Sarah Todman

Sarah Todman is a contemporary fiction writer who lives in Brisbane. She loves books that deliver a gritty punch of realism. And ones that make her cry. Sarah blogs at sayanythingsare.

Mather-Refuge Official Coverrefuge

noun

A place that provides shelter or protection.

Twelve year-old Nell McLellan’s world is in turmoil. At school she’s suddenly got the attention of the most popular girl in the class but it has alienated her safe and steady best friend Josie; at home her work-obsessed parents appear to be on the verge of divorce.

When Nell is shunted off to North Queensland and the care of her rarely seen Grandfather for the holidays her problems seem magnified. Doesn’t anyone care that she’s struggling?

Well, someone does…some ‘place’ actually: Nell just doesn’t know it yet. Stumbling around the grounds of the local high school in search of the holiday drama class her parents insisted she attend Nell finds herself following a series of curiously worded signs. Feeling lost? one beckons. Follow the stairs, instructs another. Before she knows it Nell has turned the handle on an old wooden door and stepped straight into a world she could never have imagined: Refuge.

This rapidly paced fantasy novel targets middle grade (8-12 year-old) readers and is written in full-colour and high definition. The beguiling cast of characters who inhabit Refuge — a world created as a safe haven for lost souls — take Nell on a twisting, turning journey of self-discovery (and manage to give young readers some sumptuous but ever so subtle historical insights in the process).

There is the Doctor, Refuge’s mad scientist-style creator who hails from early 1700s London; then we have tortured Gideon, an English ‘wharf rat’ from the late 1700s still ruled by his past; there’s shape-shifting 1920s aristocrat Fox, as charming and cunning as his name suggests; the frightening Deuce, straight from America’s Deep South in the 50s; and Janus, probably the most mysterious and hard-to-pinpoint of the bunch (I won’t ruin it for you by revealing too much about her). Each of them pull Nell (and us) deeper into a riddle that seems impossible to solve.  

Stranded in Refuge, our lost girl Nell finds out she has just three days to choose her future: stay in this strange, supposedly ‘safe’ haven forever or return to the life where she felt lost?

Refuge is the debut novel of former scenic artist and teacher A.V. Mather and it is clear she is a writer who is very much at home in the realms of fantasy. Refuge is a world well imagined. The city-scape with its era-hopping evolution feels rich and enchanting — I really enjoyed spending time there.

And Nell’s journey kept me guessing in lots of good ways. However, I did feel her character’s growth, which was realised at the end of the book, could perhaps have been built more incrementally as the story progressed. I love a character with chutzpah and while I know that isn’t who Nell was at the beginning of her journey, there were junctures along the way when I was frustrated by her willingness to be led rather than make her own decisions.

Perhaps this is all part of the author’s plan, though. When I turned the last page of Refuge I was ready to dive into book two…Nell’s adventures don’t feel finished yet. I hope A.V. Mather is planning to send Nell back to Refuge with another book in the series because I see her returning and this time as a very different girl.

Bec Stafford

Bec Stafford has a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Queensland. She blogs and interviews for MDP Web and The Spotlight Report.

street-art-world-young-coverMelbournian Alison Young has chronicled twenty years of street art, from anonymous scrawls, urban tags, and random public expression to the more celebrated stencils and subversive street painting of Banksy, Swoon, and Haring. In her in-depth analysis of street art’s evolution and inner workings, Young demonstrates her obvious love of the ephemeral, mutable, art movement that has similarly caught the imaginations of countless other global passers-by.

Young’s fascination with the subject and ability to weave a cogent, absorbing narrative about street art’s practitioners, patrons, audiences, and spaces makes for an illuminating and deeply satisfying read. Young explores the making and meaning of street art, as well as its reception and commercial viability, answering a range of tantalising questions surrounding this sometimes mysterious, often illicit, worldwide phenomenon. Who produces street art? Who buys it? What are the challenges surrounding exhibitions and appropriate gallery space? And how have societal attitudes towards street art changed over time?

