Hello, I’m so sorry for missing October, life just got in the way and before I knew it poof, the first Wednesday disappeared into a time vortex. But this is a super post, and possibly the last because AWW is changing direction next year. I may do a final roundup at the end of the month, but will have to see how things fit in.

This is from the about section on the AWW website and just lets you know the direction that we are going from next year.

The Australian Women Writers website began life as a reading and reviewing challenge in 2012. Its purpose was to promote reviewing of books by Australian women and was inspired, in part, by the statistical evidence supplied by the VIDA report, and later the Stella Count, that works by women were less likely than works by men to be reviewed in mainstream media and literary journals.

The AWW reading and reviewing challenge lasted for 10 years and helped to bring attention to works by Australian women in all genres. The challenge was initially coordinated by Elizabeth Lhuede and later by Theresa Smith, and along the way many bloggers, authors and academics have played a part in the project. You can find a list of past AWW team members here.

From 2022, the website will no longer host a challenge for works by contemporary authors, but will instead focus on 19th- and 20th-century authors who may not have achieved prominence in their lifetimes, or whose works have been forgotten and/or overlooked. The reading and reviewing activity initiated by the challenge will continue in our Facebook groups, Love Reading Books by Aussie Women and Australian Women Writers News and Events.”

So, on to the books reviewed for October and November, there were 23 books reviewed with two new releases being standouts in the number of reviews linked, I’ve put these last so as other books get a look-in.

DarkSkull Hall (The Mage Chronicles, #1)Darkskull Hall (The Mage Chronicles #1) by Lisa Cassidy was reviewed by Angharad @Tinted Edges who says “This is a readable book and Cassidy captures the voice of a teenage girl struggling with the abrupt transition from her previously pampered life. I enjoyed the gradual character development and while it is incremental, Cassidy does a good job of showing how the experience of Darkskull Hall, and loss of trust as a result, irreparably changes who Alyx is as a person. One thing that was incredibly refreshing was that Cassidy actually clearly knows a thing or two about horses, unlike some other fantasy novels I’ve read recently. This isn’t a particularly ground-breaking example of the genre, and plenty of the hallmarks of a typical fantasy novel were there: magic school, yet-to-be-discovered magical talent, war with neighbouring country, irritatingly and unnecessarily vague teacher. Reading this, I had the sense that despite the diversity of the characters, the world is quite small and we don’t get much sense of different languages, cultures and geographies. I am sure the world gets explored more in later books. I wasn’t sure after reading this book whether I would read the next in the series, but I was pleasantly surprised that it really got under my skin. This is, at heart, a character-driven book and I kept finding myself thinking about them after the book was finished.”

Eleni reviewed Shaw (Hell Squad #7)  by Anna Hackett and says “Action, battles with aliens, love, loyalty, survival- this series is what you want in a sci-fi romance.” This is a series that has been on my TBR pile for far too long, maybe 2022 will be the year I get to read it.

Veronica reviewed Resistance (Divided Elements #1) by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky and says “‘Resistance’ is the evocative cry of the heterodoxy in this brilliant dystopian story. Set in the walled city-state of future Paris is the new world order of Orthodoxy. Kopiesvsky has created a stark, sharp and complex society with four neuro-social classes. This unique concept of the Divided Elements is well contrived and delivered seamlessly throughout the book. The world-building is clear, the politics, the power plays, economics, cuisine, social settings, all slide effortlessly into place around the well-drawn characters.
Initially, I found it challenging to be only behind the eyes and mind of Anaiya, but I liked the thread of her staccato rhythm as a Fire Elemental, then the softer, more fluid Air Elemental thinking.
This is not a standard dystopian exploration of a reimagined society, it’s dark, clever, compelling, and thought-provoking.
A great read.”

Eleni also reviewed Unforgotten (The Fallen Guardians #2) by Cassie Laelyn, a series I myself really enjoyed, she says “Thoroughly enjoyed delving further into this world with soulmates who have been apart for too long. Their love does indeed goes to their souls and there’s an all-encompassing sweetness to their love – as well as great sex.”

