Why You Need To Read Yellow by Megan Jacobson

I was ridiculously excited to read Yellow by Megan Jacobson.  Because a) ghosts, b) beachy Aussie setting, and c) the promise of a 14-year-old having a mid-life crisis. Sounds like my kind of book completely. And it was BRILLIANT. Which brings me to list some important reasons you need this book in your life.

Before we jump to it, here is a brief glimpse of what the story is about!

 

9780143573333If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a mid-life crisis now, then it doesn’t bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth. Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She’ll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he makes her popular, gets her parents back together, and promises not to haunt her. But things aren’t so simple, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.

 

1. Kirra is a fantastically relatable protagonist.

Kirra is definitely the kind of protagonist you can easily root for! She’s 14 and small and spindly and struggles to fit in with her “friends” at school. Plus, on top of that, she has an alcoholic mother and an oblivious father. Nobody cares about Kirra. IT’S HEARTBREAKING. And her character development?! It is phenomenal. I love how she matured over the story.

 

“I’m still shy,” I admit, pulling the sleeves over my hands, “and I might always be, I don’t know, but I think you can be shy and still feel okay about yourself at the same time.”

 

2. It excellently blends realistic contemporary with a smidge of paranormal.

Kirra “meets” this ghost (Boogie) in a phonebox (that shouldn’t be working). He is a big part of the story because Kirra is running around trying to solve the mystery of his murder. BUT! It’s not heavily paranormal. She’s struggling with school and bullies and just life in general. So if you’re not a huge paranormal fan, this book is still for you! It honestly reads like a contemporary, but I thought the ghost-aspect made it just that little bit more special.

 

 

3. It’s brutally honest at times.

Kirra is poor. Her parents are on welfare, her dad’s run off with another woman but is still living in town, her mother never. stops. drinking. It’s really SAD. I absolutely ached for Kirra. The book doesn’t shy away from saying that life is not all sunshine and rainbows for some kids.

 

4. The writing is gloriousness.

It’s very visual and punchy and cleverly written. Plus it easily put me in the shoes of a fourteen year old. (Aka: NO ONE LIKES BEING 14.) As an older reader, sometimes I find younger YA irritating? Definitely not so here. Plus there was one instance, towards the beginning, that had me SHRIEKING with pain. How dare you be so mean to me, book, agh. And the ending is solidly well done. LOVE IT!

 

5. Plus the Australianness was entirely refreshing.

loved the surfing and beachy vibes and the nod towards how multicultural Australia is! Everyone talked so naturally and easily that it honestly felt like a REAL story with REAL people. And this is only the author’s debut?! Sign me up for everything she writes ever.

 

Do not define me by my gender or my socio-economic status, Noah Willis. Do not tell me who I am and do not tell me who society thinks I am and then put me in that box and expect me to stay there. Because, I swear to God, I will climb the hell out of that box and I will take that box you’ve just put me in and I will use that box to smash your face in until you’re nothing more than a freckly, bloodied pulp.”

 

#ByAustralianBuyAustralian

[PURCHASE HERE]

 

Surrealism and Wes-Quez with Leanne Hall & Iris and the Tiger

Thanks for speaking to Boomerang Books, Leanne.

Once you read Leanne’s fascinating responses, you’ll rush to read her books.

Ursula-and-SunflowerWhere are you based and how involved in the children’s and YA literary community are you?

I’m based in Melbourne, which is luckily a very bookish and literary city. My involvement in the kids and YA community is as an author, reader and bookseller. I work in an independent bookshop, where I can often be found in the children’s and YA section, chatting with customers and staff members about what we’ve been reading. There’s also a great camaraderie among writers of books for young people – we go to each other’s launches and talks, we see each other at festivals, we have coffees to talk shop, and we read and comment on each other’s work.

You seem to lead an exotic life. What interesting thing is happening to you at the moment?

Sometimes it feels exotic, and other times it feels plain weird! At the moment I’m living with my partner in a 1970s Glendale caravan in my friend’s inner city backyard. It’s an experiment in small, simple and cheap living. No doubt a caravan is going to show up in one of my stories soon…

This is Shyness, your first YA novel, is one of my absolute favourites. How did you create its incredible atmosphere?This is Shyness 2

Thank you, it’s still a surprise to me how much people liked This Is Shyness. I get obsessed with my own ideas, but it’s amazing to me that others also find them interesting. This Is Shyness was the first novel I managed to finish, and it’s full of the fire and passion and experiences of my youth. I suppose its atmosphere comes from ten years of cycling around at nighttime with my friends having adventures!

What is your favourite type of art and why?

Unsurprisingly, my favourite type of art is anything surreal and absurd and dreamlike in nature, whether that’s painting or photography or sculpture. Some of it is older work, and some of it is very contemporary. While writing Iris, I kept a Pinterest board full of my favourite images to use as inspiration. (https://www.pinterest.com/lilymandarin/iris-and-the-tiger/) If I have writer’s block, or I’m feeling uninspired, I’ll often visit galleries to recharge my battery.

How have you used art in Iris and the Tiger (Text Publishing)?

