March 2014 Wrap Up: Romance, Romantic Suspense and Erotica

Welcome to the March roundup. I will give fair warning that this is going to be a long post! Not only am I going to be talking about the books that were read and reviewed for the challenge in March I am also going to be talking about the 2013 Australian Romance Readers Awards.

Once again there was a strong number of reviews linked up to the challenge during March with a total of 26.  There were several authors who were reviewed multiple times for the challenge including a couple of new releases.

Loretta Hill’s The Girl in the Yellow Vest was reviewed by both Paula and Sally from Oz and these two readers both also reviewed Someone Like You by Victoria Purman. Sally was impressed saying:

Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

MountainAshOsborn

 

There were two new releases that were reviewed multiple times this month. The first was Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn which was reviewed three times. Brenda was one who reviewed the book very enthusiastically over at Goodreads:

Wow! I absolutely loved this novel! It started off with a bang and continued throughout the whole book. I will admit to it being a little predictable early in the piece, but the predictability disappeared to weave a tale of deception, lies, secrets, anguish and insecurity; a wonderful story which drew me in from the start, and left me sighing and smiling when it was over.

 

SafeHarbourHeleneYoung

 

The other book that I am going to focus on briefly is Safe Harbour by Helene Young. Shelleyrae at Book’d Out says of the book:

Safe Harbour is a first-rate, absorbing romantic suspense novel, balancing a dramatic story with strong characters and an engaging romance.  

And Bree from All the Books I Can Read was similarly impressed

 Another truly stellar novel from the go-to author for Australian romantic suspense.

 

Now let’s turn our attention to the ARRA Awards. Each year the Australian Romance Readers Association runs awards recognising the best romance novelists and books. The 2013 awards were presented in Sydney on March 22 in a glittering ceremony. Well, actually, it was a dinner, but each year there is a “bling off” where guest are asked to wear as much shiny, glittery bling as they can.  I was very surprised to see how much bling some of these ladies could find in their wardrobes  when I attended the dinner a few years ago! If you want to find out more (of course there are photos!), head to BookThingo’s Storify recap. Anyway, I digress.

I thought that this month I would share some review links and quotes for the winning books. After all, if avid readers of the genre think that these are the best of the best they might be a great place for others to start too!

And the winners were…

The Favourite Paranormal Romance for 2013 is Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh who is a New Zealand author .

Allegiance sworn Griffin

The Favourite Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance 2013 is Allegiance Sworn by Kylie Griffin, which is the third book in the Light Blade series.

Shelleyrae from Book’d Out reviewed Allegiance Sworn and had this to say about the series as a whole

Set in an imaginative world where humans and demons are on the brink of war, Griffin combines romance, action, intrigue and magic in each book of her Light Blade series. I eagerly read one after another, enjoying an escape into the fantasy of warriors and heroines falling in love and fighting for peace.

 

The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter (published by Harlequin Kiss)

The Favourite Short Category Romance 2013 is The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter. This book was reviewed by Kat at BookThingo who summarised her thoughts about the book by saying:

This is a beautifully written, subtle, angsty story that, for me, cements Kelly Hunter as one of the best writers of modern category romance. It’s my first keeper for the year.

UntamedCowanAnna

The Favourite Historical Romance 2013 is Untamed by Anna Cowan. This author was also named as the Favourite New Author.

Both Kat from BookThingo and Kaetrin from Kaetrin’s Musings reviewed Untamed and agree that is very unusual book, not your usual run of the mill historical romance. Kaetrin finishes her review by saying

I think the concept and not-the-usual of it deserve mad props and there was much to like.  And I’m pleased to say it was not a tangled mess. As this is the author’s debut, I can only expect her craft to improve with time and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.So: the creation in my hands at the end? I think it was an ambitious and curious thing, with parts full of beauty, parts of mystery and overall, pleasing to the eye.

Kat also highlights the unusualness by saying

Untamed isn’t a comfortable story; the plots and characters defy expectations. It takes what romance readers think we know of Regency romance and almost throws it back in our faces, and the reader must make sense of the fragments left.

andrews holding out for hero

The Favourite Contemporary Romance 2013 is Holding Out for a Hero by Amy Andrews which was reviewed by Kaetrin who summarises

Holding Out For A Hero is a fun sexy contemporary with an Australian flavour and setting which will feel familiar to the locals but is not so very different as to be a barrier to international readers.

HalfMoonBayYoung

The Favourite Romantic Suspense 2013 is Half Moon Bay by Helene Young which was a favourite here at the challenge too as it was one of the most reviewed books in this category for the last year and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Helene Young’s latest book has just been released so I expect to see lots of reviews of that book over the coming months.  I am not going to quote from every one of the reviews for Half Moon Bay but I will share a couple and then add in links to the others below.

Marcia from Down Under said of Half Moon Bay

Fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action and intrigue with some tantalizing romantic encounters, Half Moon Bay is a fantastic addition to Australian romantic suspense and truly is “love in the heart of danger”.

And from Lauren at The Australian Bookshelf

Half Moon Bay is a fast-paced, intriguing suspense novel set against the backdrop of a tranquil setting. From conspiracies about drug smuggling in the Australian army, to the dangerous dealings of Afghanistan to the small town politics of northern NSW, Helene manages to cover all grounds while creating two intelligent and intriguing characters.

Jess at The Never Ending Bookshelf declares herself a fan saying

I highly recommend this novel to fans of the romantic suspense genre, or really anyone who wants to read a beautiful novel about the cost that comes with doing something the right way. It is heart wrenching beautiful, with a powerful love story that might just prove to be more powerful then them all.

Other reviews: Shelleyrae at Book’d Out, Bree at All the Books I Can Read, Brenda at Goodreads, Teddyree at The Eclectic Reader, Monique at Write Note Reviews and Jenn McLeod at Goodreads.

Half Moon Bay also won the award for Favourite Cover.

rake's midnight kiss

The Favourite Continuing Romance Series 2013 is the Sons of Sin series by Anna Campbell.  Whilst there are quite a few reviews for Anna Campbell’s standalone books there weren’t many at all for this series. In fact, there were none for the first book in the series, Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed, and only one by Karen and Teddyree over at The Eclectic Reader for the second instalment in the series (assuming you count novellas as a full instalment) Days of Rakes and Roses. Teddyree also reviewed the latest book in the series, A Rake’s Midnight Kiss saying

Why should you read it? … it’s deliciously naughty, romantic, saucy, funny and I loved it! Good enough? I spent half the book giggling and the other half fanning myself … a little overheating never hurt anyone. Nothing better than a book that makes you smile and when you finish you want to start all over again.

skin-kylie-scott

The Favourite Erotic Romance 2013 is Skin by Kylie Scott, the second book in the Flesh series. This book was reviewed by Cathleen at Goodreads in a short but sweet “I loved it” review.

