Jan 30, 2014

Ebook Review – Visiting Hours by Shane Koyczan

Visiting Hours

Visiting Hours is Shane Koyczan’s first collection of poetry.  The collection was first published in 2005 and this eBook edition was released in 2013. It was pure chance that led me to Shane’s work – a stoush with someone on Facebook who misquoted and misinterpreted one of Koyczan’s more famous poems, We Are More.  Every cloud has a silver lining though and the more I read of Koyczan’s work the more I liked.

My concern with buying a collection compiled by a spoken word poet was that it would lack some of the vibrancy, some of the presence that is present in the poet’s own performance of the work.

I needn’t have worried. Koyczan in addition to being great performer of the spoken word also is able to translate that talent to the page.  I received just as much enjoyment reading as I did from watching youtube videos after I was done.  The difference to me seemed only to be one of magnitude.  The words carry his poetry well, the performance just turbo charges it.

In comparison to other works I have read recently,  this probably sits closer to my enjoyment of the work of Ali Cobby Eckermann. Koyczan’s work frequently touches on love and loss ad is accessible to a wide audience.  Some poets have labelled it trite and self consciously clever.  I find the work entertaining and moving.  I appreciate his rhtym and rhyme and the narrative of each of the poems.  I am not left scratching my head and having to do 3 or 4 close readings to try and get a handle on what the poet is saying.

No, Koyczan uses accessible language, uses the rhyme and cadence to enhance emotion.  Two of my favourite poems in the collection made my cry.  That’s not something I experience much or at all reading novels or even other poems.  So if he’s being trite or clever I don’t really care.  I’d prefer to be skilfully manipulated than bored.

Here’s My Darling Sara, it choked me up reading and then again reading it out loud to my wife:

So was it worth the $9 i paid for it?  Yes, for the tears alone, for it’s ability to move me.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jan 27, 2014

Stats for Australian Women Writers 2013

awwbadge_2013[4] If you are interested in this project that I and many Australians have been involved in over the last 2 years please take a look at the end of year reporting on the achievements of the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Big Increase in Reviews for Australian Women Writers!

In 2013 Australian women writers received a large increase in online reviews. The number of reviews entered in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge increased by nearly twenty percent compared to 2012.

In its second year the Challenge demonstrates that the groundswell of enthusiasm for books written by Australian women is increasing. This is a trend that traditional literary publications need to adjust to. Readers expect to see as many reviews of books by women as they do of men. All genders are equally capable of quality writing. All genders write about a wide variety of interesting topics.


[read on]

If you’d like to join the challenge, all you need to do is sign up.  You don’t even have to be an Aussie, just read Australian Women Writers.  You don’t even have to review, though we’d love it if you did.  Please check out this page to find out more.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jan 24, 2014

Book Review – Imperial Fire by Robert Lyndon


Lyndon’s biography lists him as a falconer, climber and traveller in remote places, so it’s not surprising that those experiences translated into fiction, give the book an air of authority, a certain verisimilitude.  Imperial Fire follows the continuing story of the characters that surfaced in Hawk Quest, though it’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy Imperial Fire, the novel stands very well on its own.

Vallon, commander of a group of Mercenaries called the Outlanders, is given command of the military component of a Byzantine delegation to the Chinese Empire ruled by the Song Dynasty. It’s a bit of a boys own adventure, featuring perilous environments, treacherous friends and polite enemies. If you like history and ancient military history, Lyndon brings that history to life. 

The book’s greatest strength was the journey, the description of the places that the Outlanders pass through and the description of the chracters experiences.  The time period and that area of ancient history is fairly untouched in my own study and so I find what the story is about refreshing and interesting from a purely historical point of view.  That interest combined with competent action scenes keeps the book flowing.  The characterisation, and some of the interpersonal interaction felt a bit “off” at times…perhaps stilted is a better word for it.  It was enough to drop me out of my enjoyment at points.  This could be down simply to style or that Lyndon’s strength is in his creation of the environment. 

