Review & Author Interview: The Year It All Ended by Kirsty Murray

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Year It All Ended by Kirsty Murray
Released: 1st September 2014
Published by: Allen and Unwin
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 242
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Goodreads | Bookworld | Booktopia
On Armistice Day 1918 Tiney Flynn turns seventeen and it feels as though her life is just beginning. Her brother and his friends are coming home from the Great War and her sisters are falling in love. But Tiney and her family find that building peace is far more complicated than they could ever have imagined.

Tiney's year will hold a world of new experience, from tragedy to undreamt-of joy, from seances to masked balls and riots in the streets. At the end of a war and the dawn of the jazz age, Tiney Flynn will face her greatest fears and begin a journey that will change her destiny. '

The story of  the sisters' struggles to come to terms with grief, anxiety, and unbearable loss at the same time as trying to forge some kind of realistic future is tough and believable and ultimately heartwarming.
Thank you to Allen and Unwin for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

The Year It All Ended is a fantastic piece of YA historical fiction set in Australia after the conclusion of WWI. While many novels explore the nature of the war itself, in this case Kirsty Murray has taken into account the consequences of life when some soldiers return, and others do not. It seems that even after the short burst of euphoria on Armistice Day 11th November 1918, many who made it back were broken men, and the families who lost their relatives in the war are left to grieve. I loved this book for its honesty in portraying what life must have been like for many Australians affected by the war, with an enthralling plot and well-developed characters.

But who can know anyone now? The war has turned those boys inside out, and the skins they're wearing, they're not the skins they left home in.

Aside from looking into the aftermath of the war, the novel also touches on some other issues of the time. The influenza outbreak which had been across Europe and traveled to Australia had an impact on Tiney's family and others, affecting some of the post-war celebrations. Elements of the Jazz Age come into fruition also play a small role, which in some ways lightened the mood in places. In essence though this story is one of a family trying to move forward after a tragedy, and finding closure for parents to see where their son rests. It is about the relationships between sisters, between potential yet complex love interests and finding peace after one of the biggest conflicts in modern history.

Inside her was a stillness so deep, so profound it was as if she had been hollowed out. She felt like a bell, as if the touch of another human being might set her ringing, a sound so pure and sad that everyone would weep when they heard it.

Martina, or Tiney as she is better known, was a character that stood out. The youngest of her sisters at seventeen years old, she still took it upon herself to look out for each of them, and her parents too. I admired her strength throughout the book, even during the toughest times. This work highlights that 'the women left behind' during the war also had hardships to face, not knowing what was truly happening to their loved ones, or if they would ever see them again. There is some emotional depth to the story while being based on the facts, which adds to its appeal as one which readers could connect to.


The Year It All Ended conveys the sentiment among Australians after WWI and how to pick up the pieces to move forward. This is my second novel by Kirsty Murray and I will definitely be reading more from her in the future.

1. When did you first know that you wanted to become an author?

I feel as though I always knew, right from when I first learned to read, that I wanted to write stories of some kind one day. By the time I was eleven years old, the idea of becoming a writer had taken hold of me completely. I scribbled furiously from when I was in late primary school but it took me a long time to make the transition from being an enthusiastic amateur who rarely finished a story to taking my work very seriously and becoming a professional writer.

2. What are your three must-haves when you're working on a book?

Uninterrupted time, my laptop and plenty of water to drink (it keeps your synapses snapping!).  My handwriting is appalling so I have to work with a keyboard though I am endlessly admiring of people who can write long pieces of work by hand.

3. I've read your novel 'India Dark' and now this one, and both seem to have really rich setting that place the reader right into the time. What sort of research goes into writing historical fiction?

