A note on seven-legged spiders

I was conflicted as to where to put this post. On the one hand, this is not a young adult book, and surely doesn’t belong on the young adult blog. On the other, if there’s one thing you feel when you read The Internet is a Playground by David Thorne, it’s young. This is exactly the sort of book that Perpetually Adolescent is all about, the kind that, no matter how old you are, and where in life you find yourself, immediately drags you back to your adolescence, back when things were simpler, when you were invincible and everything was the funniest thing ever. You can’t help but slip into it, and you laugh harder than you’ve ever laughed before, and you actually find yourself not reading ahead, only to savour some of the belly laughs for tomorrow. It is absolutely hilarious.

And if it were possible, I would marry the seven-legged spider.

Those that also share my love of the seven-legged spider will be happy to know that The Internet is a Playground has been added to this month’s book giveaway.

Those that have not been introduced to the seven-legged spider haven’t received what is, without a doubt, the funniest chain email ever. It’s the Susan Boyle of chain emails. I fell on the floor, in absolute hysterics at several points while reading it. I called my mother upstairs. She read it. She, too, was crying she was laughing so hard.

I thought it was a one-off article. But apparently, there’s been more, lots and lots more – and now, they’ve been put into a book. It is, without a doubt, the most joyous collection I’ve ever read. Yes, some of the featured pieces are funnier than others (I wasn’t much of a fan of the edited photos), but as a whole, I’d recommend the entire collection for you, and anyone you know.

And now, to introduce you to the seven-legged spider, featured in one of many wonderful email exchanges printed in the book. If this doesn’t sell you on David Thorne’s brilliance… well, I honestly don’t know what will:

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Wednesday 8 Oct 2008 12.19pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Overdue account

Dear David,

Our records indicate that your account is overdue by the amount of $233.95. If you have already made this payment please contact us within the next 7 days to confirm payment has been applied to your account and is no longer outstanding.

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Wednesday 8 Oct 2008 12.37pm
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Overdue account

Dear Jane,

I do not have any money so am sending you this drawing I did of a spider instead. I value the drawing at $233.95 so trust that this settles the matter.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 10.07am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Overdue account

Dear David,

Thankyou for contacting us. Unfortunately we are unable to accept drawings as payment and your account remains in arrears of $233.95. Please contact us within the next 7 days to confirm payment has been applied to your account and is no longer outstanding.

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 10.32am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Overdue account

Dear Jane,

Can I have my drawing of a spider back then please.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 11.42am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Overdue account

Dear David,

You emailed the drawing to me. Do you want me to email it back to you?

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 11.56am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Overdue account

Dear Jane,

Yes please.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Thursday 9 Oct 2008 12.14pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Overdue account

Attached <spider.gif>

From: David Thorne
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 09.22am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Whose spider is that?

Dear Jane,

Are you sure this drawing of a spider is the one I sent you? This spider only has seven legs and I do not feel I would have made such an elementary mistake when I drew it.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 11.03am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Whose spider is that?

Dear David,

Yes it is the same drawing. I copied and pasted it from the email you sent me on the 8th. David your account is still overdue by the amount of $233.95.
Please make this payment as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 11.05am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Automated Out of Office Response

Thankyou for contacting me.

I am currently away on leave, traveling through time and will be returning last week.

Regards, David.

From: David Thorne
Date: Friday 10 Oct 2008 11.08am
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?

Hello, I am back and have read through your emails and accept that despite missing a leg, that drawing of a spider may indeed be the one I sent you. I realise with hindsight that it is possible you rejected the drawing of a spider due to this obvious limb ommission but did not point it out in an effort to avoid hurting my feelings. As such, I am sending you a revised drawing with the correct number of legs as full payment for any amount outstanding. I trust this will bring the matter to a conclusion.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Monday 13 Oct 2008 2.51pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?

Dear David,

As I have stated, we do not accept drawings in lei of money for accounts outstanding. We accept cheque, bank cheque, money order or cash. Please make a payment this week to avoid incurring any additional fees.

Yours sincerely, Jane Gilles

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 13 Oct 2008 3.17pm
To: Jane Gilles
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?

I understand and will definitely make a payment this week if I remember. As you have not accepted my second drawing as payment, please return the drawing to me as soon as possible. It was silly of me to assume I could provide you with something of completely no value whatsoever, waste your time and then attach such a large amount to it.

Regards, David.

From: Jane Gilles
Date: Tuesday 14 Oct 2008 11.18am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whose spider is that?

Attached <spider2.gif>

Giveaway News

It looks like we’ve cooked up the perfect cure for your Monday-itis… in the way of exciting giveaway news:

1. The absolutely hilarious The Internet is a Playground by David Thorne has been added to this month’s book giveaway. I was sent a review copy, and I’ve been laughing my way through it since it first arrived on my doorstep. Now, I have a copy to share with you all, thanks to our good friends at Fontaine Press. So, if you’re not a member, make sure you sign up today. Your funny bone will thank you.

2. As promised earlier in the month, we’re kicking off our Gone giveaway. We have 10 copies of Mo Hayder’s latest to give away (want a taste? Click here to view the exciting trailer). For your chance to win, just email me your postal address – it’s that easy! Entries close April 30. A big thanks to our friends at Random House for making the giveaway possible.

Foz Meadows and the Land of the Published

Gotta love blog titles that accidentally come out sounding like Harry Potter books… Moving on! Today, we play host to Foz Meadows, whose debut novel, Solace & Grief was recently released. It’s a fantasy novel set in Sydney – it’ll do for the Sydney CBD what Platform 9 3/4 did for London’s King’s Cross Station (what’s with all the Harry Potter references this morning?!). Let’s just say, you’ll never look at Town Hall the same way ever again…

FOZ MEADOWS:
The first foray into the Land of the Published Author

It’s pretty exciting that people are now able to read Solace & Grief. If I’m honest, though, it’s also a little terrifying. Here’s a story that I’ve sweated over, that has two planned volumes yet to come, and which constitutes my first foray into the Land of the Published Author. How could I not be nervous? The fact that I believe in the story and love my characters doesn’t mean that everyone else will. It’s a bit like the feeling I get whenever I walk through a pair of those anti-shoplifting machines: even though I know I’m not breaking any rules, part of me still tenses up, worried that the alarm will go off anyway.

With the book on shelves, I’m finally starting to realise that this is real. Back when I was dancing the submission-rejection tango, it felt like all my favourite authors were at a party I hadn’t been invited to, but was desperate to attend. It’s something I blogged about late last year, well after I’d signed the contract, but still during the editing process, and months before I ever held a copy of the book. To a certain extent, it’s how I still feel, even though my metaphoric status at the party has changed: instead of snooping around the kitchen, I’m clutching a rumpled invitation, laying out a dress to wear and giddily endeavouring not to fall over in a pair of unfamiliar heels. Here is the paradox of determination: I’ve spent so long dreaming about this point in my life and struggling to reach it that, now the moment is upon me, I can’t quite grasp it. When I imagine the post-publication life, it feels like I’m sixteen again, my head on a desk as I doze through class – and then I realise I’m not, and it isn’t, and the book thing is actually happening.

All of a sudden, something that used only to matter to me now involves the opinions of other people. Will they like Solace, my brave vampire girl with the cynical sense of humour? Have I done justice to Sydney – will any readers walk it in their mind’s eye, or have I made it an unfamiliar place? Are the things I intended as funny actually funny? It’s like starting a new school all over again, waiting for the hive-mind to make itself up. But despite my nerves, my worries and general tendency to babble at inappropriate moments, I wouldn’t miss a minute of this. I’m proud of Solace & Grief, and I cannot wait to see where being an author takes me.

Which brings me to the story itself. I try not to quote the blurb if I can possibly avoid it, but then, it’s difficult to know what to say without spoiling things while still giving a reasonable hint of what’s to come. So: there is a girl who has grown up with secrets. She has enemies, but also manages to find some friends. There is drinking, and mischief, and probably a few bad decisions, and at least one attempt to catch an ibis. There are dreams that might be more than dreams, and coincidences that might be more than coincidence. There is a riddle-song, and laughter, and loss. And, as always, there are questions. They might not always be answered prettily, of course, but still they raise their heads, like jasmine flowers twisting towards the moon.

That’s Solace & Grief, or part of it. And if you should choose to give it a try, I hope you don’t find it to be entirely full of suck.

– Foz Meadows

USER REVIEW WINNER: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  by Jane Austen (via Seth Grahame-Smith)
Reviewed by HelenphH

This was recommended to me by someone who is a huge fan of Jane Austen. Another recommendation came from someone who HATES Jane Austen and felt that Grahame-Smith’s additions fully redeemed Austen’s own efforts. Taking a middle view on Austen’s work, I also thoroughly enjoyed this book, so it seems safe to say it would be appreciated by all.

Imagine the formality and rigidity of life in Regency, England, centred around a family consisting of a silly and fussy mother, a sensible but down-trodden father and their five unmarried daughters – just as Austen created them. But now imagine those same young ladies were employed by the government to help wipe out the plague of zombies whose habits included eating brains and attacking all and sundry. Imagine the Bennett girls all taking concealed ankle daggers to Mr Bingley’s ball and you can see that this is a very clever and funny version of the original.