There was also a tangential adventure taken by a secondary character (Waylander for those who have read book one) that I think broke the impetus of the main plot.  I would argue that the subplot, while interesting, should have had its own novel or have been better woven into a following tome. I say this because it takes up valuable space in the last bit of the novel and at 512 pages a felt the point of novel, the point of the story was truncated.  While I enjoyed the fairly long read I felt let down at the point at which the story finished. I’d have still read a follow up novel without a soft cliffhanger that we were handed.

Fans of Hawk Quest will no doubt enjoy returning to old characters, for those with a historical fiction bent, Imperial Fire covers a time and place that isn’t well ploughed by popular culture. If your a fan of epic fantasy its not quite as dark as Joe Abercrombie or Rowena Cory Daniells but it has its moments of gritty realism underpinned by a basis in real world history.

This book was provided by the publisher.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jan 20, 2014

A letter to authors using Twitter

Dear Self promoting authors,

I know that its a hard road you are travelling and I know that when you started this writing gig you thought that along with the six figure advance you were going to get all sorts of marketing flunkies that would pimp your book.  Commiserations on finding out that isn’t the case.  I’ll wait while you drown your sorrows in that no-name brand coffee you swiped from the diner.

So you have hit the road hard, dagnamit if you are not going to pull off a miracle while promoting your own book.  You’ve set up the website and the Facebook page and you have found out about Twitter, maybe even paid a little money to buy some marketing software that allows you to auto follow and auto DM other twitter users with form messages masquerading as sincere personalised tweets.  Maybe it looks impressive to a potential agent if you have 3000 followers who you never interact with?

To me this is the equivalent of Junk mail or some crazy dude handing me a flyer at the mall.

I am a reviewer of fiction.  One of the ways I discern who I should read, who I should pick out of the surge of competent authors is by: following and listening to you, the way you behave, how you treat others, how you interact.

So when I get a follow from an author I generally follow back and slip you onto one of my lists.  If after a while I notice you are an interesting tweeter, I might look at the blog or webpage you have cunningly put in your bio (do this, it’s a great idea).

What puts me off more than anything though is the gall of someone who decides that Twitter is a one way street that their time is so precious they will only post promo tweets and and use DM’s to drive people to their website.  What galls me even more is that these authors won’t even read this letter.

I am fricken galled dagnamit.

So I am going to be calm and collected and from now on if you follow me and I follow back and you send me a DM like this :


Hi, thanks for following - very nice to meet you! You can find out more about me and my books via /authorimnotgonnaread.com. Best wishes.


I will report you for SPAM.  Not only will I do that but for gits and shiggles I am going to institute a hall of shame.  I will publically name you so that when people google your name they will understand that your only interested in self promotion, not engaging with readers or community.

You are warned.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jan 15, 2014

Virtue or Masculinity?

Paul S Kemp, a writer who sounds familiar but who I haven’t read, posted this yesterday:

Why I write masculine stories

it’s sparked off a few posts by well known writers and there was some commentary before Paul closed off comments, lest the post become a time sink – interesting lack of foresight/prudence perhaps on his behalf.  It’s a post that has made me think.  I am not sure if I would call it a good post, because I think its certainly presumptive of its readers motives and comes off almost as Apologetics.

Of those writers who have commented Deb Howell has a look at masculine and feminine traits in Because we are…and concludes that we can do without ascribing gender to them. Chuck Wendig digs deep, talking about his own relationship with his father and the sort of Masculinity that existed in previous generations, but also presents the problems in defining some traits as masculine and desirable and by implication other traits as feminine and undesirable. Good post and comments in  MANLY MEN TALES, SWINGIN’ DICK STORIES, AND HAIRY-CHESTED HISTORIES.

Liz Bourke in, This, again? succinctly draws the problem of defining the positive virtues as masculine only and calls Paul on it.

For brevity’s sake I have snipped his argument sans the digs at his potential detractors:

As far as I can tell his argument breaks down into:

He writes

  • I write masculine stories. Characters whose behaviours and characteristics are what I consider traditionally masculine.  Further, those masculine behaviours and characteristics are shown (implicitly or explicitly) as virtuous.  Essentially what I’m often trying to show are characters who embody the Roman concept of virtus.
  • As a rule they’re men. They drink a lot. They sometimes womanize. They answer violence with violence.  They’re courageous in the face of danger. They’re stoic in the face of challenges/pain.  They have their emotions mostly in check. And they act in accordance with a code of honor of some kind. 

