Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lost the Plot – Episode 14

Also available via iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/lost-the-plot-podacast/id1185190716

Seeking Tumnus YA Fiction Podcast
seekingtumnus.com/

World Builders
worldbuilders.org/page/fundraising
Michelle West books

Lost Rocks
Lost Rocks

The Great Book Swap – Indigenous Literacy Foundation
www.greatbookswap.org.au/

My New Bookshelf 😀
Book Shelf

Blemish Books – Pulpture
blemishbooks.com.au/news/index.shtml
blemishbooks.com.au/pulpture/index.…tform=hootsuite
WIP Pulpture

Banjo Paterson Park
Banjo Paterson Park

Banjo Paterson Bricks

Treasures from my Bookish Past

20170521_202914

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20170521_203026

Does anyone want these? Comment somewhere and I will send them.

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30 books!! I’m not making this up – people would have been sponsoring me like 20c a book.

 

 

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Hugo Award Finalists
www.worldcon.fi/wsfs/hugo-finalists/

Sad Puppies
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sad_Puppies

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award
www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/…d-wolf-erlbruch

Banned Books Week – 2016 Top Challenged Books
www.facebook.com/bannedbooksweek/…f=PAGES_TIMELINE

2016 Top Challenged Books
www.bustle.com/p/the-most-challe…leanor-park-50160

Aranda Primary School Decommissions Library
www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/ara…-gvtcpx.html

National Simultaneous Storytime
www.alia.org.au/nss#resources

Anita Heiss’ New Book
www.facebook.com/AnitaHeissAuthor…/?type=3&theater

Cleverman Graphic Novel
www.facebook.com/ClevermanTV/phot…/?type=3&theater

Tara Moss Working on New Book
www.facebook.com/taramossauthor/p…/?type=3&theater

Free Copies of the Handmaid’s Tale in NYC
www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/free-c…af6d718a3ee6

My Cousin Rachel
www.facebook.com/ViragoPress/vide…f=PAGES_TIMELINE

Berlin Syndrome
www.facebook.com/BerlinSyndromeAU…f=PAGES_TIMELINE

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Casting
www.facebook.com/pottermore/photo…/?type=3&theater
www.buzzfeed.com/eleanorbate/the-…books#.otw8edGB3

The Wheel of Time TV Series
variety.com/2017/tv/news/wheel-…tv-series-sony-1202

Kim Morton
feminartsy.com/unspoken-the-real…btqi-communities/

Apply to be a CBCA Judge
cbca.org.au/judges-judging

What’s In a Name by Myles Walsh
trove.nla.gov.au/work/213497657?s…sion=NBD58638784

Mrs Whitlam by Bruce Pascoe
www.goodreads.com/book/show/303422…from_search=true

Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
www.goodreads.com/book/show/298660…from_search=true

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Saga Volume 7

I’ve been following this graphic novel series (by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples) for a while, so if you want to see what I’ve written about earlier volumes you can check them out here, here and here.

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In my last review, I said that I liked Volume 6 a bit less than the other volumes. I’m very sad to say that I think despite starting out all guns blazing, Saga is on a downward trend. If you’re going to kill off main characters, you need to replace them with something of equal or greater value. Unfortunately, I’m just not loving the replacements. It’s such an action-intensive series that, especially with these volumes only coming out every 9 months or so, it’s a bit hard to keep tabs on everything that’s going on. I think maybe it’s also crossed the line from being wild and irreverent to actually quite maudlin.

Anyway, look, I’ll probably keep reading these, but I’ve definitely lost a bit of my enthusiasm after the last couple of volumes. It’s still hard-hitting, but maybe not as fun.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Uncategorized

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil

Melina Marchetta has been the trailblazer of Australian teen fiction since the early 1990s, so I was really excited when she came to speak at Muse in Canberra not too long ago. A quietly thoughtful and articulate speaker, afterwards she kindly stayed back to sign copies of her latest novel.

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“Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil” is a modern mystery thriller set in France and the UK. Chief Inspector Bish Ortley has been temporarily relieved of his police duties after an incident with a colleague when he gets a disturbing call from an old friend. A bus has been blown up in France and his daughter, who is away on camp, was on it. Pulling himself together enough to drive over the Chunnel, Bish finds out that his daughter was not the only person of interest on that bus. Another teen, Violette LeBrac, is the daughter of the infamous Noor LeBrac who is serving a life sentence for her involvement in a bombing in London many years earlier. When Violette disappears taking another teen with her, Bish finds himself leading the hunt to find her. Along the way, he finds himself forced to face his demons, past and present.

