Review: The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon

 

Title: The Cake Maker’s Wish

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: June 2nd 2020, Michael Joseph

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Cake Maker’s Wish is a delicious treat from bestselling author Josephine Moon.

After the loss of her beloved Ma, Olivia Kent’s curiousity about her grandmother’s early life leads her to successfully apply for a project offering the descendants of Stoneden villagers in England’s Cotswold region a subsidised opportunity to relocate. Leaving Tasmania behind, Olivia is excited to launch her business, Rambling Rose Fine Cakes on the village High Street, and give her young son, Darcy, a fresh start, as well as the chance to finally meet his Norwegian father in person.

The Renaissance Project is a fantastic concept and a wonderful element of the story, which also provides a backdrop for some minor intrigue. The initiative is designed to revitalise the community of Stoneden but unfortunately not everyone is happy about it with at least one resident actively trying to sabotage the scheme (and I was surprised to finally learn who, and why).

Nevertheless Olivia and Darcy quickly begin to feel at home in the village, befriending both other ‘imports’ and locals alike. As the story unfolds, Olivia is able to learn more about her grandmother’s past, which leads to a surprise revelation. There is also romance for Olivia with local dairyman Grayson, and Darcy’s visiting father, who is newly separated from his wife, and eager to build a relationship with both his son and Olivia, both vying for her affection. Olivia’s business thrives, particularly after a celebrity couple voice their support. Foodies will appreciate Moon’s delicious descriptions of Olivia’s creations, and delight in the included recipe for her Persian Love Cake.

With a serve of appealing characters, a sprinkle of mystery and a generous dollop of heart, The Cake Maker’s Wish is a delectable story about community, friendship, family and food.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

 

Also by Josephine Moon reviewed at Book’d Out 

 

Review: Better Luck Next Time by Kate Hilton

 

Title: Better Luck Next Time

Author: Kate Hilton

Published: June 16th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

Better Luck Next Time is an entertaining and engaging contemporary family dramedy from Kate Hilton.

The story primarily features the women of the Hennessy family -feminist icon Lydia, daughters Mariana, Beata, and Nina, and cousins Zoe and Zack. It begins on Christmas Day as the family gathers to celebrate revealing its own special brand of chaos. Lydia is frantically preparing the perfect Christmas dinner, Zoe is reluctant to admit her marriage is over, Mariana is furious with her husband, Beata is exasperated with her teenage son, Nina is uncharacteristically quiet, and newly sober Zach is looking to make amends.

Unfolding from multiple perspectives, each family member negotiates a series of disappointments, surprises, joys, secrets, and mistakes over a period of a year. The characters have distinct personalities and are easy to relate to as Hilton explores a variety of issues common to midlife including marriage, divorce, motherhood, addiction, and dating.

Hilton’s observations are often incisive, sometimes witty and occasionally poignant. The story moves at a good pace and I liked the balance between the humour and serious themes.

A fabulously funny, feel-good novel.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin. RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

 

The It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme is hosted at BookDate

I’m also linking to The Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer

And the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

 

xxxxxxxx

 

Life…

I’m well and truly glad to put June behind me, it was, on balance, a lousy month.

It’s the last Monday of the month, so time for a challenge update

Nonfiction Reader Challenge: 7/12

Australian Women Writers Challenge: 31/50

Aussie Author Challenge: 15/24

Nerd Reading Challenge: 21/52

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge: 16/25

Social Justice Challenge: 1/5

SwordsnStars Challenge: 3/10

 

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

 

Bottlebrush Creek by Maya Linnell

The Convict Valley by Mark Dunn

Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

Better Luck Next Time by Kate Hilton

The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon

 

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New Posts…

 

Bookshelf Bounty

Review: Bottlebrush Creek by Maya Linnell

Review: The Convict Valley by Mark Dunn

Review: Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin

Review: I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

 

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What I’m Reading This Week…

 

People went on about death bringing friends together, but it wasn’t true. The graveyard, the stony dirt – that’s what it was like now . . . Despite the three women knowing each other better than their own siblings, Sylvie’s death had opened up strange caverns of distance between them.

Four older women have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three. Can they survive together without her?

They are Jude, a once-famous restaurateur, Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual, and Adele, a renowned actress now mostly out of work. Struggling to recall exactly why they’ve remained close all these years, the grieving women gather for Christmas at Sylvie’s old beach house – not for festivities, but to clean the place out before it is sold.