Why he writes

  • Like many of you, when I was young I read a lot.  Often what I read featured the kind of characters and storytelling I describe above — masculine stories, stories with characters who demonstrate virtus (I’m looking at you Le Morte d’Arthur, and you, Conan).  And what I read shaped how I viewed myself, how I viewed the world and my place in it, and indirectly (and along with a lot of other obvious things) helped shape and refine my moral code — Honor, courtesy, respect for self and others, even (a kind of modified) chivalry.  It’s served me well in life.
  • So I try in my own small way to carry that torch forward and provide the kind of exemplars of virtus that I found and find so compelling.  I don’t think there can ever be too many. 

He’s not anti-woman or anti-anything because:

  • By providing exemplars of certain behaviours and characteristics that I consider virtuous, I am not thereby asserting that other behaviors and characteristics are necessarily non-virtuous.  E.g., I think it’s great for a man to be empathetic and show his feelings or otherwise demonstrate sensitivity. 
  • Nor does it mean that I particularly value traditional feminine virtues in women.  In fact I appreciate strong women with strong opinions (as opposed to demure, quiet women).


What do I have an issue with? Well at first I was put off by his assumption, that should I disagree with him that its because I obviously think he is a right wing, gun toting Neanderthal.  I’d prefer to see his arguments do the talking instead of being told upfront not to prejudge him.

But lets move past that tactic.

I’m ok with the fact that he writes characters who extol, to differing degrees the Roman value of Virtus (is it the original concept of martial courage though or the more refined concepts of Prudence, Justice, Self Control, and Courage) .  Are the stories about Ancient Rome, is he limited to writing about men?  Not as far as I can tell. Add to this, how much do we understand as modern readers, of Roman culture and their approach to virtues?  I’d argue very little (unless you study Ancient history).  Most likely we see what we want to see through a lens of attitudes formulated in the last couple of hundred years.  None of these virtues though are exclusive to men, they might have been an ideal for men in Rome but …we’re not in Rome anymore Toto

Then looking at his characters as he describes them, they are oddly lacking in some of the virtues above.  That’s okay if you are presenting flawed characters and making them human, but is Paul doing this or is this concept of Virtus weighted towards the violent and the martial.

I’m also ok with why he writes.  Paul says its because the stories that he read growing up, the stories that he loved exhibited these virtues and they have become part of who he is and he feels it’s a good part.  I won’t disagree with him here - in that the application or interrogation of the Virtues that make up that concept of Virtus are good things to consider.

I’m ok with the idea that he’s carrying a torch for a more Virtuous life, although I am not confident that some of the harder virtues to master can be developed solely through reading fiction ie one doesn’t cultivate Stoic serenity by reading about it, but by practise and application. One can read “Anger leads to the Dark side” but that won’t help you unless you learn to deal with anger (strangely we never see Luke practising not getting angry).

I do object to the fact that he ties this concept to gender.  The ancient Greeks attached no gender to their concept of Virtue / Arete, (and they are similarities/ties with Roman philosophy ) if a traditional argument is required.

He claims that by promoting one thing as Virtuous does not mean that other things are not virtuous which is rubbish really if one claims Temperance is a Virtue then Intemperance is a vice but maybe what he should have said is that he values these Virtues above others like Compassion.  He’s not all that clear really.  His example of Empathy, or displaying one’s feelings as not as virtuous as those he promotes, demonstrates a luck of understanding common among most of us as to what was meant by the Virtue of Temperance or Self restraint.  Stoic resolve self control is, for example is not about suppressing the emotions, it’s about not letting them rule you, this goes for anger as much as it does for sadness.  So a truly virtuous woman or man can and should express their emotions in a controlled fashion.

He carries the torch for Virtues he sees as traditionally masculine, and uses men as exemplars.  He says he isn’t saying that women can’t exhibit these Virtues but that men should.  This is problematic because it exacerbates a gender division and gender concepts that are troublesome. 

If the virtue is the important thing then the gender doesn’t matter.  If he was really wanting to carry the torch then he’d have many genders displaying various aspects of the virtues.

