There were aspects of this book I enjoyed, but for the most part I found it too esoteric for my tastes The stories, while constructed from straightforward language and easy to digest sentences, felt rambling to me The author seems interested in setting and mood, and in playing with concepts, than in telling a story That s not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn t particularly work for me I found myself consistently wishing that she d hurry up and get to the point, only to find that the story had ended without that ever really happening.Don t misunderstand this book isn t poorly written and I can understand why it s received several five star reviews Perhaps the best way to explain it is to reference one of the stories within the book, in which a band composed of a tin whistle, some empty beer bottles, and a few other non instrument instruments manages to reach a musical epiphany so great that it produces a rift in time and space That s the sort of band some people will fight to the death for and the sort of band that I d turn off immediately This book struck me in the same way some people will love it, but it didn t work for me. The Secret Lives of Books is the tenth in the Twelfth Planet series of short story collections, showcasing female writers Five stories showcase Rosaleen Love s quirky and distinctive point of view The title story Secret Lives of Books feels like a cautionary tale for book hoarders even if you could live amongst your books, would you want to Kiddofspeed feels strangely apt in the age of fake news and online memes The truth is rarely as interesting as the fiction created online Qasida asks the perennial question of Where does all the space junk and lost socks go Apparently it s Mars and we re not terribly good at translating The Kairos Effect made me imagine a 12 hour intergalactic jam session finding the music of the spheres The only one I struggled with was the last one where a three women in post apocalyptic Earth meet Gaia and try to make sense of it all It s an odd set of stories, but they keyed on a facet of my interests books, space travel, music, Internet that I found fascinating I was completely unfamiliar with Rosaleen Love s work, but I would eagerly pick up after this. Secret Lives, Replete With Possibilities Elsewhere Exists As A Better Place, In A Better Time, For A Better Life The Trick Is How To Get There From Here These Stories Give The Answers Share In The Secret Lives Of Books Fly To Mars, The First Stage, Perhaps, In The Onward Journey To Elsewhere Hear The Music Of The Heavenly Spheres And Be Forever Changed, Providing The Bad Guys Don T Hear It First Discover Gaia May Not Be Quite What We Think She Is Discover The Universe Is A Rather Big Place Embrace Utopia For Women Too, If Only Table Of Contents Introduction The Secret Lives Of Books Kiddofspeed Qasida The Kairos Effect The Slut And The UniverseWhat Are The Twelve Planets The Twelve Planets Are Twelve Boutique Collections By Some Of Australia S Finest Short Story Writers Varied Across Genre And Style, Each Collection Offers Four Short Stories And A Unique Glimpse Into Worlds Fashioned By Some Of Our Favourite Storytellers Each Author Has Taken The Brief Of Four Stories And Up To Words In Their Own Direction Some Are Quartet Suites Of Linked Stories Others Are Tasters Of The Range And Style Of The Writer Each Release Will Bring Something Unexpected To ReadersNightsiders By Sue IsleLove And Romanpunk By Tansy Rayner RobertsThief Of Lives By Lucy SussexBad Power By Deborah BiancottiShowtime By Narrelle M HarrisThrough Splintered Walls By Kaaron WarrenCracklescape By Margo LanaganAsymmetry By Thoraiya DyerCaution Contains Small Parts By Kirstyn McDermottSecret Lives By Rosaleen LoveThe Female Factory By Lisa L Hannett And Angela SlatterCherry Crow Children By Deborah Kalin 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 My full review can be read here. This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2014 Reading Challenge All my 2014 AWWC reviews can be found here.Secret Lives by Rosaleen Love is the 10th book in the Twelve Planets series from Twelfth Planet Press It is a very quick read, coming in at 80 pages.Now what did I think of the collection In summary beautifully written, surreal verging on absurdist, punchy, insightful and satisfying.I ve debated how much to write in this review, as I m almost certain that my attempts to describe the stories will represent their magic poorly and may even put you off reading the collection With that in mind, I ve tried to briefly capture the flavour of each story below Hopefully you ll get a sense of the madcap and slightly bizarre nature of the collection in a very good way.The collection is made up of five stories Secret Lives of Books a recently deceased man comes to terms with his sentient and increasingly militant library Kiddofspeed a woman bike rides around Chernobyl or does she And does it really matter where she did or not With the help of the Internet Qasida where do lost things go To Mars of course A story of a lost love with appropriate flashbacks to the British Empire s flirtation with the colonisation of Mars The Kairos Moment tells the tale of the search for that moment of pure musical rapture in the name of academic research, and then considers the potential military