What I’ve been Reading – week ending May 28

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I missed posting last week – I was a little preoccupied listening to Paul Beatty talk about his Man Booker prize winning book The Sellout. But I’ll post about that later.

Honourable mentions from last week:



If We Were Villains
has been touted as being similar to the Secret History. It is, insomuch as they are both set in schools and one of the characters dies. But apart from that, not so much. If We Were Villains is an amazing celebration of Shakespeare and his works and is also a look at what can happen when passionate teens end up sucked into a world of make believe. I loved this book – it made my inner Shakespearean nerd very, very happy.


My main criticism for this book is that there just wasn’t enough of it. Edited from her “unruly” PhD, Susan Carland details her examination of feminism within Islam, based on a series of interviews she has conducted with a selection of Muslim women both in Australia and Northern America. Very interesting and well worth your attention.


I had been anticipating this book since hearing Liberty from Book Riot wax lyrical about it last year. And it is totally awesome. Set in the future, humanity has basically sorted out everything. The Thunderhead (what the cloud has morphed into) looks after most of humanity’s needs. Death and illness have been abolished. Everyone has enough to eat. Over population is the only real issue. This is solved by the Scythes – individuals whose job it is to “glean” a specific quota of people each year in order to keep the population manageable. Citra and Rowan are taken as apprentices and must compete against each other to enter Scythedom – and for their lives.


This book was delightful, exquisitely written with some lovely world building. Twylla is poisonous – she is the court executioner and kills with a touch. Everyone in the palace avoids her, including the prince to whom she is betrothed. Until a new guard takes charge of her, and everything changes. Yes, there is the dreaded YA love triangle, but there is so much more going on in the story.


The only Dick I had read up till now was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. This book is so good! It’s gritty and cyberpunky. Originally published in 1969, it’s a little dated (the “future” was 1992, and women are either good girls or femme fatales), but still totally awesome.


You can thank M.L Rio for this one. Et tu Brute?


This story is just adorable. Three best mates head to a con in LA. One is there as a Youtuber and new movie star, and she takes her two geeky besties along for the ride. Jen Wilde gives us, an MC who is both a WOC and bisexual, another MC who is on the autistic spectrum (Aspergers) and has terrible anxiety, and all of the fandom, geeky love you could possibly want. This book gave me all the feels.

What have you been reading?

What I’ve been Reading (W/E May 14)

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Hi everyone, Happy Mother’s Day to you if you are that way inclined!

Here’s a run down of my reading week:


If you haven’t heard of Hidden Figures by now you must have been hiding under a rock. Hidden Figures is the story of some of the black women that worked behind the scenes for NASA, working on the computations that helped get people into space. I appreciate the research that went into the book and it’s wonderful that the stories of these women are coming out, but I think I would have felt more lost understanding exactly what the women did if I hadn’t read Rise of the Rocket Girls a few months ago. Shetterley seems to have focussed more on the women’s family lives and how they coped fitting working and family together than on the amazing work these women did, which I found a bit disappointing.

The last of my Stella shortlist reads, this one was a punch to the gut. Chris and her sister Bella live in a small country town. They have no real family except for each other. After a weekend of no contact, Chris gets a visit from the police that no one wants. They’ve found a body, could she please identify it?

Maguire takes you through the cycles of grief experienced by Chris – the horror of what has been done to her sister, the desire of the media to get a juicy story, the speed of which all of this circulates in a small country town and the pressure that Chris feels. This book is a raw examination of grief and how we live through it. Have the tissues ready.

Jodi Taylor’s St Mary’s series has been my go to read for palate cleansing for a little while. I love the St Mary’s crew and Max in particular. I love the irreverent and very British tone of  Taylor’s writing, and I absolutely love the idea of travelling around through history to see what happened rather than having to rely on inaccurate accounts. This one was lots of fun, as usual. I’m waiting for my library to buy the next one!


I discovered quite by chance that Susan Faludi is out here talking about this book, which is about the journey that started with her estranged father contacting her to let her know that he had undergone gender reassignment surgery and was entering the world as Stefi. 

In the Dark Room is an exploration of identity and how gender, religion and culture make up parts of who we are. Can you tease out one without the others? Faludi seems to have had limited contact with her father over the years (and the book demonstrates why). She describes her journey to get to know her father as a woman as well as from her own changed point of view as an adult. This seems to be further complicated by Stefi’s desire to erase, or at the very least mask, the pieces of the past that she would rather not acknowledge. Stefi also talks about the number of different roles she has willingly played during her life, and her own self awareness of this is fascinating given the context. This is a complicated narrative and a very interesting exploration of identity. I’m really looking forward to seeing Faludi talk to this topic.

