2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge Complete!

Back in January I pledged to do the 2012 Australian Women Writers Reading and Reviewing Challenge, and as of this morning, December 2012 I have completed the challenge!

2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge - banner

I pledged to do the challenge as ‘purist’ reading in the science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction genre. I pledged to read 6 books and review three.  In actuality, I read 9 books and reviewed 3. The list of books I read are detailed below with links to the books on Goodreads and also to the author’s websites.

The Full List

The Reign of Beasts (Creature Court #3) by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Debris (Veiled Worlds #1) by Jo Anderton

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood

Diamond Eyes (Mira Chambers #1) by A.A. Bell

Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles #2) by Melina Marchetta

Burn Bright (Night Creatures #1) by Marianne de Pierres 

Angel Arias (Night Creatures #2) by Marianne de Pierres

Shine Light (Night Creatures #3) by Marianne de Pierres

The Reviews: 

The Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Debris by Jo Anderton

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood

I had a marvellous time with the challenge, I read a whole lot of reviews and they certainly influenced my reading choices. I did find new authors to appreciate, and I got to have a whole lot of discussions with people about the books that I read. Two of the books I read for the challenge ended up being part of a tiny number of books that constituted my best reads of 2012, namely The Courier’s New Bicycle and Diamond Eyes.

I plan to take on the challenge next year too – I got so much out of the sense of community from the challenge, and also the fact that women writers and Australian ones were part of a constant conversation around me online for the whole year! So wonderful and I’m proud to be part of it.

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood

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This is a review for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2012 and has been delayed because I’d been trying to find time to do it justice. Justice or not, time is running out, and so here is my (belated) review.

This is Book #3 based on my original pledge back in January! I’m certainly ready to complete the challenge, and this post will constitute the formal finishing, though I am hoping for an opportunity to review a few more books in depth. I have done some reasonable reviews on Goodreads througout the year. I am planning on continuing the challenge into 2013, so if you’re also on Goodreads, feel free to friend me.



Title: The Courier’s New Bicycle

Author: Kim Westwood

Publisher and Year: Harper Collins Australia, 2011

Genre: Science Fiction

Courier's New Bicycle - cover

Blurb from Goodreads:

 Join Salisbury Forth on twenty adrenaline-fuelled days as a courier of contraband in the alleyways of inner Melbourne, a city of rolling power outages, fuel rationing and curfews.

Life’s stressful, post-pandemic: a vaccine dispensed Australia-wide has caused mass infertility and people are scrambling for cures. This would be fine for the hormone business, except the new government has banned all remedies except prayer.

Now the pious gather under the streetlights at dusk and the Neighbourhood Values Brigades prowl for ‘transgressors’. Meanwhile, the out-of-town animal farms have started up a barbarous form of hormone production and the Animal Protection Vigilantes are planning their next raid.

For Salisbury it’s not all bad. Love is in the air, and the job is a joy—until someone starts distributing suss hormones stamped with the boss’s Cruelty-Free Assured logo. This bike courier turned accidental sleuth has to discover who’s trying to destroy the business before it all goes belly up…

My Review:

‘The Courier’s New Bicycle’ is one of my stand out best reads of 2012, and that’s why I’ve delayed this review so long as I was trying to find useful words to review it with instead of flailing wildly with joy and splattering words all over the place… not sure I’ve moved on sufficiently, but we’ll see.

I’m head over teakettle in love with Melbourne, and Westwood has evoked the essence of Melbourne beautifully in this book, including taking it into a darker place where conservatism rules. The politics of this book resonate with me strongly and I appreciate Sal as protagonist being someone with a non-binary gender presentation, and also a non heteronormative sexuality. And, it isn’t as though these are immediately central to the plot, except they are in an oblique way because they are central to Sal, who is fielding this new future society that distrusts and despises zer. In a future weighed down by fertility crises, it is no surprise that the politics of gender, sexuality are central themes.

The characters in the story have a realness to them that I really enjoyed, they’re ordinary people living in a society that they struggle with, who acts against them. And yet they still seek to act for the greater good,  trying to make a difference whether to battery farmed animals, or to each other. The importance of chosen family is emphasised in this book, and this pleases me as someone who appreciates both blood and chosen family in vastly different ways.

Sal’s integrity is one of the things I like best about the character, forthright and honest, there is struggling with keeping secrets, even if for good reason. Reluctant detective or not, Sal is believable throughout the story and the gentle threads of romance and friendship that underpin the story are brilliantly woven.

Shortlisted for  the Tiptree Award*, it’s easy to see why, the exploration of gender and sexuality politics is deft and insightful. There are easily recognisable echoes of existing fears and politics in these areas for those of us who are queer in our gender, sexuality, or lifestyle. It’s not to hard to imagine this kind of future, but knowing others are able to imagine it makes me feel a little less alone in this fearful imagining. Also, this book has a story so well told that I have to hope it will reach people and open eyes previously closed to the lived reality of people who are othered. Some have described the books as dystopic, however I’m not among them as I find the future described in the book all to plausible.

Highly recommended, I just can’t say enough good things about this book.

*Thanks to Tansy correcting me that this book didn’t win the Tiptree, but it was shortlisted, now corrected! 

Debris by Jo Anderton (Book #1 in the Veiled Worlds Series)

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Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012: Book #2 (My original pledge post)

Title: Debris (Book #1 in the Veiled Worlds Series)

Author: Jo Anderton

Publisher and Year: Angry Robot Books, 2011.

Genre: Fantasy




Debris - cover imageBlurb from Goodreads:

In a far future where technology is all but indistinguishable from magic, Tanyana is one of the elite.

She can control pions, the building blocks of matter, shaping them into new forms using ritual gestures and techniques. The rewards are great, and she is one of most highly regarded people in the city. But that was before the “accident”.