I am a total pedant when it comes to research. It’s also a great joy and an indulgence to spend hours on end in libraries, sifting through primary sources, browsing books and imagining what it was like to live in another time or place. I hate feeling unconfident when I write – I have to know every detail of what I’m writing about; the place, the era, the characters. If I’m not clear about a particular piece of information it can destroy the flow of a scene. So I do masses of research for every aspect of my historical fiction including visiting the settings. I spent many months in India and Southeast Asia researching India Dark. To research The Year it All Ended I spent time in the Barossa Valley, many weeks in Adelaide and I travelled across Europe including visiting the war graves in the Somme and Belgium and then travelling to Berlin. Not every writer of historical fiction goes to quite these lengths but I believe that time spent researching the background of your stories is never wasted, even if the material doesn’t wind up inside the book, knowing as much as you can about the period you are researching strengthens your writing.

4. Was there anything particularly challenging about writing 'The Year It All Ended?'

In many ways, The Year it all Ended was the hardest book I’ve ever written. The characters had to endure impossible grief and I had to come to terms with their suffering and feel every nuance of their pain. What made it particularly gruelling is that I knew this was real grief, not something fictional. The Flynn family were loosely based on my grandmother’s family of four sisters whose only brother, also named Louis, died in exactly the same way as Louis Flynn. War exacts a terrible toll on families and at various points in the writing I grew exhausted by all the misery and often found it hard to keep writing. Although the book is about the aftermath of war, I wanted it to be about hope and courage too, not just suffering. I had to work through a lot of difficult material and filter it over and over again until I could wrench some meaning from the terrible challenges that the young women of 1919 had to face.

5. What is your favourite genre to read and why?

I don’t have a favourite genre. I can be quite fickle in my reading. When I find an author that I like, I read as much of their work as I can find. A few years ago, I lost a whole summer to the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell. Or I might go on a binge of fantasy, speculative fiction or travel writing. When I travel, I try to read as much fiction from the country that I visit as I can lay my hands on. I have a big collection of Indian and Southeast Asian fiction that I’ve built up over the past few years.

My favourite comfort reading when I have insomnia is either poetry or the work of Andrew Lang, the folklorist. His Coloured Fairy Books are delicious. Or if I’m feeling nostalgic, I might indulge in rereading Hesba Brinsmead, E. Nesbit or Astrid Lindgren or other childhood favourites and I’ll pile up old copies of a few of their books beside my bed.

I read a lot of literary fiction and as many new releases in every genre as I can beg, borrow or buy. I’m a member of two bookclubs, one which reads mostly contemporary literary fiction and the other which only discusses YA and children’s literature. I read mountains of nonfiction, especially for research but also for pleasure. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books on neuroplasticity, mindfulness and ESP. I’m not sure where that topic will take me but I’m pretty sure it will work its way into some future book.

6. Tiney is a really interesting protagonist in the novel, but are there any others which you particularly loved writing about?

I loved just about every character in The Year it All Ended. In one of the earlier drafts, I found Tiney’s sisters taking over the whole novel. It could almost have been four books detailing each of the sisters’ stories. But Tiney was always my firm favourite and I trimmed back a lot of the details of Minna, Thea and Nette’s stories so that Tiney could shine.

I liked Ida Alston a lot. She was good fun and every scene she’s in seemed to be lighter for her presence. Frank McCaffrey was based on my grandfather so I had a soft spot for him too. And, of course, Martin Woolf was gorgeous to write about. If you can have a crush on a fictitious character that you’ve invented, I definitely developed a crush on Martin.

7. After this fantastic piece, can you give us a hint on what we can expect from you next?

While I was working on the final stages of The Year it All Ended I edited an anthology of speculative fiction by twenty authors. It was a huge collaborative project that involved working with ten Indian and nine Australian authors (I was the tenth Australian author). 

The book is called Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean and will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in February 2015 so I’m just signing off on the final pages and the cover at the moment.  Isobelle Carmody and I are going to India in November to launch the Indian edition which is being published by a Delhi based publisher called Young Zubaan. You’ll be hearing plenty of news about the Australian edition next year.

