Interview: J.D. Barrett on The Upside of Over

upside of over

Hi J.D., and welcome to my blog, The Book Muse.

  

Congratulations on publishing your third book, The Upside of Over. I read The Song Of Us as well last year as part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and I thoroughly enjoyed both.  Thank you so much, Ashleigh!

Of all the books you have written, which one has been the most enjoyable to write?

They’re all enjoyable in different ways – The Secret Recipe for Second Chances will always be special, it was a life raft in many ways… The Song of Us and The Upside of Over had also been digging into my subconscious for years. Each of them is unique and took me on a very different journey! The Upside of Over certainly gave me a lot of joy as I wrote it… I had to keep pushing myself to stay brave and sass it up!

 

Olivia is an intriguing character, filled with flaws but also, I thought with a lot of self-confidence – during your time working in television and media, did you find this was a common trait of the people you worked with?

Absolutely! I mean as humans we are flawed and all loveable in our fallibility. I think if you’re working in an arena where presentation is everything it can be even more challenging and confronting when failure strikes. I also can see how easy it can be to become your persona.

JD Barrett.jpgThe experiences that Olivia went through following her personal video to her husband going viral felt raw and genuine – do you think these are common experiences for women in the media industry?

I think anyone who has experienced the breakdown of a marriage, a long-term relationship, sudden unemployment or the loss of a loved one knows what it feels like to be completely stripped bare. All those things you thought were important no longer matter, the way you sorted your life goes out the window and you’re on the coal face of what really matters and what’s left when all those comforts and distractions go. Getting to a place where you can love and accept yourself in that and reinvent from an authentic place is (I feel) one of our biggest lessons as humans.

Being as expansive as you like, and using your own knowledge and experiences, why do you think women in the media have these experiences and what do you think this does to their sense of self and identity?

Working in an industry where age and appearance is your currency throws your self-esteem out of whack. If you only feel as important and worthwhile as the number of likes on social media, the number of ratings on your network or the amount of fan mail complimenting your appearance you receive, at some stage you will come unstuck. Most of the women I know in the media are also exceptionally intelligent and savvy women. Valuing what you do over your age or the dress you’re wearing is vital but so very difficult to sustain. Television is a visual medium and unfortunately, we have a curated and reduced idea of what is aesthetically desirable. I believe this is changing.

I adored all the diversity in this novel, hearing voices we don’t often hear in literature and media. Were any of these characters a challenge to write, and what did you do to create the authenticity in them?

To be honest quite a few of them are permutations of people I know or know of, it always morphs into something and someone else during the creative process… and I think the author is present in every character. There were times when Olivia was difficult because in some ways she’s like me. The naughty poorly behaved characters were a lot of fun! Atticus became a different character to who I originally planned him to be. I believe there’s a bit of magic that goes on when you write and if you listen carefully the characters reveal themselves to you.

 

Based on this, how could other writers approach it when they are writing about similar characters?

Listen to your characters, work out who they are and what they want, find their individual speech patterns and rhythms… tune into them… and never judge them.

When you first wrote this novel, were you aware, or did you have any inkling about how prophetic it could be with the #TimesUp and the #MeToo movements that started in late 2017 following the Harvey Weinstein scandal and subsequent fall out?

I began this story, as a pilot script in 2010 so no, I had absolutely no idea. I had completed the first draft before the Weinstein story broke. I think it’s something that’s been bubbling away for years (well clearly by the stories coming forward). I was also aware of it due to my own experiences.

I did like the little nod and reference to the main character in the Song of Us – did you plan on linking the books in any way or was this just happy coincidence? (It did make me smile and chuckle, it felt very meta).

I like to have a few links because our worlds are always interconnected, and I like my readers to know the other characters they’ve invested in my other books are still going strong. There’s also a nod to my first novel, in that Olivia and Dave have dinner at Fortune. Hugo was also in the first novel.

Olivia’s achievements at the end of the book, and her coming together with her friends, family and everyone who saw her through and supported her was a lovely ending. Do you think many cases of sexual harassment brought against those in the media will have an outcome like this, or will we just see more coming out all the time, with more people trying to hush things up or make excuses?

