Fox on Books

Book reviews, opinions, musings and ramblings. General bookish excitement!

Archive for the category “Australian”

Short Stories, or, Review-Palooza!

It’s become clear that I read a lot of books. This year, I’m (still!) averaging one book every three days, across all sorts of formats, including manuscript, eBook, audio book and, of course, my true love, the paper book.

In order to keep them fresh in my mind, and to deliver opinions about them in a somewhat timely manner, I’m going to do bite-sized reviews of a recent selection.

Come along, then:

fathers eggersYour Fathers, Where Are they? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? – by Dave Eggers

My second Dave Eggers, this was so intriguing! And whew, what a title. Written entirely in dialogue, Your Fathers is an exploration of America, a comment on a generation, and also a look at one really disturbed guy, spiraling into self destructive criminal madness. Very weird. Very cool.

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daughtersmokeDaughter of Smoke and Bone – by Laini Taylor

Karou’s never been exactly normal. How could she be, raised by Chimeras? She’s always been kept at arms length by those who raised her, but there’s more to Karou’s background – and her future – than she could ever have imagined. And not all of it is good. Even though it suffered from a little bit of too-many-recommendations-itis, this book and its sequel Days of Blood and Starlight left me reeling. Also, Laini Taylor exploded her own world twice in two books! I can’t wait to see what on earth the third book brings.

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unwindUnwind – by Neal Shusterman

In this future society, abortion is illegal. But before a child turns 18 they can instead be ‘unwound’. Every part of their body is used by someone else, so they’re not truly dead. Here, life is at once sacred and cheap. What a cool, freaky concept. And this book delivers – sometimes. It’s not as gripping as I wanted it to be, given the solidity of the premise, but it’ll keep you up at night reliving the brutal unwinding process. *shudder*

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TheFeelGoodHitOfTheYear C CVR SI.inddThe Feel-Good Hit of the Year – by Liam Pieper

I’m not that interested in memoirs unless you’re Stephen Fry (sorry, everyone else). But I absolutely raced through Liam Pieper’s accounts of misspent youth, from his birth in a sort-of hippy commune in the Melbourne suburbs to becoming an accidental teenage drug dealer, to figuring out that life’s more profitable when you’re a little less criminal. (Only a little…)

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So, whatcha been reading lately?

Short Stories, or, Review-Palooza!

It’s become clear that I read a lot of books. This year, I’m averaging one book every three days, across all sorts of formats, including manuscript, eBook, audio book and, of course, my true love, the paper book.

In order to keep them fresh in my mind, and to deliver opinions about them in a somewhat timely manner, I’m going to do bite-sized reviews of a recent selection.

Dear reader, dive in:

What Came Before – by Anna George

whatcamebeforeOof. This was a hard read. Following the spiral of a gradually abusive relationship, What Came Before challenges us to look at what we expect – and what we’ll accept – from those we love. Ambitious and confronting, it’s not for everyone, but is a particularly powerful novel.

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Looking for Alaska – by John Green
lookingforalaskaUK.indd
John Green’s first novel has all the hallmarks of his later work. Teens who act like teens (bright, loyal, apathetic and often a wee bit pretentious), a simple narrative that allows the beauty and poignancy of his prose to shine, and a quietly wrenching third act make this a must read for older teens and fans of this brand of honest, contemporary YA. (Also, have you read The Fault in Our Stars yet? If not, what are you even doing with your life??)

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Words of Radiance – by Brandon Sanderson

wordsofradianceThe Way of Kings (Parts One and Two) and their sequel The Words of Radiance are perfect examples of high fantasy with truly epic scope and huge payoffs. If you’re a fantasy reader, you’d be foolish to go past Brandon Sanderson. He and Patrick Rothfuss are the best current fantasy writers around. I’m repeating myself and I don’t care: Brandon Sanderson is the real deal. He is astonishing, and if you haven’t read him, you’re missing out.

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Wool and Dust – both by Hugh Howey

dusthoweywoolhowey

I’m a little late on this bandwagon but Wool and its sequel Dust are something you definitely want to experience. Howey’s exploration of a possible future after the world has been destroyed by nuclear warfare is sophisticated, claustrophobic and nail-bitingly tense. It’s the kind of sci-fi you’ll rant excitedly about in turn. I listened to these as audio books, and the SECOND I finished Wool I had to find out what happened next. four fox

Have you read any of these? I’ve covered a range of genres – what’s your pick of the above?

