Super (not so) Scary Halloween Reads

If you haven’t already consumed your friends or scared the pants off yourself after reading Romi’s recommended Halloween reads,  then whip out your witch’s hat and strap on your bat wings; here are a few more scary reads guaranteed to bring out the ghoul in your little monsters.

Scream! series by Jack Heath (Dimity’s perennial Halloween favourite)

This is a seriously spooky series of stories for middle grade readers. All types of whacky scary and wonderful; youngsters will devour these offbeat tales beginning with The Human Flytrap, progressing to The Spider Army, The Haunted Book and finally slithering to The Squid Slayer. This series gets better and better the more involved you get. Spine chilling tension focuses on a different member of a team of four young sleuths and erstwhile mystery magnets who live in the creepy town of Axe Falls, a place teeming with unusual, nightmarish realties and reoccurring reasons to scream, often.

Josh, his sister and their friends encounter weird creatures and endless dubious going-ons, which they have to battle violently against in order to survive.  This series promises un-put-downable excitement and thrills guaranteed to increase the heart rate of 8 – 14-year-olds. The first book will have you screaming well into the night! Highly recommended.

Scholastic July 2015

Continue reading Super (not so) Scary Halloween Reads

Mini-reviews

As the end of the year approaches and I desperately attempt to catch up on telling you about what I’ve been reading, may I present another bunch of mini-reviews…

Grimsdon (2010) and New City (2014) by Deborah Abila
9780857983220   9781742758558
Is it possible for a book to be both a dystopian sci-fi and a charming kids’ story? These two tales certainly manage it. Plus they throw in some environmental messages. A captivating read about kids in a flooded city after an environmental disaster, and their subsequent move to a new city as refugees.
thriveThrive (2015) by Mary Borsellino

An intriguing YA dystopian novel. Interesting characters and world, but the story is a bit disjointed and oddly paced. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t quite gel for me. It’s one of those books that I really wanted to love more than I actually did.

9781760154035300 Minutes of Danger (2015) by Jack Heath

Ten linked short stories that are fast-paced and EXCITING! Suspense, danger and action are the driving forces here. I love the concept of linked story collections like this. You get the immediacy of short fiction with the bigger picture of longer fiction, all in one book.

9780575086937Patient Zero (2009) by Jonathan Maberry

This is the first book in the popular Joe Ledger series, about a cop who goes to work for a special ops government agency, The Department of Military Sciences. This is a hard-edged, fast-paced techno-thriller about terrorists using a bio-weapon that turns people into zombies. Ledger is a wonderfully engaging character and Maberry is a master of this genre. The rest of the series is lined up on my to-be-read pile.

51gqzolrwll-_sx354_bo1204203200_Just Plain Cat (1981) by Nancy K Robinson

A nice story about a young boy and his newly acquired pet cat. Below this surface story are family relationships and the experiences of starting at a new school. All handled with quite a lovely old fashioned touch.

9780994469335Zombie Inspiration (2016) by Adam Wallace, illustrated by James Hart

Mad, bonkers fun! During a zombie apocalypse, with much brain-eating, Adam, James and Stacey run, hide, dispatch zombies and learn a little about themselves. A unique and innovative idea, this book is linked to an online course about using zombies as inspiration to be all you can be. Check it out!

9781741663099The Laws of Magic: Moment of Truth (2010) by Michael Pryor

This is the second-last book in Pryor’s wonderful, magical, engaging and totally awesome series set in an alternative history Edwardian period, where magic and science co-exist. I love then so much, I’ve been reading one book a year in order to try and make them last. I’ll read the final one next year.

thumb_cover_not_just_a_piece_of_cake_jpgNot Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author (2015) by Hazel Edwards

Hazel Edwards, author of the famed picture book, There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, has dipped into her own life story for this engaging memoir. It has a lovely conversational tone that makes you feel like you’re privy to a private chat rather than reading a book. Edwards doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, presenting a warts and all story. Loved it!

