The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne by Katrina Nannestad

girl dog write rucerneTitle: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne

Author: Katrina Nannestad

Genre: Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $16.99


Freja and her mother, Clementine, are reunited at last. Tobias and Vivi are in love. And Lucerne, their new home, is a paradise of snowy alps, sapphire lakes, white swans and delicious Swiss chocolate!

Everything seems perfect, until poor Lady P appears, bandaged from head to toe after a fall – or was it a push? Crimes break out across the city, all involving chocolate. Clementine doesn’t seem her usual self. And still Freja has not solved the biggest mystery – who is Tobias Appleby?

All will be revealed in the girl, the dog and the writer’s final adventure by award-winning Australian author Katrina Nannestad.


‘sure to be treasured’ – Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time

‘Children from eight up will really warm to this funny, sad, happy book, and many adults will be charmed too’ – The Book Bubble

‘Fans of… Jacqueline Harvey will love this book’ – Kids’ Book Review on The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome

‘an absolute delight to read, with lots of charming and quirky characters … The mini world that author Katrina Nannestad has created is every child’s dream’ – Better Reading

2018 Australian Book Industry Awards – Longlisted

2018 CBCA Book of the Year Awards – Notable


Tobias, Freja and Finnegan head off on their final adventure – to Lucerne. They’ve been summoned from their home in Provence to Switzerland, where Clementine has been for the past six months in a clinic. She shares a room with Lady P., whose story coincides with a series of chocolate thefts around the city, all centred around the famous Margrit Milk chocolate. Freja is still trying to solve the biggest mystery of all – who is Tobias Appleby?

This question has been at the heart of the series and has been one of the driving factors as Tobias and Freja travel across Italy, France and Switzerland on their adventures, and to be with Vivi as she learns about the specialty dishes across Europe. These elements are just as crucial to the story, as they are woven into the relationships, the mystery and all the outcomes of the story cleverly and intricately, evoking a sense of place, as well as a true sense of character and how they respond to their world.

AWW2020The elements of mystery within this series also come from the crimes Freja sets out to solve in each place. In Lucerne, she is hot on the trail of a chocolate thief and is sure that taking Clementine gifts everyday will help make her better. As Freja has grown, physically and emotionally, so has Tobias. Finnegan, not so much–he is still a puppy, after all. Lucerne comes to life as magically as Rome and Provence–you can feel the chill in the air when Tobby and Freja are able to take Clementine up the mountain, and the magic in the way everyone comes together to help Tobby and Freja settle in.

The third and final story is exquisitely linked – each story has Tobias using the world around him to construct his stories with such authenticity, that creators and writers will see something of himself in themselves. Finnegan reminded me of the dog my family used to have who also ate everything. Much like Finnegan, Indy would have eaten rubber ducks if he’d been given a chance.

The first two books are filled with fun and smiles, with a layer of seriousness when it came to the crimes. Yet here, there is an added layer of heaviness and sadness as we come to the realisation of what is happening with Clementine, and there is distinct foreshadowing of what is to come. Yet Katrina holds this together with the same lightness and delight of the adventures in Rome and Provence, and the same joy that the main characters and side characters bring to the story. They bring the story to life, and Lucerne just leaps off the page. This finale made me laugh and cry. My heart leapt and danced, and it also broke. You will need tissues for this instalment. Make sure you read this series in order – it is more powerful, and more enjoyable this way. Reading books is a way to engage with humanity and emotions on different levels, and this series has done it in spades.

During a time of our lives when we can’t travel, doing so through books is bittersweet. As each cover evokes a sense of travel and place, when married with the words, we are transported to a new place in each book. A place where things seem simpler, or a little easier. We get to escape from the worries of the world. And right now, we all need something like that, even if we miss the idea that we’ll be able to go to Rome, Provence and Lucerne soon. But for now, we can travel via stories like this series that are rich in story, setting, character and everything that pulls them together. A lovely and heartfelt conclusion to the series. Be sure to start with the adventures in Rome – it will all come together nicely in the end.


