If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

Title: If Kisses Cured Cancer

Author: T.S. Hawken

Genre: Literary Fiction, Fictionif kisses cured cancer.jpg

Publisher: Seahawk Press

Published: 1st May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 466

Price: $30

Synopsis:If Kisses Cured Cancer is a story about life in a growing coastal town, falling in love and stealing shopping trolleys.

Matt Pearce is depressed, working an uninspiring job and lacking any prospect of dragging his life out of mediocrity. That is until he meets Joy: a cancer survivor who lives beyond the rules of normal people.

As the pair go on a series of unusual dates – from hijacking fish n chip orders, to ‘extreme people watching’ at the airport – their love for each other grows. But Joy’s past is about to catch up with her, and a hidden secret could tear the two apart forever.

If Kisses Cured Cancer is a quirky look at finding love in unlikely places. It is about the importance of connecting with those around you, enjoying every moment and not being afraid to go skinny dipping in the forest.

It will have you in tears of joy, tears of sorrow and tears of laughter.

~*~

When we meet Matt Pearce, he is working in a job he hates, with no real idea of where he wants to be in life – he feels he’s forever going to be stuck in the monotony of customer service and scripts he must adhere to without ever being able to actually help people. Until he sees a young woman hijack a trolley at the supermarket and take groceries that aren’t her own and buy them for herself. Intrigued, Matt follows her – the trolley thief – and a relationship starts to form, based on stealing trolleys, hijacking fish and chips orders, and extreme people watching at the airport. This woman is Joy, a cancer survivor who lives each day as it comes, determined to get the most out of life before her past catches up with her – and forces her to keep a secret from Matt that he never saw coming.

When Matt finds out what is happening to Joy, he tries to put his plans for university on hold to try and help her, to get her through this rough patch of her life. But her determination to go out on her own terms and without holding him, and her friends back, is the defining characteristic of Joy as she tries to face what is to come without fear, and without worry for herself, but concern for those she is leaving behind.

This was a bittersweet story – sad, but at the same time, happy and realistic. It didn’t shy away from the hardships and flaws of the characters, and it allowed Matt, Z, Joy and Gerard to be themselves, to discover what they want their lives to be, from jobs to study to simply living for each day as it comes. It is about love, friendship, life, and death. About taking chances and new leaps towards the future that you had not ever thought was possible.

What I liked about this novel was that despite it’s title, it didn’t dwell overly on Joy’s cancer, which only showed up and overshadowed her in about the last third of the book. Instead, it combines a character who feels at a loss in his life, with one who has such zest for life, it is infectious to Matt and his friends who rally around him when he decides to go to university, and branch out into a new venture, and see him through caring for Joy towards the end, and creates a feeling of family, who are willing to help each other. Brought together by a desire to help people and do what makes them happy, Matt, Joy, Z – a former work colleague of Matt’s, and Centrelink call centre employee – Gareth – show that the unexpected changes and ups and downs in life can push us into decisions and pathways we never thought possible.

I was contacted by the author to review this book and decided to give it a go – at first, unsure of what I would encounter, but in the end, I did enjoy it. The fact that it had several strands and elements given equal attention, without a primary focus on one over the other ensured that there is something in there for all readers of this book. It is emotional, but all good books tug at the heartstrings, make you laugh and make you angry at some things – they move you, which is exactly what this one does. A well written book.

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Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley

ready to fallTitle: Ready to Fall

Author: Marcella Pixley

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Publisher: Pushkin Press/Allen and Unwin/Murdoch Books

Published: March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A YA novel about a teen who finds hope and a fresh start after a terrible loss, and learns that being strong means letting go

When Max Friedman’s mother dies of cancer, instead of facing his loss, he imagines that her tumour has taken up residence in his brain. It’s a terrible tenant – isolating him from family, distracting him in school, and taunting him mercilessly about his manhood. With the tumour in charge, Max implodes, slipping farther and farther away from reality.

Finally, Max is sent to the artsy, off-beat Baldwin School to regain his footing. He joins a group of theatre misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet where he becomes friends with Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, an edgy upperclassman who refuses to let go of the things he loves. For a while, Max almost feels happy. But his tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down and Max is forced to face the truth, not just about the tumour, but about how hard it is to let go of the past. At turns lyrical, haunting, and triumphant, Ready to Fall is a story of grief, love, rebellion and starting fresh from acclaimed author Marcella Pixley.

