The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

Today I decided to take up the Challenge – will you join me?

http://australianwomenwriters.com/2013-challenge/

Australian Women Writers Challenge

After I registered I stared to look at the reading/review lists and found a few book I  have already read – which was interesting and yet somewhat surprising  – I hadn’t realised I had read Australian Women’s voices. Is that a good thing or not? The fact that Australian Women Writers voices were just as good as any other and by and large did not leap out at me as Australian is good, isnt it? I suppose because I read  mostly crime fiction and contemporary fiction maybe place is not such an obvious marker of  writers voice?  And should  we only write/read about the region we live in? I think not – today we are all citizens of a global world.

I do however think that the words we write are shaped by our experience  and where/how we live does have some influence here, but does not necessarily prescribe our words or our stories. We can write about anything, and write well. For example – look at these 2 amazing yet vastly different  books, Questions of Travel  by Michelle de Krester and Bone Ash Sky by Katerina Cosgrove – what brilliant diverse voices!  Or look at the new voices soon to be heard,   Miss Blossom Makes A Mean Red Velvet Cake,  plenty of talent here.

So who will join me in this Challenge? Readers from any region welcome to join.  I dare you!

Post Script: Bad Blood – Arne Dahl

Bad Blood

Arne Dahl

Random House UK, Vintage Publishing

Harvill Secker

ISBN: 9781448137541

Description

Set to be the new Scandinavian crime sensation from BBC Four: in Bad Blood, Detective Paul Hjelm and his team are called in to try and catch an American serial killer on the loose in Sweden.

Detective Paul Hjelm and his team receive an urgent call from the FBI. A murderer whose methods bear a frightening resemblance to a serial killer they believed long dead is on his way to Sweden.

For years the FBI hunted the so-called ‘Kentucky Killer’, their agents haunted by the terrible injuries he inflicted on his victims through his signature device: a weapon that squeezed the vocal chords shut. Has he somehow returned from beyond the grave to torture a new generation, or do they have a copy-cat on their hands? And what do they want in Sweden?

If they are to capture the killer, the team must collaborate with their colleagues in the FBI on a desperate hunt that will take them from rainswept city streets to deserted Kentucky farmhouses, and will push them to the limits of their endurance.

 

My View:

I thought that the first eighty odd pages of history and establishing of the unsympathetic characters was far too long and tedious, the story took a long time to develop and gain momentum but once it did it was riveting.  Being a police procedural in style I can easily see how this story could translate successfully to the small screen (BBC4 has picked this title and series up and I believe it has already screened).

I like hearing the behind the scenes banter and theorising; the blackboard of what ifs and whys and the progress the team made. The plot was complex and the crimes horrific but perhaps more grotesques were the discussion about manipulation and abuse of power that this story evokes. Manipulation – of facts, of representations, of stereotypes, of events, of abuse of power (both political and personal) are the issues that are like a scab on the knee that we cannot leave alone, that is slowly picked away at and exposed.

 

 

Post Script: In Love- Alfred Hayes

Now for something really different – sublime writing!

Alfred Hayes

New York Review of Books

NYRB Classics

ISBN: 9781590176665

 

Description:

New York in the 1950s. A man on a barstool is telling a story about a woman he met in a bar, early married and soon divorced, her child farmed out to her parents, good-looking, if a little past her prime. They’d gone out, they’d grown close, but as far as he was concerned it didn’t add up to much. He was a busy man. Then one day, out dancing, she runs into a rich awkward lovelorn businessman. He’ll pay for her to be his, pay her a lot. And now the narrator discovers that he is as much in love with her as she is with him, perhaps more, though it will take him a while to realize just how utterly lost he is.

Executed with the cool smoky brilliance of a classic Miles Davis track, In Love is an unequaled exploration of the tethered—and untethered—heart.

My View:

It took me a little while to get used to the rhythm and understand the quiet voice of this novel – but it was well worth spending a little time, enjoying the conversation, getting to know the characters and recognizing a little of myself in some of the attitudes and emotions.

Love is love no matter where you are from or who you are, or how old you are, we all want to be cherished, loved and in love.  This novel explores the meaning of love and loss. It speaks to all.

