Australian fiction

All posts in the Australian fiction category

Blog Tour – Relativity – Antonia Hayes

Published January 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

‘Relativity is wonderful, a beautifully written, heartbreaking novel that I feel certain will find the huge audience it deserves.’ SJ Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep and Second Life

‘Relativity is a novel of assured and measured empathy, a story of familial love and familial hurt that is fair, honest and remarkably non-judgmental. Hayes is a convincing writer and a true storyteller: her characters are alive.’ Christos Tsiolkas, author of THE SLAP

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

What did I think?:

First of all, many thanks to Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part on this blog tour and sending me a copy of Relativity in exchange for an honest review. On reading the synopsis, I was instantly intrigued. It sounded like a book packed with family drama, hidden secrets and interesting discoveries as well as something that would be touching to read. I got everything I was expecting from Relativity along with some surprises to boot so I can definitely count this as a great reading experience and one I recommend.

The novel tells the story of Claire and her son, Ethan who is highly gifted in physics and astronomy and a little bit different from other children his age, meaning that he goes through quite a tough time at school and struggles to make friends easily. Due to a traumatic incident in his past that also involves his absent father Mark, who left shortly after the incident occurred, Ethan is able to “see,” physics i.e. sound-waves, particles moving around in the air etc. This makes him very valuable to the medical professionals studying him when he undergoes a seizure but also very special to his loving mother, Claire who is just trying to do her best for him as a single parent.

Their life is turned upside down once more when Ethan’s father, Mark returns into his life and attempts to forge a relationship for them both. This is difficult for both Ethan and Claire to deal with for reasons I won’t divulge but moved me deeply as a reader. I think what surprised me most about this book is that how I assumed I knew how it was going to progress and end. Well, let me tell you, I was completely wrong and the part that I was wrong about is hugely shocking when the big reveal occurs.

I really enjoyed this debut novel by Antonia Hayes. It was written beautifully with just enough pace to keep me turning the pages and her strength for characterisation was outstanding. I loved Ethan, Claire and Mark to bits – for different reasons and, especially with the latter of these, my opinions kept changing throughout the story. I’m actually a scientist “by day,” but my field is biochemistry and I was slightly worried that the physics aspect would be quite overwhelming for me. In fact, it was all written so intelligently yet simply that I had no reason to worry and actually learned a lot more about a subject that terrified me in school! Antonia Hayes is already a expert at writing a story with so much heart and dramatic tension that I can’t wait to read anything else she writes.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

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Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, currently lives in London with her husband and son. Relativity is her first novel.

Find her on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8848755.Antonia_Hayes

On Twitter at: @antoniahayes

Her website at: http://www.antoniahayes.com

Once again, thank you so much to Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Why not check out the other stops on the tour today from my fellow bloggers down below? Relativity was released on 17th January 2017 and is available from all good bookshops now!

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Blog Tour – The Dry by Jane Harper

Published January 9, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

What did I think?:

Welcome to my post on the blog tour for this fantastic piece of crime fiction The Dry, set amongst a small community in Australia. A huge thank you to the publishers Little, Brown for inviting me to be a part of the tour and for sending me a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. This is Jane Harper’s debut novel and after the strength of this thrilling story, I’m hoping for amazing things from her in the future.

Our main character is Aaron Falk, who escaped from his hometown Kiewarra to live in the city after a frightening incident that involved one of his best friends. I don’t want to say too much about that for fear of spoilers but let me tell you there are a lot of secrets in this novel for many different characters not just our protagonist and the way they are gradually uncovered are thrilling. He comes back to Kiewarra to attend his old best friend’s funeral after a shocking occurrence where two members of Luke’s family were brutally shot and then Luke himself appears to have committed suicide, also with the gun.

Aaron promises Luke’s father that he will look into the mystery and try to clear his friend’s name as it was assumed that Luke was the perpetrator of the crime. Furthermore, if it was the case that Luke did kill two of his family – what were his possible motives for doing such a terrible thing? There is much more going on in this little town than previously assumed however so be prepared for several shocks and surprises. Nothing or no-one is what it seems and the connection to events in Falk’s past is paramount and incredibly murky.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I thought this was a fantastic debut novel with lots of twists and turns – just how I like my crime fiction. I liked that it was set in Australia, I loved the variety of characters that we were given and I enjoyed that it wasn’t just about one event. Many things are linked in this story and there are lots of different aspects to be discovered and savoured, the latter of which I certainly did. Jane Harper has a real gift for spinning an exciting narrative and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Visit Jane at her website: http://janeharper.com.au/

or on Twitter: @janeharperautho

A huge thank you again to Little, Brown Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. The Dry was released on 12th January in the UK and is available from all good bookshops NOW. If you’re interested, why not check out the other stops on the blog tour?