Art is in every scene of Iris and the Tiger: either inspiring or driving the fantastical events that happen, or literally there on the walls to be described. I browsed art books to decide what real paintings could be turned into strange things that might exist on a mysterious country estate, and then I also had to turn myself into a hypothetical Surrealist painter and make up paintings that don’t exist in real life.

Iris and the TigerHow did you select which elements to make surreal? Why the sunflowers and music notes rather than, say, furniture, books or a garden fountain?

Some of the most surreal elements in the book come from real life paintings. The sunflowers are inspired by Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Dorothea Tanning – a truly spooky painting where a sleepwalking girl’s hair stands on end while a massive sunflower lies indolently at the top of a staircase. The strange creepy-crawly music notes come from Dali’s Partial Hallucination: Six Apparitions of Lenin on a Grand Piano. Mostly, I tried not to force the surreal elements; I would write scenes and wait for something odd to disrupt them.

How carefully did you balance the realist elements of the plot with the surreal touches?

I focused very hard on Iris’s personal experience of traveling to Spain for the first time as a way of grounding the story. I really wanted the reader to feel how exciting and intimidating that might be for her. With that solid ground laid, I could allow surreal things to come in for short periods of time and turn things upside down (sometimes literally).

How important is Iris’s racial background to the story?

It’s both really important, and not important at all. It’s important to me personally, because I never had the chance to read about a Chinese-Australian character when I was younger. So it’s me fulfilling a need I had as a young reader. But it’s NOT important in the sense that her family background isn’t an “issue” to be explored, it isn’t the dominant feature of Iris’s character or her story, it’s simply that heroines should come in every shape and form, and frequently don’t.

What does she learn about friendship?

For me, despite all the surrealism and magic, the real point of the story is friendship. Iris is struggling with the fact that her best friend at home is losing interest in her, and that they’re growing apart (a common thing to happen at this age, I think). But at Bosque de Nubes she forges new friendships across national and age (and species!) boundaries. She becomes firm friends with Jordi, a Spanish boy her age, connects with an older, cooler American girl, Willow, and bonds with her much older great-aunt, Ursula. It’s nice to know that friendships can be found everywhere, with surprising people.

A comment after the review of Iris and the Tiger on the Boomerang Blog wonders if you are creating a new genre. Are you and what could the genre be called?

I do feel as if my writing is very difficult to categorise. I’ve most often heard it referred to as magic realism. After writing the two Shyness books, I named my writing style “reality made strange”, but I recently read a review of Iris that described it as `the lovechild of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Wes Anderson’. So, yes, let’s make up a new genre called `Wes-quez”!

Have you played the surrealist game of Exquisite Corpse and, if so, how successful was it?

I did play Exquisite Corpse in the writing of this book, and it was successful only because of other people! I’m similar to Iris in that I’m not very confident with drawing, so I do cringe at the parts I’ve drawn. My advice for successful Exquisite Corpse-playing is to find some people who can draw to play with!

What else are you enjoying reading? 

I have just read Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar and My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier – two very different and very excellent books. I read everything that Kirsty and Justine write. I feel like this year is going to see a lot of good new Aussie YA hit the shelves, so I’m looking forward to supporting my colleagues’ great work.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Thank you so much for your thoughtful questions. I’ve been alone with Iris and the Tiger for so long that it’s wonderful to hear how readers have been engaging with it.

Thanks very much, Leanne. I hope to meet you again soon.

Two True Blue Tales – Australian Picture Book Reviews

Two enchanting books in a series written by Aboriginal elder, Aunty Ruth Hegarty and playfully illustrated by Sandi Harrold are about Aussie animals on Aussie adventures. The Creatures of Dryden Gully’ and ‘Pip and Pim’ take their readers on journeys of self exploration and discovery, with the tendency to veer off track slightly as young children often do. But their delightful characters and moralistic storylines remind us all of which path to follow.

imageThe Creatures of Dryden Gully is a special story of a mother’s protection and unconditional love as a young Kangaroo Joey discovers what it means to be unique and proud. Author and storyteller Aunty Ruth Hegarty, a child of the Gunggari Nation and the Stolen Generation, tells a heartwarming tale of Joey who is eager to grow up. When the Royal visitors, the deer, arrive to their land, the Natives are nothing but intrigued by their beautiful characteristics and abilities. In a bid to stretch his legs and explore his surroundings, Joey secretly follows the Royals to a clearing. But when poachers make a sudden, alarming appearance, Joey is confused and frightened. Luckily the young roo remembers his mother’s earlier lesson in survival and the pair are lovingly reunited.

With earthy-coloured oils on canvas, the illustrations are endearing and reflective of the pureness of the story. The Creatures of Dryden Gully reminds us of the importance of listening to our elders and recognising our own special qualities. It also reinforces awareness of folklore and concepts native to Australia. For children from age four.

imageWritten and illustrated by the same collaborative pair, Pip and Pim comparably appeals to its audience with a similar important message, sweet demeanor and playful images. It’s virtuous storyline is told tenderly yet colourfully, with dedicated text pages that oppose the illustrations.

Eager little possums, Pip and Pim, can’t wait to explore the forest floor for the first time. The liveliness of the bush under the bright moonlight, the call of the cicadas and the song of the night bird all add to the excitement of their first out-of-tree adventure. But despite their parents’ warnings to be careful, the young ringtails pay no attention. Initially they find other creatures such as echidnas and bandicoots busily foraging in the darkness. Then, upon stumbling into a plover bird’s nest, the screeching father frightens them and they quickly scamper off to find their awaiting parents.

