We belong to the Earth, Lainie-Bug. We were sent here in human form for a reason. If you don’t know what to do, then just be human.
Right. Like that was ever a simple thing to do.
In the heart of the Wimmera region of Victoria, an ancient gateway to Eden is kept hidden and safe by a creature so powerful that even the moon would obey her commands – at least it would if she had any idea that she wasn’t just a normal girl about to finish high school.
When a mining company begins exploratory sampling near Lainie’s sheep farm, a family secret is revealed that makes her regret not having learnt more about her Indigenous heritage.
What she’s told by their farmhand, Harry – an Aboriginal Elder – can’t possibly be true, but then the most irritating guy in class, Bane, begins to act even more insanely toward her than ever, until she can no longer deny that something very unusual is going on.
When Harry doesn’t return from his quest to seek help to protect the area from the miners, Lainie sets out to discover the truth of her heritage, and of the secret she’s been born to protect.
Read an Excerpt
The beast approached neither stealth nor apology. Its diesel stench tasted like ancient death as it gusted in on the breeze that flipped around my leaves. My residents had no idea what was coming and I had no way of warning them, no way to escape. Vibrations travelled through rock and dirt and shook loose a thousand filaments from where they fed in the soil. When the machine hit, my foundation cracked, but I held on, so the metal blade bit into the ground around my roots and chewed and gnawed and loosened my grip. A section of bark was ripped away, revealing a clearer layer of a much older wound, its chevron pattern a reminder of my sacred duty. My branches shook and the family of ringtails in my hollow squirmed around each other in fear. The beast backed away. But then it revved louder, and when it came at me again, it was as unstoppable as the north wind.
I had failed. The bulldozer was not permitted here. With a silent outcry I was torn free from the earth and left to die as the metal monster continued to devour its way towards the heart of creation ...
A blast from Mr Mason's whistle drilled a new hole in my skull, and I sat up so fast that my English essay tried to fly away. I snatched at the errant paper and then looked up to see if anyone had noticed me drifting off to sleep. Except I wasn't sure I'd actually been asleep. One minute I'd been silently laughing at the guys on the soccer team trying to hold their half-squats, and the next I'd been facing down a bulldozer. I'd had daydream visions before, but they weren't usually so ... consuming. Nor had I ever been a tree. That was definitely new.
I leant back against the peppermint gum and extricated a few bits of bark from my messy plait. Perhaps the grassy edge of the school oval was not the best spot for doing homework after all.
On the field, the soccer team were thankfully ignoring me, distracted by a scuffle between two of the players. Noah was trying to break it up, but my friend wasn't having a lot of success because one of the fighters was flailing his limbs around like he had a spider in his ear. Bane's dark fringe flicked around as he swung his elbow at his opponent, and Noah almost copped the rebound when he tried to intercept it.
Bane, of course, wasn't his real name. Ben Millard. Bane of my life. Noah and I had nicknamed him years ago after he'd 'accidentally' set my locker on fire. He'd picked on me since kindergarten, and no one could remember what had started it. All I knew was that his tight lips and freaky stare were always waiting for me when I forgot to steer clear of him. He was like a socially inept child who became aggressive every time anyone inadvertently tripped over his schoolbag while carrying four red freezies. It wasn't like I'd asked him to try to catch me. It wasn't my fault one of the freezies had ended up down his shirt. He reminded me of a toddler who couldn't seem to grow out of the biting-people phase. In fact, were those teeth marks on Noah's wrist?
Mr Mason's whistle blew again, long and loud. He didn't stop blowing it until three of the other players came to Noah's aid and forcibly pulled Bane and Jake apart.
Scowling, Bane wrestled himself free from restraint and then wiped the sweat from his face with his T-shirt, while Mr Mason put on his serious schoolteacher voice. From where I was, the teacher sounded calm, but I knew he was angry because he kept clutching at his stopwatch with one hand and his whistle with the other. After his rant, he sent Bane jogging around the oval, while Noah was given the key to unlock the school canteen for some ice. The rest of the team were given basic ball skills to focus on for a while.