In addition, Kylie Scott also won The Favourite Australian Romance Author 2013. Whilst we didn’t have many reviews for Skin, a couple of her other books have been reviewed. Bree from All the Books I Can Read and Kaetrin reviewed Lick, which is the first book in the Stage Dive series (the second of which has just been released so I expect we will see more about it in future round ups). Both reviews were very enthusiastic with Bree describing Lick as “amazing” saying

 I had my kindle handy and just began reading the book I’d most recently loaded onto it, which was this one. I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. The story of David and Evelyn is so compelling and so entertaining that I had to keep going until I’d reached the end, no matter what else was happening around me.

To read Kaetrin’s review click here.

Eleni reviewed Flesh, the first book in the Flesh series over at Goodreads. She finishes her review

Still a brilliant story with great description and wicked dialogue.

outbackdreams-johns

Last but not least, the Sexiest Hero was named as Daniel ‘Monty’ Montgomery from Outback Dreams by Rachael Johns. Rachael was one of our most reviewed authors last year and there are a number of reviews of Outback Dreams included. Sally from Books and Musing Down Under said of the book

OUTBACK DREAMS was a great read, a perfect blend of romance, believable conflict, perfect miscommunication and a happy ever after which will melt the most romance reading resistant heart. Rachel Johns brings the outback community alive and makes excellent use of humour to break up potentially traumatic scenes

Other reviews:  Teddyree from The Eclectic Reader, Bree from All the Books I Can Read and Shelleyrae from Book’d Out

 

Phew! I think I need to go and read my book after all that!!

I’ll be back next month with more highlights from the romance, romantic suspense and erotica genres.

As always you can find more of the romance reviews at any time by clicking on the Weebly pages where new reviews are always being added.

____________________________________________________________________

Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres, with the most books read being in the romance genre. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 8 years. You can tweet to her @margreads.

February 2014 Wrap up: Romance, Romantic Suspense and Erotica

Ah February, the month for romance! And it seems that our reviewers were indulging in romance reads during the month with twenty reviews posted for the challenge.

The author who was reviewed most during February was Juliet Madison whose two books from the Tarrin’s Bay series were both reviewed.

january wish madisonTeddyree from The Eclectic Reader reviewed the first book, The January Wish, saying

The January Wish is a sweet, easy read but not without substance, likable characters with interesting back stories round out the story.

Over at Sam Still Reading, there are reviews of both the first and second book, February or Forever. Of the latter, the reviewer says:

With the Tarrin’s Bay series, I think Juliet Madison has grown as a writer in leaps and bounds to the point where her books are a ‘must read’ for me.

more than this mcleanAnother author who was reviewed more than once but for different books was Jay McLean whose books More Than This and More Than Him were both reviewed by Jess at The Never Ending Story. Of More Than This Jess says that the book “embodies everything I love about romance novels” and then of More Than Him:

More Than Him is a whirlwind of a read, one that avid romantics and New Adult readers will want to devour. It’s gritty, and touching, and heartbreaking beautiful. Like many of the truly great writers, McLean has the power to make you fall in love with her characters, while simultaneously laughing with them and crying along side them. I’ve said it before, I’ll said it again, you will feel everything, and if that’s not a mark of how talented McLean is, I don’t know what is.

fairway-heaven-maloneMoving now to individual books which were reviewed more than once for the challenge,  Shelleyrae from Book’d Out and Brenda both reviewed Fairway to Heaven by Lily Malone. Both reviewers were enthusiastic, with Brenda finishing her review by saying:

What a wonderfully entertaining read! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel by Aussie author Lily Malone – this is my second by her, and I’ll definitely be reading more. Lily is an extremely talented writer – her characters are real, with emotions which made me react accordingly, even laughing out loud in a few places! An author who is right up there at the top of her genre, and I have no hesitation in recommending this one highly

someone like you victoria purmanThe other book that was reviewed twice for the challenge this month was Someone Like You by Victoria Purman, which was reviewed by both Teddyree from The Eclectic Reader and over at Sam Still Reading. Teddyree recommends the book with a “heart-skippy yes” while the review at Sam Still Reading starts with the following statement:

Sometimes you just discover serendipitously an author that works for you. Victoria Purman is one of those authors for me. I loved her debut novel, Nobody But Him, as it had just the right balance of gorgeous characters, sexual tension and happy ever after. I didn’t think she could beat it in her next book in the Boys of Summer trilogy, but oh boy, did she nail it! Someone Like You absolutely sizzles with an undercurrent of sexual tension between the two main characters, Lizzie and Dan. In between flows a tightly written plot that contains heartbreak, demons of the past and some wonderfully happy moments.

Makes me wonder why I haven’t read this author yet!

jumping-fences-karen-woodFor the second month in a row I am choosing to close my wrap up with a review of a YA romance which has been reviewed by Rochelle from Inside My Worlds. This month she has reviewed Jumping Fences by Karen Wood which not only is YA but also crosses into the rural genre which is so popular in adult fiction.

Jumping fences was a heartwarming read and I highly recommend it for those who like their YA contemporary on the lighter side and with romance. It is a clean read and suitable for younger teens and up. I really loved this book, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I can’t wait to read more rural romances from the wonderful Karen Wood.

 

I’ll be back next month with more highlights from the romance, romantic suspense and erotica genres.

As always you can find more of the romance reviews at any time by clicking on the Weebly pages where new reviews are always being added.

____________________________________________________________________

Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres, with the most books read being in the romance genre. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 8 years. You can tweet to her @margreads.

 

 

January 2014 Wrap Up: Romance, Romantic Suspense and Erotica

We certainly got off to a flying start in the Romance, Romantic Suspense and Erotica category of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014 with 25 reviews being submitted to the challenge.

in safe arms leeThere was no one book that dominated the category this month, although there were several books that were reviewed twice. Romantic suspense novel In Safe Arms by Lee Christine was reviewed very positively by both Brenda and Jess from The Never Ending Bookshelf, with Jess saying

Everyone knows that I loved Lee Christine’s first novel, In Safe Hands, which was released in late 2012. But if I loved the first book, then this novel is indescribable. Words just can’t do it justice; but for the sake of this review, I’ll try my best. Though I should warn you here that I read this entire novel in one sitting, in the middle of a heat wave (without air conditioning), I simply just couldn’t put it down, that’s just how great it is.

You have to love a book that can get you through extreme weather conditions!

tango-love-flocktonAnother story that was reviewed a couple of times was Tango Love by Nicola Flockton. This one is a short friends to lovers novella so it sounds perfect if you just want something short and fun. This story was reviewed both by Bree and at Sam Still Reading with the latter saying

Sure, you know what’s going to happen here, but it’s just so much fun! The novella means the narrative moves along at a cracking pace but it doesn’t feel rushed or that it’s skipping things. And the night of passion…it’s very, very steamy.

