Zac & Mia by AJ Betts – YA Fiction.
This is an Aussie novel due to be released in North America in September 2014. I heard about it through the Australian Women Writers Challenge and was intrigued. I’m just about to start reading The Fault in Our Stars, which I’m expecting to be quite heavy-handed and self-indulgent, to be honest, and I’m curious about how Betts handles the topic. “Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize. ‘When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.’ So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.
We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt – YA Fiction.
E-book from Netgalley. “Nell worships her older sister, Layla. They’re one unit, intertwined: Nellayla. As Nell and her best friend, Felix, start their freshman year in high school, on Layla’s turf, there’s so much Nell looks forward to: Joining Layla on the varsity soccer team. Parties. Boys. Adventures. But the year takes a very different turn. Layla is changing, withdrawing. She’s hiding something, and when Nell discovers what it is, and the consequences it might have, she struggles. She wants to support Layla, to be her confidante, to be the good sister she’s always been. But with so much at stake, what secrets should she keep? What lies should she tell? Award-winning young adult author Dana Reinhardt explores questions of loyalty, love, and betrayal in this provocative and intimate novel.”
Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor – YA Fantasy.
LOVE this trilogy! The last book delivered well on the promises of the ones before – you can read my review of this wonderful book here.
Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan – Fantasy.
I was rather disappointed by the last Canavan book I read (The Magician’s Apprentice) but keen to try a new one. Thief’s Magic kicks off a new series and I LOVE the premise! “In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces. Elsewhere, in an land ruled by the priests, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows she has a talent for it, and that there is a corrupter in the city willing to teach her how to use it – should she dare to risk the Angels’ wrath. But not everything is as Tyen and Rielle have been raised to believe. Not the nature of magic, nor the laws of their lands… and not even the people they trust.”
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – Fantasy.
ARC received for review via TLC Book Tours – you can read my review here. I really, really enjoyed this book, which is the start of a new, ADULT fantasy series.
Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris – Urban Fantasy.
The final book! I always wait ages for the mass market paperback edition, so no one spoil it for me! “When a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, Sookie will learn that what passes for the truth is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough… Features an all-new section of FAQs submitted by fans and a sneak preview of Midnight Crossroad!”
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – Speculative Fiction.
Always drawn to these kinds of stories. “Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’ This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.”
The Walking Tanteek by Jane Woods – Fiction.
Received for review from the publisher. “Gerard, a born-again, hardline priest, runs a ragtag cult of drug addicts and street people. Gerard’s twin sister Maggie, coping with the dual demons of alcoholism and spiritual disconnectedness, has attached herself to the cult but chafes under her brother’s harsh tutelage. Maggie is haunted by the dogmatism and the us-versus-them mentality of her Catholic training. She wants God to be real, but at the same time mistrusts and resents Him and everyone standing in for Him. The Tanteek (the word is taken from a mis-hearing of a lyric from a Dylan song) is the name Maggie gives to the frantic questioning, uncertainty, and fear of annihilation and hopelessness that dog her every step. He becomes a character, joker, prankster, sitting in an armchair, waiting for her, following her. The unlooked-for arrival of profound love serves as a catalyst for escape, first through an abandoned boy Maggie takes charge of and then through the reappearance of an old college flame. Finding the strength to wrench free of her emotional moorings, Maggie must now grapple for her integrity in the face of fierce opposition from all sides. This is a novel about the attempts of profoundly damaged human beings to find faith in a faith-hostile world. What is faith, and must it be won at the cost of intellectual integrity? Does it demand a life of frigid asceticism in order to ensure its purity, or does it have more to do with learning the prosaic but wrenchingly difficult lessons of how to forgive and reconcile with one’s bitterest enemies?”
Prairie Ostrich by Tamai Kobayashi – Fiction.
Received for review from the publisher. “Bookish eight-year-old Imogene Murakami, nicknamed ?Egg, ? lives with her parents and her teenaged sister, Kathy, on an ostrich farm in Bittercreek, Alberta. Egg’s older brother Albert has died in an accident, her father has moved to the barn, and her mother drinks to submerge her overwhelming grief. Egg has only Kathy to look after and out for her – and Kathy takes the responsibility seriously, going after bullies who torment Egg at school, telling her stories whose endings she changes (she has Anne Frank escaping to America and working as an actress on Broadway). Kathy dreams of escape from the tiny town and the smothering pain of her parents’ grief, and it seems as if she might make it, with the help of a basketball scholarship. Her best friend Stacey makes escape sound like a project they can undertake together. Kathy and Stacey become lovers, but when it becomes clear that Kathy feels she cannot leave Egg, Stacey makes a decision to switch her allegiance, to turn her back on her friend. She starts dating a boy, and he and his friends torment Kathy, sensing that she is not something they can categorize. The sisters’ relationship is threatened when Egg’s teacher reads aloud from Charlotte’s Web and Egg herself reads the end – the actual end – of The Diary of Anne Frank. How can Egg trust someone who has lied to her about everything? In the hands of Tamai Kobayashi, Prairie Ostrich is a warm and compelling drama of rare insight and virtuoso verve.”
