Review: Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love

secretlivesloveSeries: Twelve Planets #10
Published by:
Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13:
9781922101075 (paperback)
B018A9G4AC (kindle)
June 2014
Format reviewed:
Publisher Site
Book Page
Three out of Five
Related Reviews:
A Journey Through Twelve Planets / Site for the challenge

Secret Lives of Books, is the tenth book in the Twelve Planets series, released by Twelfth Planet Press, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors. There is now to be a thirteenth in the series, but that’s a review for another time. The brief given to authors was to write several short stories of up to 40,000 words in total. The stories could be separate, discrete narratives or linked through character, setting or theme.

This collection contains five short stories that don’t appear to be connected in the first light, however when you’ve read them all there appears to be some faint thread of deeper meaning, but you’re not entirely sure if you’re being a little grabby for links.

Secret Lives of Books

A man lies dying, and we find that he cares far more for his books than that of any human connections, to the point his wife moved out with their children in order to allow him more space and time for his books. It is these that take up his final moments, though he notes how nice it is that his family have come to spend his final moments together.

This was a moving piece about the beauty books give us and how they can offer so much, and sometimes different things, depending on who’s reading them. The Magic Pudding is referenced and as shown, gave the main character something utterly different than my own personal view of the book.


This was possibly my favourite of the collection. I find Chernobyl to be endlessly fascinating and this piece perfectly captured the intrigue around the whole event.

The writer takes the aftermath of Chernobyl and the fact vs fiction of it, the etymology, and the tale of a girl who posts on the internet of how she rode a motorbike around the disaster site – later taking down her claims online when commentators (don’t read the comments!) rip apart her story.

If you google the title of this one you get search results showing things like: Motorcycle Trip Through Chernobyl – The Museum of Hoaxes: “Did you ever see that woman, Elena, that rides around the zone on her motorcycle?” and there’s nothing better than a story based on fact.


A twisting story of many things, on one level this piece is about Curiosity rover on Mars, the loss of things and people, and the meaning of the short story – which means much more when written like qaṣīdaᵗ, as it is the Arabic word and form of writing poetry, as we are told in the introduction to the story.

This is a story that needs attention and time, and is probably one of the more careful tales in the collection, and the one that needs the most time to absorb.

The Kairos Effect

Surprisingly, I immediately went from the one before to one I just couldn’t get through at all. Some short stories are a little hit and miss, and until now I haven’t ever had one that I’ve had to give up on in the Twelve Planets series, however, there’s always got to be one sometime.

The Slut and the Universe

A sort of fabled twist on feminism, as stated in the longer version of the title for this piece, as stated in the introduction, this introduces us to the main character almost as if she is snow white, and then quite quickly stabs through the softness with the choice of words (as in the short version of the title), and the distinctly un-fabled issues such as the clothes our main character chooses to wear.

This is probably my second favourite tale in the book, and a decent and strong ending for the collection.

This collection has the following mentions:

Aurealis Award Nominee for Best Collection (Shortlist) (2014)

Series Rewatch: Farscape – Season One, Episode Sixteen

Farscape rewatch

Each week on a Sunday afternoon, join Alex (of Randomly Yours, Alex) and Katharine (of the unpronounceable Ventureadlaxre), as they re-watch the Australian-American sci-fi show Farscape, notable for the Jim Henson animatronic puppets, the excellent mish-mash of accents, and the best OTP ship of all time.

Times Aeryn saves the day: 3

Times John saves the day: 5

Times Zhaan saves the day: 1

References Star Wars: 1

Times John compares someplace to Earth: 1

Season One, Episode Sixteen: A Human Reaction

John manages to return to Earth… but… nothing can ever be simple, can it?

A: Aw, John is still talking to his dad… and then Pilot sees a wormhole! With Earth at the end!!

K: I wonder if I’d be like that. I get along great with my mum, but… I don’t think I’m hopeful enough to think there’d be any point? He’s quite a good age to only be starting to get grey hairs, isn’t he? I do like how dismissive they all are about us though – no red moons indeed.

A: I like my grey hair.

Oh Aeryn. She’s clearly so torn about not going with John… and possibly about John leaving…

K: Go on, Aeryn! An adventure is an adventure, right?

A: Everyone saying goodbye is so sweet. Zhaan’s is the loveliest.

