Guest Post by Kim Lock

Recently I had the pleasure of reading Kim’s new book The Other Side of Beautiful, it was outstanding. I am a fan of Kim’s writing and storytelling and when I finished this particular read I asked myself, and then asked Kim, how does she write each book so differently, each as standalones, each a unique story? When I read her response I had a big AHA moment. Thanks so much Kim for enlightening me.

Carol: How do you write each book so uniquely?
Kim Lock: Good question. Let me think.

When I get up in the morning, here’s what happens: I shuffle into the kitchen, squinting. I put the kettle on; I sit and drink a cup of tea and wait for my brain to catch up with the phenomenon of daylight and being vertical. Once that has happened, there’s another cup over a book, or perhaps my emails. This – the squinting, the tea, the brain catch-up – happens without fail every morning. Of an evening, there’s the couch and chips or chocolate and an hour or two of Netflix. These are the comforting rituals that bookend my day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Between those morning and evening rituals? It varies. I’ve recently released a new novel, The Other Side of Beautiful, so lately there’s been publicity work to attend to. If I’m writing or editing, I’ll make that a priority for most of the day. Sometimes I’ll head into the garden, or drag myself to the shops for groceries or errands. Go for a run. Oh, and I have two home-educated preteens so there’s that.

This quiet unpredictability? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Although I must be clear: while I don’t love schedules, I also don’t especially enjoy dramatic surprises. Sometimes shock feels too much like fear. While I relish the ebb and flow of an unscheduled day, I also like to know, at least loosely, what to expect. (Call me contrary, but what human isn’t?)

So, I write fiction, returning again and again to the subjects I’m fascinated by, but with the steering wheel in front of me. (Or so I tell myself, until the characters have other plans.)

I’ve found my books shelved under contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, Australian fiction, historical fiction, thriller and noir, romance, humour and adventure. I’m told I write ‘genre-straddling’, ‘commercial-literary hybrid’, writing that perhaps ‘isn’t easy to categorise.’

But like most writers, I just write to try and understand the human experience. I write to try and make some sense of this nonsensical world, to explore the what-ifs that fascinate, frighten or engage me.

The funny thing is, as much as my novels are all different, I also know I am always writing about the same thing: women’s experiences of reproduction and motherhood in patriarchy. Becoming a mother upended everything I thought I knew, and became the bedrock of my feminism – and the obsessions that fuel my writing. But because I’m driven by novelty, I’ve also written about the army, adoption, psychological abuse, domestic ménage a trois, 1960s Australia, politics, mental illness and health, loneliness, happiness. I’ve written about the quiet joy to be found in solitude, in company, in the present moment. I like to include humour into my work; if it makes me laugh, it keeps me going.

What I love most especially is a new idea. I get delighted by small, bright changes. (You should see me when the bulbs in my garden sprout!) I love learning something new or having my stale old beliefs knocked about or eliminated entirely. (I admit this is sometimes challenging – hello motherhood – but it always works out to be a good thing, even if I complain about it at the time.) And I love it – love it – when people act in a surprising way, or do something out of what I had perceived to be their character.

In The Other Side of Beautiful, Mercy Blain has been stuck in her house for two years. To Mercy, newness and novelty are anathema. In order for my character to find herself – to dig into those same questions with which I as the writer am obsessed – I had to shove her out into the world. So, in the opening scene, I set her house on fire. Then I asked myself, Alrightnow what’s she gonna do?

Now what? I suspect it’s a question I’ll keep asking.

Review: Winter in Sokcho – Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins

Winter in Sokcho (Hiver à Sokcho)

Elisa Shua Dusapin

 Aneesa Abbas Higgins (Translator)

Scribe

ISBN: 9781922585011

RRP $22.99

Description:

As if Marguerite Duras wrote Convenience Store Woman — a beautiful, unexpected novel from a debut French-Korean author.

It’s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North’s watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape. The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an “authentic” Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows — the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she’s pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen.

An exquisitely-crafted debut, which won the Prix Robert Walser, Winter in Sokcho is a novel about shared identities and divided selves, vision and blindness, intimacy and alienation. Elisa Shua Dusapin’s voice is distinctive and unmistakable.

My View:

This quietly spoken little book is quite remarkable! I loved the voice, I loved its style – minimalist yet full of poignant, expressive moments captured succinctly and in an unassuming manner.

This is a book that demands much fanfare!! This is a read I will be recommending to all I see. It is exquisite reading and perfectly translated.  I don’t think my words can do this book justice, all I can do is suggest you pick this book up and start reading…you will find time disappears as you enter the protagonist’s world.

We all wish to be seen.

