Review: Canary by Duane Swierczynski

9781444754186It’s been awhile between drinks for a Duane Swierczynski novel but as always it has been worth the wait. Straight away its like jumping on a runaway train with that instant pleasure of having no idea where Duane Swierczynski is going to take you this time.

After the brilliant insanity of the Charlie Hardie series Duane Swierczynski grounds this story in college in Philadelphia. Sarie Holland is an Honours student who stays well away from trouble. That is until she gives a friend a ride and is left holding the bag. Busted by the cops she’ll do anything to stay out of trouble including turning into a confidential informant. A role she quickly discovers she has a talent for.

The only problem is someone appears to be bumping off snitches and that’s when trouble doesn’t just come looking for Sarie it is literally hunting her on the streets of Philadelphia. Now this Canary must unearth the rat who is helping bump off Philly’s CI’s while keeping her family in the dark about her new after school job AND study for her final exams. You just know this isn’t going to end well for a lot of people. And in Duane Swierczynski’s hands that’s just the beginning of the fun.

This is probably Duane Swierczynski’s most conventional crime novel since The Wheelman (and yes there is a link if you keep your eyes open). Packed full of the humour, unpredictable plot twists and history of Philadelphia’s underbelly fans have to come to expect this is another original page-turner that keeps the throttle on full right until the end.

Buy the book here…

Player Profile: Nigel Bartlett, author of King of the Road

Pic of me editedNigel Bartlett, author of King of the Road

Tell us about your latest creation:

My debut novel, King of the Road, was published by Vintage (Random House) in February 2015. It’s a fast-paced crime thriller that follows David Kingsgrove’s descent into hell after his 11-year-old nephew, Andrew, disappears from under his nose.

The novel is based in Sydney and New South Wales. It takes David to places he’d never believed he’d have to go and leads him to carry out acts he’d never imagined he’d have to do.

It wasn’t meant to be a crime thriller – the first draft was meant to be a somewhat literary examination of what happens to a family when your responsible for the loss of a child that’s not your own. The way it changed halfway through the first draft is one of the mysteries of the creative process.

King of the Road coverWhere are you from / where do you call home?:

I arrived in Sydney in 1995 and became an Australian citizen as soon as I was able to, in 2003. I live in the inner-city suburb of Redfern, which I’ve been proud to call home for the past 10 years.

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

Growing up, I dreamt of several possible careers.

The earliest I can remember is wanting to be a car designer (at the age of 11 or 12). In my teens I wanted to be a social worker (age 14/15), then an architect/interior designer (16/17), but I was no good at maths or art, and eventually I settled on journalism, which has allowed me to explore many of my interests.

I first articulated my dream of having a novel published when I was 22. It took me a further 28 years to achieve that goal. King of the Road was published on my 50th birthday. A very happy coincidence (or possibly something else, if you believe in general spookiness).

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

King of the Road is my debut novel. I’m very proud of it, and delighted with the reaction it’s received so far. It’s had excellent reviews on 2GB radio and in Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph, for example, and reader feedback has been outstanding. It’s extremely gratifying to hear people say they’ve picked up the book in the morning and not put it down until the evening!

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

I write at a desk at one end of my large combined living room/kitchen/dining area in my flat in Redfern.

The desk becomes quite disordered when I’m not writing, but I have a pre-writing ritual in which I clear all the papers and other junk that gather during the week around the keyboard and stack them either on my kitchen table or on the filing drawers next to my desk. I don’t like to write surrounded by clutter, although I can probably write anywhere.

This leads to the situation in which all my bills, articles to read and other bits and pieces of junk end up in a neat stack, which I never go through until I’m forced to find something I need. It’s not ideal, but it means I can write unhindered by jobs to do. And usually after a while I forget most of the articles and so on that I think are so essential, proving to me that what I think is important really isn’t.

One or both of my cats (Marcus and Will – they’re brothers) will often join me on the desk while I’m writing. When that happens I have to wait for them to settle on either side of my keyboard so they don’t disturb me with their demands for attention. Snoozing cats are very conducive to writing.

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

My all-time favourite author is Anne Tyler (Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Saint Maybe, Digging to America, etc etc) and I can read anything by her repeatedly.

I’m also a huge fan of Nick Hornby, especially About a Boy (my cats are named after the two main characters).

However, most of the books I read these days are crime novels or crime thrillers. It’s hard to name favourites, but here are a few I love: Kate Atkinson (the Jackson Brodie series), PM Newton, Ian Rankin, Peter Temple, Michael Robotham, Dennis Lehane. I’ll read any crime author to see how they do it.

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

In my young childhood I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five and Secret Seven series, and it’s only now that I realise how much I loved the mystery element of those books as much as their carefree existence and enormous breakfasts and high teas.

In my teens I felt a huge need to struggle through DH Lawrence novels and Somerset Maugham, but I remember devouring Agatha Christie novels whenever I was on holiday. They felt like a guilty pleasure when I “should” have been reading something more worthy.

(I turned to DH Lawrence again in my 30s and was able to appreciate him much more fully. Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Sons & Lovers remain two of my favourite novels.)

A book that has always stayed with me from my school days is Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves. It gave me my first glimpse into the horrors of the First World War, in an eminently readable way.

Most importantly, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee left a profound impression on me. I’ve never forgotten Atticus Finch’s advice to his daughter, Scout, that you can never truly understand a person until you “climb into someone’s skin and walk around in it”. Every kid should be given that advice when they start school.

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

Um, very hard to decide. I do like Will Freeman in About A Boy, largely because of the transformation he goes through in the novel. He’s not especially nice at the start, just like many of us (or is that just me??), but he becomes extremely likeable by the end. He shows there’s hope for us all.

I’d love to be Miss Marple, because she lives in a quaint English village and spends time in such beautiful parts of Britain. And she seems never to have had a day job. I’d prefer not to have a gender reassignment though.

I’d very much like to be Jack Reacher, because he’s completely fearless, has no qualms about not changing his underwear and is very tall, handsome and strong. He’s a bit screwed-up, but aren’t we all? (Or, again, is that just me??) And I’m not sure what his political views are. I’d need to check those out first before I swapped places with him.

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

I’m an avid gym goer and love exercise in general – lifting weights, cycling and running. They’re all great mood-changers and endorphin and seratonin boosters. Plus, they help counteract the effects of long hours at the computer. Having recently turned 50, the challenge is to keep neck and shoulder injuries in check after spending most of my adult lifetime staring at a screen.

I love television, in particular British crime series (Happy Valley and Scott & Bailey are brilliant – Sally Wainwright is The Best TV Writer On The Planet).

I can watch The Great British Bake Off until the cows come home. At one stage I had three series on the go, thanks to a DVD of the most recent series sent over from the UK and two previous series being aired concurrently on Gem.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

My culinary tastes are not highly refined. I enjoy posh restaurant meals from time to time, but I can think of better things to spend my money on.

If it’s a Friday or Saturday night, I’m very happy when any menu has lamb shanks or chicken schnitzel and mash on it, with a thick gravy or mushroom sauce. Monday to Friday I generally avoid sugar. I have to, believe me.

Favourite drink is easy: tea, tea and more tea. Very strong English breakfast (often with two teabags). I drink around 10 mugs of it a day. I’m sure it’s the reason for the arthritis in my big toe.

Who is your hero? Why?:

Once upon a time I would have said my hero was Lance Armstrong, because of the way he fought back from cancer, overcame enormous physical challenges to become a winner once again and dedicated his life to helping others to Live Strong. Sadly, he’s blotted his copybook.

I have heroes who perform amazing physical feats, whether they be everyday “unknown” people who transform their weight or shape despite huge setbacks or bodily challenges and disabilities, or well-known people who’ve set records, inspired others or gone to extreme lengths to achieve their goals.

Other heroes are people who’ve been able to forgive those who’ve committed terrible acts against them or caused them profound heartache. Examples that spring to mind are the parents at the end of Dead Man Walking, or Philomena Lee, as played by Judi Dench in the movie Philomena.

I have no idea whether their real-life counterparts were as forgiving as they were portrayed in those films, but if so, they’ve set a high bar that I don’t think I’d ever be able to reach.

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

The greatest challenge lies in persuading people to put down their smartphones and pick up a book or e-reader instead. Unless, of course, they’re reading books on their phones. It’s hard for me to tell without wandering up and down the train carriage and peering over their shoulders. Occasionally I do that as I make my way to the exit.

This challenge, by the way, applies equally to me. Facebook and Instagram are like crack cocaine as far as my brain is concerned.

Facebook Page:


The Unforgettable Book of Strange New Things


Michel FaberAuthor Michel Faber is tinged with enigma and exotica. His name sounds both European and British, with its allusion – probably fictictious – to the famous publishing house, Faber & Faber. The 54 year-old was born in the Netherlands but educated in Australia – and so could be regarded as one of our own, although he lives now in Scotland.

He completed his most recent – and supposedly last – novel while his wife died of cancer last year. Grief is one of the themes explored in The Book of Strange New Things (Canongate).

Protagonist, Peter is a Christian missionary to the Oasan people on the planet of Oasis. These people have faces like a placenta with foetuses. They have trouble pronouncing ‘t’s and ‘s’s in English and Peter translates parts of the Bible, the ‘Book of Strange New Things’, to make it more accessible. His version of Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my shepherd …’ is a triumph for these people, avoiding incomprehensible concepts such as ‘shepherds’ and the problematic sounds:Book of Strange New Things

The Lord be he who care for me.