As I mentioned in the 2013 wrap up, rural romance is very visible in this category, and this was no different in January with reviews being added for several different books with rural settings. Loretta Hill continues to be reviewed well with reviews being submitted for both her debut novel, The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots (reviewed by Brenda) and two reviews for her latest novel, The Girl in the Yellow Vest

girl in yellow vest hillThe review at Sam Still Reading starts off by saying

A new Loretta Hill book is a must buy for me – I love her writing. The characters are funny and realistic; situations are both emotional and action packed and she demonstrates a genuine love for the Aussie bush. The Girl in the Yellow Vest is no exception – in fact, I think it’s Hill’s most technically complex book to date. Even better, it works brilliantly to create an ensemble cast, full of drama, romance and touching moments.

One of the things that I enjoy in Loretta Hill’s books is the fact that her characters and settings are not just farmers on horseback. Here we get to meet people in the mining and construction industries working in very interesting locations. Shelleyrae picks up on the rural elements as well saying

I enjoyed the change of scenery Hill provides in The Girl in the Yellow Vest. Previous books, The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots and The Girl in the Hard Hat, featured Western Australia’s Pilbara region while here, Hill sets the book in Northern Queensland, based on a project she once worked at the Hay Point Wharf.

As well as talking about the books that were reviewed most through the month, I want to try to choose one or two other books to highlight that catch my attention for different reasons. Some times those reasons might be serious (like trends or patterns that are developing, issues etc) and other times not quite so, like this time!

how-to-keep-a-boy-from-kissingOne of the titles that caught my attention this month was How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You by Tara Eglington which was reviewed by Rochelle from Inside My Worlds. The main thing that caught my eye was the title. I mean, we all know that the whole point of a romance novel is to get the boy (or girl)to kiss you! Rochelle really seemed to enjoy this contemporary YA novel saying:

I love funny, romantic, YA contemporaries and this was a perfect example of a brilliant one. 50 pages in and I had already laughed out loud countless times, and by the end I was filled up with all the happy feels.

I’ll be back next month with more highlights from the romance, romantic suspense and erotica genres.

As always you can find more of the romance reviews at any time by clicking on the Weebly pages where new reviews are always being added.

____________________________________________________________________

Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres, with the most books read being in the romance genre. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 8 years. You can tweet to her @margreads.

2013 AWW Challenge: Poetry and Short Stories

liquid-nitrogenJennifer Maiden’s win of the overall prize for the Victorian Premier’s Prize for her poetry collection Liquid Nitrogen is a boon for Australia’s women poets.  As Paula notes in her roundup of these awards, author Magdalena Ball reviewed this collection, contemplating its themes of waking and politics, and its technique of layering:

Though Maiden’s poetic description of the Carina Nebula alone is worth the price of the book, this building up of smaller things into something larger, powerful, and transformative, is exactly what Liquid Nitrogen does, taking the many cultural, political and literary characters and references, in order to create a complex theory of everything, woven together on a Maiden’s “spinning jenny.” 

Like-a-house-on-fire-kennedyShort stories also garnered recognition in the prize stakes.  Cate Kennedy’s Like a House on Fire was shortlisted for the 2013 Stella Prize and won the 2013 Steele Rudd award for short story collections offered by the Queensland Literary Awards.  It was reviewed by 6 readers for the AWW challenge – If Not, Read, Kathy, Janine, Denise, myself and Belinda - making it our our most-reviewed collection of stories.

This shows that, although winning brings literary recognition, readers are most the most important prize of all.  Happily, there were 33 reviews of poetry collections last year, eclipsing 2012’s count of 7 reviews, and 89 reviews of short stories or short story collections, up from 76 last year – an amazing effort!  Below are some highlights from the year.

Poetry

Elizabeth Hodgson, Skin paintingPhillip Ellis and Jonathon Shaw blitzed the reviews, with 10 and 8 penned respectively.  Philip paid care and attention to collections by Indigenous authors, including Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s The Dawn is at Hand, Anita Heiss’ I’m Not Racist, But … and Elizabeth Hodgson’s Skin Painting.  The latter, winner of the 2007 David Unaipon award for Indigenous writers, has ‘a level of candour running throughout the whole’, perhaps because it is, as Philip explains, ‘nonfiction poetry, poetry arising out of and engaging with the poet’s lived experience of the world and her life’.

domestic-archaeology-pilgrim-byrneLesbian relationships featured in Limen, reviewed by Sue of Whispering Gums, and Marilyn of Me, You and Books, while Phillip Ellis reviewed Domestic Archaeology, about poet Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne’s conception of a child with her partner.  Dorothy Porter’s lesbian thriller classic The Monkey’s Mask was reviewed by If Not, Read and WriteReaderly, who sums it up nicely: ‘The plotting is smart, the affair is sexy, Sydney is gritty and real, the poems are bitey and sharp – a damned fab book.’

Lilliey-realiaIn terms of other contemporary works, Jon Shaw penned an entertaining review of Kate Lilley’s Realia (in tandem with John Tranter’s Ten Sonnets) in which, piqued by Lilley’s poem “GG” on the sale of auctions from the estate of Greta Garbo, he consulted the list of said items on the web to check her source, and uncovered an image of a collection of irons.  ‘Some liberty taken as befits a poet,’ he concludes, ‘but an honest steal.’

What I enjoyed about Jon’s review is his articulation that poetry isn’t necessarily easy, as he writes, ‘Neither of these books appealed to me much on first contact, but when I came to write about them, even so spottily, I warmed to them both.’  Even if a poem seems difficult on a first reading, persistence with it pays off.  The poem opens up as you get to know it, and might even become a friend.  I look forward to reading your reviews on making the acquaintance of works by Australia’s women poets over 2014.

If you’d like to read the reviews in full, and also look at others that I haven’t had space to mention here, you had head to our Weebly pages:

January – June 2013

July — December 2013

 

Short Stories

When I look at the pages for our short story reviews, I’m always blown out of the water by the diversity of genres.  They cover speculative fiction, classics and literature, nonfiction, romance, contemporary fiction and historical fiction.  I’ve penned a snapshot of reviews from these genres below.

Caution contains small parts mcdermottReaders of spec fic/fantasy/horror/sci fi were our biggest contributors, with 34 reviews.  As Tsana mentions in her wrap-up of speculative fiction, Margo Lanagan’s collections Cracklescape (reviewed by Mel and Dave) and Yellow Cake (reviewed by Heidi, in her admirably titled Salute Your Shorts feature) were popular with readers, as was Kirstyn McDermott’s Caution: Contains Small Parts (reviewed by Stephanie, Mark and Narelle), while Thoraiya Dyer’s Asymmetry proved the most popular work after Kennedy’s Like a House on Fire, with 4 reviews (from Tsana, Alexandra, Mark and Dave).

letters-george-clooney-adelaideIn contemporary fiction, which includes literary fiction, there were 28 reviews.  It’s hard to go past the title of Debra Adelaide’s Letter to George Clooney, reviewed by Kylie in the Newtown Review of Books.  Although she found it an engaging read, she was disappointed that some of the stories were so similar, especially as ‘one of the attractions of the short story to both writers and readers is the opportunities the form allows for experimentation with structure, voice and narrative’.

great unknown meyerAngela Myer, editor of The Great Unknown, pulled together a selection of stories from some of Australia’s finest writers to unsettle her readers.  Also reviewed by Kylie, it sounds like the book is a corker, with novelist Krissy Kneen opening the proceedings with ‘a genuinely spooky tale about a sleepwalking woman and her watchful husband’.

