Archive for September, 2009

The Last Stormlord/Night’s Cold Kiss

Posted in books, fantasy, horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2009 by jason nahrung

Herewith two reviews of recently released Aussie novels, and a handy link to a very cool review site at The Guardian featuring Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.


Last Stormlord

Glenda Larke, an Australian now living in Malaysia, has lived on four continents, but it is her experiences in arid Western Australia and Tunisia that appear to most inform The Last Stormlord (HarperCollins, $22.99), the first book of the Watergivers series.

Larke impressed with her breakout, big-publisher debut, The Aware, which I loved for its dystopian air and gorgeous world-building.

The Last Stormlord, a saga of an empire facing its demise, is set in a dry coastal realm bordered by mountains and desert where life revolves around the possession and acquisition of water.

Key to the survival of the city states is the Stormlord, the last of the line powerful enough to take water from the sea and send it inland to break in designated areas, bringing rain to the needy. Under the Stormlord is an aristocracy of lesser powered men and women with varying ability to manipulate water, physically moving it or even removing it from living creatures. This apparent magical power over the essential element has kept the status quo against the nomadic desert dwellers for centuries, but now that is changing. Political ambitions give sway to treachery and murder and the world is set for upheaval.

Caught up in this chaos are two teenagers, Shale and Terelle. Both possess considerable water powers of different ilks, and both find themselves being used as tools in political machinations. The star-crossed pair are given precious little time for adolescence.

Like a brewing storm, the story gains weight and power as it gathers momentum, the considerable cast rising to strike clear identities as ideals of honour and survival clash, and love lies bleeding. There are some gentle religious barbs along the way, too.

Larke’s world-building is a great strength of the story, the dryness and heat permeating the fabric of her society, with enough touches of the fantastic to excite the imagination. This, combined with a bloody climax, leaves the reader keen for the next instalment.

NightsColdKiss
Aussie writer Tracey O’Hara has enjoyed some happy hunting in the United States with Night’s Cold Kiss (HarperCollins, $19.99), her debut novel, the first of the three-book Dark Brethren series. Now the paranormal romance has been released in her home country.

Set primarily in New York, it covers familiar ground for those who enjoy paranormal romance, still one of the hottest of genres.

Antoinette Petrescu, deeply affected by the murder of her parents by a death-loving vampire called Dante, is a slayer of the undead, and an unnaturally gifted one at that. But a deadly conspiracy throws her into the path of the charismatic and filthy rich vampire Christian, and sparks erupt despite her best intentions.
Christian is an agent for a covert, quasi-government organisation that polices the paranormal community with a view to keeping an uneasy truce brokered years before between vampires and humans.

Now someone’s rocking the boat and Antoinette’s past is coming back to bite her – quite literally.

Planes, helicopters, fast cars and elegant upstate mansions all figure as Antoinette is exposed to the other side of vampire existence – she truly gets to see how the other half live as she meets Christian’s well-to-do vampire family and household staff.

Vampire society is well-described, with the usual dividing line between those who try to maintain a sense of humanity and those who embrace their inner beast, revelling in the kill and their otherness. There is enough insight into the realm of the shapechangers to suggest further exploration in coming books.

O’Hara hits all the right buttons for fans of the genre with her tale of desire, betrayal and revenge, providing a pacy and at times steamy adventure with a strong, lusty subplot. This makes up for the occasional lack of sparkle on the page and some haphazard editing as the story builds to a fittingly explosive climax, and overdrawn denouement to springboard the reader into book two.

ctrl/alt/delete: restart

Posted in books, travel, Uncategorized, writing on September 21, 2009 by jason nahrung

During the week I left Brisbane, I took some snaps on my mobile phone to mark the moments. Not all of them, not even the most important ones: just incidental ones as the to-do list ticked down. It went something like this:

empty winerack

empty winerack

After the giveaways and sell-offs, the eBaying and the Freecycling and the dump run, came the packing. The house emptied out as the boxes filled. The wine rack gave some cause for concern, but I figured, we could rebuild it. And in fact, we have. An empty wine rack is of no use to anyone. Ditto the bookshelves.

