Posts by Heather M Bryant

Love writing, being a mum, and enjoying life with my charming hubby.

For the Love of Libraries

To celebrate V-Day, here at Aussie Owned, we’re dedicating the month to love. And how can we talk about things we love without giving libraries a mention?

Most book worms can track their love of reading (or writing!) back to these houses of art. Growing up, Heather used to BEG to go to the library, so her Mum caught on pretty quick and this became her good-behaviour treat.

Heather’s local library was a standard, small space, with mostly donated books and little government funding. The shelves were a definite safety hazard, the books were falling apart, and the whole place had that funky kind of smell that hangs around a constantly damp place.

And she loved it anyway.

Rebecca grew up with much the same in way of her local library, but she never had to beg to go there. Her mother was quite happy to take her and her two sisters at least once a week; she shared in Rebecca’s love of books, often borrowing on Rebecca’s card when her own had maxed the ten per person limit.

Libraries have forever been a place full of hope. Full of magic. A place where we could go and escape the horrible things in the world.

Below are some pics of our favorite libraries that not only house magic, but seem to generate it as well. A far cry from the ones many of us grew up with.

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Heather – Recognise this one? Okay, so it’s not real BUT we don’t know a book worm alive that didn’t grow up coveting this very room. When my hubby turned a room of our house into a study/library, complete with globe, I felt just like Belle. (Also, It looks nothing like this. But I pretend.)

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Heather – *sigh* Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a favourite of mine during those awkward teen years. Having always heard that loving books made you a nerd, this was the first time I was confronted with a beautiful, strong, fun woman, who liked to read. Audrey gave me the confidence I needed to shrug off the haters.

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Rebecca – This is the Library I coveted growing up. My school library was NOTHING like this. Do you recognise it? I will give you a clue; It ‘slays’ me how awesome libraries are, even if not a lot of school borrowing took place in this one.

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Rebecca – This is my dream home study/library. The wall to wall shelves, the fireplace, the second floor complete with intricate ballastrade and the wingback chairs all invite you in. Don’t you just want to grab a book and curl up and read by the fire?

Now we have shown you ours, what libraries do you love? Were you one of the lucky few who has ventured to their dream libarry, or have you created your own at home?

Review: RoseBlood by A. G. Howard

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In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

When it comes to covers, A. G. Howard sure has lucked out. The Splintered series were gorgeous and RoseBlood is just the same. Being a huge fan of her wonderland retelling, and after reading that blurb, I was so excited to start this one!

Let me start off by saying, Howard sure can write a love interest. Thorn, tragic backstory and all, was a gorgeous hulk of guy who somehow had charm and allure despite living in the sewers. He and Rune are swept up pretty fast in an intense attraction that sees them making life-threatening choices. So obviously, it definitely wasn’t a healthy relationship. In keeping with the obsessive, deadly love of the original, Thorn lurks about in Rune’s dreams, and plays music to her from behind a vent in her bedroom at RoseBlood. And that’s cool–not every relationship written has to be sunshine and roses–as long as the audience can acknowledge that creepy lust is not something to aspire towards IRL.

Rune’s friends at RoseBlood were also another highlight. There were some great moments where their personalities really jumped from the page and I would have loved to see more of them (especially as I had to look up their names again–Quan, Jax, and Sunny FYI). Audrey was also an intriguing characters but there wasn’t enough done with her, and I really would have loved to see RoseBlood through her eyes.

The ultimate highlight of the book was Erik. He had motivation and mystery and was the reason I kept reading. His end goal was also something I didn’t see coming–I love when a book can surprise me.

Because of how established Erik was though, the ending felt very out of character, which is perhaps my biggest disappointment from this book.

RoseBlood had some beautiful scenes–Rune and Thorn’s dance, the bird avery(?) under the lake, Jippetto’s backstory, Erik’s club–and if you loved Splintered you’ll probably enjoy this like I did.

There were just a few things that bugged me.

This book is chock-full of cliches. RoseBlood has no cell service, internet–nothing. Umm…it’s a school. How are they off the grid? Sure makes things convenient for a certain homicidal lunatic.

The Twin Flames thing–clear code for Soul Mates, and I prefer my characters to get together based off something more than ‘meant to be’.