In the meantime, I have a number of stories bubbling away on the back burner but it’s hard to tell which one is going to be the next major project. Usually, I’ve started work on a new novel by the time I send the previous one to the printers but both The Year it All Ended  and Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean have been such epic projects, that I think I need to focus on something smaller and more playful for the next book. At the moment, a very crazy story about motorcycling gnomes seems to be making the most demands for my attention but that doesn’t mean anything will come of it. Sometimes, I have to read the riot act to all the characters who are insisting on having their stories told.

Kirsty Murray writes books for children and teenagers. She was born in Melbourne where she first discovered the power of a good story. Kirsty now spends most of her time reading, writing and hanging out in libraries all around the world.

 Kirsty’s works includes ten novels as well as many other books for young people. Her novels have won and been shortlisted for many awards and published internationally. Kirsty writes for young people because they are a universal audience. Not everyone lives a long life but every human being was once a child and the child inside us never disappears.

Every year, Kirsty gives talks about her work and teaches creative writing to thousands of young people in libraries, schools and at literary festivals around the world. Kirsty is a passionate advocate of books for readers of all ages.

{Book Blitz} Rush by Eve Silver & Giveaway

Monday, 29 September 2014

Rush by Eve Silver
Series: The Game #1
Released: 11th June 2013
Published by: Harper Teen
Summary from Goodreads:

So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?  
When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game—her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos. In the game, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures.

 There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.

(UK and Australian cover)

Available from (US links):
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On sale for only $1.99 at the following links only:

Books in this series:
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Color and sound explode, too bright, too loud. Even the air on my skin feels like it’s too much. My fingers go lax. The bag’s handle slides down my palm, then along my fingers to the tips, impossibly slow. The world tips and tilts and I flail for balance.
Luka grabs my hand and holds tight.
I blink. My house, my open front door, Dad, they’re all gone. My breath comes in short gasps and every muscle in my body feels like it’s knotted up tight.
I’m standing in a grassy clearing bounded by trees.
The lobby.
We’ve been pulled.


Eve Silver lives with her gamer husband and sons, sometimes in Canada, but often in worlds she dreams up. She loves kayaking and sunshine, dogs and desserts, and books, lots and lots of books. Watch for the first book in Eve’s new teen series, THE GAME: RUSH, coming from Katherine Tegen Books, June 2013. She also writes books for adults.




Book Blitz Organized by:

Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

18189606Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Released: 6th May 2014
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 449
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads | Bookworld | Book Depository
Emily is about to take some risks and have the most unexpected summer ever in this new novel from the bestselling author of Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger's Epic Detour.

 Before Sloane, Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane? Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough. Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a stranger? Wait…what? Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Morgan Matson's Since You've Been Gone is definitely a YA contemporary read that takes you on a journey. Tackling a list left by her best friend that simply disappears, Emily Hughes who had long been in Sloane's shadow finally stepped out of the dark and into her own as she becomes braver, bolder and more of an individual with each of the thirteen challenges. It was enjoyable to read about her story and how she changed as a person with every new experience. Existing fans of this author are sure to love this new release, and I'm sure it will attract some new attention as well.

One of my favourite aspects of the novel was Emily's overall character development. You could tell that in the beginning her identity was tied up with Sloane's and the two came as a 'package deal' per se. By the end it was evident that she had truly become her own person and was confident enough within herself and the new friends she had made to be happy. Of course, the list left by Sloane in the mysterious envelope was what spurred this change on, and with most of the chapters being based on Emily attempting to tick off the items, the story flowed really well. I feel like by the time I finished the book I had gotten a good sense of the essence of Emily's character who was complex and interesting. Sloane, although not a major part of the book for the most part, also had her time to shine in some of the flashbacks and seeing how her and Emily's friendship developed added further depth and background to the story. What the author revealed about her true nature accounted for a lot of her seemingly confident and flamboyant behaviour, showing that even the most perfect-seeming people are not without their own issues.

