She Be Damned by MJ Tjia

She be Damned_Front_Cover.jpgTitle: She Be Damned

Author: M.J. Tjia

Genre: Historical Crime

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st August 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 251

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: London courtesan or professional sleuth?

London, 1863: Women in Waterloo are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim.

The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective, Heloise Chancey, to investigate.

With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider who she can trust, before the killer strikes again.

~*~

The popularity of amateur sleuths, historical crime and cosy crime means that there has been an explosion of these books of late – reviving the days of Agatha Christie and her characters, Poirot and Miss Marple, and joining the ranks of The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, Rowland Sinclair and modern amateur sleuths such as Mma Precious Ramotswe and Inspector Ashwin Chopra (Retd) in their quests to rid the world of criminals and crime. The latest, just as unique character to join them is Heloise Chancey, a courtesan in London during the 1860s, who is called upon to discreetly look into cases for some of London’s important people, or into the cases that nobody really worries about. Heloise becomes embroiled in a murder mystery about prostitutes turning up dead, minus their sexual organs in Waterloo when a young girl in the upper classes, Eleanor, goes missing. Her father and Sir Thomas, Heloise’s employer, believe she has met the same fate as the prostitutes, and employ Heloise, and require the utmost discretion, as she can go places that the police cannot, or will not. Together with her maid and companion, Amah Li Leen. Together, they will inch closer to the truth – but when Amah is embroiled in the plot, Heloise must use all of her wits to find the real culprit before they strike again.

BW Mirandi TjiaDebut novels, especially for a series, are crucial to establishing the character and style of the story and the author to the reader. They cement the setting for readers and with any luck, have them wanting more – often the mark of a series that will be successful and gain a loyal following. Heloise Chancey’s debut ensures that she has a place as a character and the author, M.J. Tjia, will have fans who will eagerly await her next book. It didn’t take me long to read this one, and I quite enjoyed it. It had strong characters, revealed their histories slowly, and still left some questions unanswered for future books, and allowed the reader to unfold the story with the protagonist, which is often quite fun in mystery stories, and allows the pacing to move along effectively.

In an engaging plot, M.J. Tjia’s characters become their own entity, each with their own flaws and strengths that make them engaging. Heloise is as stubborn as she is elegant, Amah is as snarky and sarcastic as she is honourable and faithful. Together, they work, and though Amah is at times disdainful of Heloise’s chosen occupation, she nonetheless puts up with her antics, whilst delivering some harsh truths to her mistress and ensuring she has done her best to prevent disasters happening to Heloise during her adventures and investigations.

True to the Victorian period, the male characters overwhelmingly concern themselves aww2017-badgewith Heloise’s delicate feminine sensibilities – sensibilities that Heloise doesn’t have, nor does she subscribe to, leaving the men quite shocked that she doesn’t faint all the time, whilst still maintaining her standing and the characteristics of a Victorian lady. She is, at the same time, appropriate for the time period, whilst standing out and away from the societal expectations of the time, ensuring a strong character with an intriguing story. I hope that Heloise has more stories and more secrets to come, and I await her further adventures eagerly.

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A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill (Rowland Sinclair #8)

Flat Cover_Gentill_ADL_2017Title: A Dangerous Language

Author: Sulari Gentill

Genre: Crime Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st October 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Set against the glamorous backdrop of the 1930s in Australia and overseas, A Dangerous Language is the latest in the much loved, award winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries.

When Rowland Sinclair volunteers his services as a pilot to fly the renowned international peace advocate, Egon Kisch, between Fremantle and Melbourne, he is unaware of how hard Australia’s new Attorney-General will fight to keep the “raging reporter” off Australian soil. In this, it seems, the government is not alone, as clandestine right-wing militias reconstitute into deadly strike forces.

When a Communist agent is murdered on the steps of Parliament House, Rowland Sinclair finds himself drawn into a dangerous world of politics and assassination.

A disgraced minister, an unidentified corpse and an old flame all bring their own special bedlam. Once again Rowland Sinclair stands against the unthinkable, with an artist, a poet and a brazen sculptress by his side.

