Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

Category: Raves, Reviews and Rants (Page 4 of 7)

if I love it, hate it or want to rate it you’ll find it here.

Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – November Round-Up

stormdancerFor November I read Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer. Really it would have been impossible for me to not like this book. Seriously, combining Japanese culture with steampunk – it would have to have been appalling writing for me not to have dug it.

It certainly wasn’t appalling writing. At times the description did get a little too verbose for my liking and sometimes it seemed to be dropped into certain spots just to try and drag out tension (which ticks me off personally), but for the most part it was vivid and wonderful.

I still love physically strong female characters, even if certain factions on the internet seem to dislike them (well at least as long as her physical strength isn’t her only defining characteristic) so enjoyed Yukiko, even if she did border on almost-a-little-too-perfect-to-be-true on the odd occasion.

(MILD UNSPECIFIC SPOILERS AHEAD) One thing I especially loved was that the second a plan looked like it was about to work BAM! No such luck. So frequently and so well done. I constantly kept thinking ‘yeah, I know where this is going now’ and constantly got thrown back in my seat and laughed at by Kristoff (not literally we live several thousand kilometers apart). (/SPOILER)

The depth of the world was impressive. There are many different political factions all at work, all playing in their own way for power, environmental concerns, traditional Japanese gods and mythology woven into the world and lots of references to Japanese clothing and weaponry. The terminology could be a small struggle point for someone not familiar with Japan, but after the first few chapters you’d be fine. My only issue is it was summer and no one was wearing yukata – summer is for yukatas! (but that’s me being a crazy Japanophile and there were many other details that made me supremely happy so all is forgiven)

I will certainly be reading the sequel as soon as I’ve finished my December read for the challenge. Gah! Thirteen days to try and complete my own challenge! I’m also a teeny bit sad that I hadn’t read the book in time to have it signed by him at the Brisbane Supanova.

Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – September Round-Up

midnightWow, the year is almost over! I jumped ahead and did my October round-up early but then got carried away with other things and forgot to post up my September book (though I did complete the review on Goodreads).

So my September read for the challenge was Midnight and Moonshine by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett, a collection of stories linked together by Norse Mythology following Odinn’s raven of memory, Mymnir, as she flees Ragnarok and the families that spring from the niche she created in the new world for herself.

This book is a double whammy since the glorious cover art is done by Kathleen Jennings, the previous president of my critique group. Or maybe that’s a triple whammy since both the authors are Aussie.

I loved how the stories shifted through time, travelling from ancient Norse mythology slowly toward some renaissance France and a good romp through the prohibition era in the bayou(that last one was one of my favourites).

The stories aren’t perfectly linear (though they are somewhat), more like puzzle pieces where you can see a little more of the whole picture with each one you read.

The only story I didn’t enjoy was ‘Of The Demon and The Drum’ and I know exactly why. I’m not against accents in dialogue (though I know people who won’t even tolerate that) but I can’t really handle it in narrative, particularly when it’s third person narrative. It makes the reading slow for grammar Nazis like me. I probably would have liked the story otherwise. But if that’s my only real complaint about the book overall I think you can feel pretty confident that this is a great collection.

My favourite story was Prohibition Blues, I loved the characters and the playful storyline. It was interesting to learn that this was the first story they wrote together and what birthed the whole book in essence.

The earlier stories have a great fairy tale feel which I really enjoyed. The massive cast of characters can be a bit confusing, but it wasn’t too severe.

I did have a few problems with the ‘ending’ story as well, (SPOILER ALERT) like how there was a weapon to face Mymnir with, but it was dropped and NOBODY picked it up again, it never got another mention. Even if one of the Gods had picked it up and used it… Some red herrings just frustrate me. /SPOILERS

All up though the book is great fun and has a wide range of interesting tales, definitely worth a read.

Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – October Round-Up

I’ve temporarily skipped my September report but don’t worry, I’m still reading the book. I snuck ahead to my October read because I couldn’t stand waiting to read the anthology containing my first published story.

2013redlitzerAnthologyFor my October read I read the 2013 Redlitzer Anthology.

The 2013 Redlitzer Anthology contains nineteen stories all from the shortlisted winners of the 2013 Redlitzer Writing Competition. Nine stories are from the adult category and the other ten are from the teenage category (there was also a junior category, but they were published in a separate anthology).

