Thursday, 31 March 2016

March Reading Roundup-- A video post!

So, one thing I really enjoy doing is watching "Booktube" videos, which are basically video reviews where someone who really loves books sits down in front of a camera and talks about what they have been reading.  I have been toying with the idea of doing one of these myself for a while and it came down to either doing this or doing a podcast!  The experience was certainly a weird one and naturally having had to watch the video a few times to make sure it was okay (and I am still not sure that it is) I have developed a few hypercritical ideas about my performance.  In any case, here it is, my video book reviewing debut.  Enjoy.

Have you read any of the books mentioned?  Let me know in the comments below.  

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Short Story Collection Recommendations

I know I'm not alone in saying this, but it really ticks me off when people say that they don't like short stories.  As a genre, the short story collection can encompass as many different kinds of tales and forms as there are other genres of book.  A short story can be kind of like a movie, with one central driving motion and smaller but no less interesting things going on at the sides of this, and a novel is a little bit more like a long running TV series, each episode a chapter.  Of course there is no hard and fast rule about this, and novels get made into movies all the time to varying degrees of success.  To my knowledge, a short story has never been turned into a TV series, but if I am wrong about this please let me know in the comments.  

Australian writers in particular have really been going through a kind of renaissance in short fiction, and I don't really know why this is, but for me as a reader, I think it's fabulous.  For me, the appeal of a short story can come from a short but deep immersion into a fully formed world of characters and situations, like sticking your head into Dumbledore's Pensieve (I may have spelled that wrong, sorry JK Rowling) and simple observing what was already going on without you.  There is a sense of immediacy and inevitability about short fiction, and the kinds of stories that I like best have something quite profound to say to the reader in the telling, a moment of truth about the human condition to reveal.  Then again, I also get a sense of Puckish joy when the short story appears to be imparting great wisdom and it's really not telling you anything at all.  Maybe I just enjoy watching people struggle like that.  

What I wanted to do today was recommend some short story collections that I have really enjoyed, with the hope that you might go out and borrow one from a library or pick one up at your local bookstore and give short fiction another try.  Some of these collections were recommended to me by others, and some I studied at uni.  Others I stumbled upon on my own.  I hope among the strands here, you might be able to find something that appeals to you.

Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey

This collection outwardly appears quite strange, as each story is told from the point of view of the soul of an animal killed during a human conflict.  Each story also somehow has something to do with a famous writer, and Dovey skilfully works elements of that writer's style into her own writing.  Yes, it's weird, but it's also incredible.

Like a House on Fire by Cate Kennedy

I only finished this one the other day, but now I finally get why everyone raves about Cate Kennedy.  These stories are largely suburban, about ordinary Australians, but her characters seem like they could be real people you could go out and visit.  

The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

When I studied this collection in second year uni, I'd never heard of Lahiri despite her being a multi-award winning writer.  This collection is one that speaks about displacement and the diaspora, about people trapped between continents and cultures, and about people trying to understand one another.  It's superb.

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Similarly, Ngozi Adichie is much more well known now than when I first encountered her work at uni, and I think that is largely due to the fact that she counts Beyonce as one of her number one fans.  Adichie's TED talk about the danger of a single story is wonderful and I encourage you to look it up.  This collection is about African characters who migrate to collegiate America, and similarly explores the sensation and trials of being pulled between two cultures.  

The Bodysurfers by Robert Drewe

The Australia in these stories is one of beaches and white sand, and like Kennedy's collection, the characters in the collection are living largely suburban experiences.  I'd never considered life in the suburbs to be worth writing about before I read Robert Drewe.  

Further recommendations

I could go on at length about this subject, but I won't.  There are many short fiction writers whose work I have come across in magazines and online, or in multi-authored collections who I would recommend as well, plus people whose collections I have reviewed here before, so in no particular order, I will mention a few names worth looking out for.

Ryan O'Neill
Susan Midalia
Laurie Steed
Maxine Beneba Clarke
Angela Carter
Roald Dahl
Nam Le
Sophie Overett
Flannery O'Connor
Michelle Michau-Crawford
Lauren Groff
Ruth Wyer

Friday, 4 March 2016

Waer by Meg Caddy

Meg Caddy
Text Publishing 2016 
(I was provided a copy by the publisher in return for an honest review.)

There came a time, a few years ago, when the market was so saturated with vampire and werewolf stories that the thought of reading another one would have made me run for the figurative hills.  But I was intrigued by the premise of Waer, the debut novel by Perth-based writer Meg Caddy which tells the story of Lowell Sencha, a Waer man who must fight for the rights of his people when faced by the prospect of extinction under the rule of a cruel, purist overlord.  Waer culture, rather than simply being a trendy, supernatural buzz-topic, is a fully-realised social world in this novel, with history, traditions and even a set of specific gods.  The Waer people, like the werewolves of the old horror movies, can turn from human to wolf, but unlike in the stories, they are able to do this at will, and there is no mention of the full moon.  Instead, Shifting can be a delight for Lowell and his family; it can heal wounds, for instance, and seldom does a Waer attack a human or feel the need to go on a killing rampage.