Perfect. Memorable. The best read in many years.

Introducing: As Swallow’s Fly- L P McMahon

As Swallows Fly

L P McMahon

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781920727574

 

Description:

When Malika, a young orphan in rural Pakistan, is savagely attacked, her face is left disfigured and her self-esteem destroyed. Haunted by the assault, she hides from the world, finding solace in her mathematical theories. A few years later, her intellectual brilliance is discovered and she leaves conflict-stricken Pakistan for a better education in Melbourne, where she finds herself placed with Kate—a successful plastic surgeon facing emotional insecurities of her own.

Malika and Kate’s lives slowly intertwine as they find within each other what each has lacked alone. At first, Kate’s skills appear to offer a simple solution to Malika’s anguish, but when tragedy strikes, the price of beauty is found to be much higher than either of them could have known.

As Swallows Fly is a poignant portrayal of survival, identity and empowerment in a culture dominated by the pursuit of perfection. In a captivating and unforgettable debut, McMahon asks what might be possible if we have the courage to be flawed.

 

My View:

This is an amazing 5 star read! This character driven narrative will win your heart and have you staying up way too late to discover how the protagonists, Kate and Malika, resolve their dilemmas and continue their respective lives.

This is a spellbinding read.  Captivating and compelling; the story arcs deftly woven together taking the reader to unfamiliar places and at times harrowing events.  I found it unusual and refreshing that a work of contemporary fiction could be so compelling.

I highly recommend this read.

*****

Let me introduce you to Lawrie McMahon as he discusses A Doctor and writer, a disfigured girl from Pakistan. What’s the story?

My work in Pakistan was in a voluntary capacity, helping out in a small mission hospital in a small town north of Lahore (Gujrat). People of all faiths were always welcome and it was chastening to see the way the villagers lived, what mattered to them, how they dealt with loss (often of their children), and the strictness of the culture. I saw their lives devastated by loss but, in a way beyond my capacity, they were able to continue and even rebuild.  These experiences were all key aspects influencing Malika’s character development. I realise now how the experience and memories have influenced my life too. The memories of that time remain crystal clear. I still find myself wondering what happened to the people I met there – young and old – and how life has changed for them. It remains an ambition to return.”

 

The progression from short stories to this debut….

The difference between short story writing and writing the novel could not have been more different.  I expect it to be the same for most writers. Complexity in both characters and plot were the main practical differences. My short stories focus on defined situations and experiences—the character is etched clearly and quickly, and the narrative progresses in its limited arc to the finish. It must be contained. The novel depends on the characters changing as the novel progresses. We see a much richer version of the humanity and flaws within the person. As a writer, I hope the difference is clear. In addition, the novel raised a whole series of challenges: subplots, subtleties of character and motive as they developed and were given their due. It remains a continued learning experience. A journey, as they say.

 

Thanks so much to Dr Lawrie McMahon and Ventura Press for these insights.

 

Review: Other Peoples Houses – Kelli Hawkins

Other People’s Houses

Kelli Hawkins

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781460759226

 

Description:

A stunningly tense, page-turning debut for all fans of The Woman in the Window and The Girl on the Train The perfect house. The perfect family. Too good to be true.

 

Kate Webb still grieves for her young son, ten years after his loss. She spends her weekends hungover, attending open houses on Sydney’s wealthy north shore and imagining the lives of the people who live there.

 

Then Kate visits the Harding house – the perfect house with, it seems, the perfect family. A photograph captures a kind-looking man, a beautiful woman she once knew from university days, and a boy – a boy that for one heartbreaking moment she believes is her own son.

 

When her curiosity turns to obsession, she uncovers the cracks that lie beneath a glossy facade of perfection, sordid truths she could never have imagined.

 

 

My View:

I don’t think I have come across such a unique narrator and unique plot; a mostly functioning alcoholic whose life is coloured with the raw grief of loss. Kate Webb is the most unreliable narrator I have come across yet her world is credible, the self-destructive behaviours understandable as her grief transcends her weak desire to function and exist in the world.

 

But this is not just a book about alcoholism and grief. Without giving away too much, this is a book about domestic violence in its worse form, its is about murders and psychopaths, about control, about relationships, about the glimmer of hope that just might sustain; it is a read where the nothing is as it seems.

 

And it is a read that will keep you up all night until you have discovered the truths. This is a compelling read and I will admit to shedding a silent tear as I finished this.

 

 

Guest Review: The Stationmaster’s Cottage – Phillipa Nefri Clark

The Stationmaster’s Cottage

Phillipa Nefri Clark

Self Published

ISBN: 9780648013815

Description:

“There are secrets in that cottage. Questions needing answers.”