I went into reading the anthology well aware that there would be a broad range of genres and styles since the only thing binding the anthology together (apart from glue obviously) was the fact all the authors are from the same geographical area. Despite that fact there wasn’t a single story in the volume which was disappointing.

And I mean it. I’m not saying this because I’m published in there, I genuinely found every story interesting and well written. I honestly expected there to be at least one story that fell short (in my opinion, not overall) as I must confess there was one in the 2012 Redlitzer (which I read as research before submitting)(and no, I won’t tell you which one because it was simply a case of the genre being not my particular style, so it wasn’t the writer’s fault and they don’t deserve to be outed like that), but no, I really did like every single story.

The anthologies on display

The anthologies on display the launch night

There are several stories that fall into the speculative fiction category, meaning I can totally claim this for the challenge ;p . ‘A Royal transformation’ by Madison Birtchnell has a wonderful world and an obvious message, and ‘Loving Arizona’ by Alana Coomer contains a really cool concept which reminds me a little of what I’ve written about in my novel ‘Written By The Stars’. ‘The Host’ by Charlie Schirmer views a world through the dark eyes of an invading entity and does a very cool job. ‘It Was Lonely Being God’ by Sean West is a short but bittersweet tale looking at things from a different perspective. Of course not forgetting my own story ‘Stolen hearts’ where a young woman must track down the man who stole her grandmother’s heart before it’s too late.

The remaining stories range from tales of love (and lust in the case of ‘Mates’ by Linda Stevenson) to memoir pieces (like Hazel Barker’s ‘Hunger’) to action and adventure (and robbing the local pub in ‘Go On Three’ by Robbie Milton).

The stories by the teenagers rarely read as such, these guys (and gals of course) have some serious talent.

The editors choice stories ‘Terminus’ by Margaret Dakin and ‘The Light In The Darkness’ by Ebony Jolley, are obviously not to be missed but I also quite enjoyed ‘My Dad Came Home’ by Narelle Fuller and ‘Afghanistan’s Daughter’ by Lauren Johnson. ‘Relentless’ by Michelle Upton utterly broke my heart. Also, I wouldn’t blame you if you flicked straight to page 99 to read ‘Stolen Hearts’ by Kirstie Olley ;p

On the whole it is a great collection to read and I am seriously so proud to have been a part of it.


keep your eyes on this blog, giveaway soon to come!

Australian Spec-Fic authors Challenge – August Round-Up

aurealis_64_coverNearly all of my reports for the challenge thus far have been on full length novels but I read a lot of short stories too. I’m subscribed to several different journals and magazines (and intend to subscribe to a few more when I get some spare cash) and thought I’d bring an Australian publication to the forefront. This may kinda be cheating since the authors aren’t always Australian, but the whole point of the challenge is to read more Australian speculative fiction, and if supporting an Aussie spec-fic magazine isn’t doing that then what is?

Aurealis, has been releasing issues for 23 years. You may be familiar with the Aurealis awards too, these are the people who created and continue to run them. Their contribution to the Australian speculative fiction scene is not to be sniffed at.

The issues come out monthly (except for January and December) and consist of a couple of stories followed by articles and reviews of Aussie spec-fic books and sometimes author interviews.

62_cover_for_websiteI became a subscriber back in early January with the intent of researching the market (and helping them out since Aurealis wants to become an SFWA approved market and for that they need 1000 subscribers. Which reminds me, help them and go subscribe now!) but have also found it to be a lot of fun to read.

There’s a great variety in the tales, ranging from traditional high fantasy style to near-future sci-fi (really, volume 62 case in point). It’s also added more than a few books to my ‘to read’ list – including but not limited to my September read: Midnight and Moonshine.

I’ve yet to read an issue of Aurealis I’ve been disappointed in (or put down for anything but necessity), so recommend reading an issue at the very least, or subscribing to enjoy even more and help support the Aussie speculative fiction scene.

Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – July Round-Up

As some of you may have noticed, I am behind on my own reading challenge – for shame! Well it’s all George R R Martin’s fault, because I’ve been reading A Song of Ice and Fire (currently about a third of the way into book 4) so my reading attention has been diverted. Allow me to rectify that now.

deathI’ve just finished reading Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson and I must say, wow, what a cool book! No lack of action, some intrigue so sneaky you aren’t really aware it’s happening until late in the story, the always awesome doomed romance (that you totally want to have work), and solid humour the whole way through.

