The Book Brief: The Very Best New Release Books in July

Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief


Fiction Books

The Lie by Kestin Hesh

A complex political thriller full of suspense, set within the Israel security organisation. A rescue operation that will have you on the edge of your seats. So many lies, so many rationalisations for twisting the truth. But in the end what wins: love of country or family? Terror seems to have a certain equality. Chris

Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball

I was so engrossed in this book it wasn’t until finishing it that I truly digested what I had read. In many ways this is a modern parable about the moral fallacies we place on our systems of justice, but the skill and subtlety in which Jesse Ball tells the story gives it not just power but also emotional resonance. And by doing so Jesse Ball gets to the absolute core of what a crime story is and what it should mean when we read one. Jon

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

A Swedish crime book with a difference. Martha wants to rob a bank to escape her care home. Her team, the League of Pensioners want to get caught because they feel conditions are better in prison than where they are now. Very reminiscent of the wonderful One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. Of course everything does not go to plan, a delightful and immensely entertaining novel which should be read with a glass of cloudberry wine. Chris

Close Call by Stella Rimington

Liz Carlyle and her Counter Terrorism unit in MI5 have been charged with the task of watching the international under-the-counter arms trade. With the Arabic region in such a volatile state, the British Intelligence forces have become increasing concerned that extremist Al-Qaeda jihads are building their power base ready to launch another attack. As the pressure mounts, Liz and her team must intercept illegal weapons before they get into the wrong hands.

The Extraordinary Journey of The Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

An absolutely hilarious romp, like a farce but instead of walking in and out of rooms the main character does the same with wardrobes. A fakir is on a journey to pick up a bed of nails from IKEA but ends up on a tour to many countries. However it wasn’t until I had finished that I realised the more serious side of the story as the Fakir meets many people seeking a better life but instead were shunted from country to country. Extremely entertaining but with an edge. Chris

Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant

A story about an experimental university in the North of England which wanted to educate thinkers to prevent totalitarianism and future wars. Oh but they were just young people thinking about sex and parties. The experiment goes wrong with some awful consequences. A wonderful read about post war Britain that nobody would recognise now! No mobiles no internet. How did they communicate and it really wasn’t that long ago! Chris

Non-Fiction Books

Ten Conversations You Must Have With Your Son by Dr Tim Hawkes

Every parent of a teenage boy knows there are certain conversations they must have with their son. But too often they put them off – or don’t have them at all – because they simply don’t know where to start. Internationally recognised in the field of raising and educating boys, Dr Tim Hawkes provides practical, accessible and invaluable about how to get these discussions started.

City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai

Reading this book reminded me of Stasiland and Behind the Beautiful Forevers, both wonderful examples of narrative non-fiction where the idea is conveyed to the reader in the style of personal stories. We get an understanding of modern Iran through the stories of young people living under repressive regimes. Reads like fiction, in fact at times I thought I was reading a really riveting crime novel! Chris

Asia’s Cauldron by Robert D. Kaplan

For anyone interested in our region you will find this a very interesting read. Kaplan has been named one of the top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. He looks at the shift of power from Europe to Asia, particularly the South China Sea. He looks at the booming cities and the slums from Vietnam, to Malaysia, Singapore to the Philippines and of course China.  One of the questions that intrigued me was the contention that the conflicts of the future in this area will be driven by power and economics rather than humanitarian or ideological ideas. Intensely readable. Chris

Last Days of the Bus Club by Chris Stewart

In this latest, typically hilarious dispatch from El Valero we find Chris, now a local literary celebrity, using his fame to help his old sheep-shearing partner find work on a raucous road trip; cooking a TV lunch for visiting British chef, Rick Stein; discovering the pitfalls of Spanish public speaking; and, most movingly, visiting famine-stricken Niger for Oxfam.

Australian History in 7 Questions by John Hirst

From the author of The Shortest History of Europe, acclaimed historian John Hirst, comes this fresh and stimulating approach to understanding Australia’s past and present. Hirst asks and answers questions that get to the heart of Australia’s history. Engaging and enjoyable, and written for the novice and the expert alike, Australian History in Seven Questions explains how we became the nation we are today.

Confessions of a Qantas Flight Attendant by Owen Beddall

Everyone wants to be a flight attendant, or at least they want to know about the cushy lifestyle they lead – flying to exotic destinations, swanning about in five-star hotels, daytime lazing around the pool and night-time tabletop dancing with Bollywood stars. At last the lid is lifted. Come on board a real airline with a real flight attendant and find out what really goes on.

Pink Sari Revolution by Amana Fontanella-Khan

This is the story of Sampat Pal and the Pink Gang’s fight against injustice and oppression in India. Amana Fontanella-Khan delivers a riveting, inspiring portrait of women grabbing fate with their own hands – and winning back their lives.

Childrens’ Picture Books

Mr Chicken Lands on London by Leigh Hobbs

Mr Chicken is excited! He can’t wait to get on the plane  and go to London. Join Mr Chicken as he takes a unique look at the sights of London. A great new picture  book from one our favourite authors. Ian

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

You may be surprised to hear that Pig is a pug not a pig, and he is the greediest pug in the world. MINE is his favourite word and he won’t share his toys with anyone. One day that all changes. Has Pig learned his lesson? Have a read and find out! Danica

Books for First Readers

Do You Dare? Fighting Bones by Sophie Laguna

Danny and Duncan are two young convict brothers, who are in jail in Tasmania in 1836. As if life is not tough enough, a new boy arrives who is a terrible bully. Is escape their only option? Will they dare? A great action series full of history for boys. Ian & Danica

Nancy Clancy: Secret of the Silver Key by Jane O’Connor

The ever popular super sleuth Nancy Clancy returns in her fourth adventure. Nancy finds an old desk at a garage sale that leads her and Bree into another mystery that proves to much harder to solve than they expected. Ian

Books for Young Readers

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

If you loved ‘Wonder’ and ‘Out of My Mind’, then you have to read this book! Willow is a character unlike any other and she will capture your heart and not let go! We could not put it down! Danica & Jan

Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt

Friday Barnes – girl detective, 11 years old. When Friday solves a bank robbery she decides to put herself through boarding school with the reward money. What surprises her is that Highcrest Academy has a high crime problem. While trying to solve these mysteries Friday also has to deal with Ian, the most gorgeous boy in school, who hates her and loves nasty pranks. What is the point of high school? Jan