K: And n’aww, D’Argo – using a human form of farewell. And then even Rygel not being a complete ass for once.

A: Of course, given this is the middle of the season, we all know John’s not actually going to get home that easily…. Right?

K: Exactly. And who could resist Aeryn all teary eyed? Something meaning something means something, y’know?

A: Yup, that’s exactly how we’re going to treat our first alien contact. Put em down with tranqs. Then do medical experiments and interrogate them.

K: Pretty much. Safety and national security are the Government’s first concern above all else. Including being decent.

A: I’m so sad for John that he’s treated like this when he gets home. And those photos are really freaky.

K: I don’t see why he was so excited to get home anyway. The sun? Big whoop.

Cobb! He was in the Matrix series as one of the suits, I think?

A: Actually, no, Australians don’t gotta know who won the Superbowl.

K: I can confirm that I have never come across it any year – ever – not even with how much social media we now have. And I say that as someone who quite enjoys watching Australian Football here, so it’s not like I avoid all sports at all times. Ask who won the last AFL grand finale maybe?

A: Hi Dad!! Well this is all a bit uncomfortable.

K: Hey, Dad! I think NASA (and their brothers and sisters)  in general have a little more consideration for mental health than this.

A: Why has Moya’s pod arrived?

K: Why indeed. Maybe they wanted to try this ‘chocolate’ thing John’s been going on about.

A: omg I love hearing what Aeryn and Rygel are saying in their own languages!

K: And I love hearing the behind the scenes parts on this where they talk about how they developed their own language. How hard it must be to make it all sound similar but varied? I love Aeryn’s clipped noises.

A: Rygel!?! (I guess it would be harder to kill other aliens for autopsy…)

K: This is true. And he’s smaller. Less jars.


K: AERRYYYN. Smarter than them Earth idiots by far! And she’s so pretty!

A: Aeryn in the rain! So cute!

K: She’s such a… what’s the current internet slang thing? Precious cinnamon roll.

A: Yup, beer is exactly what you need in this situation.

K: Hrm. I wonder what I’d need. I’d probably still just want a really fresh sandwich – after that long of eating mostly food cubes? I’d want to sink my teeth into something fresh.

A: John, is this really the best time to be making a move on Aeryn? When you’re in fear of being captured?

K: Well, I probably would too if I hadn’t already… I mean, he’s an idiot for leaving it this long. I don’t know how long my livejournal icons were of this scene.

A: YOU, show, are a TEASE.

K: We’re only in season one, Alex. SEASON ONE. Four seasons and a movie! ‘Not top priority,’ indeed.

A: Um, really? Aeryn in a flowery dress? Still grabs a gun fast though.

K: They had to make it happen, eh. A little gratuitous but – Aeryn. A dress! I’m waiting for the princess bed episode though. Where did they even get the clothes?  

A: Aw Dad, you are heroic.

K: Of course the Americans are heroic and the Australians are all evil paper demons. I don’t think we ever get to know what Aeryn said to his father.

A: Oh wow I had not made that connection.

Aaaaand now things are starting to unravel. All the papers on the street are seven months old, and he’s just realised he knows everyone on the street…

K: Dun dun DUN! What could this all mean!

A: Nice little anti-smoking message in there…

K: Yup, smokin’ s’bad m’kay.

A: Yes, the ladies’ toilets are indeed the final frontier.

K: Well this was after primary school when it wasn’t a dare to run into the girls toilets, of course.

A: Damn, John’s been experimented on. And Rygel is still alive.

K: Dammit on both counts.

A: The aliens are dying? And need a place to live to build up their numbers?

K: Kinda disappointing, like a few Doctor Who endings. It’s just… is that it? Oh. Moya time again please. And hug Aeryn or something.

A: I don’t really see why John is fixated on having had his memories ‘stolen’ – and since he still has them, they were copied, not stolen. There are surely bigger issues here.

K: Surely. Like, he didn’t even freak out as much about Rygel and possibly D’Argo being dead. Pretty uneven. And I mean, it was pretty, so…

A: Pretty pessimistic view of humanity… although probably realistic.

K: Probably. And I don’t really agree with the ‘if all people were like you (John)’… because he’s not exactly the best example of a wonderful enlightened being.  

A: What a very weird episode.

