YAhoo! It’s a YA Review!: Living on Hope Street…

0

yahoo-button

If you like your YA gritty and realistic, you’ve come to the right place because today’s book, Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren shines a light on the diversity of modern Australia and the changing face of the typical Aussie neighbourhood.  We received our copy from Allen & Unwin for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

living on hope street.jpg

Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 24th May 2017. RRP: $19.99

We all love someone. We all fear something. Sometimes they live right next door – or even closer.

Kane will do everything he can to save his mother and his little brother Sam from the violence of his father, even if it means becoming a monster himself.

Mrs Aslan will protect the boys no matter what – even though her own family is in pieces.

Ada wants a family she can count on, while she faces new questions about herself.

Mr Bailey is afraid of the refugees next door, but his worst fear will take another form.

And Gugulethu is just trying to make a life away from terror.

On this street, everyone comes from different places, but to find peace they will have to discover what unites them.

A deeply moving, unflinching portrait of modern Australian suburban life.

There’s a certain grittiness wrapped in dry humour inherent in many Australian stories and Living on Hope Street is no exception.  The book opens on a shocking scene of family violence, that deftly introduces the protagonists, Kane, Sam and their mother Angie and sets the scene for further conflict later in the story.  Chapter by chapter, the reader is introduced to the other characters who live on Hope Street and the ways in which their stories are interconnected.

There’s Mr Bailey who has lived on Hope Street with his wife Judy since the distant past, and who struggles with the brown faces that seem to populate his space. No matter how hard he tries, he always seems to say the wrong thing to his Indian son-in-law. Mrs Aslan is Kane and Sam’s Turkish widower neighbour, who provides support to Angie, the boys’ mother, even as she mourns her own estrangement from her daughter and granddaughter.  Ada, Mrs Aslan’s granddaughter, comes to play a role in Kane’s life later in the book and we are also introduced to Gugu, a young girl from a family of African refugees, whose presence and friendship provides stability for Sam.  Along with these main players, Kane and Sam’s violent father is an ever-lurking presence, while the Tupu family across the road, a group of friendly Arab young men and Mrs Aslan’s daughter (and Ada’s mother) play bit parts to round out the experience.

The constantly changing narrators and the fact that some of these narrators, like Mrs Aslan and Sam, have idiosyncratic ways of “talking” in their particular chapters, might be off-putting to some, but I found it enhanced my experience of the story because each character contributed a new perspective to each situation.  The chapters aren’t overly long either, which means that you are never more than a few pages away from a fresh voice and a new take on what is going on.  I was impressed with the way the author managed to give each narrator an authentic voice and clear motivations and back story.

Overall, I found this to be one of those books that you can’t help but read one more chapter and one more chapter until you are thoroughly sucked in to the lives of the characters.  With a dramatic ending that hints at a renewal of hope for many residents of Hope Street, this book really has everything you could ever want in a realistic contemporary YA tale.

I can see this one being up for CBCA nominations next year, that’s for sure.  Living on Hope Street is flying the flag for an inclusive, diverse community and shows that this is possible, despite cultural differences.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

Advertisements

When the Lyrebird Calls: An Aussie GSQ Review…

0

image

I’ve unleashed the psyche triplets today to examine the Good, the Sad and the Quirky of Kim Kane’s new release, middle grade homage to classic Aussie time-slip literature, When the Lyrebird Calls.  Time-slip novels seem to be non-indigenous Australia’s way of “doing” fantasy, considering that we don’t really have any native fairy-type folk outside of indigenous Dreaming stories, and as many non-indigenous Australians know very little about indigenous Dreaming stories (myself included), time-slipping back to the early days of colonisation (or invasion, depending on your perspective) provides a serviceable substitute.  Anyway, we received a copy of this one from Allen & Unwin for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

When Madeleine is shipped off to stay with her eccentric grandmother for the holidays, she expects the usual: politics, early-morning yoga, extreme health food, and lots of hard work. Instead, Madeleine tumbles back in time to 1900, where the wealthy Williamson family takes her into their home, Lyrebird Muse.

