Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Review: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get into this, but once I did, *what* a ride!

Ashala Wolf is in Detention Centre 3, watched over by her betrayer, Connor, and interrogated by the Chief Administrator Neville Rose. They want her to give up her family, her Tribe - the group of Illegals, the possessors of rare abilities, who live together in the Firstwood, protected by a Pact they have made with the Saurs who live on the grassy plains between the Firstwood and 'civilisation'.

This is utterly brilliant dystopian spec fic. There's just enough world building to get me wanting so much more about this post-Reckoning world. The novel is structured in three almost-perfect acts, and despite being marketed as part of a series, works absolutely as a stand-alone book.

People have been raving about this book since the ARCs became available, and they're absolutely right to rave. The ideas that run through this book are twisty and fabulous: you can see Kwaymullina's view of the world and the way it has evolved in this 300-years-from-now future. And I have to assume that she knew exactly what she was doing naming the Chief Administrator "Neville Rose". It was that fact that made my gut churn all the way through the first third of this book. That fact that made the interrogation that much worse than if he'd been named, say, Gary. It has *such* a profound effect and surely anyone with an ounce of understanding of WA history would have the same reaction. It's not just me, right?

I am so looking forward to there being another book set in this world. I want to know so much more about it, and the people in it. But in the unlikely event that that doesn't happen, I will still have had *this* book, and that is a really important thing.

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Monday, 17 June 2013

Review: The White Queen

The White Queen
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hadn't written a review of this, and then, all unbenownst to me, there's a TV adaptation started in the UK this past weekend. So, having seen episode one of the adaptation, I'm writing a review of the whole book (and wondering whether there are plans for the adaptation of other books in the series.)

Important point to understand #1 - I am not a Richardian.

Important point to understand #2 - Neither am I anti-Richardian. (I blame Buckingham, although I'm not sure who he was working for.)

Ditto #3 - Despite #s 1 and 2, I really rather enjoyed Sharon Penman's "The Sunne in Splendor".

Ditto #4 - I really can enjoy books even though they aren't all that historically accurate or faithful. I will roll my eyes at the problems while still enjoying the narrative/characters/whatever.

Given the historical use of 'witchcraft' as a stick with which to beat intelligent, assertive women, I don't really like that Gregory decided to make the allegations true. Once I was past that and into the story, I appreciated the ways it contributed, and yet the inner feminist still isn't okay with it. The Perkin Warbeck story also irks me, and yet again: once I was back into it... as always Gregory gets the narrative pull just right. It may have taken a few tries to get going (but that was mostly due to not wanting to read books by non-Australian white women (see challenges)) but once in, I was *in*.

Unfortunately, right now my mind is rather taken up by episode one of the TV adaptation.

What I know is that while certain elements of the book annoyed me, and/or took historical positions that I have issues with, I still really enjoyed reading it.

More later, perhaps. Possibly after having watched episode two.

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Review: Miles off Course, by Sulari Gentill

Miles Off Course (Rowland Sinclair #03)Miles Off Course by Sulari Gentill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More fan mail for Sulari! Also, I am recommending the series to even more people than last time.

I loved the cameos! I had my suspicions about one of the less obvious ones, and it turned out I was right. And the couple of mentions of Norman Lindsay... Well, I was brought up with a healthy respect for Lindsay that survived the movie Sirens! And I love the thought of Lindsay sending Rowly a difficult model - and Rowly replying in kind.

And Wilfred is more adorable than ever. I don't know how anyone would cope with the real version (or Rowly and Kate with the fictional one) but as an occasional companion in fiction (and a pleasant foil to Rowly) Wil really is a winner. (Here I must admit I'm contemplating personal fic from Kate's point of view. Sinclair, not Leigh.)

All in all, a fabulous addition to the series. And next book we're in 1933 Germany! What... fun?

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PS:   Oh! And I totally failed to note my appreciation of Harry Simpson, both Rowly and Wil's unswerving loyalty to him, and the fact that he never, ever spoke in dialect. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sulari.  

Monday, 10 June 2013

[Review] Trisha: As I Am, by Trisha Goddard

Trisha: As I AmTrisha: As I Am by Trisha Goddard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's a moment, late in the book, where Goddard says to her readers that there's no reason to explain the format of her UK tv show, because if you've picked up this book you'll know all about it. She really is writing for a British audience, and her comment merely confirms what I'd sensed earlier on.

But I picked up this book because I remembered Goddard from Play School and from Everybody. It was listed under 'Australian authors' on the Bolinda Borrow Box ebook app, and I'm counting it as such for AWW, because it's an extra, not one of the listed books. (I really must get on with reading those listed books, actually). I know Goddard grew up in the UK, and moved back to the UK, but she lived and worked in Australia for 15 to 20 years, and those were years when I watched her on Australian television, and although that's not a great reason for counting her as Australian, it's good enough for me right now.

I chose this book on a whim, but I'm really glad that I read it. It was difficult to read: because of what Goddard went through, because of the way she was treated by others, because of the difficulty of reading something so open and honest, especially where mental health is concerned. But not surprisingly, the things that make the book difficult to read are also the things that are most important about the story. The racism she experienced in Australia (have we really moved on at all since?) the stress she suffered and her ways of dealing (and not dealing) with it, and the consequences of that; it really is a narrative written for her UK audience, but even without that context, I valued the book and learned a lot from it.

It's the subject matter rather than the writing style that makes this difficult to read. The style itself tends towards the breezy, and there often seems to be a surface shallowness. But I think the breeziness belies a great deal of hurt for Goddard, and that skimming over the surface is the only way that the story was going to be told.

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