Celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Writing: Interview with Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ambelin photoToday marks the beginning of NAIDOC week, which celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  Through my Diversity roundups for the AWW Challenge I draw attention to the wonderful and wide-ranging writing by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women writers, and this month, in the spirit of NAIDOC week, it would be great to see some reviews of their books.  You can also head to ANZ LitLovers, where Lisa Hill is holding a challenge for this week, whereby you may sign up and review a novel by any Indigenous writer from around the world.

As part of our celebrations, I have interviewed author Ambelin Kwaymullina. Ambelin is an Aboriginal writer, illustrator and law academic. She comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She has published a number of picture books as well as a dystopian series – The Tribe – for young adults.  The first book of this series, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, has received enthusiastic reviews from a number of AWW’s readers over the last few years (see our review listings for 2012 and 2013), and I’m looking forward to reading the second, The Disappearance of Ember Crow. In her interview, Ambelin discusses the importance of holism, connections, mirrors, listening, and storytelling.  If you’d like to know more about Ambelin and her books, you can visit her website at www.ambelin-kwaymullina.com.au.

Also, if you’d like some ideas for books to read this month, you can head to the Indigenous Authors reviews on our Review Listings page.  I really look forward to reading your thoughts!

Interview with Ambelin Kwaymullina


What was the first piece of writing you can remember creating? What then set you on the path to becoming a writer?
 

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin KwaymullinaI always wrote. But I gave it up for a long time, because I lacked faith in myself (I still wrote but not seriously, and if you want to be a writer you have to pursue it seriously; it cannot be a hobby). What set me on the path of writing again was a dream.

I dreamed a story about a crow, a tale with a message about valuing yourself. That story became Crow and the Waterhole, the first book I ever published. It was also the first book I ever illustrated. And I have always believed that the story itself was a gift from my ancestors. They knew I needed to hear the message of it.

 

How does your Indigenous culture influence what and how you write?

Walking the CloudsMy people, my family, my culture, my Country – this is who I am. So of course it is in every aspect of what I create. There are times when that influence is not always obvious to those looking in from the outside. For example, I get a lot of comments that it’s unusual to be an Indigenous speculative fiction writer. But worldwide there are quite a few Indigenous authors writing into speculative fiction, and to some degree we all incorporate who we are into what we write.

There is an anthology of Indigenous science fiction called Walking the Clouds, and in it, Aninishaabe scholar Grace Dillon writes that all forms of Indigenous futurisms are part of a process of returning to ourselves. Perhaps this describes all Indigenous stories; we are always who we are, in whatever genre we write. And for some specific examples of the way in which aspects of Aboriginal culture winds through The Tribe series – it is in the bonds that the Tribe have with the animals of the forest; in kin relationships that sustain them through the hardest of times; and in an earth alive with greater wisdom than human beings can fathom.

 

What was the inspiration for The Tribe series, and why did you decide on the genre of a dystopia?

The Disappearance of Ember CrowI wrote about real things. And I know that sounds strange for books set hundreds of years into the future. But I write of children and teenagers in danger, and for far too many of the young of this planet, that’s just another day. Worlds end all the time – they are shattered into pieces by violence, war, poverty, and hatred – and dystopias exist on this earth. I didn’t invent a world where the young are vulnerable. I just write about how they defy that reality.

 


Your picture book Crow and the Waterhole is about reflection, a theme which also appears in your essay  “Seeing the Light: Aboriginal Law, Learning and Sustainable Living in Country.” Is this a theme which is particular to your work, and/or are there other themes to which you often return?

Crow and the WaterholeBoth those uses of reflection actually relate to Aboriginal culture and experience. I’ve talked about Crow and the Waterhole above. And the issue of all the young people of the earth being able to find their own reflection in the world is one that concerns me greatly. I know too well how many negative images of Indigenous peoples exist, and the effect those images can have. I’ve spoken about this before in an interview where I talked about mirrors continually displaying a distorted image of yourself, and I asked the question “If that was the only face you ever saw, if that was the image continually reflected back at you, might you not come to believe that it was all you could ever be?”

In the Seeing the Light article, I was talking about holism.  One of the broad commonalities between the diverse Indigenous cultures of this world is holism; we look to connections and the place of things in context. And yes, holism is a big feature of just about everything I write. There are repeated references throughout the Tribe series to the importance of connections; and it is in the end a group of disparate people, some from the marginalised of that world and some from the privileged, who will come together to change their reality for the better.

 

How do you juggle writing and a day job?  Does one inform the other in any way? 

9781921696015_HOWFROGMOUTHFOUNDHERHOME‘Juggle’ probably implies a greater degree of skill than I have; I’m not always so good at keeping all the balls in the air. I snatch whatever time I can to write and I’ve taught myself to be able to do it in five minutes, or ten, or sixty – whatever bit of time is available to me I will use as best I can. The useful thing about working under pressure is that it doesn’t give you much opportunity to worry about doing something wrong. Time spent on self-doubt is time wasted, and I’ve got very little time to begin with.

My day job is as a law academic and there’s no shortage of connections between law and storytelling. A lot of Indigenous legal scholars have written of the way in which colonial stories about Indigenous peoples (and particularly about Indigenous women) have informed, or rather mis-informed, the law. And in my own culture, much of our law is communicated through stories.

 

What are some great books by Indigenous women writers which we should be reading?

Bush BashRead all of them.

