Bec Stafford

Bec Stafford has a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Queensland. She also blogs and interviews for the Escape Club and edits content for The Spotlight Report.

Jamieson_Day Boy CoverAurealis award-winning author, Trent Jamieson, is one of the brightest lights on the Australian speculative fiction scene. Set in Brisbane, his brilliant Death Works series received widespread praise, firmly establishing his reputation as an engaging and original storyteller. His latest release, Day Boy, is a Young Adult rites-of-passage tale that makes for a page turner from start to finish. In this reimagining of the vampire myth (though it’s much more than that), Jamieson assembles an intriguing cast of memorable characters. The central protagonist, Mark, is a Day Boy, assigned to a Master, the mysterious Dain, whom he protects and serves. Mark’s life in post-apocalyptic Midfield is tough – he’s a plucky, defiant boy caught up in a complex web of fearsome, unpredictable immortals and often even more treacherous mortals. Along with his fellow Day Boys, Mark must navigate his way through an unforgiving present towards an uncertain destiny; and, under Dain’s unlikely apprenticeship, Mark’s character is further shaped.

The story is finely written and filled with a combination of gritty reality and nail-nibbling suspense. Jamieson breathes life into his characters with the deftness of someone at the top of their game. The dialogue is a delight – authentic and engaging. The boys’ banter is filled with the hallmarks of adolescent exchanges: brash challenges and snappy retorts. And Mark’s own internal dialogue is used to propel the narrative forward with sure-footed control. His world view is shaped by strong principles, great empathy for his fellow townsfolk, and an inner fortitude that occasionally seems to surprise even him. Facing perils at every turn, Mark displays great integrity, whether facing off against another Day Boy, ministering to Dain, or being confronted by the terrifying (and chillingly named) Council of Teeth following an indiscretion in the City in the Shadow of the Mountain.

Jamieson demonstrates a great gift for expressing his characters’ emotions. He beautifully captures, for instance, the tender feelings Mark harbours for one of his allies, Anne, with a sweetness that never strays into schmaltz. Observing her playing the piano, he notes, ‘I never know what it is she’s playing and the names wash off me to forgetfulness when she tells me, but I know the beauty that is the perfect expression of nature’s gifts and effort, and I hear it in her playing, and that’s enough.’ Although compact and unpretentious, the writing is tinged by a touching lyricism. When at one point he finds himself at the end of a machete, Mark describes feeling ‘its longing, the yearning to sink into flesh, to cut and carve its frustrations’ into him.

Finally, what makes Day Boy such a pleasure to read – and for my money, this is Jamieson’s most engrossing and emotionally resonant work to date – is its artful presentation of a range of philosophical questions and reflections to consider while we’re being entertained. What constitutes the monstrous? What does it take to become a man? What are the consequences of our choices when it comes to love, destiny, and duty? This is a story for adults as much as it is for a younger audience. Existing fans of Trent Jamieson’s writing will feel richly rewarded by this novel, which is also guaranteed to win him many, many new readers. Highly recommended.


http://www.trentjamieson.com/

Paperback, 309 pages

Published June 24th 2015 by Text Publishing (first published 2015)

ISBN13 9781922182838

 

Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an Australian science fiction writer who lives Sydney. He has a keen interest in the cyberpunk genre and Japan.

palmer-theartofasking_imageAsking for help: it’s one of the most difficult and gut-wrenching things that a creative person can do. But in a world where the art becomes more and more difficult to separate from the commercial process, not asking can be what prevents the artist from reaching a wider audience or creating even greater works.

The Art of Asking is an autobiography by Amanda Palmer and follows a career that began with acting as a living statue, to her becoming one of the most influential artists of a generation. As you might expect from Palmer, this book is an eclectic collection of humorous and heart wrenching personal anecdotes; stories from the music and art communities around the world, private moments between Amanda and her best friend/mentor and her husband, Neil Gaiman, and lyrics from some of her most significant songs.