K: But I just love John/Aeryn so damn much.
In conclusion, how far (literally) would you go for a person? If this hadn’t all been a thought experiment…

Join us next week for episode seventeen, Through the Looking Glass

2016 – September

September was excellent and amazing. Milestone birthday celebrated in New Zealand with friends I haven’t seen for as many as 12 years, and the rest of it just sped by with first awesome weather (lovely rain so early in the year!) and then horrid heat where one could do nothing but sit in air-conditioning with some books.

Onto the novels read in September!

Blood For Blood (Wolf By Wolf, #2)
Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin was an eagerly anticipated book as I loved the first, Wolf by Wolf, so very much. Alternate history, especially when it regards World War II, is a particular favourite of mine.  Yael continues to be an utterly amazing character and I just want more. Please, Graudin!

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (Pottermore Presents, #3)

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling came out while I was away on holidays (as did the two below), and they were all perfect to read in little bits here and there when in the car going between sightseeing locations in New Zealand. I love seeing more and more about Hogwarts itself, as I find the building endlessly fascinating. I could take or leave the forest of doom.

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Pottermore Presents, #1)

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies by J.K. Rowling was amazing, and not just because it features some of my favourite characters of all, McGonagle and Remus. I think I’d already read McGonagle’s before on Pottermore (as these are collections from the site), but it still feels like these collections have a little bit more information in them. In Remus, too, I appreciated getting to see a bit more of his relationship with Tonks, as it kinda didn’t feel real to me in the novels (as much as I loved them being together.)

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (Pottermore Presents, #2)

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists by J.K. Rowling was probably one of the more satisfying collections, as it dealt with mostly things we didn’t get to see in the novels – the darker and more ruthless side of things, such as more about past Ministers of Magic, Azkaban and Tom Riddle’s interactions with Slughorn. Again, this information is on Pottermore (but it’s spread out…) and here, it’s all linked together into themes which works really rather well.

Super Sushi Ramen Express: One Family's Journey Through the Belly of Japan

Super Sushi Ramen Express by Michael Booth was a mesh of a food and travel doco-drama as the author takes his family through a holiday through Japan to try any and all types of food, take cooking classes, interview famous chefs and otherwise, and go through various markets and shopping centres. Booth is refreshing in his initial ignorance of Japan as a whole at the beginning, and explains everything with simple detail in an easy fashion.

My review for this book can be found here.


Absolutely by Joanna Lumley was really quite interesting – Lumley has led quite a life! Her early years spent travelling the world (like her ancestors), and then a modelling career and eventual acting. It really was a different world back then, where you could live off nothing and yet struggle through to live The Life. I know Lumley of course from Absolutely Fabulous mainly, but also love her on the Doctor Whoish Sapphire and Steel and her travel documentary shows. This is an enjoyable book if you want a frank account of her lows and highs and everything in between.

Ghost Talkers

Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal was another historical fiction novel set during war, expanding upon a woman’s place in the field. Kinda hard to get into on one hand and easy to put down, but then on the other hand entirely engaging and easy to understand – it’s an odd mix. Perhaps a book you have to be in the mood for, as it can be a bit depressing (obvious from the subject matter). I’d love to see more in the series, and as ever, will always get any books the author comes out with.

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta was a fantastic book. Set mostly in England but with brief sojourns to France, we follow Bish Ortley (recently stood down from London Met, for reasons Marchetta slowly drips out through the novel), as he goes to France when his daughter is on a bus that’s bombed. It turns out that also on the bus is a daughter of a women currently in jail, currently serving a life sentence for connections with a supermarket bombing many years earlier. Bish gets tangled in the kids’ lives, the previous crimes, and acts as the go-between between all the offices involved – London and French police, the home office, and the other parents of the injured or overwhelmed.

My review for this book can be found here.

Top Gear: How to Parachute into a Moving Car: Vital Survival Tips for the Modern Man
How to Parachute into a Moving Car by Richard Porter was $5 at a local bookstore, and a bit of fun. I’ve read Porter’s other books about Top Gear and as he was one of the writers of the show, he gets the humour perfectly. Not much to recommend in this book, but it is a bit of a laugh and good as a present.

