Prompt 4 – Aussies Rule Challenge

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Hi folks!

How is 2018 treating you? It’s Bookfest time here in Brisbane, so we headed in yesterday. As always, so many books in one place made me pretty happy. Look at all this bookish goodness!

Anyway, I’m going to skip to prompt 4 today which is a mystery or thriller by a female writer. Here are some suggestions!

  • Emma Viskic Resurrection Bay and Then Fire Came Down (Vic)
  • Jane Harper The Dry and Force of Nature (Vic)
  • Sarah Schmidt See What I Have Done
  • Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fischer books (Vic)
  • Jennifer Rowe – I had no idea that Emily Rodda was a pseudonym for crime writer Jennifer Rowe! (NSW)
  • Emily Macguire An Isolated Incident (Vic)
  • Nicole Watson The Boundary (Qld)
  • P.M. Newton The Old School, Beams Falling (NSW)
  • Candice Fox Archer and Bennett and Crimson Lake series (NSW)

I’ve only read a few of these (Emma Viskic, Emily Maguire and Nicole Watson) But most of the others have been on my TBR for a while – with the exception of Jennifer Rowe who I stumbled across by accident.

If you are wanting further Aussie crime writing, I would strongly recommend you check out the Ned Kelly Awards (Jane Harper won in 2017 and Emma Viskic in 2016 for best first fiction. Candice Fox has also taken out a couple) for further authors.

What are you planning to read for this prompt? Have you read any of my suggestions?

Review: Clancy of the Undertow

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Clancy Underhill is 16 years old, living in a tiny, dead end town. She doesn’t fit in – she’s not one of the popular kids, she likes science, and she’s gay (but not out). Life seems tough enough when Clancy’s father is involved with a road crash in which two popular local teens are killed. Clancy and her family find themselves the target of backlash from the town, although no charges have been laid against her father.

I requested this book from Netgalley entirely because of the title, a play on the famous Clancy of the Overflow by Banjo Patterson, which is one of my favourite bush poems. Little did I know at the time that the writer is a local Brisbane guy, who works at Avid Reader, a fabulous local indie book store.

Clancy was an absolute delight. Her character is smart and funny, and trying to find her way in the world in less than perfect circumstances. Currie captures her personality, her dilemmas and the tone of small town life perfectly, and fills the story out with some great characters. Clancy is infatuated by Sandra, girlfriend of the chief of the bogans who launches the campaign of vilification against Clancy’s father. Despite this, Sandra seems to choose this time to loom large in Clancy’s life. Sandra seems to pity Clancy for how she is being treated, but is also seriously annoyed with her boyfriend, who she is sure is cheating on her. Clancy has admired Sandra from afar and is very excited that she is now getting to spend time with her crush.

Nancy also comes into Clancy’s life during this troubling time. Nancy is new to town, and Clancy is certain that when Nancy realises she is not in the popular group, Nancy will ditch her. Nancy and Clancy’s eventual friendship is hard won, and this small step helps Clancy feel like less of the loser she is certain that she is.

Clancy of the Undertow is a story about friendship and family, and how important both are to making it through your teenage years.

5 out of 5 awkward teen moments.

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Review: The Rules of Backyard Cricket

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Darren Keefe is not having a great day. When we meet him he is gagged, bound, has been shot in the knee and has been shoved in the boot of a car. Darren begins to reflect on his life and how he has ended up in this position.

Darren reminisces through the highs and lows of his life, his mum who sacrificed everything for her boys, his difficult relationship with his brother and their love of cricket, the high life he enjoyed while playing professionally and the trouble that his excesses landed him in much to his brother’s shame and embarrassment.

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This unassumingly titled book sure packs a whallop. Serong’s characters leap off the page. He beautifully captures the stress of the single parent family, and the life long friction between two brothers who both want to be the best. Darren and Wally are both great at cricket and the competition they feel with the other far outstrips what they feel against anyone else. Wally is the serious, up tight older brother. Darren is younger, wilder, more irresponsible. And so they journey together into the bright and shining world of professional cricket with all the distractions that entails.

While Wally is the picture of seriousness and responsibility, Darren is his polar opposite. Craigo, a mate since childhood, can get Darren whatever he wants – drinks, drugs, women, nothing is out of the question, despite how much his behaviour angers Wally.

This book is about family and the ties that bind, sacrifice and cricket. Serong’s writing is sharp, snappy and has that great Aussie sense of humour and self deprecation. Each chapter opens with Darren’s progress in the boot of the car before delivering you back to the past, keeping the tension levels high and drawing you in to the drama, of which there is plenty.

