Tracey Allen is a passionate booklover who enjoys reading across many genres and supporting Australian authors. Her book reviews have been published in Good Reading Magazine and she is the sole author of the book blog Carpe Librum (Seize the Book). She hopes this year is jam-packed with excellent books and when she's not reading or writing she's collecting bookmarks and adding to her TBR pile.
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?
Amnesia fiction generally contains a character suffering from some form of memory loss, or memory loss forms part of the storyline. It’s such a common plot device I thought it was worth exploring. Here are seven amnesia fiction novels you might enjoy.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart We Were Liars is about a group of four friends who called themselves The Liars. Cady (Cadence), Mirren, Johnny and Gat are best friends and they spend every summer holidaying on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. During Cady’s fifteenth summer she suffers a traumatic brain injury but unfortunately she can’t remember what happened. Two years later she returns to the island in an attempt to try and remember what happened.
We Were Liars is full of mystery, secrets, lies and a twist at the end.
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson Every time Christine goes to sleep she loses all of her memories. A consequence of a traumatic brain injury years earlier, her brain erases everything overnight and when she wakes, she has no idea who she is. Christine must find out what happened but soon learns she can’t trust anybody.
Before I Go to Sleep is now a film starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins Rachel catches the same train into London each day and enjoys imagining the lives of those living in the houses she travels past. The train waits at the same signal light each day and she pays particular attention to one of the houses. One day Rachel sees something that will set an entire chain of events rolling as she inserts herself into the lives of those she’s been watching.
Rachel is an alcoholic and her memory is patchy as a result of black outs and alcohol abuse. This makes her an unreliable narrator. Or does it?
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Amnesia in fiction isn’t always attributed to an accident, injury or trauma. In Still Alice by Lisa Genova, the protagonist Alice is fifty years old and a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard. She’s an expert in linguistics, married with three adult children and learning to deal with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Still Alice is about family dynamics and the sense of self. It’s also been adapted to the big screen starring Julianne Moore as Alice.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner When Thomas arrives on a lift surrounded by a gang of boys, all he can remember is his name. He finds himself in a walled glade which forms part of a mysterious yet brutal stone maze. Thomas doesn’t want to settle down to life in the glade and insists on searching the maze.
Prepared to risk his life to escape the maze, what Thomas finds will irrevocably change the lives of everyone in the glade.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty Alice ‘comes to’ in a gym, and instead of being 29 and pregnant with her first child, she finds 10 years have passed. She’s now 39 years old with three kids and in the middle of a divorce. She also has a strained relationship with her sister.
Alice tries to work out what happened to her life. How did her life become like this and how did she lose 10 years of her life?
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum First in a series, the star of The Bourne Identity is Jason Bourne who hardly needs an introduction. Played by Matt Damon in the movie franchise, Jason suffers from amnesia and can’t remember his former life. Was he an assassin? Why are people trying to kill him? This is a thrilling action-packed series following Jason’s journey to the truth about himself.
Do you enjoy amnesia fiction? Have you read any of these books? If you have others you’d like to recommend, please let me know in the comments below.
Time travel in fiction is nothing new. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells was published in 1895 and has largely been credited for popularising the concept of time travel and coining the term ‘time machine’.
My Favourite Time Travel Novel
My favourite time travel novel by far is 11.22.63 by Stephen King.
In 2011, an American teacher named Jake discovers he can travel back in time to 1958. After careful consideration and a few false starts, he sets out to prevent the assassination of JFK in 1963. 11.22.63 is meticulously researched and comfortably straddles the genres of science fiction and historical fiction. The consequences of time travel and changing the future are addressed through the characters and the ending was extremely satisfying.
Time Travel Books on my TBR
Like any reader, I’m always keen to discover a new favourite and I have two time travel novels I’m looking forward to reading.
The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
Four female scientists build a time machine in the 1960s however one of the group is banished after being adversely affected by their time travels. 50 years later, the business of time travel is booming and one of the group receives a message from the future. I understand this is a murder mystery featuring strong, intelligent women that examines the toll of time travel which always interests me.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
In 2054, Kivrin is attending Oxford University where students can travel back in time to study a significant period in history. Having prepared for several years, Kivrin travels back to mid 1300s England despite her tutor’s misgivings about being a young woman travelling alone in the period. As luck would have it, she becomes stranded. The reason this is so high on my list is I want to know what happens next. How does she adapt to her circumstances, what does she make of the people, the culture, the lifestyle?
I can begin to imagine Kivrin’s experiences thanks to the brilliant insight available in The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. A perfect book to read in Non Fiction November, this is ‘A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century‘. It contains chapters on: the people, what to wear, what to eat and drink, health and hygiene, where to stay, what to do and more. This is a detailed and comprehensive guide to the period and location and one of my all time favourite reads.
Here are some of my favourite lists from the book:
8 Memorable Lines Erroneously Attributed To Film Stars
10 Famous Insomniacs
The Cat Came Back: 9 Cats Who Travelled Long Distances To Return Home
15 Famous People Who Worked In Bed
11 Most Unusual Objects Sold on eBay
29 Words Rarely Used In Their Positive Form
16 Famous Events That Happened In The Bathtub
The Book of Lists contains a wide variety of interesting tidbits and obscure trivia and is bound to make you laugh.
The List of My Desires by Gregoire Delacourt
Written by Grégoire Delacourt and translated from French, The List of My Desires is set in a provincial town in France. Jocelyne is the middle-aged mother of two adult children and runs her own dressmaking shop and faces a turning point in her life when she wins $18M in the lottery.
The unexpected windfall forces her to reflect on what she really wants in life so she writes a list of her desires, hence the title. This is a lovely contemporary fiction novel and when Jocelyne re-writes the list at the end, it’s quite interesting to see what’s changed.
Lists of Note by Shaun Usher
This book contains lists from a variety of people, ranging from Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, Roald Dahl and Marilyn Monroe to 9th Century monks. The book contains 125 lists with brief descriptions for each, including:
A shopping list written by two 9th-century Tibetan monks
The 19 year-old Isaac Newton’s list of the 57 sins he’d already committed
29-year-old Marilyn Monroe’s inspirational set of New Year’s resolutions
Einstein’s punitive list of conditions imposed on his first wife (this needs to be read to be believed).
Tim Hawken is the West Australian author of New Adult novel If Kisses Cured Cancer published earlier this year. Thanks for joining us for an interview at Boomerang Books Tim.
Can you describe your book If Kisses Cured Cancer in one sentence?
A funny yet serious book about the importance of connecting with those around you (and not being afraid to go skinny dipping in the forest).
What inspired you to write If Kisses Cured Cancer?
It was a combination of a few things, but the big one was my wife being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. The process was obviously awful, but there were lots of strangely funny and golden moments sprinkled in that journey. I wanted to create a fiction book that reflected those ups and downs, and would do the subject justice yet not be depressing or overly fluffy.
If you could meet any writer who would it be and what would you want to know? Neil Gaiman. The guy is amazing at every form of writing – short stories, novels, comics, TV. He’s unbelievably great and deliciously odd. I’ve read about his writing process and general approach to life, so would probably just prefer to chat about magic, telling the truth through lies, and working with Terry Pratchett.
How do you organise your personal library?
You mean the pile of books that are precariously stacked on my bedside table? They’re generally organized by date of purchase. I do have a shelf of books I’ve read and loved in my office for reference as well. They’re loosely arranged by genre and then grouped by author.
I agree with you about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I read it last month and adored it. What’s your secret reading pleasure?
Fantasy and sci-fi books. Shhhh. I love these genres so much I had to make a rule that every second book I read has to be something else. I feel like broadening your reading habits is a sure way of finding gold you might not otherwise have come across.
What’s next? What would you like to tell your readers?
Next is planning out a new story idea I have that will remain mum until it’s actually a reality. There will be another book next year but what that is, you’ll have to wait and see. To follow any news, sign up to my newsletter at timhawken.com. You’ll also get some special content about If Kisses Cured Cancer you won’t find anywhere else.
For some readers, a satisfying book ending is knowing everything turned out well for the characters. For others it’s having the mystery solved and all the loose ends neatly tied up. Some readers love a happy ending and others – like me – hate it when the guy gets the girl in the end. It can be exciting when the villain gets away or a novel ends in a cliffhanger, knowing a sequel is in the works. I don’t usually enjoy ambiguous endings, but appreciate some readers like to imagine for themselves what happened to the characters. Here are my thoughts on some great book endings.
Glancing at my bookshelves, Stoner by John Williams has one of the most standout memorable endings for me. It is a sorrowful ending, but this melancholic novel slowly built to this point and it was so exceptionally written that it literally took my breath away. I hugged the book to my chest when I finished reading it and the final scene is still with me years and years later.
The Messenger by Markus Zusakhas a unique meta fiction kind of ending that has stayed with me long after reading it. Exploring themes of why we’re here and how we can make a difference, The Messenger is a moving – yet funny – novel that carries a powerful and important message. When I finished reading it, I was left in absolute awe at the meta ending and had to seek out fellow readers and their thoughts on the book. Don’t you just love when that happens?
Missing by Melanie Casey is the third novel in the Cass Lehman series set in Adelaide. It had such an unexpected ending I was left flabbergasted and positively hanging out for the next in the series. It wasn’t a cliffhanger in the strictest sense, however it was a character development that I didn’t see coming and desperately want to explore in the next novel.
I’m going to have to wait awhile though with the author taking a break from the series, but you can bet I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next in the series.
Reading the end of Cloudstreet by Tim Winton broke my heart but also made my soul soar with the release and bittersweet joy of the character Fish. Despite wanting to stay with the characters beyond the ending of the book, the event that closed the book really was the perfect ending. It brought the story full circle and I’ll always remember the ending with a combination of sorrow and joy.
What kind of book endings do you enjoy? Do you have any memorable endings?
I have a few intimidating books on my bookshelf and I can’t be the only one. Sometimes it can be the size of the tome, the genre, the author or specific concerns about a book or series. Today I thought I’d share the most intimidating books on my TBR pile with you.
An author I’d like to read but have been too intimidated to try: is Haruki Murakami. I just don’t know where to start and whether I’ll understand his magical realism.
A series I haven’t finished that haunts me is:The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Stephen King is one of my favourite authors and I know The Dark Tower series is his ‘Opus’ but I just couldn’t get into it. I read The Gunslinger (#1) and The Drawing of the Three (#2) but haven’t progressed any further; despite owning the entire series. I’m a completionist so this bothers me quite a bit.