It helps to have some knowledge of Austen’s work to fully appreciate the book, but if you’ve watched one of the television or movie versions that is sufficient to put this in context. I must admit to visualising Dame Judi Dench reprising her role as Lady Catherine, now renowned for killing ninety zombies with only a wet envelope. I see her with elegant gown tucked into her waistband, slicing into zombies left and right with that indomitable look she does so well.

Great fun.

A big thanks to the 100 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, HelenphH has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

Attention Patrick Ness Fans: April Book Giveaway

Ness-philes, get excited – this month, each of our Boomerang Books Members are in the running to win a signed copy of 2008 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize Winner’s latest, and a signed preview of his upcoming trilogy-ender. The full prize list includes:

Not a member? Sign up today.

APRIL FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

Are you on Facebook? Don’t forget to join our Group for your chance to this prize pack that includes:

A big thanks to our friends at Celapene Press, Ford St, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, Pan Macmillan for supporting our giveaways this month. and Walker Books.

BONUS GIVEAWAY

You have until Friday 9 April to enter a special Patrick Ness competition. We’re giving away… an extract. While it doesn’t sound like much, this is actually a special preview of Ness’ yet-to-be-released Monsters of Men, and it’s signed! All you have to do is email me, and in 20 words or less, tell me why you should be the lucky Patrick Ness fan that gets it.

KEEP AN EYE OUT…

Those that have been reading the blog know how enamoured I was with the Gone book trailer, well, later in the month, we’ll be giving 10 copies away to Boomerang loyalists, so keep your eyes peeled for details.

Hazel Edwards talks gender and pronouns

I always wanted to launch Perpetually Adolescent with a big-name author, and names don’t get much bigger than Hazel Edwards’. All you have to do is mention something about a hippopotamus on the roof eating cake, and everyone (or at least, everyone my age) will let out an “Oh!” of recognition – for those that didn’t “Oh!”, this is the book I’m talking about. Hazel’s latest, a collaboration with Ryan Scott Kennedy, f2m: The Boy Within is really making waves, so I invited her to pop around and talk about… well… anything really, it’s Hazel Edwards, she can do whatever she likes :-).

I always love it when authors talk ‘process’, and there’s no more painstaking part of the process than blurbing, distilling what you feel is a perfect 70,000+ piece of work into a tidy 100 words that make sense, are inviting, but not misleading. It’s challenging, to say the least, and things get a little trickier when your book covers the transition of one person between genders, and you’ve got pronouns to worry about…

HAZEL EDWARDS:
Gender, blurbs and (pesky) pronouns

Being a mainstream author, a major challenge of writing YA fiction with a transgender setting (and punk music),  is the pronouns. Can I use ‘teenager’ or ‘sibling’ or ‘adolescent’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ to avoid character inaccuracies or offending some readers?

Even the title has been a challenge. ‘ftm’ is the correct medical term for transitioning from female to male (‘mtf’ is male to female), but ‘f2m’ is our term for OUR collaboration… the sub-title ‘the boy within’ indicates the dilemma.

Pronouns are a new language challenge. And getting the tense right. Was Finn always male? Past? Present? Future?

Even drafting a blurb for the cover, having to move from 18-year-old Skye as ‘she’ to Finn as ‘he’, in the one sentence, can trivialise. Transitioning gender is still controversial and the facts are little known. Transitioning has been a taboo subject until recent media coverage of sportspeople.

This was my first, unsuccessful blurbing effort:

A young school-leaver transitions from a girl into a man and uncovers long-buried mysteries about her family heritage that threaten to tear her family apart!

But ‘her’ isn’t accurate later in the novel.

Strictly speaking, our fictional character is a trans guy and has always considered himself male. So has my trans co-author Ryan Kennedy.

I have no problem now using the male pronoun for my co-author.

I’ve known Ryan as a family friend since he was an 11 year old girl. New Zealand-based Ryan lived as female until his transition to male at 27. Ryan works in IT and is a passionate environmentalist and musician.

Our co-written  f2m: The Boy Within has taken 40+ drafts, to complete the 70,000 word novel, but the process of collaboration has been very satisfying.

We co-wrote across 18 months, two continents (Australia and New Zealand), two generations and two genders. We plotted via Skype and webcam.

Our second shot at the blurb:

All adolescents face the quest for identity, but gender change complicates ‘coming of age’ for Finn. Gender change is not just about hormone injections and surgery.

Our third:

School-leaver Skye plays guitar in her all-female Chronic Cramps band. Making her name in the punk/indie scene is easier than FTM (female to male) transitioning: from Skye to Finn, from girl to man. Uncovering genetic mysteries about family heritage tear the family apart. Trans gender identity is more than injections and surgery, it’s about acceptance. Going public, Finn sings ftm lyrics on TV. With a little help from bemused mates and family who don’t want to lose a daughter, but who love their teenager, Finn is transitioning.

Our FINAL blurb:

What happens when who you are on the inside, clashes with what you are on the outside?

Our book is fiction, not autobiography, but medically accurate. Could also make a great film! Casting could be the next challenge.

– Hazel Edwards

World Autism Awareness Day

Today, April 2, is Autism Awareness Day, and in the spirit of spreading awareness, we’ve compiled a list of books for all ages on the subject:

Understanding Sam by Clarabelle van Niekerk
Answering the question Why is Sam different?, this heartwarming story tells of the challenges of living with Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism. This firsthand view of the life of an undiagnosed child presents behaviors and characteristics that are common among children with this disorder. Sam doesn’t like his pancakes to touch, his sister is annoyed with his repetitive song, and his new coat hurts his skin, but once he is diagnosed, teamwork-based support helps Sam’s life become a little easier.

Enzymes For Autism by Karen DeFelice
Drawing on long-standing scientific research and trials by a wide range of families, Karen DeFelice deals comprehensively with all the information on enzymes that parents or those new to enzymes need: how enzymes work, who may benefit, what to expect, practical tested advice on selecting and introducing the right kind of enzymes, and how this can be combined with other approaches and therapies.

Voices Of Autism by the Healing Project 
A compilation that features writers from various walks of life speaking candidly about their experiences with autism. It contains true stories of the parents of autistic children, their caregivers, teachers, and friends.by The Healing Project

Lost Booker Prize Shortlist Announced

The Lost Man Booker is a one-off prize to honour the books that missed out on the opportunity to win the Booker Prize in 1970.

The six books are:

The Birds on the Trees by Nina Bawden
Troubles by J G Farrell
The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard
Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault
The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark
The Vivisector by Patrick White

To vote for your favourite, click here.

On Inspiration

Inspiration is a tricky thing. It comes and goes, and mostly, its habits are unpredictable. If I knew how it all worked, believe me, my second novel would’ve been out by now. Usually someone in front of me has to do something stupid, or something horrible has to happen to me, and when I stop whingeing long enough to laugh and think, ‘Gee, that’d make a great story…’ – inspiration happens, and the words aren’t far off.

I’m not one of those gushing author fanboys who runs up to authors saying, ‘Wow, you inspire me so much.’ In fact, I was saving that baby up for when I met Terry Pratchett for the first time… but I found myself saying it to an author I’d only just met, and whose work I hadn’t read (obviously, since then, I’ve given it more than a glance, and it’s pretty awesome). That author was Patrick Ness, and that was Tuesday.

But our story begins on:

Monday: Melina Marchetta and The Piper’s Son Sydney launch

William Kostakis (moi) with Susanne Gervay

Book launches are great. They’re inspiring. I haven’t been to many (in fact, I’ve been to two, my own – which was pretty darn inspiring – and Melina Marchetta’s). It wasn’t being surrounded by peers in the industry (and making an awkward spectacle of myself as I was introduced to authors I’d been a fan of for a long time, and was trying to remain calm as I told them about a little blog I wrote for) that inspired me.

In fact, blame for inspiration rests solely on Melina Marchetta.

I haven’t known Melina very long. I met her a year ago. I was on a panel with her, scared to death of how I was going to introduce myself to the Melina Marchetta when the closest I’d ever come to reading her books was watching five minutes of Looking For Alibrandi on Channel Ten. So, I approached her, ready with a rehearsed and completely fake, ‘Whoa, your writing shaped my youth!’ (You know, the stuff she hears all the time.) Before I’ve started the spiel, she calls me by my first name (I haven’t introduced myself) and says how much she loved a short story I wrote in high school, and that she used to show it in class when she taught English. Cut to me thinking: ‘Melina… likes… my… writing?’ over and over and over. In fact, before our session, she didn’t even give me time to spew out the spiel. She just kept talking about me. I was struck by how normal, and humble, and nice, someone whose success can only be measured with ‘mega’s could be.