The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad

girl dog writer provenceTitle: The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Provence

Author: Katrina Nannestad

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 22nd October 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $16.99


– Kids’ Book Review on The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome

When Freja and Tobias arrive in Claviers, Provence, it feels like home. The hilltop village is surrounded by olive groves, lavender fields and drifts of red poppies. The market square hides a world-famous pâtisserie and an antique merry-go-round. Pippin, their precocious young neighbour, and Vivi, the beautiful chef, fill their lives with chatter and laughter and love.

For a moment, the girl, the dog and the writer are happy.

But a spate of criminal activity casts a cloud over the village. Freja is determined to solve the mystery and uncover the villain, but the closer she gets, the more impossible things seem to become …

Award-winning Australian author Katrina Nannestad is back with the much-anticipated sequel to the bestselling novel The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome.


‘sure to be treasured’ – Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Reading Time

‘Fans of the Clementine Rose and Alice-Miranda series by Jacqueline Harvey will love this book’ – Kids’ Book Review

‘Children from eight up will really warm to this funny, sad, happy book, and many adults will be charmed too’ – The Book Bubble

‘The mini world that author Katrina Nannestad has created is every child’s dream. 8+ readers will love this book’ – Better Reading

2018 Australian Book Industry Awards – Longlisted

2018 CBCA Book of the Year Awards – Notable


‘Provence is an echo of our lives.’ Tobias Appleby says this to Freja as they live in Provence, and make new friends, and try to solve the mystery of the dastardly criminal acts happening around the sleepy French village of Claviers. Not so sleepy, as it turns out. At every turn, Tobias and Freja make new friends: the Diderots, the Jolys, Pipping and gentle giant Henri who runs the charming merry-go-round. At the same time, everyone must contend with needy, demanding famous actress Mimosa Asterisque, suspected of a spate of crimes that see the village brought to its knees. Freja and her new friends – Pippin, Christophe, Edith and Cossette are determined to uncover, and bring joy back to Claviers.


This series continues the themes of friendship and family from the first. Freja feels at home with Tobias – at times, it feels like she is taking care of him more than he is taking care of her, and their move to Provence to follow Vivi. Freja is learning what family and friendship means – it is more than what she knows. She misses Clementine, but her world has expanded, her family has expanded. Of all the new characters, I fell in love with Pippin the most, and also instantly. He’s bubbly and cheerful, and each character brings something unique and new to the story.

The power of this book is in its representation of family – and that family is what we make of it, and the people we choose to be in our lives, as well as our biological family. Friends become family. Freja’s once small, insular world has become large and spans several countries. She had grown in many ways, and has even helped Tobias and Finnegan grow.

The magic in this book comes from the characters, the places, and the way food – gelato and pastries – informs the world, and its sense of timelessness – it could be set at any time in the last thirty years, and allows readers to imagine themselves as Freja and the other characters. It is world we know, and yet in some ways don’t know. Freja and Tobias take us on a journey – in many ways. Provence comes to life, with the scent of lavender and the musical delights of the merry-go-round, and many more. As Freja works to solve the mystery of who has been trying to drive people out of Claviers, and ruining their livelihoods, she will find out that not everything is always as it seems.

Cleverly combined as an adventure and a mystery series with a touch of romance along the way (although Tobby and Vivi might not always realise it), this series is delightful, and moves along at the right pace – not too fast, not too slow. It allows the characters and plot to develop and will enthral readers aged eight and older.

Onto Lucerne, and the final stages of Freja and Tobby’s story!


Book Bingo Eight 2020 – Themes of politics and power

Book bingo 2020


Welcome to the August edition of Book Bingo with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett. This month I am checking off the square for themes of politics and power. In some books, the themes of politics and power are very overt, and very obvious to the reader. This can be because of the gender of a character, a setting or the overall themes within the book that might be exploring something political in an allegorical, tactile or obvious way. However, there are those books that have themes of politics and power where the politics are often a lot more subversive, less obvious to the reader until something happens, and it becomes clear that there are much more sinister things happening than we’ve been led to believe. One such book, and the book that I have chosen to mark off this square is the March release of a stand-alone novel, The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte.

the vanishing deep

Set in a world where people are governed by water, where diving is a job, and where a facility called Palindromena assists loved ones in a final farewell, The Vanishing Deep reveals that there is more to Palindromena than people know. Told over twenty-four hours in alternating perspectives of Tempest and Lor, The Vanishing Deep explores the power and politics behind a facility like Palindromena, and the way they control death, and the threats to those who try to expose them for what has gone wrong, and how they silence opposition. Whilst much of this comes in the latter half of the novel, the issues of who has power over whom, who allows people to come and go on the Reefs in this new world are constantly hinted at, and told that this is just how we live now – these aspects are not questioned as highly as the integrity and ethical behaviour of Palindromena.