Top Ten Books I Thought I’d Like More (Or Less) Than I Did

top ten

Hosted by the awesome folks as The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme celebrating all things book.

Today we’re looking for books you really wanted to love – but didn’t. And books you expected to loathe – but didn’t. These are the top ten books I though I’d like more (or less) than I did.

bronte

Because no. I read Wuthering Heights thinking “Really? THIS is a classic romance??” Huge let down given how widely this gothic novel is worshiped.

Vampire Academy

I know this keeps coming up on my lists! But really. Given the cover and the slew of vampire fiction available when VAcademy was released, I grabbed it as another waste-of-a-couple-of-hours read. And since then I (evidently) can’t shut up about how fantastic the series and Richelle Mead in general are. (PS – keep an eye out for my review of Gameboard of the Gods. This book is gonna be BIG. Because it’s amazing.)

next doorI have nothing against My Life Next Door – it was a perfectly nice coming of age YA romance. But that’s all. It didn’t stand out at all for me. And with the hype I’d been hearing about it, I really expected it to.

Rosie

On the other hand, The Rosie Project seemed like a silly romantic-comedy-in-a-book. But it was so much more! Smart, funny and a gorgeous read.

glass

Ugh. I was deeply unimpressed by Throne of Glass – and I realise I’m in the minority here. Caelena didn’t grab me at all, and the plot was confused by too many angles. I don’t get the hype.

peculiar

Whereas The Peculiar, a steampunk faerie novel set in 1920s London, was SO GOOD. I couldn’t have anticipated how much I’d love this unassuming story. Read it read it read it!

Uninvited

Yeah. I liked this crime novel a lot – until it devolved into a mystic, paranormal thriller halfway through with no warning. Pick your market.

revolution

Holy up-until-3am read, Batman! This book is the definition of an addictive read. I completely drowned out the voice that tells you to go to sleep in favour of finishing Revolution as fast as possible. An engrossing story, and beautifully written.

thief

Look, The Book Thief was okay. It was good, even. But it’s never been one of those books that changed everything for me, and it is to so many other people I’ve talked to.

promise

You know what? If you’re looking for an intelligent, creepy, taut crime novel, don’t be as surprised as I was when you have a ball with Promise. It’s the best crime I read in 2012. (And the sequel’s no slouch, either!)

Friends, readers, tell me, share with me those books that let you down, or the ones that yanked you up with a WOAH!

Top Ten Characters (and Literary Figures) That I’d Name My Children After

top ten

Hosted by the awesome folks as The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme celebrating all things book.

This week, it’s all about great characters with great names. Names that you like enough to potentially inflict on your children. These are the top ten characters/literary peeps that I’d theoretically name my kids after:

Let me preface this by saying I met a guy called Oberon the other day. Hem. And that’s not what I’m looking to inflict on my theoretical children. (Mostly…)

finalempire

I don’t think I could call my daughter Vin. But I love the name Elend for a boy. Although, again, probably not Kelsier for a boy. Also, have you read the Mistborn series yet? If you love high fantasy with strong characters, a plot that just keeps escalating when you don’t believe it can, and hands-down the best magic system I’ve ever seen – what are you waiting for?! SO GOOD.

Sabriel

I’ve always wanted to call a kid Sabriel. Or maybe Lirael? They’re just lovely names! And the fact that this is a less well-known series means not too many people would get the connection, and I’d just be really cool. Right?!

Crown2

In a series the size of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time there are going to be a fair few character names to choose from. For my part, I’d be happy with a girl called Egwene or Nynaeve, or even Moiraine (I actually love Moiraine!) But not so impressed with a boy called Rand. Or Perrin. Or even Lan – way too easy to tease people called Rand or Lan!

scent

Avry is an excellent name! For an AMAZING character. And I’d love it – for a girl or a boy. I also think Loren and Quain are awesomesauce names. But I don’t think I could inflict them on a child. Maybe Quain for a girl if I was a little mean…

hunger

Not so much for the Katniss factor. Everybody’s gonna have a Katniss, like all these small humans running around called Hermione. But I think Gale makes a fine boy’s name.

CityofBones

I just like the name Clary – it’s actually a normal name, especially compared to the others on this list, which makes sense as City of Bones is modern urban fantasy. (Make that, kick-ass modern urban fantasy!) Also Jace. Because Jace.