I really enjoyed this beautifully written classic tale of boy meets girl meets boy. Do we really know what the heart wants until the heart loses out? I loved the voice of this book; the stream of consciousness style of narration cleverly unravels and reveals emotions and thoughts, the reader having access to innermost private thoughts, a little like reading someone’s private diary. We all enjoy a sneak peek into someone else’s life and experiences and this novel gently flirts with this desire to know more, to hear more, to live out someone else’s experience.

This is a very charming, beautifully written, gentle expose of love and being loved; of the need of companionship and togetherness, of enjoying quiet times with the one you love (even if you couldn’t articulate it or verbalise these feelings at the time), it is about discovering those feelings and then the ragged emotions of hurt and heartbreak that follow being cut loose, being set adrift.

PS – loved the cover

 

Chocolate Bliss Bombs

My recipes are generally simple and flexible. I do not generally measure ingredients  for recipes that I am well versed in…or if I use a recipe I adapt to my own tastes/ingredients to hand. So with my Chocolate Bliss Bombs you can mix and match  or substitute for ingredients you have in your pantry.

Basic Chocolate Bliss Bomb Recipe:

2 cups mixed unsalted nuts ( not peanuts)  include almonds, walnuts, macadamias

6-8 dates ( soaked in hot water for a couple of hours)

2  – 3 tablespoons  cold pressed coconut oil

2 tablespoons cocoa butter ( if available)

4 tablespoons organic cocoa or Dutch processed Cocoa

vanilla

Blitz in food processor .

ADD and Mix together

sesame  seeds

pumpkin seeds

chia seeds

1/2 cup LSA

and almond meal if the mix is too sticky.

Roll into balls , then into shredded coconut.

Place in fridge for a few hours to let flavours meld and balls to firm up.

Store in fridge.

Post Script: All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

All the Birds, Singing

Evie Wyld

Random House Australia Pty Ltd

Vintage Australia

ISBN: 9781742757308

Description:

The eerie, compelling second novel from award-winning writer Evie Wyld. That morning, before the light came through, I found another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding. I had to shove my foot in Dogs face to stop him from taking a string of her away as a souvenir. At first the crows had been excited by the body, stalking around it, strutting and rasping, their beaks shining, but now they sat in the trees, flaring out their wings, drunk and singing together. Something is killing Jake Whyte’s sheep. She’s not sure if it’s an animal, or the local kids, or something worse. But there’s something making noises at night and making her deal with things she’d hoped were long buried. When a man arrives in the darkness, asking for shelter, against her instincts she lets him stay… Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice. ‘Wyld has a feel both for beauty and for the ugliness of inherited pain’ — New Yorker

My View:

A bleak, grim and unrelenting tale of hardship, pain and guilt that is a compelling read. A very disturbing yet enchanting book that has you devouring page after page trying to discover the ugly secrets that the reader knows are haunting Jake Whyte. Wyld writes an intriguing story, peppered with mystery, doubts, suspicion and self loathing.  Jake punishes herself on a daily level; she treats herself and her body with distain and distance. Over the chapters Jake’s story is slowly revealed by the writer’s trips into Jake’s past, piece by piece we slowly begin to put the puzzle pieces together and a patchwork history is revealed. Slowly we start to feel empathy and sympathy for this lonely and surprisingly naive young woman. We also feel fear…so much is hinted at, the single ear ring found in the shed…the sheep mauled and killed by something almost paranormal…

I read and read and read wanting all to be revealed and put right. Unfortunately I felt the story ended too soon – I felt cheated – I checked and rechecked and reloaded the ebook thinking I had somehow missed the final chapters. For me a great chunk of the story was missing; yes we do discover how Jake ended up alone and why she was punishing herself for a tragic mistake she made as a mere child.  We leap frog our way through her life after she leaves her rural home in Australia; hurt, tortured with guilt and struggling to survive on the streets. We follow her journey of exploitation and self harm (the life choices she makes are about self punishment) but we learn nothing of how she arrives in England and her time there – aside from her self imposed isolation, and we learn very little about Lloyd.

I really enjoyed this grim and revealing story of naivety, of a young woman on the cusp of woman hood haunted by a simple, tragic unintentional mistake but for me there were too many gaps. I think that Evie Wyld is an author who has much to offer and look forward to reading her next foray into the world of writing.

 

Guilt Free Soul Food for Readers and Writers

Today I made my version of raw food, Chocolate Bliss Bombs – recipe to follow in the next day or two.