 

~*~

 

Max’s story begins with a flashback to when he was five, and the first time his mum came home from hospital after being sick. And then, ten years later, she has passed away from a brain tumour. Max has watched her slow deterioration, struggling to cope with his own grief as he goes back to school, and as his dad tries to make the best effort he can, but Max just wants to feel close to his mother, which is when his own brain tumour comes into being. Max’s belief that the tumour exists impacts everything in his life, and he begins to become withdrawn, hiding away from friends. When his father sends him to an artsy school – the Baldwin School, Max begins to settle down a little, finding friends like Fish he can talk to. But the cloud that is the tumour is always there, hovering at the edges of his mind – until the day he is forced to face the truth and come to terms with what has happened in his life.

 

This was a surprise arrival from Allen and Unwin – I have only managed to finish it now after a gap in other books presented itself, and found that, as strange as the story felt, it was one where I wanted to know what happened to max, to Fish and I wanted to know more about Lydie and her girls, Soleil and Luna.

 

When I read it, I could feel Max’s grief over losing his mother – it was raw, real and Marcella didn’t shy away from letting Max feel things or bottle them up – she let him exist as the person he was, wary, yet wanting to talk – yet not knowing how to begin a conversation. Throughout it all, I also felt for Max’s dad, whose grief was just as intense and in his own way, he dealt with it and showed his love for Max, though it was hard for him. When it came to Lydie and her twins, I enjoyed getting to know them and came to love them, especially Luna and Soleil as the novel progressed.

 

Of the friends at Baldwin, Fish was my favourite – the one who let Max be who he was, and didn’t judge him, who truly cared, but had secrets of her own. I quote liked Ravi too, because he seemed to temper The Monk, who I didn’t really like and couldn’t understand why everyone did when he came across as quite the bully, trying to get everyone to think like him – at times, I felt Max agreed with him to keep the peace. This showed I think, the dynamics of school and various relationships though, and in the end, it was the ones with Fish, Dad, Lydie and her girls that helped Max the most, and the ones I cheered for – because here we had family love, the love of friends, and romantic love – though this last one was a delightful surprise that wasn’t forced, and that felt real when it happened.

 

Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book when I first got it, I did enjoy it, though I found it hard to pin down a genre – it doesn’t neatly fit into one, and I feel that the books that do this are ones that are either very good, or potentially odd – this one was a little odd, but good – and the execution of the storyline, and anthropomorphising of the tumour made Max and how people deal with their own grief or illness interesting and relatable. A decent, though provoking read for teenagers.

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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.

Lovesome by Sally Seltmann

lovesome.jpgTitle: Lovesome

Author: Sally Seltmann

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: An offbeat and beguiling story of finding your own happiness.

My warm breath makes a beautiful fog in front of me. It’s times like this when I feel most alive. I feel free, and at one with the world and everything around me. It’s an invigorating version of euphoria. But I don’t want to arrive home to no one; I want someone to come home to.

It’s 1995 and 21-year-old Joni Johnson is fresh out of art school and loving her life. Working at Harland, a French restaurant, makes her happy – it’s as romantic as she is herself. Harland’s owner, Lucy, and chef, Dave, make her evenings both entertaining and complicated. By day, Joni sets up her easel in her backyard bungalow, turns on her music, and paints.

But when Joni’s best friend, Annabelle, arrives on the doorstep one night ecstatic in love, everything changes. The life Joni has built for herself seems lacklustre in comparison to Annabelle’s rising star. And when Annabelle makes a beeline for the one man who seems interested in Joni, it looks unlikely that their friendship will survive.

Tender, funny and romantic, Lovesome is a triumph.

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseI received Lovesome as a surprise book – and it was one that I decided I’d give a go. Joni Johnson is twenty-one in 1995. She is an artist, painting by day, and waitressing by night, going through the motions of her life in her early twenties, following her dream but also working to support herself, while her best friend, Annabelle, is living overseas in London as a singer. When Annabelle re-enters her life, it is like a tornado has landed – a tornado where Annabelle moves from excitement and hyperactivity about her current boyfriend coming to Australia, to a tense disagreement about James, the photographer for an article on Annabelle. When Joni and James show interest in each other, Annabelle’s jealousy flares – so used to having men fall for her instantly, it seems that their once stable friendship might be falling apart.

