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Showing posts with the label Australian authors

Writing Wipptee — a little mystery, a little romance

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 It's five years since I moved to the country, and I've wanted to write about it since the first day. I've always been a city girl, and I imagined the country as a quiet, somewhat behind the times, place. I was so wrong. There's a boiling cauldron of politics, and while retail is limited, there's no shortage of informaton or internet access. And the idea that people live and die in their native town isn't true either. People move all over the place. There's constant change. Another shock — the country is industrial. Trucks, machinery, warehouses, factories, and now wind and solar production, are everywhere. Some of the great issues of our time converge in the country. Animal rights, farm invasions, the right to protest, the destructive potential of agriculture, people's lifelong dedication to landcare and land repair, and mining rights, create a potent mix of conflicting views. In this book I try to capture some of this, against Maddison Debranz's qu

Reading journal: The Afterlife of Alice Watkins by Matilda Scotney

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Genre: Science fiction Published: 2018 Series: Books 1 and 2 Date read: December 2018 Two-book story of reincarnation, space travel, aliens, and new beginnings, with a thread of romance. Alice, an old lady, dies, but wakes up in the future, in someone else’s body. Or does she? Not much happens plot-wise, but the writing style has plenty of pace. I found most of the characters annoying, didn’t like the world the author built, and was hoping for a more exciting ending. On the other hand, I did read both books through to the end. Perhaps this one just wasn’t for me.

Reading journal: Welcome to Country: A travel guide to Indigenous Australia by Marcia Langton

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Genre: Non-fiction Published: 2018 Date read: November 2018 There’s the glitzy Australia of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Gold Coast, and then there’s a much more beautiful and meaningful story that comes from connecting with Australia’s Indigenous people and their cultural connection to the land. This book introduces the cultures, languages and places and teaches non-Indigenous visitors the basics of how to behave respectfully. It’s informative, beautifully illustrated, and explains important matters in an accessible way. Valuable for anyone who wants to see the world from outside their own cultural straitjacket.

Reading journal: The Runaway Christmas Elf by Fiona Marsden

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Genre: Romance Published: 2015 Date read: November 2018 Light, fluffy, not very believable premise but definitely a happy ending. Subtitled ‘A Jewellery Store Romance’, earrings come into it. Set in Brisbane, Australia, and explores, lightly, romance across religious boundaries. Nicely written.

Reading journal: The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood

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Genre: Mystery Published: 2018 Series: Corinna Chapman Date read: November 2018 Corinna and her lovely Daniel must solve the mystery of the kidnapped dog, the sad returned soldier, and the girl who has lost the ability to speak. A bit lower on the suspense scale than other books in the series, but there is a satisfying explosion. Nice to see Corinna and Melbourne on the page again.

Reading journal: Embers and Echoes by Daniel De Lorne

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Genre: Rural gay romance Published: 2018 Date read: September 2018 Ben Fields, a policeman, and Toby Grimshaw, a firefighter, have a history. In a small town like Echo Springs, on the edge of the outback, they can’t avoid each other, especially when the town is threatened by escalating arson attacks. We want Ben and Toby to solve the mystery, survive the danger, and get back together, and since this is a romance, they do. An enjoyable light read.

Reading journal: City of Lies by Sam Hawke

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Genre: Fantasy Published: 2018 Series: Poison War Date read: September 2018 This action/mystery story is set in a well-constructed fantasy world where the people of the city of Silasta are disconnected from their country cousins and have forgotten their own religious and historical roots. The plot revolves around Jovan, a young man responsible for protecting the city’s Chancellor from being poisoned, Jovan’s sister, Kalina, and the new Chancellor, Jovan’s friend Tain. The city suffers disaster after disaster; unexplained deaths, an attacking army, a siege, sabotage and threats from a menacing traitor within. The young people have personal problems too. Under stress Jovan becomes anxious and obsessive-compulsive, while Kalina battles asthma-related frailty. This is a solid read for fantasy lovers, with plenty of action, high stakes, entwined coming of age stories, and a reasonable mystery to be solved. I found the descriptions of the city and the caste system particularly

Reading journal: The Rain Never Came by Lachlan Walter

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Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2017 Date read: June 2018 A story of a future Australia where the inland is in permanent drought and the inhabitants have been forcefully relocated or herded into camps. But there are hold-outs, people who hide from the Creeps and eke out a precarious living. The story begins with a football match against a passing First People caravan, and the return of Bill’s friend Tobe from his wanderings. Bill and Tobe are close, and share a tragic past. Bill’s loyalty is tested when Tobe insists on an exploratory trip into the badlands, but he follows Tobe faithfully, even when they must abandon their bolthole, only to be betrayed in the end. (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler). This is an interesting book. I enjoyed it as a writer, seeing how Walter has varied the pace to create atmosphere. The structure of the book is interesting too, a classic story structure with a strong inciting incident which I didn’t identify until the very end, even tho