Strikingly illustrated from cover to cover, this well-arranged and intelligently researched text offers authoritative and comprehensive insight into this ubiquitous yet mysterious world. Tracing street art from its origins through to modern commodification, the text is a testament to its author’s unflagging dedication to the subject. In her Further Reading and Further Viewing sections, Young also provides a well-chosen selection of related texts that will be useful to scholars or anyone interested in pursuing further information. This highly recommended publication strikes a pleasing balance between coffee table book and reference text and belongs on the bookshelves of casual art lovers and aficionados alike. 

Street Art World

Alison Young

18 Nov, 2016 Reaktion Books

256 pages

isbn: 9781780236704

Alayna Cole

Alayna Cole is an MCA (Creative Writing) candidate who loves to write stories when she’s not studying.

golding.Game-ChangersGame Changers is a non-fiction book that explores the videogame industry and how games culture is changing and diversifying, while also dissecting the misogyny and harassment that has permeated facets of the games community. The book tackles large issues and acts as an educational experience for those unfamiliar with what has been happening within the industry.

Simultaneously, Game Changers is a comforting and cathartic release for those who are embedded in the videogame world as developers, writers, and players, and who are familiar with the damaging harassment that has come to the fore over the last couple of years.

This dual audience is established very deliberately, with authors Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer explicitly noting they have ‘written this book for the uninitiated, the curious, and the confused, as much as for the weary and the experienced’ (p. 4).

The book’s intentional appeal to a dual audience makes Game Changers an incredibly valuable text. I want to share it with everyone I know—those inside and outside the games industry—as a means of explanation, of comfort, and of support. I feel as though Game Changers perfectly captures the intricacies of the space I am involved in—both the reasons I love the work that I do and the reasons I am sometimes scared to continue it.

I spoke with Dan and Leena about writing for a dual audience and why it was important to both of them. Leena made a point about Gamergate—a movement thoroughly covered in the book—saying that the issue ‘got a lot of attention in mainstream media and left a lot of people scratching their heads’ and that therefore it was ‘important to write the book in a way that many people can understand’.

Dan felt similarly, saying that the book should be for everyone ‘because videogames should be for everyone’. He added that ‘the terror of Gamergate is specifically about excluding people; it seems appropriate that the best way to respond is through inclusion.’

The topic of Gamergate is a difficult one to explore and a potentially dangerous one to discuss. In fact, in Game Changers, Dan and Leena advise not to ‘use the Gamergate hashtag on social media—if you do, you’ll immediately want to throw your laptop into the sea’ (p. 4). There’s a reason Dan and Leena wrote an entire book covering the topic; the ‘movement’ and the complex series of events that led up to its commencement in August 2014 are difficult to summarise.

Perhaps, for those who are unfamiliar with the topic, it is most important to consider the fear and feelings of isolation that Gamergate has caused for many people who write about videogames, particularly writers who represent a social minority group.

Game Changers is a powerful response to this fear and isolation. The book feels like a rallying cry, allowing those who have experienced harassment to feel as though they aren’t alone while also giving those outside the games industry a peek in at what has been taking place. This includes a look at the lives of Anita Sarkeesian and Zoë Quinn, who are central to the Gamergate abuse and who are also incredible voices in the mission to make the videogame world a safer space; the book features informative, fascinating, and heartbreaking exclusive interviews with them, embedded within chapters of thoroughly researched and referenced content.

No matter who you are or whether you think a book about games might be accessible for you, I recommend picking up Game Changers and reading the beautifully constructed non-fiction within. As Dan said during our correspondence, ‘this book has a lot in it for people who don’t see themselves as having anything to do with games. They might pick it up in a book store, but see the word “game” on it and decide that it isn’t for them.’ Game Changers is an incredibly informative and powerful experience that acts as a bridge between those inside and outside the game industry, and I would love for you to experience it with me, no matter who you are.

Disclaimer:

Disclaimer: I have interacted with Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer online and in person at industry events, conventions or conferences. I have great admiration for both of them and for their work within the games industry. This review is based on a copy of Game Changers that I pre-ordered with my own money and waited for like everyone else.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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