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The Natural Way Of Things – Charlotte Wood

Published December 17, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage – a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue – but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood’s position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to New Books Magazine and the Real Readers program for sending me a copy of The Natural Way Of Things which was not only a stunning piece of cover art as you can see from the image of the book but was also a thought provoking and, at times, terrifying read. The horror in this novel isn’t from anything supernatural or paranormal however, the monsters in this case are humans that commit the most atrocious crimes and appear to be completely lacking in moral fibre or decency. These are the scariest creatures to encounter, because it reminds you that these type of people do actually exist.

The Natural Way Of Things was inspired somewhat by The Hay Institution For Girls, a real life prison in Australia in the 1960’s that locked up young girls that wouldn’t comply with the strict regime in the Parramatta Girls Home. The routine that the girls had to go through was completely inhumane. They were forced to keep their eyes on the ground at all times, they were kept in cells better fitting an animal and made to undergo hard labour on a daily basis. This is pretty much the situation that two of our main characters, Yolanda and Verla find themselves in when they wake up drugged and isolated with just the Australian outback and a high electrified fence for company.

The two girls find they are part of a larger group of young women whom have all been taken away from the lives they once knew because of some sort of sexual scandal. Each girl is punished immediately by having their heads shaved and their diet severely restricted whilst undergoing back-breaking work in the vicinity of their prison. Their jailers are Teddy, Boncer and Nancy (who masquerades as a nurse, but believe me, doesn’t have a caring bone in her body!) and the girls are constantly mocked, threatened and even beaten if they step out of line. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot but I will say that things are not always as they seem. The jailers themselves end up in a tricky situation that they hadn’t anticipated, one girl becomes a plaything for brutal Boncer in order to receive greater favours and other girls start to go slowly and irrevocably mad.

There is so much darkness and despair in this novel, I fear it might not be for everyone. Some parts you’ll need quite a strong stomach, other parts might make you shake your head in disbelief at the humanity (or lack of) it all. What I can guarantee is that you won’t be able to stop thinking about this book. Parts of it might re-play in your heads for nights to come and the shocking ending might have you wondering, like me, what on earth would happen next if the author chose to continue the story? I haven’t read anything by Charlotte Wood before and this is in fact her fifth novel. What I am certain of is that I’ll be checking out her back catalogue now because if her previous novels are half as disturbing as this one, I’m in for one hell of a ride.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Short Stories Challenge – Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Published November 8, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Corrugated Dreaming all about?:

Corrugated Dreaming is the story of a woman in prison, reflecting back on her life and the crime she committed to put her in the situation in which she now finds herself.

What did I think?:

I love starting a short story collection such as this one where I know practically nothing about the writer or her work, especially when the first story in the collection is as beautifully worded and presented like this one is. When we first meet our character she is in prison and she is looking back on a life that has been far from easy. The first thing we learn about her is that she is mute but she hasn’t always been this way. Her early childhood is described as the happiest time of her life where she played with her older brother Johnny in a scrapyard which acts as their garden filled with dis-used vehicles and corrugated iron. Her mother we are told, lives with a demon called Reg who is clearly a drunk and beats her mother in front of the children, one time throwing her into the iron in the yard.

Our character remembers that day very clearly as it is after this incident that Social Services arrives to take the children away and it is the last time that she sees her brother Johnny, who is the closest person in her life and the devastation of their separation is also the last time that she talks. Heart-breakingly, she is told that her cough is actually pneumonia and she is ashamed of her stomach which looks like: “five years of bad gas,” representing the very obvious neglect of her and Johnny under her mother and Reg’s care. Her life after this just gets worse and worse, being shipped out to various sets of foster parents but none whom she remembers as well as the last set, the God-fearing Maxwells who actually put the fear of God into her! They take great issue with her skin colour and she feels she has to make up for her entire culture being so full of sin and wickedness.