I will need no more.

He bid me lie in green land down.

He lead me by river where no one can drown.

He make my soul like new again.

He lead me in the path of good.

He do all this, for he be God …

Peter fervently invests himself in the lives of the Oasans: helping in the fields as well as in their spiritual lives. To distinguish the people from each other, he calls them ‘Jesus Lover One, Two …’ and so on. When his favourite, ‘Lover Five’, is close to death he prays the simple but best prayer, ‘Dear God, please don’t let Lover Five die’, knowing that God can cure miraculously but doesn’t always choose to do so – perhaps an echo of the author’s own experience.

Meanwhile, Peter’s wife on earth, Bea, is struggling more than he is, but he deafens himself to her accounts of the ravages, natural disasters and food shortages on earth. The breakdown of society, personalised in the torture of their cat, is shocking, yet buffered by distance.

Both readers who enjoy sci fi and those who would normally avoid speculative fiction will find much to absorb in this thoughtful, original novel.

Fire GospelI was so impressed with The Book of Strange New Things that I also read Faber’s next most recent novel, The Fire Gospel (2008). This is another fascinating, out-of-the-box narrative and follows academic Theo Griepenkerl who finds the fifth gospel, the Fire Gospel, inside the pregnant belly of a bombed Iraqi statue. He publishes this subversive story and becomes a victim of his own success. The Fire Gospel is a very readable satire, although not as profound as the exceptional, The Book of Strange New Things.

Review: Touch by Claire North

9780356504582 (1)The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August announced the arrival of a very special talent. Claire North maybe the pseudonym for Catherine Webb (and Kate Griffin), who has already published a number of books, but Harry August was something else entirely. It was bold, intelligent, gripping and mind-blowing. Before the real identity of the pseudonym was revealed I was prepared to believe that Claire North could have been any already majorly established author, the writing was that good. With her follow-up novel, Claire North not only confirms that she is worthy of comparison with established authors, she leaves them all for dust.

The premise alone of Touch is enough to give you goosebumps. Where Claire North takes it is places you couldn’t possibly imagine. The main character, who we become to know as Kepler, is able to transfer their consciousness between bodies with only a touch. Kepler has lived for centuries. Changing bodies at will. Staying for a time in a life they find interesting, others only fleetingly. Kepler has taken over bodies when hired to and has been a facilitator for others with the same ability. But now someone wants Kepler dead and they don’t care how many hosts they kill to achieve the task.

Touch is an intensely gripping cat and mouse game where the mouse inhabits the cat and vice versa. Kepler must work out not only who wants to kill them but why. Kepler does this by inhabiting/kidnapping the would-be assassin across Europe following leads and clues back to a mysterious organization hell-bent on tracking down Kepler’s kind.

Claire North slowly builds the rules of this universe where some people can transfer bodies simply by touch. But where there are rules there are those that wish to break them and where there are people different from the rest there are people who want to eliminate them. Claire North also imagines all the possibilities that go along with this gift which takes on some truly mind-bending situations. North’s imagination is seemingly bottomless as she conjures up ingenious methods of escape, subterfuge and counter-measures. Which means you are not only kept guessing but totally unprepared for where she takes you which makes the book even more entertaining and thrilling.

The tension and stakes slowly build as we slowly get to understand who and what Kepler is. How their life has shaped and tortured them and the mistakes made along the way. The mistakes that are now coming back at every different angle. The intensity builds and by the closing stages of the book you can hardly keep up but Claire North makes sure you do.

Not only is Touch totally addictive it is also totally un-gendered. Kepler could be male or female. In fact throughout the book Kepler is both and has swapped between genders their entire life. The other ‘ghosts’ as they are known do the same thing so become undefinable by gender. They’re not male, they’re not female. They’re both and they are neither. And in the end it doesn’t even matter. Which frankly is perfection and just one example of Claire North’s skill as a writer and storyteller.

Seriously I cannot get over how amazingly good Claire North is. I could have read this book forever.The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was so smart, ‪Touch‬ is beyond genius. This will be one of THE books of 2015. Mark my words.

Buy the book here…

Review: Resistance by John Birmingham

9781742614052John Birmingham takes up where he left off at the end of Emergence. Dave is enjoying a well-earned rest after the battle of New Orleans while the rest of the world is coming to terms with the fact that monsters (Orcs, dragons, super-sized bugs, you name it) are now among us and wanting to re-subjugate their old food source. However human technologies are proving more than difficult, if not impossible, for them to overcome. New hordes of monsters soon start popping out all over the world and Dave quickly realizes that superpowers do not mean he is infallible. In fact they can even make him a bigger arsehole that he was previously.

You can tell Birmingham is having a lot of fun with The Dave as he is now known. But he also knows the limits. Dave is not hero material. He’s a pig and his new over-extended ego only expands these notions. While recovering in Las Vegas (of all places) following events in Emergence Dave really goes to town. But just when you think JB has tipped The Dave too far into chauvinistic, a-hole extraordinaire he brings his hero crashing down to earth, literally and figuratively.

JB keeps the action coming thick and fast and choosing to put us inside the heads of some of the monsters is brilliant, both for some wicked laughs and to set up some very nice spanners in the works. But the book is all about The Dave. He may not be the hero we deserve and may not want to be the hero we need but he is slowly learning the hard way how to be both.

I have no idea where book three is heading and cannot wait to find out. The even better news is the way John Birmingham has written this series I won’t have to wait too long.

Buy the book here…

Review – iF… A non-fiction picture book with punch

iFI love science. I love theories. I love natural history. But, loving something doesn’t always equate to ‘getting it’; just ask my husband. With the escalated advance of technology allowing our newer generations the most informed and complete exposure to their existence on this planet than ever before, how do we encourage them to appreciate the big picture and understand their place within it? David J. Smith and Steve Adam’s, iF…is one new way of looking at ‘big ideas and numbers’ cleverly crafted into a picture book that won’t send you into an information overload stupor.

NorDavid J Smithth American based educator, Smith uses this picture book to scale down overwhelming statistics and concepts into run of the mill, everyday thinking for the everyday, future thinkers of Generation Z. He tames ponderous topics such as the Galaxy, the history of the Earth, and the physiology and biology of our planet, reducing the incomprehensible into facts that lie down and make sense.if the Galaxy

For instance, did you know that you spend about four slices out of your typical twelve-slice pizza-life getting ready to sleep and sleeping? Seems a big waste of cheese to me, but it is precisely these sorts of mind-bending approaches that invite readers to learn more and crucially, remember more. How handy would that be for your next session of Trivia Pursuit! It’s a bonus that many of these concepts are National Curriculum based for primary-schoolers.

steve AdamsI love the organic layout and design of this picture book. Non-fiction is dressed up and delivered in the most appealing way thanks to the artwork of award winning illustrator, Steve Adams. Adams matches Smith’s out-of-the-box thinking and information-packed text with vibrant, eye pleasing illustrations that promote a repeated look or two.

Thought provoking images together with some truly left of field, incredibly plausible downscaling allows everyone, especially school aged children six to twelve years old, to grasp the colossal enormity of the world around them and beyond.if the continents

iF…is an invaluable resource not only aiding a better understanding of the social sciences and numeracy but is also an entertaining commentary that pre-empts further studies in an imaginative way.

Don’t try to take it in all at once. There is a natural chronology beginning with the Galaxy and flowing on to humanity, however, you could just as easily pick it up and launch into discussion at any point. Take time to read the note for parents and teachers too; it explains the concept of up and down scaling in more detail and suggests activities to reinforce the use of this tool in the classroom. The awe-inspiring, Earth: The Apple of our Eye, which compares Earth to a sliced apple is mind busting.if the planets

So, we may have only existed in the last 0.2 seconds of the history of life on Earth, relatively speaking, but boy, what a full 0.2 seconds they have been. If you would like to ponder on this further, simply read iF…

New Frontier Publishing February 2015if spread

Originally published in Canada and US by Kids Can Press 2014


Fifty Shades of Grey Film Review

Fifty Shades of GreyWarning: While not overly explicit, this blog does acknowledge the existence of, and briefly discuss, sex. If you’re not keen to read a blog about such things, I suggest you temporarily avert your eyes.

I couldn’t attend the Fifty Shades of Grey preview, so fronted up for the 10am session on the day of the film’s release. I felt slightly dirty doing so, until I discovered the theatre was three quarters full. Seems I wasn’t the only who had the idea.

I’m not sure what weirded me out most about attending that session. That a girl was there watching it with her mother (no, really), the 70-year-old women who were absolutely creasing themselves with laughter towards the end of the film (I’m still kicking myself for not asking them about it once the film was over), or the older gentleman I saw there who gave his wife a playful smack on the bottom on the way out (I’m not going to lie: it repulsed me).

Also, the previews were bemusingly unsubtle and geared towards the largely straight lady audience. That is, hot guys and fairytale romance in the forms of Cinderella and Channing Tatum.

Although I saw the film as soon as I could, I’ve held off on posting my review for a few days, because I’ve been a little unsure my take was wide of the mark compared with most other reviews. You see, I didn’t think the film was terrible. I thought it was relatively fine. Ok. Watchable.

Thankfully, Helen Razer sort of said as much. So I now know I wasn’t the only one who thought that way. A long-time and rabid Fitty Shades hater, she was looking forward to tearing the film apart. Instead she termed it ‘disappointingly tolerable’.