There were some seriously hilarious parts where I had to stifle the laugh out loud urges so I didn’t wake up the rest of the family.

The story is about Steven de Selby, a Pomp (think death angel, Japanese Shinigami, reaper what have you, but entirely human apart from their ability to help move souls on to the afterlife) who is shot at in the Wintergarden Food Court and the only reason he survives is because a (cute) dead girl warns him moments before. Now Steven has to figure out who is attacking all of the Brisbane pomps and why. Oh, and survive too.

One of the things I loved most about this story was that it’s based in Brisbane so I knew virtually everywhere that was being discussed. This created a great connection for me because I could visualise settings much more vividly that ‘some town in America’ or ‘some medieval village’. In my opinion there aren’t enough stories set in Brisbane ;p

I really enjoyed how the romance was played out too, from initial attraction, to growing emotions, to awkwardness because yeah you can’t hide it anymore – oh and by the way if I touch you I’ll send you to the afterlife so we’re doomed from the offset. Love it. I’ve read a few books recently where the relationships didn’t spark for me (none of the books have been Aussie, hooray!) and I’ve realised if I don’t believe the romance then a lot of the character begins to fall flat for me and a great story is intimately tied to character.

The pace in Death Most Definite also has good velocity. I am currently obsessed with book velocity (as I’ve personally dubbed it), because if I’m not dragged along, caught in the tail wind I find myself going off to work on my own writing, or play a video game, or you know, tidy the house ;p. I don’t have much free time between work and raising a child, so if there’s not enough velocity the book loses out to Etrian Odyssey or editing. That’s probably another part of why I fell behind.

All up I loved the book and am looking forward to finding the time to read the sequels. Oh and here’s my Goodreads review if you’re curious

Brisbane Writers Festival 2013 – My Experience

bwf13Last year the Brisbane Writers Festival was the first writers’ event I attended. EVER. I hadn’t known about it much in advance so only had a chance to attend one event. This year was different. I went crazy on events and had a blast.

On Thursday I attended a panel on ‘The Unvarnished Truth About Publishing’. Meredith Curnow(Random House Australia), Bernadette Fowley(Hachette), Rochelle Fernandez(HarperCollins) and Kristina Schulz(UQP) discussed the realities of publishing traditionally, including but not limited to (not a direct quote, but the pure essence is here) read the frigging guidelines. This was a theme that popped up in several panels I attended over the weekend and I can’t help but wonder about how many people must fail this.

On Friday I attended two workshops: Short Story Critique with Rob Spillman and Angela Slatter, and Slash and Burn Self Editing with Kate De Goldi. The Short Story Critique session saw us cram feedback for twelve pieces into three hours. I received some good feedback on one of my more recent stories ‘Glass Bones’ and was totally jealous that an English teacher had brought some of his students in to have their pieces critiqued. Most of the student’s stories didn’t read as young (seriously impressive!) but my jealousy derives more from the fact I never got to enjoy such a cool field trip(don’t worry Mr. Cameron, you were still awesome, I understand we lived in a rural town and these sorts of festivals didn’t happen back when I was in High School).

Slash and Burn Self editing got off to a good start when the fire alarms went off. No. I’m not kidding! Smoke from the BBQ downstairs got into one of the library’s sensors and set off the alarms. Kate De Goldi used some poetry to help us learn how not to waste words and ran us through several exercises. Hopefully this will help with my current manuscript of woe: Written By The Stars. (I swear, I love it, but something is just. Not. Working! in there…)

Saturday saw me attending a lot of discussion panels.

The first – Fantasy: Myths, Dreams and Other Worlds with Garth Nix, Kimberley Freeman(Kim Wilkins), Melina Marchetta and Angela Slatter, was right up my alley and there were some great quotes which, the only reason I didn’t tweet was because I didn’t want to miss the next one while fumbling with my damn phone. I’ll share them here instead.

“The bower bird mind” – Angela Slatter, in reference to the way a writer’s mind gathers up an idea there, a fraction of a myth here, and then a skerrick of a story there and puts it altogether to make a beautiful nest.

“Vikings make me feel good.” – Kim Wilkins. It was agreed by both panel and audience that needs to be made into a shirt.

“Magic needs to feel mysterious” – Garth Nix, in reference to the way that so many people demand all of the workings of magic need to be revealed and his personal feeling on that.

