Sunday, September 20, 2015

Talk Under Water by Kathryn Lomer

Title: Talk Under Water
Author: Kathryn Lomer

Release Date: 29th July 2015

My Rating: 5/5

Will and Summer meet online and strike up a friendship based on coincidence. Summer lives in Will's old hometown, Kettering, a small Tasmanian coastal community. Summer isn't telling the whole truth about herself, but figures it doesn't matter if they never see each other in person, right? 

When Will returns to Kettering, the two finally meet and Summer can no longer hide her secret – she is deaf. Can Summer and Will find a way to be friends in person even though they speak a completely different language?

In a Nutshell:
Talk Under Water has lovely, refreshing characters was an absolute joy to read, putting a smile on my face and leaving me feeling content and hopeful for the future.

My Review:
After striking up a conversation via the Facebook fan page of teenage sailor Jessica Watson, Aussie teenagers Will and Summer begin emailing back and forth. It so happens that Summer lives in the small, coastal town of Kettering on the south-east of Tasmania (yep, it’s real), the place Will used to live before his dad decided they would sail up the Australian east-coast after his mum left them.

With a mutual love of sailing, fishing, animals and the outdoors, Will and Summer hit it off, exchanging photos and writing about their lives. At the same time, sick of moving around and missing his old life back in Kettering, Will sets about convincing his depressed dad that it’s time to go home. And then much to Summer’s surprise, Will turns up on her doorstep, but it doesn’t quite go as Will had envisioned.

Having omitted the fact she is Deaf, and also sending a picture of her older sister, Summer is mortified at actually meeting the boy she never expected to chat with beyond email. As she tries to explain, sometimes it's just easier to be someone else. However, Will is hurt by the deception and doesn’t understand how someone he thought was his friend could lie about such a significant fact.

The story is told from alternating perspectives and is also littered with the emails through which Summer and Will often communicate. Every now and then there is a mistake in Summer’s writing, serving as a good reminder that English is actually a second language for her, something I am embarrassed to say I never actually considered before reading Talk Under Water.

I adore the characters of Will and Summer. Summer is this awesome girl who is always up for giving something a go. Her dad died 8 years ago but she always holds on to the valuable life lessons he taught her in the short time they had together. She doesn't see her profound hearing loss as a disability, so why should anyone else? I love Summer’s excitement each time she accomplishes something new and things she thought she might never have the opportunity to try. She doesn’t have any resentment at not being able to hear and doesn’t see herself as disabled, yet she still sometimes battles will how society perceives her as different to the hearing public. I particularly love a scene when Summer is at a music concert and she’s enjoying herself just as much, if not more, than every one else. Will’s description as he watches her move and experience the musical vibrations is perfect.

“Mum says it’s ok to have butterflies anyway, but the trick is to get them flying in formation”

Will isn’t your typical swoony YA boy, but at the same time, he totally is. He’s the nice guy who’s thoughtful and open to new experiences. His upbringing means he’s down to earth and mature from the independence and responsibility he has gained from sailing with his father. His initial reaction to Summer’s hearing loss is to question how on earth they’ll communicate, but he soon realises that there is no reason for it to be a barrier to their friendship. When many people, especially teenage boys, would probably give up on a friendship because it’s ‘too hard’, Will takes it in his stride and secretly starts going to AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) classes.

“Summer laughs. I haven’t heard her laugh before. It’s an interesting laugh, somewhere between a gurgle and a chortle. A churgle? A gortle?”

I also really enjoyed the underlying dynamic between Summer and her mum, and Will and his dad. All four characters are working through different forms of heartache and I think they all help each other to heal as they realise different things about themselves, and become more open to what new things life throws their way.

It is so wonderful to have a teenage girl with a hearing loss as the main character. One of my best friends grew up with a moderate hearing loss and when I told her about this book, she said she wished there had been a book like it when she was in her early teens. As someone who was always immersed in books, she remembers her surprise and delight when she discovered Gavin, a Deaf character in John Marsden’s Tomorrow Series. She had never found a hearing impaired character, let alone a teenager, in any of her books, despite being widely read. Now an audiologist, she’d appreciate any recommendations of other children’s and YA books featuring a character with a hearing impairment that she can pass on to her young clients. Leave a comment below if any come to mind (we’re already aware of Wonder and Five Flavours of Dumb).

