Adelaide Writers Week Day 1 with Amanda McInerney

Adelaide Writers Week kicked off today in the traditional glorious sunshine and, while I missed Tom Keneally’s opening speech at 11.00am, I made it to a seat in the shade to listen to Australian mystery writer, Peter Temple at 12.30pm.  Born in South Africa, Temple moved to Australia in 1980 and has subsequently become one of our most highly awarded mystery authors.  He has won a swag of gongs and his novel “The Broken Shore” won the 2007 Gold Dagger, making him the first Australian to win the world’s richest and most prestigious crime writing prize.  His current novel, “Truth”, follows the investigations of Inspector Stephen Villani, to whom we were introduced in “The Broken Shore”.  His engaging and self-deprecating manner was well received as he spoke about his experiences of writing, lying and being one of the very few authors whom editors beg to include more dialogue, not less!

I kept my seat in the shade to listen to  Sarah Dunant, Geoff Dyer and Sarah Waters discussion “On Being Read”.  The discussion focused around their perceptions of being read, how that affects their writing processes and the effects of the broad media exposure in the modern world of communications.  Interestingly, both Dunant and Waters used the word “brutalizing” when referring to the internet and how close it brings their readers to them, while Geoff Dyer asserted that he actually had no readers anyway.  Given that he has published 11 books (4 novels) and hundreds of essays and articles AND been named by Britain’s Sunday Telegraph as  “England’s greatest, if most reluctant, novelist”, I think we have to assume that someone is reading his work.  I know I will be very soon.

The last session that I made it to today was to listen to a nervous, but extremely dignified Chloe Hooper address a sombre audience on her book “The Tall Man”, about the death of Aboriginal man, Cameron Doomadgee, in police custody on Palm Island in 2004.  She had no previous background, or connection to  Aboriginal experience and spoke eloquently, if sadly,  of what she had learned.”

Amanda McInerney is a long-time Boomerang Books customer and she is passionate about books and reading.  She has just started her own foodie blog at

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Guest Reviewer Sally Cripps

The sign of a *really* good book at my place is insects squashed between the pages, and other pages stained with food and drink spills, all because I couldn’t bear to stop reading. This is what Wolf Hall was like for me – a story of the broadest magnitude, grabbing a well-known tale and remaking it, using imagery of the highest order without wafting off into the incomprehensible realms of “lyricism”. On the face of it, it’s the story of how Thomas Cromwell rose from a position of obscurity as a brawling blacksmith’s son to become Henry VIII’s highest advisor, and how he manipulated Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and the changes to the church in England. We see him as a bereft husband, a teasing mentor, a deft diplomat, a thoughtful future planner, as a fumbling father, and in many more guises. It is a rich portrait – Mantel is as skilled as any of Cromwell’s law colleagues at persuading readers to look at the man in a certain way, in the best “show, don’t tell” tradition.

After a cardinal delicately lays out his family tree and connections, Cromwell thinks “If you were born in Putney, you saw the river every day, and imagined it widening out to the sea. Even if you have never seen the ocean you had a picture of it in your head from what you had been told by foreign people who sometimes came upriver. You knew that one day you would go out into a world of marble pavements and peacocks…but if you were born in Aslockton, in flat fields under a wide sky, you might just be able to imagine Cambridge, no further”. Over and over, we are reminded of Cromwell’s humble beginnings, the power inherent in him – his son Gregory is surprised that Cromwell doesn’t realise people see him as a murderer – but also his desire to improve the lot of those less fortunate. Cromwell’s philanthropy and his passion for knowledge is one of the many interesting threads in the story. Often he asks about Guido Camillo, a man who is creating a “memory system” – a man who has “built a soul…They are what we shall have left, if all the books are burned. They will enable us to remember not only the past, but the future, and to see all the forms and customs that will one day inhabit the earth”. Entwined with this is the fear of Lutheranism and the persecution of those publishing the Bible in English, the vicious racking, burning and torture ordered by the puritanical Thomas More – “He can close the booksellers, but still there will be books. They have their old bones, their glass saints in windows, their candles and shrines, but God has given us the printing press” one woman excitedly tells Cromwell. Later, he himself tells his nephew “You can’t tell people just part of the tale and then stop, or just tell them the parts you choose. They have seen their religion painted on the walls of churches, or carved in stone, but now God’s pen is poised, and he is ready to write his words in the book of their heart”.

