Joelene Pynnonen

Joelene Pynnonen embraces the life of an avid book lover in every way. Her household is ruled cruelly by a wrathful cat; and should a fire ever start it is doubtful that she would make it past the elegant stacks of novels to her room door. At least once a year she coerces her mother into watching the BBC mini-series ofPride and Prejudice with her, and will often follow up by re-reading the book.

rowling-very good livesIn 2008 J.K. Rowling delivered a commencement speech at Harvard University. Very Good Lives is that speech, published for the first time in book format.

By turns funny, insightful and inspirational, this is the perfect book for any person starting a new chapter of their lives. Like Dr Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go; Very Good Lives is the kind of book that I want to leave on my bookshelf and revisit whenever life becomes stressful. There are so many beautiful turns of phrase; so many gems that you’ll want to remember when the world becomes frightening.

Very Good Lives is a beautifully presented book. Illustrations by Joel Holland adorn the pages, all of them in a tasteful black, white and red colour scheme to match the cover. Rather than distracting from the importance of the words, the simple, stylized illustrations highlight the more important parts.

Some people have been disappointed by how short this book is. I think it’s astounding how much Rowling has managed to say with so few words. Any longer, and I think the book would lose some of its power.

Divided into two parts, the book begins by stressing the importance of failure. This is ground that has been covered before, though perhaps not with so much understanding and humour as Rowling shows.

The second half of the speech – the part where Rowling emphasises the importance of human imagination – is the part that I love. I could read it over and over. Instead of extolling the virtues of imagination for one’s own benefit, Rowling links the worth of imagination to empathy and compassion for others.

Rowling’s focus in her speech isn’t self-improvement so much as it is societal improvement. It’s about stepping away from yourself and your own experiences to try to understand the viewpoints and lives of others. Ultimately it is about caring for the world and the people around you rather than stagnating in the narrow slice of life that each human is born to.


Very Good Lives – J.K. Rowling

Little, Brown and Company (April 14, 2015)

ISBN: 9780316369145

Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an internationally published Australian cyberpunk author with a taste for the dangerous and obscene aspects of life. His work ranges from the sarcastic to the satirical. Links to his work can be found at

mcdonald-luna-new-moonEarth’s moon has long been the source of some of history’s greatest literature. It provides us with a tantalising first step into the vastness of space, a focal point for spirituality and mysticism, it gives us tides and illumination at night, and a basis for unending tales of exploration and horror. Many of these stories focus on the hope that the moon brings, hope for change and discovery and limitless potential. However, most writers neglect one simple fact: there are a million ways to die on the moon.

Ian McDonald has not neglected this; he has embraced it.

When earth has all but collapsed due to energy shortages, it has fallen upon corporations, exploiting earth’s constant companion, to save it. Of course this is not an altruistic gesture. Where there is salvation, there is profit; and, much like the railroad companies of centuries past, there is nearly as much profit to be made from your employees as there is from your customers. On Luna, every breath you inhale costs you dearly, every drop of water its devastating price. Real food is reserved for the wealthy and most will live their lives pay-check to pay-check. Literally.

Luna isn’t simply a tale for survival, however. This is a story of the grand ambition of a family who struck it rich sifting through what others threw away, to become one of the Five Dragons – ruling families – of this once silent sphere. They must now struggle against the seemingly endless opposition who seek to bring down their empire as violently as possible. In a world where the only law is by consensus and contract, the only thing that costs more than survival is honour. While the members of the Five Dragons may never have to sell their bodily waste just for another breath of oxygen or sip of water, they must be ever vigilant. Greed and ambition know little by way of boundaries, and it may simply be a loophole in the fine print that keeps your family alive.

McDonald has penned one of the greatest feud stories of our time. Gone are the fantastical settings that often engulf the genre. Luna treats the idea of corporate warfare, of sedition and betrayal, of desperate survival in an unrelenting vendetta with a strong sense of realism and compassion. Both a work of technical and literary genius, Luna is a startling reminder of where humanity is heading. True to form, McDonald’s characters are deeply flawed, beautifully written individuals whose ambitions and fears are responsible for evolving the narrative in a stark and unforgiving setting.

Part warring states, part rags to riches, part film noir, and part prophecy, Luna is a novel that asks the dangerous question: when the moon has a million ways to kill you, what are you going to leave behind when you’re gone?

Joelene Pynnonen

Joelene Pynnonen embraces the life of an avid book lover in every way. Her household is ruled cruelly by a wrathful cat; and should a fire ever start it is doubtful that she would make it past the elegant stacks of novels to her room door. At least once a year she coerces her mother into watching the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice with her, and will often follow up by re-reading the book.v

CLOH-cover-smallAs the title suggests, Cranky Ladies of History is an anthology of short stories revisiting some of the great women of history. Those facing adversity and refusing to be bowed by it. Some of these women – Elizabeth the first, Elizabeth Bathory, Mary Wollstonecraft – are easily recognizable. Others are less well known but no less noteworthy. Penned by an array of brilliant authors, including multiple award-winning authors Garth Nix and Juliette Marillier, this is a collection to be savoured.

For several months I’ve been following the blog, Rejected Princesses. Devoted to telling the stories of girls and women who don’t fit the mould Disney would require for its princesses, it has some amazing tales of women from myth and history. These women are violent, brave, stubborn and demanding, but never dull. Therefore I was delighted to find that many of the stories I’d read on the blog have also been included in the pages of Cranky Ladies of History. Many other stories are new to me, and some are tales that most people know set in a perspective not often used.

While all of the stories in the anthology are fascinating, two in particular stand out. Sylvia Kelso’s Due Care and Attention, and Joyce Chng’s Charmed Life. Both of these stories are remarkable in that they portray women being women. Rather than trying to toughen up to fit into a man’s world, the central characters in these stories focus on improving the daily lives of those around them. Their stories are of creation rather than destruction.

In Due Care, Dr. Lilian Cooper uses her medical knowledge to serve the people in her community – particularly those who cannot afford medical attention. Like all the women in this collection, she has a temper – but her ire rises when local laws seek to keep her from offering timely medical aide.

In Charmed Life, Empress Leizu laments the idleness of her life until she realizes that she might be able to make a difference in the lives of her people and, in the process, lighten the workload of the women around her.

Both tales focus on relationships between women, reinforcing the point that women have always fought the restrictions placed on them.

The supernatural element in Cranky Ladies is the only thing that weakened an otherwise wonderful anthology. It didn’t occur in more than one or two stories, but putting in events that were so obviously mythology rather than history fuels doubt of the veracity of all of the stories. And there have been enough amazing women doing fantastic things that adding magic isn’t necessary for a good story about them.

Most of these stories are gems, some featuring well-known historical women, though many not. It was the lesser known figures that sent me on searches of the bits that the story left out. Having been introduced to so many amazing historical figures in this anthology, I only wish it had been longer.


Cranky Ladies of History – ed. Tehani Wessely

 FableCroft Publishing (March 2015)

 ISBN: 9780992553456


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) 





Keep in contact through the following social networks or via RSS feed:

  • Follow on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Follow on Pinterest
  • Follow on Google+
  • Follow on GoodReads
  • Follow on Tumblr
  • Follow on Flickr
  • Follow on YouTube