Nalong College was the smaller and less funded of the two secondary schools in our Victorian country town. It tended to attract the rural families of the region, so over the last couple of years we'd seen many of our friends drop out of school to work full-time on their farms. They were still invited play on our soccer and footy teams though. It wasn't like every other country school didn't do the same thing. Otherwise there'd never be enough players.
The students who stuck it out at school, like Noah and me, were determined to make a life for ourselves outside Nalong. We both wanted to do well enough to get into one of the big universities in Melbourne or Sydney the following year, and our final exams were getting so close that I could practically hear the clock ticking towards the final 'pens down!' command. So after laying out all my stationery into dancing stick figures, highlighting the quotes I was planning to use in four different colours, and interpreting the title into runes to decorate the border with, I finally ran out of ways to procrastinate and knuckled down to finish the silly essay. It was on the origins of faerie tales and whether they related to early legends such as the Epic of Gilgamesh or the Garden of Eden, and Snow White wasn't really all that complex — a pretty girl, a bunch of ethnic minority friends, an evil witch and an apple. It was certainly easier than the Biology assignment on Australian megafauna that was also due the next day. That one was likely to take me almost as long as the Late Pleistocene Epoch had lasted.
I was just tidying up my last tenuous argument when I heard someone approach, breathing hard. I glanced up just as Bane ran past me, staring with such a vile expression that I flinched. Sweat dripped from his black hair as he sprinted, legs pounding with stubborn speed, as if he was relishing his penance. He gave me the finger so I gave one back, cursing myself for not coming up with anything more inventive. What had I done now? It wasn't like his punishment was my fault.
Noah came over with a freezer bag full of crushed ice.
'Hey, Lainie. Mr Mason said I can finish early, because apparently facing down a vicious predator is enough of a workout for one afternoon. Can we go or are you still working on your essay?'
I shook my head. 'We can go. I'm done with Snow White. I really don't care if she's supposed to be an allegory for Eve, neither of them should have been stupid enough to eat —'
'One of these?' Noah asked with a grin. He held out an apple he'd nicked from the canteen.
I jumped up and pounced on it like a poddy lamb after milk. 'You are a dead-set God-send,' I mumbled as I bit into it, ducking sideways to avoid the handful of ice he was offhandedly trying to slip down the back of my school dress.
'Yeah, I am. Man, you eat fast. And do you always have to eat the core as well? That can't be good for you.'
I swallowed without needing to reply because we'd had this conversation in all its forms already. There was simply nothing anyone could say about someone eating too much fruit. Even Aunt Lily didn't bother telling me off for it, and she had the predictable over-protectiveness of the guardian of an only child.
As we crossed the oval and headed towards the car park, I felt a brief flash of nostalgia. Just four weeks of classes to go. I would miss the cracked patch of asphalt where we'd played Four Square in Year 8. I'd miss the trees slashed with white paint that marked the out-of-bounds area past the maintenance shed. I'd miss the fragrance of squashed Vegemite sandwiches, old bananas and that unmistakeable waft from the boys' toilets. Or maybe not.
'So how's your wrist? Do we need to take you to see Dr Knox for a rabies shot?' I asked.
'You can't catch rabies in Australia,' Noah pointed out. 'Except from bats.'
'Yes, but it was Bane. Who knows what unholy germs he carries? You might catch whatever he's got and become a psychopath as well. Every full moon. Hey, did we ever check that? Does he get worse when the moon waxes and the fog rolls in across the moors?'
'Australia doesn't have moors, either. All we have are creeks named after dead animals. And if Bane's mood swings come in monthly cycles then you have no right to criticise.'
At that point our discussion descended into an ice fight complete with hair-pulling, wedgies, and uncalled for bra-strap-flicking, until eventually Noah sought refuge in the driver's seat of his beloved red ute. He slammed the door with a healthy Holden clunk before I could give him the nipple-cripple he deserved, so I dumped my school bag in the tray and slid into the passenger seat, grinning as he flinched away from me.