The ancient heritage underlying Henry’s kingship, the primitivism at the heart of us all, is also strongly enmeshed in the story. Echoing the story’s title, during an earthy conversation with his cook Cromwell recalls the saying “homo homini lupus” – man is wolf to man. Mantel seems to be asking what gives us our power, evoking images of Albion, Caesar’s legions, star signs and astrological systems, Halloween and the purgatory of souls, even Emperor Constantine digging “through a necropolis, through 12 centuries of fishbone and ash, his workmen’s shovels powdering the skulls of saints”. Alongside this, Cromwell muses that Christ didn’t induce power in his followers, so how does the Pope get his power? And then on to legislative power, through which a King reigns. It is a book that gives food for thought as well as entertainment.

One of my very favourite passages shows Anne Boleyn as a deer caught in the woods – “Walking away – eight antechambers back to the rest of his day – he knows that Anne has stepped forward to a place where he can see her, the morning light lying along the curve of her throat”. The veneer of civility, the antechambers to be passed and the stripping away of it to reveal one’s true nature, is what the book was all about for me. It was never far from mind that the head of Wolf Hall, Edward Seymour had taken his son’s wife to his bed. How Thomas Cromwell makes use of all this made for enthralling reading. I hope the sequel isn’t too far away.

EXCLUSIVE AUTHOR BLOG: Sophie Scott roadtests happiness…

Each year, there are more and more books on the topics of happiness. Not only how to get it, but how to keep it as well. There are books like “The Science of Happiness, The How of Happiness” and “Be Happy”, just to name a few. As the medical reporter for ABC TV, I’ve read most of them! So when I wanted to write another health book, I really thought long and hard about whether the world needed another happiness book and what my book could say that hadn’t already been said before.

Happiness was on my mind, because I had suffered a personal and family crisis. My mother, my only parent, had died quite suddenly from cancer. And I was finding it really tough to move through the stages of grief. It got me thinking about the advice that happiness experts give out. We’re constantly told that happiness should be our goal, but how can you actually achieve it?  Does the advice of the experts actually work?

I wanted to find out if you can be happy when things in your life are not going according to plan. Let’s face it. For most of us, life is like a rollercoaster of ups and downs, some slight and some really big. Just when you think, everything is OK, off you go again. So I wanted to investigate whether the advice of the happiness experts would work, if life wasn’t going the way you hoped.

I interviewed some of the world’s experts, from Buddhist monk Mathieu Ricard (the world’s happiest man) to Timothy Sharp (aka Dr Happy) from the Happiness Institute, to explore the science of happiness. Then I set about trying out their advice, road-testing their ideas, if you like. 

I knew that the source of my unhappiness and my journey to happiness would start with my thoughts. So I investigated cognitive behaviour therapy. Everything starts in the mind and how we think about the events and people around us. Cognitive behaviour therapy involves challenging your thoughts, and not just accepting them. It means challenging ‘all or nothing’ thinking and black and white statements, which often aren’t true. I started to think about how I was reacting to the world around me, and I focused on thinking about my reactions, rather than just reacting! It definitely helped me to focus on the positive things in my life.

I spent a year researching happiness which I write about in Roadtesting Happiness. I tell my own journey and the stories of many others. But for now, I want to give you my top tips for happiness, so that you can bring more joy to your own life.

Count your blessings. Much has been written about the importance of gratitude. But it’s something that most of us ignore. We take the people we love for granted and it’s only when something goes wrong that we realise how much they mean to us. Hug your children and kiss your partner each day.

Nurture your relationships. Happiness is contagious, just like the common cold. Invest time and energy in the people around you who bring joy to your life. Enjoy the love and affection of people who care about you.

Use your strengths to find your passion. Finding something you love doing will increase the fulfilment in your life.  
Don’t be afraid to volunteer. The happiest people in the world are also the most giving. Give your time and love to help those less fortunate and you will benefit as well.

Eat well, to feel well. Nurture your mind and body with good food and exercise. Regular exercise such as walking or weight training is one of the best things you can do to clear the cobwebs from your mind and find a place for happiness.

Make happiness a priority. Invest in your emotional wellbeing and commit to reading a book like Roadtesting Happiness to get the life that you want.