~*~

A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill marks book number thirty eight in my Australian Women Writer’s challenge for 2017, and as usual, has not failed to impress and of course, distress at times. Now in 1934, inching closer to the threat of war, Rowland is in Melbourne, purchasing a new car to replace his beloved Mercedes, that met with destruction in the almost fatal car race of the previous book, Give The Devil His Due. The trip back from Melbourne with Clyde Watson Jones and Milton Isaacs, an artist and poet whose political allegiances, especially on Milt’s account, have put Rowland in his brother’s firing line of anguish, should be uneventful. However, their sojourn through Canberra, where they are to meet Edna, Milt stumbles across the body of a Communist on the steps of Parliament House – an event that beings the tumultuous venture to get Egon Kisch into Australia, and speaking out against the Fascist tendencies that Rowland and his friends witnessed in Germany in Paving the New Road. When Rowland’s brother, Wilfred, comes onto the scene, Rowly must do whatever he can to keep his plans to help Egon away from his conservative brother – who nonetheless knows that the Fascists are dangerous. Even so, the big brother is also keen to pry his mostly apolitical brother away from the influence of those Rowland chooses to keep company with.

aww2017-badgeIn this eighth venture, politics begins to have a larger focus than in the previous seven novels, where it was present, but had less impact on the plot. In this novel, it seems nobody is safe from the clashes between each side – this is what makes the novel gripping, as it ensures that those who hurt Milt and Rowly (poor Rowland was in the wars a bit in this one again) are shrouded in mystery. As always, I enjoy the Rowland Sinclair novels, and this one was two years in the waiting, and rightly so in the end, because it captured the political turbulence and environment of the 1930s in a way that is accessible to those just discovering it, and highlighting some aspects and characters that are perhaps less well-known than others during this time.

Fiction often offers parallels to history or contemporary times, and it is not hard to see BW_Author_Photo_Gentill_2016how the dangerous language that Rowland and his friends opposed in 1934 from Fascists and the conservatives of the time is repeating itself today. The feelings of powerlessness that the ordinary people had against those in politics and with influence that can encourage this dangerous language Rowland dislikes are felt through Milt and Clyde throughout the novel, and in particular Clyde during a boat cruise from Fremantle to Melbourne, where they must ensure Egon gets to Melbourne safely, and in Traveller’s Class, Rowland is able to get Egon as far as possible on his trip. The social class contrast between Rowland and his friends appears even more so in this book, where class and politics have become crucial to the evolution of the plot and characters at the stage of the series. The history of this turbulent period is woven into the plot and is sometimes the motive behind the crime, such as in A Dangerous Language. I also enjoy the inclusion of historical figures and people throughout that had an impact on history – this gives the stories an authenticity to them that is both exciting and informative at the same time.

As always, Rowland takes a few hits from people trying to cover up their crime, or another secret, and his brother Wilfred, battle-weary by now from saving the family name, is still faithful to Rowland, if a bit pompous at times. I do feel for Rowly when Wilfred loses his temper, as so often happens when Rowland stumbles into something he didn’t intend to. As polar opposites, Sulari has created exceptional characters in the Sinclair family, and their friends, including the heartbreak that Rowland’s own mother doesn’t recognise him, but sees him as his long-dead brother, Aubrey, an ongoing theme throughout the series that Rowland takes in his stride, and that Sulari has written exceptionally well. The Rowland Sinclair series is one that gets better with each subsequent mystery, and the uniquely Australian settings are in themselves a character – from Woodlands estate in Sydney, to the family property at Yass, and each place Rowland and his friends visit. They are often the unwilling detectives at first, dedicated to their art and friendship, but also dedicated to speaking out when and where they need to, to ensure that the dangerous language that Egon Kisch is trying to warn against does not infect the way of life that many in Australia enjoy. Once they are involved in the crime, it seems they cannot help themselves, and Rowland, as an honourable person, is always at hand to warn Colin Delaney of new information they stumble across.

An excellent addition to this series, and I look forward to the next one, which will hopefully be out soon!

Buy the new Rowland Sinclair and the rest of the books in the series here:

Draekora by Lynette Noni

draekora

Title: Draekora (Medoran Chronicles #3)

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st April 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 448

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: “I swear by the stars that you and the others slain tonight will be the first of many. Of that you have my word.”

With Aven Dalmarta now hiding in the shadows of Meya, Alex is desperate to save Jordan and keep the Rebel Prince from taking more lives.

Training day and night to master the enhanced immortal blood in her veins, Alex undertakes a dangerous Meyarin warrior trial that separates her from those she loves and leaves her stranded in a place where nothing is as it should be.

As friends become enemies and enemies become friends, Alex must decide who to trust as powerful new allies—and adversaries—push her towards a future of either light… or darkness.