They are wonderful stories. And for non-Indigenous readers, it is only way to begin to grasp the diversity and complexity of the lives of Indigenous women. So don’t stop at one story, or two, or ten, and don’t limit yourself by genre – Eurocentric story-categories are in any event often a poor fit for Indigenous narratives. More importantly still, don’t limit yourself by any preconceived notions of what it is to be Indigenous. In the words of Eastern Arrernte elder Kathleen Kemarre Wallace: “Come, listen to us, we will tell you our culture…appreciate you might not know the answer or understand the question. That’s what it means to work in a cross-cultural way. Respect has to flow both ways, learning too.” [Kathleen Kemarre Wallace, Listen deeply, let these stories in, IAD Press, p 171]

The Two Hearted NumbatAccept the stories on their own terms and let the voices speak for themselves. If you are struggling to find books, a good place to begin is the catalogues of Aboriginal publishers (Magabala Books, IAD Press, and Aboriginal Studies Press). Move on from there to all the other publishers; you may also find the BlackWords database on the Austlit website to be useful.

But don’t read the stories for us, or at least not only for us. I personally believe that anyone who engages with the many cultures of this world out of some hazy notion of doing good for others has entirely missed the point. Diversity is one of the wonders of this earth. To interact with cultures different to our own is to be bewildered and amazed and inspired; it is to travel through worlds and be presented with new visions of what is and what could be; it is expand our understandings of the possible. Who would pass up an opportunity like that, if it was offered to them? And it is offered. It is presented in the form of life histories, articles, cultural narratives, picture books, novels, poetry and in the thousand of other ways in which Indigenous women cast out our voices into the world.

So read all the stories – and, to quote Kathleen Kemarre Wallace again: “listen deeply, let these stories in”.

 

June Speculative Fiction Round-up

Hello readers and welcome again to my monthly speculative fiction round-up! We have not had as many reviews in June, perhaps because of the sudden cold in some areas of Australia? (At least, that’s what I’ve been hearing. I, meanwhile, have been enjoying a Swedish “summer” and feeling confused about my wardrobe.) Perhaps also because of the slight upswing in YA and children’s spec fic books being reviewed? Whatever the reason, hopefully there will be an improved turnout next month. I will say though, this is the first time horror has been the most reviewed genre. Huzzah! Now to up the popularity of science fiction… (preferably not at the cost of fantasy, of course).

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for reading inspiration, where better to start than this post?

Horror

great unknown meyerA respectable turnout for horror this month, especially on the short story side of things. Jane Rawson reviewed The Great Unknown, a Twilight Zone-inspired anthology, edited by Angela Meyer. She liked some of the stories more than others and, of one she liked, writes:

Krissy Kneen’s ‘Sleepwalk’ is genuinely creepy and put ideas in my head so I was nervous when the cat stared intently at something I couldn’t see (he does this most days, but now it’s creepy).

which sounds to me like what a good horror story involving cats should do.

the-year-of-ancient-ghostsI reviewed Kim Wilkins’ collection of novellas, The Year of Ancient Ghosts, which I absolutely loved. It is, in fact, one of my favourite reads of the year. The first and titular story was heart-wrenching and poignant and I was not surprised that it won the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story earlier this year. Definitely worth a read.

Moving on to standalone short fiction, C J Dee over at Dark Matter Zine reviewed “Home and Hearth”, a short story by Angela Slatter. It’s set after a homicide trial and, CJ gave it four stars.

Somewhat to my surprise, the next review is of Squirm by Cari Silverwood, a book that can be categorised as a parody of “monster porn”. Apparently, this is a horror/fantasy subgenre of erotica. I was going to say that it wasn’t something I’d come across before, but now I’m wondering whether Spar by Kij Johnson (not an Australian) might count? Anyway, reviewer Kate Belle writes:Squirm Silverwood

Far from being horrified, I was fascinated. And wildly entertained. The great thing about Squirm is Cari’s clever satirical references to the well worn tropes of sci-fi, romance, erotica and especially the 21st century phenomena, 50 Shades of Grey. She takes all the tired phrasing and eye rolling moments that goes with them and weaves them together to create characters and scenarios that will make you laugh out loud.

She also talks about some of the gender-specific ramifications of writing monster porn (men probably can’t get away with it) and possible reasons behind this. The review is well worth a read.

Fantasy

blood-countess-thumbOn the paranormal/dark(ish) fantasy front, Faith reviewed The Blood Countess by Tara Moss, the first Pandora English book. Unfortunately, she didn’t enjoy it as much as she might have.

I’m not sure if all the stories are strictly fantasy, but I’ll categorise it here anyway. RandomAlex reviewed Rosaleen Love’s collection Secret Lives of Books. It’s the most recent collection in Twelfth Planet Press’s Twelve Planets series, which many AWW participants have reviewed over the years of the challenge. Of Secret Lives of Books, Alex writes:secret lives of books - rosaleen love

Well, most of the stories feel pretty easy to read, thanks to that simplicity of prose Duchamp identifies [in the introduction] and the fact that there’s no padding in any of them. Most of them, though, are likely to sneak around to the back of your head and whack you one to make you realise that simplicity of prose is by no means the same as simplicity of purpose, or theme, or consequence.

Science Fiction

above_below_campisiOn what I gather is the science fiction front (I haven’t read the book yet…) Jane Rawson wrote a short review of Above/Below by Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek, a novella double (flip the book over to read the other novella, start at either side). Both novellas are set in the same world, exploring different societies. Jane was a bit torn about this one, but ultimately decided that it was worth reading.

the white list - nina daleoFinally, Maree Kimberley reviewed The White List by Nina D’Aleo. This is a sci-fi thriller set in a different world to the author’s previous books. Maree writes:

The characters are well-rounded, and I felt empathy for the “bad guys” as well as the “good guys”. For me, it’s the humour that D’Aleo injects into her writing that gives it that extra lift and keeps me cheering Silver and her allies along in their fight.

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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 very 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.

 

Spec-fic Round-up for May

It’s that time again when I summarise the speculative fiction reviews people have submitted to the Challenge. We’ve had 23 reviews submitted in total (including YA), which is a reasonably good turn-out. I should also direct readers to Alisa’s (of Twelfth Planet Press) post earlier this month about the Challenge and with a special offer for participants.