Without Sylvie to maintain the group’s delicate equilibrium, frustrations build and painful memories press in. Fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface – and threatens to sweep away their friendship for good.

The Weekend explores growing old and growing up, and what happens when we’re forced to uncover the lies we tell ourselves. Sharply observed and excruciatingly funny, this is a jewel of a book: a celebration of tenderness and friendship that is nothing short of a masterpiece.

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Tara Costigan was the woman next door. A hard worker. Quick to laugh and easy to like. She was happy, confident, strong. A woman who always looked after herself and her kids. Close with her family and her friends, she was much loved. Then, in 2013, she met Marcus Rappel. A local tradie, he was charming and sincere, they dated and fell in love. That should have been the end of a happy-ever-after story. But for Tara, it was much uglier. And for her family it would be devastating.

A year later, Tara was pregnant to Marcus. Her family had been worried for a while, but Tara didn’t tell anyone how Marcus’s jealousy was souring the relationship. She tried to keep it quiet. Despite everything, she never imagined he would be physically violent – he would never hurt her.

Tara was wrong. One fine day, the last day of summer in 2015, she was holding their newborn baby in her arms when he attacked her with an axe. Her murder seemed to come out of the blue. But as this extraordinary, often shocking book reveals, it did not.

THE FIRST TIME HE HIT HER is an attempt to understand why dozens of women are murdered each year by men who profess to love them

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New York Times bestselling author Sara Paretsky is the master of twisting suspense and compelling plots. She has been hailed by the crime community as “a legend” (Harlan Coben) and “one of the all-time greats” (Karin Slaughter). Her acclaimed novels featuring detective V.I. Warshawski have become one of the most celebrated series in modern fiction. Now in this spellbinding collection, Paretsky showcases her extraordinary talents with fourteen short stories, including one new V.I. story and seven other classics featuring the indomitable detective.

In “Miss Bianca,” a young girl becomes involved in espionage when she befriends a mouse in a laboratory that is conducting dark experiments. Ten-year-old V.I. Warshawski appears in “Wildcat,” embarking on her very first investigation to save her father. A hardboiled New York detective and elderly British aristocrat team up to reveal a murderer in Chicago during the World’s Fair in “Murder at the Century of Progress.” In the new title story, “Love & Other Crimes,” V.I. treads the line between justice and vengeance when the wrongful firing of a family friend makes him a murder suspect.

For longtime fans of V.I. Warshawski, new readers discovering her for the first time, or any lover of crime and bone-chilling suspense, Love & Other Crimes is a celebration of Paretsky’s exceptional storytelling skill and a searing exploration of the dark conspiracies and desperate human acts hiding in plain sight.

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Australian history teacher Thea Rust arrives at an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside only to find that she is to look after the first intake of girls in its 150-year history. She is to stay with them in Silk House, a building with a long and troubled past, where the shadows hide more mysteries than she could ever imagine.

In the late 1700s, Rowan Caswell leaves her village to work in the home of an English silk merchant. She is thrust into a new and dangerous world where her talent for herbs and healing soon attracts attention.

In London, Mary-Louise Stephenson lives amid the clatter of the weaving trade and dreams of becoming a silk designer, a job that is the domain of men. Arriving in the market town of Oxleigh, she brings with her a length of fabric woven with a pattern of deadly plants that will have far-reaching consequences for all who dwell in the silk house.

Intoxicating, haunting and inspired by the author’s background, THE SILK HOUSE is the exceptional new gothic mystery by Kayte Nunn

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Thanks for stopping by!

Review: I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

Title: I Was Told It Would Get Easier

Author: Abbi Waxman

Published: June 16th 2020, Berkley Books

Status: Read June 2020 courtesy Penguin/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

In just a few months my daughter will graduate high school and we are in the process of choosing which university she will attend, so the premise of I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman appealed to me immediately.

Busy corporate lawyer Jessica Bernstein is hoping a week long college tour with her daughter will be a way for them to reconnect before Emily leaves the nest. Emily isn’t sure she even wants to go to college, but the timing is perfect given the situation at school.

The story unfolds from the first person viewpoints of Jessica and Emily, and I loved the way Waxman exploited the technique to provide a dual perspective of the same events, especially when it involved interactions between mother and daughter. The dynamic between Jessica and Emily felt very familiar to me as both the mother of teenage daughters, and as a former teenager daughter who was convinced her mother understood nothing.

