Pre-Release Review: Beneath the Mother Tree by D.M. Cameron

Beneath_the_Mother_Tree_cover-195x300Title: Beneath the Mother Tree

Author: D.M. Cameron

Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: MidnightSun Publishing

Published: 1st August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: 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.

 

~*~

I received permission from the publisher to post this review before publication date to generate interest and buzz for the debut author.

The novel opens with Ayla hearing a tune played on a flute as she swims at the edge of her wild island home, where Indigenous history and Irish mythology are interwoven, and there is an understanding in the community of what happened in the past, and respect from all characters towards each other and this past. Ayla has spent her whole life on this island – and its history – Indigenous and white, and the tales of Far Dorocha and other Irish myths that she has been told by her Grappa, have informed her and created her identity.

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Riley and his mother have just moved to the island following the death of his stepfather, and instantly, Ayla’s grandfather senses that something sinister is at play when the mysterious deaths begin – and he tries to ban Ayla from seeing Riley. But as the story ebbs and flows between the viewpoints of Ayla and Riley, and at times, Riley’s mother, Marlise, the mystery that is gripping the island deepens, and it is up to Ayla and Riley, with the help of advice from friends, Riley’s stepfather’s books and the history of the island that Ayla has grown up with, they begin to look into the mysterious deaths that have occurred since Marlise arrived, and hopefully, solve the mystery that has almost destroyed the island and those that live there.

What I liked about this novel was the care that D.M. Cameron took with her research into Irish mythology and the research into the Indigenous history of the Quandamooka people and the islands near Stradbroke and Moreton Bay, and has ensured that she gave the utmost respect to these stories. This made the story richer and gave a better experience with the facts of Indigenous history, and the stories and experiences of Ayla’s friend, Mandy woven throughout.

The islanders are bonded by history and mythology, and by a tragedy that claimed the lives of two fishermen many years ago. Things are peaceful, and tranquil, as though the characters have reached an understanding of the past and what is to come, until Riley and his mother arrive. It is their presence that beings to haunt the island – and bring a feeling of unease to the novel as the reader wonders just what their motive for being there is. I found Marlise to be a suffocating character, and I suppose she was, when I think about the way she tried to control Riley. Ayla, Riley and Mandy were breaths of fresh air, and definitely my favourite characters.

Intertwined with the Indigenous history that the author carefully leant about from members of the Quandamooka community, and included sensitively, and I felt in a way that didn’t shy away from the horrors history sometimes does, and Irish mythology of the Fae, is the mystery of the deaths that Grappa says are caused by Far Dorocha, whom he thinks Riley is when he sees one of the flutes that Riley has made. I felt a sense of relief when Ayla managed to bring her Grappa around and like Riley and help him to not only uncover the mystery of what was happening on the island, but the mystery of his father, and what really happened to him. The combination of myth, history and mystery creates an atmospheric novel with a well-paced structure that climaxes effectively towards the end, and brings together the strands of history, mystery, and myth in an effective and emotive way that has the power to unite people.

I enjoyed this novel, gobbling most of it up over an afternoon yesterday. D.M. Cameron is an evocative new voice in Australian literature, and I hope she writes more novels that weave history and mythology throughout as I enjoy that sort of book.

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The Upside of Over by JD Barrett

upside of overTitle: The Upside of Over

Author: J.D. Barrett

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 29th May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 298

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A scathingly brilliant new novel from TV scriptwriter J.D. Barrett, author of THE SECRET RECIPE FOR SECOND CHANCES, that explores sex, love and all the stuff in-between.

What happens when one of the country’s most popular identities goes from reading the news to being the news?

Olivia Law had always been the good girl. Great grades, perfect career, husband, house and hairdo. She’d learnt image was everything, so she refused to look below the surface of her life. When not at work, her minutes were filled with causes, chairing boards and dining at fabulous restaurants with her equally fabulous husband, David. She kept up the Botox, blow-dries and worked hard. It wasn’t enough, but whenever doubt crept in she’d head to a Pilates class or plan a renovation on her trophy house.

Then she turned 45.
Olivia wasn’t prepared for David to leave. The fact that they hadn’t had sex for two years should have triggered warning bells … it didn’t.

In an attempt to fix her broken marriage Olivia exposes herself like never before. But when her confession goes viral, the husband, house and job disappear. The woman who once offered glamorous reassurance and a steady gaze is labelled a princess of perversion. Humiliated, defeated, facing fifty shades of failure, she’s left wondering who the hell she really is? Stripped bare, she abandons perfection … and something remarkable happens.

Olivia Law just might get her sass back (and this time, it’s the real thing).

