Posts

Showing posts with the label Reading journal

Reading journal: Victory on Gallipoli and other what-ifs of Australian History edited by Peter Stanley

Image
Genre: Non-fiction Published: 2017 Date read: July 2018 I’m interested in alternate history. It’s a bit like studying history in reverse. In the study of history, the European approach is to examine primary sources to establish facts, and then retro-fit an interpretation onto that information. The interpretation changes as society and our current pre-occupations change. Alternate history is different. It postulates a change in “known” facts, then  tries to deduce what would have changed as a result. Of course some retro-fitted interpretation must still be present, but is usually not explicitly stated. In this volume, the authors do exactly this. I have a couple of complaints. Firstly, the events they have examined all fall into the traditional ‘famous men’ theme — military history, political events, and you guessed it, famous men. There are 24 stories, two are about women, and they are both political women (Vida Goldstein and Edith Cowan). Secondly, the interpretation. I

Reading journal: Exile by Glynn Stewart

Image
Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2018 Date read: August 2018 Competent science fiction tale from a solid professional writer. Isaac Gallant and a bunch of revolutionaries are exiled through a one-way wormhole to a distant galaxy, and must establish themselves on a new planet. But of course there are aliens, lots of them, and deadly dangers. Not a bad yarn. I’ll read any sequels. Great cover.

Reading journal: Ishmael by Barbara Hambly

Image
Genre: Science fiction Published: 1985 Series: Star Trek novels Date read: November 2018 Lovely book, almost worn out due to multiple reads. This is a cross-over book that cleverly meshes two TV series, the original Star Trek with Kirk and Spock, and Here Come the Brides , set in frontier Seattle. It has everything—evil Klingons, time travel, amnesia, gambling scenes set in old San Francisco, and romance. Barbara Hambly is a great writer and did a wonderful job with this book. Highly recommended for action, adventure, and scifi lovers and old 1960s TV tragics like me.

Reading journal: Rusted Off: Why country Australia is fed up by Gabrielle Chan

Image
Genre: Non-fiction Published: 2018 Date read: September 2018 Gabrielle Chan is a journalist who lives up the road from me, in Harden, New South Wales. This interesting book pulls apart the social structure of a country town and explores the point of view of people who feel unrepresented in Australia’s political system. It’s true that highly educated city dwellers find it hard to see things from a rural perspective. It’s a two-way street though. And Harden is only an hour away from Canberra. People travel between these towns all the time; in fact, many rural people are highly mobile, following work opportunities more than city people may do, and often have family all over the place. I enjoyed the book but was not totally convinced by the arguments. Governments in recent times have ignored everyone except their mates, and some of those mates were well-heeled country people. The argument is more one of connections, opportunities and funding than location, I think.

Reading journal: We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson

Image
Genre: Horror Published: 1962 Date read: July 2018 A scarifying story about a teenage girl, Merricat and her sister Constance. We know right from the beginning that something is off, and exactly what is revealed gradually. The girls and their uncle live apart from the town, exiled really. We learn that the rest of the family died in a horrific poisoning incident, but who was responsible? We suspect. We don’t know for sure. And then a greedy relative appears, and upsets the fragile family life that seemed so stable but really wasn’t, and everything goes straight to hell. I won’t include spoilers here, but if you want to read a perfect story about a sociopath, and how creepy haunted houses with demented old people living in them came to be, this is the one. Disturbing, unsettling and brilliant.

Reading journal: Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler

Image
Genre: Espionage Published: 1952 Date read: September 2018 Set in the years between WW1 and WW2, this is a chilling story. Josef Vadassy is a teacher living in France, but he is vulnerable because he is stateless, one of many people left adrift after the messy treaties following WW1. He is holidaying on the Riviera, but he becomes a suspect in a case of espionage and is blackmailed into helping the police solve the case. His confusion, his fear, and his feeble attempts to get out of the trap are exactly what anyone would feel. Life is not the movies, and we are all helpless in the merciless grasp of officialdom. No happy endings here. A brilliant book.

Reading journal: Fairy Tales of China by Peter Lum

Image
Genre: Children Published: 1959 Date read: 1960, and a few times since Great little book with four traditional Chinese stories. The Dragon King is about the consequences of disobedience—the Dragon King makes it rain at the wrong time and place and is punished. The Sacred Ric e is another consequences story—stolen rice turns to stones in the robbers’ stomachs. The Chess Players is a story of gods messing with human lives, and The Wandering Sta r is about estranged lovers who may only meet once a year by crossing the Magpie Bridge in the heavens. Very tragic and romantic. I loved these stories as a child. I loved the illustrations and the strong moral messages, and the cultural strangeness for a little girl in a sheltered life in Australia. Later in life, partly because of this book, I spent years trying to learn Chinese. I didn’t really succeed, but I’m glad I tried. These stories are culturally important too. The Magpie Bridge is the name given to a Chinese communicat

Reading journal: Murder on the Oxford Canal by Faith Martin

Image
Genre: Crime Published: 2017 Series: DI Hillary Greene Date read: November 2018 I read this because I’m writing a death on a canal story (working title, Yass Canal), and I need all the information I can get. DI Greene lives on a canal narrowboat, so is the natural person to be assigned to a corpse found in a lock. Good solid plot, with an outcome not easily guessed. The point of view switches between characters a bit too frequently, which can be confusing, but overall, a good yarn. I also read Book 2 in the series, Murder at the University , and it was just as good.

