Today we talk to Alpha Reader
Do you have a favorite book you read over and over throughout the years?
I keep coming back to Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. I first read that when I was quite young, about 11 or 12, because it was my mum’s favourite book growing up and she admitted to me that I was *this* close to being named Scout. Harper Lee’s novel is my lodestone. I cry in all the same places; “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” – gets me every time.
What is your reviewing philosophy?
I call my blog my ‘solo book club’ – because that’s how I viewed book blogs when I was just a comment posting lurker – that they were modern book clubs. And the best book club I was ever apart of was in my year twelve literature class with a teacher who encouraged us to argue/quote/gush/talk-talk-talk about the books we loved (and why we loved them). So that’s probably how I write my reviews – like I’m standing up in Mrs. McKay’s literature class telling everyone what I loved about a certain book, with quotes to prove it . . . or what I didn’t love, with character analysis to back it up.
If I have any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to reviewing; it’s to not be swayed by a press release (and never regurgitate what’s on the press release). Honesty is the best policy (Genuine enthusiasm will come across, as will genuine sycophancy). And that a review is an opinion, not the hard line – If I didn’t like a book that you loved, that’s okay. Likewise, if you hated a book that I gave five-stars, that’s perfectly fine too. You have your opinion, and I have mine – and never the twain shall meet.
If another blogger from another country visited you, where would you take them to visit first?
But to contextualise I’d give them a copy of Cath Crowley’s epically wonderful ‘Graffiti Moon’ – which is about this bunch of artistic teenagers who have just finished school and go on a hunt around Melbourne for a mysterious graffiti artist called Shadow who spray paints artwork and poetry across the city. Anyone unfamiliar with Melbourne (which is often referred to as “that Australian city that’s not Sydney”) would go to Hosier Lane and just get it – that it’s this grungy, tucked away laneway that looks like a chaotic, kaleidoscope mess of colour from a distance but up close it’s telling a maddening story. That’s Melbourne, in a nutshell.
Tell us about a local author you enjoy reading?
Urgh! That’s hard. Australian young adult fiction is spectacular and I have so many favourite authors. But if there was one Aussie YA author that I’d get up on a soapbox for right now, it’s probably Kirsty Eagar.
I suppose people from overseas think of Australia and envision sun, sand and surf (and koalas!). It’s an iconic setting – but Eagar continually takes that Aussie landscape and turns it on its head. Her debut novel was ‘Raw Blue’, which won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult fiction in 2010. It’s about a girl called Carly who lives in the coastal town of Manly, working a dead-end job and living to surf. There’s catharsis in the waves, and it’s the only place Carly can forget about what happened to her . . . but she can’t keep diving into the rip to wash away her fears and memories, because eventually the truth will surface.
Then Eagar wrote ‘Saltwater Vampires’, which I liken to ‘The Lost Boys’, with a dash of Keanu’s ‘Point Break’ (and, yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds). It was Gothic horror, but set in a local surfing town and was pure brilliance for the clash.
Then this year she bought out ‘Night Beach’ – which is another horror story with a beach setting, but this time Eagar delved into the psyche of a creative young woman whose obsession with a young man had her seeing shadows and feeling stalked by an evil presence. . .
She’s just phenomenal – and for international readers I’d highly recommend Kirsty Eagar for both writing an iconic Australian setting, but not how the tourists envision it.