I’m not loafing, I’m doing research

Is it too late to say – Happy New Year! I hope you’ve had a great start to the year.

I’ve been flat out working all summer. My friends and family would probably say otherwise, that I’ve been lazing around on holidays, that I’ve barely had my laptop open. But that’s just the point.

Paradise, NZI’ve been travelling, gazing out plane windows, eavesdropping at restaurants, chatting with strangers, watching movies, gathering characters, uncovering settings, and generally getting inspired. It’s called research. It’s a tough part of writing, but it has to get done. What can I say?

The Moth DiariesI’ve also consumed a lot of books. I read everything with a highlighter in one hand and an analytical eye, looking for ways to improve my own writing. That sometimes takes the fun out of reading, but I definitely appreciate a well-written book, more than I ever did.

I thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Klein’s menacing YA gothic tale – The Moth Diaries. It’s no ordinary teen vampire story. The tension is between the girls at an exclusive boarding school. The sixteen-year-old narrator records her thoughts – diary-style, as questions start to mount about the identity of new-girl, Ernessa, and her intentions towards the narrator’s best friend, Lucy. It’s a compelling and haunting read.

A toxic friendship is also at the heart of Rebecca James’ YA page-turner, Beautiful Malice. Beautiful MaliceThe book hooked me right from the first line – I didn’t go to Alice’s funeral, and kept me racing right to the end, as it flicked between three different time periods. The main thread focuses on the blossoming friendship between two girls in their final year of high school. But Katherine’s hopes of escaping her tragic past sour as her new friend Alice’s motives start to look sinister.

State of GraceMeanwhile, utopia is not quite what it seems in Hilary Badger’s debut YA novel, State of Grace. This clever story puts a group of teenagers in an earthly paradise, where everything and everyone is beautiful. But when Wren starts having visions of another life, she has to decide whether to investigate what lies beyond the idyllic garden or continue to live in perfect ignorance. An intriguing read.

Happy researching!


Julie Fison writes for children and young adults. Her books include the Hazard River adventure series for young readers, Choose Your Own Ever After, a pick-a-path series that lets the reader decide how the story goes, and Counterfeit Love for young adults.



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?

Dangerous Expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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