The most intimidating book in my TBR pile is:The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I have the Penguin Clothbound Edition and it comes in at more than 1200 pages which is intimidating enough as is. An adventure novel written in the 1840s it’s translated from French and I just haven’t picked it up yet.
What books do you find intimidating? Have you read any of the above? Let me know in the comments below.
I’ve read two debut thrillers this month I’d like to share.
The first is by Australian author Jack Heathwho has published over 20 YA novels but has now burst onto the adult fiction scene in a very big way with Hangman.
Sociopath Tim Blake goes by the codename Hangman and is contracted by the FBI as a last resort for his crime solving genius in complex cases. His genius comes with a hefty price tag though and in a despicable arrangement known only to one person within the FBI, he is permitted to take a life for every one he saves.
Despite the unpalatable agreement, Tim Blake is an anti-hero you find yourself backing and the pace of the plot is equivalent to any James Patterson crime novel.
Hangman is the first in a gruesomely dark series to feature Tim Blake and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Warning: you’ll need a strong stomach though.
Hangman has also been optioned for television by the ABC in USA so fingers crossed we see Tim Blake on the big screen soon.
The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton is an explosive and impressive debut. Juliette is a sociopath and not coping well after her boyfriend Nate broke up with her six months ago. Juliette is determined to win Nate back at all odds, including joining his airline and training as an airline steward in order to be closer to him.
Juliette really will stop at nothing to achieve her goal, including a little digital stalking, breaking and entering and general harassment. And that’s just for starters. Her daring made me nervous and more than a little edgy at times and the pages flew by as I admired her ingenuity and cringed at her constant need for Nate.
Juliette’s obsession and stalking extends to a few supporting female characters and I hope I never come across a woman like her in real life. Juliette’s master plan is slowly revealed to the reader and her motivations come into shocking focus.
The author’s experience working as a cabin crew member in the airline industry has given her the tools to portray the industry encompassing both characters to perfection. I enjoyed this setting enormously and relished the details of their work schedule, airline culture and lifestyle.
We’re well into 2018 now, and in the process of setting new reading goals for the year I’ve been thinking about my varied reading success last year. Here are 5 unexpected books I read in 2017.
Most anticipated read
My most anticipated release and read of 2017 was A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. Being a loyal reader of the Pillars of the Earth series, I was keenly awaiting the third in the series and coming in at more than 750 pages, it was an impressive tome. While it was greater in scope than the others in the series, it was a great read.
Most disappointing read
I’d been savouring my signed copy of Prince Lestat by longtime favourite author Anne Rice for ages, delaying the gratification and joy I was sure would ensue from the first page until the last. Unfortunately when I finally picked it up to read last year this wasn’t the case.
This is the 11th in the Vampire Chronicles series and the plot contains chapters from different vampires as they begin to face a crisis threatening their kind. I should have been thrilled to rediscover favourite characters again, but the cause uniting them was a complete bore. Such a shame.
Long overdue I don’t mean overdue library books here, but a book I should have read long before now. For me, this was Past the Shallows by Australian author Favel Parrett. Set on the coast of Tasmania and dealing with themes of grief, this is a coming-of-age story about brotherhood. Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012, it’s a haunting and often sad story, but it’s also a very quick read so I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it.
Least favourite book My least favourite read of last year was Artemis by Andy Weir. Main character Jazz is living in a settlement on the moon and I just didn’t care about her or what she was doing. The attempted humour fell flat and the plot was uninteresting. It clearly lacked the humour and interest of The Martian – one of my favourite books in 2014. If I didn’t know the novel was by Andy Weir, I would have stopped reading early on.
Taught me something new The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin was one of my favourite books last year and I still think of her theories several times a week, almost six months after reading her book. You can take the quiz for free and determine your own tendency, you’ll be either an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner or Rebel. I’m an Obliger and learning that helped me understand myself and others better and I highly recommend it.
Historical fiction is my favourite genre, so I thought I’d share 4 great historical fiction novels I read in 2017.
Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir In this series (Six Tudor Queens, Six Novels, Six Years), author Alison Weir takes us through Anne Boleyn’s upbringing in 16th Century French court and the powerful women she served, including Margaret of Austria, Henry VIII’s sister in France Queen Mary and later Queen Claude.
Anne Boleyn’s relationship with King Henry VIII, marriage and subsequent fate is well known, but Alison Weir puts a fresh new spin on the well trodden story and I loved it. Highly recommended for fans of Philippa Gregory.
A Column of Fire by Ken Follett A Column of Fire is the third in the ThePillars of the Earth series by Ken Follett, and we pick up the story 250 years after World Without End. This time, the story takes us through the reign of Elizabeth I and the political and religious turmoil between the Protestants and the Catholics. Rather than staying primarily within the town of Kingsbridge (as in the first two books in the series), Follett extends the plot as far as France and Spain and in doing so has provided a great insight into the era. A Column of Fire can be read as a stand-alone.
The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory The Last Tudor is essentially the story of the three Grey sisters: Jane Grey, Katherine Grey and Mary Grey. The Grey sisters were cousins to Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor and this blood connection would prove to haunt them their entire lives. Commencing in 1550, the story unfolds from each sister’s point of view in three separate sections, giving us uninterrupted access to their lives. Each story is as compelling as the next and has been pieced together from the content of real letters and impeccable research into the period.
The Last Hours by Minette Walters
The release of The Last Hours by Minette Walters caused a stir a few months ago, being the first novel the author had released in a decade. Set in Dorsetshire in the 1300s, this is the story of Lady Anne of Develish and her attempts to protect her serfs from the deadly plague. She employs new sanitation methods for her household and cares for her serfs in a fashion that makes her ahead of her time.
Lady Anne’s approach to the threat of the plague is in direct conflict with the idea that the plague is God’s punishment, and with food and supplies running out, The Last Hours is a suspenseful and compelling read.
Each of the novels above can be read as a stand-alone or part of their respective series. Let me know in the comments if you’ve discovered some great historical fiction novels this year.
Today Anna Valdinger, Fiction Publisher from HarperCollins Publishers Australia answers 7 questions about publishing we readers have always wanted to know.
Does the designer have to read a book first before designing the cover?
No, and many designers don’t have time to read all the books they’re working on, although certainly sometimes they’ll read some of a manuscript to get a sense of the book’s tone – usually for fiction. The publisher will have given the designer a comprehensive brief which includes where the publisher sees the book sitting in the market and the type of book it is, comparative titles, and often visual motifs from the book that could work on the cover. I always ask my authors for their thoughts as well so that their vision for the book is included from the start. Some authors are very visual and will send over mood boards and others prefer to wait to see concepts that we’ll discuss. It’s a fascinating process to get to something that is artistically in line with the author’s (and designer’s) vision and that will also work commercially.
What’s the most expensive kind of finishing for a book cover?
Probably a cut out. Those can be easily damaged and I don’t often use it. Flaps are expensive as well, though they look lovely. Foil is probably the more expensive option of the ones I tend to use. Emboss and spot UV on a matt finish are my favourites. I wish I could do more colour printing on inside covers but that can get pricey. Soft touch is amusingly divisive – some people find it quite creepy. (I’m definitely in the ‘soft touch is creepy’ crowd; it also shows your fingerprints quite easily).
Why do so many books have the text ‘A Novel’ after the title?
This is a convention that tends to happen mainly in the US. But sometimes if we are concerned that people will mistake a novel for non-fiction, either because of title or subject matter or the author’s profile, we might add it on. I prefer to make it clear through the cover treatment, title and shout line.
What are the blank pages at the end of a book for?
Books are printed in batches of 16 pages called an extent. So if a book has, for example, 8 pages of preliminary matter (title page, copyright page, dedication, list of other books by that author, and so on) and 383 pages of main text, you’ll have 391 pages plus 9 blanks to take it to a total extent of 400 pages. If you only go over an extent by a page you’ll have 15 blanks which is a lot, so usually you would see if you could save a page somewhere. Typesetters can do a lot to help here! We tend to use any blanks we have for things like ads for other books by that author or reading group questions.
Do readers still send fan mail to authors?
Certainly. Less so by snail mail these days although we do get post coming in for authors which we will forward on. Most people tend to connect with authors now via social media or the author’s website. Authors love to hear from their readers – it can be a lonely process to create a book from nothing, and to hear from someone that they enjoyed or were touched by the work is really special.
How does a bidding war between publishers start? Don’t authors have to submit their work to one publisher at a time? How do they engage in a bidding war?
You definitely don’t have to submit to one publisher at a time but it is courtesy to let people know your work is on multiple submission. If you have an agent they’ll usually submit to the major publishers all at once. Authors can do this too but not every publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts, and agents know which person is the best one to approach for a particular title. If one or more publisher is interested the agent will let the others know – at which point everyone can get competitive!
If more than one publisher makes an offer, then the author and agent will assess them and decide if they want to accept one or take it to an auction. These can take various forms but often include the publishers putting together marketing and publicity pitches to accompany the financial offer and – depending on convenience and geography – going in to meet with various publishers to get a sense of the team and which might be the best fit for them and their work. Publishers then put in their best offer and the author decides which to accept. It’s not always down to the money; sometimes you feel a certain publisher ‘gets’ you better than the others, and the author/publisher relationship is really important, both editorially and because the publisher is your and your book’s champion.
Which book has surprised you the most this year? The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape. It’s rare to see a financial advice book take off in such a way but this one has sold 300,000 copies and almost all of that through chains and independent bookstores rather than through the big department stores. It’s a really impressive bit of publishing.
In fiction I am hugely excited about a book I acquired that will be coming out in March 2018. It’s a crime fiction novel, the first in a series by Perth writer Dervla McTiernan. It’s incredibly pacy and compelling and heartbreaking and tense – I couldn’t put it down and am still shocked that it’s a first novel and yet is so good. It’s called The Rúin – look out for it!
I love books about twins so much I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favourites.
Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews
This was the book that started my love affair with twins in literature and is the story of 4 young children locked in an attic by their Grandmother. Their father has died and the children are living in their gothic grandparent’s house waiting for the Mother to successfully acquire some money from her strict Grandfather who detests the children. Gradually their mother visits less often and the children are largely left to their own devices. This is a classic YA novel with gothic undertones and themes of greed and betrayal.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
This book is in my Top 10 favourite books of all time. Vida Winter is a successful author and has decided to tell her life story now that she’s dying. She’s given many interviews over the course of her life, but each time she tells a different story. This time she’s serious about revealing the dark truth about her past and Margaret Lea has agreed to be her biographer. But it won’t be easy.
The novel makes countless delicious references to stories, books and reading and I revelled in the language.
