Tag Archives: Book groups

Book Review: Islands by Peggy Frew

I loved Islands. There’s a rhythm of sadness in this beautifully written book as we are led into the lives of various characters and their points of view told in a mix of timelines. The style may not be to everyone’s taste. But my advice is to be patient and perhaps take time to read it to remember everyone.

There was a house on a hill in the city, and it was full, of us, our family, but then it began to empty. We fell out. We made a mess.
We draped ourselves in blame and disappointment and lurched around, bumping into each other. Some of us wailed and shouted; some of us barely made a sound. None of us was listening, or paying attention. And in the middle of it all you, very quietly, were gone.

The Worth family of John and Helen and their young two daughters Junie and Anna could be like any family until Helen has an affair and leaves John. The family begins to splinter slowly in the aftermath of divorce, then completely disintegrates when fifteen-year-old Anna, a troubled and rebellious teen, goes missing. Not knowing how to deal with Anna, Helen decides to give her daughter space, after all, she has taken off before. Blame and tensions arise when Helen fails to report her missing daughter for three days. The unresolved grief about Anna overhangs their lives for years to come.

The landscape is Phillip Island and the imagery is evocative. The house where John’s parents holidayed then retired to is ever-present in the memories of each of the main characters. This imagery is spot on. I know, because I spent my own late teens in a coastal town nearby where my parents owned a holiday house.


“The bald hills crowd in and let go again, and he sails down the last stretch, the flat water below reflecting a half-moon. Past the clustered darkness of the San Remo shops and over the bridge with its tall lights, empty of their daytime perching gulls.”

There are other characters, some of whom you wonder about until the end of their chapter when the connection is revealed.

It’s a remarkable book not just because of the writing but the raw emotion is so moving it stays with you for a long time. Frew’s talent is incredible and I’ll be checking out the rest of her books.

My Reading List for 2018

In my last post I listed the books I read for 2017 and chose my Book of the Year. https://sckarakaltsas.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/books-of-the-year-2017/

It’s time to start compiling the books I want to read in 2018. Some in my list are ones voted on by my book group, some I’ve heard about and others are recommendations.

Let’s see how many I actually get through.

Here goes -:
1. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
2. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
3. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
7. The Choke by Sophie Laguna
8. Force of Nature by Jane Harper
9. City of Crows by Chris Womersely
10. Our Souls of the Night by Kent Haruf
11. The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose
12. Band-aid for a Broken Leg by Damien Brown
13. Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall
14. Conspiracy of Lies by Kathryn Gauci
15. The Horsemen by Tim Pear
16. The Lost Pages by Marija Pericic
17. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
18. Play Abandoned by Garry Disher
19. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
20. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeymoon

No doubt there will a few new releases thrown into the mix as well. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear about them.

It’s my anniversary.

Twelve months ago I launched my debut novel, ‘Climbing the Coconut Tree.’ Three years ago I commenced my writing journey, made a heap of mistakes and learnt a lot along the way.  How time flies.

So how’s it been going?

Here’s my report card on Climbing the Coconut Tree-:

  • It received 23 reviews across various sites.
  • It’s available to buy across UK, Europe, USA, Australia and NZ in print format and across more than 70 worldwide digital platforms including Amazon, Kobo and Apple.
  • E-book sales are 12.6% of my total sales.
  • It’s available in seven libraries and two independent book stores in Melbourne.
  • Three book groups have included it on their list.
  • It’s travelled the length and breadth of Australia, across the Pacific to the US and  Europe in the hands of multiple readers, many of whom have embraced the beach lifestyle and drink of choice, gin and tonic.
  • It’s been spotted with a number of celebrities, including past Presidents, sportspeople and movie stars although they may have been in a wax museum . . . see my earlier post on that one https://sckarakaltsas.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/whos-reading-my-book/

What else is coming?

My collection of short stories, ‘Out of Nowhere’ is completed and once the cover is finalised will be released shortly.

A short story, On the Side of a Hill was recently published in the Monash Writers Anthology. Another called, ‘The Surprise’ was short listed in the Lane Cove Literary Awards in 2016. Both stories will be available in my collection.

I’m also working on another historical novel called, ‘The Perfect Stone’  set during the Greek Civil War in 1948. Hopefully it will be out in 2018.

Whew! I guess I have been just a little bit busy.

Aren’t Book Groups Great?

