From Twinkle, With Love

From Twinkle, With Love
Written by Sandhya Menon
Contemporary, Romance
Published May 22nd 2018
336 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen.

So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy, Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true.

When mystery man N begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily ever after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile. The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favourite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.
Twinkle Maher is an aspiring director, destined to share the untold stories of the world. As a young Indian American woman of a low socioeconomic status, Twinkle is determined to persevere within the patriarchal dominated society with tenacity. Twinkle is the primary caregiver for her grandmother, her father an aide for displaced adolescents, her mother tormented by undiagnosed depression and unable to return to India. Her grandmother is an inspiring and wonderful support for Twinkle, also offering perspective in the absence of parental influence.

I admired her fortitude but Twinkle is often unable to compromise. Whether a necessity for perfection or to control her environment, she describes it as not having her voice heard, often accompanied by feelings of being a woman of colour within a patriarchal system. It intensifies the need to raise marginalised voices but often excuses her demanding behaviour throughout the narrative. Twinkle's journey of realisation is difficult as her popularity cultivates, friendships are constrained as her world becomes increasingly more exclusive, alienating Hannah her childhood companion.

Sahil Roy is a film aficionado, a connoisseur of stories told. Dissimilar to sibling Neil, Sahil is an academic who is determined to be recognised for his own achievements. Serendipitously, Twinkle and Sahil collaborate on a film tor the Pikes Peak Charter Midsummer Night, an annual event celebrating cinematography.

The tentative companionship is lovely, Sahil encouraging Twinkle foremost as a creative young woman and professionally, financing the film. I appreciated that Sahil was incredibly gentlemanly throughout the process, allowing Twinkle freedom of creativity. Through interactions with friends and an anonymous online journal, Sahil is incredibly attracted to Twinkle. Unfortunately, although Twinkle has developed a fondness for Sahil, she believes Neil Roy is the ideal brother to enhance her social status, unbeknownst to Sahil. The romance is convoluted, tumultuous but entirely authentic as Twinkle discovers Neil represents an ideal, rather than the connection she shares with Sahil.

Sandhya Menon is an exceptional author, creating vibrant and diverse characters and beautifully imperfect narratives of adolescent exploration and actualisation. In a series of letters written to accomplished female filmmakers, From Twinkle, With Love will captivate and delight readers until the final page. 

Grace Beside Me

Grace Beside Me contains sensitivities such as racism, abuse and attempted sexual assault.
Grace Beside Me
Written by Sue McPherson
Contemporary, Indigenous, #LoveOZYA
Published December 2012
224 Pages
Thank you to Magabala Books
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A warmly rendered story of life in a small town that interweaves the mundane with the profound and the spiritual.

Told through the eyes of teenager, Fuzzy Mac, awkward episodes of teen rivalry and romance sit alongside the mystery of Nan’s visions and a ghostly encounter. Against a backdrop of quirky characters, including the holocaust survivor who went to school with Einstein and the little priest always rushing off to bury someone before the heat gets to them, Grace Beside Me is full of humour and timely wisdom.
Thirteen year old Ocean Skye McCardell, affectionately known as Fuzzy Mac, lives within the small outback town of Laurel Dale. Since her mother passed, Fuzzy has lived with her grandparents, known to the town as Nan and Pop, her father employed in the mining industry and unable to care for his only child. Thirteen years of age will become a monumental year for Fuzzy as she begins to see spirits, a long held tradition of Seer passed down through the McCardell women. Navigating adolescence as Fuzzy finds her sense of self, her ancestry and her role as an Indigenous, Irish and South Sea Islander young woman.

It's the listening and telling of stories that bring our people close, both young and old. Stories keep our culture strong and our faith alive. 

