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

Hello world!

I have been um-ing and ah-ing about blogging for some time now. You know, the usual sort of self-doubting questions most writers indulge in every now and then. Should I do it? Will I have enough things to blog about? Will I have enough time to do it? Will anyone out there actually read it? The part of me that wanted to blog was beginning to win out when this Boomerang Blog opportunity presented itself. I took it as a sign from … um … someone. And so here I am, inflicting my thoughts upon the unsuspecting denizens of cyberspace.

I have a cluttered mind and a cluttered bookshelf, so there’s a high probability of randomness on this blog. But I’ll start off by stating some of my literary likes so that you’ll have at least some idea of what may show up in my posts.

I love picture books. I have two young daughters, so I read a LOT of picture books. And guess what? Picture books aren’t just for kids.

I love science fiction and fantasy and horror (although not the blood and guts, splattery type horror). I quite like vampire fiction… but I feel the need to say that Twilight is not my cup of tea. Edward who?

I write books for kids and teens. I read lots of books aimed at kids and teens. Man, there’s some amazing stuff out there aimed at this market. So I’ll probably write about these sorts of books a fair bit. And I’ll probably write about the process of writing as well.

My favourite Aussie authors include Richard Harland, Carole Wilkinson and Terry Dowling. My favourite o/s authors include Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z Brite and John Christopher. I’ll most likely write about these people and their books at some point.

And now for a list (I like lists). My favourite books from 2009:

Oh, one more thing… I’m a Doctor Who fan. Yes, I know — it’s a tv show, but there are Doctor Who books as well, so you can be guaranteed of at least one Doctor Who post at some stage. So just deal with it!

Right! I think that’s enough for my first post. Tune in next time, when I’ll tell you all about my clutter.

Catch ya later,  George

Why Everything You Think About Ebooks is a Filthy Lie

So this is going to be a blog about book technology. And I want to kick it off by talking about the title … The Smell of Books. In the last few years I have read hundreds of pages of blogs and newspapers about ebooks. I’ve also been working in a publishing company, where people love to read books, love to talk about books and love to own books. There is a significant proportion of early adopters out there who love the very idea of ebooks and e-publishing, and criticise ebooks only in the way they might criticise any of their beloved gadgets.

And then there is everyone else.

I’d like to start with three misconceptions you might have about ebooks and why you’re stupid for thinking them.

The Smell of Books

The amount of newsprint that has been wasted on the latest prehistoric pundit slash columnist road testing an ebook reader and decrying it as ‘not the same’ as a paper book is absolutely shameful. Their biggest crime, of course, is talking about the smell.

The experience of reading on an ebook reader (or any kind of electronic reading) is self-evidently not the same as a paper book. Nobody is trying to make it so. The advantages of electronic reading are manifold (you can expect me to expound on these reasons in blogs to come), but they do not include any of the following: being able to hand down a worn electronic copy of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea to your grandson on his 21st birthday; sitting in a bubble bath reading Wuthering Heights to your girlfriend; or showing off to your friends how many of the Russians you have read.

From My Cold, Dead Hands

Nobody is trying to replace paper books with ebooks. Least of all traditional publishing companies. Most publishing companies are still making 95% or more of their profit from paper books, and most people still want to read dead trees. I cannot envision a point in my lifetime where there will no longer be paper books at all. There is no need to take a stand – you will only overbalance and fall over.

Why Try to Reinvent the Wheel?

Books have been in their current form for a long time. They are beloved objects of beauty. They are perfectly suited to all reading activities. Only two of the previous three statements are true. There are plenty of annoying things about dead tree books. Ever tried to haul a copy of Infinite Jest around over the course of the month or more it takes you to read? Ever got stuck reading Gravity’s Rainbow because you didn’t know what Poisson distribution was? Ever lived in a small town with a tiny library and no bookstore and couldn’t find the latest Dan Brown?

Ebooks have a place in the future of book selling, publishing and reading. It’s time to prepare yourself. Just because you don’t like the idea of them doesn’t mean you might not like them. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean they’re not here to stay.

[Image courtesy of smellofbooks.com]

There Was an Old Sailor Who came to Kids’ Book Capers

Today, the old sailor from Claire Saxby and Cassandra Allen’s lively new picture book, There Was An Old Sailor is visiting Kid’s Book Capers.

