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.

Review: Something Like This – Karly Lane

Something Like This

Karly Lane

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529253

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

A spellbinding new rural romance from the bestselling author of the Callahans of Stringybark Creek trilogy and Fool Me Once.

 

 

Jason Weaver just wants to be left alone. It was a tough transition from his army days to civilian life, and he’s looking forward to settling into a solitary life.

 

Tilly Hollis is working two jobs to save for her dream career: running an equine therapy program. Tilly loves her horses more than anything, and after losing her husband and business partner just a few years earlier, she’s determined to make it work on her own.

 

When Jason walks into the cafe where Tilly works, they’re immediately drawn to one another. But can they overcome their pasts to find a future together?

 

 

My View:

I have had a few very restless/sleepless nights recently and so the last time I found myself still awake past midnight a pick up my copy of Something Like This and settled in to read for an hour or so before I went back to bed and sleep, I hoped. This was a major mistake. 173 pages later I did not want to put this book down!  I looked at the clock – gone 3 (well to be honest – it was a bit later than that but I am not admitting to that) 😊  I sighed and decided I really had to try and get some sleep, so reluctantly I left the book on the table and went back to bed, yes I did get a few hours sleep.

 

I loved this read!  The main characters were so engaging, their back stories poignant and heartbreaking yet not melodramatic, their everyday life relatable with an appeal that connects to the reader – this is a fabulous character driven narrative. There is more to this narrative than rural romance; this is a multi-faceted exploration of loss, grief, families, second chances and courage, the everyday courage of getting up and facing each new day when you least feel like it. It’s about cancer, about the aftermath of war, about hope, faith and building trust…and therapy horses, set in the back drop of small rural town life.

 

 

PS – I am even quoted on the back of this book 🙂

 

Review: Death In Her Hands – Ottessa Moshfegh

Death In Her Hands

Ottessa Moshfegh

Jonathan Cape:

Penguin Random House Australia

ISBN: 9781787332201

 

Description:

From author of Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a novel of haunting metaphysical suspense.

 

While on her daily walk with her dog in the nearby woods, our protagonist comes across a note,

handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with stones. Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever

know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.

Shaky even on her best days, she is also alone, and new to this area, having moved here from her

long-time home after the death of her husband, and now deeply alarmed. Her brooding about the

note grows quickly into a full-blown obsession, as she explores multiple theories about who Magda

was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and the fog of

mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But is there either a more innocent

explanation for all this, or a much more sinister one – one that strikes closer to home?

In this triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, we must decide whether the

stories we tell ourselves guide us closer to the truth or keep us further from it.

 

Praise for Ottessa Moshfegh:

‘Her stories are depraved, profound, and bleakly, wickedly funny. To read her is to be unsettled.’

Daily Telegraph

‘Viciously funny… Moshfegh’s writing is as lethally efficient as a flick-knife.’

The Times

‘A writer of rare talent and assurance.’

Financial Times

‘Super abundantly talented…Moshfegh’s sentences are piercing and vixenish …

she is always a deep pleasure to read.’

New York Times

Ottessa Moshfegh is the author of McGlue (2014); Eileen, which was awarded the 2016

PEN/Hemingway Award and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Homesick for Another World (2017);

and My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018), which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize.

 

 

My View:

Curious, disturbing and uncomfortable. Perhaps all I can do is share my feelings about this book rather than try to give any sort of cohesive review – as I found this book…strange.

 

To begin, I really enjoyed the first part of the book – I enjoyed meeting the protagonist Hesta, hearing Hesta’s perspective of her life and what is happening around her in a stream of consciousness style of ramblings. But after while I felt like I could skip whole pages and not miss anything… it is a short read, I did continue on, waiting for the “gothic” tones or comedy to make themselves known. If they were there, I missed them (maybe in those pages I skipped) 😊

 

I read on, the drama and the tension build as Vesta spiralled between revealing moments of clarity as she reflected on her marriage and life, to ever increasing moments of paranoia. I finished the book.

 

The ending was unsettling ( no spoilers here) but a strange thing occurred to me as I sat an contemplated what this book meant and how I would attempt to review it (badly), this really was a pretty powerful reflection of life; on expectations of living a good life and what compromises that means, on sanity/insanity,  on aging and loneliness, regrets, anger and of the slow decent into paranoia and or dementia.