Here’s a sample from the book: “Do they sense it, these dead writers, when their books are read? Does a pinprick of light appear in their darkness? Is their soul stirred by the feather touch of another mind reading theirs? I do hope so. ”
Naturally the plot includes twins and the wonderfully haunted Angelfield House forms the backdrop of the novel in a charming and menacing way. In addition to being a brilliant book, The Thirteenth Tale is also major BBC film starring Vanessa Redgrave and Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones).
Beside Myself by Ann Morgan Beside Myself is a psychological thriller and suspenseful read looking at themes of identity and mental illness. Twin sisters Helen (domineering) and Ellie (submissive) play a game one afternoon to swap identities, but Ellie won’t change back. What happens next is an ever growing divide between the sisters and the subsequent decline of one of them. As the consequences of the game last a lifetime, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have done in Helen’s situation
A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne Continuing the suspense theme, A Dark Dividing is about conjoined twins born 100 years apart and how they’re connected. Alternating between the past and the present, and across 3 different periods, the novel reveals a number of shocking secrets as it progresses.
Author Sarah Rayne loves to include a creepy building at the centre of her books and this time it was the suitably scary Mortmain House. Originally used as a workhouse for men and women who would otherwise die of starvation, the living conditions at the house were horrendous. Children abandoned at birth or born to families unable to care for them all ended up here and suffered terrible treatment as a consequence.
As the title suggests, A Dark Dividing is a dark read and I enjoyed finding out how all the characters were connected.
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Another gothic novel featuring twins in a creepy estate is historical fiction novel The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. Edie is a book publisher and when her mother receives a long lost letter originally posted in 1941 from Milderhurst Castle, her curiosity is piqued. Her mother is secretive about her past, but Edie finds out she was billeted at the castle for a short time during the war.
Edie visits the crumbling castle and meets the three elderly sisters residing there. Twins Percy and Saffy live together with their younger sister Juniper and the reasons they each chose to stay at the castle after the war and why they never married or had children inform the plot. Something happened to bond the sisters together for life and it was a thrill to discover. The characters love to read, write and tell stories, and all shared a love of books. The reference to the library in the castle made me weak at the knees.
I hope you enjoyed this list, but I’ve just noticed that almost all the twins in my list are female. I can’t even think of a novel with male twins, can you? Further reading: The Ice Twins by SK Tremayne and The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell.
There’s something eerie yet somewhat peaceful about cemeteries, and the untold tales of those resting there for eternity. And if you’re a taphophile – someone who takes an interest in cemeteries, funerals, tombstones, or memory of past lives – you’ll agree with me. I’ve always enjoyed books set in cemeteries so I’ve compiled a list for like-minded readers.
8 Books Set in Cemeteries
The Graveyard Bookby Neil Gaiman is a fantasy novel for children about a young boy who escapes the night his family is murdered in their home. He wanders up the street and eventually into a graveyard. The ghosts in the graveyard discuss his predicament and agree to raise the young boy as their own. That’s how the life of Nobody Owens (Bod for short) begins. The Graveyard Book has won a tonne of awards, including the Newbery Medal and Carnegie Medal.
Pet Sematary by Stephen Kingis a horror novel known to many readers. A horror story that only Stephen King could write, it’s about a young family and an ancient Indian burial ground. It’s also been made into a film. No more needs to be said.
Pure by Andrew Miller is an historical fiction novel set amidst Les Innocents, the oldest cemetery in Paris. In 1875, the cemetery has been closed to burials for 5 years because it’s overflowing with 2 million corpses and emitting a foul stench.
Jean-Baptiste Baratte is employed by the Minister to demolish the cemetery and relocate the human remains outside the city of Paris. We witness his struggle with the dark task of disturbing the final resting place of thousands of Parisian occupants. The descriptions of the cemetery and surrounds (including church, charnel houses and graveyards) were deeply evocative of this grisly yet soulful place.
Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier is an historical fiction novel set in Edwardian London between January 1901 to May 1910 with many of the scenes taking place in Highgate cemetery. Told from the perspective of different characters, the novel covers the journey of two girls from different families.
The chapters are narrated in the first person by several of the main characters (including my favourite character, the gravedigger’s son). It includes themes of mourning, mourning etiquette, class and the suffragette movement.
While I enjoyed reading the above, I have plenty more in this genre to look forward to, including:
Necropolis: London and Its Dead by Catharine Arnold has been on my TBR pile forever. It’s a non fiction look at London’s dead through the lens of archaeology, architecture and anecdotes. London is filled with the remains of previous eras – pagan, Roman, medieval and Victorian and I look forward to learning more as soon as I can get to it.
The Restorer by Amanda Stevens is a paranormal novel about Amelia Gray – a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts – and is the first of six in the Graveyard Queen series.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is a new release historical fiction novel about Abraham Lincoln and his grief at the death of his son. It is said that Lincoln was so grief-stricken over the loss of his beloved son, he visited the family crypt several times to hold his body. Lincoln in the Bardo takes place in a single night.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this collection of books set in cemeteries. What have you read or hope to read in the future?
Do you set reading goals or participate in reading challenges? Participating in a reading challenge can encourage you to read books you wouldn’t ordinarily come across. I also love the sense of achievement when I can tick off my goals as I accomplish them. With my reading year close to wrapping up (see what I did there?), I’m taking stock of my reading challenges and goals for 2016 and looking ahead to next year.
At the beginning of the year I made a goal to read 60 books and 20,000 pages and I track my progress using GoodReads. At the time of writing I’ve read 59 books and 19,640 pages, so I think I can safely say I’ll achieve these two goals before the year is out.
Two reading challenges I participate in every year are the Australian Women Writers Challenge and the Aussie Author Challenge.
Australian Women Writers Challenge
The Australian Women Writers Challenge has been running for five years now and aims to encourage avid readers and book bloggers, male and female, living in or outside Australia, to read and review books by Australian women. In 2016 I committed to reading 10 books by female Australian authors and to date I’ve read 11, so I can tick that one off.
Registrations are now open for 2017, so if you want to participate next year, just click here for the challenge details.
Aussie Author Challenge
Naturally I love to support Aussie authors wherever I can, and one way I do this is by participating in the Aussie Author Challenge. This reading challenge has been running for seven years now and the objective is to showcase the diversity of work being produced by Australian authors. In 2016 I signed up for the Kangaroo level to read 12 books by Australian authors. I had to read 4 male authors, 4 female authors, 4 new-to-me authors and at least 3 different genres. I’ve blitzed this challenge by meeting the criteria and reading 17 books in total and had a great time along the way.
Registrations are now open for 2017. If you want to join me on the challenge next year, click here for the details.
Do you have any reading goals or plans for 2017? I’m going to participate in the two reading challenges above and am considering whether to increase my reading goal back up to 65. If you have any book related new year resolutions, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.
I hope you all have something great to read over Christmas and perhaps a book or two under the Christmas tree.
Today we welcome Sydney based author John M. Green to the Boomerang Books blog.
Welcome to the blog John. What can you tell us about your new book The Tao Deception? It’s an eco-political thriller, but what’s it about?
Thanks Tracey. In The Tao Deception, a rogue Chinese elite – The Ten Brothers – conspire with the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea, to use spine-chilling technology to wipe out the West. Why? They’re committed to cutting dead the rampant global consumerism that’s turning China into the world’s waste dump and destroying the planet. Also, they’re bent on backing China away from its modern “path to prosperity”, U-turning it to its simpler, pre-industrial, rural roots.
Tori Swyft, ex-CIA spy, Aussie surfer and now global corporate wunderkind, is visiting China, working on a mega-merger between Chinese and European tech companies. She unearths the plot and, risking her life, is in a race against the clock to stop it.
What was your inspiration for the main character Tori Swyft?
What inspired Tori Swyft was a glaring literary deficit … the dearth of women as thriller heroes … the lack of female James Bonds. So I decided to create one.
So I’m especially thrilled that you’ve name Tori as ‘THE female James Bond’ in your review over at Carpe Librum.
Like James Bond, Tori’s young, tough and sexy, constantly finding herself in pickles most of us couldn’t possibly extricate ourselves from. But there’s more to Tori than that. This feisty, strong-willed woman carries a PhD in nuclear engineering and a Harvard MBA. People trifle with Tori Swyft at their own risk.
What inspired the threat in The Tao Deception?
On top of writing thrillers, I’m on the board of a global insurance company. Three years ago, when discussing the Top Ten emerging risks for the insurance world, a risk I’d never heard of jumped out at me and grabbed me by the throat.
I won’t say what it is – spoiler alert! – but it’s what The Ten Brothers in The Tao Deception are conspiring to unleash on the world. Experts disagree on how likely this risk is in real life. But if it did happen, the outcome would be catastrophic … a US Congressional Committee says that 200 million Americans would die within 12 months … from starvation, disease and societal collapse.
What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves at home?
How about a 1st edition of J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories, his second and arguably scarcest book? A slim volume, it’s heavily annotated by a notable mid-20th century American editor, critic and author, Maxwell Geismar. His notes give a fascinating glimpse into the mind and working methods of a major literary identity.
In the margins of one story, Geismar’s blue biro scratches this out: ‘This hero is better than Holden Caulfield of Rye … This is really the best story! … Most authentic … Good? … So far.’
What book have you always meant to read but never got around to?
Like Tori Swyft – who’s always trying to read this one at the beach – it’s Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. A journalist once asked Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam if he’d ever read it, and he answered, ‘I’ve glanced at it extensively.’ That’s my approach too.
That’s hilarious, I must remember that phrase (I’ve glanced at it extensively). In your bio, I noticed that you sit on the Council of the National Library of Australia. What does that involve?
It’s been one of the most exciting boards I’ve had the privilege to sit on. Sadly for me, my term just expired. The NLA is a haven for Australia’s heritage. Two of the most exciting NLA projects I got to contribute to, in a small way, are Trove – the NLA’s astonishing on-line research resource which many authors use extensively – and the massive project to digitise the Library, to make it accessible on-line to all Australians, no matter where they live.
What’s next? Will Tori Swyft be back?
Tori Swyft is definitely on her way back, taking readers to Barcelona, Spain. She’s already four chapters into her next thriller, and the crisis she’s up against has got me sweating about how she’s going to survive.
Anything else you’d like to add?
As well as Tori Swyft, I also adore a lead character from an earlier novel Born to Run, my US President Isabel Diaz – the first woman to ‘really’ to win the White House. Isabel had a cameo in my first Tori Swyft novel, The Trusted, and gets a far bigger role in The Tao Deception.
