All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Author Guest Post: Cheryl Adnams

Today I’m pleased to welcome Australian author Cheryl Adnams to the blog. Cheryl is the author of two romance novels, Bet On It and Chasing The Flames (you can read my review of Chasing The Flames here). Cheryl is bravely tackling the topic of how authors really feel about reviews!

Cheryl Adnams LR

When my first novel ‘Bet On It’ was released in May this year, I hadn’t given much thought to reviews.  I’d never even heard of Goodreads until I had my own novel published.

So when I received my first glowing review, and 4 stars, wasn’t I excited and oh, so very proud of myself. From that point on I looked religiously, five times a day to see if there were any more reviews sitting there waiting to just boost my spirits and make my day.

Five stars, wahoo! Four stars, nice. And so it went on. I booked the marching band, ordered the French champagne and celebrated being the next big thing.

And then my world came crashing down. A 2.5 star review. I poured over the scathing remarks, the digs at the story, the slicing and dicing of the characters who were now like family to me. Devastation and depression set it. The champagne was no longer celebratory but medicinal.

One bad review and I started to question my writing style, my story and my right to even be a published author. After all, the reviewer must be an expert in the field right? It didn’t matter to me that I had multiple 4 and 5 star reviews. That one bad (and quite frankly nasty in some parts) review was the one that I held onto with my poor wounded heart and soul. I should say that the reviewer gave me the stars for the good writing and editing. So it wasn’t all bad. But I chose to ignore that morsel of good.

So why is it that we only hold on to the bad things people say about us and let them cast a shadow over all the good reviews?

In the last few months, I have met many wonderful romance authors through writers groups such as SARA (South Australian Romance Authors) and at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in August this year. And found there are several different modus operandi authors follow to deal with reviews.

Some will read only the good reviews and ignore the bad. Others choose not to read their reviews at all – and wow that takes a massive amount of self-control. One of the best responses I heard though is:

‘This reviewer is not my fan base’.

It’s a simple as that. As in everything in life, not everyone will like what you write. Not everyone likes who you are. Not everyone likes what you wear. It’s part of life and accepting that was the answer to turning my medicinal champagne back to celebratory champagne.

Just one last note and a word to my fellow authors :

Nasty and hurtful reviews say more about the person writing the review than they do about the author or the book they are reviewing. Shrug it off and choose to celebrate your fan base.

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Thank you Cheryl for your post – interesting thoughts. As a reviewer, I tend to feel very differently about negative reviews but can appreciate how they may be difficult for those that write.  If anyone has any comments, please feel free to leave them below.

Chasing the Flames - cover imageThis author guest post is part of the Chasing The Flames blog tour, organised by Random Romance of Random House Australia. You can check out more information about the tour, including the full schedule here

Previously on the tour: Monique at Write Note Reviews has another guest post from Cheryl which you can see here

Next on the tour: Connect With Chick Lit also has a guest post which will be featured on the 13th October

Chasing the Flames - Blog Banner

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Watching Literature – One Adaptation At A Time

GWTW02

Image from fanart.tv

A couple of times now myself, Belle from Belle’s Bookshelf and Marg from The Intrepid Reader have amused ourselves by watching movies together (despite the fact we live in 2 separate states) and conducting an in-depth analysis of them on twitter at the same time. The first one was entirely by accident – Belle was watching it, Marg put it on as well and I’d seen it the week prior (it was Dear John, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel) and we had a great time. We decided we’d watch some of the other adaptations of his novels (ok yes, it’s mostly to mock them). The second time we arranged a time to all sit down and watch and chat together and so we tackled Safe Haven.

That was some time ago but recently we’ve revived this. Turner Classic Movies, my cable TV’s oldie movie channel were playing some classics, one each week in the month of July. Belle and I were chatting about a book read-a-long we were doing and I asked if she’d seen Gone With The Wind, the first movie. She hadn’t and I hadn’t seen it in 20 years so we immediately decided we would do that one as our next watch-a-long. Unfortunately Marg was unable to join us as her son accidentally deleted her recording of GTWT from the cable box!