 

So… it was powerful, made me feel uncomfortable and did make me think. Did I enjoy reading this? First instinct is to answer no, but upon deeper reflection, perhaps I enjoyed a little of it, its is obvious this author can write well but it did lose my attention part way through; I rarely flick through or by pass entire pages… but in this novel I did. Would I recommend this read…probably not in these times of pandemic where something lighter is more palatable. But if you are looking for a challenge, for depth, for deep, meaningful conversations with the author, perhaps you could give this book a try.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Hormone Diaries – Hannah Witton

The Hormone Diaries

The Bloody Truth About Our Periods

Hannah Witton

Wren & Rook

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9781526361462

 

Description:

An honest, funny and feminist take on living with your period (and hormones!), by the award-winning sex and relationships vlogger, and author of Doing It!, Hannah Witton.

 

When Hannah Witton started documenting her journey coming off the pill and re-getting her period, she wasn’t anticipating the reaction, from people of all ages, that talking about it would bring. It exposed a glaring gap – the resources and the spaces to talk honestly about periods just aren’t there. And with more and more research showing that your period and your hormones can affect literally every area of your life, this is a problem.

 

Inspired by her YouTube series of the same name, The Hormone Diaries draws on Hannah’s own experiences and, through crowdsourcing on her social media platforms, those of her fans too. With her trademark honesty and humour, Hannah explores and demystifies topics surrounding periods, hormones and contraception, to offer readers support, information and advice.

 

The definitive period self-help book 50% of the world has been waiting for!

 

My View:

This is a fabulous read! This is an open, honest, and at times humorous and easy to read exploration of a subject that needs to be talked about and a book that needs to be shared.  I wish it had been available when I was a teenager. It has answers to probably most questions that any young person may have about their periods or lack of them. It is a resource I hope that you will find in libraries and schools and is the perfect gift for those on the cusp of puberty.

 

And I think 100% of the population would benefit from reading this informative book.

Guest Review: Invisible Boys – Holden Shepherd

This must be the standout book of the year – everyone is talking about this. Read what guest viewer Andy Macleod thought of this award winning debut novel.

Invisible Boys

Holden Shepherd

Fremantle Press

ISBN: 9781925815566 

 

Description:

In a small town, everyone thinks they know you: Charlie is a hardcore rocker, who’s not as tough as he looks. Hammer is a footy jock with big AFL dreams, and an even bigger ego. Zeke is a shy over-achiever, never macho enough for his family. But all three boys hide who they really are. When the truth is revealed, will it set them free or blow them apart?

Invisible Boys is a raw, confronting YA novel, tackling homosexuality, masculinity, anger and suicide with a nuanced and unique perspective. Set in regional Western Australia, the novel follows three sixteen-year-old boys in the throes of coming to terms with their homosexuality in a town where it is invisible – and so are they. Invisible Boys depicts the complexities and trauma of rural gay identity with painful honesty, devastating consequence and, ultimately, hope.

 

Invisible Boys – A review by Andy Macleod

Up until two days ago, I had only once before sobbed uncontrollably while reading a novel. It was Skallagrig, by William Horwood. It was the 1980s and I was in my twenties.

I’m now in my late fifties, and I’ve just finished Holden Sheppard‘s award-winning debut novel, Invisible Boys.

Set in Geraldton in WA’s Midwest, Invisible Boys follows three very different teenagers, Charlie, Hammer and Zeke, as they grapple with being gay in a very straight town.

This novel spoke directly to me like no other. The characters and I, although separated by nearly a generation, have a lot in common.

We share not only a hometown, but the fear, rejection, taunts and loneliness that came with being gay in it.

Finally, someone has put into words the trauma of my own experience growing up gay when I couldn’t.

When I finished Invisible Boys, I felt something crack, crumble and fall away deep inside. I’m still unpacking what that may have been. Possibly shame, maybe silence. I’ll need to work on it.

Is Invisible Boys only a book for gay men? Absolutely not. If nothing else, it’s also a great story, and I hope it becomes required reading in the high school curriculum.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but whatever you do, you won’t regret reading Invisible Boys.

My favourite laugh-out loud-moment would have to be the ‘onion rings’ reference.

 

 

It’s Ok To Feel The Way You Do – Josh Langley – Award Winner and All-round Nice Guy

smallpubkids_wide

 

Press Release
Josh Langley’s inspiration book It’s OK to Feel The Way You Do was awarded 2018 Small Publisher’s Children’s Book of the Year Award.

