I enjoyed reading Tasmanian Devil: A Unique and Threatened Animal more than I enjoyed reading David Owen's Thylacine: The Tragic Tale of the Tasmania...moreI enjoyed reading Tasmanian Devil: A Unique and Threatened Animal more than I enjoyed reading David Owen's Thylacine: The Tragic Tale of the Tasmanian Tiger. I felt as though the writing style was a step up (possibly due to co-author David Pemberton?) and the story was less tragic. After reading this, I cannot take any reading that suggests the devil is anything but an adorable badass.
Owen and Pemberton trace the devil's origins and history within Australia, tackling not only how it came to extinction on the mainland and how it survived white settlement in Tasmania when the thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) didn't, but also discussing Looney Tunes' Taz and concluding with final chapter dedicated to the tragedy of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
Obviously, it's a great resource on the devil and does much to combat the devil's poor reputation. Plenty of personal stories about the devil allow its character to be glimpsed. Like I said: it's an adorable badass.
As with Owen's Thylacine, Tasmanian Devil: A Unique and Threatened Animal was published in the early 2000s and then reprinted in 2011, without revision. Some things have changed: a disease-free colony has been set up on Maria Island, but more things have stayed the same: the 1080 poison is still being used (at the ZooDoo wildlife park, we were told that they no longer brought roadkill in to feed their devils due to the risk of 1080 poisoning) and primary industry is the government's priority (the federal government plans to allow logging in Tasmania's World Heritage-listed Tarkine Forest).
Apart from the need for some updated information, Tasmanian Devil: A Unique and Threatened Animal is well-worth the read. It's perfect for someone like me who lacks the specialist knowledge. Everything is well-explained and written for a general audience. (less)
I really, really enjoyed this. I thought it was going to be something belonging in the light and frothy genre of chick-lit/romance fiction and instead...moreI really, really enjoyed this. I thought it was going to be something belonging in the light and frothy genre of chick-lit/romance fiction and instead it was this extraordinary beautiful, gentle read about Mary, an elderly woman moving out to Bruny Island to wait for her death, and Tom, her son, haunted by a one-time visit to Antarctica.
Karen Viggers has a clear skill in re-creating the atmosphere of those incredible locations. Bruny Island, an island off the south coast of Tasmania, is beautifully captured – at first I thought it was because I had been to Bruny fairly recently (in fact I bought this book at the Kettering visitors centre, waiting for the Bruny ferry), but Antarctica too is beautifully captured and I most definitely haven't been there.
The book is not without fault. The relationship between Mary and Leon, a park ranger co-opted into checking on her, moves a bit too quickly. One moment, he resents being saddled with Mary, but soon he's very fond of her. The resolution Leon reaches in the book feels almost-jarring in its suddenness – it's a bit too neat, a loose end tied up so we can finish the story without wondering if Leon will ever be free. Mary receives a mysterious letter in the prologue, obsesses about it at times (it even serves as the catalyst for her journey to Bruny), but Viggers doesn't drop any hints on what's it about before revealing its contents at the very end (to be fair, I had guessed what it would say).
That said, The Lightkeeper's Wife is a truly wonderful read by a truly wonderful author. It was far, far, far better than what I expected. (less)
I really, really don't want to review this because I'm pretty sure it would just be an embarrassing love letter to Cate Kennedy, begging her to keep w...moreI really, really don't want to review this because I'm pretty sure it would just be an embarrassing love letter to Cate Kennedy, begging her to keep writing because I am insanely in love with her short stories. (less)
Not far in, I wasn't too hopeful that I'd finish this book, much less enjoy it as much as I did. Anna Romer's writing style to me seemed a bit clunky...moreNot far in, I wasn't too hopeful that I'd finish this book, much less enjoy it as much as I did. Anna Romer's writing style to me seemed a bit clunky and amateurish. However, braving the early chapters that set up the location, I found the mystery at the heart of the tale that kept me rapt in the story and very forgiving of the occasional bit of clumsy writing.
The main appeal of the book was the mystery. It became swiftly apparent that Romer has an incredible skill in crafting a mystery (or mysteries) with enough twists and turns that kept me guessing and desperate to work out what was going on. The tension levels are raised until a truly satisfying ending, with only a few niggles for me.
(view spoiler)[Cleve's supposed death – he is shot, put in a car which is then sunk in a lake. Yet he somehow survives even though his wife and son never see him surfacing from the lake? And then somehow manages to survive for decades without anyone knowing? I also would have liked more information on whose body it was in the truck that everyone thought was Cleve's. (hide spoiler)] And then there's the fact that even though it's 2005, no one seems to have a mobile phone? At one point, someone makes a point about how there's no "cell" reception out in the bush... but no one seems to have one so why would they care about reception? If mobiles are the norm, why aren't they using them? And, for that matter, why are Australians calling mobiles cell phones? Is this a Queensland-only thing?