Books for Young Adults

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Set in Germany during the rise of Hitlers power, seventeen year old Gretchen Muller starts to question why Uncle Dolf (Hitler) has become her protector, father figure and taken her family under his wing. Desperate for answers and why her father took a bullet for Hitler, Gretchen embarks on a mission to uncover the truth. A mother who is very timid, a brother who can be cruel, and a forbidden love this book is an excellent historical fiction novel for young adults. Jan

Spark by Rachael Craw

One day she’s an ordinary seventeen year old, grieving for her mother. The next, she’s a Shield, the result of a decades-old experiment gone wrong, bound by DNA to defend her best friend from an unknown killer. The threat could come at home, at school, anywhere. All Evie knows is that it will be a fight to the death. Jan

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Stuart Neville 3-for-2 offer



9780099535348The Twelve

I almost missed reading this book. Published in 2009 it has only just been releases here. I was reluctant to pick it up because “debut thriller of the year” gets thrown around a far bit and I am very skeptical. However in the case of THE TWELVE it is not marketing or publicity that has come up with the statement because it is more than true. This is not just one of the best thriller debuts of the last ten years; it is one of the best thrillers of the last ten years full stop.

THE TWELVE blends together seamlessly some of my favourite elements of crime fiction. It is political (without choosing sides), it is violent, it has heart and it is wickedly funny in places. It also reminds me of some of my favourite authors while being completely original. While reading the book Adrian McKinty, Ken Bruen and the DEXTER series all came to mind as well as the film THE DEPARTED and the TV series RESCUE ME.

The main character of the book is Gerry Fegan, an ex-IRA hit man who has just done a 9 and a half year stretch in Maze prison. Prison has changed him but not like you would think. Gerry is haunted by the crimes he has committed, literally. He is followed by twelve ghosts of people he has killed. He can see, hear and feel the ghosts all the time and they will not let him sleep. Even whiskey doesn’t help and Gerry is seen as a crazy drunk who talk to himself all day.

Gerry tries confessing to one of his victim’s relatives in an effort to free himself from these unwanted spirits but that only get him into trouble with his old bosses. But that’s when he finds out what his ghost want him to do, they want revenge. As Gerry counts down his ghosts, his actions threaten to tear apart Northern Ireland’s new found peace. This means he must be stopped, making this one hell of an explosive thriller.


9780099535355OK so I thought THE TWELVE was freakin’ awesome but COLLUSION takes it up another notch. The now ghost-less (but still haunted) Gerry Fegan has escaped Northern Ireland to New York but his trail of destruction and its consequences still reverberates around Belfast. Interestingly Gerry takes a backseat in this book.  We’re introduced to Detective Inspector Jack Lennon (who happens to be the briefly mentioned ex-girlfriend of one of THE TWELVE’s main characters) and we meet an even more twisted hitman known as The Traveller.

I love when a series follows a non- linear path and at first you think COLLUSION is a Jack Lennon novel. But one of Lennon’s cases has links to what happened in THE TWELVE and when he learns his ex-girlfriend and estranged daughter were somehow involved he is determined to find out what happened. When those that survived THE TWELVE start turning up dead Lennon is put on a collision course with The Traveller who has been cleaning up loose ends.

The action is again incredible and the twists are devilish. With a title like COLLUSION you have no idea which side anyone is really on. All the elements that made THE TWELVE great are still here and I am still trying to catch my breath after the ending. Seriously if you love action/thrillers you HAVE to read Stuart Neville.

Stolen Souls

9781846554520Stuart Neville is fast becoming one of my favourite crime writers. THE TWELVE blew me away and COLLUSION was an excellent follow-up and now he continues the brilliance with STOLEN SOULS.

Jack Lennon again features and he is trying to balance the pieces if his life that are left in the aftermath of the last book. But the central character is Galya, an illegal immigrant from The Ukraine who has been deceived into coming to Ireland for work but the job she has been ‘sold’ into is not what she signed up for.

STOLEN SOULS is in essence a chase novel. The book opens with Galya having just killed a ‘client’. Unfortunately the ‘client’ is the brother of a very important and ruthless man. She must now out run his revenge but ends up jumping out of the fry pan into a very vicious fire.

Meanwhile Jack is left to clean up the trail of destruction and try and figure out what is going on. Neville again mixes up unpredictable action with both flawed and despicable characters. Get on the Stuart Neville bandwagon now because this guy is going to be huge.

Grab all three books for $35.98 (rrp $19.95 each)

and don’t miss the new book in the series, The Final Silence out July 17

Review – The Damned Utd by David Peace

9780571224333I have tried and failed at reading David Peace before. I’ve have always wanted to get into his books in particular The Red Riding Quartet (which I cheated and watched the films instead, which were superb). For some reason I have never been able to get into the rhythm of his writing and with a writer like David Peace if you don’t have the rhythm you are lost.

A couple of readers, who I really respect their taste, have been going nuts for David Peace’s Red Or Dead and with it being World Cup time I decided I would check out one of David Peace’s football novels.

I have been attempting to get into poetry this year and one of the ways I have found that has made poetry most accessible to me as a reader has been via audio. A poem read aloud brings the words to life which sadly I am unable to do reading them. So when I spotted an audio version of The Damned United I jumped at the opportunity to listen to it. (The fact it was read by John Simm from Life On Mars was icing on the cake.)

9780571239139From the opening lines I was entranced. David Peace is utterly hypnotic. The repetition, the short, sharp visceral use of language had me utterly enthralled. It was like a chant that just swept me up into the turmoil that was the life of football manager Brian Clough.

Brian Clough became manager of Leeds United in 1974 and only lasted 44 days in the job. Peace tells the story of his tumultuous 44 days in charge interspersed with flashback to Clough’s early days as a football manager and the success (and havoc) he wrought up until landing the Leeds United job.

This was one of those absolutely amazing book experiences. David Peace’s novels are often described as streams of consciousness but after listening to The Damned United I would describe his work more as verse novels. The imagery he conjurors, the sounds and atmosphere he recreates through words is my definition of poetry. I’m going to listen to as many of his novels on audio now that I can find and wish to the book gods that someone records an audio version of Red Or Dead (or maybe have a crack at it myself to see if I now have David Peace’s rhythm).

Buy the book here…

Buy the audio book here…..

