Tag Archives: australian authors

Book Review: Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman

 

I feel as if I’ve lived under a rock. The revelations this book unfolded for me were not only eye-opening but positively scary. According to the book’s blurb, journalist Ginger Gorman was trolled in 2013. After doing a story she received hateful tweets, including a death threat, and a picture of her, her husband, and daughter appeared on a fascist website. Although terrifying, she began questioning who the trolls were and why they did what they did. So began her incredibly insightful investigation into another world, a world of cyberhate, cyber-crime and a community of faceless trolls.

Gorman talks to a realm of professionals including psychologists, academics, law enforcement agencies, victims as well as the trolls themselves. The motivation behind the troll’s activities is wide-reaching from causing mischief for fun to disturbance, disruption to individual lives or in the wider arena of political spheres. Sometimes their activities have catastrophic consequences. Gorman dips deep to get into the psyche of a troll’s mindset and one troll admitted that when he was eleven he was on the internet playing pranks for hours; “in other words: the internet was my parent.” The troll in question agrees with Gorman’s observation that for some young people, radicalisation into trolling begins at a young age.

The trolls’ backgrounds are varied. There are the women haters, terrorists, ultra-right wingers, and left-wingers, to categorise a few. But mostly they’re men often holding down ordinary jobs, and educated too. It’s naive to think that people like this haven’t been around for years and years. But the difference here is anonymity in a different dimension.

It makes you think about your own online behaviour. Like yelling in the car at the mistake someone’s made on the road, our road rage is often hidden safely behind the confines of the vehicle. Online, does anyone really know who we are? And words can hurt far more than anyone realises.

‘There’s good evidence to show dehumanising speech can lead to sticks and stones. … numerous academic studies … show dehumanisation is ‘associated with an increased willingness to perpetrate violence.’

It’s a hard read with each turn of the page revealing something more disturbing than before. Yet so compelling is it, you find yourself fascinated. I almost reached for my social media apps to delete them all. And that is a real reaction as we wonder how safe we are in the online world.

This book would have been incredibly difficult to write. The depths of Gorman’s own anguish shows through and as a reader, I was right there with her. Trolling can destroy lives and although some have gone to jail, the law enforcement agencies don’t appear to have fully caught up with this epidemic activity, and that’s scary.

I’m in awe of this author’s bravery to have not only conducted incredible research but possibly put herself and her family into danger, physically and mentally. Yes, it’s an eye-opener and if you’re on social media it would be wise to check this book out.

Let’s chat about reading and writing

Are you looking for something to do next Sunday afternoon in Melbourne? Why not spend a winter’s afternoon in the warmth of Bunjil Place Library? The fabulous library space is set within a newly built arts precinct at 2 Patrick Northeast Drive, Narre Warren.

Every Sunday afternoon, Bunjil Place Library hosts a different author where the community can get up close and ask those burning questions like, how long does it take to write a book? What do you like to read?

Browse through their collection of wonderful books, sit in a comfy snug then come and chat with me about my writing journey and hear all about my books, historical fiction, and short stories and ask your burning questions.

I just happen to be at Bunjil Place Library next Sunday 28 July from 2:00pm until 3:30 pm and you can ask away.

I hope to see you there.

Book Review: Islands by Peggy Frew

I loved Islands. There’s a rhythm of sadness in this beautifully written book as we are led into the lives of various characters and their points of view told in a mix of timelines. The style may not be to everyone’s taste. But my advice is to be patient and perhaps take time to read it to remember everyone.

There was a house on a hill in the city, and it was full, of us, our family, but then it began to empty. We fell out. We made a mess.
We draped ourselves in blame and disappointment and lurched around, bumping into each other. Some of us wailed and shouted; some of us barely made a sound. None of us was listening, or paying attention. And in the middle of it all you, very quietly, were gone.

The Worth family of John and Helen and their young two daughters Junie and Anna could be like any family until Helen has an affair and leaves John. The family begins to splinter slowly in the aftermath of divorce, then completely disintegrates when fifteen-year-old Anna, a troubled and rebellious teen, goes missing. Not knowing how to deal with Anna, Helen decides to give her daughter space, after all, she has taken off before. Blame and tensions arise when Helen fails to report her missing daughter for three days. The unresolved grief about Anna overhangs their lives for years to come.

The landscape is Phillip Island and the imagery is evocative. The house where John’s parents holidayed then retired to is ever-present in the memories of each of the main characters. This imagery is spot on. I know, because I spent my own late teens in a coastal town nearby where my parents owned a holiday house.


