Boomerang Book Bites: Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks’ new novel is quite simply superb. Tackling themes he has explored before Faulks delivers an original novel that is haunting, beautiful and profound that will resonate all the way through you.
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Review – The BAD GUYS Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey

the-bad-guys-episode-1Admittedly, I’m a picture book fanatic, but I’m also an Aaron Blabey fan so I wasn’t going to let a 137-page chapter book with colourless illustrations stop me from exploring it. In fact, it made no difference to my level of reading pleasure; ‘The BAD GUYS’ is highly interactive and witty and kind of like a long picture book anyway.  

Characteristic to his style, Aaron Blabey has written a story with his slightly sick sense of humour, subtle message, clever use of language and with a twist on the expected. In eight hilarious, yet intense chapters, we join this mob of dangerous, dubious characters on their quest to take over the world. No, seriously, Mr. Wolf, Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Piranha are not as menacing as you might think. Actually, they are simply MISUNDERSTOOD. Actually, they want to be HEROES.

carThrough informal language, Mr. Wolf introduces the reader to each member of his gang; the accused ‘villains’, trying to prove their innocence. Funnily enough, there’s the occassional hiccup. His efforts are constantly challenged by his starving pals wanting something more wholesome than a little cupcake. Plus, it doesn’t help his case having Suspect Rap Sheets typed by the Police Department showcasing their criminal activities on display for all us readers to view.
So, Mr. Wolf proceeds to indoctrinate the crew into his Good Guys Club. Still not convinced, the gang set off in their ‘fully sick’, flaming cool car to rescue a kitty in a tree…with some ‘cat-astrophic’ results (don’t worry, the cat was not harmed).
Next on their mission, Mr. Wolf plans a 200 puppy rescue from a maximum security dog pound. What happens next is like a twisted fairy tale meets a twisted ‘Jaws’ movie. As if the illustrations weren’t comical enough, this whole scene is absolutely hilarious! And as if there weren’t enough surprises, is it a coincidence that our not-so lovable little Pig the Pug is found imprisoned in one of the cells!

4C44DAE3CC68D0F21D9C2E3183C7FD64613ACASo, do they turn out to be the type of heroes they had hoped? How do the gang feel about being ‘good guys’? Stay tuned for their next jaw-dropping adventure in The Bad Guys: Episode 2!

With its obvious references to traditional fairy tales and well-known ‘notorious’ personas, the plot is mostly straightforward, the language uncomplicated, and the humour dry, but also leaves room for readers to make inferences on the consequences of their actions and predictions for future episodes. The black and white illustrations actually suit this shady crowd perfectly. Being such a lively story as it is, a literally dull tone brings the levels to a perfect balance. Needless to say, Aaron Blabey‘s animations are completely satirical with their comic-style sequences and regular in-your-face boldness of big-eyed expressions and large, bouncy font.

‘The Bad Guys’ is a laugh-out-loud, unputdownable read with totally convincing edgy and quirky characters, sure to be a hit amongst 6-9 year old early readers.

Scholastic Australia, 2015.

View the book trailer here.
Visit Aaron Blabey’s website.

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


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

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Fiction Books

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

This is a story about war, murder, sex, romance, betrayal and incest. King David is a man we think we know something about but we know very little. History, legend and myth converge around the David and Goliath story. Although little is known about him Geraldine Brook’s fiction brings the man and his times to life, so much so we begin to think it is all true. A very human account of a complex man. Chris

Golden Age by Jane Smiley

The third novel in the dazzling Last Hundred Years Trilogy from the winner of the Pulitzer Prize. 1987. A visit from a long-lost relative brings the Langdons together again on the family farm; a place almost unrecognisable from the remote Iowan farmland Walter and Rosanna once owned. Whilst a few have stayed, most have spread wide across the US, but all are facing social, economic and political challenges unlike anything their ancestors encountered. After a hundred years of personal change and US history, filled with words unsaid and moments lost, Golden Age brings to a magnificent conclusion the century-long portrait of one unforgettable family.

Dictator by Robert Harris

There was a time when Cicero held Caesar’s life in the palm of his hand. But now Caesar is the dominant figure and Cicero’s life is in ruins. Riveting and tumultuous, Dictator encompasses some of the most epic events in human history yet is also an intimate portrait of a brilliant, flawed, frequently fearful yet ultimately brave man – a hero for his time and for ours. This is an unforgettable tour de force from a master storyteller.

The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray

This is a comic masterpiece about love, art, greed and the banking crisis, from the author of Skippy Dies.  What links the Investment Bank of Torabundo, (yes, hots with an s, don’t ask), an art heist, a novel called For the Love of a Clown, a four-year-old boy named after TV detective Remington Steele, a lonely French banker, a tiny Pacific island, and a pest control business run by an ex-KGB man? You guessed it…

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of economic and social collapse. When they see an advertisement for the Positron Project in the town of Consilience – a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own – they sign up immediately. A sinister, wickedly funny novel about a near-future in which the lawful are locked up and the lawless roam free, The Heart Goes Last is Margaret Atwood at her heart-stopping best.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin

Brings together for the first time the first three official prequel novellas to A Song of Ice and Fire, set in an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living memory. Featuring more than 160 illustrations by Gary Gianni, one of the finest fantasy artists of our time, this beautiful volume will transport readers to the world of the Seven Kingdoms in an age of bygone chivalry.

Non Fiction Books

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

Over twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his home. The hilarious book he wrote about that journey, Notes from a Small Island, became one of the most loved books of recent decades, and was voted in a BBC poll as the book that best represents Britain. Now, for his first travel book in fifteen years, Bryson sets out again, on a long-awaited, brand-new journey around the UK.

Fascinating Footnotes From History by Giles Milton

Did you know that Hitler took cocaine? That Stalin robbed a bank? That Charlie Chaplin’s corpse was filched and held to ransom? Giles Milton is a master of historical narrative: in his characteristically engaging prose, Fascinating Footnotes From History details one hundred of the quirkiest historical nuggets; eye-stretching stories that read like fiction but are one hundred per cent fact.

Paris In Style by Janelle McCulloch

Having written three bestselling books about Paris, journalist, author and photographer Janelle McCulloch thought she knew most of the best places in which to stay, wander and explore. But the more time she spent in Paris, the more she realised how much there was still to discover. Paris in Style reveals this city’s most surprising and fascinating fashion, design and style destinations. It is the ultimate insider’s guide for travellers seeking style, creative inspiration and unforgettable experiences.

The White Road by Edmund De Waal

Acclaimed writer and potter Edmund de Waal sets out on a quest – a journey that begins in the dusty city of Jingdezhen in China and travels on to Venice, Versailles, Dublin, Dresden, the Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina and the hills of Cornwall to tell the history of porcelain.

The Lost Tudor Princess by Alison Weir

This is the biography of an extraordinary life that spanned five Tudor reigns, a life packed with intrigue, drama and tragedy. A brave survivor, she was instrumental in securing the Stuart succession to the throne of England for her grandson. Her story deserves to be better known.

Australia’s Second Chance by George Megalogenis

Our second chance is now; will we use it or lose it? Crunching numbers and weaving history into a riveting, rollicking tale, George Megalogenis brilliantly chronicles the waves of immigration from the First Fleet onwards and uses his unique abilities in decoding economics and demography to advance this new insight into our history, and our future.

Food For Family by Guillaume Brahimi

Celebrated French – Australian chef Guillaume Brahimi visits some of Australia’s most charming and stylish homes, creating delicious menus inspired by the people and place, and discovering what makes a house a home. This is big-hearted, full-flavoured food, perfect for sharing with those you love.

Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden by Janet Hawley

For more than twenty years Wendy Whiteley has worked to create a public garden at the foot of her harbourside home in Sydney’s Lavender Bay. This is the extraordinary story of how a determined, passionate and deeply creative woman has slowly transformed an overgrown wasteland into a beautiful sanctuary for everyone to enjoy – and in the process, transformed herself.

When It’s Right To Be Wrong by Russel Howcroft

Whether he’s selling beer, health insurance or the army, former adman Russel believes in the power of the idea, and that creativity is needed to make good things happen. Whether it’s about business or everyday life, Russel knows sometimes you simply have go against the tide.

More Letters of Note by Shaun Usher

More Letters of Note is another rich and inspiring collection, which reminds us that much of what matters in our lives finds its way into our letters. These letters deliver the same mix of the heartfelt, the historically significant, the tragic, the comic and the unexpected.

Pacific by Simon Winchester

Travelling the circumference of the truly gigantic Pacific, Simon Winchester tells the story of the world’s largest body of water, and – in matters economic, political and military – the ocean of the future. Navigating the newly evolving patterns of commerce and trade, the world’s most violent weather and the fascinating histories, problems and potentials of the many Pacific states, Simon Winchester’s thrilling journey is a grand depiction of the future ocean.

Childrens’ Picture Books

Counting Lions by Virginia McKenna

This is a simply stunning picture book that you will want for yourself as much as for the kids. Illustrated with exquisitely detailed charcoal drawings of endangered animals, this book works as both a basic counting book, an introduction to ecology and as a view into the lives and habits of the 10 animals listed. For art lovers, animal lovers and the whole family. Ian

Deep In The Woods by Christopher Corr

A retelling of the Russian folk tale Teremok. A little mouse finds the perfect little house in the woods, then comes along rabbit and mouse asks him to live in the little house. Then owl and many more animals until bear climbs on the roof and the little house crashes to the ground. Can he put everything right? The most amazing colour and illustrations. Jan

Paris: Up, Up and Away by Helen Druvert

The Eiffel Tower is bored – wouldn’t it be nice to fly away. So it decides to take off for the day and watch the city work and play. A magical crafted book to delight young and older readers. A great gift for children and adults. Jan

Books for First Readers

Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig by Clara Dulliamy

A beautifully illustrated collection of four stories about the friendship between Mango, a little girl, and Bambang, an Asian Tapir. Mango Allsorts is good at all sorts of things. Bambang is definitely not a pig but lost in a big city. When they meet a friendship begins filled with adventure and lots of banana pancakes. The perfect read for those just becoming confident at reading alone. Jan

Books for Young Readers

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

From the author of the Percy Jackson novels comes a new series and we are all very excited. This time Riordan breathes new life into the Norse myths. Magnus Chase, a 16 year old homeless boy discovers on his 16th birthday that he is the son of a Norse god, there for a demigod and of course he has to save the world! Full of exciting action scenes and plenty of laughs this new series is sure to be a big hit! Ian  

Grandpa’s Great Escape by David Walliams

Hoorah !! A new novel form David Walliams, get ready to laugh till your jaw hurts. Jake’s grandfather eats funny food, wears his slippers to the supermarket and can’t always remember Jake’s name but he always ready to take to the skies in his spitfire and save the day. A story full of heart, adventure and the bond between a boy and his beloved grandfather. And did I mention it is really, really funny? Ian

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

In this magnificent reimagining of the form he originated, two stand-alone stories-the first in nearly 400 pages of continuous pictures, the second in prose-create a beguiling narrative puzzle. A gripping adventure and an intriguing invitation to decipher how the two narratives connect, “The Marvels” is a loving tribute to the power of story from an artist at the vanguard of creative innovation.