At a time when young girls have no power and no voice, set against a backdrop of the struggles for emancipation, federation and Aboriginal rights, Madeleine must find a way to fit in with the Williamson family’s four sisters – beautiful, cold Bea; clever, awkward Gert; adventurous, rebellious Charlie; and darling baby Imo – as she searches desperately for a way home.

Meanwhile, the Williamson girls’ enchanting German cousin, Elfriede, arrives on the scene on a heavenly wave of smoke and cinnamon, and threatens to shatter everything…

when-the-lyrebird-calls

When the Lyrebird Calls by Kim Kane. Published by Allen & Unwin, Octber 26th 2016. RRP: $16.99

The Good:image

When the Lyrebird Calls is essentially a story about women and girls; the ways in which their lives have been shaped and directed by the expectations of society and the ways in which they have rebelled, quietly and personally or loudly and publicly, as the case may be.    Madeleine is a sporty girl, her grandmother a hippy, yoga-loving, clean-eating independent sort, and the girls from the historical period of the story are variously tomboyish, ladylike and completely ignored.  Much of the plot arc involves Madeleine coming to an understanding of how the lives of these historical women differ from her own, and how much she owes to the personal sacrifice of the women that have come before her.  Kane has done a great job of highlighting the pertinent issues of the time – and in particular, the suffragist movement – without labouring the point in an overtly teachy sort of way.  Many of the finer points around women’s social power are revealed through family dynamics and the quiet upheaval that takes place when the German cousin Elfriede comes into the picture.  Overall, the story hangs together quite well, with loose ends from the beginning of the story (set in the current time period) tied up by the end of Madeleine’s historic adventure.

The Sad:

Only two things brought this book down for me.  One was the pacing: the historical period of the story moves along quite imagesedately and with much decorum, punctuated with a few moments of pinafore-ruffling action, but I was hoping for a few more near-misses or instances where Madeleine felt in danger, or at least in danger of being discovered as an interloper from the future.  This is just a personal preference though, and others might find the pace perfectly suits the setting.

The other thing that annoyed me slightly was the fact that the author obviously wanted to highlight issues of racism in the historical period, but kept signposting the fact by having Madeleine take particular note every time somebody did or said something racist (albeit typical of the historical period).  These instances did feel a bit overtly didactic, and somewhat out of keeping with the authenticity of the story.  Obviously, in order to authentically recreate the historical period, societal attitudes, however unsavoury, have to be recreated also, but most of the instances of racism seemed to be included simply to say, “Look! People in the past were overtly racist all of the time!”  Ezra, the indigenous servant/groundsman/horseman of the family seemed to serve little purpose other than as a reference point for Madeleine to note that (a) people are racist toward him and (b) she hasn’t actually ever spoken to an indigenous person before.  This second point could probably have been the basis for a meaningful bit of learning for Madeleine once she returns home from the past, but is never mentioned again, with greater emphasis being placed on the issue of women’s rights.

The Quirky:

image

The most interesting thing about this book is the fact that it is being marketed as being “in the tradition of Playing Beatie Bow“, the Australian classic time-slip tale by Ruth Park.  You can see by comparing the covers of the two books that there has been a conscious attempt to connect the two in the minds of readers:

playing-beatie-bow

Good old Beatie was a set text for many primary school kids of the era, so perhaps the marketing gurus are counting on adult readers (and particularly teachers!) making the link and picking up Kane’s tome, but apart from the few obvious similarities, the two books could be read as companion novels, rather than one being a straight re-telling or re-imagining of the other.  While Park’s story took place in the slummy environment of The Rocks, with a Scottish immigrant family and constant threats of being beaten yeller and green, Kane’s story is set in the grand house of an upper-class family of ladies.  The romance theme of Park’s work is missing from Kane’s story (thank the Lord!) and When the Lyrebird Calls is lacking the dark, gritty atmosphere and almost ghost-story quality of Playing Beatie Bow.  This is probably a good thing if, like me, the front cover of Park’s book and the eerie skipping-rhyme poem gave you the heebie jeebies as a kid.  Canny teachers will no doubt be pleased to have a newer time-slip story of the same historical period to introduce to their students, either alongside or as a substitute for the original classic.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, particularly in a book targeted at upper primary, lower secondary readers, I would definitely recommend giving When the Lyrebird Calls a go.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

 

 