The brilliant new novel from J.D. Barrett about break ups, breakdowns and break throughs. Batteries not included.

 

~*~

Olivia Law has enjoyed a well-respected career as a newsreader and in the media for many years. And then her marriage falls apart, and she sends a private video to her ex-husband that is a little risqué, which somehow goes viral. What follows is the epic fallout that sees Olivia hit rock bottom, and it takes best friend Darcy, stepson, Finn, her best gay friends, Hugo and Ricky, and a few unexpected allies to pull her through. Escaping up to Byron, Olivia confronts her own sexuality and identity, finding friends in Leo, and Ace, and a new identity that she forges through an online personality, which is encouraged by her friends and her stepson’s mother, Karen and sister Ava. As she ventures into this new life, hints of why she was fired and how the video was leaked to the public start to come out, and sexual harassment cases start to emerge as Olivia’s videos begin to empower women to speak out about anything and everything and stand up for themselves. What will follow results in the reactions to what happens in these cases and how people try to make sure the least harm is done, and what happens when people are caught out.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Upside of Over looks at how women in the entertainment industry can and at times, are treated once they reach a certain age, as though they have a use by date that society seems to impose on them for career, family, marriage. After her unsuccessful marriage, Olivia feels lost for a while and is questioning where she fits in, and whether she really has a place in the world anymore, which leads to her exploration of self. When she fails, that failure is what catapults her into a new life, and with a renewed sense of self. It is a funny book, that readers at cross roads of their life, and wondering about where they are going, J.D. Barrett writes about the forced invisibility and compliance of Olivia with humour and sass that ensures each page is a surprise and creates a story with charm as well as humour.

Of all the characters, I think Ricky, Hugo and Finn ended up being my favourites, and I was surprised by Karen, and the way she turned out to be such a good friend to Olivia in the end and backed her at every stage in the case that the network Olivia had worked for brought against her. I loved the diversity in this book – the ages, the genders, everything and the way the plot and everything else all flowed so seamlessly together, showing that the world isn’t always what we see on the surface, that there is more to people than meets the eye and peeling back the layers shows who we truly are.

In today’s world, where the #TimesUp movement was started with the revelations last year about Harvey Weinstein, this is an eerily prophetic book that looks at the inner workings of the television and media industries – what we see onscreen doesn’t reveal what happens behind the scenes, and the way the media treated Olivia in the novel – when it had never been her intention for the video to be leaked – illustrated the different ways media reports scandals depending on who is involved and the perspective they want to present. Where Olivia’s network tried to throw her under  the bus, when one of her former colleagues came through for her, I liked that, and thought it sent a powerful message that sometimes standing up for what is right, and doing everything possible to uncover the truth, even if it means risking your own career, is better than kowtowing to executives and what they want.

With the current wave of stories coming out against Hollywood producers, this could not be a more timely novel in my mind, and even though it doesn’t directly reference the #TimesUp movement or Weinstein, the shadows and hints about it are there, showing the fickleness of the outward appearance of perfection, and how quickly things can go wrong, but the upside of this is what Olivia made of it, and the voice that she gave to women all over through her venture – even those she didn’t expect to hear from.

Interview with J.D. Barret appears on this blog too.

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P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones

p is for pearl.jpgTitle: P is for Pearl

Author: Eliza Henry Jones

Genre: Young Adult, Literary

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 19th of February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A POIGNANT READ BURSTING WITH HEARTACHE, GRIEF AND SMALL-TOWN FAMILY SECRETS THAT WILL DRAW YOU IN UNTIL THE FINAL PAGE’
– Gabrielle Tozer, award-winning author of The InternFaking It and Remind Me How This Ends

Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family.

She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically.

And it’s easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with – and a stepbrother to take revenge on.

But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren’t as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.

From the talented author of the celebrated novels In the Quiet and Ache comes a poignant and moving book that explores the stories we tell ourselves about our families, and what it means to belong.


PRAISE

P is for Pearl is a complex, authentic exploration of grief, friendship, mental illness, family and love, sensitively written by a writer whose voice will resonate with teen readers.’  Books+Publishin

~*~

Gwendolyn P. Pearson hides the dark family secrets that have plagued her family for years very well, and she is good at it. For years, the small Tasmanian town of Clunes has whispered and spoken about her mother, who died when Gwen was a child, one of two family tragedies that happened within months of each other. Gwen has her best friends, Loretta and Gordon, school and running to distract her – that is, until a strange incident at the cafe she works at triggers a memory, and Gwen must confront her memories. When new kids, Ben and Amber arrive in town, Gwen is torn between letting them be, and befriending them and their aunt. As she tries to hide secrets from everyone and hide from her past, it is Ben who will show her that the surface of someone is not always what they seem, and that it is okay to be angry when you are hurt.