This story wasn't just about these two though, and in fact the secondary characters were similarly well thought-out and had their own role to play. Emily's family for a start with her two playwright parents and a quirky brother had a presence, and her friends Collins, Dawn and Frank were great to read about. The dynamics of their bonds shifted and changed throughout the course of the novel, and although Frank and Emily's developing relationship was a tad predictable, the dramatic irony of it all made the whole thing quite sweet. The inclusion of the music playlists not only offer some song suggestions to the reader, but were a reflection of both Frank and Emily's characters when they went on their running sprees. There were some funny moments here and there, but when it came to facing the issues at hand those were dealt with realistically as well.


In all, I would certainly recommend Since You've Been Gone to anyone looking for a fun contemporary read that has well developed characters and a fun storyline. It's a story about stepping out of your comfort zone, being an individual and the effort involved in keeping true friends who you wish to keep for as long as you can.

Genie's Weekly News (2)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Hi everyone and welcome to my weekly blog feature to recap the week with bookish news and what to expect coming up! So without further ado...

*Reading Right Now*

*Previous Posts*

*Recommendation of the Week*


I finished this book this week and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! It blended historical fiction and fairytale perfectly, and I now can't wait to read more by Kate Forsyth. 

*From The Interwebs*

I got nominated by author Georgia Bell for the 'Versatile Blogger Award' award 2014 which was a lovely surprise!

*Book Haul*

No review copies this week, but I did get a few other books and went totally into historical fiction mode when I went to the library...

  • Wolf In White Van by John Darnielle - I won this book from a goodreads giveaway from an Australian author, and it's been recommended by Daniel Handler (ie. Lemony Snicket) so I'm excited!

  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz - I FINALLY BOUGHT A COPY!!! So all of you bookworms out there who have been singing its praises for so long have completely convinced me to read it and I can't wait :) 
  • Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson - I'd been wanting to read this book for ages since I loved Peter Pan, and so I once again said goodbye to my book buying ban and got myself a copy.

  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - This is meant to be one of the best pieces of historical fiction ever, so I'm looking forward to expanding my reading horizons and checking it out.
  • The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory - I read 'The Other Boleyn Girl' which I liked so this next book by the same author seems promising with all that regal drama.
  • Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell - 'The Great Gatsby' is one of my all time favourite classics and since I will be studying it soon I thought this was a great place to start to get some background info into his life.
  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald - As you may notice I've got a bit of  a Fitzgerald-frenzy going on and so I just couldn't help but pick up some of his other works. 
  • The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Just the title of this book interested me, and I can't wait to see how it depicts the Jazz Age and flawed characters within it.
  • Flappers and Philosophers by  F. Scott Fitzgerald  - This is a collection of eight short stories from Fitzgerald and I'm interested once again in seeing how the 1920's is depicted.

*Movie Reactions*

The Maze Runner -  I hadn't read the book before I saw this, but I ended up really loving it! The action and suspense was great, the tension palpable and the ending really leaved you wanting to see what could possibly happen next. I definitely can't wait to see the next movie.

The Hundred Foot Journey - This was a great movie with a feel-good vibe. I love how the story developed and how the two rivaling restaurants ended up with their owners becoming friends. I really liked hearing about the French and Indian cuisines, and after watching the movie I felt satisfied with a happy ending.

It's interesting that these are both book-movie adaptations as well - looks like we're seeing a lot more of them lately!

Kiss, Marry or Kill - Book Characters

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Hi there bookworms! So today Stephanie from Chasm of Books and I have something different to share with you *insert dramatic music* We are going to be playing the 'kiss, marry or kill' game with some book characters that we have chosen for each other. Now lets just say...this is going to be interesting.

*Gifs included where appropriate for your viewing convenience*


Characters for Eugenia:

Henry Fitzroy from Brazen
Kiss - At the beginning of the book he may have seemed immature, but he was quite sweet, knew how to recite poetry, and didn’t act like an idiot like most of the men in court.

Nate from This is Falling
Marry - Not only is he awesome book-boyfriend material, but he also has a great bond with  his brother Ty. He has a great sense of humour and is passionate about both doing well academically in college and his sport.

