My Bookish Top 20 Releasing in 2018 (Jan - June)

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The new year is fast approaching, and with that comes the time to set some realistic reading goals, explore different genres and find new favourites! The first half of 2018 is already shaping up to be full of exciting releases across the board, so today I'm sharing some of my top picks to look out for.


For 'palace intrigue and deception', I'm all for Holly Black's latest exploration into the Fae with The Cruel Prince which is the first book in a new series. In a change of pace, Happiness for Humans sounds like a heartwarming and endearing read with a twist of science fiction to keep things interesting - kind of like the movie Her where an AI begins to infiltrate its owners love life (but hopefully with a better ending). There have been a few YA novels about school shootings released over the past few years, particularly like This is How it Ends, which similar to Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down is told through the eyes of four teens affected by the incident. But this novel seems to take a broader view into the small town and the other grievances it must face, making it a book I really can't wait to delve into. Set in Rio de Janeiro, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black has the potential to be a thriller full of twists. After all, it does start with the protagonist's parents whisking her away to another country without any reason..and suddenly everything she thought she knew about her life is a lie. Sounds like something you've read before? Maybe, but I'm willing to give it a chance. Finally, The Woman in the Window is being pitched as the next Girl on the Train-esque psychological thriller, and whether you loved or hated it, I'm hoping A.J. Finn is a hit with his debut. 


In a world where beauty itself is a commodity, The Belles promises to be more than the sum of the superficial values its society presents. It's the first in a new series by Dhonielle Clayton, who co-wrote the Tiny Pretty Things duology. Another book with a darker twist that is also focused on beauty in the eye of the beholder is Sinless by Sarah Tarkoff. A dystopian novel which questions the meaning behind morality, I'm definitely curious to see how the worldbuilding comes across in this one. Gunslinger Girl is a Western YA dystopian which I first heard about at Date a Book's blogger night earlier in the year. It's reminding me of the Vengeance Road series just at face value, but fingers crossed it brings something new to the table.


Anyone who knows me will be able to tell that Jackie French is one of my auto-buy authors, and after the huge revelations towards the end of Miss Lily's Lovely Ladies, I can't wait to see how Sophie's life changes following her role in WWI. The Precious Dreadful is already hinting at a love triangle, but with the premise of a library writing group, paranormal elements and well-written characters overall, I think I may just have to give it a go. I Still Dream sounds like the backdrop to a Black Mirror episode, and that isn't a bad thing. From what I can tell, it's a story of artificial intelligence and what happens if it goes too far, with a firmly human focus. While In Search of Us sounds like a heartfelt YA contemporary read about the bond between mothers and daughters, for scifi fans who have been hooked on the Illuminae Files, the wait to conclude the series will finally be over when Obsidio is released. In short - the hype is real my friends. A country town and a commune converge in Ellie Marney's latest #LoveOzYA novel White Night. However, my little description there has fallen way too short of how electrifying I can already tell this book is going to be, so keep an eye out for it!


The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is definitely up there with some of my most anticipated Australian novels of 2018. The content seems to be equally violent and enchanting; a balance difficult to convey but if done well will make for an emotionally poignant read. Caroline Overington (author of The One Who Got Away) is back with a new thriller with The Ones You Trust, about a woman who seems to have it all until her daughter disappears and the search for answers begins. Another major #LoveOzYA release on my radar is Sarah Epstein's debut Small Spaces that looks set to ramp up the suspense and deliver a story you'll want to stay up reading. 


I'm seeing some parallels between this and We Were Liars, as it sheds light on the lives of privileged teens and the gritty secrets behind that glittering facade. The Lies They Tell will be an addictive read if it really manages to deliver complex characters and surprise me with a big reveal or two that I don't see coming.


Word has already gotten out across the blogosphere, but for those who haven't heard, book blogger and writer extraordinaire Cait @ Paper Fury is releasing her first novel! June can't come around fast enough, because A Thousand Perfect Notes needs to be on my shelf ASAP. I LOVED Night Film as one of my favourite thrillers of all time, so to see that Marisha Pessl is releasing her first YA novel is exciting news. Neverworld Wake already promises to be atmospheric and shrouded in mystery, so count me in!

Over to you - what books are you most looking forward to in 2018?

The Last Guard by K.J. Taylor - Guest Post

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Last Guard by K.J. Taylor
Series: The Southern Star #1
Released: 8th December 2018
Published by: Black Phoenix Publishing Collective
Genre: YA Fantasy
Southerner Sergeant Kearney "Red" Redguard is the last of a disgraced family, and a loyal guardsman.

