My blog posts tend to be sporadic, coming in clumps and then none for months. If it’s been a while since I’ve posted, don’t worry, I’m most likely working on something, and will be back sooner or later with more news to share.
In the meantime, please enjoy my older posts, I’ve reviewed some wonderful books over the last couple of years – maybe you’ll find something you’d love!
There is so much to love about this story, and if I may be a bit geeky, the title is one of those things. It’s so clever, because while the title as a whole makes sense, each word in the title is also the name of a character.
Beth Teller is the first character we meet. She’s a ghost. She was killed in a car accident, and is hanging around because she doesn’t want to leave her father alone (her mother died when she was a baby). Her father is the only person who can see and hear her.
Beth’s father is a police officer, and together they are visiting a small town. A children’s home has burnt down and while all the children escaped, there is a dead body inside the building. It seems like a case of faulty wiring and bad luck, but as they delve deeper they find there is far more to the case than first meets the eye.
Isobel Catching is the other main character in this story. She was found wandering the river after the fire, and is considered to be a witness. Beth and her father try talking to Isobel, who tells them a strange strange story, about almost dying, and crossing into another world and having all her colours stolen.
Crow is a girl who Isobel meets in this other world, and who helps Isobel escape back into this world.
But there is far more to this story than meets the eye, and when everything clicks into place you realise exactly all the awful things that have been happening to Isobel, and exactly how it fits in to the fire in the children’s home, and the dead body inside.
On the surface, this is a crime/mystery, but underneath it is so much more. This is a story about stories, and how telling those stories, how being heard, can strengthen a person, and help in the healing process.
I have to thank one of the wonderful women in my local writers group for recommending this brilliant story!
Rivers of London follows probationary constable Peter Grant, who learns one night that he can see ghosts, when he tries to take a witness statement from one…
What follows is a brilliant story of the supernatural side of London.
There is a murderer on the loose, a spirit, able to infect people and set off a train of events that results in someone being violently murdered, while the person who carried out the murder completely unaware of exactly why they snapped and killed someone.
Meanwhile, Father Thames, and Mother Thames, both personifications of the great river that runs through the city, are having a disagreement, and their many children – all the smaller rivers and brooks and streams that run into the Thames, are involved.
Peter not only learns that magic is real, he learns how to wield it, his experiments (when he uses magic, his phone is destroyed, and he’s curious enough to try and figure out why) leading him to successfully summon a spirit with five calculators at the points of a pentagram, and a glow-stick instead of a candle.
Rivers of London is witty, and well written, a brilliant story line.
Set in the 1300’s in England, this is a story of witchcraft.
It’s filled with a cast of characters: there’s a wool merchant, his wife, two sons, and their two servants. There’s a wealthy widow and her adult son and young daughter, and their servant. There’s a boatman and his wife and children. And there’s a ghost, and his pet ferret, popping in to the story here and there to give his opinion of events.
When the wool merchant’s wife falls sick, it’s the widow who steps in to nurse her. Though the servant suspects foul play, everyone else has only praise for the selflessness of the widow. No one bats an eyelid when, only a few short weeks later, the wool merchant announces he is to marry the widow. Only the merchant’s sons speak up about it, and when the oldest one turns up dead shortly thereafter it’s believed he’s been murdered by theives who’ve been stealing from the family business.
But the household’s ill luck doesn’t stop there. When the servant declares her suspicions of the new mistress of the house, she’s declared and mad and sent to live with the nuns who torture her with terrible ‘remedies’ supposed to cure madness – like a bath of ice, for example.
One thing after another goes wrong, and all the while it’s a mystery as to who is actually at fault – is it the widow, what about her daughter, who seems to know a little too well how to curse those who irritate her? And when it comes out that the widow’s servant is actually her mother… well, what was the purpose of that deception?
This is a bit different to my usual read. I don’t usually read memoir, but I’ve heard Tony talk about his book a couple of times now, and he read a section of his book out at the Little Laneway Festival, in November last year, and I had to read more.
