Six degrees of Separation with Australian wildlife

Welcome to #6degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.

This month we yet again begin with a book I haven‘t read and have never heard, of The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. This won the 2021 Stella Prize, something I have never heard of either. Very educational for me today!

The Bass Rock is about family and love, and the ways that both can undo a person – as both storm and haven. It’s about the legacy of male violence and the ways in which these traumas ripple and reverberate across time and place.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/the-bass-rock/

Doesn‘t sound bad, but isn‘t really my cup of tea.

About the prize:

Stella began in 2012 with the Stella Prize, a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing. The aim was to counter the gender bias rife in the Australian literary landscape at the time and promote cultural change through the recognition of women’s perspectives.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/about/

On the longlist of that prize are some books that sound more interesting. Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson sounds a bit more down my alley, as it seems to have some magical realism in it.

Exploring the experiences of a First Nations community living on the outskirts of a rural town, Song of the Crocodile focuses on four generations of one family as a vessel to explore the insidious and generational impacts of racism, colonialism and violence. 

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/song-of-the-crocodile/

Revenge, Murder in Three Parts by S.L. Lim sounds like an unusual story of revenge:

A family favour their son over their daughter. Shan attends university before making his fortune in Australia while Yannie must find menial employment and care for her ageing parents. After her mother’s death, Yannie travels to Sydney to become enmeshed in her psychopathic brother’s new life, which she seeks to undermine from within.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/revenge/

Fairly odd sounding and intriguing is The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay:

As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean’s infected son, Lee. When he takes off with Kimberly, heading south, Jean feels the pull to follow her kin.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/the-animals-in-that-country/

The other three books that stood out for me where Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore

…a warm, funny and highly original portrait of a young girl’s search for identity and her struggle to deal with grief. Through families lost and found, this own-voices story celebrates the resilience of the human heart and our need to know who we truly are.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/metal-fish-falling-snow/

Stone Sky Gold Mountain by Mirandi Riwoe

Evoking the rich, unfolding tapestry of Australian life in the late nineteenth century, Stone Sky Gold Mountain is a heartbreaking and universal story about the exiled and displaced, about those who encounter discrimination yet yearn for acceptance.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/stone-sky-gold-mountain/

…and finally Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan

…a story collection that is astonishingly clever and witty, while also full of piercing insights into contemporary society. As she plays with structure and voice, Tan also explores popular culture and modern technology to great effect, and her futuristic scenarios are well thought out and all too plausible. Food scarcity, environmental destruction, capitalist bureaucracy and misogyny are just some of the ideas explored in the collection – in tales that feature mermaids, devious cats, and mangled ‘90s ballads.

https://thestellaprize.com.au/prize/2021-prize/smart-ovens-for-lonely-people/

Strangely enough, these books are not only connected through nominations for the Stella Prize, they also all have either animals in their titles or on their covers. There you go. Tempted to read any of them?

Top Ten Tuesday in full sentences

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

Last week‘s topic: book titles that are complete sentences…


Kitty Goes to Washington (Kitty Norville, #2) by Carrie Vaughn. Kitty pretty outed werewolves to the world in her midnight radio show. Not on purpose, mind you. Now she has to show up in Washington for a senate hearing. 

Kitty Takes a Holiday (Kitty Norville, #3) by Carrie Vaughn, things start to become darker and scarier. than in the first two books.

Kitty Raises Hell (Kitty Norville, #6) by Carrie Vaughn, the action is good and the plotlines entertaining….

Kitty Goes to War (Kitty Norville, #8) by Carrie Vaughn, Entertaining, funny, lots of werewolves…

The Rest Falls Away (The Gardella Vampire Hunters, #1) by Colleen Gleason. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, meets Jane Austen. A lot of frocks, debutantes and dance cards mingle with the undead.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. It is a very poetic book, the characters feel real and I got very involved in the storyline. It was just too much. Dolores was such a terrible person in the first half of the book. Not an easy read.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green,  Joanne Greenberg. I found the characters too removed to develop enough interest.

Teach Yourself Islam by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood. The book gives a good first look into Islam. It covers all the basics and is easy too read, albeit with a strong emphasis on Asian Muslims living in Britain,

Tell No One by Harlan Coben, boilerplate mystery / thriller.

From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East by William Dalrymple. Brilliant book. Traveling from the mountain cloisters of Greece across the Levantine to Mount St Catherine in the Sinai, you learn in a colourful way, why and how Christianity and Islam developed from Judaism. 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee, a brilliant play, that led to an equally brilliant movie.

What’s Bred in the Bone (Cornish Trilogy, #2) by Robertson Davies. Imaginative, unusual, weird.

Ghost magic

Elatsoe
by Darcie Little Badger,  Rovina Cai (Illustrator)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yes, it‘s Young Adult, not my favourite genre. But it looked interesting. And while I didn‘t bite my nails, the story was not bad and the writing was good. More background about the world this is set in would have been nice. Essentially it‘s UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. My favourite gadget: instant teleportation via fae ring.

Author and female main character are Lipan Apache. Ellie is 17 years old and has the power to call animal ghosts into being. This power is her family‘s gift and we keep getting short insights into one of Ellie‘s female ancestors. Besides powers and gifts of indigenous people, other magic has made its way from the old world, aka the mentioned vampires and fae.

In her dreams Ellie is contacted by a dyeing relative, asking her to find out why he was murdered and to protect his family. The mystery is nicely done. 

The illustrations above each chapter are pretty. I tried in vain to find a read thread in them or a connection to what happens in the respective chapters. I‘m assuming that the girl is Elatsoe and the dog is Kirby.