Rune is reluctant to go to a super-cool school to try and ‘fix’ the thing that she hates. How is she not determined to kick butt and take names?

Then, there were things that weren’t explained enough. Erik’s ending. Rune busting in on the auditions for the show’s lead singer and sings over the top of her before ‘fainting’–why didn’t she hide out in a bathroom and let the song out? What exactly was the reasoning behind Erik’s plan? How did he ever think that was possibly a thing that could happen? Why were Rune’s friends so keen to be BFFs when they wanted Audrey to snag the lead and Rune was clearly better than her?

And while I loved the writing for the most part, there were areas where it became convoluted to the point I had to reread to wrap my head around what was intended.

Those things are me being picky after the fact though. While reading, they were insignificant enough that while I noticed them, they didn’t detract from the story as I was reading.

I’m glad I gave RoseBlood a chance to sweep me away in the story.

AOaR_4star (3)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

Review: ‘Been Here All Along’ by Sandy Hall

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Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do.

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong…

This book was a super cute read. Told through multi-POV we’re privy to the thoughts and emotions of each character, which created great fun seeing the characters misinterpreting each others actions.

Hall wrote Kyle and Gideon with great chemistry, so it was so frustrating waiting for the two of them to get together, but helped me speed through the book.

This is a shorter novel and it completely met my expectations for a quick, happy read. That said, there were multiple opportunities for it to have been fleshed out.

The book was very predictable, from Gideon writing his inner-most thoughts down for anyone to see, to the way the issue this caused was resolved. Gideon’s drunken candour, and Kyle’s relationship with Ruby. These things were fun, but they certainly didn’t strain any brain muscles to figure out what was going down.

The great thing was, the characterisation was still pretty good. Kyle was laid back and awkward, Gideon was fastidious and driven. Even Ruby–who was generally pretty vapid–had effort put into making her not completely two-dimensional (though this could have been fleshed out beyond the poor family/mean girl trope).

Overall, if you’re looking for something cute, sweet, and with a gay romance, this is one to pick up.

AOaR_3star (3)

(and a half)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

The complete comprehensive* post on the greatest** way to start your story

When you’re looking to start your story, one of the biggest questions you’ll face is how.

Below, are five of the greatest ways to open your story ever. Readers love these, agents and editors love these, and if you want your book to be a bestseller, you really need to get on it.

  1. Looking in the mirror – what better way to get your reader in your character’s head than by describing the exact way your MCs eyes sparkle, those flecks of yellow swimming in bright green orbs? The way their tiny nose sits perched in a sea of freckles, and how their rivers of chestnut hair cascade over their shoulders.
  2. Describing the weather in huge detail – you’ve heard the advice, ‘ground your reader’. So, as soon as you can, you need to explain the exact way the sun is sending golden kisses to the clouds, or how the rain is beating down on the hot pavement, steam rising up to meet the droplets. The more purple prose, the better.
  3. Waking up – I mean, isn’t this how we all start our day? Makes sense our characters would, too. The last thing you want is for your reader to miss something important, so walking them through your MC’s morning shower, their coffee brew, and their exact outfit choice will make sure your reader knows every detail of your character’s lives. Bonus points if you can take up the whole first chapter with these mundane events.
  4. All of the action from the very first sentence – bombs, explosions, running from a serial killer! Give me intensity from the very first sentence, make your book Hollywood-level action! I don’t need to know or care about your character right away, we can all relate to free-falling from a cliff-face.
  5. Backstory – every reader needs to know about that one time your MCs, cousin’s, step dad lost his job. Or how your character really hates dudes who drive red cars, except that one kid who lives down the block and seems kinda cool, despite the fact he hates hotdogs which are basically your MCs favourite food ever. Load your reader up with backstory and they’ll know your story as in-depth as you do.

TRIPLE POINTS if you can combine a few of the above. Let’s face it we all love reading that the MC just woke up and those last two explosive action filled pages were all a dream.

*This list is not comprehensive!

**This post is clearly in jest. We totally recommend against these things as an opening, and if you choose to do them anyway, proceed with extreme caution.

Now, we are not implying you can’t mention the weather, shoot a glance at a reflection or even blow up a building, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

Eg: Twilight

This 1st Chapter breaks many rules if you take them at face value. It mentions the weather several times, ‘It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue.’, ‘Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds’ and ‘ landed in Port Angeles, it was raining.’ are all written within the first two pages.