The Dystopia panel with Scott Westerfeld, Marriane dePierres and Max Barry was also a quote fest (as well as successfully making me want to buy more books, damnit).

“Books are machines for experiencing something we otherwise can’t” – Scott Westerfeld on why perfectly normal teenagers voraciously read books about drugs, sex and violence (and also, in part, why that’s a good thing)

“If nothing changes, that’s not a story, that’s a painting” – Max Barry

The Agents Seminar with Sophie Hamley and Hannah Brown Gordon was fantastic as Hannah is an American agent, while Sophie is Aussie so you got to learn the differences between the markets – and the similarities! These lovely ladies divulged things like how many queries they receive (and trust me, you can much more easily forgive a 6-8 week response period when you hear they receive 10-30 queries a day).

Some of the advice they gave for approaching them was old hat (at least to anyone who has used google) like make sure you’re sending it to the right agent and that gem from the Unvarnished Truth About Publishing panel: follow the damn guidelines, but there were a few things where the internet didn’t always say the same thing(or where Australia differs from America) so having clarification from the agent’s own mouth makes you feel much better.

Fables and Folk Tales with Angela Slatter, Kate Forsyth and James Bradley was a great panel and funnily enough all three authors had reworked the Rapunzel fairy tale (Kate’s is Bitter Greens (you can read my review here, review spoiler: I loved it!), Angela’s I haven’t read yet, but I just bought her book Midnight and Moonshine and intend to read it for my September book on the Aussie Spec-Fic Authors Challenge, and James’ in a fit of genius I forgot to write down and can’t seem to uncover which book it is (I’m so sorry! If you know which one tell me so I can put it up here)).

On Sunday I mixed it up a bit with a Short Fiction workshop in the morning run by Graeme Simsion, then a panel on Lit Mags with Stuart Glover, Rob Spillman, Sam Cooney and Tom Doig and wrapped up with ‘The Invisible Wheelchair’ with Alice Owen, Graeme Simsion and Robert Hoge.

The Short Fiction Workshop was fantastic. Graeme led it from the perspective of a database designer, breaking the craft into factors to be carefully considered. It was a great approach I haven’t seen before and other takeaways from it were that I need to read some books on script writing, and to always be ‘writing for publication’ as the goal will help keep you focused on making your art glow.

I strongly recommend if you’re a writer looking for courses and you see one being run by Graeme sign-up.

2013-09-08 13.59.40The Lit Mags panel showed off so many different points of view from Rob Spillman (the editor of Tin House a prestigious literary magazine with gorgeous visual design and big names writing in it like Stephen King, Margaret Atwood and Ursula K LeGuin) to Sam Cooney (editor of The Lifted Brow a Melbourne lit mag that’s been around since 2007 and has published Neil Gaiman (which as we all know means I am immediately interested)) and Tom Doig(now-retired editor of Voiceworks, a lit mag for under 25 artists which takes stories, articles, comics and more). Their job titles might have been the same, but little else was. The magazines ranged from funded by a wealthy philanthropist, to government funded, to living-on-the-love-of-subscribers. Essentially though, they all had the same goal, to publish great stories.

It’s always interesting to get a peek behind the curtain, and once again came the advice of ‘please, for the love of god follow the guidelines’. This time backed up with a comment that online databases may be a good place to find magazines and journals to submit to, but to not have faith that they have everything there. Go to the actual website of the people you want to be published by, they’ll tell you what they want and how they want it. Better yet, subscribe and read!

There was supposed to be a big gap between the Lit Mags panel and my next seminar, but as I was walking along, listening to the audiobook of A Storm of Swords (yes, I’m ahead of the TV series now and all I want to do is talk with people about it but almost no one has read the books!), I saw my friend and president of my critique group(Vision writers), Belinda. We had a chat and next thing I know she was bringing me along to her next panel ‘Well Drawn: Illustrious’ featuring Gary Crew, Gus Gordon and the previous president of Vision, Kathleen Jennings. It slotted perfectly in between my events and despite my personal lack of illustrating talent was a very interesting panel.

“It’s a pretty thing, but you cannot miss that there’s a story going on in there” – Kathleen Jennings.

“Information trapped in amber” – Kathleen Jennings on image panels from older books.

I loved the belief all the panelists held, that it was sad any illustrated book was automatically assumed a children’s book.