Books for Young Adults

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On follows the triumphs and heartaches of Simon and Baz from Fangirl. Simon just wants to enjoy his last year at Watford School of Magicks but lifes dramas get in the way. Ghosts, vampires and evil things are trying to shut Simon down. With love, mystery and melodrama this is another fabulous read from Rainbow Rowell. Jan



Review: The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #1) by Rick Riordan

9780141325491I absolutely adored The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan! It’s the first book in his secondary series about Percy Jackson. The first series and I had a mildly rocky start. Oh don’t get me wrong! I love Percy Jackson and the middle-grade series was cute and quirky and fun. But it lacked punch. And, for me The Lost Hero was just EVERYTHING. It’s also more Young Adult, compared to the first series Middle Grade feel, which makes me chortle like a gleeful penguin because I LOVE YA.

I’ve been converted into a Riordan fangirl. #notevensad

We have 3 POVs: Jason, Piper, and Leo. They are so fabulous and interesting! And diverse! And there was so much mystery surrounding these three. So much backstory. I just kept gobbling pages wanting answers.

So a quick look at the characters individually!?

  • JASON: I have to admit that he’s my least favourite. He’s typical “mysterious hero” material anad  a little cliche with his fabulous looks, tattoos, and amnesia. Where is Jason from? Who is he? Why does he randomly speak Latin? But he still felt…flat? He’s the kind of kid that does no wrong except is perfect.
  • PIPER: I loved her! She’s got a real soft side and yet is a bit of a kleptomaniac. She’s also half Cherokee, which is nice and refreshing to have diversity!
  • LEO: Easily my most FAVOURITE CHARACTER EVER. He’s funny! His hands can spontaneously bust into fire. He’s a whiz at making things and is usually covered in grease. He’s also Latino. He’s so fuuuuuny. (Just in case I haven’t mentioned it enough.) He’s the side-kick, the comic relief, and everyone totally takes him for granted. I love you, Leo. You are easily the best character in the book.

The plot followed the typical Send-Kids-On-Potentially-Lethal-Quest format that all Riordan’s books have. I mean, technically this is the sixth book of his I’ve read with this layout. And while it’d be nice to have a new plot structure once in a while…in a way it’s comforting to know how the book is going to be laid out. The story has plot twists and weird prophecies and gnarly action scenes.


“What about a compromise? I’ll kill them first, and if it turns out they were friendly, I’ll apologize.”


Although, I do have to admit….The book is way too long. It’s like nearly 600-pages. There were too many detours that didn’t do anything for the plot.

I’m not a Greek myth buff, but I love how the mythology is woven in flawlessly and I accidentally learn a lot while enjoying a delicious and hilarious story.

I basically enjoyed it a lot and loved the cliffhanger. One needs to have The Son Of Neptune on hand to devour straight away, is all I can say. I enjoyed the deeper plot and the maturity of the characters and I loved being able to laugh my head off at this hilarious quips.


“If possible, try to avoid pushing each other over the edge, as that would cause me extra paperwork.”


Australian YA: Meet Lili Wilkinson and Green Valentine


Thanks for speaking to Boomerang Books, Lili

Where are you based and how involved in the YA literary community are you?

I’m in Melbourne, and I’m as involved as a lady with an eleven-month-old baby can be! I used to work at the Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library of Victoria, where I helped establish, the Inky Awards and the Inky Creative Reading Prize. I’ve just finished my PhD in Creative Writing, and I’m part of the #loveozya movement, as well as just being generally around on social media.

ScatterheartI’ve followed and admired your work for many years, in the past reviewing Scatterheart for the former version of Books+Publishing and writing teacher notes for Joan of Arc.

How has your writing changed over time?

Thank you! I’d like to think my writing has gotten better – I certainly feel like I’m always learning and trying to improve. I’m more confident now, and my writing process is more streamlined. I’m also becoming much more aware of the gaps in literature (my own and more broadly), particularly in the areas of feminism and diversity, and am trying to do a better job of filling those gaps.

What is the significance of your title, Green Valentine (Allen & Unwin)?

Titles are the absolute worst. Green Valentine was originally called Garden Variety, then Bewildered, then Bewildering, then Lobstergirl and Shopping Trolley Boy. Then the wonderful Penni Russon suggested Valentine, and it ended up Green Valentine. Valentine is the suburb where the protagonist Astrid lives – it’s an awful, grey, ugly suburb where nothing grows and everything is shabby and run-down. Astrid’s interest in environmental issues inspires her to bring some green back into Valentine. It also works on a couple of other levels – the name Valentine suggests at some romantic possibilities, and the ‘green’ part refers not only to actual green growing things, but also the environmental activism movement, as well as signifying jealousy.Green Valentine

I love Green Valentine, not least because it’s very funny. Humour is difficult to write. How have you done it?

I love humour, and it is tricky to get right. Mostly I just try and make myself laugh. You feel extremely conceited sitting there at the computer chuckling away at your own jokes. But it has to be done! For me humour has to be paired with heart – I think humour and romance go hand-in-hand.

Which of your other books have humorous elements?

The Not Quite Perfect Boyfriend, Pink, A Pocketful of Eyes, Love-Shy and The Zigzag Effect. I’ve been on a bit of a funny bender. My next book won’t be funny at all! It’s going to be dark and sad, which is actually quite a fun change of pace for me.Pocketful of Eyes

In Green Valentine you have paired Astrid with Hiro. How unlikely is this match?

I love unlikely matches. For this pairing I wanted to mess with a few tropes – the Romeo/Juliet starcrossed lovers thing, a comical take on the masked-ball-mistaken-identity thing, and a sort of genderflipped Cinderella, where the girl is in the position of privilege. And I really wanted to take that well-worn trope of the Popular Mean Girl and make her the protagonist of the story, instead of the villain. I like writing stories about how putting people in boxes is stupid.

How have you used other texts in the novel?

Being a reader, so many of my experiences are shaped by the books I’ve read and loved, and it makes sense for me to extend that to my writing. Green Valentine references heaps of different kinds of texts – from Pride and Prejudice to Tom’s Midnight Garden. But probably most significant is the use of comic books and superheroes. Hiro is a comic book fan, so he and Astrid frame their guerilla gardening activities through a superhero lens, using those characters as a kind of tool to interrogate their own actions and emotions. This was inspired by activist fandoms like the Harry Potter Alliance, who are motivated by literature to try and make the world a better place. I love the idea that stories can act like a kind of blueprint of how to change the world.Tom's Midnight Garden

Greening a community is such a wonderful premise. Is this something you try to do also, maybe even at home?

The whole book came about because I started a veggie garden and was so excited about growing my own food that I wanted to write about it. I have a relatively small little patch of backyard, but manage to grow a lot of fruit and vegetables due to careful planning and some solid permaculture principles. Next, I want chickens.

In the novel you refer to the Cuban Garden Revolution. What is it?

Cuba used to grow lots and lots of tobacco and sugar, and sold most of it to other countries. But to grow a whole lot of just one thing is difficult, so you need lots of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. After the Cold War, Cuba couldn’t get that stuff from the US any more because of the trade embargo, and when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, Cuba’s whole economy collapsed too because they had nobody left to trade with. They didn’t have enough food, medicine or petrol, which meant that all that sugar and tobacco just rotted away in fields, because there was no one to harvest or transport it. Plus, none of those fertilisers or pesticides for the next crop. They couldn’t import food the way they used to, because they weren’t earning any money from their exports. People were starving to death.

So in Havana, they started growing food in the city. They turned vacant lots and rooftops into gardens. Every school and small business had a little veggie garden. No more big petrol-guzzling tractors required, just people, wheelbarrows and a few oxen. When you grow lots of different things together, your biodiversity increases, and you don’t need any pesticides or fertilisers. They went back to ancient traditions of crop rotation and companion planting. They made compost and harvested animal manure. Today, nearly all the seasonal produce consumed in Havana is grown within the city, as well as all the eggs, honey, chickens and rabbits. They’re a world leader in worms and worm farm technology.

It’s really inspiring stuff, and as large-scale agriculture becomes more and more difficult as we face the challenges of climate change, these small-scale intensive urban farming projects are going to become more and more vital to our survival.

What are you enjoying reading?Cloudwish

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, a stunning exploration of love and family and art. I read it when my baby was very small, and I actually looked forward to him waking up in the middle of the night so I could tiptoe into his room and feed him while reading it on my phone.

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood. Just finished this and adored everything about it. Beautiful writing, beautifully crafted story and character, handling diversity with a very sensitive and respectful touch.

Thanks very much, Lili. I hope Green Valentine finds an enormous readership.

The Deep

The-Deep-HBD-0-196x300The Deep is thrilling sci-fi adventure. The Deep is something the whole family can enjoy. The Deep is a series of comic books collected into two wonderful volumes. And The Deep is an upcoming animated television series. The Deep is something well worth checking out.

Written by Tom Taylor (Injustice: Gods Among Us) and illustrated by James Brouwer, the first issue of The Deep came out in 2011. The individual issues have now been collected into two wonderful volumes — The Deep: Here Be Dragons and The Deep: The Vanishing Island.

