28 July 2011

Review: The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright book coverThe Forgotten Waltz is a contemporary love story set in 2009 in Dublin. It's also a story of adultery told from the perspective of the 'other' woman, who is also married.

This isn't a novel I would ordinarily choose to read, but I was lucky enough to win it in a competition and I think it's good to venture outside my preferred reading circles from time to time.

The author writes in the first person through Gina, and it is her experiences we are are sharing. The timeline is loosely structured as her thoughts and memories are interwoven throughout the chapters.

My favourite part of the book is when Sean, the married man Gina is having an affair with, tells her:

"You should never do this with someone - you should never expose yourself to someone like this - unless they have a lot to lose."

Both the arrogance and the truth of this statement immediately slapped me in the face. Both Sean and Gina were married, and so both had a lot to lose if their love affair was discovered. However, if one were single and pressured the other to leave their wife/husband, they could wield a lot of power if the other refused.

I enjoyed Enright's observations on relationships between lovers, siblings, parents and children and her ability to tease out and expose the insecurities, vulnerabilities and the tender spots we try to shield from others. Having said all of that, it's probably not the kind of book I would actively seek out in the future, but don't mind reading from time to time.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
26 July 2011

Review: Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

Brisingr is the third novel in the Inheritance Cycle of books by Christopher Paolini. Regular readers of my blog will know that I was an instant fan when I read the first in the series, Eragon, and gave it 5 stars without hesitation.

I was still on an adventure high in Alagaesia while reading Eldest and also gave it 5 stars, but somehow Brisingr didn't have the same grip on me as the previous two in the series.

The author maintained his engaging writing style and the plot was filled with action, adventure, danger, bloodshed and magic.

Eragon learns the truth about his parentage - which I didn't see coming - and improves his skill and knowledge on the run, all the while feeling the weight and tug of responsibility The Varden place on him and his Dragon, Saphira.

In contrast to other book series, fans have an idea what's going to take place in the next book, we just don't know how it's all going to play out. Unfortunately though, we're going to have to wait a few months for the privilege.

Inheritance is the last book in the series and will be released in November 2011; great timing for Christmas gift ideas.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
22 July 2011

Gothic Reading Challenge

I've just signed up for the 2011 Gothic Reading Challenge being hosted over at www.gothicreadingchallenge.blogspot.com and I'm pretty excited about it.

They've provided a list of gothic books to choose from and if you've never been quite sure what makes a book gothic, they've provided a list of criteria that will leave you in no doubt. It left me inspired to pick up a spooky read and snuggle in for the weekend.

I know I'm coming in halfway through the challenge, but I've already read one according to the criteria, so I'm on my way. Anyone want to join me? 

#1 The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
#2 The Observations by Jane Harris
#3 The Small Hand by Susan Hill
#4 The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill

That's my four bucks!
19 July 2011

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder book coverPoison Study is the first in the Study Series by Maria V. Snyder and is set in a medieval fantasy world where the sword is the weapon of the day, cloaks are 'in', and magic is possible.

Sentenced to death for a murder she doesn't deny (which is refreshing), Yelena is awaiting her fate in a filthy prison cell in Ixia, when the unexpected happens; she is offered a last minute reprieve.

Offered the role of the Commander's food taster or the noose - the previous food taster died - Yelena chooses the role of food taster and immediately commences her study of poisons under her new Supervisor and Chief of Security, Valek.

I've always been fascinated by the role of the food taster in both history and fiction but I don't think my curiosity was sated reading this book. Yelena was a refreshing character, however; I would have liked to have spent more time on poisons.

Overall, Poison Study was a good YA read.

My rating = ***

Carpe Librum!
07 July 2011

Interview with Claire Corbett, author of When We Have Wings

Having just read and reviewed When We Have Wings, the debut novel by Australian author Claire Corbett (pictured right), she was kind enough to take time out from writing her next novel to answer a few questions from her home in the Blue Mountains.

What inspired you to write When We Have Wings?My dreams of flying when I was a child; they were so powerful and it seemed as if I knew what it felt like to fly. Then I realised that most people have flying dreams and I thought about this universal longing to feel what it's like to fly.

You seem to have such an amazing passion for flying, when did this start, and can you tell us more about it?
I always loved flying as a child; the power of airplanes impressed me, in the way I think children used to be obsessed with the power of trains. But the real wellspring was watching the eagles and hawks where I lived in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Seeing such majestic birds soaring above you is unforgettable. I so wanted to be one of them.

Did you need to do any research about flight or weather conditions during the writing process?
Yes. I did a huge amount of research, over years, in books and online. I researched birds, flying, cloud formations, weather, physics, slums (for the geography of the City), extreme sports, and even Soviet spacesuits and medals. I had to absorb the information so deeply that it flowed into the story naturally.

