Author hotseat: Sulari Gentill

Sulari GentillI had the very great pleasure of chatting recently with the talented Australian author Sulari Gentill.

Click here for my review of Chasing Odysseus (Sulari’s pacy YA reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey). I’ll be posting a review of the first book in her renowned Rowland Sinclair Aussie crime fiction series soon.

Like me, Sulari used to be a lawyer, and like me she figured out one day that she loved inhabiting fictional worlds more than clauses and contracts. We had a brilliant discussion covering everything from Harry Potter, to Sulari’s prolific output and wonderfully quirky (and effective!) writing rituals.

I’ll be posting a proper profile, arising from that interview, shortly. In the meantime, here’s a little taster: Sulari’s off-the-cuff, ‘gut’ responses to 12 quick-fire questions. Enjoy!

1. Are you right or left-handed?
Right

2. Cat or dog person?
Dog

3. Thunderstorms – scary or exciting?
Exciting

[...Click for more...]

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Review: ‘Burial Rites’ (Hannah Kent)

Strong prose, vivid characters

Strong prose, vivid characters

The Stats
Book: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Published: Picador, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction

Of interest: Winner, 2011 Writing Australia Prize for Best Unpublished Manuscript | Shortlisted, 2014 Indies Fiction Award, 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, 2013 Guardian First Book Award, 2013 Nib Award for Literature | Longlisted, 2014 Stella Prize

The Plot
Burial Rites fictionalises the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland. It is 1829 and Agnes has been convicted for her part in a brutal double murder in the icy northern region of the country. A dead woman walking, Agnes is sent to the farm of District Officer Jón Jónsson to await her death sentence.

As the weeks drift by, Agnes confides in the young Assistant Reverend, Tóti, while Jón and his family struggle with having a murderess in their midst. And as Agnes tells her story, her hosts are forced to ask themselves whether Agnes is everything she seems…

My Verdict
Really enjoyed this book, very strong prose and a vivid character portrayal. [...Click for more...]

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Review: ‘Chasing Odysseus’ (S.D. Gentill)

A fresh, fun look at Homer’s Odyssey

The Stats
Book: Chasing Odysseus by S.D. Gentill
Published: Pantera Press, 2011
Genre: YA Adventure

The Plot
The Ancient Greeks have vanquished the city of Troy, and they’re blaming the peace-loving Herdsmen of Mount Ida for helping them.

The Herdsman brothers Machaon, Cadmus and Lycon, and their little half-Amazon sister Hero, are outraged. Certain the cunning Odysseus is behind it all, they set off to chase him down and clear their people’s name.

My Verdict
A fresh, fun take on the famous tale of Odysseus’ 10 year round-the-world trip following the fall of Troy.

[...Click for more...]

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Review: The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)

Song of Achilles_BloomsburyThe Stats
Book: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published: Bloomsbury, 2011
Of interest: Winner, 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction

The Plot
A retelling of Homer’s Iliad (the Trojan War) from the point of view of Achilles’ childhood friend and lover, Patroclus.

My Verdict
Took me a few chapters to really warm to the characters and the writing style, but from there I couldn’t put it down.

Review
My mother-in-law loaned me this book with such praise that I felt certain it would disappoint.

It didn’t.

I am a huge fan of mythology and loved studying Latin and the classics in high school. I have no objection to retellings – particularly when the story is as strong and timeless as the tale of Troy – but I was nonetheless pleasantly surprised to find this retelling so fresh and original.

Like so many others, I’ve read and watched this story from many perspectives over many years, but Miller has used her own classical teaching background to draw out different, more obscure parts of the tale. [...Click for more...]

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Review: The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton)

Loved this book. Couldn’t put it down!

The Stats
Book: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Published: Granta Books, 2013
Of interest: Winner, 2013 Man Booker Prize

The Plot
Set in 19th Century New Zealand, The Luminaries opens with the arrival of Scot Walter Moody in the thriving gold town of Hokitika. Come to make his fortune, and fleeing personal demons of his own, Moody stumbles upon a secret conference of local men who have gathered to discuss the strange events of the past fortnight. A wealthy man has disappeared, a whore has tried to end her life and a fortune has been found in the home of a drunk. Moody, along with the reader, is drawn into a twisting tale of love, death, and fortunes foul and fair.

My Verdict
Loved it and couldn’t put it down!

Review
I loved this book, and despite having a very time-consuming 7 month old son, I polished it off in just under a week. This is really saying something, as my reading time is depleted and, at 832 pages, the book is no trifle.

I’d describe this as a literary whodunnit. The prose is skilful without being conceited, [...Click for more...]