But I’m going to let you into a secret … while writing The Tao Deception, I recalled how much you raved about Isabel’s deaf stepson, Davey, when you reviewed Born to Run way back in 2011. Remembering that prompted me to bring Davey back in The Tao Deception. And I’m glad because he adds a crucial dimension to the story. So thank you, Tracey! Davey’s return is down to you!
Wow, that’s amazing, what a thrill! I love it when authors listen to feedback from readers and to know I had a part in bringing Davey back is so exciting. Thanks John for sharing your secret and for joining us here on the Boomerang Books blog.
Brick History – Amazing Historical Scenes to Build from Lego by Warren Elsmore Brick History contains detailed scenes from history made entirely from LEGO bricks. Beginning with the birth of civilisation itself in the Big Bang, Brick History takes us through the ages to the year 2011 with the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. There is a short description of each historical scene, which is accompanied by photographs and a scattering of model projects to try.
Brick Flicks – 60 Cult Movie Scenes & Posters Made from Lego by Warren Elsmore Brick Flicks is a collection of iconic film moments and movie characters of all time, all built from LEGO.
It includes a variety of movies, including Ghost Busters and The Godfather and contains more than 60 recreations of favourite movie scenes and classic poster designs. There are also instructions on how to replicate many of the scenes at home from your own LEGO collection.
The LEGO Ideas Book by Daniel Lipkowitz
If you have a pile of LEGO and you want to make something, then The LEGO Ideas Book is for you.
Written by Daniel Lipkowitz, this book is broken down into six themed chapters – transport, buildings, space, kingdoms, adventure and useful makes and contains more than 500 models and ideas so there’s bound to be something in here for every AFOL.
Beautiful LEGO & 5. Beautiful Lego 2: Dark by Mike Doyle Beautiful LEGO is the stunning result of talented artists using their creativity and letting their imaginations run wild with thousands of LEGO bricks to create something truly special. This is a compendium of LEGO artwork showcasing an impressive array of pieces including lifelike replicas of everyday objects, famous monuments and more. The author has included interviews with the artists to give the reader an insight into the creative process behind the work.Fans of gothic fantasy and sci-fi should check out Beautiful Lego 2: Dark by Mike Doyle. It’s full of dark and mysterious creations and shadowy nightmares. Perhaps not one for the kids.
I hope you’ve been inspired by this collection of 5 LEGO books for AFOL. Winter is the perfect time of year to sit inside and create a masterpiece or two, or just play with your kids, cousins, nieces and nephews. Just remember to pick up all the pieces up off the floor when you’ve finished.
Most readers will be familiar with the genre of books referred to as YA, but what about NA and MG?
Young Adult (YA)
YA fiction generally contains novels written for readers aged in their teens, or more specifically between the ages of 13 and 20. The stories feature teenage protagonists and often explore themes of identity and coming-of-age. Having said that, YA novels can be from any genre, science fiction, contemporary, fantasy, romance, paranormal etc. Some popular YA novels include the Harry Potter series, Hunger Games series, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Middle Grade (MG) MG novels are generally written for readers aged between 8-12 years, with main characters less than 13 years of age. Themes can include: school, parents, relationship with siblings and friends, being good or misbehaving. Just like every genre, some MG books can have an underlying message (e.g. be kind to animals).
New Adult (NA) NA fiction is a relatively new genre in publishing, and in my opinion grew from the popularity of adult audiences reading and enjoying YA novels (Twilightand The Fault in Our Stars). The genre is situated between YA and adult fiction and protagonists are generally between 18-30 years of age. Themes include leaving home, starting university, choosing a career, sex and sexuality.
Whether you enjoy MG, YA or NA fiction, the most important thing is that you don’t allow yourself to become pigeon-holed. Enjoy your reading, keep an open mind and explore new authors. You never know where your next favourite book might come from.
Precious Things by Australian author Kelly Doust follows a handmade beaded collar through history to the present, touching on the women who owned it and wore it in the past. Kelly Doust joins us on the blog today.
Thanks for joining us Kelly. How did you become interested in vintage clothing?
I fell in love with all fashion when I was really young. I was that kid into dress-ups who always wore weird stuff to mufti day with makeup applied on the bus, inevitably having to wipe it off when a teacher noticed. My local charity store and flea market first exposed me to vintage clothing, but I also adored my mum’s seventies denim flares, cork wedges and plunging velour evening gowns, which seemed so risqué and fun and spoke of grown-up adventures I was dying to become old enough for.
Do you believe that a garment or handmade item can carry part of the essence of the previous owner? (Do you believe an item can carry good vibes or bad juju?)
Not really, but I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. I wore a refashioned eighties wedding dress for my own wedding and didn’t give it much thought at the time, although the true story behind why it ended up in a vintage clothing store probably isn’t the rosiest.
In most cases there’s no way of learning the history of a vintage garment. Does this make you sad or do you prefer the wonder and intrigue?
It’s a kind of sweet sadness, the idea of stories being lost but it’s also the natural way of things. I’m always visiting fashion exhibitions because they share photographs and plaques with all sorts of fascinating contextual information. The May 2016 issue of UK Vogue has this brilliant fashion story featuring costumes worn by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards during their years of touring with The Rolling Stones, but Kate Moss is modelling them with a thoroughly modern twist. That’s so inspiring to me.
This is your debut novel, but you’re certainly no stranger to writing. You’ve worked in the publishing industry and published a number of books (including: Crafty Minx, A Life in Frocks, Minxy Vintage and The Crafty Minx at Home) and I was wondering where you do most of your writing?
Usually at home, but last year we were renovating and I ended up writing in my local cafe most days. It was actually quite useful, because I tried to write as much as I could before ordering another coffee, which made me quite productive. I try to have only two cups a day, so it really focused my mind on writing quickly!
What are you reading at the moment? Inga Simpson’s Where the Trees Were and Katherine Brabon’s The Memory Artist, which recently won the 2016 Vogel Award. Both are so beautifully written. Inga Simpson’s passion for Australian natural history just shines through in Where the Trees Were, and I love the premise of the novel, which slips from present to past to uncover the story of the trees her protagonist, Jayne, is trying to protect. The Memory Artist is also quite staggeringly accomplished, especially for a first novel, and its Russian setting is very evocative. I find myself reading it in awe.
What’s next? Apart from promoting Precious Things, what are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a second novel. Not a sequel to Precious Things but another novel set in England with many similar themes. I also have a new day job, which involves choosing books to turn into audiobooks. It’s really thrilling – I’m reading so widely and love the idea of bringing authors to new readers or listeners.
Thanks for your time Kelly and good luck on your next novel!
Thanks so much for interviewing me for Boomerang Books, Tracey – I so appreciate it! ☺
I follow a number of book reviewers on YouTube and one of them recently mentioned their affection for books with bees on the cover. This captured my attention immediately, because I have the same bias for books with keys on the front, so I decided to keep my eyes open for bee-themed book covers and group them together.
Here’s a list of 8 books with bees on the cover.
1.The Beekeeper’s Secret by Josephine Moon This book seems to be everywhere at the moment, and I guess it’s no surprise given it was published on 1 April 2016. It’s a mystery novel about families and secrets.
2. The Bees by Laline Paull The Bees is being pitched as The Handmaid’s Tale meets Watership Down and given that the main character Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, and this is the story of her life, I can totally see why. I loved Watership Down this year, so I might give this one a go.
3. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King Most Arthur Conan Doyle fans know about Sherlock’s love of bees and fans of TV shows Sherlock and Elementary might enjoy reading The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Published in 1994, it’s the first in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Homes series, which now has 14 books in the series.
4. The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau
I think this is my favourite cover on the list. The World Without Us is a story of secrets and survival, family and community, loss and renewal.
7. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd Probably the most well known book on the list, The Secret Life of Bees is a bestselling novel that was made into a film starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys.
8. The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy
This is a poetry collection and here’s an excerpt from the blurb: Woven and weaving through the book is its presiding spirit: the bee. Sometimes the bee is Duffy’s subject, sometimes it strays into the poem, or hovers at its edge. In the end, Duffy’s point is clear: the bee symbolizes what we have left of grace in the world, and what is most precious and necessary for us to protect. Check out the stunning blue hardcover edition.
I’m always influenced by a well-designed book cover or dust jacket, and a book with a key on the cover almost always grabs my attention. Once I started taking notice of the symbolism of keys in book cover design, it didn’t take me long before I started making a list (because I love a good list).
It should be said that for these 5 books, the covers were much better than the novels. I gave The Collector a 4 star rating, 3 star ratings to two of the books in the list and one 2 star and one 1 star rating to the rest. Now that I consider these ratings alongside their appealing cover designs, perhaps there’s some truth to not judging a book by it’s cover. Just because a book speaks to you, doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it.
There’s a plethora of keys decorating all kinds of book covers out there, some old and some new, some enticing, and some less so. One of my favourite classics cover of all time is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, number 13 in the list and the cover of The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon calls out to me whenever I see it. I can almost hear those keys jangling in the snow.
Elena Ferrante is popular this year, and the keys on the front cover (pictured right) speak to me about unlocking the mystery of the author’s identity almost as much as her novel The Days of Abandonment.
There are some books in my collection that I’ll always associate with the particular place or time in which I read them. It might be because I read a book on a memorable holiday or read a book at a significant time in my life, but either way, today I’d like to do the Time and Place Book Tag* with you.
The idea is that you take 10 (in this case I’ll only do 5) books from your bookshelf and share the time and place in which you read them. So here goes.
#1 So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson
In 2006, my reading was really taking off and I remember reading So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading on the tram to and from work. My journey was a relatively short one and I distinctly remember wishing it was a little longer so I could read just one more chapter before I arrived at home or work. Sara Nelson’s enthusiasm for books and reading was contagious and my own reading increased after this.
#2 Dracula by Bram Stoker
In early 2008, I was in the middle of reading Dracula by Bram Stoker when it was time to leave for Fiji to attend a family member’s wedding. I’d planned to finish reading Dracula before we left because I didn’t think it a suitable book for reading in the tropics, but alas, I couldn’t leave it behind. I have a clear memory of reading Dracula in the hotel room with the bright sunshine, palm trees and beach outside while immersed in the cold and darkness of Bram Stoker’s world. The contrast was unforgettable.
#3 The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
In late 2008 I was heading off on my honeymoon and took great joy in deciding what books to take with me on my cruise. (Anyone else do this?) I decided that The Chronicles of Narnia was a nice big fat book, perfect for lounging around with and I wasn’t wrong. I started and finished it on my honeymoon and read more besides. This book is also memorable for me because it was a gift from a dear friend.