applications The slut and the universe a family discussion between three generations of women, and the inevitable cross generation misunderstandings, becomes a therapy session of sorts for Gaia.I m hard pressed to pick a favourite, but if forced to I d probably lean towards The Kairos Moment The sheer fun of the describing the attempts to capture a moment of musical departure was hilarious In fact, hilarious is a word I d use often in a longer review of this work There are some serious themes explored in this book feminism, relationships, colonial ambitions etc But it is delivered with such a strong thread of humour that I spent the entire read being delighted by various turns of phrase, and only really considered the implications of the stories once I d finished.The writing of this collection is superb The language dances from sentence to sentence, and concept to concept The stories are only loosely plotted, but that hardly seems to matter While the ideas get and outlandish, the prose stays clean and pragmatic, which only adds to the deliberate dissonance of the read.I enjoyed this book very much, but to describe it further has diminishing returns It won t take long to read Go and buy it Now.I also reviewed this book on my website. Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love is the latest volume in Twelfth Planet Press s Twelve Planets series of collections With this one, I wasn t sure what to expect going in other than feminism since I m not familiar with any of Love s other work And it was about feminism, although that was mainly the last story, which I suspect is the one to stick in people s minds.It s called Secret Lives of Books, but I think what it s really about is the secret lives of stories All five stories within grapple with the story of stories on some level The Secret Lives of Books is literally about the secret story of a particular collection of books, Kiddofspeed is about a story that developed around some photos, Qasida is about the mysteries of Mars and the plausibility of fantastical stories, The slut and the universe which has a couple of long subtitles which I ll leave for you to discover yourselves is about the stories of feminism and misogyny Fitting least into this patter, The Kairos Moment is a story about music, muisic itself being a type of story, albeit not necessarily in the narrative sense There is, of course, the expected feminism in this collection, but I found it mostly manifested through the existence of female characters, apart from in The slut and the universe.My favourite story was Qasida , which I decided would probably be my favourite when I was still halfway through it and had two stories left to go It s sort of a surreal story about Mars and magic for lack of a better term travel and aliens, except it s not all that surreal It s told rather sensibly, which I think is part of the appeal.I highly recommend this collection to all SFF fans The stories were all equally good and almost equally unusual I d tentatively say this is probably in my top four of the Twelve Planets Which might not sound like much, but you have to remember there s some very stiff competition Secret Lives of Books This was a strange story that didn t go the way it initially seemed it would The main character is a recently deceased writer, trying desperately to get a living person s attention And then there s his extensive book collection, which he has always been very attached to I d call this soft horror, as we incrementally creeping learn about the books.Kiddofspeed Another unusual story, sort of chronicling the adventures of a girl taking photos of Pripyat near Chernobyl, and based on real events and sort of talking about the nature of story.Qasida Probably my favourite story so far It s another story of stories, this time about Mars and strange happenings Visits to Mars, objects from Mars and theThe Kairos Moment An odd story about the uplifting feeling people experience when listening to good music And a researcher trying to study the phenomenon And some strange happenings I was entertained and quite amused And in case it isn t obvious, this story is certainly represented on the gorgeous cover The slut and the universe I seem to have noted that all the stories in this collection are unusual and this is no exception It s a post apocalyptic fairytale about feminism Despite the post apocalyptic setting not much seems to have changed and there is discussion literally on such feminist topics as the meaning of the word slut an why feminism is the root of all evil It was also a rather entertaining read.4.5 5 starsYou can read of my reviews on my blog. Secret Lives of Books was on my list of Absolutely Must Buy books to get at Continuum, and I grabbed it almost as soon as I could One of the absolutely brilliant Twelve Planets series of books, it s a collection of stories which almost feel like thoughts and dreams.Rosaleen Love s writing really felt like nothing I d come across before It was so calm and even and you found yourself being lulled into the story, gently carried through it Until something twists, and you find yourself falling and you absolutely cannot stop reading as you tumble through the space of her stories.My favourite story was definitely the title one with the man who loved his book collection just a little too intensely I