This man will eat just about anything – and he’s here to tell us how and why:

Old Sailor, in this book you swallowed a krill. Eww! What made you do that?

It leapt into my hand. What are the chances? It caught in my fingers. What else could I do? I ate it.

Sounds a bit fishy to me. Did swallowing the krill make you ill?

Not exactly, just left me with an unfinished feeling, that sort of ‘mmm that was tasty, but what else is there’ sort of feeling?

I know what you mean. I’m like that with chocolate.

Where/how did you first meet author Claire Saxby?

On a pier, planning my next voyage. She was planning her next book. There was an immediate connection.

Why did Claire decide to tell your story?

I guess girls are attracted to a man of mystery like me. Off the record, I think she might be clairvoyant. She seemed to always know what would happen next.

Do you really look like your picture in Claire and Cassandra’s book or has Cassandra deliberately made you younger and handsomer to disguise your identity?

Oh, no. I really am that gorgeous. Don’t you love my forearms? Strong as a whale I am. Cassandra captured my eyes exactly.  I look just like this. Don’t you want to hug me?

Umm…moving right along…what does it feel like to swallow a shark?

Rough-skinned critters, but worth it in the end. Cleaned off a few barnacles as it went down.

Gulp! Would you recommend swallowing sharks to others?

Don’t often get the chance to talk to anyone else – except the birds. Had a pet penguin once, but he didn’t talk much. Sorry, I digress. Would I recommend eating a shark? Heck yes!

How does it feel to have a book made about you?

Great! Posing for the pictures for Cassandra Allen wore me out, though. The jelly kept wriggling. The seal wanted a kiss. And the shark? Well, we’ve talked enough about the shark. I look for the book in every port. Briny barnacles, I’m proud of my story.

So you should be. It’s a great story. You’ve really got me hooked. Thanks for visiting us today old sailor. Bon Voyage.

To find out all about the other weird and wonderful things the old sailor swallowed you’ll have to read his book, There Was An Old Sailor

Please note that no creatures were harmed in conducting this interview.

Dee:-)

A Booklover Moves House

The house movers are not impressed.

When we booked, we told them the move was for essential items and it wouldn’t take long. But, two hours in, it appears the problem is my definition of essential items. Namely, the boxes of books.

They were thinking essentials meant bed, sofa, washer, dryer; I was thinking Rough Guides, Bryson’s, Carey and Miller. I mean, what use is a sofa if you have nothing to read while sitting on it?

The movers are giving me The Look. It’s a hot humid day here in Sydney, and they’d rather be having a cold beer somewhere. They assumed they were done when they shunted over the last of our furniture.  After all, it’s clear we’re not moving our clothes or crockery today, none of those items are boxed. But the books are.

Surely, I can see them think, cooking and clothing yourself is more important than sending on books. What sort of madwoman would insist on sending a cook book (my deliciously new copy of the Australian Women’s Weekly Slow Cooking Cookbook for those of you wondering) before the cooking pots?

Um. This sort of madwoman, I guess. You know you have a book problem when you set up the bookcase before the bed linen. I know I’m not the only one out there this attached to my books. But looking into the aghast faces of the movers, I feel like I have committed a moving faux pas, akin to trying to high five the Queen or asking why there is beetroot in my burger.

Perhaps, as is my usual habit when I need to do something, I should have read up on it. There are plenty of books out there on moving home, but the closest I came to reading them was giggling at a Michael Bond’s Olga Moves House. This was a great read, but as it is a children’s book it wasn’t hugely helpful. Olga is a feisty guinea pig who, despite her immaculate taste, is more likely to shred a book to sleep in rather than read it. What would Olga do when confronted by reluctant and confused movers? Something involving high pitched squeaking, no doubt.

I decide to pass on that, and offer the movers a cool drink and some extra money. That seems to do the trick.

When the movers finally finish, the place is a mess. There are empty boxes and upturned furniture everywhere, bags and boxes strewn all over every surface. But the bookcase is been set up, all full of my favourite books. It’s going to take days to get the place set up and tidied, but one tiny corner of the flat looks like home.

Continue reading A Booklover Moves House

Welcome to Kids’ Book Capers

I’m so excited to be one of the new bloggers for Boomerang Books. My new blog, Kids’ Book Capers is going to be full of fun things to do with books, and the people who write and illustrate them.

