Friday, May 8, 2020

"Ghost Species" by James Bradley

Started reading as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2020, although, let's face it, it's about ancient DNA and de-extinction so of course it is right up my alley and even without a reading 'challenge' to motivate me I would read this book. I have been impatiently waiting for it to come out for a few months since I saw Lucy Treloar tweet about reading a pre-release copy of it!

I'll add my review when I finish it.

Started reading: 9th May 2020
My score:
Aussie author stats: Male author, Contemporary Fiction, Speculative Fiction.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I found a copy second-hand at the Mockingbird Lounge in Glenelg.
I'll upload my review once I finish reading it.

Started reading: 27th April 2020
My score:

Sunday, April 26, 2020

"There Was Still Love" by Favel Parrett

Read this book cover to cover in less than a day, then burst into tears at the end! It has been a long time since I read a book that was so deceptively simple yet beautifully written and heartbreaking like this one..and while I have been struggling to focus on the last couple of novels I started reading since the COVID-19 situation hit South Australia, this book brought back my reading mojo with a bang! The complete escape from thinking about COVID-19 for 4-5 hours today while I devoured this book was so welcome, and the tears at the end so cathartic. 

This is the story of two Czech sisters, Mana (and her husband Bill) living in Melbourne and Eva, living in Prague, often written from the perspective of their young grandchildren whom they are caring for in the 1980s. The story also frequently goes back in time to 1930s-70s in Prague and gives you snapshots from other family members perspectives. The simple tiny everyday moments, some joyful, some mundane, some heartbreaking,... the similarities and differences between these two women and their lives, are all beautifully captured and also made me thankful for so much that I have in life, while also forcing me to contemplate the roles of luck and resilience. The story also reinforces the importance of kindness and sacrifices, little or big, and the impact it makes.

Favel Parrett's writing is so beautiful and moving. I have enjoyed 2 other novels by this author over the years, "Past the Shallows" and "When the night comes", but "There was still love" is my favourite to date. I thoroughly recommend this author's work generally, and this book in particular.

Started reading: 26th April 2020
Finished: 26th April 2020
My score: 10/10
Aussie author stats: Female author, historical fiction.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

"Mullumbimby" by Melissa Lucashenko

This is a novel set around the QLD and NSW border, and is a contemporary romance story interwoven with harder-hitting themes such as raising awareness of issues facing Aboriginal families when seeking to claim Native Title, and other inequalities and issues between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

I really didn't connect with this book nearly as much as with the author's other book "Too much lip" which I read last year and loved. Although to be honest, with the covid-19 situation I haven't felt like I have had much concentration for reading a novel on top of work and dealing with adjusting to the pandemic, and a lot of my reading time in the past was done on public transport commuting to and from work, which obviously hasn't been happening lately, so perhaps in other circumstances I would have read the book quicker, connected more with the story, and given a higher score. Given that this book was long and short listed for a variety of awards back in 2013, my review doesn't give it justice and I am sure if I had read it at another time I would have appreciated it more.

One thing I did really enjoy about the book was the inclusion of the author's local Aboriginal language from the Bundjalung Nation, including the glossary at the end.

Started reading: 15th March 2020
Finished: 23rd April 2020
My score: 6/10
Aussie Author Challenge stats: Female author, Indigenous author. Genre: Romance, Contemporary fiction.

"Fight Like a Girl" by Clementine Ford

I'll include my review when I finish reading it.

Started reading: 12th March 2020
My score:
Aussie Author Challenge Stats: Female author, new author to me, non-fiction.

"Minotaur" by Peter Goldsworthy

I find Peter Goldsworthy a really clever and interesting writer, yet my enjoyment of his books is very hit and miss. For instance, I really loved "Honk if you are Jesus" that I read about 15 years ago, and also found "Wish" to be a fascinating and unique story. But some of his other books I really didn't connect with at all, for example "Three Dog Night" and "Everything I knew".

In Minotaur there were lots of clever and interesting elements that I enjoyed, especially in the first half of the book when the concepts were introduced, for instance the main character, Detective Sergeant Richard Zadrow, is blind due to an injury sustained in the police force, and so throughout the book are interesting insights into not only the way technology can be used to help navigate the world (Siri is almost a character in her own right in this story), but also how critical sight is even in our language to describe everyday things e.g. reading expressions, face-value, reading my intentions, reading his mind etc.

I also really enjoy reading a book that is set in a place that I have lived in, where you can clearly picture the locations in your mind as the story unfolds. This book was set in Adelaide, where I have lived for about the last 15 years, and I really enjoyed how the descriptions of Zadrow tapping along the city streets could conjure up not just visual pictures but sometimes even the familiar smells and sounds, and give wider context to scenes as I have walked those same streets myself many times.  

However, as with other Goldsworthy characters, I did not particularly like the main character and did not warm to him as the book progressed, in fact I grew less tolerant and more frustrated with his selfish, destructive and sometimes ludicrous thoughts and actions. E.g. there is a scene where the drunk blind ex-cop is driving his car being directed by another drunken passenger, he smashes into a parked car, they keep driving, they get pulled over and breath-tested by another cop who doesn't seem to notice the driver is blind and lets them continue driving down the street...the passenger passes out, then the blind man manages to continue to drive the car all the way home without further incident...the scene is described in a way that makes this sound like a great prank, but I have zero respect for people who think it's ok to drink drive and the idea that someone blind and drunk could drive seems quite over the top.

There is also another almost random section in the book where the author has his normally intelligent walking encyclopedic character, Willopedia, ranting and scoffing at a documentary on the effects of climate change on the low lying pacific reefs and islands. This really surprised me, partially as it seemed to come out of no where and not be relevant to the story, but also because Goldsworthy is a medical doctor, and even the Australian Medical Association and the World Health Organization recognise the significant challenges we face due to global warming.

There is also one scene later toward the end of the book that is very violent and seems to go on and on, I kept turning the page and thinking "oh come on how much longer does this have to go on for? Just someone die already or have the police or ambulance rock up and have done with it!" By this stage I almost didn't care whether the main character or his nemesis would be the one to die I was so over them both.

Clever, unique story, well-written, but unlikable characters and themes meant overall it was not my kind of book.

Started reading on my kindle: 13th March 2020
Finished: 14th March 2020
My score: 6/10
Aussie Author Stats: Male author, contemporary fiction, police thriller

Sunday, March 8, 2020

"Harbour" by Kate Llewellyn

My friend Kate gave me this most recent book of her poetry. I was very touched, I haven't read much poetry, and I think this is the first book of poetry I have been given in my life. As I don't know a lot about poetry it is hard to review it as I would a novel. I like some of the poems of Wilfred Owen that I first read at school...and I love some of the poems in The Lord of the Rings, like "The Road goes ever on and on....". The poems in "Harbour" are like little glimpses into Kate's mind and how she sees people and experiences and how she reflects back at her long and interesting life. My favourite poem in this collection is entitled "The Song". It is only 15 lines long, but it is beautiful. I also really liked "what they said", although for completely different reasons - not because it was beautiful, but because it captures how particular phrases, advice, sayings that people in your life say to you can really stick in your memory your whole life, sometimes these words tell a lot about the person saying it, but it can also say something about the person who remembers those particular words rather than others.

I also really liked the cover art on this book. I have always loved the Dutch Masters paintings and still life paintings by others of that same era that included these beautiful tulips, especially these 'split' colour tulips which I believe were the result of a mosaic virus but yielded these stunning flowers that were worth a lot of money in the so-called "Tulip Fever".

Started reading: 5th March 2020
Finished: 9th March 2020
Aussie author stats: Female author, Poetry,