(okay that one's a bit petty)
And I really couldn't warm to Bronwyn, the protagonist's eleven-year old daughter. This is really petty because she's eleven years old and has just lost her father, but I never understood her motivations and often felt that she came across as annoying, bratty and ignorant instead of the bright-beyond-her-years that we're constantly told she is. In addition, I thought the love story of Audrey and Danny could have easily been cut – it was cute, yes, and not objectionable, but added very little to the story.
I wouldn't be shy of picking up Anna Romer's next book. The mystery at the heart of Thornwood House were incredibly engaging, and I think that Romer has potential as a writer. My main niggles with the book are fairly minor and petty and with such a tight and tense plot, the occasional bit of clumsy prose didn't throw me off. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A decent enough collection of short stories, though not one I need to keep on my shelves. There seemed to be an over-abundance of stories that have a...moreA decent enough collection of short stories, though not one I need to keep on my shelves. There seemed to be an over-abundance of stories that have a disquieting note to them and the few stories I liked a lot I already own in different collections.(less)
In 1692, the Dutch East India Company ship, Batavia, was wrecked off the coast of as-then undiscovered Western Australia. Stranded on an island with n...moreIn 1692, the Dutch East India Company ship, Batavia, was wrecked off the coast of as-then undiscovered Western Australia. Stranded on an island with no fresh water, things looked dire. When the senior officers, including the captain and the commandeur, left to find drinking water a man called Jeronimus Cornelisz took charge and began a reign of terror where murder and rape came to be the norm.
The Company retells of this dreadful time through the eyes of Cornelisz himself, which is tricky to pull off. With a story so dark, told with the voice of such a disturbed and depraved individual, it could really be an incredibly off-putting book. Who, after all, wants to read about these vile acts as narrated by the man who caused them all?
Yet there's a deftness of touch there. Edge lets us know how awful Cornelisz, his "council" and his actions were, but never rams in the knife to make us see it in vivid technicolour. Most acts are mentioned, only briefly described, if ever – which would normally be seen as a bad or weak writing, but works here because a vivid description would be nauseating. It also makes some sense for Cornelisz to describe these atrocities in sparse terms.
I was not expecting to find this a decent read, was drawn to the book by the possibly accidental aged appearance of the book and the cheap price tag. I would never call this an enjoyable or pleasant read, but I will say it is a decent read, albeit dark and grim and not for the faint-hearted.(less)
I didn't really expect much from this book, but I ended up being really drawn into it. I found it surprisingly dark and mature for its intended audien...moreI didn't really expect much from this book, but I ended up being really drawn into it. I found it surprisingly dark and mature for its intended audience.The story was engaging, and there's clearly been a lot of research done. That said, I felt as though the character of Edward was lacking - a bit too perfect and/or bland - and I felt as though there was some information dumps in the texts that could have been worked in better.(less)
As a resource on the thylacine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger), David Owen's Thylacine: The Tragic Tale of the Tasmanian Tiger is absolutely fantastic. Cont...moreAs a resource on the thylacine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger), David Owen's Thylacine: The Tragic Tale of the Tasmanian Tiger is absolutely fantastic. Content-wise, there's very little that I feel is missing, and what is missing tends to be things that have occurred post-publication.
For example, when discussing thylacine cloning, Owen says that it's hoped to be completed by 2010 – reading this in 2013 I'm aware that the deadline has been missed. As this was first published in 2003, it's understandable – but as a new edition was published in 2011, I wonder if the opportunity to update the text should have been taken. But it's a moot point, really.
Probably what sticks with me is how hideously depressing and frustrating the tale of the thylacine's extinction is. The thylacine was deemed a pest for hunting sheep – yet the amount of sheep killed by thylacines is nowhere near half the amount killed by dogs. It's enough to make me want to go back in time to punch (some of) the people responsible in the face and, at one stage, I was in tears.
For me, the writing lets the book down a bit. It's not bad, but it's not truly brilliant, and hence the four stars, not five. (less)
A nice, light and fluffy piece of reading. I liked the characters and premise, but I find the plot really that interesting. I felt I was watching Cori...moreA nice, light and fluffy piece of reading. I liked the characters and premise, but I find the plot really that interesting. I felt I was watching Corinna rattle around in her life, rather than watching a mystery unfold before me. The few breaks in POV didn't really add enough tension to make me feel like I was reading a crime novel. Still, it's light and fluffy and I like hearing from Corinna's POV.(less)
A classic Australian childrens's book. My brother and I both had the tie-in Possum Magic baby books and a copy of Possum Magic that we weren't allowed...moreA classic Australian childrens's book. My brother and I both had the tie-in Possum Magic baby books and a copy of Possum Magic that we weren't allowed to read until we were older because it was special, and the illustrations are SO pretty and I love this book SO much and that's enough of me rambling. :D(less)
I picked this up after enjoying the television adaptations of Bad Debts and Black Tide starring Guy Pearce. The series differs in a number of ways, in...moreI picked this up after enjoying the television adaptations of Bad Debts and Black Tide starring Guy Pearce. The series differs in a number of ways, including the fact that Pearce does not resemble the Jack Irish that author Peter Temple describes. But that's really a moot point here.