If he likes writing guys, is comfortable doing so, well then fine it will attract a certain type of reader and will be unbalanced but  I'm cool with that. But if he thinks he is doing a good and virtuous thing by writing “Masculine Stories” I'd argue that maybe some contemplation is in order.

On a personal note, I live in one of the most Gender polarised countries in the OECD, traditional masculinity causes more problems than it’s worth and often is far removed even from what Paul alludes to in the Roman concept of Virtus. In Australia traditional masculinity often means:  standing up and fighting for yourself (with an emphasis on the fighting) not displaying emotion other than anger, drinking to excess,  not valuing women as anything other than wives or mothers.  It does not prepare men for setbacks or differences of opinion, nor does it grant men tools to deal with situations where fighting or f*cking won’t fix it. 

Jan 14, 2014

Eligibility Posts – A reader’s point of view

I read only 54 books last year, but that didn’t even scratch the surface of what was published.   It would be impossible to read everything published in SF&F in a year, and that’s just the middling to great stuff.  Too much info to sift through.  I don’t really care about the Hugo’s unless someone I know is eligible and even then I usually can’t vote.  I’d rather spend the money on interesting SF&F coming out from SE Asia. But for those awards that I can vote in, I do like to be reminded about or alerted to, what’s out there.


please talk about your stuff that is eligible, do it in any damn way you please.  Do what you feel comfortable doing?  If you turn into a used car salesperson I might un-follow you or… you know, exercise the ability to click on the next title in my RSS feed or walk out and water the chooks.  Let me worry about whether you are creating too much white noise. I am a grown up and if you get boring and start advertising your books I have this strange and apparently rare ability to decide things for myself - I can change the channel.

Talk about your works and what you really liked about them, point me to others reviews.  Reflect on your career to this point.  Just make it interesting.  I have an atrocious memory for books, can’t remember what I read at the start of last year, or midyear for that matter, so jog my memory. Remind me that I haven’t read enough gender diverse material.

Your posts combined with others opinions might lead me to buy and read your work.  Usually it takes a couple of mentions by different folks before I take an interest

Don’t feel like doing it.  Fine just write great fiction and I am sure I’ll encounter you somewhere along the line.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email orFollow me on twitter.

Jan 13, 2014

Booktopia Free Shipping and Mary Poppins

mary-poppins-she-wrote Well PL Travers to be precise.  Booktopia are running their free shipping for January you just need to go here select what you want and type SUMMER in the appropriate box at the end of the checkout process.

I just bought Mary Poppins She Wrote, a biography about PL Travers by another Australian author for Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014, I’d also heartily recommend The Girl With All The Gifts which I have just read and reviewed.

I note also that they have the Wonderbook, which all my writer friends have been on about. 





Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Book Review – The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey


Do yourself a favour and don’t read the back cover of The Girl With All The Gifts.  It won’t ruin the story for you but to my mind, when an author goes to the trouble to set up a clever opening to a well ploughed genre and then marketing decides to undercut that by telling you exactly what the book is like, because hey the point is shifting books… well…

If you like post apocalyptic thrillers with a decent scientific conceit underpinning it and an engaging read, go out and buy this book.  Go, do it now.

But if you if you don’t really care or if you are one of those folk who like to know what the story is about before you go and make your investment, read on.  But I am going to spoil it.  Well, spoil it as much as the back cover does anyway.

All Melanie has ever known, all that she can remember is her room, the classroom, the showers and the corridor.  Each day men in uniform come and collect her and take her to the classroom.  She has a few different teachers, but her favourite is Miss Justineau.  Miss Justineau teaches them about poetry, and Greek myth.  The other teachers tell them about the time before the Breakdown, before the Hungries and the wild Junkers.

The back cover of my edition  of The Girl With All The Gifts quotes Jenny Colgan of the Sunday Times as labelling it “Kazuo Ishiguro meets The Walking Dead”.  I haven’t read any Ishiguro but the link to The Walking Dead sits uncomfortably with me (but I understand it’s shorthand for “this book has Zombies, shambling fans of the Walking Dead will love it”) or certainly not the most apt genre comparison one could make.  I’d say it shares a family resemblance to certain works by Richard Matheson.