And with a murderer stalking the streets, the city guard is his city's best defense.

But in the North, King Caedmon Taranisäii is gathering his army, and the cruel Night God prepares for the downfall of the South.

A new dark griffin roams the land, warning of the war to come. Betrayed and sent on the run, Red must fight to save his homeland. But it may already be too late...
I read K.J. Taylor's first release The Price of Magic last year which was an uplifting fantasy read. Any YA fantasy fan should definitely keep an eye out for this next book in a new series!

K.J. Taylor on Writing the Last Guard

Though its predecessor came out in 2014, I actually wrote The Last Guard in or about the year 2009 (I’ve often joked that if I could publish as fast as I write, I’d have overtaken Stephen King by now! Alas, publishing is a slow business). Still I remember writing it quite clearly. I did most of my work while sitting in a certain café with my laptop, which was an arrangement I liked because it was comfortable, there was no distracting WiFi, and I didn’t have to bring a packed lunch.

I enjoyed writing the book, which – well, I admit that’s not unusual; I’ve enjoyed writing every book I’ve ever done. Some authors grumble about how hard and stressful writing is, but I’ve always found it easy and fun. But I enjoyed TLG’s story and protagonist in particular among the other books I’ve written over the years. I enjoyed the story because it’s more or less nonstop action, with relatively few slow spots, which made it easier to write than, say, The Shadowed Throne, which had a lot of talky scenes and political stuff. Don’t get me wrong; I actually prefer writing dialogue scenes over action scenes, but it was still a refreshing change of pace.

Red as the protagonist was also a nice change of pace. Having written one trilogy starring a murderous bastard (I still love you, Arenadd) and a second one starring a woman who starts out bad-tempered and rude and eventually becomes a heartless tyrant, it was a change to be writing about someone who was a genuinely decent person for once.

Red isn’t perfect, of course. He’s uneducated and rather slow on the uptake at times, he’s unimaginative, he can be very scary when he loses his temper, he’s violent, and in some ways he’s a bit of a thug – at bottom he doesn’t really know how to solve his problems without using aggression and brute force. He’s what you’d call a “man’s man”, embarrassed by the idea of showing too much emotion, and equally embarrassed by the fact that he knows how to read (as a boy he was actually rather proud of his literacy, but a good dose of merciless teasing from his peers quickly put paid to that). Even so he’s an honest man (he claims that never in his life has he ever told a lie), and fiercely loyal to his friends, his Eyrie, and the law he serves. Unlike Arenadd he is disgusted by the idea of hurting those weaker than himself, and under normal circumstances would never raise a hand to a woman, a child, or someone trying to surrender.

Unlike Arenadd or Laela, Red isn’t out to find his place in the world: he already knows who he is and what he wants out of life. Unlike Arenadd he has no great ambitions; he just wants to be the best guardsman he can be, and restore the honour of the Redguard family name since his uncle Bran “the Betrayer” besmirched it. Other than that he hopes to find a wife and become a father, so the family line won’t die out. If circumstances hadn’t intervened he would most likely have lived a pretty quiet, uneventful life – and he’d have been perfectly happy that way. But when disaster strikes, he’s ready to step up and do whatever he can to protect his home.

The other aspect I enjoyed about writing the book was the divide between the two sides in the war. On the one hand you can sympathise with Red, since the Northerner invasion destroys his home and robs him of everything he holds dear when he’s done nothing wrong. But on the other, you can understand why King Caedmon led the assault on the South in the first place, and especially so if you’ve read the previous books and are aware that Caedmon too lost everything thanks to the treachery of Southerners, and has chosen to make war on their country purely to protect his people and his homeland from an enemy who conquered and enslaved them once before and might well choose to do so again. This is not a story of an evil overlord who wants to take over the world and the plucky hero who must nobly resist him. It is rather the story of two peoples who are blinded by ignorance and hate, which dooms them to repeat the mistakes of the past rather than learning from them. In the end, neither side is in the right. Rather, they both do what they think is right. Just as we all do. The question this trilogy asks is “can the cycle be broken?” and if so, what will it take to break it?


Black Phoenix Publishing are running a giveaway to win a free copy of this book! To enter, just visit their facebook page and like or comment on any of their posts before 15th December.

