• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:

    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!



Much Ado About Review Part I by Kim Falconer

Author Kim Falconer

Author Kim Falconer

The word review comes from the Latin revidere, meaning to see again. In the literary world, a review examines with the purpose of critique. It’s a judgment, usually including two parts—summation and evaluation. It’s also a relationship.

Margaret Atwood uses biblical imagery to describe this relationship between the writer and reviewer. She places the author in the role of divine creator, drawing a blank page from the maw of Chaos and turning it, one day at a time, into a detailed narrative. On the 7th day (or perhaps 700th) it is handed over to the critic who spends considerably less time analysing it.

The critic looks ‘after the fact’ to discern if the novel has value, meaning, authenticity and plausibility, situating it in the context they believe it was written and finally giving it a result. The crucial point that Atwood makes is the novelist is distanced from the process of critical analysis. They are concerned with the act of creation, asking what will happen next and what is the right word. The critic has a different question. They ask, what does this mean. When the reader gets a hold of it, it’s something else again. They are asking what does this mean to me. In this way, the critic, reader and novelist can be at odds, each seeing the work from a different angle.

Marylaine Block, a librarian for over 22 years, pictures a more romantic relationship between author and critic. She likens reviewers to matchmakers, saying their primary function is to bring readers together with their perfect mates, books that they can appreciate and enjoy. Jonathan Marshall, a Research Fellow at Western Australian’s Edith Cowan University, takes it a step further. He sees the review as an invitation to discussion, a gift offered to those who might want it, rather than a bludgeon to instruct the insensitive masses.

Whether searching for meaning, matchmaking or creating an open forum, literary critics seldom miss the opportunity to exercise their authority. Not many reviews are free of criticisms and some can be brutal. Bruce Mazlish, a professor of history at MIT, highlights the reviewers’ power over the author. Reviews can affect careers, reputations, positions, salaries and self-esteem. He points out that a publisher’s ‘reader review’ can impact the decision to offer a contract. That’s significant power. Yet with all this weight given to the reviewer, very little training is required to become one. Mazlish sums it up neat. ‘Reviewing is regarded as a democratic practice: anybody can do it.

What do you think? How important are reviews to you? Do you write them? Read them? Do they sway your opinion of an author or affect your reading choices? Share your experiences here! Part II will follow tomorrow: 10 Tips for writing reviews.

Kim Falconer is the author of The Spell of Rosette (Quantum Enchantment Book 1), which was published this month by HarperVoyager. Kim lives in Byron Bay and runs the website Falcon’s Astrology as well as a website dedicated to the Quantum Enchantment series.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Kim and fellow Voyager fans:-)
    I’m with Block, and to some extent, Marshall. A reviewer’s job, to my mind, is threefold: 1.To publicise the book 2.To encourage the author through deserved praise and judicious criticism 3.To help readers decide whether or not this might be a book they could love. And yes, I agree with Mazlish, too – reviews can indeed affect careers, reputations, positions, salaries and self-esteem, although not necessarily in that order. It therefore behoves the throughtful critic to consider every word of the review carefully, and not write anything they would not say to the author face-to-face.

    I’ve been reviewing books for five or six years now, and before that I used to review dance performances for The Australian and other print publications. It doesn’t matter what’s up for review, I believe the triple purpose of reviewing remains the same.

    A sentence from the very first essay on criticism I ever read (and it was 50 years ago now!) has stuck with me. I can’t remember who the writer was, but he said, “A man is a better critic than you are if he finds in a work something of beauty that you have missed”. I try to make “finding the beauty” my first goal in criticism, and I encourage members of The Specusphere’s review team to do the same.

    If readers of the Voyager blog are interested in reviewing, they might like to read my article “Write a Review Worth Reading” which they will find at http://www.specusphere.com/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=395&Itemid=31
    and if anyone wants to have a go at reviewing for us, please do get in touch through the website!

  2. Hi Satima.

    I liked your point “A man is a better critic than you are if he finds in a work something of beauty that you have missed”. I try to make “finding the beauty” my first goal in criticism . .. That is a powerful intention.

    Your article is a great contribution to this topic. Thank you for posting it.

    🙂 Kim

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