My name is Jessica, and reading is my favourite way to explore, learn and imagine. When other people are watching TV or refreshing a feed, I’m probably reading (while watching TV and refreshing a feed). I love that you can take books anywhere, and they return the favour by taking you everywhere. I love that a book sketches you a picture and your imagination fills it with colour and movement. Dogeared Reviews is a home for reviews of books I’ve been reading.
I read mostly crime fiction because crime gives us a unique lens through which to see the humanity (or otherwise) in someone who has been stripped of everything they care for. It’s a lens through which you can come to know a town, a city, a society. It can give a voice to the marginalised, the dispossessed. It can examine power, greed and injustice. I’m a criminologist by background, so I’m preoccupied with questions about crime and criminal behaviour. How do we determine what is right and wrong? How do we respond to particular crimes, and what does this say about who we are and what we value? How do we shape our laws and how do they shape us? Who shapes our laws and what does that say about us? Who is marginalised by our responses to criminal behaviour?
I’m drawn to novels that are plot-driven and have a strong sense of place. Authors like Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Garry Disher, Peter Corris, Anne Holt, Barry Maitland, Jo Nesbo and Cara Black are all at the top of this game. Their books will take you to a city and orient you geographically and, in some cases, politically. Cara Black’s Aimée Leduc series allowed me to navigate Paris like a local when I visited in real life, Peter Corris’ Cliff Hardy gave me all the Sydney landmarks I’ve ever needed, and I’m pretty sure one of Garry Disher’s characters is living in my brother-in-law’s house on the Peninsula in his latest novel... McDermid and Rankin are also particularly strong at writing external events into their novels - another thing I am drawn to in crime fiction. They create artefacts that can return us to a particular point in time. Rankin’s Naming of the Dead transports us back to the tense sociopolitical landscape of 2005 when Edinburgh hosted the G8, and McDermid’s latest offering, Out of Bounds, will give us a strong reading of current immigration issues to reflect on in future.
I also love a good sucker-punch, be that through psychological thrill or brutal language skills. Hand me anything by Stephen King, Patricia Highsmith, Mo Hayder, Chuck Palahniuk or Jim Thompson and I’ll devour it in a single sitting, occasionally remembering to breathe.
I review books of my own choosing, mostly through my own purchases, the excellent collections in my local libraries and second-hand books from my Dad (who has long been a major influence on my reading tastes). I also review advanced copies of books provided by established publishers. I do not accept submissions from self-published authors. Dogeared Reviews will always be honest, regardless of source.
About the ratings
Here’s a quick rundown of my rating system.
The book was rubbish and I’m giving myself a star for getting through it. Well done, me.
Meh, it was okay. Has serious flaws and wouldn’t recommend to a fellow book-lover.
A decent and enjoyable read. Might have a few flaws or isn’t particularly memorable. Would recommend to a fellow book-lover looking for something to read over a weekend.
In the top 10% of its genre. Would read again, and recommend to a fellow book-lover with a penchant for the genre.
A book that will stay with me long after the final page. Will read again, will recommend.
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Dogeared Reviews is published on the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people as a project of Studio-Absentia in Australia.