Image

These are an excellent source of protein, essential fatty acids,  and there is no added refined sugar, no added salt and no preservatives and they are dairy free – what more could you want from of a healthy and delicious snack? Just more time to indulge – in reading and Bliss Bombs! As you can see I have a few books on my To Read List. 🙂

Post Script: Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

A brilliant fast paced read!Close My Eyes

Close My Eyes

Sophie McKenzie

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471111730

Description:

It’s been eight years since Gen Loxley lost her daughter, Beth: eight years of grief in which nothing’s really moved forward, for all that her husband, Art, wills it to. Gen, once a writer of novels, has settled in to a life of half-hearted teaching, while Art makes his name and their fortune – and pressures her into trying IVF once again. For Gen, it seems a cruel act of replacement; life without Beth is unthinkable, unbearable – but still it goes on. And then a woman arrives on Gen’s doorstep, saying the very thing she longs to hear: that her daughter was not stillborn, but was spirited away as a healthy child, and is out there, waiting to be found…So why is Art reluctant to get involved? To save his wife from further hurt? Or something much more sinister? What is the truth about Beth Loxley?

My View:

A stunning read – once I started reading I did not put down till I finished! I had to know what going on, was Gen unstable, trapped in a spiralling web of grief or was there something more sinister and incredible happening? And what was the relevance of the seemingly random addition of the child like voice that punctuated the narrative so disturbingly?

McKenzie writes a great psychological thriller, plenty of twists and turns, a few red herrings thrown in just to keep you guessing, and a topic that is so sensitive and emotive to so many; the death of child and IVF. Add to this a disturbing child like second voice that is somewhat innocent yet menacing at the same time- creepy!

The characters are well developed and Gen is particularly empathetic, she is vulnerable, grieving, and slipping further into depression or is she?  That is a question the reader is forced to ask themselves over and over, every time you think there is a logical reason for an event or a disclosure there is an equal illogical but tantalising option – Gen might not be imagining things, Gen isnt dwelling in a morose place, Gen isnt drawing her own conclusions, making the story fit her own desires, or is she? The see saw ride of doubt is persistent and credible and adds to the dramatic tension; Gen even has doubts herself about her conclusions.

McKenzie keeps the tension high, the pages turn fast.  Towards the end I felt the story line became a little complicated and messy however the sign of a great read is the reader’s ability to suspend their disbelief and go along with the story no matter what– and I was hooked and engaged! The last few pages were brilliant! I did not see that coming.

Thank you to The Reading Room and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review this great book.

Post Script: The Never List – Koethi Zan

I did so want to like this….

The Never List

Koethi Zan

Random House UK, Vintage Publishing

Vintage Digital

ISBN: 9781448129744

 

Description:

There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn’t made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone. For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, each of us wondering what this meant for her and for us, and which of us would be the next in the box.

NEVER GET IN THE CAR

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the ‘Never List’: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, they failed to follow their own rules.

NEVER GO OUT ALONE AFTER DARK

Sarah has spent ten years trying to forget her ordeal. But now the FBI has news that forces her to confront her worst fears.

NEVER TAKE RISKS

If she is to uncover the truth about what really happened to Jennifer, Sarah needs to work with the other women who shared her nightmare. But they won’t be happy to hear from her. Because down there in the dark, Sarah wasn’t just a victim.

NEVER TRUST ANYONE

My View:

The novel was not as “dark” as I expected, in fact after reading the back cover info I almost decided against reading this book, I thought it would be too gruesome and horrific for my taste.  However as in all good psychological thrillers the tension and drama is created by what is not said, but what is alluded to or made reference to, and Zan uses this method to good effect.

The introduction to this novel provided the hook to claim my attention and get me reading at a cracking pace. However I did not feel that the tension or energy was sustained. I was somewhat disappointed, expecting the atmosphere to always be on high alert, the tension to be at knife edge. The plot was a little thin in places and required some stretches of the imagination to maintain the story (no spoilers here).

The character of Sarah was quite well developed and empathetic, her two other companions in the cellar were not quite so appealing as there was little character development and little of their voices heard in the story. I felt the ending was rushed and tied everything up (story lines) a little too neatly. Perhaps the story and tension could have been enhanced by including more of the perspectives of the other main characters, especially the villains.

I did so want to really enjoy this book but did not think it quite reached the potential the opening chapters alluded to.  A quick, interesting read that did not keep me awake at night or raise my pulse. However as a debut novel I think that this writer shows great potential and I will look out for her next work.