Stripped of her powers, bound inside a bizarre powersuit, she finds herself cast down to the very lowest level of society. Powerless, penniless and scarred, Tanyana must adjust to a new life collecting “debris”, the stuff left behind by pions. But as she tries to find who has done all of this to her, she also starts to realize that debris is more important than anyone could guess.

Debris is a stunning new piece of Science Fantasy, which draws in themes from Japanese manga, and classic Western SF and Fantasy to create this unique, engrossing debut from the very exciting young author Jo Anderton.

My Review:

This is the first book in a new series and is an excellent offering from Angry Robot Books! Debris is a brilliant book, I loved and devoured it!

Tanyana is an interesting and complex character, there’s depth and roundedness to her that I find can sometimes be lacking in female characters. She’s not cast in the archetype of ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ but instead, ‘human’. She wants to do the right thing but her motivations are not always altruistic and I found this very reasonable and realistic thinking how I’d react if I were in her position.

The supporting characters are varied and interesting, and while only a few of the supporting characters become rounded and real, the others remain intriguing mysteries rather than cutouts.

With regard to the story, it is obvious that not all is as it seems right from the beginning, but how that unravels is quite surprising. I didn’t expect the direction of the story, I was engaged by it and found it believable.

This is not your average fantasy story of quests and journeys… this is a story about a woman in a fantasy world, her talent which is stripped from her and how she adjusts to a life performing a role she hadn’t previously imagined possible.

Congratulations to Anderton on an engaging and entertaining first novel! This book is one I would highly recommend.

Note: Review format is lifted from my friend Lauredhel’s review of ‘All I Ever Wanted’ by Vikki Wakefield because it was simple, clear and awesome.

Reign of Beasts by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Book #3 in the Creature Court series)

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Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012: Book #1

Title: Reign of Beasts (Book 3 of the Creature Court series)

Author: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Publisher and Year: HarperVoyager, 2012

Genre: Fantasy – Dark Fantasy




Reign of Beasts - coverBlurb (from Good Reads): 

The Creature Court are at war with each other. Three kings fight bitterly for power and dominance over Aufleur and the streets run red with blood. Some believe that Velody has betrayed them as a new Power and Majesty rises, one who has no hesitation in torturing or killing those he should protect. 

At Saturnalia, the fate of the city will be decided. If Velody cannot persuade Ashiol to trust her again, Aufleur will fall.

My Review: 

This is the final book in this fantasy series from  Tansy Rayner Roberts. I’ve been looking forward to finding out what happens so much! I promise to be careful not to spoil you with my review.

Once again, I am swept up into the world of Aufleur and the intricate and petty backfighting of the Creature Court. All bets are off in this book, all you know is that somehow, there will be a resolution – either the world will be saved or lost. As this is fantasy with a darker bent there is the sinister undertone that whispers to you wondering what the cost of saving the world will be, what will the ‘saved’ world look like. There is always a sharper flipside edge to this story that gives it bite and depth.

The characters continue to interest me, I find myself curious about their choices and hoping the best for them. I am still delighted with the wealth of female characters and their complexity. They have grown and changed throughout the story, they are flawed and there are mistakes but ultimately you can actually imagine enjoying a pot of tea with them. I also loved how we are finally invited to share in some of the backstory for the other Lords of the Creature Court – the mystery does not disappoint, I can promise you that.

All I will say about how this book ended a compelling series is that I didn’t see the resolution coming at all. I appreciated it and found it satisfying as an ending. I believe it fulfilled the promise of the previous books where all is not what it seems and in addition to that, endings are not tidy little bows, they’re a point at which a particular tale is firmly told and I’m glad that not all my questions were answered, that I continue to be able to wonder.

While I don’t believe this book can be read as a stand alone, I have no hesitation at all recommending all three books. Go take a look at the first book Power and Majesty and the second one The Shattered City. If you appreciate darker fantasy with truly stand out characters in a world that is entirely unique, there is a great opportunity for reading and discovery with Tansy’s Creature Court series.

Note: Review format is lifted from my friend Lauredhel’s review of ‘All I Ever Wanted’ by Vikki Wakefield because it was simple, clear and awesome.


Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge

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There’s a challenge that a bunch of friends are doing this year that involves specifically reading and reviewing Australian women writers. I’m delighted to take part and even though I’ve got a hefty study load planned, I’m going to relish the opportunity to read some fiction over the course of the year.

So, the challenges I’m taking on are:

Genre Challenge – Purist

I’ll be sticking to my beloved science fiction and fantasy genre for this. There’s such a wealth of books and authors in this genre, some of whom I’m familiar with but I am also hoping to discover new authors to follow as a result of the challenge.

Books Challenge – Miles (read 6 and review at least 3)

This may at first seem like a goal set too low for someone who is quite a voracious and dedicated reader. However, that hefty study load I mentioned gives me pause and I’ll take the opportunity to create space and gentleness here so that there’s maximum opportunity for enjoyment and achievement of the goal.

This also comes in under my desire to combat some of my perfectionism and determination to achieve highly by appreciating things that I can do ‘sufficiently well’ and be pleased and proud of them. It’s always nice when I achieve highly, but I don’t want to position myself such that I have a melt down every time I don’t reach my own high expectations. I want to select the high reaching goals with care rather than overloading myself with All The Things having to Exceed Expectations.

So what books am I planning to read? Well, I’ve definitely got my eye on The Twelve Planets produced by Twelfth Planet Press. Not that I needed much of an excuse to read them, but there’s an awesome community feel about doing it in this way, so I’m all in!


P.S. I finally joined Goodreads, feel free to prod me with a friend request if you’re also doing the challenge!