Noah had just earned his drivers licence a few weeks earlier and we were both enjoying his newfound freedom by hanging around every day after school. We lived on neighbouring farms that were three quarters of an hour's drive out of town and I was really enjoying not having to take the school bus. Sadly I was still nearly a year away from getting my own licence, on account of being too stubborn to stay in my own class when I'd started Prep — I had snuck into Noah's class so often that in the end the teachers had just given up and moved me ahead a year. I blamed that for my social ineptitude with my classmates.
As I did up my seatbelt I noticed a colourful flyer sticking out of the glove box.
'Why do you have a hang gliding brochure?' I asked. 'Are you in it?' His white-blond curls tended to find their way into all sorts of publications no matter how much he complained. Like the new billboard at the town Visitors Centre, right above the slogan that said that Nalong was 'Home to the largest grain silo in the southern hemisphere'. His older brothers still hadn't let him forget it. 'Grain silo' had become a euphemism for all sorts of strange things since the billboard had gone up.
'Yes, but that's not why I have it. I was trying to convince Claudia to come with me sometime.'
The apple I'd eaten turned sour in my belly. He'd been going out with Claudia for less than a fortnight but I'd already had enough of her.
'Don't look like that,' he complained. 'I want company. Last time I went I had to spend the whole pre-flight lecture with some dude with orange sideburns and feet that smelled like cat food.' 'Why would he need to take his shoes off for a hang gliding lesson?'
'He didn't. I could smell them through his shoes. Besides, Claudia won't come anyway. Too chicken, like you.'
'I am not! I just don't want to spend my hard-earned birthday money on something that lasts less than an hour. I'd rather put it towards my new jumping saddle.'
'Oh, the one you've been saving for since Year 7?'
'Just shut up and drive, Noah.'
He seemed more than happy to stay quiet and not talk about his new girlfriend. Which made two of us.
For the next twenty minutes we were so busy not talking about Claudia that I really did drift off to sleep. It wasn't unusual. The last few months of gruelling study were steadily taking their toll. And perhaps my previous daydream wasn't done with me, because in one of my dreams, my aunt was sitting awkwardly against that same yellow bulldozer with her hands chained above her head. The machine was huge and she looked fragile against it, even though she was yelling at someone in a voice that could have drowned out a hungry cockatoo. The man she was arguing with wore a high-vis shirt and a white hard hat and looked like he needed a beer, but he wasn't backing down. Instead, he was trying to get a word in to tell her something he clearly thought was important but that my aunt didn't seem to want to hear. I knew exactly how the poor man felt.
The screaming got louder and turned into a wailing siren and I jerked awake just in time to see a police cruiser fly past us, kicking up a spray of gravel from the road.
A sick feeling grew, right next to my spleen.
'Noah, I'm getting that déjà vu sensation again.'
He glanced my way. 'Like that time when I got lost on my dirt bike in the state park?'
I nodded. I'd been twelve, and Noah thirteen when I'd told my Aunt that he shouldn't be out in the park with the storm on its way. I'd had no reason other than a restless sense of foreboding to suspect he might have been out there, but she'd sent me with Harry, our farmhand, to go and get him. Noah's mum had bought me a box of chocolates as a thank you for raising the alarm and hadn't even asked me about how I'd known where he was.
Without a word, Noah sped up a little and I knew he was going to follow the cruiser. I didn't complain. We were far enough out of town that there were only a handful of properties between us and our farms, and past our turnoff was all designated state park. That left a very small sample of people that could be in trouble. And we knew all of them.
Ten minutes later, we both breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the cruiser's lights in the distance. It had continued to follow the road we were on instead of taking our turnoff, but Noah still followed it. He was as nosy as I was.
Luckily, with the recent rain we'd had, the policeman's tyre tracks were easy to follow, otherwise we might not have noticed where he'd left the road just past Dead Dog Creek in the state park. There was an old fire access track leading up a gentle ridge that had recently been widened. Very recently. There were still fresh bulldozer tracks corrugating the mud.