My goal in writing Roadtesting Happiness is to help people be happier and to stay that way. I’ve compiled the tools and the short-cuts so that you can ‘road-test’ your way to happiness to. It will help you develop strategies for coping when things get tough.

Through my research, I tried meditation, gratitude, exercise, eating healthy foods and exercise. Happiness is personal, and not a one size fits all prescription. Roadtesting Happiness will give you the road-map to happiness so you can see what will work for you. It helped me, and I hope it will help you too.

– Sophie Scott

About Roadtesting Happiness
With a unique and compelling blend of personal experience and scientific evidence, this book has the research, inspiration and tools to make your life happier than it is right now.

Sam Downing Reviews: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I picked up a copy of Leviathan when I was in the States last week; I started reading it on Sunday night and had polished it off by Wednesday morning, however, in that time I crossed the international date line so it actually took me even less time to finish than that. The reason I got through it so fast? It’s ace.

The only other book I’ve read by Scott Westerfeld is Uglies, and I liked Leviathan a lot more. It’s loaded with all kinds of rad things: steampunk! Huge mechanical warships and equally huge genetically engineered warships! World War I alternate history! Girls disguised as boys! Heirs to the throne on the run from malevolent political forces!

So. Much. Awesome.

But if you’re awesome-greedy and demand yet more awesome, here it is: Keith Thompson’s illustrations are gawjus. The endpapers of the book alone are worth the cover price – they make me go all Homer Simpson drooly.

The only bad thing about Leviathan is that it’s the first part of a trilogy. This means that a lot of the plot is left hanging for the second instalment, which is released in 2010… but I want to find out what happens nooooow. I’m nerdishly excited about this series and where it’s headed! Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and stamp my feet for a bit in the hope that it’ll somehow make time go by faster.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.

Sam Downing Reviews: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

I bought Boneshaker at the same time as Leviathan, because they were next to one another on the tables at Barnes & Noble, and I vaguely remembered reading good things about it. (I also liked the cover. Goggles! Airships! Neat typography!) It was a good purchase. This is a great book.

Cherie Priest’s story starts off slow: it’s not immediately apparent how the plot will turn out, unless you cheated and read the blurb, and even then it’s not obvious. Early chapters introduce us to Briar Wilkes and her teenage son Zeke, and the grim 19th century version of Seattle they inhabit. By around page 50, the plot has stuck them both in a walled-up part of the city that’s crawling with zombies (dubbed “rotters” in Priest’s universe) and pirates and mad scientists. (Boing Boing has a longer, better synopsis.)

No-so-coincidentally, around page 50 is where Boneshaker hooked me.

This is an epic, page-turning, wonderful read: deftly plotted, switching between Briar and Zeke as they individually explore the horrifying, steampunk-inspired place they’ve stumbled into; written in a beautifully verbose style that matches its historical era; and just a whole lot of fun. Priest is writing at least two more books set in the same world, and while they won’t be direct sequels to Boneshaker (which is a shame – I want more of Briar and Zeke and zombie-Seattle!), I can’t wait to read them.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.

Sam Downing Reviews: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

The other week I had a work-related Christmas dinner (great food, great company), and my team played one of those corporate-style getting-to-know-you games wherein we each had to name a person we’d love to have dinner with.

I nominated Terry Pratchett.

I read a lot as a kid and a teenager, but Pterry’s Discworld books were the first novels I was super-invested in. Between the ages of 13 and 16 I reckon I devoured each entry in the series at least five times – there were more than 20 Discworld novels in those days (there’s now 37), so that’s a lot of reading.

Pratchett probably had more influence on my writing and my worldview than any other writer. So it’s through this lens of adoration that I read the newest entry in the Discworld series, Unseen Academicals.

First up: even a bad Discworld book would still be a good book.  Unseen Academicals (synopsis here) is not a bad Discworld book. But nor is it the greatest. The development-of-football plot didn’t feel as fleshed out as other Discworld spoofs (particularly coming so soon after Going Postal and Making Money), the plot lacked a clear drive towards something, and the new characters often felt like retreads of characters that Pterry has done better in the past – while I liked Glenda, Nutt, Trev and Juliet, I don’t really care about any of them.

That said, there are some great moments: pretty much anything about the Librarian, Ponder Stibbons and Ridcully, whose rivalry with former Dean provided some of  Unseen Academicals high points. Pratchett introduces fun new supporting characters (Pepe, Dr Hix) in amongst the old faces (Rincewind), though other Discworld fixtures seemed way off (Vetinari, who seemed oddly un-Vetinari in many of his scenes).

