Get Reading! 2010 is coming!

Only four more weeks until the nation-wide Get Reading! 2010 promotion kicks into gear.

Formerly known as ‘Books Alive’, Get Reading! is the book industry’s own annual promotion of books and reading – the largest in Australia. You can get involved in Get Reading! without even leaving your desktop.

Since we’re a participating retailer, if you buy one of the ’50 Books You Can’t Put Down’ online at Boomerang Books from August 25-September 30, you will receive a free collection of Australian short stories.

Visit on August 25th for a full list of all of the books that have made the list of the year’s best, and that will entitle you to a free book. 🙂

So, join us in the coming months, as we Get Reading!

 

Christine Bongers on HENRY HOEY HOBSON

Christine Bongers, a former radio and TV journalist, is celebrating the release of her new novel, the riotously funny, fast-paced Henry Hoey Hobson, a novel aimed at upper-primary readers. For those unfamiliar with Christine’s work, her Dust was released to critical acclaim in 2009, and went on to be selected as a CBCA Notable Book for 2010. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the book launch – geography’s always working against me – so to make up for it, I invited Christine around to introduce her new novel, and discuss just how Henry Hoey Hobson popped into her life.

CHRISTINE BONGERS
When inspiration happens…

Dark figures slipped out of the shadows. Warlocks and witches, monsters and vampires, circling the open coffin. Pale hands, fingertips dipped in black, reached in and pulled out bottles of liquid that gleamed red in the moonlight…

Halloween 2007 and Brisbane’s spec fiction writing community was partying at the home of my very favourite vampire writer, Jason Nahrung.

In the flickering flames of my memory, I was the one who didn’t fit in. Wrong outfit, wrong genre, and running late for a rival function that was more twin-set and pearls than fangs and gothic horror. I stood at the edge of the crowd, gazing with longing at the fabulous creatures cavorting around the coffin…

My mind is like a messy desk, crammed with memories, embellished by imaginings that I stack into wobbly piles that inevitably collapse and are restacked with other random musings. The bits that slip down the back I forget; the carnivorous dust bunnies can have them. The bits I hang on to are those that I instinctively feel will make a good story.

For a couple of years I held onto that image – a coffin, brimming with drinks, circled by those wondrous creatures of the night. But as a writer of realistic fiction, I wasn’t sure when, or how, I would use it.
In 2008, I made a half-hearted start on a children’s story called My Very Favourite Vampire Writer but lost interest after only eight lines. I pushed it to the back of the messy desk in my head and got on with the adult crime novel I was writing.

Then in 2009, Henry Hoey Hobson stalked into my consciousness. A likeable kid that nobody liked. How was that even possible?

His story came together in my head as a three-way collision between groups with seemingly nothing in common, and a boy who didn’t fit in.

If true character is revealed under pressure, then I wanted to crush Henry Hoey Hobson into diamond.

I made him non-Catholic, non-anything as far as he knew, dumped him into a little Catholic school, stripped him of friends, family and options, and made sure his single mum was too busy to throw him a life raft when he looked in danger of drowning in the dangerous waters of Year Seven.

I made him an outsider, and gave him just one shot at making friends – the creepy new neighbours, owners of a coffin, the only people in the street less popular than he was…

I had a ball writing this book. I not only found a use for my coffin scene, I also found a use for my very favourite vampire writer (for those in the know, he was the inspiration for the character of Caleb; his muse, the gothic and mysterious Vee is another story altogether).

Henry’s resilience in the face of adversity made me laugh… made me cry… and ended up making me proud.
CBCA National President Marj Kirkland agreed. When she launched Henry Hoey Hobson in Brisbane, she told the crowd that she’d fallen in love with a twelve-year-old boy.

I did too and I thank the high heavens that I went along to that Halloween party… Henry Hoey Hobson would never have been written but for those drinks around the coffin.

Christine Bongers

Henry Hoey Hobson is Perpetually Adolescent’s Top Pick this fortnight – grab a copy today!

USER REVIEW WINNER: Pit of Shame

Pit of Shame by Anthony Stokes
Reviewed by GavelBasher [Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers]

You may or may not have thought of a gaol – even a famous one—as anything worth writing a book about, but fortunately and perhaps predictably, the author, Anthony Stokes does not agree with this view. He is a prison officer at the once infamous Reading Gaol immortalised by its most famous inmate, Oscar Wilde – and now a Prison and Young Offender Institution.

Pit of Shame is the product of ten years of archival research into the gaol’s 500 year history and if that’s not fascinating enough, check out the thought provoking foreword by Theodore Dalrymple, contributor to “the Spectator” and a former hospital and prison doctor.  Reading’s current Governing Governor, Pauline Bryant – the first woman to be in overall charge at Reading – also adds a note of appreciation for the ‘initiative and hard work’ which resulted in the publication of ‘this great book’.

Here is a book which will be of interest not only to criminologists and penal reformers – who should all read and note Dalrymple’s remarks in the Appendix – but to students of English literature.

‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ was the last literary work written by Wilde, who might have been somewhat gratified to learn that, after his death, some two years after his release, the poem occasioned many a re-think about prison reform.

To those in the know, however, the poem speaks the truth about the prison although not necessarily the prisoners.  Wilde, it seems, was selective in his choice of anecdote and comment regarding, for example, the murderer he cites as CTW, who, killed his wife ‘the thing he loved…murdered in her bed.’

Either deliberately, or because he was not familiar with all the facts, Wilde excites our compassion for CTW by omitting to add that he actually lay in wait for his wife with a razor, cutting her throat three times.  Due to what was noted at the time as ‘an unforgiveable degree of premeditation’, CTW’s plea for clemency was turned down and he was subsequently hanged.

What we find particularly apposite and insightful in this intriguing volume is the insight Dalrymple offers into Wilde’s mind-set.  Months before he went to jail Wilde penned a few maxims proclaiming his cherished beliefs in an Oxford undergraduate magazine called ‘Chameleon’, writing that ‘any preoccupation with ideas of what is right or wrong in conduct shows an arrested intellectual development.’

Well — whatever your attitude is to an attitude like that, Dalrymple — and presumably author Anthony Stokes – doesn’t like it.  He condemns ’the sheer callow, shallow, ‘spoilt-child’ silliness of all this…upon…which the brilliantly gifted Wilde wasted so much of his life and energy….’

‘Wilde was never a wicked man,’ adds Dalrymple.  ‘It was nevertheless only in prison that he learned the value of truth, sincerity and goodness, and by then it was too late.’

If you want to read more, including the research and bibliography at the back of this very readable book, (which makes it a boon to scholars) buy it. (5 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, GavelBasher has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

EXCLUSIVE: Fiona Capp talks MY BLOOD’S COUNTRY

I’m currently reading Fiona Capp’s My Blood’s Country, and loving every word of it, so I thought I’d invite Fiona onto the blog to share some of her words with us, an invitation she has kindly accepted. For those that don’t know My Blood’s Country, it’s a memoir of sorts, as Fiona takes us on a tour of revered poet Judith Wright’s “Blood’s country”. This truly Australian story is a must-read for all poetry lovers, and lovers of language.

FIONA CAPP
Visiting a poet’s world

I was about twelve years-old when I took a book from the shelf next to my oldest sister’s bed. It was Judith Wright’s sixth collection of poetry The Five Senses, published in 1963, the year I was born. At this time I was mad about Romantic and Victoria poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Tennyson. All dead white males. I knew that Judith Wright was a major figure on the Australian literary landscape. Perhaps this is why I assumed she too must be dead.

