Novascapes: A Speculative Fiction Anthology compiled by C. E. Page

Published: 30th September 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Invisible Elephant Press
Pages: 228
Format: ebook
Genre: Speculative Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Each story in this collection is a brief glimpse into a world both like and unlike anything we could ever imagine. The light and dark aspects of human nature are played out on the canvases of these worlds, though the players are not always human. Minotaurs, mermaids, vampires and dinosaurs compete for space alongside devils, angels, aliens and completely indescribable entities. Novascapes transports you from one side of the multi-verse to the other and leaves you breathless and wide eyed at the possibilities of simple existence.

Novascapes is a collection of short speculative fiction stories by authors either from or originally born (or connected in some major way) to the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast regions of NSW, Australia. The stories are as varied and wonderful as the authors who penned them.

There’s nothing quite as good as a great collection of short stories to give you little mini adventures and insights into strange and mystical worlds. What makes these short stories wonderful are the speculative nature and the fact that each of these authors have created stories that covers so many different narratives no two are alike.

The stories vary in length and there is a mixture of light hearted and darker stories. The speculative fiction aspect makes them wild and fanciful but not too outrageous or unbelievable. There is suspense, magic, and adventure and the range of different characters means you aren’t always reading about humans, even if it speculative humans.

There are dark tales about dark creatures and humorous exhilarating tales about magic and creatures from other world. Each author tells an intriguing story and the collection offers an array of different approaches to the speculative genre. If you are interested in short stories this is a wonderful collection, and a great chance to read some stories of authors that you may have never read before.

You can purchase Novascapes via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon

Does my Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Published: 1st August 2005Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Pan Australia
Pages: 293
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

The slide opened and I heard a gentle, kind voice: What is your confession, my child? 
I was stuffed. The Priest would declare me a heretic; my parents would call me a traitor… 
The Priest asked me again: What is your confession, my child? 
I’m Muslim. I whispered.

Welcome to my world. I’m Amal Abdel-Hakim, a seventeen year-old Australian-Palestinian-Muslim still trying to come to grips with my various identity hyphens.

It’s hard enough being cool as a teenager when being one issue behind the latest Cosmo is enough to disqualify you from the in-group. Try wearing a veil on your head and practicing the bum’s up position at lunchtime and you know you’re in for a tough time at school.

Luckily my friends support me, although they’ve got a few troubles of their own. Simone, blonde, gorgeous and overweight – she’s got serious image issues, and Leila’s really intelligent but her parents are more interested in her getting a marriage certificate than her high school certificate!

I thought I would like this more. I didn’t dislike it, but it wasn’t the amazing book people made it out to be. It felt clunky and uneventful, and while there are great moments that shine through, the moments that falter stand out more.

The dialogue was…awkward. Conversations didn’t feel natural and Abdel-Fattah uses a lot of them to explain everyone’s back stories or Amal to educate the character (or us) about various topics and situations. They never seem to talk about anything else. The language was stilted and while what they are saying is valid and important, it doesn’t sit comfortably in the story. I don’t mind being told these things, but I think a more seamless inclusion was needed. This includes the excessive amount of metaphors and examples used, I understood that Amal wearing the veil sparked a need to educate the people around her but I felt overloaded with them.

I enjoyed the parts where Amal talks about why she wants to wear the veil and why it is important to her. I loved that I got to dislike the principal because of her own opinions and prejudices, no matter how subtle they were. And I liked Amal not putting up with anyone’s ignorance or preconception; her confusion, real or mocking, over why there is a problem at all is wonderful.

What was weird was being late reading this, it feels so old but it wasn’t at the time of course. I did not realise this was published in 2005, I thought it was the early twenty tweens, not the mid-2000s. The benefit of this however was I did enjoy reliving 2002 when Big Brother and Craig David were hot topics of discussion, I even think a bum bag reference was made which was fun.

It wasn’t all bad. There are some good moments like Amal’s frustration of being the token Muslim and I enjoyed getting to read about Muslim practice and faith. But it remained an average book, one I couldn’t connect with and whose clunky writing never let me fall into the story completely.

You can purchase Does My Head Look Big in This via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

Long Lost Review: Paycheque by Fiona McCallum

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 1st April 2011 (print)/1st November 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Mira/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 416/11 hours 4 minutes
Narrator: Jennifer Vuletic
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Romance
★  – 1 Star

Claire had almost forgotten her country roots. She is a city girl with an adoring husband, a chic townhouse and a high-flying corporate career. But when the police knock on her door one night with tragic news, her world is thrown into turmoil and she heads back to her family’s farm.

There, in the rugged beauty of the Adelaide Hills, Claire starts to rebuild her life with her friends, her father and his beloved racehorses, including a promising colt called Paycheque. But just as she starts to find happiness, and perhaps even love, she is faced with a life-changing decision… 

This probably doesn’t qualify for a long lost review because I couldn’t actually finish it. I listened to one and a half discs of the audiobook and gave in. I couldn’t get into the story, I thought the language was cliche and overly descriptive and flowery at times. I tried to imagine it as I was reading it whether it was the audio part I didn’t like, but I’ve been able to look past a bad narrator (and this one was tolerable) and I couldn’t get past the story. I try very hard not to give up on books so I feel bad about this but I couldn’t make myself keep going. Even after all this time I don’t feel compelled to try it again so I may have to give this one up as  abandoned.

