A Discovery of Witches (Times Two)

Having once been a must-read-the-books-before-watching-the-show purist, I’ve come full circle, watching A Discovery of Witches before I even knew there was a book of the same name to read.

Clearly I’d missed the cultural zeitgeist memo, with Deborah HarknessAll Souls trilogy, of which A Discovery of Witches is the first instalment, being popular enough to warrant being picked up for TV.

But with the first A Discovery of Witches season just eight—albeit excellent—episodes long, and a second season only commissioned after the first series went gangbusters and therefore not yet even shooting, there’s frustratingly too little televisual offerings of the tale available.

Which is why I am, frankly, grateful for the books. Or, rather, even more so than usual.

How close is it to the book? I wondered while watching the show. And what happens after the cliffhanger Season 1 left us on?

The short answer is: very close, with the TV show staying incredibly true to the book save for some (I would argue necessary) tightening up of a few plot points to keep the story moving swiftly. The other short answer is: I’m just about to find out. I’m waiting for the second book to arrive, so will be able to report back just as soon as I have it in my hands.

For those uninitiated with A Discovery of Witches—as I was just a few weeks ago—the book introduces us to the complex crossover of the lives and politics of witches, vampires, and daemons. Protagonist Diana Bishop is an orphaned witch turned academic of alchemy who doesn’t operate as a witch.

When she unknowingly calls up a long-lost book from the Oxford library stacks—a book that is rumoured to contain answers about the three creatures’ beginnings and potentially endings—she attracts the interest and the ire of witches, vampires, and daemons alike.

In particular, she attracts the attention of vampire Matthew De Clairmont, with an attraction between the two of them crossing the traditional bounds of vampire–witch relationships. Cue much tension between the different species surrounding them and the elusive manuscript. Also much banter between all three.

A perk of coming to the series so late is that all three books in the trilogy are already available. Which means the only thing getting between me devouring the tale is the fact that I’m waiting for Books 2 and 3 to arrive in the mail.

Boomerang Books has notified me that the books have shipped and I’m eking out the final pages of Book 1 while I wait. Suffice to say I’ll be shaking down the postie every time they so much as look in my mailbox’s direction …

Picture Books to Prepare for School – Part 2

In Part 1 of the ‘preparing for school’ series, we focused our attention on themes relating to new beginnings and gentle steps towards independence and new friendships. This post will include picture books with beautifully heartwarming sentiments of embracing our own and others’ individuality, uniqueness and personal preferences, what makes us human and advocating for equality. A value-driven start to the new year will set us all up for a peaceful, harmonious future.

Beginning with P. Crumble and Jonathan Bentley’s new release; We Are All Equal, this issue-based, prevalent topic in today’s society is a terrific resource to introduce to youngsters right from the get-go. Actress, comedian and LGBTQIA rights activist, Magda Szubanski, gives it “A resounding YES!” Here’s a book that truly celebrates the richness of difference and the reinforcement of equality despite lifestyle, origin, wealth, ability, size, shape, or gender or sexuality preference. We Are All Equal uses its gorgeous illustrations of a range of animals to highlight our wonderful diversity without preaching didactic messages. Rather, it phrases each rhyming verse gently and with the opening of “We are all EQUAL…” It dispels the idea of bullying and performance-based pressures, and focuses on sharing our hopes and dreams, pride and sense of community. A must-read for children and adults globally.

Scholastic, November 2018.

Ann Stott and Bob Graham address another current topic of today in Want to Play Trucks?. Acceptance, compromise and negotiation are all qualities that make the friendship between Jack and Alex so special. Here are two boys with differing preferences that encourage us as readers to challenge common gender stereotypes. They are excellent role models for our young children who may come to the playground with already-formed preconceptions on what is ‘typical’ behaviour. The narrative involves heavy dialogue between Jack, who likes noise, action and danger, and Alex, who enjoys “dolls that dance and wear tutus”. Graham further reinforces the notion of ‘getting along’ in this diverse environment with his subtle illustrative references to culture, ability and lifestyle in and around the sandpit setting. Want to Play Trucks? shows us a very raw and real look into a non-stereotypical world of imagination and pretend play. Recommended for pre-schoolers and beyond.

