An Interview with Brittany Severn

An Interview with Brittany Severn, author of The Camellia Manifest

Brittany Severn is a writer from Fort Riley, Kansas. She currently lives in Alabama with two rescue dogs, every season of The Golden Girls, and a tortoise named Phil.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

I know a lot of people are going to pinch me for not saying Smaug because I was so obsessed with Tolkien growing up (LOTR Trivial Pursuit grand champ, here), but I’m going with Saphira from Eragon. She was so damn cool.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external hard drive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Oh, it was abandoned for sure. I tinkered with it for years, but it just didn’t work out. And that’s okay. Not everything you write needs to be published. I learned from it, if anything.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Practice, but also, reading. 100%. You get to know dialogue and characters, world building, what works for fan bases and what doesn’t. Reading definitely makes for a better writer.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I’d love to be the kind that can pump out novels faster. I published four last year and got burnt out. One to two is my goal, but it’s slow going because I really want to get these stories and characters right.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

If I’m out and about, I always use my Notes app for ideas, one liners, etc. But when I’m home, I write on my laptop on the couch. It’s the most comfortable spot.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

My parents always read my stuff first. Except for the erotica – I put that out and didn’t say anything to them because I can’t imagine them reading it and then being able to look me in the eye. But my parents and some friends do a read through and give their input. Once I have a more polished draft I have a couple of beta readers it’ll go through. I fix what they find grammar-wise, and then I usually do another run through on my own. I haven’t had anything of mine edited by anyone but me (not the best thing, I know), but I look forward to someone else doing that for me one day.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I always use the local library. I’m not a huge fan of eBooks and I don’t own an e-reader. It’s just not the same. I like to hold a physical copy. I rarely buy books, which surprises a lot of people, but when I do it’s usually from a used bookstore. Like you mentioned, that smell just draws you in. We have some here in Alabama that are nice, but I went to one in Charleston a few years ago and it was the best, complete with books from the floor to the ceiling, an archway of books, and wandering cats.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I think I’ll always be a YA reader. It’s my favorite genre. But I have gotten into more mystery/thriller lately, true crime, and other non-fiction books. I just finished Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks and it was fascinating.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I am so bad at social media. Even my personal account goes months without a post. I post stories on Instagram a lot because they’re easy, short, and fun, but I don’t post as much as I should. It’s something I’m working on, but it’s definitely not my favorite thing. I can’t even remember the last time I updated my Facebook page. Anything marketing-wise is not very fun for me.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

I try not to, but I’m sure I do. It depends on the questions, really. I like out of the box questions. The weirder, the better. I feel like my tone should be more proper in interviews, deeper and with longer answers and probably less cursing and the word, ‘dude’, but it is what it is.

About The Camellia Manifest

Sisters Echo and Ava know about loss, but now they are about to lose everything…

Grieving the loss of their grandmother, Echo and Ava only have each other now. On the day of her funeral, catastrophe strikes as natural disasters begin to rip the Earth apart. The world is coming to an end, but there may be hope. Teaming up with some unlikely allies, including an apocalypse obsessed radio host, the sisters seek safety. With the world in chaos, it won’t be an easy journey and they are in for a hell of a ride. As they reach their destination, a single flight headed to safety, the sisters discover that not everyone is on their side and they will have to fight for their survival. Can they make it to the plane? Or will they be left to die on the ground?

Review: Kassandra Montag – Those Who Return

Those Who Return
Kassandra Montag

Lore is taking time out after her traumatic exit from the FBI. There is no better place than the Hatchery House – an isolated, live-in psychiatric facility for mentally ill children and teens. Lore has her own demons to exorcise with her fellow resident psychiatrist – but everyone is keeping secrets. After a death, Lore finds herself questioning everything she’s learnt about her practice so far.

I loved the way the author seamlessly incorporated elements of an unreliable narrator into the main character. I think this novel could have been even better if – wait for it – it had multiple perspectives. The protagonist being a psychiatrist was pretty illuminating, but I think that a little more insight into the twisted psyche of the killer could have been interesting.