The group college tour is a great vehicle for the story. Jessica and Emily have no choice but to spend time together, trapped on the bus and sharing a motel room. It gives them the opportunity to reconnect and consider their expectations of and for themselves, and each other.

The tour also traps them with a collection of characters that include a perky guide, a handful of earnest parents and their offspring, potential romantic interests, and a pair of frenemies. While Jessica is eager for Emily to attend a good college, she is taken aback by the intensity of some of the parents on the tour who seem to have been planning their child’s path to college since birth. One parent in particular makes it clear that she will do anything to ensure her daughter has the future she envisions. Emily envies the certainty of her tour companions when she isn’t even sure if she wants to go to college at all.

The humour in the novel particularly appealed to me, both Jessica and Emily have a dry, snarky wit. Waxman’s observations across the generational divide are relatable, and some cut deep, like this one from Emily…

“And why do they all have phone cases that open like little books and make it difficult to take photos in the first place? They created the monster and don’t even know how to use it properly.”

An entertaining, astute and easy read, I really enjoyed I Was Told It Would Get Easier.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin

 

Title: Sticks and Stones

Author: Katherine Firkin

Published: June 2nd 2020, Bantam Australia

Status: Read June 2020 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Sticks and Stones is a debut crime novel from Melbourne journalist Katherine Firkin, inspired by the many criminal trials she has covered.

Recently promoted to the head of the Missing Persons Unit, Detective Senior Constable Emmet Corban is finding the job frustrating. The hours are long, the paperwork is a grind, and more often than not, the missing simply don’t want to be found.

Corban’s most recent cases involve a single woman who didn’t to turn up for her invalid brother’s birthday party, and a young wife and mother who failed to collect her two children from vacation care. Corban is fairly certain the former, Rosemary Norman, simply ditched the event for another adventure, but he is concerned for Natale Gibson, whose parents are frantic, and whose husband is angry.

When the mutilated body of a female is found and identified as one of the missing women, Corban finds himself unexpectedly leading a homicide investigation into the activities of a serial killer. Firkin develops plenty of red herrings as Corban and his unit attempt to trace the movements of the missing women to determine how they crossed paths with their killer. The plot is interesting and complex but to me also felt a little unwieldy, unfolding from multiple perspectives and involving a large cast of characters.

To be honest I had a difficult time keeping the many characters straight initially, especially as the links between some of them aren’t immediately obvious, and the transitions between scenes are quite rapid. The case itself introduces Corban and his staff, as well as suspects, victims and their families. Another thread explores Corban’s personal life, featuring his wife and her slightly inappropriate relationship with her Svengali-like employer, while a third person narrative reveals the past of the killer.

I did enjoy Sticks and Stones, it’s a promising debut, and I can see the potential for an ongoing series featuring Emmett Corban and the Missing Person Unit.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Convict Valley by Mark Dunn

 

Title: The Convict Valley: The Bloody Struggle of Australia’s Early Frontier

Author: Mark Dunn

Published: June 2nd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

The Convict Valley by Mark Dunn is a fascinating examination of New South Wales’ Hunter Valley region covering approximately a 60-year span from the late 1790’s to the early 1850’s.

“Outside of Sydney, the Hunter Valley was the first region to be explored in any detail by the British….”

Dunn utilises meticulous research to uncover the history of the region’s early development, and makes a sincere attempt to include the experience of the Aboriginal people in the narrative.

“From the very first years a complex, interwoven history emerged between the Aboriginal people and the British in the Hunter.”

Essentially stumbling on what is now known as Newcastle during the pursuit of five runaway convicts, the British were quick to recognise the region’s potential to provide coal and timber for the burgeoning colony of Sydney. Beginning as an unspoiled wilderness, home to the Wonnarua people, the Hunter Valley became the site of the state’s second penal colony in 1804, mainly to provide free labour to exploit its natural resources in a systematic manner, before the land was opened to free settlers in 1822. Largely an agricultural landscape, dominated by farms and estates, Newcastle (briefly renamed Kings Town) slowly became an urban center by default as new colonial settlements began to develop in Wallis Plains (Maitland), Green Hills (Morpeth) and Patrick Plains (Singleton).

“…as the population rose, and the stakes over land and property grew, class and racial tensions began to manifest themselves in what for a time became a landscape of violence.”

