These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination... Rabindranath Tagore

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
On the way to the river are the old dormitories, used for something else now, with their fairy-tale turrets, painted white and gold and blue. When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.
--from Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.
- Joyce Carol Oates


Sunday 14.10.12
The Line by Teri Hall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Line is like the threatening, divisive prohibition of a Berlin Wall without the visibles of boundary and barbed wire. US - Unified States - alienate those trapped in Away due to Holocaustic circumstance. And Rachel, one of the young Regs, decides to connect with Pathik in the Away world, offering help and seeking answers to her own father's disappearance. The setting is intriguing but tends to dominate the novel. Somehow the questions around Ms Moore's The Property on the US side become a little weathered, verging on repetitive and there's a frustrating urge to get on with some action. We spend too long with the orchids in the greenhouse and too long gazing at digims (photos). There is a sequel called Away. Perhaps this long-winded "prologue" may seem more valid in the sequel.

Wednesday 3.10.12
A night in hell by Liam Foxx
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The scenario was intriguing! The ingredients of World War I, a cemetery, the Somme village and a reporter seeking to mend a damaged reputation all waited to be ignited into a reality cloaked in mystery. But somehow the war got in the way. Descriptive detail of old action sounded a little too like many war stories! And the reporter paled back into an inhibited observer. Perhaps that was the author's intention. But somehow the drive of the story seems frayed at the edges and the conclusion doesn't really rescue the original purpose. Perhaps the story spiked with war action may suit male readers more than female.

Sunday 30.9.12
The Necklace and Other Short Stories by Guy de Maupassant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(This review focuses on The Necklace, originally published in the French newspaper Le Gaulois in 1884.)
The beauty of Madame Loisel was born to poverty. Little did she know that for one night, for one cloud of happiness, she would sink deeper into the bowels of poverty. Diamonds betrayed her; ignorance tainted her dreams and mocked her. A short story that could easily recycle into 21st century social column news.

Saturday 29.9.12
The Discovery of the High Lama by Sushma Joshi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elusive be "the simple science of inner knowledge" for those burdened with bookish academics; for those who have concocted their own template of superiority. While his "friends" travel to Boston or Australia to seek mercenary, intellectual status, Bigyan, with his black belt in kyo-kushin karate, travels from Kathmandu to Mongolia to compete. He wins a silver medal and stumbles into the delighted welcome of monks. A bizarre, but fascinating sequence of circumstantial scenarios give birth to a multi-faceted awakening.

Tuesday 25.9.12
The Three Strangers, and an Imaginative Woman by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read the short story The Three Strangers (1883).
In the pastoral, rain drenched world of night outside Casterbridge unfolds the mysterious connection between three strangers who drop by a shepherd's hut!
A beautiful short story etched with the subtle tensions of suspicious connections, a wheelwright, a hangman and another all gathered round a fireplace of questions!
Another glorious vignette of Hardy's Wessex!

Wednesday 15.8.12
The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness by Colin Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who could imagine that a 3 legged dog close to heaven, (where those unloved wait for their time according to some humans), would unite a grandmother and a young boy and give the boy his first taste of unconditional love and a glowing sense of being. Sadly, the happy moments seem to become a little overly dramatised right at the end of the book. Perhaps there could have been another journey on the horizon!

Sunday 12.8.12
The Red Piano by André LeBlanc
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Manual labour for children during China's Cultural Revolution was a time of abyssmal darkness for creativity. Just how dark and negative that time could be is demonstrated by The Red Piano. Unless of course, that child is Zhu Xiao-Mei, longing to find her voice playing the piano. Quietly she rebelled, determined to let her music be heard. How she rebelled evolves into a mesmerising, humbling story.

Sunday 5.8.12
My Girragundji by Meme McDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tapping in to the spirit of a living thing can be a magical balm for a lonely soul.

p.34 When I look in my gundji’s eyes, she speaks to me.

A touching story of a boy seeking some kind of identity in a world fractured by racial discomforts.
A beautiful idea, but somehow the book weathers the final narrative.

Monday 30.7.12
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A book that dares to explore the fanciful shapes and meanings of the imagination! Beautiful illustrations suggest that this could be a child's picture book! But don't be deceived. The child on a quest could be the inner you! Here is a unique meeting of the child and the adult and the hollow haunting of loss.

Sunday 29.7.12
The Red Poppy by David Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A story set in World War I, where the public enemy is not always the private enemy; where red poppies are not always a symbol of death. And a little dog knows. Could the ravages of war possibly hold some beautiful moments? The illustrations by Fifi Colston are a delight!

Tuesday 10.7.12
The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here is a novel about children but hardly for children. It needs an adult audience (touting some historical baggage) who seeks a glimpse of a child's world. Here are the Rom, those gypsy wanderers persecuted alongside the Jews in Hitler's madness. And Andrej, Tomas and Wilma are parentless, Rom children. But don't seek some historical jaunt. Feel the cursed? wandering spirit of a child seeking answers of place and identity. What is freedom? There are many kinds of freedoms and hungers. The animals know.
This novel has the fantasy of a parable and the realism of a holocaust.
Imagine these shreds of life
In the cloak of midnights
Stumbling into a zoo
- Extract from my poetic review on my blog Songlines on the Winds

Wednesday 4.7.12
The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser
If you are seeking an intriguing crime mystery, (implied by the title) warped with a few red herrings along a linear narrative of progress, "The Hamilton Case" does not deliver. Instead, the novel explores colonial worlds of old Ceylon - embedded with character detail, past and present lives, driven by 1st and 3rd person speakers and all in a pendulum motion defying time sequence. A glorious tropical world becomes matted with fevered images, irritatingly vague but always intriguing. Finally the novel unveils the last version of Maud, strung with out of date glamour. Then the multitude of previous detours tumble in, tying up threads, like a cascade of relief. And the Hamilton Case, not mentioned till one third of the way through the novel, (then left swinging), returns, like a re-incarnation, with some answers and new questions. The Hamilton Case becomes a symbol for so many other crimes lurking insidiously beneath the social masks. Ultimately, the novel is a paradox, offering bizarre glimpses of a dysfunctional, colonial society in a sweltering conglomeration of personalities.
I still don't know if I love this novel.
And yet, I still don't know if I don't.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sunday 1.7.12
Black Water (2007) by David Mezenthen
Black Water by Metzenthen, David
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book to delight teenage boys! The main characters, brothers, Farren and Danny, galumph and thrash through the emotional, physical and mental challenges of living on an island near the mainland. Even the female characters have their wild streak; even the young Souki from Furneaux Island. It's amazing what gifts may be hidden on a wind scourged beach of black kelp.
p.91  " crossed Farren's mind that although death seemed big, life was even bigger..."

Saturday 23.6.12
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For some, the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney, in the 19th century, was a wild place where only madmen venture. Some find its secret beauty, but only realise that priceless magic when the glittering wealths of life entice them away.

Friday 22.6.12
The Wind Singer by William Nicholson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sounds like some legendary jewel
But the gem
The walled city
Has lost the sparkle of the wind singer
The strangers' tall tower of
Wooden beams and metal pipes
Has lost the voice of
The soul
Extract from my poetic review - an alternative review on my Gemma's Greyscale Territory blog

An extraordinary fantasy that hints of breaths from old legends and becomes a chameleon of reality and dream! And if you feel the spirit deep down, you will feel the smudges of our society lurking.

View all my reviews

Good Reads discussion: For some strange reason, "The Wind Singer" seems to reflect elements of "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. Both represent a world of crushing, stifling perfection and the journey of those who seek a way out. But this time, the travellers are children.

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