Today is a special day for Australian Children’s Books with the announcement of the CBCA Shortlistings and Notable books for 2010 http://www.cbca.org.au

Congratulations to all the authors, illustrators and publishers whose books have been recognised in this year’s awards.

So many great books by so many wonderful authors and illustrators. And many of these talented people will be visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about how they write and draw, and create the characters and stories we love.

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy is just one of this years worthy CBCA winners.

Pearl needs poetry to help her get through the hard things that are happening in her life – the illness of her granny, being accused of stealing someone’s boyfriend, and clashing with her teacher over poetry that doesn’t rhyme.

When you read Pearl Verses the World, you feel as if Pearl sat on author Sally Murphy’s knee and spoke to her – asking for her story to be told.

Sally says,

I had wanted to write a verse novel for some time – it was on my list of vague ‘to-dos’.  I loved the form and thought that one day I would sit down, really study the form in detail, look for books or articles on writing the verse novel and then eventually sit down and have a go at one myself. In reality, this isn’t what happened. Instead, the story came to me in verse from, and so that is how I wrote it. When the verses first started coming, I didn’t realise I was going to sit down and write a verse novel.

Over coming posts, we’ll be talking to other authors and finding out  about books to make you giggle, books to scare your pants off, and books that have just been released.

If you want to find out why some kid’s authors have never grown up, stay tuned to Kid’s Book Capers every Monday and Wednesday, and sometimes on Fridays.

Dee:-)

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.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Reviewed by Ann Skea ([email protected])

“A modern Love-story” says the blurb. But this book is more than that, and no brief description captures the freshness, the humour, and the sheer energy and variety with which Helen Simonson has shaped it.  As well as a wonderfully dramatic adventure and an hilarious and disastrous village ball, she has woven in plenty of things to think about. The conflicts created for her characters by the casual bigotry, class-discrimination and racism of ordinary and very nice people; the struggle to reconcile old traditions with modern materialism; a glimpse of family conflicts and the misunderstanding arising from the generation gap; and the common dreams of companionship and freedom which all of us share, no matter how old we are: all these are part of the mix. Simonson’s greatest achievement, however, is to make her main characters wonderfully fallible, complex, sensitive, stubborn, sharp and intelligent human beings, so that we feel for them and with them, and rejoice when they behave like a mythical hero and heroine and follow their impossible dream, to the outrage of their families and the censure and disapproval of society in general.

From the moment that sixty-eight-year-old Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired)  answers the doorbell wearing a clematis-patterned housecoat, it is clear that he is not your usual romantic hero. Nor is Mrs Jasmina Ali, the Muslim owner of the village Supersaver Supermart (the name says much about recent changes in village England), your run-of-the mill heroine. Both are strong, outspoken, independent characters with a wry sense-of-humour and a sometimes caustic wit, and both have lost a loved spouse in recent years and have adapted to a solitary life. Neither is looking for romance but a friendship with someone who shares their love of literature would certainly be acceptable.

Major Pettigrew (he is almost always ‘Major’, just as Jasmina is almost always ‘Mrs Ali’) has decided views on “honour, duty, decorum and a properly brewed cup of tea”. The society in which he lives is a conventional English village society, almost a caricature of such a place, and his position in it is established and taken-for-granted. Mrs Ali, is a fifty-six-year-old,  English born, Urdu-speaking widow, whose Indian relatives are starting to exert pressure on her to behave as a traditional Indian widow should, allow the men to take charge,  and retire into the family to look after an elderly relative. Circumstancs bring them together and friendship blossoms. But circumstances, relatives and the expectations of others also part them. The course of true love never did run smooth, as they say, but modern society seems able to throws more twists and turns into the course than might be expected and Simonson exploits a surprising range of them.

There are many different character is this book and some, especially the Americans in the story, are very close to caricature, but generally, all the characters are given a human side which saves them from being shallow stereotypes. Simonson is good, too, as suggesting underlying tensions without spelling them out. Altogether, she handles the story with great skill and although  she does not tell us the final outcome of the adventurous romance she allows us to dream on, happily convinced that love may, indeed, conquer all.

The advertising material sent to reviewers of this book suggests that if readers enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, which was published by the same publishers who are handling Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, then they will enjoy this book. They are very different books, but both treat the reader as intelligent, both deal with more than romance, and both are fresh and interesting first novels.