I read the book of Gone With The Wind when I was about 12 or 13 and it actually happened to be on TV not long after that and my grandfather taped it for me. On a BETAmax video player, no less! How’s that for showing my age? I remembered the basic storyline and we settled in to watch the first half – but of course that didn’t happen and we continued on until almost 1 in the morning watching the whole epic. We admired the dresses and Scarlett’s strong and independent spirit. Also at 12, I didn’t really get Clarke Gable but at 32, can I just say I get Clark Gable now? That look, those dimples, that grin. Belle and I decided afterwards that we’d definitely be doing this again and we began throwing up suggestions of what our next watch could be…..

North & South

Pic from Worthy Of Note

This time I had never seen it and both Marg and Belle have seen it numerous times. I’ve also never read North & South although I do own quite a few Elizabeth Gaskell novels. But I’d heard such brilliant things about this adaptation and all of the other BBC ones I have watched have been so stellar so I broke my rule of always reading the book first! I really enjoyed this – Margaret is such a wonderful, strong character who goes through so much in this. Gotta love a little hate at first sight with underlying sexual tension and a man who’s not afraid to lay it all out there. And that intense stare he has. Romance aside, it was interesting to step away from London and society and visit the more working classes and the issues that they faced during this time. I’ve got the book ready to go and I’m looking forward to seeing this play out on the page. The adaptation looked beautifully done and I may or may not watch several scenes again *cough*

We were talking after we finished watching North & South (over 2 nights for that one) and decided that there’s so much we want to watch, for many different reasons. We still have Nicholas Sparks movies to watch because we like torturing ourselves plus we have dreamworthy BBC adaptations to do and slightly dubious YA novel adaptations as well. So far we have these titles on our list of things to watch:

BBC’s Pride & Prejudice from 1995 (and then possibly comparing and contrasting it with the Keira Knightley movie version)
The Notebook (and all other Nicholas Spark novel adaptations)
Vampire Academy, Divergent The Mortal Instruments Movie
North & South adaptation from 1975 with Patrick Stewart (compare and contrast!)
Dr Zhivago
Persuasion

We will alternate between each type – next up is The Notebook, based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel, which I’ve never read or seen. Perhaps because of this, I don’t get the whole Ryan Gosling thing that the internet seems obsessed with so maybe watching this movie will rectify that? I don’t know.

What are your favourite adaptations, modern or classic? Got anything you think we should definitely add to our list? It’ll be one that grows all of the time!

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Things I Want To See At The Melbourne Writers Festival

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The program for the 2014 Melbourne Writers Festival was released yesterday (you can check it out here) and I picked up my copy and spent most of the afternoon poring over it and deciding what events I wanted to see. There’s actually a lot of events I’m keen on this year, more than last year which is nice. Obviously I won’t be able to attend all of the ones that interest me, for both time and economic reasons, but these are the ones I’m tossing up between.

Malcolm Fraser & Bob Carr: In Conversation, Friday 22nd August 1pm

Some people will see that and think “Politics? How boring!” but my background is in politics. My degree is political science and international relations and I think this is a time when most Australians should be interested in politics, given what is happening both locally and also abroad. I grew up in NSW so Bob Carr was an institution there – he was the Premier of NSW for 10 years from 1995-2005. I’m interested in what he has to say. And I find Malcolm Fraser intriguing too because he’s a former Liberal Prime Minster who seems to pull no punches criticising the current Liberal regime.

 

Burial RitesIn Conversation With Hannah Kent, Friday 22nd August 4pm

This event had actually already sold out by the time I had re-downloaded the MWF app to my phone and updated it to the 2014 version. It’s scheduled to take place in one of the smaller venues so I hope they actually move it to a bigger location, if they can, and release more tickets. I read Burial Rites last year and really loved it and I’d love to know more about how it came to be.

 


Tiddas, Saturday 23rd August 10am

I read Anita Heiss’ book Tiddas early this year and really enjoyed it and I also really like hearing her voice on Indigenous issues, especially the ones faced in modern times. Tiddas addressed this really well so I’m keen to hear more from her.

