Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

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This book has so many 4- and 5-star ratings on Goodreads that I was convinced there must be some sort of extraordinary twist at the end. There isn’t. It’s a well-written but averagely-plotted book. Anyone who has ever lived in a small Australian town where the landscape is brown more often than it is green will recognise the setting and the small-minded residents who think you can never be a local unless you were born there. But anyone who has ever read a crime novel will also recognise the formula. So I’m perplexed as to why there was so much hype. Continue reading

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Book Review: Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

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Liane Moriarty is Australia’s ‘it’ author at the moment on the back of a string of terrific books and the success of the Hollywood adaptation of the New York Times bestselling Big Little Lies. And there’s a reason for that. She takes the ordinary and usually manages to make it extraordinary. But despite the readability of Moriarty’s writing, Truly Madly Guilty starts out ordinary and stays that way. Continue reading

Preparing for People Who Won’t Like Your Writing (and How Not to Take It Personally)

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I’ve written before about how writers seek criticism when what they really want is praise. Who doesn’t? Everybody wants their endeavours – regardless of what those endeavours are – to be validated. But no matter how hard a writer works on a piece of writing, there will be people who won’t like it. Not necessarily because it’s bad but just because. That’s life.

A writer can solve this problem by choosing not to release their writing. But it smacks of cowardice and self-perpetuating redundancy. Most people who write want to be read. So we find the courage from somewhere while reminding ourselves that universal popularity just isn’t possible. Because for every person or book or movie or decision that seemed to have plenty of admirers, there will always be a group of people who vehemently dislike or disagree with them or it. Their dislike or disagreement may be valid. It may have carefully considered logic behind it. But it may also simply be a reflection of personal prejudices or specific preferences. Continue reading

Book Review: The Spare Room by Helen Garner

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Reading The Spare Room by Helen Garner reminded me very much of reading Glenice Whitting’s Something Missing. Not because of their stories or characters but because I know Glenice and when I read her book, I realised that it was based heavily on and drew extensively from her own life. I don’t know Helen Garner personally at all but I’m starting to wonder how much of her fiction is actually fiction. Almost everything she’s written that is classified as such seems to have a real life twin.

Helen (yes, the main character’s name is Helen – more evidence of a thinly veiled story) has agreed to host her Sydney friend, Nicola, in the spare room of her Melbourne home while she undergoes three weeks of cancer treatments. Nicola has always been a bit flighty and end-stage bowel cancer isn’t going to change that. She’s already done the chemo, the radiation; it hasn’t worked. So now she’s placing her faith in the Theodore Institute where they intravenously pump her full of Vitamin C, have her hold electrodes while in an ozone sauna and perform cupping, all to force the “toxins” out. Nicola’s immense pain is proof that it’s working, they say. Continue reading

The Continuing Controversy of Same-Sex Relationships in Fiction

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I have a theory that there are two types of writers: those who court controversy and those who avoid it. Controversy can mean many things these days but I was a little surprised to realise that same-sex relationships in fiction are still classified this way. And it has forced me to rethink the number of categories writers can be separated into and add a third: those who are controversial without realising it.

When KK Ness released her debut novel, Messenger, Book 1 in The Shifter War series, I was one of the first in line to read it. I’d followed with anticipation her writing journey through her blog ever since she did me the favour of reading a draft of one of my yet-to-be-published novels and offering some very useful advice. It was even more appreciated since we’d never met before and still haven’t to this day.

You can read my 4-star review of Messenger here. For the purposes of this discussion, this extract was my comment on the way the book had been categorised on Amazon:

“I was a little concerned when I was buying it that its main classifications seemed to be ‘gay fiction’, ‘gay & lesbian fiction’ and ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender fiction’ when the blurb clearly described a story that easily falls into the fantasy genre. Maybe my concern was because so much fiction classified in that way turns out to be erotic fiction. But it’s only because the main character and his love interest are both male. In fact, it was so subtle that I wondered if the ‘gay fiction’ classification might put off some conservative readers when it really shouldn’t. More a marketing consideration than anything to do with the story itself.” Continue reading

Book Review: Visioner (The Shifter War Book 2) by KK Ness

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Danil and Hafryn are back! If you liked Messenger, then you’ll like Visioner as well as they are very similar books. Danil is still a fish out of water, Hafryn is still his devoted lover and protector, and they still don’t know who they can really trust.

After winning the battle at the end of Messenger to save the deadlands from Roldaerian magi and the evil Kaul, Danil is now its custodian. It’s a position that chooses the person, not the other way around. Under his care, the once lifeless area is flourishing with greenery and, more importantly, leylines and kiandrite crystals that speak to him. Danil has just found his first proper kiandrite crystal (instead of the flecks that the magi have been stealing for decades to use in their magic spells) when he is surprised by a Roldaerian emissary and her guards. They wish to be taken to the High Council of Amas to negotiate a peace treaty on orders from King Liam of Roldaer. Continue reading

Book Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday

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The problem with satire these days is that it looks and feels so much like the real world, particularly when it comes to politics, that it’s hard to tell what’s parody and what’s not. Ten years after Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was first published, that is the book’s primary problem.

Dr Alfred Jones is a fisheries scientist who works for the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence in the UK. When he’s approached by the representatives of a Yemeni sheikh who wants to introduce salmon fishing into his hot, dry, dusty, Middle Eastern country, he dismisses the idea of out of hand. After all, salmon require cool, well-oxygenated water, something not found in abundance on the Arabian peninsula. But the sheikh has seemingly endless amounts of money to throw around, so the NCFE figures why not funnel some of it into their coffers in exchange for Alfred’s services and he’s ordered to do everything he can to get the project off the ground (and therefore the money to come rolling in). Continue reading