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My New Year’s Resolution

Love a good New Year’s Resolution!
Image (c) Raj Sing via Flickr

Happy New Year – here’s to a year full of books and reviews!

I love new years and I love making new year’s resolutions. One of my most important resolutions for 2014 is not to bother pursuing a book I’m not really into. Why? Because there are thousands of books out there I want to, but will never get the time to, read. I’m no longer going to waste precious reading moments on something I’m finding a struggle.

Besides, when I love a book, I rip through it in a matter of days or even hours. Even with a baby to look after! When I don’t, it can take me months to plod through. I find myself procrastinating instead of reading. I feel like I can’t stop the book partway through, but even when I finally make it to the end it’s with a sense of relief rather than satisfaction.

Case in point [...Click for more...]

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New life – and other new stuff

Image (c) William Couch via Flickr

Image (c) William Couch via Flickr

Whew! What an absence! It’s been a couple of months since my last post, but I’d like to think I’ve got a darn good excuse. I gave birth to my first baby in June – a little boy named Flynn, who has me completely smitten – and he’s been keeping me pretty busy ever since! I’ve barely had time to scratch myself, let alone post.

Still – I’m here now, and happily I’ve even managed to squeeze a little bit of reading in – between the 3 to 4 hourly feeds, the doctor’s check ups and the load of washing that never ends (how does something so small go through so many suits?!)

I’ve also had time to think a bit about some ways to improve this site going forward. Here’s what I have in mind:

Ratings system

I’ve said it before: reviews are subjective and I can’t really do anything about that. But rather than simply giving a book a star rating and leaving it at that, I’m going to

…Click here to read the rest!

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SWF 2013 – Forest for the Trees

Much food for thought today at the State Library!
Image (c) Bentley Smith (iambents) via Flickr

Well the weather was revolting today, but it was toasty warm in the State Library of NSW for the Sydney Writers’ Festival ‘Forest for the Trees’ seminar on Aussie publishing.

Sold out (like last year), the event ran for an impressive 6.5 hours, boasting industry heavyweight speakers including authors Delia Falconer and Emily Maguire and publishers Shona Martyn (HarperCollins), Brett Osmond (Random House), Alison Green (Pantera Press) and Joel Naoum (Momentum).

Unfortunately I missed the last two sessions as I had to leave at lunchtime, but you can see my live tweets from the first four right here.

Common themes were:

  • the importance of writers – especially aspiring ones – having an online presence (but also ensuring it’s kept at a level you’re a. comfortable with and b. can maintain);
  • the demands of the digital publishing medium (yes, it’s opened traditional publishers up to discovering new, and not necessarily agented, talent but the turnaround is so quick – just a few months usually, that manuscripts really need to be more polished than ever to get a look in); and
  • the need for any publishing submission (p book or e book) to be as polished as possible before you send it in. You only get one chance – they will rarely look at a manuscript twice; even one they found promising the first time!

Going into a little more detail, here’s a little recap of the sessions I got to see: … Click here to read the rest!

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My First Radio Interview

It’s been an exciting week!
Image (c) Dan Machold via Flickr

It’s been an exciting week! Not only has the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival finally kicked off (I’ll post separately about the great SWF seminar I went to today), but it also marked my very first experience of being interviewed about writing … versus doing the interviewing!

Following on from my Newswrite magazine article on sex in Young Adult fiction (read it here), I was asked to appear on 1233 ABC Newcastle’s ‘Afternoons’ program with host Carol Duncan on Monday.

Carol threw some great questions my way about how much sex is too much in teen fiction, what publishers and other stakeholders have told me about where – and how – they draw the line and, on a personal level, what attracts me to writing for teens. (You may remember my first novel, still in progress, is pegged at a YA market). …Click here to read the rest!

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Recent Reads

London Bookstall

Reading, reading, reading!
Image (c) Deliciously Fictitious.


Been doing a lot of reading lately, and a lot of writing – mostly short fiction for my Masters. Admittedly this has led me to be somewhat remiss on the reviewing front. (Sad face.)

A quick recap, then, of some of the books I’ve read in the past few weeks:

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing – a pithy novella with elements of magic realism, about a family struggling to raise a child who appears inhuman. The book focuses on the mother’s internal fight between revulsion and duty. Well-written and easy to devour in a sitting.

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth – haunting historical fiction, about the love affair between Wilhelm Grimm and his next door neighbour Dortchen Wild, who told him many of the stories that were to become Grimms’ Folk Tales. Following on from her historical fiction/fantasy blend Bitter Greens (a retelling of Rapunzel, which I reviewed here), Forsyth artfully combines research and imagination in a dark tale with a beautiful silver lining. …Click here to read the rest!

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