One way or another, the world will change…

~*~

The third book in the Medoran Chronciles series picks up soon after the devastating events of Raelia, where Bear, D.C. and Alex find themselves spending their Kaldoras holidays without their friend, Jordan, who has been Claimed by Aven. Transported to Meya during this trip, Alex is sent on a varranguard test to see how she deals with the Meyarin abilities she acquired in battle with Aven. Soon, Alex encounters Xiraxus, a draekon trapped in her time, and is ripped two thousand years into the past, where she must wait for Xiraxus to be strong enough to transport her back to her own time, whilst using the time she has to learn about Meya and how Aven of the past becomes the Aven of the future, her future. Carefully trying to keep her secret of mortality from Aven, and the other Meya, Alex goes by Aeylia, and begins her education and interaction with tose she knows in the future, but not in the past. It is up to Alex to survive this time in the past, whilst her friends in the future are stuck in time. She must make hard decision that will see tragedy come down upon those she cares about, Meya and human. In the third book, Alex is tested in ways that she could never have imagined since stepping through the doors to Medora and Akarnae in book one, and where she must find a way to get back to her world to prevent the Aven of the future from destroying the world and everyone she cares about.

aww2017-badgeIn this third instalment, I didn’t know what to expect. Alex and her friends, D.C. and Bear, are still trying to find a way to free Jordan from the clutches of Aven and keep Medora and Akarnae safe from his destruction. It kept up a good pace, like the first two, where Alex, though out of her depth at first, finds a way to settle into her new surroundings whilst staying true to her character and adapting what she knows and can do to ensure she is not discovered, though it may only be a matter of time before her secret is revealed, and Aven wreaks havoc on his family and Meya.

I enjoyed the draekons in this book. Xiraxus was adorable and a great asset to the story. Being away from Akarnae was refreshing, as readers get to experience Meya, and Draekora, two other regions of Medora, and begin to put the pieces of Aven’s rebellion and other hints dropped in the first two novels together. I enjoyed reading this one, and it kept me awake late a couple of nights hoping to get to the end, but at the same time, wanting to savour it and enjoy it – whilst anticipating the lengthy wait for book four, hopefully next year. Another great instalment from Lynette Noni, and a tick in my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and in another reading challenge for the fantasy category.

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Reading in 2017: My Goals

With 2016 coming to an end, I have started thinking about my wrap up post of the books I have read, and the challenge I participated in – a post I will only write once I know my challenge results. This will be included in a 2016 wrap up post of what I have read, how many books I read, and hopefully, a list of the top five I read, though that might be a bit of a challenge, having read so many good books this year.

Next year, I am aiming to read as much as I did this year, or perhaps more, and hopefully, do more reviews, more blog posts and more about reading, authors, and other posts that come to mind. I missed out on a few significant literary anniversaries this year, so I plan to keep on top of that. I plan to try and review other books as well as what I am sent by publishers – the beauty there is I can review older books as well, and hopefully introduce these to new readers. This year my Goodreads goal was 45 books – so far I have surpassed that by at least 20, including re-reads of a few favourites, but more on that in my yearly wrap up post.

2017 is my first year without studies. I will be reading more as a result, probably, and writing more. More blog posts, definitely, in the categories mentioned above. I hope to read some more non-fiction, in particular a book I picked up about pre 1788 Australia, pre-colonialism. We need books like this to do away with common misconceptions taught within our history classes, to discover the history we never get to learn in school – or even university in my case.

I am eagerly awaiting the release of a few books, some of which I hope to receive review copies for, but will hopefully purchase them if I don’t:

Frogkisser! By Garth Nix, towards the end of February

Draekora by Lynette Noni on the first of April (I may be receiving a review copy of this book from Pantera Press)

A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill – The 8th Rowland Sinclair novel

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I am sure there are others, however, those are my top four and I eagerly await their release, especially the Pantera Press ones to find out what happens to Rowly and his friends, but also to Alex, Jordan, Bear and D.C. after that heart stopping cliffhanger in Raelia! At some stage, I may need to re-read Arkanae and Raelia before reading Draekora!

Apart from that, I will be reading any review copies I am sent, and trying to read all my other books. There are so many I need to read.

Looking foward to the coming year of reading, and will hopefully be able to set my challenges if any, early in the New Year.

The Book Muse

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A Good Yarn: Australian Stories, Australian Voices

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Imagine you have written and published a book, and you are starting to make a living from the royalties from this book, a goal you have been working towards for years. Now, imagine you’ve been told that not only will books published overseas take priority over Australian content, but that in fifteen years, you and all other Australian authors will lose not only their copyright, but right to royalties because the government deems fifteen years enough to make a living from your hard work, and that fair use, that is, someone’s right to use your words, your work in any way that they see fit – is more important than you and your family being able to live.

