Author Archives: S.C. Karakaltsas

About S.C. Karakaltsas

I am a published author of historical fiction and short stories.

Book Review: Snakes and Ladders by Angela Williams



This is a story which is raw, brutal and honest. Angela Williams memoir could almost be fictional and you wish that it was.

Angela with university and teaching credentials stepped out to cross a road and was hit by a postie’s motor bike. Police took down her name and a statement and came back two days later with a warrant for her arrest. There was no court case, no bail opportunity, no appeal, just straight to a correctional facility in handcuffs in front of her dismayed partner and young son. Why? She’d served time for a crime she committed when she was a drug addicted teenager, thirteen years earlier. Except she’d only served five months of it. She was taken away to serve the rest.

I’d seen an interview with Angela on the ABC News less than a month or so ago where she talked about her book which had just launched. My curiosity peaked. I had to read it.
Angela pulls no punches. The introduction warns the reader what to expect.

Let’s take something from the old me and jump in with both feet. Let’s hold our breath when we need to, and laugh when we need to, cry when we need to, eat doughnuts when we need to. I’m here, in the future, holding your hand. I promise it all turns out okay… I drove myself mad to tell you this story, so you damn well better read it.

And once you start reading you can’t stop because no matter how much we see of the old Angela, the prison system, the cruelty of her upbringing and enter her old world, we know it turns out okay. That’s what kept me going. That and the writing, which is wonderful.

Acrid panic froths across the back of my tongue. A glint of burning light off chrome catches my eye. I lock onto this shred of bright, body frozen in place. Crickets chirp in the bag hanging from my hand.

Learning about the women in the modern-day prison system, how it runs, life as a sex worker and drug addict was astonishing at times to read, yet eye-opening. Her own personal journey gives hope.

I couldn’t stop myself from questioning power imbalances, was filled with rage at small inequalities and awed into silences by big ones. But I keep trying, trusting, writing, thinking.

I couldn’t help comparing this book to the Mars Room which is fictional and was short listed for the Booker 2018. Snakes and Ladders, I think, is so much better.

Today, I’m featuring a guest post by Melbourne-based author AJ Collins, whose first book, a crossover YA/adult novel, Oleanders Are Poisonous, has just been released. A recipient of first prize and several commendations for the Monash WordFest awards, AJ has been published in various short story anthologies and magazines, and was awarded a place at […]

via Celebrating new books in troublesome times 3: AJ Collins — Feathers of the Firebird

Book Review: Magnolias don’t Die by A J Collins

This is the sequel to Oleanders are Poisonous, (see my earlier review https://sckarakaltsas.com/2020/03/06/book-review-oleanders-are-poisonous-by-a-j-collins/). I read this one just as quickly.


We skip ahead two years later when Lauren meets her old friend, Harry in a pub where she’s started singing. He convinces her that she has talent enough to make singing a profession and she escapes the sleazy manager and heads off on the road with Harry. There’s one thing she knows and that is, she wants more than friendship from Harry. Of course, it’s not easy as Lauren battles the demons of her past and especially that night on her sixteenth birthday.

This was as pacey as the prequel and my sympathy for Lauren never altered.  I found myself cheering for her hoping she’d put Harry out of his misery, because Harry is a truly likeable guy. She’s grown up a bit more; is gutsy and feisty while finding a way to learn how to forgive and heal. I enjoyed the relationship with Snap too, although he needed more from her than what she was capable of giving. No spoilers.


I’m not sure how you would go reading this one first, I think it would make sense and it is a longer read. But to enhance the reading experience, I’d recommend these books in sequential order. So, buy them both!

Book Review: The White Girl by Tony Birch

Pic from Goodreads

This is the first book I’ve read by Tony Birch and it won’t be the last.

Odette Brown is a woman who lives in shanty town in outback rural Australia in the early sixties. She looks after her grand-daughter Sissy keeping them both from the attention of the welfare authorities who systematically remove fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families supposedly for their own good.

When Sissy turns thirteen, she comes under the notice of new policeman in town who zealously takes on the job of being the legal custodian all aboriginal children in the district. Odette leaves with her granddaughter and heads to the city with the policeman in hot pursuit.

This book, although a fictional story gives us a sense of the Aboriginal experience, one which was never taught in Australians schools or talked about in the daily newspapers.

For years, Aboriginal people living on the mission were barred from entering town, except on Saturday mornings between eight and noon, when they were permitted to shop at the company store in the main street. “

It’s well-paced and filled with tension. It’s also a story of resilience, love, courage and hope as well as connection to and the importance of family. In the words of the author, “What I do hope for with this novel, is that the love and bravery of the tenacity and love within the hearts of those who suffered the theft of their own blood.”

It’s an easy to read and well-written book which touches on important issues of a nasty era.

Book Review: Less by Andrew Sean Greer

 

This Pulitzer prize winning book for 2018 was quite a surprise.