It had an interesting enough premise, typical country born girl goes home and gets caught back up in the small town life she left. Even the promise of racehorses couldn’t keep me going, I don’t even think I got to the point where she actually goes back to the farm. I don’t think this will turn me off Fiona McCallum’s books, but it was the one that made me realise I don’t have to sit through boring books because there’s a lot more great things to read out there.

Nose to Tail by Louise Harding

Published: 30th November 2017
Goodreads badgePublisher: Ocean Reeve Publishing
Pages: 207
Format: Book
Genre: Non-Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Note: I received a copy of this book for review

Do you dream of owning a loving, obedient, well-mannered dog? Do you find yourself overwhelmed by your dog’s bad behaviour? Do you want to train your dog and don’t know where to start? Now there is a book for you. Champion trainer Louise Harding will be your own personal expert, coaching you and your dog. 

Imagine if you could unlock the secrets of a master trainer and make training easier and fun for you and your dog. This book will show you how and help you communicate and nurture a strong life-long bond with your dog.

What I liked about this book was that it went beyond being a simple training guide for your dog. Harding also provides really helpful information about matching up the right kind of dog with the right owner. She includes some great information about different breeds of dogs and their bred capabilities and personalities and informs readers that there is more to buying a dog than just finding it cute when it’s a puppy.

The book starts before a dog is even bought as Harding asks the reader to think about why they want a dog, is it the right suit for their home or lifestyle. She then progresses through the stages of helping you find which dog would suit your needs and finding one with a compatible personality. There are personal stories and examples, and Harding includes an interesting history of the different breeding groups of dogs and what they have been bred to do through history.

This is the holistic approach to dog training Harding intended. She makes readers understand that any dog can be trained, but so much of their behaviour connects with their instincts, their breed, and the environment they live in just as much as how often you ask them to sit, stay, or heel. As she says, you can’t change the breed characteristics, but you can control what you want them to do.

This book reinforced and reassured me that I’d trained my dog correctly, which is always a comfort, but I was also interested in the histories and the personality checklists to understand the kind of dog I had (food fiend and a busybody, no real surprises there). This is a very helpful book whether you have a new puppy, or have brought home an older dog. Harding covers everything from first dogs, second dogs, or even how to manage a rescue dog that may be having trouble adjusting. There’re guides to sleeping arrangements and toilet training, plus step by step instructions on teaching the sit, stay, come etc commands, with advice on how to get your dog to pull them off successfully. Harding mimics what the trainer said when I took my own puppy to training class; you need to set your dog up for success. Put them in environments where they will succeed and don’t make things harder for them with distractions or confusing commands. If you do that you will be on the way to a well-trained dog.

There are also wonderful resources that can help with your research into the best breed for you, there are also questions to ask breeders or shelters about the dogs they’re selling, as well as guides to picking the best dog walking service or kennel if you should need to use them. Harding insists it’s never a bad thing to ask questions of a seller because it’s all about making sure you get the best for your dog and for you.

This book is not all about just buying the right breed and correct training procedures; Harding includes all the fun stuff as well like giving treats, playing with toys, and taking dogs out to explore the big wide world. If you’re looking at getting a dog or need help reining in one you already have, this is a great book to help guide you. It’s easy to understand, simple and with clear instructions but also covers a range of topics and scenarios you will encounter when you own a dog.

You can purchase Nose to Tail via the following

Nose to Tail website | A&R Bookworld

Amazon | Amazon Aust

The 26-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 3rd September 2012 (print)/28 September 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 348/1 Disc
Narrator: Stig Wemyss
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

If you’re like most readers, you’re probably wondering just how Andy and Terry met. Well, it’s a long story, but a pretty exciting one, and it’s mostly true! Come on up, choose a hammock, and they’ll tell you all about it (just don’t go in the maze they’re still ironing out a few bugs…). 

I read the 13-Storey Treehouse as an ebook and discovered this is a very text and picture supportive book. When I realised this I couldn’t fathom how this would possibly work as an audiobook but it works really well. I might have to listen to the rest as audiobooks, it was like a wonderful audio drama. The pictures aren’t explained, but there is a change in tone and style that does end up giving a little side comment that accompanies what Andy is telling us about. It also goes one step extra by adding sound effects and musical accompaniment to the narrative. There are some bits when you know you’re missing out on a great and detailed picture, but honestly, that’s the same with any audiobook, especially junior ones. With these additions I quite liked the audiobook experience, maybe a bit more than reading the book. Stig Wemyss does a great job in conveying tone and the adventure and humour of the book, but I think it’s also that the story is much better than the one in The 13 Storey Treehouse.

This time around we’ve added 13 new storeys and the boys are still writing their books and having fun in their grand treehouse. This time Andy wants to tell us how he met Terry but one thing leads to another and we’re thrown into a great pirate adventure. Griffiths links together this seemingly silly story and while it seems like it jumps all over the place it doesn’t really. Everything connects to one another and builds up a great narrative. Overall it’s quirky and absurd but it’s also delightful without being too silly. There are some great jokes in there, 78 flavours of ice creams, Jill’s numerous animals, and Andy and Terry’s numerous inventions. If you haven’t yet picked up Griffith’s Treehouse series you definitely should.

You can purchase The 26-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Bookworld | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

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