It was also good to see women of diverse heritage being reviewed, with WriteReaderly commenting on Merlinda Bobis’ White Turtle.  She found it ‘competent enough’, but wasn’t enamoured, and recommended that readers pick up Bobis’ Fish Hair Woman for a more satisfying read.

dear ruth parryRomance stories also featured strongly, with 22 works reviewed.  Many of these were single stories, such as Bronwyn Parry’s ‘Dear Ruth’ (reviewed by Brenda, one of our prolific reviewers, and Jess) and Robin Thomas’ ‘Bonjour Cherie’ (reviewed by Lauren).

There were also two reviews of classics by Sue of Whispering Gums, who pays detailed attention to the use of language and its unsettling effects in Barbara Baynton’s ‘Scrammy ‘and’ and ‘A Dreamer’.  Historical fiction featured twice, in ‘The Convict’s Bounty Bride‘ and ‘The Last Gladiatrix‘, both reviewed by Lauren.  Finally, there was one book of nonfiction, Bush Nurses, reviewed by Marcia.

In all, it seems like reading short stories are an excellent way to sample the diversity of talent in Australia’s women writers.  If you’re pressed for time (as so many of us are!), reading stories is a great way to participate in the AWW Challenge in 2014.

As with poetry, if you’d like to see these reviews in their entirety, please head to the Weebly pages listed below.

January – June 2013
July — December 2013

 

About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a writer and researcher.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012). My short stories and poetry have been published in OverlandSoutherlyIsland and the Review of Australian Fiction.  You can find more information about these at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

2013 AWW Challenge Wrap Up: Romance, Romantic Suspense and Erotica

Welcome to the round up for Romance, Romantic Suspense and Erotica for 2013.

Whilst we dropped the ball a little during 2013 given that we didn’t have very many monthly round ups for this genre,  the participants in the challenge certainly represented the genre well. There were more than 240 reviews that were added to the challenge. Those 240 reviews covered 165 different books by 106 different authors. Very impressive.

The Girl in the Hard Hat by Loretta Hill (published by Random House)

HalfMoonBayYoung

The individual books that received the most reviews were Half Moon Bay by Helene Young and The Girl in the Hard Hat which were both reviewed 8 times, and even more importantly, reviewed pretty much universally positively as well.

outbackdreams-johns

The author who was reviewed most was Rachael Johns who was reviewed an amazing 16 times for 5 different titles from her earliest novels through to her latest releases.

When I look at the various different types of romance,  it is clear that contemporary romance has had yet another strong year, especially those with rural themes, something that is reflected with our most reviewed books and author and has been a strong trend for a couple of years now. Historical romance was well represented with some of the familiar names like Anna Campbell and Anne Gracie as well as a few lesser known names being given their chance to shine. There weren’t too many  paranormal romances reviewed. There were also relatively few erotica titles reviewed, so perhaps we should put the challenge out there to try to get some more reviews in that particularly category!

One other interesting things that became clear from the statistics is the impact that the relatively new digital first imprints like Escape, Destiny, Random Romance etc. These particular books are attracting a fair audience amongst our reviewers with over 70 books being reviewed over the course of the year. Some of those books have gone on to be print books, but most of them are attracting those readers who like to read electronically. It is interesting to contemplate what impact these kinds of books will make in the future especially given that so many of those books are not only by Australian women but also telling stories that are predominantly set in Australia featuring Australian characters rather than having to adapt to other locations! Some of those books are also selling well in overseas markets. Exciting times.

I mentioned at the beginning of the post that we hadn’t done particularly well in our recaps in 2013 but we have a plan so expect regular coverage of the romance genre during the upcoming year!

Thanks to everyone who contributed a review for this category during the 2013 challenge. I am really looking forward to seeing what romance gems the readers of romance unearth this year as part of the challenge.

As always you can find more of the romance reviews at any time by clicking on the various Weebly pages

Romance Weebly 2012

Romance Weebly January to June 2013

Romance Weebly July to December 2013

Romance Weebly 2014

____________________________________________________________________

Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres, with the most books read being in the romance genre. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 8 years. You can tweet to her @margreads.

2013 AWW Challenge Wrap-up: Diversity

In her essay “Literature as Pleasure, Pleasure as Literature” (Antaeus, 1987), Joyce Carol Oates wrote, ‘Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul’.  This is why reading stories is one of the most accessible and enjoyable ways of learning about the lives of other people.  There are many voices that make up Australia, and it’s been great to see so many AWW Challenge participants listening to and reflecting upon them throughout 2013.

Indigenous Authors

Paris Dreaming by Anita HeissOver 2013, there were 45 reviews of works by Indigenous women writers.  Dr Anita Heiss was the most reviewed, with 6 reviewers penning their thoughts on her works.  These included Paris Dreaming (reviewed by Sue), Am I Black Enough for You (reviewed by Marilyn, Sue and Kevin) and I’m Not Racist, But… (reviewed by Phillip and Shannon).

mullumbimbyMelissa Lucashenko’s Mullumbimby was also popular, with reviews by James, Lisamyself and Writereaderly, who delightfully describes it as ‘such a pleasure to read this place [Mullumbimby] rendered with such smart-arsey love. The multifaceted examination of indigenous rights is smart-thinking and smartly plotted, the narrative trips along, the characters are human, the language vernacular and gritty, and the book an accessible, informed, good-timer.’

Sue from Whispering Gums reviewed two of Melissa’s essays, ‘How Green Is My Valley’ and her Walkley-award winning ‘Sinking Below Sight: Down and Out in Brisbane and Logan’ published in Griffith Review.  In the latter essay, Melissa poses the question, ‘what dreams are possible for the Brisbane underclass in 2013?’ and follows the lives of three women living in poverty.  As Sue notes, Melissa’s essay ‘may not be statistically significant from an academic perspective, but anyone who reads contemporary social commentary knows that what she writes rings true’.

heaven-I-swallowed-hennessyOver July we held a focus on Indigenous women writers to celebrate NAIDOC week, and encouraged our readers to pick up a work by an Indigenous woman writer.  Among the books reviewed was Rachel Hennessy’s The Heaven I Swallowed, a story inspired by the author’s grandmother, who was one of the Stolen Generations.  The book was appreciated by both Sue and Shelleyrae.

theswanbook-wrightAnother standout novel was Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book, a speculative fiction novel set in a near future devastated by climate change.  Marilyn Brady, who runs the Global Women of Colour Challenge, named it as one of the best ten novels that she read and reviewed over 2013 not least because, as she writes in her review of the novel, Wright is one of the few Indigenous authors she has read who ‘are using their unique history and culture creatively and experimentally to address universal themes’.