This is the reality that will face any Australian author if the government decides to repeal Parallel Import Restrictions, (PIRs) as recommended by the Productivity Commission. It would mean greater risk to Australian publishers, and greater risk at taking on Australian voices and authors – there would be no incentive for Australian authors to be promoted because the claims are, imported, foreign stories would make books cheaper and more accessible; when in fact, books in Australia are cheaper already.

Books Create is a driving force in trying to prevent this from happening, and have presented some facts about the book industry in Australia:

  • With 7,000 new titles published annually, this creates $2 billion in revenue;
  • When a publisher invests directly in an Australian author for non-educational purposes, this results in $120 million per annum, including promotion;
  • 1,000 businesses engage in the publishing industry, employing over 4,000 people. These jobs could be at risk if PIRs are introduced, and this should be a concern to those who say we need to create more jobs;
  • Book sellers and printers, and other book-related jobs employ a further 20,000 people;
  • Australia has the 14th largest publishing industry in the world – just because we do not make the top ten should not mean our stories don’t get published;
  • 300,000 Australians visit 100 literary festivals per year – this suggests that the desire for Australian authors and stories is high;
  • Australia has the largest English-language independent bookseller market – again, more jobs that could potentially be lost;
  • Average author income is $13,000 a year – not enough to live on;
  • Unlike other industries, the publishing industry does not use government subsidies, nor is it protected by government tariffs; and
  • EBooks only take up 20% of the market.

The arguments for these measures are purely economic, and based on the benefit of the many – being able to use an author’s work in any way someone desires, rather than someone being able to support themselves and not having to rely on other people or giving up on their dream and taking a job they don’t enjoy, or even taking their chances with an overseas publisher who may strip away the very essence of an Australian voice. It does not take into account the cultural implications either – where Australians – any Australians – white, Indigenous, immigrant or refugee – have their voices silenced in favour of foreign voices. I do not like the idea of not being able to read my favourite Pantera Press authors, or not being able to see if I can find an Indigenous story to read, or even just reading any book by any Australian author, even if it is set in a fantasy world or another time and place. It is still an Australian voice that deserves to be heard.

The fair use issue could be resolved by allowing educational institutions to use books for educational purposes. Fair use should not mean a free for all, where anyone can use and plagiarise an author’s work in any way they see fit. Fair use should mean that people can use the work for educational purposes but that the author must also have a say in any alterations or adaptations, especially if done during their life time. To take advantage of the hard work someone else has put into something and say “Sorry, I get to use your work any way I see fit to make money off and you can’t do anything about it,” is wrong. As an aspiring author, I have spent many years working on my writing. My fear with an open, free-for-all attitude to fair use and undermining copyright is not people studying the texts or wishing to be inspired by them or approaching me to make a film; it is the people who would try and profit off my hard work, or the hard work of any author via plagiarism and the original creator being unable to do anything to defend their work and livelihood.

On the issue of reducing copyright from seventy years after an author’s death to fifteen to twenty five years after publication, would you be happy to go up to someone who has built a house, is taking care of it, raising a family, and say to them: “You have had this house for fifteen years, your time is up. Another family needs this house, you need to move out?” No, because we recognise a house is a necessity. Similarly, the income an author receives from their books and backlists are necessary for them to live their lives without worrying if they can afford to eat that week.

There are many more issues that are involved with this and can be found at the Books Create website, or by doing a Google search of the issues and seeing what comes up from the Australian Society of Authors, or the Australian Publishing Association, or even the following blog posts by Alison Green, CEO of Pantera Press. We need to protect Australian stories and voices, and this cannot be done if we let the government silence us in the name of economics and fair use.

Below are some websites and links that expand on these ideas and help to explain them:

 

http://twibbon.com/embed/books-create-australia

Books Create Australia: http://bookscreateaustralia.com.au #bookscreate

Australian Society of Authors: https://www.asauthors.org

Alison Green: https://www.panterapress.com.au/news-and-events/6071/ and https://www.panterapress.com.au/news-and-events/6081/

The Falls by B Michael Radburn

thefallscover

 

I received a copy from the publisher for review

 

Title: The Falls

Author: B. Michael Radburn

Genre: Fiction/Crime Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: August, 2016

RRP: $29.99

Format: Paperback

Pages: 364

Synopsis: A week of despair… a century of evil

Damaged but not yet broken, park ranger Taylor Bridges believes his ghosts are in the past – until a raging forest fire in an isolated canyon of The Falls lays bare the remains of a young woman… and a decade-old killing ground.

After the police enlist Taylor in their investigation, the evidence bizarrely points to a deranged preacher who reigned over The Falls a century ago.