You don’t need to be a cricket fan to enjoy this book, but you may need and Aussie to English dictionary occasionally.

4 out of 5 Rolando’s fractures.

With thanks to Netgalley and Text Publishing for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Love YA – Brisbane Writers Festival 2016

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The Brisbane Writers Festival is an annual event and it’s always pretty awesome. I try to make sure we get along to the Love YA portion of the festival, which has been happening for the last couple of years. This year the Aussie speakers were Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman, Jaclyn Moriarty, and Lee Battersby (who is technically an import, but we’ll have him.) Meg Rosoff and David Levithan were the international guests.

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As a huge fan of  Illuminae we were particularly excited to hear Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman speak, and they did not disappoint.

Kristoff’s session was ostensibly to promote his most recent release NevernightHe talked about the struggle to become a full time author, and how he would write in his lunch breaks and until 2 in the morning to write his first books. His move into the US market was intentional as the sheer difference in population numbers meant that he would pick up more readers (and therefore more cash) in the US market, and Australian publishers have a high respect for authors who have done well in the US market although the reverse isn’t true. If you are an aspiring author Kristoff has blogged about his journey breaking into the American market.

Kristoff also spoke passionately about the Federal government’s proposed change to the parallel import rues (meaning Australian publishers would have to compete with cheaply produced mass published paperbacks) and the fact that this would wipe out the Australian publishing industry within 5 years. (You can find out more about this here and sign a petition here.)

Nevernight stemmed from a conversation between two of Kristoff’s female friends about the “c” word and its misogynistic usage. He rewrote the  conversation to be between a girl and a boy and was then intrigued by the girls’s character and wanted to know more about her. This conversation is featured on the book and is one of our favourite moments in the story.)

Kristoff described Nevernight as a book that doesn’t want you to read it When asked why he would do that to himself and his readers, Kristoff answered that he was wanting to flex different muscles creatively. As he was working on three different projects, he was wanting to use different language and structure for Never night, and that is was designed for a reader ‘with a particular capability’.

Excitingly, Kristoff mentioned he had two more projects in the works – a new series called Lifel1k3 and a new series co-authored with Amie (you can find some more details here). I’m not sure how I’m going to last till 2018.

Kaufman, Battersby and Moriarty were on a panel hosted by the very capable and funny David Burton (whose book you can find here).

These three authors were a great combination and would riff off each other when answering their questions. Amie in particular was cracking jokes left and right, but Jaclyn’s understated, quiet and self deprecating humour was also absolutely delightful.

I think the way each author answered the first question (how would you survive the end of the world?) gives a good picture of each of them.  Kaufman responded that her plan was to die in the first wave – she knew she wouldn’t survive too long, she’s done a lot of research about these things, and she would rather go down immediately than be terrified for six months and still die horribly. Battersby observed that even if he was transported to another world, he would still be a slow moving, rotund middle aged guy with a broken back, so shambling about wouldn’t be much of a change of pace for him. Moriarty had interpreted the question completely differently and was planning for after it was all over – she would take her piano and cocoa beans. Both Kaufman and Battersby decided they would like to go to Moriarty’s apocalypse, especially if there was lounge music and chocolate.

They discussed their different approaches to research: Kaufman talked about the range of specialists that she calls on for advice – from a doctor, to a battleship designer to an astrophysicist PhD, who, it seems spends a lot of time being cranky at Hollywood. Battersby said he reads 600 – 700 books a year researching, which is great as it turns up interesting facts which are just waiting to become stories. Moriarty said that she based the alternate world of Cello on her imagination and called it Cello as she liked the word, and she had bought herself a cello on Ebay, practiced for an hour a day and the downstairs neighbour had moved out.

The final panel featured Meg Rosoff and David Levithan. Both authors discussed the fact that they hadn’t planned to be authors. Rosoff wrote her first book at 46, and Levithan had “fooled himself” into thinking  he wasn’t writing a novel when he started Boy Meets Boy. Levithan had started writing by creating short stories for his friends as Valentine’s Day gifts, which is a tradition he still follows (some of these are contained in How They Met and Other Stories ).

Both authors also talked about their experience having their books translated into film. Levithan said that a female author had told him to think of the film as a two hour commercial for the book, but he had been happy with the films that had resulted and felt lucky. Levithan also mentioned that he doesn’t visualise when he writes, which made the translation of book to film easier for him to deal with (unlike his co-author, Rachel Cohn, who it seems struggled a little with some of the portayals). Rosoff’s journey to film was a lot rougher, interrupted initially by her own bout with cancer and her film agent’s murder. It took ten years for the film to be completed and she was happy with the outcome. She is currently involved in the process of turning her new book Jonathon Unleashed into a film.