And Book Launch Melina was no different. Someone told me once, you’re not measured by how you handle the bad times, but the grace and humility you exhibit during the good times. There’s no doubting that, with her current career position, Melina is experiencing the good times. And you would never guess it. Having, since the panel, read all of her work, and knowing how successful she’s been (on account of my not living under a rock), I don’t know how someone can be as level-headed as she is.

Her writing inspires me as a writer (I hesitate to use the word ‘fellow’), but her personality, her warmth, and general Melinaness inspires me as a person.

Congratulations, Melina. Everybody here at Boomerang Books wishes you all the best with The Piper’s Son, and we’re already anticipating Book #5.

Tuesday: Patrick Ness speaks at Sydney Uni

To say Patrick Ness is popular would be to understate the fact considerably. I’d never read any of his work, but a lot of you have emailed me about him, so I thought I’d go along to see him speak (my class in the adjacent building finished at 6, he started at 6 – it was practically fate). I went expecting a room filled with teens, but what I found was a room filled with peers, authors I recognised, publishers, editors, and, granted, some teens.

He was a little late. The air was thick with anticipation – you could cut it with a [insert horrible pun with book title here]. Then, showtime.

“I think a reader can tell if the writer is joyous.”

After considering how daunting a task speaking without a topic is, he settled on establishing his own topic: joy. He said he never liked talking about author stuff, and proceeded to talk about his process: joy, joy, joy. To write is to write free of the mechanics of writing, and to just write joy.

It was great to hear such an acclaimed writer (he won the Guardian Prize), talking about writing for young adults like I do, albeit, with more flair, and more experience to back him up. It made me almost feel like I knew what I was talking about…

Namely, if you’re writing for kids: don’t write “lesson” narratives, with “issues” tick-boxes to work your way through, because they don’t equal good novels.

“Write for the teenager you were. If you think you were atypical, well, the point of being a teenager is being atypical.”

He emphasised not worrying about the genre and the audience. Cue the subtle glances from my editor – she was in the row in front, and had told me that exact thing about a bajillion times in the past year.

Just focus on joy.

“Write with joy, everything else will follow.”

The words made me want to whip out my pen and pad right then and there – well, my pen and pad were out (I was taking notes for Boomerangers), so I wanted to turn the page and plough through my new book then and there. He was really quite sensational to hear speak, and judging by what I’ve read of his work since, he has the words to back him up.

He made me want to write again, and not write to get the novel done, but write for joy.

Fans of both Patrick Ness and Melina Marchetta should keep their eyes on the blog, we have some really great prizes for you coming very soon. Signed prizes.

BOOK TRAILER: Gone by Mo Hayder

Okay, so yes, I was attracted to this trailer for Mo Hayder’s new release, Gone, because the publisher issued a strong warning about it. It’s very powerful, and perhaps the greatest example of a book trailer I’ve ever seen. Those that have been reading the blog will know that I’m very skeptical when it comes to book trailers, they’re usually amateurish, self-indulgent, over-long, boring, made by the authors in ten minutes, and mostly just text flying across the screen with a dodgy soundtrack – all the benefits of the visual medium are usually ignored. This trailer is nothing like most booker trailers. Short, slick, well-written, well-performed, and a great cliffhanger, I dare you to watch this and not feel compelled to read the book.

Upcoming Event: CBCA Triple A: The Shortlist

The CBCA will announce the 2010 list of Notable Books and the Short List for the 2010 Children’s Book of the
Year Awards in Brisbane on March 30. In NSW, they invite all children’s literature lovers to mingle with authors, illustrators, publishers and booksellers to enjoy a day of Professional Development. Join me, and a host of other members of the community as we:

Anticipate! the Short List with our five panelists’ personal choices;

Appreciate! the wonderful array of Australian children’s literature;

Applaud! the authors and illustrators whose books have been chosen for the 2010 Notable Booklist and the Short List.

Keynote Speaker—Dr Kerry White
(Bibliographer, Writer and Reviewer)

A panel of experts from the world of children’s literature will nominate their own Short Lists of children’s books published in 2009. They are:

Early Childhood Dr Sharyn Jameson (Senior Lecturer in English & Literacy, ACU)
Younger Readers Rachel Robson (Children’s Books Expert)
Older Readers William Kostakis (Award-winning author)
Picture Book Dr Robin Morrow (author, publisher, President of IBBY Australia)
Eve Pownall Chris Cheng (author, 2009 Lady Cutler Award recipient)

Where? Sydney Room, The Menzies Hotel, George Street, Sydney
When? Tuesday 30th March 2010, 8:30am—3.30pm

For more information, visit http://cbca.nsw.org.au or phone (02) 9818 3858.

Books for ANZAC Day

Under A Bomber’s Moon by Stephen Harris
They were the best of enemies – dedicated, skilled and deadly. In the night skies above wartime Germany an RAF navigator-bomber from New Zealand and a Luftwaffe pilot seek out their targets, testing the gap between success and their own destruction as they cross each other’s paths. The odds are heavily against either of them making it through the war, but as this sobering realisation displaces their initial exuberant adventurism, both come to see in their youthful sacrifice the survival of all they hold dear. Under a Bomber’s Moon reaches across the divide of years, of geography, of nationality to tell their story largely in their own words – describing both the breathtaking clashes in the air and the camaraderie, humour, patriotism and personal tragedies that became their war. Stephen Harris began his journey of discovery because he wanted to know the truth of his great-uncle Colwyn Jones’ fate. With Col’s vividly written letters and diaries as a starting-point, he set out to discover what really happened on the night Col’s extraordinary luck ran out. Little did he know that his quest would lead him to a meeting with a former Luftwaffe pilot who might well have engaged with his great-uncle in the skies over Germany. Otto-Heinrich Fries proved to be both co-operative and articulate, eventually allowing Harris to tell his story in this book. The result is a unique and personal account of two highly successful airmen from opposing sides.

Devil’s Own War by John Crawford
Brigadier-General Herbert Hart landed at Gallipoli on 26 April 1915, commanded the Wellington Battalion during the closing stages of that campaign, then served as a battalion and brigade commander on the Western Front between 1916 and 1918. Throughout the war he kept a diary, in which he recorded his experiences in the great battles on Gallipoli, the Somme and Passchendaele. Hart’s diary is now widely regarded as one of the most important personal sources relating to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Exceptionally well written, it includes gripping descriptions of both combat and life behind the front line and on leave in France and United Kingdom. While Hart can appear quite detached at times, he is also a very human observer of the events around him, understanding the plight of his men, finding humour in the most unlikely situations and noticing unexpected details at moments of high tension. As a first-hand account of life in the firestorm of World War One, The Devil’s Own War is hard to beat.

RECAP: Amanda McInerney at the Adelaide Writers Week 2010

We couldn’t make it to the Adelaide Writers Week 2010, but lucky for us, long-time Boomerang Books customer Amanda McInerney was a constant presence at the festival, and we were lucky enough to have her blog for us.

For those that missed her posts, here’s a recap:

Day One • Day Two • Day Three • Day Five

Amanda McInerney is passionate about books and reading.  She has recently started her own foodie blog at http://lambsearsandhoney.com/.

USER REVIEW WINNER: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Reviewed by TeresaS

Margaret Lea lives for books. When she is offered the challenge of writing the biography of the most famous writer in England, she finds uncanny parallels with her own life.

The Thirteenth Tale is a book for greedy bibliophiles. It’s a book for all those of us who know books as places to lose oneself, books as vehicles for travel in time and space, who feel sentimental about books as objects. Albeit if that sentimentality sometimes tips over into indulgent soppiness. Who cares?  This is a sometimes silly, entertaining, enchanting and engrossing story, with all the ingredients of a gothic novel. Set on the Yorkshire Moors, with massive old houses falling into decay, abandoned babies, topiary gardens, and undiscovered ancestry, it lays out a mystery which twists and turns through ghostly imaginings and haunted characters.

The thrill of this book is its challenge to the site of truth. What tells us more about the past, subjective unreliable narrative or factual evidence?

This is Dianne Setterfield’s first novel, though she is very well versed in 19th and 20th century French literature. All the way through this book, you get the feeling that she is having a great deal of fun playing with genre and image and language to produce a lovely bibliomystery.

The Thirteenth Tale could be criticised for its shameless evocation of the Brontes and Dickens, but that would be churlish. It’s not highbrow. It has a certain whiff of upstairs-downstairs. But as a whole, it’s a book to read in one gulp, curled up in an armchair, beside a pile of unread tomes!

A big thanks to the nearly 50 members who submitted reviews – keep entering for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, TeresaS has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

EXCLUSIVE: Paul Collins… Slightly Skewed

I started The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler about three years ago. However, about that time I thought I’d like to start publishing other authors’ books so I had two careers happening at once. The trouble is, I’d created a monster with Ford Street Publishing. Although publishing seven to eight books a year doesn’t sound too hectic, it’s easy to forget the major publishers have staff to edit, do accounts, market/publicity, proofread, design, liaise with authors and illustrators, write contracts, etc, etc. With a small press, it’s usually just one person that does all that.

Moi in other words.