With Harrold‘s spirited, bold illustrations showing off the glowing flora and fauna amongst the authentic nighttime hues, Pip and Pim is a delightful and charming book to share with your loved ones. A story of trust, listening to elders and a bit of mischief, it is an effective way for preschoolers to learn important life lessons about parental guidance and ‘stranger danger’ with an Australiana flavour.

Scholastic Australia, 2015.

Books about the English language with a dash of humour

Being a booklover and an avid reader, I occasionally enjoy reading and learning more about the English language. I’ve read some great books on the topic over the years and thought I’d share some of them with you below. Let’s start with two Australian books for those with a general interest in the origins and future direction of our English language.Aitch Factor by Susan Butler

The Aitch Factor, Adventures in Australian English by Susan Butler (Australian)
Susan Butler is the Editor at Macquarie Dictionary, having started there in 1970 as a Research Assistant. Butler regularly engages the community collecting new words, and providing advice on the correct spelling and usage of a variety of words. She’s even been consulted by politicians and has some funny and interesting anecdotes to share.

According to the blurb: “The Aitch Factor is the perfect book for word warriors, punctuation pedants and everyday lovers of language,” so you can’t go wrong.

Gift of the Gob: Morsels of English Language History by Kate Burridge (Australian)
Kate Burridge is a Professor of Linguistics here in Australia, and covers many categories in her book, some of which include: slanguage on the move, shocking words, word origins, and pronunciation on the move. Burridge takes an amusing and insightful look at how the meaning of a word – as well as its pronunciation – can change over time, and I found it fascinating and educational.Gift of the Gob Kate Burridge

As in The Aitch Factor, Gift of the Gob comes with a dash of humour and looks at the language of the past and where the English language is taking us in the future.

Literally the Best Language Book Ever – Annoying Words and Abused Phrases You Should Never Use Again by Paul Yeager
Hopefully the title of Paul Yeager’s book captured your interest immediately, but if it didn’t, perhaps some of the chapter titles will hook you in: Illogical Words and Phrases, Excessively Trendy Words and Expressions, and Inarticulate Language.

Yeager writes about the cliches, buzz words and double speak that irritate him on a regular basis, and I was laughing out loud and wanting to share them with anyone who happened to be close by.

Amidst the humour, buzz words and misused phrases it’s hard not to learn something along the way. I realised I was guilty of committing one of his grammar errors early on, but was determined to press on, ever hopeful that would be the one and only offence.

Literally the Best Language Book Ever is a terrific read, and makes the perfect coffee table book.

Between You and Me by Mary NorrisOne book in this genre I haven’t read yet is the bestselling book from Lynne Truss called Eats, Shoots & Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. According to the blurb: “in Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled.”

This definitely sounds like a book for me, but I haven’t read it yet in the fear that it could be a little too serious. If you’ve read it, what did you think?

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris is another on my radar at the moment, has anyone read it? Are there any in this genre you’d like to recommend?

List of books with the word ‘boy’ in the title

I enjoyed writing the blog post Books with the word ‘Girl’ in the title so much, I thought I’d do one for books that have ‘boy’ in the title. At first glance, I thought this one might be easier, but let’s see how I go.The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The first book that comes to mind for me is The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. Now a very well-known motion picture film, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is definitely unforgettable, but did you know it is rumoured that author John Boyne wrote the entire first draft in two and a half days? Amazing!

As you might expect, there are a number of YA titles with ‘boy’ in the title, beginning with Boy – Tales of Childhood by none other than Roald Dahl. Published in 1984, Roald Dahl recounts his days as a child growing up in the public school system in England and the living conditions in the 1920s – 1930s.

Boy Roald DahlMany of us will remember reading Storm Boy by Australian author Colin Thiele at school and might even admit to crying at the end (I think I had something in my eye). It’s a story about a boy and his pelican and was part of the school curriculum when I was growing up.

Another Australian contribution to this list is Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. Set in a mysterious museum, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a modern day fairytale about the power of friendship, courage and love and of course, never giving up.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf is such a familiar story with a powerful message – we all know it – but when you look up the title in any directory you’ll see a swag of authors and can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. The edition I’ve selected for this collection is The Boy Who Cried Wolf with The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs illustrated by Val Biro, primarily because it’s marketed as Aesop’s Fables for Easy Readers. Perfect right?

For those who enjoy delving into non-fiction, there’s The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog And Other Stories From A Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook – What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing by Bruce Perry and Maia Azalavitz.About a Boy Nick Hornby

Getting back to adult fiction, there’s About A Boy by Nick Hornby, an entertaining read about ladies man Will Freeman (played by Hugh Grant in the 2002 adaptation) who picks up women by attending single parent groups. His life takes a turn though after he meets 12yo Marcus.

So, how many of these books have you read? What have I missed?

