A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Tolz Book Review

This weighty tome is a cracker of a debut novel and I hope Steve hasn't run himself out of energy and ideas so that he can go on to write more. I don't know how long it took him to write this, but it certainly took me a while to read this (mind you, I was only reading it in snippets at the tired end of every day - probably not the best way for this book to be read), however, there is a good 711 pages of writing and he has done a fine job on every page.

An enthralling tale that twists through the father and son relationship to give the reader and Jasper, the son, an understanding of the strange life his father, Martin Dean, and his uncle, Terry Dean have lived. In some ways, and probably because I took so long to read it, the detail was so incredibly intensive and enthralling, that I forgot some of the things from the start. Maybe I should read it when I am not quite as busy and am able to read great slabs at once.

The story itself seems quite unbelievable, but Steve's language and tone sets it in a way that puts it back into the possibility. Leaves the reader questioning. Jasper tries so hard to not be his father (as so many of us do) but the realisation as he gets older that he is part of him and that this is OK is a significant moment into adulthood. A milestone that Steve alludes to that is so often only realised too late.

Martin spends his whole life running, hiding trying to show his genius, but the world is only interested in his bad boy brother Terry and this drives him into himself more. I was left feeling sad for him, yet at the same time, wondering why he didn't just make a break elsewhere as an unknown being. A frustrating character.

It appeared that his intentions were very pure, naive even for Jasper; however his emotional maturity was stunted at the point of the letterbox incident - the pivotal point in his life where things began to go wrong for him.

The threads of the saga were well held together, even when I was unsure as to whether there was anymore to say, Steve Tolz found more words to say. It was a story of deceit, love, betrayal. A story of two brothers. A story of the father and son relationship. A story of living on the edge, behind the hedge, in a maze, in a craze. A story about lessons to learn and not learn.



Stuffed up head, stuffed up chest, hard to think, hard to laugh.  Over it.  Bored with myself.  Listening to the laughter in the nearby schoolyard wishing I had the lightness and joy that they did.  One packet or two more of antibiotics, more sleep...I know it will come back, I just want it now.

One Beautiful Thing

I woke before the world today to the sound of the earth stretching out. The sun was creeping around the horizon with a faint flow in the sky. The earth was beginning to warm in this glow. There was a quiet, a gentle hum. Only I could hear this.

Then a magpie began his morning song. My body lay so gently rested. Not asleep. Awake, eyes open, rested, listening to the earth waking, warming the magpie song.

Other birds began to join in as the warm glow from the sun strengthened into pinkish hues then through to orange. I lay still. Completely at peace. No-one calling for me, my services not required. At rest. The birds moved to a morning feeding and singing frenzy whilst I lay entranced by their song.

As the sun turned from orange to yellow and the sky to blue, the birds settled into their daily song, and my eyelids rested once more to that peaceful place - shut.

Breath by Tim Winton - Book Review

This is such a beautifully written story that took Bruce, (Pikelet) through the toughest years of life - adolescence. Desperately looking for role models, he finds a mate in Loonie, who is also trying to work himself out and together they find Sando, an older man, who sees their potential, and tries to live through their youth.

Sando uses their youth for his own dreams and pushes them to the extreme so that they are always wanting for more. The surfing becomes an addiction where it can only become more extreme for them to get the buzz that they are after. The rest of life becomes too ordinary for them. Tim Winton deals with the pains of this age so well, as well as the pain of failures of the older folk, Sando and his partner Eve.

There is this constant questioning, tension going on through Pikelet's mind, trying to be "out there", something different, but when everything fell apart with Sando and Loonie, he looked around town and he was unsure. "Was I serious? Could I do something gnarly, or was I just ordinary?" (pg 76). Pikelet begins to feel as though he just doesn't fit in the ordinary either, and that he really needs the "extraordinary" when ..."There was such and intoxicating power to be had from doing things that no-one else dared try" (pg 115) and "Everything around me seemed just so pointless and puny. The locals in the street looked cowed and weak and ordinary" (pg 116).

Tim's descriptions of ordinariness and extremes and the intoxications of it were brilliant and would be great as a study item for kids, boys in particular, 16 yrs plus, as long as it was a guided study. There are certainly some fairly heavy themes in here. Heavy sexual, erotic themes and addiction themes that need to be dealt with in a "Read and Discuss" situation with the adolescence age group.