This book’s ending felt a little unfinished. It was very unclear where Lore ended up. I wasn’t ready to leave the story! I detested the narrative framing because I didn’t really care about that character. I was desperate to find out what Lore did next!

I’m giving this book 3 stars, because it was decent to read and did keep me reading – but the ending disappointed me. I’d recommend it for anyone who has an interest in psychology/psychiatry as a light read that nevertheless has a powerful message to share with the reader.

Hachette | 12th April 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

An Interview with JV Hilliard

An Interview with JV Hilliard, author of The Last Keeper

The Last Keeper is the first book in The Warminster Series. With gripping, epic action and heart-pounding adventure, you’ll love this new adventure series.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

As unoriginal as it may be, I fell in love with Smaug as a child when I read The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien. Smaug was the classic dragon, and he set the scales (no pun intended) for the rest to be measured against in the epic fantasy genre.

However, in book three of my Warminster series, I introduce a new dragon which I may be partial too (no spoilers here).

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I finally published the Last Keeper last December and that was the “first novel” that I started back in my college days. When COVID reared its ugly head, I was out of work for over a year, so I was able to steal a silver lining from it and dust off my old drafts and finally launch it.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

For my day job, I write speeches, legislation, policy papers and the like. When I started to write the Warminster series, I needed to flip the switch from non-fiction to fiction, so story related items like dialogue and pacing were an issue for me in the beginning. I am still getting better at it with each new novel, and I depend on my editors and beta readers to help where I may fall down.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Now that I am writing every day, I don’t have a problem with story creation. I believe that since I’ve had some stories bottled up for so long, it’s more a firehose than a spigot for me. My first book took me a year to write, but my second (which is in editing now) I finished in six months. The third (which is about half completed) should be done in four months and released around the holidays. It feels good to release the creative energy that was penned up for so long.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I do my planning with graph paper and a white board in my den, but all of my true writing is digital. I do find I can write anywhere, but I am more comfortable in my den, later at night or at a local bookstore/café nearby. Something about surrounding myself in my private library or sitting in a bookstore is motivating. Staring at the spines of books from some of the greats is motivation enough.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I have secured my beta readers through lifelong friendships or from those I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons with over the years. They all understand and appreciate the genre and most write themselves in some capacity for their careers. But I did focus on finding a few editors that specialize in the Epic Fantasy genre to be helpful Sherpas. I believed this was necessary for a first-time author.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I L-O-V-E bookstores. I worked in one while still in high school and then worked at my university library when I was at college. I go to my local Barnes & Noble store to write during the week and then for pleasure on Saturday mornings (when I don’t do work—and just pick a book I will read that weekend).

While I appreciate the e-book, there’s nothing that can replace that hardback or paperback in your hands. I will admit however I do use audiobooks often when I travel and have downtime on planes or cars.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

Fantasy is my favorite and that has never changed, but I do really enjoy Science Fiction and Horror, especially the gothic. I am hoping one day to write my own vampire novel.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I forced myself to learn the process as it is necessary in this day and age. Readers use them as resources for discussions, referrals, reviews and groups to share books. And if you put in the work, it is “mostly” free (save for your own time) and global. In my first month of sales for The Last Keeper, I had readers buy my book and ask for signed copies from places like India, Serbia, Romania, Tasmania and the like. Without social media, I would have never reached them.

I manage my profiles myself, but I do have several people that help. In part, I have a day job that dominates my time an often I need someone to manage requests or respond to inquiries when I am away.

I spend about two hours a day on social media, including promotions, sales, newsletters, adding followers and researching what is working for other authors (and what is not). Using author groups have been helpful to learn best and worst practices.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

It’s tempting, as sometimes you are asked the same questions, but I’ve learned that it’s best to just be original in each response. Canned responses read as if they were pre-programmed and that’s no way to connect with readers.