This is an interesting, compelling and relevant story with many, many layers. Marchetta is second to none when it comes to exploring the teenage psyche and she definitely has not lost her touch with the advent of the internet and social media. After writing about the Italian immigrant experience in Australia, Marchetta does a convincing job tackling the Middle Eastern experience in Europe. Her exploration of race is multifaceted and informed, and Bish’s own complex identity is a valuable conduit between two very polarised experiences. Although there were times where I felt the characters were perhaps a little too virtuous, the rest of the story more than made up for it and I found myself staying awake way too late to finish this one.

A cracking read that couldn’t be timed better. Reading this book is like having your finger on the pulse of Europe.

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Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Mystery/Thriller, Signed Books, Uncategorized

South of Forgiveness

Please note that this review discusses sexual violence and may be upsetting to some people. I use the term “victim” and “survivor” interchangeably throughout this review.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Lost Magazine. I first became aware of this book, and the controversy surrounding it, when I watched the International Women’s Day episode of Q&A earlier this month. I was pretty taken aback by the premise: an author touring Australia with her rapist to talk about the book they have written together? Before I had even seen the book I was conflicted.

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“South of Forgiveness” by Thordis Elva and the somewhat befittingly named Tom Stranger (in slightly smaller writing), is a recount of a week that they both spent together in Capetown, 17 years after Stranger raped Elva when she was 16 years old. While finishing high school in Iceland in 1996, 18 year old Australian Stranger met Elva and they started dating. Very early in the relationship Stranger brutally raped Elva while she was completely incapacitated by alcohol then broke the relationship off shortly afterwards. A number of years later, long after Stranger had moved back to Australia, Elva reached out to Stranger by email to talk about what had happened. After 8 years of emailing, Elva and Stranger agree to meet in South Africa to see if they can finally achieve what they both long for: Elva’s forgiveness.

Where do I even start? I found this book to be incredibly problematic in a plethora of ways and I have a lot of very complex thoughts about it. From the outset, this is a very difficult and uncomfortable book to read. I found myself many times sitting there with the book next to me procrastinating on my phone – not because the book was badly written (Elva is a spirited and eloquent writer) – but because I was so reluctant to dive back into the incredibly raw, challenging and morally ambiguous conversations.

Having some knowledge of justice systems and restorative justice programs, I was quite appalled that Elva would embark on a journey like this at all. Due to the Icelandic statute of limitations, the length of time that had passed and issues of evidence, there was no possibility of Stranger being charged for his crime. As a consequence, Stranger is caught in this awkward grey area of not being a convicted criminal but being remorseful for his actions nonetheless. Living on opposite sides of the planet doesn’t help, and access to joint counselling, mediation or any kind of formal process is impractical and ultimately never raised. I think my biggest reaction in this regard was wondering how Elva could feel safe spending a week with her rapist. As the story unfolds it transpires that this is not the first time that they have met up since the incident, but even so, it made for some very intense reading.

However, it’s not just physical safety that could have been a concern – it was also emotional safety. Sexual violence is about power, and Elva is clearly driving this bus. In fact, even from the writing it is clear that Elva is a very strong, determined person and Stranger seems much more hollow and unsure. The difference in tone between Elva’s parts and Stranger’s parts is clear. Nevertheless, it made me wonder: what kind of message is this sending for other rape survivors? I’m conflicted about the idea of recommending that people forgive their rapists generally, let alone over the course of a week of intimate discussions in a country not your own. One of the biggest obstacles for most victims, obviously, is actually having a rapist who feels remorse for their actions. I don’t think that forgiveness is essential for everyone’s survival. Elva decided that this was what she needed to do to let go of her trauma, but I don’t think that this is going to be the path for everyone. Everyone deals with suffering in their own way, some people could be seriously retraumatised by having to face their attacker. This is one point where I think it’s important to reiterate that this book is not and should not be taken as prescriptive.

Another message I had concerns about was the message for perpetrators. As I mentioned earlier, Stranger essentially got off scot-free, and I worried about this sending the message to rapists (or potential rapists) that a) they were unlikely to ever be prosecuted, and b) that their victim would forgive them eventually. I had concerns about the extent to which this book could be interpreted as being apologist, but I think ultimately that was not the case. The book is divided into 7 sections, one for each day in Capetown, chronicling Elva’s experiences and their conversations, and then finished with a brief summary from Stranger. Despite never having faced the law for his actions, Elva’s observations and Stranger’s sections show that he has been wracked with guilt. Although my knee-jerk reaction was for someone to throw the book at him, on reflection that is probably against my core beliefs when it comes to the justice system. Sentencing by courts typically have one or more of three main purposes: punishment, community safety and rehabilitation. Despite my initial desire to see Stranger punished, ordinarily, that’s not the purpose I subscribe to and I prefer prisons and sentences to be more about community safety and rehabilitation. After reading this book, I was left with two questions to answer: did I think that Stranger was safe to be in the community and did I think that he had been rehabilitated? My answer to both was yes.