To see a part of your life reflected in popular culture is one of the most precious gifts we can give young people. Many people immerse themselves in books when they feel alone and as a way of coping with the trials of adolescents. We read so we are not alone and for a young adult to be constantly reading stories where there is no hint of a reflection of themselves, it can make growing up that much harder. This is why the We Need Diverse Books campaign is so incredible important, so that the many diverse lives that exist are reflected in young adult literature.

I really, really enjoyed Talk Under Water and highly recommend it. I definitely think it should be available in all schools and libraries as it is such an important story and point of view to share considering 20 000 Aussie children and young adults are estimated to have some form of a hearing impairment (Source). I love that Will helps Summer realise what she is capable of and that she can grab the opportunities in the world with both hands. It has lovely, refreshing characters and was an absolute joy to read, putting a smile on my face and leaving me feeling content and hopeful for the future.

Thank you to the University of Queensland Press for this review copy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood :: Blog Tour Review and Giveaway

Title: Cloudwish
Author: Fiona Wood

Companion Novels: Six Impossible Things, Wildlife

Release Date: 1st September 2015

My Rating: 4/5


For Vân Uoc Phan, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing, or pointless. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, for example? Pointless. It always left her feeling sick, as though she'd eaten too much sugar.

Vân Uoc doesn't believe in fairies, zombies, vampires, Father Christmas - or magic wishes. She believes in keeping a low profile: real life will start when school finishes. 

But when she attracts the attention of Billy Gardiner, she finds herself in an unwelcome spotlight. 

Not even Jane Eyre can help her now. 

Wishes were not a thing.

They were not.


Wishes were a thing.

Wishes that came true were sometimes a thing.

Wishes that came true because of magic were not a thing!

Were they?

In A Nutshell:
"Yay, new Fiona Wood!"... *calm down, take a deep breath* ... "Omigod, new Fiona Wood!"... *a stampede occurs to secure a copy*

My Review:
Fiona Wood’s latest novel, Cloudwish, picks up where her second book concluded. Now in Year 11 at Crowthorne Grammar, our favourite characters, Lou, Michael and Sibylla, take a step back and play supporting roles to the main character, Van Uoc, who had a minor appearance in Wildlife.

Van Uoc’s story begins when she inadvertently makes a wish when holding a glass vial marked ‘wish’, found in a visiting author’s creative writing ‘inspiration box’. Somehow, the vial mysteriously disappears and Van Uoc thinks nothing of it except for her distress that she can’t return the item to the author.

When Billy Gardiner, the subject of her wish, starts paying attention to her that very same day, Van Uoc initially thinks she is the butt of his latest joke, until no joke is made. Billy is constantly popping up and Van Uoc’s carefully strategized existence of staying under the high school radar is suddenly null and void. Suddenly, people are staring at her and the rumour mill lights up. Matters are only made worse when she incurs the wrath of super-bitch Holly, who makes it her mission to tear Van Uoc down.

Van Uoc is left wondering if her wish has actually come true, and if it has, how can she reverse it? Because no one wants to be with someone if the feelings aren’t real, do they?

Van Uoc’s parents sought asylum in Australia 30 years ago following the Vietnam War. This background provides a place for Wood to highlight some of the shameful behaviours displayed in Australia toward people seeking asylum, something that has been occurring for as long as I can remember.

Van Uoc’s frustrations at the way current asylum seekers are treated and viewed, as well as the first generation Vietnamese-Australian kids, is prominent throughout the book. This is such an important perspective to be shown, particularly given its constant debate in Australian politics, and it highlights the misconceptions associated with asylum seekers and refugees, and specifically how Van Uoc is perceived at school. As Holly likes to remind her, Van Uoc is seen by some of the students and their families as the ‘poor, Asian Scholarship Kid’. This class elitism and snobbery frustrates Van Uoc who has worked so hard for everything and she can’t understand why a person’s worth is decided by how much money they have.

It is so important to see a diverse range of characters in books, and in particular as the main character. This is not only so readers understand that there are many different ways of life, but also so that those who may not be part of the majority are able to see their life represented, reflected and validated.

Cloudwish is the third companion novel in Fiona Wood’s collection, following Six Impossible Things and Wildlife. Like the others, Cloudwish is filled with characters you (mostly) want to be friends with and consists of a story about family, friendship, standing up for others and believing in yourself.

Thank you to Macmillan for this review copy.