I looked at the biographical blurb and did a calculation, or perhaps I noticed that she was described in the present tense. Then it registered. Judith Wright was not only a woman and an Australian but she was alive. The whole lofty business of writing felt suddenly much closer to home. The fact that Wright was a living, Australian, woman – as opposed to a dead, European, male – changed everything. I had recently started scribbling poetry myself. I knew that tingling, dizzying feeling of a poem coming on, that sense of connection with forces beyond oneself that Judith Wright wrote about in her title poem ‘The Five Senses’. In my early twenties I realised that I was not really a poet, but I’ve never forgotten that feeling. A few years later Judith was invited to speak at my school speech night. I met her and began corresponding with her and this continued until her death.

This personal connection forms the framework for my journey through the landscapes that inspired her writing, which I made 30 years after we first met. I went to New England where she grew up on a sheep and cattle station, to Mt Tambourine in Queensland where she spent her married life and then to the bush property near Mongarlowe, 100 kilometres east of Canberra where she spent her final years. It was an incredibly rich experience, one that helped me better understand her writing, her activism and her life, particularly the tragedy that shaped Judith’s childhood, her complex relationship with her family, and the two great loves of her life.

Inevitably, not everything about these places was as I had imagined it from reading her poems and so this journey was at times a confronting and disturbing one as I struggled to reconcile my expectations with the reality. Above all, the experience of writing this book brought home to me what a visionary Judith Wright was; how she sensed in her bones that something had gone profoundly wrong with our attitude to the earth, long before the term ‘conservationist’ entered public discourse. Her work and her message remain as urgent as ever.

Adele Walsh on Mary Sues

Adele Walsh is another, and possibly my favourite, perpetual adolescent. She’s taken another break from her review/commentary website Persnickety Snark (which is really quite awesome and bookmarkable), to grace us with her ever-appreciated presence (and snark… the snark is always appreciated).

ADELE WALSH
Mary Sue? No, thank you

I hate Mary Sues.

I loathe them.  I want to hurt them.  I want to ruffle their hair and kick their butts.  I want them to have sharp edges and quizzical thoughts.  I want them to be more concerned with life’s bigger mysteries than whether or not they should go with a shoddy pallor and fangs or long incisors and excessive body hair.  I want them to want more for themselves.  I want them to seek more than romantic entanglements because without them, they find themselves just as uninteresting as I do.

When I started blogging I didn’t know what a Mary Sue was.  I did.  But I didn’t. 

For those of you unfamiliar, you will soon realise that you are on first name basis with Mary Sue.  Wisegeek defines Mary Sues as “…a character in a work of fiction who exists primarily for the purpose of wish-fulfilment on the part of the author. She plays a prominent role in the work, but she is notably devoid of flaws or a complex personality, and she usually represents the pinnacle of idealized perfection.”  Crack open a fan fiction story anywhere and you will have yourself a Mary Sue.  It was so prevalent that the readers of fan fiction were the ones to coin the term.  And some say no good can come of fanfic?

Mary Sues are the current literary trend in young adult literature.  There are many that buck the trend but it seems like so many of the books that are making the serious money are the ones that are shells rather than fully formed, well crafted beings.  To put it bluntly…that blows.

This week alone I have read a handful of books, none of which have a shadow as their protagonist.  One or two might flirt with the idea but for the most part they are representations of teens in a myriad of settings reacting in understandable ways and piquing interest through their motivations rather than who they snog.  I love a saucy kiss as much as the next person but it shouldn’t propel the plot (and the personality) of a protagonist for an entire afternoon read.

Cath Crowley’s Charlie longs for country boy Dave but also writes and performs music, speaks to her dead mother and grandmother, befriends old enemies and struggles to connect with her father. Released as Chasing Charlie Duskin in 1995, Crowley was shortlisted for the CBCA’s Nook of the Year Award for Older Readers and deservedly so. This year, five years after its Australian release, the book will be released on US shores rebranded as A Little Wanting Song

The new name doesn’t really spin my wheels but titles like this give me hope. Hope that some readers who find so much joy in the insipid goings on of Mary Sues in paranormal love entanglements with vampires, angels or flying monkeys (a girl can dream) might also pick up a novel like this. That her sweeping prose and relatable characters might spurn on more discerning reading choices. 

If not Crowley, then perhaps they should dust off an oldie but a goodie. If they like snoggable rogues, how about Tamora Pierce’s George? Alanna: The First Adventure introduces the reader to a world of heightened emotion, a magical setting and some swoon worthy fellows.  And the female protagonist kicks ass…literally.  Maybe we can sell them on the Disneyfied idea of a sweltering hot prince and a dashing but naughty King of Thieves?  What girl wouldn’t want to delve into that world? 

Or perhaps I could shove Kristin Cashore’s Fire into their arms if fantasy’s their bag?  Or Kathy Charles’ study of a death hag if the morbid side of life and a dark sense of humour is their kind of thing?  Or maybe I toss Lili Wilkinson’s Pink at them and hope they have an appreciation for musical theatre?  The point is… (and yes I have one) readers will only move away from their Mary Sue fondness if they develop a more discerning appreciation for a well rounded protagonist. 

Many teens became reacquainted with reading through Twilight, Hush, Hush and Fallen but that isn’t all there is. If that’s all they want to read then we have to get creative.  Find ways to hide the carrots in the mashed potatoes, make distracting plane sounds as we shove the spoon into their mouths.  There is a bigger world of fantastically amazing protagonists out there and I want to share them.  I want to see these layered women of wonder be immortalised on the big screen, to have the tomes grace bookstore shelves in numbers more than one.  I want a lot for these characters.  They deserve more. 

Ultimately, readers deserve more.  We need to want more, find more and push more.  But how will they know this if they continue to re-read the same Mary Jane tomes over and over again?  I will have to satisfy myself with those of my circle who want the same thing I do, to encourage those in my wider sphere to read one of my recommendations and world domination will soon follow… won’t it?

VIDEO POST: Curtis Stone wants you to win $1000

We’ve just received word of a new competition that’s sure to get your inner-chef excited:

For your chance to win $1000 to spend at the Curtis Stone shop, simply cook a recipe from Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone and take a picture of you, Curtis’ cookbook and the dish, and send it to [email protected] along with a review of the dish in 25 words or less.

For full terms and conditions, click here.

“For me, there are few things that are more relaxing than lingering at the table with good friends… But I know that for a lot of people, putting together a meal, especially for guests, is the opposite of relaxing… I’m here to tell you: It doesn’t have to be that way.”
– Curtis Stone, from the Introduction

Australian chef Curtis Stone, host of US TV’s hit Take Home Chef and regular judge on Channel 10’s ratings-busting Masterchef, is best known for his laid-back approach to cooking. Though he’s worked as head chef in several Michelin-starred London restaurants, some of his most memorable meals are the ones he’s shared with friends at home. Now, Curtis shows you how to have as much fun in the kitchen as your guests are sure to have over a comfortable, unforgettable meal.

Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone, you’ll find everything from ‘First Thing in the Morning’ bites and ‘Brunches to Blow Their Minds to ‘Weekend Lunches’ and ‘Something to Eat on the Sofa’. With the home cook in mind, Curtis avoids off-putting culinary lingo and hard-to-find ingredients. Instead he picks what’s in season and just around the corner. This down-to-earth approach results in wonderfully interesting and flavourful taste combinations that are perfect for parties or just hanging out with a close friend or loved ones.

VIDEO POST: Michael Porta reflects on Sydney-shattering crimes

Evil In The Suburbs by Cindy Wockner and Michael Porta
Sydney will never be the same. In August 2000 a gang of rapists lured 12 victims from train stations and via the internet in a series of planned attacks. One 16-year-old was staked to the ground by a dozen men and raped repeatedly. Another young teenager was assaulted by 14 men up to 25 times at three different locations. Last week the ringleader of the rapists was sentenced to 55 years for his part in the gang rapes, making headlines across Australia and internationally. His brother is due to be sentenced next week. Apart from the acts of violence, the rape cases have caused volatile debate about race and religion in Australia. The rapists were Lebanese Muslims and, in several cases the men used racial slurs, calling their victims “Aussie bushpigs” and telling them they should try it “Lebo style”. The cases have focused attention on the whole idea of multiculturalism and what it means to be Australian and they have split the Muslim/Christian communities of western Sydney. This book will tell the full story of each of the cases – beginning with the first rape which occurred just as Sydney was dressing up for the 2000 Olympics. It will cover the police investigations, the crucial role of an Arabic speaking, Muslim police officer who first discovered a link between the attacks, the stories of the women and their vindication after the massive jail sentences delivered in court, and the thinking of men and women in the Muslim community so wounded by the actions of its 14 sons.

Click HERE for an interview with former police officer and co-author Michael Porta.

VIDEO POST: Georgia Blain talks DARKWATER

Darkwater by Georgia Blain
Amanda Clarke is dead. Her body was found floating facedown by the riverbank, and no one knows what happened. As rumours fly and fear grows, it seems that everyone suspects Lyndon, one of Amanda’s friends. He’s known for his temper, his cruelty and his criminal family – and now the police want to talk to him. Ages 14+.

CBCA NSW 2010: Assorted Snaps

Some other snaps from the Conference:

Bob Graham took us through his life and his life’s works. He was then treated to orchestrated interpretations of four of his picture books (composed and conducted by George Ellis) including How To Heal A Broken Wing



Ursula Dubosarsky and Tohby Riddle took to the stage to discuss the process behind their smash-hit, The Words Spy, and its sequel, Return of the Word Spy.



Sandy Fussell, author of the recent Jaguar Warrior talked all things Internet…



… with Boomerang Books’ own Dee White, author of Letters to Leonardo and helmer of Kids’ Book Capers.

Queen Victoria made a rare posthumous appearance at the book launch of Queen Victoria’s Underpants, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley’s latest.

Okay… so I almost went a full festival without making myself the centre of attention – Margaret Hamilton looks on as I, the youngest member of the CBCA NSW Committee, and Maurice Saxby, the oldest living former CBCA NSW Committee member, cut the cake for the CBCA NSW’s 65th.

The cake in question before Maurice and I hacked it to bits. For the record, it was delicious.

CBCA NSW 2010: Markus Zusak previews new novel, BRIDGE OF CLAY

One of our favourite Tweeps, @tyecat, with Markus Zusak

The Conference’s other ‘International Star’ Markus Zusak stopped by on the second day and gave attendees a preview of his latest novel – the epically titled Bridge of Clay. My memory is pretty lousy, which is great, because it means this post will be kept relatively spoiler-free.

Of course, if you don’t want to know anything about the novel’s opening, then don’t read on.

Things we know for sure about Bridge of Clay:
– It’s pretty good.
– The protagonist is female.
– She is on the cusp of womanhood, so either 18 or 21 – I’m tempted to go with 18 because of the brief reference to ‘hitting the town’ to celebrate. Of course, I don’t know where this is set, if it’s the United States, then she’s almost 21.
– She’s good at jigsaw puzzles – in fact, she makes sense of the world as if it were a giant jigsaw puzzle, with the puzzle pieces/memories figuratively falling from the sky.
– She’s waiting for a boy, the same boy Zusak mentioned in his interview with The Guardian:

I’m writing a book called Bridge of Clay – about a boy building a bridge and wanting it to be perfect. He wants to achieve greatness with this bridge, and the question is whether it will survive when the river floods.

– Did I say it was ‘pretty good’? I probably should have said ‘excellent’. He silenced the hundreds of attendees with a brief passage. Well, until they broke out into applause.

He also read from one of his oldest creative writing attempts, one of the most unintentionally hilarious bits of creative writing I’ve ever had read to me in my life. The fact that Markus had the guts to read from it – and laugh at it with us – that really captures his character perfectly. Here’s someone who has experienced an unfathomable amount of success, and yet, has been absolutely unaffected by his own hype. I fear meeting authors I admire because they mightn’t be everything I imagined they’d be, but in the two times I’ve met Markus and heard him speak, my admiration is not only in tact, but intensified.

CBCA NSW 2010: A note on Melina Marchetta (and her effortless awesomeness)

Me, Melina Marchetta

I really hate the overuse of ‘awesome’ as a word, but sometimes, someone possesses so many wonderful qualities that in lieu of actually listing them all, it becomes easier just to call them awesome. Melina Marchetta is one of those people.

And yes, even she mispronounces her own name.

[Her, Susanne Gervay and I are huddled around a copy of the Conference program during a break, quietly joking to ourselves. Melina has a problem with her descriptor: “International Star”.

Susanne, clicks her tongue against the roof of her mouth, says, “Yes, but Melina, you are an international star.”

“Yes, but so is everybody else that’s speaking today,” Melina says, before pointing at all the other authors in the program and detailing their overseas successes.

I interrupt the list – “Now that I’ve got you, quickly, do I say it Marketta or Marchetta?”

“Marketta spelt Marchetta.”

“Ah.” I suppress the urge to admit that I’ve been saying it “Marchetta” for years, and correcting people who pronounced it “Marketta”. I stop feeling bad when she reads her own name aloud 3 minutes later, ch instead of k. I pull her up on it, she laughs a little.]

I’ve only met Melina three times, and yet, she’s so impossibly warm, that bumping into her in the hall is like being reunited with your oldest, greatest friend. The snappy, honest exchange that follows is the sort of thing I’m only used to sharing with people I’ve known a very long time. Sure, I’ve known her through her writing for quite a while, but it’s an experience I’ve had with no other author.

The aforementioned awesomeness helps.

If I had to describe Melina for those that don’t know her, I’d ask you to close your eyes, imagine your ideal friend, imagine that friend is also a superstar author, open your eyes, and BAM! Melina.

She’s the sort of person who deserves a throne in the front of the room, and instead, at the Conference, she sat cross-legged up the back with a few librarians, and listened intently to the speaker.

It was one of those moments that defines someone more than what they’ve ever said or written.

She is the best kind of celebrity, the kind that we feel good celebrating, without being all self-absorbed and ‘celebrity’-y.

Her speech was great too. She went through her entire back catalogue, and talked us through each book. She even dropped a few hints as to what to expect next. Clues: Finnikin. Sequel.

But yes, whether she likes it or not, she is an international star (she did just win the prestigious 2009 US Michael Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature and all). If she doesn’t like that descriptor though, she can always just settle for “Melina Marchetta: Made of Awesome”.