The sick, restless feeling came back.
Noah's old ute valiantly managed the greasy track even at the insane speeds he was asking for, and when we reached the small clearing on the other side of the ridge, there were no less than five other cars crammed into it: the police cruiser; Harry's ute; a couple of shiny white four-wheel drives with Kolsom Mining logos on the drivers' doors; and my aunt's blue station wagon.
'Kolsom?' Noah asked, pouncing from the car and striding down a track that hadn't existed a few hours ago. The scent of crushed ti-tree was losing the war against the stench of diesel. 'The coal seam gas company? What are they doing here?'
'Apparently their exploration licence extends down as far as Chentyn now,' I said, hurrying after him through the mud. It was the half-hearted sort of mud that only reached down a few centimetres. Just enough to peel nicely away from the dry ground underneath and stick to the soles of my school shoes. 'Aunt Lily's been going nuts over it. She reckons their gas fields up north are poisoning the river. If they decide to start operating anywhere near here she might just have a conniption, whatever that is.'
The track curved where it got a bit steep.
'Does it involve chaining yourself to a bulldozer?'
'Apparently so,' I croaked, stunned.
It was exactly the same as in my dream, only less vivid, somehow. Maybe because the reality of it didn't convey the ominous sense of danger I'd felt. Now I wasn't certain if I was scared because my aunt was chained to a giant metal monster or if it was because I had somehow seen what was happening without actually being present. Was there also a fallen tree nearby with a family of frightened ringtail possums huddled inside?
My aunt looked very uncomfortable, and sounded furious. 'Then I'll say it again. You either get your equipment off my land, or I'll have you charged with trespassing.'
There were six men in hard hats and fluorescent orange polo shirts, and all of them turned to Senior Sergeant Loxwood, leaving it to him to respond the crazy lady.
The sergeant had been in charge of the Nalong Police Station for as long as I could remember, and after that incident with the Ashbrees's ride-on mower, I was still just a little bit intimidated by him.
'Ms Gracewood, this is state park,' the policeman said. 'Kolsom are within their licence parameters to — '
'They need to check their maps again,' she cut in. 'The state park boundary is farther west. This is private property.'
Her statement was met by dubious looks from almost everyone, including me. I went to stand with the only person not frowning at her.
'Harry,' I muttered to the dark-skinned farmer, 'do you need a hand?'
'No, I think your aunt has it pretty well sorted,' he said. He was leaning with his back against a tree, looking unfazed, but his eyes were a little too tight.
'I mean, do you need a hand with her?'
'Do you have any suggestions?'
'Do you happen to have any chocolate-coated liquorice with you?'
He shook his head.
My aunt noticed our exchange. 'Lainie, what are you doing here?' Her jeans were coated with drying mud and her hair windblown. How long had she been sitting there for?
'Are you really surprised?' Harry asked her. She didn't reply but her face got that set look like it did whenever she caught me watching Game of Thrones.
I smiled at her. 'I just came to ask, do you want yellow flowers or purple? You know, for the side of your combi van? I prefer purple. That way it will match your tie-dyed kaftan.'
'This is not some Hippie thing, Lainie. This is important. And I would never buy another combi van.'
She really used to own one? Learn something new every day ...
The sergeant crouched down in front of her and put on a very patient expression. 'Lily, please don't make me arrest you. I have enough legal paperwork from my ex-wife to deal with; I'd rather not have any more.'(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Songlines"
Copyright © 2016 Carolyn Denman.