I did find the ending a little abrupt after such a brilliant in-depth study of the adolescent years, and felt that it didn't link well enough. That said, the book has stuck with me very strongly. It is a great book, brilliant even especially for the possibilities it holds for helping adolescents understand themselves a little more. Tim, I think is a brilliant writer, and each book seems to only get better. 9/10

Book Review: All that Happened at Number 26 by Denise Scott

A great light hearted read by Denise Scott that really could have been about what is happening in my house (except without Denise's great humour).   A really well written and very funny book.  The book is basically a memoir of her and her family's life whilst they lived at Number 26 and all of the goings on there.  The ups and the downs, and the ins and the outs of life whilst they grew up.  The crazy times of being with incredibly creative parents, but incredibly poor.    Parents putting up with each other and kids having to put up with parents.  

Denise is incredible to be able to look at her own life and poke a stick at it and a have a good laugh, even at the crap.  It is endearing to to see the depth of the relationships that they have in their family, even through the humour. 

Well put together.  I wish that I was as funny as Denise and was able to poke a stick at myself as well as she does.  Well done Denise.  8/10

weekend beginnings

The birds are singing in cheerful abandon as the sun warms the earth.  The washing lies on the floor of the laundry in piles of colours ready to be fed into the hungry machine.  Distractions of thirsty plants in pots catch my eye, drawing me away from the clamouring noise of the Bionicle play inside.  Laughter turns to tears turns to anger turns to play in moments that one can only just blink an eye. Air as fresh as cut grass makes me gasp for more till my lungs are stretched out to the max.  I reach my face to the morning sunshine and pause...aah...let the weekend begin.

Review of My Guantanamo Diary by Mahvish Rukhsana Khan

Wow! What an exhausting story that is a must read by all so that we never, never forget what want and power can do to people, in particular to innocent people.

This is the story that puts the human face to the people at Guantanamo Bay and gives us a chance to understand them. As a reader, you are taken through anger, frustration, joy and tears. It is beautifully written, and is a book that will never leave you. Such an important story to be told. We need to learn to listen to both sides so that we can be more understanding, and Mahvish Khan enables us to do that.

I found many parts of this book to be very hard to digest. Uncomfortable, and so they should be. It is not an easy read, it is not an easy topic. The atrocity of the "war against terror" were are are still so damaging because of the lack of trial of the Afgani's and Arabs and also because of the bounty system.

It was a frighteningly eye opening book, and I thank Mahvish for bringing the stories of these hurt people to the world. Thank goodness for a change of power to the USA so that Guantanamo will be closed down and hopefully all remaining inmates will receive a fair trial.

Incredibly well written. I did finish wanting to know more, however, understanding that probably even she doesn't know more.

Depressing, thought provoking.


Review of The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll

A gentle rolling tale of suburban lives and their interactions and the importance of their past relationships. Steven captured the tiny parts of suburban life so terribly well. Rita pack s to leave her house, the reality of leaving a house after many years is so complex and Steven managed to dissect this and look at the different types of people, " ...the types that just get up and go..." and the type that need to "...say goodbye properly."

The novel got off to what seemed like a very excited and interesting beginning and from there lost momentum slowing to the pace of a horse and cart.

The information was interesting however, the tension lines in the writing waned a little. Madeline's character seemed a little weak and Peter Van Rijn could have had much more depth to his character.

There were some great lines in there and I did like the style of this writing, very common voice, , as thought he was writing straight from their heads. Being a Melbourne writer and being set in Melbourne perhaps also made it more common for me.

I did find myself guessing the whole time as to where "Progress" was. I found the title of the novel arduous, and kept forgetting it. Too long and hard to remember.
All up 7/10

Review of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkos

Christos has done a brilliant job of picking out people from backyards, in a "normal" situation and just turned the dial up a little. He has allowed us to peer into the windows of all of the people involved afterward to understand the aftershock that can only come from these things. He has highlighted how these situations do happen, can happen, in your suburbia, our suburbia. All of us, all of our suburbs have ugly characters. Situations that are cranked up a little can turn ugly, and people can turn ugly.