“The bald hills crowd in and let go again, and he sails down the last stretch, the flat water below reflecting a half-moon. Past the clustered darkness of the San Remo shops and over the bridge with its tall lights, empty of their daytime perching gulls.”

There are other characters, some of whom you wonder about until the end of their chapter when the connection is revealed.

It’s a remarkable book not just because of the writing but the raw emotion is so moving it stays with you for a long time. Frew’s talent is incredible and I’ll be checking out the rest of her books.

Book Review: The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

The Ruin is McTiernan’s debut novel and what a novel it is. It’s a cracking read, fast-paced which hooks the reader in and never lets her go until the climactic end.

It begins in 1993 in Galway, Ireland when as a new recruit, Reilly is sent to a scene in a lonely broken down old house to find two abused and starved children, Maude and Jack alone with their dead mother. Twenty years later, Jack is found dead, supposedly suicide… or is it? Reilly uncovers secrets, lies, and corruption and struggles to trust anyone, most of all his own colleagues.

I confess to reading this crime series featuring Cormac Reilly a little out of sequence. The second novel The Scholar was enthralling and I scratched my head about the inclusion of Carrie O’Halloran’s character but now having read this novel, it all makes perfect sense. You can check out my review here. (https://sckarakaltsas.com/2019/05/29/book-review-the-scholar-by-dervla-mc-tiernan/)

Don’t get me wrong. The two novels are strong enough to stand on their own. But if you do read them in sequence, the nuances of the common characters become clearer.
There are two points of view, Reilly and Jack’s girlfriend, Aisling. I enjoyed all the characters which I thought were drawn well. Aisling, an ambitious doctor struggles with her grief and her scenes were particularly heartfelt. Reilly, at times, floundered and the reader felt as much on the outer as he did. I also enjoyed the inner workings and politics of the police department too. I did wonder about Reilly’s method of investigation; why didn’t he go to Maude immediately and ask her questions first, instead of going to the old next door neighbour? But what do I know? I’m not a detective.

Yes, this one is very difficult to put down and there’s lots in it. I’d definitely read another of McTiernan’s books. Check it out.

Book Launch: The Book of Dave by Peter Lingard and Colours of Death by Robert New

Last night I had the honour of saying a few words and launching two books of short stories for two wonderful writers, Peter Lingard and Robert New at Readings Book Store in Hawthorn.

I met Peter Lingard five years ago when I joined the Phoenix Park Writers Group and admire his writing. Peter has written more than three hundred short stories published in various publications around the world. He’s also written a full-length novel Boswell’s Fairies. (see my earlier review https://sckarakaltsas.com/2017/10/27/book-review-boswells-fairies-by-peter-lingard/) Last night, The Book of Dave was released to the world.

Peter with writers from Phoenix Park Writers Group

A bit about The Book of Dave by Peter Lingard
Dave Wilson is a London barman who, in late December, sifts through telephone numbers accumulated during the year. Each chapter tells the story behind the number.
He joins a band of people who wear pink underwear every Friday, goes to sea in a collier, helps a client sell his invention, takes a sick woman to hospital. Dave becomes friendly with a less than honest policeman, and flies to New York where he falls for an unobtainable woman.

If you ever wanted to get a bird’s eye view at what happens to a barman, this is the book for you. The fact that Peter once worked behind the bar gives some authenticity and he tells each story with humour.

I  also met Robert New five years when I joined Monash Writers Group. He was preparing his second novel, Incite Insight for release and I was writing Climbing the Coconut Tree. We both launched our books three years ago and have supported each other ever since.

Working full time and raising a young family, I asked Robert how he’s been able to write so prolifically and he told me that he simply tries to write at least two hundred and fifty words per day. That’s fewer words than this blog post but over a year adds up. Of course, there are days when he has the time to do more. That’s how he was able to put together Colours of Death. His passion for science shows through in each story as he finds unusual and sometimes bizarre ways people can be murdered.

A bit about Colours of Death: Sergeant Thomas’ Casebook by Robert New
What colour death would you fear the most? This is a collection of nine detective stories where colour plays a role in the mystery.
A high school awards ceremony turns to tragedy when the audience turns blue as they die.
A serial killer’s hair colour could be the key to their capture. An arsonist is trapping people in burning buildings, just to write a story about the rescuers. After a body is dumped in public, working out how the victim died is harder than decoding the intended message.
An incident with the Red Man haunts Detective Thomas, but may also be the key to solving a new case.