Those words gave Christie Ryan a reason to stay in River’s End, when she should have gone home after Gran’s funeral.

Inheriting a rundown cottage, far from her jet-setting life, she is drawn into a fifty-year-old mystery.

Who wrote the letters hidden in the attic, an outpouring of love to a woman Christie suspects she is related to? What is the significance of a damaged painting kept by Gran but clearly painted in this seaside town?

Local artist Martin Blake may have the answers she seeks, but refuses to help. His dog adores Christie, but Martin keeps his feelings locked away.

As Christie faces difficult decisions about her own future, will the consequences of righting old wrongs be too high a price to pay?

 

Brenda’s Review:

The death of Christie Ryan’s grandmother was the beginning of a profound change in her life. As she headed to the small country town of River’s End to meet Angus, Gran’s long-time employee, it was much against her fiancé Derek’s wishes. He was scornful of her need to go to the funeral, and Christie’s heart broke a little at his words. But she needed to do this; Derek would have to wait.

River’s End was only a few hours from Melbourne, but Christie had never heard of the place. She and her Gran had never been close; a seemingly hard-hearted woman, Christie was about to learn a lot of things about secrets from her Gran’s past – about her family’s past. The stationmaster’s cottage in River’s End was now hers, having been left to Christie. It was run down and in a bad way, but it had a certain charm and Christie knew almost immediately that she wouldn’t sell it. The ocean was near, the peace and tranquility perfect.

But as Christie cleaned the cottage, she came across letters in the attic, a painting, a diary and more. Who were the people involved? Was it a long lost relative or a total stranger? Written fifty years prior, Christie could feel the need to solve the puzzle; to help if she could. Her own life was up in the air; should she investigate the past, or sort out what was happening here and now?

And I have just discovered another author to love! The Stationmaster’s Cottage is my first by Aussie author Phillipa Nefri Clark; it’s also her debut, plus first in the Christie Ryan series. Wow what a debut! I loved the story of Christie, her Gran, Martha and Thomas, Martin and of course Randall. The Stationmaster’s Cottage is filled with rich characters, even the side players; the scenery overlooking the ocean; the small country town and the friendliness of the locals – all makes this a heartwarming and heartbreaking historical fiction novel which I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. 5 stars.

Guest Review: The Girl in the Painting – Tea Cooper

The Girl in the Painting

Tea Cooper

HarperCollins Publishers AU

ISBN: 9781489270726

Description:

Maitland 1913. Miss Elizabeth Quinn is something of an institution in Maitland Town. For longer than anyone could remember she and her brother, businessman Michael, have lived in the impressive two-storey stone house next to the church. When she is discovered cowering in the corner of the exhibition gallery at the Technical College the entire town knows something strange has come to pass.

Was it the prehistoric remains or perhaps the taxidermy exhibition that had reduced the whale-boned encased pillar of society to a quivering mess? Or is there something odd about a striking painting on loan from the National Gallery?

Mathematical savant Jane Piper is determined to find out. Deposited on the doorstep of the local orphanage as a baby, she owes her life and education to the Quinn’s philanthropic ventures and Elizabeth has no one else to turn to.

As the past and the present converge, Elizabeth’s grip on reality loosens. Can Jane, with her logical brain and penchant for puzzles, unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late?

Ranging from the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, the bucolic English countryside to the charm of Maitland Town, this compelling historical mystery in the company of an eccentric and original heroine is rich with atmosphere and detail.

 

Brenda’s Review:

It was 1863 when Michael Ó’Cuinn and his little sister Elizabeth left London bound for Australia. Their Mam and Da had gone earlier, leaving the two children with an aunt, but her death meant the journey to join their parents took place sooner than originally planned. Leaving Elizabeth with the Camerons in Sydney while Michael searched for their parents, the shock he faced meant he had to do some rapid growing up.

Fifty years later in 1913, Michael and Elizabeth lived in Maitland, NSW. They were well known and liked in the town; Michael was an astute businessman while Elizabeth controlled the accounting. They had rescued Jane from the orphanage when she was young, her mathematical genius something they wanted to cultivate. Jane called them Aunt and Uncle; she wasn’t adopted but was part of the family.

It was when Elizabeth was affected by an exhibition at the Technical College that things began to change. Elizabeth felt herself fading in and out of reality; her dizziness and fear was overwhelming. The doctor couldn’t find anything physically wrong with her – so what was happening? Jane was determined to find the answers; she owed everything to Michael and Elizabeth. She had to help. But was it a puzzle she could solve?