My last panel, ‘The Invisible Wheelchair’ was about the seen and unseen disabilities and how they are (or aren’t) portrayed in media. One in five people has a disability, but there is nowhere near that in fiction. Even I myself fall short, I have characters with OCD(Duke Oban in Storybook Perfect), a stutterer(Tobey from a WIP that’s on focus hiatus), a warrior with only one arm (Savrant from Keys, Clocks, Quests), and Brannory from my latest short story ‘Glass Bones’ has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (not to mention I cripple a few characters in combat on more than one occasion but keep them around for the rest of the book(or series as the case may be)), but I’m still way short of reflecting correct statistics.

Even more importantly than numbers though is portrayal: avoid generalisations, don’t let their disability be their defining characteristic – it isn’t everything they are, just a facet – and the story doesn’t have to be about their disability. Most importantly of all, don’t forget that every person is different. Some embrace their labels, others would do anything to be free of them, others fight for a correct understanding. (two great blogs to follow which show some of these mindsets are Stuff With Thing and Autistic Hoya, I follow both)

Robert Hoge said he wants there to be more stories of people with disabilities. They can be good, bad, cliché, he just wants more of them. I hope some of my stuff can get out there to become some of those stories and help (and hopefully they’ll be categorised as good).

I almost feel like I could do a whole post on the topic!

I met lots of new writers, spotted a few familiar faces from the Redlitzer Writers’ Day, saw some old teachers and many faces from my critique group, but sadly lacked the confidence to hand my card out to some of the new people I met (I handed out more cards for my critique group than myself, how sad is that?). I also managed to mangle my words more than once in front of people (both famous and other wise) proving how nervous I can be meeting new people (you wouldn’t think it once you know me ;p but it’s true, particularly when I’m interested in being friends or colleagues).

All up though, the Brisbane Writer’s Festival was a success in my opinion. I socialised (with and without success), found new books (please don’t tell my husband!), learned things and most importantly of all, had tonnes of fun.

Also a big shout out to the volunteers and organisers, as a regular volunteer at Supanova(until I had my son) I know how tough it can be sometimes. I appreciate all you efforts!

In summary(if this whole post was TL;DR for you) I highly recommend going next year if you missed it.


Where ever I could I did my best to link to official blogs and webpages, if I missed yours or you would prefer me to link to a different one please let me know and I’ll be happy to do so.

A Quick Word On Determination

You have a dream right? Most people do. Mine is pretty obvious I think. So I ask you, what are you doing to make your dream come true?

keep-calm-and-pull-your-socks-upYou know that friend who dreams of winning the lotto, but never buys a ticket? If you aren’t doing something to get yourself closer to your dream, then same thing (though you’re more likely to be hit by lightning than win lotto, fact!) Do something about your dream. Make steps toward it, even if it’s only baby steps (like writing 100 words a day).

Today I’ve been sick (won’t go into details, don’t want to gross you out), but I still managed to edit some work and send off a submission. That’s what determination does.

I’m not saying you always gotta work through the pain and illness, just that one excuse becomes another and another and before you know it you haven’t taken any steps toward your dream in a week, a month, a year… You’ve got to have determination to work through the excuses that aren’t really valid.

I have friends who put even my efforts today to shame.

I wasted enough of my younger years just dreaming, never really working. Don’t let yourself fall in the same trap.

Don’t just “follow your dream”, overtake it.

The New Who

true whovianThere’s a lot of talk about the new Doctor Who – but isn’t there always?

I’m open to the new actor playing the Doctor. He looks pretty cool, and I can’t wait to see how his personality will be different. This isn’t to say there’s no apprehension at all, but I’m definitely looking forward to meeting the latest regeneration, even though my heart is totally broken that Smith is leaving. I just know I’m going to ugly cry when I watch it. I’m talking serious ugly cry, snot, puffy red eyes, no dry skin on my face anywhere but my forehead – ugly cry. I did for Tennant, I’m know I will for Smith, hell, I’ll probably do it for Capaldi when it’s his turn.

50thNeil Gaiman has some interesting and promising things to say about Capaldi, as well as what could be done about the ‘regeneration limit’. You can find the post here, it’s not too long and well worth the read (and not just because I fan-girl all over Gaiman(though I can’t deny that comes into play)).