CBCA NSW 2010: Libby Gleeson Keynote

 

Libby Gleeson at the CBCA 65th anniversary dinner

Libby Gleeson is a powerhouse of children’s literature. Don’t believe me? Click here. Her books have helped shaped the world views of so manny Aussie kids, and hers was the keynote address of the CBCA NSW Conference.

 This was my first Libby Gleeson experience, and I loved hearing her speak. As tempted as I am to completely regurgitate her speech, I wouldn’t want to, in case she reusesmaterial with different audiences (I’ll get back to you with a definitive answer after my second Libby Gleeson experience).

In all seriousness, though, she was excellent, and not just because she brought up, and spoke, at length, about the books of my childhood, The Magic Faraway Tree series. She touched on the books’ censorship (Note: William suppresses a rant), and how they left a mark, sometimes good, other times, bad. Her friend found them terrifying as a child. In fact, the very part that I found exciting, the risk the kids took that they may not be able to return to their own world, Libby’s friend found terrifying. Funny how we all react so differently, eh?

Libby also touched on parenting and books, and how we select books for our children. She mentioned nostalgia being a big factor in choosing what to read, and the varying results letting nostalgia govern the books we read to our children achieves. So, I thought I’d pose a question, or a few… Which books left a mark on your childhood? Have you tried reading them to your children? How did it go? Did they have the same experience with the book that you did?

CBCA NSW 2010: An event like no other

Jackie French, me, Bruce Whatley

The CBCA NSW Conference… wow.

I’ve been to my fair share of festivals, but never before have I been to one that felt so inclusive. Authors and other attendees weren’t separated. My experience with other festivals, as both speaker and attendee, has been that after sessions, speakers disappear to green rooms, never to be seen when they’re not onstage. The CBCA NSW Committee (and I’ll register my bias now: I’m on it) abolished the green room for the Conference, and what a difference it made. It felt like a gathering of equals: there were authors, publishers, librarians, teachers, booksellers, students all amassed togher and relating to each other as children’s book lovers.

I was speaking with Susanne Gervay (author of the sensational I Am Jack and its sequels, not on the Committee, so there isn’t an obvious bias), and she put it perfectly:

“I really loved the set up where everyone could get together.”

And we did come together. Authors talked process (with the behind-the-scenes workings of picture book partnerships), and politics (keynote speaker Libby Gleeson with the quote of the Conference: ‘What’s the point of building an education revolution, and building libraries, if there are no teacher librarians in those buildings?’)

While there’s no way to cover the entirety of the Conference, I will write about a selection of moments that really struck me. And there were many moments. It really was the perfect place to be perpetually adolescent…

[Note: If I don’t look particularly happy in photos, disregard it… Mum’s pulled me up on smiling like Mr Bean in pics, so I’m trying to dial down the rubber-faced grin from ear to ear. Right now, I’m having difficulty finding the attractive median between ‘rubber face’ and ‘serial killer’. Case in point, I’m giddy in the above photo to be meeting Jackie French (an icon) and Bruce Whatley… can you tell? Haha. PS, this is their new book, which was launched at the Conference.]

USER REVIEW WINNER: Just After Sunset

Just After Sunset by Stephen King
Reviewed by Rad Hall

This collection of short stories by Stephen King does not start off with a bang: ‘Willa’ is a good story, neither too weak nor, however, terrifying.

‘The Gingerbread Girl’ was better, more thriller than out-and-out horror, but human and captivating.

‘Harvey’s Dream’ was where the collection started getting good. The tale is short. It is simply told, but sublime. We are introduced to everything from Harvey’s wife’s point of view, just everyday mundane things, including Harvey’s appearance at the breakfast table and how he’s beginning to get on her nerves. By the time Harvey starts talking, he felt so familiar it was as though I were there sitting and listening. Not with Harvey’s wife, but as her. And then ‘my’ Harvey keeps talking and I start to want, and then need, for him to stop. But he keeps on going. And when he finishes, I know the phone will ring. And when it does, there’s no startlement on my part, no exclamation, no voiced cry. Just a throat clogging sense of quiet horror realised. Splendid stuff.

‘Rest Stop’ was something of a fantasy. A chance for the protagonist to do take action where likely he (and most people) would rather have merely asked what could have/should have done in hindsight.

‘Stationary Bike’ left me unsatisfied. Though written with great imagery, I couldn’t help feeling that Richard got bullied. Perhaps I simply didn’t empathise with the workers as I should have. I think I might have missed the point of the story entirely 🙂

‘The Things They Left Behind’, ‘Graduation Afternoon’ and ‘The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates’ all had a 9/11 feel to them. The first and third both had a happy almost calming conclusion to them; although both have scenarios that would be just as welcome otherwise, they seem kindly addressed to the post 9/11 American.

The second story though is just your good ol’ apocalypse. Short, simple and smashing. The protagonist’s small description of the damage to her eyes as she watches the bomb blast mildly recalls Eddings’ Torak and his (if memory serves) ‘eye boiled in its socket’ line. Mind you, this tale has a compassionate leaning and I can’t help worrying about our lead post-event.

‘The Cat from Hell’ does not hold a candle to George Fielding Eliot’s similar and horrifying story ‘The Copper Bowl’.

‘Mute’, like ‘Rest Stop’, has an urban paranoia to it but I could not find it engaging.

‘A Very Tight Place’ … reeks. Splendidly written scatological horror at its most eww. Practically guranteed to leave the reader feeling shudderingly unclean.

Now to the jewel in the crown. I thought ‘N.’ was the absolute highlight of the collection. The story of compulsion being all that stopped the fabric of this world from being torn through to let in monsters from another, is such a stunning piece of work. The slow, steady buildup, the descriptions of beauty and those of horror, the burgeoning hysteria, madness and inevitable despair of characters at maintaining that fragile integrity. Amazing.

The entire collection is certainly well worth a read and the better stories make it highly recommended. (3 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, Rad Hall has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

Wednesday Web Sighting

We’re road-testing a new feature today: Wednesday Web Sighting. We’re hoping, every couple of Wednesdays, to point you in the direction of what’s hot on the Web this week.

Today, via our friends at Hachette, we’re giving you a sneak peak at their upcoming July promotion: Winter Flings.

Winter Flings has the best selection of eligible bachelors to get you hot under the covers. With 31 books single and ready to mingle in July, you’re guaranteed instant satisfaction, whenever you want.

The Winter Flings website (click here)  features:

–       Every day there will be a new book to ‘date’ (read)

–       Perfect Date Profiling – Answer some basic questions to tell us about your likes and dislikes and be ‘matched’ with the perfect Winter Flings book!

–       Rate your ‘date’ – write a book review

–       Be a Matchmaker – Apply through the site to become a Winter Flings Match Maker. For just one year, the best 10 applicants will receive advanced Winter Flings books to read before anyone else. All you have to do is agree to read a book and write a short review to help match-make other Winter Flingers!

Daily Competition: Every day in July we are giving away 10 copies of the Winter Flings book of the day. All you need to do is register online and answer a very simple question to be in the running! There will be a different question each day to win each book in July.

Win the Ultimate Winter Flings (Night In) Pack: Total prize value = $2000

Enter every day to qualify to win the Ultimate Winter Flings (Night In) Pack! The pack includes:

–       Stack of books to the value of $250;

–       Hot chocolate;

–       Mega bag of marshmallows and chocolates;

–       Beauty products (face & eye masks, moisturiser and more).