Copyright © Ann Skea 2010
Website and Ted Hughes pages: http://ann.skea.com/

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.

I was brave and shaved – support leukaemia research now

Today I (Clayton Wehner, MD of Boomerang Books) have lost my hair to help the Leukaemia Foundation raise money to provide practical care and support to patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders.  Wait until my wife sees this…roll on 5.30pm.

Boomerang Books supports a variety of Australian charities and the World’s Greatest Shave is one cause that we feel very strongly about.

We would really appreciate it if you would consider donating a small amount of money to the Boomerang Books Shave Team here…

We’ve raised $660 so far, but we’d like to nudge closer to our target of $2,000 – can you help?

After all, I have to look like this for the next few months – a $10 donation is a much easier way to show your support.

Donate today…

NP57CDKA2TT3

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

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

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Adelaide Writers Week Day 5 with Amanda McInerney

Markus Zusak

Writers Week day 5 and Adelaide reverts to type –  a blazing hot day with everyone searching for a shady spot!

This afternoon my two daughters and I sat in on the “Meet the Author” session with the improbably youthful looking Marcus Zusak, who had the audience eating out of his hand!!  My daughters were very keen to see him as my eldest (19) had seen him some years before when he visited her English class and the youngest (13) has just about finished reading “The Book Thief”.  Zusak has a very natural and self deprecating way about him and obviously feels very strongly for his book, “The Book Thief”.  He told the very large crowd that the book really came out of stories that his Austrian parents used to tell himself and his siblings about their experiences during the lead up to the war, before they came out to Australia.  Some of the passages in the book, such as when the stepfather gives some bread to a Jew, were directly derived from his parents experiences and he is grateful to them for what he feels is their gift to him, in their stories.  He feels it is a book about people doing beautiful things in ugly times.

He also spoke about some of  the ways he approaches his writing,  trying to write simply, adding small details for authenticity to make the story more vivid to the reader and to try to use something unexpected to maintain momentum in the story.

The audience watching and listening to him was , as I mentioned, very large and entirely captivated as he read the first few pages of his next book, leaving us all keen to read more of it.  He was then available to sign books, which he did with enormous grace, engaging both my daughters – and I assume everyone else – in a little small talk.  No easy task as the lines for his signings were the longest that I have seen all week.

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.

Adelaide Writers Week Day 3 with Amanda McInerney

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Day 3 at Adelaide Writers Week and I could only pop in for a brief visit today.  I was running late and missed the first part of “Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh’s discussion on his writing experiences, but managed to catch some of the question/answer time.  He was just as I expected him to be – blunt and forthright with that lovely Scottish accent and plenty of swearing.  He answered questions about his characters and how he gets around the issue of setting his books in places that he no longer lives.   This, he says, is sorted by visiting his old stamping grounds and taking old friends to the pub, plying them with drink and then quizzing them!

This was followed by  a panel session entitled “Mystery” with authors Sarah Dunant, Audrey Niffenegger, Sarah Waters and Marcus Zusak.  It was not necessarily about mystery writing, but about the notions of mystery in their work.  Niffenegger spoke of how writing genres seem to be bleeding into each other, to some extent, citing the example of how the simple mystery story is now evolving into a more literary form.  She also stated that she prefers to be a little mysterious in her writing, sometimes leaving things unsaid in order to leave “space” within her work for the reader to interact and, in a way, become complicit with the story.


When the very amusing Marcus Zusak was asked if he felt it necessary to temper ambiguity in his writing for younger people his delightfully refreshing answer was “I dunno!”  He went on to say that it was a mystery to him how he got to Writers Week at all as he seemed to be such a poor judge of the varying merits of his work.  He was unexpectedly surprised that “The Book Thief” was so very popular!   He made no mystery of the narrator and, in fact, states in the book that the concept of mystery clearly bores “Death” who much prefers the machinations behind it.


Dunant told of how the mystery for her is generally in the actual writing as she often has no idea of where the story will take her or of how the characters will develop.  Thus mystery, for her, becomes motivating and exciting and keeps her writing.  On the other hand, Sarah Waters was shocked at this as she could not contemplate sitting down to start a book without having a meticulously planned plot – in fact she often has a definite story ending before she starts! Clearly, there are as many ways for writing novels as there are writers.