About J. V. Hilliard

Born of steel, fire and black wind, J.V. Hilliard was raised as a highlander in the foothills of a once-great mountain chain on the confluence of the three mighty rivers that forged his realm’s wealth and power for generations.

His father, a peasant twerg, toiled away in industries of honest labor and instilled in him a work ethic that would shape his destiny. His mother, a local healer, cared for his elders and his warrior uncle, who helped to raise him during his formative years. His genius brother, whose wizardly prowess allowed him to master the art of the abacus and his own quill, trained with him for battles on fields of green and sheets of ice.

Hilliard’s earliest education took place in his warrior uncle’s tower, where he learned his first words. His uncle helped him to learn the basics of life—and, most importantly, creative writing.

Hilliard’s training and education readied him to lift a quill that would scribe the tale of the realm of Warminster, filled with brave knights, harrowing adventure and legendary struggles. He lives in the city of silver cups, hypocycloids and golden triangles with his wife, a ranger of the diamond. They built their castle not far into the countryside, guarded by his own two horsehounds, Thor and MacLeod, and resides there to this day.

About The Last Keeper

A young boy’s prophetic visions.

Blind at birth, Daemus Alaric is blessed with the gift of prophetic Sight. Now, as a Keeper of the Forbidden, he must use his powers of the Sight to foil the plans of a fallen Keeper, Graytorris the Mad.

An elven Princess with a horrifying secret.

Princess Addilyn Elspeth travels from Eldwal, the magically hidden home of the Vermilion elves, to begin her life as a diplomat to the human capital of Castleshire. During her journey, she stumbles upon a mystical creature foretelling ill tidings.

A terrifying force of evil.

Daemus’ recurring nightmare vision threatens to catapult him into a terrifying struggle that will leave the fate of the Keepers—and the realm—hanging in the balance. Daemus and Princess Addilyn must set out to face the menace that threatens their very existence.

Will the entire realm fall to its knees?

The Last Keeper is the first book in The Warminster Series. With gripping, epic action and heart-pounding adventure, you’ll love this new adventure series.

Review: Keith Cox – A Caring Life

A Caring Life
What fifty years in nursing has taught me about humanity, compassion and community
Keith Cox

“As a nurse for nearly fifty years, Keith Cox provided expert care and comfort to countless people facing the unimaginable…Over the years, Keith has seen dramatic advances in medical treatment, as well as the limits of what medical intervention can achieve – which is why compassion and grace are his guiding principles, both on the ward and in his own life. A Caring Life is the inspirational story of a nursing trailblazer who has learnt firsthand the value of human connection and kindness, in challenging times and in everyday life – and the satisfaction of living a life of service and meaning.”

I requested this novel because I always enjoy memoirs of nurses and health professionals in general (eg. The Jungle Doctor). However, I had expected more stories about Keith’s patients, rather than about Keith himself. That’s not to say that this book wasn’t good, just that it was different to what I was expecting.

I was fascinated by the development of cancer treatments over the last 50-80 years and how what used to be a rapid death sentence has become longer years of living and even maybe complete remission for cancer sufferers. However, this is not true of all cancers, and there are still very rapid deaths.

At times this memoir was lighthearted, and at others it was heartbreaking and almost brought me to tears. Keith’s approach to patients and their families is something that I aim to channel in my own teaching. It’s never just about the content or the treatment, it should always be compassionate care that looks at a whole person rather than just one element of them.

Despite Keith being a relatively more religious man than many other Australians, this doesn’t come through in the novel – it’s mentioned, but never takes center stage. It seems as if the only important thing to come out is compassion and care – the book is named very appropriately. This book is worthy to be placed on any family bookshelf that has a nurse or cancer survivor in it.