So I wrote Toby in dribs and drabs whenever I had a chance. I knew I wanted a character, Fluke, to have a certain character trait. That is to say, words in sentences that change the meaning of the sentence.

I didn’t know what a malapropism was until I started researching for Fluke’s character. They’re sentences that have a substitution of a word that doesn’t really make sense but have a comic effect. So a “decaffeinated coffee” becomes a “decapitated coffee”; “for all intent and purposes” becomes “for all intensive purposes”; “charity begins at home” becomes “clarity begins at home”. The trick is to make sure the verbal gaffes all relate to the actual story. Some of my favourite malapropisms are: “the town was flooded and everyone had to be evaporated”; “dysentery in the ranks”; and of course, “Kath and Kim’s friends who are very effluent”.

The characters’ names come from anecdotal stories. Toby is nicknamed Milo, because he’s not Quik. Fluke was named after his mother tried conceiving on the IVF program, gave up, then conceived. Hence, Fluke.

Once I’d finished The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler I wondered which publisher I could send it to. After all, most know me as a science fiction writer – I don’t know why this is because I’ve written many more fantasy novels than science fiction novels, but there you are! So taking a leaf from Doris Lessing’s book (she also sent two manuscripts to publishers under a pseudonym), I sent the manuscript to all the major publishers under another name. Like Doris Lessing, it was rejected. One publisher did say I could send more of my work because I “showed promise”. But one editor loved it and recommended another publisher because his company was being subsumed by another publisher. So I took up his suggestion and waited . . . and waited. And despite having a great recommendation from this eminent editor, my manuscript waited in a slush pile for four months. I enquired about it, but received no reply. I waited another month before withdrawing the manuscript. The editor then said it was nearing the top of the pile to be read. Now this is a very subjective statement. The slush pile could be a mile high, and three quarters way near the top is months away from being read, but is still “nearing the top”, right?

I withdrew the story. I was then faced with a dire predicament. Where could I send my new book? I was judging a writing competition called the Charlotte Duncan Award at the time. Celapene Press was the publisher. So under the pseudonym I sent Toby to Kathryn Duncan, the publisher at Celapene. It was accepted within the week and within four months it was published. So, there you – this reads more like the slightly skewed life of the author, hey?!

Paul Collins

Free Shipping!

We’ve just activated Free Shipping on purchases made in-store!

What better way to celebrate the impending Labour Day, Eight Hours Day, Adelaide Cup Day and Canberra Day long weekends? Unless, of course, you live in Queensland, WA, NSW or NT – in which case, Happy March.

This great deal is available until midnight on Friday 12 March.  Feel free to pass the code onto your friends and family!

Visit Boomerang Books right now to redeem your free shipping…

How to redeem: We’ll take $6.95 off your order total when you enter the following code into our Promo Code slot on the payment page: freeship.

Some conditions: Free Shipping discount value is $6.95, which will be deducted from your order total when you use the promotional code on our payment page.  Overseas purchasers may use the promotional code, but only $6.95 will be deducted from the order total, not the full cost of overseas shipping.  Discount is only redeemable at the time of purchase by using the promotional code online.  It is not available retrospectively.

Support the ‘Baldies’!

Everybody here at Boomerang Books is shaving it off this month to help the Leukaemia Foundation to provide practical care and support to patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders. Want to shave with us? Join the Boomerang Books ‘Baldies’ team now and start raising money…

Don’t wanna get your head shaved or dyed?  Then you can still donate money to the Boomerang Books ‘Baldies’ here…

Raising Awareness

Initiatives like the Leukaemia Foundation’s Shave For a Cure not only help raise money, but also awareness. It’s really a great time to spread the word on the issue. This week, we’re asking you, what are the big books you’ve read that have helped shaped your perception of what it is like to live with Leukemia or with someone who has Leukemia? Leave the book title in the comments section, and I’ll add it to the list :-):

Keep Your Hair On! by Elizabeth Vercoe
Jess is 16 years old. She’s never wagged school. She’s on a netball team. Her best friends are Sara and Charlotte. She has cancer. Last week she kissed a boy called Dylan. Today her hair is going down the plughole.

Here is Jess’s life so far:
She is 16 years old.
She’s never wagged school.
She’s on a netball team.
Her best friends are Sara and Charlotte.
She has cancer.
Last week she kissed a boy called Dylan.
Today her hair is going down the plughole.

If Dylan finds out he’ll probably drop her — or worse, feel sorry for her.

Can she keep it a secret?

Allie McGregor’s True Colours by Sue Lawson
Allie McGregor’s list of problems is longer than movie credits. House renovations have forced Allie to share her room with mouse-loving little sister, Sarah. Her dad, Will, calls Allie ‘The Hormonal One’ during his popular radio program. Her brother, Riley, is just plain gross. Her best friend Lou is fighting with Allie’s new friend, Romy. Oh, and Allie’s mum has cancer.

March Book Giveaway

Another month, another giveaway for our Boomerang Books Members – and this month’s is one to get excited about. It includes:

All Boomerang Books Members are automatically entered into the draw to win our great monthly prize packs – for your chance to win, sign up today.

MARCH FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

For the members of our Facebook Group, we have a special prize pack that includes:

A big thanks to our friends at Allen and Unwin,  Baby Ice Dog Press, Celapene Press, Ford St, Pan Macmillan, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.

EXCLUSIVE AUTHOR BLOG: Sophie Scott roadtests happiness…

Each year, there are more and more books on the topics of happiness. Not only how to get it, but how to keep it as well. There are books like “The Science of Happiness, The How of Happiness” and “Be Happy”, just to name a few. As the medical reporter for ABC TV, I’ve read most of them! So when I wanted to write another health book, I really thought long and hard about whether the world needed another happiness book and what my book could say that hadn’t already been said before.

Happiness was on my mind, because I had suffered a personal and family crisis. My mother, my only parent, had died quite suddenly from cancer. And I was finding it really tough to move through the stages of grief. It got me thinking about the advice that happiness experts give out. We’re constantly told that happiness should be our goal, but how can you actually achieve it?  Does the advice of the experts actually work?

I wanted to find out if you can be happy when things in your life are not going according to plan. Let’s face it. For most of us, life is like a rollercoaster of ups and downs, some slight and some really big. Just when you think, everything is OK, off you go again. So I wanted to investigate whether the advice of the happiness experts would work, if life wasn’t going the way you hoped.

I interviewed some of the world’s experts, from Buddhist monk Mathieu Ricard (the world’s happiest man) to Timothy Sharp (aka Dr Happy) from the Happiness Institute, to explore the science of happiness. Then I set about trying out their advice, road-testing their ideas, if you like. 

I knew that the source of my unhappiness and my journey to happiness would start with my thoughts. So I investigated cognitive behaviour therapy. Everything starts in the mind and how we think about the events and people around us. Cognitive behaviour therapy involves challenging your thoughts, and not just accepting them. It means challenging ‘all or nothing’ thinking and black and white statements, which often aren’t true. I started to think about how I was reacting to the world around me, and I focused on thinking about my reactions, rather than just reacting! It definitely helped me to focus on the positive things in my life.

I spent a year researching happiness which I write about in Roadtesting Happiness. I tell my own journey and the stories of many others. But for now, I want to give you my top tips for happiness, so that you can bring more joy to your own life.

Count your blessings. Much has been written about the importance of gratitude. But it’s something that most of us ignore. We take the people we love for granted and it’s only when something goes wrong that we realise how much they mean to us. Hug your children and kiss your partner each day.

Nurture your relationships. Happiness is contagious, just like the common cold. Invest time and energy in the people around you who bring joy to your life. Enjoy the love and affection of people who care about you.

Use your strengths to find your passion. Finding something you love doing will increase the fulfilment in your life.  
Don’t be afraid to volunteer. The happiest people in the world are also the most giving. Give your time and love to help those less fortunate and you will benefit as well.

Eat well, to feel well. Nurture your mind and body with good food and exercise. Regular exercise such as walking or weight training is one of the best things you can do to clear the cobwebs from your mind and find a place for happiness.

Make happiness a priority. Invest in your emotional wellbeing and commit to reading a book like Roadtesting Happiness to get the life that you want.

My goal in writing Roadtesting Happiness is to help people be happier and to stay that way. I’ve compiled the tools and the short-cuts so that you can ‘road-test’ your way to happiness to. It will help you develop strategies for coping when things get tough.

Through my research, I tried meditation, gratitude, exercise, eating healthy foods and exercise. Happiness is personal, and not a one size fits all prescription. Roadtesting Happiness will give you the road-map to happiness so you can see what will work for you. It helped me, and I hope it will help you too.

– Sophie Scott

About Roadtesting Happiness
With a unique and compelling blend of personal experience and scientific evidence, this book has the research, inspiration and tools to make your life happier than it is right now.

Sam Downing Reviews: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I picked up a copy of Leviathan when I was in the States last week; I started reading it on Sunday night and had polished it off by Wednesday morning, however, in that time I crossed the international date line so it actually took me even less time to finish than that. The reason I got through it so fast? It’s ace.