Fifty Shades of Grey is the trilogy, and now film, people love to hate. Especially if they’ve neither read the books nor seen the film. The film itself attracted much debate before anyone had even seen a single trailer.

Which made me wonder if the film would be—is being—assessed fairly. My thinking is it should be assessed in relation to the books on which is it based. And, arguably, the books on which those books are based.

The books were terribly addicitive terrible fan fiction of terribly addictive terrible books. If that’s the measure, then I think the film did a decent job. They turned a sow’s ear of a book into a not-too-terrible film.

For starters, they reigned in the massive corniness, toned down the farcical, unbelievable stuff. These include Christian’s (Jamie Dornan) obsession with having Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) eat, and the annoyingly ridiculously large number of times Anastasia either bites her lip or says (more like a 50-year-old author than a Gen Y) ‘oh my’, or both.

Neither the director nor the actors had a lot to work with, and yet they did a better job of making Anna and Christian believable and relatable than Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson did before them.

I wasn’t familiar with either actor prior to this film so I was neutral on the skills they would or wouldn’t bring to the table. I felt both were less wooden than K-Pat and gave more nuanced performances than the script easily allowed.

The sex scenes were vanilla, yes. But so were the ones in the book. (Did I mention this film should be assessed in relation to the book?) As they would be with an unfolding relationship with a girl taking first forays into sex.

I find that more realistic than if they’d gone from zero to S&M contortions. That’s even before you consider the challenges of portraying sex on screen in a film that still needs to jump through censors’ hoops in order to gain mainstream and worldwide cinema release.

Also worth noting is that although there are plenty of issues with the film (and the books that precede it), it’s not quite the domestic violence symphony hysterical critics are claiming it to be.

For starters, both characters are slightly more believable. Christian is shown to be a little more damaged and a little less BDSM-obsessed two-dimensional. And, as this BuzzFeed article notes, the film went at least part way to giving Anastasia more agency and self-awareness than the books:

Christian famously presents Ana with a contract he wants her to sign that would establish the boundaries of their relationship. Which she won’t sign! She leaves him in the end. So I’m flummoxed […] Why are people fretting over Fifty Shades of Grey more than other movies where couples fall into bed and don’t have these sorts of conversations?

‘I put a spell on you, because you’re mine’ are the lyrics overlaying the opening scenes. We don’t see Grey’s face, reminiscent of a dentist’s ad. He’s exercising, getting ready for work, selecting a grey tie from his vast collection. When we first see Anastasia she looks uncannily similar to, and is even dressed like, Bella from Twilight. This is surely deliberate.

I’m not going to lie. The opening kind of set the tone for what’s an ok-ish film. Or at least a visually arresting one as the limits of the text didn’t limit the cinematography.

There were, of course, some moments even decent acting and cinematography couldn’t save. Anastasia’s fall into Christian’s office was terrible. I don’t know how many takes they did of that, but I find it hard to believe that was the best one. Or rather, I’d hate to have seen the ones that didn’t make the cut.

But there was a lot less emailing or texting than in the books, which was refreshing, because the books got bogged down in them. Or maybe that’s coming in the second book/film…

I got some LOLs from reading around the film, especially from BuzzFeed’s 141 Thoughts I Had While Watching “Fifty Shades of Grey”. I truly think I had the same 141 the author did. And yes, ‘I will launder this item’ is the best line of the film.

So, while I don’t want to get bogged down in the furore surrounding the books and the film (led largely by those who’ve read or watched neither), I will say the film is ok enough to watch. Or, at the very least, read the books and watch the film and draw your own conclusions.

The Ruby Circle

The Ruby CircleIt’s a sign you like a series when you’re willing to try to overlook—albeit to ultimately still be largely infuriated by and not be able to forget—an incredibly annoying error on page one of the latest release.

The series? Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines. The new book? The Ruby Circle. The error? Having Adrian (the male protagonist) wish Sydney (the female protagonist and his wife) a happy anniversary.

‘Anniversary’ is a commonly misused term. It comes from the Latin anniversārius. According to the Macquarie Dictionary, it means the:

  1. yearly recurrence of the date of a past event
  2. celebration of such a date.

So, a yearly celebration. Mead had Adrian wish Sydney a happy one-month anniversary.

I get that Mead might not have understood she was misusing the word. But I don’t get that her editor didn’t. Especially when there was an easy out if Mead was adamant she wanted to use the word even though it was wrong: Sydney—grammatically and punctuationally astute Sydney—could have explained the year-related Latin origins of the word.

Now, legions of tweens will continue to mince anniversary’s meaning. It might seem like a small nitpicky thing to pick up on and something to be relegated to the realm of pet hate, but the incorrect application of anniversary is an annoying, avoidable error nonetheless. Reading it on page one? I was incensed.

The Ruby Circle doesn’t exactly start happily either, which didn’t help my first page-induced harrumphs. ‘Married life wasn’t what I expected’ is the first line. Adrian and Sydney are holed up at Moroi HQ, avoiding the Alchemists, who are outraged about Sydney’s escape from their re-education camp clutches. Oh, and her marriage to a vampire. The couple’s relationship isn’t exactly accepted by the Moroi and Dhampirs either, so it’s a miserable existence all round.

But Mead did manage to make me smile on page 3, where she includes jokes about possible songs Adrian and Sydney could have: ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ is deemed a better option than ‘Tainted Love’.

The Ruby Circle admittedly felt a bit samey as the previous Bloodlines books, but that’s not always a terrible thing. It picks up one month from where the last book left off, so the sameness could arguably be considered consistency.

For those of us (read: me) who’d forgotten how the previous book ended, Jill has been kidnapped and Sydney and co. have no idea who has taken her or why. With no leads to follow combined with Adrian and Sydney being cooped up, the characters are desperate to break out, solve the mystery, vanquish the enemy, and rescue Jill. In the interim, they’re all doing battle with their inner demons and doubts.

So, in all, reasonably compelling storylines. And, despite some of the usual plot holes so large you could drive a metaphorical bus through them (The Olive storyline with its tenuous reasoning? Pah. The fact that Sydney, the character that analyses everything and formulates a plan for every iota of her life sticks her hand in a weird robot dinosaur box with nary a second thought? Please.), I did for the most part enjoy The Ruby Circle.

There are the usual (and appreciated) zingers: ‘Has everyone decided which brave roles they’ll be taking on?’ Ms Terwilliger asks as the group concocts an insane scheme to go find and rescue Jill. ‘I can’t wait to see his nunchucks,’ Eddie says, as he and Sydney go to collect some weapons amid a herd of attack Chihuahuas.

Also, Rose and Dimitri finally make an appearance, which is what we’ve been waiting for all along. Strangely, I’d finally given up hoping and had actually been enjoying the Sydney and Adrian storyline, so I wasn’t as beside myself with excitement as I’d have otherwise been. Still, I’m not complaining. Moar Rose and Dimitri is always welcome.

I’m unsure how many books Mead has planned for the Bloodlines series. The Vampire Academy series was six in total—a number Bloodlines has, with The Ruby Circle, now equalled. While the book’s ending was final-ish, there was plenty there that would facilitate Mead picking up and running with it.

Which is obviously what I’d like her to do. I’m not yet ready to say goodbye to Sydney and Adrian, or Rose and Dimitri, especially if they’re about to start going on adventures together. I’d just like Mead and her editor to check the meanings of the words they employ. Another ‘anniversary’ annoyance and, frankly, I’ll maybe, possibly be out.

Meet Davina Bell, author of The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

Davina BellThanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Davina Bell.

My pleasure!

What’s your background in books?

I was the type of kid who read all night by the hallway light that peeked through the cracks of my bedroom door and wrote endless stories on old computer paper – the type with the holes in the side that you ripped off.

So it was no surprise to me when I eventually ended up working at Penguin as a children’s book editor. Before that, I studied Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT, which is where I reawakened my love of writing after a long dormant phase.

Underwater Fancy-Dress

Could you tell us what prompted you to write your tender picture book The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade (Scribe)? 

My friend’s nephew often stays over at her house. He’s terrified of cats, and he would have to sneak past her cat to get to the bathroom at night. She would hear him say to himself, ‘Be brave, Saul! Be brave!’

That was such a tender and beautiful story for me, and reminded me of how childhood, for all its freedoms, is full of fears, big and small. I wanted to write a book that said to children, ‘You are not alone in your fears.’

I had also just read Susan Cain’s book Quiet, which is about introversion, and how difficult life can be if you go through it believing that your introversion is a fault or a source of shame, rather than its own way of being, with its own gifts.Quiet


How did you decide what Alfie’s costume for the Fancy-Dress Parade would be?

I wish I knew! It wasn’t a conscious decision – my writing mind decides so many things for me. The more I write, the more I learn to just step out of the way and trust it do its work, and then to apply my analytical mind to editing and strengthening whatever it delivers. Captain Starfish was just there, in the story, and I loved him immediately, no editing required.

Alfie’s parents are understanding and seem to know exactly how to treat him. Who are they based on/how did you craft them?

While I was at university, I looked after the children of many families and I saw many different parenting styles at work. My friends are all now just having babies, and that has been really interesting to watch, too! So Alfie’s parents are a blend of the best bits I have seen: patience, a desire to see how the world looks from a child’s point of view, open communication, and a willingness to take each child and each day on its own terms.

Are you worried about Alfie, such a sensitive child?