–       And to top it all off – an iPad!

For more information, visit the official website and the Facebook page.

Spotted something online you want to share with other Boomerang Blog readers next Wednesday? 

Dangerous Expectations

Expectations, we all have them. With new releases – movies, books, albums, you name it – comes anticipation, and with that anticipation, expectations of quality. Sometimes, our anticipation is so great that we expect more than we’ve been promised, and we’re eventually let down by the final product. Even if the product is good, if it’s not as good as we thought it’d be, well, we feel let-down, and the product seems worse as a result.

Sometimes, our expectations are met. Sometimes, they’re surpassed. I recently went to a pre-release screening of Toy Story 3, it matched the hype, and that was so fulfilling. It added to my satisfaction that my expectations were blown out of the water.

Sometimes, our expectations are not met. Soemtimes, they’re not our own expectations, but manufactured expectations. I recently sat down with the much-buzzed-about Beautiful Malice. And by ‘much-buzzed-about’, I mean Rebecca James has been called ‘the next J. K. Rowling’. Hers is the million-dollar manuscript – so, I was expecting something truly spellbinding, and rightly so. The hype had guided the way I approached the book, much like a good blurb or cover teases at a book’s contents, the way Beautiful Malice had been sold as The Next Big Thing shaped the way I read it.

It’s why, when I reached the back cover, I found myself asking, ‘That‘s it?’

While I read Beautiful Malice, instead of being 100% focused on the narrative, I kept looking out for ‘truly spellbinding’, and consequently… well, the Beautiful Malice I had imagined wasn’t the Beautiful Malice I eventually read.

The book’s hype hurt it. It literally stood in its own hype’s shadow, and honestly, comparisons to J.K. Rowling didn’t help.

But you can’t blame a publicist for trying. I wonder, though, if someone was given this book blind, with no expectations, no hype, no ‘next J. K. Rowling’ spin, what they would have thought of it? What would they have seen? And as the publicity machine works tirelessly around Rebecca James, you have to wonder, what does she think of all this?

Have you read Beautiful Malice? Has it lived up to the hype?

Boomerang at the 2010 CBCA Imagine This! Imagine That! Conference

Boomerang Books is proud to announce that this weekend, not only is a member of our Boomerang Books blogging team speaking at the sold-out 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia NSW Branch Conference, but we’ll be live-blogging the two-day event – with scheduled appearances by the big names in Australian children’s writing, including Libby Gleeson, Glenda Millard, Libby Hathorn, Jackie French, Melina Marchetta, Markus Zusak, Margaret Wild, Julie Vivas and Shaun Tan.

For program information, click here. Sad you can’t make it? Itching to ask a particular author a question? Well, send me an email, and I’ll not only be your eyes and ears at the Conference, but I’ll be your mouth.

BOOK TRAILER: The Devil’s Tears by Steven Horne

1975: When bloody war ravages his beloved Portuguese Timor, Cesar da Silva flees with his wife and children from a country in flames. But in their desperate bid for freedom, amidst the chaos and devastation, Cesar’s young family becomes separated. Believing his wife and two daughters dead, Cesar finds passage to the Portugal of his heritage and later to Australia.

In occupied Timor, Cesar’s wife is alive, but her troubles are far from over. Hunted by a sadistic warlord and with no way to get a message to the outside world, she despairs she will never see her husband again…

1997: More than twenty years later, a young Australian journalist and her photographer are drawn to the killing fields of Timor and discover the terrible suffering of the Timorese people at the hands of a brutal foreign invader. They are compelled to expose the truth to the world, but in their quest for justice, they become entangled in the da Silva family tragedy, placing them all in the gravest of danger…

Powerful, moving and enthralling, The Devil’s Tears announces the arrival of a bold new voice in Australian fiction.

“A captivating story of bravery and honour in a time of war, The Devil’s Tears will grip you from the first page to the last.”

 – Peter Watt

USER REVIEW WINNER: Diggers in France

Diggers In France by Richard Travers
Reviewed by ausrossH

There is history and then there is… history.

All too many people when writing history, think it is necessary to try and bore us to death with reams of facts, figures and something so dry that you feel your cheeks puckering in sympathy as if you were sucking on raw limes. Then there is history that informs, engages and tells a real story which grips the reader, making them want to keep on reading and learn more.

Facts and an entertaining account do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.

When I first picked this book up, it was while researching something quite specific – the Battle of Fromelles. But the book is simply so engaging that I found it near-impossible to put down.

Almost every page directly quotes from the soldiers themselves, from letters, diaries etc. This puts you practically right there with the diggers themselves.

Unlike say Patrick Lindsay’s account of Fromelles, there are plenty of detailed footnotes that add authority and point the reader in the direction of further reading if they are so inclined.

There is plenty of real information in here but combined with human touches. An early example is describing the break-up of the existing 1st and 2nd Divisions In Egypt following the Gallipoli withdrawal, creating the 4th and 5th Divisions (the 3rd was formed back in Australia). It describes how Albert Jacka, one of our most famous soldiers in World War 1, then a hard-nailed company sergeant-major, was so very unhappy at breaking up the existing companies but did his duty all the same.

The book does not glorify war. After reading of the chronic debacle of Fromelles, the reader cannot help but wonder ‘why?’. Nor does it try to paint the Aussie diggers in sugary depictions such as the flower of our nation and similar phrases that the likes of official War Historian, Charles Bean, was known to do.

That said, for some reason, Travers could not resist using the old ‘who called the cook, a bastard – who called the bastard, a cook?’ gag as something that was supposedly said on parade, although a footnote admits that this may not have been more than a story (I first heard it as a story about shearers). Similarly he quotes an account of a dead soldier, laying next to a dead German, the enemy’s greatcoat draped over him, with the suggestion that the dieing German removed his coat to cover the injured enemy. But a footnote admits that it might just as well have been someone else who simply took the German’s coat and draped it over the Digger. But these romanticisms are the exception rather than the rule.

This is real history, as history should be written. It engages, informs and even entertains. I thoroughly recommend it to all. The only reason I did not give it five stars is because I am a miserable sod. (4 stars).

A personal mini-essay on: Getting personal

Creative writing is, by nature, a very personal profession. Writers write words, and these words, ideally, trigger emotional responses in readers. Writers draw on their own experiences and feelings, in the hope that in representing these, the reader will  feel a story just as much as read it.

I thought I’d write this post on ‘personal’ writing as an author, more than a reader, so please, forgive the shameless mentions of Loathing Lola. It’d be hard to write personally about getting personal without it. 🙂

Getting personal in print is more than simply revealing secrets and sharing life stories with characters’ real names substituted for fake ones, the magical ingredient of stories – the ‘What If?’ mechanism that makes a real event ‘creative’ – allows you as an author to divorce yourself from simply retelling your life. Instead, you look at the event that inspired you, and its characters, and you look at them with an author’s eye – you look at their motives, their hidden insecurities… re-writing your world creatively allows for you to better understand your world. And grow.