Perhaps this sounds harsh. But I really did enjoy  Unseen Academicals(what can I say? I’m a Pterry fanboy). I wouldn’t recommend it to a Discworld newbie, but it’s nevertheless a solid entry in this fantastic (in every sense of the word) series. And it also has a touch of finality: because of Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s disease,  Unseen Academicals could be one of the last adult Discworld novels. Which is a very sad prospect.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.

Sam Downing Reviews: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I was chatting with a friend not long ago about Neil Gaiman’s writing style, and we agreed that his is an authorial voice you either like or you don’t: my friend doesn’t like it, but I do. A lot. Gaiman has a knack of adapting to whatever genre he’s writing in, but his work always has a sense of the very old, the very deep, and the very strange.

I started The Graveyard Book with high expectations, and wasn’t disappointed: Like all the best children’s literature, it’s wildly imaginative, seductively scary, and a sophisticated read for both kids and adults.

Loosely inspired by The Jungle BookThe Graveyard Book  is the story of a baby who escapes from the ruthless killer who’s murdered his parents, and escapes to a very old graveyard. Rechristened Nobody “Bod” Owens, he’s raised by the graveyard’s ghostly  inhabitants and encounters vampires, werewolves, witches and other beasties as he grows up. (The Guardian has a more detailed, though mildly spoilery, synopsis; I recommend going into it without knowing about the plot’s direction.)

It kind of reminded me of Harry Potter, if Harry Potter’s sprawling story was condensed into a single book: The Graveyard Book  has the same magical, captivating and adventurous tone. I felt really sad when I turned the last page, both because of the way the plot wrapped up, and because I’d finished a really great book.

Each chapter advances Bod’s age by around two years and stands alone as a story (more or less), making this a breezy read. If you never read anything of Gaiman’s before, this is a fine entry point.1

Gaiman has proposed writing more books exploring the backstory of the Graveyard universe, but with a darker, more adult tone – a sort of “The Lord Of The Rings, to which The Graveyard Book would have been The Hobbit, in his words. I want to read that book so bad. Right now.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.

Join the Boomerang Books ‘Baldies’ – World’s Greatest Shave Team

Become a ‘baldy’ and join us for the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave from 11-13 March 2010.

The funds we raise will help the Leukaemia Foundation to provide practical care and support to patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders.

Join the Boomerang Books ‘Baldies’ team now and start raising money…

Don’t wanna get your head shaved or dyed?  Then you can still donate money to the Boomerang Books ‘Baldies’ here…

New release: The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter

The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter

Ingrid inherits a fortune, leaves Australia and her friends and lover, to marry Gil Grey and set up home amid the New York art world. At 9 am on September 11 2001, she has an appointment downtown, and is never seen again. A year later, searching for clues about Ingrid’s life, her friend Julie uncovers layers of mystery and deception …

January User Reviews

The following are the three winning reviews for January, along with an honourable mention.

The Story Of Danny Dunn by Bryce Courtenay (reviewed by TessLL)
Bryce Courtenay is back! In my opinion this is his best book since The Power Of One. It covers the years between 1920 – 1970 when Australia was facing very critical times. The War and the Depression.

It has historical significence – covering war, political and sporting events which occured during the 50 years the story spans. It covers the truama wounded and disfigured Australian soldiers faced returning to their loved ones. The power of political parties to sway safety in rental properties and to take none or very little responsibility if these properties burnt down and killed people in doing so. The sacrifices athletes make to become champions in their chosen fields to enter Olympic Games and the toll this has on spouses and siblings. The book paints a vivid picture of the lives of those living in Sydney during these years. The rich and the poor. The inspiring achievements of a poor family to make a better place for themselves by hard work and study. The enduring love of Danny’s mother and wife, each striving to achieve this goal in their own way. There is something for every one in this book. I could not put it down. 5 stars.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (reviewed by G_O_WC)
Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old, self-sufficient teenager who volunteers to replace her sister in the annual Hunger Games, a reality television programme which all citizens are required to watch as declared by the government. Based in a futuristic dystopian world, in which the United States of America has been destroyed by natural disasters and war to be replaced with Panem, the Hunger Games is a brutally fierce and dangerous competition in which 24 participants – two from each territory or ‘district’ – must battle for the winner’s position by using their own strength and intelligence to their advantage in order to execute all other 23 competitors.