At school things are just as bad for her with a headmaster that takes a repulsive pleasure in punishing her often. After finding out some unbelievably horrid news concerning her brother Johnny it is no surprise that she continues her life in silence, after all what is there to be said about such an appalling life? I was surprised however by the turn the story took and the actual crime that she committed. I won’t say any more about that but it’s one of the saddest stories I’ve come across in my short stories challenge and I will probably be thinking about it for a long time to come. I’m just so glad I came across this writer, her use of language is phenomenal and she certainly paints a dramatic and spell-binding picture in a short space of time. She reeled me in with her poetic phrases and I loved the way in which corrugated iron is often referred to by the character as she compares events in her life (past and present) with something that plays a part in the happiest memory of her otherwise bleak childhood. Cannot wait for the next story in this collection – the bar has certainly been set high.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

 

 

Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

Published February 25, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Top ten bestselling author Liane Moriarty returns with another gripping read.

She could hear men and women shouting. Angry hollers crashed through the soft humid salty summer night. It was somehow hurtful for Mrs Ponder to hear, as if all that rage was directed at her . . . then she heard the wail of a siren in the distance, at the same time as a woman still inside the building began to scream and scream . . .

When a harmless quiz night ends with an act of shocking violence, the parents of Pirriwee Public School can’t seem to stop their secrets from finally spilling out. Rumours ripple through the small town, as truth and lies blur to muddy the story of what really happened on that fateful night . .

What did I think?:

Liane Moriarty first came to my attention with her fantastic book The Husband’s Secret which I devoured in a very short space of time, therefore I was very excited when I heard about this new novel which is also published as Big Little Lies (not sure of the reasons behind this). Again, there are a number of different and very interesting characters to get your head around – Jane, a single mother who has recently moved to the area with her son, Ziggy after the break-up of a relationship, Madeline, outspoken mother of three who has her own issues with her ex-husband but a heart of gold and Celeste, beautiful mother of twin boys, who appears to have everything you could ever want, but again, as with the other women, nothing is as it first seems.

When the story begins, we know that a shocking incident has taken place at the local school on what was supposed to be a fun quiz night for all the parents to dress up, relax and get to know one another a little better. All we know in the beginning is that someone has died and the police are interviewing witnesses, so any information we get at this stage is small (and exciting) tid-bits that indicate the event was a culmination of factors stemming from an earlier incident involving one of the mother’s children. The themes running through this tale include bullying, playground politics, the importance of friendship and family, the horror of domestic violence and the danger of exclusion and cliques. It turns out that adults are not above acting like children on some levels and indeed, that children learn from their parents what behaviour is right and what is wrong.

There are a multitude of layers to this story, which I loved, and with each chapter seems to come a new surprise or a new area of a particular character that is revealed. This is only my second Liane Moriarty novel, but I’m starting to recognise that along with a very strong and compelling plot-line her characterisation and moving prose is second to none. That is, even the minor characters felt strong and well thought out and I felt like I knew them all intimately. As a reader, this meant that when certain secrets came out, I felt more devastated than I thought I would be as I felt a connection between each of them. Aha, maybe this was what she planned for all along?! Well, I’m not embarrassed to admit she’s hooked me. I shall definitely be dipping into her back catalogue now to see what other goodies I can find, and I can’t wait.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

Short Stories Challenge – The Blood Pearl by Barry Maitland from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Volume 7

Published August 6, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Blood Pearl all about?:

The must-have annual anthology for every crime fiction fan – the year’s top new British short stories selected by leading crime critic Maxim Jakubowski. This great annual covers the full range of mystery fiction, from noir and hardboiled crime to ingenious puzzles and amateur sleuthing. Packed with top names like Colin Dexter, Christopher Fowler, Alexander McCall Smith, Robert Barnard, Peter James, Natasha Cooper, Sophie Hannah, and many more.

The Blood Pearl is the story of two old friends who are seeking revenge on a shady character who has swindled them in the past by some rather elaborate means.