Walker Books, August 2018.

The pairing of Nicola Connelly and Annie White come together again following the gorgeous My Dad is a Bear in this fun, light-hearted tale of diversity and inclusivity; it’s Is It The Way You Giggle? This is a sweet rhyming story with whimsical, soft-palette and energetic illustrations that ooze with the magical essence of joy in childhood. The narrative begs a thousand questions for the reader to ponder, beginning (and ending) with the essential premise – “What makes you special?” There are a multitude of qualities, skills and characteristics that make us all unique, and this book is a beautiful discussion starter to have with your little one upon entering the journey of new experiences – to be able to be proud of and confident in who they are, as well as recognising and welcoming the similarities and differences in others. From the colours of your eyes or skin, to the shape of your ears, the things you enjoy like singing and dancing, the way you giggle or wiggle, your interests in painting, writing, reading or swimming, or how you love your family. Big, small, common or quirky, this book allows us the freedom and celebration of being unique. Is It The Way You Giggle? is a feel-good story for preschool-aged children that will certainly bring a smile to their face.

New Frontier Publishing, April 2018.

Filthy Fergal comes delivered in a whole league of its own when it comes to books on individuality. Sigi Cohen of the My Dead Bunny fame, together with illustrator, Sona Babajanyan, unapologetically present this disturbingly witty rhyming tale of a filthy boy thriving in the repugnant squaller of rubbish and flies. In similar vein to the legendary classics of Paul Jennings, through grime and repulsion and gag-worthy moments, there is love and family and an all-important ‘twist’ that aims to melt your heart. The text’s dark humour matches perfectly with the illustrations’ ominous and grungy mixed-media, multi-layered techniques. Filthy Fergal may not overtly promote good hygiene practices, but it does clean up in the areas of exploring belonging, commonality and difference, and being true to yourself. Suitably unsightly for school-aged children.

Yellow Brick Books, October 2018.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

Review: Girls Of Paper And Fire by Natasha Ngan

BUY HERE

Girls of Paper And Fire by Natasha Ngan is a brutal and harrowing story, mixed with gorgeous writing and a lush setting and a heroine you can’t help but adore. It’s a dark premise, but it’s handled so well, and it’s also important to discuss. And how amazing it is to see YA shelves being filled with more and more diverse fantasy tales?! This is rooted in Asian lore and myths and also has a sweet and lovely queer girl romance, along with demons and rebellions, secrets and assassins, and women who fight back.

The story follows Lei, who is a member of the Paper caste — the lowest of lows and also, disgracefully, human. The world is ruled by demons, with a demon king on the throne who has zero tolerance for rebellions. Her life is pretty quiet and simple as she lives with her father since her mother was taken by the palace some years ago. But then the palace guards return, this time for Lei. He’s heard tales of her intriguing golden eyes and he wants to own her too, nevermind how Lei feels about it. With no option but to go (or die), Lei is taken to the palace and turned into one of the king’s concubines. She and eight other girls are trained to serve him, learning to charm and be delicate ladies with manners. But Lei wants to find out what happened to her mother and she’d rather see this king destroyed instead of taking more girls. Amidst trying to stay afloat in this quiet but backstabbing world, she starts to fall for one of the other girls in the king’s consort: the mysterious and beautiful Wren, who is definitely more than she seems. Lei is determined not to lie down and let the world walk over her. It’s time to show the world she’s not made of paper, but instead: fire.