Detailing the physical, economic and social growth of the Hunter Valley in an accessible manner, enhanced by paintings, maps, sketches, and photographs, The Convict Valley makes an important contribution to the historical record of Australia.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin. RRP AUD$32.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Bottlebrush Creek by Maya Linnell

Title: Bottlebrush Creek

Author: Maya Linnell

Published: June 2nd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++

My Thoughts:

An engaging contemporary novel set in rural Australia, Bottlebrush Creek is Maya Linnell’s second novel following her bestselling debut, Wildflower Ridge.

Featuring the youngest of the McIntyre sisters, Angie, she and her partner, Rob Jones, are thrilled when they find a bargain-priced, if run down, 200-acre property in Port Fairview, South West Victoria. Recognising its potential to provide a wonderful life for their small family, they plan to live in a caravan on site while they renovate the derelict cottage but the relentless hard work and financial stress of the renovation soon begins to take its toll on their partnership, exacerbated by Angie’s tense relationship with their new next door neighbour – Rob’s mother, a toxic friendship, and the return of Rob’s estranged twin brother.

I really like that Linnell chooses to feature an established couple with a somewhat unconventional back story in Bottlebrush Creek. I thought the author’s depiction of Angie and Rob’s relationship was nuanced and realistic, touching on familiar marital stressors such as parenting, finances, renovation, and communication failures. Bottlebrush Creek has a real sense of emotional authenticity that’s very appealing. While Angie and Rob’s relationship is quite fraught at times, there are also plenty of moments of humour, romance, and fun in the novel.

I generally found the characters convincing and often relatable. I liked Angie and could mostly empathise with her emotions and behaviour. Rob’s mother, Rosa, is delighted that her son, his partner, and her grandchild have moved in next door but Angie finds Rosa’s enthusiasm intrusive, and struggles as Rosa repeatedly pushes against her boundaries. It doesn’t help that Rob fails to recognise the problem, adding to the strain between he and Angie. Rob is a decent guy who loves Angie and his daughter but has his own issues and insecurities. The return of his twin brother from years overseas, and their shared past, leads to him making mistakes, which he is reluctant to share with Angie.

With its focus on relationships and family, Bottlebrush Creek is a wonderful story I found to be moving, entertaining and charming.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Bookshelf Bounty

Every third Sunday of the month I share my Bookshelf Bounty – what’s been added to my TBR tile recently for review from publishers, purchases or gifts.

This month I’m linking up with Mailbox Monday

Click on the cover images to view at Goodreads

 

For Review (print)

(My thanks to the respective publishers)

 

 

 

For Review (ebook)

(My thanks to the respective publishers)

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

The It’s Monday! What Are You Reading meme is hosted at BookDate

I’m also linking to The Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer

And the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

 

XxxxxxxX

Life…

So it’s been quite the week, feel free to skip the following litany of woe.

We’re still waiting for results after my husbands surgery last week.

On Wednesday we had to take my oldest daughter to hospital and she ended up having emergency surgery due to an abscess that threatened sepsis. She remained in hospital til yesterday, and while she’s home now she requires daily wound care visits and may still have to have further surgery early next week.

On Thursday my father called to say my mother was being admitted to hospital in a lot of pain. Thankfully that situation resolved itself without the need for surgery (for now) and she too was released on Saturday.

On Friday we received word that our nephew (who is only 30) had undergone heart surgery after suffering a stroke. He is currently doing well, though will be hospital for a while.

And then on Saturday our best friends let me know their beloved dog passed away.

As a result, I just did not have the head space this past week to do anything much except stare mindlessly at the TV. The stress has caused my chronic condition to flare and triggered a worsening of my insomnia. Frankly this week might be a write off too.

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

 

Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin

 

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New Posts…

None

———————————————

What I’m Reading This Week…

Same as last week

In 1790, five convicts escaped Sydney by boat and were swept ashore near present day Newcastle. They were taken into the local Aboriginal clan, marrying and starting families. Thus began a long and often dramatic series of encounters between Aboriginals and convicts in the Hunter Valley, the second European settlement after Sydney. This book tells the story of the Hunter’s first 50 years—a rich account of relations between the convicts, land owners (many former convicts), and Aboriginal clans. Not a simple recounting of frontier conflict, it also shows how some Aboriginal families found ways to survive the loss of their land by subtle forms of resistance, or by working for the European settlers. Based on meticulous and extensive primary research which has uncovered many new stories,The Convict Valley is a new Australian history classic.

xxxxxx

 

On a Barbarous Coast is an alternative retelling of Captain James Cook’s story co-written by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick in the tradition of imagined histories.