What did I think?:

Barry Maitland is an Australian author of crime fiction born in Scotland. He studied architecture at Cambridge then retired in 2000 to write novels on a full-time basis. I’m not familiar with his work but this short story is probably my favourite in the collection so far. The Blood Pearl has two main characters, Ben and Paula who used to be good friends but haven’t seen each other until recently when they happen upon each other in a bar and begin talking about the past, in particular the close relationship that their small group of three couples shared. Ben recently split up with his partner, Terry had a sudden heart attack leaving his wife Alice alone with three children and now Paula shares that her husband committed suicide two months previously. Both Ben and Paula are incredibly bitter about the situation and attribute it towards a man called Derek Mankey, who ruined them all financially. Derek assured all the friends that they were “on to a good thing,” and it was only when they had given him every bit of money they possibly could that he fled, never to be seen again.

Then Paula confides in Ben that she knows where Derek is and invites him to be part of a plan she is concocting to ruin Derek in the same way that he has ruined them. It is obvious that Ben has always held a bit of a candle for Paula and he doesn’t take much persuading when she outlines the idea. Derek is currently making a lot of money in Australia by oyster farming in order to find beautiful and very valuable pearls in order to sell on the black market, and is now a very rich man because of this. However, if Paula and Ben manage to get out there and farm the oysters before Derek gets to them, not only will they both become very wealthy, but will manage to procure millions that would have potentially have been Derek’s. Sounds like sweet revenge? But….

Well, with a plan apparently this meticulous, there’s bound to be a “but,” and the two friends find it, and many more twists and turns than they both anticipate. In The Blood Pearl, Barry Maitland has created an exciting adventure story with more than its fair share of villains and mystery. I enjoyed the build-up which was certainly tense, and I love it when an author leaves the reader unsure of whom to trust in a plot that became quite complex. It’s a good addition to crime fiction, and I think generally fans of the genre will appreciate it but it left me feeling rather uncertain at the end. I’ve been trying to figure out why and I think it’s because I didn’t really find it very believable and the action sequences seemed a bit stilted and difficult at times. Saying that, I would still be interested to read more of this author’s work as I do think he has a talent for ramping up the pace in a plot.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Isabel Fish by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Published May 5, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

What did I think?:

This novel has been on my radar for a while due to my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads having read and enjoyed it, so when Richard and Judy added it to their Spring Book Club list here in the UK, I knew that I could put off reading it no longer! And I’m glad I didn’t, this book completely lived up to my expectations and yet was so much funnier and in parts quite bitter-sweet, than I could have anticipated. It tells the story of a genetics professor called Don Tillman who hasn’t exactly had much luck with the ladies. He displays all the tell-tale signs of Aspergers Syndrome yet appears to be blissfully unaware of his little rituals and foibles which are after all, normal to him. His life is a rigid timetable planned down to the very last detail with a defined time limit for each event, even scheduled as to what he will be eating day by day which seems to provide him with a great amount of comfort. After deciding that he may be at a point in his life where he would like to settle down in a relationship, he begins The Rosie Project – a regimented questionnaire for the potential wife with a strict series of questions that is tweaked with the help of his friends Gene and his wife Claudia before he unleashes it on the unsuspecting women of the world.

Then Rosie enters Don’s life. She is everything that is wrong for Don (according to the questionnaire of course)! She smokes, drinks a bit more than is advisable, swears like a trooper, and has her own personal issues regarding going on a search for her real father, who could be one of a number of men according to her mother who has now passed on. Despite all her flaws, Don is strangely drawn to Rosie and offers to help her in her quest, being superbly qualified to analyse the DNA samples of any of the potential fathers that she may procure. So The Father Project now begins in earnest, Rosie and Don must obtain DNA samples from the daddies in question and by means of elimination, whittle them down so that Rosie can get some answers regarding her parentage. It is fair to say that Don and Rosie go on quite a few adventures in order to complete the Project, having a few hairy moments, many hilarious moments but also several tender moments which make this unconventional love story a real joy to read.

One of this novels many strengths is the humour which almost seeps from every page and caused me to chuckle out loud quite a few times but I also loved the beauty of the author’s characterisation. Don Tillman may be a slightly stereotypical sufferer of Aspergers but he is an absolute gem of a character, one I warmed to instantly, grew to love over the course of the story and was sad to leave at the conclusion. This is one of those novels that you can really see on the big screen if it is adapted well and perhaps there is even an opportunity for a sequel? Okay, I admit it, I really want to know what happens to Don and Rosie next…can I persuade you Mr Simsion?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0