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BOOK LOVE: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Late on a hot summer night in the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress.

Jasper takes him through town and to his secret glade in the bush, and it’s here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper’s horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu. 
And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.

I read Jasper Jones last year, and it instantly became one of my all-time favourite books. It has everything. The central dilemma is brilliant and the characters spring immediately to life – Jeffrey Lu and his family’s stoic endurance of terrible (superbly understated) prejudice have remained incredibly vivid to me twelve months down the line. Furthermore, the dialogue and description are so incisive that I want to take one page at a time and try to break down exactly how Silvey does it. His writing runs like water – racing and eddying and bubbling and dancing, while Silvey masterfully manipulates its flow and charts its course. If you haven’t read Jasper Jones, and you only have time to read one book for the rest of the year, I strongly suggest that you make it this one.

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The Reading Revolution

I am currently reading one of the longest, most talked about books of last year on my smallest new device. Jonathan Frantzen’s Freedom is over two thousand pages long on my iPhone, and it is the first book I have ever downloaded to it. The writing is way too small, and with a wayward swish of the finger I sometimes find myself back on the title page. However, over the last few weeks it has been easy to snatch reading time on car journeys, while waiting in queues for changing rooms, and in the darkness of an aeroplane with a sleeping toddler lying across my lap. And when we all shared a hotel room, hubby and child could go to sleep, and I could still carry on reading in the dark. Hurray!

Since I always want more time to read, it has been great to have such a flexible and portable way of accessing a book. But the rise of the e-book has brought with it some very serious concerns. Bookstores are struggling to maintain a viable market share; publishers are worried about maintaining control of rights; and authors are concerned about impacts on sales and royalty rates. Meanwhile, what is happening to the art of reading itself? Because that cold, hard little phone screen doesn’t encourage me to savour each word in the same way a softly turning page might give me pause. With an e-book you no longer hold a complete work in your hands (does this make the story itself less tangible?). Instead, you can simply switch your book off – or, when you are in the middle of a particularly moving passage, a message pops up over the top reminding you that your battery is dying.  

No, I might venture into e-books now and again, but I desperately need their printed older brothers and sisters to survive too. Let’s hope they can eventually be friends and work together.

Watching the King’s Speech last week served as a great reminder of how quickly things change. All those nervous comments about broadcasting being rather dangerous and distasteful seem so innocent now. And yet, back then, how long would it have taken to get word out about the terrible flooding in Queensland, and all the help needed? In fact, technology has been an incredible ally in the past week, and it’s been inspiring to watch everyone supporting each other.

I’d love to hear what other people think about the rise of e-books. In the meantime, happy reading everybody, in whatever form it takes!

To donate to the Queensland flood appeal, go to http://www.qld.gov.au/floods/donate.html, or check out some fantastic fundraising initiatives set up by writers:

Authors for Queensland: http://authorsforqueensland.wordpress.com/ Signed copies of Come Back to Me and Beneath the Shadows are on there, as well as a fantastic array of signed books, and other writing and reading related services and ideas. You can even bid to get a character named after you in upcoming novels!

Writers on Rafts – Rebecca Sparrow and the Queensland Writers Centre are putting this together, offering more chances to win an amazing host of writing/reading prizes for a small entry fee. Details to follow soon, but you can read about it now on Rebecca’s blog.

PS Look out for the lovely Natasha Lester, my very first guest blogger and author of the fabulous What is Left Over, After, who’ll be featured here next week.

 

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Finding the time to write

Book pages 1An older version of this blog also appeared on the Random House ‘Random Blogs’ website on 8th April 2010

For me, for a long time my writing was my hobby, and as such I would get through everything else first, promising myself writing time later, as some kind of reward. However, it’s far too easy for that time to never arrive. It was only when I dedicated myself to finishing Come Back to Me at the end of 2007 that I really made the strides forward that I needed to then pursue publication. Now I do try to schedule time to write, but it’s not always easy. I have an active one-year-old little girl, all the general aspects of life to keep going, and my husband would quite like some attention sometimes too, I think. I have just finished my second book, and managed it by making the most of the time my little girl was asleep or my husband was here to care for her, as well as having the help of a wonderful childminder for a few hours a week. (Also invaluable was a well-timed visit by my mother!) Although I used to write at all hours of the day, for now I have to make the most of this dedicated, limited time. I usually have lots of scribbled notes to work through by the time each session comes around, as when I’m busy on other things I still make sure to make notes on ideas so that I can refer back to them later.