Excerpted by permission of Odyssey Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hi friends! Back again with a review from Netgalley! Thank you to Netgalley for the privilege of reviewing books and the following opinions are my own. I have a lot of thoughts about this book, and I’ve had a hard time organizing them into coherent thoughts. Overall, I liked this book, but there were parts I just really couldn’t connect with. Basically, this book is a fantasy in which the Garden of Eden is real and weirdly enough in Australia. Cherubim guard the opening so humans cannot stumble upon it and find it. Lainie, the main character seems to be in the US equivalent of her senior year in high school. She’s got all sorts of usual problems – a dude who picks on her, a guy best friend who is exploring the dating scene without her, and trying to figure out what she wants fo do with her life. This is until a drilling company comes sniffing around her property & opens up a rabbit hole of godly proportions. I found I liked the characters the most, plus the love stories. Who doesn’t love a good enemies to lovers trope? I feel like it’s done well and you really get a sense of why they were enemies. I don’t necessarily love the “You have no choice in who you love” trope, but it isn’t my least favorite. Lainie is just a normal girl trying to cope with her new lot in life with a ragtag group of pals. I will say, the religious theme doesn’t do it for me. While it isn’t outwardly devout, it is centered around the existence of a huge piece of the Bible existing. In Australia. The setting of this book is another aspect that threw me off because I’m very unfamiliar with Australian language and slang so a lot of it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I took a lot of guesses while reading. Lastly, I was not a fan of the ending. Not because it wasn’t good or didn’t have a good enough cliffhanger, but because it made me so sad!!! I just wanted to hug all of them & squeeze them until they felt better! I docked this book down to a 3.5/5 stars for those reasons. I’m not super sure if I will continue in the series. I imagine it would be a very mood read kinda thing. Not entirely for me, but I’d give it a try, especially if you understand Australian lingo! Thanks for reading, friends!
This novel has a promising premise as it follows Lainie, a young girl who wants nothing more than to escape the backwoods of Australia and go live in the city and attend university. It is a typical coming-of-age premise of a young individual seeking out a chance to spread their wings and escape their repetitive simple lives. However, the twist here is that Lainie is not an ordinary human; she is a Cherub, a creature meant to protect the gate from humans. It is an interesting enough premise, and the book cover is beautiful enough to draw in any reader. However, the novel itself pales in comparison. Songlines is one of those novels that was difficult to hold my attention. The detail that went into the description of the setting and backdrop was terrific. It is beautiful how Denman can create that backdrop in such magical way without losing realism. Then there was the approach to Judeo-Christian religion. It was respectful in the way it captured religion and took the ideals of Eden and transformed them into mythology. The novel is incredibly respectful, so for that; the novel holds merit. What is hard to get a handle on is the characters and the dynamics. Lainie’s relationship with Bane is one that is not only predictable but cliché. These are two characters who hate each other that are destined to be with one another. As a cliché trope, it is one that is fine to work with, especially when the reader can connect to the characters. However, Lainie and Bane are challenging to connect to, and their guardian-sentinel forced relationship takes away half of the magic that could have been used to build up their dynamics. As a couple, the fact that they are forced together, it does not come off well to the reader, and both characters do not jump off the pages. They are lackluster, and the reader is not given much depth to their relationship, at least not enough to make the reader care about them. Their voices are stagnant. Now, while the detail may be incredible, the pace of the story is incredibly slow. It is hard to get a firm grip on the direction of the novel because it is almost as if two stories are going on here, but neither is built up well enough. It is as if the reader is driving between the fork on the road, looking at both roads for direction. It just takes too long to capture the reader's interest, following the slow pace and adding in scenes that do not add anything to the plot or the character development. They are, quite simply, nothing but filler, lacking any substance. Once again, as compelling as the novel could have been, it ultimately just fell flat.
Songlines by Carolyn Denman is a wonderful story that will take you away and make you think about life and heaven and earth. Do angels exist? Was the Garden of Eden real? There is so much going on in this story that I do not want to add anything to the synopsis about this book. I do feel that reading it will leave you with a wonderful feeling that cannot be explained. It is a different story and you must read it with an open mind. I guarantee you will love it! I received this story as part of a Quirky Blind Date with an author and I always review every book that I read. I highly recommend this one. Enjoy.
