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Monday, August 29, 2016

'Words in Deep Blue' by Cath Crowley

Received from the Publisher

From the BLURB:  
Second-hand bookshops are full of mysteries  
This is a love story. 
It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets, to words. 
It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea. 
Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal. She's looking for the future in the books people love, and the words that they leave behind.  
Sometimes you need the poets

‘Words in Deep Blue’ is the new contemporary young adult book from Australian favourite, Cath Crowley.

Crowley’s ‘Words in Deep Blue’ is her first new book since 2010’s extraordinary ‘Graffiti Moon’ – and it was worth the wait. It’s a book about books – about loving, reading, and imprinting on books – with the story pivoting around a second-hand bookshop called Howling Books, where a long-lost friend returns to escape grief, and where a family unit and all its individual members have love lives that are well and truly in the in the tumults. It’s mostly the story of Rachel and Henry – once best friends, until Henry fell for a girl called Amy, and Rachel confessed her love only to move away. It’s a story about the Letter Library that resides in Howling Books, where people are encouraged to write in the margins, underline, and use books as conversations to be had with other readers. It’s a book about finding the right book at the right time.

But before I get into just how much I loved this particular book, I want to tell you all about this 2015 article I read in The New Yorker that stays with me. It was by Adam Gopnik, and titled ‘When a Bookstore Closes, an Argument Ends.’ I have a favourite line from that article, and it’s something I kept thinking about while reading ‘Words in Deep Blue’ (indeed; I got so caught up in this story and its wisdom, and especially the characters – that I wanted nothing more than to print out a copy of Gopnik’s article and leave it for Henry or his father Michael, folded into a book in their Letter Library). Here is that line of Gopik’s that I love;

At a minor level, once a bookstore is gone we lose the particular opportunities for adjacency it offers, determined by something other than an algorithm. It is rarely the book you came to seek, but the book next to that book, which changes your mind and heart.

The pivotal setting of ‘Words in Deep Blue’ being Howling Books – a second-hand bookshop – is nothing short of genius. On one level, a book about books is just catnip for readers, and young adult readers especially. And Cath Crowley gets very meta in this book, where she frequently title-drops and author-drops the names of works and writers she loves dearly. Be prepared to read this book with a notepad and pen beside you, so you can quickly jot down the books mentioned that you’ll definitely want to check out later. From John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ to Kirsty Eagar’s ‘Summer Skin’, ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’, Karen Russell, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, and the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges – this is Crowley revealing quite personal parts of herself, I feel, in the books she loves and has loved. Readers will feel a spark of joy and closeness to the author when they read one of the characters espousing dearly about a book they likewise adore, just as I did with this remembered exchange between father and son;

He and I have had hundreds of conversations about the characters in books. The last one we had was about Vernon God Little, a book by D.B.C. Pierre. I’d love it enough to read twice. 
‘What did you love?’ Dad had asked. 
‘Vernon,’ I’d said, naming the main character. ‘And the way it’s critiquing America. But mainly it’s the language. It’s like he’s left the words out in the sun to buckle a while, and they don’t sound like you’d expect.’

I also loved that this is a book about imprinting on books – which means highlighting, scribbling in the margins, and dog-earing – all the things some bibliophiles get horrified over the very notion! But I am an avowed dog-earer, under-liner, margin-scribbler and I’m glad the characters in ‘Words in Deep Blue’ are too. I’m of the firm belief that creases and scribbles in a book are like laugh-lines on a face – signs of love.

This is also a book about loving the places where books can be found and talked about – flesh and bone books, with spines and smells and heft. Though its setting is a second-hand bookshop, the way these characters talk about finding books and connecting with people over stories is in itself a love letter to all bookshops, and libraries, friends who loan their copies, street libraries and any place else that good books and the people who recommend them can be found;

‘I read an article that said second-hand books will be relics eventually,’ I tell him, still trying to make excuses for how things went tonight. 
'Do you know what the word relic actually means, the dictionary definition?’ he asks, offering me the prawn crackers. 
I take one and tell him I don’t know. 
‘It means sacred,’ he says, breaking his cracker in half. ‘As in “the bones of saints.”’