The Art of Asking is written in semi-erratic blog format–appropriate for an artist who has held strong connection with her online fan base for well over a decade–often bouncing between recounts of performances, to intimate moments with someone close, and to tear-jerking tales of self-discovery or endurance. Considered individually, each anecdote illustrates a small but possibly insignificant moment of a person’s life. But together they make up a patchwork kimono of many stories within a grand narrative.

The author’s voice throughout is clear and open. Amanda hides nothing as she recounts thoughts that are usually hidden, stoushes with her own personal “Fraud Police”, and personal traumas that have only been resolved with the help of those around her.

This book is an important read for any artist. Or anybody really. It deals with the difficulties of bringing yourself to ask for help–how far you can go on trust alone, dealing with hate and fear and relationships; and more than anything, it teaches that the art of asking is one of the most important skills we can develop. But it takes time and effort.

If you are or have ever been a fan of Amanda Palmer, The Dresden Dolls, The Grand Theft Orchestra, or any number of Amanda’s side projects, this book is even more powerful once you go back to those earlier projects with an understanding of what inspired them.

Even if Amanda Palmer’s music isn’t to your taste; even if you don’t agree with her stance on life, music, commercialism, relationships, or feminism; even if you aren’t an artist or someone who usually reads biographies, you should read The Art of Asking. Then you will understand what it’s like to reach out with both hands and ask someone Will you help me?

Krista McKeeth

Krista McKeeth is a writer, book reviewer and blogger from Utah. You can find her online at CubicleBlindness.

ZourkovaMesmerizing and addictive, Wildalone is a thrilling blend of the modern and the fantastic. Krassi Zourkova creates an atmospheric world filled with rich characters as compelling as those of Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness, and Stephenie Meyer. 

Hardcover, 384 pages

Published January 6th 2015 by William Morrow

ISBN  0062328026 (ISBN13: 9780062328021)

 

Right before she decides which college to attend, Thea finds out a family secret that is connected to Princeton and becomes determined to go there for her studies. She can explore more about who she wants to become, learn new things about the world, and discover the deepest, darkest secrets of her own family. At her first piano concert, which gets immediate national attention, she sees a mysterious man who leaves a flower. Her thoughts quickly turn to meeting him again.

I went into the story thinking it would mostly focus on Thea’s search for answers like an amateur detective, but it soon turns into a complicated combination of a love triangle, mythology, and sex. There is a huge focus on the mythology surrounding Dionysus, and the sex is not graphic, but more about Thea’s continuing thought processes and the beginnings of her first intense adult relationships.

The writing has an equal mix of romance and mythological information. The mythology and lore, mostly from Bulgaria and Greece, has been well-researched and I enjoyed the way it sets the tone and pushes the story’s emotions beyond a traditional love triangle story. The narration gives a feeling of dream-like poetry and there is a mist-like feeling of not quite being able to see beyond what is happening in front of you. You can see enough to understand what direction you’re being taken in, but you are drip-fed information to build up anticipation for the next time the major characters meet.

As the story progressed, I started to find the characters very frustrating–especially Thea. I enjoyed the side characters and their impact on the story so much more. Yet when it came to the main focus of the story–Thea and Rhys–I found their encounters to be very hot and cold, indecisive, and at times infuriating.

As a reader, I felt emotionally drained after their encounters and found it hard to really come to terms with Thea’s thoughts and actions.

The book has been broken into two sections and by the end of the first I was already exhausted by the whirlwind of emotions. I was happy with the pacing and the climax of the second half of the story as it answered so many questions, but still left me a little breathless and wondering whether this story will continue on in another book.

Every once in a while I have a love/hate relationship with a book. I loved the plot, storyline, and writing style, yet I felt like I needed something more from the characters. I do hope that there is a continuation in another book that will help me understand these characters further. Overall, I enjoyed Wildalone and would recommend it; it was a rollercoaster of a read and I don’t think I will ever come across a more sensual scene of piano playing again in my lifetime. Who knew that playing the piano could be foreplay?

 

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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