Waiting on Wednesday: Welcome back to the world of 'The Diviners'

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where the participants tell their readers about an upcoming release they are waiting to read. This week I've picked Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray.

The Diviners are back and facing ghosts in this thrilling and eerie third instalment in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, set against the backdrop of 1920s New York City and the mysterious mental hospital on Ward Island.

1920s New York. Lights are bright. Jazz is king. Parties are wild. And the dead are coming. After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that nearly claimed two of their own, the Diviners are set to face off against an all-new terror. Out on desolate Ward's Island, far from the city's bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten - ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession pushing New York City to the edge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister forces invading the asylum - a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. Now, as explosive secrets from the past come to light and malevolent forces gather from every corner, love and loyalties will be tested, and the Diviners will find themselves in a deadly battle for the very soul of the nation.

Heart-pounding action and terrifying moments will leave you breathless in this third book in the Diviners quartet by #1 New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

First off, can we just admire that cover for a second? I was hooked from the very beginning of this series with The Diviners, and Lair of Dreams was definitely a sequel to impress. 1920s New York was never so dazzling...and dangerous.

Releasing 1st October 2017 from Allen and Unwin

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring TBR

Tuesday, 19 September 2017



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish. This week it's all about spring reads, and I'm showcasing my top picks for the season.


1. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth


I have absolutely loved Kate Forsyth's other historical novels Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl and The Beast's Garden so the bar is definitely set high for this one. I know she always puts so much research into her work so I'll be looking to see how she incorporates fact into fiction.

2. Like Life by Lorrie Moore


I just reviewed Lorrie Moore's first collection of short stories Self-Help, and can't believe I haven't come across her work before. If that was anything to go by, this is going to be another satirical and darkly funny read. 

3. Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend


The hype and early reviews for this one has left it showered in praise, so I'm eager to see the enchanting world come to life on the page. 

4. The True Colour of Forever by Carrie Firestone


The sound of this book with a focus on kindness is really sweet - the perfect YA contemporary read for spring.

5. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson


After reading Formaldehyde earlier in the year, I'm curious to see what weird and wonderful plot devices Jane Rawson has put into action here. 

6. Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser


The world-building and pirates in this one have me curious, and if the story lives up to the glowing reviews I won't be disappointed.

7. No Way! Okay, Fine. by Brodie Lancaster


This memoir about pop-culture and feminism might be just the thing I need to be get back into non-fiction.

8. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon


With Voyager hitting the screens, it's high time I finally got to reading Drums of Autumn! Starting this may be an undertaking (it's another one over 1000 pages), but every time I start a book in this series the length seems irrelevant because they're so engaging.

9. Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray


FINALLY the third book in The Diviners series! The 1920s with a paranormal twist and gripping mysteries have kept me hooked on these novels - I can't wait to see what's next in store for the characters.

10. No Filter by Orlagh Collins


You can't go past a lighthearted YA romance to read on a sunny afternoon, and this looks like something which would work nicely.

What books are you looking forward to reading this Spring/Fall?

Review: Self-Help by Lorrie Moore - A whip-smart collection on how (not) to solve life's problems

Monday, 18 September 2017

Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
Released: 1st May 2015 (original edition 1985)
Published by: Faber
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Library
Pages: 163
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Complicated, awkward, funny, cruel, heartbroken, mysterious; Self-Help forms an idiosyncratic guide to female existence which is just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago. These stories are modern America at its most real, with characters sharing thoughts and experiences they could have borrowed from our own lives.

This is how to deal with divorce, adultery, cancer, how to talk to your mother or become a writer, the Lorrie Moore way.
Self-Help is a delightfully ironic answer to the genre which the title comes from. The nine pieces here have narrators which are intelligent and very self-aware, with the reasons for their malaise clearly on display. For the reader, the solution may appear simple, the 'logical' response likened to something you may read about in (you guessed it) the 'self-help' section of a bookstore. However, what makes this so compulsively readable is Moore's insight that the answer to life's challenges are not so easy to come by; no matter how accurately one may recognise the flaws in their reasoning - the same self-destructive behaviour could inevitably occur all over again.

The first story 'How to Be an Other Woman' sets the tone for the other parodies on life-guides to follow, many told in second-person for full effect. The situation changes from 'other woman' to simply 'woman' embarking on a new relationship in 'How'. Mocking the cliches in the course of a romantic rendezvous is something achieved with the blackest of humour and I enjoyed every page.

Feel discovered, comforted, needed, loved, and start sometimes, somehow, to feel bored. When sad or confused, walk uptown to the movies. Buy popcorn. These things come and go. A week, a month, a year. - 'How'

In my personal favourite 'How to Become a Writer', Moore tackles the haughty disdain of an English literature professor and the students in his class in a way that puts it at the top of the list for both humour and accuracy.

