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: Bridge of Clay – Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay

Bridge of Clay

Markus Zusak

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781760559922

 

Description:

From the author of the no.1 New York Times bestselling novel The Book Thief.

 

“An amazing talent in Australian literature” Sunday Telegraph

 

Let me tell you about our brother.

The fourth Dunbar boy named Clay.

Everything happened to him.

We were all of us changed through him.

 

The Dunbar boys bring each other up in a house run by their own rules. A family of ramshackle tragedy – their mother is dead, their father has fled – they love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world.

 

It is Clay, the quiet one, who will build a bridge; for his family, for his past, for his sins. He’s building a bridge to transcend humanness. To survive.

 

A miracle and nothing less.

 

Markus Zusak makes his long-awaited return with a profoundly heartfelt and inventive novel about a family held together by stories, and a young life caught in the current: a boy in search of greatness, as a cure for a painful past.

 

PRAISE FOR BRIDGE OF CLAY

 

“Exquisitely written multigenerational family saga…With heft and historical scope, Zusak creates a sensitively rendered tale of loss, grief, and guilt’s manifestations.” Publishers Weekly

 

“An evocative, compassionate and exquisitely composed coming-of-age story about family, love, tragedy and forgiveness. Zusak’s prose is distinct: astute, witty, exquisitely rhythmic, and utterly engrossing. The deliberateness of his sentences, down to the punctuation is something to savour…a profoundly moving and engaging meditation on innocence and the pliable ties that bind family together in a quintessentially Australian setting.” Australian Books+Publishing Magazine

 

 

My View:

When I finished reading this book, about 1 in the morning, it took a great deal of self-control for me not to wake my husband up so I could talk to him about the book (he had read it a few days before me) and he loved it too! And now I cant wait for publication day to arrive so I can talk to others about this amazingly written (I loved the voice, the writing style), poignant, mesmerising read.

 

Perhaps my response to this book can best be summed up in the author’s own words (p. 568/569) “Twice I nearly broke down, and once I thought I’d be sick …” tears were close to flowing on several occasions, I swallowed them down in an effort to appear in control and dignified. I LOVED the book – can I make the call this early – THJE BEST BOOK I HAVE READ THIS YEAR!

 

 

 

Book Launch: Find Your Creative Mojo – Josh Langley

Yesterday I was privileged to attend the launch of the new inspirational book by Josh Langley. Josh knows how to encourage, support, inspire… all whilst enjoying life’s journey.

I love the heading of the first chapter: “If you have a heart, you can create art.” This says it all.

 

Thanks Josh for your continued support of my creative journey.

Review: Hive – A.J Betts

Hive

Hive (Hive #1)

A J Betts

Pan

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760556433

 

Description:

All I can tell you is what I remember, in the words that I have.

 

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.

 

Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

 

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

 

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.

 

Curiosity is a hook.

 

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.

 

 

My View:

Let’s start by admiring the spectacular cover art with its gold embossing, award winning I would suggest.

 

The narrative is simply driven, and quietly spoken which belies the horrors of the actual landscape. Through Hayley’s eyes we explore a futuristic world where the division of labour determines an individual’s existence and pathway to adulthood, a world where dissidents are not tolerated.

 

 

A J Betts has quickly established this “other world”, the main characters and a mystery that is just starting to be unravelled by Hayley in this, the first book in the Hive series. Hayley is the perfect vehicle for us to explore and experience life in the Hive.  She has a naivety, curiosity and intelligence that connects her to the reader.  We care about Hayley. “Does it ever feel to you like life is a puzzle? “ I nodded. It did. “It’s not like that for everyone you know…. For most people life just happens and they don’t ask why or how. They don’t notice the gaps between the puzzle pieces, or wonder what they mean.” (p.243) Hayley is a naturally curious person, and you know what happened to the cat….

 

A great read that will leave you wanting more. A read that all ages can embrace. A read that will leave you thinking, thinking…so many unanswered questions, so much material here to stimulate discussion.

 

 

 

 

Review: Sisters and Brothers – Fiona Palmer

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer is published by Hachette Australia. $29.99. Out now.

 

Description:

A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and a father’s love by beloved bestselling Australian author, Fiona Palmer.

 

Bill, 72, feels left behind after the death of his adored wife. He relies heavily on his only daughter, Sarah.

 

Sarah, career woman and perfectionist homemaker, struggles to keep up with the Joneses. As her husband grows distant, she has no support network.

 

Emma, a down-to-earth nurse and busy mother of three, always dreamed of having a sister . . . But nothing prepares her for the shock results of a routine blood test.

 

Adam, a successful florist, was raised by his mother. As his dreams start to fall into place, he can’t stop thinking about the father he never had.

 

Finally, Michelle is trying to build cake-making into a career. But at 46, has she left her run too late to fall in love, have children and find her birth parents?