Whilst it is a Young Adult novel, it does deal with some heavy themes, such as death and corruption. The way these are written about is accessible, but readers should be warned in case they find darker issues a bit distressing. It is in no way graphic yet can tug at the heartstrings and throw a few curveballs at the reader. It is an exceptional example of what happens when someone tries to play God and abuses their power to exploit those they see as expendable.

Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar on TV by Clara Vulliamy

marshmallow-pie-the-cat-superstar-on-tvTitle: Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar on TV

Author: Clara Vulliamy

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 5th August 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 128

Price: $9.99

Synopsis: The second book in the Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar series by Clara Vulliamy, the author-illustrator of Dotty Detective. Perfect for fans of Toto the Ninja Cat or The Secret Life of Pets.

Marshmallow Marmaduke Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington-Fitz-Noodle is a big, fluffy cat with an even BIGGER personality!

With the help of his owner, Amelia, Pie is well on his way to stardom. He’s got himself a role ON TV! But then he hears that he’ll be joined in the spotlight – by Gingernut, the cheeky kitten… Can Pie learn how to share, or will his biggest opportunity yet come tumbling down?

Told in the hilarious voice of Marshmallow Pie himself, his mischievous antics are illustrated throughout in black and white.


Welcome back to Marshmallow Pie’s world! It’s been a while since the auditions, and his human, Amelia, has started a newsletter, the Fluffington Post, when she finds out that Marshmallow Pie has been cast in a television commercial for his favourite snack! But when Marshmallow Pie finds out that Gingernut is going to be his co-star, things start to go wrong. As Amelia and Zack build their friendship, and work on the newspaper together, Marshmallow Pie gets jealous of Gingernut.

Marshmallow Pie needs to learn to share in this story – something that younger children can struggle with, and this kind of story can teach them about sharing through the child character, Marshmallow Pie. As part of a series, this book follows on nicely from the first, with the same fun storytelling through words and pictures, just right for junior fiction readers taking that next step into the world of independent reading. Gingernut and Zack are cemented as characters in the series in this book, and I hope we get to see more of them and their growing friendship with Amelia and Marshmallow Pie.

Like in the first book, this one explores themes of friendship, family, fun, shared interests and the growth of the child character upon realising they may have upset someone and working out how to fix it – either alone, or with help. Child readers will find someone to identify with, and learn various lessons about friendship and sharing whilst having fun with a good story that is entertaining, and filled with laughs.

I’m looking forward to seeing where Marshmallow Pie goes on his future adventures as a cat superstar.


Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar by Clara Vulliamy

marshmallow pie 1Title: Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar
Author: Clara Vulliamy
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 5th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 128
Price: $9.99
Synopsis: A hilarious new series from Clara Vulliamy, the author-illustrator of Dotty Detective, about grumpy cat Marshmallow Pie and his reluctant pursuit of stardom. Perfect for fans of Toto the Ninja Cat or The Secret Life of Pets.
Marshmallow Marmaduke Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington-Fitz-Noodle is a big, fluffy (and grumpy) cat. He LOVES the easy life: lazing in the sunshine, eating Shrimp Crunchies and annoying Buster, the dog downstairs.

His new owner, Amelia Lime, has grand plans to turn Pie into a STAR… But Pie thinks he’s a star already, to be honest!

Told in the hilarious voice of Marshmallow Pie himself, his mischievous antics are illustrated throughout in black and white.


Marshmallow Marmaduke Vanilla-Bean Sugar-Pie Fluffington-FitzNoodle has a new home. He’s not happy, because everyone there calls him Pie. When his new owner, Amelia, discovers that a local company is searching for new animal talent. Amelia convinces Marshmallow Pie that they should audition – and when they do, things get a little bit chaotic, because Pie thinks he IS a star!