Such an innovative approach can also be seen in Lynette Russell’s Roving Mariners: Australian Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Ocean 1790-1870, reviewed by Janine.  This history, about the South Australian sealing industry, was prompted by Russell’s desire ‘to create a more complex and less linear narrative than has been previously produced for southern Australia’ which required  attention to the particularly unstable boundaries of who was Indigenous and who was not.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin KwaymullinaIn other genres, there were reviews of speculative fiction novel The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (by Mark, Heidi and myself), children’s books such as The Burrumbi Kids (reviewed by Narelle), Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poems The Dawn is at Hand (reviewed by Philip) and young adult novels such as Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Flash (reviewed by My Book Corner).  This is by no means a comprehensive list, and you can find more works under the heading of Indigenous Writing on our Listings Page.

Authors writing on Indigenous Issues

Red Dirt TalkingA number of readers also commented on works that revolved around Indigenous people, characters or issues, but were not necessarily penned by Indigenous authors.  Marilyn reviewed Jacqueline Wright’s Red Dirt Talking, winner of the Western Australian TAG Hungerford award and longlisted for the Miles Franklin and Dobbie awards, describing it as ‘A complex and entertaining Australian novel about a white woman who comes to an Indigenous community looking for information, only to find herself changed and involved in the concerns of the community.’

Patti Miller’s The Mind of a Thief, about Miller’s exploration of the history of the Wiradjuri people, original custodians of the place where she was raised, was longlisted for the Stella Prize, and was reviewed by Deborah, Melissa and Anna.

Paisley lone protestorThe Lone Protestor, Fiona Paisley’s marvellous history of Anthony Martin Fernando, Indigenous activist in Europe in the first half of the 20th Century, was also reviewed by Jenny and Yvonne.  ‘Creative, intelligent and audacious are some of the words that came to my mind when reading about A M Fernando’, Yvonne writes, for he was a remarkable man whom Paisley brings to life despite, as Yvonne continues, ‘only tiny scraps [of information] hidden in vast archives’.

Disability

beloved-faulknerIt was positive to see a novel about disability reaching the limelight.  Annah Faulkner’s The Beloved, about Roberta Lightfoot, who suffers from polio and its ramifications, won the Kibble award and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award in 2013, and previously won the 2011 Queensland Premier’s Award (when the awards were still hosted by the premier) for an emerging author.  I was impressed with Roberta’s tough personality and the lush Port Moresby setting, while Maree describes it as ‘a well-written novel with a great heart’.

Other works about disability included Kate Richards’ Madness: a memoir, about the author’s mental illness.  This was thoughtfully reviewed by Stephanie and Christine, who describes the work as ‘not just a plea for understanding but also for the recognition of the complexity of mental illness  that increased expenditure and thought in the mental health field might address’. 

Queer Writing

LettersToTheEndOfLoveWalkerQueer writers, characters and subjects appeared in a wide range of genres, including romance (Anna Cowan’s Untamed, reviewed by Kat), history (Suzanne Falkiner’s Eugenia: A Man, reviewed by Janine), literary fiction (Yvette Walker’s Letters to the End of Love, reviewed by Amanda, Annabel, Jennifer, Emily and myself), poetry (Susan Hawthorne’s Limen, reviewed by Sue and Marilyn), young adult fiction (F2M: the Boy Within by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy, reviewed by Stevie) and an anthology (Car Maintenance, Explosives and Love, and Other Contemporary Lesbian Writings, reviewed by writereaderly).

We don’t yet have a list of queer women writers on our Reading for Diversity page, but I’m hoping to redress this by holding a spotlight on queer writing in March.  Stay tuned for details! 

Diverse Heritage

unpolished-gemOver October, we held a spotlight on Australian Women Writers of Diverse Heritage, with guest posts from Tseen Khoo, Alice Pung, Malla Nunn and Merlinda Bobis.  Tseen, a researcher and writer on Asian-Australian issues, outlined her frustration with the limited readings of texts by Asian Australian women, such as those by Hsu Ming Teo’s Love and VertigoAlice Pung, author of Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter, discussed the theme of class and ostracism in relation to Ruth Park’s novels.  Malla Nunn reflected on how her move to Australia gave her the opportunity to write about her childhood in Swaziland, while Merlinda Bobis, author of Fish-Hair Woman, for which she was awarded the Most Underrated Book Award, wrote a post about the influence of her Filipino culture on her writing.  Next year we’ll be holding similar spotlights on lesbian writers (as mentioned above) and women writers with disabilities.

AWW no borderI have loved working with the AWW team this year, and am proud to be part of an initiative that contributes to the fair representation of women writers in Australia’s literary culture.  In addition, even though I’m deaf, by reading I listen to much, much more than I ever could in real life, and I’m indebted to AWW’s readers – your reviews have allowed me to slip into so many skins, voices and souls.

If you’d like to continue the challenge in 2014 (and I do hope you will!), you can sign up here.  For further suggestions as to what to read from a diverse range of Australian women writers, please visit our Reading for Diversity page.  Those who are also interested in Australia’s fantastic women Indigenous authors can head to the Indigenous and Indigenous Issues lists on our Review Listings page.  Do venture forth and explore!

About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a novelist and researcher, and I’ve been deaf since age 4 when I lost most of my hearing from meningitis.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007), about botany and lesbianism, and Entitlement (2012), about Native Title and grief.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

Interview with author Loretta Hill

Loretta HillOne of the books which attracted the greatest number of reviews for the AWW 2013 challenge was The Girl in the Hard Hat by Loretta Hill.

Loretta is the author of bestselling novels The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots and The Girl in the Hard Hat.  For these stories she drew upon her own outback engineering experiences of larrikins, red dust and steel-capped boots. Now retired from her career in Structural Engineering, Loretta is enjoying pursuing her long time dream of writing novels. She lives with her husband and four children in Perth. I interviewed Loretta about how she got started as a writer, her writing habits, and her favourite book by a female Australian writer.

Did you grow up in a bookish house?

Sort of. My mum was into books. She was studying to become a librarian before I was born but had to let it go when she fell pregnant with me. She was always reading novels when I was growing up. My father, on the other hand, is the other side of the coin. He has never read a novel in his life. Not even any of mine. When talking about me to his friends, he will say, “Did you hear my daughter got a book published? Haven’t read it but heard it’s pretty good.”  My father is a mechanical engineer (now retired) who has always preferred the sciences. So in a way, I guess I had a very balanced childhood.  Maybe that’s why I’m turned out to be an engineer who writes books.

What was your early relationship with books?

I’ve always loved books. My favourite author as a kid was Enid Blyton and I used to hoard my pocket money to save up and by them all.