Review: Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend - Marvelously magical.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Series: Nevermoor #1
Released: 10th October 2017
Published by: Hachette
Genre: MG Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Pages: 449
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
A breathtaking, enchanting new series by debut author Jessica Townsend, about a cursed girl who escapes death and finds herself in a magical world--but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination.

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks--and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart--an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have.

To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests--or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
Nevermoor is a delightfully enchanting read which captures a sense of adventure on every page. Australian author Jessica Townsend's debut certainly has met the hype which came with her release, with comparisons made to Harry Potter that set the bar high. This new series does have the potential to become the stuff of legend for today's young readers, standing on its own as a uniquely imagined world of wonder and excitement with a protagonist who pushes past her vulnerabilities and is willing to 'step boldly'. 

She thought of the night before - of the wonderful moment when Jupiter had shown up at Crow Manor, the joy she'd felt at the break of dawn when she'd landed safely in the forecourt of the Hotel Deucalion. She'd believed a whole new world had opened up to her. 

This is a story which you can't help but be drawn to from the very first page. Even the most reluctant readers are sure to be hooked as they learn of Morrigan Crow's doomed fate and the dramatic circumstances which could change her life forever. What gives Nevermoor its charm is the world which Townsend has so intricately created. The idea of the Wundrous Society and telling of each trial which stands between Morrigan and her curse are all crafted in vivid detail which brings the plot to life. Although I would say this novel isn't as dark as Harry Potter, it still maintains a balance between the real danger following our protagonist and the fun of new experiences such as staying at the Hotel Decaulion and meeting a 'Magnificat'. At its heart, even when you take away the fantastical elements of this book, there is a message which readers both young and old will appreciate, about finally seeing what makes you special, and having the confidence to embrace it. 


Nevermoor has enough charm to appeal to people of any age, capturing the enchantment of a world where what hides behind the shadows is no match for the magic which lies within. I can't wait to see what happens next in this series!

Review: The Grip of It by Jac Jemc - Unsettling truths and unexplained absences

Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc
Released: 1st August 2017
Published by: Macmillan (US)
Genre: Horror
Source: Bought
Pages: 276
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Touring their prospective suburban home, Julie and James are stopped by a noise. Deep and vibrating, like throat singing. Ancient, husky, and rasping, but underwater. “That’s just the house settling,” the real estate agent assures them with a smile. He is wrong.

The move—prompted by James’s penchant for gambling and his general inability to keep his impulses in check—is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to start afresh. But this house, which sits between a lake and a forest, has its own plans for the unsuspecting couple. As Julie and James try to establish a sense of normalcy, the home and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The framework— claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of painful, grisly bruises.

 Like the house that torments the troubled married couple living within its walls, The Grip of It oozes with palpable terror and skin-prickling dread. Its architect, Jac Jemc, meticulously traces Julie and James’s unsettling journey through the depths of their new home as they fight to free themselves from its crushing grip.
What is worse? To be confronted with an obvious horror, or to be haunted by a never-ending premonition of what's ahead?

This new release from Jac Jemc being coined as 'literary horror' is the type of book which disorients the reader as much as it does the characters. Psychologically unsettling, the story unfolds as a young couple contend with an omnipresent entity in their newly purchased home. Set in a quiet neighborhood with some questionable residents who may know more than they let on, Julie and James become increasingly affected by an unspoken terror which threatens their grip on reality. While the 'big reveal' didn't leave me awestruck, Jemc's command of language was undeniably impressive. 

I remember that I have no answer for where the bruises come from or for where I disappeared when the house swallowed me up, and we have no explanation for the noises - the intonation or the deep breathing in the night or the voices looting our dreams - and no reasons for the drawings or the children in the woods, things we see together, even if we're apart. 

Let me start off by saying that this is not an example of the typical 'haunted house' trope. Yes, strange things happen in the building itself, but there is something altogether more uncomfortable when the cause could just as easily be rationalised as coming from the couple themselves. What makes The Grip of It so chilling goes beyond the already disturbing events of bruises which appear on Julie, or the sounds that keep James awake at night. You wouldn't need jump-scares in a horror movie if it instilled the kind of unease which is present here - something that is difficult to shake, but impossible to turn away from. The short, alternating perspectives let us get to know both members of the couple, as their vices and growing suspicion of each other begins to infiltrate the miasma of fear. There are lots of missing pieces though, and much of the background to the town and its past left me wondering where the story could possibly be headed. Things are dealt with at a slower pace in this novel which is almost entirely character driven, and often confusingly so. However, I can see where the author was coming from, and how it serves the purpose of always keeping you one step behind the truth. 