Loathing Lola began as a novel I wrote in Years 5 and 6, and was drafted close to twenty times before its eventually-published incarnation. In Year 5, I was in the middle of my parents’ divorce. I didn’t write about their divorce, but I did, in a way. Most of my character’s feelings were my own, the references to past experiences (the unpaid Child Support, the Apprehensive Violence Order, our own financial struggles) were very real. To alleviate the suspicion of those reading it, I changed the gender of the protagonist to female, and I wrote about her hating her father’s new girlfriend and striving to get her parents back together. While it wasn’t literally about my life, I never did anything Courtney did (the ‘What If’ driving the story being: ‘What if I did?’), a psychiatrist would have a field day reading it.

As I grew older, the story evolved. Looking back at the story, I didn’t believe what I had written, because despite the heat-of-the-moment things I had written about unpaid Child Support, the Apprehensive Violence Order, and our own financial struggles, I didn’t hate my father, and I didn’t hate my new stepmother. To be fair, I didn’t know them. And I sure as hell didn’t want my parents back together. I only came to these realisations when I read the father/stepmother characters’ stereotypical portrayal in Loathing Lola‘s earlier drafts, and Courtney’s unrealistic Hollywood-style unbridled hate for the stepmother and need to The Parent Trap them back together. The unbelievable aspects of the story forced me to look inside, and question my own real-world beliefs.

This caused me some problems, because I now had a title I loved (Loathing Lola) and a character who didn’t loathe Lola. Great. Reality TV was my saviour (another ‘What If’: ‘What if my life was on TV?’), because it allowed me to challenge the ‘typical’ perception that children should hate their step-parents because they’re replacing their biological ones. In the final version, Courtney has to deal with people expecting her to hate her stepmother, when she doesn’t know really know her. This blind, stereotypical hate is something Courtney rejects in the narrative.

So, while I’m not female, and I’ve never had a TV show, getting personal and working through my own feelings through Courtney not only gave me a stronger and more realistic narrative, but it really forced me to look at myself, and my own feelings. Was I feeling them because I had to? Were they justified? Or was I just feeling ‘typical’ feelings because I didn’t actually know them?

And while it’s difficult dealing with emotional uglies – I’m currently working on a book that focuses primarily on dealing with my close friend’s death, and it’s hard – it’s rewarding, not only for readers, but for authors. I like to think I better understand myself, and my life, thanks to Loathing Lola, a piece of personal fiction.

Dee Watching

Those who have been keeping themselves up to date with our new blogs will already know the fabulous Dee White, she commands the good ship Kids’ Book Capers. Well, she’s going to be busy Festival-hopping in the coming few weeks, so new fans, it’s time to get better acquainted with Dee White, and here’s how:

On 29th May, she will be on a panel at the Emerging Writers’ Festival called ‘Never Surrender’ talking about the path to publication for her young adult novel, Letters to Leonardo. For more information, click here.

On 19th June, she will be at the CBCA Imagine This Imagine That Conference in Sydney, presenting with Samurai Kids author, Sandy Fussell about Authors & the Internet.

One of my favourite blurbs

I’ve been thinking about one of my all-time favourites (Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell) a lot recently, I don’t know why. Probably because I’ve been reading her blog a bit recently… Anyway, most of my thinkings have centred around why I love Everything Beautiful so much. It isn’t particularly ground-breaking, I’ve only read it once, and I really wasn’t much of a fan of the lead – but I love it so much that when I had a signed copy to give away on Boomerang last year, I seriously considered keeping it for myself and claiming it got lost in the post between the publisher’s office and my house.

I thought back to the first day I held my copy, and then I remembered:

It was the blurb.

Yes, I loved her debut, Notes From the Teenage Underground, but that was just one novel, I hadn’t exactly invested in a career. I could’ve ignored Everything Beautiful and everything else Simmone ever wrote and not feel too bad. But, then I read the blurb.

Calling a novel Everything Beautiful sets the expectations pretty high (says the author working on his novel, titled Magnum Opus sigh), and the blurb sold me not only on the book’s beauty, but on Simmone as an artist who I’d invest in beyond her debut.

I believe in Chloe and chocolate.
I believe the best part is always before.
I believe that most girls are shifty and most guys are dumb.
I believe the more you spill, the less you are.
I don’t believe in life after death or diuretics or happy endings.
I don’t believe anything good will come of this.

I challenge you to tell me that ain’t some fine writing. Those six sentences shaped my entire reading of the novel, their simple beauty took my breath away. And I’m saying this as a male reading a book with a big love heart on the front cover. Whenever I think about Everything Beautiful, my mind instantly goes to those six hauntingly resonant lines, some of the best YA I’ve read in my lifetime.

Monday Round-Up 3/05/10

Another Monday, another Round-Up. how was everybody’s weekend?

Happy reading!

Featured posts
War—What Is It Good For?
Reinventing The Wheel

Featured posts
A SLIGHTLY SKEWED INTERVIEW

Featured posts
Thirty seconds to Marrs
Why I have not read Twilight

Featured posts
REVIEW: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Featured posts
The Movie Curse
For the Love of the Chunkster

Featured posts
Literary Feuds – Popular Authors at Dawn (or Twilight)
Potplants, red in tooth and claw

Featured posts
How I Cracked The Slap And Lived To Tell About It
Books: Just ‘Fodder For Digital Chatter’?

We’re calling for submissions from the general public. Boomerang Books will publish up to 10 articles each month on its Guest Blog from public submissions. Want your name in lights? Want to have your article put in front of 12,000+ Australian book enthusiasts? Contribute a piece to the Boomerang Books Guest Blog today! Click here for all submission guidlines.

Featured posts
Three Wakefield Press books nominated for Le Cordon Bleu World Food media Awards

USER REVIEW WINNER: Tuscan Rose

Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra
Reviewed by FreyaP

What a ride.

This book took me by surprise with the depth of emotion that it evoked.

An epic journey, depicting the life of an inspirational female character.

The lifetime of links and connections throughout made you want to keep on reading.

I found myself intriqued by the very interesting descriptions of wartime Italy under Mousolinni’s Reign.

After reading numerous books depicting countries at war and Hitlers impact on humanity, The Tuscan Rose presents the atrocities of Hitler but specifically describes the raw impact that Mousolinni had on Italy during that time.

With a hint of fantasy, an insight into Italy’s history and an unending example of feminine strength, I was hooked. (4 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, FreyaP has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks

MAY BOOK GIVEAWAY

Marchetta fans, prepare to go crazy – in May, each of our Boomerang Books Members are in the running to win a signed copy of one of Australia’s finest authors’ latest. The full prize pack includes:

Not a member? Sign up today for your chance to win.

MAY FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

Attention former Facebook Group members, we’ve moved to a brand new fanpage, so be sure to become a fan of Boomerang Books for your chance to win a prize pack that includes:

A big thanks to our friends at Black Dog Books, Pan Macmillan, Penguin Books, Wakefield Press for supporting our giveaways this month.

REVIEW: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Honestly, Patrick Ness couldn’t have ended the Chaos Walking trilogy in a more perfect way.

The first two books in the series, The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, stand out for their inventiveness, their fierce pace, and their vivid characters. Monsters of Men meets the standard, then ups the stakes, then ups them again, and then again. There are a billion points in the story where I didn’t think Ness could ratchet up the tension any more – and then he does.

Avoid spoilers, if you can. I’m not giving anything away, so, vague summary ahead: Monsters of Men is about young people coming into power, guided by those who are in power (and who, in most cases, have been corrupted by it). Our heroes Todd and Viola are mostly back together again, in the sense that they share many more scenes than they did in The Ask and the Answer and find ways to communicate even when they’re apart, but they’re still constantly buffeted and battered by the competing forces of Mistress Coyle and Mayor Prentiss.