What’s kind of ironic and meta in this book about loving books though, is that all those authors and stories Crowley’s characters mention? Just as many people would list Crowley’s own works amongst the greats that have changed and upheaved them.

‘Words in Deep Blue’ is also a love-story … or, a few love stories really. Rachel and Henry take centre-stage for much of the book, as their history of unrequited love and friends-to-more unfolds amidst grief, jealousy and heartbreak, to eventually evolve into acceptance, forgiveness and revelation. There’s also Henry’s sister, George, who has a secret letter-writing admirer and a boy from school who wants to break through her tough exterior and become friends. Then there’s Henry’s parents whose great love story is in its final throes, and Henry and Rachel’s mutual friend Lola whose great love is music and the band she’s been dreaming about for years.

Anyone who has ever read any of Cath Crowley’s books knows that her characters are exquisite, and those in ‘Words in Deep Blue’ are no exception. I remember a long time ago (2013, to be exactly exaggerated) and Cath Crowley wrote in her blog about what I can only assume now was writing this very book. She said;

‘I keep hoping that one day I’ll find a shortcut, a door that takes me from one novel into the next. Takes me straight from Ed and Lucy’s kiss, through a small gap in the air, onto the street where Giselle and Charlie are waiting. Or even better, couldn’t I just walk a little way down the road, and have them existing on different streets in the same world?’
I know Crowley was writing about the frustration of finding story, but as one of her readers and biggest fans I wish for it too, on a fundamentally non-fictional level. I think the best way to describe how much I love Cath Crowley’s books is to say how much I want the characters to be real people that I could go visit. I’d love nothing more than to go from watching one of Gracie’s soccer matches, to hearing Charlie Duskin sing and seeking out new Shadow street-art – and now visiting Howling Books to tell Henry that my absolute favourite poem is Anna Akhmatova’s ‘You Will Hear Thunder’, so I could lend him my Everyman's Library Pocket Poets book of hers.

I loved these characters. I loved Henry and Rachel’s enduring friendship amidst complication. I loved meeting Cal in letters. I adored George’s bite;

‘What are you reading?’ he asks this afternoon. 
‘Kafka’s Metamorphosis,’ George says, without looking up. 
‘And what’s it about?’ 
‘Guy turns into a giant bug and eventually dies.’ 
‘Not exactly life-affirming,’ Martin observes. 
‘Life isn’t exactly life-affirming,’ George says.

And my Gosh, did I love reading new words from Cath Crowley. She has a way with language that’s poetically blunt when necessary, or can be languidly lush and is just utterly genius – and there’s just as much to admire in her words as the great wordsmiths her characters esteem.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged according to George, that shit days generally get more shit. Shit nights roll into shit morning that roll into shit afternoons and back into shit starless midnights. Shitness, my sister says, has a momentum that good luck just doesn’t have. I’m an optimist but tonight I’m coming around to her way of thinking.

I loved ‘Words in Deep Blue’. I waited six years for it, but I fell in love after the first page, and by the last it was a new favourite.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Strengthening the Spirit: Jared Thomas’ 'Songs That Sound Like Blood'

Hello Darling Readers,

Just a note to say that I'm back at my favourite - Kill Your Darlings online - for a special feature on Indigenous OzYA (good timing!) and specifically discussing Jared Thomas' latest, Songs That Sound Like Blood!

Enjoy :) 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Indigenous OzYA posters!

Hello Darling Readers,

There are not one, but TWO new LoveOzYA posters and I think they're my favourite yet! 

The brilliant Jessica Harvie has designed these two posters with some really thoughtful details - like a place for Acknowledgment of Country for a school or library to fill in. 

We had input from Ambelin Kwaymullina on what to include on these posters, and I think the result is something very special indeed. 

As always these posters are 100% free, and you can download them from DropBox, or LoveOzYA 'Resources' page! 