‘I got four angry strides away before Harry changed the course of my life with six easy words. “Can you hear the river crying?” Lainie, Ch. 8’ Lainie’s days are filled with study for exams, repairing fences, ‘pulling stubborn lambs out of angry ewes’, and contemplating a future beyond this one-grain-silo town. ‘Your mother’s grave is a lie.’ Harry to Lainie. When the two important adults in her life, Aunt Lily and Harry, try to tell her that the mother she never knew is actually alive in some ‘Eden’, she reacts with anger. Though not clued up on the Book of Genesis, Lainie is sure the original Garden was not in the Great Southern Land (Australia). Besides, her mother lies buried. Harry, though, disappears. This is the catalyst for Lainie to seek out her roots. This unusual adventure, aimed at Young Adults, is so thoughtful it deserves a wide readership. It mixes a coming-of-age tale and romance with ancient memories, religious motifs and mythologies. The slow burn narrative begins in a nowheresville ‘where the creeks are named after dead animals’. Carolyn Denman builds the details of school life, farm work and hikes through the fire-prone bush until the fantastical elements seem to arise quite plausibly from this backdrop . I see it as an engrossing story of protecting the one Eden we all have now, our Earth. Lainie and her friends, Bane, Noah and Tessa, represent our only hope – young people. Earth’s enemies are symbolised by the mining giant Kolsom. But there is more going on than the struggle between these Sentinels of a special place and Kolsom’s devious agents. Something seems to be going badly wrong with the nature of Eden itself. ‘I smiled at him, winked, then stepped across the boundary into Paradise.’ Don’t be fooled by the early steady pace; the acceleration toward the utterly unforeseeable events took me by surprise. You are bound to want to know what on earth – and Eden – is going to happen next. Fortunately, the sequels are now available too. A note about song lines: To Indigenous Australians, a songline, or dreaming track, is one of the paths across the land or sky which mark the route followed by creator-beings. These made the earth and everything in it. This early time is called the Dreamtime or the Dreaming. Carolyn Denman says in the foreword, ‘My desire is that this tale reflects the co-existance and interconnectedness of belief systems.’ I think she suceeds remarkably well.
With a unique setting, background and twists, this is a young adult fantasy/paranormal novel to enjoy and devour. Lainie lives with her aunt near a small town on a farm in Australia. Not only does she face the normal troubles of school and farm life, but experiences visions and has a quirky sense of intuition. When miners arrive and start taking over the land, not only Lainie's aunt has her hands full with a battle to stop them, but Lainie notices things around her are growing stranger. Her past and future are nothing like she thought, and the truth is almost impossible to believe. This was a refreshing read. Lainie is full of spunk, humor and a fire-ball of quirky wit. She's down-to-earth, hard working, can handle sheep like nobodies business and still, isn't unsure of herself in many ways. In some ways, she's immature in her actions while, in others, she's beyond her years. It's an interesting mixture which makes her easy to like and tons of fun to follow. The setting is in Australia, and the author does a fantastic job at bringing the surroundings to life. The scenes are vivid, and it's easy to feel at home in Lainie's world. The unique twist with the Garden of Eden, gives this a whole new direction with lots of unexpected surprises and turns. While some aspects of the read are familiar in this YA genre, others are completely new and unexpected. There's never a boring moment, and it's impossible to see where everything is heading or what will happen next. There is a love triangle of sorts, but this is a romance which builds, learns, forms friendships and holds all of the necessary building blocks before nearing anything comparable to a fresh bud of love. In other words, this is an intriguing read and one YA paranormal fans are sure to enjoy.
Songlines is a fresh and unusual YA urban fantasy, with a unique supernatural twist: situating Paradise in a remote corner of the Victorian countryside. Songlines begins with Lainie Gracewood finishing off her last weeks of school, unaware that her university plans are about to be derailed. Her mission to protect her aunt’s farm from unscrupulous mining prospectors becomes an exploration of the land’s profound ties to humanity – and the role a close-knit network of farmers plays in safeguarding this sacred connection. Lainie’s character was a real highlight for me. I liked her adventurous spirit, her wicked sense of humour and her practical approach to every issue – whether it be looking after an orphaned joey, or finding a way to save the farm’s precious cave system with its hidden secrets. The mystery of the river which sends its sorrowful music into Lainie’s dreams, the role the Garden of Eden plays, and the inclusion of a strong romance element keeps the story spinning along. Songlines is an absorbing story I think would suit all readers of YA, from young to old.