I feel this threat to our credibility sharply behind my eyes. The inability to trust ourselves is the most menacing danger. I fear what we could find here. I fear what we wont. 

I love how Jemc has contrasted such elegant prose with her darker subject matter. It's definitely made me want to read more of her work, as she is able to articulate human instinct and emotion in even the most surreal circumstances. She challenges the reader to question where the figments of our imagination begin and reality ends. Is there a true boundary between the two? This book excels at asking that exact question. As for the answer...well, I challenge you to take on The Grip of It and see what conclusion you reach.

We can mark the place that indicates This is how much we can take; we can monitor it, but that line, nevertheless, constantly moves. 


It can be hard to judge a book when I'm not even completely sure what had been going on at times, but perhaps that's the catch with a story like this - realising that the thought of the impossible is the most threatening of all. 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Woman in the Window

Wednesday, 29 November 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 The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.

What did she see?

It's been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside. Anna's lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours.

When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see.

Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

This is giving off some Girl on the Train vibes with a voyeuristic main character and her seemingly perfect subjects. I'm a big thriller fan so I'm curious to see how this one stacks up to the others I've read - it has Gillian Flynn's tick of approval so that's a good start!

Releasing 15th January 2018 from HarperCollins Australia

Review: The Burden of Lies by Richard Beasley

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Burden of Lies by Richard Beasley
Released: 1st December 2017
Published by: Simon and Schuster Australia
Genre: Legal thriller
Source: Publisher
Pages: 277
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Cocaine. Construction. Corruption. The unholy trinity of Sydney.

Self-made property mogul Tina Leonard has already lost her business, her home and custody of her children because South East Banking Corporation left her bankrupt. Now it appears she is being framed for the murder of her banker Oliver Randall, a senior executive of the corporation. Her motive? Revenge for ruining her life and her business. When maverick lawyer Peter Tanner is brought in to represent Tina, he bends the law to learn the truth. Was the real killer employed by the bank to silence Randall, who knew too much about their corrupt clientele and business dealings?

Tanner digs deeper the truth is harder and harder to find. Drug dealers and dodgy cops are a breed apart from corrupt corporate bankers, who’ll do anything to keep their names in the clear. Who really silenced Randall? Tanner gets more than he bargained for as he tangles with craven bent banks and a client who can't talk, and danger lurks far too close to home. Bestseller Richard Beasley's latest sharp-edged, gritty Peter Tanner thriller.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

I do love a good thriller, though I haven't read many like this which focus specifically on the legal drama behind the crime. In The Burden of Lies, Beasley has brought corporate and financial crime to the fore, with a side of high-rollers and corrupt millionaires in the drug trade. Add into the mix a maverick lawyer in the form of our protagonist Peter Tanner and you get a story which explores all the seedy characters and their connections to a murder itching to be solved. 

This book is full of legal jargon, but that's to be expected from this genre. It makes the set-up of the plot all the more realistic, and relevant also with the mention of all the corporate scandals and banking cover-ups which we hear about in the news on a regular basis. Beasley hit home with references to Sydney, making this a true Australian legal crime novel that people who live in the city can find some familiarity with. 

Tanner as a character cut through the technical side of solving the crime with his unconventional methods and real passion for justice. While he didn't always go about things 'by the book', sticking by his own ethics and always having a witty quip on hand made him a somewhat endearing character who at the end of the day just wanted to spend more time with his family. It was good to see both sides of his personality in and outside of his work. My one issue with the story was that there was a lot of unnecessary 'telling' instead of 'showing', making getting to the point of a chapter or particular plot point more tedious than it perhaps needed to be. But, once we got there it was clear to see that there will be room for the next book in the series where Tanner's unique legal problem-solving skills will make another appearance. 

In all, if you're a fan of John Grisham or Michael Connelly, it's definitely worth giving Richard Beasley's books a try. 

Genie's Weekly News (59) - Shakespeare, shiny new books I need in my life, and shortening my TBR

Sunday, 19 November 2017

After taking a short hiatus after exams, I'm finally back and blogging! Of course, the irony of having a heap of studying to do meant that I wanted to find any excuse to read, and during that time I picked up a few amazing gems which have become some of my favourites of the year. Fast forward to this week which was an exciting one, with bookish events and seeing The Merchant of Venice at the theatre.