The Wrath & the Dawn (The Wrath & the Dawn, #1)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh was a book I started a few times but kept putting it down again as it strayed from the one version of One Thousand and One Nights I read as a child at my grandmother’s house – ridiculous, but I just struggled getting into it. Victoria Schwab then listed it as one of her favourites, and I told myself to just enjoy it finally, and so I did. I do love a series that comes with a handful of short stories interwoven throughout – so there’s more to tide you over until the next book comes out, and they’re nice bite sized pieces.

Den of Wolves (Blackthorn & Grim, #3)

Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier was a fantastic ending to a beyond fantastic series. Throughout, this is a book where you come to the final page, and marvel at how far our beloved characters have truly come – their journey is incredibly tough and trying, but you see how they’ve grown as characters completely and utterly from where they started out in the first book, which makes it an incredibly rewarding series to read.

My review for this book can be found here.

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson was a bit of a painful read, but for good reason. While I read quite a few books that mention or discuss mental health, this one probably reflects my own the closest. Seeing Mara grow up as she discusses her life as a child, teenage years and up until now was so easy to lose yourself in, until it threw me out upon a part that was a little too honest for comfort, as I saw my own issue reflected or experienced by others.

It was lovely to see behind the scenes things from movies I’ve seen and loved, like Matilda, and interesting to know the other things Mara did as part of her showbiz life.

Caution: contains small parts (Twelve Planets book 9)

Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott was read for the current Twelve Planets read/review a book a month challenge we’re doing this year. This is one of the 12PP books I haven’t yet got around to reading, and I wasn’t disappointed – it’s beyond excellent. This is the ninth book in the Twelve Planets series, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors.

My review for this book can be found here.

Crossroads of Canopy (Titan's Forest, #1)

Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer was an excellent book because of Unar herself, who is a complex and believable character because her flaws are evident, her friends and peers are amazing, the descriptions and landscape in the novel was to die for (even when it is cruel at times), and I was absolutely blown away by the ending. SUCH a good book to end the month on!

My review for this book can be found here.


September just absolutely flew by, possibly because of the holiday that took up the first week but then again, I have no idea what happened to the rest, which can be seen by how late I read the Twelfth Planet Press book – usually I aim to get it done much earlier in the month! Also, I hate it when the weather is THIS hot (regardless of how good it leaves my asthma), because it’s impossible to do heaps of walking for Pokémon Go (I was getting up to 10k a day at one stage!) and also knitting is annoying in humid weather. Sigh.

Review: Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer

crossroadscanopySeries: Titan’s Forest #1
Published by: Tor Books
ISBN: 0765385929
ISBN 13: 9780765385925
Published: January 2017
Pages: 336
Format reviewed: Paperback from author
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

Unar is a brave young woman, in that she leaves her parents (who wanted to sell her for food) and offers herself instead to the Gods, where, with her surprising amount of talent, becomes a Gardener in service to the God Audblayin. In this world where a God is female, they have male bodyguards and vice versa, and Unar hopes that her God will finally change genders (as she’s been female for so very long), so that she may earn the chance to rise to the position of bodyguard.

However, through helping those she shouldn’t through her jealous yet kind heart, she finds herself low in talent on the day the Gardeners are selected to rise through the ranks, and she’s left behind as her closest friends are chosen instead. From here, Unar focuses on other things instead – following her deepest instincts to do what’s right, and we get to see so much more of the small garden that’s been her home for the last few years of her life.

This is an excellent book because of Unar herself, who is a complex and believable character because her flaws are evident, and tries to do her best even when it goes against the laws of her land or otherwise, as long as it’s what she believes has to be done for her own conscience. Though sometimes, yes, she does act selfishly. Her friends also manage to follow the rules and try to lead Unar correctly, but they also find themselves motivated by their friendships instead at times, which is more believable than in other books how you see them suddenly changing utterly for their job.

This is a character driven story, and it’s beautiful in its landscape and the creatures that fill the backdrop. The characters surprise you at times, but a deep love and/or responsibility drive them also, and it’s this that you’re left with at the end. The action keeps you guessing and it all clashes together at the end in a huge tumult of emotion, how unfair yet just life can be, and so many other things. I am now desperate for book two to see where Unar finds herself next, and what will become of a character she meets right at the very end – which seemed the cruelest yet enticing barb of all. Many claps for Dyer for pulling that off!