When did you begin writing in a serious way, and what motivated that?

I was writing stories since I could read. But I didn’t have a serious goal to be published until I was eighteen. That was the year I completed my first novel.  This book was definitely a practice one. I still have it but will never submit it to a publisher. In terms of motivation, I didn’t really need to be pushed to write. To me it’s as enjoyable as reading, more so because you’re in complete control of the story. The hard work and tedium lies in the editing and revising process not in creating the first draft. But I guess there’s a down side to every job, isn’t there?


How did The Girl in Steel Capped Boots come to be published?

The whole process which involved writing, revising and submitting took about five years. I did get rejected from the first publisher I sent it to but while they were looking over it, I signed with my agent, Clare Forster at Curtis Brown. So when the first publisher eventually rejected it, she then submitted it to Random House, which offered to buy it within a couple of weeks.

What research did you have to do for The Girl in the Hard Hat and how did you go about it?

I don’t know how writers used to do research in the old days without email, phones and internet. This is mostly how I got my information. There is a tropical cyclone in The Girl in the Hard Hat and because I’d never experienced one myself I had to do a lot of research for that. Much of that involved internet searches, looking at weather sites, government departments and emergencies services groups. I even spoke to some people who had experienced a cyclone over the phone.

What are your writing habits?

As I’m also a full time mum to four children under six, my writing time is very limited and regimented.  My main writing time is on a Friday. On this day, I have a nanny come to my house to take the kids for the day so that I can write. I lock myself away in a study while she is here and that’s when I get the majority of my work done. However, I still need  to write most nights when the kids are asleep to meet my deadlines. Sometimes, I will also write on the weekends when my husband can watch the kids. But I try not to. I like to reserve some time for family.

Is your next book in the same series?

My next book is called The Girl in the Yellow Vest and yes, it is also in my FIFO ["fly in, fly out"] girls series.  I would say this book is a little different to my first two novels, The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots and The Girl in the Hard Hat.  This book is not set on the Pilbara but in Queensland. Some characters from the first two books appear as minor characters but the guts of the story centres around four new protagonists –  Charlotte, Mark, Emily and Will. All four of these characters work at the Hay Point Wharf, a coal terminal on the Queensland coast. They have very different goals and histories but slowly all their lives become intimately intertwined. There is a lot of comedy in this book but I do explore a few deeper issues such as the loss of a loved one and parenting a sibling.

What else will readers see from you in 2014?

I have a novella, coming out in February called Operation Valentine guaranteed to put anyone in the mood for Valentine’s Day. It has a lot of laughs in it and was heaps of fun to write. My first novella, One Little White Lie, is also coming out next year in May in print as part of an anthology of novella’s for Mother’s day. Looks like a wonderful collection if you’re searching for a great gift.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m on holiday. Christmas and the school holidays is just too crazy a time to be starting a new novel. But I do have a few ideas simmering on the back burner. I hope to get started dissecting them late January. But my next novel won’t be FIFO. I’m thinking of shifting my focus to the wine region in Southern Western Australia. I have family who live there and I visit often. I’ve been itching to write a book set there for ages. It doesn’t mean I won’t return to my FIFO stories, I just need a little break from them for a while.

What is your favourite book by a female Australian writer?

I can’t pick a favourite Australian female author because there are just too many I enjoy reading for different reasons.  I can tell you about the last Aussie book I read though which was by Jennifer Scoullar. It’s called Currawong Creek. I just loved it. This book has so much heart in it.  If you’re a mother, it’ll really touch you. I definitely recommend it as a good read.

This is the third in an interview series with the authors of the most popular books in this year’s challengeThe first interview was with Dawn Barker, author of Fractured, and the second with Honey Brown, author of Dark Horse.

About Me

Annabel Smith is the author of Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, and A New Map of the Universe, which was shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards. She has had short fiction and commentary published in Westerly and Southerly and holds a PhD in Writing from Edith Cowan University.

 

Sept – Nov 2013 Roundup: Diversity

November is nearly up and we’re hurtling towards the end of the year!  This is my last monthly roundup, as the next one that I post will be an overview of the year.  This post covers September to November (as last month I was diverted by our focus on Australian Women Writers of Diverse Heritage) and we had some 35 reviews on books that revolved around diverse issues, which is a stellar effort.  I’ve collected these under various headings below, but sadly I wasn’t able to include all of them.

Indigenous

theswanbook-wrightMarilyn of Me, You and Books loved Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book, a speculative fiction novel set in a near future devastated by climate change, forcing Europeans into a nomadic existence while, in the north of Australia, Indigenous people live by their one healthy spring, which is now home to sunken battleships.  The novel offers a number of readings, as Marilyn notes, ‘At one level, this is a very Australian book, full of details of the land and how the government has treated Indigenous people. It is told from an Indigenous perspective.  This story, however, is placed in the context of global climate change that can rob us all of our homelands and our sense of belonging.  Even deeper, Wright touches the sense of rejection, isolation, and loss that comes from being human.’  Marilyn thought the work even more significant than Carpentaria, which had me moving it from the middle of my to-be-read pile to the top!  This book was also reviewed by David at GoodReads who found it provoking, in the best sense of the word, and in turn wrote an interesting review of the effect the work had on him.

rovingmariners-russellJanine of Resident Judge penned a fascinating review of Roving Mariners by Lynette Russell, who is of Tasmanian Aboriginal descent and is director of the Monash Indigenous Centre at Monash University.  Janine notes that Russell ‘embraces notions of undecidability and uncertainty’, in that she does not privilege her Indigenous heritage over her non-Indigenous heritage, and vice versa, for history is never this clear-cut.  Her stance informs her writing of her text about the South Australian sealing industry, which she wanted to be ‘more complex and less linear narrative than has been previously produced for southern Australia’, so as to represent the ethnically diverse seamen and women.  Janine was at times ambivalent about Russell’s approach, but appreciated it for being ‘ strenuous and well argued’ and concludes that the work is ‘a beautifully written and nuanced  reflective history’.  It was also reviewed by Yvonne last month in her Histories, Biographies and Memoirs roundup.

My Ngarrindjeri Calling Anderson and KartinyeriYvonne, in her own blog Stumbling Through the Past, also reviewed My Ngarrindjeri Calling by Doreen Kartinyeri, who offers her explanation of the Hindmarsh Island Bridge controversy of the 1990s.  As Yvonne notes, the book’s construction has an impact on the reader, with ‘each chapter in the first part of the book starts with a memory from the Hindmarsh Bridge controversy before going back to tell the story of Kartinyeri’s early life.  This maintains the reader’s focus on the topic and reminds readers that the life she lived is the reason why she was an important source of Ngarrindjeri traditional knowledge and why she was a significant person in the Hindmarsh Bridge controversy.’