These comics follow the adventures of the Nektons, a family of under water explorers aboard a sophisticated submarine, The Aronnax. The parents, William and Kaiko lead their two kids, teenaged Fontaine and her younger brother Antaeus, on a tour of the ocean’s depths as they investigate mysterious aquatic incidents.

TVI--196x300In Here Be Dragons, the family go to investigate the appearance of a sea monster. In The Vanishing Island, they go in search of an island that has somehow survived a tidal wave and mysteriously shifted location. And through it all is their desire to search for the fabled lost continent of Atlantis.

These are great adventure stories. There is enough action and sense of wonder to keep younger readers enthralled. But there’s also an intelligence to the plotlines and a depth to the characters to keep older readers satisfied. The stories have an unashamedly environmental vibe to them, without ever being preachy. Through it all is a wonderful, gentle sense of humour and lovely sense of family. It’s pretty much the perfect all-ages comic book.

And I’ve gotta say, I was laughing out loud through the whole spelunking conversation. You’ll know it when you get to it.

“You don’t love spelunking. You don’t like exploring caves. You just love saying the word ‘SPELUNKING’.”

Brouwer’s artwork is stunning. Crisp and vibrant, it submerges the reader in the oceanic depths along with the Nektons, and practically jumps off the page.

I’m not at all surprised that The Deep has been picked up for a television adaptation. I was lucky enough to see the trailer for it at a recent convention and I can say that it looks AWESOME!

But before the TV show hits the screens, I highly recommend you all check out the comics.

Catch ya later, George

PS.  Check out the official website for The Deep.

PPS. I got to meet writer Tom Taylor at a convention last month, so I have signed copies. Just saying! 🙂



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The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma is one of my favourite reads of the year, and I was excited to hear it had been The Fishermen by Chigozie Obiomalonglisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2015, and elated when it made the shortlist. Woohoo!

Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma has crafted a magical book about brotherly love and the meaning of family in The Fishermen. Breaking the rules by fishing at the local forbidden river, four brothers come across a local madman who has a history of delivering accurate prophecies. The madman tells the eldest boy that he will die at the hands of one of his brothers.

This prophecy has a devastating effect on the brothers and ends up tearing the entire family apart. But can the madman actually see the future, or do the boys give the prophecy life with their belief? This is up to the reader to decide.

The Fishermen is at times funny, moving, heartbreaking, lyrical and magical. The narrator Ben is the youngest of the four brothers and we see the events unfold through his eyes. Thinking of Ben right now makes my chest ache with longing; that’s how much this story sticks with you. Even the cover (above, right) showing the four fishing hooks representing each of the brothers is poignant and full of meaning to me.

The Fishermen is so perfect (in my humble opinion) that it’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel for Chigozie Obioma. He’s certainly in good company amongst his fellow shortlisted writers.A Spool of Blue Thread

The other Man Booker shortlisted novels for 2015 are:
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

In case you’re wondering how a Nigerian author qualifies for the Man Booker, this is the second year the prize has been open to writers of any nationality, as long as they write originally in English and publish in the UK. (Previously, the prize was only open to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe).

Have you read The Fishermen or any of the others novels shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction this year? I’ll definitely be crossing my fingers Chigozie Obioma walks away with the prize this year. Either way, he’s definitely an author to watch out for in the future.

A Glorious List of YA Books Narrated By Boys

I occasionally hear murmurs in the back row that most Young Adult books are narrated by only girls. This is totally untrue, of course. But I DO SEE why you’d think that! All the “famous” books, like The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent and The Hunger Games all have female protagonists who kick butt or fight for scrambled eggs rights (a noble cause). So! I shall bring you a list of books narrated by the dudes, today. You are so welcome.



9781760290184 9780141354743 9781442408937

  • ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL: This is such a snortingly (that totally is a word, don’t doubt me here) good book! It’s narrated by Greg, who is has a very self-deprecating sense of humour and is very down-to-earth.
  • WINGER: It’s about boarding school and this little squid of a kid called Ryan Dean who is very stupid and funny and gets into all sorts of sticky pickles.
  • ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE: Once you get past how exhausting the title is…this is an excellent book. It’s set in Mexico and narrated by Ari and it’s very dialogue heavy (which I love!) and has an LGBT romance.


9780451472397 9780545284134 9780143009870

  • INK AND BONE: It’s narrated by Jess, who is the BEST dude of ever because he loves books. Like really loves them. It’s a reimagined future where the Alexandria library still existed! And said library is…kind of psychotic.
  • THE FALSE PRINCE: This is more lower YA, but it’s epic fantasy and wonderfully funny with some HUGE plot twists you won’t see coming. Orphan boys pretending to be princes? What could go wrong?
  • FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK: Ahhh, I love this book! This is a spectacular high fantasy adventure with a super detailed fantasy world of corruption and murder and bad guys. Finnikin is the narrator. I’m hoping your super sleuth skills already guessed that, though.



9781250021946 9780786851973 9781472208200

  • CHARM AND STRANGE: This one will probably break you. It’s endlessly emotional. It’s about Drew who has delusions and PTSD and — wait…you want to know why? WELL READ THE BOOK.
  • IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY: is not actually a funny story at all. It’s about Craig who has depression and his journey through a mental health hospital.
  • FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK: Ahhh this book is incredible. Seriously, INCREDIBLE. It’s about depression and possibly Autism (though it’s not stated directly) and it’s about Leonard the day he took a gun to school. It takes place over one day!



9781619635906 9781471122897 9781908844613

  • BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME: This is super interesting because it’s narrated by two boys who have disabilities that will let them never meet! Moritz is blind and has a pacemaker, and Olly is allergic to electricity. It goes all X-Men at the end. Super cool.
  • NOGGIN: This dude, Travis, is dying of cancer, so he elects to have his head CUT OFF AND FROZEN, and then they “bring him back to life” 5 years later. Is that not interesting?!? IS THAT NOT COOL?!
  • PLAYING TYLER: It’s about Tyler (duh) who has ADHD and ends up testing out some video games for a dubious company…but the games aren’t always what they seem.



9780544336261 9780857079978 9780141354439


  • THE GIVER: This is like the forefront of YA dystopian and is so a must read. It’s about Jonas who’s in this “perfect” society that (of course) isn’t what it seems. It’s told so simply but GAH. It’s powerful.
  • UNWIND: It’s set in a society where if you don’t want your kids, you can totally just use them for spare parts. I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING. It’s entirely chilling. Conner is going to be “unwound” because no one wants him, so he’s on the run.
  • STONE RIDER: It’s a futuristic motorbike race! Woot! Lots of action and adventure and dead people everywhere. Adam is signing up to the race, despite facing certain possible death, for the chance to win money and get a better life.


Isobelle Carmody — New and Old

9780670076406Isobelle Carmody — it’s a name synonymous with fantasy and science fiction for young people in Australia. She is a much respected and avidly read author. She first hit it big in 1987 with the publication of Obernewtyn, first book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles. And finally, at long last, that series will conclude with the publication of The Red Queen in November this year. Fans have been eagerly looking forward to this for a long time. Given the imminent publication, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on some of her writing.

The Obernewtyn Chonicles is the series she is best known for. Set in a post apocalyptic world, it follows the adventures of Elspeth Gordie, a girl with some extraordinary mental abilities. Elspeth’s adventures have spanned the course of six books so far…


The Farseekers


The Keeping Place

The Stone Key (In the USA it was split into two books: Wavesong and The Stone Key)

The Sending (In the USA it was split into two books: The Sending and The Waking Dragon)

And book seven, The Red Queen, is not far off.

What many people don’t know is that Carmody wrote a prequel novelette a few years ago. “The Journey” was published in the excellent short story anthology Trust Me Too (and I’m not saying it’s excellent just because I’ve got a story in there too).

And while we’re on the subject of Carmody and anthologies… she also wrote the introduction to Trust Me, the precursor to Trust Me Too.

9781876462574 9781921665585

Carmody has written lots of other books aside from the Obernewtyn Chonicles. Many of then are still in print. Some are out of print. And some are coming back in new editions.

In June this year a new edition of Scatterlings hit the shelves. It was originally published in 1991, and has been out of print for a while. It’s great to see is back!

Scatterlings is about a girl named Merlin, who wakes from an accident. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know where she is. The world around her is unrecognisable — divided up between the Citizen Gods who live in a domed city, numerous clans who are controlled by the citizen gods and, of course, the Scatterings… the clanspeople who have run away to rebel. Perhaps most disconcerting of all is the fact that Merlin hears voices in her head.

The lead character knows very little at the start of the story. So the novel is a journey of discovery for her. And we, as readers, get to go along with it. And WOW, what a journey it is — full of mystery, amazing revelations, intriguing characters and intricate relationships.

This is the second of Carmody’s older books to be rereleased for a new generation of readers by Ford Street Publishing. Greylands, originally published in 1997, returned to bookstore shelves in 2012 (see my review). It’s wonderful to see these Carmody classics coming back into print, as the stories are timeless and well worth being discovered by new readers.

greylands-fordst 9781925272062-1

Of course, there are lots of other Isobelle Carmody books currently available. Perhaps now would be a good time to check them out…

9780143306863 9780670075188

9781742379470 9781742374413

Catch ya later,  George

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jupiter_ascendingCheck out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: Blu-ray Review  — Jupiter Ascending



A beauty – Rich and Rare

RIch and Rare cover Med ResThere really is something for everyone in Ford Street Publishing’s latest collection of Australian stories, poetry and artwork for teens – Rich and Rare. With pieces from almost 50 fab authors and illustrators, including Shaun Tan, Judith Rossell, Susanne Gervay, Gary Crew, Justin D’Ath and Michael Gerard Bauer (to mention a few), the anthology delivers tantalizing morsels to suit every reading taste. There’s an alien invasion, a Dickensian-style thriller, a warrior adventure in old Japan, a bushranger tale, intrigue in the cane fields of northern Queensland and much, much more.

Editor Paul Collins joins me ahead of next month’s book launch to take us inside Rich and Rare and to reflect on his own prolific and successful career as a writer, editor and publisher. Paul is best known for his fantasy and science fiction titles which include The Jelindel ChroniclesThe Quentaris Chronicles ─ co-edited with Michael Pryor, and The Warlock’s Child, done in collaboration with Sean McMullen. He also runs Ford Street Publishing and the Creative Net Speakers’ Agency.