All of the authors were kind, modest and self deprecating. All stayed (Kristoff for a good couple of hours after his session) to sign books (multiple volumes in most instances) and chat with people.

I’m looking forward to next year!

 

Note:

There was also a panel for debut Aussie authors, which I haven’t covered – but let me know if you’d like more information on what happened there.

Review: Nevernight

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Despite my restlessness and lack of focus, I ploughed through Nevernight yesterday.

This one came to my attention due to my passionate love for Illuminae which I adore with every fibre of my being. Jay Kristoff, joint author, has a new book coming out? Clearly I need to be all over that.

Mia is the daughter of a leader – until things go pear shaped and she witnesses his hanging at the tender age of 10, gripped fiercely by her mother who her urges her to never flinch, never fear, and never forget. At 16, Mia is apprenticed to the most deadly group of assassins in the republic. But will she survive the training in order to get her revenge?

This book is a trip. I had to read the opening a couple of times to aclimate myself with what was happening, and I c0uldn’t help but feel that Kristoff’s style was some sort of mad love child of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and China Mieville. It’s dark. It’s brutal. And parts are laugh out loud funny. Imagine Hogwarts, except your teachers are actually trying to kill you. I really enjoyed Kristoff’s use of language  and word play (unlike poor reader Emily on Goodreads who seems to struggle with simple sentences and like Justin Beiber memes.)

I think by far my favourite thing about the book is the main character. One of the things that has annoyed me a little (ok, more than a little) about girls in YA fiction (particularly in fantasy/sci fi) is that there still seems to be a burden of virtue placed on them, despite how completely screwed up their situation is. So my entire family is dead, my world has been destroyed and I could die any time …. but sex? Hell no. In the Raven Cycle, poor Blue isn’t even allowed to kiss a boy for fear that she will kill him. Talk about pressure. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Raven Cycle, and this technique is effective for making the story about something else. But there are other ways to do that to.

Mia is no paragon of virtue. She drinks. She smokes. She swears. She fucks.She doesn’t confuse sex and love. (And she kills, but she’s an assassin in training, so that’s kinda part of the job description). But these things don’t change the tone of the story or the way we view her as a character. She knows what she wants and has plans to get it. There are still moral questions asked of her, but these are more relevant to the world she is living in rather than anything artificially imposed on her by her audience.

This is a YA book. There are some graphic sexual encounters (certainly much more graphic than I’m used to seeing in YA) and some very adult language. Chances are that both of these things will make you more uncomfortable than the teen you may choose to hand it to, but do be aware of the content.

Also, check out the summary posted by the author on Goodreads here . It’s good fun!

Read this book!! And then join me in the corner as I wait for the next in the series ….

4 out of 5 severed arms .

Review: Front Page News

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I applied for this title from Netgalley on a whim. And I’m so glad I did!

Stacey McCallaghan is a recent arrival in the small Queensland town of Toomey, working as a cadet reporter. Small town journalism isn’t generally earthshattering – a procession of sports reports, cattle sales and bowls tournaments.

Until the first death.

Stacey is glad to have something a bit more exciting to write about, but this turns sour as more bodies turn up and she moves up the suspect list. The police don’t seem to be following the right leads, so it looks like Stacey will need to show them how it’s done.

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Katie Rowney’s debut novel is an absolute delight. It’s a light-hearted, quick read, written with that quirky Aussie sense of humour.  I really enjoyed her use of language and witty turn of phrase. She really captures the atmosphere of small town life and the difficulties of being a newcomer to a place where everyone else has known each other for generations.

Stacey is a great main character -she’s young, but knows her own mind and doesn’t take crap from anyone. And there are some great feminist one-liners that had me saying things like “Amen sister!!”.

‘”Boys will be boys” is just a stupid expression people use when they should be saying “Arseholes will be arseholes.”

Hell yeah!

The book has a great cast of characters – you can certainly tell that Rowney has drawn on her own journalistic experience here. It was great to see good balance between male and female characters – I find that Aussies tend to overpopulate stories, particularly those with rural settings with particular male stereotypes. The plot is well paced, right up to the climactic ending.

What else can I say – read it! It’s so much fun!!

5 out of 5 Nancy Drew references.

With thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Books Australia.