As with many other writers, it may well be necessary for me to continue my day job of editing to make a living. Then I will not only have to remind myself to make time for my writing, but to work hard to make sure that time actually happens. When the task at hand seems enormous, I also remind myself to just make a start, and that if I keep doing that every day, one day I’ll reach the finish line! And, if I don’t find the time I need, I may have to look hard at the things I am making time for. I once heard a popular fiction writer in England talking about how if you just turned off EastEnders, a prime-time soap opera that runs for half an hour four nights a week, and used the time to write, in six months you would have a book.  It’s worth thinking about.

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Shallow Breath

NEW AUSTRALIAN EDITION

COMING JULY 2017

How far would you go to save someone you love?

Two years ago, Desi Priest made a horrific mistake and destroyed her family.

Now, she is coming home to make amends: to her daughter Maya, who’s nurturing her own dangerous plan; to her brother Jackson, who blames himself; and to her close friend Pete, who has spent years shielding her from a devastating truth.

But as Desi returns to her beloved house by the ocean, there is a stranger waiting for her. Someone who needs her help. Someone whose arrival will reveal a chain of secrets hidden for over twenty years.

And one by one the family will be forced to confront the possibility that they have somehow got things terribly, tragically wrong …

Set across five continents, Shallow Breath is a compelling novel of dashed dreams and second chances. But most of all it is a story about love, and what it really means to be free.

‘Gripping, touching, and close to my heart. I was hooked from start to finish.’

Favel Parrett

Australian ISBN: 978-1925533248

E-book ISBN: 978-1925533255

Available in Australia and New Zealand from this website, and in all good bookstores, including Booktopia, Dymocks and independent retailers.

Shallow Breath by Sara Foster

INTERNATIONAL READERS:

You can find the Kindle international edition of Shallow Breath on all Amazon stores outside Australia (ASIN: BOOCEXVEEW)

If you are overseas and you would like to purchase a print edition, please send a message of enquiry using the Contact form.

Book Group Questions

1. The shoutline of the book is ‘How far would you go to save someone you love?’. How did this resonate for you within the novel?

2. What does the pearl necklace symbolise?

3. Why do you think the author chose to put in one chapter towards the end of the book from Connor’s perspective, when most of the information is found elsewhere or could easily have been added?

4. Discuss Luke’s character and his role within the story.

5. Who was your favourite character? Which characters did you feel the most sympathetic towards, and why?

6. How did you feel about the decisions the characters made towards the end of the book? Are their actions justified? Is it ever okay to do something wrong if it makes something right?

7. ‘The thing that makes you is the thing that breaks you.’ What do you think of Pete’s comment, and how does it apply to the story?

8. Did you like the introduction of a new ‘voice’ in each part? Why do you think the author did this?

9. At the beginning of each part there is a short, italicised section from an unidentified perspective. How do you think these short pieces contribute to the novel? What effect would it have on the story if they were removed?

10. What did you think of the ending? What feelings does this book leave you with?

Reviews

‘Shallow Breath invites breathless anticipation, building towards a shocking climax. It is a really satisfying read.’ www.aussiereviews.com

‘…the steady unveiling of all that lies below the surface is suspenseful, complicated and deeply mired in oceanic metaphors … Foster is a gifted writer who has much to teach us in amongst this intriguing family saga.’ This Charming Mum blog, March 2013

‘a thrilling novel about love and freedom’ Green Lifestyle magazine, Feb/March 2013

‘compelling, emotional and graphic’ 5/5 stars Book Muster Down Under, February 2013

‘Shallow Breath is a beautifully written novel that quite easily draws you in to this somewhat broken family and the fragile relationships that are struggling to knit themselves back together … It further cements Sara Foster as a writer with a real talent for suspense and pacing and the ability to flesh out her novels with characters that are so real you can imagine yourself living next door to them.’ 1Girl2ManyBooks, February 2013

‘… with Western Australian author Sara Foster’s skilled pen, there is a vitality and urgency to the pace of Shallow Breath than catapults the reader right into the heart of the action.’ Australian Women’s Weekly, January 2013

‘set quite uniquely against a fascinating and intelligent backdrop of Australian wildlife and it’s struggle for survival in the modern world’ Australian Women’s Weekly, January 2013

‘…beautifully researched and written with enormous passion … the perfect holiday companion for those wanting to lose themselves in a good story.’ Writing WA review in the West Australian, January 2013

‘The narrative burden shifts between characters, all of whom have winning strengths and credible frailties, and the action emanates from these qualities with effortless suspense and dramatic power…’ Sydney Morning Herald PICK OF THE WEEK, December 2012

‘well-crafted psychological suspense’ Saturday Age PICK OF THE WEEK, December 2012

‘Shallow Breath is a fast-paced read which interweaves drama, intrigue, loss and the fate animals can face at the hands of humans. The author’s clever use of psychological suspense played out in this book reeled me in and delivered the animal conservation message with a powerful punch.’ Port Macquarie News, January 2013