In creative writing seminars over the next two years, everyone continues to smoke cigarettes and ask the same things: "But does it work?" "Have you earned this cliché?" These seem like the important questions. - 'How to Become a Writer'

It's not only a doomed love-life and literary institutions that Moore critiques, as in 'Go Like This' she delves into the life of a mother with cancer who wishes to take death into her own hands. The way that the author is able to adapt her style ever so slightly to still be funny but never completely out of order when taking on these sorts of situations is a useful skill.

I am getting into the swing of it. I tell them the cancer is poisining at least three lives and that I refuse to be its accomplice. This is not a deranged act, I explain. Most of them have known for quite a while my belief that intelligent suicide is almost always preferable to stupid lingering of a graceless death. there is silence, grand as Versailles. It seems respectful. - 'Go Like This'

Amid the razor-sharp commentary is always a phrase or two which reminds us of the humanity of these characters - they're not just fictional beings, but people who could just as well be someone you'd pass on the street. Even in 'To Fill' which ends the collection, what begins as a portrayal of a woman who wants nothing more in life than to steal money for the thrill of her material obsessions turns into a deeper investigation of her marriage and connection with her mother who has 'convinced herself she is physically and mentally ill'. Most importantly, all of these stories fit cohesively, and while each may relish in its own quirky charm there's no denying that there is a pinch of reality throughout.

I am becoming hugely depressed. Like last year. Just a month ago I was better, sporting a simpler, terse sort of disenchantment, a neat black vest of sadness. Elegant ironies leaped from my mouth as fine as cuisses de grenouilles. Now he darkness sleeps and wakes in me daily like an Asian carnivore at the Philly zoo. - 'To Fill'

FINAL THOUGHTS

It's been a long time since I've found an anthology this whip-smart and satirical. This is a book which crackles with wit, and an energy which makes you look forward to each quip to arrive on the next line. I've already lined up my next read from this author because I want more. 

{Blog Tour} Take Three Girls: Review & Author Interview with Fiona Wood

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood
Released: 29th August 2017
Published by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Genre: #LoveOzYA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 423
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
3 award-winning authors. 1 compelling book.

ADY - not the confident A-Lister she appears to be. KATE - brainy boarder taking risks to pursue the music she loves.
CLEM - disenchanted swim-star losing her heart to the wrong boy.

All are targeted by PSST, a toxic website that deals in gossip and lies.

St Hilda's antidote to the cyber-bullying? The Year 10 Wellness program. Nice try - but sometimes all it takes is three girls.

Exploring friendship, feminism, identity and belonging. Take Three Girls is honest, raw and funny.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review


Take Three Girls provides an unflinchingly honest view into so many of the real issues facing teenage girls today. We've all heard about, or perhaps even experienced the pain and embarrassment which a slanderous post on social media can inflict. We see the everyday sexism and casual misogyny played out both in reality and through the media. We've felt the change in friendships as people's true colours come through, and found the people who make us realise where we truly belong.

From the pop-culture and music references to the even quicker spread of the rumour-mill thanks to technology, Take Three Girls reads as a story which is current and so relevant. How the girls handled relationships with their families and each other highlighted all the conflicts and contradictions which come up at that age. Sibling rivalries, plummeting self-esteem and the need to put on a 'mask' to be around the popular, snarky group were all topics explored with straight-up honesty. The failed relationships with guys who were never going to give them the respect any young woman deserves and coming to the realisation that knowing your-self worth is so important were some of the other key messages that came through.

Older me, please remember how great it felt to have real friends for the first time. Remember that it felt like something cracking open to give you the wider view, more oxygen. Remember that is also, contrarily, felt like a nest where you were comfortable and safe and restored. Remember that it felt so loose and free when you could let your guard down and stop performing that popular girl version of yourself.

It's the unlikely friendship that bloomed between Ady, Kate and Clem through the Wellness program that made this book such an amazing read. Seeing how they supported each other when each of them came to their own particular dilemmas was heartwarming, and an example of girls helping a sister out in the best possible way. While the revelation as to who was behind the 'PSST' site didn't exactly come as a surprise, I think what this book possesses so much greater substance beyond what was going on online. It placed a well-deserved spotlight on the strength of the girls to unite against the comments and prove that they were good enough and would be successful regardless.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood are three brilliant Aussie YA authors in their own right, and in this book they've brought together all that talent to create a feminist manifesto with heart.


Author Interview with Fiona Wood


What drew you to the idea of writing a book about the impacts of cyber-bullying? What is the main message you hope readers will be able to take from it?

Our starting point was more to write a book about an unlikely friendship, but the setting of cyber-bullying, and general online nastiness became important for the story. We were inspired by what seemed like a constant stream of stories in the media of misogynistic behavior directed to girls and young women in schools, universities, colleges and the workplace. We wanted to represent that reality, and we hope that one message readers take from the book is that if they are caught up in this type of bullying they are not alone, and it’s not their fault. 

