Review: Restoration – Angela Slatter

Allow me to introduce to you a fantastic, Australian, new to me author, (and I ask WHY haven’t I heard about this author before now???)

angela slatter

Angela Slatter is the author of the urban fantasy novels Vigil (2016) and Corpselight (2017), and Restoration (2018) as well as eight short story collections, including The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and A Feast of Sorrows: Stories. The third novel in the Verity Fassbinder series, Restoration, will be released in 2018 by Jo Fletcher Books (Hachette International). Vigil has been nominated for the Dublin Literary Award in 2018.

Angela is represented by Meg Davis of the Ki Agency in London: meg@ki-agency.co.uk

She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, an Australian Shadows Award and six Aurealis Awards.

Angela’s short stories have appeared in Australian, UK and US Best Of anthologies such The Mammoth Book of New Horror, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, and The Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction. Her work has been translated into Bulgarian, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Polish, French and Romanian. Victoria Madden of Sweet Potato Films (The Kettering Incident) has optioned the film rights to one of her short stories (“Finnegan’s Field”).

Vigil has been nominated for the Dublin Literary Award in 2018.

She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, is a graduate of Clarion South 2009 and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop 2006, and in 2013 she was awarded one of the inaugural Queensland Writers Fellowships. In 2016 Angela was the Established Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Perth. She has been awarded career development funding by Arts Queensland, the Copyright Agency and, in 2017/18, an Australia Council for the Arts grant. (http://www.angelaslatter.com/)

She is the author of the novellas, Of Sorrow and Such (Tor.com) and Ripper (in Horrorology: The Lexicon of Fear).

And all of the above is why, when I was offered the opportunity to read the new release Restoration (part 3 of the Verity Fassbinder series) I leapt at the chance. Angela Slatter is possibly the most awarded writer I have ever had the pleasure to review.

 

 

           Restoration

Verity Fassbinder #3

Angela Slatter

Hachette Australia

Jo Fletcher Books

ISBN: 9781784294380

The Verity Fassbinder series is what may be compartmentalised as urban fantasy or paranormal fiction; looking closely, this called also be  called an engaging, quirky, Australian narrative about love, family, reconciliation, retribution and tolerance – yes there is a lot happening in this novel. Did I love reading this book, this series? Yes I did.

Snappy, sharp dialogue with contemporary pop culture references ensure this above all else this is a fun read. Larger than life characters, escapades, a few deaths, Verity Fassbinder’s life is busy. Add to the mix a new boyfriend, an ex she still works for and uncle with a third eye in the back of his head all living in downtown Brisneyland, Queensland, Australia and you have a cast and locations that will keep you entertained for hours!   (*Authors Note – The city is not the city. Though I do live in Brisneyland and have used as the backdrop…I must confess that I have played fast and loose with some of the details. I’m sorry West End and I am really sorry Gold Coast.  I’m a writer. It’s fiction…while the reader will recognise certain landmarks and suburbs, Verity’s city is not quite the city you know. It just looks a bit like it, seen through a glass darkly. Enjoy the journey) *Authors Note – page 7 Vigil

 

Reading this series reminds me that I have not read much in this genre since the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. I did enjoy that series, for the most part, but Verity Fassbinder series is so much more. The snappy dialogue dripping with sarcasm, the locations,  the intrigue and above all – the honest and grounded character that is Verity Fassbinder make this a fabulous must read. I am sure you will enjoy it too.

 

Angela Slatter can be reached  here: me@angelaslatter.com

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.

Review: Return to Roseglen – Helene Young

Return to Roseglen by Helen Young cover art

Return to Roseglen

Helene Young

Penguin Random House Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143787747

 

Description:

At times like these families should be coming together, not tearing each other apart.

 

On her remote North Queensland cattle station, Ivy Dunmore is facing the end of her days. Increasingly frail, all she holds dear is threatened not just by crippling drought, but by jealousy and greed – and that’s from within her own family.

 

Can Felicity, who’s battling her own crisis as her fiftieth birthday approaches, protect her mother and reunite her family under the homestead’s faded iron roof? Or will sibling rivalries erupt and long-held secrets from the past break a family in crisis?

 

 

My View:

This is probably the best contemporary read of the year!  It resonated in some many places.  Intelligent. Brilliant.

 

Families… (Do you hear me sigh?) We may wish for the shiny, happy, well-adjusted family circle that we see on television or in the movies but it’s often not what we get. Families are made up of individuals – with flaws and traits that are unique to themselves, with their own struggles, aspirations, weaknesses and strengths.  Create a situation where all those unique individuals come together to address a family crisis or two and what do you have?  Return to Roseglen.

 

This intelligent novel has glorious remote Australian settings, well developed characters – some you will immediately love, some you will grow to love and some you would cross the road to avoid.  Sound like a family to you? It does to me J

 

 

This novel has so much to offer; Helene Young has incorporated many contemporary social issues in this read without the narrative shouting “Lessons here for all.”  This is life. The narrative is honest. I am sure this journey will resonate with so many readers, it certainly did for me.

 

My only problem with this read – it finished far too quickly, I was invested in this family and wanted more.

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Three of Us – Kim Lock

The Three of Us

The Three of Us

Kim Lock

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISABN: 9781743538647

 

Description:

A life lived in the shadows. A love that should never have been hidden.

 

In the small town of Gawler, South Australia, the tang of cut grass and eucalyptus mingles on the warm air. The neat houses perched under the big gum trees on Church Street have been home to many over the years. Years of sprinklers stuttering over clipped lawns, children playing behind low brick walls. Family barbecues. Gossipy neighbours. Arguments. Accidents. Births, deaths, marriages. This ordinary street has seen it all.