PS: I thought about tagging this as LGBT, but it‘s so fleeting, it‘s barely there.

First Line Friday — Elatsoe

First Line Friday is a meme created by Hoarding Books. Feel free to head over there, have a look around, grab your nearest book and post its first line in the comments there and in your blog.


I am currently reading an ebook; I am about halfway with it. I also started an audiobook and a comic. Here are first lines of all three of them:

Elatsoe (ebook)
by Darcie Little Badger

ELLIE BOUGHT THE LIFE-SIZED plastic skull at a garage sale (the goth neighbors were moving to Salem, and they could not fit an entire Halloween warehouse into their black van).

First line, chapter one

Yes, it‘s Young Adult, not my favourite genre. But it looked interesting. And while I‘m not biting my nails, the story is not bad and the writing is good. More background on the world this is set in would be nice. Essentially it‘s UF/magical realism, set in our place and time, with ghosts, vampires and fae added to the mix. My favourite gadget: instant teleportation via fae ring.

I would like to finish this weekend, but I have plans in real life, so it‘s doubtful. I also started the next audiobook in my re-read of The Expanse:

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)
by James S.A. Corey (Goodreads Author),  Jefferson Mays (Narrator) 

The twin shipyards of Callisto stood side by side on the hemisphere of the moon that faced permanently away from Jupiter.

First sentence of the prologue

This is my review from 2018:

Fabulous. I think I have a new favourite in the Expanse series! 5 stars with a cherry on top. Some slight spoilers ahead…

All about Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos, instead of the usual introduction of a new host of characters never to be seen again. 

And Bobby is back! And Avasarala, potty-mouth and all.

This is like pure gold for the fans of the series. No distractions of getting to know other characters or slowly diving into a complicated storyline. Just our favourite crew, with their odd-ball humour, trying to survive against mounting odds in a pretty straight forward action adventure story. Don’t get me wrong, the other books with their conspiracies, aliens, universe-spanning plots and amazing world building were fun, too. But this was a great joy ride in its straight forwardness and relative simplicity. And the action, twists and turns kept coming right from the start. I wanted to take breaks between chapters, but I just couldn’t, I was having too much fun…

My favourite stories were those of Amos and Naomi. Holden’s was fun, too, but more of a filler. Alex’s story interested me the least. Each of those plots easily could have been the basis for full novels of their own. 

Waiting till next month for my fellow buddy readers to pick up the next book of the series is going to be hard…

P.S.: Reading the short story The Churn beforehand is recommended, it gives background on Amos Burton’s youth and characters that are relevant to this story arc.

And the comic I just loaded via Kindle Unlimited:

The Swords of Glass, Vol. 3: Tigran (Kindle Edition)
by Sylviane Corgiat

Very nice artwork in the first two volumes! It‘s been a while since I read them, so my memory of the plot is a little vague, but we‘ll see…

A little knowledge about Sharks

The Little Book of Knowledge: Sharks
by Bernard Seret,  Julien Solé (Illustrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Very informative graphic novel about sharks. Not sure what age range this is aimed at, my guess is middle-grade, although some of the vocabulary might be a little challenging for kids. The art is good and all salient points are covered.

According to the Internet Bernard Séret is a retired French marine biologist, more specifically an ichthyologist specializing in sharks and rays, of which he has discovered several species. I am pretty sure that he is the grey haired narrator of this.

It‘s getting weird in the woods

The Woods Vol. 5
by James Tynion IV,  Michael Dialynas

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Over a year has passed since Bay Point Preparatory High School found themselves countless light years away in the middle of an ancient, primordial wilderness. Now the crew finds themselves divided, choosing sides in a war that has been raging for hundreds of years.

More backstories. The plot becomes more complex and weirder. Several revelations, some expected and others not so much. Monsters, drugs, bodily harm and death. After reading five volumes more or less back to back, I ran out of steam a little though. I need a break. I might continue at a later point.

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Danger in the woods

The Woods Vol. 4
by James Tynion IV,  Michael Dialynas (Illustrator)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

One year later. After the climax of the last issue, we jump ahead and see how everybody fared in the year since. Somehow I had thought that the events in the last volume would lead up to a climax in this one here, but apparently I blinked and the climax has happened already… Anyway… I like how this story is developing and the artwork stepped up in quality as well.

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Still lost in the woods

The Woods, Vol. 2: The Swarm
by James Tynion IV,  Michael Dialynas (Illustrator) 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

We get backstories for several of the main characters, right up to the moment the main storyline starts at the beginning of volume one. Nicely done. I am fond of Calder‘s story, although the other parts are well done as well.

Friend drama, love, coming out, alien possession, Shakespeare, kissing in dire circumstances, ravenous monsters, feelings, vikings… I like the monsters and the artwork is starting to grow on me.

Lost in Space, Highschool Edition

The Woods, Vol. 1: The Arrow
by James Tynion IV,  Michael Dialynas

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ok, here is another of those Kindle Unlimited comics, that have been dwelling on my TBR pile for a while. 

A school of 500 pupils and teachers is snatched and deposited on an alien planet, in the middle of some woods. The fauna is not friendly. Surprisingly gory for something that has been shelved as YA on Goodreads. 

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So, what to do? The grown-ups are English teachers and librarians and just as clueless as the kids. But then someone gets a clue and some of the kids make up their own minds. Things go sideways. Teen angst, aliens, a touch of Lord of the Flies, a bit of Lost.

The artwork isn‘t horrible, but it isn‘t great either. None of the characters are really very likable. But the story is different and I am interested to see where this goes next.