and ingenuity, Jesse Ball’s latest work solidifies his reputation as one of contemporary fiction’s most mesmerising talents.

I've always enjoyed short stories, novels, and even TV dramas that are just that little bit off-kilter, and make you think. I'm looking forward to seeing if this latest novel from Jesse Ball can achieve that!

Releasing 1st October 2019 from Text Publishing

Author Interview: Beau & Bett by Kathryn Berla

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Beau & Bett by Kathryn Berla
Released: 25th June 2019
Published by: Amberjack Publishing
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling
Source: Publisher
Pages: 256
After Beau LeFrancois's mother wrecks Bett Diaz’s luxury SUV, his family faces an impossibly large bill—with no car insurance to help pay it.

To pay off the debt, Beau spends his weekends working at the Diaz Ranch. Beau’s prepared to work, but he’s definitely not prepared for the infamous temper of Bett Diaz, also known as "The Beast" at school. As Beau learns the secrets behind Bett’s tough exterior, he finds himself falling for her . . . until he catches Bett in a lie.

A contemporary twist on a classic fairy tale, Beau and Bett is a timely story of family, friendship, and the power of speaking out and standing up for yourself.
Author Interview with Kathryn Berla

When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author and publish a novel?

I began seriously writing about seven years ago. It started first with a blog which was more just a series of essays that only my friends and family read. After a while, I decided to try my hand at writing a full-length novel. But ever since I was a young girl, I enjoyed expressing myself through the written word.

What makes Beau and Bett unique compared to other re-tellings of Beauty and the Beast?

I think what makes Beau & Bett unique is that it’s a contemporary story with no attempt to infuse it with fantasy or magic in any way. Also, I was influenced more by versions of the original French fairy tale and the amazing 1946 Jean Cocteau film than the Disney version. Because it’s a dark story with dark themes, I wanted to explore those themes and add a counterbalance to the belief some have that the original intent of this fairy tale was to get young girls comfortable with the idea of an arranged marriage. Last but not least, I think the gender reversal separates Beau & Bett from other retellings.

When you're not writing, what are some recent reads you'd recommend lately?

I just checked my Goodreads account and the last five books I’ve given 5 stars to in the past 4 to 5 months are: DISAPEARING EARTH; I’LL GET THERE. IT BETTER BE WORTH THE TRIP (the 5 stars had something to do with its historical significance); THERE YOU ARE (I read this on NetGalley because it’s not out until October; DAISY JONES AND THE SIX (for its pure entertainment value—listened as an audiobook and it made my daily walks go by so much more quickly); and THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (pure genius).

Without giving too much away, is there a favourite moment or quote from the book you'd like to share?

I don’t know if it’s a favourite but I’m fond of it because of my bittersweet feelings about autumn in California:


“In California where I live, sometimes the hottest days are the ones right before the weather turns cold—Indian summer, they call it, although I’m not sure why. This was one of those days: a heat so ferocious you knew it would expend itself by night, giving way to a shiver-inducing darkness; the air so still, it could annihilate any breeze dumb enough to take it on; and the quiet . . . that’s what always got to me, the quiet that made you feel sad for something you were about to lose. That’s the kind of day it was, and it hung heavy like the wet shirt I’d had on when I climbed out of the pool.” 

If there's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring authors out there, what would it be?

Since I consider myself first and foremost a reader and second a writer, my advice would be to read as much as you can and never stop. It’s the best school in the world for an aspiring author, in my opinion. Better than an MFA. And it goes without saying, aim high in your reading choices.

Audiobook Review: Beautiful by Juliet Marillier

Monday, 29 July 2019

Beautiful by Juliet Marillier
Released: 2019
Published by: Audible
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Length: 7h 18mins
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Find it on Audible 
With the Nordic fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon as her inspiration, Juliet Marillier weaves a magical story of a young princess' search for her true self.

Hulde is a queen's daughter and lives in a palace. But her life is lonely. Growing up atop the glass mountain, she knows only her violent and autocratic mother and a household of terrified servants. Then a white bear named Rune comes to visit, and Hulde learns what kindness is. But the queen has a plan for Hulde. When she turns 16, she will wed the most beautiful man in all the world. Hulde has never met her intended husband, and her mother refuses to explain the arrangement.