There is backstory, ‘It was from this town and its gloomy, omnipresent shade that my mother escaped with me when I was only a few months old. It was in this town that I’d been compelled to spend a month every summer until I was fourteen. That was the year I finally put my foot down; these past three summers, my dad, Charlie, vacationed with me in California for two weeks instead.’

Twilight also presents with another of the frowned upon openings not mentioned above, Extended Dialogue. Opening with two people talking that the reader has no clue who they are can make it even harder for the reader to feel grounded.

So how did Twilight get away with it?

The key is to know why you are breaking the rules. The weather is important in Twilight, the juxtaposition of light and dark, sunny and miserable, it is key to the overall story. As too is the Dialogue between Bella and her mother, their relationship is shown in the interaction between them even if we don’t yet know what they look like. The backstory is important to point out how where she is headed links to who she is, and is kept brief enough to not take from but rather adds to the grounding of the reader.

So now that you are sufficiently confused about what you can and can’t do to start your story, remember there is one thing that you should never forget and that is, it is your story.

 

 

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

This is one of those books I have so many mixed feelings about, I have no idea if I’ll get them all out coherently, but here I go trying anyway.

First of all, the writing style of this book totally wasn’t for me. It was written really well, don’t get me wrong, just not my style. Pretty disappointing considering that blurb had me excited AF to get reading about this mysterious, alluring family with a huge secret, and supposedly amazing ending. Not being a fan of the writing style was purely on me though. It’s not what I’m used to reading, and not what I enjoy. I decided to push through anyway.

Truth is, the main thing that kept me going through this book was my curiosity at what the big secret was. Lockhart kept the mystery alive so much so, I couldn’t have not finished no matter how many issues I had with it.

Basically, Cadence has problems. Those problems consist of being white, being privileged, and being rich. Then something happens and no one will fill poor Cadence in on this BIG FAMILY SECRET so she gets all whiney and dies her hair black and starts giving away every one of her possessions ever, even though half of it is useless crap. Also, the way Lockhart describes her migraines, and her ‘intense’ emotions is confusing and waaaaay over the top.

Halfway through this book it occurred to me I was reading about a messed up family, doing messed up things, for no obvious reason what-so-ever. The exact moment this thought hit me was a scene when Aunt Carrie was wandering the grounds of their private island. Her son is screaming for her because of his nightmares and she TURNS AND WALKS IN THE OTHER FLIPPING DIRECTION.

Like, man. These characters were so frustrating. The whole novels is literally about a summer where the ‘rebellious’ Liars, who are actually not so rebellious, sit around talking at each other. Not to, at. There conversations are about the most basic crap I’ve ever read, like ‘sexual intercourse’ (not sex. Sexual. Intercourse. Every time.) that never actually happened. There is literally no chemistry between any of them, least of all the love interest, until the very end when Cadence has a moment of discovery with Johnny and Mirren and I finally see the family bond going on.

And you know what’s really messed up? I actually enjoyed the suspense. Without giving too much away, I picked the end result of the secret, part way into the book. But then something happened that threw it from my mind. So when I got to ‘Part Four: Truth’ I had to put the book down after a sentence or two. It was like a gut punch that I really should have seen coming, but Lockhart did a great job of convincing me my initial suspicions were incorrect.

The ending was great, I actually got a little teary, which was odd because I never thought I cared about the characters until that moment. I guess it all finally made sense. And now I look back on this book like a bitter-sweet summer.

The other highlight was the use of the fairy tales. They were completely transparent, but they added an extra layer to the whole story and helped increase the suspense and allure of the family. They also showed the side of Cadence who was becoming more self-aware.

At the end there’s a really great moment where Cadence realises who she really is. Her view of herself is completely flipped on its head and I did a mental high five with her, because she finally viewed herself like I had the whole time.

So many people love this book–and I could see why–but it wasn’t for me. I enjoyed it when it was finished, but there was too much throughout that irritated me. All I could focus on were all the first world problems Cadence was bitching about. And yeah, I totally get we’re ALL like that IRL, and there’s a place for that in fiction, but it didn’t draw me in.