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.

Adelaide Writers Week Day 2 with Amanda McInerney

Day 2 of Adelaide Writers Week and another day of glorious sun with a gentle breeze.  Some past Writers Weeks have been blighted by scorching hot weather, so these mild days are very welcome!

My first session today was to hear Richard Dawkins, who spoke about his new book, giving a precis of the chapters before answering many questions from a very large and appreciative audience.  It really seemed  such an inadequate forum for such a huge topic, as the enormous audience would attest!

From there I attended a session called “Writers as Readers” with a panel containing Brian Castro – novelist and Professor of Creative Writing at Adelaide University, Kathryn Fox – Sydney doctor and very successful mystery novelist, Andrea Goldsmith – Australian novelist & Mirielle Juchau – Australian novelist and essayist.  They spoke about themselves as readers and how that has subsequently informed their various works.  Castro spoke of how his poor eyesight as a very young child led to him lurking about the house – under tables and behind doors – learning to read situations.  Fox spoke of the need, as a doctor,  for emotional intelligence and entertained with some personal anecdotes about reading people and their, sometimes unspoken, needs and rationales.  Her final story about an elderly patient and his penile implant had everyone in stitches!  Goldsmith told of her childhood as a very slow developer and how it has led to a fondness and need for solitude to indulge her passion for reading and Mirielle Juchau spoke about how reading helped her to uncover unspoken facts about her family history.  Her Grandmother was a survivor of Hitler’s Germany, coming to Australia in 1939.  While not exactly a secret, this was simply not spoken about and she worked it out for herself at the age of about 15.

With the exception of Brian Castro, they all spoke of their love for reading and the different ways that they use different reading habits when writing.  Startlingly, Castro told how he doesn’t enjoy reading at all, mostly finding it a necessary slog!!

My final writer for today was the very affable – and Prime Minister’s Award winning –  Steven Conte who wrote “The Zookeepers War”, set in Berlin during WWII, chronicling a marriage and a city under immense pressure and the possibilities for heroism within that situation.    He spoke of his early obsession with Berlin and how his experiences as a boarder at an all-boys boarding school helped him to relate to totalitarianism!!”

Adelaide Writers Week Day 1 with Amanda McInerney

Adelaide Writers Week kicked off today in the traditional glorious sunshine and, while I missed Tom Keneally’s opening speech at 11.00am, I made it to a seat in the shade to listen to Australian mystery writer, Peter Temple at 12.30pm.  Born in South Africa, Temple moved to Australia in 1980 and has subsequently become one of our most highly awarded mystery authors.  He has won a swag of gongs and his novel “The Broken Shore” won the 2007 Gold Dagger, making him the first Australian to win the world’s richest and most prestigious crime writing prize.  His current novel, “Truth”, follows the investigations of Inspector Stephen Villani, to whom we were introduced in “The Broken Shore”.  His engaging and self-deprecating manner was well received as he spoke about his experiences of writing, lying and being one of the very few authors whom editors beg to include more dialogue, not less!

I kept my seat in the shade to listen to  Sarah Dunant, Geoff Dyer and Sarah Waters discussion “On Being Read”.  The discussion focused around their perceptions of being read, how that affects their writing processes and the effects of the broad media exposure in the modern world of communications.  Interestingly, both Dunant and Waters used the word “brutalizing” when referring to the internet and how close it brings their readers to them, while Geoff Dyer asserted that he actually had no readers anyway.  Given that he has published 11 books (4 novels) and hundreds of essays and articles AND been named by Britain’s Sunday Telegraph as  “England’s greatest, if most reluctant, novelist”, I think we have to assume that someone is reading his work.  I know I will be very soon.

The last session that I made it to today was to listen to a nervous, but extremely dignified Chloe Hooper address a sombre audience on her book “The Tall Man”, about the death of Aboriginal man, Cameron Doomadgee, in police custody on Palm Island in 2004.  She had no previous background, or connection to  Aboriginal experience and spoke eloquently, if sadly,  of what she had learned.”