Science Fiction

peacemaker - marianne de pierresThere were two science fiction books reviewed this month, although both are more genre blends than pure science fiction. First off, Shaheen reviewed Peacemaker by Marianne De Pierres. She gives it a glowing review, writing:

Wow. Just … wow.

Peacemaker is an exciting and creative narrative that skilfully combines elements of westerns, science fiction, fantasy and crime to create one of the most engaging books you’ll read this year. The book is set in a future Australia unlike any other I’ve read: one where overpopulation has created a mega-city spanning the entire east coast and Australia’s desert is the only natural landscape left.

The Back of the Back of Beyond - Edwina HarveyOn a more comical note, I reviewed The Back of the Back of Beyond by Edwina Harvey, a collection of linked short stories. They’re vaguely autobiographical, in a sort of “what if the author had moved to the middle of no where” and also dragons and aliens. It was a very fun, light-hearted read which I highly recommend to anyone looking for a break from more serious books.

Horror

AnguliMaAGothicTaleChiVuAll the horror reviewed this month was short fiction (well, if you define “short” as including novellas). Anguli Ma, a novella by Chi Vu was reviewed by Jane Rawson, who enjoyed it, writing:

It made me look at the neighbourhood where I live in a whole other way. It made me look at Australia and the people around me in a whole other way. … And – for the first time in ages – I really felt for a whole bunch of fictional characters, including the bad guys (who are so complicated and creepy).

Caution contains small parts mcdermottContinuing with the short fiction theme, I reviewed two Ditmar-shortlisted collections (as part of an attempt to read all the shortlisted fiction in time to vote, which I mostly managed). First there was CAUTION: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott, which is the most recent (or second most recent if you’re reading this after the weekend) addition to the Twelve Planets series of female-authored collections being put out by Twelfth Planet Press. It was an excellent read with four varied stories, all of which were creepy and a bit depressing, but they weren’t the kind of horror that makes you sleep with the lights on, or at least, I didn’t think so.

the-bride-priceThe other collection I reviewed was The Bride Price by Cat Sparks. This was a longer collection, coming in at twelve stories, one of which was a novella. They also spanned a variety of themes, and some could be classed more as science fiction — especially post-technological SF — but I felt the collection was horror overall because a lot of the stories had rather dire endings. By dire I mean the opposite of a happy (or even hopeful) ending; sad is not the right word. Some of the stories were very confronting, especially the opener (and my favourite) featuring a society in which noble women were not allowed to talk, only to sign with their hands.

Fantasy

thiefs magic - trudi canavanWe had a lot of fantasy reviews this month. Too many, in fact, for me to go into a lot of detail for all of them, but I’ll still mention them all. The two most reviewed authors were Trudi Canavan and Jo Spurrier with three reviews apiece. Of Trudi Canavan’s works, Mark Webb reviewed the second (The Rogue) and third (The Traitor Queen) books in her Traitor Spy Trilogy. He enjoyed both — indeed the entire series. We also had Sean the Bookonaut reviewing Trudi Canavan’s latest release, Thief’s Magic, the first book in a new, unconnected fantasy series. He writes:

Another feature of Canavan’s work is her inclusion of crunchy topics and a variety of characters and cultures.  I mentioned before that Tyen’s narrative is one set in an Industrial culture; it has magic driven printing presses and trains that use magic to heat water to generate steam.  But there’s both direct and indirect criticism of the Empire’s colonial actions and the growing problem of resource depletion i.e. the magic appears to be running out.

north-star-guide-me-home-spurrierOf the three reviews submitted of Jo Spurrier’s books, two were for the conclusion of her excellent Children of the Black Sun trilogy, North Star Guide Me Home, and one was of the first book, Winter Be My Shield. Leonie Rogers reviewed Winter Be My Shield and writes that she enjoyed it enough to track down the sequels. Folly Gleeson and I reviewed North Star Guide Me Home, the masterful conclusion to the trilogy. In the Newtown Review of Books, Folly Gleeson writes:

This emphasis on cruelty makes the trilogy a challenging read. The sadism is powerfully written and the basic idea that power and transcendence come through pain is not something easy to accept. But of course the whole story of Christianity is based on such a concept, and I was reminded of medieval worshippers whipping themselves, the murder of slaves in Viking burials, and the funerals of Egyptian and Chinese emperors. The humble hair shirt is also a little riff on the idea of pain causing transcendence. So, if the very powerfully described violence and cruelty don’t appal, then the clever and imaginative narrative and the emotional travails of the vibrantly depicted characters will intrigue, for Spurrier holds the complex and fascinating story of the struggle of the Ricalan forces together with a great deal of skill and even offers redemption in the satisfying epilogue.

TheLascarsDaggerGlendaLarkeThe other author to score multiple reviews this month was Glenda Larke, both of them for her latest book, The Lascar’s Dagger. Jason Nahrung and Helen Venn reviewed it. Helen writes:

This was an enthralling read for me. While there is plenty of action and drama this is only part of the story. It’s also about court intrigue, what happens when people are caught up in events outside their control and how they act and react when difficult choices are forced on them.