So yes it has Zombies. It has survivor tension and there is a race on to find a cure for the Hungry pathogen. As much as I like The Walking Dead, The Girl With All The Gifts is a much tighter and tense piece of work(maybe this is where the Ishiguro reference exerts itself) .  The action set pieces are limited and brutal but this book earns praise for the maintaining the tension between the Survivors and drip feeding information about the Breakdown and the work towards a cure. This is no endless trudge, this book has a resolution, it has a finishing point and if you are very clued in to the hints Carey drops you might anticipate it.  Looking back it’s a wonderful structured book with characters that we want to succeed against the worst Hungries and Humanity can throw up.  It’s that hope I think that in the end masks the clues that Carey has dropped.

From a gender perspective The Girl With All The Gifts was good.  The lead character is a young girl.  The two scientists at the base where the story begins are female, two of the named teachers are female.  Of the main cast three out of the five are women. Plenty of women talking to women about things other than men, sometimes not nice things but…

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw it movie form.  I am not sure that it would survive the Hollywood concept of what makes for a good movie though.  The Girl With All The Gifts is intelligent and well crafted genre fiction, and while I could put it down, it was very compelling and a joy to return to.

Australian readers can purchase it from Booktopia, it’s released tomorrow.

This copy was provided by the publisher.

Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Dimension 6 Opens its portal for submissions

dimension6_logo_large1-300x74A new initiative of cour de lion publishing, Dimension6 emagazine, is now open for short story submissions via email. They are a paying market (flat rate of $100 per story).

They are looking for word counts between 4500 and 40,000 words.

Dimension6 will be three times a year and distributed free and DRM-free through a variety of websites. Check out their  Submissions page for more info.

The current reading period closes on 22 February, and the first issue of D6 is due out 4 April.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email orFollow me on twitter.

Giveaway – The Old School

the-old-school Australian author has a giveaway running on Goodreads for The Old School. So what’s it about?

'Two things you want to remember about the good old days, Ned. They weren't that good and they're not that old.'

Detective Nhu 'Ned' Kelly is in way over her head. Not every member of the New South Wales police force has welcomed the young, half-Vietnamese woman into a job where the old school still makes the rules. When two bodies are discovered in the footings of an old Bankstown building, Ned catches the case. As she works to uncover the truth, she is drawn into Sydney's dirty past - and the murky history of her own family.

Bit by bit she gains ground on the murderer, just as he's gaining ground on her. Familiar faces begin to look suspicious. How close to home will she have to look? It's time for Ned to decide who is on her side - and who wants her dead.

This one is on my list to read this year for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014. And I have been reliably informed that there’s a sequel on the way as well.  So you can enter the Goodreads giveaway here (sorry Aussies only).

Or if you simply can’t wait Booktopia has it for $21 here.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jan 9, 2014

Book Review – Aria by Sarah Holland-Batt


Sarah Holland-Batt’s Aria, won the 2007  Thomas Shapcott Prize - Queensland’s literature award for an unpublished poetry manuscript by a Queensland author.  It was lauded as a “striking debut…the language haunting but entirely worldly”(paraphrasing the back cover here).  Which translates for me as - a good first outing in language most of us can read and understand.

How did I find it?  I don’t think I can fairly assess the first claim of a striking debut. I don’t have the breadth of reading and my poetry biases and understanding lie more in the direction of form poetry.  I am also fast coming to the conclusion that it’s very hard, much harder to fairly review a collection of poetry, than it is a novel or collection of short fiction.  You can theme a poetry collection and structure it to present a cohesive whole or narrative but ultimately poetry is a cousin where the different forms of prose are like brothers and sisters.  Hence I  flounder a bit when I task myself to review these works. A couple of days reading of an entire collection seems to be giving the works short shrift.  Poetry’s power is (in my experience) in its density, in the crafting of fewer words to carry a greater weight. 

Poetry is often “bigger on the inside”.