In 1845, John Franklin’s expedition to chart the Artic passages, consisting of 2 ships and 129 men, was lost. This is the story of the journey to find the lost ships and determine what happened to the crew. Watson gives a great account of all the missteps taken between the disappearance of the ships and their eventual discovery over a century later. I found his account of Lady Jane very interesting – she sounds like one hell of a women. I was a bit mystified when she was described by Watson as “high strung” almost immediately after a number of details of her adventures through very harsh conditions. (Lady Jane was considered “highly strung” as she was a vocal opponent of the British Navy’s lack of action to find her husband when his ships had gone missing. I wonder how a similarly vocal man would be described in this situation?) What I did enjoy about this book was the inclusion of Inuit oral history about the wreck – it seems that if the Navy had taken this information into consideration that answers would have been found much sooner.

This week I’ve also discovered the Deviant Women podcast. Alicia and Lauren are exploring women who push against the boundaries of society in life and literature. Give them a listen – they are smart and sassy and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the episodes I’ve listened to.

That’s it for this week. What are you reading?

What I’ve Been Reading

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I’m going to try to remedy my lack of posting with some more regular posts summarising what I have been reading. I mightn’t have been writing much, but I’ve been reading a lot – I’ve just ticked off my 100th title for the year so I can at least tell you what I’m powering through. I’ve resisted doing this in the past as I’ve for the most part tried to keep my review posts focussed on one book. But I’m hoping this format will work better for me while I’m still flat out at work and finding less time to post.

The readathon weekend was ‘Stella’ – I managed to get through two titles from the Stella shortlist, the prize winner, and Begin, End, Begin, the #LoveOzYA Anthology.


This is artful book by Heather Rose is about the art of Marina Abramovic, and in particular her performance of “The Artist is Present” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It is a book about love, courage and sacrifice. Most of the book is told through the eyes of Arky Levin, a film composer who is going through a bit of a slump in both his career and his personal life. Levin’s wife is very ill and living in a facility. She has banned him from seeing her, and he is not fighting the ban, much to the disappointment and anger of their friends and, more importantly, their daughter.  

I enjoyed the book up to a point, but I became more annoyed the more I sat with the ending. Levin spent most of the book being a dick, and by the end he managed to be not quite such a complete dick. The other thing I was disappointed by was the author’s lack of acknowledgement of the dreadfully racist things that Marina Abramovic has said about the Australian Aboriginal people. It makes me dreadfully disappointed that this book won the Stella award this year. (Thanks to Bookish Bron for the conversation about this one and for reminding me about that last point.)


Georgia Blain’s last novel is beautifully written story of family, love, and how we drive ourselves crazy when we think we can get others to change their true natures when they don’t want to. There’s a lot of sadness in the narrative – with the loss of family due to behaviour, and sickness, and one character’s terminal illness. (make sure you have your tissues ready for the end). The book is made even sadder by Blain’s own death due to a brain tumour in December last year.


I tend to read books pretty quickly, and usually in one sitting. I couldn’t read Maxine Beneba Clarke’s book in one sitting – just the opening left me winded and infinitely sad. The Hate Race is a memoir of racism and it’s effects on Clarke as she grows from childhood into a young woman. This is a difficult read and an excellent description of the effects of racism in the young, and the effects this can have on people throughout their lives. We must do better. This book should be compulsory reading for all Australians.


This anthology is a collection of YA fiction by Aussie writers, and it’s an absolute delight. It made me so happy to read a bunch of stories in the one place that had a cast of diverse characters and great plots. I loved all of the stories in this collection, but a special mention goes to Michael Pryor, whose story about refugees nearly had me in tears. Pryor has essentially written a history lesson about all the shit things Australia has done to refugees over the last 20 years and set it in outer space. I hope lots of our young people read this and learn from our (ongoing) mistakes. 

In the last week I’ve also knocked off James Corden’s memoir May I Have Your Attention Please, which was a great plate cleanser.  I’ve also read White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. 


