Laurinda


My cat has photobombed this review…

Alice Pung
Black Inc. Books
Published November 2014

Thank you to the publisher for
providing this book in exchange 
for an honest review. This did not
alter my review in any way.

I’ve had some trouble writing this review. I just really loved this book, and that makes them so much harder to review. I will try but chances are I won’t even be coherent…

Laurinda is the funny and insightful story of Lucy Lam, who is given a scholarship place at the exclusive Laurinda Ladies College. This is no ordinary school. Academics is not enough – the young ladies of Laurinda must be passionate, proud and representative of their school. Embodying all of these qualities – and more – is a trio of girls known as the Cabinet, more powerful than the other students and even some of their teachers. Lucy observes the Cabinet and their ways, and as they take her under their wing, Lucy’s identity and integrity is at stake as she struggles through the new world of privilege and wealth.

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The Sky So Heavy

The Sky So Heavy

Author: Claire Zorn
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: August 18th, 2014
Read Count: 1
Review:
 Thank you to University of Queensland Press for providing a copy of this book. This did not influence my review in any way.

Claire Zorn has just become a must-buy author for me. First The Protected, and now The Sky So Heavy, colour me impressed! The Sky So Heavy is an apocalyptic novel set in the Blue Mountains. Not post-apocalyptic – it is happening as we read! Our hero is Fin – seventeen years old, just your average teenage guy, bluffing his way through class and through interactions with Lucy, who leaves him weak at the knees. There is talk of nuclear testing that day when he’s at school, but he never expects to find himself in the middle of a nuclear winter. Suddenly, there’s no power, no water and only limited supplies of food. With his dad unable to get home and his mum unreachable at her Government job in the city, it’s up to Fin to look out for younger brother Max and try to find a way to get them through this, together with Lucy and the unpopular Arnold Wong who Fin had never spoken to other than in jeers before now. Four kids, alone, and just trying to survive. Continue reading

The Protected

The Protected

Author: Claire Zorn
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: July 1st to 2nd, 2014
Read Count: 1
Review:
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.

Hannah’s family is broken. Her mum is depressed, her dad injured and her sister? Her sister Katie was killed in the same accident that split the family in little broken parts. Since the accident, once the well-wishers were gone, Hannah has been ignored by everyone, even those who tormented her for years before Katie’s death. The relief at finally being left alone is eating at Hannah as she struggles to remember what happened during the accident. She is struggling by herself, until Josh comes along. Josh sees her as more than just the dead girl’s sister that everyone else tiptoes around. For the first time in years, Hannah may actually have a friend, if only she is willing to open herself up.

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Jasper Jones

Author: Craig Silvey
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: March 31st to April 2nd, 2014
Review:
When the cover of a book states it is “the Australian To Kill A Mockingbird” (The Monthly), you have to admit this is a pretty big call to make. It’s enough to make you prick your ears up and make you doubt the book, all in the same breath. And while I usually dislike such comparisons, I have to agree this is pretty spot on, and I would have picked up the connection even if it didn’t say so on the cover.

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A Little Bush Maid

Author: Mary Grant Bruce
Series: Billabong, Book 1
Publisher: Ward, Lock
Star Rating: 5/5
Date Read: September 20th to 22nd, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
I’d never heard of Mary Grant Bruce or the Billabong series until one day my grandmother started talking about the books she read as a child, some 70 years ago now. For all I knew she was making it all up because I had never heard or seen of it anywhere…until I stumbled across the first book A Little Bush Maid in a secondhand bookstore. I bought it immediately, and sat down to see what the fuss was about.

Of course, I loved it. How could I not? It’s Australia, it’s the bush, it’s history (though fiction I believe this portrays an accurate picture of rural Australia at the time), it’s a plucky little heroine who you can’t help but love and a whole other cast of characters. I can see why my grandmother loved this as a child and I only wish I, too, had discovered them at a younger age (being now about 10 years above the target age).

Many who read these books today may be shocked by some of the terms and behaviour used by even the children toward the Aboriginal stable boy. I think it is important to realise, while we should in no way encourage this behaviour, we also shouldn’t try to cover up that part of history. That was the way life was in the 1900s and is clearly very different to life in 2010s. Just to put my two cents in, I see no reason to politically correct any novels, including the Billabong series and also Enid Blyton books, which I believe have been ‘edited’. I think that adults shouldn’t be so shocked that those attitudes did once exist, and I also think that children who read the books should have an understanding of how life used to be different and why it’s not like that anymore.

But I digress! This book is wonderful and I look forward to scrounging around a few more secondhand bookstores to get my paws on the rest!

Moon Filly

Author: Elyne Mitchell
Series: The Silver Brumby
Publisher: Hutchinson
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Date Read: September 22nd to 23rd, 2013
Read Count: 1
Review:
Elyne Mitchell has a wonderful way of bringing to life the magical high country in the minds of those who have never seen it, and causing those who have (such as myself) to recall fond memories of the bush. The imagery she creates means that you never have time to ponder upon the fact that in this entire novel, revolving around the two beautiful brumbies (wild Australian horses, to the uninformed) Wurring and Ilinga, there is no dialogue. Despite this fact, the reader is still able to connect to the horses and their story, their journey to find each other again.

I felt like I could feel the emotion through the pages and yet it never seemed as if Mitchell had anthropomorphized these creatures, which is an easy mistake to make in any fiction where animals are the main characters, and still create a believable story.

The Silver Brumby stories are Australian favourites for a reason.

Capricornia

Author: Xavier Herbert
Publisher: Angus & Robertson
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: December 5th to 16th, 2013
Review:
Capricornia is the lengthy, epic tale spanning over generations in what we call ‘the top end’ (the Northern Territory) of Australia. I’m not even sure where to start. So many characters, so many intertwining storylines but all flowed well and made sense. It is the story of the trials and tribulations people who lived there, the white Australians, the Aboriginals, the half caste, the Chinese and all the rest. It is a very real look at the history of Australia, and how the North was very different to the South.

If you don’t know Australia, I can try to sum up the differences for you. The climate and landscape are very different in the North compared to the South – instead of four seasons there are two, Wet and Dry. Both are extreme. The North is mainly desert, hardly habitable for cattle. And yet there are many who live there and try to ‘make a go of it’. It’s not an easy life.

The story begins when two of the Shillingsworth brothers move up North and join the Capricornian Government Service. Oscar becomes a gentleman but Mark is restless in his new role. He wants to be fixing engines, not observing them. It’s not long before he takes up with Ned Krater, a trepang fisherman, who introduces him to all the temptations of Capricornia. Mark soon bears a son to an Aboriginal woman, a ‘lubra’ and it is this son, Norman, who struggles to find his place in Capricornia. Raised by his Uncle Oscar back down South as a white man, but regarded as a black once home in Capricornia Norman does not know where he fits in.

As well as Norman, we meet the O’Cannons, a white man with an Aboriginal wife and a tribe of kids, the Differs, a white man raising a half caste daughter, the McLashs, the mother who runs the local store and the son who drives the locomotive, and a colourful cast of other characters. And there is the underlying mystery – where is Mark Shillingsworth?

I thought Capricornia was a fantastic novel and felt a little shocked by the end (in hindsight I think I should have seen it coming!). It is an important piece of Australian history that we should remember, although I have to agree with the following line from the novel : How could anyone understand the ways of Capricornia unless he lived there? which is exactly how I felt when trying to explain this novel to my friends.