In the development of this culture of people, it is clear to see the influence of Caddy's friend and mentor, fellow Perth fantasy writer, Juliet Marillier-- whose most recent series Blackthorn and Grimm has roots in Irish mythology and history.  Like in Marillier's Dreamer's Pool and Tower of Thorns, the world-building in Caddy's novel is superb, from the map at the beginning right through to the mythologies held dear by the book's central characters.  I enjoyed searching for links between the world I know and that on the page, and while some of the terms remain foreign to me, such as 'chipre-folk', I never felt lost or befuddled.

So too is the characterisation in Waer a delight.  The book is told from two points of view; Lowell's, and Lycaea's (and didn't I get a thrill from connecting Lycaea with Lycanthrope!)  Each voice is surprising and well-rounded.  Lowell is a sensitive and spiritual boy, family-minded and raised in a calm, rural environment where he has always felt safe.  Contrasted with this, Lycaea is from a community of brigands, and is a skilled fighter.  When the two meet, she has just escaped torture at the hands of the man who will become the book's antagonist, Daeman Leldh.

At a glance, this novel has all the fast-paced action and enjoyment of the first Eragon novel, but it is far more layered and original.  It is smart, funny and wonderful, and will appeal to a wide audience, from readers aged 12 and up (though the content may be violent for some younger readers).  None of this is to say that adults will not love this book as I did.  I couldn't put it down, and I am so very proud of Meg Caddy in what she has achieved.  There is something in the water in Perth, as Meg joins a talented catalogue of local authors, and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

What Elimy Read: February

February, how I do love you!

This last month has been spent reading, writing and generally doing bookish things.  The Perth Writers Festival was on, which meant that I got to meet lots of wonderful writers from other places and catch up with some of my favourites from this wonderful place, Perth.  I really like the Perth Writers' Festival and I am enjoying seeing it go from strength to strength each year.  We have a really vibrant writing community in Western Australia-- it's warm and welcoming and there is a lot of talent, so I hope that the festival continues to get bigger and better.


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I am ashamed to say that I'd written this book off as one love story I was probably never going to get to-- and then I saw the amazing movie trailer when it was realised on the Penguin books Facebook page.  This book was just what I needed, when I needed it.  I took it to bed with me and stayed in on one of my days off, allowing myself to immerse in the world of it.  It is the story of Lou Clark, who loses her job and finds herself taking a position as a carer for a man who has been paralysed in a motorcycle accident.  Warning: you will need tissues!

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt

I had the pleasure of seeing Patrick DeWitt interviewed by Annabel Smith at the writers' festival, and now I have seen him speak I like him all the more.  This is a bizarre, gothic-parody style novel about a chronic liar named Lucien Minor who journals to a castle owned by a mysetrious Baron to become the Undermajordomo (minordomo).  It's funny, clever and really interesting so give it a go.

Kill Your Darlings Vol 21

If you're not familiar with Kill Your Darlings literary journal, head over to their website and check it out.  They've published stories and articles by lots of up and coming as well as established Australian writers, and I hope they continue to do so, although I would really like to see the balance between fiction and non fiction equal out a little bit, as I'm more interested in stories than essays.  

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

I like David Sedaris; he's very funny and clever-- particularly when it comes to essays; but these stories of animals behaving like humans shed no great light on the way of the world for me and I don't think this is a great place to start for those who are new to Sedaris.  

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey

I have been reading this book on and off for almost a year, and I decided I would finally get rid of it from my currently reading pile-- while it was interesting to see what famous creative types did with their time to get their art made, I think this sort of information is far more suited to the blog which inspired it.  

A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester

I have a review scheduled for this book, due out in April, so you can look forward to that, but suffice to say it was amazing and you should definitely pre-order a copy or two.  

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

You can read my interview with Emma about the book here.  

Leaving Elvis and Other Stories by Michelle Michau-Crawford

I am becoming increasingly fond of the linked short story format, and this book was a great addition to that genre.  It tells the stories of three generations of the Kelly familly, beginning after the Second World War and tracing up to the present day.  The title story, Leaving Elvis won the 2013 ABR Elizabeth Jolley award.  You can catch Michelle at an author talk at the Bookcaffe on March 15th.  

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

This year I want to make an effort to read more classics, and really, this seemed like an obvious place to start.  Madame Bovary is often credited as being the first novel of the realist tradition, but to read it, it's interesting to note the way the plot is influenced by the serial nature of its initial publication.  I only finished this last night, so I'm still mulling it over, and I can't quite decide what Flaubert wanted the reader to take away from his tale of woe...

That's it from me!  What did you read last month?
Books read: 9  (1 less than monthly target)