Happy Reading :) 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Race, reviews and children’s literature: some reflections on recent developments in the US - Guest post by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Race, reviews and children’s literature: some reflections on recent developments in the US

There’s been a conversation happening in the US in relation to a YA book titled When We Was Fierce (author: e.E Charlton-Trujillo). When We Was Fierce (WWWF) is a verse novel that tells the story of a group of Black teenagers, written from the perspective of one of the youths – Theodore (aka ‘T’) – in a vernacular invented by the author, who is not Black. Advance copies received glowing praise from White reviewers, and starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly. But African American critics and commentators (including Jennifer Baker, Edith Campbell, and Zetta Elliott) have challenged the narrative as presenting an inaccurate, stereotypical and harmful view of Black realities. Publication of the book has now been put on hold by agreement between the author and publisher, making this the second time in 2016 that a kids lit book has been withdrawn due to concerns over (mis)representation.

What is the relevance of all this to the Australian literary industry? First, conversations surrounding WWWF are part of the larger dialogue taking place across kids lit in the US that I’ve previously described as the twenty first century diversity conversation. This conversation should not be ignored by any Australian writer with aspirations to being published in the US, especially since we do not – yet – have the dedicated cyber-spaces in Australia that will critically examine representation issues.  This means books that are not challenged (at least not in publicly available discussions) in an Australian context may well be challenged in the States. Second, I believe that many Australian authors who write to experiences of exclusion not their own are doing so out of a genuine desire to support marginalised peoples. But I also believe that most authors lack the necessary knowledge to manifest that intent into reality – and in the absence of such knowledge, authors are all too likely to produce narratives that do the exact opposite of what they intended to achieve. Thus, an understanding of the twenty first century diversity conversation is essential knowledge for any author seeking to write of others with integrity and respect.

What, then, were the issues identified with WWWF? For starters, the invented vernacular in which it was written, which both Library Journal and Kirkus found to be Shakespearean, although the Kirkus reviewer also sounded a note of doubt: only the free verse’s frequent apostrophes connoting a dropped letter are stereotypical and distancing. One of the reasons the language matters is because, as White commentator and kids lit expert KT Horning pointed out, it formed part of the overall reality created by the narrative that was being so highly praised. But who was judging whose reality? Jennifer Baker, founder of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, characterised the invented language as not only inconsistent but abhorrent without much understanding or even consideration for the structure of Ebonics (aka African American Vernacular English, AAVE). Librarian Edith Campbell similarly found the language to be inconsistent with her lived experience: Typically, when I read black vernacular, I can hear it in my head as spoken by someone in my life and it resonates as a home to me. The language in this book jolted me, caused me to pause, re-read and wonder what meaning was being conveyed.

Related to the language in which the story was told was the overall picture the text painted of Black realities, which Edith Campbell summarised as a monolithic urban African American neighborhood where everyone is low income and everyone is broken or damaged. Single homes, abusive parents, criminal records combine with neighbors who have little more than bad history between them. It is a depiction which read as ‘truth’ to the initial reviewers – but whose truth? Campbell noted that: e.E Charlton-Trujillo levels condemnation on this space that so many African Americans call home. Outsiders writing about a community often do this … rather than seeing through to the ebb and flow of life that make the city blocks a vibrant community. Stories told about marginalised peoples have a weight and a cost. When such stories are measured solely through their perceived value to cultural outsiders, it can be forgotten that this weight is not one that outsiders carry, and this cost is not one that they pay. As Jennifer Baker wrote: I’d like someone to sit back and consider work created by so many marginalized artists that seeks to show an alternative while also showing truth and tell me if you would actually feel comfortable showing When We Was Fierce to a group of Black children and saying, “This is how I see you.