Who, by the way, is the strongest and most difficult character. Is he really the villain of this story, or is he its hero? Ness doesn’t answer that question (and nor should he), instead crafting a character who is at once charismatic, paternal, untrustworthy and chilling. Which is just the way it should be. Of all the characters in Chaos Walking, the Mayor will stay with me the longest.

(And maybe Manchee. Love that dog.)

Kudos to Ness for avoiding the drippy sentiment that often plagues finales (Deathly Hallows, anyone?), but he does cheat a few times: a lot of the support characters feel stand-in-ish, and a couple of the plot twists seem like they’ve been thrown in for shock value rather than to enhance the story. (Particularly the very final twist, which came this close to ruining the whole series for me. Ultimately, though, Ness turns it into a very satisfying conclusion.)

I’ve been lucky with the series: I only started reading it in the month leading up to Monster’s release, meaning I didn’t have to wait a year between instalments like everyone else. I literally read all three entries one after the other. So I’m not sure what the feeling is in the Chaos Walking fanbase – but I have a feeling they’ll like the final book as much as I did.

Sam Downing

Kate Forsyth talks inspiration

I have a soft spot for Kate Forsyth. She was the first author I interviewed when I became a Boomerang Books blogger (click here). And now, it’s a new year, this is a new blog, and Kate has a new book, so it’s only fair I invite her around for a new feature (although, it looks like George may have gotten the scoop first – click here for her guest-blog over at Literary Clutter). Her buzzed-about new release, The Wildkin’s Curse is out now. Check back at the end of the week for coverage of the book launch, and details on how you can win yourself a copy.

KATE FORSYTH:
Seven Inspirations behind The Wildkin’s Curse

Like all writers, I’m asked all the time: ‘Where did you get your ideas from?’ This is always a really hard question to answer, because all books have lots and lots of different ideas in them, all woven together. However, here are just seven of the primary ideas and inspirations behind The Wildkin’s Curse.

Seven inspirations:

1)    The Princess Bride by William Goldman and other favourite books of mine from childhood, like the Narnia books, The Wizard of Earthsea and The Book of Three. I was given a copy of The Princess Bride  for my 13th birthday, and it immediately became one of my favourite books. I have always loved books filled with adventure, magic, romance, humour and pathos, stories set long, long ago and far, far away. When I set out to write the ‘Chronicles of Estelliana’, I wanted to recapture the feel of the books I had loved so much as a child.

2)    I have always had a deep love of fairytales and fairytale retellings. As well as the power to enchant and entertain, I believe that the old wonder tales can help us work through the deep internal conflicts that beset us all as we grow to adulthood. The books in the Chronicles of Estelliana consciously draw upon, and invert, fairytale motifs. In The Starthorn Tree, the Count of Estelliana lies in a deep, enchanted sleep as the result of tasting a poisoned apple and it is his sister who sets out to wake him. In The Wildkin’s Curse, there is a princess imprisoned in a tower but Rozalina does not wait passively to be rescued, like Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel. She wishes and prays and tells stories, and in the end, curses her captors.

3)    This book grew out of my own deeply-held belief that words and stories have power.  One of my favourite quotes is from Joseph Conrad who said: ‘My task which I am trying to achieve is by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see. That – and no more, and it is everything.’

4)    The idea of a princess imprisoned in a crystal tower was the very first spark for this book. When I was two years old, I was savaged by a dog and ended up with terrible head injuries that resulted in meningitis. As a result of this, I was in and out of hospital for the next six years. Many long days were spent lying in my hospital bed, staring out the window and imagining myself galloping away over the hill, on my way to marvellous adventures. As a result, people held captive in towers is a motif that appears again and again in my work.

5)    Early on in the writing of the book, I had assembled my three adventurers and given them their quest but I had no idea how they were to rescue my imprisoned princess. I didn’t want to have Zed, Merry and Liliana just wandering through the land having vague, fantasy-style adventures (i.e. attack by monster in lake, misadventure while eating stew in roadside inn). I believe a story is like a sword – it must have a point. So my books always have a deeper thematic structure to them. Each obstacle my characters overcome has some kind of symbolic significance, as well as a practical function. So I had been puzzling over this particular problem for some time, but had not yet worked out a solution. I went for my morning walk and strode along, thinking, ‘how can they rescue Rozalina? How?’ Suddenly a raven took to the air, right in front of me, and dropped a single black feather at my feet. I bent and picked up the feather, my mind racing with ideas. A feather … a cloak of feathers … a damaged cloak of feathers that is missing seven feathers, each one from a different bird … a raven, symbol of death and wisdom … a tragic battle scene … an eagle, symbol of power and royalty … a dangerous climb to the top of a cliff … a nightingale, symbol of true love … a tender romantic scene late in the book … I walked faster and faster and faster, my mind leaping from one idea to another, and by the time I got home I had my entire novel fully plotted out. It was one of those amazing serendipitous moments that make writing a novel such a joy.

6)    World building is an important part of a fantasy writer’s job, and this means thinking very deeply about the effects of certain social, political or geographical factors upon your world. In the world of Estelliana, the ruling starkin families have married among themselves for many generations. I had read long been interested in haemophilia, sometimes called ‘the Royal Disease’ because of its ravaging effects among the  descendants of Queen Victoria. Her eighth son died of the disease, despite every effort to keep him from injury, and at least nine of her grandsons and great-grandsons were also haemophiliac. It was whispered that the queen’s family had long ago been cursed by an unhappy monk, and certainly the disease works in such a strange way that it must have seemed like malignant magic. Only boys are affected, and there was little hope, in the olden days, of growing to be an adult. It would make my world much more interesting, I thought, to have Rozalina being blamed for cursing her father so that none of his sons would live beyond babyhood, making her … a scorned girl-child and a despised half-breed … the heir to the throne.

7)    At the heart of The Wildkin’s Curse is a prophecy, uttered by Merry’s father in The Starthorn Tree. It says: ‘Next shall be the king-breaker, the king-maker, though broken himself he shall be.’ I knew that I wanted this prophecy to have several layers of meaning. I’ve been interested in paganism since I was a child, and knew that Easter had its roots in the celebration of the spring equinox, which signals the end of winter and the beginning of spring. For thousands and thousands of years, long beyond Christianity, the death of winter and birth of spring was celebrated in stories and rituals of a god or a man who died and was then reborn. This god has been given many names – Attis, Osiris, Orpheus, Dionysus, and Tammuz, to name a few. So I planned my novel to end on the night of the spring equinox, when one of my heroes must die …

– Kate Forsyth

Adele Walsh on movie adaptations

I’m not the only perpetual adolescent in the world, and the plan is for this blog to feature a range of ‘adolescent’ voices, from young-adult authors, to young-adult readers. Adele Walsh, or as you may know her, Persnickety Snark, is one of the, if not the name in Australian young-adult blogging. Of course, if you said this to her, she’d humbly point out five or six bloggers she thinks are far better – but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m right :-). Every month, thousands flock to her review/commentary website for their young-adult book fix, and we’re excited to announce that she’ll be dropping by this blog every so often, to share her always-relevant two cents.