And Jason adds:

It touches on the danger of judging people by appearance. It objects to gender stereotyping and misogyny. It opposes religious fanaticism and bigotry. Oh yes, this is a Larke book!

the dagger of dresnia - satima flavellAnd the remaining fantasy authors all garnered one review each. Sticking to the BFF (big fat fantasy) theme, Helen Venn reviewed The Dagger of Dresnia by Satima Flavell, which she enjoyed and is anticipating the sequel. We also had Chris White review Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, a luscious retelling of Rapunzel, which he loved.

showtime-harrisThree more Twelfth Planet Press books were also reviewed. There was the novella double Above/Below by Stephanie Campisi and Ben Peek, which Jane Rawson reviewed. And two more of the Twelve Planets: Showtime by Narrelle M Harris and Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan. Jane Rawson continues to be a staunch fan of Lanagan’s after reading Cracklescape and of Showtime, Subversive Reader writes:

Vampires, zombies, ghosts. We all know them. … So, when I opened Showtime, I knew what I was getting into, of course . . . Except these aren’t quite the stories we’re expecting. They respectfully nod at the stories we know, and then twist and turn them around and add some Royal show cakes for good measure.

full-moon-rising-keri-arthurFinally, on a different note again, Kaetrin reviewed Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur, the first book in the Riley Jensen series. The version she had was an abridged audiobook, which she didn’t think worked very well, probably because of the abridgement.

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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 very 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.

 

If you aren’t part of the solution…

12th Planet Press logoAlisa Krasnostein from Twelfth Planet Press discusses the impact of AWW and recent exchanges about gender bias in SpecFic.

From the start, the Australian Women Writers Challenge has been a bold and important undertaking. It has become a vital tool in countering the sentiment that it’s everybody else’s fault that Australian women are ignored, underrepresented and under-recognised. The AWW Challenge is a powerful opportunity to take a step back and interrogate one’s own reading prejudices and biases – we all have them!

To take on the challenge of exploring why we might not have considered reading certain works can be confronting, it’s not a nice thing to deconstruct about yourself – what and who you read and why (or why not). For women writers, the AWW Challenge is even more valuable as it takes this a step further and encourages the participants to share their newly discovered works with others. By more of us taking a part in the discussion, we work to counter the cloak of invisibility and boost the profile of women writers who otherwise get ignored by mainstream media, reviews and book promotion (as we know from the statistics we see each year from VIDA  and similar calculations).

Twelfth Planet Press has directly benefited from the AWW Challenge in exposure through reviews and book discussions that have increased the awareness of many of our authors and their work, and has brought to the attention of a greater audience our press’s existence. As a press that publishes Australian women, we’ve found many readers interested and sympathetic to our work through the Challenge. It’s not a coincidence that readers who find us via this challenge tend to be readers who really understand what it is that we do at Twelfth Planet Press. We have several objectives:

  • to publish fresh, original, well-written work that seeks to interrogate, commentate, inspire or provoke thought
  • to provide opportunities for female writers by publishing and showcasing new work
  • to advocate for fiction written for, by and about women
  • to raise the awareness of women’s voices in science fiction, fantasy, horror and recently, crime; and
  • to showcase and demonstrate the depth and breadth of Australian fiction to a broader audience.

Recently I wrote a blog post titled “Why Your Words Matter” addressing my response to a nonfiction article in an online magazine. The article was presented as an authoritative commentary on the Australian Speculative Fiction scene, yet failed to mention authors who are winning international awards and accolades for their work in horror. Because those writers were women, and because other women writers named in the article were originally referred to as “world class”, rather than “world class horror writers”, I objected to the piece as being factually inaccurate and for rendering those women writers invisible.

My piece, “Why Your Words Matter”, attempted to explain why it’s not necessarily the intent, nor whether this omission was deliberate, that’s the problem. The problem is that women writers have been omitted from commentary on “the scene”. That’s it. They have become invisible.

The piece I chose to critique was merely one example of where this happens. One of many. If it were the only example, this wouldn’t be an issue. And the one or two times the omissions are made wouldn’t matter. They’d be the outliers, they’d be noticed as factually inaccurate or incomplete, and other texts would be used as references. The problem arises when most criticism or commentaries or histories fail to mention women, either by design or by error.

In the case of the article I called out, the writer and I later engaged in a constructive dialogue and we were able to see each other’s points of view. He updated the piece and his publisher edited the introduction to state that the piece was not intended to be “100% comprehensive or a survey of all speculative fiction in a very active part of the world”. One might argue that the title “State of Play of Australian Speculative Fiction” says differently but that was that.

However, in the May edition of this publisher’s newsletter, the editor wrote a piece summing up this incident. Aside from somewhat emotional language used to describe what was actually just my pointing out of a factual error, and then a correction of this, the editor wrote the following two statements:

“I mention this incident because part of the discussion included the accusation that [the] omission of Twelfth Planet Press was associated with treating female writers as invisible (as Twelfth Planet Press’ publisher is female, and they have a very high percentage of female authors).”

And further:

 “Correlating any form of gender bias on the article with this omission is pure conjecture, and in my opinion, unfounded. This statement in no way relates to the broader discussion on bias, sexism and misogyny, which, in my opinion, is unfortunately alive and well in our industry.”

I find these comments interesting as they were written after my piece about why the words matter. The words are what matter. Not intent, not motive. What is written is all there is for the reader to read. To omit is the action. And that was what my commentary addressed. I find it problematic that the editor decided to attribute the words “accusation” and “treatment” to what was a call of factual error. Women who should have been mentioned were not. Thus they became invisible.

So, too, the idea that the piece of work sits somehow outside any discussion of the field is problematic, both because it was specifically intended to be a discussion of the field and because it is indeed a part of our field. If bias, sexism and misogyny are alive and well in our industry, as the editor acknowledges, then who or what is “this industry”, if it is not made up of the individual actions and reactions, responses and contributions of each and every one of us?

If you aren’t part of the solution…

Reviews and discussions of work are important to authors, editors and publishers. They create book buzz, draw interest and raise awareness of work that might otherwise go unnoticed. The work of the AWW Challenge is greatly appreciated by this boutique publisher.

As a thank you to all the readers and reviewers in the AWW Challenge, we’d like to offer in return for every review of one of our books, a free Twelfth Planet Press ebook of your choice, for the rest of 2014. Simply send us a link of your review and the title of your ebook (and format) of choice. Because we are especially keen to boost our discoverability on Amazon, we’ll put anyone who mirrors their reviews on Amazon into a hardcopy book hamper draw – to be drawn Dec 31, 2014. Our hamper will include 1 hard copy book of your choice, a Twelfth Planet Press tote bag and chocolates!