Nor, of course, do experiences of marginalisation equate. WWWF was written by a Mexican-American author. The same structures that consistently work to privilege white voices over those of Indigenous peoples or people of colour also work to some degree to privilege outsider voices over insider ones. Outsider voices will often be easier to read; certainly less challenging than the insider ones that seek to express the complexities and contradictions of existence within any marginalised community. I’ve written before in relation to Indigenous books that one of the things reviewers must be wary of is judging our worlds against the ‘one story’ they know about us or by reference to a Western literary canon that has historically excluded and stereotyped non-white peoples. Zetta Elliott, responding to WWWF, gave voice to the frustration experienced by many: There’s the actual annihilation of Black bodies that’s reported on the nightly news, and then there’s the symbolic annihilation where White editors and agents show preference for non-Black writers and their narratives that distort our image/voice. When I spoke to the TYWLS [The Young Women’s Leadership School] teens last week, I wrapped up with a warning: “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will.” But the truth is, even when you DO tell your story, there’s a good chance it will be dismissed while an outsider’s story is celebrated for its ‘authenticity’. The Publisher’s Weekly review of WWWF characterized it as giving voice to the unheard. The problematic nature of that comment was not lost on White librarian Angie Manfredi, who wrote: It is wrong to assume that this book is an authentic representation of the voices of African-American teens. And it is wrong to assume that these voices are not part of YA and children’s lit – they are and always have been...Are these voices “unheard” because they don’t exist or because the majority culture simply refuses to listen?

Representation issues are magnified by the make-up of the literary industry. As KT Horning commented, the majority of children’s book reviewers are White, as are most members of book evaluation and awards committees. Our experiences as White people are limited. How can we discern if a book about a child of colour is authentic? The literary industry in Australia also (largely) white. In conversation with Zetta Elliott, I’ve said that one of the problems of being a minority writer is not being able to rely upon the people whom writers are supposed to be able to rely, because most agents, editors, and reviewers don’t know enough about us to be able to give us meaningful feedback on the ways in which we are representing our worlds. I would add to that nor can we rely on those to whose opinions we are supposed to aspire. An assessment by a reviewer (or awards judge) that expressly or by implication criticizes as insider story for failing to comply with outsider expectations is probably a testament to a book’s value rather than the reverse.  Except of course that books with poor reviews and no award nominations won’t sell, while the outsider stories lauded for their ‘authenticity’ will appear on every shelf. One of the things the WWWF dialogues demonstrate is a lack of process that is common to both the US and Australia. As Jennifer Baker wrote: throughout the whole creation and production process not one person recognised, or sought counsel/feedback potentially, from Black people to see how this would make members of the community feel. And process includes an ability to interrogate one’s own position and privilege. White American-Australian Justine Larbalestier author has recently posted a frank account of her own journey, from believing she was making YA more diverse (by writing from the perspectives of people of colour) to seeing herself as part of the problem after one of her books was criticised by a Black blogger. She now takes a different approach: To help diversify YA, we white authors can support Indigenous authors and Authors of Color by reading their books, recommending their books, blurbing their books, and recommending them to our agents…These are by far the most important things we can do personally to increase diversity. However, I keep seeing white authors getting hung up on whether white people are allowed to write from points of view not our own. Spoiler: we're allowed. No one is stopping us. Will doing so make YA more diverse? No, it won't.

In 2015, Corinne Duyvis (a writer with a disability and one of the founders of Disability in Kidlit) invented the hashtag #OwnVoices to reference books about marginalised peoples written by authors of the same background. I myself believe that the first and most fundamental question any outsider author should ask themselves is this: should this story be told by you at all (which includes asking whether it should be told by you alone). I see many lost opportunities for equitable collaborations between outsiders and insiders (and by equitable, I mean that royalties, copyright and credit are shared). And for anyone who believes that it is important to give voice to the unheard: start listening to, and supporting, the Own Voices of the unheard.


Ambelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer, illustrator and academic who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She works at the Law School at the University of Western Australia and is the author of a number of picture books as well as the YA speculative fiction series, The Tribe.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

'The Hating Game' by Sally Thorne

Received via NetGalley 

From the BLURB:
Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.
2) A person’s undoing
3) Joshua Templeman
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive manoeuvres as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

The Hating Game’ is a debut Contemporary Romance from Australian author, Sally Thorne.

Oh my gosh – I freakin’ loved this book. I first heard about it via Sarah MacLean’s The Romance Review Column in the Washington Post, where she recommended ‘The Hating Game’ as an August must-read, calling it; "a wicked, witty romance." She’s not wrong (Sarah MacLean is never wrong when it comes to romance) and I was thrilled to remember that I’d been approved for Sally Thorne’s debut via NetGalley – so I got stuck into reading it ASAP … and finished reading it a few nights later at 1AM.