JF: Congratulations, on Rich and Rare, Paul. What a line-up of Australian talent! What can readers expect from this collection?

PC: I’d like to think a sumptuous literary feast. No one will go away hungry, as the collection is a literary banquet with something for everyone.

JF: How does it compare to others anthologies you’ve edited?

PC: Anthologies aren’t as easy to put together as they might seem. An editor starts off with a list of potential contributors. I’ve been lucky in as much that most of my list this time around contributed illustrations, stories or poems. Across the three anthologies I’ve edited lately, I think everyone I’ve approached is represented. But not one of the collections has everyone. So too people reading Rich and Rare will be happy to see some contributors lacking in the other anthologies, but on the reverse mystified that others are missing. This collection is more illustrative and has longer and more varied works. This will please some, and perhaps disappoint others. So in answer to your question, it’s very subjective. A creator’s latest work is always their “best” work.

JF: What are the challenges of editing such a large collection of stories, poems and artwork?

PAUL-COLLINS-PC: Most contributors aren’t precious about their stories being edited. Those who are can be difficult. Working with up to fifty creatives can be challenging – remembering of course I’m working with many others at the same time. And because an editor says a story should follow this or that path, doesn’t necessarily mean the editor is right. It can be subjective. Stories especially vary in quality, and it’s the editor’s job to get some rough stones and polish them to gem standard. Hopefully, and with the help of several others here at Ford Street, I’ve managed to do this.

JF: You’re a writer, editor and publisher – how do you fit it all in? 

PC: I think I’ve edited around a dozen anthologies. This doesn’t include 45 collections Meredith Costain and I edited for Pearson (Spinouts and Thrillogies). I’ve published around 100 + books over the years, and written around 150. Running Creative Net Speakers’ Agency and the seminars/festivals does keep me busy!

JF: What are you currently working on? 

PC: Right now I have three plays and two short story collections (the latter in collaboration with Meredith Costain) coming out from other publishers. This year I published around 16 books. I have my first 2016 title, Dance, Bilby, Dance, by Tricia Oktober, ready to go to the printer.

JF: How did you get started as a writer and what led you to publishing?

PC: I self-published my first novel at the age of nineteen. Realising it wasn’t good enough, I figured I’d move into publishing other people’s work. I published Australia’s first heroic/epic fantasy novels in the early 80s. I also published science fiction books. Losing distribution I returned to writing. My first book was published by HarperCollins in 1995.

JF: You’re best known for your fantasy and science fiction writing – what appeals about those genres?

PC: They’re as far away from contemporary as you can get. I think we live the lives of those people we read in contemporary novels, so why read about them? I can’t imagine why people watch TV shows like East Enders and Coronation Street, or the spate of reality TV shows. Big Brother for example must have been one of the most boring shows anyone could watch. And that’s what I feel about contemporary fiction.

JF: Does your personal passion affect your publishing decisions?

PC: No. I have published contemporary fiction, for example. I don’t just stick to fantasy and science fiction. If I think something has quality and there’s a market for it, I have to make a commercial decision.

JF: What do you wish you’d known when you started?

PC: The massive database I’ve built up over the years, contacts with book clubs and others who buy bulk books. Basically, knowledge that you need to be successful. Alas, unless someone sits down and gives you a list, you need to find all this stuff out yourself. And that takes years.

JF: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

PC: Persistence is the key. The Wizard’s Torment was my first book – that’s the one that sold to HarperCollins. I had written it in the early 80s. It took me around twelve years to get it published. I wrote another book at the same time called The Earthborn. That was rejected by just about every publisher in Australia. An agent sent it to TOR in the US and sold sold the trilogy over there. I mentally thanked every Australian publisher that had rejected it. Just never give up.

JF: Thanks Paul, and good luck with Rich and Rare!

PC: Thanks, Julie.

Paul Collins has edited many anthologies including Trust Me!, Metaworlds and Australia’s first fantasy anthology, Dream Weavers. He also edited The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian SF&F. Paul has been short-listed for many awards and has won the Inaugural Peter McNamara and the A Bertram Chandler awards, both of which were for lifetime achievement in science fiction, and the Aurealis and William Atheling awards. His book, Slaves of Quentaris, features in 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Die (UK, 2009).

Paul Collins website.

Ford Street Publishing website. 

Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River adventure series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults. Her latest short story – Sugar is Sweet is in Rich and Rare.  


Boomerang Book Bites: Some Luck by Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley’s writing is fantastic. She eases you into the family she has created and before you know it you are completely sucked into the story. You will fall in love with each character in a different way and share in the highs and lows of their lives. The big historical events, that are so familiar to us, effect each character in a different way, some small and some big. In telling the story from different perspectives she subtly fleshes out the context of each event showing both its importance and significance as well as its unimportance and insignificance. A rare thing to be able to pull off and pull off well.
FREE shipping. Save $6.95 when you use the promo code bookbites at checkout

Review: Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks

9780091936846Sebastian Faulks’ new novel is quite simply superb. Tackling themes he has explored before Faulks delivers an original novel that is haunting, beautiful and profound that will resonate all the way through you.

Dr Robert Hendricks is a veteran of the Second World War who lost his father in the First. These two wars have not only shaped his life but also his thinking as a psychiatrist. He is contacted by an aging French doctor, who served with his Father in the First World War, as a possible literary executor of his estate. Hendricks travels to an island of the south of France to meet with the man who also has information about his father whom he never met. A meeting which finds Robert delving into his own memories of war as he confronts his father’s experience of his.

Faulks’ writing as always is sublime. The scenes of Robert’s war recollections in Tunisia and Anzio are some of the best war writing since Birdsong and his explorations of the human mind and what we call madness reminiscent of Human Traces. The heart of the story is about the madness of the 20th Century and how our memories are shaped in order to survive what we experience. And how love, loss, madness and grief are each inextricably entwined and influence our lives.

Heartfelt and heartbreaking, insightful and inventive this is Sebastian Faulks at his best.

Buy the book here…

Australian YA: Meet Frances Watts, author of The Peony Lantern

Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books about The Peony Lantern, Frances.

It’s my pleasure.

Where are you based and how involved are you in the world of children’s and YA lit?Raven's wing

I’m based in Sydney. I’ve been involved in the children’s lit world for many years now, through membership of the Children’s Book Council of Australia NSW, IBBY and the Australian Society of Authors – and of course I love the opportunity to meet authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, booksellers and (most importantly) the readers – i.e. kids – at festivals, libraries and schools. I’m new to YA lit, with my first YA book (The Raven’s Wing reviewed here) published last year, and I’ve been really inspired by the passion, commitment and support of the YA community for each other and the genre. The #LoveOzYa movement is a great example of this. (And it’s introduced me to some great books!) I’m also involved with Books in Homes (as a Role Model) and the Reading Hour.

What is the significance of your title, The Peony Lantern?

The Peony Lantern’ (ABC Books, HarperCollins) is actually the title of a traditional Japanese ghost story; Japan has a rich tradition of ghost stories which I drew on in the writing of The Peony Lantern. I can’t say much more than that without spoiling a big twist!

How did you create the Japanese historical setting?Peony Lantern

I began by reading about the historical period – the book is set in 1857, which was a particularly tumultuous time in Edo (now called Tokyo) – to establish the social and political background for the book, before gradually narrowing my focus down to the specifics of setting: a samurai mansion in Edo, an inn in the remote Kiso Valley. Then I moved on to dress, architecture, cuisine, culture. What I really want to convey – because it is what I am interested in myself – is the daily life of the characters. Once I had a general idea of the main settings, I then travelled to Japan and visited the places I intended to write about. That gave me a richness of detail; the scent of the trees in the Kiso Valley and the number of steps to the village shrine, local legends and culinary specialties…In Tokyo there are a few museums that recreate the streets and buildings of the Edo period, so visiting them was invaluable. The research is one of my favourite parts of writing historical fiction. I’m completely obsessed with Japan now!

How did you create the character of Kasumi?

I wanted a character who was observant and to put her in a situation in which she was a ‘fish out of water’ as it were – in this case, a girl from a humble background who finds herself living in a samurai mansion. So she is in a position to observe differences in class as well as the differences between urban and rural lifestyles.

How important is writing about girls for you?Sword girl

It’s extremely important to me; in writing about girls from different times and places – whether it’s Claudia from Rome 19BC in The Raven’s Wing, Kasumi in The Peony Lantern or even Tommy from my junior fiction series ‘Sword Girl’, set in a medieval castle – I’m hoping to inspire readers to consider the position of girls and women in our own society.

Ikebana is a feature of Kasumi and Misaki’s time. Can you do it?

I’m afraid to say my attempts were rather embarrassing! I did a class at a famous ikebana school in Tokyo. I love flowers, so I was rather hoping I might display some hitherto-undiscovered flair, but…no. It was definitely a useful experience, though; it turns out that Kasumi’s own efforts at flower-arranging also lack that essential refinement!

Tell us about your other books.

Goodnight, MiceI began my writing career with picture books (including Kisses for Daddy and Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books, illustrated by David Legge, and Goodnight, Mice!, illustrated by Judy Watson). [Frances modestly hasn’t mentioned that Goodnight, Mice! won the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Children’s Fiction. Her other books have also won awards.]  I then started writing junior fiction (such as the Sword Girl series), also extending the storytelling to upper primary (with the Gerander trilogy), and now I’m writing YA historical fiction. I’m still writing in each of these genres – I love them all – so I’m covering from birth to young adult. I sometimes joke that my motto should be: Grow up! with Frances Watts.

How else do you spend your time?

It probably won’t surprise you if I say reading. I also love travelling, cooking and running.

What have you enjoyed reading?

Fiona Wood’s new book, Cloudwish. Tegan Bennett Daylight’s Six Bedrooms (reviewed here). And I’m currently devouring Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet. I’ve just started the third book, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and I am completely in its thrall.

All the best with The Peony Lantern, Frances. I feel like reading it all over again after hearing your responses.

Parsely rabbit

Review: Rogue (Talon #2) by Julie Kagawa

9781848453821I absolutely fell in love with Talon by Julie Kagawa, as you might recall from this gushing review of mine last month. What’s not to love?! Dragons! Guns! Missions! The occasional delicious summery smoothie? Consider me 100% hooked. So of course I had to get my hands on the sequel: Rogue. And of course I must gush about it too. Because: REASONS.

