Tag Archives: writing

Book Review: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

I held this tome of a book in my hands with trepidation at first, just because it’s a long read. Now I’ve finished it, I hold it like it’s a bible of words to be revered.

I simply loved this book.

Within the first few pages we’re introduced to the narrator, Matthew Dunbar, who, the day after getting married, is digging in someone’s backyard he doesn’t know for a typewriter he’s never seen before.

If before the beginning … was a typewriter, a dog and a snake, the beginning itself – eleven years previously – was a murderer, a mule and Clay.

And from that point we are engulfed in the story of the five Dunbar boys whose mother, Penny has died and their father has fled. The oldest is Matthew and the fourth boy is Clay who builds a bridge.

The moving family saga swaps between the present, the past and the time before and while this may be confusing at first, this is a book that commands your undivided attention and almost your every waking moment. There’s a rhythm and heartbeat to the writing, much like the metronome used by the Penny when teaching kids to read. The writing is pared back and at times almost poetic. The words are there for a reason and boy, does Markus Zusak know how to put them together.

For the longest time then, ten minutes at least, he stood at the mouth of Archer street, relieved to have finally made it, terrified to be there. The street didn’t seem to care; its breeze was close but casual, its smoky scent was untouchable. Cars stubbed out rather than parked, and the powerlines drooped from the weight of mute, hot and bothered pigeons. Around it, a city climbed and called:
Welcome back, murderer.

Each boy has his place in the family but Clay is the one they all look up to and need. The bonds of brotherhood can never be broken and their survival and hurt belongs to them all.
I loved the animals; the mule, Achilles, is a star in his own right.

This grey, patchy, ginger, light brown, thatch-faced, wide-eyed, fat nostrilled casual bastard of a mule – was standing steadfast, on the cracked lino.

And who could forget fur-shedding Hector the cat, Agamemnon, the head-butting fish and Telemachus the pigeon?

We grow to love Penny, and understand her background and the power of motherhood on her tribe of boys. Her passing is truly heartbreaking.

The reader is privy to the rough and tumble of what young boys are like, beating each other up all in preparation for what lies ahead.

They reached the sixth floor and Clay dumped Tommy sideways and tackled the mouth on his right. They landed on musty tiles, Clay half smiled, the other two laughed, and they all shrugged off the sweat. In the struggle, Clay got Henry in a headlock. He picked him up and ran him round.
‘You really need a shower, mate.’ Typical Henry … To interrupt, Tommy, thoroughly thirteen, took a running jump and brought all three of them down, arms and legs, boys and floor.

And like an onion we peel off the layers and the story reveals itself bit by bit so that by the end we know everything that’s happened and why.

I enjoyed spending time with the Dunbar boys. I worried for them, shed a tear for them, laughed with them, and didn’t want to leave them when I closed the final page. They will stay with me for a very long time.

Dive in, take your time, immerse yourself and enjoy this one.

 

 

 

A Perfect Stone by S.C. Karakaltsas

Why are readers talking about A Perfect Stone?

Is it because  almost 38000 Greek and Macedonian children were forcibly wrenched away from their homes and their families during the Greek Civil War and no-one seems to know about this little slice of history?

A Perfect Stone is a sweeping tale of survival, loss and love.

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

On sale at .99c on Kindle only until 21 January 2019. Get a copy while you can at this exclusive price.

COVER REVEAL: NEW RELEASE

Announcing New Release: A Perfect Stone by S.C. Karakaltsas

I am so excited to let you know that my novel, A Perfect Stone will be ready for release October 10, 2018. The cover is done, the proof has been examined from front to back and the format double-checked. There is nothing like holding your new book in your hands for the first time.

It might seem as though I’ve churned out another novel in a short time but believe me, this has been a project of more than two years in the making and at times a laborious undertaking. But it’s also been a labour of love and passion as I researched the heartbreaking tale of what happened to children who were forcibly removed from their homes during the Greek Civil War in 1948.

A dual timeline story taking the reader on a journey through the snow-covered mountains of Northern Greece, to Czechoslovakia, Macedonia and Australia, I hope you’ll like reading it as much as I loved writing it.

How do you find a place to belong when there’s nowhere else to go?

Living alone, eighty-year-old Jim Philips potters in his garden feeding his magpies. He doesn’t think much of his nosy neighbours or telemarketers. 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 and begins speaking another language, 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.

A Perfect Stone is a sweeping tale of survival, loss and love.