Part romance, part literary and part coming of age, Lovesome is the kind of novel where the people you thought would fall in love, don’t, and where the falling in love happens when and where you least expect it to in the storyline. The first half to a third is Joni exploring her life and trying to work out who she is at twenty-one, having finished art school, and aiming for an art career, she finds herself working at eclectic Harland, where each room has a different theme for diners, and where the enigmatic and complicated Lucy, runs the restaurant. Each character is flawed – Joni seems to doubt herself at times, Lucy is all over the place, or so it seems until quite late in the book, where she reveals secrets to Joni she perhaps has not revealed to anyone else, and Annabelle comes across as selfish at times, interrupting Joni to talk about whatever is on her mind, leaving Dave, the head chef, as Joni’s confidant.

At first I wasn’t sure what to expect or think, but it is a coming of age story that reflects the way some young people find themselves and their passion, and the relationships that they are in and out of, platonic and romantic, family and work. It was a rather quick read, and at times quite compelling – i kept wondering which way things would turn, and how it would work out. As such, I felt it wasn’t the typical love story that it might be seen as – rather, a unique one where the love interest pops up quite late, and although it happens quickly, didn’t feel rushed at all, unlike some I have read – it felt natural, and worked well for Joni. The friendships between Joni, Annabelle, Dave and Lucy were just as strong as just as important – they showed that love can happen in a variety of ways for different people, and that it isn’t always romantic. Showing that friendship is just as important, if not more important, than a romantic relationship, as shown by Joni and Annabelle’s friendship, is a great thing to see in novels.

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Blog Tour: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson

differently normal.jpgTitle: Differently Normal

Author: Tammy Robinson

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 30th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 345

Price: :$29.99

Synopsis: Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is about first love and the sacrifices you’ll make for the ones you hold close. For fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jojo Moyes.

For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her sister with autism happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full-time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend. So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love.

Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control. Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.

DIFFERENTLY NORMAL is a heart-wrenching tale of love and loss, because sometimes it takes letting someone else in to discover who you really are . . .

‘A funny and poignant tale about first love. Tammy Robinson is a natural storyteller.’ Nicky Pellegrino

~*~

Differently Normal 4Differently Normal is the story of first love, but also about the love of family and what people are willing to do for each other. Maddy Baxter’s life is about routine: the routine of work, and the routine at home she and her mother have to follow to keep her younger sister, Bee, happy and safe. Bee’s autism and epilepsy have meant this rigid schedule has left little time for much else. Bee loves her horse riding though, and a special stable that helps kids like Bee has just taken on a new worker: Albert, saving to leave home and start a new life away from a turbulent family where he doesn’t feel like he fits in. This is where Maddy and Albert meet, and a friendship begins, slowly at first, and but soon blossoms into something else. Maddy soon finds herself allowing Albert in – cautiously at first, to protect her family. When she sees how he genuinely cares for Bee and unlike other people Maddy has known, is willing to help to put Bee first, she finds a way to be happy.

Differently Normal has elements of friendship and romance, of family love and of sacrifice. It does not shy away from the difficulties of life with a disabled family member, and Maddy’s experiences of the past colour her reactions to Albert. Albert’s relationship with Maddy and her family is a caring one – and through the novel, he consistently puts Bee’s needs ahead of his own, understanding Maddy’s need for routine and the absence of the unfamiliar. Whilst the romance element wasn’t the most important aspect for me, it felt more realistic than some others I have read, and allowed for Maddy and Albert to be who they were, and allowed for their characters to evolve together and apart. The goal wasn’t the romance – it was more about the journey and their romance that was a part of the journeys that they had to take.

What I liked about this book was that the focus wasn’t the romance between Maddy and Albert, that they were also allowed to be their own people and show vulnerabilities, and strengths to each other, but also the showed the sacrifices made for family, such as Maddy’s sister, Bee and her mother. The perfect love does not necessarily happen in this book, and that is perhaps why it resonates more – because life is not perfect and things don’t always work out the way we want them to.

