Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
Published March 2018 by Harper Collins Australia
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars

I've been waiting for The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland ever since she revealed the stunning floral cover featuring illustrations by Edith Rewa, and designed by Hazel Lam. The story did not disappoint.

Nine year old Alice Hart lives with her parents, Agnes and Clem, on a property by the sea. Agnes and Alice aren't allowed to leave the property, so Agnes has taught her daughter at home. Alice loves to read, and Agnes loves to garden. The garden is often a refuge from the violence Clem unleashes on his wife and daughter. Following an accident, Alice is taken in by her grandmother, Clem's mother June. June takes her to Thornfield where she runs a native Australian flower farm that has been in the family for generations. It is here Alice learns the language of flowers and where she later learns the secrets of her family.

This lyrical book captured me immediately, I found myself thinking about the story whenever I wasn't reading. There are multiple settings over the course of the story, and Alice's life, and each one felt atmospheric and vivid. Her childhood home was cold and menacing, Thornfield was more welcoming but also had an uneasy edge, the outback was a place to get lost in.

Set over decades, the story covers a lot of ground and introduces a variety of characters. The plot was heartfelt and real, and so sensitively explored - from the domestic abuse, to the disrespect of Indigenous land.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland is a stunning debut. It's a beautiful, atmospheric portrait of a family, both the good and the bad. It's also a lovely tribute to the Australian land and flora.

Thank you to Harper Collins for my review copy.

Cover illustration: Edith Rewa Barrett
Cover design: Hazel Lam

Of course I had to paint this cover. I adore floral designs and this has to be one of my favourites. I love the focus on Australian flowers and how beautiful they look against the black background.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin

I'd only recently heard of Joanna Nadin's new novel, The Queen of Bloody Everything, when a copy showed up in mail - thank you, Pan Macmillan! I love the cover of this book and it was on my list to read and paint. This retro floral pattern perfectly suits the story, which starts in the 70s,and follows Dido and her mother Edie over the next few decades.

As the copy is an ARC, the cover designer isn't listed, but I assume it's care of the Pan Mac Art Department - I'll update this if I find out more details.

You can watch the video here or on my YouTube channel. Photos below and on Instagram.

Monday, 29 January 2018

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard

The cover of The Seven Rules of  Elvira Carr caught my eye immediately. I love the bold stripes, and the bright red guinea pigs.  The cover design is by Joanna Thomson of the PanMacmillan Art Department.

You can watch the video here:

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell

Hello and happy new year! I haven't blogged in a while, but I have some nail art to share today. In December last year I painted a bookish manicure to match the gorgeous cover of Jen Campbell's The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night. You can check out Jen's BookTube channel here.

The cover was illustrated by one of my faves, Aitch.

You can watch my bookish nail art tutorial here:

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Holiday Adventure-A-Thon!

I'm taking part in the Holiday Adventure-A-Thon, hosted by Novel Thoughts! After much deliberation, I have decided on the penguin's path.

Here's my TBR for the readathon!

I'll have a vlog up on YouTube once the readthon is over!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung

These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung
Published November 7, 2017 by Griffith Moon
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: At Windemere School for Girls, one of America’s elite private schools, Dr. Gregory Copeland is the beloved chair of the English Department. A married father with a penchant for romantic poetry—and impressionable teenage girls—he operates in plain sight for years, until one of his former students goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and two additional Windemere alumnae who had relationships with Copeland as students, the unlikely quartet unites to take him down.
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, These Violent Delights is a literary exploration of the unyielding pressures and vulnerabilities that so many women and girls experience, and analyzes the ways in which our institutions and families fail to protect or defend us. A suspenseful and nuanced story told from multiple points of view, the novel examines themes of sexuality, trauma, revenge, and the American myth of liberty and justice for all.

These Violent Delights is the second novel by Korean American author, Victoria Namkung. Set in LA, the story revolves around four women: Jane, Caryn, Eva, and Sasha. Caryn Rodgers, a twenty-two-year-old intern approaches Jane March, a reporter, about an incident that occurred at her prestigious private girls school six year ago. At the time a male teacher made advances at her and when she told the school, nothing was done. Now Caryn wants to write about it and she and Jane deal with the issues that arise once the story is out.