Double Dipping – Living with Dodos and Alice – Picture book reviews

In a world of dwindling attention spans and narrowing fields of vision, it may be argued that the gaps between past and present are so expansive there is no reason to traverse them anymore let alone acknowledge past discoveries or other people’s situations.

New Frontier Publishing ignores this argument, offering two new courageous storylines within two beautifully presented picture books both worthy of much discussion and fawning over.

Adorable AliceThe first is Adorable Alice by Cassandra Webb and Michaela Blassnig. At first glance this picture book feels and looks too pink and perfect to be promising then I noticed Alice, plucky and bright, striding confidently across the cover into her story. So I followed her.

Like many young children, Alice lives in the here and now moments of life. She likes doing ‘something different every day’. What makes the week in question so special is her self-appointed mission of sensory-deprivation. Almost without conscience thought, Alice explores her home each day in a different way; with her eyes closed, her arms tied, her nose blocked and so on. Deprivation of one sense sharpens her others, which she discovers increases her understanding and enjoyment of the world around her, in spite of her familiarity with it.

Evocative narrative descriptions reinforce comfortable associations so that the reader is able to link the sound of grandma chopping with the smell of peaches for instance. Spatial awareness is enhanced for the reader as Alice makes her way to Grandpa by ‘listening, feeling and smelling’.

The coupling of Blassnig’s bright and bouncy illustrations with Webb’s sensory-laden sentence structure introduces young readers to their five senses and the importance of empathy in a sympathetically simple and tactile way.

May 2014

Edward and the Great DiscoveryFollowing New Frontier Publishing’s penchant for picture books with little pre-amble but plenty of thought provoking action and consequence is the stimulating, Edward and the Great Discovery. This is Rebecca McRitchie’s and Celeste Hulme’s first foray into picture books and it seems they have hit pay dirt. It could have something to do with my Indiana Jones obsession or my fascination with Dodos or maybe it is just the kid in me still hoping to make that marvellous discovery in my own backyard someday, but I was thoroughly entranced by Edward’s tale.

Despite an impressive family pedigree of archaeology, Edward has never discovered a single thing of greatness. Until one night, after filling his backyard with craters chance bestows him with not only a wondrous scientific discovery but also a deeper understanding of true friendship.

McRitche writes with understated sincerity giving children just enough hope and daring to intrigue them whilst at the same time gently exposing them to the wonders of natural history. It is a story that is both exciting and touching.

Hulme’s expressive illustrations , pleasantly reminiscent of Terry Whidborne’s work, feature spade-loads of sensitive detail; cushions for Edward’s bird to land on, real red-knit scarf to share warmth and love with, minute gems hidden deep within reality.Edward and his Egg

It is these kinds of treasures that children adore discovering in picture books for themselves and is why this proposed picture book series is a priceless find for expanding the attention spans of 4 – 6 + year-olds. I for one cannot wait to see what new adventures Edward uses his extensive kit on. Then again, I’ve always been drawn to archaeologists…

June 2014

“My Writing Process” blog hop

Every now and then, chain post interviews (sometimes called blog hops) seem to circulate around the blogging community of writers. They’re a bit like chain letters, in that you do your bit and then pass it on in an ever expanding ripple, until people lose interest — you do your blog post (in which you answer a set of questions) and then link to three other writers, who will do their blog posts and link to another three writers each, and so on.

I was tagged for the “My Writing Process” blog hop by Dimity Powell, fellow Boomerang Books blogger and author of P.S. Who Stole Santa’s Mail?. Check out her post!

Now, here are my answers to the 4 questions being circulated…

What are you working on at the moment?

As always, I’m working on a few different things.

The project that is taking up most of my time at the moment is the promoting of my new You Choose series of books. This has involved blog posts, television interviews, presentations at Teacher/Librarian events and LOTS of school and bookshop visits.

I’m working on an essay for an upcoming pop culture book about Star Trek. As a long time Star Trek fan, this is rather fun.

I have also been working on a proposal. But I can’t tell you about that just yet. Sorry!

There are other things — half-finished stories, vague ideas and stuff that will probably never see the light of day.

How do you think your work differs from that of other writers in your genre?

It differs simply because it is my work. Every writer approaches a genre or topic in their own unique way, just as every person views the world in their own unique way.

Why do you write what you write?

I write about the things that interest me. Simple as that! I write the sorts of stories that I like reading.

What’s your writing process, and how does it work?

Things always begin with a notebook. I carry it around with me most places I go. Into this notebook I jot down all sorts of crazy ideas. Once I have a definite project in mind, it gets a dedicated notebook into which I brainstorm. After that I move to the computer and write an outline, because I need to know where a story is going before I can start writing it. Once I’ve got the outline sorted, I begin writing. And then comes the re-writing. Each of the Gamers books (Gamers’ Quest, Gamers’ Challenge and Gamers’ Rebellion) went through about 10 drafts.

The process for the You Choose books (The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove, Mayhem at Magic School, Maze of Doom and The Haunting of Spook House) was a little different. Instead of writing an outline on computer, I planned those books out on a whiteboard. You can find out more about that process on this blog post.

Now it’s time for me to handball these questions on to the next bunch of writers. Keep an eye on their blogs to see what they have to say for themselves…

Jenny Blackford is a writer and poet whose work has appeared in places as diverse as Westerly, Cosmos Magazine, The School Magazine and Strange Horizons. Pamela Sargent described Jenny’s subversively feminist historical novella, The Priestess and the Slave, as “elegant.” In late 2013 Pitt Street Poetry published her first poetry collection, The Duties of a Cat, which Eileen Gunn called “enchanting”. Her work has appeared in every Australian Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror so far. She is Secretary of the Newcastle Writers Festival. Check out her blog.

David McDonald is a Melbourne based writer who works for an international welfare organisation. When not on a computer or reading a book, he divides his time between helping run a local cricket club and working on his debut novel. In 2013 he won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent, and in 2014 won the William J. Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies such as The Lone Ranger Chronicles from Moonstone Books and Epilogue from Fablecroft Publishing. David is a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and of the Melbourne based writers group, SuperNOVA. Check out his blog.