Gat Patil from We Were Liars

Undecided - For those of you who have read the book, you would understand why (and I can't say too much or I'll just end up giving the plot away!). To be honest, it would have been difficult to get to know Gil. He was quite philosophical and intelligent, but with the way things turned out it would lead me questioning his character.

Characters for Stephanie:

Chaol from Throne of Glass
Wow. This is so hard. When I first saw my lists, I freaked out. Eugenia is goooood. I don’t even know… seriously, all right. *deep breath* As much as I love, love, love Chaol I’m going to have to say kiss for him. He gives me all the feels but I’ve decided to look at this as practically as possible and Chaol would just be too tough for me and I would be too wimpy for him. Celaena and Chaol belong together.

Marry. All the way, marry him. Let’s be realistic. Kestral was kind of awful to him and Arin still helped her. Arin is sweet on the inside and handsome... *cuddles*

Sebastian love.gif

Four from Divergent
Kill. I blame this mostly on the Divergent movie because now, no matter how hard I try, I still see Pamuk as Four instead of the real character. I liked Four, but if I have to choose which one goes, it’s going to be him. Besides, he’s more brutal than Chaol if you ask me - less sensitive.


Characters for Eugenia:

Blaze from State of Grace
Kiss - You’ve got to hand it to Blaze, in that that he actually stood up for what seemed logical in a world where not much did. He was pretty brave and looked out for Wren, so I suppose he could be deemed kiss-worthy.

Cormac from A Breath of Frost
Kiss - I have to admit, I may have swooned on more than one occasion when Cormac appeared in the book, and he did his best to look out for Emma and her friends. He's just got that charming regency allure which you just can't help but admire. 

Harvey from Side Effects May Vary
Kiss/Marry - I'm actually a bit torn about Harvey, because on the one hand he is so nice and adorable, but on the other hand he did seem like a bit of a pushover, but then again that may have been because he cared about Alice so much. Gah - these sorts of character analyses do my head in! All in all though, he'd be the type of guy you'd really want to get to know first before going into a relationship. 

                              Characters for Stephanie:

Morpheus from Splintered
Yet another very difficult choice, but I’m going to have to say only kiss for Morpheus. Don’t get me wrong, fellow mothlings, I love him as well but we all know he’s manipulative and, seriously, that would get old. Fast.

Prince Maxon from The Selection
Marry. Maxon is sweet and kind. He’s understand and forgiving. He’s handsome and wonderful. I love him. He’s just all around perfect and I miss reading about him. All the way, people. Maxon all the way.

Sebastian love 3.gif

Percy Jackson from The Heroes of Olympus

Kill. I actually don’t hate Percy. Really. I hate Annabeth, but that’s beside the point. If I have to choose, Percy goes bye, bye. I like him well enough but Percy is immature and really doesn’t compare to any of the other swoony boys up there. He’s more friend material.

Would you make the same choices with the characters we picked? What other characters would you kiss, marry or kill?

Loony Blurbs (1)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Loony Blurbs is a meme running on every second Thursday created by Emily @ The Loony Teen Writer where bloggers create book blurbs only based on the titles! As you can guess, the possibilities are endless. So without further ado, here is what I have created for this week's books:

8490112Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

The year is 2089. After one of the biggest nuclear disasters the world has ever seen, Kaleigh seems like one of the only survivors left. Plumes of smoke and bones from those who didn't make it are scarred around the barren landscape and she is forced to find shelter before it's too late. When Kaleigh finds her sister, alive, among the rubble she is relived - although she isn't the same person she remembered. As new discoveries are made in the midst of destruction, Kaleigh's life takes a whole new turn that she never could have seen coming.  

18243675Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

Lucy is a gymnast and always has been ever since her parents first bought her a trampoline for her sixth birthday. Ever since then she has loved the feeling of soaring into the air with each jump, and took up trampolining as a sport, entering regional competitions which she very often won. However, after a tragic accident that hinders her ability to jump; she must again learn to walk. 