But when a crucial witness and a policewoman disappear, it’s clear that a disciple of The Falls’ dark history is on the loose.

 

~*~

 

The Falls by B. Michael Radburn is the second book in the Taylor Bridges series. Still reeling from the death of his daughter Claire five years ago, The Falls follows on from The Crossing, and Taylor’s struggle with the disappearance and death of Claire. When the daughter of an old friend and her partner stumble across a body whilst exploring the Christiana Goldmine in Eldritch Falls, Taylor is called in to assist the police in the national park. Taylor must grapple with his guilt about Claire, and the emotions that this new case brings to the surface. As the case progresses, links to a string of ritualistic murders that span one hundred years. These murders become linked to a family who has lived in the area for generations, a family determined to keep the secrets of the past hidden away from prying eyes, whatever the cost may be.

The daughter of Taylor’s friend, Aroha, becomes involved as a witness and later, is taken. Taylor and the police must find her before it is too late, and before other lives are endangered during the search for truth and its war with keeping secrets and continuing a legacy that has been in place for over one hundred years.

Michael Radburn has created a story using the natural environment and the fear of the unknown, or the fear of what we don’t understand. This gives the characters, both good, bad, and in between, concrete and believable motivations and desires that drive the story towards its relieving conclusion where the reader can finally take a deep breath and relax after the fast paced ride.

This was my first adventure with Taylor Bridges, and I found that I did not need to have read the first book to enjoy this and understand what drove the characters. The mine and the bush of country Victoria was the perfect setting for this mystery, a place where anything could happen. Where shadows dance at the edges of the darkness, and where fear takes over. The novel kept up a good pace and kept me reading as long as possible to find out what happened, and to find out who survived and who didn’t. It is a story where people aren’t always what they seem, and that speaks to the human condition and its various degrees of sanity, desire and wanting to please people, but also, human desire for belief, and legacy. A haunting tale that will keep you up at night, I enjoyed reading this book, and hope that further books are forthcoming and will be just as intriguing as this one.

The Blood of Wolves by S.D. Gentill (Sulari Gentill)

blood-of-wolvesTitle: The Blood of Wolves (The Hero Trilogy #3)
Author: S.D. Gentill
Publisher: Pantera Press
Category: Fantasy/YA/Mythology
Pages: 440
Available formats: Print
Publication Date: 1/3/2013
Synopsis: The third and final book in the HERO TRILOGY
4 DARING YOUNG HEROES…
…INSANITY… HERESY…
AND A BLOODY WAR…
As empires fall and are founded anew, the Herdsmen of Ida join the refugees of Troy in search of a vague destiny promised by fickle gods. Amidst disaster, monsters, heresy and war they risk not only their lives, but their hearts, to twist the treacherous threads of fate and deny the desperate demands of blood.

~*~

The Blood of Wolves was my first introduction to S.D. Gentill’s work when I read it and reviewed it for the New South Wales Writer’s Centre. The second time around, having purchased and read the preceding books in the trilogy, I came to it with a better understanding of the events that led to what happened in this book, and found it just as enjoyable.
The fall of the Trojan empire and Aeneas’ attempts to position himself as the Son of the Goddess and to build a new city for his people coincides with the conclusion of the Trojan War and Hero and her brothers’ journeying to find Odysseus and their adventures following their encounters with him. Aeneas, and his young son, Iulus, who finds Hero a great comfort during the time the Trojans find themselves wandering with the kinsmen of The Herdsmen of Ida. Aeneas’ dedication to the gods and the signs they give him, so he says, capture Hero’s attention, even when it seems Aeneas is leading those with him into disaster.
Accompanied as they have been by she-wolf Lupa, throughout the trilogy, the siblings find themselves helping Aeneas, but then threatened by the Carthaginians when Machaon battles to gain the freedom of the Phaeacian princess, Nausicaa, who helped them during their search for Odysseus, and finally embroiled in tragedy that Aeneas claims has been foretold, the journey of the siblings must come to a conclusion. What that conclusion is to be can only be decided by yet more war and tragedy.
Gentill has yet again seamlessly woven ancient history and mythology into a fine narrative, accessible for young adults and anyone interested in Greek Mythology. In calling the chapters books, as in The Odyssey, and describing the gods as Homer did, it adds a layer of authenticity and familiarity for people who have read The Odyssey and texts with similar themes such as The Aeneid, and can introduce the idea of reading these texts to new readers. I found this trilogy to be enjoyable, and would love to revisit them. I recommend them to anyone interested in adventures and mythology or ancient history, and hope that future readers enjoy the journey as much as I did.

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