But my impression?  Well, I felt more comfortable, more in touch with the subject matter and themes presented than I did with Takolander’s Ghostly Subjects, but then they are I think doing different things with their poetry. One of the good things about reading a great deal of poetry is that it becomes more apparent what you like.  What I appear to like is poetry that produces feelings of nostalgia, or that create vivid images, that awaken emotion and works that have a lyric quality.  My favourite poem of this collection is The Sewing Room.


My mother measured the margins

of my known world there:

a sunlit annex where the lines converged,

wrist to shoulder-blade, hip, ankle, waist;

maps I would only outgrow

charted in painstaking tailor’s chalk.

Given time to isolate this first stanza and really look at it,  the lyric quality, the ebb and flow,  the “sound” of the poem, gentler and more subtle than that produced by a strict form, becomes obvious.  There’s the alliteration in the first line and alternating long-short hard stresses in the lines that give us peaks and troughs.  Coupled with this is the striking imagery of map making wedded to this memory.  This poem is where the poet’s memory and execution of craft sparks off my own memories of childhood and the countless hours my mother spent at machine or overlocker.

Circles and Centres brought into focus an interesting idea of the differences between nature and the built environment.  Nature’s all circles and human construction is square or geometric.  I was reminded also of Ali Cobby Eckermann’s Circles and Squares, where she presents Aboriginal concepts as circular and Western as square. For a more expansive and critical evaluation check out Kim Cheng Boey in Mascara here.

There’s another 40 poems in Aria, and while not all of them achieved the level of engagement wrought by The Sewing Room my quick reading suggests that they will be other gems to be unearthed by a close read.  Some other suspects would be The Wood Pile and Atonement.  Poetry is a personal thing though.  If you are unsure I’d suggest borrowing the book first, purchasing when you have been ensnared by the poet.

So on the claim of worldly language or language entirely of this world, which I have chosen to interpret as “language most of us can read and understand”-  yes I think that Aria is accessible.  Which is not to say that you won’t have to interrogate the poems or maybe use Google to look up some allusions or references but the poems aren’t tightly packed word muddles.

The collection is broken into 3 parts or perhaps movements?  The title Aria and several poems allude to classical music so I suspect there is a reference being made to music in the construction of the collection which I am unfortunately oblivious to.

I borrowed Aria from the library. It was not the pocket sized paperback in the, what is now familiar UQP poetry series styling, but the Read How You Want 16 point type, version.  This may have affected the presentation of one or two poems but overall I didn’t feel that it diminished the work and my aging eyes were thankful.

If an ebook copy was available for around the 10-12 dollar mark I would have snapped it up no second thoughts. It’s a collection that I think I would enjoy coming back to over an extended period.  You can purchase Aria through Booktopia here for just under $21, not bad value for something that you should be able to get continual enjoyment from.  It’s made it to my wishlist 

Good luck finding it in a general bricks and mortar store though because I searched two, an independent and a franchise and found no books on poetry, not even the Year’s best just released.

This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.awwbadge_2014






Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jan 5, 2014

eBook Review – Mary Poppins by PL Travers


I didn’t realise that PL Travers was born in Australia until came across a Bronze statue of Mary Poppins erected outside the bank building where she was born in Maryborough, Queensland around 2008.  I had also only ever seen the Disney musical staring Julie Andrews.  So this year I resolved to read this classic for the Australian Women Writers challenge.  I think it also fits nicely under this blog’s purview as a work of fantasy.

IF YOU WANT to find Cherry Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the crossroads. He will push his helmet slightly to one side, scratch his head thoughtfully, and then he will point his huge white-gloved finger and say:“First to your right, second to your left, sharp right again, and you’re there. Good morning.”

So starts Mary Poppins.  There’s something very comforting about this beginning and strikes me as very similar to the beginning of the Hobbit.  Simple comforting and yet also expressive of the type of tale that is to follow.

For those of you bought up on the Disney version as I was, I found that there was less of a narrative drive in the book than in the movie.  The later uses several scenes or set pieces from the book, but overall I found the novel to be more of a collection of linked short stories.  Mary Poppins is broken into 12 more or less self contained chapters, ideal I would think for facilitating reading to young children at bedtime and convenient breaking points for older readers trying to build their reading muscles.