9780994358356Hijabi Girl (2016) by Hazel Edwards and Ozge Alkan, illustrated by Serena Geddes

Fiction, especially children’s fiction, can do extraordinary things. It can often achieve outcomes that no amount of lecturing or shouting from rooftops can. It can be enlightening while also being entertaining. It can promote understanding while also telling a good story. And this is what Hijabi Girl does. It’s a good story about kids in a school. Like all kids they have their friendships and difficulties; they deal with teachers and teasing; they have their likes and dislikes. They are ordinary kids doing ordinary things. But one of them happens to be Vietnamese. And another is a Muslim girl who wears a hijab. The cultural differences among these kids are simply part of everyday life, along with all the other little differences between them. One character likes soccer, another likes drawing; one character is into princesses, another likes Aussie Rules footy; one character eats rice paper rolls, another eats only halal food; one character has a pet rat, the others don’t; one character wears a hijab, the others don’t. In the end, difference is not only accepted, but celebrated. As it should be in real life. More kids books like this please!

Catch ya later, George

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thedeepLatest Post: DVD Review  — The Deep: Monsters & Myths

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Launching with fame

If you ever manage to get someone famous to say nice things about your book… for goodness sake, get a record of it. I wish I had thought to do that at the launch of Gamers’ Quest, back in 2009. Carole Wilkinson, author of the Dragonkeeper novels (Blood Brothers being the latest) gave a lovely launch speech… but at the time, flustered and nervous as I was about the launch, it never occurred to me to record it. I have learnt since then.

When the sequel, Gamers’ Challenge, was launched by Michael Pryor (author of The Laws of Magic series) in 2011, I made sure to ask his permission about videoing it and distributing it on YouTube. And, of course, I did the same last month when Alison Goodman (author of Eon and Eona) launched the new edition of my YA short story collection, Life, Death and Detention.

In preparation for this post, I hopped on to YouTube and did a bit of searching, and I was devastated to discover that I was not the first author with the foresight to record and upload a book launch. 😉 If you like book launches, go take a look. But here’s one I picked out for you. It’s Jack Heath, author of The Lab and many other books, launching KJ Taylor’s The Shadow’s Heir. The vid is handheld and a little shaky, but it’s a great speech.

KJ explains that one of the reasons she asked Jack to launch her book, was that he was a good “speechifier”. And she’s not wrong.

I did something a little different with my latest launch video. I divided it, separating my speech from Alison Goodman’s. I figured that people were more likely to watch shorter vids, and I was curious to see just how many more ‘watches’ Alison’s would get — after all she is waaaaaaaaay more famous than me. I’m now hoping some of that fame rubs off. 😉

Anyway… may I now present for your viewing pleasure, the wonderful Alsion Goodman launching Life, Death and Detention

Now, here’s my speech from that launch. It was a little more wordy than Alison’s, and my camera cut out in protest before I finished. Everyone’s a critic!

And for old time’s sake, here’s Michael Pryor launching Games’ Challenge last year…

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter

 

Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

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State Shortlists released for National Year of Reading

Be in at the start of Australia’s biggest book group for the National Year of Reading 2012

Australia’s National Year of Reading 2012 starts here, with the opportunity for you to vote for the book that you think should represent your state or territory as one of the eight on our national recommended reading list for 2012. You can help decide the eight books that are the National Year of Reading 2012 collection.

Margaret Allen, chair of the National Year of Reading founders and State Librarian of WA, explains, “For 2012, we’re creating a collection of books which, read together, describe the Australian experience. We all know how very different it is if you’re living in the city or in a remote community; in the Northern Territory or New South Wales. We’re hoping that thousands of readers will take a journey around Australia through the pages of these eight books and come out of it with an even greater depth of understanding about what it means to be Australian.”

