Miss Possum

Miss Possum
Pale but dynamic

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Torture scenes in novels - should be warnings on the cover!

I am so sick of vividly described torture in fantasy novels. Many such scenes are merely gratuitous. Unfortunately, when the story is one we wish to read, as in 'Inheritance', we are forced to endure through the detail as we want to enjoy the rest of the story. I understand its use as a device - the character must suffer to build empathy, to develop as a character, to explore their own capacities and flaws, and most importantly, to suffer in order to earn their reward at the climax of the novel. 
Surely there are many other ways to achieve this? Torture, if absolutely necessary, can be off-scene. The character can experience challenge and suffering in many other ways; or evil characters can be portrayed as evil without the torture:  See my review:
Finally, I think books which include scenes of torture should have warnings on the cover. Remember readers and writers, books are fiction. There is far too much real torture and suffering out there for us to have to live through fictional experiences as well. Does portraying evils such as torture 'normalise' treating other people and creatures in this way, or does it help to raise the issue of the horror of torture? My view is that I already know about and abhor this type of behaviour. I don't want to experience it vicariously as well in fiction, the place I go to rest and escape.

Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper

Fallen Grace

Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper
Publisher: Bloomsbury 2010
's review 
Mar 15, 12  ·  edit

3 of 5 stars
Recommended for: YA historical lovers

Strongly portrayed female characters experience poverty and the struggle to survive in Victorian London. Interesting twist where the younger sister must look after the older. Historical facts and the reality faced by young women alone and unprotected in Victorian London are brought vividly to life.

The Healer's Keep (Healer and Seer, #2) by Victoria Hanley

 The Healer's Keep

The Healer's Keep by Victoria Hanley
Publisher: Corgi (Random House) 2004
's review 
Mar 15, 12  ·  edit

4 of 5 stars
Recommended for: readers who enjoy YA fantasy and adventure

Strong lead characters, including strong female leads, contribute to driving a great adventure, replete with interesting and unusual magic. The evil-doing villain in this book is so scary, I felt sick. Fantastic to see a genuinely scary, evil villain, that does not rely on twisted torture scenes or graphic violence to show his evilness (I am so sick of vividly described torture in fantasy novels - there should be a warning on the cover)- just portrayed through his steely gaze and powerful magic abilities. 
Really like that characters are shown as caring for friends and accepting kindness from strangers, and that good actions, while increasing the danger and tension in the moment, are ultimately rewarded. 
One of those stay up all night until you have finished books.
Also posted on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/294974839

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1) 

The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1)The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1)
Publisher: Doubleday (Random House) 2011

didn't like it it was ok liked it really liked it (my current rating) it was amazing  clear
(4.5 Stars)
Wonderful enticing, gripping read. Great paradigms - 3 children in a succession of orphanages, a mysterious wizard/ mentor, and a dangerous quest whose outcome can effect the lives of a whole village. What could be better? The extra half star for the very funny secondary characters - the dwarves, and particularly loved the grumbling housekeeper, who labours under the misapprehension that the children believe they are French royalty - the string of jokes she conjours from this are hilarious. So much fantasy is so serious! Highly recommended. Posted in Goodreads 11 March 2012. http://www.goodreads.com

Friday, 9 March 2012

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare Walker Books 2011

5 Stars.
Name of Book: City of Fallen Angels.
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Walker Books 2011

For anyone who has adored the first three in Cassandra Clare’s dynamic paranormal ‘Mortal Instruments’ series, the big question is, can she possibly do it again? The answer is a resounding ‘yes!’
City of Fallen Angels contains all the ingredients of another electric Clare novel: dynamic and sassy heroines; two male leads impossible not to fall in love with – nerdy, endearing Simon and mysterious, dangerous and passionate Jace; genuinely scary paranormal battles, page-turning action and great character dialogue sprinkled with amusing popular culture references. Clare wields language and grammar with the masterly precision of Isabelle Lightwood and her electric whip.
Simon’s geeky nature struggles with his new powers as a vampire and babe magnet. Jace and Clary’s complicated love story develops further, tested through wild paranormal battles, self-doubt and self-discovery.
Danger stalks through the novel, through strong, complex paranormal leads. Camille the vampire queen; evil, desperate Sebastian and the chilling Silent Brothers make us consider what really makes a monster?
The novel may be stand alone or read in sequence. Violence is cartoonish (think x-men) rather than graphic or gratuitous, and limited sexual scenes make the novel suitable for adults, young adults and younger teenage readers with parental guidance. Highly recommended.