The only other book I’ve read by Scott Westerfeld is Uglies, and I liked Leviathan a lot more. It’s loaded with all kinds of rad things: steampunk! Huge mechanical warships and equally huge genetically engineered warships! World War I alternate history! Girls disguised as boys! Heirs to the throne on the run from malevolent political forces!

So. Much. Awesome.

But if you’re awesome-greedy and demand yet more awesome, here it is: Keith Thompson’s illustrations are gawjus. The endpapers of the book alone are worth the cover price – they make me go all Homer Simpson drooly.

The only bad thing about Leviathan is that it’s the first part of a trilogy. This means that a lot of the plot is left hanging for the second instalment, which is released in 2010… but I want to find out what happens nooooow. I’m nerdishly excited about this series and where it’s headed! Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and stamp my feet for a bit in the hope that it’ll somehow make time go by faster.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.

Sam Downing Reviews: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

I bought Boneshaker at the same time as Leviathan, because they were next to one another on the tables at Barnes & Noble, and I vaguely remembered reading good things about it. (I also liked the cover. Goggles! Airships! Neat typography!) It was a good purchase. This is a great book.

Cherie Priest’s story starts off slow: it’s not immediately apparent how the plot will turn out, unless you cheated and read the blurb, and even then it’s not obvious. Early chapters introduce us to Briar Wilkes and her teenage son Zeke, and the grim 19th century version of Seattle they inhabit. By around page 50, the plot has stuck them both in a walled-up part of the city that’s crawling with zombies (dubbed “rotters” in Priest’s universe) and pirates and mad scientists. (Boing Boing has a longer, better synopsis.)

No-so-coincidentally, around page 50 is where Boneshaker hooked me.

This is an epic, page-turning, wonderful read: deftly plotted, switching between Briar and Zeke as they individually explore the horrifying, steampunk-inspired place they’ve stumbled into; written in a beautifully verbose style that matches its historical era; and just a whole lot of fun. Priest is writing at least two more books set in the same world, and while they won’t be direct sequels to Boneshaker (which is a shame – I want more of Briar and Zeke and zombie-Seattle!), I can’t wait to read them.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.

Sam Downing Reviews: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

The other week I had a work-related Christmas dinner (great food, great company), and my team played one of those corporate-style getting-to-know-you games wherein we each had to name a person we’d love to have dinner with.

I nominated Terry Pratchett.

I read a lot as a kid and a teenager, but Pterry’s Discworld books were the first novels I was super-invested in. Between the ages of 13 and 16 I reckon I devoured each entry in the series at least five times – there were more than 20 Discworld novels in those days (there’s now 37), so that’s a lot of reading.

Pratchett probably had more influence on my writing and my worldview than any other writer. So it’s through this lens of adoration that I read the newest entry in the Discworld series, Unseen Academicals.

First up: even a bad Discworld book would still be a good book.  Unseen Academicals (synopsis here) is not a bad Discworld book. But nor is it the greatest. The development-of-football plot didn’t feel as fleshed out as other Discworld spoofs (particularly coming so soon after Going Postal and Making Money), the plot lacked a clear drive towards something, and the new characters often felt like retreads of characters that Pterry has done better in the past – while I liked Glenda, Nutt, Trev and Juliet, I don’t really care about any of them.

That said, there are some great moments: pretty much anything about the Librarian, Ponder Stibbons and Ridcully, whose rivalry with former Dean provided some of  Unseen Academicals high points. Pratchett introduces fun new supporting characters (Pepe, Dr Hix) in amongst the old faces (Rincewind), though other Discworld fixtures seemed way off (Vetinari, who seemed oddly un-Vetinari in many of his scenes).

Perhaps this sounds harsh. But I really did enjoy  Unseen Academicals(what can I say? I’m a Pterry fanboy). I wouldn’t recommend it to a Discworld newbie, but it’s nevertheless a solid entry in this fantastic (in every sense of the word) series. And it also has a touch of finality: because of Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s disease,  Unseen Academicals could be one of the last adult Discworld novels. Which is a very sad prospect.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.

Sam Downing Reviews: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I was chatting with a friend not long ago about Neil Gaiman’s writing style, and we agreed that his is an authorial voice you either like or you don’t: my friend doesn’t like it, but I do. A lot. Gaiman has a knack of adapting to whatever genre he’s writing in, but his work always has a sense of the very old, the very deep, and the very strange.

I started The Graveyard Book with high expectations, and wasn’t disappointed: Like all the best children’s literature, it’s wildly imaginative, seductively scary, and a sophisticated read for both kids and adults.

Loosely inspired by The Jungle BookThe Graveyard Book  is the story of a baby who escapes from the ruthless killer who’s murdered his parents, and escapes to a very old graveyard. Rechristened Nobody “Bod” Owens, he’s raised by the graveyard’s ghostly  inhabitants and encounters vampires, werewolves, witches and other beasties as he grows up. (The Guardian has a more detailed, though mildly spoilery, synopsis; I recommend going into it without knowing about the plot’s direction.)

It kind of reminded me of Harry Potter, if Harry Potter’s sprawling story was condensed into a single book: The Graveyard Book  has the same magical, captivating and adventurous tone. I felt really sad when I turned the last page, both because of the way the plot wrapped up, and because I’d finished a really great book.

Each chapter advances Bod’s age by around two years and stands alone as a story (more or less), making this a breezy read. If you never read anything of Gaiman’s before, this is a fine entry point.1

Gaiman has proposed writing more books exploring the backstory of the Graveyard universe, but with a darker, more adult tone – a sort of “The Lord Of The Rings, to which The Graveyard Book would have been The Hobbit, in his words. I want to read that book so bad. Right now.

This month’s guest reviewer, Sam Downing, is a twenty-something blogger, young-adult writer and hack journalist from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter and visit his blog here.

January User Reviews

The following are the three winning reviews for January, along with an honourable mention.

The Story Of Danny Dunn by Bryce Courtenay (reviewed by TessLL)
Bryce Courtenay is back! In my opinion this is his best book since The Power Of One. It covers the years between 1920 – 1970 when Australia was facing very critical times. The War and the Depression.

It has historical significence – covering war, political and sporting events which occured during the 50 years the story spans. It covers the truama wounded and disfigured Australian soldiers faced returning to their loved ones. The power of political parties to sway safety in rental properties and to take none or very little responsibility if these properties burnt down and killed people in doing so. The sacrifices athletes make to become champions in their chosen fields to enter Olympic Games and the toll this has on spouses and siblings. The book paints a vivid picture of the lives of those living in Sydney during these years. The rich and the poor. The inspiring achievements of a poor family to make a better place for themselves by hard work and study. The enduring love of Danny’s mother and wife, each striving to achieve this goal in their own way. There is something for every one in this book. I could not put it down. 5 stars.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (reviewed by G_O_WC)
Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old, self-sufficient teenager who volunteers to replace her sister in the annual Hunger Games, a reality television programme which all citizens are required to watch as declared by the government. Based in a futuristic dystopian world, in which the United States of America has been destroyed by natural disasters and war to be replaced with Panem, the Hunger Games is a brutally fierce and dangerous competition in which 24 participants – two from each territory or ‘district’ – must battle for the winner’s position by using their own strength and intelligence to their advantage in order to execute all other 23 competitors.

The Hunger Games is a thought provoking and suspenseful read that held my full attention from beginning to end. I had this book highly recommended to me by a friend and I must say that I agree with her view that it is one of those rare books that fulfilled – even went beyond – my expectations. The book is well written and the characters are realistic, making their situation even the more terrifying.

Overall, I was thoroughly pleased with this book and would recommend it to those aged 12 and up as it does contain some violence (especially in the battle arena) and to anyone who enjoys a strong and independent female lead and an engrossing plot that is sure to leave you hooked. 5 stars.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (reviewed by AikY)
Hush, Hush is a must read! I just love it! First of all, I have to say James Porto is a real artist! The cover design is gorgeous! It was the first thing that attracted me, though I know that a book can’t be judged by its cover. And, the concept of falling in love with the fallen really captivates me. Who cares about vampires and werewolves when there is a hot, mysterious fallen angel right in front of us?

The main characters of Hush, Hush are finely written, so you can get an exact idea of their personalities. Nora is a pretty, clever girl who is strong, in the sense that she is brave enough to fight her attacker. But at the same time, she is vulnerable, as she is anemic and, well, her self-defense skills don’t really work. As for Patch, he is the guy who will make any girl swoon with excitement – he’s handsome, tall, dark and alluring. He has a secret, a mysterious past which makes the whole story more interesting.

I would like to compliment Becca because she has done a great job to keep readers guessing what will happen next. I really didn’t see the bad guy coming. I kept guessing, but never got it right. And when the truth is revealed, I was like “What? He’s the one?”. It was so unexpected. The pages are haunting, dark, and mysterious, it succeeded to hold my attention from the beginning until the end. There were times when I feel like I was ‘inside’ the story, and I could see exactly what Nora saw. I kept feeling like something bad and dangerous is about to happen.