37685The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

In the not-too-distant future, wild animals have been tamed and are able to be kept as pets. Hattie could have chosen anything she wanted, on one condition - no lions, because in their sleek apartment her mother couldn't stand the fact of a big cat ruining the furniture. When a strange old woman approaches her on the street claiming that she could make a lion smaller so that Hattie could hide it without her parents noticing, Hattie agreed. And so, the lion from that day forward was kept hidden in her wardrobe. All seemed well at first, but when the magic starts to wear off and her lion begins to grow once again, Hattie must face a whole new array of challenges.

214438The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Alice has made a different pair of pants from every holiday destination she has ever been to. All colours, shapes and patterns - she's got them. Her friends don't seem to understand her pant obsession very well though, leaving Alice lonely at school and her social life destitute. Her life takes an unexpected turn when leading fashion designer Lena DePant comes across her designs and is willing to work with Alice on creating a whole new line. This sounds like a perfect opportunity, but will Alice be able to handle the pressure?

256683City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

The 'City of Bones' is just that - a city of bones. Ingrid doesn't think that the leaders were very creative with the name, but she has to admit that it's pretty darn accurate. Every house, monument and building is made up of the bones from the battles that the Kuba tribe has won. Soon enough, the bleak landscape gets a bit too much to handle. Ingrid wants to venture into the forbidden places - the 'City of Flowers' and 'City of Marshmallows', but whether she will ever get there is another question altogether. A story that can't guarantee to hit your funny bone, but still has some pretty humorous moments along the way.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Ban ks by E Lockhart

Frankie always hated history in vampire school, which is kinda ironic considering she has quite a history herself. As a 150 year old vampire who's roaming 21st century London and posing as a human, she is suddenly struck by the fact that maybe she doesn't want to go drinking people's blood any more. Old memories resurface of the humans she has drained and she is forced to acknowledge some shocking truths about her true identity. 

20820994I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Maya lives in Ancient Egypt where the Pharaoh rules without question and has power over everyone in the realm. The sun god Ra is worshiped every day, as he is the one who controls when the sun rises and falls. 'I'll give you the sun' were the last words that Maya's father told her before he disappeared, either to be sacrificed or taken by the Pharaoh's guards for some other sinister purpose. Stricken by this loss, Kaya undertakes an adventure to find the one light in her life and reunite her family.  

So, what do you think of my blurb creations?

{Blog Tour} The Jewel by Amy Ewing: Review/Interview/Giveaway

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

22586252The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Released: 4th September 2014
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by: Walker Books
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: Publisher
Pages: 368
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads | Bookworld | Book Depository
"Today is my last day as Violet Lasting. Tomorrow I become Lot 197."

 The Jewel is a shocking and compelling new YA series from debut author, Amy Ewing. Sold for six million diamantes, Violet is now Surrogate of the House of the Lake in the centre of the Lone City, the Jewel. Her sole purpose is to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess – a woman Violet fears and despises. Violet is trapped in a living death, her name and body no longer her own. She fights to hold on to her own identity and sanity, uncertain of the fate of her friends, isolated and at the mercy of the Duchess.

The Handmaid's Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.
Thank you to Walker Books Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Amy Ewing's debut definitely exceeded my expectations. After hearing it being compared to 'The Selection' (which I haven't read), I was intrigued as to how the plot would develop and what our main character Violet Lasting would make of the jaded world she was thrown into. Recently this year I studied 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood, which covers the central theme of women being physically and emotionally exploited through being forced into surrogacy by their leading matriarchs. In many ways I can see The Jewel as a teen adaptation of the modern classic, but it still stands on its own merit in the YA genre. With the unique addition of the auguries which add a supernatural touch, small acts of defiance and characters that are more complex than they at first seem, this is a book that I would recommend.

If I could have my own life, make my own choices. I would do anything for that sort of freedom.