Reading journal: Flight 404 by Simon Petrie

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Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2018 Date read: June 2018 An engaging novella from a Canberra author. Charmain is a pilot en route to a rescue mission in the vicinity of the arid home planet she abandoned long ago. It takes a long time to get anywhere in space, and brief spurts of action are interspersed with long periods of reflection on the past. Charmain explores the relationships she abandoned when she changed gender and left home through the means of conversations with her AI, K@rine, an interesting idea. The stakes rise when she discovers that her sister’s family is on the lost ship, and the actions of the other rescuers pose threats or add to the general confusion. I enjoyed the story. It’s low key; space is filled with people with normal human issues like regret, fear and greed, rather than high adventure, although there is some of that too. It reminds me of Nathan Lowell’s Traders’ Tales . And there are some lovely ideas — the arid planet has underground habi

Reading journal: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

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Genre: Fantasy Published: 2018 Date read: April 2018 A retelling of an old story, although I don’t recall ever reading Beauty and the Beast, only seeing cartoons of it. The author has created a lyrical work, choosing a language style that fits the story very well. A young man has been cursed by magic and lives alone in a forest. After a long time, he begins to return to human awareness although still in the form of a beast, and returns to his abandoned home. The beast tricks a traveller into sacrificing his daughter, sending her to the beast’s domain to live. In the best traditions of fairy tales, the story becomes a love story and the beast is redeemed. The story is beautifully told and very true to its origins, although I was never sure quite what terrible flaw the young man had shown that merited such a severe punishment. Still, fairy stories are often cruel and arbitrary. The cover is extraordinary. Another talented Canberra author.

Reading journal: Aurora Darwin by Angela Bridgeman

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Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2013 Series: Aurora Date read: March 2018 Solid science fiction story about a female marine, Corporal Carrie Wells, who finally achieves her dream of assignment to a space vessel. She embarks on Captain Saul Harris’s ship, Aurora, on a rescue mission to Darwin Station, which has fallen out of radio contact. Carrie faces resentment from the previously all-male crew, and on arrival at Darwin the danger to all is extreme. The story has a strong military dimension, and some excellent descriptions of attacks, ambushes and fights. Not entirely my cup of tea, but this is a popular series with wonderful titles, including Aurora Pegasus , Aurora Meridian , Aurora Eden , Aurora Centralis and Aurora Decima .

Reading journal: Seeing Red by Patty Jansen

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Genre: Science fiction Published: 2013 Series: Ambassador Date read: April 2018 Great space opera. This first book in the long-running Ambassador series is strong on world-building. The various aliens and their cultural attributes are done very well, as is the complex plot. The descriptions of refugees trying to escape through a crowded spaceport are particularly wrenching. Cory Wilson is Earth’s ambassador to the gamra , an interplanetary organisation that controls trade in space. Earth isn’t quite ready, and assassinations, riots and general mayhem ensue. Cory has to negotiate a path through conflicting plots, schemes and motivations to save Earth from attack. As a sub-plot, he must also resolve a personal romantic issue—this is the weakest part of the story, as his betrothed is feeble and annoying, but fortunately is not over-emphasised. Recommended for space opera lovers.

Reading journal: A Place to Stay by Jennie Jones

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Genre: Romance Published: 2016 Date read: March 2018 Rachel has moved to an outback town under an assumed name to escape from her violent criminal husband, and from the police who want to talk to her. Local cop, Luke, falls for Rachel, but complications arise when she rejects his interest out of fear, and he becomes aware of her history and is required to protect her and find out what she knows. Some local criminals and the arrival of the evil husband and his cronies are sketched in, but the focus is on the protagonists coming to trust each other. I enjoyed the descriptions of the red dust town. In fact, I enjoy all rural/outback romances simply because of the scenery. Sometimes I would like the plots to be a little more convincing.

Reading journal: Three wishes: Maybe, a love story by Peter Quinton

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Genre: Fantasy Published: 2018 Date read: April 2018 An imaginative story. Mary’s life is a mess, until a genie offers her three wishes and she liberates him from her computer. From then on things get complicated, dreams or possibly time travel are involved, as is plenty of medieval poetry from Persia and Andalusia. Very romantic interludes interspersed with confusing modern day actions eventually resolve into what might be a happy ending. I enjoy Peter Quinton’s experimental works and the way he melds stories from the past with modern experience. This one was light hearted and fun, and I had no idea what was going to happen next. Give it a try.