Politically, the landscape of Australia is changing. The Australian government have announced a national day of apology, a small step towards the process of healing Indigenous communities, touching on long held racism, prejudice and the Stolen Generation. Grace Beside Me places the focus on family and the small community of Laurel Dale's societal issues. The neighbours experiencing domestic violence, Holocaust survivors, Uncle Lefty who through loss of identity, is now on the straight and narrow. Nan and Pop are pillars of the small town community, caring for the downtrodden.

The diversity of characters are wonderful. Nan is biracial Indigenous and Irish, her mother Koori and father of Irish heritage. Nan and her sisters were only young girls when they were stolen from their families. Pop is a descendant of the South Sea Islanders, enslaved and brought to Australia. Indigenous Australian, Māori, European and white Australia coexist within the small community that is beautifully portrayed. 

The writing is incredibly organic, Sue McPherson engages readers within the narrative as I felt as though I was part of the Laurel Dale community. Simple, wonderful storytelling at its finest.

Watch the Adaptation

Kyliric Masella shines as the character of Fuzzy Mac, a beautiful young Indigenous girl who is coming of age. After her mother died of an overdose, Fuzzy has been raised by her grandparents, her father working in the mines and unable to care for his daughter. Her journey begins on the morning of her thirteenth birthday, coinciding with the spiritual Spooky Month, leading Fuzzy to learn she is to become a Seer of spiritual insight, guided by the spirits of her ancestors.

Each episode of the thirteen part series follows Fuzzy as she learns about her gift and the spirits that need assistance before moving on. It entwines the Indigenous spiritual beliefs with a wonderful sense of family, as Nan and Pop are always a positive influence in Fuzzy's life, helping guide her moral compass. 

Navigating her adolescence, friendship, family and responsibilities, Grace Beside Me is a beautiful blend of diverse Australiana and the celebration of Indigenous country, spirit and history. Adapted from the award winning novel by Sue McPherson, published by Magabala Books and previously screened on NITV, you can watch season one of Grace Beside Me on ABC iView here. Or check out the trailer by clicking here.

 Grace Beside Me
Magabala books is a non for profit arts organisation and independent Aboriginal Corporation with the objective of restoring, preserving and maintaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and the rights of traditional storytellers and artists. To read more about Magabala Books and to donate, visit their website.


Check out my review for book one Caraval

Caraval Book Two
Written by Stephanie Garber
Fantasy, Romance
Published May 29th 2018
432 Pages
Thank you to Hachette Australia
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A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn't yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver. Caraval Master Legend's true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend's identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets. Including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can't fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend's name, she'll lose everything she cares about, maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval... The games have only just begun.

Donatella and Scarlett escaped the Isle of Trisda, journeying to De Los Sueños as participants of Caraval to escape the oppression and violence of their father on the eve of Scarlett's pending nuptials. In an unprecedented event, the Caraval entertainers are preparing for a second performance, invited to the Meridian Empire by the illustrious Empress Elantine. Donatella will reluctantly compete in Caraval for the honour of learning the identity of the elusive Legend, the master of ceremonies at Caraval.

The Players

Siblings Scarlett and Donatella are wonderful characters of contrast. Scarlett is an observationalist, Donatella is spontaneous, appearing nonchalant and indulgent. Comparatively, Donatella is an alluring character, her resolute and altruistic personality challenged misogyny and embraced her sexuality. Donatella is seduced by the centuries old mythological enchantment of the Meridian Empire and those who fabricated the human destiny and to conquer Caraval. As the participants disembark, peculiarly, Donatella is refused admittance and masquerades as the fiancé of heir to the Meridian Kingdom, the murderous Jacks. Suggested by the conceited Dante.

Although sexually attracted to Dante, Donatella understands the seduction of Caraval and Dante's character as a womanising charlatan. I found her constant need to evoke an emotional response in Dante exhausting, considering Donatella is a confident and assured young woman. Jacks is an interesting character, the nephew of Empress Elantine and heir to the Meridian kingdom. Notorious for his cruelty and violence, Jacks and Donatella establish an compromise. Their relationship is convoluted and exasperating, especially for Dante, unsuspecting that affection from the heir of Meridian kingdom is manipulation.

