The Lord of the Rings: The One That Changed Everything

Our first guest post in The Book That Changed Everything series is by Tom G. H. Adams. Download his collection of short stories, Defiled Earth, for free when you sign up to his newsletter. I’m sure he’d love you if you spread the word about it too.

thelordoftheringsIf ever there was a confirmation that reading to children pays dividends in inspiring a relationship with books, then my introduction to Tolkien is it. My Dad began reading The Hobbit to me at the age of seven. He never finished it, but he didn’t need to – I lapped up the remaining chapters myself over the next few days. Immediately afterwards my Mum took out The Fellowship Of The Ring from the local library for me, but it was a step too far. I got bogged down in the first chapter so I laid it aside.

At the age of thirteen, however, The Silmarillion was published and I read it within a couple of weeks. I particularly loved the story of Beren and Luthien. I knew I would have to try The Lord of the Rings again. The intrigue associated with Tolkien’s work was heightened when my elder brother informed me that there were more potent creatures than goblins (he was referring to ring wraiths and their ability to smell you from far away.) It also did Tolkien’s reputation no harm that Led Zeppelin and Rush made numerous references to his characters in their early albums. This time I powered through the first chapter (which, in itself taught me a lesson that some books reward perseverance). I think I was lost in Middle Earth for about three months and, to be honest, never fully emerged – such was Tolkien’s effect on me. I went on to read Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant saga and David Eddings books, together with numerous other fantasy offerings. But no one has ever trumped the master of fantasy.

Do you want to share The Book That Changed Everything for you? Email me at leatherboundpounds [at] gmail [dot] com.

2015: a portrait in numbers


Fiction submissions: 46

Fiction acceptances: 3

Non-fiction submissions: 2

Non fiction acceptances: 2

Subscriptions purchased: 8 (whoops)

Animals: 2 cats + 1 adopted dog – 1 lost cat = 2 furry friends remaining

Walls painted: 4 (felt like more)

Bikes gained: 1

Bikes stolen: 1

Roller derby games played: 15 (ish)

Interstate trips: 2

Hours spent in Melbourne Airport: 9

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a creative and productive 2016.

Merry Christmas and Happy Reading

christmas-booksI have, for a long time, done everything I can to give books as gifts for birthdays and Christmas. Yes this has bordered on the ridiculous, particularly when giving books to children as yet unable to read. But I firmly believe it is one of the ways to support not only authors and publishers, but also a literate and artistic community. Books are one of my favourite things to give because of the possibilities they hold – the chance that they could spark inspiration in the heart of a loved one. And they are one of my favourite things to receive for the same reason.

So, this seems like as good an opportunity as any to recommend you consider giving books or magazines to people who may be facing tough times this Christmas. Organizations like the Footpath Library will no doubt take your pre-loved items off your hands and deliver them into the hands of folks sleeping rough. It might seem low on the list of things that people need at this time of year, but think about the joy you get from reading and consider sharing it, however you can.

I hope you all have a safe and happy Christmas with your family tomorrow. Relax, be merry and share the good times with the people around you.

We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas

we-are-not-ourselves-9781476756660_hrAt the end, they handed her enough drugs to last Ed the thirteen weeks until his next scheduled visit. There was a jolt of promise in the bag of medications. She wondered for a moment whether, if she gave him the whole bag at once, he would be his old self for a few days, an afternoon, a couple of hours. It would be worth it, even if the rest of the time he was a mess. She knew it didn’t work like that, though. His real self wasn’t hiding in there waiting to be sprung for a day of freedom. This was his real self now.

Thomas’ We Are Not Ourselves is a huge sweeping novel about Eileen Tumulty, who grows up in an Irish community in New York, the daughter of hard drinking parents. She is a girl with big plans. She grows into an ambitious woman and surprises herself by falling for Ed Leary and, eventually, marrying him. But it turns out Ed doesn’t share Eileen’s ambition, and doesn’t seek better paying opportunities when they come along. In time Eileen notices a dark change in his personality and as Ed withdraws she is left to solve the riddle of what is to become of her family.

Ed’s withdrawal and subsequent personality changes are due to Alzheimer’s. And, far faster than anyone would expect, Ed is whittled away by the disease. Eileen variously copes, doesn’t cope, struggles and does the best she can. Meanwhile she forces herself through full time work, striving to claim the medical benefits on offer after ten years of service.