Beau Hillier is a Melbourne-based writer, editor and reviewer with several years experience in the publishing industry. He holds a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing and has worked with marketing collateral, anthologies and manuscripts in various genres. He is currently the head editor of page seventeen, an annual collection of short stories and poetry showcasing emerging writers. Check out his posts on the Busybird Publishing blog.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter


mrsmuir01Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD Review  — The Ghost & Mrs Muir: Season 1



Pakistan for Children – Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll


9780702253317It is rare to find an exceptional novel for children with the current emphasis on YA literature rather than on children’s books. Kelsey and the Porcelain Doll by Rosanne Hawke (UQP) is an exceptional Australian book for younger readers. With her background of living in Pakistan as an aid worker, Hawke has incorporated cultural and lifestyle details authentically into a perfectly formed story.

8-year-old Kelsey moves temporarily to Pakistan with her father who will help the people rebuild after a flood and with her mother who is a nurse. Pakistan seems like an alien place to Kelsey with its Bollywood music, mudbrick houses and ‘charpai’ woven beds. She particularly misses her afternoon teas with Nanna Rose. During their Skype sessions Nanna Rose, with additions by Kelsey, tells the story of a porcelain doll which is bought by an elderly lady and sent a long way by airmail. She is checked for bombs by customs, grabbed by a dog, dropped into a flooded river, stolen by a monkey and cared for by a couple of children.

The chapters about the doll, Amy Jo, alternate with chapters about Kelsey who has made a friend, Shakila, and is becoming part of life in her remote village school. She is able to demonstrate spoken English to help the students and asks her class in Australia to help raise money for pencils, exercise books and medicine. Even though Kelsey is comparatively rich materially, Shakila is rich in family, with multiple relatives. Rosanne Hawke doesn’t shy away from the gritty reality of life in Pakistan. One of the school girl’s sister drowned in the flood and the water shouldn’t be drunk – a problem for Kelsey when she saves Shakila’s little brother from the river. Urdu words are used thoughtfully throughout the book, and are also explained in a glossary. And Kelsey reads an ebook about a ‘girl who disappeared into paintings on the wall to save her family in the past’. (This book is outed in the ‘Acknowledgements’ as The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray – an outstanding book published in 2013 which won the Children’s category of the Aurealis awards). In creating this tale, Hawke has also been inspired by The Tin Soldier, The Lost Coin and The Velveteen Rabbit and the illustrations have been thoughtfully drawn by award-winning Briony Stewart.

Player Profile: Chris Ewan, author of Dead Line

AuthorPic-380x570Chris Ewan, author of Dead Line

Tell us about your latest creation:

My latest book is Dead Line. It’s a noir kidnap thriller set in Marseilles, with a twist — the hostage negotiator at the heart of the story is concealing a dark secret of his own.

Daniel Trent’s fiancée, Aimee, has gone missing without a trace, and Trent does everything he can to find her. He suspects that shady businessman Jerome Moreau has something to do with her disappearance, and he plans to abduct and interrogate him. But before he has chance, Moreau is kidnapped, and now Trent must get him back quickly — and alive — before time runs out.

9780571287987 (1)Where are you from / where do you call home?:

 I’m from Taunton, England originally, but I’ve lived on the Isle of Man for the past ten years. If you’ve never been to the Isle of Man, think of somewhere small and windy in the middle of the Irish Sea. Then add motorbikes.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

 I wanted to be a chef, which was pretty dumb, as I’m not a great cook. Then I wanted to be a travel writer, which explains why a lot of my books end up set in exotic locales. And the Isle of Man.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

 I think there’s probably some kind of law that says I have to tell you that my most recent book is my best, but in the case of Dead Line, I think it’s probably true. It’s definitely the novel that’s turned out to be closest to the book I had in mind when I started to write it. And I really fell in love with the city of Marseilles. It’s the perfect setting for a thriller.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I usually write in a small study carved out of the eaves in the attic of our Victorian terraced house. Just at the moment, though, I’m on vacation in Switzerland (where part of my new book will be set) and I’m writing with a spectacular view of Lake Brienz.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

 I mostly read crime fiction. Any list I give you is going to be woefully incomplete, but some of my favourite contemporary writers include Laura Lippman, Megan Abbott, Stav Sherez, Helen Fitzgerald, Ann Cleeves and Harlan Coben.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

 Ian Serraillier’s The Silver Sword, Michelle Magorian’s Goodnight Mister Tom, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Plus The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, The Hardy Boys, Sherlock Holmes and many more.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Tom Ripley, without the psychosis and the murder habit. Take those out of the equation, and I reckon he had a pretty neat lifestyle.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

 I’ve just taken up running. So far, I suck at running, but I live in hope.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Maybe not my all-time favourite food but I’m partial to the Manx national dish – chips, cheese and gravy. It tastes better than it sounds.

My favourite drink has to be coffee. I couldn’t write without it.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Raymond Chandler. Reading ‘The Long Goodbye’ for the first time made me fall in love with crime fiction, and every time I go back to it, I fall headlong under its spell all over again.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

 I’ve just finished a stint working as a writer in residence in Isle of Man schools and I’m stunned and dismayed by how few kids are reading for pleasure. There are challenges everywhere, but it seems to me that getting the next generation of potential readers to engage with books is one of the biggest.

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Player Profile: John Gordon Sinclair, author of Blood Whispers

JGS hi res cleanJohn Gordon Sinclair, author of Blood Whispers

Tell us about your latest creation:

The title of my latest novel Blood Whispers was inspired by a quote from Hermann Hesse: “I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question the stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me.” Keira lynch is a criminal lawyer working in Glasgow, Scotland. She has taken on a case involving a young prostitute who has escaped the clutches of a Serbian drug gang. When the CIA get involved Keira realises that things aren’t quite as straight forward as she’d first imagined. What no one realises though is that Keira has a secret of her own and she’s never more dangerous than when she’s under threat. The question is: will she trust her instinct and listen to the message her blood is whispering to her?