I really loved the commonness of his language. It was one that I found I was able to to relate to. It was fascinating to read how something like slapping anothers child can have a ripple effect on others lives, and the minuta of it all.

I found that I really enjoyed the approach of looking through the windows of each of the characters tortured souls to gain more of an understanding of them. He had great depth of character studies, except perhaps Brendan, who I was always a little unsure as to exactly his relationships with Connie and then late in the book, there was a hint of a tension between him and Aisha, leading to more confusion on my part.

Richie was a fantastic character, the angst of the teen. Well developed. Rosie was a character who Christos developed so well that I wanted to shake her into reality, to tell her to grow up.

Great read 9/10

Corner Store

I heard the bell jingle as He come in the door. My spine tingled. I refused to look around. I knew that it would be Him, but I would not give in. I made my hands busy as though it was really difficult to pick up a packet of chips. Not easy when there are only three packets there. Why the hell didn't they have more stock in this god-forsaken shop.

The floor creaked as he moved from the doorway. My heart beat was now resounding throughout the entire shop. I could no longer swallow as my heart had somehow crept up into my throat. Great. I was now going to die here. Right here. Right now. This dirty creepy old shop. I still refused to look around. My fingers were getting colder and my tongue had swollen to the size of a footy oval. I really was about to die. I tried to remember if I had actually signed that Will, or if it was still just filled out in pencil.

The floor creaked again.

My heart did one enormous beat. Is it possible for a heart to do this? Beat fast in a throat, then do one enormous beat? Or was this what did happen just before people had their sudden heart attack and died?

No saliva left.

My feet couldn't move. Where the hell was Luigi? I took very shallow breaths so that my air did not make any effect on the space. I decided not to touch anything any more. I just stood there. Still. As a statue.

Another creak. This time it came from upstairs. Luigi. Thank goodness for that. He must have heard the bell jingle. Why did it take him so long? Am I in a time warp?

My neck was starting to ache from holding my head up. I felt dizzy. I could feel the presence behind me, creeping around, creaking the old wooden floor boards.

I could hear Him picking up dusty produce off the shelves and throwing them in a basket. What was He up to? I daren't turn. If I didn't move, I wasn't here. I could hear Him getting closer.

My heart seemed to be creeping into my mouth. What would it do then? Would it actually sit in my mouth? My whole heart, throbbing in my mouth, blood and all pumping out of it? What if I accidentally spat it out on the floor here in this quiet, gentle corner store. My heart for all to see. Bare my heart, on the floor. Beating it's pathetic little irregular beats, budump, burdump, dudump, du, du, dudump, burdump. Luigi would see. He would see. Anyone could see.

I reached out with my freezing cold hand to the chip shelf and missed. I accidentally hit one of the three bags of chips, BBQ, yuk. I felt sick now.

I had to move. He was getting too close. Luigi's steps were getting heavier as he came down the narrow dark staircase, I tried to will him down faster. I lifted my first foot that was now seemed to be made of concrete, and then the other, pulled my hat down over my eyes with my whitish-yellow finger that resembled icicles, and tried to creep down the window side of the aisle.

"Celina," Luigi called, as he came out of the bottom of the staircase as I felt Him turn towards me. I reached for the door with the bell and as quickly as I could, fled into the sunshine.

Review of Addition by Toni Jordan

What a great, enthralling debut novel. I was caught right from the start. It is all about the numbers. By the end of the novel, I was unsure as to whether I had an obsessive compulsive disorder myself and began to question everything that I did, the order that I did it in, the patterns that I needed in my life, the people. I was engrossed.

I would even go as far as saying that it was a brilliant novel by a Melbourne author. I thoroughly enjoyed being drawn into this world of the obsessive compulsive. Toni managed to put the personality into a condition and dealt with how treatment affects the person within.

Addition is all about the counting, and counting is what soothes Grace when she feels things are beginning to get a little out of control. It is her mechanism of controlling her world. It is also the one thing that others think needs to be stopped.

The hero, Grace's white knight, does at times seem a little implausible, however, this doesn't really take away from Toni's great insight into the personality of person locked behind such a socially debilitating condition.

A great and interesting insight into the minds of others and ourselves. Looking forward to see what else Toni has to offer. 9/10