The list of eight winning titles and the start of Australia’s biggest book group for the National Year of Reading will be announced at the launch of the campaign on 14 February, 2012, at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. After that, existing book groups, new groups and individual readers can go online and register as a member of Our Story, joining in the discussion about the books the nation has chosen.

The state and territory shortlists, chosen by independent panels of readers, have been announced. The shortlist is available on the National Year of Reading website www.love2read.org.au. Voting commences 1 November 2011, online at www.abc.net.au/yearofreading and in participating libraries and book shops. The closing date is 6 January 2012.

Shortlist for the ACT

Shortlist for New South Wales

Shortlist for the Northern Territory

Shortlist for Queensland

Shortlist for South Australia

Shortlist for Tasmania

Shortlist for Victoria

Shortlist for Western Australia

Famous names behind the National Year of Reading

Australia’s National Year of Reading officially kicks off on 14 February 2012 with a launch at the National Library of Australia (Canberra), hosted by the First Tuesday Book Club’s Jennifer Byrne, much loved actor and author William McInnes, patron of the campaign, and award-winning children’s author Boori Monty Pryor.

The campaign has been initiated by Australian public libraries, state and territory libraries and library associations. It is supported by school libraries and the National Library of Australia. TAFE, University, government and other special libraries are also behind the campaign.

All kinds of household names will be active in the National Year of Reading campaign – notably the ABC, Dymocks, Madman Entertainment, Scholastic and The Walt Disney Company – and in addition to Jennifer Byrne, William McInnes and Monty Boori Pryor, ambassadors will include Anita Heiss, Bryce Courtenay, Andy Griffiths, Morris Gleitzman, Susanne Gervay, Anh Do, Ted Egan, Robyn Archer, Anna Goldsworthy, Steve Parish and the Melbourne Football Club.

More than 200 writers, publishers and organisations involved in reading and literacy are partners with the National Year of Reading – organisations such as the Centenary of Canberra, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, the Pyjama Foundation, Speech Pathology Australia, Student Edge, Vision Australia, Writing Australia.

Funding has come from the Australian Government, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Copyright Agency Ltd, the Sidney Myer Fund and Australian libraries.

Pop Star Authors

Authors are a bit like pop musicians. No, really… they are more alike than you might first think. Both tread that fine line between art and making money. Good books and good music are often never released because they are not commercial enough. Just as authors are often at the mercy of large publishers, musicians are often at the mercy of large record companies. (Hmm… are they still called record companies even though its now mostly downloads and CDs?) And the promotional steamroller drives sales in both industries.

As time marches on, writers are becoming more like pop musicians. In this day and age writers need to become personalities. They need to get out there and promote their books. They need to promote themselves. The image of the writer is becoming as important as the books they write.

Jack Heath (author of The Lab) sold his first book at the age of 18. His youth certainly helped the sale of his books. That’s not to say he doesn’t write really good books — he does. But selling books requires more than the ability to write good books. Health’s youthful image made for good promotion. Now, six years down the track, Heath still manages to maintain his image. Check out his YouTube channel to see how he promotes himself, more than his books. And his website still makes reference to his youthful start in the industry…

“He started writing his first novel, The Lab, at age 13, and earned a publishing contract for it at 18.”

Publicists have had a field day with JK Rowling’s image of the struggling single mum who hit it big. And Stieg Larsson has shown how dying prior to the publication of a trilogy can enhance an author’s image.

The simple fact that authors need promotional photos is a testament to the importance of image. Author Shirley Marr even blogged about her author photo shoot, which resulted in some very glam, fashion-model images.

Shirley Marr, author of Fury. Photograph by Red Images Fine Photography.

Or has image always been friend to the author? Certainly Ian Flemming’s past as a Naval Intelligence Officer probably helped to promote his Bond books. And the glamour image of Jackie Collins hasn’t hurt her career.