Do you know what? I think Alfie is going to be okay! His parents really seem to understand and support him, and I think they’ll give him the space and support to realise that his introversion and sensitivity are, in many ways, a gift. It is hard to be sensitive – I know from experience – but you are also so awake to the world in all its tragedy and wonder.

What’s the significance of the cowboys on Alfie’s wall?

The cowboys are Alfie’s confidants – sort of like an imaginary-friend substitute. I think they are also a part of Alfie and a way for him to talk through his feelings with himself. Cowboys are daring and very devil-may-care, so perhaps they are Alfie’s alter-ego. (I feel like I’m getting very Jungian here!)

Your writing is subtle and your words carefully chosen. How important is the quality of the writing to you?

Thank you! Having worked on many picture books during my time at Penguin, I realise the importance of every single word – how it’s thought over, taken out, put back in, played around with. This is the process I went through with my text because I absolutely believe that we owe it to the child reader to make their early experiences of books really high-quality ones.

I also wanted to tell a story about shyness and sensitivity and introversion without talking specifically about those concepts, and that pushed me to be subtle and to tread lightly.

How closely did you collaborate with the illustrator, Allison Colpoys? Hating Alison Ashley

I was lucky enough to collaborate extremely closely with Allison on the book – we have a fantastic working relationship and a shared vision, so it was such a glorious process to go through together. We workshopped every creative decision, big or small, and it was so much fun. As a long-time fan of her award-winning cover design, I feel incredibly blessed to have had her illustrate Alfie’s story. Nobody can believe this is her first picture book!

Thanks very much, Davina.

Thanks for the great questions!

(Allison Colpoy’s cover for Hating Alison Ashley)

Doodles and Drafts – Waltzing with Bruce Whatley


In just a couple more months, Australia commemorates the Centenary of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. Dozens of new titles are already marching forward to mark the occasion with heart-rending renditions of tales about ‘bloodshed, death, ruin, and heartbreak.’ This is how singer/songwriter, Eric Bogle views the futility of war.

And the Band Played Waltzing MatildaIt’s a timely message that fortunately more and more schoolchildren are gaining a deeper respect and understanding for through historic picture books like this one, And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.

Bogle’s iconic lyrics make your chest heave with anguish at the awful waste of life, yet rippling beneath the waves of depression, is an undercurrent of pride and admiration, perhaps borne from a determination to never ever let this happen again; and yet we do.

One wonders how so beautiful and wrenching a tale could be visually resurrected to deliver the kind of visceral impact young people will appreciate and gain from. Easy, you get a master with the surest of touches and the purest of hearts to illustrate it. You allow his colours to bleed across images that tumble across the pages, injured and torn, dirty and forlorn. You watch until your skin prickles with emotion and your eyes burn with tears.

Today, I am honoured to have that master at our draft table. Please welcome, Bruce Whatley. Here’s what he had to say.

Who is Bruce Whatley? Tell us one thing about yourself we are not likely to find on a web site.

If it wasn’t for my Mum I would not have the use of my right arm. Injured at birth, the damage to my right shoulder was such that she was told it would whither and be useless. Fortunately she refused to believe it and after nearly three years of massaging I held a spoon in my right hand for the first time. Since then I think I’ve held a brush as that’s the hand I’ve made my living with.

You’ve penned and illustrated many children’s stories. What aspect of children’s book creation do you prefer? Which do you regard yourself more proficient at and why?

When I write and illustrate it isn’t as if I write first then think ‘How am I going to illustrate this?’ It comes together like a movie in my head and I don’t really separate the text from the images. That’s why the text and images are so reliant on each other in my books, they compliment and bounce off one another to tell a more complex story.

I guess I think of myself as a better illustrator than writer because that is my background but I am enjoying writing more and more and as I get more confident am working on longer manuscripts. Doing both means if I hit the equivalent of writer’s block when illustrating I can put down the brushes and write for a while.

Can you name one title you feel exemplifies your work the best? Is it the title you are most proud of, or is that yet to come?

The book I’m working on now I am most proud of. This is the book I would give up all others to have published. It is a story I’ve written and though the illustrations use the simplest of mediums – the medium I am most comfortable with – lead pencil – they comprise extensive use of 3d programs to create a unique world and environment. This book will have no compromises. This will be the best I can do. ‘Ruben’ approx. 120 page picture book.

Bruce Whatley and Jackie FrenchRecent picture book collaborations with Jackie French have focussed on dramatic occurrences such as natural disasters. And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, is no less powerful. What attracted you to take on and to fulfil a project of this emotional magnitude?Wombat

Because they were of such emotional magnitude. Success with wombats and ugly dogs had the potential to pigeon-hole me as a particular type of storyteller. I am always looking at ways of growing as an illustrator, looking for new ways of expressing the narratives. These books also enabled me to explore what I had discovered using my left hand. That I produce far more expressive and emotional images drawing with my other hand. Matilda is by far the most emotional book I have illustrated.

Did you ever feel emotionally challenged at any point of this book’s production (because of its heartrending subject matter)? If so why?

I based my illustrations on original photographs taken in Gallipoli at the time. Even though I needed to adapt what I was looking at I wanted the images to be based on reality as much as possible. When using photos this way especially when drawing details it is a bit like those ‘spot the difference’ puzzles you get in newspapers and magazines – you flick your eyes from one to the other to spot the differences. Similarly when you are copying an image you flick from the photograph to your drawing to make sure you are getting the right shape and size etc. It’s not so much about what you are drawing you are concentrating on lines, shapes and position.

I was doing this on one of the illustrations. It wasn’t until I completed the piece I realised what I thought was a rock was the hand of a dead soldier. I lost it at that point.

Matilda illo spread 2This was symbolic to me as it highlighted that we look without seeing. We watch the old veterans march and wear their medals. Old men. But we don’t see the 19 year old that watched their mates get their legs blown off. We do forget. And we still send our children to war.

You are enviably competent in a number of illustrative mediums and styles. Describe those you used and incorporated into Matilda.

As I said I’m always looking for new ways to illustrate. Matilda was done with my left hand – which has a mind of its own!!! I can’t write with my left hand and really I have very little dexterity when I use it – but depending on your definition I draw better with my left than with my right. I used a waterproof felt tip pen for the line work then an acrylic wash over the top. Using acrylics instead of watercolours meant I could work in layers without dragging the colour from underneath.

The predominant colour scheme throughout this book is one of solemn sepia hues stained with splashes of red. What mood are you trying to convey with this palette choice?

I guess it was influenced by how we normally see this period but also I wanted to reflect the mud and despair. Bright colours suggest hope and laughter – I don’t think there was much of that.

Waltzing Matilda 4-5Your use of perspective at the start and end of this tale is both visually arresting and choking with emotional impact. Was this your intention? How do close up views influence the feel of a picture book story when compared to flowing landscape illustrations?

Faces are amazing things and I often have my characters looking directly out at the reader. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I think that last close up opens that window a bit. (Interestingly I could not have achieved that intensity with my right hand.) Being so close also means it’s in your face literally. After watching from a distance suddenly you are confronted with the reality of the consequences.

What’s on the draft table for Bruce Whatley?

Ruben is my main focus but there are more books coming out soon I’ve written with my wife Rosie and illustrated with my son Ben. And there are always wombats waiting in the wings.

Just for fun question – You illustrate with both hands. Have you or would you ever consider or attempt to illustrate with your feet?

I haven’t but would if need be. The question would be ‘Which?’ Left or right???

Bruce & RubenIndeed. A hundred thanks Bruce!

I could wax lyrical all day about And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, but urge you to experience this amazing story for yourselves. Read it. Sing it. Share it. Do not forget.

Allen & Unwin January 2015


What Came First: the Egg or the Spoon?

WickedMost people know of the musical Wicked, a revisionist telling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz that empathises with the ‘bad’ witch, but not everyone knows that it is inspired by Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years series: Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men and Out of Oz. He’s written other books for adults, including short stories, and has a range of books for children and young adults. I particularly like What the Dickens: the Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy and his latest, Egg & Spoon.

In Egg & Spoon (Candlewick Press) Maguire has again featured a witch. This time it is the wacky Baba Yaga from Russian folklore whose forest hut runs around on chicken legs. (Incidentally, Anna and Barbara Fienberg also wrote about Baba Yaga for much younger children in Tashi and the Baba Yaga and the talented Geraldine McCaughrean wrote a picture book about Baba Yaga, Grandma Chickenlegs, illustrated by Moira Kemp.) Baba Yaga is the source of sly humour in Egg & Spoon and a gateway to the Russian tradition and culture that is interwoven into the story.


Egg & SpoonTwo thirteen-year old girls of very different backgrounds, Elena is a peasant with a dying mother and conscripted brother and Ekaterina (Cat) is from a wealthy background who is lined up to possibly marry the Prince, meet when Cat’s train to St Petersburg breaks down. They circle each other, drawn by their similarities and differences, until Elena accidentally takes Cat’s place. The opportunity to try to petition the Tsar for her brother’s release is too great for Elena to miss and so she takes Cat’s identity.


The Faberge egg that Cat’s chaperone Great-Aunt Sophia has had made to impress the Tsar and his godson, the Prince, is a symbol of exotic Russian folklore. It is covered in designs with three openings cut into it like windows or scenes from a theatre. They show the magic flying Firebird, a phoenix; the albino ice-dragon, Zmey-Azdaja; and Baba Yaga and her house.