A Love-Note to Secondhand Bookshops…and a Fi50 Reminder…

4

imageBefore we crack on with an OzYA ode to bookstores and bookishness, allow me to gently remind you that Fiction in 50 for August kicks off on Monday with the prompt…

squeaky wheel

To participate, just create a piece of prose or poetry in fewer than 51 words, post it somewhere and then link it up to the linky in my post on Monday.  For more information on how to play and for future prompts, just click here.


words in deep blue

Today’s book is a bit of an unusual choice for we shelf denizens, given its high lovey-dovey content, but we absolutely enjoyed diving into its unusual format and premise.  We received Words in Deep Blue by Cat Crowley from the publisher via Netgalley and here is the blurb from Goodreads:

This is a love story.
It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

You would be forgiven for assuming that a first-line like that one would cause me to immediately roll my eyes, gnash my teeth and run in the opposite direction, but I will admit to being caught by the second line.  The reference to readers writing letters drew me in and I’m glad it did because this really is a coming-of-age story worth getting stuck in to.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Rachel and Henry, ex-best friends who have drifted apart amidst deliberation (Rachel) and confusion (Henry).  Rachel has spent a recent stint away from the town in which she and Henry grew up, nursing grief for the sudden death of her brother and enmity towards Henry, for falling in love with a someone who isn’t Rachel.  Henry, meanwhile, has remained working at his parents’ quirky, failing secondhand bookstore, Howling Books, being tossed on the winds of love by his on-again, off-again girlfriend Amy, and wondering why Rachel is shunning him so completely.  In an unexpected turn of events, Rachel finds herself back in her home town and back facing Henry over a gulf of grief that she can’t put into words.  Henry finds Rachel just as Amy seems to have finally called it quits for good, and his parents mull over whether or not to sell their beloved bookstore, and with it, it would seem, the family’s one safe port in a stormy world.

There’s a real sense of warmth and innocence underpinning Henry’s parts of the novel.  While obviously a bit of a homebody who still needs the security of family and stability, Henry is thrust into some major life changes that are out of his control.  Rachel on the other hand, is prickly, standoffish, and bizarrely protective of her grief, to the point that she won’t reveal the fact of her brother’s recent death to anyone from her hometown.  Both the main characters (and all the others!) are gently flawed and I found a great appeal in seeing how they slowly move toward embracing or rejecting the new opportunities opening up.

The most fantastic non-human character in the story is, of course, Henry’s family’s bookstore, Howling Books.  The descriptions of it make it sound like the most comfortable, lived-in (both figuratively and literally), enticing little book nook that could ever be, and so the thought of losing it struck me almost as hard as it strikes Henry.  I absolutely adored the idea of the Letter Library – a section in the shop where customers can write letters to friends, lovers, strangers – whoever! – and leave them to be found within the pages of the Letter Library tomes.  There is a clever sub-plot relating to Henry’s sister George that utilises this method, and other characters’ stories are fleshed out through glimpses into the letters left within the pages of the books.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves books about bookshops, readers and literature changing lives.  The romance stuff isn’t rammed down your throat, even though it is a main focus of the book, because it feels like an authentic coming-of-age tale rather than a typical YA love triangle type story.  Despite the difficult themes of grief and growing up within the book there is an undeniable charm and geniality that exudes, I suspect, mostly from Howling Books, and keeps the overall reading experience buoyant.  I will think back on this one with fondness and make the startling (for me!) claim that if you only read one book featuring broken hearts this year, you could do a damn sight worse than this one.

Until next time,

Bruce

It’s Random Giveaway Time!

1

If you happen to live in Australia, it’s your lucky day, because I’ve decided to throw a random, Australia-only giveaway!

Hooray!

//giphy.com/embed/VPpdwvbhdaj4s

via GIPHY

I have a choice between two books for the winner.  The first is The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis, which we received from HarperCollins Australia for review.  The writing style just wasn’t for us even though from what we’ve read, the story seems to be a gritty sort of survival adventure.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

wolf road

Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

The second choice was sent to us by Allen & Unwin for review and because it is just not my thing, I’m offering it straight up to a more loving home.  It’s Wild One by Jessica Whitman, a romance based around polo and chasing one’s dreams.  Here’s the blurb from Allen & Unwin:

wild one

Love, scandal and seduction in the glamorous world of polo

When Katherine ‘Kat’ Parker wrote and directed a blockbuster movie she became Hollywood’s ‘It Girl’ overnight – until with one flop she wasn’t. Now Kat is back living in Florida trying to find the inspiration to write what she hopes will be her comeback screenplay.