The Heartsong of Wonder QuinnThe Book Muse reviewed middle-grade novel The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon she says “This book made me smile and cry in its beautiful simplicity to explore the gently heartbreaking friendship of Wonder and Mabel – where secrets always seem to live, yet in many ways, I felt like Mabel and Wonder understood each other without having to reveal too many secrets about themselves to each other, and Kate allowed these aspects of the characters to play out on the page through the actions of the characters, leading to an ending that I did not see coming, and where hope and heartbreak were united. Readers aged seven and older will enjoy this book.”

Another middle-grade book reviewed was Snotlings by Tarryn Mallick, this was reviewed by The Burgeoning Bookshelf and they said “Snotlings is an adventure-filled story about a tiny civilisation that lived in Jackson’s nostril. They ate dust and battled germs. When one of the snotlings, Mucuszar, goes rogue and enlists the germs to take over Jackson’s Immune system he spends a  lot of time homesick. Mucuszar is not happy only making Jackson sick, he wants to take over the world starting with Sydney. Snotlings is the highly imaginative and extremely descriptive debut novel by Tarryn Mallick. This science-fiction tale brings the snotlings and their world into the world of Jackson and his friends. There is plenty of action and danger in both narratives to keep the reader entertained. A fun addition to the story is finding the tiny illustrated snotling hidden in each chapter.”

And now to the two novels with multiple reviews.

The HushSara Foster’s The Hush was reviewed by 5 people, all who agree it was one hell of a read. Cloggie Downunder says “The near-future that Foster describes does not stretch the imagination very far at all: compulsory wearing of government-issue smart watches that track and monitor; laws that restrict freedoms surreptitiously passed; a much-worsened climate crisis; corrupt, greedy politicians; all are realistically depicted. 
Her characters are believable, the reader is quickly invested in their fate, and it is heartening to see these women support each other in their fight for basic human rights. The story is fast-paced, taking place over a mere eight days, leading up to a nail-biting climax. 
Topical, relevant and entirely credible: this is the best dystopian fiction you will read this year, so gripping that once you pick this up, you won’t want to put it down until the final page.”

Brenda says “Wow! Breathtaking and intense – The Hush by Aussie author Sara Foster is a thriller with bite! What an amazing and original storyline, which is focused on the strength of women when they face adversaries trying to hurt their children. Two particular males made the grade in this story – Dylan and Nick – while the rest and main cast were the women, strong, determined and courageous. The Hush is an outstanding read which I recommend highly.” 

Jackie says “The Hush is fast-paced, well-written and very much set in the here-and-now of this unprecedented time period. It gets additional kudos for me never imagining reading the line: “Inserting the vial of her mother’s urine inside her like a tampon, just as they’d discussed” in a book. I found this book hard to put down.”

Theresa Smith Writes says “I found this novel utterly gripping from start to finish. It was terrifying, to be honest, to see how rapidly a person could lose all their rights, to be so completely at the mercy of the authorities as soon as another crisis reared its head. The plot was layered with a complexity that was both clever and all too plausible. The focus on the control of women’s reproductive rights was also a timely issue to weave into this story and I also liked the sub-focus on the rights of teenagers being infringed. Not quite adults but no longer children, they were in a vulnerable place that the government was all too willing to exploit for their own gain. Sara Foster demonstrated the shocking ease with which a society can strip a woman of all her rights under the guise of ‘keeping her safe and well’. I am aware that there are many countries around the world where this scenario is not dystopian, nor fictitious at all, but an all too real and present danger. There is a lot within this novel to unpack and contemplate. I thought it was excellent. A brave and bold narrative that packs a punch in all the right ways.” 

And Jennifer says “This is a fast-paced dystopian thriller in which a few heroic women work together to try to uncover the truth. Aspects of this novel are uncomfortably plausible in our current pandemic world, and Ms Foster brings her story to life through well-developed very human characters.
An uncomfortable, engrossing and thought-provoking read.”


Devotion by Hannah KentDevotion by Hannah Kent was reviewed by 7 people. Mic Loves Books says “… it is one that will stay with you after the cover is closed.  I did find it hard to really lose myself in the pages, though I also stayed up until 2.30am to finish it so it did capture me. I wonder if it’s safe to say that it captured my heart more than it captured my mind. Devotion is very much a tale of love; of exploring love, the enduring nature of love, the things we do for love. There were some beautiful passages, and some beautiful events that celebrated love in many different forms. Devotion is different, it is an exquisite exploration of character, and of love. It isn’t going to sing the same song to everyone but I’m pretty certain no one who picks it up will be disappointed.” 