Now available https://www.amazon.com.au/Perfect-Stone-S-C-Karakaltsas/dp/0994503261/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1538698782&sr=1-1

Short Story Competitions

I enter my short stories from time to time into competitions. It’s highly competitive and I’d imagine a very tough task to judge. So when I recently received a Highly Commended Award for my short story, Stanley Place Boys, from Monash Wordfest 2018, I was surprised and delighted.

I’ve included the link if you’d like to read it. While you’re there, feel free to check out the winners, particularly the children’s categories where you’ll find some amazing entries.

The world is rich with story.

https://www.monlib.vic.gov.au/Events/WordFest-2018/2018-Short-Story-Writing-Competition-Results/2018-Cat-C-Commended-3

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

A lot has been said about this much lauded book. Its resurrection from the 1980’s with the well-known mini- series has found a greater appreciation and a fresh audience and is relevant in its message today as it was then.

I read it many years ago in my twenties and having read it again for the second time found a new appreciation. This dystopian novel puts us in an oppressed world where women whose rights and freedoms are stripped away are forced into specific roles – Handmaids are to breed; Martha’s are domestic workers etc. Offred is one of those Handmaids who gives us snippets of her life before the takeover by the Gilead regime and what led her to her present predictament.

The writing style, as with all Margaret Atwood novels is exquisite.
“We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semi-darkness we could stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren’t looking, and touch each other’s hands across the space. We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed.”

We know from the turn of page one that all is not right in a regime most of us could barely imagine. Yet some of the ideas about the treatment of women are not a forecast but I’d suggest a probable reality somewhere in the world. Who could forget the kidnapping of two hundred girls in Nigeria by the Boko Haram and what life those survivors endure? Oppression and religious zealotry is still rife in many parts of the world. Margaret Atwood does a great job of showing us how this feels through the voice of Offred. Yet, it’s telling is also reminiscent of our past and how far we have to go for women everywhere to have true choice.

The Handmaid’s Tale is profound and disturbing yet thought provoking. If you haven’t read it, it’s time you did.

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Book Review: Lion by Saroo Brierley

I saw the movie first and was blown away by this amazing story. I then read the book and it was no less powerful.

This is the story of five-year-old Saroo, who accidentally becomes trapped on a train which travels half way across India. When the train eventually stops, he finds himself in Calcutta lost and alone. He dodges disaster and with luck on his side ends up in an orphanage where he is adopted by a caring Australian family. Growing up in Tasmania, he wonders where he has come from and his nagging memories stir him into action to find out. It takes years of dogged patience and with encouragement from friends he uses technology to methodically trace his footsteps back to his family.

It’s an engrossing story despite the fact I’d seen the movie which by the way, does a remarkable job with the adaptation. The vulnerability you feel for this five-year-old keeps you on edge and it is incredibly brave of the author to reveal it all on the written page. It’s well written enough although with a matter of fact approach. Although we’re not privy to every one of Saroo’s emotions, we nevertheless feel his every agonising step of what was a difficult journey.

Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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I read the first page late at night and although barely more than a paragraph, I put it down in fright. Not because it was bad but because it was so horrifying, I was scared to read more. A few days later, I picked it up again, moved past that first haunting page and read the next fifty pages in one sitting. I’m glad I did as there was a crowd of characters to keep track of and I knew then, this was not a book where you read a couple of pages a night. I reserved two to three hour reading sessions to remember who was dead, who was alive and what they all had to do with each other.

Nel Abbot is found dead in the Drowning Pool with a suspicion of suicide. It so happens that Katie, the teenage friend, of her daughter Lena was found dead, months earlier in the same spot which had been a place of many a woman’s death through the century’s, hence the name of the spot. Nel’s sister, Jules (who, we are repeatedly told doesn’t like being called by her correct name Julia) hasn’t spoken to her sister since she was a young teenager and is called back to her old home to look after Lena. The mystery of the deaths unravels from the point of view of ten characters and it becomes very clear that there is a vault of secrets and lies in the town.

There were moments of suspense which fell away as the clues came together. Some of the characters had little depth and I found it difficult to believe their behaviour in particular, Sean Townsend, the Detective Inspector and his wife Helen and even Katie. The inclusion of the mystic, Nicki, seemed to be a red herring which we could have done without. Jules seemed remote reflecting on her broken relationship with her sister and we learn very little else about this thirty something woman. Her reactions were self-centred enough to lose some credibility. I wonder if this book would have been better had there been less characters and a concentration of effort on Nel, Jules and Lena?

Was it on par with Girl on a Train? It wasn’t as good but perhaps my expectation was heightened because of the first book. However, it was a compelling enough read and a page turner, perhaps because I wanted it to end. It held my interest but it wasn’t brilliant.