Look, as the blurb suggests this is a book about an office rivalry (at a recently-merged publishing house) that kicks up a gear when there’s a promotion on the line and our heroine – Lucy Hutton – has to face-off against her robotic nemesis, Joshua Templeman. But that blurb is a signal to every single romance reader out there who loves ‘Enemies turned Lovers’ plots, and unrequited/repressed love storylines. To put it another way – if you’re totally a fan of the Tracy and Hepburn dynamic, also known as the Pacey & Joey effect … OR to be really on-the-nose; if one of your all-time favourite cinema moments is Kat (Julia Stiles) reciting this monologue to Patrick (Heath Ledger) in 10 Things I Hate About You: “I hate it when you're not around, and the fact that you didn't call. But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.” If just reading those words chokes you up a little bit – then ‘The Hating Game’ is the book for you (there’s even a paintball scene!)

I admit; I still went into this book a little bit hesitant, even with MacLean’s ringing endorsement. I was worried that the chemistry between the leads would simmer down to that old adage; “He’s probably mean to you because he likes you!” – that chauvinistic “pulling pigtails” chestnut. But what I really appreciated was how Thorne totally dismantled that idea by the end of the book – and actually there’s a lot of role-reversal going on, with Joshua being the one in their bludgeoning/burgeoning relationship who doesn’t just want to be desired for his body (as he has been by past girlfriends). And the beginnings of change for Lucy comes when she starts looking beneath his surface-level façade;

When he pins me with his eyes, I know something’s coming. I am not prepared when it happens. The world explodes apart as he begins to laugh. He’s the same person I stare at every weekday but lit up. He’s plugged into the mains and electric. Humour and light radiate from him, making his colours glow like stained glass. Brown, gold, blue, white. It’s a crime I’ve never seen these smile lines before. His mouth is an easy curve, perfect teeth and a faint dimple bracketing each corner. Each laugh gusts from him in a husky, breathless rush, something he can no longer hold in, and it’s as addictive to me as the taste of his mouth or the smell of his skin. His amazing laugh is something I need now. It I’d ever thought he was good-looking before, in passing or noticed in irritation, I never knew the full story. When Josh smiles, he is blinding.

Sometimes I got a little frustrated with Lucy as a character, but I realise it’s only because I know how the ‘Enemies-to-Lovers’ plot goes, and I was just eager for her to get onboard and clearly see what was really going on between her and Josh;

I spot a little origami bird made of notepaper I once flicked at him during a meeting. It is balanced on the edge of the bookshelf.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough – and it seems, neither can anyone else! If you don’t believe me, here’s a link I stumbled across – of one of my favourite romance authors asking for book recommendations, and another of my favourite romance authors recommending ‘The Hating Game’ … that author is KristanHiggins, FYI.

Sally Thorne’s ‘The Hating Game’ is a favourite book of 2016 for me. I loved the story – but more than anything I find myself excited by this debut Aussie author. I can’t wait to read what she comes out with next … and it suddenly occurred to me that the last time I felt this kind of assurance about a writer was back in 2011, after I read a little contemp office-romance book called ‘Attachments’ by Rainbow Rowell … Uh-huh. A big call, but I’m making it!

Keep an eye on this Sally Thorne; she’s got a big career ahead of her.


Friday, August 5, 2016

'The Kept Woman' Will Trent #8 by Karin Slaughter

From the BLURB:

A body is discovered in an empty Atlanta warehouse. It's the body of an ex-cop, and from the moment Special Agent Will Trent walks in he knows this could be the most devastating case of his career. Bloody footprints leading away from the scene reveal that another victim - a woman - has left the scene and vanished into thin air. And, worst of all, the warehouse belongs to the city's biggest, most politically-connected, most high-profile athlete - a local hero protected by the world's most expensive lawyers. A local hero Will has spent the last six months investigating on a brutal rape charge.

But for Will - and also for Dr Sara Linton, the GBI's newest medical examiner - the case is about to get even worse. Because an unexpected discovery at the scene reveals a personal link to Will's troubled past. The consequences will wreak havoc on his life and the lives of those he loves, those he works with, and those he pursues.

But Sara's scene-of-the-crime diagnosis is that they only have a few hours to find the missing woman before she bleeds out . . .