9780571283903Where are you from / where do you call home?:

 I was born in Glasgow, although I have lived in London for the past 34years. My wife is Scottish too and we still have a lot of family there so we travel back and forward a lot. We’re never away from Scotland long enough to miss it. I still refer to it as home.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

 When I was a kid I had no real idea what I wanted to do in life. I still think it’s impossible to make up your mind without having experience of whatever your chosen profession might be. The only ambition I really had was to be in a Woody Allen movie…either that or become Batman. I’m still tempted by the latter.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

 Blood Whispers is only my second novel, but I enjoyed the writing process much more than the first (Seventy times Seven). I think the positive reaction to the first gave me more confidence, so If I had to choose i’d probably go for Blood Whispers. Although having said that, I have a nagging feeling that the best is yet to come.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

 I write in a hut at the bottom of my garden called the Roald Dahl social club. I have a flame-effect fire on the wall, a sofa bed and a beer fridge. If it had running water and a Nespresso machine i’d move in permanently. I try to keep it fairly tidy, because I find mess to distracting, but I write ideas on anything that comes to hand so my desk is littered with torn bits of envelopes, scraps of paper and even the odd sheet of loo role.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I read a lot of non-fiction. That’s where most of the best ideas are hidden; Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins,  Anne Cadwallader. For fiction, Elmore Leonard, Dickens, Iain Banks, Patrick Suskind, Cormac Macarthy, Albert Camus and Vladimir Nabakov are pretty high up the list of favourites. Any one of them could take the top spot.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

 I read a lot of Enyd Blyton when I was young but the books that made the biggest impact were the Lord of The Rings trilogy. I still remember the thrill of discussing the story in the playground and to this day am slightly envious of people who belong to reading groups and book clubs. It was the first time i became aware of words being able to paint pictures in your head.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

 Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. I’m roughly the same height and share his utter disdain for Hypocracy and “the phonies”.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

 I have two young children so spare time has been missing off the options list for quite a few years now. I used to ride a motorbike and race jet-ski’s. (I cmae 2nd in the first championships in held in Scotland) When the kids are a bit older I’ll get my helmet back on and get out there.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

If it ever came to the point I was asked what my last supper would be i’d opt for Crispy Aromatic Duck and a cold beer, preferably a St Mungo (it’s brewed in Glasgow and is only one of a few beers in Britain granted the German standard for purity).

Who is your hero? Why?:

 My Dad. I remember going into the pub with him when i was in my early twenties and everyone telling me what a great guy he was. “Do anything for you, a real gentleman and one of the good guys,” were the typical sort of comments. I want to be more like him.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

 The convenience of ebooks has made them very popular, but their sales are starting to plateau. I have one myself, but I still prefer a book. No matter what form your reading takes your always going to need content and with the cost of a novel running at about half that of a cinema ticket, i’d much rather have ‘words’ creating images in my head than someone visualising it for me on a big screen. I think the future’s a bright one.


Player Profile: Chris Pavone, author of The Accident

chrispavoneChris Pavone, author of The Accident

Tell us about your latest creation:

THE ACCIDENT is an international thriller about ambition and corruption; the story takes place over one long, perilous day in the life of a literary agent who receives an anonymous, dangerous manuscript about a powerful man’s secret past.

Where are you from / where do you call home?:

 I’m from New York City, and except for university and a modest expat stint in Luxembourg, it’s where I’ve always lived.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

As David Byrne of the Talking Heads supposedly said, “I wanted to be a secret agent and an astronaut, preferably at the same time.” Which is to say: I didn’t have any rational expectations.

9780571298938What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

THE EXPATS is the novel of mine that’s more true and more special; THE ACCIDENT is a more thrilling thriller. They’re different books, but I think there’s no “best” in the comparison.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

 I write in a member’s club, which is sort of like a fine hotel lobby, with waiters bringing coffee and food, and a swimming pool on the roof, and lots of people around, all the time. I’m not productive in quiet solitude.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

 I read primarily what’s referred to as literary fiction, and also a steady diet of various types of crime novels.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

The Sun Also Rises is the book I read the most closely, the most frequently, and thought the most meaningful.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

 I’d be James Bond. I don’t think I need to explain why.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

 I cook, play tennis, do crosswords, play ball with my kids. Sometimes when I ought to be writing a novel, I’ll instead paint the dining room walls.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

Negroni on the rocks is my go-to cocktail. For the past couple of years, my favorite food to cook has been a 24-hour pork roast, recipe courtesy of the River Cottage Meat Book.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My twin sons share that honor jointly. Every day I’m amazed at their capacity for empathy, kindness, humor, enthusiasm, and overall goodness. I suspect the world would be much better if it were run by the children.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

Consumers are spending huge sums on culture and entertainment, but they’re increasingly paying it to device manufacturers, cable network operators, and internet/telecom service providers. Then they expect the intellectual property itself–the books, the news, the films, the TV shows, the games, the apps–to be “free” or approaching it. We have been tricked into lining the coffers of immensely profitable international corporations, while withholding fair compensation from individual artists, performers, writers, and other creators. This is not only unjust; it’s untenable.

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Review – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

9780340822784Where has David Mitchell been all my reading life? People have raved to me about David Mitchell many times and after seeing the excitement over proof copies of his new novel, The Bone Clocks, (due out in September) I finally decided to find out what all the fuss was about. Cloud Atlas was universally declared as the place to start and David Mitchell immediately blew me away.

On the surface Cloud Atlas appears to be six separate stories and they each work independently of one another. The stories range from  a colonial journal, to  a 1970s political thriller through to post-apocalyptic vision of our world. Each story is a magnificent piece of storytelling. Mitchell’s use of language is staggering in its skill, imagination and breadth. Each story takes his writing to new levels with the sixth story astonishing in its linguistic achievement and storytelling.

But the genius of Cloud Atlas is the way that David Mitchell has joined these stories together. The stories are interlocked in intricate and subtle ways. At first it feels like you are adding layers and when you reach the apex of Mitchell’s timeline you begin peeling them back. But it is even more than that. It is very much a sextet of stories. Each carefully arranged and conducted by an author who is unconfined by time, space or genre and utilizing the limitlessness of his imagination.

Each year I manage to discover a new author who I have missed along the way. This year’s discovery is a goldmine and I cannot wait to devour David Mitchell’s other books.before diving in to The Bone Clocks which has been described as “his most Cloud Atlas-y novel since the global phenomenon Cloud Atlas”. Can’t wait!!

Buy the book here…

What Is It? Haiku

Launch of new series: What Is It?
I’d like to introduce a new series of posts I’m going to be writing called: What Is It?  I’ll be exploring topics related to the world of books and reading as well as taking suggestions from you.

What Is It? Haiku
To kick things off, I’ve decided the first topic in this new series is going to be haiku.  Haiku is a mystery to many devotees of the written word – myself included – so, I’ve gone out into the world to learn more about the mysteriously clever art of haiku and share my findings with you.