 

cafe urbano in stafford heights

cafe urbano in stafford heights


I was extremely grateful that a cafe had opened at the end of my street. And a great cafe at that. One with takeaway coffee and a late breakfast and a BLT to die for. It became something of a hub for last-minute catch-ups, thanks in part to the recent addition of a dinner menu (love the lamb).

shoes off, after the packing

shoes off, after the packing

Men came. They chuckled at the sight of the coffin-table, all bound up, mummy-like, in its blanket and tape. They didn’t seem to blanche too much at the third room, lined with boxes filled with books. Three hours and a cuppa later, they left in a big truck with a promise we’d meet again, and I sat on the stairs, shoes off, contemplating how much an empty house can echo, and how sore I’d be the next day.

 

spaceman on the ceiling

spaceman on the ceiling

In the absence of, well, anything but a backpack of clothing, it was good to have friends to crash with. They had wine, and coffee, a spare bed and a shower and a loo, and a cute little spaceman stuck to their ceiling. You need friends like these.

 

Dad's garden

Dad's garden

Family is also good. They’re like friends with a sense of ingrained commitment. My Dad has an awesome view from his house and an even more awesome viewpoint, and his partner has done a grand job setting up the house and the garden. It’s good to know that, no matter where you are, you know damn well where they will be: watching your back.

sunset at Shorncliffe

sunset at Shorncliffe

After the truck had gone, I had coffee — an iced one, the day was hot — with a mate at Shorncliffe, one of my favourite places in Brisbane. And after that I went for a meditative trundle on the pier, and watched my last Shorncliffe sunset as a ‘local’. No dawn without a sunset.

Kaliber in Fortitude Valley

Kaliber in Fortitude Valley

Another favourite place in Brissie was Kaliber, a funky, narrow club in the Valley with an amazing range of vodka, cool staff, mean pizzas and a fine line in absinthe. They were playing Concrete Blonde’s Joey when I got there. We had a good night, three of us who have all been through this all before each in our own way, and backed up the next week — the last week — with Mexican and burlesque (not at the same time). One thing I like about cities is that you can have tortillas and tassles in the one night.

angela slatter and me at dinner

angela slatter and me at dinner

On the last night, after the final inspection of the house and the last cuppa at Urbano and the return of the keys and afternoon tea with a pal and the stumbling across of a friend’s Buffy book (Night Terrors) in a newsagent, it was time for a drink. First at the Queensland Writers Centre cocktail party, coinciding with the Brisbane Writers Festival and launching their groovy Industry IQ program which I’m frustrated to be missing — and what a splendid view of the CBD from across the river — and then at dinner, with some old friends and the cool Dexter dude Jeff Lindsay and some other folks beside. I relented and took a people shot on the phone, because how could you not with the likes of the inimitable (and fellow It Crowd fan) Angela Slatter?

Sydney from the Swissotel

Sydney from the Swissotel

My agent has an annual gettogether for her writers in Sydney. This year, because the usual venue stuffed up the booking, it was at the Swissotel in the CBD. Two thumbs up for the Swissotel and their well-appointed rooms — this was the view from the 19th floor — and their fab staff and tasty bar menu. The banquet was amazing — I went back for seconds of prawns and oysters — and scored a wee pavlova. The event was my springboard out of Brissie, but there were a couple of fellow Brissie scribes there — Kate Morton and Stephen M Irwin with entertaining speeches, Grace Dugan, Louise Cusack and Kim Wilkins — and other reliables from around the country who made the bar a friendly place to be (Graeme Hague, Ian Irvine, Richard Harland and Katherine Howell, to name a few, and all kicking mighty goals that make a young wannabe such as myself mighty keen to get fingers on keyboard again).
And then there was the Melbourne writer Kirstyn McDermott, reason enough to empty your house and say goodbye to your cafe and your sunset, and promise to write to the good souls holding the fort.
 

gargoyle in melbourne
gargoyle in melbourne

Now the gargoyles are ensconced, the boxes packed away (mostly), the computer set up and the kettle plugged in. Better get started, then.

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