‘The Kept Woman’ is the eighth book in Karin Slaughter’s addictive crime series, about Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) officer, ‘Will Trent’.

This book follows on from the seventh, ‘Unseen’ in which Will and his girlfriend Sara Linton went through the fallout of a tough investigation, only to come out stronger and more committed in their relationship. Sara is the doctor/medical examiner from Slaughter’s original ‘Grant County’ series, and she’s the widow of that series’ protagonist, Jeffrey Tolliver. But Sara’s past and grief over Jeffrey has really been the smallest hurdle in her and Will’s new relationship – namely because Will is actually married, to his long-time friend and psychological torturer, Angie Polaski.

Will and Angie met as children in the crooked foster-care system; they suffered through extraordinary abuse at the hands of various foster parents and fellow children. Will and Angie both went on to become cops – Angie a bad cop, and Will as in all things, one of the good guys. Angie has been Will’s longest and steadfast friend, but she’s also his torturer – she knows all his weak spots, and she exploits them for her own gains in their twisted relationship. And Angie’s been working overtime lately, since Will and Sara started dating some eighteen months ago …

But when this book kicks off, it’s at a murder scene with at least two missing bodies – one of which has all signs pointing to Angie Polaski – thus forcing Will to confront the very idea he’s been secretly harbouring for most of his life; that his wife might really be dead, and out of his life for good.

Ok. So. I love Karin Slaughter and my love is well-documented. The last ‘Will Trent’ book we got was in 2013, so I have been ridiculously excited for ‘The Kept Woman’ – especially after Slaughter revealed early on that this book would feature the mysterious and merciless, Angie. And while I was reading I really was like a pig in muck; enjoying every second of this world and Slaughter’s writing that I’d been sorely missing for three years. But, but, but … when I got to the end, I really did have a moment of reflection on how this book impacts the characters overall going forward – and I came to the realisation that it really doesn’t. ‘The Kept Woman’ doesn’t change much of anything for the characters – and there was more emotional upheaval at the end of ‘Unseen’. That means ‘The Kept Woman’ has the tinge of a “filler-book” for me; with a lot of bells and whistles happening in the plot to make us feel like we’re moving toward some horrible, inevitable tilting, but by the end not a lot changes. Everything pretty much stays the same for the players in this game.

On the one hand – maybe maintaining a status-quo might be okay for the eighth book in a series (especially when we don’t know exactly how many books Slaughter has planned in this series? We may be only at the mid-way point?!) Sara Linton migrating from ‘Grant County’ to ‘Will Trent’ was a big shake-up of its own early on, and then her falling for Will was a huge development for both characters. But I do get worried when Slaughter keeps her characters (and readers) in a semi-decent stagnant space by the end of a book. We all know what happened in ‘Beyond Reach’ once Jeffrey and Sara reached that point, right?

So – yes – on the one hand ‘The Kept Woman’ let me down a little bit, because nothing really changes. Even some pretty big revelations that come to the surface won’t actually impact characters too much going forward … And it’s always a little sucky to get to the end of a 548-page book and think “Huh, we’re exactly where we started.”

But what I did admire in this book was Slaughter examining rape and sexual assault cases through the lens of media and stardom. There’s a case that Will has been working in this book, about an NBA star who is accused of violently raping and beating a drugged woman – Will was the lead investigator, taking the case through to trial … where he discovered his client’s background trashed the jury’s perception of her, witnesses were paid off or intimidated, and the whole thing fell apart. And all because the accused rapist – Marcus Rippy – is a multi-million dollar cash-cow for his sports agency.

