Category: Book Reviews

Book Reviews

A review of Fitting In by Colin Thompson

The clever storytelling of Colin Thompson in Fitting In somehow binds itself to you and makes you fully engaged with the pages in front of you. It invites you to sit and read a page or two and then ponder what you just read. My eyes were opened to a life completely different from my own. This is the beauty of memoirs. They pull you out of the self-centered life you may be living and make you engage with someone else’s life story. As I read, I saw the raw and coarse pain of depression and the desire to fit in.

A review of The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley

The author has researched her material thoroughly, even becoming a volunteer at the Queensland Museum and learning how to prepare ornithological specimens. This makes her descriptions of the preparations of the birds in her novel thoroughly convincing, as when Elizabeth is required to prepare the body of a brush turkey for its skeleton to be displayed. And the descriptions of her drawing and painting the prepared birds sometimes take the breath away, as with the quetzal, who ‘sported iridescent sheens in its plumage, like silk from China, gossamer and spider’s webs, droplets of water catching the light’ (94).

A review of Panic Attack by Jason Starr

Starr’s novel is wholly contemporary – we are in twenty first century New York, no question – but it also harks back to post-war noir and Jacobin revenge dramas of yore. Sin is indelible, so too self-delusion and self-justification. These people – Adam and Johnny, Dana the wife and Marissa the daughter – cannot become better.

A review of Tongue Screw by Heather Derr-Smith

The recurring themes of this brilliantly haunting collection run a powerful range, from tragedy and trauma to innocence and carnal desire. Derr-Smith offers an intimate, unyieldingly honest account of her life and experiences. The subjects, the lines, the words all scream truth. Often brutally. Often beautifully. Her themes and approach leave a lasting impression.

Divine Residues: A review of Mean Numbers by Ian Ganassi

Contradiction and absurdity reign freely, and non sequiturs pop up out of the blue, each fetched further than the last, as if the poet were striving for the most unlikely next line ever to come out of left field. The effect is to loosen up the reader’s consciousness and allow her to gaze into an open-ended world of expansive possibilities. It’s a wild world, where sense and nonsense are on an equal footing, but she soon finds that the poet has left a trail of delectible crumbs to follow.

A review of On the Blue Train by Kristel Thornell

Kristel Thornell has roll-played Agatha’s creativity and expression to perfection and delivers an excellent discourse of the famous crime writers’ intercourse with her acquaintances. Flashbacks enrich the pages and regularly remind me of her once read autobiography. The method used was very inventive, for example while partaking a Turkish bath some memories of her childhood are released and I’m overjoyed to find ‘Auntie-Grannie,’ ‘Nursie’ and the ‘Gunman’ unexpectedly arrive.

A review of Shibboleth & Other Stories edited by Laurie Steed

An outstanding collection of short stories makes up this book of the Margaret River Short Story Competition for 2016. It is sponsored by Margaret River Press, who believe the ‘short story genre is greatly undervalued’, according to their website. The competition has been run since 2011, producing five published collections so far, with the 2017 competition having just recently closed for submissions.

A review of Mattison’s Chess Endgame Studies by T. G. Whitworth

There are pawn endings and positions displaying diverse forms of material imbalance, with a particular favourite it seems being where a lone knight and advanced pawn(s) battle against rook and king (the king’s presence being important because certain key variations will often give the opportunity for a winning fork). Invariably the positions, which could very easily have arisen from practical play, contain some startling resource.

A review of Engraft By Michele Seminara

The landscape of Seminara’s poetry is often domestic – home life, motherhood, abusive relatives, relationships, aging, and illness, but there is also magical realism, shapeshifting, sublimated desire, and a range of literary influences that come through the found poems, centos, erasures and remixes. The poetry plays with metapoetic themes, with traditional rhyme schemes and rhythms, and are self-referential in a post-modern way.

A review of The Reason for Time by Mary Burns

Burns’s novel is set in Chicago in 1919. Her choice of poem to quote at the beginning and set the tone for the story is inspired. “Working Girls”, by Carl Sandburg, is about the “river of young woman-life” in that city, as factory and office girls headed off to work each morning. He contrasts the “green” stream of young innocent energy with the “gray” stream of more experienced women who say, “I know where the bloom and laughter go, and I have memories.”