Haiku - The Sacred Art by Margaret D. McGee book cover

At a glance:
– Haiku is a word for a specific type of poem and is originally from Japan
– A haiku (poem) contains a specific number of syllables (like a limerick contains a defined number of lines)
– A haiku contains a total of 17 syllables divided into 3 lines
– The first line has 5 syllables, the second has 7, and the third and final line contains 5 syllables
– A haiku doesn’t have to rhyme and most of the time they don’t
– Popular haiku subjects include elements from nature (seasons, animals, plants)

Now that you know a little bit more about what a haiku is, the next step is probably reading some existing work.  A good place to start is by reading Haiku – The Sacred Art: A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines by Margaret D. McGee (pictured above).

Another book to consider is Haiku Mind – 108 Poems to Cultivate Awareness and Open Your Heart by Patricia Donegan. It’s a collection of haiku poems with themes such as honesty, transience and compassion and has a wonderful calming cover just begging the reader to dive in.

If you’ve been inspired by reading some haiku by other authors and feel ready to try your hand at writing one yourself, then Writing and Enjoying Haiku: a Hands-On Guide by Jane Reichhold seems like a good a place as any to start.  You’ll read how haiku can bring a: “centered, calming atmosphere into one’s life, by focusing on the outer realities of life instead of the naggings of the inner mind.”  Sounds perfect doesn’t it?Nerd Haiju by Rob Pearlman book cover

There’s a fantastic sub culture of haiku for nerds, and this one looks like a great collection: Nerd Haiku by author Robb Pearlman.  It contains 200 poems that speak to “core elements of the nerd universe: science fiction, fantasy, comic books, super heroes, big-budget movies, role-playing games, technology, TV series, animation, cosplay, and video games.”

Let me know if you already enjoy haiku, or if you’re delving into this subject matter for the first time.  Have you written a haiku about your love of books? If so, we’d love to read it.  Here’s my attempt, although with much help:

Boomerang Books blog
Prose and opinion combine
Best explored with friends

Suggestions Welcome
Hopefully this new series will cover some interesting topics and inspire you to explore new areas in literature.  Suggestions are very welcome, so please comment below and tell us what you’d like to know more about in the great world of books.

Review – The Croc and the Platypus

The Croc and the Platypus I commented recently on the Further Adventures of the The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Julia Donaldson and Charlotte Voake. Donaldson’s ineffable lyrical style does indeed take Edward Lear’s nonsense tale one step further and is a jolly expedition for the reader to navigate through. As you’d expect, it’s a very good picture book. Then I found an even better one.

Jacki HoskingWith ute-fulls of respect to Donaldson and Voake, Jackie Hosking’s and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall’s debut creation of The Croc and The Platypus is a very, very good picture book.

Fans of Lear’s will relish the lilting musical quality of Hosking’s verse as she transports us as effortlessly as Julia Donaldson through the Australian outback with as an incongruous couple as the Owl and Pussycat; Croc and Platypus.

Hosking is spot on with this ingenious retelling of a childhood classic however, somehow makes it feel much more loose and flowing and bizarrely, even easier to read than the original. Her narrative sings with a down-to-earth gritty realism but is delivered with Lear’s same congenial, nonsensical joie de vive. Hub caps ring and didgeridoos blow as Platypus and Croc ‘play up a hullabaloo…baloo.’

I love Hosking’s incorporation of recognisable Aussie icons; Uluru, tea and damper and lamingtons to name a few as Croc and Platypus trundle across the plains eventually camping under the Southern Cross after cleverly procuring their tent. For those not so familiar with ‘click go the shears’ terminology, there’s even a neat little glossary.

Extra applause must go to Marjorie Crosby-Fairall for her truly epic acrylic and pencilled illustrations. The outback is vast and engulfing as are the illustrations of this picture book with gorgeously generous helpings of full colour, movement and sparkle on every single page.

Hosking’s appreciation of, commitment to and finesse with the rhyming word are self-evident. She works them all to perfection in this richly Aussie-flavoured celebration about embracing unlikely friendships and sharing stellar moments with those closest to you whilst enjoying a good old Aussie road trip.

The Croc and the Platypus has every reason to glow proudly alongside The Owl and the Pussycat, and dare I suggest outshine it. Croc and Platypus launch invite June 2014

Discover and rediscover all three books here. For those in Sydney around early July, make sure you don’t miss Jackie’s launch of The Croc and the Platypus.

Walker Books Australia June 2014

Orange is the New Black

Orange Is The New BlackPiper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black (ONB) story popped up on my radar first via podcast, then about a year later via a TV series. Finally, as is increasingly happening for me, I’m just now getting around to reading the book—a complete reversal of my usual philosophy.

The podcast was storytelling show The Moth, which encourages people to stand up and tell stories on a theme and without the aid of notes.

Kerman’s tale was of how she, as a conservative, university-educated woman from a stable, loving family, and who is now in her 30s and engaged, found herself spending just over a year in a correctional facility. In a boundary-testing younger life, she’d gotten caught up in carrying drug money across borders. Once.

Her story—which we find out at the end of the podcast segment has been turned into a memoir and that we now best known as a TV show—documents just what it’s like to have your youthful foolishness catch up with you. And what it means for you to enter a penal system you’d never imagined you’d need to.

I remember thinking at the podcast-listening time that Kerman was a sophisticated storyteller; that I’d love to hear more about her experience in jail. I even added her memoir to my list of must-get-round-to-reading books. Then Netflix picked up the story and produced a TV series from it, and ONB lobbed back into my consciousness—and, based on its success, a whole heap of other peoples’ too.

I won’t claim the series is without the odd plot flaw or fault, but I will say it’s excellent and compelling. Like Prisoner, the series to which it’s arguably most comparable, it has some fantastic storylines and some fantastically interesting, well-developed female characters. Not least Kerman as the lead.

Renamed inmate #11187-424 upon self-surrendering at the Connecticut facility at which she’s to spend the next 15 months, Kerman has to quickly learn both the prison and social ropes—ropes where she’s equal parts favoured and despised, depending on whose perspective you’re considering.

What’s immediately apparent is that Kerman is beautiful and educated. This stint in jail is a mere speed bump that will (as it has) make for a good story in her otherwise pretty solidly founded life. That’s what provides this story both its hook and its conflict.