I believe this is a watershed time and there is no going back. I truly hope the women brave enough to come forward and speak out and the men and women who support them will all have their own happy ever afters. I also believe the paradigm shift in the psyche of the media and western society, will enable potential bullies and abusers to see the light and come from a place of respect and integrity…. I am all for a happy ending, always.

J.D., Thank you for agreeing to be a guest on my blog, and thank you for writing fun yet thought provoking stories that people can relate to as well.

Great questions, thank you so much for having me! x

The Upside of Over by J.D. Barrett ($29.99), published by Hachette Australia.  

Booktopia

Advertisements

When The Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth

when the mountains roared.jpgTitle: When The Mountains Roared

Author: Jess Butterworth

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Publisher: Orion

Published: 10th April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 282

Price: $15.99

Synopsis: A vivid, warm and atmospheric adventure set in the mountains of India, about a girl who is determined to protect the wild leopards of the mountain from poachers, perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell.

I thought we’d live here forever … but then, I thought Mum would be here forever too.

When Ruby’s dad uproots her from Australia to set up a hotel in the mountains of India, Ruby is devastated. Not only are they living in a run-down building in the middle of the wilderness surrounded by scorpions, bears and leopards, but Ruby is sure that India will never truly feel like home – not without her mum there.

Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up.

But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. Ruby vows to do all she can to protect them – if she can only overcome her fears…

~*~

When Ruby arrives home one day, she finds the house in turmoil, with boxes and suitcases half packed. Her father announces they are moving to India, and she needs to pack her own bags. At twelve, Ruby wants nothing to do with this move – she wants to stay in Australia, the only home she knows. To leave now feels like she’d be leaving the memories of her mum, and it also means leaving all her friends and not being able to see them again. When intruders force the family to flee and leave earlier than planned. Soon, they are on a ship, with their dog, Polly, and a baby kangaroo in tow, sailing across the sea to a new life, and a new venture in India.

But the hotel Ruby’s father has been asked to run is not all that it seems. High up in the Himalayas, stories of previous owners being plagued by a vengeful mountain goddess abound, and the stories lend themselves to more sinister goings on, and hint at tragedy when Ruby and her new friend, Praveen, discover what Dad’s bosses are truly up to, and find out about the poaching of the majestic snow leopards. Ruby vows to do all she can to save them – if she can overcome her fears.

Jess Butterworth has again created a story, set in the Himalayas and India, where the characters are full of life and complex, and deals with issues of poaching, and what happens when someone gets involved with the wrong people in a clever and accessible way for younger audiences. Grief is explored through Ruby’s reaction to her move and the changes in her life – how she responds to the dark, and going to sleep, and of cars. But this hurried move, and the smuggled joey, and quest to uncover her dad’s secret drives Ruby to overcome her fears. Together with Praveen and her grandmother, Ruby will follow her heart, and instincts, and use her photography talents to bring some rather evil men to justice.

When The Mountains Roared has diverse characters, and a setting that is vastly different to what many readers will have experienced, which is one of the reasons I enjoyed it – it allows the reader to travel without leaving the comfort of home, and go on an adventure with Ruby and Praveen to save the snow leopards of the mountains that they call home, and save Ruby’s dad from getting into trouble with men like the ones who drove them from their home in Australia.

A great read for middle grade and younger teen readers, or anyone who enjoys a good story.

Booktopia

Some of the authors appearing at the Sydney Writer’s Festival…

It’s that time of year again, when the programs and author schedules for the annual Sydney Writer’s Festival are announced. Held between the first and the sixth of May, mostly at Carriageworks but with some events at a variety of other places around Sydney, there will be many events to choose from, and many authors to meet and hear speak.

Below is a sampling of the authors published by Hachette who will be attending this year, which has a diverse and intriguing calendar of events that I am sure will sell out quickly! So here are some of the authors appearing, and when and where they will be appearing.