I remember last time, when they announced Tennant was leaving and Smith would be the new Who. At the time I had a personal blog(just diary and random thoughts, nothing cohesive, and like most blogs of it’s ilk died within a few months), and I’m pulling a few quotes from some posts I did regarding that subject, as the words still have truth to them.

Looking Forward to Falling In Love

January 4, 2010

I’m a little worried about they way everyone is behaving towards the new Doctor.

I’ll freely admit, I’m worried I won’t love this new Doctor as utterly as Tennant’s Doctor, but the way everyone is talking it seems most people have already decided they don’t like Matt Smith, which I can’t quite figure out, since he’s only been on screen as the Doctor for about a minute so far, so how have people already made up their minds about him?

I think it might be like the response of a petulant child when they have to face change. They loved the old toy and rather than actually trying the new one they instantly decide it couldn’t possibly be as good as its predecessor so don’t even give it a chance.

It upsets me a little to think that this poor guy has to face lower ratings simply because no one wants to even try and see if the new series will be good. For all we know Matt Smith might be truly amazing. In fact, I’m quite looking forward to him after watching him worry he might have regenerated into a girl because his hair is long.

I remember watching Eccleston regenerate into Tennant and wondering who this skinny, metro-looking guy was, but as I came to know him a little better I fell in love with him. I’m very much looking forward to falling in love with Smith’s Doctor too.

Wow, I hope my husband doesn’t read this blog and get worried ;p

I still feel the same now, with this new actor. The picture up the top sums it all up for me.

a new doctorAnd to wrap up, another old post from my personal blog (no, I’ll never link to it, it was shameful and full of pointless rambling (same here you say? Then leave ;p )), about ‘Nostalgia for the future’ a very wibbly wobbly timey wimey concept that relates back to the Doctor’s regeneration.


2 January 2010

I did like getting a little glimpse at the new Doctor, but I’m still full of apprehension about the new Doctor. I loved – no love, still present tense – David Tennant’s Doctor so much I’m not sure I’ll be able to love the new Doctor as deeply. I’m sure he won’t be horrid, no casting agent would be silly enough to select someone who could not act well, and we’ve already established how I feel about the writers!

So we’ll be safe, I’ll like him, but will I love him? The anticipation is almost titillating!
I’ll admit freely for you all, I have only watched the newer Doctors, Eccleston and Tennant. When I was a child I saw an episode of an earlier Doctor, and the Daleks scared my eight year old self so bad I used to rush to the TV and switch it off the second I heard the opening music, an aversion which stuck with me for years until my lovely husband sat down one day almost two decades later and asked me: “Have you ever seen the Doctor?”.

Together we’ve been hunting down dvd’s of the older episodes so I can watch them and hopefully love the older Doctors also. I’m looking forward to stumbling across the episode that terrified me as a child.

Nostalgia for the future. How unique. How the Doctor.

So, Mr Capaldi, I’m looking forward to falling in love with you too <3

Aussie Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – June Round-Up

BurnBrightAs promised last month, I finished the second and third volumes of Marianne de Pierres’ Night Creatures Trilogy.

You can find my full reviews of each volume on Goodreads, Burn Bright, Angel Arias and Shine Light.

My favourite part of this series is the world. I don’t know anything like it out there. The cold and restrictive Grave, the way they travel through a crazy vortex to reach the dark party island of Ixion was a great starting taste, but it becomes obvious early on there’s much more to the world than just these locations when you start to meet characters from other places who’ve also come to Ixion, and it isn’t just Retra who has more on her mind than simply partying.

Tangel ariashe books move between Grave and Ixion, and the overall feel of the writing changes as you move between locations, giving you an immersive sense of what that place would be like to be in.

The Ripers are clearly born from the vampyric mythos, but if you are avoiding these books because you know of that (I’ve got to admit, it’s part of why I delayed reading them) let me assure you they aren’t your typical vampires, and they certainly don’t sparkle either. There is much more to them and a few interesting twists to look forward to.

At first, Retra was a difficult character for me to get into personally. Because of being raised as a ‘Seal’ she was inclined to not speak up and to hold back, and I struggle to understand when people don’t speak their minds, because that is how I am. Even when still Retra however she showed strength, resilience and the desire to protect others. I say ‘when still Retra’ because part way through book one (SPOILER ALERT (obviously)) Retra experiences a life-changing event and gives herself a new name: Naif. Naif is everything I love in a young woman protagonist: brave, determined, forthright and not one hundred percent sure of herself.

shine lightOne thing I must add, de Pierres writes amazing action/tension scenes. More the once I found myself clenching my teeth and tensing my muscles while reading the later two of the novels.