Amelia is lonely, and Pie notices, and comes across as quite aloof and uppity – what people might see as being true to a cat. Yet there is heart to him and even though he sees this chance to show the world what a star he is. And prove to the humans in his life that he is more than just a cat. At the same time, he’s determined to annoy neighbour, Buster, in any way he can. But what mischief will Pie get up to when he and Amelia meet Zack and Gingernut at the auditions?

This new series is told through the eyes of Marshmallow Pie, observing life with the Lime family. Amelia and her dad are dedicated to each other and Pie, and for Amelia, Pie is a friend. He becomes her connection to other people and the outside world.

This book is delightful. It has two child characters who carry the story – Pie and Amelia, and each are given a delightfully unique voice that leaps from the page to entertain. The text works beautifully with the black and white illustrations that bring Amelia and Pie to life for readers. I love the idea of a cat telling the story – it can be done well, and Clara Vulliamy has done it here. It is a micro world with big characters, told in a way that readers aged seven and older will be able to access and understand.

This is the beginning of a delightful new series that kids, cats and adults will love, as it captures the delight of cats, and their various likes and personality traits. It is about family and friendship and the power of cats uniting friends through common interests as well. Marshmallow Pie is a character who learns a new lesson in each story, who will grow across the series. Readers of all ages will adore him and relate to him, as well as the other characters in the book. A great read!

Isolation Publicity with Angela Savage

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

Angela Savage is the author of the Jayne Keeney Mysteries, and Mother of Pearl. She also works with Writer’s Victoria and the State Library of Victoria, has run manty awards and runs writing workshops, some of which have been moved online during the pandemic. Like many authors, she has had events and launches, and many other things related to her jobs with the State Library of Victoria and Writer’s Victoria have been put on hold for now. She appears below to discuss all of these as part of my isolation publicity series.

Hi Angela and welcome to The Book Muse

Hi Ashleigh – thanks for inviting me along.

  1. You released a new book last year – Mother of Pearl. What is the basic plot and premise of that book?

Mother of Pearl explores family, motherhood, culture and power through the lens of international commercial surrogacy between Australia and Thailand. The story is told through the eyes of three characters: Anna, an aid worker; her sister Meg, who longs for a baby; and Mukda, a single mother in rural Thailand. The lives of the women and their families become intimately intertwined in the unsettling and extraordinary process of trying to bring a child into the world across boarders of class, culture and nationality.

  1. What genre would you say Mother of Pearl is, and what genre do you usually write in?

Mother of Pearl sits somewhere between literary and popular fiction. My three previous novels were crime fiction.

  1. What events, launches and festivals have you had to cancel due to COVID-19, and which were you really looking forward to?

I had events lined up at the inaugural Yarra Valley Writers Festival in Healesville, Queenscliffe Literary Festival, Melbourne Jewish Book Week and Willy Lit Fest, plus some good leads on festivals in the second half of the year. Amazingly, Yarra Valley Writers Festival went ahead online on 9-10 May and Willy List Fest 2020 Vision will go online from 21 May. While I’m sad to miss out on meeting face-to-face with readers and writers, I’m delighted to appear on these program rather than chalking up more cancellations. As YVWF Director Brook Powell put it, ‘No, it’s not the same, but it is of the moment.’


  1. How are you working with Writer’s Victoria to help artists during the pandemic?

Writers Victoria has offered online learning for several years as part of our mix of services, so we were able to quickly adapt to deliver the bulk of our workshop program online. We’ve also launched Spotlight, a suite of budget options to link emerging writers with experienced writers, editors and industry experts for personalised feedback on their work.

Aware that writers were likely to be feeling anxious and isolated, we ran our Flash Fiction competition in April, providing daily word prompts and inviting writers to submit 30-word stories based on the prompt. While many of the thousands of stories we received did reflect on the pandemic, writers also told us how much they appreciated the creative routine and having something other than COVID-19 to focus their attention.

For Writers Victoria members who are launching new books in 2020, we’re offering promotion through our social media channels, where we have a combined following of around 36,000. Normally worth $180, it’s free for members as part of our response to COVID-19. I hope that by the end of the year, social distancing restrictions will have eased enough for Writers Victoria to host a book fair/mega launch party for local authors whose books were released during lockdown.