I particularly enjoyed the world building Ngan gives us. It’s intense and well-developed, making it a delight to explore as we learn the history and why the demon king is in power. It had a lot of typical average-YA-fantasy things going in, but wrote them in a captivating fresh voice. The inspiration is from the author’s own Chinese and Malaysian background and I think that’s incredibly special too. You can tell how much heart and love went into this telling!

The premise is ultimately very dark, centring around a demon king who murders humans and rapes his consorts. While it never gets graphic, it is also careful to unpack and discuss this horror. I’m actually really glad the author is dealing with this dark topic for teens because, as she said in her author’s note: While I realise these are hard discussions, especially for teens, it is of vital important we have them. Books can be safe places to explore difficult topics. While we cannot shelter young people from being exposed to sexual violence, whether through lived experience or indirectly, we can give them a way to safely engage with and reflect upon these issues. I hope Girls provides such a space.” This is so so true. Teens are aware and affected by these issues TODAY and they need discussion, not sheltering. It’s a horrible and harrowing topic, but handled with care.

I also loved the inclusion of romance between Lei and Wren! They’re so sweet together and I loved how their initial attraction grows into a deeper and lovely bond. It’s also special to see lgbtqia+ romances starring in fantasy books, because that’s still something we’re starved of!

Lei is such a winning protagonist too. She’s so real. She’s unsure and anxious, and prone to impulsive decisions. I loved her brave and fiery side, but also how she wasn’t stony or closed off. Her heart was on her sleeve and it was refreshing to have a heroine who is equal parts brave and awkward.

Honestly these girls just stole the whole book and are here to steal your hearts as well. It’s a gripping and emotional read, fantastically written and engaging. It features people who are cruel and people who are kind. It’s no light fluffy fantasy, but it’s one that will stay with you and make you think.

Review: Waiting for Elijah

There are some books you take a deep breath before opening, and Kate Wild’s Waiting for Elijah is one such book. That’s not because you don’t want to read it, but because you know it contains information that will upend your understanding of the complexity of life. Specifically: mental health and what we ask of families, our health system, and our police in trying to grapple with it.

Before proceeding I should say that Waiting for Elijah undoubtedly warrants reading. The book examines the circumstances surrounding, and the aftermath of, Elijah Holcombe—a smart, well-loved, gentle university student and husband suffering from mental illness—being shot dead by a police officer in 2009.

Elijah’s death was one in a series of fatalities where police had shot people struggling with mental illness. Whether Elijah moved—forward, backward, aggressively or otherwise—remains critical to understanding the shooting. Worried he was being pursued by police officers intent on killing him, Elijah had grabbed a knife—a bread knife, but a knife no less—and run when the police had tried to approach him.

Tragically, Elijah’s parents had earlier gone to the police station and explained that Elijah was harmless but was having an episode and was, as a result of his hallucinations, very afraid of the police.

By Elijah’s parents’ reckoning, the police officer who shot Elijah should have known this information and handled the situation differently. But through a series of administrative sliding doors moments, he didn’t. And as an officer faced with someone holding a knife and who wouldn’t drop it when asked, was the officer at fault?

There are arguably few authors more qualified to examine the issue sensitively and well. Wild is an ABC investigative journalist whose work has attracted three Walkley Awards and a Logie. Perhaps most recently and notably, her reports were instrumental in leading to a Four Corners story on juvenile detention in the Northern Territory that kicked off a royal commission.

In Waiting for Elijah, she turns her attention to the timeline of Elijah’s death, setting out to specifically understand what happened in the crucial moments that led to his death and to generally understand the difficulties around tackling mental health—particularly relating to police officers’ roles as first responders.

Elijah’s death was undeniably tragic for everyone involved, but Wild also paints an empathetic tale of a grieving family’s compassion and refusal to label the police officer as a monster—they maintain all along he is simply a man in an impossible situation who made a mistake.

As Wild determines, police are trained to exert authority and gain control of a situation, which is very often the antithesis of what a person with mental illness will respond favourably to. But the solutions require understanding and nuance and training—and even then the issue is still incredibly complex.