In the end, it is a touching story about family to me, and what it means to live with disabilities that affect the person with them, and the way the family lives their lives. The romance between Maddy and Albert was a nice touch, but I found that Maddy’s story intertwined with her sister was more enjoyable, though all strands were in some way relatable and will be in different ways to different readers. Perhaps this is what makes it a unique story of first love – the focus isn’t the romance, there are many different focuses and each reader will get something different out of it that works for them.

AUTHOR BIO

 

Tammy Robinson is a contemporary women’s fiction author from the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. After years spent working her way round the world, Tammy settled back in New Zealand with her husband, their two girls and a newborn baby boy. She has published six novels through Amazon, and DIFFERENTLY NORMAL was her first novel with Hachette New Zealand. She is currently working on PHOTOS OF YOU, which Hachette will publish in 2019.

Differently Normal 56

AUTHOR LINKS

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TammyRobinsonAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TammyRobinson76

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6907993.Tammy_Robinson

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tammyrobinsonauthor/

 

Find information for Differently Normal here:

GOODREADS LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37955669-differently-normal

MAIN LINK: https://www.hachette.com.au/tammy-robinson/differently-normal

PURCHASE LINKS – paperback and e-book

AU
https://www.booktopia.com.au/differently-normal-tammy-robinson/prod9781869713720.html
https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/differently-normal-by-tammy-robinson-9781897136898/#.WmfxpaiWaUk

NZ
https://www.whitcoulls.co.nz/differently-normal-6323082

Kobo
https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/differently-normal-2

iBooks
https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/differently-normal/id1317276850?mt=11

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Tammy_Robinson_Differently_Normal?id=RilADwAAQBAJ

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Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One by Paige L. Christie

Draigon Weather cover_for promotion (1).jpegTitle: Draigon Weather: The Legacies of Arnan Book One

Author: Paige L. Christie

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Prospective Press

Published: 3rd October, 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: AU$32.75 (Booktopia) US$15.95

Synopsis: The brutal, drought-bringing heat that arises from the colossal, near-mythical Draigon, is a fell portent, heralding the doom of a bad woman.

When Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve the terrible drought, Leiel is marked by the shame brought to her family. She must leave school, relegated to a new life of servitude.

Cleod, the woodcutter’s son, is Leiel’s closest friend. To avenge Leiel’s mother, he vows to rise above his station and join the Ehlewer Enclave, an elite society famed for training men to kill Draigon.

The friends’ lives take different paths. Cleod struggles with divided loyalties as he learns he cannot be a Draigon hunter while remaining a friend to a tainted woman. Leiel seeks forbidden knowledge and old secrets, placing herself in danger of sharing her mother’s fate.

When Draigon Weather returns to the land, Cleod has the chance to fulfil all his promises—both to Leiel and to his new masters, the Ehlewer. But as the rivers choke on their own silt and heat cracks the earth, the choices the two friends made begin to catch up with them, for what plagues Arnan is more than just a monster.

~*~

A copy of this book was sent to me by the author for review.

Leiel Sower is a girl in a place threatened by what they cannot understand – educated women. She attends school, despite disapproving looks, and is educated at home by her mother, Ilora. For several years of her childhood, Leiel is happy, she has a friend, Cleod, and they both have dreams. Until the day the Draigon Weather comes, and Leiel’s mother is sacrificed to the Draigon to relieve a drought that has plagued Arnan for too long. In the years that follow, Leiel and Cleod’s lives take off on different paths. While Cleod trains to be one of the few who can fight the Draigon, Leiel’s life becomes one of servitude to her brothers, Gial and Klem, and her father. The return of Draigon Weather brings Cleod back, hoping to fulfil his promise to Leiel to make sure she doesn’t meet her mother’s fate – but they must face more than just the Draigon that plagues Arnan.

I love a good fantasy story, and one that focuses on friendships between women and between the main male and female characters is always of great interest. Showing these relationships between Gahree and Leiel, Leiel and Cleod and Elda, Torrin and Leiel play a large part in the story, and how Leiel relates to her world and her family, and what drives her. Leiel is a character who does not let her circumstances and status in her family and society define her. She fights against it, subversively, and makes her voice heard, even though it is often overruled, she finds comfort and power in making herself heard, even if her brother, Klem, refuses to listen to her, she has a partial ally in Gial and a friend in Cleod, and the other women in her life, \who understand the struggles she is facing.