I’ve seen others comparing it to Twilight, and I do not deny that there are some similarities, such as the protagonists’ personalities (good girl versus bad boy), and having them sitting beside each other in Biology class. But that’s where it ends. Hush, Hush is NOT the same as Twilight. It is an entertaining story with a different theme, style, storyline and characters, packed with excitement and danger. It will draw you into the story completely, and leave you wanting for more at the end.

Hush, Hush is a fast-paced, exciting, well-written novel which has a thrilling plot that is definitely going to make you squeal with delight! So, please don’t wait any longer if you haven’t read this book, because it’s really good! (5 stars).

Honourable Mention

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann (review by FibyB)
Filled with beautiful photos of cats, this book provides an easy to read, basic description of what Asperger’s syndrome is, with out too many words. I bought this book for my son who has Asperger’s. Although he couldn’t see himself in the book (we could see some of the similarities) he still enjoyed the book. But remember, some children with Asperger’s can be very literal, and may feel this book isn’t accurate if it mentions some signs of Asperger’s that they don’t display- remembering that every one with Asperger’s is different.

Personally, I love this book! (5 stars).

A big thanks to the nearly 100 members who submitted reviews – keep entering for your chance to win! TessLL, G_O_WC and AikY have each won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks. 🙂

FEBRUARY BOOK GIVEAWAYS!

This month’s giveaway for Boomerang Books Members is pretty special. It includes two signed books, and something for everybody – a thriller, a cookbook (and the away to a man’s heart via his stomach), a gripping wartime story and something for your inner young-adult. It includes:

§  Girls Like Funny Boys by Dave Franklin

§  The Good Samaritan by Julia Haisley SIGNED

§  The Devil’s Tears by Steven Horne

§  Mania by Craig Larsen

§  Meals Men Love by Lana Vidler SIGNED

All Boomerang Books Members are automatically entered into the draw to win our great monthly prize packs – so if you haven’t already, sign up today.

FEBRUARY FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

In February, members of our Facebook Group are in the running to win a great prize pack that consists of:

§  Girls Like Funny Boys by Dave Franklin

§  Mania by Craig Larsen

§  Finding Darcy by Sue Lawson

§  Meals Men Love by Lana Vidler SIGNED

A big thanks to our friends at Baby Ice Dog Press, Black Dog Books, Ginninderra Press, Pan Macmillan and Pinnacle Fiction for supporting our giveaways this month.

Q&A: Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness is the author of the Chaos Walking trilogy, which includes the award-winning The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008), The Ask and the Answer (2009) and Monsters of Men (2010). Join him on Tuesday, March 9, 6-7.30pm for a unique FREE event at the University of Sydney. Seats are limited, bookings essential. Email your full name and contact number to [email protected]

1. How did you first get the idea for the Chaos Walking books?

I always say they started with a serious idea and a stupid idea. The serious idea was about information overload, that the world is already pretty noisy with mobile phones, the internet, networking sites, etc. The next logical thought was, what if you couldn’t away at all? That’s where Noise came from. And the stupid idea is that I don’t like books about talking dogs because they never talk like an actual dog would talk. So I thought it’d be funny to write one the way I always thought my own dog growing up would talk. It was good fun. And from those two ideas, a story started to form.

2. Did you always intend for the Chaos Walking books to be aimed at a young adult audience, and what is appealing about writing for this demographic?

The story itself kind of told me it was for young adults rather than the other way around, which I think is probably how it should really go. I was as surprised as anyone. What’s appealing is that teenagers aren’t snobs! If you respect them and tell a good story, they’ll follow you anywhere. But you do have to tell that good story, so you’ve got to be on the ball all the time. It’s a great challenge, very liberating, too.

3. Who are some of your favourite young adult books and authors?

There are some excellent young adult writers around, aren’t there? People like Meg Rosoff, Marcus Sedgwick, Terry Pratchett, Siobhan Dowd, Mal Peet, I could go on…

4. I’m intrigued by Noise and how it affects the men of New World. Do they feel disempowered by it? Would New Elizabeth be a safe and happy place if it wasn’t for the Noise?

Well, I tried to show that there could be different reactions to Noise, with Prentisstown being the worst. But as they journey along, Todd and Viola see places like Farbranch where it’s not so bad or Carbonell Downs where it’s less good but plausible. And then there’s Haven, where things are complicated. It’s what you’d ask of any place, I think; safety and happiness are tenuous things that need to be worked for against our natural fears.

5. Mayor Prentiss came to New World as a settler. Were his intentions on setting out to wage war and dominate, or did he start out as a good man?

I suspect the answer’s messier than just one or the other. People never get to power by a single action or intention; there are opportunities along the way that you can take or not take and those build on each other. In fact, it’s the theme of The Ask and the Answer about how you can even take what seem to be a series of small right decisions and still end up possibly doing something terrible. I suppose it’s about how many compromises you’re willing to make before you lose your humanity. As for the Mayor, maybe he had a predisposition, but you still need the circumstances to help you along. I suppose the crux of it is that I don’t think anyone is beyond redemption. You have to have hope for everyone. Now, whether they want to be redeemed is a whole other question…

6. Is Todd the rightful president of New World?

Ah, well, is anyone the “rightful” president of anywhere? It’s that old axiom that wanting to be in power should automatically disqualify you from ever having it. Todd would probably be an excellent president of New World, but he’d never want to be it (which is probably what would make him an excellent president and so on around the circle…)

7. How would you describe the intense relationship between Todd and Viola?

They learn that they really have to rely on one another, in a way far beyond just a simple teen romance.  They’re lost people who found one another, and they may not being able to understand all the depths of that just yet, but I think they’re more than smart enough to know how important the other is to them.  And that’s because they’ve each earned it, through hard circumstance.

8. Your upcoming book tour includes stops in Australia. Have you been to Australia before, and do you have any favourite Australian authors?

My very favourite author of all time is Australian, Peter Carey, and I end up reviewing a lot of Australian fiction for UK newspapers because I’ve read so much of it, like Tim Winton and Murray Bail. I can even reference Patrick White with confidence! Peter Carey is fantastic, especially at implying a larger imagined universe than is just in the particular book. I love that. And I have been to Australia, way back in 1993 when I was a fresh-faced college lad. Can’t wait to get back there.

9. Briefly – what we can expect from Monsters of Men?

Hmmmmm: War, surprises and a killer ending. It may not be what you expect!
 
10. If there was one thing that you wanted your readers to take away from Chaos Walking, what would that be?

I always worry that if I start out thinking in terms like that then I end up writing a lesson rather than a story.  Hopefully, if I pay proper attention to what the story wants to be and try to make it the best story possible, then there will be things in there for the reader to take away anyway.  I think that’s the best way; that way you never preach.  Having said that, looking back on the books now, they’re probably most about how hope lies in the people we love, that if you can find someone to count on and who counts on you, then that’s probably the best meaning life is going to get.  A hopeful message.

BREAKING: Anthony Horowitz Tour Cancelled

Children’s author Anthony Horowitz has cancelled his upcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand.
 
“I am very sorry that I am unable to come to Australia/New Zealand this year as I had originally planned. I have just had two television related projects land on my desk which will monopolise my time. Unfortunately I simply cannot meet all my writing deadlines whilst undertaking an international tour,” Anthony said.
 
“Once again, I apologise for not being able to make it for now but I want to pass on my heartfelt thanks for your ongoing support and enthusiasm for my books which means so much to me.”
 
2010 marks the tenth anniversary of Anthony’s wildly successful Alex Rider series.

Adele’s Best Of 2009: Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

I was overjoyed to get this in the mail yesterday, OVAH-JOYED. Thank you so much to Jenn for organising it’s journey across the ocean to this uber-grateful Aussie. Now Jenn’s act of kindness has nothing to do with the review I am about to give because I consider Jenn to be the drug of choice in YA-verse. I was already biased.

And she didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t sure upon reading the first chapter, I was wary of Meg. I wasn’t sure that I could relate or see the world through her eyes but I was oh so very wrong. Meg is a complex, strong, contradictory protagonist with boatloads of humour, snark and moxie. She’s tortured, yet exuberant. All her characteristics, her dialogue, her motivations and her decisions are all clear to understand and as such you are just plain sucked into her interplay with John After.

Why do I love Jenn Echols’ narrative?

“My knee radiated heat. As I watched him pull himself from the car and walk casually across the brightly lit parking lot, I thought dumb things: I will never wash my knee again. I will never wash those jeans again. I will cut the knees out of those jeans and sew a pillow to sleep on every night, just to have a molecule of him in bed with me.”

Echols writes a delightful mix of randomness, absurdity and truth. She doesn’t sugarcoat teen world but instead adds the right amount of sweet and sour. Meg and John are in a constant battle for the upper hand and their discussions ranged from barbed, snarky, humorous to doe- eyed. Their relationship is a like a mood swing, you never know when things are going to change up and how it might affect you. I loved the package though. John’s seeming calm is at direct contrast to the fire that is Meg. What we soon realise is John’s burning up too, for a multitude of reasons. I did at times want to know more about John but the quick pace swept away any reservations I may have possessed.

