Welcome Jennifer Spence

Today I welcome Jennifer Spence to my blog. Jennifer shares with us a brief history of her writing life; I love her  attitude – trying out different genres, listening to her heart!

I am currently reading Jennifer’s new release – The Lost Girls published by Simon & Schuster Australia. It is an absorbing read, within paragraphs you are catapulted into the middle of the action, the mysteries and  the many dilemmas. This is a unique read that discusses memory, family, aging, fate, love and time travel with an interesting overarching mystery that unifies the narrative.

the lost girls

Welcome Jennifer, I am very pleased to make your acquaintance and I look forward to reading your thriller too, one day.

 

Jennifer Spence:

I decided at the age of seven that I was going to be a writer. I could never get my hands on enough books to satisfy my craving to read, so I reasoned that I would need to make my own. Whenever I got hold of an empty exercise book I’d start a new novel: nearly always the story of a misfit girl who is sent to a boarding school, where she is bullied at first but proves herself in some spectacular way. Who knew that many years later J.K. Rowling would prove that this idea indeed had legs!

As I grew up I retained this wish to write, but the truth is that in my youth I didn’t have a lot to say. Without consciously planning it, I gave myself an extremely long apprenticeship. I studied English and Philosophy at university, became an English teacher for a while, worked in the theatre and wrote a few performance pieces, talked my way into writing television scripts for a year, and eventually wrote my first children’s book just to see if I could. Writing a whole book and getting to the end looked like such an arduous task, as indeed it is. I’ll never forget the euphoria of pulling off this modest little achievement.

After that I stumbled into a well-paid profession as a technical writer, which was also a valuable part of my training. Technical writing has to be sharp and to-the-point. Whatever you’re describing, you have to nail it. You can’t obfuscate, and this aligns with the kind of writing I respect and the principles I adhere to.

Finally, a few years ago, the stars were kind and I was able to take some time off work to write some more. I started with a second children’s book which I had already composed in my head – though it came out rather differently on paper – then a thriller that I had also thought a lot about. I was quite surprised when the publishers told me I was supposed to choose one genre and stick to it! But I did want to eventually write straight fiction, and I had several ideas queued up in my brain. I wrote sequels for the children’s book and the thriller, because the publishers asked for them, all the time trying to polish my writing style, and I confess I was about to move on to a dystopian novel.

But then ‘The Lost Girls’ pushed its way into the queue. Once the idea for this book popped into my head I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had to drop everything and write it, and I found in the process that it was a good place for a lot of the ideas I had been wanting to express.

I’m now working on another piece of straight-ish fiction. It’s an idea that I first had in my twenties, not knowing where it was going to lead. Now I do know, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the writing of it.

 

jennifer spencePhoto courtesy of Jacalin King

 

Guest Review – Saving You – Charlotte Nash

saving you

Saving You

Charlotte Nash

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733636479

 

Description:

One single mother. Three escaped pensioners. A road trip across the United States.

The new emotionally compelling page-turner by Australia’s Charlotte Nash.

In their tiny pale green cottage under the trees, Mallory Cook and her five-year-old son, Harry, are a little family unit who weather the storms of life together. Money is tight after Harry’s father, Duncan, abandoned them to expand his business in New York. So when Duncan fails to return Harry after a visit, Mallory boards a plane to bring her son home any way she can.

During the journey, a chance encounter with three retirees on the run from their care home leads Mallory on an unlikely group road trip across the United States. Zadie, Ernie, and Jock each have their own reasons for making the journey and along the way the four of them will learn the lengths they will travel to save each other – and themselves.

Saving You is the beautiful, emotionally compelling page-turner by Charlotte Nash, bestselling Australian author of The Horseman and The Paris Wedding.

Brenda’s Review:

Absolutely brilliant! This will be one of my top reads for 2019!

Mallory Cook’s work at Silky Oaks with the elderly residents was rewarding, and she loved her job. Her greatest achievement though was her five-year-old son Harry. She was excited for his return from New York where he’d been for two weeks with his father for the Easter break. But the non-appearance of both Duncan, Mallory’s husband, and Harry at the Brisbane Airport was the beginning of a journey that would test everything Mallory had ever known about herself.

Mallory’s arrival at the Los Angeles airport was joined by a nearby volcano pouring its ash over the airways. Flights were cancelled, hire cars were fully booked, trains were booked out – Mallory was stranded with little money. But her meeting with three elderly people, Ernie, Zadie and Jock seemed like the answer to her prayers. They needed to get to Nashville and had a hire car, their driver had vanished, and Mallory needed to get to New York. As long as she could drive them, all would be fine.

The trip across the country was fraught with problems – but the determination of all four was that they would do what they set out to do. Mallory ached to see Harry – what would be the outcome of this seemingly crazy dash from Australia to the US?

Saving You by Aussie author Charlotte Nash is an emotional, heart warming and heart breaking novel which I absolutely loved. I devoured it, laughing out loud in places, needing the tissues in others. A wonderful novel that I have no hesitation in recommending highly – in my opinion this is the author’s best yet! A credit to you Ms Nash! 5 stars!

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Best Contemporary/Literary Reads of 2018

This is another category that has many contenders. There were so many fabulous reads that have made me think, feel, inspired me to paint and at some that have brought a tear to my eye. If you have an opportunity to pick up any of these books I think you will be very impressed.