If you know me, my attention is easily caught by a pretty cover. Just last week I was browsing Netgalley for a particular book when I saw the gorgeous cover of These Violent Delights. I clicked on it, read the blurb, and immediately requested it. I started reading it as soon as I was approved and I was completely hooked.

The story is compelling, I immediately wanted to know more about Caryn's life and what had happened to her. Caryn is part Korean and her family and upbringing have shaped her life and how she lives now. She's always been conscious of not wanting to bring shame to the family so it was admirable that she finally felt ready to speak out.

Jane was also a fantastic lead character. It was refreshing to see a working relationship between two women that was supportive rather than competitive or nasty. Jane backed Caryn's story from the beginning, standing up to male colleagues who wanted to question and victim-blame her.

The pacing was perfect, picking up speed and intensity as the plot progressed but never feeling rushed. As the story moved forward, more victims identify themselves and we learn about their pasts and how they're doing now. The three women had all dealt with the abuse in different ways, yet they were bonded by their experience and each of them wanted to stop it from ever happening again.

The story really highlights the problems we face now when dealing with accusations of abuse. There is victim blaming and questioning, and the fact that people always seem to want to protect the male perpetrator, worrying about his career/family/life rather than the victim. This book gives insight into how a case like this can be reported on and the sorts of reactions that arise from the public and media.

These Violent Delights is a captivating story of a heartbreaking issue that is all too common in real life. Written with expert knowledge and sensitivity, you'll find it hard to put down.

Available for pre-order from Griffith Moon.

Thank you to Griffith Moon for my Netgalley ARC.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Published September 21, 2017 by Hodder
Source: Hachette AU
Rating: 5 stars

From the blurb: Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her high school teachers who think the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.
Viv's mum was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the '90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother's past and creates Moxie, a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She's just blowing off steam, but other girls respond and spread the Moxie message. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realises that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Sixteen year old Vivian Carton lives in East Rockport, Texas, a small town that loves football. She and her mum have lived just down the street from her grandparents, ever since her father died when she was a baby.  Viv knows her mother was a Riot Grrrl when she was a teen, she keeps a collection of zines from that era, and soon Viv finds herself inspired to created a zine of her own when she realises she's fed up of the sexism displayed at her high school.

I've been looking forward to Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu for months and it did not disappoint! Vivian is a fantastic main character, one I'm sure a lot of teens will easily relate to. She's one of the good girls, but she's far from perfect. She often finds herself wanting to do better, to stick up for someone or to ask the new girl to sit with them; but she doesn't act on those thoughts so as not to draw any negative attention. It's just the way her school is. But over the course of the story, Viv does start talking to other kids in her school, befriending the new girl, Lucy; chatting with new boy, Seth. And starting a zine when females at her school are targeted by male classmates and the administration.

I loved the exploration of female friendships and how the story didn't take the typical route. Viv has to balance her newfound friendship with Lucy with the relationship she shares with her best friend, Claudia. A lot of YA books would have made this into a major drama, but in Moxie it's portrayed in a realistic way. The same goes for Viv's relationship with Seth, it made her conscious of not ditching her friends in order to spend every moment with him.

Another relationship that was wonderful was between Viv and her mum. They're close, and her mum is pretty relaxed, but she's also not the girl she was in the 90s. It was understandable that Viv would feel resentful and cautious in regards to her mum dating again and I thought this was well done.

There's a strong focus on intersectional feminism with black girls at the school speaking up and making sure they are included in the movement. Again, Viv wasn't perfect and was still learning what it means to be a feminist, and I love that this was included because it's something often left out of feminist discussions.

Ableist language: dumb, crazy.

Moxie is the book teens need to be reading. It's inspiring, it's moving, it's relevant. It's definitely found it's way onto my list of favourite books!

Thank you to Hachette for my copy.

Cover design: no credit given in the book.

I've done nails for one of Jennifer's previous books, The Truth About Alice, and knew I wanted to do nails as soon as I saw this awesome pink cover! Because of the hand on the cover, I decide to paint my own nails for a change - but I also did a set of false nails too. I used black eyeliner to draw the stars on my arm at the end.

You can watch the video below or on my YouTube channel, Cook Read Create.