White Tiger was excellent – the writing style was unique and incredibly descriptive. Adiga succeeds in plunging the reader into the sights, sounds and smells of India. I listened to this one as an audiobook, and I was a little perturbed that the narration was by John Lee, using an accent. I enjoy Lee’s narration, he always does a great job. But there are so many talented Indian narrators, why was there a need for an English guy to do it? Please do better Audible. (This has taught me to check the narrator before purchasing a title, which is not something I’ve done before.)

What are you reading at the moment?

Readathon Weekend!

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Hey folks!

I had a pretty exciting day yesterday – I got to hear the wonderful Magda Szubanski talk at a function and afterwards was able to get my copy of her memoir signed (MAGDA TOUCHED MY BOOK!!!) I took a bunch of notes which I will type up for you soon – she spoke beautifully about diversity.

This weekend the Dewey’s readathon is happening. I have a few things going on, but I’ll be participating when I can. Most excitingly, this weekend is a long weekend in Queensland, so I’ll be able to keep going until it’s all over in the US. (Normally I have to be content to read wrap up posts while I’m at work on Monday.)

I have so much good stuff to read. Like this.

I also have the rest of the Stella’s shortlist that I need to motor through.

Are you participating in Dewey’s? What’s in your stack?

Diverse Fantasy!

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Hey folks!

Firstly I apologise for being silent for the last month. March is the busiest time of year in my area and April has been a revolving door of sickness, but I’m getting back on top finally! I have a bunch of content that I just need to transfer form my blogging notebook to here (I old school it first with pen and paper) so you should see some more content in coming days.

Secondly I’d like to shout out to Amy at  Talking Tales.  I was picking up an order (Down the Hume by exciting new author Peter Polites) and Amy recognised my name and introduced herself.  It was very exciting to meet someone from the web in my suburb! Make sure you check out Amy’s web site – she’s a book seller who knows her stuff and her blog is just beautiful.

And so, on to today’s topic. I’ve joined the Book Riot Insiders group (you can find more about that here) part of which is membership to some slack channels for the group, which is proving to be a tonne of fun. Today Jenn from Book Riot was raging over a list of fantasy books brought out by Barnes and Noble for people starting off in the genre. All the authors mentioned were white.

So I thought I would put together a little list of fantasy books from a more diverse range of authors. I haven’t read all of these, but those I haven’t read are on my TBR. Fantasy is more a genre I flirt with than commit to. Let’s go.
1.  Zen Cho Sorcerer to the Crown.

 

This book is so good. Imogen has criticised it for being a little slow to start, but once Prunella arrives in the scene it fairly rollicks along. Great story with some unique takes on things and feminist AF.

2.  N. K. Jemisin The Fifth Season.


You may wish to time your reading of this, as the final instalment in the trilogy isn’t going to be out until later this year. And once you’ve read the first, you’ll be champing at the bit to get your hands on the others. Jemisin is an amazing fantasy writer and she’s written a pile of books. Check them out!

3. Roshani Chokshi The Star Touched Queen.


I had only read rave reviews about this book prior to picking it up, and they were completely justified. Chokshi uses the world of Indian mythology as her playground and brings it to life. A Crown of Wishes, more of a companion book than the next in the series, is out in the US now and is just as good.

4. Octavia Butler Fledgling.


 Vampires!! Octavia Butler is an amazing writer. This book will make you ask yourself lots of questions about all sorts of relationships.

5. Ellen Van Neerven Heat and Light


Ellen Van Neerven is a Yugambeh woman and for this collection of stories, she draws from her people’s Dreamtime stories. I’m not aware of other Australian Aboriginal writers dabbling with fantasy quite like this (but am more than happy to be corrected if I’m wrong about that!)

6. Nnedi Okorafor Binti series, Akata Witch series


Okorafor’s Binti stories are just amazing. She writes a beautiful mix of tradition and fantasy which I love. I haven’t read the Akata Witch books yet (actually the second is only due out in the US in October, but Okorafor has been tweeting covers 😊) but I’m hoping to get to them soon.

7. Nalo Hopkinson Brown Girl in the Ring.


Full disclosure, I found this author mentioned while I was refreshing my memory for this article, and her stuff looks amazing. Distopian fiction,organ farms, and a pantheon of gods harassing the main character for attention. I’m in!

8. Keith Liu The Grace of Kings.


Another I haven’t read, but has won a bunch of awards and is described as epic fantasy. Get on it!