How did the three of you decide to collaborate on this book? What was the best thing about writing with two other authors?

We were already friends who met to talk about writing and we thought it would be fun to write something together. We enjoyed the process enormously, although it did take a lot longer to finish than we had initially anticipated. For me, the best thing was working with two writers whose work I love so much. It was a great opportunity to gain insights into Cath’s and Simmone’s creative processes. And it made a welcome change from the usual isolation of writing.

How does Take Three Girls compare with the other books you’ve written – are there any similarities?

I’m interested in exploring the idea of feminism in my fiction. It plays a big part in Take Three Girls and it’s strongly present as a theme in both Wildlife and Cloudwish. Identity is another central theme in those two books and in Six Impossible Things. Both Van Uoc from Cloudwish and Ady from Take Three Girls are serious art students. Across all my writing I try to write an engaging contemporary narrative, told with a sense of humour, that also deals with some more serious social and political issues.

What is the best attribute of the character you wrote?

So, Cath wrote Kate, Simmone wrote Clem and I wrote Ady. I created Ady as a character who is just discovering how important her creativity is in her life, how much it is a part of who she is. She is learning to flex that muscle. That is a strong attribute that was fun to write, because when you write an artist, your also get to write their art, in Ady’s case, expressed through clothes and costume.

Do you have a favourite moment or quote which you think really captures the essence of the story?

There are so many quotes I could mention from all three characters, but one I like from Ady is, “Imagine slipping out for a full-moon midnight walk, just because you could. We’d start to swagger. We’d own the streets, own the night.”  

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors out there?

Read widely. When you read something you like, read it again to analyse exactly how the writer did it. Why, and how, does it work? The other thing is to finish your work. Good writing really happens in the rewriting, and it’s only when you have a complete draft that you can start the rewriting. 

Check out the other stops on the tour!


Review: Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm - An artfully written portrait of a mystery

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Where the Light Falls by Gretchen Shirm
Released: 1st July 2016
Published by: Allen and Unwin
Genre: Mystery
Source: Library
Pages: 277
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Andrew, a photographer compelled by 'the honesty in broken things', returns to Australia when he hears that his former girlfriend has disappeared. By the time he gets back, no body has been found. He prolongs his stay in Australia to investigate her shadowy past, putting his current relationship at risk for reasons he barely understands.

At the same time he meets a damaged girl whom he knows will be a riveting subject for his new series of photos. As he struggles to make sense of his motivations, Andrew realises that photography has become an obsession predicated on his need to hold on to the things he has lost in his life. He finds himself re-evaluating his past and his art in this deeply moving and insightful debut novel from a rising star of Australian literature.
He felt suddenly alert. He was assessing the room for light, he realised. It was his automatic reaction to the world, to decide whether it would make a good photograph. He looked up through the staircase towards his own door. There was light seeping out beneath it. It was faint but warm; it was the light they lived by.

Where the Light Falls was an unexpected find for me - a book that had just happened to catch my eye at the library as I walked past it on the shelf. This is a gentle and poignant story which at face value is about a photographer returning to his home to find out what may have happened to his ex girlfriend. Delving deeper, Shirm has deftly explored this main character through his art, bringing to light the disillusionment of his current relationship and what it will take to find his true purpose in life.

This uneasy attraction he felt towards Kirsten, the way he had been drawn to her, he understood where it came from now. He had mistaken the deep sense of empathy he felt towards her for love.

The plot itself is intensely character-driven, revolving for the most part around Andrew's reaction to the news and how he begins to develop his photography through finding the perfect subject. He often seemed somewhat emotionally detached from the relationships in his life, and perhaps even selfish in his quest to further his career. While not entirely likable though, the author navigated his ethical dilemmas and pensiveness with prose which floated off the page. With a story such as this, there was no real 'closure' which I may have been craving, and some elements did perhaps 'tell' too much instead of simply 'showing'. Nonetheless, what I found so captivating about this book that kept me reading for hours was her prose which is so full of imagery, capturing every moment with an artist's eye. It is almost as if just as Andrew 'saw the world in terms that could be framed', Shirm also has the insight to employ just the right turn of phrase to convey emotions and ideas which could otherwise be left indescribable. I have only come across a few writers who are able to do this so well, and it's a skill which as a reader I admire. 

The library smelt of ageing paper. The ceilings were low and the light was fluorescent and sharp. As he walked deeper into the room it felt like a bunker, a place protected from the outside world. He had forgotten this about libraries - that, like galleries, they were places in which quietness is encouraged.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As I'm beginning to notice more clearly each time I come across an unexpectedly good read, it's the books you're not actively looking for which can turn out to be some of the best. I'm always excited to find a new Australian writer to try, and seeing how Gretchen Shirm's nuanced and purposive style came through has put me on alert for whatever she may release next.