Sunday, 26 August 2012

Review: Port Arthur: A Story of Strength and Courage

Port Arthur: A Story of Strength and Courage
Port Arthur: A Story of Strength and Courage by Margaret Scott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a remarkable book.

I know I visited Port Arthur in 1992, and I think I also went there in 1994. Both of these visits were prior to 1996, when the events of this book take place. I remember coming home from a driving lesson with my father on the 28th of April 1996 to find my mother crying, telling us about what had happened.

Margaret Scott is an icon of Australian television, comedy, and literature. When my mother saw this book, she said "I think Margaret Scott was my lecturer in Children's Literature." As someone who watched Margaret Scott on Good News Week, that was an amazing revelation - I am so incredibly JEALOUS of my mother!

But anyway: this book is written by a legend, about an event that will forever be part of my memory - and she does it so very well. As a local to the peninsula, she writes about the community surrounding Port Arthur in a way that only a local could. She writes about the events of that terrible day with an urgency and effect that grabbed at me, so many years afterwards. She gave me a vision of how horrible it must have been: that day, and then in the times thereafter.

What I found particularly interesting to contemplate was Scott's comments on the ways in which history has always been artificialised at Port Arthur, and the ways in which some people wanted to either sweep the events of April 28, 1996 under the carpet, or equally artificialise them. It was a way of thinking about history, memorials, and how we mark and remark upon events that I think will really sit with me in the weeks and months to come.

It's another Australian book that I'm grateful to have read - glad to have read - and that I know I will think back to in the future.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Review: Above All, Honor by Radclyffe

Above All, Honor
Above All, Honor by Radclyffe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maybe it's something about books with "Honor" in the title (see also the series by David Weber that I'm slowly working my way through) but having found the first three books in this series and read through them at a clip in the past few days, I'll certainly be buying the rest, and the Justice Series, and probably the First Responders series as well. I'll have to ration the buying out as rewards, but I definitely want to read more of these.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Review: Mercy

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The back of the book tells us that Mercy is a fallen angel, and there are hints here and there within the text, especially if you know your angelology (yes, it's a word, I had cause to look it up some years ago when I found myself reluctantly dragged into a discussion on the TV show "Supernatural", which I don't watch). But by the end of the book, I don't believe it's been said outright that we're dealing with angels here. And I wonder how many people would realise that we were if the blurb didn't tell us so. It's not a criticism, mind you. Just a note.

I really enjoyed this book. Although I'd seen it in the stores I probably wouldn't have thought to pay much attention to it if Rebecca Lim (the author) hadn't been a speaker at a seminar on Public library services to YA that I went to. I was so impressed by her, and by what she said about this series, that I started buying the books soon thereafter. It took until January to find a copy of the first in the series (Mercy) and then until now to get to picking it up and reading it. But it was well worth the wait, and now I know that I'm going to want to stay on top of this series in the future. In addition, can you imagine how gleeful I am that I have three more books in the series to read *right now*?

In an interview I found, Lim described Mercy as "a YA mystery/crime novel – but with angels and Latin, choral music, school bullies and a whisper of romance thrown in." Which is basically exactly what it is. (And yay for YA books where choral music - albeit Mahler - is part of the plot.)

Things I loved: the way Mercy talked about Carmen: the sometimes disconnected/sometimes fluid connection between the two selves. I hope that if Ryan continues to appear through the series (I really want him to: I much prefer him to Luc. Although of course he may *be* Luc, which I don't like so much. After all, my angelology tells me who Luc really is... :-) ) that we find out what happened with Carmen; I'll be disappointed to leave her story here, as much as I really love Mercy.

Things I found interesting: the fact that I spent most of the book trying to work out whether it was set in the USA or Australia (the author is Chinese-Singaporean-Australian). I still can't tell. I was fifty pages from the end when I found one Australianism (mention of an Anglican church) which was followed on the next page by an Americanism ("First Presbyterian Church" - the few Continuing Presbyterian churches in Australia do not number themselves.) The issue is exacerbated by the fact that the town in the book has the exact same name as the town in the TV show "Bunheads", which is in California.

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