Currently Reading

I've seen mixed reviews on The Grip of It, and at around 100 pages in I think I'm still deciding which side of the fence I'm on. It's described as a 'literary horror', about young couple who have just moved into a house whose hidden corners begin to alter their reality. It's the kind of book which I don't think the reader is meant to completely understand what's going on, so maybe that's the charm. I'm hoping there'll be a twist in there somewhere to surprise me...

Previous Posts

Recommendation of the Week

I already gushed about how amazing The Gulf is in my review, but it is honestly the best book I've read this year. I'm always excited to find new reads by Australian authors so if you have any recommendations let me know!

Nevermoor definitely lived up to the hype. I first heard about it at the Hachette Roadshow earlier in the year, and with comparisons made to Harry Potter the stakes were definitely high. Well, while it's near impossible to beat a series that has been going strong for over twenty years, Australian author Jessica Townsend's debut is charming and enchanting in its own right. This is a middle-grade novel which can be enjoyed by people of any age, and it's the type of fun read which has enough adventure and magic to convince even the most reluctant reader to step boldly into this world.

Date a Book Blogger Night Recap

It's been a few years since the last Date a Book event so it was brilliant to see the team organise another one for YA bloggers and readers to come together and hear about all the exciting new releases. The snack table alone was instagram-worthy (as was the fairy floss), but even better was hearing authors Victoria Carless (The Dream Walker), Jessica Townsend (Nevermoor) and international guest Kass Morgan (The 100) discuss their writing journeys and what it's like to find out your book is going to be published. 

There were a few memorable books to look out for in 2018, like A Thousand Perfect Notes by our very own blogger and writer extraordinaire Cait @ Paper Fury! Another mention has to go to The Beast's Heart - my pic of the screen couldn't do the cover justice, so here it is:

The Merchant of Venice

I've been fortunate to see a few Shakespearean productions in recent years - Romeo and Juliet in an ultra-modern, and then a classic production, Hamlet which was minimalist and striking, Othello which captured the striking storyline and A Midsummer Night's Dream which was...abstract (and more than a little disturbing). The Merchant of Venice is the first one I hadn't actually read before watching, but being there to witness it play out on stage with a brilliant cast meant the story all made sense. It was interesting to hear some of the well-known adages of 'all that glitters is not gold' and 'love is blind' in context. The set may have been simple, but the shimmering backdrop and unique staging helped bring the plot to life in a modern style. 

Over to you! Are there any 5-star reads you've read recently that everyone should know about? Also, what's your favourite play by Shakespeare?

Waiting on Wednesday: The Empress

Wednesday, 1 November 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 The Empress by S.J. Kincaid.

It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress. Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost.

He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?

The Diabolic was one of the best YA sci-fi novels I've read - it's a thrilling space-opera with twisted power-struggles and shocking finale...or so we thought. I'm so glad that there has turned out to be a sequel, I can't wait to see what lies ahead for Nemesis.

Releasing 1st November 2017 from Simon and Schuster

Review: The Gulf by Anna Spargo-Ryan - If there's a book you have to read this year, it's this one.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Gulf by Anna Spargo-Ryan
Released: 30th May 2017
Published by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Genre: Adult contemporary/coming of age
Source: Library
Pages: 285
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
'He found an egg at the park so he incubated it and this tortoise hatched out.' 

Skye's sixteen, and her mum's got yet another new boyfriend. Trouble is, Jason's bad news. Really bad. Now mum's quit her job and they're all moving north to Port Flinders, population nobody.

'That's a Southern Right Whale. They have the largest balls of any animal in the world.' 

She'd do anything to keep her ten-year-old brother safe. Things she can't even say out loud. And when Jason gets violent, Skye knows she has to take control. She's got to get Ben out and their mum's useless as. The train home to Adelaide leaves first thing each morning and they both need to be on it. Everything else can wait.

'Ladybirds bleed from their knees when they're stressed.' 

The Gulf is an acute, moving and uplifting story from the inimitable, alchemical imagination of Anna Spargo-Ryan.
I haven't been this moved by a book in a long time. Anna Spargo-Ryan's depiction of the children inadvertently swept up in a dangerously dysfunctional family is achingly real, her writing flawless. I always find it interesting where adult fiction features teen protagonists, and here reading Skye's story as she does anything to protect her ten year-old brother Ben from their harsh reality was no exception. Though this novel deals with some heavy themes, the depth to the characters within it brought a tenderness which left me thinking about them days after I turned the last page.