Pan Macmillan | 26th April 2022 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Review: Sascha Rothchild – blood sugar

blood sugar
Sascha Rothchild

Ruby is facing a lineup of four photos – each one is of a person is dead, and she’s responsible for three of them. She doesn’t feel any guilt, so why should she be prosecuted? And she didn’t kill the one that she’s most likely to stand trial for…

This book unfolds slowly and juicily in a way that you can’t help think the same way as Ruby about each of the deaths. She’s so smart, and so not a serial killer! It’s very difficult for me to write a review, because I don’t want to spoil anything. You’ll be happy to know that the blurb doesn’t really give much away, so you will be guessing along with the police.

Look at that lovely jacket art. Provided that you’ve not read the summary on Goodreads (which gives waaayyy too much away) you’ll be like me – wondering why it’s called blood sugar. You won’t be disappointed. Ruby’s fragmented narrative is reliable yet skewed at the same time. The navel gazing she does is interesting, and left me thinking about whether anyone else has been getting away with murder in regular life! I’d have to think so.

There’s a bit of specific legalese here that some readers might be able to pick apart better than I. I was so attached to Ruby that I was too busy digesting her justifications to do anything except keep reading. The time perspective jumped around a bit, but I tolerated it quite well because I was entirely stuck into the story.

If you enjoy a thriller but hate jump scares and the feeling that the murderer might live next door, this novel is for you! The murders are all in the past, and so it feels perfectly ok to be reading this in the dark past your bedtime. I feel a strong need to share this novel with everyone! Go buy a copy, and then buy one for a friend so that you can both discuss it together. I’m giving it 5 stars, and when I’ve forgotten the plot enough I’ll read it again.

Hachette | 26th April 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Diagnosis Normal – Emma A Jane

Diagnosis Normal
Emma A Jane

“Combining brilliant storytelling with rigorous research, Diagnosis Normal is an incisive and darkly funny memoir from journalist turned academic Emma Jane. ‘I have three gears: glum melancholy, inappropriate outbursts, and extreme slapstick. On a good day, I can pass as normal but not for too many minutes. I’m what most people would regard as a hardened introvert . . . I like other people. I’m just not very good at them.’”

This book was pretty mind-blowing. I found myself connecting with Emma perhaps even a little too closely. The way that she approaches storytelling is just like her personality – powerful and confusing and detailed all at the same time. I couldn’t read this all in one go, I needed to take my time and sip it in small gulps to give myself enough time to really think about the implications of the work.

Buy this for the people in your life who don’t believe or can’t understand what gender fluidity, autism and abuse can have on a human who appears fine. It’s a deep insight into just one human psyche and what that can look like. It’s not comfortable to read, and the line about being not being good with people resonated with me. I am better able to interpret other people from reading this book.

If you are looking for a fictional #ownvoices autism novel, then can I suggest Helen Hoang? It’s still insightful, but not nearly as full-on as this book. Normalising things is not normal! The human brain is a little crazy, and we indeed understand very little about it.

I don’t usually read non-fiction publications such as those that Emma A Jane writes in her scholarly work, but if the strength of personality and impactful writing is anything to go by, I should get my hands on those as well. If this was fiction, I’d give it 5 stars!

Penguin | 1st March 2022 | AU$34.99 | paperback

Interview with Kim Hays

An Interview with Kim Hays, author of Pesticide

Kim Hays lives in Bern, Switzerland. Her police procedural Pesticide, the first mystery in the Polizei Bern series, will be published on April 19 by Seventh Street Books. Award-winning author Deborah Crombie has called it “a stand-out debut for 2022.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