Baba Yaga is the source of most of the novel’s humour. When she disguises herself as Cat’s governess she says, ‘I am getting to like this martinet drag … It brings out my inner Mary Poppinskaya.’ And when the Prince tells her that he knows all about suffering from reading Dostoyevsky and Balzac, Baba Yaga retorts, ‘You want suffering. I’ll kick you in your Balzac.’


Egg & Spoon is attracting wide acclaim. It is a gorgeous hard-cover gift book for young adults and adults. What the Dickens

Review: Oliver Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

9781471149047I missed this Pulitzer Prize winning novel the first time around and after watching the first 15 minutes of the new HBO mini-series I know I had to read the book. Reading a book whilst simultaneously watching the television show has its own challenges but for the most part I managed to read behind watching the TV show which just finished screening here in Australia..

The book is made up of short stories all set in the small coastal Maine town of Crosby featuring to various degrees Olive Kitteridge. We are introduced to Olive through her husband Henry. In other stories Olive pops up in or is mentioned on the fly. But as we get to know Olive through others’ eyes, and then her own, we get to meet a complex woman who is often misunderstood and maligned. Olive is a blunt, no-nonsense Maths teacher who only gets blunter and less tolerant for nonsense as she gets older. While to others, especially her son, she appears uncaring and brutal she is in fact a very caring and sympathetic person who is much-loved by her husband Henry whom she is fiercely protective of. Through Olive we get a fantastic insight into getting older and the fears, joys and sadness that it brings.

The TV series is a distilled version of the book focusing much more on Olive. It does a fantastic job of capturing Olive’s journey but at the expense of her surroundings. The book captures more of the town and the other people living in it and Olive’s story is interspersed with the tribulations of others. The mini-series is much more linear and continuous whereas each story in the book is self-contained and can be read and appreciated on their own. Both the book and the TV series suck you into their world and it was an absolute pleasure to read and watch both.

Buy the book here…

Books of Love – For Kids

How will you be celebrating this Saturday February 14th?  Some see it as a chance to demonstrate the most romantic of gestures, showering their special ones with gifts of affection. Others only need to show an act of kindness to prove they care. Either way, whether it’s Valentine’s Day, International Book Giving Day or Library Lovers’ Day for you, this Saturday marks a day of appreciation for those we adore (including our love for books).
Here are some heartwarming stories that beautifully incorporate tenderness, charity, compassion, friendship and giving.  

514TikhmbnL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Hooray for Hat!, Brian Won (author / illus.), Koala Books, 2014.

Hooray for Hat! is an entertaining story that explores feelings, generosity and friendship. Depicted with a black scribble above his head and a wrinkled brow, Elephant woke up feeling grumpy. But an unexpected present at the door soon changes his mood. A marvellous multi-tiered hat immediately cheers up Elephant. Here, the book makes full use of the double page spread by turning Elephant on his side and includes large, colourful text, ”HOORAY FOR HAT!” Eager to show Zebra, Elephant discovers that he, too is grumpy. ”Go Away! I’m Grumpy!” As the story continues, Elephant carries on spreading the cheer by gifting each animal with a magnificent hat, bringing them out of their terrible mood. Showing concern for Lion’s friend, Giraffe, the group plan a spectacular surprise; a very grand, loving gesture.
With gorgeously strong and colourful illustrations, repetition and boldness of the text, Hooray for Hat! is a fun read-aloud book about friendship and compassion that young children will love.  

AllMyKissesAll My Kisses, Kerry Brown (author), Jedda Robaard (illus.), ABC Books, 2014.  

Another book about inspiring generosity is this story of a loveable piglet in All My Kisses. Abby is very kissable. She receives lots of kisses at bedtime, and likes to collect them in a special bucket. Abby is over-protective, claiming the kisses are too precious to share around. The overflowing bucket of kisses eventually turn into bleak, grey pebbles, so she discards of them in the playground. Soon Abby discovers that her pebbles are more than just that; they are a source of joy and delight for other children, with magical glowing properties at night. Abby eventually realises that sharing her kisses makes them much more valuable than keeping them to herself.
The message of spreading warmth and togetherness flows across the pages, depicted by the soft and gently painted pig characters. All My Kisses is a tender story about encouraging affection. It is a beautiful bedtime story for toddler to preschool aged children.  

61VkdeZCUsL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The Scarecrows’ Wedding, Julia Donaldson (author), Axel Scheffler (illus.), Scholastic UK, 2014.
From the dynamic duo that brought us The Gruffalo is Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s, The Scarecrows’ Wedding. A story of love between two scarecrows, Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay.
In beautiful, sophisticated rhyme, the verses tell of their journey as they plan their big wedding day. Hunting around the farm for the necessary items, the animals are more than charitable in offering to help with the dress, music, jewellery and flowers. But when Harry goes astray on his quest, the farmer replaces him with an obnoxious, greedy scarecrow called Reginald Rake. Luckily, Harry returns to save his future wife from deadly peril, Reginald abandons the scene, and the lovebirds enjoy the best wedding yet.
Scheffler’s characteristically enticing and bright illustrations, and Donaldson’s delightfully rhythmic and humorous text, proves The Scarecrows’ Wedding to be both a fun and heartwarming read that kids and adults will love to share many times over.  

517Hb7bBBAL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Spots: One bird’s search for the perfect plumage, Helen Ward (author / illus.), The Five Mile Press, 2014.

We love this story of a guinea fowl who just wants to fit in. It is a book about learning to love yourself, and spreading warmth around with something so simple… a smile.
This particular guinea fowl is missing his spots. So he orders a delivery, only to discover the spots were all wrong. As more spots arrive, he finds they are too small, too invisible, and too bright. Join-the-dots spots are not quite right, and neither are splats, dots from i’s, freckles, leopard or ladybird spots. The spots that he finally wears are certainly unique and unashamedly eccentric, and this acceptance of himself assures his happiness.
Beautifully simple text in rhyming prose, with the elements of humour and ingenuity. The illustrations are equally whimsical and expressive, and include interesting texture; both seen in the paintings and felt on the paper.
Spots is an endearing book about giving, receiving and appreciating what you’ve got, and is perfectly suited to preschool-aged children.  

the+swapThe Swap, Jan Ormerod (author), Andrew Joyner (illus.), Little Hare, 2013.

From the late Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner is a story of sibling love (in disguise); the award-winning The Swap. Here we have a classic case of a mother ogling over her precious baby, and an older sibling feeling the jealousy curse. Caroline Crocodile is tired of hearing how gorgeous her baby brother is, and how he takes up the room on her Mama’s lap. She just wants some smacky-smoochy love for herself. When Mama Crocodile asks Caroline to look after her brother for a little while, it is what happens next that really hooks us in. Caroline decides to take her dribbly baby into the Baby Shop, and it is one of those laugh-out-loud moments when in a surprising twist, the shopkeeper agrees to swap him for other animal babies. With all good intentions, Caroline trials one at a time, only to discover that none of them quite match the brief. With a ‘gorgeous’ ending, Caroline understands why her brother is special and accepts him just the way he is, dribbles, smells and all. She also gets the reward from Mama that she always longed for.
The warm, humorous text matches perfectly with Joyner’s illustrations, including terrific character expression, plenty of fun and interesting details in every scene, and the soft pastel colour tones and patterns that reflect a bit of a groovy, retro vibe.
Classy look, classy tale, The Swap is a true all-round classic that is irresistibly lovely for children and adults, alike.  

So which beautiful books will you be sharing with your loved ones this Saturday?  

The Westing Game

The Westing GameEvery so often I’m reminded that of the sheer volume of good books in the world and the narrowness of my reading vocabulary. Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game is one example of a book that had until recently escaped my awareness.

Hugely touted via a recommendation on a podcast I listen to (if I recall correctly, it was one of the co-hosts on the Pop Culture Happy Hour), The Westing Game sounded like a book I was remiss not to have read.

Even more so given it’s apparently a Puffin Modern Classic and a Newbery Medal winner (the book cover tells me so). It’s doubly mystifying, then, how this one escaped my book knowledge periphery.

Raskin, the book’s introduction tells me, was an illustrator before she was an author. The introduction was actually written by the book’s editor and is testament to the long history of knowing someone and giving them a chance that yields a fruitful, long-term relationship.

Raskin wrote The Westing Game for (and dedicated to) Jenny, a person whose identity I don’t know, but who purportedly requested a puzzle book. The Westing Game was the last book Raskin was to write and neither she nor her editor knew what it would be until Raskin had written it.

Raskin’s philosophy was apparently if she knew what was going to happen in a book in advance, she would be too bored to write it. As someone who has a similar writing style, albeit one not nearly as successful, I can appreciate and attest to that. (Even if I can simultaneously concede it’s not the most efficient writing style.)

As with all of the best children’s authors, Raskin didn’t explicitly write for children. It seems she didn’t even know what children’s books were like because she only read adult books. She told her editor she wrote for the child in herself. Her editor disputes this kindly: ‘I think she wrote for the adult in children.’

Either way, her work is exquisite and mind-bending.

‘The sun sets in the west tower (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east,’ is the opening sentence of the book. It offers savvy insight into the off-the-wall elements The Westing Game contains.

Its premise is that an assortment of people—including a dressmaker, a secretary, a doctor, a judge, and a social climber—are first approached to live in Sunset Towers, then find themselves named heirs to be of a murdered millionaire recluse. The fortune will be theirs, they’re told, if they can make sense of the murdered millionaire’s cryptically bamboozling clues.