Initially, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to buy Songlines, let alone review it. I was worried that I was going to read yet another YA novel involving angels with the usual love triangle thrown in. (Please get me a bucket I’m going to be sick!). Yet, when I heard the author’s tagline for the book I was intrigued: “Cherubim, the Garden of Eden, plus a flaming sword and all set on Australian sheep farm.” I thought, “Maybe this will be different.” You know what? It was - I thoroughly enjoyed it. Songlines centres around a teenage girl, Lainie, who lives on a sheep farm with her Aunt Lily and their farmhand Harry – an aboriginal elder. Lainie’s best friend is Noah, a boy she’s known since childhood and who lives on a nearby farm. They are both in their final year of high school in the nearby town of Nalong. Lainie’s nemesis, a boy named Ben, also attends the school and his violent outbursts over the years have earned him the nickname Bane. The book opens with Lainie experiencing a troubling premonition about her aunt confronting mining surveyors on their property. Her prescience and feelings of imminent danger escalate and through them she, Noah and Bane discover that the world around them is far different than they believed and their roles in it are beyond anything they could imagine. What I loved about this book was its characterisations and its setting. It was a delight to read a fantasy novel set in rural Australia and Denman captures what it’s like to be an Aussie kid going to school in a small country town. Having been a farm girl who went to a tiny high school in rural Victoria, these sections resonated very strongly with me and I found myself smiling as I read these passages – they ring true as do the sections depicting life on the farm. The pacing for the novel is steady, but it doesn’t race along and one of the benefits of this is that Denman has time to develop her characters in depth and as such they are easy to relate to. Their motivations, their hopes and their angst are all explored. Though most of this is written in the first person, from Lainie’s POV, there are sections that are written in the third person from other character’s perspective and this works really well. I normally loathe reading first person stories and if I enjoy them then it’s proof of good writing. The “voice” of Lainie is a blend of naivete, farm girl practicality and confused and hurt teen, but it reads as, or rather sounds, uniquely Australian. Denman does this through clever use of the vernacular and colourful metaphors which made me smile a lot. However, this is not done to such an extent that it will prove troublesome for international readers. Beyond the religious aspects of this tale, this is a coming of age story for all the teens involved in it and there other messages about personal freedom, environmental protection, dealing with loss and grief, facing fears, taking responsibility and ultimately embracing destiny despite the costs. The end was satisfying and definitely made me want to see what’s next in Denman’s The Sentinels of Eden series. 4 Stars.
Reviewed by Rosie Malezer for Readers' Favorite Songlines is the first book in The Sentinels of Eden series written by Carolyn Denman. High school senior, Lainie Gracewood, has a daydream vision of a bulldozer coming straight for her, effortlessly tearing her tree roots from the ground below her. Startled awake by the coach’s whistle, Lainie finds herself back at soccer practice, watching her best friend, Noah Ashbree, trying to break up an altercation between two players. Lainie’s vision had come after Aunt Lily had chained herself to a bulldozer of Kolsom Mining Company, which had been illegally destroying the forest on her land whilst trespassing on private property. As Lainie’s visions continue to get stronger, she wakes each morning with a song holding onto the edge of her subconscious. When one of the local tribal Elders (and custodian to The Garden of Eden, home of the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge), Harry Doolan, discloses to Lainie that she is of Indigenous blood and has a power greater than she could ever possibly imagine, Lainie goes into extensive research mode, only to learn that the local area of Nalong has an interesting history which comes from the Dreamtime. Unsure of how she fits into the scheme of things, Lainie not only sets out to investigate her own family history, but also her tribal lands and where she truly comes from, while making a few startling discoveries along the way. Carolyn Denman’s powerful tale of the Indigenous peoples of Australia and their role in protecting sacred sites of their ancestors reached into my very core. Legends of the Dreamtime are something I have grown up with as a Blackfella of Gubbi Gubbi Country. Sacred sites and the Dreaming (ie. rock art, tribal markings, the waters which are woven by the Rainbow Serpent, and Tiddalick the Frog) teach not only how the lands were created, but also teach humility and of our belonging to Country. Mention of one of Australia’s great authors, May Gibbs, whilst reading the story of Songlines, also gave me a nostalgic smile. It was wonderful to not only read a book which deals with the Dreaming, but also see mentions of such epic titles as Snugglepot and Cuddlepie – an essential book in any Australian home library. Songlines has woven many different genres into one, ensuring that the reader is not only entertained by the modern day teenage storyline, but also educated by the history, legend, ritual and faith of Australia’s first peoples. I very much enjoyed Songlines and recommend it to readers who are interested in the true history of Australia, presented with action, adventure, humor, spirituality and a touch of the paranormal.