Pop stars are forever in the public eye — image often eclipsing the music. Lady Gaga springs to mind. Of course, pop stars can also use their fame to become authors. Look at Madonna — pop icon and children’s author. Hilary Duff has also gotten in on the literary act with a novel titled Elixir. And did you know that Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, used to be a pop singer and songwriter? He even released an album called Angels & Demons — that’s right, the same title as one of his books.

If only we could turn things around and see some authors cross over into pop music careers. I have this image of Stephen King doing a cover version of Werewolves of London or Bad Moon Rising. 🙂

Oh wait, King’s already in a rock band. True! He’s a member of The Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of published authors. Don’t believe me? Check out this clip…

Tune in next time for more pop music.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or I’ll sing at you! And believe me, you don’t want that.

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Beyond the book trailer — author vids

My last three posts have been about book trailers. But there is more to video promotion than book trailers. Authors and publishers are also creating videos in which the authors talk about their books.

The most basic of these is a straight-to-camera chat, relying on the ability of the author to say something interesting in an engaging way. Unfortunately there are many authors out there who, while brilliant on paper, are really dull when talking straight down the camera lens. Most seem to be recorded on handycams and then badly edited… or not edited at all. But there are some that stand out. Here’s one that I’ve posted on this blog before (see Thirty seconds to Marrs), but it’s such a good example of what can be done with one of these videos that I’m posting it again.

In this video, Shirley Marr talks about her debut YA novel Fury. But it’s her off-hand comments about other things — from her eyelashes to kinky boots — that show her personality. This is combined with some good editing and excellent use of music to create a really engaging video. A video like this, which portrays an interesting author as well as an interesting book, does a lot more for promotion than a dry speech simply telling you what the book is about. No matter how great a book is, if the author is to engage with an audience through a video, then that author needs to come across as an interesting person.

An author can do more than just deliver a straight-to-camera chat about the plotline of his/her new book. There are lots of things that can be done to spice up an author vid. For example, in this one, Scott Westerfeld talks about going on an airship ride as part of his research for the YA novel Leviathan. He is talking straight to camera, but photos and video from his airship ride are interspersed. It results in an interesting video.

Of course, an author doesn’t even have to talk about her/his own books in order to promote them. Jack Heath, author of YA thriller The Lab and its sequels, has a YouTube Channel on which he posts semi-regular videos about all sorts of things. What they all have in common is that they begin with a quick shot of his books accompanied by a musical hook. Take a look at the post in which he compares Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight with another vampire novel, 13 Bullets by David Wellington.

Heath’s engaging, witty style is what promotes his books, even when he’s not talking about them directly. I’ve watched all his videos and as a result, The Lab has been added to my reading list. Just for good measure here’s another one of his vids, titled: “Too Much Information”, in which he discusses some of his medical issues.

What’s it got to do with his books? Seemingly nothing! But it’s entertaining. And it’s a way of creating an ‘author brand’ — an association between his books and him as an interesting, entertaining person.

Just as book trailers can vary considerably in terms of style and creativity, so too can the author video. Some authors are simply more charismatic than others. While clever production can certainly do a lot to help an author video be engaging, there are some authors out there that no amount of flashy editing can save.

Anyone out there got any fav author vids they’d like to share? Leave a link in the comments below.

And tune in next time for a chorus of God Save the Queen as Literary Clutter explores the world of Steampunk.

Catch ya later,  George

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: Jack Heath

I love the lack of pretentiousness in YA books. When you write for adults, no-one pays attention unless you’re addressing issues like sex, racism, mental illness, drug use and so on. When writing for teens, the only requirement is that you entertain, as much as humanly possible. This gives me the freedom to fill a book with explosions and car chases and gadgetry without worrying that it won’t be taken seriously. It won’t, and it’s not supposed to be – that’s very liberating.

Both as a kid and as an adult, I love the work of Catherine Jinks, Emily Rodda, and the incomparable duo of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, who give me the giggles in person and on the page. It’s not very grown-up of me to list my favourite short story as “Pinky Ponky the Donkey”, but I don’t much care what everyone else thinks counts as literature.