Echols has attempted a different kind of narrative with this novel. The world is more fully realised and the characters are greatly detailed. I devoured each page with a fervour I wasn’t sure I possessed and was fully immersed in each event of Meg and John’s lives. I am more hungry than ever to get my hands on future Jenn Echols works and want to congratulate her on a truly wonderful read that made me travel a gamut of emotions and invest in her tremendously real characters.

Adele Walsh, book blogger of Persnickety Snark fame and trusted reviewer, recently selected her best young-adult reads of 2009.

Adele’s Best Of 2009: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This book has been calling my name for many months now and having finally got it in my hot little hands, I have inhaled it. It’s a darn good read but do I think it’s a great book? To be completely honest – yes….ish. On the tail of the fantastic The Hunger Games, Catching Fire has reintroduced many of the ideas that made its predecessor are roaring success. But it’s the reintroduction of the love triangle and the Quell (which I will remain vague on) are rewarding but slightly problematic.

Catching Fire has a much different pace to that of its predecessor. While all the events that occurred after the previous book are covered, we are constantly bouncing from Katniss’ recollections of many characters before we get back on track. It’s inconsistent and the pull isn’t as strong as it could be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still engaging but there is a lost of an undefinable quality in the continuing storyline.

The first half of the novel starts off as a political examination of what happens to a dictatorship when rebellion arises; it’s much more exciting than it sounds. The tension and stakes are continually raised as those in District 12 suffer until tighter control and closer inspection. It’s a natural and thrilling continuation of what was glimpsed in The Hunger Games. The second half of the novel returns to what is familiar and in that way it’s a step back. Though some of the situations are tweaked, the characters mostly new and the pace sped up…I found myself a little disinterested, I wanted back to the political machinations. Having read Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series of late, I’ve had a quality template of how stakes can be raised within rehashing the past.

Collins is known for her cliff-hangers and unfortunately this novel had considerably less of them. Instead it’s much more of a psychological examination of how you survive a brutal experience and the choices you make afterward – sacrifice or survival? Or perhaps a little of both.

Peeta’s intelligence is highlighted well in this novel; he’s clearly much more cunning than Katniss previously gave him credit for. They are an interesting match that could have been explored more deeply than Katniss’ continual (and repetitive) dithering feelings for the poor kid. It’s here where Katniss’ effectiveness lost some of her shine with me. I cannot believe that this girl who is decisive and responsible would string two guys along like she has. Yes, Peeta and Katniss need to keep the premise going that they are in love but her interactions leave both guys in a state of limbo. I refuse to believe that she’s innocent in this – she can make a decision. The audience has been fortunate to witness the total of Katniss and Peeta’s interactions through recollections but we haven’t had that same opportunity with Gale and Katniss, nor do I want there to be. They both know she has somewhat feelings for another and it’s cruel what she puts them through, even if she is a puppet at the hands of the President. (Relationship specific SPOILER – highlight to read) At one point it seems considerably callous – Katniss wondering how she would have felt had Gale volunteered in his brother’s place, making friendly with another girl and not longer being “hers”. Once she thinks she’s soon-to-be dead, she kisses Peeta with abandon, while still on camera. Conflicted feelings aside, it made weakened her moral core for me and the effectiveness of her character. It’s understandable but she needs to make a freaking choice! Too much time of this novel felt like it was the boys handing her to one another as a baton, each having time with her and yet not really having her because she was too busy dithering. Sigh.

More characters are incorporated but most of their development is rather limited and can appear shallow. The opportunity to learn more of Haymitch’s history was exciting and probably could have been expanded. In the Quell, Collins has made more of an effort to provide people behind the many tributes up for the slaughter which I respect greatly. Mags made quite an impact, as did Finnick, but in my heart of hearts I want to know more of Gale, Haymitch, Effie and Cinna. Finnick was not as he seemed but I need considerable more exploration of this than his attachment to something at home.

Catching Fire was a fantastic read. It’s easy to be sucked back into the world of Panem and invest in these characters again. However the bar was set high with the first title and the second title didn’t seem to have a way to match it. Instead Collins opted for a most effective, split personality approach to the sequel. Ultimately a huge wave and some freaking monkeys don’t have anything on President Snow and his diabolical, puffy lipped, bloody breath scented nastiness. I say bring on book three with its political uprising, rebellion , District 13 and (I hope) the discovery of the true extent of the muttation experimentation. Fingers crossed the games are not re-entered as they’ve been adequately covered and that Katniss makes a choice between the men in her life.

Catching Fire is a great read with some reinvention of the wheel (or the games) but a thrilling bridge to what will surely be a rewarding trilogy.

Adele Walsh, book blogger of Persnickety Snark fame and trusted reviewer, recently selected her best young-adult reads of 2009.

Adele’s Best Of 2009: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I have had a continuous stream of tears running down my cheeks for the last few hours. Between Jenny Downham (Before I Die) and Gayle Foreman, I have cried a lifetime of tears this past week. My house mate asked ‘why do you put yourself through it?‘ I had to think about it, for a fraction of a second, before I answered ‘because every word is worth it’.

Simply, this book wouldn’t be the emotional cruncher it is without some superb writing from Forman. Without giving too much away, she makes all characters in this story extremely real. It starts off as many YA stories do, some froth and a lot of great dialogue between Mia and her family. Once that chapter is finished, the tone completely changes. Mia and her family are involved in an accident and Mia’s trapped in limbo, witnessing the lives of those who care for her, and those she cares for in return, without the power to do anything but watch.

Forman walks the line between Mia’s recollections and the present with ease. Too often a book similar in intent would be manipulative, but I didn’t feel this at all. I felt Forman’s love for each one of these people, as if they were her own. That Mia’s loss, was her loss. The empathy that courses through this book is both inspiring and astounding.

Despite the somewhat dark subject matter this is a story of hope, life affirmation and all that it brings. The relationship between Mia and Adam is honest, they might be in love but they have real problems and they aren’t all solved with a snap of their fingers. Kim is an amazing best friend, sarcastic and strong, her appearances in the book are bold and bursting with love. I particularly love an incident in the playground that was the inception of the girl’s friendship. Mia’s parents made a huge impression on me, they sounded familiar, as if I had met them but avoiding anything resembling a cliche. The hospital staff, particularly Nurse Ramirez with her biting wisdom and infinite care, also made an impression on me. How much did she really know? Mia’s grandparents melted my heart, I have always heard how outliving one’s child is the worst thing imaginable but these two transcend the situation with some honesty and hope. I was shocked by how quickly this story and girl sucked me in – as the tears would attest.

Music has a large role in this book but it’s never clunky or awkward. Mia is somewhat of a cello prodigy and her boyfriend, Adam fronts a band called the Shooting Star. Her father is a former punk and her mother was one of those feminist rock chicks, both parents still retain their rockinsensibilities. When reading the acknowledgements I wasn’t surprised to see that Forman had been listening to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s Falling Slowly‘ (from the movie Once) while writing this novel, you could feel the song’s influence throughout each page. I think that could be the best comparison for this novel, it is to the written word as ‘Falling Slowly’ is to your ears – emotive, heartwarming, stirring, powerful and memorable.

This novel is about love. Love for your family and the family you make for yourself. The strength to follow your passion, to love your parents unconditionally and they for you, to have belief in people, to embrace music and life. It is also about choice, when no two options are easy, what would you do?

I ask: how long will it take for you to get your hands on this book?

Adele Walsh, book blogger of Persnickety Snark fame and trusted reviewer, recently selected her best young-adult reads of 2009.

Adele’s Best Of 2009: The Ask And The Answer by Patrick Ness

The Ask And The Answer by Patrick Ness

This novel takes off with the speed of NASA spacecraft; the events of the previous title are picked up and tossed over the very able shoulders of Todd and Viola. Having successfully taken over Haven (now New Prentisstown), the noxious President Prentiss has decided to use our two industrious kids to further his political gain with those on the planet and those soon to arrive.

The Ask and the Answer proves that the second title in a trilogy can be a strong one, surpassing the first title in my eyes. The pace is thrilling, the events are breathtaking and the character development is supreme. As the opponents and supporters of Prentiss’ evil plans swell in numbers, it’s less of a good versus evil conflict but more about what one might do to retain a hold on their own morals, identity and life. What happens in New Prentisstown can be read on many levels but the political edge of this novel made this a fascinating read. The Answer, New Prentisstown’s guerrilla movement, could be seen as the French Resistance of this world with Prentiss himself treading the line between genuine horror and charm as the self-determined leader of the planet.

Viola and Todd are immediately separated as the events of The Knife of Never Letting Go take effect. Viola is whisked away to recover while Todd is held captive as he’s the one preventing citizens of Prentisstown (the original) from being whole. Ness has changed this novel up, having the perspective jump between Viola and Todd and it works fantastically. Their allegiance to one another allows the President to work each of them like puppets. While Todd survives by turning in on himself and taking on more responsibility with the Spackles, Viola is left anchorless, watching another tussle for control of the planet through less-than-noble means.