P&P

Again, Austen names are classic (see, I said this list wasn’t going to be all about inflicting childhood scars!). I’d love a Jane, or an Elizabeth, or an Anne – with the ‘e’ at the end. I insist! And I’m back and forth on whether a boy called Darcy is a bit cute or a bit awful – or a bit both…

gameboard

I’m reading the (freaking awesome) Gameboard of the Gods at the moment, and the Praetorian female protagonist, Mae, is just fantastic. Also Mae is a family name, so I could totally get away with that for real! The male lead, Justin, is pretty messed up and great too…

One Day

Because Dexter is a great name for a boy. Dammit, that’s a normal and boring reason. If it helps, I’d be reluctant to do this because of the TV show Dexter. Just a little too creepy for me…

Name of the Wind

Oh, well. Not really, I guess… But I TOTALLY want a kid called Kvothe because Kvothe and The Name of the Wind are both made of awesome and I’d like to think that’d rub off on the child lucky enough to bear his name. A girl called Kvothe might just work, don’t you think??

What names would you like to inflict on give to your future kids? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Top Ten Favorite Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger

top ten

Hosted by the awesome folks as The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme celebrating all things book. This week we’re looking back to those books that started it all. The books you loved long before you could go online to rave about them. The ones you had to rant about in person to your poor (lucky!) friends because they made you the book-obsessed person you are today. Here are the Top Ten books I loved before I was a blogger:

Five

I get that there are problematic themes in Blyton’s work. But to me, Enid Blyton is the crux of my childhood. I can’t count the number of times I read The Famous Five series, The Secret Seven, The Adventurous Four, the Naughtiest Girl and so on. They are classic, wonderful, uncomplicated stories that enriched my young life.

Obernewtyn

Obernewtyn was a series I started reading when I was about thirteen, and I’ve read them a few times since then. Post-apocalyptic before it was cool, Obernewtyn tells the story of a young Misfit girl, Elspeth, who’s been born with powers that she doesn’t understand. Hidden away and mistreated by the authorities, Elspeth learns to fight back. The series isn’t finished yet (!!) but the last book is on its way…

alibrandi

Melina Marchetta was cool WAY before the amazingness that is The Lumatere Chronicles. Meeting the insane, loveable, loyal Italian-Australian family at the centre of Looking For Alibrandi is a must. I studied it in high school and EVEN SO I loved it.

tomorrow

Tomorrow, When the War Began was the Hunger Games of my generation. By which I mean it was the dangerous book we read that our parents worried was too violent for us. Ellie and her friends have ‘gone bush’ for the weekend and by the time they come home there’s a war on, and all their parents are prisoners. What do you do when your home: everything and everyone you love, is threatened? You fight back.

HalfBloodPrince

I’m picking this as my favourite Harry Potter, but I love them as a whole series and a whole experience. I think this generation all grew up with Harry, and while I didn’t need him to rekindle my love of reading, J K Rowling absolutely enhanced my teen experience with Harry’s amazing story.

LotR

Because Tolkien, that’s why. The Lord of the Rings is a brick of a book, a phenomenally imagined world packed with rich, archetypal characters that make it one of the best fantasy novels ever. (“After all this time?” “Always.”) I discovered it as a fifteen year old just venturing into the realm of fantasy reading, and it was love at first read.

Sisyphus

Albert Camus’ philosophy, particularly The Myth of Sisyphus, is fascinating. I love thinking about thinking, about  why things are the way they are, and how they came to be thought of that way. I love the ideas Camus posits in his essays – and I’m not going to go into them here because I’d rather you let his ideas speak to you directly. He does them justice; I can’t!

MoabHow wonderful is Stephen Fry? Whether it’s his accent, his lovely, slightly hoity-toity mannerisms, or the awesomeness that is his show, QI, there’s a lot to love. The most striking element of Moab Is My Washpot, one of Fry’s two autobiographies, is how brutal Fry is with himself. Not just brutally honest: actually almost cruel. I don’t think he has ever felt like a success. And he seems at best bemused by, at worst flummoxed by his popularity. I have such a soft spot for people who are so much more than they believe themselves to be.

anne

Anne Shirley. Who didn’t love the redheaded bundle of energy at the centre of Anne of Green Gables? Growing up, Anne was someone I revisited on more than one occasion. Recently I bought the whole series so I could get my nostalgia on. And I’ll definitely get around to reading them. Soon.

Bridget

I don’t trust people who don’t like Bridget Jones, as a general rule. This ridiculous, manic, endearing, so-very-relatable woman is one of my favourite book people. I hated her obsession with self help books (SO MUCH). I loved her social ineptitude. I despaired for her ability to be happy. I adored her relationship with Mr Darcy Mark Darcy. She’s the best kind of main character.