My favorite dragon was created by a great science fiction and fantasy writer, Ursula K. LeGuin. He appears in the third volume of her Earthsea Trilogy, The Farthest Shore, as the companion of Ged, the Wizard of Earthsea, and his name is Orm Embar.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I haven’t abandoned a novel—yet—but I have abandoned a non-fiction book I wanted to write about child-raising with my mother; it was going to be full of anecdotes about both own experiences as mothers. I wrote five chapters, we made a little progress, and then it became clear that my mother was developing dementia. That was eighteen years ago, and I can’t imagine going back to the project today.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I’d say that I’m not as likely to fall in love with my own words. Now that I’ve done extensive revisions on my manuscripts and seen how much editing improves a book, I’m better at criticizing my work and accepting criticism from others. Part of why I’m less defensive is because I’m more confident in my ability to edit, which means that I can write faster and more assuredly on a first draft, knowing that I’ll be able to identify and work on problems once I’ve gotten the whole story on paper.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Many well-known and very successful mystery writers—including authors whose books I enjoy very much—are able to produce a book a year (or more!). I am awed by this talent. I can’t imagine producing anything worth publishing in less than two years. It’s not so much a question of letting ideas percolate as taking the time to revise drafts.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

In this respect I’m extremely prosaic. I always write at my desk on a keyboard in front of a computer screen; just about the only thing I ever write by hand is a letter of condolence! I can still remember how hard it was during my senior year of college to switch from writing an essay longhand to composing on a typewriter and how proud I was when wrote my senior essay on my little Olivetti.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

My sister is a lovingly dedicated reader of my manuscripts and is happy to read several drafts of the same book, which is way above and beyond the call of duty.  The only problem is that she almost never objects to anything.  So she’s terrific for my self-esteem but not necessarily the best person to ask for critical feedback. Luckily, I also have a wonderful writer friend, Clare O’Dea, who is an excellent beta-reader, because she has more distance.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I have a husband who hates clutter, and an apartment with too many books easily becomes very messy. So I buy 90% of my books from Amazon for my Kindle, and they take up no space at all.  Now it’s easy to bring a selection of books with me in my purse, onto an airplane, or on vacation, and my bookshelves are still full but not spilling over.  Library books are another great solution. My mother was a librarian, so perhaps that’s why I love libraries.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I think it would be a good thing to be able to say that my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older and wiser, but it wouldn’t be true. I gobbled up mysteries, romances, fantasy, science fiction, and just-plain-novels as a teenager, and that’s what I read today. I even read some contemporary young-adult fiction, since it can be as well-written and gripping as any adult novel. The only difference is that since I have much less reading time as an adult, I’ve become pickier: if I’m not absorbed after fifty pages, I move on to something else. So many books, so little time! [Rose’s note: Yes! So many fabulous books out there, and never enough time to read them all.]

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Because I’ve never used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or any other social media platform in my private life, I’m having trouble integrating even one of them into my professional life as a mystery writer. I’m happy to have a website with a blog to post on regularly, but writing on these other platforms doesn’t seem meaningful to me. Who exactly am I speaking to and what is my purpose? But I’m hoping to change my mind over the next year or two and get more comfortable with the idea of tweeting. At least I’ve stopped calling it “twittering.”

About the Novel

Murder. Forbidden love. Social upheaval. Kim Hays debut novel Pesticide has it all. . .

Bern, Switzerland—known for its narrow cobblestone streets, decorative fountains, and striking towers. Yet dark currents run through this charming medieval city and beyond, to the idyllic farmlands that surround it.

When a rave on a hot summer night erupts into violent riots, a young man is found the next morning bludgeoned to death with a policeman’s club. Seasoned detective Giuliana Linder is assigned to the case. That same day, an elderly organic farmer turns up dead and drenched with pesticide. Enter Giuliana’s younger—and distractingly attractive—colleague Renzo Donatelli to investigate the second murder. Giuliana’s disappointment that they’re on two different cases is tinged with relief—her home life is complicated enough without the risk of a fling.

But when an unexpected discovery ties the two victims into a single case, Giuliana and Renzo are thrown closer together than ever before. Dangerously close. Will Giuliana be able to handle the threats to her marriage and to her assumptions about the police? If she wants to prevent another murder, she’ll have to put her life on the line—and her principles. Combining suspense and romance, this debut mystery in the Polizei Bern series offers a distinctive picture of the Swiss. An inventive tale, packed with surprises, it will keep readers guessing until the end.