ONB is a breakout show that’s achieved just about what every show would hope: It was created with little hype and a modest budget, but with plenty of focus on script development and rich acting (and props to Netflix for venturing into this non-traditional territory).

The result is a show that hefts in terms of both character development and commercial success, with fans like me dying to know more about the characters whose storylines are slowly doled out and hankering for Season 2 to start.

For instance, what will be the consequences of the Season 1 finale, which (spoiler alert) saw Kerman in a scuffle? Ok, it was more than a scuffle—she was fighting for her life after another inmate, a born-again Christian convert who feels she’s a conduit to God, attacked her with a razor.

What will become of her ex-girlfriend now-girlfriend Alex? What of her fiancé, awaiting her release and increasingly beginning to struggle with how their paths are diverging? And will we see more of Crazy Eyes, Red, and the rest of the characters who bring warmth and depth and humour in often surprising measures?

My understanding is that the series has departed a little from the book. Kerman’s former real-life girlfriend, who was the reason Kerman got caught up in the money laundering and subsequent jail time, has said the TV series-based love life aspects, for example, are vastly overblown. All of which entices me further to read Kerman’s memoir, if only to discern the points of departure.

Of course, I’m also hoping to obtain more kernels of insight into each character’s history and motivations. What circumstances led them to prison and how much of it was and is within their control? Can you break out of that prison cycle once you’re caught up in it? And is punishing rather than rehabilitating people really the way to go?

Because that’s arguably what makes Kerman’s story so haunting, relatable, and compelling: But for some misfortune in the birth lottery or some poorly considered decisions with huge and snowballing consequences, any one of us could be Kerman or one of her cellmates.

Season 2 of ONB purportedly kicks off on 6 June. I’m not yet sure how that figures in Australia, where I can’t see it on Foxtel or via iTunes. If you know to obtain it legally, by all means, please comment below.

Tara Moss, The Fictional Woman and Feminism

The Fictional WomanI had the great fortune to attend an author event for Tara Moss who was promoting her new book The Fictional Woman. For those who don’t know, Moss is a Canadian-Australian author that started out as a model at 14 years old. She claimed she was a tall nerdy girl at the time but kept hearing people say “you should be a model” so much that she eventually did. Her dream was to be an author but you aren’t much encouragement as a teenage girl to pursue a dream like that. To date Tara Moss has nine novels and The Fictional Woman is her first non-fiction title.

I was hoping to have had a chance to read The Fictional Woman before going into the event but you know what it is like, sometimes life and, more importantly, other books get in the way. I didn’t even have a chance to read a few pages to get an idea of what the book would be like but I have had a quick look since the event. There is something about an author event that I love, the experience to hear them talk about the book often makes me excited about it as well; even if it is an event for a book I hate.

Putting aside the fact I haven’t read the book, I still want to talk about it. The title comes from that idea that everyone seems to have a fictional element to their life, we tend to be placed into moulds and people don’t always believe everything we do or say. Tara Moss, like most people have had this experience; she even took a polygraph test to prove that she wrote her novels. It is important to note that this is not strictly a memoir but also a social critique on our modern world and feminism.

For Moss to write this topic, she needed to provide some historical context, how women have been treated from out the ages, etc. Looking at women in fiction we often see similar archetypes, like the rags to riches story from Cinderella, which requires a man to be happy. Look at the heroines; they are normally facing off against an evil woman, often a crazy old woman that has been depicted as a witch. Thinking about these archetypes and we see they all stem from fairy tales or medieval fiction, a time where woman weren’t considered as equals. There is also the historical context of Tara Moss‘ life that is important to look at; how a model changes peoples’ opinions of herself and all the choices of her life that have influenced her views on feminism, this is why people tend to treat this book as a memoir rather than a social critique.

It is obvious that I’m very impressed with Tara Moss; she is an intelligent woman that puts a lot of thought and research into her books and her interests. I think as far as role models go, she makes for an excellent choice. She went as far as creating Makedde Vanderwall (from her crime series) so she could learn about the world of psychology, forensics and so on. But she takes her research much more serious that that; becoming a qualified private investigator, and taking lessons on how to use weapons. She was even set on fire and choked unconscious just to understand what it felt like. She is an impressive person and even though I was looking forward to reading her new book, seeing her live has really excited me. I’ve since started reading The Fictional Woman and can confirm this book is well worth picking up.

How Nietzsche Turned me into a Reader

Hey! Nietzsche!I’m not really interested in giving people a quick introduction; I tend to mix my personal life, humour, sarcasm and knowledge into my book reviews and blog posts. However I do want to kick off talking about the book that turned me into a reader.  It wasn’t until 2009 that I discovered the joys of books and reading and something inside me clicked and I wanted to consume every book I saw. This life changing event was all because of one book, an Australian non-fiction title called Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by Craig Schuftan.

At the time I listened to a lot of music and would have cited AFI, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, and so on as some of my favourite bands. In face I was right into the music that was been played on Triple J. Craig Schuftan was a radio producer at Triple J at the time and there was a short show he made for the station called The Culture Club. In this show he would talk about the connection rock and roll has to art and literary worlds. Friedrich Nietzsche was claiming, “I am no man, I am dynamite” well before AC/DC’s song TNT.

That was a real revelation for me and I picked up Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! (subtitled; The Romantic Movement, Rock and Roll, and the End of Civilisation as We Know It) and began reading it. However it didn’t stop there; this book connected the so called ‘emo’ movement with The Romantic Movement, I never thought these bands would have anything in common with the greats like Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley or John Keats but I had to find out.

Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by  Craig Schuftan ended up taking half a year to complete; not because I was a slow reader but I wanted to know more,and  I read poetry by Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, and researched online. I picked up books like Frankenstein (an obsession of mine), Dracula and Wuthering Heights just because they were mentioned. This was a weird turn in my life but my growing thirst for knowledge became an obsession with reading. I have now set a life goal to read everything on the 1001 Books you must read before you die list.

It is weird to think one book can have such a huge impact on my life but I credit Craig Schuftan (and my wife) for such a positive improvement in my life. I will eventually read Craig Schuftan’s books The Culture Club: Modern Art, Rock and Roll and other stuff your parents warned you about and Entertain Us!: The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties but I’ve put them off because I suspect the same amount of research will be involved.

Has a book had such a positive impact in your life? I would love to know in the comments. Also are there any other books that explore the connections between art and literature with pop-culture?