Modern Love, Saturday 23rd August 11:30am

This is really the only ‘romance’ panel at the festival and I always make a point to support them and attend in the hope that they program more in the future. This one has Rachel Herron and Su Dharmapala talking about what makes a good contemporary romance novel and how the genre has evolved. I’ve read books by both authors so I’m definitely going to be attending this one.

Local Libraries: Library at the Dock, Saturday 23rd August 2:30pm

I’ve heard about the Library at the Dock down in Docklands and this event is with Alex Miller, who is one of those authors that I’ve always meant to read but never quite gotten around to doing so! It’s also a freebie and I’m already going to be in the city on this day so I’m thinking I’ll add this one to my schedule.

Lad Lit, Sunday 24th August 10am

This session has Chris Flynn who I saw at MWF 2 years ago (when he released his previous novel, A Tiger In Eden) who was really good and very funny and also Omar Musa. I have a copy of Musa’s book, Here Come The Dogs and I’m always trying to read more male authors.

SendingIn Conversation with Isobelle Carmody, Sunday 24th August 4pm

Anyone who has ever read this blog even in passing would know that I love Isobelle Carmody, especially her Obernewytn series which I have been reading for nearly 20 years. The final book is still to come and I am dying to find out what happens and how it all ends. I’ve always missed Carmody whenever she’s done events near me before but this will be the first session I officially book! Without a doubt.

 

 

What I Learned About Sex From Reading, Friday 29th August 1pm

With Alissa Nutting and Jessie Cole. I read Alissa Nutting’s novel Tampa and found it both interesting and really disturbing. I also have Jessie Cole’s new novel to read as well and I’m really keen to hear what they both have to say about approaches to writing sex and what they learned from it. Apparently there’s things readers can learn too! This is also a freebie session.

Book Launch: When The Night Comes by Favel Parrett, Friday 29th August 5:30pm

Loved Favel Parrett’s first novel, Past The Shallows and this one sounds right up my alley! This one is a freebie too. And is a good prep for the next even which is….

When The Night ComesIn Conversation With Favel Parrett, Saturday 30th August 2:30pm

So keen for this event! As I mentioned, I can’t wait to read her new book and maybe I’ll get a chance to do that between the launch and this event, lol. Her new novel revolves around a young girl from Tasmania who meets a crewman on an Antarctic supply ship. Favel Parrett was actually awarded an Antarctic Arts scholarship to go to Antarctica for researching this novel and I love novels that feature Antarctica in any way. And she writes so beautifully, I can’t wait.

 

In Conversation With Alissa Nutting, Saturday 30th August 4pm

I’m not 100% sure if I’ll be able to attend this event, it’s going to depend on my numbers and I’m already attending another event with Alissa Nutting but if I do have a space spare, I’ll book into this one and learn a bit more about Tampa.

True Crime, Sunday 31st August 1pm

This session has John Safran and Julie Szego talking about their Truman Capote moments. I haven’t read Julie Szego’s book but I have read John Safran’s, Murder In Mississippi and found it fascinating. Plus John Safran is really funny so I think this session would be great to attend. I don’t read much true crime (or non-fic in general) so it might also be great to see if there are some recommendations.

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So these are the sessions that I am mostly musing on so far – some are no brainers (Isobelle Carmody!) and there are others I may not get in to, such as the Hannah Kent session. There are a couple of other sessions that are on at the same time as that session (In Conversation with NoViolet Bulawayo and Seeking Asylum) and if the Hannah Kent session doesn’t get changed, I may choose one of those. There’s also a couple of sessions on the schools program that I wouldn’t mind sneaking in to!

Anyone else heading to the festival? What are you seeing? Let me know!

 

 

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Review: Being Jade – Kate Belle

being_jade_COVER_HI_res smallBeing Jade
Kate Belle
Simon & Schuster AU
2014, 300p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Jade and Banjo have been married for twenty-five years when he walks out. Their youngest daughter Lissy comes home and once again finds them squaring off against each other, in the middle of an argument. It’s something she’s seen many times before and she leaves them to it, an action she will come to regret.