Despite being an exceptionally talented polo player, Sebastian Del Campo has never shared his famous family’s intense passion for the sport. He has, however, excelled at other polo-related activities – like partying hard and having liaisons with beautiful women.

When Sebastian meets Kat he finds her down-to-earth attitude refreshing. Keen to get to know her better, he regales Kat with stories of his trailblazing grandmother, Victoria, who was a pioneering polo player.

Kat’s imagination is fired by Victoria’s story and she realises she’d make a great subject for a screenplay. Seb agrees and the pair head to Hollywood to seek out funding for a film that could make or break both their careers – and their growing feelings for each other . . .

Fun, sexy and entertaining, this novel is about taking a risk to follow your passions in life – and love.

To enter this giveaway and win your choice of one of these two books, simply click on the Rafflecopter link below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ts & Cs are in the Rafflecopter form…oh, and if you are going to leave an email, make sure it is one you check regularly because I have recently had a number of winners miss out on their prizes because they never responded to the emails I sent telling them they had won 😦

Good luck!

Bruce

<

The Bone Sparrow: 100 Books Coming Your Way This Book Week! #read4refugees #openbooksopenminds

1

bone sparrow 1

It’s Children’s Book Week here in Australia and I have an beautiful, timely and confronting book to present to you today, as well as an invitation to join in with those using their voices to speak on behalf of those who are being silenced.  The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon highlights the shocking mistreatment and abuse of asylum seekers and refugees who have arrived in Australia by boat and are currently incarcerated in indefinite offshore detention.  The story, though difficult to read at times, is aimed at the 9-12 year old age bracket and sensitively brings to the fore the plight of these forgotten people.  This Book Week, we on the Shelf aim to speak our opposition to successive Australian Governments’ abuse of these individuals’ human rights.  But more of that in a minute.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

 Sometimes, at night, the dirt outside turns into a beautiful ocean. As red as the sun and as deep as the sky. I lie in my bed, Queeny’s feet pushing up against my cheek, and listen to the waves lapping at the tent.

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But as he grows, his imagination gets bigger too, until it is bursting at the limits of his world. The night sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears from the other side of the wires, and brings a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it, she relies on Subhi to unravel her own family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.

In 2002, veteran Australian children’s author Morris Gleitzman published the Boy Overboard/Girl Underground duology, that dealt directly with Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, with reference to the Tampa incident and then-Prime Minister John Howard’s seminal “We Will Decide” speech that swept his government back into power on the back of fabricated stories designed to villify those seeking our help.  Fourteen years on, and if anything, Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers has become far worse.

It is in this political and humanitarian climate that we find Subhi, innocent victim one country’s irrational fear of difference, and pawn in a sick political race to the bottom on human rights.  Fraillon has done a remarkable job of writing Subhi as an authentic young boy, full of ideas, arguments with his sister, hopes for his future and a taste for adventure.  The other young characters in the camp – Eli and Queeny – are complex and encapsulate the fight between growth and stagnation that is going on for these young teens who, in any other circumstance, would be testing their boundaries, experimenting with identity and making plans for their futures.  The “Jackets” or security staff at Subhi’s camp are also a varied bunch, with even the good guys demonstrating divided loyalties and the natural desire to protect themselves from recrimination.

Suffused into the tale, and reflected in the form of stories from a book owned by Jimmie, is a sense of hope: that despite the overwhelming evidence that these people are invisible and forgotten, Someday they will be free.

This is meant to be a children’s book – a children’s book about difficult and important topics, certainly, but a children’s book.

But stuff that.

If you are an adult above voting age, read this book.

If you are a teen with a thirst for information and a desire to know what’s going on outside your social bubble, read this book.

If you are a person with any sense of common decency, read this book.

If you are an Australian, read this damn book.

Then pass it on to your mates and make them read it.

And to the Australian government: for fuck’s sake, close the bloody camps.