Ha, I’m kidding. I’ll give you actual reasons, copious reasons, of why you should read this book.

I really absolutely seriously love dragons. And while I think the first book, Talon, was better than the sequel, I was pretty much set to devour this delicious dragonish adventure and be monstrously happy. There’s so much action! The character’s have attitudes and personalities that leap off the page, and there’s sly wit and banter…and did I mention dragons?

As a little refresher: The series is about a dragon organisation (Talon) which plans to take over the human world, or something equally nefarious. They plant their “in training” dragons into society and get them assimilated before turning them into high profile spies. In book 1, we meet Ember and Dante, who are teen dragons pretending to be human while being trained. Except Ember meets a renegade dragon and dreams of freedom, but her twin, Dante, is all set to follow the rules.
Rogue literally takes off where Talon ended. Garett is about to be executed. Riley/Cobalt is being tough and grumpy (he probably needs a snack…low blood pressure or something? Seriously, that dude is always in a mood). Ember is flipping her hair and sassing. And Dante is getting swallowed by the Talon organisation and being preened for a position of great power. We get 4 POVs, which isn’t my favourite, because while I cared a lot about Ember and Garret and Dante, I cared exactly 2% about moody Riley. He narrates a huge hunk of the book and I’d have much preferre9781848453371d more from Dante’s perspective. In fact, I would’ve been okay if Riley got caught and turned into a scaly dragon handbag.

Being a sequel, Rogue also ups the romance stakes…by unfortunately bringing in a love-triangle. I’m a little tired of triangles myself, to be honest, BUT. It did create a lot of tension which is always delicious to read about. Ember is torn between Riley, the rebel dragon, and Garrett, a military teen who used to hunt and kill dragons. Obviously, after Ember risked her life to get Garrett out of prison, I kind of lean towards him instead of Riley.

I do so love the writing and the characters (!!) and the series in general! Goodreads assures me there’ll be at least 5 books, which I’m dragonishly excited about. I always get caught up when I read a Julie Kagawa book! I totally forget time! There’s military action and shapeshifting and bullets flying. And the whole idea of super slick secret-agent dragon organisations is totally unique to me. And the covers?! They’re so pretty I want to hug them.


Baby Love Picture Books

When our little ones begin to show a curiosity for the world around them, this may include exploring nature; its particular features, elements of growth and change, as well as discovering their own individual attributes and the differences in one another. Understanding and appreciating these fascinating aspects can be facilitated through gentle and nurturing guidance, and what better resources to do that than loving parents and delightful picture books?! Here are three beautiful stories that look at unique qualities and special bonds, just right for toddlers and preschoolers.  

imageHush, Little Possum, P.Crumble (author), Wendy Binks (illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2015.

To the classic tune of ‘Hush, Little Baby’ comes a beautiful Australian version of the lullaby, ‘Hush, Little Possum’. Equipped with a CD recording sung by well-known Indigenous actress/singer, Deborah Mailman, this book/music combo doesn’t get more engaging.

Mama possum is gentle, reassuring and loving, but she is also little possum’s beacon of safety with her unrelenting courage and astuteness. Keeping her precious bundle sheltered from rumbling, wet skies, and gushing floods, to noisy and dangerous structures, Mama’s instincts are unsurpassed.

Absolutely gorgeous multi-textured, earth-toned illustrations of these sweet sugar gliders reflect both the sense of security and nurturing qualities emanating from the song, but also our unique Australian features and landscapes of rusty tin sheds, expansive crop fields and eucalypt trees sustaining the forces of an outback storm. Aimed at reinforcing affectionate bonds between mums and bubs, it’s pure and authentic; ‘Hush, Little Possum’ is perfect for toddlers as a bedtime treat.  

imageOur Baby, Margaret Wild (author), Karen Blair (illus.), Working Title Press, 2015.

‘Our Baby’ maintains a unique stance, spoken by the older sister who portrays a range of babies and their families in varying shapes and forms. From typical nuclear families (like hers), to single and same-sex parents, babies with distinctive qualities (like tiny shrimp toes and dandelion hair), babies on adventures to shops and playgroup, and those performing different talents and cheeky behaviours. Each time, the girl reflects on what makes her own baby so individual, forging their special bond with one another.

With large font and an energetic, rhythmic tone, Margaret Wild‘s text is age-appropriate, warm and playful that makes for an easy, enjoyable read. Karen Blair‘s characteristically gentle and pronounced illustrations beautifully reflect the richness, diversity and idiosyncrasies of families and in particular, babies.

A special book for babies that celebrates how life is truly unique for everyone.  

imageOur Love Grows, Anna Pignataro (author, illus.), Scholastic Press, 2015.  

Following on from the completely divine ‘How I Love You’, another babylicious book by the irrefutably talented Anna Pignataro is ‘Our Love Grows’.

Once again, the maternal bond between mum and baby is explored, this time through reflections on precious past moments. Little panda, Pip ponders; ‘Mama, when will I be big?’. In comparison to their natural world around them, Mama gently guides Pip through the processes of growth and change. She reminisces about the time her little one was tiny; how the stars were just a few, his footsteps so small, his toy Birdy all new and Blanky so big. Mama explains that as nature and Pip have grown, so has her love for her curious child.

The browns, blues, greens and golds in the watercolour and pencil illustrations beautifully reflect the natural, oriental-type settings and the cycle of the seasons, and the warmth and tenderness associated with this loving relationship. Anna‘s text equally suits this affectionate tone with its rhyming and first-person language, enabling its readers and listeners to connect with the story and with one another.

Featuring soft and magical images, with a gentle and sweet storyline, ‘Our Love Grows’ is a lyrical, soothing book perfect for sharing with children from age two.

Review: Some Luck by Jane Smiley

9781447275602I missed this book last year and picked it up after a customer raved about how this and it’s sequel were among the best books they had ever read. And after finishing this she may well be right!

This is the first book in The Last Hundred Years trilogy. Book two, Early Warning, is already out and book three, Golden Age, is being published in October and I am going to resist as much as I possible can not to jump straight into book two, even though I absolutely want to.

The book begins in 1920 in Iowa and tells the story of The Langdons. Walter has recently returned home from the First World War. He and his new wife, Rosanna, have settled on a remote farm to start their life and their family. We get to know The Langdons through their ups and downs on the farm and the birth of their children. We follow each new Langdon as they make their way in the world and witness how each member of the family deal with history’s big moments; The Depression, World War Two and the beginnings of The Cold War in the 1950s. There are triumphs, there are tragedies, lives are changed and lives stay the same.

Jane Smiley’s writing is fantastic. She eases you into the family she has created and before you know it you are completely sucked into the story. You will fall in love with each character in a different way and share in the highs and lows of their lives. The big historical events, that are so familiar to us, effect each character in a different way, some small and some big. In telling the story from different perspectives she subtly fleshes out the context of each event showing both its importance and significance as well as its unimportance and insignificance. A rare thing to be able to pull off and pull off well.

I had not read Jane Smiley before and I cannot wait to get into the rest of this magnificent trilogy.

Buy the book here…

Queensland Literary Awards 2015 – still time to vote

After its recent tumultuous history, the Qld Literary Awards are growing from strength to strength under the banner of the State Library of Queensland and a bevy of eminent sponsors.

The 2015 shortlists have just been announced and the winners will be revealed at the Awards Ceremony on Friday 9th October in Brisbane.

Some categories showcase Queensland authors. These include the Queensland Premier’s Award for a Work of State Significance

Shortlisted authors are:Heat and light

The impressive Ellen van Neerven  for Heat and Light  (University of Queensland Press)

Zoe Boccabella  Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar  (Harper Collins Publishers)

Mark Bahnisch  Queensland; Everything you ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask  (NewSouth Publishing)

Anna Bligh  Through the Wall: Reflections on Leadership, Love and Survival  (Harper Collins Publishers)

Libby Connors  Warrior  (Allen & Unwin)

Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award

Imogen Smith  Araluen

Elizabeth Kasmer  Aurora

W. George Sargasso

Kate Elkington  Wool Spin Burn

 Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards

Andrew McMillen

Megan McGrath, Program Coordinator at the Brisbane Writers Festival

Michelle Law

Rebecca Jessen

Sam George-Allen

It is impressive how these state awards nurture and promote Qld authors.

The Qld Literary Awards are also notable for their support of Indigenous authors with the David Unaipon Award for Unpublished Indigenous Writer –

Andrew Booth  The First Octoroon or Report of an Experimental Child

Mayrah Yarragah Dreise  Social Consciousness Series

Patricia Lees with Adam C. Lees  A Question of Colour

Other categories celebrate the finest Australian writers (and some illustrators) across the country.

These include the

Griffith University Children’s Book AwardNew Boy

Meg McKinlay  A Single Stone  (Walker Books Australia)

Tasmin Janu  Figgy in the World  (Omnibus Books)

David Mackintosh  Lucky  (Harper Collins Publishers)

Nick Earls New Boy (Penguin)

Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley Teacup (Scholastic Australia)

There was a strong selection of novels, picture books and others to whittle down into a shortlist this year.

Griffith University Young Adult Book AwardAre You Seeing Me

Darren Groth  Are You Seeing Me?  (Random House Australia)

Justine Larbalestier  Razorhurst  (Allen & Unwin) This won the Aurealis spec fiction award for Horror Novel.

Diana Sweeney  The Minnow  (Text Publishing) This was a CBCA Honour Book.

John Larkin  The Pause  (Random House Australia)

Jeri Kroll  Vanishing Point  (Puncher and Wattman)

I have read these except for Vanishing Point and so am now keen to read this also. It’s great to see a publisher I know for its poetry publishing YA.