I think that this raises two important points. The first is that legal systems worldwide are still extremely flawed when it comes to sexual violence, both in the laws and their application. Maybe if circumstances had been different, Stranger would have gotten a conviction, maybe he wouldn’t have. I recoil from ideas of vigilante justice, but I acknowledge that the legal system frequently does not get it right. The second point is what Elva calls the monster effect, and I think this is the most important message of the book. Sexual assault isn’t always done by some stranger down an alleyway, sexual assault can and is done by people known to the victim. This is in some ways even more traumatic because of the enormous breach of trust. Most people who know Stranger probably consider him a “good guy”. There are probably millions of men around the world like him who did a similar, once-off thing and kept going when their partner said no, or took advantage while their partner was not able to give consent. This raises further moral questions about to what extent people are and should be judged on a once-off action. Most casual rapists probably never think of it again, while the impact on the victim can be lifelong. I think this book treads a fine line between raising awareness of this different kind of rapist and inviting the reader to believe that people can change and be “on the right side” again.

There was one part of the book that made me deeply uncomfortable. Towards the end, Elva and Stranger visit a rape crisis centre together and although Elva seemed completely fine with this, Stranger and I were not. While I appreciate (as I’ve said above) that Stranger was never convicted of a crime, I think in my heart a rape crisis centre is a safe place for survivors to seek assistance. This was one point in the book where I felt like Stranger and Elva’s reconciliation was put before the best interests of others. It was almost like a betrayal of the CEO’s trust. Without any criminal convictions, there was nothing apart from Stranger’s own guilt stopping him from being there but eventually Stranger grew so uncomfortable that he left. I felt as though if this had truly been about Elva networking, she could have gone alone but there was a sense that this was more about proving a point.

I think another thing that felt a bit incongruous with the core subject of the book was how much of this book seemed to be a joyful celebration. I think I described this book to my partner as something along the lines of “misery porn meets travel blog”. The beginning of the book in particular feels like it’s leading up to a hugely traumatic event, but the rest of the book had a bit of a summer holiday by the beach feel with Elva and Stranger doing a lot of their discussions on various tourist activities. Elva has quite a whimsical writing style and there is a fairly strong spiritual undertone to this book with references to the “playwright in the sky” and a lot of credence given to signs and serendipity. They both laugh a lot, and they both cry a lot. I think this serves to highlight just how complex the relationship between Elva and Stranger is with years of history and trauma between them, but also a fragile friendship. I think again it would be incredibly unrealistic for most rape survivors to have a fun holiday with their rapist and talk it out heart-to-heart.

My final problem with this book is a problem with money, and I think ultimately I would not have bought this book myself. In Australia especially, it is illegal to profit from your crime, however again Stranger finds himself in the grey area of having admitted to a crime but never having been convicted. Technically, the proceeds of the book go towards him for having done a bad thing rather than having done a crime, but I think my reaction is still the same. There has been some call for him to donate any profits he makes and I understand Elva said that she would be receiving the bulk of any royalties anyway.

My main message to people who are considering reading this book is to not take this as a recommendation for how to respond if you have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused, or you yourself are a rapist. This book depicts an extraordinary situation with two very privileged and educated people that would be completely out of reach for most. I think that the correct way to take this book is as a thought experiment to unpack some of the moral and social issues around rape. It is an incredibly challenging book to read and ultimately I’m not sure where I fall on every moral conundrum, but I think anyone who reads this book should read it with caution.

If you have experienced sexual violence, either as a survivor or a perpetrator, please report and seek assistance through your local services. 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Non Fiction, Uncategorized

Through the Arch

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. I’m always eager to try out new takes on the fantasy genre, and I was looking forward to seeing what this was about.

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“Through the Arch” by Devri Walls is the first book in the “Venators” series. Rune Jenkins is a sporty young woman in her first year at university (college) with her twin brother Ryker. She studies hard and looks after her brother when he drinks too much, and tries to ignore the strange reaction she has whenever she sees anything supernatural. However, when she reaches out about her experiences to an old classmate, a reclusive young man named Grey, she finds herself pulled into a completely different world. Full of untold dangers and treachery, Rune and Grey must put everything they thought they knew about themselves and their lives aside if they want to survive.

This is a quintessential example of the young adult/fantasy genre. Walls weaves in classic elements of supernatural storytelling in with modern issues to create a compelling story. Dealing with questions of identity, confidence, child abuse and alcohol abuse, there is enough substance in this story to keep the reader hooked in both the human world and the world of magic. This is an extremely fast-paced story and Walls is an inventive writer who balances breakneck speed against striking imagery. Grey in particular is an appealing character who undergoes quite a lot of development throughout the book.