I went to the door. She was there, folded, on the ground. Knees drawn up to her chest. Her body moved rigidly, statically, and her shoulders slumped as though the air had been pulled right out of them. 

The rule of 'show, don't tell' which exemplifies 'good writing' is a difficult one to master. For a reader, it can be the difference between whether you make an emotional connection with the plot, or simply view the words on a page as a detached bystander. After finishing The Gulf, I can see why Spargo-Ryan has risen to critical acclaim on this point. Every scene she writes, each moment of conflict or reflection which her characters experience is captured through a lens which focuses on how they feel - so you are right there with them. Watching as Skye and Ben were affected by their mother's toxic relationship was at times confronting, however the unflinching portrayal of family violence and spiralling impact of Jason's shady business never veered into territory which was insensitive or contemptuous.

Sometimes all it takes is a few lines to convey the essence of a story, and it's these words which made the biggest impact on me:

I took a deep breath. Watched the hallway slide away from me, pulled myself up as tall as I could. Sucked in all the courage I had, all the bravery I'd ever collected from watching Ben going around in the world exactly the way he wanted. 

What I loved about this book is that alongside the insidious cruelty of Skye and Ben's situation was a glimpse of some goodness left in the world. Jason may have dragged the whole family to a tiny coastal town where they had to start over, but it's there that through the most troubling times came the most heartwarming moments. As their mum grew more distant, Skye displayed a maturity well beyond that of a sixteen-year-old through practically looking after her brother, remaining determined to plan for a brighter future ahead. It was also good to see her defined beyond the challenges she faced at home, through the 'normal' experiences of being a student, and someone on the cusp of a friendship which could be something more.

Then there's Ben: one of the most charismatic, quirky and knowledgeable ten-year-olds I've ever come across in a novel. Getting to see their life through his eyes with an innocence that only a child can possess, brought this book to a whole other level. It was never overly sentimental or lost touch with reality, but gave this story all that it needed to be truly memorable - heart. 


Anna Spargo-Ryan has produced my favourite book of the year so far. The Gulf is impeccably written, but its real triumph is revealing the courage needed to make a better life, and the sacrifices we make to find it. 

Books about Books Part 1 - Living, Breathing, Reading

Sunday, 15 October 2017

I've talked about why reading is so special in itself, and there's no denying that taking the time to sit down with a brilliant story can be the highlight of your day. But what about the stories of the places we get these books from? In this first part of my discussion on 'books about books', I'm taking a look at the booksellers, librarians and writers who have created works which can resonate with bookworms everywhere.

The Simple Act of Reading edited by Debra Adelaide

For it is in the simple act of reading where the living and the dead, the real and the imagined, meet. It is in the simple act of reading where we exercise those two most sacred of human vocations: compassion and creativity. For as we know, without either of these primes there is no possibility for a humanity present or past worth talking about. - Junot Diaz

A collection of essays and memoir pieces on the topic of reading, in particular what it means for writers to be readers and how that has shaped their life.

The Simple Act of Reading will support Sydney Story Factory by emphasising the importance of reading in shaping an individual’s future. Contributors include; Debra Adelaide, Joan London, Delia Falconer, Sunil Badami, Gabrielle Carey, Luke Davies, Tegan Bennett Daylight, Kate Forsyth, Giulia Giuffre, Andy Griffiths, Anita Heiss, Gail Jones, Jill Jones, Catherine Keenan, Malcolm Knox, Wayne Macauley, Fiona McFarlane, David Malouf, Rosie Scott, Carrie Tiffany and Geordie Williamson.

It's one thing to read an amazing novel, it's another to read a book which captures exactly how that feels. This book takes a whole group of different writers who share the stories which influenced them and the different perspectives on reading they've gained over the years.

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown - Scotland's largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover's paradise? Well, almost...

In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.

I've adored Jen Campbell's two books about Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, so anything along those lines is something I'm eager to try out. The bookshop featured in Bythell's work sounds like it has so much character - I'm sure it'll make for an interesting read.

Reading Allowed by Chris Paling

Chris works as a librarian in a small-town library in the south of England. This is the story of the library, its staff, and the fascinating group of people who use the library on a regular basis. We'll meet characters like the street-sleepers Brewer, Wolf and Spencer, who are always the first through the doors. The Mad Hatter, an elderly man who scurries around manically, searching for books. Sons of Anarchy Alan, a young Down's Syndrome man addicted to the American TV drama series. Startled Stewart, a gay man with a spray-on tan who pops in most days for a nice chat, sharking for good-looking foreign language students. And Trish, who is relentlessly cheerful and always dressed in pink - she has never married, but the marital status of everybody she meets is of huge interest to her.