  1. Alongside this, what are you, as an individual hoping to do, and encouraging others to do to support Australian arts and booksellers?

I read mostly Australian fiction and buy mostly Australian books for myself and as gifts, using social media to share books that I’ve loved and to reach out to authors. When people ask for recommendations, I recommend Australian books; and I also use examples from Australian works when I teach writing.

  1. Have you won, or been shortlisted for any awards for your writing?

I was very fortunate to win the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Unpublished Manuscript in 2004 for what became my debut novel, Behind the Night Bazaar, which was later shortlisted for the 2007 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Book. Both other books in the Jayne Keeney PI series, The Half-Child and The Dying Beach, were shortlisted for Ned Kelly Awards, with The Dying Beach also shortlisted for the 2014 Davitt Awards. My short story, ‘The Teardrop Tattoos’ won the 2011 Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto Award. I’ve just had another short story, ‘The Black Feather’, longlisted for the Peter Carey Award.

  1. Where did the idea for Jayne Keeney, PI come from, and how long have you been writing her stories for?

Jayne Keeney first appeared in a short story called ‘The Mole on the Temple’, set in Bangkok, which won third prize in the Scarlet Stiletto Awards in 1998. With this encouragement, I started writing more short stories featuring Jayne, one of which grew into my first novel. People mistake Jayne for me (my fault for giving us the same dark curly hair), but she’s more of an alter ego: someone I might’ve been like if I’d made very different life choices.

  1. Jayne Keeney looks to be mainly set in South-East Asia – what was it about this setting that lent itself so well to the character and her stories?

I lived and worked in Southeast Asia off and on for over seven years, in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia as well as Thailand, where the Jayne Keeney novels are set. Working cross-culturally is a lot like being a detective: you’re always looking for the big picture from a small set of clues, trying to tell a reliable source from an unreliable one, constantly searching for meanings lost in translation. Creating an Australian detective character gave me the chance to explore these themes in fiction – the tension and the humour that arise when cultures collide. The choice of Thailand as a setting was a practical one: only in a city as big as Bangkok could an expatriate Australian woman set up a PI business and stay low enough beneath the radar to make a go of it.

  1. Do you have one publisher, or many, and what has the publishing journey been like if you have had multiple publishers?

Melanie Ostell, then a senior editor at Text Publishing, was on the judging panel when I won the Victorian Premier’s Award and subsequently offered me a publishing deal. Text published all three Jayne Keeney novels, but passed on Mother of Pearl. It was subsequently picked up by Transit Lounge, which was serendipitous as Transit Lounge boss Barry Scott administered the Premier’s Awards the year my manuscript won. Generally speaking, publishers don’t like it when their writers change genres as it messes with their ‘brand’. My risk paid off, but it was a nerve-wracking experience—not one I’d recommend.


  1. Apart from your novels, what other writing have you done, and where?

I’ve had a few short stories published in Australia and overseas, including my Scarlet Stiletto Award winner, ‘The Teardrop Tattoos’ (in Crime Scenes) and ‘The Odds’ (in Deadlier: 100 of the Best Crime Stories Written by Women). I’ve been publishing non-fiction articles since the late-1980s, and had a regular column in AsiaLIFE magazine when I lived in Cambodia. I’ve also written several comics, drawn by my friend Bernard Caleo.

  1. When you’re not writing, what sort of things do you enjoy doing?

I love reading. I came to writing as a reader, and I’m compelled by a desire to give to readers of my work some vestige of the pleasure I derive from reading other writers. I also enjoy travelling, walking, cooking, knitting and singing karaoke with more enthusiasm than talent. One of my greatest pleasures is hanging out with people I love, drinking wine and talking.

  1. Did you have a career in another industry prior to being an author, and what did you do?

I had a 12-year career in international development, working on HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health projects in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, mostly for the Red Cross. I spent 12 years after that working in community development in Victoria. Since September 2017, I’ve been director of Writers Victoria.

  1. Did this experience, or any others have an impact on how and what you write?

Even though I knew I wanted to be a writer from an early age, I made the assumption that to be a good writer, I needed to live an interesting life. Working on HIV/AIDS and sexual health projects in Southeast Asia was more than interesting, it was life-changing: confronting, enlivening, exhausting and humbling. When I set out to become a published author in my early 30s, it made sense for me to turn to that experience for creative inspiration.

