Monthly Archives: November 2009

Mini-Reviews #14

In the madness that was the final weeks of Aurealis reading, I think my spreadsheet got a little lost, but I’ll do my best:

The Child Thief, Brom – A dark and gritty Peter Pan retelling – engrossing and beautifully put together (gorgeous illustrations and writing).

The Mermaid’s Madness, Jim C Hines – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both Jim’s "fairy tale" novels, and am really looking forward to Red Hood’s Revenge. Jim has a knack for characterisation and dialogue, and I love the darkness in these seemingly light stories.

The Dragon Book, Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann (eds.) – Massive book, with some great stories. Highlights at Last Short Story.

Flashforward, Robert J Sawyer, 319pp. – Heavy science and not altogether believable characterisation, but a good read. Don’t expect the tv show though – it’s not at ALL the same thing! (Review at ASIF!)

And Another Thing…, Eoin Colfer – A worthy follow up, well in the tone of the originals, and a very good effort by Colfer. (Review at ASIF!)

Tempted (House of Night series), PC & Kristin Cast – Not my favourite in this series. Seemed to fall prey to common series problem of lots of back story dumping, lots of protagonist internal monologue and not a lot of story progression. Got better in the second half though.

Books I’m not discussing due to Aurealis judging:
The Nest Paul Jennings
Cupid’s Arrow Isabelle Merlin
The zoo of magical and mythological creatures Sam Bowring
Liar Justine Larbalestier (was withdrawn from AA contention by the author – HIGHLY RECOMMEND!)
The Puzzle Ring Kate Forsyth
The Reformed Vampire Support Group Catherine Jinks
Third Transmission Jack Heath
Leviathan Scott Westerfeld
Worldshaker Richard Harland
A small free kiss in the dark Glenda Miller
The Museum of Mary Child Cassandra Golds
Siggy and Amber Doug McLeod

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Birthday parties and such

So after 2.5 hours at cricket this morning, we are backing up with the Batt kids birthday parties in Mandurah. Currently very noisy :) Was productive at cricket this morning, getting four or five stories edited for Worlds Next Door. Hopefully this indicated the start of a productive editing streak! Not hopeful though as I get 22 assignments Tuesday and a stack of exams Friday *sigh*

Am listening to a review copy of Justine Larbalestier’s “How to ditch your fairy” in the car. Even though I’ve read the book, the audio is a different experience. V. enjoyable. Still haven’t written the reviews of the two books I finished during the week but I’m sure I’ll get to them.

Well, party 1 over. Might try to visit rellies before party 2!

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Catchup post

Been a while since I updated, so dot points must needs be the format today!

  • Master Seven’s birthday pool party declared a success on Sunday. Even better, thanks to resident house guests (family friends here for cancer treatment for three weeks), house was even tidier straight after the party than it was just before! Bliss not having to clean up… Have photos, but haven’t downloaded yet.
  • I am 30 weeks pregnant today. Had my pre-admission appointment at the local hospital, which is very nice, and the quite young midwife was delightful. I’m pleased, because it’s kind of scary going to a new hospital after the same one for two caesareans. Have appointment with the obstetrician (one of two who might be doing my c-section) on December 15 – we’ll have a B-Day booked in on that day most likely.This is all pleasing to me, as I’m not happy with the GP (who is supposedly an ante-natal specialist) I’ve been seeing – he makes me feel like a number, and that’s pretty hard to take after the wonderful doctor we used to have in QLD.
  • Work is insanely busy right now – I inherited the booklist to organise late last week (after I offered, because there’d been no progress for a *ahem* fair while, and it HAD to get done!), we’ve had Pastoral Care comments to write and proof (I ended up proofing four different batches, plus writing my own), Yearbook is at the pointy end, and I’m chasing loose ends and proofing madly, plus all the regular end of year madness we have in Bookhire and library! On top of that, we’ve not yet had any indication of what the plans are for my role next year – doesn’t look like they’re properly replacing me at this stage, which is both flattering (cos, y’know, I’m irreplaceable!) and sad, because I know that will mean things will be a lot harder when I come back, particularly as I’ll only be part-time on my return. Hopefully things will get sorted soon, and I’ll be happy with what the decision is… Considering there’s something like ten staff leaving at the end of the year, I don’t think I’m a priority right now.
  • This week is crazy – Staff meeting/PD yesterday, hospital today, WASLA AGM tomorrow in Perth, school social on Thursday, possibly Master Seven social on Friday (under negotiation!). Not sure it gets much better in the next three weeks, but at least there’s not something every day!
  • I haven’t really started on edits for Worlds Next Door yet, but hopefully things will have settled down after this week, and I’ll be able to hook into them.
  • Aurealis Awards reading is finished, and shortlist negotiation is well underway – looks like we’re nearly done actually, which is great!
  • Still reading and doing some reviews. Latest one up today at ASIF! (Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing…). Have Tempted (latest in the House of Night series) finished ready to review, and am halfway through the new (not released til January actually!) Kylie Chan book, Earth to Hell. Another nice little pile in the bookshelf from Fiction Focus to keep me busy too :)
  • Keep meaning to take a belly photo, but haven’t yet. Really must get to that!