#4 Dick Wicks the Magnetic Man by Dick Wicks
Books aren’t always memorable for me just because I read them while on holiday. During a period of poor health in 2011, I turned to the concept of magnets and read Dick Wicks the Magnetic Man – How Magnets Helped Me Beat the Pain by Dick Wicks. He signed a copy for me which I still have and his inspirational and personal story has stayed with me.
#5 The Martian by Andy Weir
In 2014 I went on a two week holiday to New Zealand and took my iPad with me to read a new release called The Martian by Andy Weir. It was a little known title at the time, and I was reading it each night in our hotel room and chuckling on almost every page. My husband asked me what was so funny, and after reading a few snippets, he said “stop, I’ll read it when you’re finished.” A few days later, I handed it over and for the next week, kept pestering him with questions like: “what bit are you up to?” and “what bit are you laughing at?”
Have a look on your own bookshelves. Do some titles stand out to you? Do you remember where you were when you read a particular book or when it was that you read it? I’d love to know, so leave your entries in the comments below.
A self-help book for the jerk of the family
If you have a classic jerk in the family, who thinks he always knows best then you need to buy him a copy of I Know You Think You Know it All bookby Chris Black. A self-help book full of advice and observations on how to stand apart from others and become an influencer, this could change someone’s life.
A naughty book
If you’ve heard of the Christmas toy Elf on the Shelf, then you’ll know he/she brings a lot of joy to children and parents around Christmas time. The Elf Off The Shelf by Horace the Elf is a parody of the ever popular The Elf on the Shelf and is definitely for parent’s eyes only. If you’d like to give a naughty or inappropriate gift to someone this year, then this is it.
A book to give you peace If you’re tired of hearing the same old stories from Great Aunt Beryl or sick of listening to your brother-in-law talk about how important his job is, then you need a copy of The Martian by Andy Weir on stand by. One of the best books out at the moment, (and a favourite of mine) it’s bound to keep them occupied so you can get on with having a good time. (Or you could just read it and escape to Mars in the pages).
Have you ever borrowed a book from the library, only to discover at some horrifying point, that a page has been ripped out? Even worse, multiple pages? This happened to me recently, while reading Snail Mail – Celebrating the Art of Handwritten Correspondence by Michelle Mackintosh. I was nearing the end of this beautiful book and looking forward to seeing her envelope templates, only to find that some selfish reader before me had ripped all the template pages from the book. I was horrified, angry and disappointed.
I couldn’t believe a library user who would borrow a book about snail mail and sending lovely items to their friends and family to treasure, could also be a thief. Ripping out pages of a book is essentially stealing from the future. They are stealing information from future readers and in this case killing craft projects before they’ve even begun.
In this day and age, there’s simply no reason to tear out pages from a book. Every library has a photocopier/scanner, and they could easily have photocopied or scanned the pages of interest when they returned the library book. They could have scanned it at home, at work or from a friend’s house. They could have taken a photo of the pages with their smart phone. They could even have traced the templates directly from the book.
Libraries generally allow their readers to borrow a book for 2-4 weeks, isn’t that enough time to make a copy of something you can’t bear to live without? Or heaven forbid, make plans to purchase your own copy?
Tearing out pages in a library book is essentially destroying public property. Libraries are funded by the Government and are for the entire community to enjoy. Stealing from one, damaging a book or defacing property robs future patrons of what you yourself have enjoyed.
The scene from Dead Poets Society when Professor Keating (played by the late Robin Williams) encourages his students to rip out pages from their poetry textbooks is inspirational, however we don’t live in a movie.
When a library book is damaged in this way, it is often taken out of circulation. In this case, the copy of Snail Mail I borrowed was the only copy in the Port Phillip Library service, and after I informed staff of the damage, they advised me they would have to take the book out of circulation and wouldn’t be replacing it. What a shame and so unnecessary.
But it’s not just library books that are being vandalised in this way. Earlier this year I saw a woman tear out a page from a magazine in a waiting room and put it in her handbag. Naturally I confronted her about it and told her she was being incredibly selfish. I pointed out that waiting room magazines are a courtesy and there to be enjoyed by all and she was ruining it for everyone. I don’t think she cared much, but when did we become so greedy and selfish? What does this teach our children?
I’d like to hope that readers of this blog would never do such a thing and I encourage this community of booklovers to stand up to this sort of behaviour if you ever see it happening. Make sure you report any damage to your librarian as soon as you see it, and let’s preserve the reading material around us for everyone to enjoy.
The Martian by Andy Weir has a fabulous back story. Initially published chapter by chapter and made available for free on the author’s website, readers soon fell in love with the story. First, they asked him to make it available as an ebook, so they could enjoy it on their e-readers rather than having to read it from his website. Fans then asked Weir to make his novel available as a Kindle ebook on Amazon, and the rest is (as they say) history. The novel took off, and Weir sold the rights in 2013 for more than $100,000US.
The Martian is a science fiction novel inspired by the TV hero MacGyver and the fix-it scene in Apollo 13, and has now been adapted for the big screen in a film starring Matt Damon, directed by Ridley Scott. The movie is in cinemas now and having adored the book, I went to see the movie last week, hardly able to contain my excitement.
Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney in the film The Martian, who is injured and left behind on planet Mars after a dust storm. He must overcome many obstacles in order to survive the harsh conditions and come up with a plan to ensure he doesn’t starve before help or supplies arrive.
The novel by Andy Weir is funny and clever, with complex science somehow made accessible to the average ‘layman’ reader, even for first time readers of science fiction. Sections of the novel are log entries recorded by Watney and are laugh out loud funny. Watney’s ingenuity and character really shine through in the book and Matt Damon did a magnificent job playing the character in the movie.
There were some marked differences in the movie adaptation that are worth noting though.
– The book contains quite a bit of scene-appropriate swearing, and without it in the movie, Watney’s character loses a little of his edge.
– One of my favourite scenes (where Watney spells out letters on the surface of mars with rocks) wasn’t included in the film and I couldn’t help but be disappointed.
– The names and nationality of several supporting characters were changed for the movie, and I have no idea why.
– The trip in the rover forms so much of the book (it’s over 3,000 miles) but in the movie, he seems to ‘arrive’ at his location without the audience being aware of the true perils of the journey.
– They changed the ending. I won’t elaborate so I don’t spoil it for anyone, but some of the changes in the movie improved on the original ending and some were a waste of time.
The Martian was one of my favourite books of 2015, and I knew it’d be hard to match on screen, but sadly the movie left me wanting more. At 141 minutes duration, the film is longer than the average block buster, but the time really flies. It was entertaining, and on its own, a very fine movie, I just thought the book was better. Such a cliche right?
So, what’s your opinion, which is better? The Martian movie or The Martian book? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma is one of my favourite reads of the year, and I was excited to hear it had been longlisted 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.
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.
Being a booklover and an avid reader, I occasionally enjoy reading and learning more about the English language. I’ve read some great books on the topic over the years and thought I’d share some of them with you below. Let’s start with two Australian books for those with a general interest in the origins and future direction of our English language.
The Aitch Factor, Adventures in Australian English by Susan Butler (Australian)
Susan Butler is the Editor at Macquarie Dictionary, having started there in 1970 as a Research Assistant. Butler regularly engages the community collecting new words, and providing advice on the correct spelling and usage of a variety of words. She’s even been consulted by politicians and has some funny and interesting anecdotes to share.
According to the blurb: “The Aitch Factor is the perfect book for word warriors, punctuation pedants and everyday lovers of language,” so you can’t go wrong.
Gift of the Gob: Morsels of English Language History by Kate Burridge (Australian)
Kate Burridge is a Professor of Linguistics here in Australia, and covers many categories in her book, some of which include: slanguage on the move, shocking words, word origins, and pronunciation on the move. Burridge takes an amusing and insightful look at how the meaning of a word – as well as its pronunciation – can change over time, and I found it fascinating and educational.
As in The Aitch Factor, Gift of the Gob comes with a dash of humour and looks at the language of the past and where the English language is taking us in the future.
Yeager writes about the cliches, buzz words and double speak that irritate him on a regular basis, and I was laughing out loud and wanting to share them with anyone who happened to be close by.
Amidst the humour, buzz words and misused phrases it’s hard not to learn something along the way. I realised I was guilty of committing one of his grammar errors early on, but was determined to press on, ever hopeful that would be the one and only offence.
Literally the Best Language Book Ever is a terrific read, and makes the perfect coffee table book.
One book in this genre I haven’t read yet is the bestselling book from Lynne Truss called Eats, Shoots & Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. According to the blurb: “in Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled.”
This definitely sounds like a book for me, but I haven’t read it yet in the fear that it could be a little too serious. If you’ve read it, what did you think?
Today I thought I’d take a closer look at the differences between fables and parables and come up with some recommendations for readers of all ages who enjoy a little learning with their leisure.
A fable is: a short story that conveys a moral to the reader, typically with animals as characters.
A parable is: a short story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.
The first fable that comes to mind is the story of the hare and the tortoise who race each other. Everyone knows this one, the race seems unfair in the beginning because the hare is so fast, but he becomes smug knowing he’s going to win and takes a break to rest. Meanwhile, the slower tortoise continues to plod along and cruises past for the win. The moral of this fable is: slow and steady wins the race. If you want to teach your young ones this lesson, then check out The Tortoise and the Hare by Gerald Rose or Tortoise Vs Hare the Rematch by Preston Rutt and illustrated by Ben Redlich.
Most iconic of all is the collection of fables collated by the slave and storyteller Aesop in ancient Greece, of course it’s Aesop’s Fables. Check out this hardback edition of Aesop’s Fables illustrated by Ernest Griset, it contains more than 300 stories bound to please.
Recently I read The Pearl by John Steinbeck, which started me off thinking about parables and fables in the first place, and is about greed. Having said that, the first parable that comes to mind for me is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book that has sold millions of copies all around the world, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it a few years ago.
A parable that’s on my TBR list is A Christmas Carol by none other than Charles Dickens. Even though I already know what the parable is, I still think it’d be nice to read it in the lead up to Christmas this year.
So, what’s your favourite fable or parable? Have any of them changed the way you think about the world? I’d love to know, so tell us in the comments below.
Winter is a popular time for book lovers, the season where many of us enjoy staying in, rugging up and delving into a good book. But do we read more in the winter months or in summer?