The Forgotten Works of Australian Poet C. J. Dennis

I recently stumbled across the works of Australian poet C. J. Dennis (1876 – 1938) and have been enjoying his poetry and writing from The C.J. Dennis Collection – from his forgotten writings edited by Garrie Hutchinson. You may have come across his most well known work, a humorous verse novel called The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, first published in 1915. Selling an astonishing 65,000 copies in the first year of release, Dennis was the most prosperous poet in Australian history.The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke cover C. J. Dennis

In 1922, he began writing for the Herald in Melbourne, and wrote daily pieces until his death in 1938. He wrote about the bush, farming, small towns, cricket, horse racing, football, local crime and of course politics. Dennis wrote a prolific variety of poems and prose, many of them about ordinary Australians and which included slang and phrases of the day.

Reading his work now, it does take a little while to acclimatise to his phonetic spelling, particularly his work through the character Ben Bowyang, “rural filosofer and spelin reformer… from the bush.” (Page 5 of The C.J. Dennis Collection edited by Garrie Hutchinson). Having said that, once you adapt your reading to his writing style, you’ll no doubt find his rhyming verse addictive.

Dennis clearly had a love of words and language and was an impressive storyteller, capturing every day characters with humour and precision. His work around the ANZACs and ANZAC Day (such as A Song of Anzac and A Message) is touching and really captures a time gone by.

C. J. Dennis also wrote for kids, including A Book For Kids and A Bush Christmas, still funny today.

During his career, Dennis worked with Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, and despite being just as successful, his name isn’t as well known as his two contemporaries. If like me, you’d like to re-discover the works of this legendary Australian, you can begin with The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke (click here to purchase), or with his children’s books mentioned above (each in print and available for purchase).

For some of his more obscure writings though, you might need to do some digging. I managed to source The C.J. Dennis Collection – from his forgotten writings edited by Garrie Hutchinson (published in 1987) through my local library. Your efforts will be well rewarded, I guarantee.

Do you remember reading books by C.J. Dennis as a kid? Do you have any of his books on your bookshelf at home? Let me know if you have your own connection to this ‘lost’ Australian poet.

Review – When The Night Comes by Favel Parrett

9780733626586Past The Shallows was an exceptional novel and Favel Parrett has out done herself with her new book. When The Night Comes is a story of growing up, both as a child and as an adult. It is about journeys into the great unknowns. And that anything in life is possible.

The story alternates between two points of view; Isla, a young girl who has moved to Hobart with her mother and younger brother to leave behind their life on the mainland. And Bo, a Danish sailor who crews an Antarctic supply ship, the Nella Dan.

Parrett’s writing is truly mesmerizing. Her words immediately draw you in and you are swept away. Poetical, evocative and truly moving Parrett will not only have you immediately falling for her characters but she will also have you falling in love with a ship.

Favel Parrett has carefully crafted an exquisite novel. Skilfully written, elegantly constructed, beautifully told and an absolute pleasure to read and experience.

Buy the book here…

Australian Classic Read-Along

There are just too many Australian classics I haven’t read and I’m sure I’m not alone on this one. I always have the intention of getting to them, but there are so many other great books and new releases clambering for attention on my TBR (to-be-read) pile, that it’s difficult to achieve.

Does anyone else in the Boomerang Books community feel the same way? If you do, would you like to participate in an Australian Classic Read-Along?

How would it work?
First we’d need some suggestions in order to come up with a range of Australian classics to choose from. Depending on your feedback and requests, we can then determine the most popular/requested novel. I’ll create a reading schedule for us and each week we can discuss our thoughts online here on the Boomerang Books Blog by leaving comments on the weekly posts.

Advantages of a read-alongBoomerang-Books Australian Classic Read along
A read-along can inspire you to read a book (in this case an Australian classic) you’ve always been meaning to read.  You’ll enjoy the bookish conversation and feel like you’re part of a reading club. You might even meet likeminded booklovers like yourself.

What should we read?
That’s up to you, what would you like to read? You can click here and browse books from some of these lists, but some suggestions to get us started could include: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay or The Harp In The South by Ruth Park.

We could also choose a contemporary Australian classic, such as: The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The possibilities and choices are endless.

Suggestions welcome
Now it’s over to you. Are you keen to read an Australian classic with likeminded readers or know someone who is?

Leave your novel suggestions below and we’ll see if we can drum up some interest. You can also make your request on Twitter, just use the hashtag #bbooksreadalong and don’t forget to tag us @boomerangbooks

According to Mark Twain, a classic is: a book which people praise and don’t read. Let’s see if we can change that!

Aussie New Releases To Look Forward To

There are several books by Australian authors being published in the last six months of the year that I’m really looking forward to, so I thought I’d share them with you.

The first is already out, and it’s Kate Forsyth‘s Dancing With Knives.  Set on a farm outside Narooma in NSW, Dancing With Knives is a rural murder mystery and a story about love and family secrets.

Rebecca James (author of Beautiful Malice and Sweet Damage) is gearing up for the launch of Cooper Bartholomew is Dead in early October.  Cooper Bartholomew is Dead is a psychological thriller centred around the death of Cooper Bartholomew, and his group of friends, one of which is keeping a dangerous secret.

