Waiting on Wednesday: Bookshop Girl

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme 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 Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles.

A hilarious tale of female friendship, bookshops and fighting for a cause - perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Louise Rennison.

Bennett's Bookshop has always been a haven for sixteen-year-old Paige Turner. It's a place where she can escape from her sleepy hometown, hang out with her best friend, Holly, and also earn some money. But, like so many bookshops, Bennett's has become a 'casualty of the high street' - it's strapped for cash and going to be torn down.

Paige is determined to save it but mobilising a small town like Greysworth is no mean feat. Time is ticking - but that's not the only problem Paige has.

How is she going to fend off the attractions of beautiful fellow artist, Blaine? And, more importantly, will his anarchist ways make or break her bookshop campaign?

As a bookseller, any plot that's even remotely bookish is bound to catch my eye! I love the sound of this cute and endearing story, which will hopefully go to show just how important bookshops are.

Releasing August 2018 from Bonnier

Discussion: Are We Masters of Our Time?

Friday, 13 July 2018

Days, years and decades march on; the beat of time ticking over the pace of our existence. But for the conspiracy theorists, the dreamers and even the skeptics among us, there is space to wonder whether our futures are truly set on such a linear path. Why do our personal histories seem to repeat themselves from one generation to another? Perhaps more importantly, are we really the master of our fates after all? Both the Netflix series ‘Dark’, and short story ‘Catapult’ by Emily Fridlund explore the topic of time travel to reveal how we cope with recurring patterns in our lives, and whether we will ever fully escape those inexplicable moments of déjà vu.

Produced and originally released in Germany last year, ‘Dark’ delves into the heart of these questions. This is one of the best pieces of foreign drama I've seen (though the gripping Cold War series 'Deutschland 83' is also well worth a watch). Atmospheric in its camera angles, the eerie melodies of the soundtrack and the entire situation its plot represents, I was hooked right from episode one. Set in the alternate periods of 2019, 1986 and 1953, strange goings-on in the small town of Winden reach fever pitch when the bodies of missing children are found with injuries that defy explanation. Its nuclear power plant dominates the landscape alongside the sinuous woods, though the darker energy permeating the storyline emanates from the characters themselves.

Life is a labyrinth. Some people wander around their whole lives looking for a way out, but there’s only one path and it leads you ever deeper. You don’t understand it until you’ve reached the centre. Death is incomprehensible, but you can make peace with it. Till then you should ask yourself each day if you’ve made the right decisions.
– ‘Dark’ Episode 5, ‘Truths’

There is a tempest brewing among both the teens and their parents as the fabric of time itself is stretched beyond its limits. In the first season that has been released so far, the ten episodes are all examples of exquisitely executed cinematography. A foreboding energy is created almost immediately, and when Mikkel goes missing, the son of a police detective working on the case, the drama begins to take its tightly woven form. Using particular songs in key scenes adds another layer of meaning, with the haunting tune of Agnes Obel’s ‘Familiar’ in episode three playing behind contrasting images of the characters in the past and present. From the depths of a murder investigation, to the inner workings of teenage love, the dangerous obsession within a covert affair and visionary realities of time travel, ‘Dark’ tackles moral ambiguity in all its cryptic forms.

All our lives are connected. One fate bound to another. Every one of our deeds is merely a response to a previous deed. Cause and effect. Nothing but an endless dance. Everything is connected to everything else.
– ‘Dark’ Episode 8, ‘So you sow, so you shall reap’

In ‘Catapult’, two teens plan to build a time machine in the midst of their summer break. Katie recalls this time with her boyfriend Noah as they embark on the plan while navigating the treacherous vicissitudes of a burgeoning relationship. Named by the pair as ‘A Hypothesis for Quantum Tunneling’, the couple hold a sense of superiority over others their age for conceiving such a significant idea. Katie comes to form an admiration for Noah with his ‘well organised heart’ and ‘mind full of unusual, ambitious thoughts which he daily cultivated and tended.’ 