Summer brings to mind images of sunny days, cool drinks and reading a book on the deck or under the shade of a tree. Many of us take our holidays in summer, reading in airports, on buses and at caravan parks. In summer we seem to be out and about more, enjoying the sunshine and daylight savings, BBQs and day trips, festivals and markets; but do we have more time for reading?
The only time I read during the day is when I’m stuck waiting. It might be waiting at the Doctor’s office, waiting at a cafe for a friend or waiting for a plane. None of these daytime waiting and reading opportunities are at all weather dependent. In fact, when it’s terribly hot and I’m heading out and about, I’m more likely to slip a bottle of water into my handbag in place of a book. For me, summer is a time for travelling light and keeping out of the sun.
I don’t know about you, but I do most of my reading at night and in bed. I find reading before sleep is the best way for me to unwind from the day, tell my body it’s time for rest, and occupy my mind on a single task to minimise the internal chatter.
It’s a fact that in winter we sleep for longer, and when it’s time to get up in the morning we find ourselves reluctant to venture out into the frosty morning. There’s actually a scientific reason for this. In winter there is less daylight, and as a result the pineal gland produces more melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy. When we wake up it’s still dark outside and the pineal gland has yet to shut down, hence our reluctance to get up in the morning.
I’m a city dweller, and in the summertime, hot nights are often filled with the sounds of music, BBQs and parties finishing long into the night. In winter, people are keen to get home and don’t seem to venture much outside (except to get from A to B), meaning the city is much quieter. Quiet time is a great time for reading.
Taking all of this into consideration, I think I’ve decided that I do read more in winter than in summer. There are less social gatherings to attend, and it’s nice and cosy in bed with the electric blanket on and a good book in my hands.
What about you? What are your reading habits and do you read more in winter or in summer?
The latest and most exciting news is that a new book has just been released, and Beauty’s Kingdom is the fourth in the series and the first in 30 years. Before I tell you about the latest release, let me give you a brief overview (or reminder) of the series in case you haven’t come across it before. And if the erotica genre is not for you, then click here for some art therapy to cleanse your mind, and I’ll bid you farewell.
The Claiming of Sleeping Beautyis certainly not your typical fairytale, nor is it appropriate for children. Beauty is woken from her 100 year sleep, not with a kiss from a handsome prince, but with copulation. The prince takes her to his kingdom and in gratitude for waking her from her spell, Beauty is trained to become a plaything and sex slave. Don’t worry though, Beauty enjoys her encounters and falls passionately in love with a male slave. The sex is submissive and features elements of BDSM and pony play.
In Beauty’s Punishment, Beauty is punished for her affair with a fellow slave and is sold at auction. She is purchased by an innkeeper and captures the attention of the Captain of the Guard, who takes over her ‘education in love, cruelty, dominance, submission and tenderness.’ At the end of the book, Beauty and several other slaves are kidnapped and sent to serve in the palace of the Sultan.
In Beauty’s Release, Beauty finds herself in a new realm and a prisoner within a harem belonging to an Eastern Sultan. As the title suggests, she does escape her predicament and marry, but to tell you any more would be a spoiler. As the blurb says: ‘Anne Rice makes the forbidden side of passion a doorway into the hidden regions of the psyche and the heart in this final volume of the classic Sleeping Beauty trilogy,’ and I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Throughout the Sleeping Beauty series, themes of desire, discipline, pleasure, pain and surrender are all explored, and the writing is evocative and erotic.
Beauty’s Kingdom is the latest release, and is set 20 years after the events at the end of Beauty’s Release. Other than that, I don’t know much more, but I can’t wait to read it.
I enjoyed writing the blog post Books with the word ‘Girl’ in the title so much, I thought I’d do one for books that have ‘boy’ in the title. At first glance, I thought this one might be easier, but let’s see how I go.
The first book that comes to mind for me is The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. Now a very well-known motion picture film, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is definitely unforgettable, but did you know it is rumoured that author John Boyne wrote the entire first draft in two and a half days? Amazing!
As you might expect, there are a number of YA titles with ‘boy’ in the title, beginning with Boy – Tales of Childhood by none other than Roald Dahl. Published in 1984, Roald Dahl recounts his days as a child growing up in the public school system in England and the living conditions in the 1920s – 1930s.
Many of us will remember reading Storm Boyby Australian author Colin Thiele at school and might even admit to crying at the end (I think I had something in my eye). It’s a story about a boy and his pelican and was part of the school curriculum when I was growing up.
Another Australian contribution to this list is Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. Set in a mysterious museum, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a modern day fairytale about the power of friendship, courage and love and of course, never giving up.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf is such a familiar story with a powerful message – we all know it – but when you look up the title in any directory you’ll see a swag of authors and can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. The edition I’ve selected for this collection is The Boy Who Cried Wolf with The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs illustrated by Val Biro, primarily because it’s marketed as Aesop’s Fables for Easy Readers. Perfect right?
Getting back to adult fiction, there’s About A Boy by Nick Hornby, an entertaining read about ladies man Will Freeman (played by Hugh Grant in the 2002 adaptation) who picks up women by attending single parent groups. His life takes a turn though after he meets 12yo Marcus.
So, how many of these books have you read? What have I missed?
In the last two months, I’ve read three books with the word girl in the title. In December I read Gone Girl, in January I read The Girl on the Train and I just finished reading The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan. I started to wonder if this was a recent trend in book titles, but when looking back over books I’ve read in previous years, I discovered plenty of books with the word girl in the title.
Just for fun, I’ve decided to list them here in the order they were read:
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
A young girl is lost in the woods after stepping off the nature trail while walking with her family. She listens to her walkman for comfort and her favourite baseball player, Tom Gordon.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo burst onto the book scene several years ago, and readers couldn’t get enough of the Millennium Trilogy. Lisbeth Salander – genius hacker with a photographic memory, extremely poor social skills and a mysterious past – is an unforgettable character. Together with Blomkvist, they investigate a disappearance.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson
The final in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is about ‘the trial’ and I found it the least enjoyable of an otherwise exciting and gripping trilogy. The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth
This is the story of Dortchen Wild, a young girl growing up in the medieval town of Hessen-Cassel in Germany. Dortchen lives next door to the Grimm family; the brothers being famous for their collections of fairytales. It is a little known historical fact that Dortchen told the brothers almost 25% of their stories, this is her story told by Australian author Kate Forsyth. Cemetery Girl by David J. Bell
Caitlin is found dirty and dishevelled 4 years after she goes missing and her parents struggle to find out where she’s been all that time.
just_a_girl by Kirsten Krauth just_a_girl is about fourteen year-old Layla, provocative, daring, reckless and a tease. Set in the Blue Mountains, this is a book for mature readers (in my opinion).
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Blockbuster novel that needs no introduction, also now a major motion picture starring Ben Affleck. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train is gaining popularity and is a cracking read with flawed characters. Rachel catches the same train to London each day and enjoys looking at the houses and sometimes imagining the lives of those who live there. One day she sees something that will change her life forever (and it’s not a murder).
The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan I finished this recently and adored it. If you like the writing style of Australian author Kate Morton then you’ll love The Girl in the Photograph. An historical fiction novel told in the the past and present, this is a haunting and atmospheric mystery.
As I pack away my Christmas tree for another year, I took stock today of my Christmas haul of books. I’m planning on reading more classics in 2015 and was fortunate enough to receive a few beautiful clothbound editions for Christmas. I hope you too were lucky enough to receive a book or two at Christmas time, here’s what I received (in alphabetical order by author surname):
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe Somehow I didn’t read Robinson Crusoe as a young adult, and it’s one of those books that is always referred to in passing. As I approach my 40s, I thought it was time to pick up Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and this clothbound classic edition will make a wonderful addition to my bookshelf.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley I’ve read a few horror novels in my time as well as many science fiction books, but I’ve never read the classic Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I love the story behind the book, in that Shelley wrote Frankenstein almost 100 years ago in 1817 at just 19 years of age. I’m really looking forward to reading this clothbound edition of Frankenstein this year (love the hearts on the cover) and discovering for myself the gothic and romantic elements within.
For some reason I find this author intimidating so I’ve decided to read The Pearl (a novella of less than 100 pages) as a gentle introduction to his writing. Have you read any Steinbeck? What do you recommend?
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde The plot in Oscar Wilde’s classic The Picture of Dorian Gray is known by many and I especially loved the portrayal in the recent TV Show Penny Dreadful. Just being aware of the premise of the book is no longer enough and I thought it was about time I read this classic for myself. It’ll be my first time reading any material by Oscar Wilde (I’m sure quotes don’t count) and I’m hoping The Picture of Dorian Gray lives up to the hype.
Have you read any of the classics above? Did you receive or give any books during the festive period? I gave a family member a copy of The Menzies Era by John Howard and another family member a handful of books by James Patterson.
Thanks to Alison Green from Pantera Press for talking to Boomerang Books today, and sharing your Christmas picks with us. First, let’s find out a little more about you and some of the books you’ve been working on.
You’re the CEO & co-founder of Pantera Press, what does your job entail?
As a boutique publishing house, we have a small dedicated team. We are all extremely passionate, and often it is all hands on deck! On a day-to-day I work closely with our authors as well as the Pantera Press submissions, marketing, publicity, digital, editorial, design, financial and rights, teams and agencies. I also have a strong focus on our strategic development.
But I’d really say that my job is about making dreams come true. The dreams of our readers, storylovers – who love to get swept up into different fictional worlds. The dreams of our authors – our storytellers who live for writing fabulous tales and getting those stories to their fans. And the great philanthropic works we do in and around literacy and the joys of reading.
How did you get this job?
I co-founded the company in 2008. My background was in psychology and business strategy, and I have always been an avid reader. We created Pantera Press as a response to what we felt was a void in the industry – a home that not only welcomes but also actively seeks previously unpublished authors with best-seller writing potential.
What is different/special about Pantera Press?
Many things! Pantera Press introduced an innovative business model into the Australian publishing industry. We explicitly embraced a fresh strategy to be better support to Australia’s storytellers and storylovers, via an innovative, author-friendlier model with a strong curatorial culture. We designed this so that we could take a great, and longer-term risk in backing new authors. From day one, Pantera Press dedicated itself to discovering new, previously unpublished authors. Writers of great stories that are well written and would appeal to a wide audience of dedicated readers. We also have a strong ‘profits for philanthropy’ foundation that we call ‘good books doing good things’, where we invest in programs and projects around Australia that help close the literacy gap and encourage the joy of reading. If that’s not enough, I should mention that our boardroom table is actually a Ping-Pong table. So if you find yourself in the Pantera Press office, you may be up for a battle.