That’s caught up I think. Might try to post more regularly!

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Musing on different things I do

Out of the blue this week I was asked to critique a story for someone I really only know through frequenting the same reviewing circles over at ASIF!. When I queried why she’d made this request, the response was because I’m insightful in my reviews. Now, first of all, I am flattered :) However, it got me to thinking, because to my mind, there are very different methods involved in reviewing, critiquing, and editing and I wonder if others find the same thing. While some of the skills are similar, you are really doing very different things, and I’m not sure being insightful in one makes you good at another…

For me, reviewing is made up of a few different parts. Firstly, I am not working for the benefit of the author. While many authors do seek out an read reviews of their work, I sincerely doubt many of them are going to read any criticism I might make of their work and decide to completely change that aspect of their writing! That’s not what it’s about. Reviews are for the benefit of other readers, essentially, and I think my job as a reviewer is to try to articulate what I liked or didn’t like about the book in such a way that gives the potential reader the option to agree or disagree with my opinion and make an informed decision about whether to seek the book out for themselves, or not.

Critiquing IS of course for the writer. But it’s a very different beast to editing. When I’m critiquing someone’s work, my goal is to point out areas that don’t work for me as an informed reader, and to applaud bits I really like and that make the story awesome. In a critique, I may suggest that I find a section overlong or dense, but I won’t make specific suggestions for changes. When I’m editing though, I’ll draw red lines through words, lines and sections, and ask for rewording of specific bits that bother me. I think the main difference for me is that in a critique, I’ll make general suggestions to offer guidance to the writer of where I see problems with a story, but when I’m editing, I’m working with the author to tweak out the best possible story for the publication I’ve already bought it for, and therefore I will be far more specific and definitive about what changes I want. It’s still a give and take situation, but it’s far more concentrated and detailed, for me.

I think I use a similar skillset for these things – of course spelling, grammar, punctuation and the like are important for all, as is an educated idea of what makes a story work. But they are distinctive disciplines to me.

I’m interested to know if others look at these three things differently as well. Of course, we all review, critique and edit differently, but is there a correlation between them for you?

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Good day

Miss Four stayed at her best friend’s house last night, which meant I got almost 10 hours sleep! Wonderful… Master Seven was up early, but I didn’t hear him sneak out and start watching telly :) When I finally got up, we decided we’d head to Maccas for pancakes. After that was a trip to the shopping centre, where serendipitous timing meant I got my eyebrows waxed & tinted, he got his haircut, we picked up the parcel waiting at the PO (lineup there was horrendous)  and we STILL made it to the movie we wanted to watch (Astroboy – fun!). We then dropped into Target to layby a stroller for the new baby (reversible handle, $100 off!), and then wandered down to pick up the girl. 

Some of that family had just been to the petstore, and we’d been contemplating getting an easy-care fish or two, so followed their directions to the shop down the road. Ahem. Three fish and a small kitten later…! Even the petstore owner had a laugh, and called me Mrs Softy! *sigh* I’m sure I’ll regret the kitten, but it is cute. Miss Four even said "I won’t have any Christmas presents…"!!! Ah well…

In other news, we don’t have a replacement for me at work at this stage. And we’re a little nervous about how that means they’re going to handle my leave. They are really tightening belts too, for the first time in forever (new bursar sweeps clean + major building projects + economic downturn + wages rising = scary) and are even looking at my support staff. I’m frightened as to what it could mean for us, just when we’ve got things going so beautifully. Worse case, I guess I don’t really HAVE to go back to work, but boy, I’d miss it!

Really should be doing housework, as visitors arrive tomorrow, for three weeks, but am reading Flashforward instead.

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