AWW-2018-badge-roseP for Pearl completes my book bingo for the first half of 2018 – this will be in a separate post next Saturday, and then I am embarking on round two, using the same card but hopefully, different books as much as I can. First written when Eliza was sixteen, P for Pearl is the world of tragedy and loneliness seen through the eyes of a teenager whose understanding of what happened is coloured by what she wants to believe, and what, as a child, she was told or led to believe. Through narrative and diary entries, Gwen’s story is slowly revealed, and we see the pain she has been in for years, slowly emerging and bubbling its way to the top following the smashed windows at work.

Gwen’s family – her father, stepmother Biddy, step-brother Tyrone and half-sister Evie, are all key figures in the way Gwen experiences her life, and of them all, she seems to feel closer to Evie at first, and a little distanced from the rest of her family, perhaps feeling a little lost in it all. Tyrone is older – and at first, is rather annoying but later, I found something endearing about him and the way he genuinely cared for Gwen, which comes through gradually as she comes to terms with her confusion and pain. In the end, Tyrone, Ben, Loretta and Gordon are the ones who help her come through her pain and the realisation of the painful family history that has haunted her.

P for Pearl is aimed at teenagers but is a novel that speaks to the grief and complicated events and tragedies in life that we all face and endure. Gwen’s voice is genuine, and works well in the novel, as is the character growth and learning little bits about characters as the novel progresses. A greet novel to check off my final bingo box.

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My Girragundji by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Prior

my girragundjiTitle: My Girragundji – 20th Anniversary Edition
Author: Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Prior
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 23rd May 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 96
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: The 20th anniversary edition of the award-winning, much loved story that tells how a little tree frog helps a boy find the courage to face his fears.
‘I wake with a start. The doorknob turns. It’s him. The Hairyman.’

There’s a bad spirit in our house. He’s as ugly as ugly gets and he stinks. You touch this kind of Hairyman and you lose your voice, or choke to death.

It’s hard to sleep when a hairy wrinkly old hand might grab you in the night. And in the day you’ve got to watch yourself. It can be rough. Words come yelling at you that hurt.

Alive with humour, My Girragundji is the vivid story of a boy growing up between two worlds. With the little green tree frog as a friend, the bullies at school don’t seem so big anymore. And Girragundji gives him the courage to face his fears.

Boori Monty Pryor was the Australian Children’s Laureate from 2012-13.

Author bio:
Meme McDonald was a graduate of Victoria College of the Arts Drama School. She began her career as a theatre and festival director, specialising in the creation of large-scale outdoor performance events. Since then she worked as a writer, photographer and on various film projects. Meme McDonald’s previous books – five of which have been written in collaboration with Boori Monty Pryor – have won six major literary awards.

Boori Monty Pryor was born in North Queensland. His father is from the Birri-gubba of the Bowen region and his mother from Yarrabah, a descendant of the Kunggandji and Kukuimudji. Boori is a multi-talented performer who has worked in film, television, modelling, sport, music and theatre-in-education. Boori has written several award-winning children’s books with Meme McDonald and was Australia’s inaugural Children’s Laureate (with Alison Lester) in 2012 and 2013.
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AWW-2018-badge-roseThere’s something unique about Australian stories – wherever they come from – that show a connection to the land and history that feels different to other literature. In My Girragundji, first published twenty years ago, Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Prior have taken family stories and culture and woven them into a story that can be enjoyed by all.

In My Girragundji, young boy straddles two worlds: his Indigenous world and the world of wider Australia, where everyone is invited to participate but where the protagonist of this short, charming story is still isolated, and where difference can mean more than he thought it could. It is a world where the reader is introduced to Aboriginal words that are translated within the text, and that flow, and sing, sharing knowledge with all in an accessible and enjoyable way. The protagonist refers to migaloo, mozzies, and Aboriginal legends of a Hairyman, a figure who illustrates the fears his family feels, and perhaps shows a sense of isolation that they might feel from the migaloo – their word for the white people they live with and go to school with.

At school, the protagonist is caught between two worlds and tries to fit into both, and soon finds solace in a small friend – a girragundji – a frog. And he draws strength from this frog as he navigates his world and where he fits in.