Kate Morton (author of The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper) is releasing her fifth novel in October this year and I’m so excited about it.  Untitled and simply called Book 5 for now, we don’t know what’s it’s about yet, but given she’s one of my favourite Australian authors, I’m sure it’s going to be a delicious page-turner.Matthew Reilly book cover The Great Zoo of China

Matthew Reilly is releasing a block-buster action monster-movie of a novel (his words) called The Great Zoo of China on 10 November.  China has discovered a new species of animal and is preparing to unveil their amazing find in the form of the largest zoo in human history.  The Chinese re-assure a media contingent invited to tour the zoo that it’s perfectly safe; however if Matthew Reilly is involved, you know that nothing’s ever safe.  You can click here to watch a short video of Matthew Reilly telling us about The Great Zoo of China, or pre-order it now and receive 30% off.

Candice Fox (author of Hades) featured here on the blog in January this year, and her latest book in the Bennett/Archer series Eden, is due out later this year.  Click here to read the Player Profile with Candice conducted by Jon Page.

Australian music personality Molly Meldrum has written a memoir called The Never Ever Ending Story, and is said to contain plenty of stories about some of the many rock and pop stars he interviewed throughout his career.  The Never Ever Ending Story is due to be released in November.

Another iconic member of the Australian music industry has to be John Williamson.  In the aptly named Hey, True Blue, John Williamson takes readers through his life story and his success as a singer.

So, that’s it from me, but what new Australian books are you looking forward to?

Author Interview with Wanda Wiltshire and giveaway of Betrothed and Allegiance

Please welcome Australian author Wanda Wiltshire to Boomerang Books. Thanks so much for joining us Wanda.

Congratulations on the launch of your YA novel Allegiance, the second in the Betrothed series. For those who haven’t read Betrothed, can you tell us a little bit about this fantasy series?
Thanks Tracey, it’s a pretty exciting time! The Betrothed series tells the story of Amy Smith, a 17 year old girl with serious health issues, school bullies and a strong feeling that she doesn’t belong. In the first instalment of the series Amy discovers her suspicions are true when she meets the drop-dead gorgeous Leif in what she believes are dreams. After telling Amy she is betrothed to him, Leif urges her to seek her true identity. Soon Amy learns that not only is her birth name Marla but that she is a faery – exiled from her homeland, Faera. Amy – who begins to think of herself as Marla – is swept up in the thrill of her discovery and comes to believe that the only hurdle to happiness is overcoming Leif’s father, the cold and callous King Telophy. She is soon to learn there is so much more to her new reality.

photoWhat’s your inspiration for the land of Faera?
Betrothed was the answer to a prayer and Faera came to me as part of that. It’s the kind of world I long to live in with aspects of it continually being revealed to me. Faera is not like any particular place I’ve seen, but I do occasionally catches glimpses of it in the real world – a shaft of sunlight falling through a lush forest, a beautiful display of colour as the sun goes down or an exquisite flower growing wild. It is a place of old forests, glittering rivers and majestic mountains. The Fae create their homes amongst this beauty but would no more destroy a tree to do so than tear off one of their own wings. Faera is not a perfect world, as Marla soon discovers, but one where the Fae share the resources, do what they love and work together.

Betrothed has been receiving fantastic reviews both in Australia and overseas, have you been surprised by how well it’s doing?
What truly surprises me is that I wrote Betrothed. In the beginning I never actually believed I could finish it, so writing ‘the end’ on the manuscript was one of the highlights of my life. To celebrate I had a tiny book made for my charm bracelet. Sometimes I twirl that little gold book in my fingers and have to pinch myself! What I’ve found with Betrothed is that the people who love it, really really love it. I can’t say I’m surprised about that because I feel exactly the same way. I’m not very surprised either that lovers of Betrothed are looking forward to finding out what happens next. Betrothed did end at a crucial moment, and I know if I were a reader I’d want to know.

Is Allegiance a stand-alone book or should readers seek to read Betrothed first?
Allegiance is the second in the Betrothed series and while I think it could be enjoyed on its own, readers will get much more out of it if they have read Betrothed first. Not only to be up to date with the story, but – love them or hate them – it’s through Betrothed we come to know the characters. We also see changes in Marla between the two books. In Betrothed she is completely dazzled by both Leif and Faera – to the point where she thinks of little else. In Allegiance the illusion of perfection is shattered. She discovers that all is not as it seems in the magical land of her birth. Nor is being betrothed to the Prince the fairy tale she imagined. Rather, she is faced with a series of challenges and obligations in her new life completely unknown in her former one. It remains to be seen how she will deal with them.

You’ve created a handmade bookmark to give to the winner of the giveaway below, can you tell us how this started? How did you start making bookmarks for fans of your books?
I love interacting with Betrothed’s fans. They give me such wonderful encouragement and feedback on all aspects of my writing – from my style to the characters, to the story itself. Making the bookmarks is a kind of connecting experience and a way I can show my appreciation for the support my readers give me – mostly through my author page on Facebook. And it’s a lot of fun too! I can see myself making bookmarks for each of the books in the series.