Rippy’s case allows Slaughter to make some uncomfortable truths and shine a harsh light on how such cases play out in the glare of media spotlight and the ruthless court of public appeal. And what’s even more unsettling is how much the Rippy rape case mirrors real examples – like Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape case, that established a new and nasty legacy for women trying to report against powerful and moneyed men. Even see what’s been happening to Amber Heard after she reported Johnny Depp for domestic violence abuse – a single photo appears of her smiling (HOW DARE SHE?!) and suddenly people think it’s an open and shut case of a gold-digger versus a rich megastar. Slaughter really goes to town on these notions, and it’s both nauseating and eye-opening;

Will didn’t respond, because there was nothing else to say. 
Faith gripped the steering wheel. ‘I have rape cases. You don’t throw a murder case to a jury and they ask, “Well, was the guy really murdered or is he lying because he wants the attention? And what was he doing in that part of town? And why was he drinking? And what about all those murderers he dated before?”’ 
‘She wasn’t sympathetic.’ Will hated that this even mattered. ‘Her family’s a mess. Single mom with a drug habit. No idea who the dad is. She had some drug issues in high school, a history of self-cutting. She was coming off academic probation at her college. She dated around, spent a lot of time on Tinder and OkCupid, like everybody her age. Rippy’s people found out she had an abortion a few years ago. She basically wrote their trial strategy for them.’

One more reason why ‘The Kept Woman’ didn’t sit overly well with me was that Sara Linton didn’t read … like herself in this book? She’s very much in a back-seat role, which I didn’t appreciate – but also her reactions felt, off? I know lots of people read ‘Grant County’ and now ‘Will Trent’ and thoroughly dislike Sara Linton. I’ve read it said that she’s a bit of a Mary Sue. I never felt that way – but in this book I did find her getting on my nerves, especially when Will’s life is being thrown off-kilter and he’s experiencing intense grief and Sara pretty much just wants him to get over it because Angie was a terrible human-being and he has her now. Yeah, there was just something tonally off about Sara and her reactions in this book? Also that she was relegated to the periphery.

I love Karin Slaughter, and while reading ‘The Kept Woman’ I did enjoy the ride. But upon reflection this books feels … stagnate. In a series where there’s been so many twists, turns and shake-ups, you really notice when one book makes a big show-and-dance about not actually advancing the story and players. It just sucks that I’ll probably be waiting another three years for the next instalment, and living in hope that these characters I’ve grown to love start marching forward with a bit more determination.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One & Two' The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production By J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

From the BLURB:

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later. Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, a new play by Jack Thorne.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London's West End on 30th July 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

☾ ☽☾ ☽☾ ☽☾ ☽☾ ☽☾ ☽
Five thoughts on ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ 
don’t worry, I’ll #KeepTheSecrets

1.     Who says FanFiction can’t be legit?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a two-part West End stage play written by Jack Thorne, and based on an original new story by Thorne, J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany (director). So Rowling didn’t write this, Thorne did – based on an original idea of hers, and obviously on her original characters. Um … in my book, that’s an authorised bit of FanFic. Am I wrong?!

I’ve long thought that FanFiction gets looked down upon and stigmatized as dirty plagiarization and breaching of copyright; but actually FanFic (or some assimilation of it) exists throughout different forms of media, and has done for years.

There’s a very reasonable argument to say that Disney has been producing FanFic of the Brothers Grimm all these years (and in turn, the Grimm boys just wote FanFic of the original tales they heard). I’d argue that the movie 10 Things I Hate About You is a form of Shakespearean FanFic. Can you even suggest that every new Doctor Who show-runner has just been adding to Sydney Newman's original, very loose concept? What about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Dark Horse Comics series, all based on an original idea by Joss Whedon and penned by different writers? Or even just all of popular television; that’s developed by a show-runner, and then episodes are essentially written by a ‘writer’s room’ of staff who are authorised to develop scripts in that universe. FanFic exists in a lot more incarnations than just fan labor … and there’s now no better defence of the art-form than Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

There are already articles pointing out that a key plot development and character in Cursed Child was predicted and written by FanFiction years ago (I’m going to go ahead and guess that this bombshell was actually dropped across numerous HP FanFic stories – because it’s a pretty beloved jaw-dropping “trope”).

I do think that Thorne has done a terrific job in respecting and revisiting Rowling’s world, but there were times when I really had to stand back and think how much of this felt like an ode to fans – much in the same way FanFic does – in giving them almost a ‘best of clips’ montage to appease all their fandom delights.