An Invitation For Children’s Book Week

We shelf denizens are proud to say we do not sit on the fence when the abuse of human rights are concerned and for that reason we are inviting you to be part of a super fun and cheeky mission in your local area this book week, August 20-26th.

Mums 4 Refugees, a grassroots advocacy and support group made up entirely of ordinary mothers who give more than two hoots about how asylum seekers are treated in this country, are planning a National Book Drop and would love you to join in!  Here’s the skinny:

This Children’s Book Week, find stories of hope in unexpected places.

#read4refugees #openbooksopenminds

Members of grass roots advocacy group Mums 4 Refugees are taking stories of hope and survival, inspired by refugees and those seeking asylum, into their communities by participating in a national “book drop”.

Mothers across Australia will be joining this national campaign to raise awareness of refugee issues by leaving books focusing on the stories of refugees and asylum seekers in public and high profile locations across Australia. We hope that members of the public will embrace the week as an opportunity to learn more about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and worldwide.

To help us out in Book Drop, Hachette Australia kindly (and with an admirable willingness!) provided Mums 4 Refugees with 100 copies of The Bone Sparrow to drop during the week in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide!!  

If that weren’t enough, there will be 10 copies of YA new release When Michael Met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah dropped in Brisbane thanks to PanMacmillan Australia! 

when michael met mina

Author of Ziba Came on a Boat, Liz Lofthouse, is also getting behind the action, donating copies of her CBCA Shortlisted picture book for dropping! 

ziba

If you would like to join the action, there is a public Facebook Event Page here, where you can upload pictures of books you have dropped or found.  If you are wondering what books might be suitable, here is a list:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS:
The Little Refugee (Anh Do)
Refugees (David Miller)
Ziba Came on a Boat (Liz Lofthouse)
Boy Overboard (Morris Gleitzman)
Girl Underground (Morris Gleitzman)

Plum Puddings and Paper Moons (Glenda Millard)
Home and Away (John Marsden)
Flight (Nadia Wheatley)
Rainbow Bird (Czenya Cavouras)

YOUNG ADULT FICTION:
The Bone Sparrow (Zana Fraillon)
When Michael Met Mina (Randa Abdel-Fattah)
Soraya the Storyteller (Rosanne Hawke)
The Arrival (Shaun Tan)
Jumping to Heaven (Katherine Goode)

ADULT NON FICTION:
The Happiest Refugee (Anh Do)
Walking Free (Munjed Al Muderis)
Lives in Limbo (Michael Leach & Fethi Mansouri)

If you would like to drop a book, you can stick this bookplate inside the front cover:

M4R bookplate

So join in if you can, share the action if you can, tell others, and make this Book Week a week of action for change!

Yours in hope,

Bruce

 

 

Fiction in 50 March Challenge: A Kernel of Truth…

7

imageWelcome to Fiction in 50 for March.   If you’d like to join in, simply create a piece of fiction or poetry in 50 words or less using this month’s prompt and post a link to your work of genius in the comments of this post. If you want to share on twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag #Fi50.  To find out more about the challenge and future prompts, simply click on the large attractive button at the beginning of this post.  This month’s prompt is…

kernel of truth

I’ve indulged in a cheeky bit of speculative fiction this month (or as speculative as one can be in under 50 words) and based my story on the ridiculously unseasonal weather we’ve been experiencing in Brisbane over the past few weeks.  This one is a little Antipodes-centric, but sometimes you’ve just got to champion the home side.  I have titled my contribution…

Excerpt from  CP State High School circa 2040 “Year 10 History Short-Answer Exam: The Early Millennial Years”

1.Describe how Coober Pedy replaced Canberra as the nation’s capital.

It started with climate-change-denying pollies. Temps in the high-30s in mid-Autumn? Wake up morons! When they finally twigged, they left the plebs to fry and shifted to CP. All hail our under-dwelling overlords!

Antagonistically put, Darren, but essentially correct.  B+

Looking forward to seeing everyone else’s efforts! For those who like to be prepared, next month’s prompt will be a democratic one.  It is:

the trouble with Fi50 button

YOU FILL IN THE BLANK!

I love the “fill in the blank” prompts.  We always get such creative responses.

Until next time,

Bruce