‘SHALLOW BREATH is a modern Australian saga, written by an author who knows how to breathe life into characters. The story reaches through the pages pulling you into its watery depths and when it is over the characters will stay with you as if you’ve connected deeply with new friends.’ An Adventure in Reading, December 2012

‘An engaging novel that is sure to haunt you, this is an absorbing read. Dive into Shallow Breath – you won’t regret it.’ Book’d Out, December 2012

‘…an absorbing novel about the loneliness of secrets and how love yearns to be free of them.’ Canberra Times, December 2012

‘a double whammy of suspense coupled with some nicely nuanced characters…’ Geelong Advertiser, December 2012

‘Foster has such a knack for intrigue and is so engaging with her storytelling…,and this, her third novel – set in her adopted WA – is sharper and more mysterious than ever.’ The West Australian, December 2012

‘another taut, suspenseful read bursting with family secrets and hope…Shallow Breath is one of those books you want to dive into and not come back out of until it’s finished.’ Monique Mulligan, Write Note Reviews

‘a love letter to the ocean’, Bookseller and Publisher, October 2012

‘Gripping, touching and close to my heart. I was hooked from start to finish.’ Favel Parrett

For author interviews and general media, click here

Beneath the Shadows

BTS for webThe absorbing plot of “Beneath the Shadows” shows that a quiet, non-violent mystery can pack a lot of punch.

Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Foster’s captivating story is steeped in secrets locked in attics and hidden in cellars, good sisters, bad sisters, a ghost, a couple of brooding handsome men and almost as many characters with mother issues as a Sophocles play.

Carole Barrowman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Foster’s second page-turning tale of suspense set on the snow-covered moors has something for everyone: mystery, romance, paranormal activity and mortal danger. 

Kirkus Reviews

This is an intricately woven tale inspired by classic stories such as Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. The suspense and unexpected twists will leave you guessing all the way through.

The West Australian

BTS US for webBeneath the Shadows draws together an intriguing mystery, an atmospheric and gloomy setting that steals over you as you read it and an interesting and varied cast of supporting characters to create a psychological thriller that will definitely leave you wanting more from this author!

1girl2manybooks – to read the full review, click here

This is the second Sara Foster book that I have read (it is also her second release – so I now have a bit of a wait to get my Sara Foster fix again), and once again I was mesmerised by Sara’s writing, and completely pulled in by the story.

The Hungry Bookshelf – to read the full review, click here

Sara Foster overtly appropriates the tone, atmosphere and themes of classics from Wuthering Heights to Rebecca, delivering a modern gothic that has the charm and suspense of Susan Hill’s ghost stories.

The Saturday Age, 5 February 2011

…a mystery-suspense novel so thrilling it forces you to burn the midnight oil,

Flourish magazine, 11 February 2011. See full review and interview here.

Beneath the Shadows is full of intrigue and wonderfully dark descriptions of ghosts that haunt the moors.

Good Reading magazine, February 2011. For an online summary, click here.

…merges classicism and contemporary to winning effect.

a book a day till i can stay, #190 – see full review here.

This is an inricately woven tale inspired by classic stories such as Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. The suspense and unexpected twists will leave you guessing all the way through.

Chicklit Club, February 2011. See full review here.

Beneath the Shadows is a tense, suspenseful story of loss, secrets and ghostly presences.

The West Australian, 22 February 2011. See full review here.

When Adam inherits a lonely cottage, he and Grace and their baby move in. Then Adam vanishes. No trace, no clues… A year later, Grace still seeks answers but knows she must move on. The locals are reluctant to offer help, but it comes from an unexpected quarter. As winter snows start to cut them off from the world, Grace finds the answers lie in unsuspected places. Heart stopping moments are ahead for her… and us.

Woman’s Day, 28 February 2011

A year after her husband’s disappearance, Grace returns to their home looking for closure. Set in England’s desolate moors, this page-turner has just the right amount of mystery.

In Style Magazine, March 2011

With spooky clocks, snowstorms, cursed chairs, family secrets, ominous portents, greasy letters written on glass, taciturn locals and a few ghosts, there’s something here for everyone who enjoys a good shiver up the spine. The moors, bleak, beautiful and unforgiving, provide the perfect backdrop.

M/C reviews, April 2011 – to read the full review, click here

If you love a novel with a twist, then Perth writer Sara Foster’s latest novel Beneath the Shadows is the perfect port in a winter storm.

ishoperth, July 2011

…a stunning thriller.

Western Advocate, July 2011

Beneath the Shadows is a great read by a talented Australian author. (5/5 stars)

The Australian Bookshelf – to read the full review, click here

For author interviews and general media, click here