Archive for November, 2015

My Favourite Reads of 2015: Vampires in the Sunburnt Country books 1 & 2


Blood & Dust   and The Big Smoke

5 stars

A page-turner. No, TWO page turners. I thought I loved the first one but the second took it up several notches.

Action from the first chapter. An interesting constellation of characters, each with their own motivation and trajectories which keep colliding of course. Book 2 especially uses Australia as an interesting setting for a vampire tale, the politics, the violence, the ethics and morality, the action. Highly recommend.

Review: Laughing at Shadows by PD Blake

A great tale well told. I guess this would be urban fantasy…though there’s no forced romance, no vampires or werewolves or fae, no angels or demons. But it’s fantasy and it’s set in urban England. You really must read it with an English voice in your head from the opening paragraph or you’ll stumble over the phrasing. Once you have that sorted, it really really works. 

I love good stories where street people are main characters. The story is told sympathetically toward them, with a couple of very black and poignant moments to do with their inner worlds towards the end. The author didn’t labour these backstories which I truly appreciated; these people live entirely in the Now which is true of the people I’ve worked and spoken with.

The fantasy is fun and often funny. The novella is sprinkled with that wonderful English humour in the vein of the Goons, the Python boys, Terry Pratchet. It’s pacey with a beautiful mix of English ordinaryness and the bright and shiny Otherness of a wider universe. A quick and enjoyable read. 4 stars.

My Favourite Reads of 2015: The Great Divorce by CS Lewis

5 stars

To me, the greatest Christian philosopher and theologian of the 20th C, Lewis did it again with this narrative treatise on the afterlife. Probably inspired by Dante and McDonald. This is a bit of a talkfest, but it’s nonetheless gripping and it’s a short read.

The two things I loved best were:

1) Lewis’ mid-20th Century willingness to push against orthodoxy and rethink heaven and hell and purgatory with a fresh mind

2) the sheer pathos of the human condition and its willingness to turn from truth and opportunity out of sheer spite and self-importance.

My Favourite Reads of 2015: Madness: A Memoir

Breathtaking. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of a book that way before but it’s how I think of this one. If I could give it 6 stars, I would.

A mind-searing blend of magnificent prose (unbelievably beautiful) with the heartrending tragedy of mental illness. Seeing it from the inside is enough to make you want to cry at times and punch the air in victory at the small (and then large) gains Kate makes in reclaiming her life.

5 stars

My Favourite Reads of 2015: End Times at Ridgemont High

5 stars

I don’t know if this novel qualifies as “cosmic horror”, but it feels like it should. An epic tale told at the local level, End Times at Ridgemont High is a fun mix of American Graffiti, Lovecraftian tropes and Welke’s own fascination with alternate realities or dimensions (as demonstrated in his previous novel The Whisperer in Dissonance).

It’s not only the pace and the prose of Welke’s novel that appealed to me so strongly; his empathy for young people, for teenage angst and Gen Y confusion, shone on every page.

Strongly recommend. Very very glad I got to read this.