This review was originally published by Maryanne Ross (me) in The Ballarat Courier on September 29, 2011. http://www.thecourier.com.au/ and has been posted on Goodreads 10 March 2012. http://www.goodreads.com

Cargo by Jessica Au, Pan McMillan Australia 2011

3.5 Stars
Name of Book: Cargo.
Author: Jessica Au
Publisher: Pan McMillan Australia

Jessica Au’s first novel is a literary Puberty Blues – a seaside coming of age story. Cargo depicts three teenagers located in one summer on a fictional beach, whose stories touch each other but never quite weave. Frankie, Gillian and Jacob each have problems: Frankie with her ill, pregnant mother and uncertain friendships, Gillian the one-legged swimmer with her paean to life and the sea, and Jacob fighting his brother’s shadow to find selfhood.
Like much literary fiction, the plot is limited and the characters are profound and sombre rather than quirky or exuberant. However, Au’s clear writing welcomes the reader in, and we engage with Frankie, Gillian and Jacob in their explorations of trying to grow into themselves and recognise their own adulthood. Cargo is accessible literary fiction.
Whether you are pleased or disappointed, this young adult novel contains no vampires, paranormals or explosive action scenes, and the real magic is in Au’s evocative descriptions of the changing moods of the ocean, an iconic setting for Australian coming of age stories.
The publisher’s blurb describes this book as ‘by turns heart-wrenching, beautiful and explosive,’ and many readers will agree.
Recommended for young adults, particularly those interested in literary fiction.

Note: This review was published by Maryanne Ross (me) in The Ballarat Courier February 2, 2012.http://www.thecourier.com.au
Also posted on Goodreads www.goodreads.com

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Tunnels of Tarcoola

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2012.

didn't like it it was ok liked it (my current rating) really liked it it was amazing

This book is touted by the publisher as an Enid Blyton-style read, and at first I thought, yes that's true - sexist, traditional, formulaic and slightly stilted. The old-fashioned teenagers' names and lack of apparent technology added to this impression, as did the excessive sighing, gasping, breathing, imploring and grumbling rather than just saying. However, once the plot picked up pace and layers, and the colorful secondary characters began to add depth, the story became quite riveting. The sense of the present immersed in the past was compelling; possibly the author has a better feel for history than for young adults. Certainly, the personal histories and portrayals of the older adults in the story are refreshingly interesting. Ultimately, the story wrapped up with a very satisfying, all-plots-tied up, feel-good ending. Worth a look. Also published on GoodReads 10 March 2012. http://www.goodreads.com

Review: Princess Ben By Catherine Gilbert Murdock

5 Stars.
 Princess Ben By Catherine Gilbert Murdock Pan McMillan Australia 2008.
YA fairytale retelling

I loved this book. I loved the language - a YA book with complex sentences, words of more than one or two syllables, and rhythmic phrasing - finally, a brave publisher that supports a different kind of writing to the usual conventional wisdom of simple, clear sentences and a modest vocabulary! I loved the sly humour - one of the most consistently funny books I have read in a while. The inversion of the typical fairy tale has been done before, of course, but this is really clever. More books, please Catherine Gilbert Murdock!

Friday, 2 March 2012

First Person Point of View (POV)

Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn is a YA fantasy/sci fi. The book is completely gripping, a page-turning adventure of not-fitting-in, full of danger, not knowing who to trust, and split-second, life-threatening choices.
This is a fine example of how first person narration gives immediacy, emotion and propels the narrative at break-neck speed. It creates empathy for the protagonist - we feel her agonising decisions every step of the way. Through First Person we engage fully in the sensory detail, whether horrific, frightening or romantic.
The book only just misses out on the full 5 stars only because the penultimate climax resolution - an important story stage - is just not likely - I think they would just shoot her dead without all the palaver. It was too easy. The second book is due soon, so I can spend another rainy Saturday glued to an amazing story. (Does anyone else feel guilty about all those hours spend reading, when we could be doing things we should be doing?)