• Lee Murray

Mini-reviews: Artifacts, Words, Raven, and Spores

Updated: Sep 20, 2018

Like most writers, reading is possibly my favourite thing (after cheese) and because of that my iPad and my bedside table have so many books on them I could not possibly manage to read them all in my lifetime. I am also horribly behind on my reviews, and since reviews are a writer's lifeblood, I am resorting to posting multiple mini-reviews of some titles I have read and enjoyed recently.


Bruce Boston: Artifacts


It’s hard to believe this is Boston’s fortieth poetry collection, because his poems always strike me as fresh and startling. The stories his poems tell are fantastic and horrific, but more especially his revelations are plucked from life, every life, my life, and sometimes as recently as this afternoon. It’s as if he’s there, stalking me, which is worrying. The current collection offers a mix of reprinted and original poems, so naturally there were one or two I recognised. Those texts felt like old friends, the sort who have fallen out after an argument and meet again unexpectedly, as familiar yet uneasy companions. My pick of the collection is The Dream Thief, who, at the sound of an alarm, “scoops up your dreams like discarded trash and stuffs them deep in his gunnysack”. It is hard not to be moved by The Surreal Fountain Pen and the poignant Inconclusive View. And as the wife of a physicist myself, Boston’s poem Wife of a Particle Physicist resonated for me, reminding me of when my darling and I were dating, the time he spent an entire road trip over the Kaimai ranges explaining how the magnetron in the microwave works. But then that is the purpose of poetry isn’t it? To remind us of those fleeting and indescribable moments, reinventing and revisiting them in new and astounding ways, which Boston never fails to do. Enthralling.


Jessica McHugh: Nightly Owl, Fatal Raven


There are those books that you just can’t put down, the ones that have you turning the pages and staying up all night, and then there is Jessica McHugh’s Nightly Owl Fatal Raven, a book that I simply had to put down. McHugh’s story is so brutal, her imagery so terrifyingly dark, I had to step away from it and wait while my pulse slowed and my palms stopped sweating. Definitely not for the squeamish, there are scenes in this book to make your knees go numb. But Nightly Owl, Fatal Raven isn’t a gratuitous attempt to shock the reader with cruel and crueller ways to inflict pain. Instead, this is a beautifully-crafted speculative dytopia with characters who leap off the page, and a bad guy whose breath you can smell. It is a story that tells of the resilience that is born of necessity, a warning to all of us that the desperate are capable of extraordinary things.

Blurb: Since the rise of The Council, an oligarchy of despots and deviants, the legendary Capesman undertakes daily soul collections from Cartesia’s wasteland cities and battlefields. He also frequents Malay Prison, where a vigilante named Shal plots her escape. Armed with a thirst for vengeance and a sharp Shakespearean tongue, Shal must navigate a maze of trauma to save Cartesia and protect her sister from the brutal machinations of Chancellor Doa.

It will require all of Shal’s strength and cunning to resurrect her former army, battle the betrayals of the past, and avenge her father’s death. Will she survive long enough to see the Council fall, or is the Capesman coming for her next?

Since the rise of The Council, an oligarchy of despots and deviants, the legendary Capesman undertakes daily soul collections from Cartesia’s wasteland cities and battlefields. He also frequents Malay Prison, where a vigilante named Shal plots her escape. Armed with a thirst for vengeance and a sharp Shakespearean tongue, Shal must navigate a maze of trauma to save Cartesia and protect her sister from the brutal machinations of Chancellor Doa.

It will require all of Shal’s strength and cunning to resurrect her former army, battle the betrayals of the past, and avenge her father’s death. Will she survive long enough to see the Council fall, or is the Capesman coming for her next?


Michael Collings: Words, Words, Words.


From poet Michael Collings comes this exquisite collection for the linguist, the philosophers, and the lovers of words. A tome of more than 150 poems inspired by, derived from, and paying tribute to, the rarest and most eloquent of words. Arranged alphabetically, perhaps the poet intended that they be read in sequence; instead I went straight to the poems Absquatulate and Discombobulate since these words integral to my YA novel Misplaced and I love the way they’re fun to say, how they both fall off the tongue. I wasn’t disappointed: on both counts Colling’s poems had me chuckling with surprise. What next? I looked up Lour, a go-to favourite for my co-author Dan Rabarts and discovered a little poem as dour and sullen as clouds. Pomegranate, my daughter’s favourite, delivered a twist. It interested me to check out Trump, and of course, who can resist Chocolate? ‒ I stopped by for a taste. When I had done with my dipping, I went back and read them all. A fascinating collection full of discovery, because as the poet himself writes:

“Words are tiny temporoscopes,
We glimpse through every day;
The further they stray from their roots,
the more they have to say.”

Collings' Words, Words Words, is definitely worthy of the interior quotation by Margaret Attwood:

“A word after a word after a word is power.”

Ike Hamill: Spores

A high action page-turner set in a Maine winter, this Ike Hamill bio-thriller is the perfect Saturday afternoon heart thumper. Hamill’s characters are recognisable and real, from the widow searching for something to give her life meaning, to the insufferable academic who insists on taking his frustrations out on his tongue-tied student, to the friends who really only stayed friends because they didn’t see each other all that much. Old friends getting away on a hunting weekend and work colleagues on a field trip. And then everything goes wrong, and the story turns into one of those horrific cabin-in-the-woods nail-biters which doesn’t let you look away.


Blurb: Every hunter has a story of an expedition gone wrong. Every person who has held a gun has imagined what it would be like to point that barrel at another human being. Some decisions come down to survival. Other decisions are made for us. They’re implanted into a person’s brain from somewhere out there, in the unknown.

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© 2018 by Lee Murray