Retro Review: Fish Out Of Water (2008)

MaryJanice Davidson

Piatkus (2008)

ISBN: 9780749909079

The Mermaid Series #3

Book 1: Swimming Without A Net
Book 2: Sleeping With The Fishes
Book 3: Fish Out Of Water

Given that I am a fan of MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead books, I was amazed to discover she had written a mermaid trilogy and I didn’t know about it! Sure, vampires are far more prevalent in the paranormal genre than mermaids, but still, you’d think someone would have told me!

Fish Out Of Water is the third and final book of the Fred the mermaid trilogy. Not having read the others didn’t really impact on my reading of this one, although I imagine my emotional investment in some of the characters and the events happening to them would have been stronger if I had read the first two.

In this book half-human, half-mermaid Fredericka Bimm, media liaison to the merfolk – who have only recently “come out” to the land-dwelling humans – struggles to balance this role with her new engagement to the undersea Prince Artur and her friendships on land. Add to this strange merfolk disappearances, her own inadequacies as an undersea citizen, and her unresolved feelings for the lothario marine biologist Thomas, and Fred has a lot on her fins.

Davidson’s writing is as flippant and engaging as always. Irreverent banter between characters is a trademark of her style, and I enjoyed the quick pace of the story very much. Davidson manages to employ a lighthearted style without telling a shallow story, and is always highly readable.

While the novel did stand up to being read out of sequence, I would recommend starting at the beginning of the series (Sleeping With The Fishes and Swimming Without A Net are the first two books – there is also a novella in the anthology “Dead Over Heels”). You will get more MaryJanice Davidson fun, and the sense of character will no doubt be better too. A thoroughly enjoyable, speedy read, and a great break from fat fantasy!

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How I met the author: Lois McMaster Bujold

An infrequent and random series of posts musing about my introduction to some of my favourite writers.

I discovered Lois Bujold on a remainder table in an Australian two dollar shop more than a decade ago. I don’t remember which titles I picked up there. I’m not even sure now whether her name was familiar to me or if it was just chance I decided to buy those slightly tatty (though still unread) paperbacks for the ridiculous sticker price of about A$1.13 each. I did that on occasion back then, when I still read exclusively in print form and still had time to take a chance on books from the remainder bin (sadly these days I don’t even scrounge through these bins any more – so many books, so much digital, so little time…). I do remember they were Vorkosigan books, because for a long time, they were the only books of hers I read. I also know I read the Vorkosigan Saga entirely out of order the first time through, but I loved every single one of them anyway. Whatever those first books were, they led me on a (mostly online) hunt for the rest of the series, which as I recall, arrived in dribs and drabs in mostly the omnibus editions. I devoured each one, and was hungry for more.

When Cryoburn came out in 2010, I bought the hardcover edition, something I rarely did, and was delighted when it came with a CD Rom of almost all (bar Memory) the rest of the series in ebook, plus some extra goodies. When Baen offered Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance advance review ebooks for sale, well in advance of release, I bought it. I did the same thing with the recent Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. And I bought the hardback editions when they came out later, too. Why? Because I adore this series just that much. I have loaned or given copies to at least a dozen people, insisting they much read the Vorkosigan Saga, and I’ve been delighted when they’ve fallen hard too. In 2011, a friend and I read/reread the entire series (to date) – we even won an award for it! But the reading (in internal chronological order this time) and reviewing was a breeze – when you love something, it’s not hard to do.

Eventually, I realised that Bujold had written other things, fantasy rather the SF, so I hunted them down, or so I thought. I thought I read the four Sharing Knife books a few years ago, but having just “reread” them in the past couple of months (so good!), I realise I must not have read books 3 and 4 – if I did, my memory is in far worse shape than I thought! I have no idea why not, as I own them all in paperback (and now in ebook too), and they are certainly MEANT to be read as a single volume, so it seems very strange that I stopped. Not only that, but for years I thought I had read BOTH of Bujold’s fantasy series, and it wasn’t until I picked up her recent self-published Penric novellas, set in the World of the Five Gods, that I realised I had missed all three Chalion books entirely, so I immediately grabbed them and read the lot, back in 2015. That series is next on my comfort reread pile.