The Girl in the Painting by Aussie author Tea Cooper would have to be her best yet in my opinion! An exceptional plot, interesting, intriguing and poignant. I couldn’t put this one down; loved Jane’s character, especially when she first went to the Quinn household. I laughed out loud many times at her antics; she was forthright and didn’t hold back. The Girl in the Painting is a thoroughly enjoyable historical mystery novel which I highly recommend. 5 stars.

With thanks to the publisher for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

 

Guest Review: Cradle to Grave – Rachel Amphlett

Cradle to Grave

Detective Kay Hunter #8

Rachel Amphlett

Saxon Publishing

ISBN: 9781916098817

 

Description:

When a faceless body is found floating in the river on a summer’s morning, Detective Kay Hunter and her team are tasked with finding out the man’s identity – and where he came from.

The investigation takes a sinister turn when an abandoned boat is found, covered in blood stains and containing a child’s belongings.

Under mounting pressure from a distraught family and an unforgiving media, the police are in a race against time – but they have no leads, and no motive for the events that have taken place.

Will Kay be able to find a ruthless killer and a missing child before it’s too late?

Brenda’s Review:

The discovery of a body floating in the river was only the beginning of the case. When the team located an abandoned, blood stained boat which had children’s toys in the cabin, the immediate concern that a child had been kidnapped was foremost in the minds of the investigators. Detective Kay Hunter along with her senior officer, Detective Ian Barnes kept the team moving with their different tasks, but their frustration was mounting. Working around the clock, Kay wondered if they would get a break in the case soon; and whether Alice was still alive…

Cradle to Grave is the 8th in the Kay Hunter series by Aussie author Rachel Amphlett and it was brilliant once again! This series is going from strength to strength, and it’s always great to catch up with Kay and her team. The author makes me feel fully involved in the story; the different emotions come across well and the descriptions are such that I can visualize it all. Cradle to Grave is one I highly recommend, but I strongly suggest reading the series from the beginning. 5 stars.

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review- The Orchardist’s Daughter – Karen Viggers

the orchardist's daughterThe Orchardist’s Daughter

Karen Viggers

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760630584

 

Description:

A story of freedom, forgiveness and finding the strength to break free. International bestselling writer Karen Viggers returns to remote Tasmania, the setting of her most popular novel The Lightkeeper’s Wife.

Sixteen-year-old Mikaela has grown up isolated and home-schooled on an apple orchard in southeastern Tasmania, until an unexpected event shatters her family. Eighteen months later, she and her older brother Kurt are running a small business in a timber town. Miki longs to make connections and spend more time in her beloved forest, but she is kept a virtual prisoner by Kurt, who leads a secret life of his own.

When Miki meets Leon, another outsider, things slowly begin to change. But the power to stand up for yourself must come from within. And Miki has to fight to uncover the truth of her past and discover her strength and spirit.

Set in the old-growth eucalypt forests and vast rugged mountains of southern Tasmania, The Orchardist’s Daughter is an uplifting story about friendship, resilience and finding the courage to break free.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Sixteen-year-old Mikaela moved to the small timber town with her older brother Kurt after their parents were lost in a house fire. Miki grieved for her parents, but Kurt made a home for them behind the fish’n’chip shop which they ran. Being the only takeaway shop in town they were reasonably busy – but Miki didn’t get out except with Kurt when they went to the forest on a Monday. He kept her closeted inside – for her safety he said. Miki didn’t argue; she didn’t want to make him angry.

When Leon arrived to start his position as a Parks Ranger, he knew he wanted to make this place his home. His Grandpa was in a nursing home nearby, but he knew no one else. He’d left his parents at their property on Bruny Island where he’d lived most of his life – he knew it was time to get away as he and his father didn’t see eye to eye. Leon’s run-down old home was next door to young ten-year-old Max and his family. He soon found himself kicking the footy around with Max, who needed to work on his confidence. And Leon joined the local football team to meet some of the locals. He wasn’t sure how long it would take to be accepted though…

Miki was lonely, especially when Kurt was away in Hobart. She had her beloved books which had belonged to her mother, but she wanted more. Could she find a way to leave the shop, even just for a walk? Her feelings about her brother were changing; his anger and aggression were mounting – she didn’t know what to do. But trouble was coming, and Miki needed to find strength and resilience. Could she?

The Orchardist’s Daughter by Aussie author Karen Viggers is a beautifully written story of dominance, a need for freedom other than in the pages of a book, determination and a deep love of nature. Set among the eucalypts of southern Tasmania, Miki’s affinity to the forest, the Tasmanian devils, the majestic soaring eagles who nested in the forest – plus Leon’s love of those same forests which were in his blood – then the tense, gritty and breathtaking finish – all made for an excellent novel which I highly recommend. 5 stars.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

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.