Because Banjo has never walked out before. But this time he does and he is killed, the victim of a hit and run. This leaves Jade and their children Cassy and Lissy to grieve and Banjo can only watch on unseen helplessly as Jade collapses into a deep depression. Lissy feels the ultimate guilt in having left – maybe she could’ve done something, stopped the argument. Now she seeks to pull her mother out of her terrible depression. She discovers a sketchbook and is shocked to discover that it chronicles her mother’s numerous lovers, the affairs she had over her parents long marriage. Lissy and Cassy are divided on their opinions of what their mother was doing and what was really going on in the marriage between Banjo and Jade.

Lissy uses the sketchbook to try and help her mother, inviting her former lovers to come and see her, hoping that one of them can penetrate through the deep fog that surrounds Jade. As each man visits and recounts his experiences with Jade, Lissy begins to learn more and more about her mother, her reasoning and her character. And in a corner, Banjo watches, discovering the truth in death that he could never quite bring himself to believe in life…

It is really very fitting that Kate Belle’s guest post for me (which you can read here) deals with how she’s throwing aside the star rating system when she reads books. Because although I star-rate books on goodreads and give them a numerical rating out of 10 on the blog, I do find plenty of books that it’s difficult to assign that number too. And this book, Being Jade is definitely one of them. And it’s not because I don’t like it – books I don’t like are easy to rate! It’s just that this is a very complex book, full of wonderfully difficult characters and it is a book that challenges social boundaries and forces a reader to think outside of what might be their comfort zone. I’m well aware that as I read this, my feelings for Jade were mostly based on social constructs, of what a wife and mother is ‘supposed’ to be. And I’m both. This book isn’t afraid to hold that up and then tear it back down.

Jade was raised by her prostitute mother who died of a drug overdose when Jade was a teenager. From there she was taken in by Banjo’s family. It is clear that Banjo has always loved Jade….loved her madly, to the point of distraction. They were married very young, but it wasn’t too long before Banjo discovered that Jade had had, and would always want/need to have, other men or lovers. He found this very difficult to live with but ultimately chose to remain with Jade because it was better than life without her. He wanted to keep his dignity, that she be very discreet and that she not tell him. But it wasn’t very hard to him to figure out. He began to learn the patterns and when Jade often left the home for several days either to work on or show her art, it was nearly always a given that she was meeting other men. This included when she was 8 months pregnant with one of their daughters, and continued after their daughters were born.

I struggle with books that contain infidelity because I’m so against it myself. And yes, that might make me a product of society, etc but it is my idea and wish that the person I have chosen, also chooses just me. So whilst at times, I did feel for Banjo because he loves Jade so much and her actions do cause him great pain, at the same time…he’s an adult. He chose to remain in the relationship and accept that part of Jade that needs other people to fuel her creativity and feed/heal her soul. However I found that the fact that it adversely affected their children made my feelings towards Jade more negative, because they didn’t choose it. They didn’t choose to have a mother that disappeared for days at a time, that the town gossiped cruelly about. None of it was their fault and yet they suffered for it too. I know that says more about the society as a whole as well, that Jade did become such fodder for talk, but also, her absences did impact on her children. No one sacrifices everything but it is the general expectation that your children will mostly come first, in their early and formative years anyway. Jade doesn’t accept this – she puts herself first, she does what she needs to do. One hand I admired her for always staying true to herself, for not bowing to the social pressure after she became a mother but on the other hand…..I did wonder what she really and truly thought about the impact her absences had on their children.

Which brings me to my original statement about this book – how do I rate it? When I finished this book, I agonised for some time, deliberating about what to give it when I added it to my Goodreads, which is what I do whenever I finish a book. 5 stars is “I loved it” – but I’m not sure I can honestly say that I loved it. I think it is a wonderful, challenging story. The writing is very good – probably fantastic. It made me feel a wide range of emotions as I read it from dislike to admiration to sadness to anger to pity. Most times I found Jade a bit too selfish – and I’m not saying this is essentially a bad thing, because she was doing what she needed to do to be true to herself, it’s just that I couldn’t agree with many of her decisions nor could I really believe that her actions came to be seen almost as everyone’s saving grace. I think this would be a fantastic book to recommend to my bookclub because I can already picture the discussion we would have on it. I can see it being passionate and lengthy and people debate the character and actions of not only Jade but also Banjo. Sometimes I recommend a book to someone saying, “read this, I think you’ll love it”. But with this one I’d say “read this, it will challenge you and I’d love to hear your thoughts”.