Other reviews by Indigenous Australian women writers included Rachel Hennessy’s The Heaven I Swallowed, reviewed by Erin of Healing Scribe, who found its protagonist ‘flawed, yet relatable’, and my review of Dylan Coleman’s Mazin Grace, which I loved for its incorporation of Kokatha words.

Refugees

no-place-like-home-overingtonMany reviews were penned on Caroline Overington’s No Place Like Home, but Elizabeth of Devoted Eclectic tackled the book head on.  It’s the story of Ali Khan/Nudie who, in his grey hoodie, walks into a shopping centre with a bomb around his neck.  As Elizabeth writes, ‘As an immigrant and one-time refugee from Tanzania, he has been let down by his community, his rescuer, the Department of Immigration, his landlady, African community outreach workers, and now police hostage negotiators and bystanders.’  It seems to be a text which refracts its issues according to its reader, and Elizabeth, in her marvellous, textured review, interprets it as satire, challenging its readers to think about ‘several of the most important questions facing Australia today. What kind of country do we want to be? What kind of generation do we want to be remembered as? A generation which has allowed dog-whistle politics to whip up feelings of invasion and xenophobia, instead of tolerance and compassion?’  Elizabeth found it ‘exciting to see such issues being addressed in popular fiction’, and she’s not alone!

loveversusgoliath-oyenlylThe Newtown Review of Books posted two reviews on books about refugees.  Michael Jongen reviewed Love Versus Goliath, Robyn Oyeniyi’s account of her struggle to marry her husband, an asylum seeker, and to bring him and his children to Melbourne – no easy nor straightforward task.  As Michael describes, ‘Time and time again Oyeniyi reels back as she realises that the right and honourable course of action means nothing against inflexible rules and regulations.’  Kathy Gollan also reviewed the recently released A Country Too Far, edited by Rosie Scott and Thomas Keneally, which includes pieces on experiences of asylum seeking and seekers, by Australian women writers such as Gail Jones, Fiona Macgregor, Sue Woolfe, Denise Leith and Geraldine Brooks.

Disability

MadnessIn September, Christine of Freud in Oceania wrote a review of Madness: a Memoir, a striking book by Kate Richards, a doctor who suffers from mental illness.  With medication, Kate can just keep her head about water, but without it, she is plagued by delusions.  As Christine notes, this account ‘shows the sheer humanness  that severe mental distress evokes in the patient as well as her treaters – the psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and nurses.  It affects families and workplaces; treating professionals and the institutions in which patients and treaters reside. Kate’s is not just a plea for understanding but also for the recognition of the complexity of mental illness  that increased expenditure and thought in the mental health field might address.’

It was also great to see characters with disability portrayed in genre fiction, with Rachel John’s rural romance novel Outback Dreams depicting a character with autism.  Shelleyrae of Book’d Out reviewed this work and also interviewed the author about why she decided to write the character of Will Montgomery.

Diverse Heritage

If the Moon SmiledThere were a handful of reviews of Australian women writers of diverse heritage aside from those penned for our spotlight in October.  Crime writer Angela Savage, author of the recently released The Dying Beach, reviewed If the Moon Smiled by Chandani Lokugé, who was born in Sri Lanka but emigrated to Australia.  The story is about Manthri and her marriage to an unjust man who relocates their family from Sri Lanka to South Australia.  Angela describes it as a ‘profoundly sad story, almost unbearably intimate at times; and yet paradoxically, a pleasure to read due to the beauty of the writing.’

Marilyn, inspired by Merlinda Bobis’ The Fish Hair Woman, which recently won the Most Underrated Book Award, read and reviewed her earlier work The Solemn Lantern Maker, a ‘compelling story about a mute boy in the slums of Manila, the American woman he tries to rescue, and the furore caused by her disappearance.’

I shall end here, otherwise this post will keep both you and I up into the small hours!   Do check out our Listings to read more of these wonderful reviews, which show how widely Australian women writers are exploring issues of diversity, and with such great results.

 

About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a novelist and researcher, and I’ve been deaf since age 4 when I lost most of my hearing from meningitis.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007), about botany and lesbianism, and Entitlement (2012), about Native Title and grief.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

Short Stories Roundup July-October 2013

Over the last four months there have been twenty reviews of short stories, either standing along or as part of a collection.  Readers are still looking for bite-sized pieces of life to devour, which is great to see!

What is Australia ForIn the literary fiction genre, Sue of Whispering Gums penned a review of Romy Ash’s ‘The Basin’, published in an edition of Griffith Review themed ‘What is Australia For?’.  The story was inspired by the man-made Lake Argyll in the Kimberleys, and is imbued with a tension between what is natural and what is artificial.  As Sue writes, it’s ‘about the costs – personal and environmental – of mankind’s belief in its ability to control nature.’

The White TurtleWriteReaderly was inspired by Merlinda Bobis’ Fish-Hair Woman to pick up White Turtle, Merlinda’s collection of short stories.  She found it ‘competent enough, interesting in terms of cultural awareness of the Philippines and a Filipina experience in Australia’, but wasn’t enamoured.  I’ve also been prompted to add this collection to my reading list, having read and enjoyed Merlinda’s novel as well.

Danny-boy-mattaLynette Washington reviewed a couple of stories from the Amanda Lohrey Selects series, published by Spineless Wonders.  She loved ‘Danny Boy’ by Marian Matta, who ‘builds an aching suspense crafted carefully around a core of empathy and slowly reveals, with immaculate precision, the truth that is not so deeply hidden after all.’

Yellow-cakeThere were several collections of speculative fiction stories canvassed, including Margo Lanagan’s Yellowcake.  Lanagan’s mind, writes Heidi of Bunbury in the Stacks, ‘works in short stories’, and even her novel The Brides of Rollrock Island (or Sea Hearts), ‘was fractured into smaller narrative pieces, almost making it in itself a short story collection’.  With this collection, Heidi ‘fell in love in ten pages, was horrified in 30, and felt no great loss when 20 were completely lost on me’.  As a fellow Lanagan lover, I know exactly what she means.

the-year-of-ancient-ghostsJason Nahrung reviewed the first short story collection of veteran speculative fiction writer Kim Wilkins, The Year of Ancient Ghosts.  In Wilkins’ stories, Nahrung writes, ‘Character is queen … the fears and ambitions of the heroines pulling us through the realistically rendered worlds’.  Sean the Bookonaut also wrote a passionate review of this collection, and was prompted to ask, ‘How often does a collection of novellas cause you to go and borrow every book you can by the author?’  High praise indeed!  Sean also comments on the strength of the female characters, and warns readers to ‘have the tissues handy’ while reading the final story, ‘The Lark and the River’.  Sean’s impression of this story – it ‘left me so immersed that I had to remind myself that it was fiction’ – had me adding the collection to my To Be Read pile.

tospinadarkerstairTsana reviewed a chapbook, To Spin a Darker Stair, which consisted of two stories by Faith Mudge and Catherynne M Valente.  The first, ‘A Delicate Architecture’ is ‘surreal in the way that some fairytales are, but it’s lovely’ while the second, ‘The Oracle’s Tower’ gives voice ‘to a character marginalised in the traditional telling’ which ‘allows Mudge to put a very different spin on the tale’ – a darker one, by the sounds of Tsana’s review.  She concludes that it’s ‘A very thin volume that punches above its weight in class’.

secret-diary-portmanRomance titles were also reviewed, including a handful by Lauren at The Australian Bookshelf.  ‘Bonjour Cherie’ was a ‘short and sweet read by Australian author Robin Thomas’.  Lauren found it enjoyable, but the protagonist, who is obsessed with going to Paris, proved irritating with her lack of foresight.  Viveka Portman’s ‘The Secret Diary of Lady Catherine Bexley’, by contrast, was a ‘quick, saucy read and one of the better erotica shorts that I’ve read thus far.’