This is first in a series, to be released at the start of 2017. Highly recommended – I must admit, I’ve been left in a bit of a daze after finishing it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been basically drunk off finishing a book – I think I need a lie down!

Review: Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott

cautioncontainsSeries: Twelve Planets #9
Published by:
Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13: 
9781922101068 (ebook)
ISBN 13:
9781922101051 (paperback)
B00HBSNNOY (kindle)
June 2013
Format reviewed:
Publisher Site
Book Page
Five out of Five
Related Reviews:
A Journey Through Twelve Planets / Site for the challenge

Caution: Contains Small Parts, is the ninth book in the Twelve Planets series, released by Twelfth Planet Press, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors. There is now to be a thirteenth in the series, but that’s a review for another time. The brief given to authors was to write 4 short stories of up to 40,000 words in total. The stories could be separate, discrete narratives or linked through character, setting or theme.

This collection contains four short stories that aren’t connected other than the same dark tone of their nature, and the mild horror elements – you can tell it’s Kirstyn’s writing throughout, but each is totally individual and unique, showing her versatility and why Australia is so lucky to have such a strong speculative fiction base.

What Amanda Wants

Helen is a councillor at a crisis centre, and it’s here she meets Amanda Fisher. The girl comes in to see her once, twice… and what she says or more importantly, what she doesn’t say, leads Helen compelled to discover the rest of this girl’s story. Helen’s heard and seen it all throughout her career and has a canny ability to draw correct conclusions from the barest of details… but from Amanda, she gets nothing. And eventually, she discovers that there’s a very good reason for that.

This short story was so easily read that the pages just flew by. This is a short story of forgotten and cold lunches as you ignore it – despite how hungry you may be – to read on. McDermott manages to introduce you to characters both simply and in-depth, and it’s glorious to read, even as it involves disgusting and horrid details of some truly awful lives. The plot is balanced perfectly, and you can’t help but feel entirely guiltily satisfied at the outcome.


A fantasy author struggles to cope because he feels his status as an author is the reason why his life has taken such a terrible turn. We see him struggle through life, struggle to keep his life somehow continuing what with various commitments, and the annoying fan letters he still receives from possibly well-meaning and yet still insensitive ‘fans’. With a similar name as Kirstyn (Dermott Mack being the name in the short story), one has to wonder what Kirstyn is hinting at, as well as using the title of Horn like the novella by Peter Ball (also published by Twelfth Planet Press) and the many references to the unicorns, being usually feminine creatures, being masculine through their use of their horns for bloody sports. There’s a lot to think deeper on for this one, but it’s also just too depressing for me to want to spend much longer on it.

Caution: Contains Small Parts

One of the creepier tales, a man received a wooden toy in the post with no clue who it came from, or why it’s been sent to him. With a slightly eerie bob to its head and a chewed section that looks like wherever it came from, it had serious teeth, he doesn’t give it much thought other than to get it out of his house as soon as possible… only for it to return that very night, in the dark, as he’s woken by a strange sound and overcome with thirst.

The plot is a slightly overdone tale – the creepy, possessed child’s toy – but McDermott wrestles it into something entirely her own, and wins completely. It’s the right amount of creepy – utterly believable and yet you can see why those around him think he’s over-reacting or going insane – from the outside it seems harmless yet to actually live it would be completely unnerving.

The ending of this one is possibly, somehow, even more satisfying than the first short story in the collection, which I really loved.

The Home for Broken Dolls

The last piece in this collection is novella length, and takes up almost half of the book. Jane has a home for broken dolls, like the title says. One morning she comes across another new arrival that’s been left against her agapanthus, crushing the not-yet-bloomed buds. As I read this one I realised I’d read it before, though I can’t remember if it was from the launch where McDermott read an excerpt, or through reading for Ditmas voting… either way, this story is still creepy and packs a punch as it unfolds. The research McDermott put into this story shows, and it works effectively to make you need a good shake and some daylight for a while.

McDermott is certainly one of our stronger authors in the Australian Speculative Fiction gang, and this collection is the perfect place to start if you’re new to her work.

This collection has the following mentions:

Honourable mention,  2014 Norma K Hemming Award

“The Home for Broken Dolls” – winner Ditmar for Best Novella/Novelette 2014

Locus Recommended Reading List for 2013 for Best Collection, Best Novella and Best Novelette