Reading journal: The Afterlife of Alice Watkins by Matilda Scotney

Image
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: Under the Empyrean Sky by Chuck Wendig

Image
Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2013 Series: Heartland Trilogy Date read: October 2018 Awesome! The setting is a future where a lucky few live in floating satellite stations while everyone else toils in miserable conditions on the planet below, battling poverty, disease, oppression, and corn so aggressive it cuts your skin. Cael McAvoy is a young man, a troublemaker, and this is his story. There are hidden currents, a resistance movement, and nasty people, as well as good friends and a beloved girlfriend lost to him. Cael goes on the offensive, and his enemies had better watch their backs. I didn’t enjoy Wendig’s Miriam Black stories, but this one is genius. Pace, suspense, strong characters, brilliantly evoked settings and an overall sense of impending doom; what’s not to like? Highly recommended, as is Book 2 in the series, Blightborn.

Reading journal: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Image
Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2018 Date read: October 2018 A mindship, The Shadow’s Child is hiding from the world after a traumatic event, and ekes out a living blending teas to allow people to travel safely in space. A detective, Long Chau, asks for help. As these things go, the ship must brave space again to save the detective. Lyrically written, a lovely story with layers and complexity and beautiful imagery that leaves the reader wanting much more. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

Image
Genre: Romance Published: 2014 Date read: November 2018 I picked this up at a public library sale, because I really liked the typography on the cover. I’m not so sure about the imagery. Those people are going to get lots of sand in uncomfortable places. This is a standard Harlequin romance set in Syria between the wars. There’s a plucky English aviatrix, a spy husband back from the dead, some miraculous archeological finds, a Bedouin sheik and assorted villains. Relaxing read, well written.

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

Image
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: A Wager for the Widow by Elisabeth Hobbes

Image
Genre: Historical romance Published: 2015 Date read: November 2018 This Mills and Boon romance is set somewhere in England, sometime in the middle ages, and the wager is for a kiss. Competently written but I would have liked more plot. It seems like a lot of fuss over a kiss. I need to brush up my romance sensitivity!

Reading journal: The Apple-Tree Throne by Premee Mohamed

Image
Genre: Science Fiction / Romance Published: 2018 Date read: November 2018 A wonderful story, sad but hopeful. Set in an alternate timeline, early Victorian industrial in some ways, young Lieutenant Braddock returns from war. He is injured, but he’s lucky—thousands didn’t make it back, and the man responsible was his commander and greatest friend, Theodore Wickersley. And now Theo’s ghost is haunting him. A beautifully written story that follows Braddock’s efforts to come to terms with what’s happened to him, and to deal with grief, anger and dislocation. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Image
Genre: Mystery Published: 2017 Series: Hawthorne Date read: October 2018 A woman arranges her funeral, then, that very night, is murdered. Horowitz, in his own person, is dragged unwillingly into the investigation, under the pretext of writing up the case as it’s investigated by Daniel Hawthorne, a man he hardly knows and doesn’t like. I love the circularity of the story, the idiocy of Horowitz out of his depth in a real investigation, and the wonderful array of red herrings. I would never have guessed or even imagined the identity of the killer. Great story from a master of the art.

Reading journal: Band Sinister by KJ Charles

Image
Genre: Romance (m/m) Published: 2018 Date read: November 2018 A romantic comedy in the style of Georgette Heyer. A girl falls from her horse and is forced to receive medical treatment in the house of a neighbour with whom there is a history of family enmity. Romantic assignations and misunderstandings follow, but all is resolved happily at the end. Quite fun. Lovely cover.

Reading journal: The Runaway Christmas Elf by Fiona Marsden

Image
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

Image
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: Weird plants by Chris Thorogood

Image
Genre: Non-fiction Published: 2018 Date read: November 2018 Awesome book published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The author has a dreadful job. He is forced to travel all over the place photographing and painting plants. Also insects and animals. What a horrendous life! You can see him doing it on Twitter https://twitter.com/thorogoodchris1 I’ve been enjoying Chris’s tweets for ages and couldn’t resist buying the book, and I was not disappointed. Absolutely beautiful images, interesting botanical information, and high quality book production, a glorious treat for myself. Highly recommended.