What a variety of stories reviewed across these genres!  I haven’t covered all of them here, so if you’d like some more recommendations, check out our listings at the short stories page from January to June, or July to December.

About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a writer and researcher.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012).  My short stories have been published in OverlandSoutherlyIsland and the Review of Australian Fiction.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

Poetry Roundup Jan-May 2013

In the 5 months of this year, there have been 16 reviews of books of poetry by Australian Women Writers.  This is opposed to the 9 reviews for the whole of last year, so poetry readers are really forging ahead!

Prolific Reviewers

storm_and_honey_Judith_BeveridgeLeading the charge is Phillip Ellis, who posted 11 reviews.  Two of these were of books by Judith Beveridge, whose first collection of poetry, The Domesticity of Giraffes, was released in 1997.  Ellis reviewed her 2005 collection, Rock n’ Roll Tuxedo, referring to it as ‘less about music scenes, and more about a wider vision of the world informed by that same music … the poems in it have a strong sense of energy, a laconic musicality and in many of them an almost prosy, but never prosaic, rhythm.’  Her most recent collection, Storm and Honey (2009) is ‘a cracker of a book’, consisting of a sequence titled ‘Three Fishermen’, and a variety of other poems.  Her work, Ellis writes, is that of ‘a skilled and disciplined poet who is well aware that hard work makes for easy reading’, which I think is an excellent description of what good authors strive to do.

domestic-archaeology-pilgrim-byrneEllis also reviewed Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne’s Domestic Archaeology, published by Grand Parade Poets (manned by poet Alan Wearne).  Pilgrim-Byrne lives in Perth with her partner of 18 years and their 4 year old daughter, and many of the poems are about fertility and conception.  What might normally be considered private becomes very public, deriving, as Ellis notes, ‘much of its power and honesty through the pared-down language.’

Darger: his girlsJonathan Shaw penned two reviews, one being a brief but fascinating account of writer and artist Henry Darger as described by poet Julie Chevalier in Darger: His Girls.  Darger, as Shaw writes, ‘was a reclusive eccentric who lived in poverty and imagined a vast epic in which little girls take on armies and interplanetary beings. Shortly before his death his landlord discovered the bulky volumes of handwritten manuscript, along with the copious illustrations, and recognised a work of weird genius.’  Darger: his girls is Chevaliar’s ‘poetic record’ of her encounter with him.  Describing a prose poem she penned made up ‘entirely of phrases taken from Darger’s writing’, Jonathan writes: ‘it’s full of [Darger's] cliché, but generates an enormous emotional, quasi-erotic force’.  His other review was on Home By Dark by Pam Brown, whose poems had an ‘elliptical, almost throwaway quality – no assertive rhyme schemes, often no clear prose syntax, mostly no through narrative line.’  He attended her book launch in an Erskinville pub, with the footy turned to silent on the telly, a setting which Pam Brown thought ‘appropriate, given the digressions and distractions of the poetry.’

Edgar The Love ProcessionAs well as pub book launches, there was one in a garden.  Sue of Whispering Gums attended the launch of Suzanne Edgar’s The Love Procession, which was inspired by a painting attributed to Marco del Buono and Giovanni di Apollonio, from the 1440s, which Edgar saw in an exhibition of Renaissance paintings at the National Gallery of Australia.  Sue, who enjoyed the varied nature of the poems, thought the title was appropriate, ‘because the collection is about love – romantic and other – and about procession. About the procession of our lives – about love, life and death, about work and the things that keep us going, about friends and family, about nature that travels with us.’

Indigenous women poets

walker the dawn is at handEllis also reviewed a number of titles by Indigenous authors, including Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s The Dawn is at Hand (1966), published under the poet’s previous name, Kath Walker.  Noonuccal was the first Indigenous woman in Australia to publish a book of poetry, We Are Going (1964), which was an immediate sell-out.  In his review of The Dawn is at Hand, her second volume, Ellis questions poet James Deveny’s comment that the ‘“propaganda-like stuff’ which might be all right for [her campaigning] addresses on behalf of Aboriginal Advancement is not necessarily good for poetry.’  Ellis concludes that the poems are not propaganda, and that they retain their lyricism.  He also muses on this subject in relation to Anita Heiss’ I’m Not Racist, But …., noting that the poems don’t ‘follow party politics, but rather, are informed and infused with a sense of humanitarian compassion and anger.’  The tension between the poetic and the political is the subject of Brigid Rooney’s Literary Activists, which has chapters on Noonuccal and her friend, poet Judith Wright.

Quibbles about Genre

Jacobson, The sunlit zoneThe Stella Prize doesn’t accept poetry, but it did shortlist Lisa Jacobson’s The Sunlit Zone, which was a speculative fiction novel in verse, reviewed by Tsana, Ellen at GoodReads and Bronwyn at Lip Magazine.  If I adhered to these guidelines as well, it would mean removing Dorothy Porter’s iconic The Monkey’s Mask, which is also a verse novel (greatly enjoyed by writereaderly and ifnotread), and another of her works, Akhenaten (also reviewed by writereaderly).  I don’t feel that I can do this because Porter is one of Australia’s best known and loved poets.

Jessica at Cordite Poetry Review writes on the form and history of the verse novel, and notes that Jacobson’s ‘everyday characters confront both the mythical and the scientific implications of a futuristic lifestyle’ and, through this, ‘the poet extends the verse novel into interesting new territory.’  This tension between the past and future is realised in the language which, as Jessica writes, has the effect of holding ‘the magical and the scientific in a constant state of tension, and we oscillate between both possibilities.’

If you agree or disagree with these genre conventions, feel free to comment below!  I also wasn’t able to cover every single collection here, so do take yourself over to our listing of reviews at the Australian Women Writers page.  It’s great to see readers taking an interest in the form, subject matter and sound of Australian women poets, and I look forward to reading many more reviews in my next roundup.

About Me

JessI’m Jessica White, a writer and researcher.  I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007) and Entitlement (2012).  My poetry has been published Overland, Verandah and Muse, and won the Matthew Rocca Poetry Prize.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

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