American author, Jennifer Egan, author of Emerald City and Other Stories, The Invisible Circus,The Keep,Look at Me, Black Box,A Visit From the Goon Squad, and Manhattan Beach. Jennifer will be appearing at the following events, all in Bay 17 at Carriageworks.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 3pm – On the Record: Historical Fiction

Saturday the 5th of May at 6pm – Jennifer Egan: Manhattan Beach

Sunday the 6th of May at 6pm: Closing Address: Jennifer Egan.

Also from America, Zack McDermott, author of Gorilla and the Bird, will be appearing on the following dates at the following locations:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20: The Full Catastrophe

Friday, the 4th of May, at 11.30am, Carriageworks, Track 8: Zack McDermott: Gorilla and the Bird

Alexis Okeowo, author of A Moonless, Starless Sky, also from America, will be appearing at four different events over the course of the week, all at Carriageworks, where the majority of the events are held.

Tuesday, the 1st of May at 6.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Opening Address: André Aciman, Min Jin Lee and Alexis Okeowo

Friday the 4th of May, 3pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Conflicting Narratives

Saturday, the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Resisting Unjust Authority

Sunday, the 6th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Alexis Okeowo, A Moonless, Starless Sky

 

Michael Mohammed Ahmad, an Arab-Australian writer, editor, teacher and community art s worker will also be appearing. His book, The Lebs, is about breaking down stereotypes and showing people that a small minority don’t determine the majority of a culture. Michael will be appearing at the following events at the Seymour Centre, and the Riverside Theatres.

Monday, the 30th of April, at 9.30am, Seymour Centre, Workshop Room 1: Michael Mohammed Ahmad: Good Writing versus Bad Writing.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 11.15am Seymour Centre York Theatre: Student Session: The Next Wave.

Friday, the 4th of May, Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge, 4.30PM: New Australian Voices.

Saturday, the 5th of May, Riverside Theatres, Lennox Theatre, 10am: From the Sidelines AND at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing.

Walkley Award winning journalist, Michael Brissenden will also be appearing at the festival, at will have one event at the Seymour Centre.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 1.30pm, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Straight from the Headlines,

The third Australian author published by Hachette to appear is Indigenous author, Claire G Coleman, author of Terra Nullius, a speculative fiction looking at the concept of invasion and settlement, using aliens taking over the world as a metaphor and symbol. It was an interesting and eye-opening book to read, my review is here. Claire will be appearing at three events across each precinct of the festival.

terra nullius

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Home Truths: Telling Australian Stories.

Friday the 4th of May, at 11.30am at Carriageworks Blacksmith’s Workshop: Claire G Coleman: On Fiction, Villains and the Nature of Evil

Saturday the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Riverside Theatres: Architects of New Worlds.

fairvale

Another Australian author appearing at the festival is Sophie Green, author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, reviewed on this blog as well and it, and the previous book, Terra Nullius, were included in my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge last year. Sophie will be appearing at one event this year.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Family Ties.

Royce Kurmelovs is another author appearing, and he has written the following books: Death of Holden, Rogue Nation, and Boom and Bust (2018). He will be appearing at an event about the rise of Australian populism.

Saturday the 6th of May, at 11.30 at the Seymour Centre, York Theatre: The Rise of Australian Populism.

Peter Polites, author of Down the Hume will also be in attendance at the following events and is another new Australian author whose book has come out recently.

Peter will be appearing at two events this year:

Saturday, the 5th of May at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing, with Michael Mohammed Ahmad.

Sunday, the 6th of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge: Pajtim Statovci: My Cat Yugoslavia

Award winning journalist, Hugh Riminton, a news presenter and foreign correspondent, will be at the festival chatting about his book, Minefields. Hugh will be appearing at three events across the week of the festival.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Becoming the Story.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Hurstville Library: Hugh Riminton: Minefields/

Saturday, the 5th of May, 11.30am, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Peter Greste: The First Casualty.