Basically, I’ll read anything Bujold writes. I love that I don’t know what to expect when I pick up one of her books – one of my favourite things about her Vorkosigan series (well, apart from all my OTHER favourite things) is that each book is essentially a different genre, even while all being basically space opera at the core. It’s a clever way to keep a series fresh. Bujold frequently makes me snort with laughter, and all too often has me sobbing, and I think that genuine emotional response to a book is a true measure of its value.

I’ve never met Lois in person. I wasn’t part of the convention-going scene in Australia when she was here as a guest. I do hope someday to be able to thank her in person for her words.

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New Review: Den of Wolves (2016)

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Juliet Marillier

Pan Macmillan Australia (2016)

ISBN: 9780451467034

Blackthorn & Grim #3

Blackthorn is under a geis of sorts to alway provide help when asked, a stricture that has become less difficult for her as we have followed her adventures during the preceding two books. So when the princess Flidais requests that Blackthorn help her with a young woman recently brought to court under unusual circumstances, it isn’t really a hardship. However, when Blackthorn’s companion Grim begins a huge job for the girl’s wealthy father, it soon becomes apparent that there are some very odd things happening. Strange enough to be dangerous to everyone involved, which Blackthorn and Grim cannot turn their backs on. And not only is there a weird and perilous mystery afoot, but Blackthorn’s old enemy Mathuin is also on the move, which terrifies and unsettles her beyond reason. The pair must for the first time fight separate battles – but will they be strong enough to overcome if they are not together?

I have absolutely adored this trilogy (if indeed a trilogy it is – I certainly wouldn’t be averse to more instalments…) and was thrilled when the author sent me an advance reading copy of this book. The world Blackthorn and Grim inhabit is fascinating, detailed and raw, with a rich tapestry of characters weaving their stories on the page. Marillier’s writing is sublime, a gorgeously captivating style that draws you in and simply won’t let you go. This has been one of my favourite fantasy series in a long time, and I will admit to more than once having to stop reading this final book to prolong the experience further (and wipe away tears – it’s that darn good!).

You really don’t need me to tell you how wonderful Juliet Marillier’s work is, with her apparently effortless manner of writing that builds on folklore with astonishingly good characterisation and subtle, clever plotting to create beautiful books. She is a stunningly good Australian writer with a well-deserved international reputation. If you haven’t read her work, the Blackthorn and Grim series is a highly recommended starting point, and you should go out and get your hands on them right now.

I previously reviewed Tower of Thorns

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Retro Review: Wings of Wrath (2009)

Celia (CS) Friedman

Orbit (2009)

ISBN: 978 1 84149 533 0

The Magister Trilogy #2

Kamala is the only female Magister in a brotherhood of magicians – except that most of them don’t know she exists and has accessed the secret of their power. Outsiders don’t know the secrets of the Magisters, so Kamala is a massive threat to their supremacy, being not only a woman, but not being as constrained by the rules that bind the rest of them to keep their secrets. Kamala has secrets of her own, and is forced to keep her powers hidden under the guise of witchery, the only other option for a woman with her abilities. She has proven to herself and her master that she can hold her own as a Magister, but the events unfolding before her test her will and her own self-belief. Continue reading

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Not-A-Snapshot Interview: Aimée Lindorff

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Aimée is a cultural producer, writer, and editor based in Brisbane.  She has a long history of supporting and promoting community arts, working with industrial organisations, community orchestras, and state and national cultural producers – most recently as Public Programs Manager of Queensland Writers Centre (2013-2016), Festival Coordinator of National Young Writers’ Festival (2012-2013) and as part of the Program Advisory Committee of Emerging Writers Festival (2014-2015). Aimée has worked in various capacities with the QWC since 2009, mentoring in creative writing and cultural production. She is passionate about representation, access, innovation, and development of Australian stories.

 In 2014, Aimée was appointed Chair of the Australian National Science Fiction Convention 2016 Organising Committee for the development and delivery of Contact2016.

She is creator of Whispers salon – a quarterly reading event showcasing emerging Queensland writers – and Queensland Script House – a craft and business development program for screenwriters.