Tracey @Carpe Librum says “Beautifully written, Devotion is about love and yearning, the uncertainty of youth and the hardships of the period. Overall, it was an emotionally heavy book to read, but so intricately lyrical at times I felt as though I was intruding on Hanne’s private and innermost thoughts. It also made me wonder whether Kent drew on her own love story in order to create this fictional relationship so convincingly and so heartbreakingly. 
Devotion is the third novel by Hannah Kent and this talented Australian writer has now become an ‘auto read’ author for me, which is rare. Highly recommended for historical fiction readers who have the time and patience to slow down and enjoy a character study about love and devotion.”

Theresa Smith Writes says “There is a supernatural element to this novel that marks it as different to her others. I am not opposed to supernatural threads woven into a story and at times I didn’t mind this one, but at others, I felt it pulling me out of the story. There were times when I just couldn’t envisage what the author was describing and others where I felt it was all just wandering too far from the bones of the story – or at least, what I felt were the bones, which I acknowledge may be different to the author’s intent. One thing that is very much evident though is that this story just pulses with love. I feel like it has been written by someone who has experienced the sort of devotion that the novel is based upon, and that is a very grand thing to be able to express. At its heart, this novel represents love in its highest form, pure and transcending. It’s very raw and at times, heartbreaking, but also illuminating. I’ll be honest, this is not my favourite by Hannah Kent, but any fan of hers will be glad to revisit her writing in this latest offering and I think that each reader’s response will be an entirely individualised one.”

Brenda says “Devotion by Aussie author Hannah Kent is one I was looking forward to, but I found myself overwhelmed at ‘everything’ that was included in this beautifully written book. I feel Devotion would be classified as Literary Fiction (of which I’m not fond), as well as Historical. The descriptions of Hanne and her family’s hardship on the ship, the beauty of her love of nature with the music from the trees and river, Hanne’s familial love for Matthias and much more, made for a special read, but for me, a difficult one.”

Cloggie Downunder says “Once again, Kent gives the reader a masterpiece, a tale of love and grief and steadfastness. She describes a community persecuted for their beliefs, but who, when free to follow those beliefs, display less tolerance than might be hoped. The depth of her research into so many aspects of the lives of such a community is apparent on every page. Emotions are expertly rendered. This is an absolute pleasure to read.”

Jennifer says “There are some magical moments on this horrific journey: Hanne is in touch with nature wherever she is. One of the most memorable scenes is when Hanne, on the deck of the ship, sees a whale breach. She hears the songs in nature and appreciates them. 
And now I will stop telling you about the story because to fully appreciate Ms Kent’s magic, you need to read it unspoiled. The historical setting for this novel is based on the real-life settlement of Old Lutherans at Hahndorf in South Australia’s Barossa Valley. This provides the framework for a beautifully imagined story of transcendent love and devotion.”

Carolyn says “I really enjoy historical fiction based on real events, especially when I learn something new and especially when the author has done their research as meticulously as Hannah Kent. Her descriptions of the hardships these people took in their journey are vividly recreated with a real sense of time and place, from the suppression of their religion in Prussia to their six-month nightmare journey in a cramped, airless ship to their indomitable spirit in building a new life from the ground up in a strange country on the other side of the world. Kent’s writing is always beautiful with a poetic feel to it, particularly when she is describing the natural world that Hanne connects with so readily. Hanne’s love for Thea is at the heart of the novel, but also her love for her family and her community. Overall, a powerful and moving novel that will continue to resonate with me for some time.”

To have a look at the other books which were reviewed during October and November go here. I hope during the last few years I have been doing the Speculative Fiction Round-up, that you have found plenty of wonderful books to read, I know I have. If I don’t do a final round-up later in the month, have a fabulous Christmas and New Year, here’s hoping 2022 is a fabulous year with plenty of great books to be read. Don’t forget to check out the FB page where you can post your reviews and recommendations.