You can send us your review links by email via contact@twelfthplanetpress.com or Twitter to @12thPlanetPress or Facebook at Twelfth Planet Press.

~

alisa1-e1316349378987-150x150Alisa Krasnostein is editor and publisher at independent Twelfth Planet Press, a freshly minted creative publishing PhD candidate and recently retired environmental engineer. She is also part of the thrice Hugo nominated Galactic Suburbia Podcast team. In 2011, she won the World Fantasy Award for her work at Twelfth Planet Press. She was the Executive Editor and founder of the review website Aussie Specfic in Focus! from 2004 to 2012. In her spare time she is a critic, reader, reviewer, podcaster, runner, environmentalist, knitter, quilter and puppy lover. And new mum.

April round-up of Speculative Fiction

We had a good turnout of reviews this month, but unfortunately, WordPress decided that, when I pressed the “save draft” button, I actually wanted it to delete the post I’d written. So, since I don’t have much time left, this post is going to be briefer than I’d like. Apologies. (But blame WordPress.)

Fantasy

Three BFF (big fat fantasy) books were reviewed. They’re all really excellent reads, so you should click through and read more of the respective reviews.

  • The Ambassador’s Mission by Trudi Canavan was reviewed by Mark Webb who enjoyed it but recommends reading the earlier series first to get a grounding in the world (The Black Magician Trilogy, starting with The Magician’s Guild).
  • Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth was reviewed by Leonie Rogers, who enjoyed the rich Rapunzel retelling, especially the (horrific) realism of the historical setting.
  • North Star Guide Me Home by Jo Spurrier was reviewed by Shaheen, who loved this concluding volume to the Children of the Black Sun trilogy (first book: Winter Be My Shield)
  • Finally, I interviewed Glenda Larke about her recently released The Lascar’s Dagger. She sheds some fascinating light on her motivations and choices in the book.

 AmbassadorsMissionCanavan  BitterGreensForsyth  north-star-guide-me-home-spurrier  TheLascarsDaggerGlendaLarke

On the paranormal romance front, we had Shelleyrae reviewing Beached by Ros Baxter which is the second in a fantasy trilogy based on a Norse myth. And Helen Venn reviewed Vow’s Answer by Joanna Fay, the third book in the Siaris Quartet, which she enjoyed as much as the first two books.

BeachedRosBaxter  VowsAnswerJoannaFay

Science Fiction

We had three reviews and a few “other” submissions in the science fiction category.

  • Frontier Incursion by Leonie Rogers was reviewed by Carolyn, who enjoyed many aspects of the coming-of-age space opera.
  • The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood was reviewed by Helen Venn, who enjoyed the Melbourne-set gender-bending dystopia, and can see why it won all the awards.
  • The Swan Book by Alexis Wright was reviewed by Stephanie Gunn, who found it incredible and expressed a lack of surprise at it’s Stella Award shortlisting.

frontier-incursion couriers-new-bicycle TheSwanBookAlexisWright

The “other” submissions were two author panels hosted by DarkMatter Fanzine. The first was about world-building in near-future science fiction and featured Marianne de Pierres (author of Peacemaker) and Meg Mundell (author of Black Glass) as two of the guests. The second was about storytelling in computer games and featured short story author Claire McKenna as one of the guests.

Horror

It’s nice to see people continuing to submit horror reviews to us. There were two this month. Jane Rawson reviewed Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott, a collection of four short(ish) stories, which she found eerie and creepy rather than outright horrifying. (Although, what would you define as outright horror? Gore? The kind of story that compels you to sleep with the light on? Something to contemplate.) Anguli Ma by Chi Vu is a gothic novella about refugees fleeing the fall of Saigon which was reviewed by Nalini, who found it illuminating.

Caution contains small parts mcdermott AnguliMaAGothicTaleChiVu

And that’s all folks. I’ll be back next week with, hopefully, a longer and more detailed post.

~

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 very 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.

‘Writing in the Light’: Roundup of Queer/Lesbian Australian Women Writers

Visibility, invisibility, ghosts, mirrors, shadows … all these are terms that have appeared in the posts by lesbian/queer Australian women writers this month.

Ghost WifeMichelle Dicinoski, author of the memoir Ghost Wife, commented that ‘when you are a gay or lesbian or queer or trans writer, or a writer with disability, or a writer of colour, maybe you are always writing in the light, always aware in some way of your own shadow.’  Performance poet Eleanor Jackson also wrote about being in the light on a stage.  She described the discomfort that comes from being aware ‘that what I look like, as a woman, as a queer woman, as a woman of colour (light-skinned or otherwise) says something to an audience that I cannot always control, let alone neutralise.’  Yvette Walker, author of Letters to the End of Love, describes how lesbian/queer writers dip in and out of vision,We appear. We disappear. We are in. We are out. Our history (such as it is) has mostly been made on the run, written in code, whispered from one generation to another.’ 

LettersToTheEndOfLoveWalkerThis history of appearing and disappearing, of glimpses and readings and mis-readings of identity, echo Terry Castle’s words in The Apparitional Lesbian: ‘When it comes to lesbians … many people have trouble seeing what’s in front of them.  The lesbian remains a kind of “ghost effect” in the cinema world of modern life: elusive, vaporous, difficult to stop – even when she is there, in plain view, mortal and magnificent’ (2).  As Castle details in her book, this ghosting has happened for centuries, and our guest writers’ posts, with their meditations on appearing and disappearing, show that it’s still happening.