Hulde becomes desperate to find out more, and seeks the help of a magic mirror. Perhaps someone is coming to her rescue. On her wedding day, Hulde's existence is turned upside down. For the first time she leaves the glass mountain behind, setting out to be as brave as the heroines in her beloved storybook. The journey will test Hulde to the limit. Can she overcome her fears and take control of her own life?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

I'm so glad to have finally ventured into audiobooks, and Beautiful has been a wonderful place to start. This three-part novel is inspired by a Norwegian fairytale, and takes a new turn to become about the unassuming princess who would one day reach out of the confines of her mother's rule and become a Queen of her own.

A fantasy novella such as this was rich in detail and narrated beautifully, which made it easy to listen to. The three sections were each distinct and represented different aspects of Hulde's character development, which was explored in detail throughout. While I did miss the feeling of being able to quickly flip back a page if I feel I missed an important detail, the vivid descriptions of the landscape and adventures which the protagonist encounters on her journey did make this something relaxing to listen to. There is something at once comforting and classic about a novel which has been spun from the strands of a fairytale, and Marillier has injected this story with just the right sense of magic to keep you wanting more as the tale progresses.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Beautiful was my first experience listening to an audiobook, and has definitely made me want to read more from Juliet Marillier!

Review: Greek to Me by Mary Norris - a joyful exploration of Greek language and culture

Friday, 26 July 2019

Greek to Me by Mary Norris
Released: 2nd April 2019
Published by: Text Publishing
Genre: Travel memoir
Source: Publisher
Pages: 240
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Comma Queen returns with a buoyant book about language, love, and the wine-dark sea.

In her New York Times bestseller Between You & Me, Mary Norris delighted readers with her irreverent tales of pencils and punctuation in The New Yorker’s celebrated copy department. In Greek to Me, she delivers another wise and funny paean to the art of self-expression, this time filtered through her greatest passion: all things Greek. Greek to Me is a charming account of Norris’s lifelong love affair with words and her solo adventures in the land of olive trees and ouzo.

Along the way, Norris explains how the alphabet originated in Greece, makes the case for Athena as a feminist icon, goes searching for the fabled Baths of Aphrodite, and reveals the surprising ways Greek helped form English. Filled with Norris’s memorable encounters with Greek words, Greek gods, Greek wine—and more than a few Greek men—Greek to Me is the Comma Queen’s fresh take on Greece and the exotic yet strangely familiar language that so deeply influences our own.
Thank you to Text Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

The study of any language - Greek, Latin, Hebrew, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Taino - opens the mind, gives you a window onto another culture, and reminds you that there is a larger world out there and different ways of saying things, hearing things, seeing things. It always distresses me to hear someone say, "I'm no good at foreign languages", or demand "English for me, dear." In learning a foreign language, you have to humble yourself, admit your ignorance, be willing to look stupid. We learn a language by making mistakes. 

For those of us who aren't basking in the Mediterranean glow, out there sailing across the glittering Aegean or taking the short trip across to Cyprus - reading Greek to Me definitely comes close to transporting you there. A passion for language, history and the desire to travel to places which form part of my own heritage are what drew me to this book, and Mary Norris wrote in a way which makes this memoir an absolute joy to read!

That all this speculation on shades of gray and blue and green and yellow and silver, with qualities as various as the moods of the sky and the sea, springs from a single ancient compound adjective, γλαυκῶπις, describing a goddess who has our welfare at heart, seems to me proof of the vitality of words, their adaptability and strength and resilience. Good words never die. They keep on growing. 

As a copy editor for the New Yorker, Mary Norris certainly knows her way around words - and it shows. But far from being a lengthy, convoluted treatise on all-things-Greek, her personal anecdotes from her experiences learning both the modern and ancient versions of the language and travelling to its shores are thoroughly entertaining. It did help that I have some grasp of Greek already and was able to recognise some of the words she mentions throughout, but even readers without any previous exposure will pick things up quickly. Something funny which I know has confused a few non-Greek speakers I've come across is how the words for 'yes' (Ναί) and 'no' (όχι) sound the opposite to what you think they'd be in most of Europe, and English too. There are also many connections to be found between Greek and English, such as the Greek word for newspapers (Εφημερίδες) being related to the English "ephemera": things that last but a day.

One night I dreamed that I was handling shards, pieces of ancient poetry with writing on them. The dream came back to me as I passed a church on the way to rehearsal, and I realized that ancient Greek is like the Bible (from Βίβλος): records of the past that preserve the things that humans most need to know.