The Douglas Notebooks by Christine Eddie – Fiction.
Received for review from the publisher. “Romain was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. At 18, he leaves his family for a home in the forest, learning to live off the land rather than his family’s wealth. Elena flees a house of blood and mayhem, taking refuge in a monastery and later in the rustic village of Riviere-aux-Oies. One day, while walking in the woods, Elena hears the melody of a clarinet and comes across Romain, who calls himself Starling and whom Elena later renames Douglas, for the strongest and most spectacular of trees. Later a child named Rose is born. Fade to black. When the story takes up again, Douglas has returned to the forest, Rose is in the village under the care of others, and Elena is gone.From these disparate threads, Christine Eddie tenderly weaves a fable for our time and for all times. As the years pass, the story broadens to capture others in its elegant web – a doctor with a bruised heart, a pharmacist who may be a witch, and a teacher with dark secrets. Together they raise this child with the mysterious heritage, transforming this story into an ode to friendship and family, a sonnet on our relationship with nature, and an elegy to love and passion.”
The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy – Fiction.
Adding to my collection of Tassie books! Though I’m a bit puzzled by the reference to our “outback” – that’s a purely mainland concept, a before-the-desert thing (we don’t have desert!) “Back in the eighties, Rich and Sandy were environmental campaigners: idealistic, passionate about their cause, and desperately in love. Now, twenty-five years later, and long since separated, they have both settled into the uncomfortable compromises of middle-age; about the only thing they share in common is their teenage daughter, Sophie. When Rich decides to take Sophie on a six-day hike into the Tasmanian outback, he hopes the journey will bring them closer together. But in the epic wilderness he once felt so passionate about, he now finds nothing but disorientation and fear – his daughter seems harder to reach then ever, and events soon begin to spiral dangerously out of control. In order to survive, father and daughter must first traverse an emotional gulf to learn how to trust each other and believe in themselves. Intense and beautifully told, gripping to the very last page, The World Beneath is a remarkable book about the mysterious and changing landscapes of family life: a novel to lose yourself in.”
Bee Summers by Melanie Dugan – Fiction.
Received for review via TLC Book Tours. I can never resist a book that features bees and beekeeping! “The spring she is eleven years old, Melissa Singer’s mother walks out of the house and never returns. That summer, her father, a migratory beekeeper, takes her along with him as he delivers his hives. The trip, and the people she meets, change her life. Over the years that follow, Melissa tries to unlock the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and struggles to come to terms with her loss.”
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – Fiction.
I always meant to get a copy of this when it came out in paperback, but I forgot all about it. I came across it the other day and was pleasantly surprised – easy to grab a copy and take it home! “Ten-year-old Abdullah would do anything for his younger sister. In a life of poverty and struggle, with no mother to care for them, Pari is the only person who brings Abdullah happiness. For her, he will trade his only pair of shoes to give her a feather for her treasured collection. When their father sets off with Pari across the desert to Kabul in search of work, Abdullah is determined not to be separated from her. Neither brother nor sister know what this fateful journey will bring them. And the Mountains Echoed is a deeply moving epic of heartache, hope and, above all, the unbreakable bonds of love.”
Traitor by Stephen Daisley – Historical Fiction.
“In the battle-smoke and chaos of Gallipoli, a young New Zealand soldier helps a Turkish doctor fighting to save a boy’s life. Then a shell bursts nearby; the blast that should have killed them both consigns them instead to the same military hospital. Mahmoud is a Sufi. A whirling dervish, he says, of the Mevlevi order. He tells David stories. Of arriving in London with a pocketful of dried apricots. Of Majnun, the man mad for love, and of the saint who flew to paradise on a lion skin. You are God, we are all gods, Mahmoud tells David; and a bond grows between them. A bond so strong that David will betray his country for his friend.”
Fallout by Sadie Jones – Historical Fiction.
ARC received via TLC Book Tours. Sadie Jones’s new book has been out here for a while already, but this is the US edition I read for the American release. I just finished it; expect my review tomorrow (Friday 30th May). Oh and can I just add that I really don’t like this cover. Click on the link and tell me if you agree that the Chatto & Windus edition has a nicer version of it…
The God of Small Things by Arunhati Roy – Fiction.
