Kiwi Australian, reader and writer, stirrer, dog lover and Britophile.
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Smashwords book reviews by Julie Davies
- The Heat Wave of '76 and other award-winning stories from the Stringybark Erotic Fiction Award
on Jan. 19, 2012
If you are looking for intelligent erotica, this is the book for you. I wasn't sure at first I should write a review, considering one of the stories is mine, but I can comment on the whole collection. The stories are well written and incredibly varied: from past to present, realism to fantasy, heartbreaking to funny, hetero to gay, discreet to explicit. It was my first foray into writing erotica and I was hesitant about having it published. However, after seeing the quality of the other stories, I am thrilled to have mine in such good company in this well-produced anthology.
- The Road Home and other award-winning stories from the Stringybark Short Story Awards
on April 05, 2012
This is my favourite Stringybark anthology so far because, if I had to choose one word to describe it, it's REAL. I read because I want to not be alone inside my head for a short while - that dual curse and gift of homo sapien's self-awareness and intelligence.
These stories all breathe humanity and Australian-ness, if there's any such thing. By now I know to leave Kerry Cameron's contribution (About Time) till last, not just in the spirit of eating my greens first and saving the potatoes and gravy for the end, but also because I know I won't be able to read further through the tears. And this time there were so many other writers following in her footsteps and shredding my heart-strings; such as Eloise Verlaque (Ones Left Behind), Barbara Lello (Living Treasure), Graeme Simsion ((Confession in Three Parts) and Peter Bishop (Elena).
This book is about being human; the joys and sorrows,love and loss. A mighty read! And Graham Parks: if I were single, you would have that date Saturday night. What great chutzpah to advertise in your bio - love it!
- Behind the Wattles
on Dec. 15, 2012
What a marvelously eclectic collection of stories! Some are heartwarming, others thought-provoking, unexpected, haunting. Some made me laugh and others I identified with so strongly, I was annoyed I hadn't written them. The micro-fiction scattered throughout were like chocolate biscuits hidden under cake. A great read. Couldn't put it down.
- Hitler Did It
on May 30, 2013
"Hitler Did It" captured me from its very first story: “Connecting Corridors” by Jemma van de Nes. How is it possible to read a story with a happy ending and still feel your heart has broken? Christian Cook’s “Some Corner of a Distant Field” glows with a lyrical love of the land at the beginning, so its progression is a rude shock that you keep resisting, right until the end. The whole anthology is full of delightful or devastating surprises. Nan Doyle’s “The Miracle” is a nativity story even an atheist can enjoy and I had no idea where John Poole’s “Just a Notch” was heading. His description, “Sydney’s jacaranda skies” vividly reminded this accidental migrant of the beginning of my love affair with Australia. Then it ended up in a place I learned about in the newspapers, and had tried to forget ever since. If you want marvellous stories told in powerful language, yet typically Aussie understated emotion, read this book.
- Non Posso
on Sep. 02, 2015
After reading 'Non Posso', I realised what tame holidays I have always chosen. The most daring thing I've ever done is unwittingly arouse a lonely male dugong off the coast of Vanuatu (the last story in this book, 'Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind').
Many of the other stories in this anthology of travellers' tales had me bamboozled why anyone would go to such places unless they had to, but most chose 'exotic' locations or modes of travel sure to be difficult. The sheer chaos of a holiday in Costa Rica, in 'The Beauty of a Detour' by Ann Kronwald, would have had me in paroxysms of distress, because I'm a planner, not a pantser. But apparently it was all worth it, because she describes their elusive destination beautifully: "This whole day had felt like a hurricane that left the house clean, the lawn mowed and dinner on the table."
Matthew Griffiths' 'How Not to Climb a Mountain' is a lesson in dogged foolhardiness that had me shaking my head, as it could have had a very different outcome. And 'Riders on the Storm' by Denise Kirklec demonstrated such tenacity and endurance I'm awestruck. Pippa Kay's terrifying Greek Island sailing experience in 'Meltemi' will forever change your view of those idyllic Mediterranean images that tempt us.
Some of the stories described places I am never likely to see in ways that could only delight another writer: 'The White Desert' by Alene Ivey about her trip to Egypt vividly described the road as "... a desert viper of bitumen snaking its way through a barren plain of unrelenting sand." I could see it, although the only desert I've ever travelled through was in the red centre of Australia.
Others described such alien cultures, like Peter Smallwood's 'Flying Into the Past' in the Papua New Guinea Highlands and Beverley Lello's 'Mist, Moss and Mountains' in the Himalayas, it's hard to believe they can still exist in our ever-shrinking world.
Mac Linardis' 'The Trap' was a wry study in interpersonal relationships that made me realise my family is pretty ordinary by comparison but, mercifully for all of us, also in another country.
'A Field of Their Own' by Karen Lee Thompson about her trip around rural Viet Nam deeply touched me, because my own brother did two tours of duty there as a bombardier in the New Zealand army. She describes the graves dotted all over Viet Nam, in the middle of rice paddies and on roadsides, casualties of that unnecessary war and the high death rates since. And it WAS unnecessary. We lost but the Commy dominoes didn't fall - we don't speak Chinese in Australia unless we plan to trade with them. Particularly poignant was Karen Lee's observation that, after all these years, there are still no birds in the countryside, despite significant revegetation after obliteration by bombs and Agent Orange. We can only speculate whether it's the residual effects of the deluge of herbicides we dropped on them or whether, in their continuing dire poverty, the locals eat any that have been able to breed there.
I adored Bradley Baker's observation in 'Ernesto's Beans' that, after visiting Hemingway's accommodation in Cuba, he understood why the author drank to excess. Equally, I loved Gerald Vinestock's single word finish of his prize-winning tale 'Non Posso', hating every moment of his time until he fell in love with a bella Italiana, choosing "Posso" ("I can"), rather than the negative title), which none-the-less spoke volumes.
These intensely personal stories reveal much more about the real value of travel than any travelogue or TV show ever could. So often, travel changes you - that is, if you're doing it right. As Graham D'Elboux wisely notes in 'The Redeemer': "If Rio has taught me anything, it's that you can't press the rewind button on life." But I'm still not convinced we need to be terrified or suffer to benefit from our travels. I think I'll stick to my usual cushy holidays. After all, we took three billion years to crawl out of the slime, so I have no intention of giving up inner-sprung mattresses and hot showers without a fight.