There is quite a bit of science behind the stories and you’ll definitely learn something.

It was a privilege to help launch these two books by two wonderful writers and I wish them every success.

Copies are available for sale now. Check them out. Links below:

The Book of Dave by Peter Lingard

 

https://www.amazon.com/Book-Dave-Peter-Lingard-ebook/dp/B07RG8MH9N/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Book+of+Dave+by+peter+lingard&qid=1561687101&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Colours of Death Sergeant Thomas Casebook by Robert New

https://www.amazon.com/Colours-Death-Sergeant-Thomas-Casebook-ebook/dp/B07RBJR1VJ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Colours+of+Death+Sergeant+Thomas%27+Casebook+by+Robert+New&qid=1561687511&s=gateway&sr=8-

 

Book Review: The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire by Chloe Hooper

Pic Courtesy of Goodreads

February 7,2009 is etched on my mind forever as it would be for most Victorians. That was the day when our state burned and many people’s lives changed forever. The tenth anniversary just passed, reminded us of the loss and the recovery. We all remember what we did that day. For me, I attended a wedding and the 47-degree Celsius heat and ferocity of the wind felt sinister as smoke blanketed our city and state. Within the next few days, we would learn that 179 people and countless animals had died, numerous property destroyed and for some, an experience too horrible to ever fully recover from.

“Soon it would be known as Black Saturday: four hundred separate fires had burned Victoria, giving off the equivalent of 80000 kilowatts of heat, or 500 atomic bombs.”

Chloe Hooper writes about one of those fires – the one near Churchill deliberately lit which killed forty people. Hooper takes us inside the police investigation and the capture of the man responsible for the fire’s beginning.

In particular, she gives us some insight into the man himself who is autistic and how he, his family and the local community deals with the consequences of his actions. The legal process is explored and at times you can’t help but feel sorry for everyone involved having to relive what happened. The man was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen years in jail.

But this story prompted me to wonder about the other fires; the ones where the Royal Commission identified electricity lines as the cause of sparks and subsequent loss of life. Surely you would think those responsible would also be in jail. Sadly, they are not. A Royal Commission, lawsuits and class actions are what’s left of accountability. And although Hooper doesn’t mention it, what hits home for me in stark contrast is this: that this one man is an easier target to punish than a corporation whose negligence is responsible for even more deaths and destruction. Yes, there was a bucket of money paid out but money doesn’t exonerate or replace lives lost.

It’s sad and it’s tragic but it has now become part of our history and Hooper has done a magnificent job to pull it all together. It’s tight and fast paced and if you didn’t know that it happened, you could almost think it was all fiction. But it’s not. Try and read it if you can.

Book Review: Hollow Bones by Leah Kaminsky

An enlightening fictional story of real life German scientist, SS officer, Ernst Scafer was an eye opener. Ernst is obsessed with nature and in particular a hunter of animals and a taxidermist. He is tasked by Himmler and Goring to lead an expedition into Tibet to confirm the origins of the Aryan race. I’d never heard of the so-called World Ice Theory which is as bizarre today as it was then except for the fact that the Nazi hierarchy were consumed by it.

Kaminsky paints a picture of what life in Germany is like from 1937 to 1939. We learn about Ernst as a boy as well as his love for Herta who as a woman must go to Bride School and learn how to be a good SS wife, must be of pure origins and who challenges her husband and his involvement with the Nazi regime. Ernst, however is a man of ambition who uses the regime as a benefactor for his scientific pursuits whatever the costs.

There is a lot in this book and Kaminsky has done a remarkable job researching and piecing a story together. I found the first half of the book about the growth of Herta and Ernst relationship the most interesting and wondered if perhaps this should have been explored more. I found myself wanting more about them and Herta’s missing sister. The second half of the book is mostly about the expedition to Tibet and at times seemed almost a non-fictional account from the research. The current day chapters from the point of view of a slaughtered and stuffed animal slowed the story down for me and jarred. And if you are at all squeamish about animal slaughter it might not be for you.

It’s a very descriptive and well written book which is nevertheless gives a fascinating glimpse about this little known period but it’s not really an easy book to read. The afterword was particularly interesting as it detailed what happened to Ernst and his fellow colleagues and their culpability during the war and afterwards. It’s quite a sickening eye-opener.