Which isn’t to say that there’s nothing here for the adult reader whether your reading it to your children or for your own pleasure.  Brian Sibley (another Tolkien connection) quotes Travers in his afterword:

“Nobody writes for children really,” she’d say. “You’re writing to make yourself laugh, or yourself cry; if you write for children, you’ve lost them.”

So in the tradition of good stories everywhere Mary Poppins contains some wry observations of the adult world and British society, the relationships of men and women and perhaps even some stoic philosophy in the form of quips from Mary like this:

“Trouble trouble and it will trouble you!” retorted Mary Poppins crossly, in her usual voice.

I do wonder if children in the 21st Century, fed on a diet of high resolution video games might yawn if given Mary Poppins to read.  I think that would be sad if it was the case.  It’s a novel ( a proppa’ book in other words) where the world can still be turned on its head and some of the adults are involved in the fantasy.  We have people stepping into paintings, cows jumping over the moon, talking animals and allusions to myth.

If you are a fan of the movie I think you will find the most difference in the character of Mary.  In the movie Mary is stern, but with Julie Andrews singing Sherman Brothers tunes the character comes across as having a heart of gold under a thin veneer of propriety.  I found the Mary of the novel more enigmatic, than anything.  She is stern and cross at times and uses withering stares that had the misfortune of making me think of Julie Bishop. She is also a little vain, as Travers mentions her stopping a number of times to admire herself and her clothing in shop windows.

And though I didn’t find it “unputdownable”, with the West wind blowing I felt as sense of sadness as I closed the book.

A number of editions of Mary Poppins and subsequent tales featuring the Banks Children can be purchased from Booktopia.

awwbadge_2014This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.






Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jan 2, 2014

Book Review – Ghostly Subjects by Maria Takolander


My plan at the end of last year was to broaden my reading of current Australian poets ( to inform my poetry writing as well).  So I set about first, borrowing the Best Australian Poetry collections.  I find poetry can be a bit hit and miss; it’s rare I think that you will find a book of poetry in which every poem will be a hit.  So the plan was to pick some names from these anthologies and follow them up in individual collections.

I made the mistake of ordering about 20 books through our wonderful public library system in South Australia and they all came at once. Not to be daunted by this temporary to be read pile I plucked  Maria Takolander’s Ghostly Subjects from the ziggurat of modern Australian poetry that had formed on the study floor.

I find a lot of the poetry I am reading a little distant, though not deliberately so.  I feel a distinct barrier, a deficiency in my education or understanding, perhaps perception. I like to look at a poem and

  1. enjoy it
  2. understand what the poet is doing
  3. understand the allusions/ comment
  4. learn from it

I find that some of our most lauded current poets require a bit of foreknowledge, a bit of working up to, perhaps even an academic understanding of the currents that are moving in poetry circles. I will be honest, Ghostly Subjects was not as easy to get into as Eckermann’s Little Bit Long Time.  Takolander is lauded on the back cover a postmodern lyricist.  She’s called challenging, disturbing but  also polished and surprising.

But how did I find her?  I think this is a collection I would like to spend more time with.   I didn’t feel a deep connection with the collection as a whole but there were poems that I was able to appreciate and that injected weighty discussion into breakfast discussion of poetry at our house.  To really appreciate some of these poems requires a close reading or perhaps several. 

On the charge of disturbing…I don’t know.  Sure there’s some confronting stuff in here but nothing readers of the new weird, Margo Lanagan, Kaaron Warren and Kirstyn McDermott won’t have been exposed to. Speaking of McDermott, Takolander’s poem Prosthetic would be a nice accompaniment to The Home for Broken Dolls. Prosthetic presents the relationship of a man to his sex dolls and makes some incisive feminist commentary in the process.

Whale Watching and Seed, were poems that I personally found much easier to appreciate; they are more or less straightforward, beautiful and emotional capsules of life.  The former hinting at the difficulties/detachment of being in a relationship where a woman is not a mother and perhaps has no desire to be; yet must take the whole package of a partner with child.  Seed is an interesting and very personal reaction to the loss of an unborn child.