As she notes: ‘If a police officer acted in accordance with their training, their perception could not be flawed. Reality resided in a training manual somewhere, not the human frailty that collided in Cinders Lane.’

Slam Poetry: ‘Limelight’ by Solli Raphael

Solli Raphael is a phenomenal Australian slam-poet. I was fortunate to meet him at a Penguin Random House roadshow. He is a personable, thoughtful young man with an enormous talent. He is only thirteen.

Solli is the youngest Australian to win the all-age poetry competition, the National Australian Slam Poetry Finals, held at the Sydney Opera House in 2017. This led to a TEDx solo live poetry performance at Sydney’s International Convention Centre in front of 5000 people and a solo performance at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in front of 35,000 people (with millions watching here and around the world) in 2018.

He has a vision that sees people caring for all humanity, as well as for our environment. He writes and delivers his poems with thoughtfulness and engagement. You can view some of his performances online (links below). He presents his important themes and issues with developing tone and pacing, enhanced by thoughtful, apt facial expressions and gestures.

And now he has written a book, Limelight where he introduces slam poets as people who “use their personal experience to tell a poetic story”, often employing rhyme. Repetition, alliteration and assonance also feature in Solli’s work. Solli and his fellow slam poets aim to raise awareness on issues such as the environment or racism.

In Limelight Solli shares his experiences of some of his formative performances and gives writers’ tips. These include his creative discipline of brainstorming ideas at the same time each day and how he counteracts writers’ block. He explains some of the figurative speech he uses, such as similes, metaphors and idioms.

There are over 30 poems (in a range of forms) and slam poetry in the book. The title poem, ‘Limelight’ is a combination of slam poetry and song. ‘We Can be More’ is a paean to protect the planet: “realise that your litter is a bitter pinch to the earth”. Solli’s performance of ‘Australian Air’ has been viewed 3.5 million times online and is a highlight of the book. Its play on “air” and “heir” challenges us to act to save our country. Its refrain, “We breathe in, we breathe out” gives us space to physically breathe in and out and recognise the essential nature of air and breath: something we can’t survive without and we ignore at our peril. Other poems include ‘Media Literacy: Fake News’ and ‘Evolution’.

Solli has a list of upcoming appearances on his website. He is worth seeing as well as reading.

Slam and similar poetry are of particular appeal to young readers but Solli Raphael offers creative, intelligent, challenging ideas, all wrapped in hope, for everyone.

Web: www.solliraphael.com.au

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLfzW5wCxIqnyXaoE2nOlw

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/solliraphael/

Instagram: @solliraphael

Picture Books to Prepare for School – Part 1

Whether your little one is a school starter or not, undoubtedly, they will need to prepare themselves for a new year of friendships, challenges, opportunities and exciting adventures. There will also be chances to inquire into and discover all new domains, hence raising even more questions about the world than ever. The following picture books are the perfect guides to helping with the navigation of unfamiliar experiences and the mastering of the already familiar. All the best of luck and success for the year ahead!

Philip Bunting is such a genius! In How Did I Get Here?, this author-illustrator pro takes us on an amusing and absolutely fascinating journey through life. That is, life as we never knew it before we came into existence. But what exactly was existence like back at the beginning of time? Well, according to Bunting, “our entire universe fit into a space smaller than an orange.” And then there was a really BIG BANG, and particles formed to create ginormous dust clouds. I love the language put so simply and whimsically, yet appropriately contextual and factual as to not undermine the intellect of our inquisitive readers. Scoring through the development of Earth to the first forms of life, we come to realise that we are all related, all created equal – that “All of life is one.” Over generations life forms adapted and changed, evolution brought on many species, including Homo sapiens, whose curiosity took them to all corners of the Earth (“Except Antarctica. We left that to the penguins.”). Bunting raises an important concept, and empathetic touch, in reminding us that our similarities and differences unite us as one. As well, he leaves us with a special, heartwarming feeling that the miracle of life – that is you – is a culminated creation from those particles that were once part of the stars and Earth. But imagine if any of those occurrences happened differently… another existential query to ponder!