My final verdict?

8/10

Book #118 of 2014

AWWW2014

Being Jade is the 42nd book read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

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Author Guest Post: Kate Belle

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Today I’d like to welcome Australian author Kate Belle to the blog. Kate’s first book, The Yearning was released to much critical acclaim last year and her second novel, Being Jade is out this month from Simon & Schuster. You can read my review of The Yearning here and check back later today for my thoughts on Being Jade.

Today Kate is talking about star ratings….and why she’s no longer doing them. Over to you, Kate!

The fault with our stars

Like the very lovely Bree, I love reading and reviewing books. And, like most people, I have followed – or tried to – the notorious star rating system adopted by Goodreads, Amazon and everyone else. Comparing, judging, assessing and rating everything in stars is par for the course these days -from books to accommodation to a giant packet of gummi bears (you MUST click on the link and read the reviews – pure GOLD). But recently I’ve been rethinking the wisdom of jumping on the bandwagon of this star rating system and here’s why.

In March I read Natasha Walker’s Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings. I knew the true identity of the author (John Purcell in case you’ve been meditating in a cave somewhere) and was due to share the stage with him and others on a Sex in Words panel at The Wheeler Centre in early April of this year. I had been keen to read this erotic book and the panel and a long weekend gave me the impetus to do it.

Being the control freak I am, I began internally rating as soon as I started reading, swinging from a measly 2 stars when the main character Emma didn’t please me, through to a mighty 5 stars when John put a blow torch to the sexual tension. But when I’d finished the book I was conflicted. My feelings about it were so mixed I couldn’t decide how to rate it

So I took the lame option and shot it with a 3.5 stars – a middle of the road judgement. But I never felt comfortable about it, because a handful of stars didn’t accurately reflect the complexity of my response to the book.

After I published the review I sat on the panel and listened to John speak about his character, Emma, and how so few people understood what she was about. It dawned on me I’d missed the point of Emma entirely. With new insight, I suddenly saw the book in a new way and realised I’d fallen smack bang into predictable social judgements in my assessment.

It’s not news that reading is completely subjective. Our view of a book will vary wildly according to mood, stress, age, experience, context, to time available to read, educational background, personal values and beliefs, culture, the book we last read, what our manager/partner/relative just said to us and so many other variables. There are books I would have rated 5 stars twenty years ago I’d only give 1 to today, because views about life  have changed over time. Those stars I felt compelled to allocate to Secret Lives of Emma, and any other book I’d read for that matter, were a poor facsimile of my ever evolving response to my reading experience.

Star rating as a system is inherently flawed. Individual interpretations of what 5 stars means is as varied as a Kardashian’s shoe collection. I’ve read rave reviews with 2 star ratings and complete sledgings with 4 star ratings. It is wide open to misuse, misunderstanding and manipulation. I’ve heard about the unscrupulous readers who go around rating books based on their blurbs or covers, without even bothering to read a single page, while others automatically give certain authors low or high star ratings because they simply do/don’t like them.

In creating the star rating system we have now fallen victim to it. We all know it is hellishly inconsistent and routinely manipulated and abused, yet we feel compelled to continue to use it, to quantify and simplify our reading experience into a handful of cute, pointy yellow images.

The truth is most books, especially good or challenging ones, are far too complex to reduce down to a single, simplistic star rating. So I’ve made a decision.

I’m starting a small rebellion. I will continue review books, but I am no longer going to let myself get pulled into the star rating thing. Instead I am going to focus on thoughtful and honest reviews. I’m going to use words (those precious, precious things) to capture the breadth and depth of my reading experience, and leave readers to make their own assessment, as they should.

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Visit Kate at her website
Follow her on twitter
Being Jade at Simon & Schuster

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On Reading Slumps & Burnout

So I haven’t read a book in nearly a week.