Some of the characters' stories are tragic, some are amusing, some are genuinely surreal, but together they will paint a bigger picture of the world we live in today, and of a library's hugely important place within it. Yes, of course, people come in to borrow books, but the library is also the equivalent of the village pump. It's one of the few places left where anyone, regardless of age or income or background, can wander in and find somebody to listen to their concerns, to share the time of day.

Reading Allowed will provide us with a fascinating portrait of a place that we all value and cherish, but which few of us truly know very much about...

What would we do without librarians? I'm really interested in this one for its quirky charm and getting to know all the characters who make the library more than just a space filled with books.

I'd Rather be Reading by Guinevere de la Mare

For anyone who'd rather be reading than doing just about anything else, this book is the ultimate must-have. In this visual ode to all things bookish, readers will get lost in page after page of beautiful contemporary art, photography, and illustrations depicting the pleasures of books. Artwork from the likes of Jane Mount, Lisa Congdon, Julia Rothman, and Sophie Blackall is interwoven with text from essayist Maura Kelly, bestselling author Gretchen Rubin, and award-winning author and independent bookstore owner Ann Patchett.

Rounded out with poems, quotations, and aphorisms celebrating the joys of reading, this lovingly curated compendium is a love letter to all things literary, and the perfect gift for bookworms everywhere. 

If scrolling through #bookstagram pics on instagram isn't satisfying enough, this book could be just what you need. It's just been released this year, and needless to say - onto my Christmas wishlist it goes.

The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell

Every bookshop has a story. We’re not talking about rooms that are just full of books. We’re talking about bookshops in barns, disused factories, converted churches and underground car parks. Bookshops on boats, on buses, and in old run-down train stations. Fold-out bookshops, undercover bookshops, this-is-the-best-place-I’ve-ever-been-to-bookshops. Meet Sarah and her Book Barge sailing across the sea to France; meet Sebastien, in Mongolia, who sells books to herders of the Altai mountains; meet the bookshop in Canada that’s invented the world’s first antiquarian book vending machine. And that’s just the beginning.

 From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly, we’ve yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole). The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world.

One day I'd love to travel the world and make a list of all the bookshops to visit in each country I encounter. In the meantime, The Bookshop Book is the place to start - I'm sure there are lots of hidden gems out there to discover!

What are some of your favourite books about reading?

#LoveOzYABloggers - Favourite Covers

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Favourite Covers

A cover might not be the make-or-break in deciding whether you pick up a book or not, but a good first impression when you catch that first glimpse on the shelf definitely helps. As always, it's hard to narrow this selection down to just a few - but these are stories which for me made an impact both inside and out. 

In The Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker

There's something undeniably striking about this cover, and the inside definitely matches it. The bleached colours and feathers add a hint of the surreal, and once you begin reading, the story unravels like no other I've come across before. I agree with what Melina Marchetta's quote says on the front, this is definitely one of the most original reads I've come across in years.

You can see my review for In The Skin of a Monster here

Remind Me How This Ends by Gabrielle Tozer

In case my blog look didn't already give it away, I'm a huge fan of floral designs in general, and book covers are no exception! I could get all analytical and say that the petals separating on the cover represent branching out after high school and finding freedom in the world beyond...but even aside from that, there's a fresh, clean vibe to all of Gabrielle Tozer's covers so far which reflect her as a relevant, honest and relatable voice in Australian YA.

You can see my review for Remind Me How This Ends here

Begin, End, Begin

The botanical theme continues with this next pick, but I definitely couldn't go past this stunning anthology! (not to mention, the edition with the foil touches on the cover makes for a case of even more #coverlove). This book looks stunning on any shelf, but it probably won't be there for long - you'll be going back and re-reading it for sure. 

#LoveOzYABloggers is hosted by #LoveOzYA, a community led organisation dedicated to promoting Australian young adult literature. Keep up to date with all new Aussie YA releases with their monthly newsletter, or find out what’s happening with News and Events, or submit your own!

Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper - Australian crime fiction at its finest

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Released: 26th September 2017
Published by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Genre: Crime/Mystery
Source: Publisher
Pages: 384
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker.

Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case - in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.

Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?
The Dry was hailed as the book of the year at the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards, so any follow-up was bound to come under scrutiny to see how it compares. I'm happy to say that Force of Nature is addictive and atmospheric; suspenseful in a way that you simply have to experience for yourself.