It’s about a failed writer called Arthur Less who receives a wedding invitation from his ex-lover, Freddy. To add to his woes, he’s about to turn fifty, lamenting his old age and the way his life has turned out. Instead of facing his problems, he runs away by travelling the world. Along the way he picks up an award in Italy, teaches in Berlin, rewrites the manuscript his publisher turned down and enjoys a fling or two.

Some failed writer was my immediate thought!

Poor old Arthur Less is a bit hopeless in the love department, a bit clueless about life and how he fits into the world. It makes for some amusing times, although for me, it’s not laugh- out loud funny, yet for others it may be.

“Perhaps Less, alone, is kidding. Here, looking at his clothes – black jeans for New York, khaki for Mexico, blue suit for Italy, down for Germany, linen for India – costume after costume. Each one is a joke, and the joke is on him: Less the gentleman, Less the author, Less the tourist, Less the hipster, Less the colonialist. Where is the real Less? Less the young man terrified of love? The dead-serious Less of twenty-five years ago? Well, he had not packed him at all. After all these years, Less doesn’t even know where he’s stored.”

The writing is magnificent with descriptions of place so intricate and long in sentence that you feel you’re right there in the thick of it.

“It’s nothing like he expected, the sun flirting with him among the trees and houses; the driver speeding along a crumbling road alongside which trash was piled as if washed there; the endless series of shops, as if made from one continuous concrete barrier, painted at intervals with different signs advertising chickens and medicine, coffins and telephones, pet fish and cigarettes, hot tea and ‘homely’ food, …”

I confess to feeling a bit ho hum about this book at first and it seemed like a travel log reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love – gasp – except the themes of self-doubt, lost love and age are central. I wondered where it was going and as I continued on my reading journey, Arthur Less grew on me, bit by bit. The end brought it all together, the twist, revelation, call it what you will, was fantastic and filled me with love for this book.

Special Offer for A Perfect Stone

 

A special offer for A Perfect Stone on Kindle, only for a short time and only on Amazon. To take advantage of this massive discount on price, grab it now on Amazon

What’s it about?

Living alone, eighty-year-old Jim Philips potters in his garden feeding his magpies. He doesn’t think much of his nosy neighbours and dislikes telemarketers intensely. All he wants to do is live in peace.

Cleaning out a box belonging to his late wife, he finds something which triggers the memories of a childhood he’s hidden, not just from his overprotective middle-aged daughter, Helen, but from himself. When Jim has a stroke, Helen is shocked to find out her father is not who she thinks he is.

Jim’s suppressed memories surface in the most unimaginable way when he finally confronts what happened when, as a ten-year-old, he was forced at gunpoint to leave his family and trek barefoot through the mountains to escape the Greek Civil War in 1948.

What are readers saying?

Goodreads

FIVE STARS FOR A PERFECT STONE

“This is a fictional story but based on actual events, and the author wastes not a word in evoking sympathy for those most vulnerable members of society, without ever becoming maudlin.” Helen Hollick (Discovering Diamonds – shortlisted for book of the month July 19)

 ‘It is a story of loss and survival interspersed with the history of a war I knew little about. Highly recommended.’ Elise

“A Perfect Stone” is a vivid and engaging novel that brims with believable characters and a great deal of observational wisdom.” Clare

 ‘It brought me to tears in more than one passage,” Stephanie

“The story of young children – their exhaustion, hunger and ultimate survival is riveting. It makes me think differently about my neighbours – eastern European, Asian – of where they’ve come from and what they may have endured to get here.
I loved the writing and the fastidious research and simply couldn’t put it down.” Meredith

“I was thoroughly immersed and couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended.” Eugene

“A fictional story drawn from real experiences, Dimitri/Jim become stand ins for all children throughout history forced from their homes in time of war and destined never to be reunited with their birth families.” Chris 

Book Review: Oleanders are Poisonous by A J Collins


I don’t normally read a lot of young adult fiction but what I have read is usually quite suitable for adults. Oleanders are Poisonous is one such book.


Lauren, is a young teenage girl who lives in a small country town. She has a close mate, Harry whom she’s known for years. Singing with him takes her mind off her home life where her mother is deteriorating from a debilitating illness. Lauren and her step-father, Samuel struggle to cope until one night on Lauren’s sixteenth birthday, when everything dramatically changes.


This is the first book out of a series of two. Being short, I read it in a few hours and found I couldn’t put it down: reading it on the train, on the escalator and in the dentist waiting room hoping he was running late – he was.


I was hopelessly hooked into this coming of age story, immediately caring so much about Lauren and what was happening to her. How she navigates her feelings and her way in the world had me cheering for her all the way. Collin’s writing is superb and fast-pace. Oleanders are Poisonous is an easy and quick read. 


Now for the sequel, Magnolia’s don’t Die.