Are you still planning to write six books in this series?  What can you tell us about the next one?
Right from the start, I knew the beginning and the end of Betrothed. That hasn’t changed. However, as I’ve written Marla’s story, more and more details have been revealed to me. In that way the series has grown. When I started writing and realized her story wouldn’t fit into one book, I thought her adventures might fill two. Two very quickly became three, then four. Five and six came to me sometime later. Honestly, I can’t see the series growing any bigger than that. The seventh book will be a prequel and occurred to me when I started to get images of how the land of Faera and its first inhabitants came to be. As for the third book, I can tell you the title is Confused. I will also say that as different to Betrothed as Allegiance is, so too will be Confused to each of the books that came before it. Sound confusing? Stay tuned.

Anything else you’d like to share with Boomerang Books readers?
Only thanks for having me, Tracey. I hope readers of Marla’s story fall in love with it. If so, come and join me and other Betrothed lovers on my Facebook page. I think it’s a friendly place to be.


Giveaway Details

Prize: Wanda is giving away a copy of Betrothed, a copy of Allegiance and a handmade bookmark.

Eligibility: you must be an existing Boomerang Books member to be eligible for this giveaway.  (Not a member? Click here to join; it’s free and easy to create an online account).

To enter:  comment below and tell us what cause you would pledge your allegiance to.

Entries close: midnight, Thursday 31 July 2014

Winner announced: Wanda Wiltshire will help me to choose the winner which will be announced here on the blog.

Read a FREE extract of Betrothed, here, and click here to buy the book.

Read a FREE extract of Allegiance here, and click here to buy the book.

Return of the Slow Cooker

Winter is almost upon us, and as the days grow darker and the nights become cooler, my mind turns to comfort food from my slow cooker.  Anyone with me? It’s time to pull out your slow cooker from the back of the cupboard, box or garage and begin to look forward to some delicious meals.  Slow cookers are a fabulous time-saving appliance, and there’s nothing better than coming home from a busy day out to a delicious concoction cooking away on your bench top.

Now, if you’re anything like me you’ll have your tried and true favourites (lamb shanks, beef hot pot) but I’ve pulled together a collection of Australian books for you to spice up your repertoire.  The best thing about this collection is that each of these books have been selected from the Boomerang Books list of Australia’s Top 1000 Bestselling Books, which means you can enjoy an additional 20% off the RRP.

250 Must Have Slow Cooked RecipesFirst, I bring you the 250 Must-Have Slow Cooker Recipes (pictured left), which contains recipes for time-strapped cooks and busy households, including breakfasts and desserts.  Recipes include cooking with meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, pulses, rice or pasta to create soul-warming dishes.  Yum!

If 250 recipes isn’t enough, try the The 1000 Recipe Collection – Slow Cooking, which has (as the title suggests) an astonishing 1000 recipes to choose from.  Getting hungry?

The Complete Slow Cooker By Sally Wise is a combination of two of her previous slow cooker books and is appropriately jam packed full of great recipes.  If you’re looking for ideas for delicious and nutritious meals from an experienced cook, you can’t go past The Complete Slow Cooker by Sally Wise.  According to the publisher, Sally Wise is the: “best known, best loved and the biggest selling author of books on slow cooking,” so you really can’t go wrong with this one.Women's Weekly Cook It Slow

Finally, a collection of Australian cook books wouldn’t be complete without including an Australian Women’s Weekly edition, and so I give you Cook it Slow by Australian Women’s Weekly.  Cook it Slow contains almost 500 pages of recipes and also includes other methods of cooking slow including oven and stove top recipes; making this book perfect for those without a slow cooker at home.

Let me know if you’re a slow cooker devotee, and if you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share with us.

If you’re still hungry for more, check out Slow Cooking By Hinkler Books.

Review: One Boy Missing by Stephen Orr

9781922147271This is one of the best crime books I have read in a while. Totally absorbing, emotionally gripping it is one of those books that sinks its teeth into you and doesn’t let go. Set in the South Australian town of Guilderton the book not only explores life in a small rural town but the bonds between fathers and sons.

The book begins with a nine-year-old boy being taken. There is only one witness but other than that nothing else to go on. No child has been reported missing. Was this an abduction? Is there a crime?

Detective Bart Moy, recently returned to Guilderton to look after his father, begins his investigation that quickly leads nowhere. Moy’s search takes him through the heart and the outskirts of the small town and its inhabitants as well as his own inner turmoil. Moy is haunted by the loss of his own son and is determined not to let the this case go. But at the same time wonders if he can make any difference.

Stephen Orr plots this novel brilliantly. He has your doubting and questioning events in tandem with Moy who is struggling at being a decent cop (and he knows it) yet needs to solve this case. You get glimpses of the man he was before he returned to Guilderton but at the same time knows it is impossible for that part of him to return.

Harrowing yet hopeful this is a reflective a crime novel where finding the case is as important as solving it.

Buy the book here…

Review – Beams Falling by P.M. Newton

9780670074525Ex-cop P.M. Newton burst onto the Australian crime writing scene four years ago with her impressive debut The Old School. Newton’s distinctive style and experience brought a point of view sadly missing from most Australian crime novels. And the introduction of Detective Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly was a welcome change from the usual clichéd lead character in Australian crime fiction. Set in the early 1990s Newton explored a world of corruption, racism and sexism, where history weighs heavily on everybody’s shoulders.