For me, that’s pretty unheard of. I have read, or tried to read, nearly every day even if just for a half an hour, for the last couple of years. But the last month or so, my interest in reading has been waning a little bit. Most of the time I was having to force myself to pick up a book, or pick up my kindle and sit down and actually read something. There’s been a few exceptions – some books have arrived that I’ve been excited about and I’ve read them there and then, not waiting. So that tells me that I still have some enthusiasm for reading.

Just not a lot right now.

The last reading slump I had was after my oldest son was born. I hardly read anything until he was nearly a year old, when I originally started this blog. That was five years ago next month and since then I’ve reviewed probably close to 1000 books on here! I don’t know the exact number, maybe that’s something I should look at calculating one day. The problem is probably partially my fault – last year I read over 300 books, pretty easily so I thought I would challenge myself to do the same this year. However it didn’t take long for me to realise that while that might be okay without actively trying, attempting to keep up the pace to get to that total is pretty draining. The numbers sat there on my Goodreads challenge, kind of mocking me. Look, you’re falling behind! they said, every single time a day went by and I didn’t pick up a book. And I found that all the time I was saying to myself, go and read a book, you have to read a book, quick, read a damned book.

And in the end, I would simply refuse to read a book and pretend I couldn’t see my challenge number.

So a couple of days ago, I revised it back and immediately felt better. In fact I might revise it back even further, because the past five days I’ve barely thought about books and I’ve found myself enjoying my little holiday from reading. I read to relax normally and to enjoy myself and reading had become well, a bit of a chore. There was just a list of books I had to read at some stage to review and I would choose the slimmest book simply to get it out of the way so that I could move onto the next one. It wasn’t that I wasn’t enjoying the books themselves – in fact I’ve read some fantastic books recently and have awarded 3 5-star reviews which will be 9/10 on the blog. So the quality of books is still there. It’s just the process of sitting down to read them that was wigging me out. The process of trying to choose what to read next. I would stare at my shelves blankly until I got bored and then go and find something else to do.

And so I need to do a few things to get back to desire to read again, and love of sitting down and picking up a book. I’ve already obviously scaled my output back because I haven’t been reading so from now on I’m going to aim for just three reviews a week, probably Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I might take up a meme again or I might try and post something once a week that isn’t really book or reading related. I’m also going to wipe out anything off my TBR pile that didn’t arrive in the last week or two because the pile is stressing me out just by being there. I may get to them at some later stage, but right now I need to have a blank shelf. I remember the days when I used to read chunky books – in fact, the bigger the book, the better it was for me. More pages equaled more value for money. I honestly haven’t read a chunkster for a long time. So I’m going to find myself a nice fat book and sit down and read it – don’t care if it takes me a month! I’m going to find something I want to read, something that has been sitting on my shelf for ages and was being ignored because fat books took too long to read. I’m going to re-read a favourite book or two. And I’m going to have days where I don’t read…and don’t care that I’m not reading.

I suppose reading slumps and/or burnouts happen to a lot of bloggers and prolific readers. I’m curious – if anyone reading this has experienced this or something like it, what did you do to get over it? Did you wait it out or implement things that you thought would help and if so….did it work?

 

 

 

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The Miles Franklin Longlist 2013

Miles FranklinThe 2013 Miles Franklin Award Longlist was announced on twitter this morning and I have to say, that was a pretty fun way to find out each book. I don’t usually do posts announcing long/shortlists because you can find them in a zillion other places but I thought I might with this one and try and incorporate it into some of my challenges.

Floundering

Lola Bensky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Floundering, by Romy Ash (Text Publishing). I actually have this one checked out from my local library at the moment as I had planned to read it after its inclusion in the longlist for the Stella Prize.

2. Lola Bensky, by Lily Brett (Penguin AU). The only book from the longlist that I’ve already read, I reviewed this for the publisher last year. I have read Lily Brett before and I enjoy her books a lot. It’s a very accessible title, it will appeal to a broad range of people, especially those who like 60’s music.

Street To Street

Questions Of Travel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Street To Street, by Brian Castro (Giramondo). I haven’t heard of this title (I’m going to show my ignorance here and admit that there are 3 titles on this list that I haven’t even heard of) and it’s one of only two titles on the longlist by a male author.