 

Until the arrival of newlyweds Thomas and Elsie Mullet. And when one day Elsie spies a face in the window of the silent house next door, nothing will ever be ordinary again…

 

In Kim Lock’s third novel of what really goes on behind closed doors, she weaves the tale of three people with one big secret; a story of fifty years of friendship, betrayal, loss and laughter in a heart-warming depiction of love against the odds.

 

“With great care and compassion for the lives and losses of human beings, Kim Lock artfully weaves a moving and surprising story of the simple complexity of relationships and how they shape us” Sophie Green, author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.

 

 

My View:

Subtle, gentle and topical, this book has something to offer all discerning readers. It is a powerful love story, an optimistic read. It is also a historical novel, an Australian study of domestic life in the conservative suburbs in the 1960’s; a time that saw the middle class boom and the slow beginnings of the equal rights movement for women. Fifty years on and the author reminds us that there are still some barriers that need to be broken.

 

Kim Lock has cannily crafted a narrative that subtly exposes our prejudices and highlights some of the historical social injustices that have impacted and influenced Australian society.

 

This book has all the emotions though is not in any way melodramatic, subtleness is its strength.

 

Thought provoking scenarios and engaging, realistic characters dictate that this is a novel that will be revered, enjoyed and cherished.

 

 

Post Script: The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Heather Morris

Echo Publishing

ISBN: 9781760403171

 

Description:

The incredible story of the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist and the woman he loved.

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tetovierer – the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz- Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable.

Extraordinary – moving, confronting and uplifting… a story about the extremes of human behaviour: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I recommend it unreservedly’—GRAEME SIMSION

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz has the quality of a dark fairy-tale. It is both simple and epic, shot through with compassion and love… Everyone should read it’—HUGH RIMINTON

 

An extraordinary story of a single and singular life and its great love’—ASHLEY HAY

 

 

My View:

How can a book be chilling yet so beautiful simultaneously? Be so horrific yet speak of never ending love on the same page? Be so confronting yet engage and enthral?

 

A book of some many contrasts, such pain and yet there is so much love on these pages, this is perhaps the best creative memoir you will read. There would not be many people who do not already know of the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, but do you know of the stories of survival, of friendship, of courage, of love, of doing “what I can to survive” (p.33)? This is a remarkable narrative told with brutal tenderness; a view through a lens of love.

 

This has already garnered a place in my best reads of 2018, I am sure it will soon be on your best read list too.

 

 

Post Script: A Sea-Chase – Roger McDonald

A Sea Chase

A Sea – Chase

Roger McDonald

Vintage

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9780143786986

 

 

Description:

Growing up in inland Australia, Judy, a young teacher, has rarely seen the sea. But when she flees a rioting classroom one dismal Friday, a dud and a failure, she gets drunk and wakes up on a boat. Overnight her life changes; she is in love with being on the water and in love with Wes Bannister who lives on the boat. Sailing was not something Judy had ever thought about wanting, but now she craved it. Wind was the best teacher she’d had, by far…

 

From then on, Judy believes that the one trusted continuation of herself is with Wes, and always will be, but then events at sea challenge their closeness. Must they become competitors against each other in the push to be equals? It seems they must.

 

A Sea-Chase is a novel that vividly tracks ambition, self-realisation, and lasting love tied up in a sea story. The idea that nobody who sets off to do something alone, without family, friends, rivals, and a pressing duty to the world, ever does so alone, finds beautiful, dramatic expression in Roger McDonald’s tenth, and most surprising novel.

 

 

My View:

An evocative narrative that almost has me wishing I could sail and I do not like the water – unless it is the water in a swimming pool or the calm safe waters of the reefs around Mauritius.

 

The sea, powerful, temperamental and mesmerising and the landscapes – generally portrayed as isolated and harsh, domineer and control the fate of so many in this book. Country, small town, Australia and New Zealand are the depicted as both cloying and freeing…supportive and yet restrictive…’family’ much the same…supportive yet restrictive – complex relationships based on expectations, assumptions, wealth or lack of, education or lack of, support or lack of, social expectations, fulfilled or not. Where does family end and the individual start?  Where is the individual in ‘us’?  Can there be individuals in a loving relationship?  So much is explored in this narrative.

 

However passion is the emotion that controls and directs the drama in this read. How I have often wished to experience such passion – a passion that clearly illuminates your path in life, a passion that shapes your ambitions, your choices, a passion that provides the framework on which you build your life…there is passion in abundance in this book; the love of and affinity with the sea, the passion of first loves, of new loves, of enduring relationships… a passion that inspires a kind of gentle spiritualism encompassing ‘family’ in its many shapes and forms…the human connection.

 

This an evocative read about relationships…and the sea, simply and passionately drawn.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Imagine – John Lennon, Illustrated by Jean Jullien

Imagine

Imagine

John Lennon

Illustrated by Jean Jullien

Allen and Unwin Australia

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books In Assoc with Amnesty International UK

ISBN: 9781847808967

 

Description:

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

 

Join one little pigeon as she sets out on a journey to spread a message of tolerance around the world. Featuring the lyrics of John Lennon’s iconic song and illustrations by the award-winning artist Jean Jullien, this poignant and timely picture book dares to imagine a world at peace. Imagine will be published in partnership with human rights organization, Amnesty International.

 

 

My View:

5 big stars for this beautifully imagined and illustrated book – this really is art with heart!  Call me sentimental, I will agree with you that I am, this book just strikes so many chords with me. A book for those who can remember John Lennon’s important song of love and peace (and for those who still sing his inspiring relevant message even if just in their own heads) and for the next generation – who will love the prose, the illustrations and the optimism.

 

Buy this for someone you love – young or old.