Reading journal: And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic

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Genre: Crime Published: 2017 Series: Caleb Zelic Read: March 2018 Caleb Zelic returns in this sequel to Resurrection Bay . He is struggling to keep his investigation business going without his old partner, and when a young woman asks for his help moments before her death he is reluctant to take the case. Instead, he wants to pursue his relationship with his ex-wife Kat, so he returns to his home town. Things aren’t going well at home, with arson and racial tension dividing the town and evidence of a drug war behind the scenes. Caleb can't help himself, and his investigation again brings danger to his loved ones. Eventually he has to choose between Kat and pursuit of the criminals. As in the first book, we see Caleb struggling with his hearing impairment, and with his father’s internalised harsh criticism. Caleb has to learn to ask for help, the one thing he has spent a lifetime avoiding. Great story, a step up from Resurrection Bay. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

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Genre: Crime Published: 2017 Read: February 2018 A gripping story about a murder in a large Australian country town. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is investigating the death of an old school friend, a woman for whom she had an unhealthy obsession. As the investigation progresses, the consequences of decisions and actions made in the past come back to haunt Gemma. Traumatic events from her teenage years are slowly revealed to be integral to solving the case. I stayed up very late to finish this, as it was too difficult to put it down. The book is written in the present tense, which I usually find difficult, but in this case it seemed completely appropriate and easy to read. One word of warning. If you’re reading an ebook version, my copy didn’t open at the beginning (a prologue labelled “now”), instead leaping ahead to Chapter 1. Reading the prologue would have helped! Fast paced, lots of twists and turns and emotions, recommended.

Reading journal: Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

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Genre: Nonfiction Published: 2014 Read: March 2018 This book is subtitled “Black seeds: agriculture or accident?” Pascoe’s short and readable book summarises the output of a range of primary and secondary sources that examined the economy of Indigenous people in Australia before European settlement destroyed that economy forever. Most convincing are the quotes and illustrations from the diaries and reports of early inland explorers, describing flourishing grain production and harvesting, robust houses, fishtraps on rivers, smoking fish and other meats for preservation, yam planting and harvesting, maintenance and protection of wells and the use of fire to maintain the environment in a useful grassy state. All these methods of making a living from Australia’s intermittent rivers and thin infertile soils were gone within a few years of the arrival of European stock animals and crops, and the environmental degradation continues. Pascoe argues that it is the Europeans who w

Reading journal: Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

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Genre: Crime Published: 2015 Series: Caleb Zelic Read: March 2018 Caleb Zelic is an investigator looking into warehouse thefts in Melbourne. Things go wrong, a friend is killed, witnesses are disappearing, and Caleb’s partner has become unreliable. Deaf from childhood, Caleb has relied, perhaps too much, on Frankie’s help, and now he’s out on his own, trying to succeed in a world of sounds that he can often only guess at. Caleb retreats to his home town of Resurrection Bay and reconnects with his separated wife, his brother and his childhood friends. But the bad guys follow, and Caleb’s pride has put those he loves in danger. And he’s not prepared for the shocking betrayal that makes him doubt his own judgement. A great book, plenty of pace and character-driven action, and insight into how the world operates for a person with hearing impairment. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: Evangeline and the Mysterious Lights by Madeleine d’Este

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Genre: Fantasy Published: 2017 Series: The Antics of Evangeline Read: January 2018 Evangeline is a 17 year old inventor and troublemaker in 1882, in steampunk Melbourne, Australia. In this outing she tackles a mystery involving dirigibles. Both Evangeline and her father confront old nemeses and win the day through derring-do in the skies. I thought this book was a little rushed compared with the earlier stories, but still fun for young teens.

Reading journal: Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood

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Genre: Crime Published: 1991 Series: Phryne Fisher Read: January 2018 Set in Australia in the 1920s. Phryne Fisher, a lady of independent means and an amateur sleuth, travels by train to rural Ballarat with her companion to collect Phryne’s new car.   The passengers are gassed, and one is murdered. Phryne flirts with university students and identifies the killer in a tense and suspenseful scene. At the same time, she adopts a girl who has lost her memory and unravels a nasty plot exploiting children. Features, among other things, a crackingly beautiful car, an appalling boardinghouse, and an oily hypnotist. Great story, and the TV adaptation, while simplified, is still pretty good. Highly recommended.