I think the only thing about this book that was a bit disappointing was the lack of diversity among the characters. Skin colour was mentioned a couple of times, but only regarding the rainbow skin tones of the magical beings. One man who was initially thought to have black skin in fact had blue skin, and another minor elf character with black skin was clearly not black black. I think after recently reading books like “The Fifth Season” and “The Rest of Us Just Live Here“, my baseline threshold for novel and diverse main characters has increased significantly.

Nevertheless, Wall has set the scene for a tense and complex fantasy series. There is enough new and enough familiar in this book to be appealing to any fan of young adult fiction, and I think it is definitely shaping up to be an epic trilogy.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fantasy, Uncategorized, Young Adult

Lost the Plot – Episode 11

Also available via iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/lost-the-plot-podacast/id1185190716

World Builders
worldbuilders.org/

2017 Reading List
www.facebook.com/paperchainbookst…/?type=3&theater

23 books 8 Canberrans will be reading this summer
www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/the…-gtftsm.html

Booktopia Favourite Australian Author
blog.booktopia.com.au/2017/01/27/vot…ralian-author/

Amazon sells out of 1984
gizmodo.com/amazon-sells-out-of…read-a-g-1791658901

Mein Kampf becomes bestseller
www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-04/m…n-germany/8160024

Milo Yiannopouloss’ new book
www.buzzfeed.com/jarrylee/milo-yi…books#.qvGKGOaka
electricliterature.com/roxane-gay-pu…bd#.u9zu4f99d
mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-05/…ver-deal/8163542

Fake library patron Chuck Finlay
www.atlasobscura.com/articles/why-a…ium=atlas-page

South Sudan bookseller
www.theguardian.com/global-developm…orn-south-sudan

2017 Free Comic Book Day catalog
freecomicbookday.com/catalog

Release estimate for George R R Martin’s latest book
www.buzzfeed.com/robinedds/george…Xx4B4#.rnBb8WBAB

New edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
www.pottermore.com/news/updated-ed…medium=referral

The Magic Faraway Tree Movie
www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-28…uster-film.html

Jodi Piccoult’s Small Great Things Film
deadline.com/2017/01/viola-davi…amblin-1201895736/

The Handmaid’s Tale trailer
www.facebook.com/handmaidsonhulu/…f=PAGES_TIMELINE

Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett book Good Omens TV Show
www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/…n-prime-in-2018

Professor finds lost book
www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/this-…j6MkM#.rx1K5aLpL

Four year old girl librarian for the day at Library of Congress
www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-14/f…-congress/8182876

Donna Hosie
http://donnahosie.wixsite.com/website

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Skylarking

This book was selected as the February book for a feminist book club I go to. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it had me at the word “lighthouse”. I absolutely adore the title and the book has a beautiful cover.

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“Skylarking” is a debut historical novel by Kate Mildenhall. Based on a true story and set in late 1800s Australia, this book is about two girls who live in a small settlement at Cape St George in Jervis Bay, NSW. Kate’s father is the head lighthouse keeper while Harriet’s father is his second. Kate is younger, darker and interested in knowledge while Harriet is older, fairer and sweeter. They are inseparable friends – closer to each other than Kate is to any of her siblings. However as they grow up and start facing the realities and expectations of their time, it becomes increasingly apparent to Kate that their idyllic, isolated life together is about to change forever.

This is a beautifully written story about the infinitely complex relationship between two best friends. Mildenhall captures the intricacy, the passion, the tension and the confusion of Kate’s friendship with Harriet and the subtle changes as they both grow into teenagers. I really liked how Mildenhall dealt with Kate’s frustration at being relegated to domestic chores when she loved to read, ride horses and study maps with her father. I felt like it was a heartfelt but realistic interpretation of gender inequality at the time. I also really Mildenhall’s depiction of the anxiety, fluidity and complexity of teenage romantic and sexual awakening.

I think there were only two things that bugged me a bit about this story. The first was that I felt like the ending was a bit flat. I felt like it should have been a sharper, swifter finish to a story that had built up over many chapters. All the speculation up until the historically event (which I won’t mention because of spoilers) seemed like it was spot on, but the story sort of petered out and the speculation afterwards just didn’t seem to have the same oomph. Maybe that was the more accurate interpretation, but I’m not sure it was the more satisfying one. The second thing that bugged me was Mildenhall’s treatment of her Aboriginal characters. I thought she did a really great job of shining a light on Kate and her family’s own prejudices and complacency. However, when it came to actually engaging with the character of the Aboriginal girl, I felt like Mildenhall fell into the trap of the Noble Savage trope. The Aboriginal girl seemed to solely exist to help Kate with her spiritual dilemma and journey towards tolerance and once those purposes had been filled, the girl was discarded.

This is a compelling, thought-provoking novel that generated quite a lot of goosebumps for me while I was reading it. A really excellent debut novel that shows that truth quite often is stranger than fiction.

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Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized