All About Romance – review roundup for April

Romance is in the air – except if you’ve been attending the Sydney Writers Festival (SWF).

The lack of romance writers appearing at the festival prompted Gabby at Book Thingo to write an Open Letter in protest. This was followed up by a piece by Jodi McAlister on Momentum’s blog, “Why the romance genre is interesting, relevant and important — even if you think it’s bad”.

By far the most creative response was the initiative #loveromance, brainchild of Gabby, Kat of Book Thingo and talented graphic artist Jennifer Wu. They issued a rallying cry to SWF participants to bomb events at the festival with postcards featuring mashed-up covers of classics – as if they were romance titles. These included, My Brilliant Career, Tess of the d’Urbervilles – “A classic bodice ripper… without the happy ending” – and, my favourite, The Picture of Dorian Gray: “It gives men unrealistic expectations of debauchery – a dangerous book.”

2014-LoveRomance-postcard-Wilde

Designed by Jennifer Wu (used with permission)

With so much attention not focused on romance writers among Australia’s literary community, it’s with regret that this post is so long in coming. Running a team of volunteers isn’t always easy, especially as many of our round-up editors have day-jobs, their own blogs, and do behind-the-scenes tasks. Marg, our usual Romance editor (who has also been doing Historical Fiction) wasn’t able to do the round-up this month, so I’ve stepped in.

Instead of the usual discussion of how many books classified as romance were reviewed in April (27), how many reviewers (9), who wrote the most reviews (Lauredhel on Goodreads: 5), and how many authors in total were reviewed (22), I’m going to take a different tack. I’m going to review the reviews.

Was it Blaise Pascal who wrote something like: “Apologies this letter is so long. I didn’t have time to write a shorter one”?

AWW reviewers could take note. Many of the reviews are wordy. Worse, some give a (long) summary of the story before getting to their assessment. For one reviewer, the summaries take up almost all the alloted space, followed by a (very short) assessment at the end. Who does this serve? The author? I doubt it. Other readers? Not me.

Maybe I’m specially sensitive after attending the Random House Australia’s National Book Bloggers Forum last week. Listening to RHA’s tech gurus, one thing was clear: book bloggers are competing against multiple other demands for readers’ attention. We have to be smart about how we approach things. (You can read my 5 take-home tips from the forum for increasing your blog traffic here.)

April’s most engaging romance reviews gave a very brief idea what the story is about, then went on to discuss its merits and shortcomings.

TweetHeartsNicoleHaddowStandouts in this regard were lauredhel’s, including:

  • Nicole Haddow’s novella Tweethearts – “a friends-to-lovers storyline”
  • Rachael John’s The Kissing Season- “a sweet, uncomplicated romantic holiday novella”
  • Margareta Osborn’s Mountain Ash – “a novel for those who love flawed characters” and
  • Georgie Tyler’s Doctors Beyond Borders – “fling-turned-deeper workplace romance”.

In her reviews, lauredhel gives a flavour of the story without going into too much detail, and her criticisms (and there are a few!) are done in a way that makes each book sound interesting – even when it isn’t to her taste.

Kudos, also, to Sam Still Reading, for her engaging use of visuals. Alongside the cover photo, Sam gives us a thumbnail impression of what the book is about, the “good” and the “not-so-good”, before going into more detail, such as in her reviews of:

Another standout who always manages to hook (this) reader, is Monique of Write Note Reviews. Some of Monique’s choices are probably more contemporary fiction than straight romance, including Kylie Kaden’s Losing Kate and Fiona McCullum’s Time Will Tell, but whatever she’s reviewing, Monique always manages to make the books sound interesting. One of her favourites for April was Helene Young’s romantic suspense novel, Safe Harbour.

As for the other reviews? You can find links to all the Romance, Romantic Suspense and Erotica reviews on the Australian Women Writers Review Listings page.

Finally, just in case you think I’ve been too critical, I’d like to add that everyone who links their reviews, discussions, book-giveaways and author interviews to the challenge is making a valuable contribution. Each one helps to showcase books by Australian women – even if some reviews are not to my taste. Having said that, I have to wonder about author Kate Belle’s inclusion of “Natasha Walker’s” Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings in the challenge. Kate makes it clear that the author is a man!

What do you think? Read any good romance reviews lately?

~

ELhuede-thumbnail-portraitElizabeth Lhuede founded the Australian Women Writers Challenge as part of the National Year of Reading in 2012. When not writing, she reviews books at Devoted Eclectic, and recently set up a new blog under her pen-name, Lizzy Chandler. She tweets under both names, as well as @auswomenwriters. One of her novels, Her Man From Snowy River Country, a short contemporary rural romance with a psychic heroine, was recently accepted for publication by Harlequin Escape. 

 

 

Special Announcement: The Penguin Random House National Bloggers Forum 2014

rha_bloggers2014_badge1

Announcing the inaugural Penguin Random House National Book Bloggers Forum 2014!

Penguin Random House Australia is pleased to announce the inaugural National Book Bloggers Forum – a first-of-its-kind conference being held specifically for book bloggers in Sydney on Tuesday May 20. The free, one-day forum has been developed to foster a closer working relationship with the growing book blogging community.

The conference, coinciding with the opening day of the Sydney Writers Festival, will feature surprise guest authors, insights from publishers and sessions on blog promotion, as well as an open forum in the afternoon for bloggers to discuss whatever they see fit. This conference is a fantastic opportunity for bloggers to hear from publishing insiders as well as learn some best-practice tips on blogging. Winner of the 2013 Best Australian Blog Competition and Random House Australia author Sneh Roy is just one of the day’s guest speakers. The full program for the forum will be announced in coming weeks.

RHA_Bloggers2014_Pod1
I’ll be there and I hope you will join me. It promises to be a fabulous opportunity for all Australian book bloggers.

You can find more details and register at http://www.randomhouse.com.au/bloggers-forum/

Bloggers not able to attend the conference can keep up with the conversation on Twitter by using the #NBBF14 hashtag or following @RandomHouseAU.

If you are planning to attend let us know, perhaps we can arrange a meet up for challenge participants.

Aurealis Awards Finalists

In February, the list of finalists for the Aurealis Awards was announced. The Aurealis Awards are, as the website says, Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards, and are judged by a series of panels for different categories. You can see the full list of finalists in a PDF at this link, and I’ve reproduced some of them below. Mainly I’ve skipped the short story categories, since many of the shortlisted stories appear in the anthologies and collections also shortlisted, and also because people don’t tend to review isolated short stories anyway. I’ve highlighted the women shortlisted in purple (this is the AWW blog, after all) and the reviewer names listed afterwards point to reviews submitted to us of the relevant book.

Aurealis Awards Finalists

BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK
TheCloudRoadCarmodyKingdom of the Lost, book 2: Cloud Road by Isobelle Carmody (Penguin Group Australia)Shaheen, Nalini Haynes
Refuge by Jackie French (Harper Collins)
Song for a scarlet runner by Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)
The four seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray (Allen & Unwin)
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
Ice Breaker: The Hidden 1 by Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Unfortunately, we don’t have that many reviews for children’s books. Perhaps someone would like to take on the challenge of reviewing them?

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
The Big Dry by Tony Davies (Harper Collins)
Hunting by Andrea Höst (self-published)Tsana, Dave Versace
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)Shaheen, Tsana
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia)Elimy, Tsana, Shaheen
The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn (University of Queensland Press) Bree, Shannon (Giraffe Days)

Great to see YA so well-represented!

Hunting-Andrea_host these broken stars kaufman sky-so-heavy-zorn Fairytales for Wilde Girls

BEST HORROR NOVEL
The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby (Angry Robot Books)
The First Bird by Greig Beck (Momentum)
Path of Night by Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft Publishing)
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near (Random House Australia) — Elimy, Tsana, Shaheen

BEST FANTASY NOVEL
Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette Australia)
A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan (self-published)
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin) Shaheen, Tsana
Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix (Jill Grinberg Literary Management)
Ink Black Magic by Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft Publishing)Tsana

these broken stars kaufman ink black magic roberts

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
Lexicon by Max Barry (Hachette)
Trucksong by Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet Press)
A Wrong Turn At The Office Of Unmade Lists by Jane Rawson (Transit Lounge)Marisa Wikramanayake
True Path by Graham Storrs (Momentum)
Rupetta by Nike Sulway (Tartarus Press)Jane Rawson

wrong turn rawson RupettaSulway

I should also mention that Rupetta won this year’s Tiptree Award! The first time an Australian has done so. The Tiptree is awarded for “science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender” (their website).

BEST ANTHOLOGY (highlighting by editor for this one)
The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012 by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Eds), (Ticonderoga Publications)
One Small Step, An Anthology Of Discoveries by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)Tsana, Dave Versace
Dreaming Of Djinn by Liz Grzyb (Ed) (Ticonderoga Publications)Nalini Haynes
The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Of The Year: Volume Seven by Jonathan Strahan (Ed) (Night Shade Books)
Focus 2012: Highlights Of Australian Short Fiction by Tehani Wessely (Ed) (FableCroft Publishing)

one-small-step dreaming of djinn grzyb

Not terribly surprising that the year’s bests didn’t get reviewed (including Focus which contains only 2012 award winning stories and is similar to a year’s best), since they’re somewhat different beasts to the other two anthologies listed.

BEST COLLECTION
The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton (FableCroft Publishing)Tsana
Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)Alexandra, Tsana, Dave Versace, Mark Webb
Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott (Twelfth Planet Press)Stephanie Gunn, Narrelle M Harris, Mark Web
The Bride Price by Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publications)Sean the Bookonaut
The Year of Ancient Ghosts by Kim Wilkins (Ticonderoga Publications) — Jason Nahrung, Sean the Bookonaut

BoneChimeCoverDraft asymmetry Caution contains small parts mcdermott the-bride-price the-year-of-ancient-ghosts

Exciting to see an all-female category that has been entirely covered by AWW participants!

~

So that’s the Aurealis finalists. I’m really pleased to notice that apart from the Children’s Book category and the three year’s bests, all the shortlistees were covered by AWW participants. Well done, everyone!

Hopefully for those of you wondering what speculative fiction to pick up next, this list may have given you some inspiration.

~

About Me

I’m Tsana Dolichva and I’ve been reading and enjoying Australian speculative fiction since I first started reading “grown up” books (back before YA was its own genre). More recently, I’ve been blogging my reviews over at the creatively titled Tsana’s Reads. I irregularly blog about science in science fiction over at the Science Fiction Writers’ Guide to Space. When not reading or writing, I’m probably working towards my PhD in astrophysics.

Special offer from Clan Destine Press – Australia’s genre publishing specialists

CDP PosterClan Destine Press is getting on board Australia’s biggest reading and reviewing challenge again.

To celebrate the third year of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian genre publisher Clan Destine Press (CDP) is offering special discounts on all CDP paperbacks and eBooks to those taking the AWW challenge.

Last year the offer applied only to CDP’s women writers, but this year the offer extends to all authors.

CDP has over 40 titles across all genres: crime fiction, historical, fantasy, rural romance, action-thrillers, kids’ adventure fantasy, true crime and erotica.

For the AWW Challenge, readers can choose books by: Kerry Greenwood, A K Wrox, Lindy Cameron, Alison Goodman, Narrelle Harris, Rowena Cory Daniells, Sandy Curtis, Vikki Petraitis, FinJ Ross, Ruth Wykes, Jane Routley, Patricia Bernard, Helen Goltz, Tamsin Baker, Heather Garside, Cheryse Durrant, Jane Clifton, Emilie Collyer, Liz Filleul and soon Sarah Evans Sandi Wallace, Fin J Ross and Mary Borsellino.