Michael Robotham will also be appearing, and has written the following books: The Suspect,The Drowning Man, The Night Ferry Shatter,Bombproof,Bleed For Me,The Wreckage,Say You’re Sorry, Watching You,Life or Death,Close Your Eyes,The Secret She Keeps, and The Other Wife (2018).  Michael will be appearing at the following events:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 1.30pm at Carriageworks, Blacksmith’s Workshop: Michael Robotham: On Plotting the Perfect Crime.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 6.30pm at Blacktown City Max Webber Library: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 10.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 7pm, The Concourse Concert Hall: Jane Harper: Force of Nature.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Gabriel Talent: My Absolute Darling.

Sha’an d’Anthes, a new Australian author based in Sydney who has had a career as an artist and illustrator and has travelled all over the world. She will be speaking at two events on the final day of the festival. Her picture book, Zoom, was published by Hachette Australia.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May at 2.15pm. Carriageworks, Track 8: Illustrator Battle Grounds.

Libby Hathorn, well known Australian author of books for children and young adults will also be appearing. Some of her books are: Thunderwith, The Blue Dress, Georgiana, Dear Venny, Dear Saffron, Volcano Boy, The Painter, Feral Kid, Chrysalis, Love Me Tender, Eventual Poppy Day, A Soldier, A Dog and A Boy, and Butterfly, We’re Expecting You!

eventual poppy day

Libby will be appearing at the following events:

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 11.15am, Carriageworks, Track 12: Outside: A Feast of the Senses.

Binny Talib will also be appearing, at the same event as Libby Hathorn and Sha’an d’Anthes on the Sunday morning of the festival. Binny has two books published by Hachette Australia, Origami Heart and Hark It’s Me, Ruby Lee!

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Another Australian author to appear will be Shaun Tan. who has worked in theatre and films as concept artists and designers. His works include Lost Thing, Memorial, The Red Tree, The Rabbits, The Viewer, Rules of Summer, The Arrival (an acclaimed wordless novel), and Cicada, published in 2018. Shaun will be appearing at one event on the Saturday.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 3pm, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: Bringing Imaginary Worlds to Life.

Hachette’s final author to be appearing is Debra Tindall, author of The Scared Book. she began her career as a social worker before becoming an author. The Scared Book is a CBCA notable book for children. She will be appearing at the same event as Libby Hathorn, Binny Talib and Sha’an d’Anthes.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Check out the Sydney Writer’s Festival website for more events and authors.

Booktopia

The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait

ateban cipher 2Title: The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2

Author: A.L. Tait

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s

Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books

Published: 27th March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 265

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: An orphan in exile. A band of rebel girls. And a prince whose throne has been stolen. Come on a journey full of danger, intrigue, adventure and incredible secrets.

‘The Ateban Cipher,’ Lucien continued, ‘is also known as the Book of Answers.’
‘Answers to what?’ Eddie asked.
Lucien sighed. ‘Everything.

In the second gripping Ateban Cipher novel, Gabe and his companions journey to a remote mountain citadel where they learn the secret of the mysterious, encrypted book that Gabe has been tasked with protecting. But their enemies are close behind them, and new dangers lie ahead.

As Eddie seeks to regain his crown, and Merry and Gwyn race to free their father, Gabe will discover the answer to his own great mystery – his true identity.

~*~

Picking up where The Book of Secrets left off, Gabe, Gwyn, Merry and Midge are joined by EAWW-2018-badge-roseddie, the lost prince who has been imprisoned whilst an imposter, and puppet of those who have seized control of the country and seek to take over once the King has died, sits on the throne. Now they have escaped from the clutches of Whitmore, Ronan and Sherborne, they must seek out Lucien, who lives in isolation, and take the Ateban Cipher to him, to help uncover its secrets. But what they will find there are more than answers about the book Gabe has been entrusted with – secrets and answers to the questions that Gabe has often asked but never had answered.

As they seek to uncover the secrets, Gwyn and Merry are still seeking to free their father, whilst Midge and Scarlett are following their paths, determined to make sure they find their own destinies. Whilst Eddie, with their help, seeks to find out what has made his father so ill and so near death, and regain his crown. As new dangers lurk around each corner, and Whitmore, and Ronan pursue them across the land, the group of unlikely friends forges bonds so strong that they will do anything for each other.