(Brilliant, I love table tennis!) I suspect you love all the books you work on, but could you tell us about some that you are particularly proud of?
Great question. I do LOVE all of the books that we publish, and in part… that is actually a set criteria for any story we consider for publication (seriously). Be it a latest story from one of our existing authors, or a story from a brand new author there are many things we will consider when choosing a story to publish. Our authors are talented writers who we have handpicked, because we think they are absolutely amazing and see big potential for them. One of the many criteria we have is “even if you are not the target audience for this story, did you love it? And did you want to keep reading”. So I do indeed love all of the books we work on.
Killing Adonis by J.M. Donellan is a book I’m particularly proud of. It’s a really quirky ride, and we’ve had an overwhelming amount of media compare this story to the stylings of Wes Anderson (Writer and Director of The Grand Budapest Hotel). Donellan’s story is a tragicomic tale about love, delusion, corporate greed… and the hazards of using pineapple cutters while hallucinating. This story is for people who enjoy complex storylines that verge on the absurd, who love the scrumptious extravagance of Wes Anderson movies, and who marvel at the moral-driven layers of Roald Dahl. On top of being a GREAT story, the cover of the book is very unique and was created to mimic a leather bound book. It has the look and feel, and it’s certainly something special to hold onto, and to display on your bookshelf.
I also have to mention Sulari Gentill’s award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mystery series. Her series has been nominated and shortlisted for several awards, and won the Davitt Award for best crime fiction. Her latest novel in the series, A Murder Unmentioned has topped several Australia bookseller best-seller lists. And it’s a phenomally engaging and charming series that appeals to men and women of all ages. I’m thrilled that we discovered Sulari and have just released her 9th book in 4 years (yes, she is seriously impressive!).
What is your secret reading pleasure?
As much as I might wish for it… I’m clearly no longer a young adult. However, I take secret joy in reading Young Adult fiction and finding myself in strange new worlds. Wanda Wiltshire’s Betrothed series is a favourite. Her writing is beautiful, and the first book in the series (Betrothed) had me dreaming every night about receiving my invitation to the Faery world of Faera. Wanda explores beautiful themes of friendship, self-discovery and finding ones place in the world. As well as romance, darkness… and how to fly!
I’d also love to tell you about a top-secret Pantera Press book (shhh), it is not yet released – but is coming really soon (February 2015). Akarnae by Lynette Noni, the first book in the 5 book Medoran Chronicles. Akarnae is Harry Potter, X-Men and Narnia rolled into one wonderful story. Believable characters, in an unbelievable world: with Akarnae you must embrace the wonder!
What are your must-reads over Christmas? (What’s on your bedside table to read over the holidays?) There are many. As you can imagine there is a big pile of books, awaiting me for my summer staycation (and I can’t wait). To mention a couple: Tempting Fate by Jane Green (not a relation). Most people seem to assume that my reading list would predominantly contain serious literary fiction, however in high school – fun and romantic stories were what made me the avid reader I am today. I would read 3-4 books a week, easily. And that voracious love of reading is partially what excited me about becoming involved in the book publishing industry. Jane Green was always a favourite. I’ve read every single one of her books at least once, so I’m looking forward to her latest summer read.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Chemo by Luke Ryan. I recently met Luke and heard him speak with one of our own Pantera Press authors, J.M. Donellan, at the National Young Writers’ Festival in Newcastle. He was hilarious, and I’m looking forward to reading his memoir.
John M. Green you are co-founder of Pantera Press with Alison and author of Nowhere Man, The Trusted & Born To Run. What are your must-reads this Christmas? I want to read Wally Lamb‘s latest novel We are Water over the holidays. He creates characters and relationships, especially difficult ones, so convincingly that I can cry – and often have.
Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins is a plain English book about money and investing that is 700 pages and costs $30 (with all profits going to Feeding America). Here’s my investment advice: read the book and you’ll probably make your $30 back.
Finally, I’ll be reading Here Come the Dogs by Omar Musa over the holidays. Omar is a slam poet from Queanbeyan that did a Ted talk and I met him while he was doing promos for his debut novel and he’s a super cool guy.
Thanks very much for speaking with us, Alison and Merry Christmas!
Thanks to Anna O’Grady for talking to Boomerang Books today, and sharing your Christmas picks with us. First, let’s find out more about you and some of the books you’ve been working on.
You’re the Marketing and Publicity Manager at Simon & Schuster. What does your job entail?
How much time do we have? I like describing it as ‘parenting’ a book and making sure that I find the best possible home for it. It all starts by understanding who would enjoy the particular title, and then the fun part of thinking of the best means of reaching that audience. Nowadays there are so many different ways that this can be achieved.
In the last few months I’ve worked on creating online trailers and ads, organized blog tours, pitched titles to festivals, events and media and talked to our book loving community over various social media channels.
How did you get this job?
I am the third generation working in the book world from a family of booksellers and publishers. For the better part of my life I have been lucky enough to continue our family tradition across six different countries. However, bookselling is rapidly changing and for a few years I have wanted to try my hand in a publishing house. All the stars aligned really well this year and I ended up with the amazing team at Simon & Schuster Australia. I have learnt a tremendous amount but it also has been a lot of fun.
What is different/special about Simon & Schuster?
One of the things I really like about Simon & Schuster is that it is a small publishing house. There are just over 20 people in the office and that means that there are opportunities to try different things in different areas of the book business. For example, even though my official role is within the marketing and publicity department, I am also part of the acquisition team – so I have a chance to read new manuscripts and contribute to the decision on publishing these.
I also really love the staff’s passion for books we publish within the Simon & Schuster program. A lot of larger houses release so many books that it is physically impossible for everybody to be familiar with all titles. Our publishing program is small enough that almost everybody in-house can read all the books we publish and be able to meet all the authors in person. I really love being in an office where everybody reads and where books are celebrated every day.
I suspect you love all the books you work on, but could you tell us about some that you are particularly proud of?
It has been quite a year for me, and I often feel in awe of the amazing authors that I have been taking care of. I will highlight two – only because they are so completely different. The first one was my campaign for debut author Ellie O’Neill’s book Reluctantly Charmed. Debuts are notoriously difficult to break out, but I felt special pressure on this one because everybody at Simon & Schuster loved this book. In the end we had a great campaign that was embraced by a major sponsor – Tourism Ireland – and also created a lot of buzz in the book blogging community. I am already looking forward to the second book from Ellie coming next year.
The other campaign that will probably stay in mind for a very long time was A Thousand Shards of Glass by Michael Katakis. Although Michael is a world class photographer, an overseer of the intellectual property of Hemingway and an author of very thought provoking books, he is very little known in Australia. We decided to bring him here for a tour and I had the task of arranging events and media for his tour. This took several months and many, many phone calls and emails to organize. Because Michael is relatively unknown some event organizers took some persuasion and were hesitant to the last moment. In the end the response to Michael’s tour was exceptional and well worth all our efforts. I have never seen such an emotional reader–writer reaction, with many people moved to tears at events, and many readers calling and sending emails – and in one instance hand delivering a letter of thank you to our offices. There is nothing more special than seeing that connection in front of my eyes and knowing that I helped make it happen.
What do you see as the way forward in the book industry?
I have been watching the book industry very carefully for at least 20 years now and I find some changes painful, but I also see a lot of great things on the horizon. I think that we might be experiencing a new golden age of storytelling. There are more people reading than ever before, and they access books in many formats and ways. But what is even more exciting is that readers have more to say, and the means to say it, than ever before. The future of the publishing industry is in deepening the connection to readers and embracing new ways of telling and experiencing stories. I have no doubt that great books and storytellers will always find their audience.
What is your secret reading pleasure?
I really enjoy many YA novels, love a good mystery, and have a fascination with horror fiction. For me some of the great horror and crime writers are amongst the best at the craft of writing – although critics often disregard them.
Thanks very much for speaking with us, Anna. You’re most welcome, it’s been a pleasure.
I’m a huge fan of Anne Rice, and her novel Interview With The Vampire is one of my favourite books of all time. Published in 1976, Interview With The Vampire stands the test of time, even surviving a film adaptation in 1994 starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater and Antonio Banderas. The book was the first in what would become The Vampire Chronicles, a series of now 12 books, with the latest, Prince Lestat just released.
With this new release, the first in more than 10 years, I thought it was a good time to take a retrospective look at the series and hopefully inspire a few of you to pick up a book by Anne Rice, if you haven’t done so before.
The Vampire Chronicles series of books in order of year published:
Book 1. Interview With The Vampire (1976) Interview With The Vampire is where it all started, so, what’s it about? The vampire of the title is Louis, and he tells his life story (all 200 immortal years worth) to a young reporter. Made into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt for a companion in 1791, Louis’ life takes on many unexpected twists and turns across the decades and themes of love, companionship, loneliness, betrayal, suffering, revenge, horror, value of human life and immortality are all present.
Louis finds that he is tired of being immortal but at the end of the interview, the reporter asks to be made into a vampire, obviously having learned nothing from Louis’ personal story and infuriating Louis beyond belief.
Book 2. The Vampire Lestat (1985)
As the title suggests, the second novel in the series is the story of Lestat de Lioncourt, as he narrates his own life story. He was given the Dark Gift by Magnus. He later meets Armand (see Book 6) who tells Lestat he was made into a vampire by a very old vampire called Marius. Lestat becomes fixated on finding Marius to ask him questions about the history and origins of their kind. He does get answers (no spoilers here) and by the 1980s (time of publishing) Lestat is living life as a rockstar vampire.
Book 3. The Queen of the Damned (1988)
Following on from The Vampire Lestat is The Queen of the Damned, the third in the series (also made into a film). Akasha is the mother of all vampires and the Queen of the Damned and has been ‘woken up’ by Lestat after sleeping for 6,000 years. The reporter, Louis and Lestat are back and find that Akasha has her own agenda. We learn how the mother and father of vampires were created, and Akasha threatens to destroy all vampires.
Book 4. The Tale of the Body Thief (1992)
Lestat is depressed and lonely and takes great risks which almost cost him his immortal life. The body thief of the title is Raglan James who offers to switch bodies with Lestat. Lestat’s relationship with David Talbot (Head of the Talamasca Caste) is explored and he eventually reunites with Louis.
Book 5. Memnoch the Devil (1995)
In one of my favourite novels in the series, Memnoch the Devil, Lestat is approached by the Devil (calling himself Memnoch) and is offered a job of sorts.