9. Rin Chupeco The Bone Witch.


Another from my TBR, I’ve heard so much good stuff about this one. Witches, necromancy and Asian styled fantasy. Yes please.

10. Karuna Riazi The Gauntlet.


This is being touted as a middle grade novel, and I’ve heard such good stuff about it! This is described as a ‘steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair’ and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I was also tempted to mention Zone One by Colson Whitehead, my favourite zombie book, but I think zombies are technically horror?

Tell me, who are you diverse fantasy author faves?

Recommended Aboriginal reads

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Hi everyone, please enjoy this post by Dr Anita Heiss from her wonderful blog.

Anita Heiss

For those listening to the yarn I had with Dom Knight  on ABC Sydney this morning, here’s the titles I mentioned…

Books I’d planned on mentioning:

Dom mentioned my novel Tiddas  And finally, there was some discussion on my book Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms.

For other ideas of where to find some deadly Aboriginal literature, head to my Black Book Challenge

Happy reading!

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Avid Reader’s Big Breakfast with Dr Anita Heiss

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I’ve mentioned Avid Reader multiple times on the blog – it’s my favourite indie bookstore in Brisbane. This morning, a number of us braved the heat and humidity for the very special opportunity of hearing Dr Anita Heiss speak about her latest release: Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms.

Dr Heiss is a member of the Wiradjuri nation, and writes all manner of books, articles and poetry. She lectures on Indigenous Literature is a Lifetime Ambassador of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, is an Advocate for the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and is an Ambassador of Worowa Aboriginal College. She is also an Adjunct Professor with the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS.

The talk was hosted by Fiona from Avid Reader, who always asks wonderful questions.

With regards to creating a new story, Dr Heiss said that she had written a lot of books about Country, but none about Cowra. She was nervous about telling the story of her family both because everyone would think it was about them, and because of responsibility that she feels for getting it right. She had been struggling for a plot and flew to Hawaii, and ended up visiting Pearl Habour. While there, she became very conscious of the many Japanese tourists in Pearl Harbour, and the way they reacted to the rhetoric around the Pearl Harbour memorial, written by the US victors. While the Japanese tourists appeared very calm, Dr Heiss wondered what they were thinking.

The Aussie view of history is also a particular one – in writings about Cowra it has never been acknowledged that 4.5 miles from Cowra there was another camp with prisoners in worse conditions. (The Japanese POWs were kept in conditions in line with the Geneva convention. The Aboriginal people in the local mission were not.) Dr Heiss wanted to write a story acknowledging the other encampment, and romance would be the tool to link the two, and to draw an audience.

Dr Heiss also talked about the lengths of the reconciliation effort in Cowra – with the Japanese, not the Aboriginal people.

Research is very important to Dr Heiss, and she described sourcing stories from the Cowra community as well as checking her facts with author Graham Apthorpe (author of A Town at War: Stories from Cowra in WWII) and her meetings with an Extraordinary Professor in Japan who teaches about the Cowra breakout. Dr Heiss obtained feedback from many sources on her drafts to ensure she was telling the story accurately.  She loosely based  Mary on her mother, and Banjo on her grandfather, and was aware that she needed to acknowledge the community Elders of the Coe, Williams and Murray families. Dr Heiss would have liked Mary to fall pregnant in the story, but her mum objected that she wouldn’t have even kissed him during this amount of time. This was backed up by Dr Heiss’ Japanese expert, who confirmed that at that time a Japanese man would not have been that familiar with a Western woman. Dr Heiss explained that as war is an extraordinary time, she felt comfortable with Hiroshi’s familiarity with Mary as long as he was aware it was an extraordinary situation.

When asked why she had chosen fiction, Dr Heiss responded that she wanted to compliment the work that already existed, and draw a wider audience. She wants people to realise that Australian history can’t be discussed without also discussing the Aboriginal people.

We learned a little about Dr Heiss’ background – her Austrian father couldn’t speak English when he met her mother, but they shared strong family values and work ethic, as well as  great love for each other. Dr Heiss  said that their relationship had made her a romantic, which meant that she could believe in the relationship between Mary and Hiroshi and see the bigger picture.

Dr Heiss is hopeful that the book will be picked up for the school curriculum. From my own point of view, it would be a great tool in an English classroom. I mentioned in my review that the book provides a clear but accessible understanding of the laws of the time and the impact on the people. 

Dr Anita Heiss has a new book due out in May (yay!).

You can read my review of Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms here.