Raskin’s tale is captivating and her characters finely wrought; the tension in their relationships is intriguingly complex with none of the characters particularly likeable, but aspects of them being recognisable to many of us.

I’ll not deny I couldn’t quite keep any of the characters or clues straight in my mind, partly because Raskin pinballs the narrative all over the place, but mostly because my brain is not good as this stuff. Nonetheless, I enjoy The Westing Game sufficiently to both understand what the fuss was about and to be reasonably encouraged to recommend the book to others.

There are plenty of amusing moments wedged in among the mystery. These include: ‘Why are you standing there like a statue?’ Hoo (the father) shouts at (son) Doug after an explosion. ‘You told everybody to stay where they were,’ Doug replies, to which Hoo shouts: ‘You’re not everybody!’

Then there is the jittery chaos that sees the bomb squad called in several times after two bombings in the building. One call-out turned out to be for suspicious package found to be a dust-filled vacuum cleaner bag.

Another was for a box of chocolates delivered by a husband to his wife: ‘What do you mean, how come?’ he asks incredulously when questioned about his actions and motives. ‘Can’t I send candy to my wife without getting the third degree? I thought you were looking on the thin side, ok?’ he says to his wife. She makes him eat the first piece of chocolate. Just in case.

Raskin won the Newbery Medal for this book in 1979, long before many of us were born. The award’s bestowed on the author of the book deemed the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children for that year.

That The Westing Game is still in print and being discovered and relished by readers is testament to its award-winning worthiness. If you haven’t yet read it, as either an adult or child, I most definitely recommend you get round to doing so.

Books with the word ‘Girl’ in the title

In the last two months, I’ve read three books with the word girl in the title. In December I read Gone Girl, in January I read The Girl on the Train and I just finished reading The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan. I started to wonder if this was a recent trend in book titles, but when looking back over books I’ve read in previous years, I discovered plenty of books with the word girl in the title.

Just for fun, I’ve decided to list them here in the order they were read:

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
A young girl is lost in the woods after stepping off the nature trail while walking with her family. She listens to her walkman for comfort and her favourite baseball player, Tom Gordon.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larssonmillennium trilogy Stieg Larsson book covers
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo burst onto the book scene several years ago, and readers couldn’t get enough of the Millennium Trilogy. Lisbeth Salander – genius hacker with a photographic memory, extremely poor social skills and a mysterious past – is an unforgettable character. Together with Blomkvist, they investigate a disappearance.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
This time Blomkvist helps Lisbeth Salander who finds herself in trouble. Knowing the author has passed away in 2004, certainly increased interest in the series.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg LarssonWild Girl Kate Forsyth
The final in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is about ‘the trial’ and I found it the least enjoyable of an otherwise exciting and gripping trilogy.

The Wild Girl
by Kate Forsyth
This is the story of Dortchen Wild, a young girl growing up in the medieval town of Hessen-Cassel in Germany. Dortchen lives next door to the Grimm family; the brothers being famous for their collections of fairytales. It is a little known historical fact that Dortchen told the brothers almost 25% of their stories, this is her story told by Australian author Kate Forsyth.

Cemetery Girl
by David J. Bell
Caitlin is found dirty and dishevelled 4 years after she goes missing and her parents struggle to find out where she’s been all that time.

just_a_girl by Kirsten Krauth
just_a_girl is about fourteen year-old Layla, provocative, daring, reckless and a tease. Set in the Blue Mountains, this is a book for mature readers (in my opinion).Girl on the Train Hawkins

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Blockbuster novel that needs no introduction, also now a major motion picture starring Ben Affleck.

The Girl on the Train
 by Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train is gaining popularity and is a cracking read with flawed characters. Rachel catches the same train to London each day and enjoys looking at the houses and sometimes imagining the lives of those who live there. One day she sees something that will change her life forever (and it’s not a murder).

The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan
I finished this recently and adored it. If you like the writing style of Australian author Kate Morton then you’ll love The Girl in the Photograph. An historical fiction novel told in the the past and present, this is a haunting and atmospheric mystery.The Girl in the Photograph Kate Riordan cover

The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White is on my TBR pile, and almost qualifies, while I’ve given an honourable mention to Kiss the Girls by James Patterson.

So, how many of the titles above have you read? Do you have any books to add to the list? What have I missed?

Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

9780575097582I’d been meaning to get to this series all of 2014. After being totally amazed by both The Girl With All The Gifts and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August I asked the person the Australian publisher who had recommended them both what I could checkout next. And this was the series they said. So having failed to get around to it in 2014 I thought I’d kick off with book one first up in 2015.

I think part of the reason I kept putting off the series was the quote from Diana Gabaldon that the series was like “if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz”. Not because I have anything against a Diana Gabaldon quote (I am loving Outlander, can’t wait for Part 2 of Season 1 and now know why early in my bookselling career so many people kept asking for the next book in the series!). The reason I think I delayed was because I already had my “Harry Potter for Grown Ups” obsession in 2014; The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman. So two in one year didn’t feel right. So again, new year, new obsession. And I am definitely obsessed with this series.

To sum the book up it is a British police procedural full of wicked humour and a big dollop of magic. Peter Grant is a freshly minted police constable in the London Metropolitan Police Service. He’s hoping against hope he gets assigned somewhere glamorous and not given a boring desk job. When he attends a brutal murder scene and takes a witness statement from what turns out to be a ghost his concerns about a boring assignment are completely forgotten. Instead Peter is introduced to London’s underworld. No, not the underworld of gangs, drugs and crime but the underworld of wizards, vampires, nymphs and river gods. And things are not on the up and up in this under world. On top of territory disputes there are other tensions bubbling to the surface. Tensions that threaten to burst onto the streets of London in a full-scale riot. Peter must navigate through his new circumstances learning not only the craft of magic but careful diplomacy at the same time as tracking down a spirit which appears to be at the heart of all the violence and trouble that is slowly flooding the streets.

I am well hooked on this series and cannot wait to get into the rest of the books. The humour is that pitch perfect British variety that combines the sardonic with surreal in perfect balance and the blend of London history, real and magical makes for truly entertaining reading.

Buy the book here…

Review – Thelma the Unicorn

We’re all familiar with the theme of acceptance and being content with whom and what we are. It’s been relayed a thousand ways, right. But have you ever discovered self-worth with the aid of a carrot? Thelma has.

Thelma the Unicorn Aaron Blabey’s dazzling new picture book, Thelma the Unicorn not only deals with this theme in a fresh, clean, pink unicorny way but it has a sparkly front cover to boot; guaranteeing extra eye-appeal.

Thelma is a little ordinary pony who yearns for loftier heights. She dreams of being a prancing, pampered unicorn, the sort that never goes unnoticed. She believes this will elevate her into special-dom.

Her best mate, Otis tries to convince her otherwise. ‘You’re perfect as you are,’ he insists. But Thelma isn’t having a bar of it. When she spots a carrot on the ground, ideas of grandeur and transformation take serious hold and after a truck incident involving pink paint and glitter, she reinvents herself as, Thelma the Unicorn.

A shimmering star is born Thelm illo spreadas she sashays before a world that quickly becomes obsessed with her glamour. Intoxicated with her newfound fame, Thelma laps up the attention.

However, with great recognition often comes diminished privacy as Thelma soon discovers. Adoration rapidly turns into possession and Thelma’s life just as wildly slides out of her control. Until that is when one night she can no longer stand the isolation of fame and makes yet another life-altering decision.

Aaron BlabeyI truly love Blabey’s rendition of this tried and tested theme. The lilting rhyming text lopes along at a much more satisfying pace than Pig the Pug did for me (apologies to any Pug fanatics). It is a real pleasure to read.

I have always been a fan of Blabey’s bulbous-eyed human depictions as well, but really enjoyed the simple, long-lashed beauty of Thelma and Otis, who sit harmoniously alongside his quirky human character illustrations.

Tongue in cheek humour pops up regularly in the text and illustrations throughout Thelma’s foray into fame-dom, which helps to point out to young readers that all things that glitter are not necessarily that attractive in the long run and it’s okay being who you are even without a horn stuck on your head. Thelma the Unicorn is the perfect kind of ‘special’ to share with three-year-olds and above.

Feel good and funny.

Out this month and available, here.

Scholastic Press February 2015


Guest Blog Post: On the writing of ‘Celebrating Australia, a year in poetry’ by Lorraine Marwood

Celebrating_Australia_CVR-HRIntro: This is my sixth book with Walker books Australia and all the books are either poetry collections or verse novels. They are written for children (and always adults too)

What does it take to write a whole collection of poems about the word ‘Celebration’?

Well it takes lots of research, remembering, collecting ideas, words, customs, traditions and finding an immediate way into a topic that brings that child and adult reader right into the middle of a special time.

It also took a year of writing and reflecting and rewriting. Seventy two poems star in this collection, but many more were written but just didn’t make it to the final cut.

My editor Mary, encouraged and suggested and thoroughly went through each poem for balance, word choice and overall appeal. Thanks Mary.

Some celebrations made the backbone of the collection like: Australia day, Easter, Valentine’s day, Anzac day, Christmas. I wanted the seasons included as a demarcation of changes and progression in the book. Once the autumn poem was written (which incidentally was the first poem I wrote for the collection) then I used the same beat, word count and line break for the other seasonal poems.