Amanda McInerney is a long-time Boomerang Books customer and she is passionate about books and reading.  She has just started her own foodie blog at http://lambsearsandhoney.com/.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Guest Reviewer Sally Cripps

The sign of a *really* good book at my place is insects squashed between the pages, and other pages stained with food and drink spills, all because I couldn’t bear to stop reading. This is what Wolf Hall was like for me – a story of the broadest magnitude, grabbing a well-known tale and remaking it, using imagery of the highest order without wafting off into the incomprehensible realms of “lyricism”. On the face of it, it’s the story of how Thomas Cromwell rose from a position of obscurity as a brawling blacksmith’s son to become Henry VIII’s highest advisor, and how he manipulated Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and the changes to the church in England. We see him as a bereft husband, a teasing mentor, a deft diplomat, a thoughtful future planner, as a fumbling father, and in many more guises. It is a rich portrait – Mantel is as skilled as any of Cromwell’s law colleagues at persuading readers to look at the man in a certain way, in the best “show, don’t tell” tradition.

After a cardinal delicately lays out his family tree and connections, Cromwell thinks “If you were born in Putney, you saw the river every day, and imagined it widening out to the sea. Even if you have never seen the ocean you had a picture of it in your head from what you had been told by foreign people who sometimes came upriver. You knew that one day you would go out into a world of marble pavements and peacocks…but if you were born in Aslockton, in flat fields under a wide sky, you might just be able to imagine Cambridge, no further”. Over and over, we are reminded of Cromwell’s humble beginnings, the power inherent in him – his son Gregory is surprised that Cromwell doesn’t realise people see him as a murderer – but also his desire to improve the lot of those less fortunate. Cromwell’s philanthropy and his passion for knowledge is one of the many interesting threads in the story. Often he asks about Guido Camillo, a man who is creating a “memory system” – a man who has “built a soul…They are what we shall have left, if all the books are burned. They will enable us to remember not only the past, but the future, and to see all the forms and customs that will one day inhabit the earth”. Entwined with this is the fear of Lutheranism and the persecution of those publishing the Bible in English, the vicious racking, burning and torture ordered by the puritanical Thomas More – “He can close the booksellers, but still there will be books. They have their old bones, their glass saints in windows, their candles and shrines, but God has given us the printing press” one woman excitedly tells Cromwell. Later, he himself tells his nephew “You can’t tell people just part of the tale and then stop, or just tell them the parts you choose. They have seen their religion painted on the walls of churches, or carved in stone, but now God’s pen is poised, and he is ready to write his words in the book of their heart”.

The ancient heritage underlying Henry’s kingship, the primitivism at the heart of us all, is also strongly enmeshed in the story. Echoing the story’s title, during an earthy conversation with his cook Cromwell recalls the saying “homo homini lupus” – man is wolf to man. Mantel seems to be asking what gives us our power, evoking images of Albion, Caesar’s legions, star signs and astrological systems, Halloween and the purgatory of souls, even Emperor Constantine digging “through a necropolis, through 12 centuries of fishbone and ash, his workmen’s shovels powdering the skulls of saints”. Alongside this, Cromwell muses that Christ didn’t induce power in his followers, so how does the Pope get his power? And then on to legislative power, through which a King reigns. It is a book that gives food for thought as well as entertainment.

One of my very favourite passages shows Anne Boleyn as a deer caught in the woods – “Walking away – eight antechambers back to the rest of his day – he knows that Anne has stepped forward to a place where he can see her, the morning light lying along the curve of her throat”. The veneer of civility, the antechambers to be passed and the stripping away of it to reveal one’s true nature, is what the book was all about for me. It was never far from mind that the head of Wolf Hall, Edward Seymour had taken his son’s wife to his bed. How Thomas Cromwell makes use of all this made for enthralling reading. I hope the sequel isn’t too far away.

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.

Join the Boomerang Books ‘Baldies’ – World’s Greatest Shave Team

Become a ‘baldy’ and join us for the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave from 11-13 March 2010.

The funds we raise will help the Leukaemia Foundation to provide practical care and support to patients and families living with leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and related blood disorders.

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…

New release: The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter

The Legacy by Kirsten Tranter

Ingrid inherits a fortune, leaves Australia and her friends and lover, to marry Gil Grey and set up home amid the New York art world. At 9 am on September 11 2001, she has an appointment downtown, and is never seen again. A year later, searching for clues about Ingrid’s life, her friend Julie uncovers layers of mystery and deception …

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.