With its endearing storytelling narrative, and funny speech bubble dialogue amongst the enchanting cartoon-style, stone-age characters and cute diagrams, How Did I Get Here? is incredibly insightful and entertaining for ages four and up. Here is a book to be utilised on repeat with a different insight, perspective or question to be gathered each read. Perfect for new beginnings, if you know what I mean!

Koala Books, August 2018

Maddie’s First Day by Penny Matthews and Liz Anelli reminds me of both my girls when they started school. Here’s a sweet story of taking those vital little steps to independence when faced with the mammoth journey into schoolhood. Maddie is excited about her new adventure and eagerly prepares all her essential items, including her uniform, pencil case and water bottle. But she also ensures she is not without her special security blanky – secretly hidden in her school bag for the first day. The expression ‘wobbly feeling in her tummy’ so accurately portrays the myriad of emotions these small children experience. The anticipation of an unfamiliar classroom to the comfort of seeing old friends, and the enjoyment of making new ones. It’s all part of Maddie’s growth towards adjusting to big school. When she is challenged about her maturity for bringing her blanky to school, Maddie finds common ground with another and shows great resilience and confidence in her ability to move forward… although, blanky is never far away, just in case!

Matthews outlines many common aspects related to starting school in a beautiful narrative that reflects its own individuality with plenty of heart. Her character’s surroundings emanate a mix of love and support, and this is equally shown in Anelli’s gorgeous illustrations mixed with patterned collage media and soft pencil detail. Maddie’s First Day is packed with gentle touches of reassurance and the comfort of knowing you are not alone on this exciting, and often nerve-racking adventure.

Walker Books, September 2018.

Many of us have been here at some point in our lives – it’s the feeling of invisibility (in the non-magical sense). Best-selling author Adam Wallace aptly highlights a concept that many have felt but not many want to talk about. In Invisible Jerry, sensitively illustrated by Giuseppe Poli, Jerry glides through school crowds totally unnoticed. No one says sorry if they knock him over, no one laughs at his jokes, no one listens to his opinion, and getting picked for sports teams… that just doesn’t happen. Jerry feels completely invisible, until he meets Molly. This little girl lights up his world, and he lights up hers. A beautiful relationship that shows us that it only takes one person who respects and appreciates you to feel like a real person – like someone with worth and plenty to offer. And the best parting message to take away is that any ‘Invisible Jerry’ can pay it forward to other shy and self-conscious kids who don’t like to stand out, just like Paul.

I love that Wallace was inspired to write this story from listening to children’s thoughts on the matter, as well as his own childhood experiences of similar nature. I also love that he doesn’t push readers of this personality to take giant leaps of confidence to achieve greatness, because that wouldn’t be realistic. His gentle approach with the reassurance that one’s talents and opinions will be noticed in time is the perfect message to impart for those quieter kids… and it’s totally okay to be you. Poli’s fluid illustrations beautifully support the text with his depiction of a small yet bright Jerry with potential, in amongst the shadows and crowds around him. And the colour and joy that oozes from the pages once Jerry finds Molly is so brilliantly uplifting.

Invisible Jerry is an important book for the reserved child with so much potential, who simply wants to be noticed… in an unassuming manner. Eye-opening and valuable, this book should be gaining attention all over our schools and homes.

EK Books, November 2018.

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

January 2019 Young Adult Releases To Be Wildly Excited About!

This first month of 2019 is already promising to be wildly exciting for YA releases! Some huge titles are releasing and getting ready to blow our minds and set the standard super high right upfront. I, for one, am cramming in desperate rereads as the old favourite authors add to their series and also trying to decide between the dozens of fresh-faced books and newer authors to try. Can we just…have them all? Please?