Review – Sand by Hugh Howey

9781780893198Hugh Howey hooks you once again in another brilliantly imagined world. This time in a world of sand.

Sand covers everything. It has buried cities, it has buried people and it has buried secrets. People carve out an existence literally by hand. Everything is scarce, especially hope. One of the booming trades though is diving. Using specially designed suits ‘divers’ are able to dive beneath the sand dunes, recovering valuable artifacts from a buried world hundreds of metres below the ground.

Diving is a precious skill, one four siblings have been passed down from their father. However when he walked out on their family 12 years ago everything they had built and worked for was lost and their family broke apart as they tried to survive and find their place in this harsh and desolate world.

Rumours exist of a lost city full of treasures deeper than anyone has ever dived before. Vic, the eldest sibling and best diver doesn’t believe the rumours but her brother Palmer does and he has a lot to try and prove. Finding the lost city could be the way to put his family back together but there are many dangers buried above and below the sand.

Howey proved with the Wool Trilogy that he is a master of world building and all the different stories you can find inside. He does it again with the sand and dunes giving his imagination even more space to grow. The sand diving aspect is fantastic adding another dimension to the tradition of desert ‘seafaring’. Howey wraps the story up nicely with just a hint that their might be more of this world to explore in the future.

Buy the book here…

Aussie Appeal – Picture Book Reviews

Worrisome wombats, bouncing bilbies and even talking gumnuts may not be your de rigueur when it comes to picture book characters. Yet their antics make up a substantial percentage of picture book storylines and provide vital introductions and links between Aussie kids and our rich, endemic Australian flora and fauna.

Look around and you’ll find dozens of titles touching on everything from spoonbills to fruit bats, puggles to possums and jacanas to joeys. Many are by authors you know and trust offering true works of art worthy of coveting and collecting. Here is a tiny selection of some of the more recent releases.

One Woolley Wombat ReadersPerennial author illustrator, Kerry Argent, has a tatty new First Reader series out now tailored for pre-schoolers. Small colour-popping paperbacks perfect for little hands and new readers feature old mate, Woolly Wombat, his bestie, Bandicoot and a swag of other Aussie birds and beasts in easy-to-read adventures. Beautiful introductions to counting, colour, rhythm and language conventions. Scholastic Australia March 2014

The Bush Book ClubBook club nuts along with reluctant readers will adore Margaret Wild’s and Ben Wood’s The Bush Book Club. It has a little bit of brilliance on each page; rhyme, comedy, cuteness, colour and galahs! Bilby sorely needs to slow down and smell the ink but he is too busy and bouncy to read let alone actually enjoy a book until one fateful night he discovers what it’s like for his head to be ‘full of words and stories’. A marvellous look at what it takes to appreciate the wonderment of stories and a must in the classroom and home. Modestly adorable. Omnibus Books March 2014

Possum's Big SurpriseRhyming picture books are not always easy to digest (when produced badly), but done well they glide across our palates as smoothly as birthday cake frosting. So it comes as little surprise that Possum’s Big Surprise by celebrated duo, Colin Buchanan and Nina Rycroft, is a feast for 4 + year-olds and above. Fun, frisky, teasing verse coupled with super-rich, eye-pleasing water-colour illustrations, an Aussie bush backdrop and a perky possum named Flossy, give kids plenty of reasons to keep page turning. Scholastic Australia May 2014

Karana EmuSlightly more serious but quietly impressionable is Karana: the Story of the Father Emu, by Brisbane and Wakka Wakka leader, Uncle Joe Kirk and Sandi Harrold. In spite of the unwieldy title, this cyclical story is written in simple rhyming verse which unfolds easily leaving the reader fulfilled, enlightened and emphatic towards father Emu as he assumes the role of parent, nurturer, and chief educator for his chicks; just as father figures in many indigenous cultures do. An enjoyable tale to share with children because of its simplicity and heart but it was the emus’ eyes that clenched it for me; cute and clever! Scholastic Australia May 2014

 A Feast for Wombat features another Aboriginal author, Sally Morgan and first time picture book illustrator, Tania Ezinger.

A feast for WombatWombat is your typical underground slumber-champion with a strong predilection for his burrow. He rarely surfaces. When he does he encounters the goodtime antics of his friends, Goanna, Magpie and Dingo but is slow to join them in play until their persistence and kind-hearted surprise re-instates how much they value Wombat’s friendship.

Sounds a little trite and ordinary I know, however Morgan attempts to balance Wombat’s self-depreciating, woe-be-gone attitude with a questioning optimism that he displays by complimenting his friends’ various talents and by trying to replicate them albeit with little success.

I was pleased Wombat’s self-doubt is finally conquered and replaced with a greater sense of self-worth however felt a little muddled by the oscillating attitudes of Wombat’s friends towards him; sometimes generous and grateful, sometimes hurtfully frank. Four year-olds are unlikely to dwell on this (it is after all how true friends can be) gaining immense pleasure instead from Erzinger’s spirited acrylic based artwork. Keep an eye out for the hapless little spinifex mouse on each page too. Gorgeous! Omnibus Books April 2014

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie's Underwater AdventureWhether these titles stand up alongside such favourites as May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Narelle Oliver’s Don’t Let a Spoonbill in the Kitchen! and Fox and Fine Feathers, Yvonne Morrison’s The Emu that Laid the Golden Egg or Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat to name a few, time will tell. But like the tiniest creature in the Aussie bush, there is bound to be a spot for them in your heart and on your book shelves.


Review: The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry

9781447274575Following on from Elmore Leonard’s Complete Western Stories I decided to give Larry McMurtry a go. Lonesome Dove is one of my Dad’s all time favourite books but I thought I would start with his latest novel which takes on the story of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday no less.

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are household names thanks to countless movies depicting their exploits over many decades. But McMurtry takes a very different approach to these two characters of western folklore. McMurtry depicts them as more name than substance and paints them both as deeply flawed men with little redeeming features. Wyatt Earp in particular is portrayed as a drunk, wife-beater and all round recalcitrant. McMurtry’s writing though keeps you entranced and other parallel storylines and characters keep the novel in balance.

I will definitely be checking out Lonesome Dove at some point (i.e. when I am ready to commit to a big book) and continue my western binge. I think Deadwood is definitely due a re-watch.

Buy the book here…