assume most other readers would also have strong feelings about books and their book collections and would also find themselves having strong feelings about this story The other stories moved us to bike riders who aren t really, to Mars explorers I also adored this world, which was created so simply and so well to collaborative music makers to feminists who are at the beginning and the end of everything.The whole book felt completely fresh and new and relevant to me, yet there was an almost nostalgic feel to it like you should have read it before I am so thrilled to finally own this and so so happy to discover Rosaleen Love s writing I only hope others can discover it too.Originally reviewed at Subversive Reader I received a free copy of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway However, my opinions below are my own Although I didn t like this book, it was a well written, creative group of stoires It simply wasn t my type of book The Secret Lives of Books is a group of short stories which are linked by transporting the reader to another world of some sort e.g mars or even a world of books The concepts behind each of the stories were interesting, and I think I might like it even better if they were full novels of some sort The writing was also nice, and I enjoyed the switch from my typical reads.I had a hard time getting drawn into each of the stories for a couple of reasons First, I am just not a short story kind of person I need time to get to know the characters and settings before being drawn in That is just a personal preference, and isn t really a draw back to the book The second reason is I simply found them a bit confusing The writing was beautiful and I can see many people enjoying it, but I personally found it to be a bit muddy However, I don t think this confusion is inherent in the book, but rather the way I read books In fact, I can think of a few friends who would probably enjoy this a lot All in all, I had to rate this book low 2 stars because of my personal preferences However, if this is your type of read, I would imagine it is a 4 or 5 star type book I am glad I read this book and had the opportunity to try something a bit out of my normal book routine, but I would not read it again. The Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love is the tenth volume in the Twelve Planets series from Twelfth Planet Press This volume collects five unconnected short stories unconnected in terms of plot like many of the other volumes in the series, there are connected thematic elements.The first story in the collection is the titular The Secret Lives of Books There is a deceptive simplicity about Love s prose which is especially evident in this story Expect no baroque prose here, but rather an almost brutal simplicity, but there is absolutely nothing simple about Love s writing, with even the plainest of sentences containing layers of meaning On the surface, this is a ghost story a man dies and discovers that he loves his books than his family There is so much here that speaks of the deep love that people can have for books, and the homes that they can find in them One of my favourites from the collection.Next is Kiddofspeed I was looking forward to this one in particular, being familiar with the controversy surrounding Elena Filatova s supposed solo motorbike ride through the radiation zone surrounding Chernobyl This is a biting piece, short but extremely powerful, that speaks to the layers of meaning that occur at the place where fact blurs into fiction.Qasida is a story that really highlights Love s precise talent with language There are several threads running through this story, including explorers, Mars, alternate history and the connections that hold people together and conversely, are not strong enough to hold them together There s an almost psychedelic tone to this story, giving the impression of looking into a kaleidoscope of fractured images that, at the end, form into a whole I am deeply impressed by the talent that it takes to write a story like this.The Kairos Moment feels very much cut from similar cloth as Qasida, though the story itself isn t fractured into pieces For me, it didn t work quite as well as the previous story which probably reflects much on me as a reader than Love as a writer.The final story in the collection is The slut and the universe To me, this story reads as a feminist fable, exploring the ideas of feminine sexuality and the ways in which women choose to present themselves to the world A stunning story, and a strong finish to the collection.This is the first Rosaleen Love that I ve read much to my shame and I am certain that it won t be the last I suspect that many of the stories will stand up well to rereading and will possibly gain depth upon each reread Like all of the volumes in the Twelve Planets, it is highly recommended. A slender collection of short stories, each one packing quite a punch Love s writing style is quite pared back, understated, and the subtlety of the stories is a delight Each story interrogates a different aspect of culture and or politics, investigating the domestic and small, as well as the world spanning and world changing Well worth a read.
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- 81 pages
- Secret Lives of Books
- Rosaleen Love
- 23 April 2019 Rosaleen Love