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Last night, nine ladies came together on a cold rainy night to discuss my novel, “Climbing the Coconut Tree”. As the author, I accepted the invitation to attend. I stood tentatively on the threshold of the house in Carnegie wondering what response I would get; if they had liked it; what sort of questions they might ask or even if they had read the book. Then I heard their animated chatter and laughter – it reminded me of my own book group of which I have been a member for almost twenty years. We meet every month and read books that we might never have chosen ourselves. There’s nothing better than talking about a book with others.

I was warmly welcomed and introductions were made. Penelope told me that she knew Jody a mutual friend and the ice was broken. The coffee table was covered with wine glasses, and a generous cheese and biscuit platter. The host, Lynnie had thoughtfully scattered bowls of coconut M&Ms (who knew they existed) and Bounties to provide a thematic background for the novel. Her only regret was she was unable to serve an appropriate cocktail like Pina Colada. But she made amends with a generous serve of hummingbird cake covered with cream cheese icing – delicious.

After glasses were filled and nibbles munched, the catch up chatter quickly turned to what we were all there for. Most had finished the book and were armed with great questions. Thankfully, I could answer them all. Here are sample few-:

Q. What is phosphate used for?
A. It is used as a component in fertiliser and after the second world war, demand by Australian and New Zealand farmers was high.
Q. Who lives on Ocean Island now?
A. Ocean Island is now known as Banaba and apart from a couple of hundred indigenous Banabans, it lies abandoned. It belongs to Kiribati which is the poorest nation in the world and itself  suffers from rising sea levels creating ecological refugees for parts of their population. They are a two-day boat trip away from the capital of Kiribati, Tarawa and since there is only one supply boat a year they must be self-reliant.
Q. When did the mining stop and what happened to the infrastructure on the island?
A. Mining stopped in 1979 and the roads and buildings now lay in ruin. Many buildings contained asbestos so this now adds to the ecological problems of the island.
Q. Do you think that the person accused of the murder was rightly convicted?
A. Initially I had my doubts but after reading the murder file and examining the evidence, I was satisfied they caught the right person.
Q. What drove you to write this story?
A. After reading my father’s letters recounting his life there, I realised that this was a part of Australia’s untold history. But I was even more compelled when I discovered a letter written by one of the murder victims. It was almost as if the victim was reaching out to me from the grave to tell this story.
Q. Will you write another novel?
A. Yes. I am still continuing to learn the craft of writing and am presently working on a collection of short stories. I am also conducting research on another historic novel.

I asked for feedback and we discussed the characters, life for women in 1948, mental health; the racial and industrial issues and so much more. Thankfully they had all enjoyed the book. Of course there were many more questions and the evening flew by.

Just after ten o’clock, Melinda announced that she had to go – a tap was leaking and a flood crisis needed to be averted. Dates were agreed for the next get together and farewells and thanks were made. Then I ducked out into the rain.

Book Reviews

Pile of books

I love to read books and couldn’t tell you how many I’ve read over my lifetime. My book shelves are overflowing as is my bedside table. My IPad contains many eBooks, so that I can read on the plane or in dim light.

 I’ve been a member of a book group for at least sixteen years so I talk about books too. But until a year or so ago, I had never been in the habit of sharing my thoughts anywhere else.

So I looked at Goodreads and Amazon. I was astounded how many people take the time and effort to review books.

The easy part is to decide on a star rating. The hard bit is to articulate a constructive response that adds value to anyone contemplating reading the book. This is not a quick and easy thing to do. But I discovered that even a few words can still help the reader and the writer. I notice that sometimes reviewers go into depth to describe the synopsis before they add their own opinions. That’s not really my style. If I love it, then I say it.

Is it naughty to look at reviews while you’re still reading the book? I confess! I’ve had a sneak peak if I’m struggling with the book and this helps me to persist to the end.

So what have been some of my favourite books? In no particular order – People of the Books ( Geraldine Brooks); Burial Rites (Hanna Kent) ; The Strays ( Emily Bitto); The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ( Mary Ann Shaffer); The Light Between Oceans ( M.L Stedman); All the Birds Singing (Evie Wyld); Lost and Found ( Brooke Davis); Eyrie ( Tim Winton). I could go on, but is it any coincidence that my list contains so many Australian authors? Many of them have inspired me with my own writing.

So now I try to take the time to write a review. I think it helps everyone.