Another thing I have to praise is the well-weightedness (not a real term? Well I don’t care) of the answers to mystery ratio in these books. Each book poses (and carries-on) questions, and those that most needed to be answered were in that book, while some carried on. I was never left without curiosity, but never strung out to the point where I thought “If she doesn’t tell me *insert question here* by the next page I’m throwing this book to the wall!” (which seriously, I have thought about several books). This is a tough thing to get a grip on as an author, to lead the reader deeper into the desert with further questions, but to slake their thirst every so often so they don’t pass out on you. I hope I can master the art this well.

Also, the cover fairy certainly blessed de Pierres. I’ve also learned she recently had these books released in America, so my foreign readers can enjoy them. In fact I actually bought Angel Arias from Amazon (because I couldn’t find it anywhere and didn’t want to wait ;p ).

I haven’t decided just yet what I’ll read for July, but I’m leaning toward Fiona McIntosh’s The Scrivener’s Tale. I’m having trouble deciding because my recent trip to the Lifeline Bookfest resulted in an impressive haul, and a very broad selection to choose from.

not the most flattering photo of me, but you should be focusing on the stack of books

not the most flattering photo of me, but you should be focusing on the stack of books anyway

Australian Spec-Fic Authors Challenge – May Round-Up

Someone asked me this month if indie authors count toward the Aussie Spec-Fic Authors Challenge. She also asked about short stories. Well in my opinion, yes on both counts. Any way you can support Australian speculative fiction counts in my books. (Books, hahaha, pun)

To better illustrate how happy I am to include indies, even though I read a traditionally published book for May, I’m going to report on an indie short story and an indie novel this month. (For those worried about me ignoring Burn Bright, I’m not, I’ll finish the other two books in the trilogy and report on all three for my June read)

lifesphereThe indie novel I read (and praise) is Talitha Kalago’s Life Sphere Inc: Acquisition. It’s the first of a series set in a dystopian future were people psychically link with bio-organic lifeforms (called Meka) to compete with one another.

The world is in depth, with multiple layers of society clearly depicted by sheer decadence scaling down through the levels to literally living in a dump.

The characters are great fun and while they are teens there’s none of the usual teen angst that sometimes makes me avoid young adult. Any suffering the characters go through is real, real enough to feel yourself.

The plot is lots of fun, with plenty of twists and turns that will take you all over the world, from the saddest pit in the Junkyard to the ritziest house in Topside (or at least one of them).

Also, it’s a good solid adventure that guys hoping to avoid the next Twilight can safely read, no mush!

You can get Lifeshpere Inc: Acquisition from Amazon or Smashwords for FREE. So don’t hesitate, just grab it and devour it – I certainly did!

dieselpunkNow, to keep up the indie marathon here: The Dieselpunk Epulp Showcase leads with a story by Grant Gardiner, an Aussie author with a grand appreciation for the 1920s. The other stories are all quite good too, but I like Grant’s the best (and not for biased reasons).

Dieselpunk, for the not-in-the-know, is inspired by the culture of the 1920s-1950s, think the dashing adventures of Bond, Jazz music and the height of fashion and manners. To use the words of Tome Wilson who wrote the foreword and runs ‘Retro Future’.

‘That Sort Of World’ is a tale from the Aether Age, which is Grant’s own spin on an alternate history in America(you can find out lots more at his blog). It follows a couple of gangsters trying to break into the big leagues, both in crime and in fashion but you’ll have to read it to see whether they succeed with either goal.

The other stories are also fun singles set in a larger world by their respective authors and feature everything from old school noir grit to idealistic, and somewhat misled, freedom fighters and a fantastic shootout in Citadel City.

You can get the Dieselpunk epulp Showcase for free on Amazon and Smashwords and if you’re hungry for another Tale from the Aether Age, you can find ‘The More Things Change’ free to read online at the Alternate History blog.

Well, to sum it up: Go enjoy some great Aussie indies for free!

Look forward to July 1st when I’ll post my reviews of the whole Night Creatures Trilogy by Mariannne de Pierres and keep supporting Australian speculative fiction authors!

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