This is one of those books that has hovered on the edge of my awareness for years. Every now and then I hear from someone how much they loved this book. It’s one of the titles on the prescribed list of books for the English Literature course I teach, which was the motivation I needed to finally get a copy. “‘They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.’ This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher) and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun, incumbent grand-aunt). Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize-winning novel was the literary sensation of the 1990s: a story anchored to anguish but fuelled by wit and magic.”
Boy, Lost by Kristina Olsson – Memoir.
I’ve wanted this book since I first heard about it a year or so ago, but couldn’t get it in Canada. Thankfully it’s readily available here! “Kristina Olsson’s mother lost her infant son, Peter, when he was snatched from her arms as she boarded a train in the hot summer of 1950. She was young and frightened, trying to escape a brutal marriage, but despite the violence and cruelty she’d endured, she was not prepared for this final blow, this breathtaking punishment. Yvonne would not see her son again for nearly 40 years. Kristina was the first child of her mother’s subsequent, much gentler marriage and, like her siblings, grew up unaware of the reasons behind her mother’s sorrow, though Peter’s absence resounded through the family, marking each one. Yvonne dreamt of her son by day and by night, while Peter grew up a thousand miles and a lifetime away, dreaming of his missing mother. Boy, Lost tells how their lives proceeded from that shattering moment, the grief and shame that stalked them, what they lost and what they salvaged. But it is also the story of a family, the cascade of grief and guilt through generations, and the endurance of memory and faith.”
The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood edited by Kerry Clare – Non-fiction: Parenting; Essays.
Received for review from the publisher. “A Dropped Threads-style anthology, assembling original and inspiring works by some of Canada’s best younger female writers – such as Heather Birrell, Saleema Nawaz, Susan Olding, Diana Fitzgerald Bryden, Carrie Snyder, and Alison Pick – The M Word asks everyday women and writers, some of whom are on the unconventional side of motherhood, to share their emotions and tales of maternity. Whether they are stepmothers or mothers who have experienced abortion, infertility, adoption, or struggles with having more or less children, all these writers are women who have faced down motherhood on the other side of the white picket fence. It is time that motherhood opened its gates to include everyone, not just the picture postcard stories.The M Word is a fabulous collection by a talented author and blogger, which is bound to attract readers from all walks of motherhood.”
The Playboy’s Dark Secret by Madeline Ash – Romance.
E-book from Netgalley. “Leaving behind an international career and an elite party lifestyle, soccer star Dean Thorn has returned home to run the family vineyard after thirteen years abroad. Tormented by a dark secret, he has vowed never to get close to a woman again. No stranger to hard work, Rafi Dalton is too busy for love. Since running away from her career as a professional ballerina, she has been building a new life for herself as a seasonal worker with little money and no fixed address. Rafi is nothing like the women Dean left behind. She is strong, independent and not remotely interested in his fame or money. The attraction between them pushes him right to the edge – but can he trust her enough to leave his past behind? The Playboy’s Dark Secret is a tender, sexy romance set on a beautiful Australian vineyard.”
Received for review from the author via iRead Book Tours. You can see how long it’s been since I did a SAG post – I feel like I read and reviewed these ages ago. Volumes 1 and 2 of The Publicist; I think there’s a third coming out, but these two read like one long novel.
Sweet by Alison Thompson – Cookbook.
This was a bit of a splurge, and maybe goes to show that I shouldn’t click on those emails from Penguin Books Australia – especially when they include teaser recipes and gorgeous photography! This book is all about sweet things: cakes, desserts etc. The previous book, Bake, was about pastries. I’m tempted to get it but I’ve made two recipes from Sweet so far and I wouldn’t call them all that successful. They are a bit more complicated – My Kitchen Rules-style, say. Still, gorgeous, mouth-watering book!
Limoncello and Linen Water by Tessa Kiros – Cookbook.
The third Tessa Kiros collection of family recipes rounds out my set – Applies for Jam and Floating Cloudberries. The Australia Post shop was selling them for $20 each which seemed like a really good time to get a copy of this! (This one is available in the U.S. under a different title, Recipes and Dreams of an Italian Life)
The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer – Non-Fiction: History.
Mortimer made a 3-part BBC series based on his book, which I showed to my English Literature class as we were researching historical context. The series was really good, especially for teenagers, as it imagines you’ve gone back in time and shows you what you would see and explains what you’d experience. I enjoyed it so much – and wanted it for reference – that I decided to get the book for myself. It’s been most useful for class, too.