University of Queensland Fiction Book AwardSnow Kimono

Amanda Lohrey  A Short History of Richard Kline  (Black Inc)

Joan London  The Golden Age  (Random House Australia) Reviewed here

Mark Henshaw  The Snow Kimono  (Text Publishing) Reviewed here

Malcolm Knox  The Wonder Lover  (Allen & Unwin)

Rohan Wilson  To Name Those Lost  (Allen & Unwin)

University of Queensland Non-fiction Book Award

Brenda Niall  Mannix  (Text Publishing)

Don Watson  The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia  (Penguin)

Anne Manne  The Life of I: The New Culture of Narcissism  (Melbourne University Press)

Annabel Crabb  The Wife Drought  (Random House Australia)

Karen Lamb  Thea Astley: Inventing Her Own Weather  (University of Queensland Press)

University of Southern Queensland History Book AwardCyclone

Carolyn Holbrook  ANZAC, The Unauthorised Biography  (NewSouth Publishing)

Angela Woollacott  Settler Society in the Australian Colonies: Self-Government and Imperial Culture  (Oxford University Press)

Christine Kenneally  The Invisible History of the Human Race  (Black Inc)

Agnieszka Sobocinska  Visiting the Neighbours: Australians in Asia  (NewSouth Publishing)

Sophie Cunningham  Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy  (Text Publishing)

University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award

Nic Low  Arms Race and Other Stories  (Text Publishing)

Nick Jose  Bapo  (Giramondo)

Ellen van Neerven  Heat and Light  (University of Queensland Press)

Christos Tsiolkas  Merciless Gods  (Allen & Unwin)

J.M. Coetzee  Three Stories  (Text Publishing

State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award

Susan Bradley Smith  Beds for All Who Come  (Five Islands Press)

Robert Adamson  Net Needle  (Black Inc)

David Brooks  Open House  (University of Queensland Press)

Lucy Dougan  The Guardians  (Giramondo)

Les Murray  Waiting for the Past  (Black Inc)

Thanks to the State Library of Queensland and supporters, including those who sponsor and give their names to specific awards.

And vote now until 5pm Friday 18 September 2015 for

The Courier-Mail 2015 People’s Choice Queensland Book of the YearNavigatio

 Nick Earls Analogue Men

Patrick Holland Navigatio

Inga Simpson Nest

Kari Gislason The Ash Burner

Zoe Boccabella Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar

John Ahern On the Road…With the Kids

David Murray The Murder of Allison Baden-Clay

Mary Lou Simpson From Convict to Politician

Meet Cass Moriarty, author of The Promise Seed


Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Cass.

We met almost by coincidence at the recent Brisbane Writers Festival although I had heard about you through a mutual friend and had already read and admired your debut novel, The Promise Seed.

Promise seedThe Promise Seed (UQP) is your first published novel. How did you get published – an agent or through the slush pile?

I have been fortunate enough to have had a rather exciting path to publication. The first major encouragement was in 2012 when, through the Brisbane Writers Festival’s program ’20 Pages in 20 Minutes’ I was given 20 minutes of one-on-one critique and advice on the first 20 pages of the manuscript with Farrin Jacobs, then an Editor at Harper Collins UK. The following year, I submitted the completed manuscript to the Queensland Literary Awards, and was shortlisted in the Emerging Author category. As part of the prize, I was awarded 25 hours of mentorship with an experienced editor. I was lucky enough to be connected to Judith Lukin-Amundsen. Her thoughtful criticism and questions played a huge role in strengthening the structure of the manuscript and readying it for submission to University of Queensland Press, who then offered me a contract. Madonna Duffy and the team at UQP have provided me with incredible support and advice along the way.

So…no agent OR slush pile!

What is the significance of your title, The Promise Seed?

Each child is born innocent and vulnerable, entirely guileless. Each child is born full of promise. How that child develops depends on so many factors – physical environment, social nurturing and community support. What sort of adult that child grows into depends on the opportunities and love and care that are devoted to his or her growth – much as with a seed that will not sprout and grow without the right environment. Many of us are so lucky in the circumstances of our birth – we are born into a country without conflict or poverty; or born a gender or race that is ‘socially acceptable’; or have advantages and opportunities available to us that we accept as our right in the natural order of things. So many children do not have those advantages, and their promise is stunted before it really has a chance to grow.

Where are you based and how does this impact on the setting of your novel?

I spent my childhood in Stanthorpe, and I live and write in Brisbane. The Promise Seed is set for the most part in south-east Queensland. The sense of place is quite important in the novel because the old man feels a strong connection to the places of his youth. They are inextricably linked to the events of his past and the memories of his family.

For the boy, the sense of peace and calm he finds in the old man’s garden counterbalances his mother’s peripatetic lifestyle; it feels more like ‘home’ to him than the series of shifting houses and relationships to which she has exposed him.


You portray both an old man and a neglected (and worse) young boy. What inspired these characters?

The Promise Seed is very much driven by the two main characters. I recall quite vividly the day I sat down and wrote the first few pages – the old man’s voice was very strong in my head – and those pages have changed little from that day to this finished publication. The old man was perhaps a conglomeration of many elderly people I have known and respected in my life: my grandparents (I still have one grandmother alive, who is 107!), elderly neighbours, and others in my community. I find it fascinating to consider the lives these people have led, throughout world wars and other conflicts, depressions, and the many societal changes that have become commonplace as the years have passed. I think we sometimes forget the richness of the lives they’ve led.

The boy is also representative of the many children like him, who grow and develop despite the lack of love and care they should be afforded. Many years ago, I was a volunteer for Crisis Care, the after-hours section of the Department of Family Services, and I have no doubt that this has informed this aspect of my writing, along with topical issues such as the Child Protection Commission, and current investigations into institutionalised abuse. I strongly believe that how we care for and protect our most vulnerable is a mirror that reflects our society’s empathy and compassion.

How do these two connect in the novel?

The boy creeps slowly into the old man’s garden, and eventually into his heart. They connect through simple pursuits – gardening, playing chess, chickens – usually through the old man teaching the boy about these things. Older people have a lot to offer young people; even if they don’t have specific skills or talents, they are able to impart the wisdom of the life they’ve lived and the experiences they’ve survived.

Conversely, young people can offer older people youthful enthusiasm, naivety, and open, unsophisticated trust. Children can remind their elders of what it is like to be genuinely excited in the world.

Despite their differences, the lives of the old man and the boy intersect through their common experiences of betrayal and abandonment, and through their shared trauma. As the story progresses, the similarities between the past and the present become more apparent.

Life can be very hard. What would you like to see childhood as being?

This is an interesting question; it appears quite simple but is actually very complex, because of course the goal posts shift depending on who you are talking about. If you consider children in developing countries, I would most like to see them provided with clean drinking water, shelter and safety, and enough food and medical care. Those would be the priorities. In countries like Australia, we often take those needs for granted (although of course, we do still have families who struggle, particularly Indigenous children who still lack some of those basic provisions).

But in general, if we move beyond those primal needs, I would like to see all children be provided with the intellectual stimulation and support to engage their critical thinking; I would like children to feel safe and secure in their family and within the relationships they have with the adults that surround them; I would like childhood to be a place that nurtures tolerance, compassion, empathy and an acceptance of difference. I would like childhood to be a greenhouse for all those seeds of promise that are born every day, an environment where each child can learn, love and flourish, and grow to become a happy and well-adjusted adult member of our society.

I would like to see more insight into the needs of our children, and how they can be enabled to get those needs met, whether that’s through their own families, through external circumstances, or even through coincidence.

Your writing is assured, and lyrical in parts. Could you quote a few sentences or extract from the novel you are particularly pleased with and tell us why?

This extract actually follows on quite nicely from your previous question:

‘I thought about the luck of the draw in where you’re born, and where you end up. You draw the short straw, and what shred of hope do you have of a normal life? If you’re born someplace with none of the advantages that others take for granted, how do you get along in life? And if you don’t know any different, how can you hope for something better? How can you have a shot at what’s possible if you don’t even know what’s possible?

The families I saw around us gave off the simple comfort of loving and being loved. Of having the security to hope and the confidence to dream.

My sister had no chance to hope. No opportunity to laugh and grow and play. To love, to mourn, to take risks, to try. And my wings were clipped early too. No choice in the matter.

The boy…what does he hope for? Where does he dream? How high will he fly without someone to show him the way?’

I think this encapsulates one of the themes of the novel – the chances life gives us, and what happens if life snatches them away.

How else do you spend your time?

Well, I have six children, so that answers that question!

I cherish spending time with my husband and our children, and with our lovely circle of dear friends. And I love to read!

What have you enjoyed reading?In the Quiet

I am a voracious reader and also write reviews on the books I’ve read, which I publish on my facebook page. Some of my recent reads by Australian authors which I have thoroughly enjoyed are ‘The Other Side of the World’ by Stephanie Bishop, ‘In the Quiet’ by Eliza Henry-Jones, ‘The Strays’ by Emily Bitto, ‘The Eye of the Sheep’ by Sophie Laguna, ‘The Night Guest’ by Fiona McFarlane, ‘The Light Between Oceans’ by ML Stedman, ‘This House of Grief’ by Helen Garner, ‘All the Birds, Singing’ by Evie Wyld, and ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’, by Richard Flanagan. Some of my favourite authors are Kate Atkinson, Rohinton Mistry and Boris Akunin.

So many books, so little time!

All the best with your new book and thanks very much, Cass. Your responses are generous and thoughtful and reflect the high quality of your writing.

It’s been a pleasure talking ‘writing and reading’ with Boomerang Books. Thank you so much for inviting me to participate!

Eye of sheep

Review: Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth

9780857984739Oh this book is utterly glorious! I picked up Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth on impulse and am totally glad I gave it a chance. This book is so special and I’m squawking with the effort of writing a review to give it justice!

It’s about Australian twins, Justine and Perry (who has autism), who go for a holiday in Canada. I adore books about Australians, especially since I read 80% USA and UK fiction, so I especially appreciated all the words like “sticky-beak” and references to “Possum Magic”. It’s all so very AUSSIE, MATE. The humour is very Australian too. Lots of sarcasm. Lots of dry wit.

I do squint distrustfully at the blurb though, because technically it’s a “holiday” not a “roadtrip”. They go in an airplane across the ocean to Canada. Yes, there is a bit of driving. But one does not call a flight to Canada a “roadtrip”. Sheesh.

But we need to talk about these exceptionally perfectly written characters! I absolutely adored both Justine and Perry! It’s dual narrated, and I think that helped me really get to know BOTH sides of the story — what it’s like to live with a disability, and what it’s like to care for someone with one.