 

In no particular order:

Lenny’s Book of Everything – Karen Foxlee

Lenny's Book of Everything

The Children’s House – Alice Nelson

The Children's House

Bridge of Clay – Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay

Beneath the Mother Tree – D M Cameron

Beneath The Mother Tree by D M Cameron

Return to Roseglen – Helene Young

Return to Roseglen by Helen Young cover art

I Have Lost My Way – Gayle Foreman 

I Have Lost My Way

Ghosted – Rosie Walsh

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart – Holly Ringland

If Kisses Cured Cancer – T S Hawken

If Kisses Cured Cancer

Book of Colours – Robyn Cadwallader

The Book of Colours

 

Review: Lenny’s Book of Everything – Karen Foxlee

Lenny's Book of Everything

Lenny’s Book of Everything

Karen Foxlee

Allen and Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781760528706

RRP $19.99

 

Description:

Our mother had a dark heart feeling. Lenny’s younger brother has a rare form of gigantism and while Lenny’s fiercely protective, it isn’t always easy being the sister of ‘the giant’. A book about finding good in the bad that will break your heart while raising your spirits in the way that only a classic novel can.

 

Lenny, small and sharp, has a younger brother Davey who won’t stop growing – and at seven is as tall as a man. Raised by their mother, they have food and a roof over their heads, but not much else.

 

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of the Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. But as Davey’s health deteriorates, Lenny realises that some wonders can’t be named.

 

A big-hearted novel about loving and letting go by an award-winning author.

 

‘A gorgeous, heartbreaking, and heartwarming book.’ – R. J. PALACIO

 

‘Such a big heart and not a beat out of place.’ – MELINA MARCHETTA

 

‘Tough, tender and beautiful.’ – GLENDA MILLARD

 

‘Unforgettable.’ – ANNA FIENBERG

 

‘Karen Foxlee, you’re a genius.’ – WENDY ORR

 

Author bio: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/popular-fiction/Lennys-Book-of-Everything-Karen-Foxlee-9781760528706

Karen Foxlee is an Australian author who writes for both kids and grown-ups. Her first novel The Anatomy of Wings won numerous awards including the Dobbie Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, Karen’s first novel for children, was published internationally to much acclaim while her second novel for younger readers, A Most Magical Girl, won the Readings Children’s Fiction Prize in 2017 and was CBCA shortlisted the same year.

 

Karen lives in South East Queensland with her daughter and several animals, including two wicked parrots, who frequently eat parts of her laptop when she isn’t looking. Her passions are her daughter, writing, day-dreaming, baking, running and swimming in the sea.

 

 

My View:

Karen Foxlee’s novel, The Anatomy of Wings, is possibly my all-time favourite Australian read so when I saw a new novel by Foxlee I had to read it. The advanced press and glorious reviews for Lenny’s Book of Everything are justified. What a bitter sweet read. What a wonderful exploration of what it means to be a family, the importance of community, hope, love and…life (no spoilers here).

 

This contemporary read can be read and loved by many but maybe not my copy, the pages on my copy are a little damp…*sigh* What a wonderful, poignant, heartbreaking yet satisfying read.

Review: Matryoshka – Katherine Johnson

Matryoshka

Matryoshka

Katherine Johnson

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781925384635

RRP $29.99

Description:

The award-winning author of The Better Son is back with Matryoshka – a beautifully written and haunting tale of family, secrets, violence, and refuge, set against the breathtaking backdrop of Tasmania.

 

When Sara Rose returns to live in her recently deceased grandmother’s Tasmanian cottage, her past and that of her mother and grandmother are ever-present. Sara’s grandmother, Nina Barsova, a Russian post-war immigrant, lovingly raised Sara in the cottage at the foot of Mt Wellington but without ever explaining why Sara’s own mother, Helena, abandoned her as a baby.

 

Sara, a geneticist, also longs to know the identity of her father, and Helena won’t tell her. Now, estranged not only from her mother but also from her husband, Sara raises her daughter, Ellie, with a central wish to spare her the same feeling of abandonment that she experienced as a child.

 

When Sara meets an Afghani refugee separated from his beloved wife and family, she decides to try to repair relations with Helena – but when a lie told by her grandmother years before begins to unravel, a darker truth than she could ever imagine is revealed.

 

Matryoshka is a haunting and beautifully written story about the power of maternal love, and the danger of secrets passed down through generations.

 

 

My View:

A contemporary read of exquisite design, beautifully crafted and guaranteed to connect to readers of so many levels: the settings, the dysfunctional family story(s) that is at the heart of the narrative, the contemporary issues surrounding Australia’s history of welcoming migration, albeit with the prejudices the “other” in the dominant
culture experiences (perhaps many of you reading this are the 2nd or 3rd generation Australians – you will know what I mean here) juxtaposed against modern prejudices of “other” and a culture of detention and family separation that is modern day Australia.

 

This is a gently written, poignant, interesting read that has great content for book club discussions around the world.

Review: Take Me In – Sabine Durrant

Take Me In

Take Me In

Sabine Durrant

Hachette Australia

Mulholland Books

Hodder

ISBN: 9781473608368

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

The sensational new thriller from the author of the Richard & Judy bestseller Lie With Me.

 

‘Need a reminder of what makes thrillers great? Read this.’ Emerald Street

 

Tessa and Marcus went on holiday to save their marriage.

Instead they nearly lost their son.

 

In that fatal moment of inattention a stranger stepped in. And now Dave Jepsom is in their lives.

 

They owe him – they know that – but he seems to want everything. He’s on the streets they walk down. He’s at the office where they work. He’s knocking at their front door…

 

And he’s exposing secrets they would do anything to hide.

 

If they could just go back. Not make that one terrible mistake.

 

But it’s never how it starts that matters. It’s always how it ends.

 

 

My View:

I am a big fan of this author. She never fails to surprise me, to lead me completely and easily away from the essence of truth in the narrative, I am always amazed and sometimes petrified by the end of the story.

 

You will read this in two sittings: there is so much tension, so much anticipation of the worst to come that you will walk away and let the knots unravel in your stomach before you pick this book up again and finish reading. A powerful read.