I enjoyed it to a point. And after so much excitement going into it, I’m disappointed it didn’t captivate me.

AOaR_3star (3)

(and a half)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

 

I finished this book days ago and it’s taken me until now to get my thoughts together. I’m a mess. The characters are written so perfectly I haven’t been able to shake the mess of emotions they’ve left me with.

Heartless follows Catherine Pinkerton, future Queen of Hearts, as she struggles to accept her role in the patriarchal society she’s grown up in. Right from the opening pages Cath comes across as sweet, ambitious, and with a head full of whimsy. She has great ideas for her dreams, and you really want to believe she’ll find a way to make them happen.

Then she meets Jest. I don’t know how Meyer does it but I was smitten. Quick-witted, fun, and master of impossibilities, the chemistry between him and Cath was addictive. I hung on for every scene they had together.

Between the romance, Meyer filled the book with so many absurdities, it fits perfectly into the wondrous world of Wonderland. Hearts seems to be modelled around Regency England, but with Mock Turtles, and Jabberwocks, and card-filled gentry thrown in. The world building was amazing from the opening pages and felt believable enough to follow the character progression.

And Cath’s progression was perfect. From sweet, innocent dreamer to the Queen of Hearts. It felt so natural and really gave depth to the vicious tyrant the character is normally depicted as.

But it was the ending that really got me. I don’t want to give away too much, but that was the part of the book that stayed with me for days. Though the whole book, I could almost believe that Cath would get what she wanted, that she’d find a way. I read on desperate to see her dreams fulfilled, to see her and Jest make their forbidden relationship work. I was totally, 100%, emotionally invested, and no matter how I feel about the ending, it was exactly what the book needed. I don’t think Meyer could have made it any more perfect.

 

AOaR_5star (3)

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

 

Our Fav Fictional Father Figures

 

The whole parental influence in fiction—particularly the lack of—is one that is spoken about a lot, especially when it comes to YA books. I think we can all agree father figures play an important role in fiction so we have put together our four favourites (which really shouldn’t have been as hard as it was).

 

Mr Bennet: Pride and Prejudice

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This is a father that is unashamedly flawed. He shows his love for his family more than a man of that era should. Indulges his wife’s, and on many occasions daughter’s, every whim, and he didn’t have the foresight to provide for a household of woman in a time where that was the man’s responsibility.

But there’s no denying he’d move the world for his family, and his subtle humour that sparks throughout the book is a welcome relief to Mrs Bennet’s melodrama.

 

Arthur Weasley: Harry Potter

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This is a father who is overshadowed by a formidable wife, and could easily be perceived as weak. From the start of the series, he’s a man who comes across as naïve and at times, immature, due to his love of muggle artifacts that he clearly knows nothing about.

But this love and passion is part of his strength. He is a character who is the ultimate morale compass. There’s never any doubt that he’d put himself between the greater good and the death eaters and this quality is one that is mirrored in each of the Weasley children (except Percy. But we don’t talk about Percy).

 

Haymitch Abernathy: The Hunger Games

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Written as a man who is in many ways the opposite of Arthur Weasley. He’s a drunk recluse who often encourages the worst aspects of Katniss’s personality. He’s also real in his struggles and portrays the type of man who has fallen to his lowest point, and is forced to reinvent himself. He pushes Katniss out of her comfort zone and forces her to make the hard choices she would have otherwise shied away from.

He proves over again throughout the series that he’s in Katniss’s corner, and even when he makes the wrong call in her eyes, it’s come from a paternal place. Collins has portrayed a believable friction and power struggle between Haymitch and Katniss that teens are able to relate to.
Albus Dumbledore: Harry Potter

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Dumbledore, right from the beginning of the series, is portrayed as the ultimate father figure. He’s set up as the person Harry can rely upon the most. As the series progresses though, we’re provided with more depth and complexity to the choices he’s faced with and the decisions he makes.

Dumbledore, while caring greatly for Harry, is focused on the Greater Good, and how to amend for his past transgressions. The responsibility he feels for the creation of Lord Voldemort leads him to willingly gamble Harry’s life. He makes the most common mistake a parent can make in not trusting Harry to make the right decision for himself, and relies on deception and half truths to lead Harry to the result he desires.