Ironically, of all the jobs I’ve had, my current role in the arts sector is the least conducive to getting any writing done.

  1. Do you have a favourite furry writing companion?

Not unless you count my partner, with whom I share a study.


  1. When it comes to reading, which authors or genres are you always drawn to?

Asking me to name authors I’m drawn to is harder than asking about my favourite child! I read more Australian fiction than anything else. Some of my favourite local authors include Simone Lazaroo, Tara June Winch, Christos Tsiolkas, Carrie Tiffany, Laura Jean McKay, Kate Mildenhall and Alice Pung. Among my favourite international authors are Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Ondaatje and Tash Aw, though I’ve recently read Hilary Mantel and I suspect she has a lot to teach me. I also enjoy reading crime fiction and will read anything by Sulari Gentill, Jock Serong, Emma Viskic and Robert Gott.

  1. How do you think the arts will recover after this pandemic is over?

The breadth, depth and diversity of the arts that survives the pandemic depends to a large degree on government and public support. As Benjamin Law noted in The Guardian, ‘In times of crisis, humans turn to art for help.’ Yet we are often unaware of the ecosystem needed to bring the work of artists—whether writers, film-makers, visual artists, performers, game designers, etc—to us. Organisations like Writers Victoria will continue to advocate for the health of the arts ecosystem but I fear that many organisations, publishers, theatres, galleries and studios will not survive this crisis.

  1. The book community is often urging people to buy local, buy Australian – which is what I always do. If people don’t do this, what valuable local markets and culture will we lose if the only access we have to books is international authors and international sellers?

Much has been said about the importance of seeing ourselves in what we read in terms of personal and cultural wellbeing. We will be diminished as individuals and as a nation without a local book industry.

  1. The book community and arts community in Australia are coming together during this tough time – do you think this will encourage people outside of the communities to buy and read locally?

A number of publishers are reporting increases in book sales during the COVID-19 lockdown, which is a positive sign, though I’m not sure what proportion of these sales are for specifically Australian books. Certainly, the community is deeply supportive of its members; whether this translates into a wider commitment to buying Australian books remains to be seen.

  1. Which local booksellers are you hoping to support during these tough times?

I continue to shop at my local bookseller Brunswick Bound, and will also shop at Readings once the State Library where I work re-opens our offices.


  1. Finally, what is next for your writing – another Jayne Keeney, or something else?

Right now I can only dream of writing. I somehow seem thwarted by not knowing how any of this ends. That said, I’m mulling over a few non-fiction pieces, percolating another novel (historical fiction this time), and my short story ‘The Black Feather’ was recently longlisted for the Peter Carey Award. So all is not lost.

Anything I may have missed?

Thanks Angela!


Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip by Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze

Max Booth Chip Blip coverTitle: Max Booth, Future Sleuth: Chip Blip
Author: Cameron Macintosh and Dave Atze
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery, Adventure
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Published: 13th July 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 130
Price: $12.99
Synopsis: It’s 2424. Super Sleuth Max Booth is uncovering the secrets of mysterious 20th Century gadgets. His faithful, but slightly neurotic robodog Oscar is also on the case! In book 5 Chip Blip the duo are baffled by the discovery of a tiny device. Using their future-sleuthy skills, they discover what it is, and unleash the truth of a long-lost treasure. But there are sinister characters and challenges along the way. Join the adventure in this fabulous series full of mystery, surprises and suspense.

What use is a chip that you can’t eat? Max is about to find out!

Max and his robo-dog, Oscar, are baffled by the discovery of a tiny device that looks like a grain of rice. They soon figure out what it is – an ID chip that should have been implanted into a very special dog – 400 years ago! The chip leads Max and Oscar to another long-lost treasure … but they aren’t the only folks in the hunt for it. If Max and Oscar aren’t careful, they could be hounded off the treasure trail for good!