I found the concept of The Jewel itself to be quite fascinating, but harrowing at the same time. Everything that Violet had to endure, from the holding facility, to being sold like a piece of meat at the auction and then treated like nothing more than living potential to bear a child was dehumanising. It was really interesting how the author portrayed Violet's feelings towards her jeweled cage, which I feel was expressed really well. Although at times Violet seemed a bit prissy, she did have at her core an unwavering resolve and genuine concern for her friends who had also been taking into other ruling households.
In this place that takes little bits and pieces of us, you remind me of who I am. Of who I was.

The romance in some aspects is where the plot fell a bit short. Ash played the part of the 'dark/mysterious/smart/handsome' guy well, although there was some insta-love involved. That being said, I suppose some allowance should be made because of the circumstances that the characters were in. With so much pending on Violet, her volatile situation with the Duchess and the fact that nothing in her life was certain, you can't really blame her for wanting to feel something other than anxiety as to what was going to happen to her next. The auguries are another thing which I would have liked to have seen more of and what their purpose and significance was, or perhaps their origins. There are still questions to be answered, although I expect that they will be answered in the next book in the series.

"Hope is a precious thing, isn't it", she says. "And yet, we don't really appreciate it until it's gone"

What I loved about this book was the complexity of the Duchess's character. At times she seemed like a purely controlling and cruel 'owner' of sorts, parading Violet on a leash even (like the other surrogates at special events), but on the other hand she showed some vulnerability. I am still undecided on whether she is a true villain at heart, but I suppose the answer to that remains to be seen. In the plot itself, there was a twist which I did not expect at the end so I'm looking forward to finding out what will next be in store for Violet.


The Jewel is quite an impressive YA dystopian novel, with room for further development in the sequel. If you enjoyed 'The Selection' or 'The Handmaid's Tale', this book will reminisce with you, while still delivering something different.

When did you know that wanted to be an author?
Honestly, it wasn’t until much later in life. I always wanted to be an actor—I went to New York University to study theatre for my undergraduate degree. But when the economy crashed in 2008, I was laid off and lived off unemployment for a while. It was during that time that I decided to try my hand at writing. And I found that I loved it. So I applied to some MFA programs in New York, got accepted to The New School and the rest is history.

One of the things which I loved about 'The Jewel' was the world-building. How did you come up with the overall concept for the setting?
For the aesthetic, I looked at early twentieth century England. I watched a lot of Downton Abbey (research can be so fun sometimes) and did a lot of image searching. When I was constructing the royalty, I looked to pre-revolutionary France. The royal family was obscenely wealthy while the rest of the country was starving. I wanted to reflect that dynamic in the Lone City.

What were your top 3 must-haves during the writing process? 
Coffee, post-it notes, and comfortable clothes.

Without giving too much away, what is your favourite moment in 'The Jewel'?
I love the moment when Violet meets the Duchess for the first time. And I won’t reveal any more than that. 

What were the best, and hardest parts about writing this novel?
The best part was seeing it grow and change and become the book it is today, which I am immensely proud of and never thought possible. The hardest was probably getting it into that shape. There is so much self-doubt when writing, and it’s so easy to feel like every choice you make is wrong. But you keep plugging away and the reward is totally worth the fear.

Is there one piece of advice in particular which you could give to other aspiring writers? 
Finish what you start. There is such an amazing feeling of accomplishment in finishing a book, and it’s only when you get to the end of something that you can see how to fix it.

What should readers be looking out for next from you after this wonderful debut? 
Well, there are two more books in this series! And there will also be two novellas from different character’s perspectives, so keep an eye out for those as well.

Check out the other stops on the tour!

Thursday, September 18th Diva Book Nerd 
 Friday, September 19th Inside My Worlds 
 Saturday, September 20th Books for a Delicate Eternity 
 Sunday, September 21st Thoughts by J 
 Monday, September 22nd Kids Book Review 
 Tuesday, September 23rd Striking Keys 
 Wednesday, September 24th Genie in a Book 
 Thursday, September 25th Fictional Thoughts 
 Friday, September 26th Book Much