Tag Archives: books

Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

I had mixed feelings about this book. The setting seems contemporary except young fifteen-year-old girls suddenly acquire the ability to kill, maim and injure people via a skein in their collar bone which gives them the capacity to have electrical power. Girls around the world begin using it and showing older women how to harness it. Women begin saving those suffering from sex trafficking, exploitation, and abuse of all types and the power unleashes the ability for women everywhere to stand up for themselves. The world tilts as men try to grapple with the consequences.

It sounds like a tantalising read and it’s exciting to explore where the world could be if power was reversed. We see it through the eyes of a young man, two young women and a female Senator who has teenage girls. The first half of the book was fascinating as the power shifted.

If you’re expecting a utopian ending you aren’t going to get it. The world is flipped because of gender but guess what, nothing really changes. Men are scared to walk the streets, they’re violated and abused. There’s still wars and craziness. And it’s this idea that I failed to embrace and why the second half of the book seemed almost so far-fetched as to be laughable. The characters weren’t particularly likable and the plot seemed to be a series of events. For me, it seemed as if the top ten women’s issues in the world were brainstormed so the author could get each one down in the book and I began to find this tedious.

Nevertheless, it is thought-provoking to wonder what the world would be like if power changed. I’d like to think it would be better, that women would have empathy and understanding to make sure the world was a better place instead of spiralling into revenge. But Alderman thinks it would be just as bad and I think that’s a pity.

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: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

 

Anna Kerrigan is twelve when she meets Dexter Styles, a man with a shady history in the underworld but with a respectable façade. A couple of years later, Anna’s father disappears. Anna, along with her mother and disabled sister, is devastated.

At nineteen Anna meets Dexter Styles again and is convinced he knows what happened to her father and proceeds to find out. This book is so much more than the intrigue of Anna’s father. Set in New York during the Second World war, Anna pushes boundaries as a woman to become a deep sea diver repairing warships.

The book is thoroughly researched and very detailed. For some, the intricate detail around what was happening in the Brooklyn Naval Yard might hold a lot more fascination than it did for me.

But I did enjoy Anna’s story. The description of her being encased in a two-hundred-pound dress and metal helmet was incredible and had me taking deep gulps of air.

“Then she was inside, encased in a humid metallic smell that was almost a taste. They screwed the base of the helmet into the breastplate like a lightbulb fitting a socket. A crushing weight bore down upon Anna through the collar’s sharp edges. She writhed under it, trying to move away or unseat it. There were two raps on top of the helmet, and the round front window popped open, admitting a shock of cool air.”

The battle Anna had with authorities to allow her to participate in a male-oriented world was compelling as was the love and care she had for her sister Lydia. We were given glimpses of her relationships with other women too but for the most part, it was her relationships with her father and Dexter which dominated the plot.

However, it almost seemed as if the research needed to find a home no matter what and I think when the narrative changed to the points of view of these two men I found this part jarring. The two male characters weren’t likable enough to hold me and I would have preferred the story to have stuck to Anna.

All in all, the book was good enough to hold my attention but not enough to rave about in glowing terms for me.

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-