There is a mini history, mythological, geography or cultural lesson to be found on every line, which both enchant and inspire. From glimpses into The Odyssey and Iliad to describing the effortless beauty of Cyprus, this book offers a brief but holistic view into the rich ties between time and place which have made me even more keen to visit. I also have a few more books added to my list thanks to her recommendations of Lawrence Durrell's Corfu Trilogy and a biography on Patrick Lee Fermor who played a significant role behind the lines in the Cretan resistance during the Second World War.

I knew a lot of Greek, but I wouldn't say I spoke modern Greek or call myself a classicist, either. I was more in love with the language than it was with me. My mind was like a riverbed and had silted up: it had its own archaeological strata from which an occasional find emerged. I had not mastered the language, ancient or modern, but I got glimpses of its genius, its patterns the way it husbanded the alphabet, stretching those twenty-four letters to record everything one could ever want to say. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

Greek to Me is both educational and entertaining, a book which highlights the joys of solo travel and fully immersing yourself into a place saturated with beauty and a vibrant culture. It's given me the opportunity to reflect on my own heritage and learn more about the places my ancestors originate from, where I hope to go on my own Mediterranean journey one day.

My Bookish Top 20 Releasing in 2019 (July - December)

Sunday, 21 July 2019



So far this year has been a great one for discovering some new poetry, non-fiction, and memorable novels by Australian debut authors. I'm still working on getting through the books listed in my first release countdown covering January-June, but there's no denying that 2019 still has a whole heap more promising reads in store! Read on for some of my top picks...

July


I'm always up for a mind-bending short story collection, and Episodes by Christopher Priest looks to deliver exactly that. A Constant Hum is also a collection of stories, focusing on the aftermath of bushfires and those affected. Other fiction highlights I want to try include YA contemporary The Astrid Notes, and Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth which has been re-released as a movie tie-in. See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill has been described by Helen Garner as "A shattering book: clear-headed and meticulous, driving always at the truth" - and with an endorsement like that you can't miss it. The biggest surprise here though is seeing that John Marsden (author of the YA dystopian 'Tomorrow' series) is coming out with a non-fiction release - The Art of Growing Up which goes over his experiences and advice on writing, education and how we can find happiness in today's world.


August


Books-about-books are always something I'll put to the top of the list, so Storytime by Jane Sullivan definitely caught my eye. For fans of suspense, JP Delaney brought out quite the impressive and twisted thriller with The Girl Before, and The Perfect Wife promises even more surprises.

September


Malcolm Gladwell has already established himself as a prolific writer with many works on how to achieve personal and career-driven success such as Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. I'm definitely keen on reading more about sociology, and Talking to Strangers has a really interesting premise which asks questions like "How do we make sense of the unfamiliar? Why are we so bad at judging someone, reading a face, or detecting a lie? Why do we so often fail to 'get' other people?" I've loved all of Alain de Botton's books I've read so far, so it's definitely time to start tucking in to the 'School of Life' series, with this one on An Emotional Education. Not to be out-done by these non-fiction heavyweights, Margaret Atwood is finally coming out with a sequel to The Handmaids Tale - and after a successful run so far with the TV adaptation, here's hoping that The Testaments lives up to the hype! Historical fiction is also a favourite genre of mine, and The Dutch House by Ann Patchett has already received some glowing praise. 

October


I remember doing a big essay on the French Revolution back in high school which I really enjoyed researching, so a novel like Ribbons of Scarlet which covers that period of time is intriguing (plus it took six authors to write!). Leigh Bardugo is known for her YA fantasy, but this time she's geared her writing for an adult audience with Ninth House. Jojo Moyes writes books that sure do know how to tug at the heartstrings, and The Giver of Stars could be her best yet.

November


Speaking of historical fiction, here's two more...Delayed Rays of a Star is a fictional account of three prominent female figures in the lead-up to WWII - Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl. What I can already tell may be the title that has the biggest impact for me this year will be the ninth and final book in the Matilda Saga by Jackie French, Clancy of the Overflow. It's sad to see my favourite series come to a close, and is certainly the end of an era! 

December


Sara Shepard gained popularity when 'Pretty Little Liars' was brought to the small screen, but she's been writing plenty since then and is set to turn heads with another YA mystery called Reputation. Young women taking their own spin on 'polite society' in the Victorian era has potential to make for a quick-witted plot in Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen. Finally, Colleen Hoover hasn't quite been able to impress me just yet with something I loved as much as her 'Slammed' series, but Regretting You might be able to change things up - we'll see!

Over to you - what books are you most looking forward to in 2019?