The story is sad, and happy, and moving all at once. The devastation of the illness, the need to cope but impossibility of coping, it is woven through. Eileen’s character is a remarkable, three dimensional creation, she is by turns driven, intelligent and proud. It isn’t just a story of Alzheimer’s, it’s a story of life and love and family. I enjoyed it and sprinted through far quicker than its 620 pages would suggest.

But here’s a thing. I don’t know if it’s a thing worth mentioning or not. But, I can’t shake the feeling that this novel, had it been written by a woman, would be dismissed as too “domestic”. I don’t know why I feel that. But it does seem that family driven dramas are deemed women’s business when written by women, but when written by men it is a brave foray into the human condition. I don’t mean this as a criticism of Thomas’ work. It was just something that circled my head as I read, like a moth drawn to a single lightbulb. Take, or dismiss, it as you will.

We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas: 4 stars.

Read it when: you have a long stretch of time in which to luxuriate in its length.

Have your say – the best books of 2015

This is kind of what my to read pile looks like. Image by Glen Noble.

This is a bit like what my to read pile looks like. Image by Glen Noble.

So the Books of the Year list is out at ABR and there’s a few titles on there I’ve read but more I haven’t which is a damn shame. It’s reminded me to prepare my own Books of 2015 post, because what the internet really needs is another opinion. And I thought why not make it a party – so I’m asking you to let me know what your favourite reads of 2015 were.

I’ll include them all in a post and maybe when we’re done Christmas book gift buying will be that little bit easier. Or harder. Sometimes I think I should have my income transferred to my local bookshop just to save time. Eventually they’d have to ask me to leave, like a drunkard in a bar, “I’m sorry ma’am, you’ve had enough”. But that’s all beside the point.

What were your favourite books of 2015? Have at it in comments!

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

the heart goes lastAfter they’d run the first TV ads, the number of online applications was overwhelming. And no wonder: there were so many advantages. Who wouldn’t rather eat well three times a day, and have a shower with more than a cupful of water, and wear clean clothes and sleep in a comfortable bed devoid of bed bugs. Not to mention the inspiring sense of purpose. Rather than festering in some deserted condo crawling with black mould or crouching in a stench-filled trailer where you’d spend the nights beating off dead-eyed teenagers armed with broken bottles and ready to murder you for a handful of cigarette butts you’d have gainful employment, three wholesome meals a day, a lawn to tend a hedge to trim, the assurance that you were contributing to the general good, and a toilet that flushed. In a word, or rather three words: A MEANINGFUL LIFE.

The world is collapsing, the economy falling apart and people are desperate. Stan and Charmaine are living in their car, trying to survive, getting by with what they can. But they are offered a chance: they sign up for a new social experiment, the Positron Project. They will be given stable jobs, a home of their own. In return they just have to swap their freedom every second month for a stay in a prison cell.

Wait, what?

So, aside from the bewildering premise, I had a little bit of trouble with this book. It’s good, disturbing, darkly funny. The set up is dealt with in the first third, things start to go awry in the second third and the final section is like a race to the finish in which a carefully constructed and increasingly horrifying plot propelled me to the end. I defy anyone to try and put the book down in that last third, it’s impossible. However. I didn’t like any of the characters. At all. And I didn’t much care what happened to them. I think that’s what my problem boils down to.

Charmaine is a prissy thing who invests in floral blouses and actually says “darn it” as an expletive. Until she starts having an affair and then she discovers a wild side she didn’t know she had. Stan is a bit of a macho jerk, really, focused almost exclusively on the demands of his genitals. They get embroiled in a spot of corporate espionage with Jocelyn, who seems determined to play her corporate woman role as butch as possible and Aurora whose face was ripped off in a freak roller derby accident. Aside from the roller derby accident, I suppose I can’t complain that all this isn’t believable.

The story is dark and nods at a nightmare of corporate prison farming, human rights abuses in a utopia (almost) gone wrong. The slip from too good to too good to be true is gradual, though you know it’s coming, and once the drama starts to ramp up it becomes utterly ridiculous. I don’t know why I wasn’t in love with this, but I wanted to like it more than I did.

The Heart Goes Last, Margaret Atwood: 3.5 stars.

Read it for: some dark humour over the saccharine holiday period.


The desire to bleed


I have a short piece called Blood up at Danse Macabre’s DM du Jour today. I don’t know why all the pieces I’ve written lately are so dark. But I enjoy them. Hope you do too. Have a read, feel free to comment if you like it and enjoy your weekend.

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