My poetry shows that I love concrete details, sound words, sensory images and a unique patterning for each poem. I also love unexpected surprises and poetry is a great format for this.

Each poem is a little universe, with a beginning, a middle and end that spins you around to the beginning again.

I love embracing all the multi-cultural high points of the year like: Harmony day, Chinese New Year, Bastille day, Ramadan, Hanukkah, to name a few.

Throw in some quirky celebrations like talk like a pirate day and International dot day and there’s a poem to read for every Australian milestone in the year.

Lorraine Marwood lives in central Victoria and loves writing, reading, gardening crafting , writing and has a big family and even bigger collection of grandchildren. Her verse novel ‘Star Jumps’ won the children’s section of the Prime Minster’s literary prize.


‘Perfect’: Freya Blackwood and Danny Parker

ParachuteYesterday I was fortunate to hear about upcoming releases from Hardie Grant Egmont at their roadshow. Kate Brown, marketing manager, opened by informing us that there has been an 81.58% growth in the children’s book market since 2003. When comparing this with the 8.84% growth in adult fiction and 6.55% decline in adult non-fiction, the importance of children’s books is obvious.

One of the highlights of the event was hearing children’s publisher Margrete Lamond interview Freya Blackwood and Danny Parker about their first picture book collaboration, Perfect (from the Little Hare imprint). Even though it won’t be available until the end of September it did sound ‘perfect’, relaying a simple, idyllic outdoors childhood.

Both these creators already have a strong body of work behind them. Danny’s is not as extensive as Freya’s but includes one of my favourite picture books, Parachute, which was sublimely illustrated by Matt Ottley, and Tree, also illustrated by Ottley. Parachute was CBCA shortlisted last year.

Maudie and BearFreya Blackwood is one of my absolute favourite illustrators. She created the inimitable design, illustrations and print fragment collage in The Treasure Box, written by Margaret Wild, which was shortlisted in the Qld Literary Awards and CBCA. She has also collaborated with Libby Gleeson in a number of titles, including Banjo and Ruby Red and Look, a Book! One of my other personal favourites is Maudie and Bear, written by Jan Ormerod, where Freya experimented brilliantly with panels as doorways. This won the CBCA early childhood award.

Little Hare has a history of excellent books, including The Swap by Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner and the Audrey of the Outback junior novels, written by Christine Harris, illustrated by Ann James.Audrey

Danny also spoke about his upcoming series called Lola’s Toy Box. It wasn’t just Danny’s entertaining talk or his juggling that grabbed my attention. This series looks very special. It’s about a human girl whose problems and issues are addressed when she goes inside the toy box and interacts with the forgotten toys in different scenarios. Danny uses intertextuality from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Where the Wild Things Are and other well-known books. Realism bookends fantasy in his plots.

Debut author, Zanni Louise spoke about her upcoming picture book Too Busy Sleeping. This is illustrated by Anna Pignatoro.  Fascinatingly, Zanni was discovered through her blog.

Another debut author, Patrick Guest, was inspired by his son’s battle with terminal illness to write That’s What Wings Are For. It looks like another special title from Little Hare.

And one of my favourite YA authors, Melissa Keil, is published by Hardie Grant Egmont. Seek out Life in Outer Space and The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl.


2014 Retrospective

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! What? It’s February? Already? How did that happen? Okay… so I’m a little late. I’ve been a bit preoccupied writing a book. But I’m taking a break to catch up with things and do a 2014 retrospective.

It was an amazing and busy year for me. As a result, I didn’t end up reading nearly as many books as I had planned to. 🙁 But on the bright side, the books that I did read were pretty great. So choosing my favourites is difficult. But I’ll give it a go…

POPPYFavourite picture book: The Poppy by Andrew Plant [see review]

Favourite kids’ book: The Tale of Despereaux: being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread by Kate DiCamillo [see mini-review in “10 mini- reviews”]
Okay, this is an older book, but I read it for the first time in 2014.

Favourite YA book: In Hades by Goldie Alexander [see mini-review in “10 mini- reviews”]

Favourite grown-up book: Nil By Mouth by LynC [see: “Launching LynC’s Nil by Mouth”]

Favourite short story collection: Death at the Blue Elephant by Janeen Webb [see mini-review in “Catch-up”]

9781849907712Favourite Doctor Who book: Salt of the Earth by Trudi Canavan
This was an e-novella released as part of the Time Trips series during 2014. All these stories have now been collected together and will be released in hardcover in March — Time Trips. I get to brag about this one. Trudo asked me to beta read it for her, so I got to see it long before it was published. 🙂 It’s a great story in its own right, an excellent Doctor Who story and the characters of Doctor #3 and Jo Grant are spot on.

Favourite non-fiction book: The Boy in the Book by Nathan Penlington [see review]

9780670078004The new reading year is off to a great start, with several books devoured so far. I’m hoping I can maintain this pace for the remainder of the year. The first book for the year was Blueback by Tim Winton. What a delightful surprise it was. A deceptively simple tale about growing up and pursuing dreams, it is beautifully written. Filled with observations about life and nature and family, with an environmental message that isn’t preachy. I loved this book so much. I was very pleased to discover that it is on the Year 7 reading list for English at many schools. There is a lot in this book to spark discussion.

On the writing front, 2014 was extremely productive. I wrote three books for the education market and I had twelve education books published, including seven school readers, four non-fiction books for the Australian curriculum and one novelette tied in to the Australian geography curriculum.

The BIG thing for me in 2014 was the launch of my You Choose series. These interactive kids’ books, inspired by my own childhood love of Choose Your Own Adventure books, were published by Random House Australia. The first two books, The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove and Mayhem at Magic School, came out in April 2014, with the second two, Maze of Doom and The Haunting of Spook House, in June.

yc06_smSince then, I’ve been working on the next four in the series, which will be published this year. Night of the Creepy Carnival and Alien Invaders From Beyond the Stars are all set to go for May. Super Sports Spectacular, which is currently being edited, and Trapped in the GramesGrid, which I’m still writing, will be out towards the end of the year.

So 2015 is already looking pretty good! And I’ve got some new writing projects on the boil — but it’s too early to tell you about those.

The success of the You Choose books in 2014 suddenly gave me a higher profile as a writer. So I ended up doing more speaking gigs than in previous years. All up, I visited 42 schools and libraries across Australia, doing a total of 71 sessions. I even got the chance to appear on ABC3’s morning kids show Studio 3, where they interviewed me while slamming cream pies into my face. 🙂

It looks like 2015 will be just as busy, as I’ve already been booked for a bunch of speaking gigs. I’m particularly looking forward to attending the Somerset Celebration of Literature in March on the Gold Coast. This is one of the largest literary festivals for young people in Australia, with thousands of kids attending over three days. Check out their website if you want some more info. And their YouTube channel has intro vids from some of the authors and illustrators that will be speaking. Here’s mine…

So… busy times ahead. Fun times ahead. Bring it on!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter


dw8Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: Blu-ray Review  — Doctor Who: The Complete Eighth Series



Neil Gaiman Live

CoralineIt was exciting to see Neil Gaiman live at the City Recital Hall in Sydney on the weekend. It was a satellite event of the Sydney Writers’ Festival (surely one of the world’s best writers’ festivals). As Jemma Birrell, Artistic Director, mentioned in her introduction, Neil has over 2 million twitter followers so no wonder it was packed, with standing-only tickets sold as well.

Neil obviously enjoys reading from his works and speaking to his Sydney fans. He also sang with FourPlay, an Australian electric string quartet. They started with the Dr Who theme music; appropriate because Neil wrote two episodes of this cult series. He read from Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances, an anthology that will be published 3rd February.

Neil reminisced about a presentation in the past where he could choose whoever else he wanted with him on the panel. His wish-list included his wife, Amanda Palmer – extraordinary singer-performer formerly from The Dresden Dolls (who he couldn’t stop mentioning during the evening) – and Ben Folds (one of my favourite singer/songwriter/pianists – and who Kate Miller-Heidke – composer of John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s  The Rabbits opera) has toured with. The panel planned to get together beforehand over a meal but Ben Folds suggested writing 8 songs in 8 hours instead. Neil explained, ‘If you don’t know Ben Folds, that’s all you need to know’. They ended up writing 6 songs in 14 hours and Neil sang us his song about Joan of Arc.Ocean at end of Lane

Neil is well known for Sandman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Graveyard Bookwhich he revealed was based on his experience of living in a tall building with his young son who he would take to the nearby graveyard to play. His son would ride around the graves looking completely at home.

Wolves in the WallsI’ve been a fan of Neil’s graphic novels for YA and children for quite awhile. I’m always talking about Wolves in the Walls, illustrated by Neil’s extraordinary collaborator, Dave McKean. This is a fascinating picture book about Lucy, who hears wolves in the wall but her parents don’t believe her. The frames around the panels hint at what’s hiding. Some of Neil’s other books illustrated by Dave McKean are dark, intricate, imaginative works of art: Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch, Signal to Noise and Mirrormask. I treasure my copies.

Many people will know about Coraline, the girl who finds new, sinister parents in another part of her house. Coraline has appeared as a graphic novel, illustrated by P. Craig Russell, a novel, and a movie.

Neil wrote Odd and the Frost Giants and Fortunately, the Milk, illustrated by Chris Riddell for children, and his picture books for young children are Chu’s Day and Chu’s First Day at School, illustrated by Adam Rex. Fortunately the Milk

I haven’t yet seen the recent Hansel & Gretel and The Sleeper and the Spindle, illustrated by Chris Riddell. Hopefully they’re up to standard.