Here are some I’m specifically excited for!

The Wicked King (#2) by Holly Black

BUY HERE

If you haven’t read The Cruel Prince yet, my first question is: WHY NOT. It’s a murderous twisty tale of fae and intrigue, of betrayal and loyalty, and a enemies-to-lovers storyline that will absolutely steal (and stab?!) your heart. It ended in such a cliffhanger and I’ve been angsting desperately for this sequel foreverrrr. Now it’s finally here and I am READY.

 

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

BUY HERE

While this isn’t technically a sequel, it is a spin-off the Grisha series! Leigh Bardugo wrote the first Shadow & Bone trilogy and gradually it grew to giving us the Six of Crows duology and the Language of Thorns fairy tales. I’m not sure if it’ll be as good if you haven’t read, at least, the Grisha books, so get onto that! You still have time. I’m WILD for this series because it’s centring around Nikolai, the part-prince-part-pirate hearthrob who was a secondary character in the Grisha books. Now he’s stealing the whole page.

A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

BUY HERE

Her contemporary books are some of my all time favourites so OF COURSE I long to see what she does with a fairy tale retelling fantasy! It promises beasts and cursed princes and broken promises and a girl with cerebral palsy and towers and MAGIC.

I feel like I’ve been ready and hyped for this one forever!

Stain by AG Howard

BUY HERE

Another author I’ve been following since her debut series, Splintered, which was an Alice in Wonderland retelling. Now we’re back in the retelling realms with a Princess and the Pea reimagined. Which also is quite different to the usual ones that get retold?! A girl without a voice must win back a kingdom and save a prince!

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin

BUY HERE

What if King Henry VIII was…in a modern contemporary highschool!? This is going to be such a fascinating modernised retelling and I am HERE for it. It’s narrated by a girl determined to find out why local highschool heartthrob seems to be following in the infamous terrible Henry VIII’s footsteps…and why his girlfriends (and he has a lot) often end up dead…

The Girl King by Mini Yu

BUY HERE

This is the tale of two sisters who become rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor. Their father takes the title away from them, promising it to a distant male cousin instead. Both his daughters, Min and Lu, are furious and are not about to stand for this. But the accidentally become enemies in the process…because who truly deserves the throne?! It promises ambition, sacrifice and betrayal, as well as shapeshifters and swords and hidden powers!

Back to School with these 4 Campus Novels

A campus novel is a book set in a school, college or university and the most popular is probably the Harry Potter series. Campus novels have always been popular amongst readers, so I thought I’d share four of them with you here.


Stoner by John Williams
My favourite campus novel by far is Stoner by John Williams. William Stoner comes from a poor farming family and attends University to study agriculture. He soon falls in love with literature and decides to put aside his plan to manage the family farm in order to become a career academic.

Stoner is a deeply honest portrait of an average man, living a lonely, underwhelming and sometimes depressing life.

However his story is told with such reverence I was completely swept away and bereft by the end.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
This is the first in the YA series of historical fiction novels to feature Gemma Doyle. Beginning in late 1890s India, Gemma is shipped off to Spence boarding school for girls in England after the death of her mother.

The school is a complete culture shock for Gemma and she finds it difficult to adjust. Gemma also finds it hard to deal with the boarding school ’mean girls’. A Great and Terrible Beauty is a gentle coming-of-age story told with well drawn characters and a touch of humour and longing.

The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton
Josephine and her best friend Freya attend an elite all-girl boarding school and have an irreparable falling out in 1994. In this dual narrative, Josephine reflects on the events from her perspective 18 years later. The mystery slowly unravels as the novel works towards the ultimate reveal.

The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton will appeal to readers of YA, NA and those who enjoy dissecting female friendships gone bad.

Variant by Robison Wells
Those looking for a male main character in their campus novels will love Variant by Robison Wells. In this YA thriller, Benson Fisher has been moved from foster home to foster home and is understandably excited when he receives a scholarship to Maxfield Academy.