So, if you’d like to make the most of CDP’s 35-50% off all titles – including latest releases – just follow this link to sign up for their Clan Destine GOLD newsletter which has all the info and the special offer codes: http://www.clandestinepress.com.au/newsletter/subscriptions

If you take CDP up on the offer, please let us know.Clan Destine Press

Women dominate the 2014 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature

jinks unusual pursuitJacobson, The sunlit zoneMadnessfriday-brown

Congratulations to all the women who have featured in this year’s Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature.

Children’s Literature $15,000

Catherine Jinks for A Very Unusual Pursuit (Allen & Unwin)

John Bray Poetry $15,000

Lisa Jacobson for The Sunlit Zone (5 Islands Press)

Non-Fiction $15,000

Kate Richards for Madness: a Memoir (Viking/Penguin)

Young Adult Fiction $15,000

Vikki Wakefield for Friday Brown (Text publishing)

Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript $10,000

Cassie Flanagan-Willanski for Here Where We Live (short story collection)

Barbara Hanrahan fellowship $15,000 

Jennifer Mills for Common Monsters

Tangkanungku Pintyanthi Fellowship $15,000 

Ali Cobby Eckermann for Hopes Crossing

Frank Moorhouse took out both the Fiction Award and the Premier’s Award for Cold Light (Vintage Books). Phillip Kavanagh won the Jill Blewett Playwright’s Award for Replay (un-produced). The full list of winners can be found here.

~

Have you read or reviewed any of these books? (It seems Catherine Jinks’ book may not have been reviewed as yet for the challenge.) You can find links to reviews of some of the other books on our AWW Review Listings pages.

Big Increase in Reviews for Australian Women Writers!

In 2013 Australian women writers received a large increase in online reviews. The number of reviews entered in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge increased by nearly twenty percent compared to 2012.

In its second year the Challenge demonstrates that the groundswell of enthusiasm for books written by Australian women is increasing. This is a trend that traditional literary publications need to adjust to. Readers expect to see as many reviews of books by women as they do of men. All genders are equally capable of quality writing. All genders write about a wide variety of interesting topics.

In 2013 over 1,800 reviews were written about books written by Australian women writers. Nearly forty percent of the books reviewed were published in 2013. The most popular books were:

Title Author Publisher No. Reviews
1 Burial Rites Hannah Kent Picador 21
2 Fractured Dawn Barker Hachette 14
3 Dark Horse Honey Brown Penguin 12
4 The Railwayman’s Wife Ashley Hay Allen & Unwin 11
4 The Girl in the Hard Hat Loretta Hill Random House 11
5 Web of Deceit Katherine Howell Pan Macmillan 10
5 The Wild Girl Kate Forsyth Random House 10
5 The Husband’s Secret Liane Moriarty Pan Macmillan 10
5 Half Moon Bay Helene Young Penguin 10

Most reviewed books for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge in 2013.

—–

Over seven hundred authors had their work reviewed by Challenge participants.

Yes, there are over seven hundred Australian women authors. The number would be even greater as we recognise that despite the volume of books that were reviewed, there were still some authors who published in 2013 but missed out on reviews in the Challenge.

The most popular authors were:

Author Name No. Reviews
1 KENT, Hannah 21
Most Popular Authors, Australian Women Writers’ Challenge, 2013.
2 JOHNS, Rachael 18
3 HILL, Loretta 17
3 BROWN, Honey 17
4 OVERINGTON, Caroline 16
5 HOWELL, Katherine 15

A feature of the Challenge is the fact that anyone can participate. There are no educational or work experience requirements. Reviewers don’t have to live in Australia. No-one ‘vets’ the reviews before they are linked. This may be a reviewer’s first experience of writing for the public.