 

These five very different people – all connected but separated by secrets from the past – could be facing their futures together. After all, friends will come and go but sisters and brothers are forever . . . The new novel of heartbreak, adoption, family and a father’s love by the Top Ten bestselling author of Secrets Between Friends, Fiona Palmer

 

 

My View:

For me this was a very nostalgic readI loved reading about this era (70’s- 80’s), clichéd as it may be – life was so different then and Fiona Palmer captures the innocence of youth (distilled into the character of the protagonist, Bill) juxtaposed against rapid changes in communications, music, health care, technology, the developing women’s’ rights movement…this is a sociology lesson without the homework 🙂

 

This is a narrative that is built on a foundation of secrets. It is poignant, reflective and ultimately healing. This is a most enjoyable read but don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two as you join Bill on his life’s journey.  Heart-warming, nostalgic, romantic, love affirming…this book has it all.

PS whilst reading this I was inspired to paint this – don’t you think it shouts 70’s to you?

 

carol's art

 

 

Review: Greenlight- Benjamin Stevenson

Greenlight

Greenlight

Benjamin Stevenson

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143789871

 

Description:

Four years ago Eliza Dacey was brutally murdered.

Within hours, her killer was caught.

Wasn’t he?

 

So reads the opening titles of Jack Quick’s new true-crime documentary.

 

A skilled producer, Jack knows that the bigger the conspiracy, the higher the ratings. Curtis Wade, convicted of Eliza’s murder on circumstantial evidence and victim of a biased police force, is the perfect subject. Millions of viewers agree.

 

Just before the finale, Jack uncovers a minor detail that may prove Curtis guilty after all. Convinced it will ruin his show, Jack disposes of the evidence and delivers the finale unedited: proposing that Curtis is innocent.

 

But when Curtis is released, and a new victim is found bearing horrifying similarities to the original murder, Jack realises that he may have helped a guilty man out of jail. And, as the only one who knows the real evidence of the case, he is the only one who can send him back …

 

 

My View:

About Benjamin Stevenson (https://www.penguin.com.au/authors/benjamin-stevenson):

 

Benjamin Stevenson is an award-winning stand-up comedian and author. He has sold out shows from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has appeared on ABCTV, Channel 10, and The Comedy Channel. Off-stage, Benjamin has worked for publishing houses and literary agencies in Australia and the USA. He currently works with some of Australia’s best-loved authors at Curtis Brown Australia. Greenlight is his first novel.

 

I have just finished reading Greenlight and wanted to know a little bit about the author as I was very impressed with this debut.  What a surprise – a comedian? There is no comedy in Greenlight.  Works in the publishing industry, I was sure I was going to find but didn’t – works in the film industry, specifically on documentaries, his protagonist Jack has an authentic documentary maker voice.  I loved this aspect of the book.

 

Back to the book – this is a brutal, dark and intriguing crime fiction narrative.

 

I like how Stevenson has turned the stereotype regarding eating disorders on its head; a sad yet refreshing and honest approach here.

 

Consequences, guilt, redemption and acceptance are themes that are sited in small town prejudices. Tension, tension, tension. And the ending – no spoilers here. Think you have it worked out? Think again.

 

A great read.

 

Review: Beneath The Mother Tree – D M Cameron

Beneath The Mother Tree by D M Cameron

Beneath The Mother Tree

D M Cameron

MidnightSun Publishing

ISBN: 9781925227390

 

Description:

A spine-chilling mystery and contemporary love story, Beneath the Mother Tree plays out in a unique and wild Australian setting, interweaving Indigenous history and Irish mythology.

 

On a small island, something sinister is at play. Resident alcoholic Grappa believes it’s the Far Dorocha, dark servant of the Faery queen, whose seductive music lures you into their abyss. His granddaughter Ayla has other ideas, especially once she meets the mysterious flute player she heard on the beach.

 

Riley and his mother have moved to the island to escape their grief. But when the tight-knit community is beset by a series of strange deaths, the enigmatic newcomers quickly garner the ire of the locals. Can Ayla uncover the mystery at the heart of the island’s darkness before it is too late?

 

Wrought with sensuousness and lyricism, D.M. Cameron’s debut novel Beneath the Mother Tree is a thrilling journey, rhythmically fierce and eagerly awaited.

 

 

My View:

This is a unique read. An amazing debut that is sensitively written, evocative, and dreamy, at times with a childlike innocence that beguiles the reader.  There is a wonderful mix of Indigenous and Irish traditional/folk stories that support a strong narrative that focusses on family, family ties and love.  There is a sinister touch as historical and present day crimes intersect where blood has been shed and an evil miasma lurks.

 

This is a powerful story unlike any other I have read. How do you define this read, speculative fiction, love story, historical fiction, faery tale…so many styles create this engaging read.  Maybe we shouldn’t try to define this, we should just read and enjoy.