The Game

Caraval was believed to have been an illusion, participants indulging themselves within the festivities for the atmospheric experience. In this unprecedented event, Caraval will journey to Idyllwild Castle, an esteemed invitation by Empress Elantine on the eve of the Fated Ball. Once revered guardians now banished, the Fates are a foreboding folklore. As a child, Donetella reminisces the forbidden cards her mother kept, the Deck of Destiny, cards representing each Fate and the potential to foretell the future. A wonderful element of intrigue throughout the narrative. To conquer Caraval, Donatella will encounter ominous conundrum. Caraval and Legend eradicated from the Meridian kingdom to establish freedom for her mother. An insurmountable quandary.

Caraval is a breathtaking and atmospheric adventure of illusion and deception, Legendary is an exceptional sequel inciting intrigue, adventure and sensuality. Stephanie Garber is extraordinary, creating a lyrically exquisite narrative of wonderment and revelations. Dark, sinister and delicious. Absolutely superb.

Save The Date

Save The Date
Written by Morgan Matson
Contemporary, Romance
432 Pages
Publishing July 2018
Thank you to Simon & Schuster
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Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait. For the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster, all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the awful girl her favourite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractedly… Cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.
Guests are descending on the Connecticut Grant residence for the pending nuptials of daughter Linnea Grant and fiancée Rodney Daniels, an extravagant farewell to the stately home. Youngest sibling Charlotte Grant is delighted that her siblings will be in attendance, the idolised Sheridan now residing in California, bride Linnea, Jameison and estranged brother Michael. The Grant siblings have embellished syndicate pages for over twenty five years within the fictional Grant Central Station, a weekly illustrated comic created by their mother Eleanor Grant, now reaching a conclusion with a series of celebratory events and appearances coinciding with the pending nuptials of sister Linnea and nostalgic farewell to the endearing family residence.

Big, loud, delightfully messy families

The Grant siblings are wonderful. Typically families portrayed within young adult literature are rarely present or created as a character of superiority, the Grant siblings are blemished. The narrative focus is on seventeen year old Charlie. Charlie understands the significance of the upcoming celebrations, the youngest Grant sibling is feeling displaced. Eldest sibling Danny is Charlie's partner in crime, so when Danny surprises the family by bringing home a new girlfriend from California, Charlie begins to see the imperfections within the brother she idolised. Linnie is becoming increasingly overwhelmed by her nuptials, a missing wedding planner and feuding relatives, brother J.J is desperately seeking a date to the event and estranged brother Mike has chosen to stay with friend James, Charlie's crush. Over the course of three days of celebrations, I fell in love with the compassionate, boisterous and completely imperfect Grant family.

A touch of swoon

For a narrative that takes place during wedding celebrations, the romance was virtually non existent. There is however, plenty of moments to swoon. For the past several years, Charlie has held a flame for James, Mike's best friend that until recently, seemed to be an unrequited love affair. James is a nice young man but he's certainly no Bill, the nephew of the new wedding planner. Bill and Charlie together are lovely and I enjoyed their subtle flirtations. With the amount of mayhem and adventure afoot, their friendship and attraction felt genuine. #TeamBill

Pee your pants a little

Snorting, unattractive laughter. The kitchen is often the heart of every home, especially for the Grant family. The reader is welcomed into their boisterous, frantic home where the coffee is freshly brewed and siblings feud over the last doughnut. Their familiarity is lovely. The banter and sarcasm providing plenty of laugh out loud moments.

I absolutely loved it. Morgan Matson is a phenomenal contemporary author, creating genuine characters and a sincere storyline of perfectly imperfect families. Infused with humour, mayhem and adventure, Save The Date is a feel great read and instant classic.

Follow the tour here with thanks to Simon & Schuster and the #AusYABloggers.
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