Friends with books…

One of the many benefits of being part of a network of Australian writers is the opportunity to read and review titles by authors with whom I’ve forged friendships – whether in person, online or both. In recent weeks, I’ve read a couple of Australian women’s fiction titles, a collection of contemporary poetry and a children’s picture book by women I respect and admire…

Graffiti Lane – Kelly Van Nelson (Making Magic Happen Press, 2019):

Dark and distressing themes such as domestic violence, bullying, gender inequity, mental health issues, suicide and discrimination are laid bare in this debut collection – yet accomplished poet Kelly Van Nelson manages to imbue Graffiti Lane with a sense of hope, rather than hopelessness. Van Nelson approaches every topic with unwavering honesty, unafraid to venture into harrowing territory to reflect on the myriad challenges of adolescence, marriage, the contemporary corporate world and wider society. Using the vernacular of the street, the boardroom and the domestic front, Van Nelson reveals a keen sensory perceptiveness, an acute awareness of injustice, a deep-rooted empathy and the life-altering potential of resilience. Stand-out pieces for me included ‘Eggshells’ and ‘Mirror, Mirror…’, which explore the impacts of domestic violence on self-esteem; ‘Defiant’, which celebrates triumph over violence; ‘The Jester’, which considers how people conceal their depression or despair; and ‘Growth Spurt’, a seven-word celebration of self-confidence.

Read more about Kelly Van Nelson here. My copy of Graffiti Lane was provided by the writer.

When the Moon is a Smile – Teena Raffa-Mulligan, with illustrations by Amy Calautti (Daisy Lane Publishing, 2019):

Prolific author Teena Raffa-Mulligan lends her deft, gentle touch to the subject of parental separation in this delightful picture book aimed at younger children. Featuring whimsical illustrations by Amy Caloutti, When the Moon is a Smile reflects a day in the life of a girl and her father, as they enjoy some of their favourite activities and explore places that have special meaning to each of them – enshrining their experiences with the beauty of imagination. Although dad and daughter understand they’ll have to say goodbye at the end of the day, they also know it won’t be long until they can be together again. Raffa-Mulligan brings her natural warmth and optimism to a scenario faced by many families, and draws on the constancy of our nearest celestial body to enable young readers to appreciate their parents’ devotion, and treasure the hours they spend with one another.

Read more about Teena Raffa-Mulligan here. My copy of When the Moon is a Smile was provided by the author.

The Cinema at Starlight Creek – Alli Sinclair (Harlequin, 2019):

The rural Queensland town of Starlight Creek in the mid-1990s is a long way from the 1950s Golden Age of Hollywood, but Alli Sinclair’s newest novel creates vivid connections between these places and times, and the characters who inhabit them. Moving deftly between the two timelines, Sinclair juxtaposes the experiences of TV series location manager Claire Montgomery with those of emerging Hollywood star Lena Lee, comparing and contrasting the issues faced by both women as they attempt to forge a place in industries dominated by men. For Claire, the art deco cinema at Starlight Creek is the perfect backdrop for her current project, but the cinema’s reclusive owner Hattie Fitzpatrick and her great-nephew Luke Jackson are reluctant to allow the intrusion of a film crew. For Lena, the politics and censorship issues that dominate the Hollywood back lots are a barrier to the roles she longs to portray. Faced with an obligation to present to the public a picture-perfect relationship with one of her co-stars, Lena must conceal her love for actor Reeves Garrity. As Sinclair’s story unfolds, both women must decide how far they will go in pursuit of their dreams.

Read more about Alli Sinclair here. My copy of The Cinema at Starlight Creek was courtesy Harlequin Mira.

Love Song (Daughters of the Outback, Book 3) – Sasha Wasley (Michael Joseph/Penguin Random House Australia, 2019):

In this highly anticipated final instalment of her Daughters of the Outback trilogy, Sasha Wasley weaves a story of love lost and renewed, and the members of a remote Indigenous community determined to retain a sense of place and autonomy. In Love Song, Beth Paterson’s life is divided between the demands of a busy general practice, her place in the local business community and regular visits to a remote Indigenous community, where she provides medical care. While she is content in the knowledge that her two sisters have found love, Beth doesn’t have the time or the energy for a romantic relationship. When representatives from the Indigenous community seek her support to thwart an unwanted development, Beth reluctantly reunites with musician Charlie Campbell, who she fell in love with when they were both teenagers – before he left town without explanation, and without saying goodbye. As Beth and Charlie are bonded by their common goal to protect the community, the truth about their teenage separation is revealed and long-suppressed emotions resurface. Like Wasley’s earlier Daughters of the Outback novels, Dear Banjo and True Blue, Love Song features complex, immensely likeable characters tackling contemporary social issues and falling in love – with the harshly beautiful landscape of Western Australia’s Kimberley region providing a dramatic backdrop.

Read more about Sasha Wasley here. My copy of Love Song was courtesy Michael Joseph/Penguin Random House Australia.