Much like the first book, the characters dive straight into the action, with the ever present threat of those who are trying to take over the kingdom, and who are after the book Gabe is protecting, never stopping for anything as they pursue them, which makes reading this book quick, and exciting, as I wanted to see what would happen at each turn. Aimed at middle grade readers, it can be enjoyed by anyone who is interested, boys and girls.

Much like the first book, I loved that the girls – Gwyn, Merry, and Scarlett in particular, were the heroes, and knew their own minds – they didn’t do what those around them expected them to do, they did what they wanted, especially Scarlett, looking for a way out of a marriage that would have made her unhappy.

Midge was adorable, and brave, and an absolutely fantastically surprising character. I think she was my favourite character, though they were all well written and awesome. Gabe and Eddie were wonderful too – seeing characters who break the mould of what is expected by readers and other characters in the story is always something great to see. I loved Gabe’s sensitivity and understanding, and Eddie’s willingness to help out where he could and see Gabe, Gwyn, Merry, Midge and Scarlett as equals who wanted the same things that he did – peace restored and prisoners released, with King and true prince restored to the throne.

Gabe’s discoveries were unexpected but worked well with the story – and came at just the right time, with the right pacing. Overall, the elements of The Book of Answers worked really well together, and all the elements tied together nicely at the end. A great read for children aged ten and older, and adults if they like these sorts of stories, and it is a nice quick read as well, which is all down to the well-written pacing of the story.

Booktopia

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

Booktopia

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

tin man.jpgTitle: Tin Man

Author: Sarah Winman

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Tinder Press

Published: 1st March 2018 (25th July 2017 earlier edition)

Format: Paperback

Pages: 197

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The unforgettable and achingly tender new novel from Sarah Winman, author of the international bestseller WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT and the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS.

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 COSTA NOVEL AWARD

The beautiful and heartbreaking new novel from Sarah Winman, author of the international bestseller WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT.

‘Her best novel to date’ Observer
‘An exquisitely crafted tale of love and loss’ Guardian
‘A marvel’ Sunday Express
‘Astoundingly beautiful’ Matt Haig

It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.

And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael,
who are inseparable.
And the boys become men,
and then Annie walks into their lives,
and it changes nothing and everything.

TIN MAN sees Sarah Winman follow the acclaimed success of WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT and A YEAR OF MARVELOUS WAYS with a love letter to human kindness and friendship, loss and living.

~*~

Ellis and Michael have been friends for as long as they can remember, a life time of friendship, of mutual respect and a desire to support each other, ad remain close to each other. Theirs is a friendship that blossoms into a little something more, until they are caught – but their friendship remains intact, and Michael will always love Ellis in a variety of ways. Then, one day, Annie, a book lover, comes into their lives, and the bonds of friendship, love, trust and respect grow. Until tragedies strike the group, all three of them, and so their touching story of acceptance and tragedy is told, first through the eyes of Ellis, then a letter from Michael, explaining things, revealing his true feelings and finally, Ellis closes the story. It is an ending of realism, where the unavoidable and unpredictable comes to light and worlds are shattered, and where the story has hope and friendship, the ending shows that nothing in life is promised, that nobody is immune from the tragedies of life.

It is a story of love, but not just romantic love. The love Ellis, Annie and Michael have for each other as friends, and as the family they’ve created, is just as strong and just as important. They worry for each other, they respect each other, they would do anything for each other.

Sarah Winman has sensitively dealt with issues surrounding HIV, and LGBTQI+ representation with Michael, and the battles he would have faced during childhood and adulthood, with a sad end to his story, yet at the same time, realistic as he explores who he is, and his place in the world.

What I liked about the romantic elements in this novel was that they were realistic. Representations of unrequited love – for anyone – often seem rare in literature. For Michael, not being able to love Ellis as he marries Annie, is hard, but he still has their love as friends. I think this was important to show all these aspects of love as it made the characters more believable and relatable.