We were becoming the wild things we most feared, but could not see it at the time.

On a night of raging winds and rain, Captain Cook’s Endeavour lies splintered on a coral reef off the coast of far north Australia. A small disparate band of survivors, fracturing already, huddle on the shore of this strange land – their pitiful salvage scant protection from the dangers of the unknown creatures and natives that live here.

Watching these mysterious white beings, the Guugu Yimidhirr people cannot decide if they are ancestor spirits to be welcomed – or hostile spirits to be speared. One headstrong young boy, Garrgiil, determines to do more than watch and to be the one to find out what exactly they are.

Fierce, intriguing and thoughtful, On a Barbarous Coast is the story of a past and future that might have been.

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Thanks for stopping by!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

The It’s Monday! What Are You Reading meme is hosted at BookDate

I’m also linking to The Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer

And the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

Life…

I know I was rather cryptic in my update last week but thankfully all went well. It‘s not quite resolved as we wait for results, but it looks promising. The situation sort of consumed my whole week, but there was some good news. My youngest son (14) started his first part time job for a local newsagency. The hours are brutal, 4am to 6am three mornings a week, sorting and rolling newspapers for delivery. He is really looking forward to having money of his own though, and it will be character building.

It’s the Queens Birthday long weekend here, but we have no plans. We are still practicing social distancing, or at least that’s the excuse we are using.

 

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

 

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside

Bottlebrush Creek by Maya Linnell

 

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New Posts…

 

Review: Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Review: The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside by Jessica Ryn

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #5

Six Degrees of Separation: Normal People to The Colorado Kid

 

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What I’m Reading This Week…

 

‘He didn’t have to be normal, the boy realised. He just had to pretend.’

It’s winter in Melbourne and Detective Emmett Corban is starting to regret his promotion to head of the Missing Persons Unit, as the routine reports pile up on his desk.

So when Natale Gibson goes missing, he’s convinced this is the big case he’s been waiting for – the woman’s husband and parents insist the devoted mother would never abandon her children, and her personal accounts remain untouched.

But things aren’t all they seem. The close-knit Italian family is keeping secrets – none bigger than the one Natale has been hiding.

Just as the net seems to be tightening, the investigation is turned on its head. The body of a woman is found . . . then another.

What had seemed like a standard missing person’s case has turned into a frightening hunt for a serial killer, and time is running out.

But to really understand these shocking crimes, Emmett and his team will need to delve back through decades of neglect – back to a squalid inner-city flat, where a young boy is left huddling over his mother’s body . . .

xxxxxxxxxx

 

In 1790, five convicts escaped Sydney by boat and were swept ashore near present day Newcastle. They were taken into the local Aboriginal clan, marrying and starting families. Thus began a long and often dramatic series of encounters between Aboriginals and convicts in the Hunter Valley, the second European settlement after Sydney. This book tells the story of the Hunter’s first 50 years—a rich account of relations between the convicts, land owners (many former convicts), and Aboriginal clans. Not a simple recounting of frontier conflict, it also shows how some Aboriginal families found ways to survive the loss of their land by subtle forms of resistance, or by working for the European settlers. Based on meticulous and extensive primary research which has uncovered many new stories,The Convict Valley is a new Australian history classic.

xxxxxxxxxx

 

On a Barbarous Coast is an alternative retelling of Captain James Cook’s story co-written by Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick in the tradition of imagined histories.

We were becoming the wild things we most feared, but could not see it at the time.

On a night of raging winds and rain, Captain Cook’s Endeavour lies splintered on a coral reef off the coast of far north Australia. A small disparate band of survivors, fracturing already, huddle on the shore of this strange land – their pitiful salvage scant protection from the dangers of the unknown creatures and natives that live here.

Watching these mysterious white beings, the Guugu Yimidhirr people cannot decide if they are ancestor spirits to be welcomed – or hostile spirits to be speared. One headstrong young boy, Garrgiil, determines to do more than watch and to be the one to find out what exactly they are.

Fierce, intriguing and thoughtful, On a Barbarous Coast is the story of a past and future that might have been.

———————————————

 

Thanks for stopping by!

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