As a child I used to read a lot of novelisations – sometimes because Mum and Dad wouldn’t let me watch the screen versions until the Office of Film and Literature Classification said I could, but mostly just because the special effects were better in my head. I must have read every Doctor Who book, several Terminators and Red Dwarfs, and, of course, the Indiana Jones trilogy. I devoured Alien and all its sequels once a year for six years.

Third Transmission by Jack Heath

Six of Hearts is sealed inside a torpedo, blasting his way at 300 kilometres an hour towards a warship. His mission: to steal canisters containing a weaponised strain of the SARS virus. If he fails, ChaoSonic will use the virus to wipe out an uprising that is tearing the City apart.

And that is the least of Six’s problems. Vanish is still on the loose. So is Retuni Lerke. And a scientist has designed a new weapon – one more dangerous than anything Six has ever seen before. One that could destroy him, the Deck, and anyone else who dares to oppose ChaoSonic.

Six has to find the weapon and eliminate the threat it poses because ChaoSonic can’t always control their creations.

He is living proof of that.

BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS! August Book Giveaway

This month, Boomerang Books are giving you more chances to win! Alongside our regular monthly giveaway and our Facebook-exclusive giveaway, to celebrate August being the month of the Children’s Book Council Australia’s Book Week, we have a special children’s prize pack to giveaway.

AUGUST MAJOR GIVEAWAY

This month’s prize pack is an eclectic mix set to capture your imagination, touch your heart and tickle your tastebuds. While Judith McNeil paints an unforgettable portrait of Australian life in the 1950s, Angela Valamanesh’s art inspires, and Ben O’Donoghue and Mary Taylor Simeti share recipes that plot you on the path to becoming the Masterchef of your household. The pack includes:

Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett SIGNED
Here is Plum Coyle, on the threshold of adolescence, striving to be new. Her fourteenth birthday is approaching: her old life and her old body will fall away, and she will become graceful, powerful, at ease. The strength in the objects she stores in a briefcase under her bed – a crystal lamb, a yoyo, an antique watch, a penny – will make sure of it.
Over the next couple of weeks, Plum’s life will change. Her beautiful neighbour Maureen will begin to show her how she might fly. The older brothers she adores – the charismatic Justin, the enigmatic Cydar – will court catastrophe in worlds that she barely knows exist. And her friends – her worst enemies – will tease and test, smelling weakness. They will try to lead her on and take her down.
Who ever forgets what happens when you’re fourteen?
Butterfly is a gripping, disquieting, beautifully observed novel that confirms Hartnett as one of Australia’s finest writers.

Outdoor by Ben O’Donoghue (Hardcover) SIGNED
In his first-ever cookbook, Ben brings the wide-sweeping world of barbecuing to your backyard via one of the most stunningly designed books around. No need to walk over hot coals to impress your BBQ guests, these divine recipes will leave a lasting taste in everyone’s mouth.
Try Grilled Lobsters from Norfolk, or Pork Loin With Bay And Balsamic from Italy or even a Thai-inspired dessert of Grilled Pineapple With Rum Ginger And Lemongrass Syrup. Yum! And while you grill, serve guests a Southern Cross Pimm’s barbecue-side. Fresh in every way, this cookbook is a summer staple.

Letters to Leonardo by Dee White
On his fifteenth birthday, Matt receives a card from his mother – the mother he grew up believing was deceased. Feeling betrayed by both his parents, Matt’s identity is in disarray and he begins writing letters to Leonardo da Vinci as a way to sort out the ‘mess’ in his head. Through the connections he makes between his own life and that of Leonardo, Matt unravels the mystery that his life has become and discovers his mother’s secrets and the reasons behind his abandonment.
A unique and powerful story about a fifteen year old boy who tries to deal with his mother’s mental illness by writing letters to Leonardo da Vinci. Ages 12+. 