Thanks to the lovely people at Macmillan Australia, I have a copy of Cloudwish to give away to one lucky reader!
The giveaway is only open to Australian residents (Apologies to international readers!) and the winner will be contacted after 30th September 2015.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Tales Compendium is now on Instagram!

Hello lovely readers!

I just wanted to take moment to let you all know that The Tales Compendium now has an Instagram account!

I'd been thinking about making one for a while and finally decided to just go ahead and do it. I'm having so much fun creating posts and revisiting some of my favourite books. It also means I'm able to share things daily as opposed to the one review or less per week I've been managing on the blog of late. Don't worry, the blog is here to stay! The Instagram is just another way to share the love on a more regular basis.

So if you're interested, you can find me at 

And if you have your own bookstagram, please leave it in the comments below and I'll check it out!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness

Release Date: 27th August 2015

My Rating: 4/5

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshiped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

In A Nutshell:
The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the story of the kids who aren’t the ones chosen to save the world whenever a supernatural phenomenon occurs. It’s the story of characters who show great loyalty and love towards their friends and demonstrate that there are many different definitions as to what makes someone a hero. You don’t have to be everyone’s ‘Chosen One’, but you can be someone’s.

My Review:
In the interest of full disclosure, The Rest of Us Just Live Here is my first foray into the writing of Patrick Ness. I know, I’m a little behind the times and my friend has been trying to get me to read the Chaos Walking trilogy for the last 6 years. But that’s another story. My point is, I had high expectations because of how well regarded Ness is amongst bookish people, but I had no idea as to what style of writing I would encounter. And I was a little confused after reading the first chapter. But after finishing the second chapter, I realised what was going on, remembered what the book was about, and continued on to read the whole book in one sitting. Below is the letter I received with my ARC explaining why Ness wrote the story.

At the beginning of each chapter is a very brief summary of what is happening in the lives of ‘The Chosen Ones’, which in this story, is highlighted as always being one of the ‘indie kids’. The paragraph is summed up in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, which had me asking what in the world was going on and thinking these characters were just weird.  However, the rest of the chapter then gets into the real story, which is what is happening in the lives of the rest of the kids in town.

These are the kids who know something odd is going on in their small town but have their own problems to deal with and all they really want to do is get through the rest of the school year, graduate and get out of town. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the story of those kids, the ones who see the great big flashes of light or the odd behaviour exhibited by the possessed. They remember the brief zombie invasion a few years back and they recognise the world is just that bit weird, even though most of the town just prefers to ignore what is going on around them. It’s the untold story of what happens to everyone else while the world is ending.

The book is based around Mikey, his sister Mel, and friends Jared and Henna. Their story starts with them lying in the field behind Mikey and Mel’s house, debating the validity of the way your stomach flip flops when you see someone you like, and questioning what you feel and how you act on those feelings. Essentially, discussing the way we make choices in life. It’s a relatable situation experienced by everyone at some point in his or her life and it is a good way to start off the story by showing that these are just your average teenagers.

This is a book for those who are sick of all the ‘Chosen One’ stories out there. Who want to read about the ‘normal’ kids who just want to get through the year, having survived the soul-eating ghost phenomenon the previous year. In this case, our characters have their own troubles to deal with, problems that make life a struggle without some supernatural entity trying to end the world. Mikey and Mel have a passive, alcoholic father and a political, power-hungry mother. Mel is recovering from an eating disorder that nearly killed her which was triggered by their mother and the Press after a publicity photo-shoot. Mikey is trying to overcome his anxiety and OCD, which is once again making an appearance since their mother’s latest announcement.

And as for their friends, Jared is trying navigate the possibility of a male relationship in their small town as well as understand what it means to be the God of mountain lions, the result of having a God for a grandmother, just another side effect from the bizarre things that happen. Meanwhile, Henna is trying to convince her missionary parents that running off to a war zone is not the best idea for a family vacation before college.

There is a big focus on loyalty and helping each other through life because sometimes, friends are the only ones you can turn to/count on. This focus also applies to the brother/sister relationship between Mikey and Mel and how caring and encouraging they are of each other. They are one of my favourite depictions of siblings found in a YA novel.

Throughout their last few weeks of high school, a few home truths are revealed about friendships, relationships are salvaged, and lives are put in danger when the latest supernatural phenomenon occurs. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a page-turner with characters you will love and just want to see succeed.    