I read this one quite quickly – and enjoyed the black and white photos and images that accompanied the text, giving it life and vitality next t brief, yet descriptive and emotive text, that communicated a story of strength, friendship, family and coming of age in a simple, accessible and charming way to the target audience, but also one that I hope will be enjoyed by all. Aimed at years four and five, this would be a great book to read and begin various conversations about our culture in Australia and introduce new readers to an Indigenous author, and Meme, who was a great advocate for reconciliation and worked together with Indigenous communities like Boori’s to help connect people and bring about reconciliation.

I enjoyed this read, and hope others do as well.

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Other Worlds 2: Beast World by George Ivanoff

Beast worldTitle: Other Worlds 2: Beast World

Author: George Ivanoff

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Steampunk

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 26th February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 203

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Xandra finds a key . . .
It opens a doorway . . .
She and her brother are sucked through . . .

Into a crazy world that looks like steampunk London. Except in this world there are no humans – only animals. Xandra and Lex encounter rhino police, armadillo housekeeping staff, rodent inventors and even a lion on the throne. Here humans are the endangered species!

Will Xandra and Lex survive Beast World?

The Other Worlds series: OTHER WORLDS

Find the key!
Open the doorway!
Enter the Other World! 

OTHER WORLDS is a new adventure series for kids aged 8 and up, with a sci-fi and fantasy flavour. It’s about mysterious keys that open doorways into other worlds. Each book is a stand-alone story with a new set of characters. But, for those who read the entire series, there’s also a thread running through the first three books that gets tied up in Book 4.

~*~

Continuing the Other Worlds series, Xandra and Lex Volodin are on a school excursion when they get sucked into a painting in the museum. Xandra’s wheelchair is left behind – and once in the new world, they encounter a steampunk London – where animals rule, and live, and where humans are relegated to myths alongside unicorns and Basilisks. Here, Xandra must explain her muscular dystrophy, and get help from Nikole Telsa, a coypu, who is an inventor, and Archie, a friendly llama, to foil a plan by a carnivorous tortoise in a world were even tigers are vegetarians. Lady Mimsy is after Queen Victoria – and Lord Grimsby is after her crown – so tigers can rule instead of lions. Whilst Xandra and Lex are in this world, they must work to stop Grimsby and Mimsy before they can go home, and back to their lives in their world.

Book two of the Other Worlds series, also one I wrote a quiz for, is so far my favourite of the series. I loved the steampunk world, and I adored Telsa and Archie – they were adorable, brave and worked with Xandra and Lex nicely. Like Perfect World, Beast World shows diversity and difference, and puts a spin on the way portal worlds are portrayed. This unique and fun story has animals in clothes as Lords and Ladies in a Victorian London setting, and uses the dynamics of the human world in the animal world to illustrate how different people will do anything to attain their goals. a fun story, and I hope other people enjoy it as much as I did.

I loved Xandra because she didn’t let her disability define her, but she still struggled with the constraints of it, especially once through the portal without her wheel chair. The exoskeleton she uses in Beast World gives her a freedom that the chair doesn’t, yet she shows that whatever she uses to get around, she’s just as capable as anyone else – a powerful message to send, and a fabulous character sending it.

Other Worlds 1: Perfect World by George Ivanoff

perfect worldTitle: Other Worlds 1: Perfect World

Author: George Ivanoff

Genre: Science Fiction, Children’s books

Publisher: Random House Australia/Penguin Random House

Published: 26th February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages:192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Keagan finds a key . . .
It opens a doorway . . .
He steps through . . .

Into a weird world of clones who are obsessed with perfection. But this world isn’t as perfect as it seems. Keagan is determined to return home – all he has to do is find a way out of the city, survive the Dumping Ground and outsmart a bunch of rogue clones!

Will Keagan escape Perfect World?

The Other Worlds series: OTHER WORLDS

Find the key!
Open the doorway!
Enter the Other World! 

OTHER WORLDS is a new adventure series for kids aged 8 and up, with a sci-fi and fantasy flavour. It’s about mysterious keys that open doorways into other worlds. Each book is a stand-alone story with a new set of characters. But, for those who read the entire series, there’s also a thread running through the first three books that gets tied up in Book 4.

~*~

Keagan enjoys playing video games with his best friend, Ravi, reading and creating websites, but on the day his mum asks him to go and buy her some pickles while she is out, he stumbles across a shop called Matilda’s Collectibles, and he is drawn to it like a magnet – as though something within is summoning him to step inside and discover the miraculous things inside. What greets him is a dark and dingy store, complete with glass cabinet and a number of clichés he’s encountered in writing – including the strange old woman – Matilda. Within moments, he grabs a falling computer chip disguised as a key, and is transported into a sci-fi world from his computer games – Perfect World – were everything is perfect – five clones for each generation, and where the clones who have imperfections are sent to the Dumping Ground. Here, he is quarantined, studied and dumped through a garbage chute, where he meets Eone and the rest of the Refuse. He falls into a plot by one named Befour to start a revolution and take over Perfect World. Can Keagan stop Befour, teach the clones the lessons they need to learn and get home before his Mum notices he is missing?