One of my all-time favourite movies is Stardust, based on Neil’s graphic novel. He has many other works published as well.

Thanks to the Sydney Writers’ Festival for this amazing event.Stardust


Review – Big Hug Books

For many oThe Playground is like the Junglef you, by now your little ones will be well and truly back into the school routine. Apart from the usual school-related requirements, you may have also restocked your return-to-school library, determined to share the educational and emotional journey your child is embarking on, perhaps for the first time. You will find some of those terrific school-ready titles here.

But what if the ensuing days might not exactly pan out as expected for your little ones, or even for you for that matter? What happens when your child’s feelings are derailed by a minor incident that they allow to escalate into a damaging problem and subsequently feel powerless to overcome? How can you help them get back on track smoothly?

Like manyShona Innes, I find some of the answers in books, picture books. Newcomer to writing for children but experienced child whisperer and clinical and forensic psychologist, Shona Innes together with The Five Mile Press has released a series of books under the banner, Big Hug Books.

Big Hug Books are essentially that; picture books that wrap young children and their carers up in issue specific stories that enable readers to understand and embrace problem situations and learn solutions to overcome them. And we all know how benefThe Internet is like a Puddleicial a great hug can be.

There are four in the series so far with two new January releases, The Playground is like the Jungle and The Internet is like a Puddle. Innes uses age appropriate analogies to illustrate the many positive attributes of each situation a child encounters then progresses to the less positive things that could occur between friends, within relationships, during periods of loss, and living in our modern world. Her expressive text, while a little laboured and repetitive at times does adequately reiterate and reinforce the choices available to all young people and the reasons why they should react in certain ways.

The puddle metaphor used to establish how deep and unassuming Internet use can be in The Internet is like a Puddle, is particularly clever and useful. It is a topic we should all be aux fait with considering the tender age that our offspring are exposed to such digital media these days.

Irisz AgocsIrisz Agocs’ playful watercolour illustrations provide the much needed focus and fun to keep youngsters riveted to the main theme of each book. Animal characters depict children in a consistently comical yet sensitive way.

Easy to read footnotes at the end of each story gives parents, teachers and carers time to take in what they have read and arm them with more insight into each particular topic of discussion. Conveniently, this eliminates the need to some degree that every (new) parent feels to read and memorise every how-to-parent book available on earth.

While titles in the Big Hug Books series will not remedy every problematic situation you and your child will encounter, they do tackle the more common ones in a format that promotes acknowledging, seeking and solving the dilemma together, parent and child. In my eyes that is as valuable as any hug.Big Hug illo spread

Suitable for older pre-schoolers and primary aged children.

The Five Mile Press January 2015


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


Each month we bring you the best new release books in our Book Brief.
Get FREE shipping when you use the promo code bookbrief

Fiction Books

Useful by Debra Oswald

I was really reminded of The Rosie Project while I was reading this very entertaining novel. It has all the humour and poignancy of that book. A man feels that life just isn’t easy, he has made a few awful mistakes and feels he has failed at so many things. He decides to do something useful like donate a kidney. However he finds being altruistic is also not easy! Chris

Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty

Full of McKinty’s wickedly black humour and brilliantly plotted this just maybe the best book in an exceptional series so far. The Sean Duffy trilogy was already something special and Gun Street Girl not only reaffirms that but makes it even better. Jon, Chris, Phil & Simon

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

This a novel that will shock you, surprise you and make you rethink your view of the world and the people in it. It is exactly what all great fiction should do and does so with style, honesty and empathy. It will strike a nerve, it will make you angry and break your heart and is a novel you will never forget, and nor should you. Jon

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

While this is ultimately a very sad story it is also a moving and insightful story about the weight of identity. How that weight is put on us by people around us and how that weight is passed down generations and how the best intentions can have tragic and unforeseen consequences. An incredible exploration of grief and family and the pressures of expectations that come from both. Jon

The Little Old Lady Who Struck Lucky Again! by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

The little old lady is back! This time, Martha Andersson and her friends – the League of Pensioners – have left behind their dreary care home in Stockholm and are enjoying the bright lights of Las Vegas. A truly laugh out loud novel, if only I might have this much fun at 80! They are robbing the rich to help the poor but will they go too far? Chris

Emergence by John Birmingham

John Birmingham delivers in spades in the first book of his explosive new trilogy. Birmingham mixes up a combination of Middle Earth orcs with a Marvel universe sensibility but with his own trademark humour and insight firmly stamped all over any comparisons. Jon

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. One day she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. What will she do? Great thriller. Chris

The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Sarah’s  twenty-two year old son, Cully, has been killed in an avalanche, and she is trying to pick up the pieces of her life. One day shortly after the funeral a girl turns up with a few surprises about Cully. Told in Kaui Hart Hemmings’ unsentimental and refreshingly wry style, this is a novel about what we will risk to keep our loved ones close – a novel full of hope, humour and love. Chris

Non-Fiction Books

The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge

As he did so lucidly in The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge presents exciting, cutting-edge science with practical real-world applications, and illustrates how anyone can apply the principles of neuroplasticity to improve their brain’s performance.

Marissa Mayer and the Fight To Save Yahoo! by Nicholas Carlson

From her controversial rise and fall from power at Google, to her dramatic reshaping of Yahoo’s work culture, people are obsessed with, and polarised by, Marissa Mayer’s every move. She is full of fascinating contradictions: a feminist who rejects feminism, a charmer in front of a crowd who can’t hold eye contact in one-on-ones, and a geek who is Oscar de la Renta’s best customer. Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! tells her story.

Mayday by Matt O’Sullivan

Big egos, public spats, betrayal and revenge – the decline of the national carrier has all the makings of a modern corporate tragedy. So how did it come to this? This is the inside story of how Qantas flew off course. This vivid, highly readable account of the fall of Qantas is the story of big egos in a high-stakes fight for supremacy of the skies, and of a company of tribes at war with itself.

Paul Keating by David Day

Paul Keating was one of the most significant political figures of the late twentieth century, firstly as Treasurer for eight years and then Prime Minister for five years. Although he has spent all of his adult life in the public eye, Keating has eschewed the idea of publishing his memoirs and has discouraged biographers from writing about his life. Undaunted, best-selling biographer David Day has taken on the task of giving Keating the biography that he deserves.

Growing Great Kids by Father Chris Riley

Compulsory reading for parents, teachers and anyone who has anything to do with young people. A must-have book for all parents, youth workers and teenagers on parenting and raising children. a priceless guide through the maze of childhood and adolescence for both parents and their children and, with so many real life stories to tug on the heart-strings, the kind of gripping read no one will be able to put down. 

Money, Marriage and Divorce by Paul Clitheroe

Money is always a tricky subject to broach, especially when you’ve just found the love of your life. But Paul Clitheroe, expert financial advisor, says it’s never too early to have the conversation. By agreeing on a financial plan, you will eliminate many money-related arguments and together you can build more wealth than you could separately.

Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook

Bestselling author Rachel Khoo is on the go once again with her latest cookbook, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook. Her latest cookbook is packed to the brim with 100 standout recipes, full-colour photography and Rachel’s very own sketches of the food and places she encounters. Out and about, she finds the most delicious fare, recording it all in her kitchen notebook.

Childrens’ Picture Books

Thelma The Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

Full of Aaron’s orginally and quirky humour, this is the story of one pony’s search for  her true self. Thelma longs to be more than the ordinary pony she is, then one day through a series of fortunate accidents she is transformed into a  unicorn. But is fame all it’s cracked up to be? Jan

Recipe For A Story by Ella Burfoot

Every wondered how hard it is to write a story? Well the star of this charming story thinks it is as easy as baking a cake. Take cup of thoughts, add some characters and sprinklle liberally with full stops and capital lettes. A wonderful introduction to the joys of reading and writing. Ian

Books for Young Readers

Friday Barnes: Under Suspicion by R. A. Spratt

Friday Barnes is back in her second adventure. Having solved her first case, she didn’t expect  to find herself arrested and in trouble with the authorities! Boarding school continues to be a labyrinth of complications that leave her wondering if she has made the right choice. Of course there is a mystery to solve too! Jan

The Dark Wild by Piers Torday

Kerster is no ordinary boy. He has an extraordinary gift – the ability to talk to animals. In a future where humanity has retreated to a single island, it is believed that all animals are extinct. Only Kerster knows their secrect hiding place. So when the animals plan an uprising against their human enemies, Kester is the only one who can stop them! A book full of courage and the triumph of the underdog faced against impossible odds. Jan

Books for Young Adults

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14: A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school. Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. Frankie Landau-Banks at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she got that way. This is a fresh take on the boarding school experience starring a strong female lead. Simon

Stella By Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

This is a new wonderfully mocving and inspiring novel form the auithor of Out of Mind. Brimming with courage, compassion and resilience, is set in North Carolina during the Depression; a less than hospitable time and place for African-Americans. When 11-year-old Stella and her brother witness nine robed figures burning a cross near their home late one night, she knows life in Bumblebeeis about to change. Jan

Children’s Non Fiction

A is for Australia by Frané Lessac

Do you know what the Fremantle Doctor is? Or where Qui Qui is? If not, then this is the book for you. Full of useful tidbits and humorous illustrations, it makes a perfect gift for visitors or just the plain curious. Ian