This book has many moments that are genuinely discomforting and horrifying – whether the annihilation of captives, the banding of citizens or the physical and psychological torture inflicted under the dictator’s control. Ness has a great way of making the page and its characters come alive through clear language and the deeper character study that is undertaken makes the world all the more richer. That being said there is a certain repetitiveness, perhaps as I have read both titles uninterrupted. Todd and Viola continue to take turns rescuing one another, calling out each other’s names and stupidly failing to realise they are being lied to over and over again (you would think they would catch on after the third time.) But the alternative perspectives ably assist in showing how different factions are dealing with occupation, assimilation and rebellion.

The Terminator-esque preacher has been done away with and as a result there is larger focus placed upon President Prentiss, his son and the depths people will plunge to in their need to live. The villains are all fantastically portrayed, not as evil incarnate (though that could be argued), but as individuals utter convinced they are doing what is best. Conviction makes the best kind of baddies and this novel has many to choose from. Of particular note, the relationship between Todd and Davy was one that evolved continually throughout the novel. Davy’s arc was one from two-dimensional villain to a friend by the end which boggles the mind and impresses the heck out of me. The characters, old and introduced, are what make this novel.

Terrorism, oppression and dishonesty are a large part of the narrative. Todd struggles to retain a sense of self while making his thoughts private as many take the cure for The Noise. Both Viola and Todd are seen as their self-appointed mentors as leaders and are regarded both respectfully and brutally in their “education” of those fighting for the survival of themselves and their ideals. This is what great dystopia should aim to be. An absolutely thought provoking, entrancing and thrilling read.

Adele Walsh, book blogger of Persnickety Snark fame and trusted reviewer, recently selected her best young-adult reads of 2009.

Boomerang congratulates: AUREALIS AWARD WINNERS 2009! [Part Two]

Here are the adult winners of the 2009 Aurealis Awards – some of Australia’s finest sci-fi/fantasy releases of 2009 have made the list!

Best Science Fiction Novel
Wonders of a Godless World by Andrew McGahan

On an unnamed island, in a Gothic hospital sitting in the shadow of a volcano, a wordless orphan girl works on the wards housing the insane and the incapable. When a silent, unmoving and unnerving new patient – a foreigner – arrives at the hospital, strange phenomena occur, bizarre murders take place, and the lives of the patients and the island’s inhabitants are thrown into turmoil. What happens between them is an extraordinary exploration of consciousness, reality and madness. Wonders of a Godless World, the new novel from Miles Franklin-winner Andrew McGahan, is a huge and dramatic beast of a book. It is a thought-provoking investigation into character and consciousness, a powerful cautionary tale, and a head-stretching fable about the earth, nature and the power of the mind.

Best Fantasy Novel
The Magician’s Apprentice by Trudi Canavan

Set hundreds of years before the events of The Magicians’ Guild, The Magician’s Apprentice is the new novel set in the world of Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician Trilogy. In the remote village of Mandryn, Tessia serves as assistant to her father, the village Healer. Her mother would rather she found a husband. But her life is about to take a very unexpected turn. When the advances of a visiting Sachakan mage get violent, Tessia unconsciously taps unknown reserves of magic to defend herself. Lord Dakon, the local magician, takes Tessia under his wing as an apprentice. The long hours of study and self-discipline also offer more opportunities than she had ever hoped for, and an exciting new world opens up to her. There are fine clothes and servants – and, to Tessia’s delight – regular trips to the great city of Imardin. But along with the excitement and privilege, Tessia is about to discover that her magical gifts bring with them a great deal of responsibility. For great danger looms on the horizon for Tessia and her world.

Best Horror Novel
Red Queen by Honey Brown

Shannon and Rohan Scott have retreated to their family’s cabin in the Australian bush to escape a virus-ravaged world. After months of isolation, Shannon imagines there’s nothing he doesn’t know about his older brother, or himself – until a stranger slips under their late-night watch and past their loaded guns. Reluctantly, the brothers take the young woman into their fold, and the dynamic within the cabin shifts. Possessiveness takes hold, loyalties are split, and trust is shattered. Before long, all three find themselves locked into a very different battle for survival.

Best Collection
Oceanic by Greg Egan

Synopsis of ‘Oceanic’ short story: The people of Covenant believe they are the descendants of immaterial “Angels” who were brought to the planet by the daughter of God to “repent their theft of immortality” and live and die as flesh once more.
Martin is a Freelander, raised on the ocean, and a personal experience as a child convinces him of the truth of this account. But when he becomes a biologist and begins to study the native life of Covenant, his work leads to revelations about the true history of the planet, and the nature of his own beliefs.

Boomerang congratulates: AUREALIS AWARD WINNERS 2009!

A big congratulations to the Aurealis Award-winners i nthe children’s categories for 2009!

Children’s Illustrated Work / Picture Book
Victor’s Challenge by Pamela Freeman and Kim Gamble

Prince Victor and Valerian want to get married. But Victor, in his own unusual way, must pass three seemingly impossible tests of bravery, endurance and cleverness. He must go back into the Dark Forest of Nevermore to battle a fiery man-eating dragon, retrieve an armband from the peak of a wizard’s glass mountain, and uncover a tail feather from the rarest bird in the world.

Children’s Novel
A Ghost In My Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang

Thirteen-year-old Isabelle has travelled alone to China to visit Por Por her grandmother, and to release her mother’s ashes. Here she meets Ting Ting, an orphan who has been taken in by Por Por, and learns that her grandmother is a ghost-catcher – a gift that she too has inherited…

Young Adult Novel
Leviathan Trilogy: Book One by Scott Westerfeld

It is the beginning of the 20th century, 80 years after Darwin established the foundations of modern biology. But in the world of Leviathan these discoveries changed history more dramatically than in our own. England and France have perfected the the techniques of species fabrication, resulting in a glorious age of Edwardian biotechnology. In this world, Prince Aleksandar is on the run from those who would deny him his inheritance.

Illustrated Book / Graphic Novel
Scarygirl by Nathan Jurevicius

Abandoned on a remote beach, Scarygirl doesn’t know who she is or where she’s come from. Blister, a kind and intelligent giant octopus, wants to keep her safe, but Scarygirl needs answers. Who is the strange man haunting her dreams? Will Bunniguru help her unlock the mysteries of her past? Can she trust the wily forest dwellers? Her journey takes her to the edge, and beyond…Welcome to the world of Scarygirl.

Haiti Relief

The images coming in from Haiti are truely devastating. The Red Cross is appealling for over $100 million in relief funds, and Boomerang Books is looking to do its part. For every order you make in January, we will be donating $1 to the Australian Red Cross Haiti Appeal.

The funds raised through this appeal will be used to:

• support emergency relief, rehabilitation and recovery activities for communities affected by the disaster in Haiti
 
• send specialist aid workers to assist in the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement response

• support longer-term Red Cross programs of assistance in the affected areas.

Boys & Body Image: A Reflection On Shane’s Post

I think, as a twenty-year-old, I can still speak for this current teenage, male generation – even just a small, nerdy, poetry/novel-writing subsection of it.

Body image is everything.

I remember hearing once that boys feel the pressure more than girls, for two reasons: 1. for girls, it is accepted to have these issues, and 2. while girls have the ‘get slim’ clouding over them, boys are burdened with the ‘get slim, but also gain muscle’, which results in over-exercise and strain. Not to diminish the experience of girls battling body issues, I can only speak as a young male, but I remember that in the lead up to my novel’s release, I wasn’t busy writing a follow-up, I was consuming protein shakes, exercising five days a week, restricting calorie intake, feeling guilty for a beer or a soft drink – and it caught up with me, I slipped two discs in my lower back, and that’s an injury that will restrict me for the rest of my life. Because being a teenage author wasn’t enough. At least, in my mind it wasn’t.

And when men explore these body issues in articles or novels, the response is usually ‘oh, boo hoo, poor baby’, when that same exploration by a woman is lauded as brave. When more realistically-shaped women attack the Jennifer Hawkins ‘real woman’ nude, undoctored spread, they’re glorified. The pressures on women are front and centre, and condemned. Meanwhile, when I’m at the gym, and I see boys almost half my age lifting weights, nobody’s telling them to stop, to have a childhood, to let their bodies mature a little bit – nobody’s fighting for them because the image of the male as ripped, toned and sporty is socially accepted as ‘right’. It’s masculine. There’s no backlash. There’s nobody praising male curves, claiming they’re all natural.

And body issue problems for males are very, very secret. Because, outward feelings don’t mesh well with the image of masculinity – strong, stoic, emotionally stunted. And I mean, just look at this rant that has developed from what was supposed to be a two paragraph closer to Shane’s post – this is a big issue, at least, for me. Books like My Private Pectus are important. While they probably won’t change the world, I’m sure that for boys battling body expectations, it means a lot to know that 1. you’re not alone and 2. there’s someone fighting for you.

Ahem. Now I’m off to make up for this post with a 7km run.