This is another book I received from Scholastic to write a quiz for – and it is aimed at 8 years and older, up to upper primary. The first in a series of four, Perfect World explores ideas of perfection and imperfection, sameness and differences, and diversity. It is the kind of book that any child or reader can relate to and put themselves in Keagan’s shoes. A fun read, it encourages being yourself and not doing what everyone else does just to fit in – the clones of Perfect World are the antithesis of what Keagan believes but, in a world, where perfection and being the same goes so far, the generations speak in unison – which Keagan finds quite unnerving.

What I enjoyed about this book was that Keagan remained true to who he was, but at the same time, used his knowledge to translate his sense of self, and individuality into terms that the clones could understand – at least the ones not trying to take over things.

Keagan is the key to teaching the clones about diversity and friendship – and his relationship with Eone is quite adorable, as is their journey to discovering diversity, and divergence and enlightenment – and hopefully, this book will show kids that it is okay to be who you are and that you don’t have to fit in with the crowd.

I hope the kids who get to read this enjoy this book, and get as much out of it as I did.

Booktopia

The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery by Deborah Abela

xthe-most-marvellous-spelling-bee-mystery.jpg.pagespeed.ic.zY67unNXclTitle: The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery

Author: Deborah Abela

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Penguin-Random House Australia

Published: 30th April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: Just when India Wimple’s life is returning to normal after competing in the Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee, she’s invited to London for an international spelling showdown. But how can she go without her family? The Yungabilla community might have a solution!

In London, India is reunited with her friends Rajish and Summer. They meet new spellers, and are invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.

But there is skulduggery afoot, with a series of mysterious mishaps. There is even talk of cancelling the competition altogether.

India and her friends are determined to find out who the culprit is and get the spelling bee back on track.

There are words to be spelled, nerves to be overcome, and a champion to be found!

~*~

India Wimple is trying to relax after returning from a trip to Sydney to the National Spelling Bee, an adventure covered in The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee– which after reading this one, I want to read myself, when she receives a letter from London inviting her to the International Spelling Bee – with two other people from Australia. The top three winners of national spelling bees from each participating country will attend. But first, India and her family have to get to London – all of them! Once in London, India and her friends, Rajish and Summer, new spellers to meet – Holly Trifle and Peter Eriksson – and a mystery to solve! Who wants to ruin the spelling bee, and why? After meeting the Queen, and seeing Buckingham Palace, the first round is postponed – and then the finale is threatened. Between studying new words, adventures around London, and Holly’s rather embarrassing parents – will India and her friends solve the mystery so the spelling bee can go on and the winner can be announced?

AWW-2018-badge-roseThis was a delightful surprise from Penguin Random House this month, a very fun read, because it used words and a mystery in the story – two of my favourite things. Each chapter header has a word at the top, with the type of word it is – verb, noun, and so forth, a definition, and its usage – a great way to get kids to enjoy and learn spelling whilst reading a fun and engaging story with great diversity and lots of fun. Deborah Abela has fun with alliteration and strange but interesting names – Harrington Hathaway III, for example. The text is peppered with spelling, definitions and new words for readers to learn – Roald Dahl even gets a mention with some of his splendiferous words from his books such as The BFG.

Each character had their own quirks – which made it fun as well. I loved India and Rajish the most, and their families who were wonderfully supportive of Rajish and India, and each other throughout. Holly was another favourite – a character reminiscent of Matilda Wormwood, whose family doesn’t always appreciate her – but making friends might just change this. Peter was amazing – the type of character that many can relate to, and Summer was amusing and frustrating, though more amusing. It was delightful to see the growth of the characters throughout the book, and the solidifying of their friendship founded on a common interest.

The mystery in this book was a fun mystery, and the kind that kids might find they wish they could encounter for themselves – it had lashes of the Famous Five as well, with five children uncovering a dastardly plot to ruin their beloved spelling bee, meeting the Queen and making life-long friends – a very well written book and one that I devoured in a couple of sittings. In the end, it was friendship that I think is the more powerful message this book sends to it readers.

This is just the sort of book I would have loved as a child – and still love now, because it is about words, and books and spelling. I hope many other readers of all ages enjoy this book and find that they can relate to one or all of the characters.