I am going to go out on limb here (a very sturdy limb) and state now that I think Beams Falling is even better than The Old SchoolBeams Falling takes up where The Old School left off. One of the pitfalls of many crime series is continuity. Often the hero comes back in the next installment, slightly scarred, but ready to continue the fight, with few hangovers (so to speak) from past cases or events. But one of the great things about P.M. Newton’s writing is the authenticity she brings to the page. Yes there is a murder to solve in this book but one of the main parts to this novel is Ned’s recovery, physical and mental, to the horrific events at the end of The Old School.

After recovering in hospital and working the system Ned is passed fit to return to work. However her old station doesn’t want her back after what she did. She eventually ends up in Cabramatta, part of a task force assigned to crack down on the rising crime in the area. To the media she is now a hero cop and the brass are going to milk that for all it’s worth. When two young boys are gunned down in separate incidents, more victims in the never-ending drug war, Ned realizes the hard way she is not ready to come back to the job and must now confront the possible bitter truth about whether she actually wants the job back at all.

Newton has packed so much into this book. This is not only an intricate crime mystery but a fascinating exploration of the social, political and economic impact of migration in Sydney’s west. Newton shows there is much more to Cabramatta than what the media fed us in the 1990s and shows the human side and the human cost of a so-called “war” on drugs. At the same time Newton explores the complex issue of corruption, demonstrating the varying degrees and guises it can take, the consequences it has and how the concept of good and bad, right and wrong gets totally and utterly blurred. Combined with the psychological aspect and Newton has produced a truly remarkable novel.

Buy the book here…

A masterwork by one of Australia’s best writers

Review- The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

9781741666700Richard Flanagan has been working on this novel for over 12 years, writing other novels in between. He’d gone through countless drafts, reworked the story, started completely over. The reason it troubled him so much was because central to the story are the Australian POWs who worked on the Thai-Burma death railway. An experience shared by his father. He didn’t just want to get the story right, he had to get the story right. And I believe, deep down in my guts, in my heart and with every fibre of my being that he has got the story right.

Richard Flanagan has written a tragic love story, a deconstruction of heroism and mateship, and captured a side of humanity I’ve never read before. Wars, according to our history books, have beginnings and ends but for those who take part in wars, who are swept up in it’s maelstrom, there is no beginning or end. There is only life. And the damage war causes must be endured by those lucky or unlucky enough to survive it.

Dorrigo Evans is a Weary Dunlop type character. Revered by his fellow soldiers/prisoners and mythologized by his country’s media, politicians and people. But Dorrigo’s experience of War and being a POW doesn’t equate to the image his men needed during their imprisonment nor the one thrust upon him later. He battled his role in the POW camp and tried to hide from the one at home. At the expense of family, friends and love. It is not that these images are based on lies, they just don’t ring true to himself. And after surviving the horror of internment he can no longer make sense of the emotions of the life he must now grapple with.

Flanagan structures this novel uniquely. I think he was trying to base his story on a Japanese style but am not 100% sure. We start with Dorrigo’s early years growing up in rural Tasmania and his journey to becoming a surgeon but in between we start to get snippets of his time in the POW camp. We jump to Dorrigo’s later years before jumping back to his time just before the war and an affair that will change Dorrigo irrevocably. When we get to his time at the POW camp the story is contracted around one day, one 24 hour period, but it doesn’t feel like just one day, it feels like many lifetimes. We barely follow Dorrigo through this day as we have already glimpsed bits and pieces and will re-live yet more. Instead we get everyone else’s story. The other prisoners, the guards, the Japanese officers in charge. Flanagan clearly shows us each characters’ motivations, desires, inner turmoil and demons. As the day unfolds we experience the terror, the devastation, the depredation, the hope, the loyalty, the betrayal, the choices of life on the Thai-Burma death railway.

But Flanagan’s novel is not just about what happened on the death railway but also what happened after. How it was explained and justified. How it was hidden and run away from. How justice can be escaped but is also used as revenge. And how it never really ended for anyone involved.

We often talk about the Anzac spirit in Australia but we rarely confront it. War is never altruistic, no matter which side you are on. Survival brings out the best and worst in people as does victory, as does love. Flanagan explores this warts and all. Dorrigo is not a hero, nor is he a bad man, father, husband. He is all of theses things and he is neither. This is a masterwork by one of Australia’s best writers.

Buy the book here…

Coming of Age and Art Theft

9781922070517

Review – Cairo by Chris Womersley

Coming of age novels often deal with the journey from adolescence to adulthood but the journey through adulthood, especially in those first few years, is just a treacherous. These are the waters Chris Womersley, author of the brilliant Bereft, explores in his new novel, Cairo. A book not about Egypt but instead an old apartment building in Melbourne in the 1980s.

Tom Button is a seventeen year old country boy who has moved to the city to attend university. Through the death of his Aunt he ends up moving into Cairo. Tom has never left home before or his small town of Dunley and moving to Melbourne to live on his own is a journey through many new doors.

Cairo’s tenants are an eclectic bunch and Tom soon falls in with a bohemian couple and their friends. This group of artists and musicians captivate Tom. Spellbound by the group’s centre, Max Cheever and falling hopelessly in love with Max’s wife Sally, Tom is convinced to ditch his plans for formal education and instead let the world be his guide. Tom quickly adapts to this new lifestyle of parties and art shows and is eager to be part of the group’s dream to leave Australia behind and settle in France and write novels, compose music and make art together.