The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is a grass-roots positive action by people from all walks of life. The one thing in common is all reviewers believe that the books they read which are written by Australian women are worthy of a review. The time and effort the reviewers put into writing the reviews is an unspoken comment on their views about the writing of women authors.

Over two hundred reviewers wrote at least one review for the Challenge in 2013. Some of the Challenge reviewers were prolific:

Reviewer No. Reviews
1 Brenda 121
Top 10 Challenge Reviewers 2013
2 Bree 110
3 Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out 100
4 Lauren @ The Australian Bookshelf 72
5 Tsana 42
6 Sally From Oz 40
7 writereaderly 37
8 Shannon (Giraffe Days) 34
8 Jess @ The Never Ending Bookshelf 34
8 Mel @ Adventures of a Subversive Reader 34
8 Helen 34

There is still considerable work to be done to change the attitudes of major, traditional book reviewing publications. Both the international and Australian statistics for 2012 still showed too many of these publications prioritise reviewing the writing of men over the writing of women.

Our statistics reveal that only seventeen men wrote a review for the Challenge in 2013. Women’s writing is for everyone just as men’s writing is for everyone. The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is keen for more men to participate.

Renewed impetus for the campaign to change attitudes has emerged from the United Kingdom since the New Year. Writer and illustrator, Joanna Walsh, has started a Twitter hashtag, #readwomen2014. It has quickly become a vibrant conversation with many people committing to reading more books written by women. American literary magazine, The Critical Flame, has committed to a whole year of reviewing the work of women writers and writers of colour.

The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is part of the growing world-wide movement to raise awareness of excellent writing by women. It helps readers to challenge the subconscious stereotypes that govern our choice of books to read. We are excited to be entering our third year and hope that we can help you do something about this issue.

Participation in the Challenge is better than whingeing. It is better than waiting for old, traditional publications to move into the twenty-first century. The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge gives everyone the opportunity to take positive action to change our world.

Commit yourself. Sign up today and write your first review!

At a Glance: The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge in 2013 2013 2012
Number of Reviews 1822 1526
Books Reviewed 1079 876
Authors Reviewed 763 596

AWW 2014 Challenge News – open for subscription

The Australian Women Writers Challenge now has its own online newspaper. The aim is to spread news of books by Australian women, including reviews posted for the challenge, as well as recent releases, competitions, interviews and other articles of interest.

The paper is generated automatically by the @auswomenwriters account on Twitter, and draws from tweets which use the hashtag #aww2014. (If you’re on Twitter and are reviewing for the challenge, don’t forget to use this hashtag – your link might find its way into the paper.)

This means people who aren’t on Twitter won’t miss out. All you have to do is subscribe to the paper and you’ll receive a short daily summary via email.

aww news

To see the newspaper, go to this link. To subscribe, click on the “subscribe” button in the top right corner. You can also share the paper on other social media (e.g. Facebook and Google+, as well as Twitter) by clicking on the “share” button. It all helps to spread the word.

And remember, you can find links at any time to reviews written for the AWW challenge, past and present, by exploring our Review Listing Page.

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Note: The AWW team is looking for volunteers to help keep the Review Listing Page up-to-date. If you would like to find out more about what’s involved, please leave a comment below.

Join the 2014 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop!

AustraliaDaybloghop2014

Aussie book bloggers ( & authors, booksellers & publishers)  are invited to sign up to participate in the 2014 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop!

What is it?

Blog hops are a great way to promote your blog and connect with new and old bloggers and readers. Last year this hop proved successful for all involved so lets make it bigger and better this year and share our Aussie pride with the world.
Oi Oi Oi!

To celebrate Australia Day, this blog hop accepts host sign ups from  Australian residents only.

For more details or to sign up, please visit

CLICK

2014 AWW challenge officially open – happy year of reading

Happy new year, everyone, including veterans of AWW2012 and AWW2013, as well as new challenge participants.

AWW Badge 2014

AWW Badge 2014

The AWW2014 challenge is officially open.