I’d love to hear about the books you loved before you blogged! Link for me, my pretties, in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books I Recommend The Most

top ten

Hosted by the awesome folks at The Broke and the Bookish, Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme celebrating all things book.

This week, they’re asking what ten books you recommend the most. I LOVE this question! I recommend books all the time – it’s the best part of my job. We often get customers looking for their next book, or trying to find a present for someone. I have to be able to recommend books over a range of genres, and it’s a fabulous opportunity to share books I love with others, passing on the obsession. These are my go-to recommends:

peculiar

The Peculiar is my top pick for 10-15 year olds who enjoy fantasy, both boys and girls. It’s a steampunk faerie tale, and has some of the most glorious language I’ve ever seen, let alone in YA. Absolutely wonderful book.

promise

Promise was the debut crime novel of a former Australian crime reporter, Tony Cavanaugh. Smart, creepy, exciting crime set in Queensland that was good enough to distract me from the real world all day when I couldn’t quite finish it in time before having to go back to work. (The sequel’s stellar, too!)

finalempireBrandon Sanderson is amazing. His magic system in Mistborn is probably the best, most well-established that I’ve come across. And the scope of his storylines is beyond ambitious. The trilogy is complete and infinitely satisfying – this book and this series is a sure thing.

(Actually, I’ll recommend either Mistborn or The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss interchangeably as my never-fail fantasy series. At work we’ll usually have run out of one or the other because I so regularly sell them through, so whichever’s there that day gets my plug!)

This is the old-school cover, the one I have!

I see your Caelena from Throne of Glass and raise you Yelena, from Maria V Snyder’s exceptional YA Fantasy series. She’s one of the original badass heroines, kicking butt and taking names before it was a big deal that she was a woman. This series is phenomenal for YA fantasy fans of all ages, and I keep passing the obsession on.

Rosie

A new favourite, this is one I recommend to customers who like contemporary romance/chick lit but want something a little smarter and more memorable than average. The Rosie Project fits the bill and then some. There are no clichés here, and this book was such a great experience.

stars

Do I even need to explain this one? I recommend it to teens (usually 14+, given the tragic nature of the story) and make a point of telling their parents to read it too. I’ve never come across anyone who hasn’t been deeply affected by how insightful, honest, painful and simply beautiful this one of a kind book is. John Green has delivered an absolute masterpiece with The Fault In Our Stars.

watermelon

Marian Keyes is chick-lit with heart. For women (hey, not stereotyping, just basing it on who I sell this to) who want drama, heartache and for everything to be mostly okay at the end, no-one fits better than Marian. Her grasp of the complexity of human emotions make her novels stand out.

woman

Not only do I recommend this all the time, I’ve bought about five copies for family and friends. Caitlin Moran is hilarious (think Kaz Cooke, Australians!), but also intelligently articulates truths about life as a woman that we don’t necessarily pay enough attention to. The perfect gift for your best friend, or a woman you don’t know all that well but need to find something for. Clever, sarcastic, sassy, and insightful.

wolf

A memoir I recommend to customers looking for something a little different. Scott Johnson‘s dad was a spy, working for the CIA through the Cold War. How this affected Scott, and his relationship with his Dad makes for compelling reading. Added to this, Johnson’s journalistic background is evident – his writing is evocative and often unexpectedly gorgeous.

SabrielNew

I have to have Garth Nix in here! Whenever possible, I’ll introduce someone to my favourite author. Nix’s work is just as good for teens as adults, and I’ve read the Old Kingdom trilogy, starting with Sabriel, more than a few times. Nix’s world-building, characters and inventive magic systems make this a Fantasy/YA Fantasy crossover series that stands the test of time. Unmissable. (Also, I couldn’t be more excited about the forthcoming – 2014 – release of Clariel, the fourth book set in this universe!)

Who are your go-to authors to recommend? I’d love to know what you think of my old reliables!

Dead Girl Sing – by Tony Cavanaugh

dead girl singTony Cavanaugh’s first novel, Promise, came out in early 2012. I’ve been recommending it steadily ever since I devoured it over a 48-hour period. Dark, creepy and very well written, exactly what a good crime novel should be. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to read the follow up:

Darian Richards is no hero. He’s not even a cop any more – he retired a couple of years ago, left the nightmares behind for the serenity of a far North Queensland river view. Well. He’s mostly retired. Last year he caught a killer who needed to be stopped, because no one else could. When one of the girls who got away calls Darian, months later, in tears, saying “Only you can help,” he means to ignore it. He really does. But old habits apparently die hard. If Ida’s in trouble and he can fix it, he’s got to try.