The Hunger Games is a thought provoking and suspenseful read that held my full attention from beginning to end. I had this book highly recommended to me by a friend and I must say that I agree with her view that it is one of those rare books that fulfilled – even went beyond – my expectations. The book is well written and the characters are realistic, making their situation even the more terrifying.

Overall, I was thoroughly pleased with this book and would recommend it to those aged 12 and up as it does contain some violence (especially in the battle arena) and to anyone who enjoys a strong and independent female lead and an engrossing plot that is sure to leave you hooked. 5 stars.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (reviewed by AikY)
Hush, Hush is a must read! I just love it! First of all, I have to say James Porto is a real artist! The cover design is gorgeous! It was the first thing that attracted me, though I know that a book can’t be judged by its cover. And, the concept of falling in love with the fallen really captivates me. Who cares about vampires and werewolves when there is a hot, mysterious fallen angel right in front of us?

The main characters of Hush, Hush are finely written, so you can get an exact idea of their personalities. Nora is a pretty, clever girl who is strong, in the sense that she is brave enough to fight her attacker. But at the same time, she is vulnerable, as she is anemic and, well, her self-defense skills don’t really work. As for Patch, he is the guy who will make any girl swoon with excitement – he’s handsome, tall, dark and alluring. He has a secret, a mysterious past which makes the whole story more interesting.

I would like to compliment Becca because she has done a great job to keep readers guessing what will happen next. I really didn’t see the bad guy coming. I kept guessing, but never got it right. And when the truth is revealed, I was like “What? He’s the one?”. It was so unexpected. The pages are haunting, dark, and mysterious, it succeeded to hold my attention from the beginning until the end. There were times when I feel like I was ‘inside’ the story, and I could see exactly what Nora saw. I kept feeling like something bad and dangerous is about to happen.

I’ve seen others comparing it to Twilight, and I do not deny that there are some similarities, such as the protagonists’ personalities (good girl versus bad boy), and having them sitting beside each other in Biology class. But that’s where it ends. Hush, Hush is NOT the same as Twilight. It is an entertaining story with a different theme, style, storyline and characters, packed with excitement and danger. It will draw you into the story completely, and leave you wanting for more at the end.

Hush, Hush is a fast-paced, exciting, well-written novel which has a thrilling plot that is definitely going to make you squeal with delight! So, please don’t wait any longer if you haven’t read this book, because it’s really good! (5 stars).

Honourable Mention

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann (review by FibyB)
Filled with beautiful photos of cats, this book provides an easy to read, basic description of what Asperger’s syndrome is, with out too many words. I bought this book for my son who has Asperger’s. Although he couldn’t see himself in the book (we could see some of the similarities) he still enjoyed the book. But remember, some children with Asperger’s can be very literal, and may feel this book isn’t accurate if it mentions some signs of Asperger’s that they don’t display- remembering that every one with Asperger’s is different.

Personally, I love this book! (5 stars).

A big thanks to the nearly 100 members who submitted reviews – keep entering for your chance to win! TessLL, G_O_WC and AikY have each won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks. 🙂


This month’s giveaway for Boomerang Books Members is pretty special. It includes two signed books, and something for everybody – a thriller, a cookbook (and the away to a man’s heart via his stomach), a gripping wartime story and something for your inner young-adult. It includes:

§  Girls Like Funny Boys by Dave Franklin

§  The Good Samaritan by Julia Haisley SIGNED

§  The Devil’s Tears by Steven Horne

§  Mania by Craig Larsen

§  Meals Men Love by Lana Vidler SIGNED

All Boomerang Books Members are automatically entered into the draw to win our great monthly prize packs – so if you haven’t already, sign up today.


In February, members of our Facebook Group are in the running to win a great prize pack that consists of:

§  Girls Like Funny Boys by Dave Franklin

§  Mania by Craig Larsen

§  Finding Darcy by Sue Lawson

§  Meals Men Love by Lana Vidler SIGNED

A big thanks to our friends at Baby Ice Dog Press, Black Dog Books, Ginninderra Press, Pan Macmillan and Pinnacle Fiction for supporting our giveaways this month.