ADELE WALSH:
Please, don’t rob me of my childhood

The two Ms had a huge part in my love of the Australian young adult literature scene – a Ms Marchetta and a Mr Marsden.  Both were teachers that never taught me in the classroom, instead they influenced me on the page.  Both created two conflicted and strong female protagonists that really spoke to me as an Australian kid. Before that, I had thought of Australian books as whatever came from Mem Fox’s brain. It sounds narrow minded and doesn’t reflect my fantastic school librarians influence at all, but that’s what I thought as a mild-mannered tween book nerd. Hush was great and all but until Josie (Looking for Alibrandi) and Ellie (Tomorrow, When the War Began) came along, I hadn’t really seen myself, or more importantly, who I wanted to be, in the books that I was reading.

The convoluted machinations of the Alibrandi family and the depiction of Sydney allowed me to see myself and my country in startling clarity.  I was twelve and I felt as though my world had opened up. Ellie came along three years later and I embraced her with fiery pride. These girls might have been struck with embarrassing crushes like me but they were strong, smart and impressively verbal. They weren’t perfect but neither was I. Melina Marchetta and John Marsden’s characters are forever ingrained in my memories of my teen years as a result.

You might be wondering at this point why I’m rambling on. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you. With the release of the film adaptation trailer of Tomorrow, When the War Began this month, I was struck with a familiar fear.  One I had exactly a decade ago when the adaptation of Looking for Alibrandi was released in theatres. 

In 2000, I had just entered university and was finally in the same age range that Josie Alibrandi and Ellie Linton were when their lives turned upside down. Childhood passions are curious creatures, we hold tight, protecting them from our adult existences. I always used to chuckle when I heard claims that a director ruined a person’s childhood. While it might be melodramatic in some cases, revisiting a childhood landmark or bringing a book into the celluloid can often do just that. It shatters the golden memories that we have of that time in our lives when discovery was joyous.

I exited the cinema in 2000 sorely disappointed in Looking for Alibrandi. I was the only one amongst many of my friends to feel that way. It took me a year to realise I was being ridiculous. Cinema is a vastly different medium than a novel. Nothing was ever going to meet the internal movie that I had relived in my imagination for many years. It didn’t matter that Carly and Ivy were merged into one heinous teenage girl or that the passage of time seemed so much more compact. (That being said, I was devastated that Josie’s cousin, Robert, didn’t feature more heavily but with time I understood that it would have tampered with the narrative flow.) The essence of the novel was there.  In great part this was due to Marchetta’s role as screenwriter. The movie didn’t ruin my childhood image of Josie, Nonna Katia and their family history; it just gave me a deeper appreciation for the novel.

In the ten years since Looking for Alibrandi’s release I have seen other representations of my childhood remade… badly. I have to admit that I refuse to see the adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are due to the fact that it is perfect in my mind and I don’t wish to tamper with that image. I might be robbing myself of reliving that adventure in a different medium, but I am satisfied with the memories I already possess.

The Tomorrow, When the War Began movie went into production in late 2009 under the direction of experienced film maker, Stuart Beattie. With the current Internet age, I was well aware of the progress of producing from scripts to casting to the start of filming. I have been much more aware of the process of recreating a vivid childhood adventure than I was in the case of Marchetta’s novel. I also had an avenue (my blog) to moan about certain developments and share my concerns. When local soapie actors were hired to fill two of the eight central roles, I was outraged. A pin up girl as Ellie? My strong, wilful, intelligent Ellie was going to be depicted by an actress who readily showed off too much cleavage at the Logies? I was quite bereft. I was similarly peeved when a British actress was hired to play one of the teens – they couldn’t find someone good enough with an actual Australian accent? The actor playing Homer doesn’t have a big enough nose! I was scraping the bottom of the complaints barrel and didn’t care. Ellie and Homer were mine and they needed to be perfect.

With some time, some distance and the release of the teaser trailer, I am less concerned. The trailer has managed to depict some ordinary Aussie teens in an impossible situation. It doesn’t look cheap (and nor should it, the budget is around the $20 million mark), the English actress’ accent isn’t half bad and they scuffed the pin up girl up. I don’t know what I loved more – the sight of the jets flying over the camp, Homer getting sacked or Kevin flying through the air as flames chased his back. I have faith that the movie adaptation Tomorrow, When the War Began won’t besmirch my beloved teenage reading experience. And should it go the other way, I know I can accuse it of robbing me of my childhood…

Adele Walsh, Persnickety Snark

VIDEO POST: Joanne Harris reads from ‘Blue Eyed Boy’

Blue Eyed Boy by Joanne Harris
A gripping psychological thriller played out in cyberspace, from the bestselling author of Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes. “Once there was a widow with three sons, and their names were Black, Brown and Blue. Black was the eldest; moody and aggressive. Brown was the middle child, timid and dull. But Blue was his mother’s favourite. And he was a murderer.” Blueyedboy is the brilliant new novel from Joanne Harris: a dark and intricately plotted tale of a poisonously dysfunctional family, a blind child prodigy, and a serial murderer who is not who he seems. Told through posts on [email protected], this is a thriller that makes creative use of all the disguise, deception and mind games that are offered by playing out one’s life on the internet.

VIDEO POST: ‘Let The Dead Lie’ trailer

Let The Dead Lie by Malla Nunn
Cooper is forced to resign when re-classified as mixed-race. Now in the tough coastal town of Durban he mixes labouring with some surveillance for his old boss. One night he stumbles upon the body of a young white boy and when two more bodies are found in his boarding house unwittingly becomes the prime suspect in a triple murder case.

VIDEO POST: James Bradfield-Moody talks ‘Sixth Wave’

James Bradfield-Moody chats with Random House about his new book, The Sixth Wave, written with Bianca Nogrady, out now.

The Sixth Wave by James Bradfield Moody and Bianca Nogrady
Five waves of innovation, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, have each transformed society, economies and industry. The fifth wave was dominated by information and communications technology but its peak is beginning to fade. The sixth wave of innovation will be about resources – natural resources, human resources and information.

VIDEO POST: Masterchef Julie Goodwin on her new cookbook

Julie Goodwin, Masterchef 2009 winner, chats to Random House about her brand new cookbook.

Our Family Table by Julie Goodwin
Since taking out the coveted title of Australia’s first MasterChef, Julie Goodwin has been cooking, testing and writing away like mad, preparing to publish her first cookbook. Full of lovely stories and recipes and feasts, with a strong focus on good old-fashioned tucker.

VIDEO POST: ‘Return of the Prophet’ Trailer

Return of the Prophet by Greig Beck
When a massive amount of gamma radiation is detected somewhere beneath the desert of Iran, the world begins watching. Is it a nuclear weapon, or something much much worse?
Alex Hunter and his highly trained incursion team are dropped into the ruins of Persepolis but find nothing. No lab, no weapons, no scientists not even radiation. A black hole has taken everything, but is it possible something could have come back?
The President of Iran is making speeches about the end of the world and the return of the prophet, and yet another gamma spike is detected in Iran. Israel is threatening nuclear war, and the details of America’s Arcadian program have been stolen. And someone, or something, is draining the fluids from the bodies of Iranian soldiers in the desert…
The moon is buried in darkness and the world is folded.
Alex must face his fears and follow the traces of radiation to the ancient caves of Arak. Inside those tunnels he will come face to face with a creature from his darkest nightmares. The clock is ticking until the end of the world and the judgment of mankind. Balances must be kept, decisions will be made but who will be found wanting?