Right away Benson notices something isn’t quite right at the Academy. There are no teachers or adults on campus and the curriculum is strange. There are gangs of students in charge of various contracts at the school. Furthermore, the grounds are surrounded by a large wall patrolled by students on quad bikes. Benson wants to escape but if he’s caught he’ll be given detention. But the rumour is students don’t return from detention. How will he survive?


Will you be adding any of these to your TBR? What’s your favourite campus novel?

Contemporary Classic: ‘Bridge of Clay’ by Marcus Zusak

Marcus Zusak exceeds expectations in his new novel Bridge of Clay. This is an epic Australian tale awash with masculinity: the masculinity of deep, beautiful men. It is a story full of heart, intelligence and sensitivity. Its men are mates, brothers and family and they are men who love and cherish women. The Dunbar men are athletic, physical and even hard, yet tender and loyal. They are a “family of ramshackle tragedy”.

The structure is sophisticated. Matthew, the eldest of five Dunbar brothers, is typing the story of “one murderer, one mule and one boy”. Each chapter begins in typewritten font before settling into Goudy Old Style. The typewriter itself is part of the narrative and family heritage. The boy who Matthew writes about is the one “who took it all on his shoulder” – the fourth Dunbar boy, Clay.

Early on we know that the boys’ mother has died and their father has fled. We are forewarned about the long backstory about the mule, Achilles, only one of a number of past tales that enrich this book. These strands are elemental and seamless, and we are swept up in each.

We learn of the boys’ mother, Penelope – the Mistake Maker, the pianist, the teacher, the refugee from the Eastern Bloc. She grew up steeped in the ancient Greek classics of The Iliad and The Odyssey and shared them with Michael Dunbar and their children.

When she dies, the boys call their father “the Murderer”. After years away, he returns asking for help to build a bridge on his property. Clay, the quiet smiler, the runner, the boy who sits on the roof, the one who loves Carey and shares the book, The Quarryman with her, is the son who goes.

Zusak draws the female characters with love, respect, admiration and affection, even old neighbour Mrs Chilman, a minor character. Carey is a ground-breaker, an independent, aspiring female jockey.

There is a strong sense of place: the racetrack, The Surrounds and house in Archer Street in the city; Featherton, the town where it all began; and the bridge itself, the overarching metaphor. The writing is uniquely Zusak: idiosyncratic (“cars were stubbed out rather than parked”, “The furniture all was roasted.”); humorous, enigmatic and prophetic.

Bridge of Clay is published by Picador, PanMacmillan Australia. It is a contemporary classic.

Marcus Zusak’s backlist includes: 

The Book Thief

The Messenger

When Dogs Cry

Fighting Ruben Wolfe

Bookworm And Reader New Year Resolution Ideas!

It’s that time of year where we almost can’t help ourselves and start making New Year goals and resolutions! I personally love it. But then I also like making lists and having things to tick off and achieve. So January? I am thriving with the goals.

Now as a bookworm, I naturally gravitate to making some of my goals very book-orientated. I’ll pick a amount of books to read in the year, set a Goodreads goal, and absolutely lie to my To-Be-Read pile’s face and say, “Yes! I’ll read you all this year instead of buying new books!” (Hilarious, truly.) But what if you want some different, but still reader centric, goals to set?!

You’re very very lucky. I am here.