She currently reviews fiction for Aurealis Magazine and has appeared at Gold Coast Film Festival, Emerging Writers Festival, Bundaberg WriteFest, Brisbane Writers Festival and Digital Writers’ Festival talking books, publishing, digital futures and Queensland writing.

You ran the Natcon, Contact, in Brisbane earlier this year – what can you tell us about that experience?

So many feels! It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve had in cultural and event development, particularly as we were effectively starting from scratch having not hosted a NatCon in Queensland for 10 years. We were fortunate to have so many talented people generously donate their time and expertise to shaping the event, and I found the NatCon audience to be really supportive of our team. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but the team did a hell of a job and I am so proud of our group of volunteers. What it did articulate for me was how much the fan community has changed since my first Con in 2009, particularly in Queensland. Each region’s community is vastly different to another, and no two fandoms are the same. There’s a lot going on in pop culture and fandom in Queensland, and it’s a privilege to be able to contribute to that community.

I understand you are finishing up in your role at the Queensland Writers Centre soon. What are some of your biggest takeaways from working there?

I learnt so much working at QWC. Writers Centres operates at the apex of arts, not-for-profit and community sectors, so the work is inherently different every day, the people you meet are so diverse, and you have to be passionate about what you’re doing because it is also one of the most thankless industries. I was fortunate in working with a truly exceptional team of producers, and participated in some incredible projects while I was there.

Some of the biggest takeaways were the relationships and friendships forged as a result, but what I learnt about being an arts practitioner was endlessly valuable.

  • Never stop learning: the best and most successful artists I know are those that continue to challenge their craft and what they know about their artform. This industry is continuously changing and adapting, both in terms of how readers engage, what publishers want, and stylistically, so as an artist you are continually learning, and should be actively seeking new forms, mediums and modes to challenge yourself.
    • The worst thing I’ve seen is writers who believe they have nothing to learn. Whether it’s editing, business models, marketing, public speaking, actively learn new skills. It can only ever help.
  • Every writer’s definition of success is different: I’ve engaged with many writers at different stages of their process and at different levels of understanding. It doesn’t make anyone’s goal less valuable, but talking about writing is really managing artist expectations and translating desired outcomes into a process of actionable steps.
  • Don’t be a dick: if nothing else, this is what I learnt. Everyone engages with their craft differently. Everyone needs different things, but no-one owes you anything. If you cannot be gracious or kind in your interactions with readers, publishers, other writers, hell, the woman who just answered the phone, then none of it matters, because no-one will want to engage with you or help you if you are a dick. So don’t be.
    • Further to don’t be a dick: support yourself. The reality of this industry is it makes unlimited demands of your time, your intellectual property, and of your emotional and creative energy, so pick your battles wisely, be prepared to say no to opportunities or to people if it doesn’t feel right, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Can you tell us what are you working on at the moment that we might see in the next year or so?

That’s an interesting prospect! I’m currently working on some smaller projects for production studios, and I’ll be working on some screen projects in the immediate future. Nothing I can talk about publically just yet, but stay tuned!!

I’ve been working with creative collaborator Sophie Overett to redevelop our Lady Parts Podcast and expand into written criticism and events. It’s an exciting time to be discussing representation and access in screen, and we’ll be rolling out some new projects under that banner over the next few months.

I’ve also had a chance to do some of my own writing (shock, horror!) and reengage with my own creative process. It’s been awhile and I have to confess the tools are a bit rusty, but I’m excited to have the time to write!

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Working with so many writers and artists makes this such a hard choice!!

I really enjoyed Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins and am looking forward to reading the second in the series. I’m a big fan of the Kill You Dead Female Character, and Kim writes them so very well. I’m currently reading Orphancorp by Marlee Ward and have heart-eyes everywhere. She writes beautiful prose and such an interesting story. Will keep you posted!

On the art side, I’m ridiculously obsessed with the artwork of Belinda Morris and wish I could wallpaper my house in her current work.

(Due to life circumstances, Aimée couldn’t get her answers back in time for the 2016 Snapshot, but since she gave such interesting ones, I thought I’d share them as a blog interview instead 🙂 )

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