A True History of the Hula Hoop by Judith Lanigan
A beguiling and utterly original debut novel about two women born centuries apart but joined by the spirit of adventure and a quest for true love.
Catherine is a hula-hooping performance artist, a talented and independent individual plying her trade on the international burlesque stage. Columbina meanwhile is a feisty female clown and a principal in a 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte troupe.
As Catherine and Columbina struggle to make sense of an increasingly nonsensical world – and to assert their rights as performers and women during times of profound change – their lives, as if by magic, seem to interact.

No One’s Child by Judith McNeil
Judith takes you on a journey back to her childhood – as a ‘railway brat’, growing up in small towns along the tracks while her father worked on the lines. Judith’s life was one of hardship and poverty. The eldest of six children, she soon took on the role of provider and carer, while desperately craving affection from a mother too tired to give it and a father who resented her because she wasn’t a son. Yet there was still joy to be found: in the vibrant Gypsy camp, full of laughter and love in the eyes of Tom, the engine driver who believed in her and fed her thirst for knowledge and in the friendship of Billy, the boy who could see into her soul. No One’s Child is an unforgettable portrait of Australian life in the 1950s. With a vivid cast of characters and set against the backdrop of the ever-changing outback landscape, it will leave you marvelling at the indomitable spirit of one little girl who was determined to forge her own destiny.

Angela Valamanesha: About Being Here by Cath Kenneally (Hardcover)

Sicilian Food: Recipes from Italy’s Abundant Isle by Mary Taylor Simeti

Another Way To Love by Tim Costello and Rode Yule

To go into the draw to win these books, just complete the entry form here. Entries close August 31, 2009.

AUGUST FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

As always, we have a great prize pack to give away to one of our Facebook Group members, which includes: Letters to Leonardo by Dee White, Shakespeare: The Most Famous Man In London by Tony Thompson, Third Transmission by Jack Heath, A Tale of Two Women by Christina Slade, Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger by Sandy Fussell, Another Way To Love by Tim Costello and Rode Yule.

Shakespeare Third Transmission A Tale of Two Women Shaolin Tiger

Boomerang Books is fast becoming one of Australia’s biggest book groups on Facebook, so what are you waiting for? Join Now!

BONUS AUGUST CHILDREN’S GIVEAWAY

Entering this bonus giveaway is easy enough. All you have to do is email me a review of the last children’s book you read. You could’ve read it last night, last year, or even back when you were a kid. The catch? It has to be in 20 words or less. When entering, mention which prize pack you’d like to be in the running for – picture book or fiction for ages 10+. Entries close August 31, 2009.

Section A: ‘Book Safari’-Themed Picture Books: The Little One: The Story of a Red-Tailed Monkey by Kaitie Afrika Litchfield, The Gorilla Book: Born To Be Wild by Dr Carla Litchfield, The Chimpanzee Book: Apes Like Us by Dr Carla Litchfield, The Penguin Book: Birds In Suits by Dr Mark Norman, The Antarctica Book: Living In The Freezer by Dr Mark Norman, The Great Barrier Reef Book: Solar Powered by Dr Mark Norman, When No-one’s Looking: On The Farm by Zana Fraillon and Lucia Masciullo, When No-one’s Looking: At the Zoo by Zana Fraillon and Lucia Masciullo.

The Little One The Chimpanzee Book Penguin Book At The Zoo

Section B: Fiction 10+

Samurai Kids: White Crane (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Owl Ninja (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger (SIGNED), Samurai Kids: Monkey Fist, Letters to Leonardo by Dee White, The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures by Sam Bowring.

White Crane Owl Ninja Letters to Leonardo The Zoo of Magical and Mythological Creatures

A big thanks to our friends at Acorn Press, Black Dog Books, Exisle Publishing, Hardie Grant Egmont, Pan Macmillan, Picador, Penguin, Wakefield Press and Walker Books for supporting our giveaways this month.