IDEAS FOR BOOKWORM GOALS FOR 2019

  • Try picking an author and promising to read ALL their works! This is a great goal for those of us who say “Oh yes! I love Neil Gaiman” (or someone else) and then proceeding to read like 2 of their 39894 books available. Also it’s entirely fun to immerse yourself on a singular author’s style and see how they grow and change from book to book. Also saying, “Yeah I read 39894 books by Gaiman this year” is pretty hardcore. Look at you GO. (Note: the, um, numbers mentioned here may have been an exaggeration…)
  • Challenge yourself to read several books outside your comfort zone. I personally love comfort zones (I cling to them feverishly ok) but I still think it’s important to stretch yourself. I normally stare suspiciously at memoirs and sci-fi, but I’ve found favourites amongst them! So promising to read a few books a year that I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards is really invaluable.
  • Wage war on the backlist! I don’t know about you, but I’m insufferably addicted to new and shiny books. What’s coming out in 2019?! EVERYTHING AMAZING APPARENTLY. And I end up skipping over equally amazing books who have the misfortune to be published, ah, like 1 to 10 years ago. So! One of my goals for this year is to read more older books. Not necessarily classics. But just books I was excited for years ago but never got to.
  • Reread some childhood favourites. NEVER underestimate the value of the reread! Although sometimes it does lead you to question your childhood tastes…but pfft, that aside, it can be a comforting walk down memory lane, a cosy long-ago remembered dessert, and the reuniting of an old friend!
  • Swap recommendations with some bookworm friends! Have a friend pick some books for you to read, while you pick your favourites for them. Challenge each other and, coincidentally, infiltrate their lives with your favourite books. There is no downside! Unless they hate your favourites and then you must dispose of a body. (KIDDING…maybe.)
  • Set a consistent reading time. The cry of “I have no time to read” is very common for all of us. But it’s ok to make it somewhat of a priority. Obviously you have commitments you can’t ignore (work or family or necromancy practise…I don’t know…whatever people do), but even setting aside 20 minutes a day as sacred reading time can really help. Or prioritise it over watching a movie or scrolling twitter. Don’t turn reading into a chore! But there is such comfort in getting a few chapters done every day. 10/10 would recommend.

YA Thrillers: ‘Two Can Keep a Secret’ & ‘One of Us is Lying’ by Karen M. McManus

I enjoyed Karen M. McManus’s One of Us is Lying (Penguin Books) so much I read her second novel Two Can Keep a Secret (Penguin) as soon as I received an advance copy. I’ve had to wait impatiently until now that it is published to review it and, because Karen’s style is so addictive, I’ve added a mention of One of Us is Lying as well.

In Two Can Keep a Secret, teen twins Ellery and Ezra have just moved to Echo Ridge, Vermont, to stay with their Nana. Their mother, Sadie was also a twin. She was homecoming queen, left home when she turned eighteen and is now in rehab and too unwell to care for her children. Homecoming queens seem to be the target of tragedy in Echo Ridge, particularly in the theme park Murderland, recently renamed Fright Farm.

A popular young science teacher is found dead on the road, another girl goes missing and the disappearance twenty-three years earlier of Sadie’s twin Sarah seems to hang an ominous cloud over the present. Within three weeks Ellery and Ezra have “reported a dead body, gotten jobs at a murder site, and been targeted by a homecoming stalker…” Secrets are rife.

The narrative is told from the point of view of Ellery and Malcolm – who lives with his mother, stepfather and hot stepsister – and likes Ellery. His older brother Declan was the boyfriend of a murdered girl and his return to town coincides with more trouble.

This is a place where “anything different stands out a mile.” Diverse characters are Ezra who is queer and their new friend Mia who is Korean and has “her hair buzzed short on one side and streaked red on the other”.

The setting in a town shrouded in murder and Halloween-theme park where many of the local teens work delivers chills.

Ellery is fixated on true crime and has a collection of books that includes In Cold Blood, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Fatal Vision. She wants to do something for the missing girls, “and the ones left behind.”

Karen McManus’s first novel, One of Us is Lying, poses the fascinating conundrum of five students sent to after-school detention. One, Simon, dies there and the other four become suspects. Bronwyn is a brain who doesn’t break rules. Addy is a beauty. Nate is a bad boy. Cooper is a jock and Simon ran the school gossip app and was about to post secrets about each of the suspects.

(all quotes from the ARC)