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In my first read for the Australian Women Writers 2012 challenge, I picked up a book I've been meaning to read for a while: Equilibrium, by Meredith Shayne.

I don't often read romance, so I'm not terribly familiar with the conventions of the genre, but I very much enjoyed this story. Small-town New South Wales seems like the perfect place for veterinarian Michael to escape his demons - especially when he meets ex-policeman Ryan Mitchell, who is steady, kind and gorgeous. But when a family crisis hits, so do Michael's demons, and suddenly it looks as if he might lose everything, past, present and future.

Shayne has a knack for creating realistically flawed yet sympathetic characters. A possible exception to this is Ryan, who seems to have no flaws at all - but as he's my dream steady, supportive male character, I can't really complain about that! The supporting cast are briefly but believably drawn, particularly Michael's sister and best friend.

The writing is solid throughout - quietly evocative without ever feeling showy. I liked the slow build of the romance, and I thought the sex was well done; I often cringe away from sex scenes in books, but there was no need for that here.

The ending didn't quite work for me, in that it felt slightly rushed. Part of that is a function of the format of the story, in which the action is divided across twelve months. But I felt a little more attention could have been given to wrapping things up. I gather there is a novella sequel to the story, which I'll be looking out for in the next few months; I'd happily read much more about these characters!

Summary: An excellent, satisfying read for anyone who likes m/m romance. I will definitely look out for more from Meredith Shayne in future.
Edition I read: Kindle ebook. The paperback version is available from Dreamspinner Press, where you can also read an excerpt from the book.
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Ah, my poor little neglected blog, how badly I've treated you! Apologies for the extended absence.

I have several very brief book reviews:

When We Were Bad - Charlotte Mendelson. The son of a feted female rabbi running off with the wife of another rabbi moments before his wedding marks the first in a series of cracks that open up in an apparently perfect family. This is close to being a perfect book. Seriously, if you have access to this one, read it. It's brilliant. Five stars

One Foot Wrong - Sofie Laguna. Hester's reclusive religious parents have their own ideas about how their daughter should be brought up. A fascinating, fresh take on a horrifying subject. Four stars.

Stuffed and Starved - Raj Patel. Clever and very well-written, as well as being packed full of information about the problem with the way today's food society operates and ideas as to what we can do about it. Patel's a great writer, and this book made me an instant fan. Five stars.

Burnt Shadows - Kamila Shamsie. An very apposite one in the current climate, this book examines cultural conflicts and their links and roots from Nagasaki to 911, wrapping around this a narrative that is moving and hopeful in the face of despair. Four and a half stars.

The Wilderness - Samantha Harvey. A beautifully written, convincing imagining of a man's descent (or flight?) into alzheimers. Four stars.

With that out of the way, I want to concentrate on two excellent young adult books I've read recently, which go together very nicely because they're both based on alternate histories. Jenny Davidson's The Explosionist is set in 1930s Edinburgh, but history diverges from our own in 1815 when Napoleon defeats Wellington's army at the Battle of Waterloo. Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, is set in a world in which Darwin's discoveries led him to DNA, and thence to the creation of new species that are used by humans very much in the way that we use machines in our world.

Both books offer fascinating insights into the twists and turns of what-ifs. More under the cut. )

This got me thinking: are there any other alternate histories that people can recommend? One I loved as a teenager is Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and sequels, but there must be loads more that I've missed out on.
lizabelle: (Old coat new book)
I had a gorgeous weekend away from my life last weekend; it involved lots of walking (in the pouring rain), watching tennis, exploring gift shops and lots and lots of reading. Here are the results:

Jazz - Toni Morrison: ****

I was never going to love this as much as Beloved, but it bears many Morrison hallmarks: prose that often reads more like poetry, multiple points of view, and a narrative that starts with a situation and then explores its history. I also found the setting (1920s Harlem) fascinating - who doesn't enjoy reading about a place they know nothing about, particularly if it's in Morrison's evocative prose?

The Whole Day Through - Patrick Gale: ***

I love the way Patrick Gale writes, but I felt rather ranty at the end of this book. Two characters who have allowed life to defeat them somewhat are reunited unexpectedly when they both move to Winchester to care for relatives. As usual with Gale, The Whole Day Through is not a linear story; instead, layers are exposed and re-examined one by one, and I found this process absorbing.

Gay characters are a common feature of Gale's novels; in this case the gay man was my favourite character, Ben's brother Bobby, who has Mosaic Down's Syndrome. It was great to see him portrayed as such a well-rounded character who is not defined by his medical condition, despite it being a big part of him.

Because this is Gale, nothing about the characters' relationships is straightforward, including the ending. I can't discuss that without spoilers, so please proceed at your own risk - don't click this cut tag if you don't want to know the ending. )

Ahem. Anyway. Beautiful writing; frustrating characters.


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June 2014

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