The world of Arnan is also complex, where certain classes and men are valued over other classes and women, and where everyone seems to publicly accept the rules, but subversively, and within the rules of the world around them, try and rebel and change it from within. It is a world of tradition, but tradition that needs to be broken apart and rebuilt, in a world where certain behaviours mean you’ll be sacrificed to a hungry Draigon.

I was contacted by the author to read and review this book after she found my blog and was asked to read and review this book. I gladly did, and I enjoyed Leiel and Cleod’s story. I particularly enjoyed the focus on friendship and platonic love over romantic love, and the strong female characters who don’t let anything keep them down and stay true to themselves. It is a story about the power of friendship, and the subversive powers that society sees as a threat and challenge to the status quo of Arnan, not realising what the people that the Council looks down upon can contribute. The bonds of friendship throughout this novel were strong, and enduring until the end, and the last pages gave a nice set up for what is to come in book two.

This is a very enjoyable read for lovers of fantasy, dragons, and those who like their relationships between all characters to unfold and develop into friendship and bonds that cannot be broken. I hope the questions Cleod had at the end will be answered soon.

 

 

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The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett

The-Tides-Between-300x450.jpgTitle: The Tides Between

Author: Elizabeth Jane Corbett

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Publisher: Odyssey Books

Published: 20th October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 300

Price: $23.95

Synopsis: In 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie’s mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairy tales to the far side of the world.

When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark double meaning.

As they inch towards their destination, Rhys’s past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairy tales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.

When Elizabeth Jane Corbett isn’t writing, she works as a librarian, teaches Welsh at the Melbourne Celtic Club, writes reviews and articles for the Historical Novel Society and blogs at elizabethjanecorbett.com. In 2009, her short-story, Beyond the Blackout Curtain, won the Bristol Short Story Prize. Another, Silent Night, was short listed for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award. An early draft of her debut novel, The Tides Between, was shortlisted for a HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award. Elizabeth lives with her husband, Andrew, in a renovated timber cottage in Melbourne’s inner-north. She likes red shoes, dark chocolate, commuter cycling, and reading quirky, character driven novels set once-upon-a-time in lands far, far away.

~*~

Bridie Stewart’s life is about to change forever. Aged fifteen, she is about to embark on a journey with her mother and stepfather that will take her half-way across the world to the colonies of Australia, far from what she knows. Adamant she will never forget her father, Bridie smuggles a notebook, her final gift from him on board, where she meets Rhys Bevan and his wife, Siân, and with Rhys, she begins to fill her notebook with Welsh fairy tales. These stories help them on their journey, both of them loved by their families but at the same time, feeling alone. And so, a friendship forms between Rhys, Siân and Bridie, as they write stories together along the arduous journey from England to Port Phillip. Along the way, there will be magic, woven through the words and music of the stories Rhys shares with Bridie, and over time, she will grow up. As they enter the waters of Australia, there is trouble and tragedy to come, that will hit them all and cause immense pain.

Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s novel takes place almost entirely on the fictional emigrant ship, The Lady Sophia, bookended by the departure and destination in the opening and final chapters. Through Bridie and Rhys, in third person, the novel moves easily between their perspectives and has a shroud of mystery about it, where details about the characters and their histories are revealed at exactly the right time. The fairy tale feel of this novel is what makes it unique and magical, and makes what would have been a very arduous journey in the 1840s bearable, at least for a while.

It is a lovely story of friendship and the power of fairy tales during hard times and tragedy, and how stories can shape our world and the way we see it. The stories are what begin to heal Bridie, leading up to the climatic tragedy that brings several surprises to those aboard the ship, and realisations from characters who had once shrugged Bridie and her family, and the other steerage passengers off, such as Doctor Roberts. Each character has flaws that they come to recognise, or not, as the novel progresses, and relationships between some have changed by the end of the novel.

I enjoyed that this novel focussed more on the friendships and family relationships, and Bridie’s individual character than a romantic relationship, something that is quite refreshing in literature and in Young Adult novels, showing that there is more to life than romance – it shows that other relationships can have the same degree of love, but in a different and perhaps more important way to some people. Bridie was a delightful character, full of life, wonder ad kindness towards those around her. The ending was sweet and realistic, showing the impact that the journey and her friendship with Rhys had had on the two of them. A wonderful novel that can be enjoyed beyond the Young Adult age group.

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