So, what can one do to increase the representation of queer/lesbian women writers?  How can one, as Eleanor writes, ‘eras[e] the kind of shame that has been appended to those categories’ and draw into question ‘the assumptions we all make about what is good, what is normal, what is acceptable, and what is valuable’?

You pick up a book.

You ask,’ as Yvette writes, ‘who am I, and somewhere, someone will answer you back.’  She found answering voices in Elizabeth Bishop and E.M. Forster, and I compiled a list of Australian lesbian/queer women writers so that there would be other voices for readers to find. 

redback-cameronThese voices were also to be found in crime fiction by lesbian/queer Australian women writers, as detailed in Bernadette Bean’s post on lesbian characters, and in interviews with two wonderful crime fiction writers, Katherine Howell and Lindy Cameron.

Lindy also suggested that straight writers shouldn’t ‘be nervous about including queer, gay, lesbian, trans and bi characters’, while readers can ‘read more widely. Don’t be put off if you think the book is ‘full’ of lesbians or gay guys.’

To this end, it was fabulous to see AWW participants reading and reviewing books by Australia’s lesbian/queer women writers.  Writer Amanda Curtin reviewed Andrea Goldsmith’s The Memory Trap, a work about the entrapment, the different faces of memory, and unrequited love.  She liked the book well enough to chase up Goldsmith’s other works – as she mentions, a good endorsement!

Deserving-death-howellSally from Oz loved Katherine Howell’s Deserving Death, writing that ‘I always briefly worry before I open a new Katherine Howell book that maybe this book is going to be the one that doesn’t quite make it when compared to the others, it never is – it’s always amazing.’  She also appreciated the way Howell made her characters human, by detailing their personal as well as their professional lives.  Howell talks more about this novel in her fabulous interview with AWW contributing editor Marisa.

AHandwrittenModernClassicMoorheadMarilyn of Me, You and Books reviewed Finola Moorhead’s A Handwritten Classic.  Moorhead’s Remember the Tarantella is one of Marilyn’s favourites, and she also enjoyed this earlier book which is ‘a compilation of [Moorhead’s] thoughts and definitions during two specific weeks of her life and is full of spontaneity.  It is literately a visual reproduction of what she wrote by hand; meaning that the reader must figure out what words are before addressing their meaning.’  Moorhead is not, Marilyn notes, ‘an easy author to read, especially if you prefer writing that is clear, linear, and conventional’, but often this makes for more rewarding reading.

RupettaSulwayThere were two reviews of Nike Sulway’s speculative fiction novel Rupetta – one by Jane from GoodReads, who found the writing ‘liquidly delicious’, while the world that Sulway created was ‘brilliantly imagined and purely itself’, although she felt that perhaps too many ideas were canvassed.  I came across this book while compiling the list of queer/lesbian women writers and it knocked my socks off.  You can read my review hereI also reviewed Michelle’s beautiful memoir Ghost Wife, which I loved for its poignancy and humour.

All these stories contribute to the process of recognising and increasing representation of lesbian/queer women writers, although categorising writers like this is of course problematic.  As Indigenous author Anita Heiss commented at a salon at Avid Reader for the Stella Prize on International Women’s Day in 2012, ‘I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as a black woman writer, I just want to be a writer.’  However, this takes time, and until then we need stories to, as Eleanor notes, ‘make “other” people, gay people, ethnic people, less unfamiliar’ so that ‘perhaps we will recognise their intrinsic humanity more easily.’

And as Michelle observes, ‘The world bubbles with stories about different kinds of lives, but often we don’t hear much about them’.  Thank you to AWW’s readers and reviewers for listening to those stories and increasing the knowledge and visibility of Australia’s lesbian/queer women writers – I hope you’ll keep reading their works.  Also, the winners of our book giveaway are Marilyn of Me, You and Books, and Sally from Oz!  I’ll be in touch about getting your books to you.

Thank you also to our wonderful guest writers, AWW editors, and to Katherine and Lindy for your contributions, which have made March an exciting and rewarding month!  I’ll be back at the end of April with my regular diversity roundup.

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) and Entitlement (2012).  I’m currently writing a book of creative non-fiction on Queensland novelist Rosa Praed and her deaf daughter Maud.  You can find more information about me at my website.  I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.

March Speculative Fiction Round-up

We’ve had a bumper month on the review font; twentey-four new speculative fiction reviews have been sent to us, including all age groups. And finally, we’ve got some horror reviews after a couple of dry months, so that’s nice.

Horror

TheGateTheoryKaaronWarrenKaaron Warren’s recent collection, The Gate Theory, was reviewed by Dave Versace. He calls the stories extraordinary and writes

The stories often seem to be about one thing before wandering off in an unexpected direction like an easily distracted burglar going through linen closets instead of a safe. And stories that feel safe if a little strange at the outset take weird and usually unpleasant turns, leading away from examinations of the lives (or post-lives) of characters somewhere near the fringes of society and pushing into genuine darkness. Outright gore is not often more than hinted at, but the horror is always there, coming into sharp focus as the characters stray out beyond their depths.

ishtarIshtar is a collection of three novellas by Kaaron Warren, Deborah Biancotti and Cat Sparks which trace the past, present and future of the Assyrian/Babylonian goddess Ishtar. David Golding enjoyed the collection and reviews it here, with a few words on each novella. Finally, we had Jane Rawson wrote a short review of In-human by Anna Dusk, which she called “genuinely horrifying”.

Fantasy

power-and-majesty-250-408We had a nice batch of fantasy reviews this month, mostly of BFF (big fat fantasy) but with a few other thrown into the mix. On the BFF front, Helen Petrovic has had a bumper review month. She reviewed Tansy Rayner Robert’s Power and Majesty, the first book in her Roman-flavoured Creature Court Trilogy. She writes

The Creature Court blends the best of Roman history and culture. It combines the strength and majesty of the unseen and often warring Gods of Olympus, with the decadence and viciousness of Rome in the time of the early Caesars. The result is a dangerous, exotic, sensual world, and Velody, a female protagonist up to the challenge (just the way I like them!), must face enemies at every turn.

