Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Winner Revealed!

Congratulations to NOELLE CLARK- AUTHOR who is the winner of a slightly pre-loved copy of The Freudian Slip!

Noelle, if you would be so kind as to use the CONTACT ME tab on this blog to send me your postage details, I will mail the book out to you soon.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Sand! Pies! Prizes! It's the Australia Day Blog Hop 2014

The Australia Day Blog Hop is hosted by Book'd Out- my first stop for all things review-y goodness.

Thanks to Book'd Out, this Australia Day long weekend you have tonnes of chances to win great books by Australian authors.  All you have to do- as the name suggests- is to hippity hop from blog to blog as listed on Shelleyrae's website today and participate in the fun and games to be had on any blog you so choose!

As for me, I will be giving away a slightly pre-loved copy of Marion von Adlerstein's novel, The Freudian Slip- a tale of advertising, sexism and revenge in 1960s Sydney.  For your chance to win, simply answer the following question in the comments below.

What state is Jasper Jones author Craig Silvey from?

*Hint!  I live here too!*

Best of luck to you!  Don't forget to check back here on the 29th when the winner will be announced.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Welcome to my Bookshelves, with Guest Poster Tracy Farr!

The first Bookshelf Tour for 2014 is exciting stuff, and I am proud to welcome Tracy Farr to the blog to show us her books.  Tracy's debut novel, The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt came out in 2013 and has since been a local hit (at least in MY bookshop!).  You can read my review here.

Like most things in my life, my bookshelves are a mixture of compulsive order and flagrant disorder. We have dysfunctional shelves in the junk room upstairs, with too many books crammed and jammed in, double- and triple-shelved; its impossible to find any one book without unpacking almost all the others. Hopeless. But the wall of shelves in our living room is reasonably functional, and rather beautiful.

Picture Credit: Liane McGee

On these shelves theres a rough divide into fiction and non-fiction, although they overlap and intermix. The non-fiction books are a mixed bag. There are plenty about science Antarctica (my partners interest and career), seaweed (my interest what used to be my career), oceans, maths and physics. Others are about music, film and theatre, writing, design. Some like The Pursuit of Oblivion [] and Heritage of Pines [ ] Ive used as background reading or research or just inspiration for my writing.

On the fiction shelves, writers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada the three countries Ive lived in predominate. There are runs of books by the same author Peter Carey, Helen Garner, Fiona Kidman, Charlotte Grimshaw, Joan London, Damien Wilkins, Elizabeth Jolley, Tim Winton but then a too-tall edition will break the run, end up on the tall shelf. Or Ill just get lazy and file a book on the nearest shelf when Im done with it.

There are some of my great-uncle Richard Beilbys novels []. There are some titles by and about Katharine Prichard, searched out at second-hand bookstores during my residency in 2008 at Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre [].

There are gaps in the shelves in our house, from many many years when particularly as a broke uni student I bought very few books, and did all my reading from libraries. Im still a great library user. Moving countries twice culled the books a little, too. There are the books that have been long lost, lent to friends you must read this but not returned. Sometimes you have to let books go.

Some books are inscribed. I was a gibbering slavering fan-girl when I faced Peter Carey over the signing table after a reading he did in Vancouver in October 1995. I dont keep my inscribed books separately; theyre in amongst the others, little surprises when I open them.

Theres a shelf with literary mags, another of knitting, crochet, making and craft books; and theres a shelf that holds copies of my printed works (vertically), next to some of my favourite books of poetry (horizontally, held down by Godzilla).

In our bedroom theres a bookshelf thats made from our old kitchen cupboards. It houses most of our crime and thriller novels, as well as just-read or to-be-shelved overflow. And by the bed are books still to be read, and usually the book Im currently reading. Thats book, singular; Im strictly a one-book-at-a-time plodder. I rarely dont finish a book, once Ive started it.

At the base of this pile is Kirsty Gunns The Big Music, which I read at a gallop in two days over Christmas 2013 what a brilliant, rewarding, wonderful book.

Thanks Tracy!  What a wonderful collection you have.  

If you want to know more, Tracy will be a guest at the 2014 Perth Writers Festival!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Book Review: Shame and the Captives by Tom Keneally

Shame and the Captives
Tom Keneally
Vintage Publishing

First of all, when did Tom Keneally stop being published under Thomas?  Was it before or after The Daughters of Mars?  I can't remember... and truthfully, other than this novel, I have never read any of his work before.  All I know is that the whole of Australia seems to think that he is wonderful.  Perhaps he is... but Shame and the Captives was rather disappointing for me, and this is why.