4. Questions Of Travel, by Michelle De Kretser (Allen & Unwin). I also have this one checked out from my local library as it was included in the Stella longlist (and recently announced shortlist). I’m looking to read it for my Australian Women Writers Challenge as it seems to fit nicely into diversity which is a category I often struggle to fulfill.

BelovedDaughter Of Mars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. The Beloved, by Annah Faulkner (Picador). Annah Faulkner was the winner of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for an Emerging Writer and this is her debut novel. It’s set in Port Moresby in the 1950s.

6. The Daughters Of Mars, by Tom Keneally (Vintage). The only other male on the list is Tom Keneally, who really needs no introduction. The only novel of his that I’ve read is Schindler’s Ark many years ago (which was the basis of the movie Schindler’s List) so I’d definitely be interested in reading this one. It would count towards my Aussie Authors Challenge where I’m trying to challenge myself to read more books by Australian male authors. 

Mountain

Light Between Oceans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. The Mountain, by Drusilla Modjeska (Vintage). I had this on my TBR last year but never got around to reading it. It’s set in Papua New Guinea in the 1960’s and I am always interested in finding new settings to read in books. I might have to try and find time to fit this one in. My husband owns another Modjeska book that he really enjoyed and I nearly bought him this one for his birthday. Maybe this year!

8. The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman (Doubleday). This book was all the rage last year and I was quite keen to read it too, especially after I saw it featured on the First Tuesday Book Club.

MateshipRed Dirt Talking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Mateship With Birds, by Carrie Tiffany (Picador). This is the only novel I actually own from the list but I haven’t read it yet although I’d already earmarked it for ‘soon’ after its inclusion in the longlist and then shortlist of the Stella Prize. My husband has read it and enjoyed it immensely and he’s a big fan of Tiffany’s earlier novel as well.

10. Red Dirt Talking, by Jacqueline Wright (Fremantle Press). This is one of the other novels that I haven’t heard of but it’s set in outback Australia and centers around the disappearance of a young girl in the middle of a custody battle. It sounds like something I would really love so it’s going straight on the TBR list as well.

To be honest, I’m surprised at the list containing 8 titles by women and 2 by men. I remember that there was a lot of talk in recent years (prior to Anna Funder’s win for All That I Am last year) about how the prize was ignoring women. Was it really? Or was the strength just with male-authored books those years as it seems to be with female-authored books this year? Last year three of the five shortlisted titles were by women and both of the longlisted titles by men would have to make the shortlist to have that ratio this year. However things go, the shortlist will be dominated by women yet again. It’s possible that the very creation of the Stella Prize and the push for more women-authored books to be reviewed and talked about has paid off, because obviously the list is very heavily female based. Or it could just be that it’s a cyclical thing, I’m not sure. I do think that it raises an interesting question – is it better to have a strong gender bias one way or another if that’s the best list that can be put together, or is it important to have equality?

Overall I think the list is relatively well-rounded – there are accessible titles there for many casual readers, such as the very popular The Light Between Oceans and The Daughters of Mars, by Tom Keneally, a name almost everyone would be familiar with. Ideally I always like to pick a few titles from literature longlists or shortlists to read when they’re announced but my trouble is always finding the time for new books! The best intentions, often with the worst execution! However, these are my tentative inclusions:

Questions Of Travel, by Michelle De Kretser (crosses over to the Stella)
The Daughters Of Mars, by Tom Keneally
Mateship With Birds, by Carrie Tiffany (also crosses over to the Stella)
Red Dirt Talking, by Jacqueline Wright.

If I can, I’d also like to try The Mountain, by Drusilla Modjeska and The Light Between Oceans, by M.L Stedman.

This year on the Miles Franklin website, they are running the Miles Of Reading Challenge, where they are asking readers across the country to support Australian literature by reading at least one title from the list. You can review the longlisted books in the discussion forums and have a chance to win some prizes… you can see more about that here.

Anyone else have any thoughts on the list? Have you read any and do you have any recommendations?

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