At the heart of the book is Annie, who brings Michael and Ellis back together, years after the two young men had an affair together and were ripped apart by families and a society that didn’t accept that behaviour. I loved that Annie did – she allowed them to be who they were, and her acceptance and encouragement was very touching. At the same time, Ellis has to come to terms with time lost with Michael, with Annie and acceptance and letting go – I felt this was more of the focus than the romance, and perhaps why it made the story so powerful – it showed that love isn’t the perfect kind we see in movies all the time, that life isn’t perfect, and at the intersections of life and love, things can get very messy, very painful and very unpredictable. Ellis didn’t choose to fall for Annie and Michael – he simply did. This aspect is at the same time simple and complex – that he simply did shows how feelings just happen, whilst the complexities of how he dealt with this were subtler but gave the story the gravitas and emotion it needed.

Though their lives are tinged with tragedy, the story is still hopeful and positive. People can move on and find acceptance, and those who resisted once can accept difference where they might not have before. It is the story of a generation who lived vastly different lives in a post-war period, were convention and tradition were at the forefront, and any deviance from it was punished and disrespected.  Evoking these emotions has created a strength of narrative and character that will hopefully mean these stories are remembered,

I enjoyed this touching story, and I hope others will too.

Sarah appeared at the Adelaide Writer’s Festival this morning, the 5th of March at 9.30AM.

Booktopia

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

the last namsara.jpgTitle: The Last Namsara

Author: Kristen Ciccarelli

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 3rd October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A gripping YA crossover series from a spectacular new voice in the genre Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things

Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she’s sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child – one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar.

But protecting her father’s kingdom is a lonely destiny: no matter how many dragons she kills, her people still think she’s wicked.

Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. As the wedding day approaches, Asha longs for freedom.

Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out: her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard.

And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy . . .

THE LAST NAMSARA is an extraordinary story about courage, loyalty and star-crossed love, set in a kingdom that trembles on the edge of war.

~*~

Asha’s story begins on a dragon hunt, where the identity she has been given her whole life is made obvious from the beginning of the novel. The Old Stories that have been outlawed draw the dragons to her, and, following the name she has ben given, Iskari, she kills them in an attempt to atone for a crime she committed as a child. Asha’s scars tell her story, and cause the people of her city to fear her. Asha has been the stories of her destiny and what killed her mother for years and believed them – without anyone to tell her otherwise, she believes them. Until the day a young dragon prevents her from killing the First Dragon, Kozu, and awakens questions within that will lead her to do wicked and dangerous things to prevent more tragedy from befalling her family, and to prevent events that she has been desperately trying to avoid with the help of someone she never thought she would become close to. As what I hope is the beginning of an intriguing series, it has a little bit of everything, including a touch of romance that does not overtake the rest of the story and overshadow what Asha and those who gather around her eventually to help uncover the truth will have to do.

First and foremost, this fantasy novel is about Asha finding her identity, and uncovering secrets that have been kept from her so that those who wish to harm her can control her and ensure she does what they want, when they want it, and without question. Along the way, Asha’s worldview is shattered, and she befriends a slave, a skral, and learns his name: Torwin, going against centuries of tradition, and connecting with him in a way that puts them both at risk, and that mirrors the Old Stories, told in between sections of the first half of the novel, showing how they have shaped the world and how people like Asha’s father and Jarek, the man her father wants her to wed, fear what does not need to be feared – including the dragons that Asha has been made to hunt and must now protect.

The Last Namsara explores trust, family and identity, and illustrates how those we least expect can become the only ones we can trust. Asha is scarred – and has a paralysed arm from the events at the beginning of the novel, but she does not let this stop her, especially when everything comes to a head and she does what she never thought she would do, and puts herself in danger. It is these dangerous events that lead to the final events of the novel, and presents the reader with more questions than answers during the final chapters, that will hopefully be answered in a future novel, to wrap up the strands that felt they had more of a story to be told.

It is a gripping story that didn’t take me long to read, as it had a decent pace, not too fast or too slow, and intrigue that had me wanting to know what was going to happen next. A great read for fans of Young Adult, and Fantasy Literature.

Booktopia