Memnoch ‘takes Lestat on a whirlwind tour of Heaven and Hell and retells of the entirety of history from his own point of view in an effort to convince Lestat to join him as God’s adversary. In his journey, Memnoch claims he is not evil, but merely working for God by ushering lost souls into Heaven.’ (Source: Wikipedia) Memnoch the Devil ‘reinterprets biblical stories to create a complete history of Earth, Heaven and Hell that fit neatly with the history of vampires given in The Queen of the Damned.’ (Source: Wikipedia)
This is a book to make you re-think everything you know, consider life after death and our purpose on the planet and is one of my favourite books by Anne Rice.
Book 6. The Vampire Armand (1998)
In Book 6, we learn more about Armand’s back story, first featured in Interview With The Vampire. Telling his life story to vampire David Talbot, we learn Armand was born 500 years ago and was living and painting in a monastery before being kidnapped by slave traders and later purchased by the vampire Marius. There’s a lot of sex and sexual references in this novel, and when Armand is given the Dark Gift there is a repeat of the theme only to feed on evildoers and the struggle between good and evil.
Book 7. Merrick (2000)
Merrick Mayfair (of the title) is a witch, and features in the Mayfair Witches series also by Anne Rice. Louis, Lestat and David Talbot are back in Book 7 and the novel contains the backstory of Merrick’s relationship with David as well as her yearning for the Dark Gift.
Book 8. Blood and Gold (2001)
Another of my favourite novels of all time by Anne Rice, is Book 8 in The Vampire Chronicles, Blood and Gold. The reason I love it so much is the amount of art and history that is featured. Essentially, it’s the story of Marius.
Book 9. Blackwood Farm (2002)
Book 9 is unusual in that it introduces an entirely new character in Quinn Blackwood, a young boy haunted by a nasty spirit he calls Goblin. Quinn seeks help from Lestat who then contacts Merrick when he can’t rid the boy of the spirit.
Book 10. Blood Canticle (2003)
Quinn is back in Book 10, Blood Canticle, a story narrated by Lestat. Quinn is in love with Mona, a Mayfair Witch and Lestat has a love interest of his own. Mona is dying and Lestat turns her into a vampire to save her.
Book 11. Prince Lestat (2014)
Fans have been waiting more than a decade, but all the key characters are back in the newly released Prince Lestat, the latest book in The Vampire Chronicles. Apparently the vampire world is in crisis and their only hope of survival is our beloved Prince Lestat. (I can’t wait to read it).
Book 12. Blood Paradise (expected in 2015) Said to be a sequel to Prince Lestat.
I hope this summary has given you a reading pathway into this series, and I’d love to hear from readers already in love with Anne Rice’s Lestat and other characters. It’s not hard to believe that in November 2008, The Vampire Chronicles had sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, and I’m sure that number will continue to increase with new books 11 and 12.
I recently stumbled across the works of Australian poet C. J. Dennis (1876 – 1938) and have been enjoying his poetry and writing from The C.J. Dennis Collection – from his forgotten writings edited by Garrie Hutchinson. You may have come across his most well known work, a humorous verse novel called The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, first published in 1915. Selling an astonishing 65,000 copies in the first year of release, Dennis was the most prosperous poet in Australian history.
In 1922, he began writing for the Herald in Melbourne, and wrote daily pieces until his death in 1938. He wrote about the bush, farming, small towns, cricket, horse racing, football, local crime and of course politics. Dennis wrote a prolific variety of poems and prose, many of them about ordinary Australians and which included slang and phrases of the day.
Reading his work now, it does take a little while to acclimatise to his phonetic spelling, particularly his work through the character Ben Bowyang, “rural filosofer and spelin reformer… from the bush.” (Page 5 of The C.J. Dennis Collection edited by Garrie Hutchinson). Having said that, once you adapt your reading to his writing style, you’ll no doubt find his rhyming verse addictive.
Dennis clearly had a love of words and language and was an impressive storyteller, capturing every day characters with humour and precision. His work around the ANZACs and ANZAC Day (such as A Song of Anzac and A Message) is touching and really captures a time gone by.
During his career, Dennis worked with Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, and despite being just as successful, his name isn’t as well known as his two contemporaries. If like me, you’d like to re-discover the works of this legendary Australian, you can begin with The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke (click here to purchase), or with his children’s books mentioned above (each in print and available for purchase).
For some of his more obscure writings though, you might need to do some digging. I managed to source The C.J. Dennis Collection – from his forgotten writings edited by Garrie Hutchinson (published in 1987) through my local library. Your efforts will be well rewarded, I guarantee.
Do you remember reading books by C.J. Dennis as a kid? Do you have any of his books on your bookshelf at home? Let me know if you have your own connection to this ‘lost’ Australian poet.
With summer well on the way in Australia, I’ve noticed our thoughts have begun to shift away from snuggling down or curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. Instead we start talking and thinking about lying on the grass with our favourite book, reclining in the sunshine and enjoying a good ‘beach read’.
What is a beach book anyway? I always understood it to be an easy breezy read that didn’t require any brain power in a ‘check your brain at the door’ kind of way. The more I think about it though, the more I disagree. If you’re on holiday and your everyday stresses are out of your mind, wouldn’t this be the best time to tackle a more challenging read? Wouldn’t it be easier to tackle War and Peace while on holiday than during a busy work week?
I recently voted in the Classic Beach Books competition currently featured on The ABC’s Book Club website and found myself wondering if anyone actually reads their book on the beach. I don’t go to the beach much these days, but when I do I love to watch the rhythmic rolling of the waves, the slow movement of the tide, swimmers and surfers frolicking in the water, distant ships and the calming effect of the horizon. I enjoy all of this too much to think of ignoring the scene in front of me and whipping my book out for a sneaky chapter.
Even if I could ignore the scene before me, the idea of sunscreen-smeared fingers, squealing kids, squinting in the sunshine, and sand between the pages just doesn’t inspire a relaxing reading environment for me. What about you? Do you read at the beach? Do you enjoy a ‘beach read’ in the summer or any time of the year?
I think I agree with her that the beach isn’t a place to read or work, but I think it’s the perfect place to think. There’s nothing better than taking a long walk along the beach and analysing a problem, turning a question over in your mind, or calming down after an argument. The sea and salt water are often cathartic and healing, although I can never still my mind enough to read my book there.
I’d love to know where you enjoy reading over summer and if anyone actually reads on the beach or if this is just a bookish myth.
Aussie kids love stickers, and I’ve pulled together a collection of sticker books to delight all ages. And the best thing? They’ve all been selected from the Boomerang Books Australia’s Top 1000 Bestselling Books list, which means you save 20% off the RRP. Great stuff, hey?
For early learners, we have Colours by Roger Priddy, which has over 100 early learning stickers. Author Roger Priddy also has another sticker book in the Top 1000 list called Animals, which contains another 100 early learning stickers to help young children learn about animals.
For kids a little older, The LEGO Movie Ultimate Sticker Collection, contains over 1,000 colourful and reusable stickers of your favourite characters from the movie, and will be sure to get you humming everything is awesome.
Finally, published in Australia, the Star Wars Sticker Activity Book is sure to excite fans. In this book, readers will race and win the epic podracer game, and then use the stickers (and the force) to repair droids, battle Sith Lords and defeat the evil Empire. Sounds like fun.
I remember loving stickers as a child, and it’s one thing that hasn’t changed over time. Despite all of the advances in technology, kids still love to peel and stick stickers on stuff. My wardrobe and dressing table mirror were covered in stickers, some selected with care and some hastily applied. I hope the love of stickers continues on with each generation, and with new books like those I’ve selected above, I’ve no doubt it will.
For those that remain unconvinced, here are some home remedies for removing stickers:
– Eucalyptus or tea tree oil
– Rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol, usually purchased from the chemist
– Heating the sticker with a hairdryer and then peeling it off.
These remedies should put your mind at ease in the event any stickers end up where they shouldn’t. With prices for these sticker books varying from $3.19 to $11.99, there should be a sticker book to suit every taste and budget.
If you have kids, nieces, nephews or grandkids, you’ve no doubt heard of the loom bracelet phenomenon. It’s a new craze of making friendship bracelets from tiny coloured rubber bands using a plastic loom and crochet hook. There are many different patterns and designs and with so many colours to choose from the possibilities are endless. Hours of fun can be had on a budget and the phenomenon has even seen celebrities like the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Harry Styles and Beyonce wearing them.
While you can use the loom to make bracelets and necklaces, one housewife in the UK decided to make a child’s dress using 24,000 rubber bands to sell on eBay. The item went viral and the dress sold for an astonishing $296,000 (the equivalent of 170,000 pounds). Can you believe it?
While the kids or grandkids are having fun constructing their new creations – and making a mess of course – you can sit back, put your feet up and read Looming Murder, a cozy murder mystery by Carol Ann Martin. In Looming Murder, protagonist Della Wright moves to picturesque Briar Hollow to pursue her dream of owning a weaving studio (okay so it’s not loom bracelets, but the theme of looming is continued, sort of). Anyway, all is going well until a a dodgy local businessman is found murdered and one of her weaving students is the prime suspect.
Looming crafts are a fabulous hobby and pastime for boys, girls and the young at heart, especially on rainy weekends or during busy school holidays. (Just remember they can be a choking hazard to babies, toddlers and pets).
If you have a photo of yourself wearing/making a loom bracelet and reading a book, we’d love to see it.
There are just too many Australian classics I haven’t read and I’m sure I’m not alone on this one. I always have the intention of getting to them, but there are so many other great books and new releases clambering for attention on my TBR (to-be-read) pile, that it’s difficult to achieve.
Does anyone else in the Boomerang Books community feel the same way? If you do, would you like to participate in an Australian Classic Read-Along?
How would it work? First we’d need some suggestions in order to come up with a range of Australian classics to choose from. Depending on your feedback and requests, we can then determine the most popular/requested novel. I’ll create a reading schedule for us and each week we can discuss our thoughts online here on the Boomerang Books Blog by leaving comments on the weekly posts.
Advantages of a read-along A read-along can inspire you to read a book (in this case an Australian classic) you’ve always been meaning to read. You’ll enjoy the bookish conversation and feel like you’re part of a reading club. You might even meet likeminded booklovers like yourself.
We could also choose a contemporary Australian classic, such as: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The possibilities and choices are endless.
Now it’s over to you. Are you keen to read an Australian classic with likeminded readers or know someone who is?
Leave your novel suggestions below and we’ll see if we can drum up some interest. You can also make your request on Twitter, just use the hashtag #bbooksreadalong and don’t forget to tag us @boomerangbooks
According to Mark Twain, a classic is: a book which people praise and don’t read. Let’s see if we can change that!