Shame and the Captives is a creative transposition of the Cowra outbreak during the Second World War to the made up town of Gawell.  It follows the points of view of several characters living in and around the Gawell internment camp, which is home to Japanese, Korean and Italian prisoners of war who have been captured in other parts of the world (and Darwin which by comparison is rather close) and brought to Australia to be kept an eye on.  The characters we follow are: Alice, a farmer's wife living with her father in law while her new husband is a prisoner in Greece, Suttor, a major who spends most of his time writing radio plays, Tengan, Goda and Aoki, three Japanese prisoners, Cheong, a Korean prisoner, and Colonel Abercare who is estranged from his wife due to past indiscretions.  From the blurb, I was lead to believe that this book would be mostly about the love story between Alice and the Italian internee who is assigned to work on their farm.  This was not really the case.

On the back of the book, the Daily Telegraph has provided a quote: "The skill of Tom Keneally is that he write with a large scope but his stories are engagingly intimate."  I don't disagree with this.   The storytelling will shift out to a broad focus at times, but he is particularly skilled at zooming in to focus on other characters, changing the tone of the story as adeptly as if he had stepped into their skin.  However, this has led me to feel like the focus of the book was in the wrong place.  I was really interested in Colonel Abercare's story, but it was all backstory, told passively and quickly.  Major Suttor REALLY annoyed me, and Alice Herman's story reminded me too much of the plot of The Paperbark Shoe, which in my opinion was a far superior book.  Sorry, Mr Keneally.  I don't think I like the shifting focus approach.  I like a character that I can get behind and stay behind to the point of emotional impact.  I think in this book, the result of the constant shifting was to make me distant from all of the voices.

The other thing that really bugged me about this book was the amount of exposition.  As a student of creative writing, you get told to jump straight into the conflict, into an inciting incident and save all of the telling details for later in the beginning of the book... but the very beginning of this book is full of telling paragraphs which attempt to catch the reader up to where the character is in their life at that moment, describing their home lives, and not really showing us much about the situation at all.  I found the sections about Alice Herman particularly stilted, as the book could go several sentences in a row without varying the sentence beginnings.  (She did this, she felt that, she knew this.)

Eventually I did find a way into this book, and I finished it, but I have to say that it fell well short of my expectations, and I hope that next time I read something by Keneally, I understand what all the fuss is about.

Sorry Mr Keneally.  I really do hate to write a negative review.

3/ 5 (I think I'm being generous.)

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Review: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Eimear McBride
Text Publishing

There is nothing particularly new about novels of illicit love, sexual awakening, and the mental unravelling of a girl in a difficult situation.  What is new about A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is it's style.  This short novel is written entirely as a stream of consciousness; it is a jumble of thoughts, feelings and speech as well as impressions on the part of the unnamed female narrator.  Peppered throughout the text are moments of higher lucidity which serve to orient the reader.  At first, this style is alienating and even somewhat annoying.  It is a book that requires patience and concentration- but not only that.  This is a book which deserves your patience and understanding.  As Anne Enright from the Guardian is quoted as saying on the front, McBride is a genius, and this book is an 'instant classic.'

To read my synopses and analysis of the book (contains spoilers) please read on.

Monday, 6 January 2014

A Poem for Phil

Landscapes of the past; white dunes, crystal beaches
The golden thread of the horizon
This place of my childhood forever tied to you

Days in your asymmetrical house
In the woodshed; in the upstairs bathroom
Dropping the face-washer down the laundry chute- a magic trick!

Your feet and face the only visible pieces
As you floated on your back in Granny’s Pool

Afterwards, walking the reef in rubber shoes
White whiskers, flannel hat blown into the sea and dried over the railing of the veranda

Your house; our house; morning tea after a morning swim
Watermelon juice a sticky trail on my hands and face

Playing in the ‘shops’ you’d transformed our trees into
Using pieces from the woodshed- bits of fence, abandoned projects

The vegetable garden; the rocking chairs; the wooden sunroom
All bathed in summer sunlight
And bathed in the light of fond memories

The landscape of my past

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Australian Women Writers 2013- Challenge Complete!

I forgot to mention that last year I achieved my goal of reading and reviewing at least 10 books by Australian Women Writers as part of the challenge of the same name.  This is such a great cause!  Women writers in Australia are so fantastic and anyone who avoids them purely due to their gender is missing out- I hate the assumption that because a writer is female their work will be less literary or substantial.  It was great to see that this year a woman won the Miles Franklin award (Michelle de Kretser) and a woman won the Man Booker (Eleanor Catton).  The inaugural Stella Prize was also a very exciting event!

To read my reviews from last year, click here.

This year I am participating again and I aim to read and review at least ten books by Australian women.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Goals for the New Year

I don't believe in New Year's Resolution anymore... someone very wise often says to me that if you have the intention to improve yourself, why wait until January 1 to begin?  And that's absolutely right, but one thing I believe very strongly in is setting goals.

So here are some I have set for 2014.

1. Read 110 books

2. Write every day

3. Enter 12 competitions/ submit to 12 journals

4. Finish up more products (i.e. make up)

5. Go to the gym at least once a week

What are your goals?  Will you help keep me accountable?