Our pattern was fixed when we got to his house. We each ate a bowl of Cheerios in silence, and then we went to his room where we took off our clothes, very careful not to mention – or even affect to notice – that this is what was happening…Time got crinkled up, got sticky.
- 'Catapult'

However, just like the teens in ‘Dark’, there are hidden jealousies to be overcome within their dynamic, and beneath it all a plea ‘to save me from myself.' Whether they will settle for their relationship and follow its shaky blueprint or go their separate ways to find something even better, are decisions left to be made. 

Where this tv series and story intertwine is through the characters attempting to understand topics beyond the realm of comprehension. A quest to analyse the intricacies of time travel eventually morphs into the catalyst for an intrinsic search for meaning. Though often speaking in riddles, at some point these people all ask themselves the same question: What have I become, and when will I find my truth? The answers may be scattered somewhere in the events that time left behind, but the clearest solution to determining their fates is simply to find purpose in the here and now.

My Bookish Top 20 Releasing in 2018 (July - December)

Monday, 9 July 2018

It's halfway through the year, and there have definitely been some amazing releases already! Some of my top picks from the list in my post covering 2018 so far would have to be P.Z. Reizin's endearing debut Happiness for Humans, though The Woman in the Window also stood out as a fascinating thriller with an unreliable narrator. But of course, it's not over yet, so here is the next round of new reads that have caught my eye...


As if the beautiful cover or unique title of The Art of Taxidermy wasn't enough to draw me in, it's a novel by Australian author Sharon Kernot which is completely written in verse - I definitely need it on my shelf! Next up is the latest release from one of my all-time favourite thriller writers Megan Abbott with Give Me Your Hand, a harrowing story about a friendship gone wrong and the dangers of unbridled ambition. My hopes are that it will be just as gripping as You Will Know Me which I finished in a day! JP Delaney shocked me with The Girl Before, and Believe Me promises to be another riveting psychological thriller revolving around an actress, infidelity and a murder investigation. 


I just got my hands on a copy of A Superior Spectre and wow does it sound amazing, blending history and science fiction. Angela Meyer has written for Australian publications before, but this is her debut novel which is set to be a hit. I had the pleasure of meeting Osher Gunsberg at the HarperCollins Roadshow this year to hear him speak about his memoir Back, After the Break which covers some of the darkest parts of his experiences with mental illness. For another non-fiction read, I've chosen The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. This book explores the lives of young American women who worked with the toxic substance during WWI and suffered the consequences, but were determined to fight for justice after their time in those factories. Going along the historical theme, Invitation to a Bonfire is set in the 1930's and inspired by the Nabokov marriage. Although I'm not usually a fan of love triangles, I'm willing to make an exception here and give this story a try.

 I Had Such Friends is #LoveOzYA which looks set to deliver a raw and emotionally driven contemporary novel that tackles a whole range of real issues facing teens. Quicksand has been hugely popular in Sweden and is now being published in Australia, with the promise of a Netflix series to come. I always find it interesting reading books set in countries outside the Australia/US/UK trifecta and it has already won an award for 'Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year'. I only found out recently that there's FINALLY going to be another book in The Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken! They are action-packed YA dystopian at its best, but it's been a few years since I read the first three so I might need a refresher before diving into The Darkest Legacy


The Girl on the Page has been described as a dark comedy which delves into the heart of the literary world itself, and since it's a 'book about books' then I'm already in! I'm left curious about The Sunday Girl, and with a blurb pitching it as "The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones", it'll definitely be interesting to see how the plot turns out. It goes without saying that The Barefoot Investor is the most popular personal finance guide right now, and I have no doubt that Scott Pape's new release The Barefoot Investor for Families: The only kids' money guide you'll ever need will also be a bestseller; it's a smart move to follow up with a call for some brand loyalty after all.


Rekindling family ties, an unexpected romance and going back to nature all feature in K.A. Tucker's latest release The Simple Wild. Jane Harper also has a knack for capturing a sense of place as she's shown in both The Dry and Force of Nature. Her latest suspense novel The Lost Man takes us to outback Queensland, and if it's anything like her other crime masterpieces it is going to be brilliant. Nevermoor was 'Harry Potter meets Alice in Wonderland' in the most magical and uplifting way, and I've been eagerly awaiting the release of the sequel ever since! Wundersmith is the second in what will be an eight-book series, and I can already tell it will be equally as enchanting as the first. It feels like forever since Markus Zusak broke our hearts with The Book Thief, and Bridge of Clay seems set to do the same - but it's a must-read nonetheless. 


In the sequel to the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Crimes of Grindewald will hopefully meet any high expectations. Speaking of which, Rachael Craw's Spark series is AMAZING (and the #SparkArmy lives on) so of course I'll be dropping everything to read The Rift as soon as I get a copy! As always, what book list of mine would be complete without something by Jackie French? The Matilda Saga is up to book eight now with The Last Dingo Summer, and as someone who's been following it from the beginning all those years ago, I can't wait to revisit familiar characters and discover new ones along the way. 

Over to you - what books are you most looking forward to for the rest of the year?

{Blog Tour} Review: Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Save the Date by Morgan Matson
Released: 1st July 2018
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 300
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Charlie Grant tries to keep her life as normal as possible. Hanging out with her best friend, pining for Jesse Foster - who she’s loved since she was twelve - and generally flying under the radar as much as she can.

But sometimes normal is just another word for stuck, and this weekend that's all going to change. Not only will everyone be back home for her sister’s wedding, but she’s also juggling: - a rented dog that just won't stop howling - an unexpectedly hot wedding-coordinator’s nephew - her favourite brother bringing home his HORRIBLE new girlfriend - fear that her parents’ marriage is falling apart - and the return to town of the boy she’s loved practically all her life…

Over the course of four days Charlie will learn there's so much more to each member of her family than she imagined, even herself, and that maybe letting go of the things she's been holding on tightest to can help her find what really keeps them together.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

If there's one thing to know about Morgan Matson's books, it's that they're almost guaranteed to leave you grinning. In Save The Date, she's delivered another fun and endearing YA contemporary novel that takes the melodrama of wedding planning in its stride, with hectic family dynamics and the thrill of a crush in between. This is the perfect read for something light that still has a worthwhile message at its core about reacting to unanticipated situations and learning more about yourself as you look towards the possibilities in the future.

The pacing of the book manages to fit quite a lot into the course of four days surrounding Charlie's sister's wedding. With the original wedding planner no longer an option just a day out from the actual event, almost everything can go wrong. Add into that the big family dramas and there is a storyline that reads like movies with the same themes, except here there's even more of a cute twist. Morgan Matson always develops all her characters well, so it was definitely enjoyable to read about the Grant's and how they fit into the picture - the list of the wedding party at the beginning helped! This novel is one filled with so much energy, adorable moments and some heartfelt lessons too.


If you're a fan of Morgan Matson's other brilliant releases like The Unexpected Everything or Since You've Been Gone, you will absolutely adore Save The Date! For a fun and well-developed story with heart, this book ticks all the boxes. 

Morgan Matson is a New York Times bestselling author. She received her MFA in writing for children from the New School and was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start author for her first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, which was also recognized as an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. Her second book, Second Chance Summer, won the California State Book Award. She lives in Los Angeles.

Check out the rest of the blog tour here!

{Guest Post} Are Fairy Tales Still Relevant Today? By Hester Velmans, author of 'Slipper'

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Fairy tales can be some of the earliest stories we are exposed to, helping children learn about the age-old battle between good and evil, and overcoming a quest to reach that happy ending. But how can we still relate to these messages as we get older? For today's post, Hester Velmans, the author of 'Slipper', a Cinderella retelling, has stopped by to share her thoughts!

Are Fairy Tales Still Relevant Today? 
By Hester Velmans, author of SLIPPER 

Fairy tales have never really gone out of style, of course, but it wasn’t until I’d finished writing Slipper that I realized a whole industry in fairytale retellings of one sort or another has sprung up in the world of YA and adult literature. I can’t say it’s all that surprising, given that these familiar stories set off some deep-buried recognition in the reader; they ring the bell of our most primal emotions.

For a tale to ring that bell, it has to have the elements that drive the best stories. One is the presence of obstacles that have to be overcome by the hero or heroine. Once the dragon has been slain, the impossible task fulfilled, or the evil stepmother outwitted, it is the resulting relief and triumph that make for the most satisfying kind of conclusion any story can give you.