Womersley sets all this against the real life theft of Picasso’s Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria. A theft that remains a mystery today despite the painting being returned. Womersley uses this advantage to create his own version of events. Events Tom is all to easily caught up in, blinded to the consequences, deceptions and betrayals.

At first glance I wasn’t drawn to the storyline of this novel but Womersley’s writing quickly drew me in just as it did in Bereft. Tom’s naivety and innocence is deftly drawn and exploited, especially when it comes to love. The way Tom is enchanted by the older, seemingly more wise, group is a trap most of us have been guilty of at one point or more in our lives and blended with a real life art heist makes for addictive reading.

Buy the book here…

Review – Me and Rory MacBeath

Me and Rory MacBeathI fell instantly in love with this book. There are echoes of Jasper Jones, Tim Winton’s Breath and Past The Shallows but this novel stands on it’s own two feet. It is truly something special. It is a combination of so many wonderful parts. Part coming-of-age story, part reminiscence of summers lost. It is, at it’s heart, a story about friendship and family and the bonds they form that either make us stronger or drag us down.

The story centres on Rose Avenue in the suburbs of Adelaide in the summer of 1977. A seemingly idyllic street where everybody knows each other, sometimes a bit too much. This street is the centre of Jake Taylor’s universe where he lives with his Mum, Harry, a successful barrister. Jake is 13 and about to start high school. But before that the whole of summer is ahead of him filled with swimming, cricket and fishing as well as a new neighbour and friend, Rory MacBeath. Jake’s not sure about Rory, he’s from Glasgow and can’t swim, bowl or bat but he can fish. By summer’s end their bond of friendship is rock solid. But as the MacBeath’s settle into Rose Avenue Jake begins to learn that all is not well in their household.

As Jake enters High School his world begins to change. Friendships are tested and strained as Jake’s world, and his friends’, branch out from Rose Avenue. As Jake tries to navigate this new world, with its new troubles and problems, the troubles on Rose Avenue boil over with tragic consequences and the enigmatic and irrepressible Harry is the only one who can do anything to help. But it may be too late to fix anything at all.

Harry Taylor is the soul of the book and one of those rare characters you meet in fiction that you hope and wish are really out there in the world. She’s the only constant in Jake’s life and is always ready to fight the good fight, in the courtroom or in the front yard, even when that good fight is stacked against her.

This is a book that hits every note in the emotional spectrum; I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I booed, I dared to hope, I shook my fist at the world. It is a story about growing up and how that changes us deep inside. It is also about how we learn who we are and what we’re made of, the lessons learned and ignored, and the friendships forged and broken and that we have to stand up for these things one way or another. But the way we stand up for these things is as important as what we stand up for and the courage to do that can be hard to find.

Buy the book here…

Booki.sh: A Potential Australian Alternative

Widely reported in Australian book news over the past couple of days is the decision by Melbourne indie bookstore Readings to use a new Australian start-up’s web technology to launch an ebook initiative. This is big news for essentially everyone in the trade in Australia, not because the offering is especially mindblowing, but because of the relief we all felt on reading this that at least this particular piece of news had nothing to do with Amazon.

The new start-up is called Booki.sh and is a Google Editions-esque web-based ebook platform. Essentially what this means is that instead of using an app (like the iBooks or Kindle app on the iPad and iPhone), or a dedicated reading device (like the Kobo, Sony or Kindle reader), you access your books directly from your web browser. The service uses HTML5 technology, the newest implementation of the programming code that underpins the web.

A significant feature of HTML5 is that it allows websites to store files on your device. This means that when you first buy a book on Booki.sh through the website, your web browser downloads the book files in the background, so that even when you’re not connected to the internet, you can still read that book through your browser: on the iPad and iPhone, you can even add the book to your homescreen and access the book whenever you want to read it. The service even works with the Kindle 3; I tried the demo through the browser on my Kindle 3 and although it wasn’t quite as smooth as reading a native Kindle book, it was nothing like viewing a web page through the Kindle’s terrible browser – it even utilises the Kindle’s turn page buttons!

The demo service that Book.ish has made available is not without its kinks. Although it’s fairly slick, it’s not quite as slick as using an app or a dedicated reading device to read your ebooks. It’s also missing some pretty key features that I have started to rely on – like an in-built dictionary, annotation and highlighting. It’s also missing bookmark syncing, though you have to assume that when an account system is built in it will include this fairly obvious feature (ie if the book is already on the web, you may as well be able to sync bookmarks across every device that accesses it). It’s also not clear just yet whether readers will be able to use their own documents on Booki.sh, like the Kindle Personal Documents service.

Nonetheless, this is a very promising proof-of-concept that could become something quite interesting with the support of indie booksellers and a bit more development. Whether they’ll be able to compete with the likes of Google Editions, once Editions launches, is another thing entirely – but we have to hope that the little guys like this still have a chance. There’s also the concern I’ve raised in an earlier post about cloud-based services, and whether readers will be OK with not owning a ‘thing’ when it comes to reading – but rather access to a thing. Either way, this is one to watch.