Taut, atmospheric and with exactly the right kind of darkness, Dead Girl Sing was an impressive follow up novel for Cavanaugh. There’ll Be No Rest For These Tired Eyes:

International Women’s Day

At work yesterday we hosted an Amnesty International event in honour of International Women’s Day, celebrating the progress of women’s rights and recognising just how far there still is to go. This got me thinking about a couple of things: such as Will Schwalbe’s gorgeous book about the last few years he had with his mother, Mary Anne Schwalbe. Mary Anne was instrumental in founding the Womens’s Refugee Commission, and their website describes her as “an eloquent, devoted and tireless advocate for women, children and adolescents affected by war and persecution. She visited refugees in settings around the globe, including in Afghanistan, Liberia, Sudan and Thailand, touching the lives of all she met.”

These women have to fight so hard – and so carefully – for basic rights like the freedom to marry (or not marry) whomever they choose, or an education, or the opportunity to have a vote. People like Mary Anne Schwalbe and Amnesty are, thankfully, just some of those helping to have these women’s voices heard.

International Women’s Day is also a good chance to remember that closer to home there are still so many problems in terms of women’s rights. As Caitlin Moran puts it in her book How To Be A Woman, “There’s never been a better time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727.” I’ve never felt like I’m disadvantaged as a woman growing up in Australia.

Nevertheless, some people’s view of women doesn’t seem to have progressed with the rest of society. I’m thinking specifically, here, of Tony Abbott, the leader of the Opposition in Australian federal politics. Not long ago, current Prime Minister Julia Gillard (yes, a woman) had this to say to Abbott in Parliament, in response to his many, many remarks about the role of women in our society:

The scariest thing about this, in my opinion, is not just that one of the most influential people in Australian politics has such blatantly sexist, misogynistic and abhorrently out-dated views of women. It’s that he is so unconcerned about how appalling this attitude us that he’s comfortable expressing it in public. And we’re letting him. A lot of people, men and women both, are going to vote for him. What does this say about our society?

It’s very likely that in the next Federal election this man will become Prime Minister of Australia. Look, see: how far we’ve come.

There is more to do. There is more to do in many areas, in Australia and the world over. But on International Women’s Day, I wanted to remind myself, as much as anyone else, that I might not be as equal as I feel. And how scary is that?

The Rosie Project – by Graeme Simsion

RosieThis came to me highly recommended by a friend in the publishing industry – it’s being tipped as a big hit, touted as “Intelligent and romantic, endearing and funny. A love story like no other.” The trick with love stories is, of course, making one stand out from the crowd, reading something you’ve not read many variations of before. The Rosie Project promised that: but could it deliver?

Don Tillman accepted long ago that he’s different. He has a detailed schedule that allows him to make the most not only of his time at work as a professor of genetics, but also his home life. Don has lobster for dinner each Tuesday and has never used his balcony. He is frequently frustrated by his friends making demands on his time with little notice, disrupting his schedule, and has never been on a second date.

Looking at his options, Don decides that the best way to find himself a partner is to design and administer a questionnaire to any potential dates, that will disqualify unsuitable women. For example: smokers, drinkers and anyone prone to arriving late are immediately out of the running. Gene and his wife Claudia, Don’s only two friends, are wary of Don’s plan but willing to help. Gene sends Rosie to see Don, and after a disastrous date (really, what was Gene thinking?) Don dismisses Rosie from his mind. Or tries to, at least. When You Walk On By/Will You Call My Name?

Be Careful What You Wish For – by Gemma Crisp

carefulThis book is the first by the former editor of Cleo and Dolly magazines. It proudly declares that “If you liked The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll love this.” I did enjoy Prada, and I also really enjoy a good chick lit read, so I dove in. Here’s what I thought:

Nina Morey doesn’t love hospitality. As much fun as it is catering for the every whim of rich, entitled guests at one of London’s most exclusive hotels, she’s had about enough. Figuring out what she does love to do is the hard part – but when Nina spies an opportunity to intern at a fashion magazine, she jumps at the chance. Soon, she’s racing through the ranks of glossy mags in London and then in Sydney, juggling deadlines, professional frenemies, potential boyfriends and nightmarish hours as she tries to live the age old adage of the working woman who has it all. When She Was Just A Girl/She Expected the World:

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