Daughter-of-the-forestGoing back a decade (in terms of publication date), Helen also reviewed Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, which I believe was the author’s very first novel. Set in a magical Ireland it’s a retelling of the Grimms’ fairytale Six Swans, which Helen found hard to put down and calls a delight to read.

seaheartsLess BFF and more fairytale-based, Helen also (I said she had a bumper month) reviewed Sea Hearts, the multi-award-winning novel by Margo Lanagan. She writes

Sea Hearts has a lot to say beneath the tale of sorrow. Lanagan gives voice to the witch herself, and through her eyes we see a world that values women only for their beauty, and leaves no place for those who do not conform.

TheLascarsDaggerGlendaLarkeBack on the BFF front, I reviewed Glenda Larke’s new book, The Lascar’s Dagger, the first in a new series. It was an excellent read, with an original setting and characters I could really care about. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a complex fantasy series which takes a look at east-west-type relations during a time of vigorous spice trade.

ChampionOfTheRoseAndreaHostAndrea K Höst’s Champion of the Rose was reviewed by Dave Versace. He describes it thusly

Andrea Höst’s Champion of the Rose is a political-mystery-romance set in a high fantasy realm with great mages, ancient magical constructs and some very daunting Fae.

And finally, on a much more contemporary note, I reviewed Bespelled by Dani Kristoff. It’s a paranormal romance set mainly in Sydney with a solid plot and compelling writing. I enjoyed it more than I expected and I also interviewed the author over on my blog.

Science Fiction

RupettaSulwayThe first Australian to win a Tiptree award was Nike Sulway for her novel Rupetta, which Jessica White reviewed this month. She writes of it

I loved the ambition of this work, the scope of its telling over so long a period, and the clever twining of strands at the end.  Sulway, assuming the reader’s intelligence and trusting us to remember details throughout the text, only resolves questions such as as those about the Oikos only just before the end.

wrong turn rawsonOn a similarly literary note, Marisa Wikramanayake interviewed Jane Rawson, author of A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmake Lists. As well as writing a narrative interview (as opposed to a direct question-answer transcription), Marisa talks a bit about the book, saying

In the book, maps have power and the folds and creases over time mean something and connect you to places in time-space. This sends Ray and Caddy from dystopian Melbourne tumbling straight into Simon and Sarah in San Francisco in the 1990s.

peacemaker - marianne de pierresFinally, adding to the pre-release popularity of Marianne de Pierres’s upcoming (in May) book, Peacemaker, I have thrown my review into the mix. It’s a sci-fi Western set in a themed nature park and future Perth. An enjoyable read for fans of any of the things I mentioned in the previous sentence.

~

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.

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.

February Round-up of Speculative Fiction for “Older” Readers

Another month, another batch of reviews. Sixteen speculative fiction reviews, in fact, were submitted to us in the past month, including YA titles. Once again, no horror titles were reviewed in the past month, which makes me sad (and is going to muck up my flow if it persists next month).

Science fiction

peacemaker - marianne de pierresThe most popular science fiction book reviewed this month was actually one that doesn’t come out until May. Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres was reviewed by both Jason Nahrung and Stephanie Gunn (both of whom obviously received advanced copies for review). I’m not sure we’ve had such early publicity for a book on AWW yet, well not in spec fic, anyway. Stephanie writes of the Australian western:

Virgin Jackson is a heroine that science fiction needs to see more of. She is real – she hesitates sometimes, and other times she tumbles head over heels into situations that the reader will fairly be screaming at her to run away from. She gets beaten up a lot, and yet she always gets up again. She breaks gender roles in a multitude of ways, and yet de Pierres hasn’t fallen back on any tropes in making her strong in this sense. She can stand with any of them men in this world, and yet she also possesses a softness and vulnerability that the reader is allowed glimpses of.

white christmas baxterOn a completely different note, Sam Still Reading reviewed White Christmas, a sci-fi romance novella by Ros Baxter. She writes:

Ros Baxter is an excellent writer in that she can develop a whole other world involving ice, space ships and aliens and make it believable in so few pages. It didn’t take long for me to picture the alien planet Tabi, our heroine, had crashed on.

And finally, in a month which saw more science fiction reviews than usual (four times as many as last month!) I reviewed Carrier, a short novel by Vanessa Garden. Although it’s marketed as YA, I think many adults who enjoy Australian post-apocalyptic stories will find much to like. It deals with some heavy issues and the ending was not quite what I expected.

Fantasy

hindsight-melanie-caseyCarpe Librum reviewed Hindsight by Melanie Casey, which sounds like a bit of a paranormal thriller, from her review. She calls it an “outstanding début”. Brenda also read and reviewed Twin Curse by Rinelle Grey, about which she writes

A romance with a difference, with magic and illusions; strength, courage and determination – the characters are excellent, the emotions real.

TheBackOfBeyondEdwinaHarveySean the Bookonaut read and reviewed The Back of the Back of Beyond by Edwina Harvey, a collection of linked humorous short stories. He writes:

Edwina hasn’t written your run of the mill urban fantasy.  It’s a cross between the tone of Cyrano de Bergerac’s proto-science fiction and something like The Secret Life of Us, only with role-players instead of trendy 20-somethings living in Saint Kilda. The stories trace the fantastical life of the author from living in share house to moving to the back of the back of beyond.

other-tree-mokOn a similarly comedic note, Stephanie Gunn reviewed The Other Tree by DK Mok. She enjoyed that the author avoided several tropes — for example there’s no romance between the two leads — and writes

It would be very easy for an author to lose any character development against the background of such an enormous plot, and Mok never does – these characters remain vivid and real the whole way through

midnight-and-moonshine-webFinally, on what I gather is a more literary note, Random Alex reviewed Midnight and Moonshine by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett. She gushes about it, writing in her opening

It took me a few months to read this collection, this mosaic novel. This is no reflection on the quality of the book. Well, actually it is, but not the way you might think. See, I’d read a story, and then I’d be forced to close the book, sigh, and stare into space in order to wallow in the beauty of the prose. And then I’d have to go read something else, because (like with me and Gwyneth Jones’ Bold as Love series) sometimes too much beauty is painful and you need a break.