The story is heartbreaking. Tony and his wife Sue are travelling through South America when Sue suffers from a brain aneurysm while they’re in Bolivia. Bolivia is a poor country, and so of course it’s hospitals are not equipped as well as the hospitals Tony is used to, here in Australia.
Even when Tony manages to break through the language barriers and make it understood that his wife needs a hospital, it takes time to get her there, and as the weeks drag on it’s uncertain whether she will ever leave.
From the start, Tony’s writing propels the reader back to that terrifying moment when his wife has a seizure in the bed beside him, and carries the reader back and forward through his and Sue’s history, and the painfully long 14 weeks before Sue can finally come home, now suffering from a condition very much like dementia, putting Tony in a new role of carer.
Extremely well written, I highly recommend this story.
This story has been on my ‘To Read’ list for such a long time, and I’m so glad I finally got to read it.
It’s a beautiful love story/folk tale of a River Wife – fish by night, human by day – her human father, and the human man she falls in love with.
The River Wife has no name: “I have found in the naming of things, something happens,” she tells the human, Wilson James.
“There are times now in the forest when a flower appears, berries grow, a certain fungus blooms, and if I name it I can pass it by as if I have seen it already. I do not want to pass it by… The bark of each tree has a pattern that is unique, a constellation of small creatures and plants which grow there and make it home, and it may have a neighbour which stands also in bark of a similar cloth, but it is not the same because its name is the same.”
The River Wives have always lived in this river, and this particular River Wife has been here for many many years – so many years that her human father has turned into a tree so that he will always be nearby.
“My father once said that any story of a place was a story of sadness, because everything changed. So a story of belonging would always be a story of losing.”
She’s warned against humans by her father, and she does try to resist the lure of Wilson James for a while, but she’s curious, too. He shouldn’t be able to see her, for she exists across a veil that humans cannot cross, but he can. How?
In the end her curiosity proves the better of her, and she succumbs to meeting him, and ever so gradually reveals the truth about herself.
But then something happens to Wilson James, and the River Wife has to make a dangerous journey to find the oldest ones and see if they can save him.
“‘What do hearts get mended with? ‘
‘Sunshine, kindness, the touch of your child’s hand in yours, spring rain, the green wings of dragonflies, rainbow scales, the webs of spiders, the voice of a woman who loves you.'”
For someone who prefers to be a hermit and hide away at home this year has pushed me miles outside my comfort zone!
I’ve home schooled my children through grades 4 and 6, and started sporadic lessons a lot earlier than planned for my 4 year old who is insistent that she be taught how to read and write, NOW! While this is mostly, obviously, at home, we’ve done excursions to all sorts of places, visiting a whole bunch of different historical sites, bushwalking, swimming, getting lost in mazes, attending theatre productions, experiencing our local Indigenous culture at the Naidoc week celebrations, visiting Writers Festivals and Sustainable Living Expos, and so many other things!
I’ve chauffered the above mentioned children to a bajillion activities (no… I don’t know if bajillion is a real word, and yes it certainly felt like there were that many!) – dance,drama and music – lessons,rehearsals and performances. I spent a good deal of the year sitting in the car reading/writing while waiting for said children, or doing laps around our beautiful river.
I’ve made hundreds of Tasmanian beeswax candles; melting and colouring and pouring and levelling and packaging to send off to the handful of shops who stock the candles my husband and I make (with the children’s help, when they are feeling particularly keen).
And I spent some time volunteering – transcribing convict records. That was a fantastic experience – there was a new, fascinating, real-life story at every turn, some of which I hope to share with you all next year.
As for my own writing, 2018 has been a huge year for me.
I’m not sure if I’ve written about this before, but for the last few years I’ve had a goal to submit on average one piece of writing each and every week. Now, I need to specify that I don’t necessarily mean one new piece of writing per week. Most of my submissions are older short stories that haven’t found a home yet. However, some of my stories are brand new, and this year, amongst the 56 submissions I made 18 of them were new stories, written just this year.