Review: Hilde Hinton – A Solitary Walk on the Moon

A Solitary Walk on the Moon by Hilde Hinton

“Evelyn went to the third drawer down in her dresser. It was her drawer of things past … she had an item from each of her previous lives. Evelyn was good at reinventing herself, becoming who she was going to be next, but she still kept one thing from each life. Never two.”

I usually write my own little blurb about a novel, but this one was so bland and boring I struggled to review it. While I connected a little with the main character, ultimately I didn’t enjoy the book. I kept reading because I thought that things would get better! But they didn’t.

This is truly one of those novels that needs the label on the front cover that says “a novel” because that’s all it was. I never really understood Evelyn, or her impetuous need to do some things that were ‘wrong’. I couldn’t work out what was consistent in her life, apart from a drawer of objects we hardly learnt about. I never really understood her quirks so I was frustrated by this whole novel.

I think it’s cute that she set them up with the family but I don’t understand why she left. Does this not happen every time? She was disgustingly sneaky at times, and it’s a bit creepy the way she followed people home. The novel left me asking ‘why’ to anything and everything in it.

I finished this novel out of a sense of duty. I’m not even sure who the target market is. It’s not particularly offensive, but it’s not remarkable either. I finished it, but I much would have rather used my time on something more compelling and more educational.

Hachette | 30 March 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Dolen Perkins-Valdez – Take My Hand

Take My Hand
Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Civil Townsend becomes a nurse because she knows that nurses have a more caring role than doctors. She wants to change the world, and she thinks that her first job working at the Montgomery (AL) Family Planning Clinic in 1973 is the right place to start. Little does she know that there’s a lot more happening behind the scenes.

I almost immediately connected with Civil as the protagonist, even though I already knew the future. It was an interesting look into history (again!) I found myself doing a lot of detailed reading after finishing it, because I wanted to know how much was truth – which was actually quite a lot. The story is interesting enough to keep reading, but there’s nothing mind-blowing in the telling.

I think I am going to have an unpopular opinion here. I don’t understand why people insist on having biological offspring. World fertility is decreasing, and although women are less likely to be sterilized (it seems that this practice is still happening in some countries), the decrease in fertility (particularly in Western countries) means that IVF is becoming the norm, rather than an exception. Thus this is still happening – those with money can afford biological or adoptive children, while others have ‘nothing’. I don’t have a right answer.

Again, I didn’t really have anything against this novel, but I also wasn’t astounded by it. While I did vaguely want to keep reading it, it was easy to put down – because the ending seemed foretold. I actually felt pretty irritated by the apology tour that set the frame for the novel – I would have found it more powerful if I didn’t know the future. 3 stars.

Hachette | 12 April 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Kate Thompson – The Little Wartime Library

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

In a tale stranger than fiction, a wartime library in London was set up in the underground train tracks of the famous Tube. In this fictional retelling, Clara Button is the librarian who is keeping the strange little community together despite being the wrong gender and being supported by the larger-than-life PTSD suffering Ruby.

I really enjoyed this novel! I couldn’t see myself as either of the main characters, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t sympathize with them. I liked learning about their little quirks, and I was absolutely most invested in Clara’s continued tenure as the librarian. I think the choice to include more than one perspective really worked here, even though I usually complain about it.

I didn’t have any expectation that things would turn out OK. I was fine with the ending maybe not ending up the way that it did. That being said, I would have been devastated if anything had happened to those books. I’m a reader and I love libraries – a library can be the first step to education, and education can be a way out of poverty. How dare the library be bombed in the first place!

I think I’ve learned more about history from reading this fictional novel than I ever have from reading about history or being taught in school.  This novel was an interesting insight into the war. It’s kind of strange to think that such a thing would occur, because it would be unlikely to happen in Australia. Compared to Europe, we’re so spread out and there’s lots of places to go – perhaps everyone would just head to Uluru! For a similar novel, try The Kitchen Front.

Hachette | 14 February 2022 | AU$32.99 | paperback