Thank you to Walker Books Australia for this review copy.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

You're the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About by Daniel Herborn

Title: You're the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About
Author: Daniel Herborn

Release Date: 1st May 2015

Rating: 4/5

Tim’s a young singer-songwriter with a guitar case full of songs and dreams of finding an audience to embrace his tunes. 

Mandy’s obsessed with music and a compulsive dreamer. She’s longing for something more fulfilling than daytime TV and cups of tea with best friend Alice, something like the excitement and passion of rock ’n’ roll.

When their eyes meet at a gig, sparks fly across a crowded room and hope burns in their hearts.

But in a city of millions and a scene overrun with wannabes, can they ever get it together? Will Mandy’s nerves doom their romance before it even starts? And where does the darkness in Tim's songs come from?

This is a story of Sydney's Inner West, of first love, crush bands and mix tapes; of the thrill of the night and what happens when the music stops.

In A Nutshell:
A book about first love, friendship, finding your way, drinking tea, music, and all that music inspires.

My Review:
Mandy and Tim are eighteen year olds from the inner western suburbs of Sydney who meet expectantly at a gig one night. Both are hooked instantly but neither does much about it and leave without swapping so much as a phone number. An electrifying night fizzles with that all too familiar feeling of, “Why on earth didn’t I do something?!”

You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About features two of my favourite things: Boys who play guitar and live music gigs. AND it’s Aussie YA. So it had three big ticks before I even opened the first page. Living up to my high expectations, You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About didn’t disappoint.

When she isn’t working at a sandwich bar, Mandy spends her days watching daytime TV, having deferred university with the plan to travel before picking a major. In the evenings, more often than not, she and her best friend Alice can be found at local pubs on the lookout for musicians who can invigorate their love of music.

“Would it have made a difference? Or would I still be me, adrift in some other time, waiting for my life to begin, wondering when inspiration will strike?”

Tim is repeating year twelve and living with his uncle after events from the previous year contributed to his less than stellar results. The reader doesn’t know what happened (although there are very small hints throughout the book) until Tim reveals all to Mandy about 2/3 through. In his spare time, Tim writes and plays music, sometimes performing in competitions and solo shows in grungy pubs and bars, searching for the elusive crowd that actually cares about what he has to say within his music.

“I guess it seems weird to write a song about someone I don’t know, but that’s kind of what songs are: they’re secrets made public” 

Told in alternating chapters from Mandy and Tim’s perspectives, You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About is a story about having friends and people who support and believe in you even if they have no idea what they want to do either. Because life is a crazy mish-mash of thoughts, ideas and surprises and you never know what will happen next. 

“We might be an unlikely couple, but I’m starting to think that’s the best kind.”

There were so many sweet, tender and emotional moments mixed in with the confusion and frustrations of life and I certainly had my fair share of smiley, happy, reading moments. As much as I loved the characters of Mandy and Tim, I also really appreciated Alice, who comes as a “package deal” with Mandy, or as Tim describes her, “an added bonus”. On the outside Alice seems like she has it all together: at uni studying something she loves, working in a bookstore, attending gigs with her bestie, and rocking her own quirky style. But she too has things in her life to deal with and it made me so happy to see her light up during the absolutely adorableness of her interactions with Justin, a boy from uni (that is not to imply that all her problems magically disappear because of a boy – they are just really sweet moments and I like seeing her character smile).

“I unwrap the parcel and it’s a mixtape Tim has made for me. Cute boys making me mixtapes has always been my sad secret fantasy, the thing I’m too cool to admit I wanted.”

As you would expect, there are plenty of musical mentions throughout the book which no doubt are inspired by the author, Daniel Herborn’s, own love of music. I only knew of some of the artists/bands but it didn’t matter and it gave me a plethora of new music to investigate. 

You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About has a distinctive Australian feel to it. It’s a feeling, I think, to do with the writing style but I’ve never been able to put my finger on or articulate it. It’s not the fact that it is set in Australia, although that does have something to do with it, but it’s something more, an ‘essence’ or something that resonates with me. Like I said, I’ve never been able to figure it out but I’ve had the same strong feeling while reading a few select Aussie YA books, including Guitar Highway Rose, Swerve, Friday Brown and A Straight Line to My Heart. I love that You’re the Kind of Girl I Write Songs About has joined this elusive, personal list.

“Not for the first time, I feel some stupid urge to write songs about her, to make people see her as I do.”

A book about first love, friendship, finding your way, drinking tea, music, and all that music inspires.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...