The collection is broken down into the sections: Geography, Chemistry, Biology and Culture. I actually like this construction, it drew my thinking on poems within each section into focus, it made sense, tied poems that had diverse form together. As Ali Alizadeh points out in the link below the last section doesn’t seem to mesh as well with the first three.  On approaching the different sections as whole entities, however, I did find Culture was the easiest to grasp because the poems deal with things I have more of a reference point for, like Stanley Kubrick movies.

I liked the collection.  I wasn’t blown away, but I suspect that the deficiency is mine.  If you have the time to sit and give individual poems attention it would be well worth it.  And that’s perhaps the pleasure of poetry, revelations that can be nutted out over multiple readings.

I have only dipped my toes in this collection.  And in the interest of brevity while still providing you in depth discussion I point those with the desire for some real critical analysis to Ali Alizadeh’s review at Cordite.

awwbadge_2014This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.






Did you enjoy this review? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Kisses by Clockwork selections announced

ticon The line-up (but not the order) of Ticonderoga’s Steampunk Romance anthology Kisses by Clockwork has been released.  Edited by Liz Grzyb it will be released around April 2014.  It features a number of well known local SpecFic authors as well as some new folks I haven’t heard about.  Take a gander below:


  • Marilag Angway, "Smuggler's Deal"
  • Cherith Baldry, "The Venetian Cat"
  • Gio Clairval, "The Writing Cembalo"
  • M L D Curelas, "Ironclad"
  • Ray Dean, "Practically Perfect"
  • Stephanie Gunn, "Escapement"
  • Richard Harland, "The Kiss of Reba Maul"
  • Rebecca Harwell, "Love in the Time of Clockwork Horses"
  • Faith Mudge, "Descension"
  • Nicole Murphy, "The Wild Colonial Clockwork Boy"
  • Katrina Nicholson, "Lady Presto Magnifico and the Disappearing Glass Ceiling"
  • Anthony Panegyres, "The Tic-Toc Boy of Constantinople"
  • Amanda Pillar, "A Clockwork Heart"
  • Angela Rega, "The Law of Love"
  • Carol Ryles, "Siri and the Chaos-Maker"
  • DC White, "South, to Glory"

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jan 1, 2014

Unbound Special Offer from Fablecroft

fablecroft-profpic_thumb Fablecroft are releasing the third book in the veiled world series from Jo Anderton, called Unbound it will be available in print and ebook editions.  (You can read my review of Debris - Book 1 here. It’s worth noting that Booktopia have it at $10.50, a bargain in my opinion.)

Fablecroft proprietor Tehani Wessely offers this deal:


In anticipation of publication (and to tide over hard core Veiled Worlds fans – you know who you are!), we are very pleased to offer a pre-order special on both the print and ebook edition. Not only are we offering the lowest prices with this pre-order, but you will also get EXCLUSIVE bonus content.

We have created a very special Veiled Worlds e-collection, containing three short stories set in the Veiled Worlds universe, including one original story never before published, as well as Jo’s unique brand of “author” interviews and more. Only those people who order using this page from now until the official publication of Unbound will be given access to it! You will receive the bonus ebook within 24-48 hours of pre-ordering, and your copy of Unbound will then be sent as soon as it is published (scheduled for April 2014).

So what are you waiting for?

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

2014 – The Cunning Plan

So yesterday I let the year slide by through a veil of Whisky Sour and 2014 arrived slightly seedy.  Still at least my neighbours didn’t catch me crawling from my car in my pyjamas. So what is the big plan for 2014(understanding of course that no plan survives contact with reality or children)?


  • I plan to return to working 2-3 days a week as a relief teacher. I am not happy about this.  I should write a best selling book or something.


  • I’d like to up my writing content and get some more poetry published in paying/prominent markets
  • I’d like to continue the novel I have been procrastinating around


  • I would like to read more books this year.  Maybe I should get on to this instead of surfing twitter and facebook.


I maintained some respectable stats despite my blogging falling by the wayside toward the end of the year.  So I intend to:

  • Blog more reviews
  • Blog reviews of short fiction
  • Blog DVD reviews


  • I’d like to continue to raise the profile of Galactic Chat. We had a very good last 6 months but am toying with the idea of a two week schedule.

So that’s the cunning plan.

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...