That means, you can now sign up, and start linking reviews. The challenge will run till Dec 31 and you can sign up at any time during the year. (If you’re new to AWW, you can find out more about how to participate here.)

If you’re not sure whether you can commit to reading or reviewing, you can still participate by reading and commenting on other people’s reviews and sharing the links via social media. It will all help to get the word out there about the huge variety of quality books by Australian women in all genres (and help overcome gender bias).

If you wrote reviews for the 2013 challenge and forgot to add the links to the AWW blog, you can still do so  here (for a while). All reviews end up on our AWW Review Listings page. With the challenge now entering its third year, this may become a valuable resource of links to reviews of books that otherwise might be forgotten or overlooked.

Congratulations to all those who completed the challenge in 2013, especially to those who kept track of their 2013 reading and reviewing and/or wrote a wrap-up post. The latter include:

Participants who completed the 2013 challenge but who didn’t enter wrap up links include Jason Nehrung, Eva Lomski, Leonie Rogers, Marilyn Brady.

If your name doesn’t appear above and you finished the 2013 challenge, please enter your name on the Challenge Completed form. We also welcome feedback in the comments here. I hope many of you will join again in 2014 and, remember, you can sign up to read only, as well as to read and review, and you can pick your own number of books.

Thanks to everyone who participating this year, particularly those who shared links to AWW blog posts and participants throughout the year. A very special thank you to the AWW team. Without you, this blog wouldn’t be possible.

Happy reading throughout 2014.

Most Underrated Book? Not by AWW

The 2013 Most Underrated Book Award (MUBA) was recently announced by The Small Press Network. (SPN).

The award highlights books released by small and independent Australian publishers which for have slipped under the mainstream’s radar. The judges of this year’s prize included book reviewer/writer (and veteran AWW participant), Stephanie Campisi; bookseller/poet, Ben Walter; and writer Estelle Tang.

The four books on the shortlist – all published in 2012 – are:

According to the SPN site, all “show excellence in their genre and demonstrate quality of writing, editorial integrity, and production. They have been overlooked for other prizes and have not generated the sales they deserve for any number of reasons other than the great quality of the products”.

While these books may have slipped by unnoticed by mainstream media, they haven’t gone unnoticed by AWW participants. Of the four novels, only Staunch has yet to be reviewed for the challenge.

FishHair_L

  • Fish-Hair Woman, which was also a finalist in the 2013 Davitt Awards, Best crime and mystery books by Australian women, has been reviewed by Whispering Gums, who calls it “part war story, murder mystery, political thriller, romance, and historical epic”. Other reviewers of the novel are Writereaderly and Me, You and Books. Dr Bobis, who is interviewed here, recently featured as part of the AWW spotlight on Australian women writers of diverse heritage here.

whisky-charlie-foxtrot

hum-concrete

  • The Hum of Concrete by Anna Solding was shortlisted for the 2010 Adelaide Festival Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript. It was reviewed for the AWW challenge by This Charming Mum who calls it a “novel constellation” – “a series of smaller stories, strung together in the micro-cosmos of Malmö, Sweden… though in many ways it could be set anywhere, dealing as it does with the big themes of human experience: love, birth and death.”

staunch

  • Staunch by Ginger Briggs, the true story of a boy raised as a ward of the state and his friendship with his carer, is the only book on the MUBA short list which hasn’t been reviewed for the challenge. It was a Pick of the Week in the Age which said of it: “Staunch is real-life grunge, and it leaves the literary stuff for dead. There’s no glamour, no cool, just the piercing sadness of social truth.”

So, who’s going to be the first to read and review Staunch for the AWW challenge – or add to our growing number of reviews of these other under-recognised books?

The winner of the Most Underrated Book Award will be announced at a presentation at the Wheeler Centre on 15 November.

~

About

This post is the result of a combined effort by Elizabeth Lhuede and freelance book reviewer, journalist, writer and editor Paula Grunseit. Paula blogs over at Wordsville and can be found on Twitter @PaulaGrunseit

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