Then there is wish fulfillment. There’s something wonderfully appealing about putting yourself into the shoes of someone who has been put through the wringer, but still manages to attain great wealth, gorgeous clothes, the love of a lifetime, or fame beyond her wildest dreams.

But the question that nagged at me as I was adapting the story of Cinderella was: in our cynical, unsentimental age, are happy endings still necessary? Can fairy tales be given a modern feminist twist, considering that they were first conceived many centuries ago, when a girl’s place was to be quiet, passive and obedient, and the only way out of your hopeless situation was to have a convenient fairy godmother? Given, of course, that you also possessed a sufficient dose of modesty, dazzling beauty, and unusually small feet. Really! Can that kind of simplistic story fly today? 

That’s when you have to start digging into the story to extract the core nuggets of truth — the universal messages that resonate even today. In the case of Slipper, I found that many of the most classic fairytales can be recast to fit real, present day concerns. Who, for instance, hasn’t hoped and wished the boyfriend-frog will turn into a prince if we humor him enough? Who hasn’t gone to a dance bubbling with high expectations, only to go home with her hopes smashed like a pumpkin in the mud? Who hasn’t felt like the family underdog, scorned by mean siblings or neglectful parents, and secretly hoped it wasn’t her real family? 

The reason that I chose the story of Cinderella as the starting point for my historical novel is that it is the most archetypal, and I think the most satisfying, of all the fairytales. It addresses the universal desire to be recognized for your “true”, or better, self. You may be misunderstood, exploited, despised; but in the end, all those sneering naysayers will be forced to admit that secretly you really were the bravest of heroes all along, or the most beautiful girl in the world… or just the coolest kid in school. Won’t they be sorry for the way they treated you, once your true identity is revealed!

Come to think of it, this Cinderella theme comes up in all the most popular stories of our time. It's there in Pride and Prejudice, in Harry Potter, in Jane Eyre, in Superman, Spiderman, Mean Girls, and Grease. It’s in every story where the wallflower, the loser or the nerd wins the prize in the end. It’s about getting through adolescence and coming out OK in the end. It’s about facing adversity, and finding your inner strength or your true worth. If that isn’t relevant today, what is? 


"Slipper is the most engaging novel I have read in a long time. Part romantic love story, part fairy tale, part feminist commentary, this is a wonderful, old-fashioned novel to be savored. It is as if a graduate student had stumbled upon a handwritten, 19th century manuscript in the British Library, read it, and declared, 'There was a fourth Bronte sister -- and she was the most talented of the brood!'"

-- Daniel Klein, best-selling author of Travels with Epicurus and Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar
"An unexpectedly honest modern novel clothed in the traditional tropes of historical romance. Despite thematically re-imagining the origins of several popular fairy tales, as a bildungsroman the story is refreshingly authentic in the growth of the heroine from an unfettered idealist to a nearly-perfected realist. ...The charm of the protagonist is more than potent enough to draw the reader along through a story that both pointedly charges us with taking command of our own fate, and tasks us with deciding for ourselves what the moral of our own story should be."

-- Thomas A. Peters, Readers' Favorite
"Although this novel mainly pays specific homage to Cinderella, Velmans laces the book with references to the other tales. The author builds this network with remarkable care, and although the resulting novel is a complex web of influences, it's never a confounding one. Furthermore, she writes in a delicate, ornate prose style that has a transporting effect, bringing readers back to Perrault's time and nestling them in a thoroughly alluring narrative. A satisfying blend of history and myth that breathes new life into Cinderella." 
-- Kirkus

Watch the book trailer on Youtube
Available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Indiebound.org
More info at Hestervelmans.com

Hester Velmans is a novelist and translator of literary fiction. Born in Amsterdam, she had a nomadic childhood, moving from Holland to Paris, Geneva, London and New York. After a hectic career in international TV news, she moved to the hills of Western Massachusetts to devote herself to writing.

Hester’s first book for middle-grade readers, ‘Isabel of the Whales,’ was a national bestseller, and she wrote a follow up, ‘Jessaloup’s Song,’ at the urging of her fans. She is a recipient of the Vondel Prize for Translation and a National Endowment of the Arts Translation Fellowship.