Bunbury author, Josh Langley has won the Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA), Small Publisher Children book of the year for ‘It’s OK to Feel the Way You Do’, a powerful and fun book to help children understand their feelings. This is the fourth book in his inspirational children’s series.

What a terrific acknowledgement of a wonderful author and his little books with big messages. Josh’s books have been adopted by parents, children, grandparents and even government departments within Australia and overseas.
In the aftermath of receiving his award Josh was already looking to the future, “I’m excited about the new possibilities for Being You is Enough and It’s OK to Feel the Way You Do and where it’s all going to lead. It also comes at the same time that the Western Australian Education Department agreed to add both books to the Statewide Services and Resources Centre making them available to schools and special programs.” He said.
Head of Big Sky Publishing Children’s division, Diane Evans who worked with author Josh Langley across his much-loved little books with big messages series could not be happier, “As a publisher I love how fresh and unique Josh’s book is. As a parent, I know how powerful his simple messages and illustrations can be in connecting with kids and building self-esteem”.

The Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) is an annual celebration that celebrates the connection between Australian readers and the ‘book makers’ – authors, editors, publishing professionals and retailers, who unite to create the must-read books of the year.

Josh’s new book for Find Your Creative Mojo: How to overcome fear, procrastination and self-doubt to express your true self will be available in September 2018. (Big Sky Publishing).

 

My View:

Josh Langley is a remarkable human being – full of life, supportive, encouraging and talented  (artist, writer, speaker…) and generous. I met Josh at a writers festival a few years ago and have kept in touch by social media (http://www.joshlangley.com.au ) and over the odd cup of coffee.

 

I was thrilled when Josh’s inspirational children book (life lessons here can be applied to humans of all ages) won this ABIA award – the book is gorgeously illustrated, easy to read and brilliantly observed. To say I am a fan is an understatement. I cant wait to read Josh’s new book Finding Your Creative Mojo  (another timely message from the universe I think). Go Josh!

 

Guest Review: The Art of Friendship – Lisa Ireland

 

The Art Of Friendship

The Art of Friendship

Lisa Ireland

Pan Macmillan AU

ISBN: 9781760552268

 

Description:

We all expect our friendships from childhood to last forever…

Libby and Kit have been best friends ever since the day 11-year-old Kit bounded up to Libby’s bedroom window. They’ve seen each other through first kisses, bad break-ups and everything in-between. It’s almost 20 years since Libby moved to Sydney, but they’ve remained close, despite the distance and the different paths their lives have taken.

So when Libby announces she’s moving back to Melbourne, Kit is overjoyed. They’re best friends – practically family – so it doesn’t matter that she and Libby now have different …well, different everything, actually, or so it seems when they’re finally living in the same city again.

Or does it?

Brenda’s Review:

Eleven-year-old Libby and her parents had had to sell their farm and move into the city. Woodvale in Melbourne was nothing like the family was used to, but it didn’t take Libby long to make friends. Kit lived over the road from Libby, and the very first day she had spotted Libby at her bedroom window, Kit declared they would be best friends forever. As they moved through school together, first primary then high school, their friendship didn’t falter. It was when Kit was in London that Libby met Cameron, married him and moved to Sydney.

Through letters, emails and long phone calls, the two friends remained close – it was twenty years later when both Libby and Kit were in their late thirties, and Libby’s son Harry was thirteen, that Cam announced he’d procured a top job in Melbourne. They were returning home.

Kit was ecstatic as was Libby. But would their friendship be the same? Kit was Harry’s godmother and thought the world of him, as he did her. But Libby’s life went a different way when she, Cam and Harry moved into Arcadia Lakes; a new, elite subdivision with elegant housing and much more. Keeping up with the wives of the executives was something which scared Libby half to death, but she would do it. But at what cost? Would Kit and Libby remain friends? Would their lifetime of friendship sustain any issues that might arise?

The Art of Friendship by Aussie author Lisa Ireland is a look at how people grow; how they change and how they remain the same. The difference between childhood friendships, and adult friendships is vast – that person you befriended as a child might not be one you’d befriend as an adult. But what happens when that friendship goes from childhood through to adulthood; when two people turn out to be vastly different from each other? The complexity of our lives – from being parents, to careers, basically to choices we make – is real and emotional. Lisa Ireland has tackled all issues in The Art of Friendship with sensitivity and she makes it very realistic. Highly recommended – 4 stars.

With thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for my ARC to read and review.