2.     Slash-Fic will live on

This gives me great joy – in saying that I do believe the infamous slash-fic of Draco and Harry will live on for a new generation of readers …

3.     Fathers and Sons 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is very much a book about fathers and sons, when the inciting incidents all stem from Harry’s middle-child – Albus Severus Potter – and his conflicting relationship with his famous father (now a middle-aged Boy Who Lived). The other real pivoting relationship in the novel, which is also playing to the Fathers/Sons theme, is Draco Malfoy and his son Scorpius. Where Harry and Albus are actually both a bit annoying at times in Cursed Child, it’ll be surprising (to some) that Draco and Scorpius are both infinitely more tender and fascinating counterpoints to the Potters. Draco is – arguably – the original character who has the most impressive and intriguing development across the whole series. He is utterly compelling in his middle-age, with a lot of tragedy and conspiracy surrounding him and his family.

 Scorpius as a character is probably the most original construct belonging to Thorne – and he absolutely shines. He is, for me, a new favourite in the Harry Potter universe, and if Rowling really is as done with these characters as she’s claiming to be – I think the biggest disappointment may come in not getting to see Scorpius in more instalments.

4.     The Play’s the thing …

This book is not a novelization written by Rowling, but rather it’s the ‘Official Script Book of the Original West End Production’ written by Thorne, with stage-direction from Tiffany. So it is laid out like a play – with stage direction, dialogue, sound cues etc … and I think that’s fantastic. It does take a second to get into the beats, and find a rhythm – particularly when we’re so used to reading the novelization of this world and these characters – but you pretty quickly click into magic and everything becomes copacetic.  

I think it’s great that this is being set out like a play, if only to get kids into those rhythms and welcome them into this artful universe. There have been some truly spectacular stage productions for children lately – from Matilda the Musical, to the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. It won’t go unnoticed that lots of these plays and musicals are originating on the West End of London – the UK just seem to be beautifully hitting this sweet spot for children’s production, and I really hope that Australia follows!

Of course, it’s impossible to not read Cursed Child and try to rack your brain imagining how they’ll recreate the infinitely magical world of Harry Potter for the stage (Hogwarts express?! HOW?!) … There must be some truly phenomenal special effects, choreography, design, props, costuming … and yes, this all leads into wishing – DESPERATELY – that one could jet over to the West End and see this thing come to life. This book creates a definite hunger to see the words come to life – an even more intense wanting than seeing the books adapted into films, I’d say. Like everyone else, I shall be eagerly hoping for the Cursed Child to take to the international stage and come to Melbourne/Sydney … or for there to be a movie or live broadcast of the play (of which, there are currently no plans).
Barring that – I’ll wait for the establishment of a Floo Network to transport me to London for a day, and also a conjuring spell for some tickets …

5.     Harry Potter And the Case for an H. G. Wells-level Brigadoon

I really enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, more than I thought I would since I had tempered my expectations – lest I be heartbroken. But I was completely enthralled by this story … even as one or two things irked me (nobody knows what to do with Ron. He’s a hollow, sad, clown-man and can we just be done with him?)

But what I have really, really loved was the Harry Hype again. This book coming out was an event – just like its predecessors – and it was great to go down to my local bookstore (shout-out to Robinsons!) and see everyone dressed up, to see kids plopping their butts on the bookstore floor to start reading immediately! It was great to switch on the nightly news and see reports of the QUEUES and MASSES of people at bookstores, coming out in all their wild wizardry wares to celebrate a new dimension and story in this beloved universe.

… Which has led me to decide that we – all of us, on a global-scale – should agree in, say?, fifty years time to hide all our Harry Potter books and associated paraphernalia. It’ll be hard, I grant you – what to do with the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal? … is there a tarp big enough to cover?

But – OH! – it’d be worth it!

If we can pull this off, just imagine how great it would be to re-create and re-release all the Harry Potter books as if it’s the first time all over again? Let’s do this, like we’re H. G. Wells fooling everyone into believing there’s an alien invasion! Let’s turn the Harry Potter books into a pop-culture Brigadoon and disappear these stories, only to make them reappear like magic for a new generation of kids who wouldn’t otherwise know the sheer joy of taking part in a world-wide phenomenon based around love for these books, this story, and that wizard?!

Let’s do this people!
I believe in magic.
I still believe in magic.

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