It started last year, really, with the invitation in December to submit my work to The People’s Library. That resulted in the editing and polishing of my novella ‘What the Tide Brings’, to bring it up to scratch, followed by months of checking and re-checking emails as news on the project dripped in – dates, covers, and most importantly – edits, while myself, Pearl and Isabel (two other members of my writers group who were also invited to include their stories) planned events to make sure we made the most of this fantastic opportunity!
When September hit, it seemed everything happened all at once.
I had a drabble (a story that is exactly 100 words) published on September 1st, and then on the 7th writers from all over the state made their way to Hobart for the opening of the library – what must have been the biggest book launch ever as 113 books were launched.
That was just the beginning. This reading was the first of three public readings, the next held a fortnight later in Deloraine (although I had lost my voice, so Isabel did my reading for me), and another approximately 6 weeks after that, at the Little Laneway Festival, also in Deloraine.
Throughout the year I’ve also been posting regular stories on my rarely mentioned Patreon Page. While most of these stories have been published before, most are not easily available – if at all, and I’ve started branching out into some newer, only-available-on-Patreon short stories. (If you’re interested to see what I’ve written, there are some free stories on the page, and for $1 you’ll have access to the entire backlog of stories for a whole month.)
And my year has ended with the acceptance of another of my flash-fiction pieces ‘Tea with Grandma’ on a new Australian website – Lite Lit One. This story was written for a ‘Zine’ my local writers group planned, but which unfortunately fell through, so I’m so glad to find it a home!
I don’t think I’ve managed to post even one book review this year, though I’ve read so many fantastic books. So here’s a list of my favourites. (Note: this is not necessarily a list of books published this year, but rather a list of my favourites of the books I read this year.)
The first has got to be ‘Flames’ by Robbie Arnott. I loved every bit of this bizarre and wonderful story – from the mother who temporarily returns from the dead with bits of landscape sprouting from her body, to the animism present in every aspect of the story – everything has a spirit and a consciousness, from the river rat swimming in the Tamar right up to the rain cloud hanging over Ben Lomond.
The second is actually a children’s picture book, ‘Old Hu-Hu’ by Kyle Mewburn. Kyle read this story aloud during her session at the Tamar Valley Writers Festival, and I have to admit I was blinking back tears. Old Hu-Hu has died, you see, and little Hu-Hu-Tu wants to know where he’s gone. It’s such a beautiful story I ordered a copy as soon as I got home.
‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang is next. Stella Lane is on the spectrum and struggles with relationships, so she hires a male escort to help her out. This was such a fun story, and I’ve never met a protagonist I related to so much! This is definitely for 18+ though, it contains sex scenes that don’t hold back on the description!
‘The Secrets We Keep’ by Shirley Patton is a wonderful story by a fellow Tasmanian author. Aimee is a social worker freshly arrived in Kalgoorlie, who has made one difficult choice already in her past, and soon faces another. One of the reasons I loved this story so much was the character of Agnes, who reads people’s futures in tea leaves, and explores the more spiritual aspects of life.
I discovered ‘Darker Shade of Magic’ by VE Schwab after watching her Tolkien Lecture, which in turn was recommended at the Tamar Valley Writers Festival. It’s a story of portals to other worlds, where things are similar, but also vastly different. I absolutely loved it!
‘Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi is a book I came across on Twitter. I read The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas last year, and she (among others) recommended this amazing fantasy of a world in which magic has been suppressed until young Zelie is thrust into an adventure to return it. It’s brilliant.
I bought ‘Nevermoor’ by Jessica Townsend for my kids, and my son devoured it in a day and thrust it under my nose with a ‘You have to read this!” I had soon devoured it too, and we’re eagerly awaiting the sequel. (Yes, I know, it’s out already – it’s on our ‘To Buy’ list!)
I bought The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland while visiting family in WA earlier this year. It’s such a beautiful story, of a girl who loses her family to a devastating fire, and is thrust into the collected family of a grandmother she never knew.
During this same trip I also bought ‘Taboo’ by Kim Scott. It’s the story of Tilly, daughter of an Indigenous man who she barely knows, and her reconnection with her community and their shared ancestors. It is devastating in so many ways, and yet also full of hope for the future.