Where do you like to write and can you describe your working space?
I write in my study, which I share with my husband. It's long and narrow and crammed with books. And my son's piano.

Do you have a routine for writing, or any particular working habits you've developed?
Family life does not allow for as much of a routine as I'd like. I think most writers who are mothers get very disciplined about using whatever time they can snatch to write.

Are you an avid reader yourself? What books do you enjoy reading?
Yes. I doubt any writer could be anything other than an obsessive reader. I enjoy virtually any kind of book as long as it's well-written. I particularly love AS Byatt, Rohinton Mistry and Alice Munro. I love Iain M Banks' Culture novels. I really enjoy Malcolm Knox's writing and Helen Garner and Amanda Lohrey. Thomas Hardy is one of my favourite novelists and Emily Dickinson and Philip Larkin are my favourite poets. I love Helen Simpson's writing (English short story writer, author of Hey Yeah Right Get A Life - and isn't that a fabulous title?).

How do you feel about e-books and e-readers?
Hmm. I love my iPad and love the idea of fitting many more books into the house on it but don't enjoy novels on it all that much yet. I'm glad When We Have Wings made it into physical form; when you spend so much time writing on computer, the idea of your novel becoming an e-book isn't all that exciting. It doesn't feel like publication.

As an author, are you worried about the recent closure of bookshops?
Yes. I think the industry may end up a bit like the travel industry - probably the mass market shop fronts will go but more elegant stores with specialised knowledge may survive. Each bookstore will have to offer something unique. As every writer has to.

Do you have any events coming up?
Yes, I am looking forward to my book launch at the magnificent Victorian-era Carrington Hotel in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains on July 16th.

Do you feel comfortable in the fantasy genre, or are you looking to expand into other genres in the future?
To be honest, I do not regard When We Have Wings as a fantasy novel, as nothing happens in it that is magical or intended to contravene the laws of physics. Certainly it has science fiction or speculative fiction elements, as well as crossing into crime and literary fiction, so I would say I feel comfortable writing in many genres. I have completed four chapters of a young adult novel and am enjoying writing it so much.

Are you planning to write another novel, and if so are you able to tell us anything about it? Will it include fliers and non-fliers or was When We Have Wings a once-off?
I am working on a new novel which is set on and under the sea (not the YA novel mentioned above, which will have to wait, alas), which is all I can say at the moment. There are no fliers in it. Not yet, anyway. For the moment When We Have Wings stands alone but I'm not ruling anything out.

Thanks so much for your time Claire. You can watch the book trailer for When We Have Wings by clicking here. For more information, you can visit the author's website here www.clairecorbett.com Happy Reading!
03 July 2011

Review: When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett

When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett book cover* From the publisher for review *

This debut novel by Australian author Claire Corbett is a fantasy set in a future where humans can fly thanks to surgery, gene manipulation and an ongoing drug regime. But such a process is extremely expensive and therefore only available to the rich, thus dividing society into fliers and non-fliers.

From the first page of When We Have Wings I was immediately dropped into the action of story - where people can fly - without any character or story background at all. At first this was a shock and I found myself a little disoriented and struggling to piece together the constructs of this new world without any background or intro to the scenario. However; as the book continued, character background was filled in and the science behind creating human fliers was provided and I was hooked.

I was very interested in the differences between fliers and non-fliers and the multitude of societal and environmental dilemmas arising as a result. Corbett explored these extremely well in the novel, giving us plenty of food for thought without guiding us toward a particular point of view. It was a clever glimpse of an alternate future but also underscored many of the inequalities in the world today.

My favourite part of the book had nothing to do with flying funnily enough. It was a character insight and doesn't give any of the plot away, so I'll share it here. The main character realises why the parents don't love their baby:

"They never gave up anything, they never risked anything, and the less they did for him, the less they loved him. I thought it was the other way round, that they did nothing for him because they didn't love him."

This really made me want to stop reading and soak this in. So poignant and so true.

Finally, the author seemed to have such an amazing understanding and knowledge of flight that I was often left shaking my head in admiration of her writing and frowning in wonder - how did she do that? I was also impressed by her knowledge of clouds and cloud formations, weather patterns, air movements, and the science behind flight. If I didn't know any better, I'd say she was a flier herself!

I really enjoyed living in Corbett's cleverly created world - plants bio-engineered to glow in the dark at night eliminating the need for lights, buildings created for fliers, and especially the lion that was genetically engineered to grow to the size of a house cat. (Corbett's creativity reminded me of reading Harry Potter for the first time, and wanting to taste all of the different lollies J. K. Rowling had created). I'd love to witness and visit some of the sites in When We Have Wings, if only they were real.

A fabulous debut novel for Australian author Claire Corbett, and I'll be keeping an eye out for what she does next.

My rating = ****

Carpe Librum!