The twins’ father just died, so the holiday is a little respite before Big Life Changes happen. Perry isn’t specifically labelled with Autism (it’s referred to as a “brain condition”) but he has all the traits and I feel this was possibly the author’s way of avoiding labels? I adored how different the two teens’ narrative was! Justine was really down to earth, but Perry had long complex sentences and imagined wild things and had a very literal view of the world. Justine was all types of awesome. She was caring. She was stressed. She was capable. She struggles with a lot of things (potentially moving away from Perry to begin her own life) and wondering if she was doing the right or wrong thing.

Also, like the stalker I am, I snuck to the author’s blog and read about how he wrote this book for his own children! His own son has autism and a twin sister. It made me really trust the book, because I feel like the author knows what he’s talking about! And also, n’awwww. Isn’t it sweet?! I love it when books have a personal flair like this.

And it’s also super funny and dryly witty. Did I mention that already?!?

Yes, go straight through. No need for passports. We love Australians here in Canada…We know you’ve had a rough flight. We know you’ve had a rough LIFE. All those sharks and snakes and rugby players trying to kill you every moment of the day. Far be it from us to make things more difficult. And, here, have this leftover gold medal from the Vancouver Winter Olympics. You’ve earned it.

I definitely loved this book and appreciated how it was an honest and detailed view of autism as well as an incredible story about friendship, siblings, and growing up.



Poetry here and on the way

Subject of feelingAustralian readers overlook poetry to our loss. Fortunately there are a number of excellent publishers who publish poetry either exclusively or as part of their list.

Many of our literary awards have poetry sections and these remind us that poetry deserves attention. The Queensland Literary Awards shortlist, for example, will be announced this Friday, 11th September.

Australian publisher Puncher & Wattman has a fantastic crop of poetry appearing between August and the end of the year. Highlights are John Tranter’s twenty-fourth collection, Heart Starter (August). This showcases old and new poems, some of which speak harshly about the nature of ‘poetic insight’. Philip Hammial, who has twice been shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize, had Asylum Nerves published in August. Anna Kerdijk-Nicholson’s very topical Everyday Epic about asylum seekers and reconciliation will be launched in Sydney in September. CLOUDLESS_Front_grande

UWA published The Subject of Feeling by Peter Rose (ABR Editor who appeared at last week’s Brisbane Writers Festival), and Happiness by Martin Harrison in August and will publish Cloudless, a verse novel by Christine Evans in September.

UWA Publishing and creative writing journal Trove are also co-hosting quarterly Sturmfrei poetry nights. “Sturmfrei” is a German word for “being without your supervisors or guardians and therefore being able to do as you wish.” The idea is that UWAP and Trove have fled the UWA campus for the wider Perth community for nights of poetry, conversation and ideas.

On BunyahOn Bunyah, follows Les Murray’s recent Waiting for the Past (both Black Inc) in October. Les has lived in Bunyah all his life. We were fortunate to host Les Murray in our home when he spoke at our inaugural ‘Be Inspired’ series, which aims, as the name implies, to inspire our friends and family. Our other presenters have generally been from the arts, including singer Kate Miller-Heidke; theatre company, Crossbow Productions; and authors Nick Earls and Shaun Tan. Our other poet/author inspirer was the esteemed David Malouf.

Best Aust Poems

Black Inc’s Best of Australian Poems 2015, edited by Geoff Page is also eagerly anticipated in October, as is Falling and Flying: Poems of Aging, edited by Judith Beveridge and Susan Ogle and Idle Talk – Gwen Harwood Letters 1960-1964. (both Brandl & Schlesinger).

My husband received Judith Beveridge’s Devadatta’s Poems (Giramondo) for Fathers’ Day, as well as former PM Poetry award-winner John Kinsella’s Sack (Fremantle Press).Devadatta's poems

Giramondo will publish The Fox Petition by award-winning Jennifer Maiden in November. “The fox” emblemises xenophobia and Maiden’s signature dialogues between notable people reappear. She also used this powerful structure in Drones and Phantoms and Liquid Nitrogen.

In case you missed them, UQP recently published Eating My Grandmother by Krissy Kneen and The Hazards by Sarah Holland-Batt. These writers also appeared at the recent Brisbane Writers Festival and both have won awards.

Robert Adamson was another popular figure at the BWF. He discovered poetry in gaol as a young man and his most recent publication is Net Needle (Black Inc). Just goes to show the power of poetry.Net Needle

Boomerang Book Bites: Sweet Caress by William Boyd

The new William Boyd is simply sublime.Sweet Caress tells the story of photographer Amory Clay and her tumultuous life over the course of a tumultuous century. Interspersed with photos from key periods in Amory Clay’s life Boyd will have you almost convinced that his novel’s protagonist and narrator is real and existed.
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Brilliant Brisbane Writers Festival 2015

The BWF shone again. Jon Ronson’s opening address wooed everyone and we bought a copy of The Psychopath Test on the spot. What a funny, clever man.

CollinsI realised on opening night that this was my 10th consecutive year moderating sessions at the BWF. What a privilege to have conversed with writers such as Booker shortlisted authors Abdulrazak Gurnah and Michael Collins over the years.

Another past highlight was when I chaired the phenomenal Andy Griffiths speaking to an adult audience. He morphed into Vincent Price and Struwwelpeter. I’ve never seen him as funny. I chaired a couple of sessions with Boy in the Striped Pyjamas author, John Boyne the same year, and he got to share the electricity of the stage with Andy for that memorable panel. John’s upcoming Boy at the Top of the Mountain is incredible, by the way. It will be published in October.Mountain

Other years it was a privilege to speak with Hungarian holocaust survivor Peter Lantos, and to listen to Gabrielle Carey and Linda Neil share how they grieved for their mothers.

I almost swooned when invited to facilitate the session with the brilliant Margo Lanagan and Marianne de Pierres. And Morris Gleitzman and Gabrielle Wang were another unforgettable pairing.

The incomparable Michael Morpurgo (War Horse) was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speak one-on-one with an author I have admired greatly for years. He was such a gentleman. NZ writer Kate di Goldi was delightful and, last year, Nick Earls was a load of laughs. Mem Fox (Possum Magic) was the very first author I chaired at the BWF, back in the days of tents. There have been many, many special sessions, a number of which I was called in to chair at late notice and had to wing.

A final past highlight was ‘African Stories’ with Caine Prize winners EC Esondo Waiting, and Kenyan Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. This session was recorded by ABC Radio National

RosieThe 2015 sessions were right up there too. I was thrilled to moderate three separate sessions with one author in each, beginning with the inimitable Graeme Simsion talking about The Rosie Effect. Graeme delighted in his audience and met many of them in the queue beforehand and then in the auditorium before the session began. He even beat me to it and jumped on stage to introduce me! I loved how he answered the questions with clarity and stayed on topic. I won’t give away his excellent tips on how to write comedy. The Rosie Effect also deals with big issues. The audience loved him. So did I.

Forever YoungMy second session was with 2014 PM Literary Award co-winner Steven Carroll. I was quaking because his new novel Forever Young is the best literary fiction I’ve read this year and he is such an eminent author (see *below) but we hit it off straight away with a shared interest in art and music (even though I disgraced myself on stage with an innocent question about the song Please Please Me. Unfortunately Steven wouldn’t sing the Dylan version of Forever Young but in every other way he exceeded expectations with his answers to my questions. This was a session of profound insights as well as lots of laughs. I’m now reading through the rest of his stunning Glenroy series.

ShiningMy last session was with Somali refugee Abdi Aden. Abdi enthralled the audience with his powerful story in Shining: The Story of a Lucky Man, which tells how he escaped from soldiers in Somali and his torturous journey to a refugee camp in Kenya and then to Romania, Germany and Australia. I have never seen an audience with such anguish in their faces as they listened to Abdi speak about what it’s like to be a refugee. Abdi recognises the generosity of the Australian people in giving him the opportunity to shine here.


Other authors I admire and had a moment to speak with in passing were Cass Moriarty, Briony Stewart, Felicity Plunkett and Christine Bongers (too quickly!) and I know I have forgotten to mention some – apologies.

I also met Richard Glover when I inadvertently mistook him for an *eminent writer of literary fiction. I’ll be hearing Richard speak about Flesh Wounds soon and know he will be hilarious.

Thank you to the wonderful publicists from the publishing companies and the staff and volunteers of the BWF who looked after us all so well. Our minds are now wide open!

G Simsion

Forces of Nature – Picture Book Reviews

The scent of Spring is in the air. But that’s not all that’s lifting us up. From the tiny details to the wider world, our environment has so much to offer. For different reasons, these following picture books discover beauty and how the elements of nature can capture our hearts and strengthen our human kindness.  

imageHow the Sun Got to Coco’s House, Bob Graham (author, illus.), Walker Books, 2015.  

I patiently awaited its arrival. Now I’ve had my fix, and… it was worth the wait. This one effectively enlightened all my senses. With Bob Graham‘s natural poetic writing style, philosophical touch and emotive images, ‘How the Sun Got to Coco’s House’ is another classic to soothe the soul.  

In a consecutive movement, similar to the styles of ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’ and ‘Silver Buttons’, the story takes us on a journey with the sun around the globe. Starting from behind a snow-capped mountain, the sun begins to rise, giddily skidding across waters, catching glimpses in eyes, footsteps, aeroplane wings and over cities. In and out of proximity, the sun’s rays meet a vast array, from individuals, to small villages, and whole countries. Until, it barges in through Coco’s window. The sun becomes one with her family and friends, bringing with it a sense of togetherness, comfort and warmth.  

A gentle story of life, responsibility and peace, this book is adorned with Bob Graham’s characteristically whimsical and magical illustrative style, with a beautiful lolloping pace. ‘How the Sun Got to Coco’s House’ is a valuable asset aimed to inspire young readers to explore global environmental and social issues, as well as one that will simply light up their world! Once again, Bob Graham…brilliant!  

imageSeagull, Danny Snell (author, illus.), Working Title Press, 2015.  

Danny Snell brings us a heartwarming story of humanity and freedom, making clear our responsibility for appreciating the natural world around us.  