Reviewed by Kayti Nika Raet for Readers' Favorite Songlines by Carolyn Denman is the first book in the Sentinels of Eden, a young adult paranormal series set in Australia. Lainie views herself just like any normal teenager as she finishes high school with her best friend, Noah, and helps her aunt at the sheep farm. But when a mining company begins to creep into her family's property, tainting the family's water supply, her aunt reveals a family secret she has been holding since the death of Lainie's mother. Lainie is not quite human. Lainie refuses to believe what her aunt and Harry, an Aboriginal Elder, tell her, especially when her heritage has to do with things like Cherubim and the Garden of Eden. But as time passes and more of her unique abilities come to light, Lainie can no longer deny that something is different about her. When, Harry, her best link to her past, disappears trying to protect Eden from miners, it is up to Lainie to rise to the occasion and learn the true meaning of the secret she must protect. Songlines by Carolyn Denman is the kind of paranormal novel that emulates the best of the genre while adding something completely unique and refreshing to it. Songlines is a well written book with engaging characters and I really enjoyed following Lainie's journey of self discovery and acceptance. Author Carolyn Denman is currently writing the fourth book in the series, which is a relief considering how Songlines ended. I'm definitely interested in learning more about Lainie, Bane, and Noah! A great read for any fan of the paranormal.
Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite Lainie Gracewood and her childhood best friend, Noah Ashbree, are finishing up their VCE and hoping to go on to university when forces beyond their control or understanding pull them into an amazing quest in Songlines: The Sentinels of Eden, Book One by Carolyn Denman. Sleep is increasingly elusive as Lainie dreams of the saddest music imaginable. Combined with increasingly strange behavior on the part of a lifelong pain in the neck, Bane, Lainie struggles to figure out what she is supposed to do. Visions of danger alert Lainie and Noah to a problem in the State Forest where a mining company is coming too close to sacred land. Unfortunately, Lainie never wanted to learn about it from Harry, the Gracewoods' farmhand who is an elder of the local Indigenous people, so she is totally unprepared for the cosmic battle that is necessary to preserve Eden. Along with Noah, Bane and Tessa, Lainie rises to the challenge and confronts the evil head-on as they learn their roles as guardians of a tremendous secret. The question is, what will this battle cost this group of friends and their families? Typical teenagers in very untypical roles make Songlines: The Sentinels of Eden, Book One by Carolyn Denman an extraordinary read. Filled with mesmerizing descriptions of the Australian outback and the mythical world of the Garden of Eden, you can’t help but turn the pages to see just what these friends are prepared to do to fulfill their destinies. Truly wonderful! The characters are so natural, you feel as if you are part of the group. Their depth is a pleasant break from depictions of teens as self-indulged and one-dimensional. Engaging on the surface, Songlines is also full of spirituality and the search for the meaning of a life worth living. This book provides tremendous depth and plenty of food for thought for today’s YA reader as well as people of all ages.