In this book we get to know more about Agent Aaron Falk, a member of the financial crime division of the federal police. Like its predecessor, Force of Nature is at its core a 'police procedural' novel. But far from the constraints of the suburbs where a murder or missing person case can be solved with the aid of CCTV footage, or even the gossip from those in a rural town, out here in the fictional Giralang Ranges it becomes clear that the mystery behind Alice's disappearance will be more difficult to uncover. It's this added complexity of the rugged setting where the group of women begrudgingly set out on a company team-building expedition that brings the drama to the fore.

Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No-one saw the bushland swallow up Alice Russel. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you.

Once again Jane Harper has excelled in conveying the essence of a sense of place. In the Australian bush she brings out the ghostly whispers of the trees and unsettling sounds of the wildlife with vivid clarity. Just as the women struggle to orient themselves in an unfamiliar environment which all begins to look the same, us readers are also led on a twisted path to the truth. Harper skilfully leaves crumbs along the way which ramp up the suspense and enormity of the situation where survival becomes paramount - from the discovery of a meagre pool of water to what could be the abandoned cabin of an infamous killer. What is only a few days of the doomed expedition stretches the entire length of the story thanks to the alternating perspective on the current investigation at hand. Each chapter ends on a 'mini-cliffhanger', a device which achieves exactly what it set out to do - make this a book you Can't. Put. Down.

There was a movement outside her sleeping bag and Beth stiffened. She couldn't tell what had made it - woman or wildlife. She lay still and by the time it disappeared, the word she'd been searching for had formed on the tip of her tongue, so real she could almost taste its residue. Feral. 

The characters are equally well-developed, where human nature is examined as people are pushed to the brink. The boiling pot of personalities, from Alice the self-assured narcissist to Bree and Beth who are sisters that could not be more different, morphs into a powder keg ready to explode. These tensions make the plot all the more compelling, brought together with taut prose that is matter-of-fact yet descriptive. When there's no telling if help is ever going to arrive, ethics are questioned as company politics transcend the office, becoming a different beast altogether. It would be easy for a story like this to turn into a merely pragmatic play-by-play of the events as they unfolded, but I liked how there was more heart to the investigation. Falk's connection to his father who also used to hike the trails in the ranges was an interesting touch, bringing some humanity back to a plot which  otherwise highlights its vices through characters that are teetering over the edge.


If you've enjoyed The Dry, you will LOVE Force of Nature. Nonetheless, this book should be recognised for its own well-deserved merits. Jane Harper isn't just an author to watch, she's one whose work has to be read - do that and you won't look back. 

#LoveOzYABloggers - Historical

Monday, 25 September 2017


Historical fiction is an all-time favourite genre of mine, and when it comes to Australian YA there are a few standouts which come to mind. The three that I've chosen to feature for this week's prompt are all from very different time periods, but they each capture the societies of their settings in a way which vividly takes you back to eras gone by.

The Raven's Wing by Frances Watts

Set in ancient Rome, our protagonist Claudia is bound by the duty to the family she hardly knows when she is summoned by her father. Plots and scheming ensue, and she must make some difficult decisions on what's more important - love or duty? It's a question which has featured many times over in fiction, but even here the conflict between the two is given a fresh twist which keeps it interesting for teen readers.

You can see my review for The Raven's Wing here

The Diary of William Shakespeare, Gentleman by Jackie French

To be honest, I could have filled this whole post with ten or more Jackie French novels. I've gone on about the Matilda saga on here more times than I can count though, so it's time to change things up and give some of her other books time in the spotlight. This unique take on Shakespeare's life before he was the most famous playwright in history was a really interesting read. For her other Shakespeare-inspired works, I'd definitely recommend I Am Juliet and Ophelia: Queen of Denmark.

You can see my review for The Diary of William Shakespeare, Gentleman here

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

And finally we come to a book set in Australia - 1930's Sydney to be exact. It has an underbelly vibe with the mob-warfare and gritty crime elements, but keeps it unpredictable with the ghostly undertones. The old-school slang places you right at the heart of this time, and I loved the inclusion of the map at the beginning. 

You can see my review for Razorhurst here

#LoveOzYABloggers is hosted by #LoveOzYA, a community led organisation dedicated to promoting Australian young adult literature. Keep up to date with all new Aussie YA releases with their monthly newsletter, or find out what’s happening with News and Events, or submit your own!