Beautifully descriptive yet simple language and serene backdrops allow its readers an intimate experience as a seagull tries to free herself from a tangled fishing line. Unable to loosen it herself, Seagull initiates help from the other creatures around the beach, but to no avail. The further she tarries, the heavier her load becomes as she catches a manner of litter in the line. Finally, it is the silent observer that enables Seagull’s wings to spread, and her heart to sing once more.  

Snell has cleverly and effectively used mixed media to differentiate between the elements of natural versus man-made / fragile versus harmful with paint for the scenery and animals, and colourless scanned images for the items of rubbish. His artwork is stunningly textured with varying sky hues to represent the passing of the day and the exhaustion, and eventual freedom, of the defenceless bird.  

‘Seagull’ is a gentle and significant story for primary school aged children to be aware of environmental issues and aims to empower control, kindness and compassion for our planet and our future. Definitely one that will pull on your heartstrings.  

imageOllie and the Wind, Ronojoy Ghosh (author, illus.), Random House Australia, 2015.  

Here’s a cheeky story of one force of nature; the wind. Treating the gust as an anthropomorphic, invisible being, young Ollie interacts with it in creative ways, hoping to be reunited with the hat and scarf that were snatched from him. Upon discovering that the wind is not naughty, but in fact playful, Ollie gestures some of his favourite toys. A nighttime kite-flying romp sees Ollie and the wind form a special bond, which, by the looks of the final image, seemed to put the wind in high spirits.  

The text is full with depth and life, and is accompanied by vibrant, textured and jovial illustrations. Ghosh‘s fine line drawings, minimal colour palette of bold greens and golds with statements of red, and cartoonesque style qualify for a unique and captivating reading experience.  

‘Ollie and the Wind’ will capture more than just your heart. It will encourage preschoolers to look at the world with a fresh perspective, investigate studies of meteorology, and explore friendships on another level.

Review – The Boy Who Loved The Moon

THe Boy Who Loved The Moon coverItalian cartoonist and filmmaker, Rino Alaimo describes himself as a dreamer who never gives up – no matter the odds. It is a mindset many prescribe to, me included and often with devastatingly (one always hopes, at least) great outcomes. Granted, great outcomes can take a while to harness successfully, as The Boy Who Loved the Moon depicts but when they are, watch out! The result is stellar and so is this picture book.Rino Alaimo

 The Boy Who Loved the Moon is the type of picture book that may divide reader opinion. It is daring. It is simple. It is questioning and it is achingly beautiful. It exists because Alaimo adapted his own highly acclaimed short film, The Boy and The Moon and so fits in the same space as The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore, also a result of a remarkable short animation. Readers can view the film thanks to the QR code thoughtfully included in the jacket-sleeve. Much of the film’s integrity and mood is included in this story.The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore

As a picture book, it shines, although ironically, the tale begins in almost total darkness with only a single light illuminating the night sky. The light is ostensibly the Moon, however she represents significantly more; first loves, hopes eternal, ambitions unfettered, all of which emanate a bewitching glow.

The Boy Moon spread # 2Thus, the heart of a lonely boy is captured. He sets out to win her love scouring the deepest seas, defeating the mightiest dragons to secure riches to entice her affections, but she rejects them all.

He is warned by the shadows of an old man, a cautionary conscience perhaps, to desist or otherwise suffer the consequences. However, from deep desperation, fierce determination takes root and the boy engineers a plan. He gives the Moon that which cannot be got and in so doing, finally harnesses her love.

The Boy who Loved the Moon illo spreadEssentially a metaphor of Alaimo’s proclamation of never giving up on yourself or your dreams, The Boy Who Loved the Moon is laced with spellbinding fantasy. Alaimo’s poetic prose plunges the reader into despair, allowing them to feel the boy’s regrets, heartaches and gutsy tenacity then helps them soar with him to unimaginable heights of ecstasy.

There is only one page of blinding colour in this book. Every other spread is a study of copper and gold, darkness and mystery; the colour of courage that one finds buried deep in one’s heart. It is pure magic.

Le Petit PrinceYoung readers may find some of the nuances addressed a little illusive but if read with an adult, they will delight in delving deeper into this beautiful book. Its unique illustrations and dazzling dragons are almost drawcard enough. Reminiscent of the enigmatic wonder of Le Petite Prince, The Boy Who Loved the Moon is a stunning standout classic. Enjoy it for what it is. Love it for is suggests.

Exisle Publishing Australia for Familius LLC September 2015


Australia Children’s Book Week 2015 YA Short List

small BW promo logo

I didn’t even realise the Australian Children’s Book Week awards were happening until I strolled into my library and ran face-to-face with the display. And better yet?! I’d read 5 out of 6 of the Young Adult short listed books! GO ME. (Clearly I’ve got monstrously good taste in books.)

So obviously we need to have a quick perusal of the books that were shortlisted so you know what you’re getting into when you dash out to buy them. And you’ll be blessed with my ever-fabulous commentary on if I think the books deserve there places or not.

Let’s do this!



9780702250194THE PROTECTED by Claire Zorn  [purchase]

This is the overall winner! And I totally think it deserves the place because it’s an absolutely heartbreaking story about loss and sisters and bullying. I maybe possibly bawled while reading it. Ergo you need to try this heart-wrenching story.

The story is told backwards. You begin knowing Hannah’s sister, Katie, is dead. You see pain, tears, the family falling apart. BUT WHY?! WHAT HAPPENED? Answers beg to be found. I basically just read the whole thing in two sittings and I just ached for Hannah’s pain.



9781459810792ARE YOU SEEING ME? by Darren Groth [purchase]

This. book. is. INCREDIBLE. I actually liked it more than The Protected, but it’s actually set in Canada even though it’s about two Aussie siblings. It’s narrated by twins, Justine and Perry — and Perry has autism. They’re on a roadtrip/holiday before school ends and their lives change forever. It’s totally sweet and kind of sad at the same time. It’s about letting go and moving on and also earthquakes. Because Perry’s obsessed with them.

Also if you sneak over to the author’s website, he’s blogged about how he wrote this book for his daughter and his son (who has autism) and isn’t that incredibly sweet?! IT IS. Oh gosh.


9781742978307THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF CINNAMON GIRL by Melissa Keil [purchase]

Wow, just wow. This book is basically for anyone and everyone about to finish highschool and wondering WHAT THE HECK DO I DO WITH MY LIFE. (And possibly breaking down sobbing occasionally.) It’s also for people who like cakes, because so. much. cake. in. this. book. (It’s glorious.) I have to confess: THIS would be my pick to be the winner. It’s set in this tiny outback town which some crackpot has prophesied is the only “safe place” when the “apocalypse” happens. It’s about growing up and potentially losing friends and family.

And Alba, the narrator, is just the most fabulous thing to ever enter a YA book. She draws! She’s not skinny! She bakes! She’s a writer! I BASICALLY THINK SHE’S THE BEST.


9781922182012THE MINNOW by Diana Sweeney [purchase]

This book is beautifully written. But also kind of confusing. If you’re a black-and-white thinker (like yours truly), you might have trouble with it? But I won’t deny how lyrical the prose is! It’s about Tom, who is actually a girl despite her nickname, who’s 14 when she gets pregnant. She basically has no family, her town has barely survived a flood, and she doesn’t know anything about being a parent.

The ending will probably stab you in the feels. Just sayin’.

And isn’t the cover the most exquisite thing you’ve ever seen!??


9781863956895NONA AND ME by Clare Atkins [purchase]

Again with the cover love! Australian designers totally outdo themselves with covers I kind of want to hug or eat or something. Ahem. ANYWAY!

This one is set in the Northern Territory and is about Indigenous Australian life, narrated by Rosie. It’s a gorgeous tale, with nice writing and a heart-tugging message about racism, with some fabulous character development. It also adequately sums up how STINKIN’ HOT it is in the Northern Territory.

I didn’t love it, however, because I found Rosie very self-centred (although she does grow throughout the book) and I really wish there’d be more focus on Nona, who was Indigenous. I mean it’s NONA and Me, right?! More Nona! Plus Rosie has a boyfriend who’s sickeningly racist and ugh. Lots of righteous indignation reading this one.


9780857983763INTRUDER by Christine Bongers [purchase]

This is the only one I haven’t read! I hadn’t even heard of it.

From the blurb it’s about Kat Jones, who has someone scary unknown intruder after her, and who ends up getting a dog to protect her. It doesn’t grab me but it’s compared to Fiona Wood and Cath Crowley’s books and they are totally the QUEENS of Australian YA. So who am I to say no before I try Intruder?! It’s on my to-do list.

Boomerang Book Bites: Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

Patrick deWitt’s follow up to the brilliant The Sisters Brothers is just as described by the publisher on my advanced reading copy, “incredible”. Continuing on with the subversiveness that made The Sisters Brothers such a magnificent and unique take on The Western, deWitt turns his hand to another genre to create a darkly comic romp that blends a sense of humour, a sense of the absurd and a sense of the surreal in a way that would make even Wes Anderson envious.
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Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

9780062351555I am a huge fan of Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series so when I saw he had a new book coming out I had to read it.

On the surface this appears to be a cyber-thriller about hacking. But in the hands of Chuck Wendig it goes somewhere quite different. The book opens and we are introduced to five different hackers; an activist, a professional troller, an old-school hacker, a money skimmer and an amateur hacker completely out of his depth. They have all come to the Government’s attention in their various ways, for various crimes, and each of them is rounded up and offered a deal: come and work for the Government for a year or spend the next ten years in jail. They each take the deal.

But working for the Government doesn’t mean they all become cyber-spies instead they are whisked off to a secret camp with other hackers who are all put to the test to see what they can and can’t do. No one knows which agency they are working for; the NSA? The CIA? Or something more secretive. But as they do their testing (and some of their own digging) they start to uncover a secret project called Typhon. But the more they dig, the more they unearth and once Project Typhon is exposed it might already be too late.

Wendig weaves together a fantastic hacker thriller that halfway through takes a massive  and very clever twist. Utilizing all our existing technology Wendig creates a truly scary scenario that is also wickedly entertaining. If you loved Max Barry’s Lexicon or are a fan of Duane Swierczynski Zer0es is a great place to discover the brilliance that is Chuck Wendig. And I can’t wait to read his Star Wars novel later in the year!

Buy the book here…