I think I’ll have to get my hands on this one.

~

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.

January Round-up of Speculative Fiction

Hot on the heels of the 2013 wrap-up for speculative fiction, it’s time for the January wrap-up of adult-ish speculative fiction. In the first month of the 2014 challenge we’ve already had 19 spec fic reviews (including YA and children’s books), which is a great uptake, especially since some reviewers might have only signed up to the challenge part-way through the month.

All the books reviewed so far in 2014, except one, have been fantasy of various flavours. Hopefully in the coming months we’ll see some science fiction and horror reviews as well.

Fantasy

Douglass-Hades-DaughterStarting with BFF (big fat fantasy) we had quite a selection of books reviewed. From fantasy luminary Sara Douglass, whose books kick-started modern Australian fantasy, we have a review of Hades Daughter written by Helen Petrovic. Of the brutal (in my opinion) novel, Helen writes

Douglass has been criticized for over-zealous depictions of sex and depravity in her novels, but I didn’t find this to be so. Douglass is a female-centric writer, and I think it is hard to imagine a female protagonist in a medieval setting who does not confront ‘sex-as-weapon’ – either used against her or wielded by her for advantage. I enjoyed the backdrop of the feminine world that this book so richly invokes; the roles of woman as mother and lover, and the concepts of fertility, birth and rebirth.

Black Sun Light My Way spurrierOn the topic of heavy fantasy — some might call it “grimdark”, but I have issues with that label — Jo Spurrier’s Black Sun Light My Way, got a glowing review from Nalini Haynes. It does contain spoilers for the first book in the series, Winter Be My Shield, so I’d suggest clicking through to Nalini’s review of that book first if you haven’t read it.

The-Shadows-Heart-KJ-Taylor-195x300Next on the BFF sequel front is Shaheen’s review of The Shadow’s Heart by KJ Taylor. The Shadow’s Heart is the third book in the Risen Sun trilogy (itself a sequel trilogy), set in a world populated with sentient griffins, as well as people. Shaheen writes

The exciting conclusion to The Risen Sun combines themes of redemption of karma into a riveting book full of action, tragedy, and displaced loyalties. The Shadow’s Heart rounds out the story which began five books ago with The Dark Griffin and won’t fail to enchant readers anew.

Stained Glass Monsters by Andrea K Höst (self-published)On a somewhat more self-contained note, I reviewed Andrea K Höst’s Stained Glass Monsters. There is apparently a forthcoming sequel, but it isn’t required to finish of the story. The characters were what really made this book. In my review I wrote

This was a nice read. The two main characters — Rennyn, the powerful mage who has been trained her whole life to save the world, and Kendall, the teenage orphan that coincidentally crosses her path — provide nicely contrasting points of view. Rennyn is focused on her task and saving everyone (particularly the world and protecting her brother). Kendall, on the other hand, starts off following events only because she has nothing better to do.

lord hunt huskOn a lighter (well, less BFF-y) note, Shelleyrae reviewed Shona Husk’s paranormal romance, Lord of the Hunt. This is the second book in the Court of Annwyn series, but Shelleyrae reports that it reads well as a stand-alone. She also writes

The world building is intricate and convincing. The politics and intrigue of court play out in the background of this novel as the fairies maneuver for the power of the throne.

AfterZoe-HickieHeather Kinnane reviewed AfterZoe by Amanda Hickie. I’ll let her explain what the book is about, because I think she does a good job of it:

We are told that Heaven is a place of joy and peace, where we are reunited with our loved ones after death. But what happens to those who’ve had more than one lover/spouse in their lifetimes? When the first dies and you take another, what happens when you all meet up in Heaven – how peaceful and loving with those relationships really be? This is the problem that has already been solved in AfterZoe, as the angels have introduced a drink that encourages the forgetting of your life on earth – all loved ones, and all memories are wiped, and instead everyone lives a content life, unaware there is something missing. The new problem, is that not everyone wants to forget.

other-tree-mokOn a similarly religious theme, I reviewed The Other Tree by DK Mok, about a cryptobotanist’s search for the Garden of Eden. Dragging a hapless university chaplain with her, the main character travels around the world, racing against an evil corporation to find the Tree of Life before they can exploit it.

Science Fiction

theswanbook-wrightOn a more literary and science fictional note, Chris White reviewed The Swan Book by Alexis Wright. Set in the near future, it focuses on Aboriginal people and the effects of climate change. Chris writes

It made me feel almost deliriously happy, thanks to the beautiful combinations of brilliant prose and of the teasing, twisting poetry. It made me feel guilty, as a white Australian, of the Intervention and of our treatment of Aboriginals in general. It is powerful, on the topic of Aboriginal rights and their mistreatment, on the subject of boat-people and refugees and their mistreatment, on the feelings of a little girl, abused and forgotten. The mingling of Aboriginal songlines and the descriptions of birds in particular are poetically gorgeous.

And his effusive review has certainly made me add it to my wish-list.

Finally, David Golding (pdf link) conducted a very thorough review with Claire Corbett, the author of When We Have Wings, a near-future SF novel. They discuss some of her thoughts and literary choices when writing about a world divided between haves and have nots (where the haves are those that can afford surgery to give themselves wings).

~

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.

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