Bad Debts reads like a class hardboiled crime novel, though taken out of its typical setting and relocated in Melbourne, Australia, during the 1990s. The hero-detective, Jack Irish, is suitably cynical and world-weary enough, and the world he inhabits is grim and suspenseful. The mystery is complex, constantly bringing up questions that lead to more questions before bringing things to an explosive head. But the mystery is not just the sole focus of the story – woven into the story are subplots dealing with Jack Irish's everyday life, to references to his daughter and late wife, to his cabinetmaking hobby and more. This makes for an altogether richer story and character.
I'm sorry if that sounds like a lot of wankery. I was forced to study crime fiction at both high school and university, so I tend to get excited every time I can actually use that knowledge. :P
Maybe it was because I had already seen the miniseries adaptation, but I didn't find Bad Debts that engaging to begin with – which is why it's a four stars, not five. Still, when the action did start to heat up, I was glued to the pages. In my opinion, it is a fine detective story in the tradition of the likes of Raymond Chandler. (less)
Kate Lyons' The Water Underneath is an enjoyable read, exploring the lives of three women across three different generations.
I picked up an uncorrecte...moreKate Lyons' The Water Underneath is an enjoyable read, exploring the lives of three women across three different generations.
I picked up an uncorrected proof at the local Vinnies for 50 cents, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time nitpicking details. But I feel like that was an incredible buy because the story is so engaging. However, I have to point that the blurb lies: it's not really a "road movie" and it's not a "murder mystery" either. Don't get me wrong – there are elements of both, but that's all there is.
The majority of the story focuses around the lives of the characters, which are fascinating on their own, without the added bonus of a "murder mystery". I did find the way the timeline would jump around a little annoying, and initially, I found it hard to work out who was who and their direct relationships. However, this probably would have been better had the story been expanded and more structured. (less)
Gillian Mears' Foal's Bread is, simply put, an extraordinary work. From the breathtaking preamble that sets off the work to the sweet-bitter coda, it...moreGillian Mears' Foal's Bread is, simply put, an extraordinary work. From the breathtaking preamble that sets off the work to the sweet-bitter coda, it tells the story of the Nancarrow family, focusing mostly on Noah and her daughter, Lainey, and their life and struggles upon the farm known as One Tree.
It's a difficult story to read, grim and sad, and there's many horrendous acts and devastating throughout the book. At times, I would step back and think that it was a bit ridiculous that the Nancarrow family was burdened with so much, but within the story Mears keeps it in a delicate balance, so it never feels overdone within the story.
The characters are exceedingly complex – at first I thought of them as being kept at a distance from the reader, but then I realised that the distance was more due to their resilience and not being truly able to focus on their own despair and circumstances because they must go on. In a way, it recalls the "she'll be right" attitude (or stereotype) of country Australia.
The ending is a little disappointing to me – I wanted to find out so much more about the remaining characters, what had happened to them, after the devastating impact of the preceding chapter, but such detail is lacking. But I suppose the temptation would have been to give little blurbs on each character and where they ended up, so I'm glad the coda didn't end up that way.
If one can get past the haunting grimness of the story, Foal's Bread is an incredible work, with astounding prose work from Gillian Mears. (less)
A boat washes up on the shores of Janus Rock, where Tom and his wife Isabel tend to the lighthouse in isolatation. Inside the boat are a dead man and...moreA boat washes up on the shores of Janus Rock, where Tom and his wife Isabel tend to the lighthouse in isolatation. Inside the boat are a dead man and a baby. After suffering three miscarriages, Isabel deems this is as a blessing in disguise, a gift from God to make up for the lost babies. But it is not that simple - the baby's mother is still alive, still in grieving for her lost husband and child.
I really thought I was going to love this. I have a thing about lighthouses and the premise seemed really fascinating and it's set in Australia and its historical fiction and it ticks SO MANY of my boxes and it just falls flat for me. It's not bad writing, though some of the dialogue and the characters felt a little stilted or shallow to me. It's not that the plot is completely pointless - it is an interesting premise. It just disappoints.
It's just the characters. By the third act - where Tom and Isabel's deceit is revealed and the shit hits the fan (so to speak) - I felt incredibly frustrated with most of the characters. Even the child (Lucy-Grace) that the baby grows into verged on irritating for me. I mean, I understand their motivations, but I wanted to shake some bloody sense into them and get them all to stop acting like jerks or martyrs.
And Isabel. From her first entrance, I loved her, I was enthralled by her - even if I felt her courtship with Tom felt a little too quick and poorly developed - but then the twists and turns the story takes her own, her own selfish actions - maybe I'm heartless, I understand she's had a traumatic time - but I found her almost inexplicable in how badly she treated Tom and how little she thought of Hannah, Lucy-Grace's real mother. I very nearly hated Isabel by the end and would have spat chips if she'd ended up with her happy ending the story seemed to be leading to.
That said, The Light Between Oceans is not a bad book. It's just one that fell flat in the face of my expectations and one with frustrating characters. Three stars. (less)