Romi from Books on Tour asked me to participate in a blog tour for the recent Max Booth, Future Sleuth book, published by Big Sky Publishing. When I first met Max in this book, he appeared with a bang and full of fun, introducing us instantly to Max, his robo-dog, Oscar, and Jessie, who works at the museum and gives them shelter, hiding them from a nemesis who wishes to return them somewhere they’d rather not go. Fans of the series will know where this place is, but if this is your first outing with Max, I think it needs to be a surprise – that makes it much more fun! Not having read the previous books, I wanted to read on to find out if we’d be told at some stage – so keep reading if this is your first Max Booth book – it will all come together!

When Max, Jessie and Oscar find a microchip one day, they’re stumped as to what it is – even the Splinternet can’t find information on it, and the old technology (old for Max – for us, it is current!) can’t help them either. So they set out from the Skyburbs to see what they can find out about the chip and what it contains. When they uncover another treasure, soon, nefarious people are after them, and Max and Oscar must use all their skills to get away.

This delightful and fast-paced book combines history (in Max’s world), science fiction and a fun and thoughtful mystery to create an intriguing and exciting story that will appeal to junior readers venturing out to their next level of independent reading, allowing them to imagine, learn and build on their vocabulary. I loved entering Max’s world – it is unique and possible – limited at this stage only by imagination. It allows children and any readers to imagine a world that has immense possibilities, based in what we know, and what is coming, and the developments happening in today’s world.

This is a series with so much potential to inform and entertain. It combines science fiction, mystery and adventure in one place, in a world where Max is the hero, and he outwits those who wish to track him down and steal the ancient treasures for their own nefarious means.

I found Max’s world fun and enjoyable, and hope readers new and old will enjoy this new adventure.

Monty’s Island: Beady Bold and the Yum-Yams by Emily Rodda

Monty's Island 2Title: Monty’s Island: Beady Bold and the Yum-Yams
Author: Emily Rodda
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 176
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: Monty lives on a perfect island in the middle of a magical sea. Sometimes the sea throws up something interesting … and Monty goes on an amazing adventure!
On a tiny island far away, in a sea that ripples with magic, Monty never knows what he might find…

Everyone loves Bring-and-Buy Day, when Trader Jolly visits the Island with all the supplies Monty and his friends need.

But this Bring-and-Buy day is different. Instead of Trader Jolly, there’s a sneaky new trader called Beady Bold. And he’s arrived with a boatload of trouble. The yum-yams are yummy, but they’re hiding a very scary secret.

All seems lost until Monty comes up with a daring plan.

A charming and exciting series from beloved author Emily Rodda.


Bring-and-Buy Day is coming! Monty and his friends are excited – they have their list, their Jinglebeads and a list ready for Trader Jolly and his crew. But when a new trader arrives, Beady Bold, everything starts to go wrong! He won’t give them what they need, won’t accept their Jinglebeads and will only offer them the mysterious yum-yams – yummy food with a danger behind it. So Monty comes up with a clever plan to save the day.

AWW2020The second book in the Monty’s Island series bring back the same characters from the first, with a few additions – the Weavers and Trader Jolly – to build the world and expand upon it in a way that is relevant to the story being told. This series allows children to go on adventure safely and face the world in a way they can access and relate to.

Much like the first book, the characters are diverse – Marigold and Monty are the only human characters, the rest are animals – and they each have their own personalities that make them fun and relatable for readers, both young and old. From Bunchy the elephant to Clink the parrot who acts like a pirate. Each character brings something unique to the story, which enriches it and shows children that it is okay to be different and need, or want, different things whilst working to the same common goal, and working together to achieve these goals.

Much like the first story, it is the little details in the story are what makes the story work, and with each story its own contained adventure, that is linked by characters and setting rather than plot, like Deltora Quest, which is aimed at readers aged nine and older, and a good step up from the new Monty’s Island books. Monty’s Island is perfect for early readers, just venturing into longer books, and it lots of fun for all readers as well of any age. There is something in it for every reader, and I hope readers will fall in love with this series by one of Australia’s best loved authors.

It is a wonderful addition to the series, and I looked forward to more.


Toffle Towers: Order in the Court by Tim Harris, Illustrated by James Foley

Toffle towers 3Title: Toffle Towers: Order in the Court
Author: Tim Harris, Illustrated by James Foley
Genre: Fiction, Humour
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: The adventures at Toffle Towers hotel continue as the manager – 10-year-old Chegwin Toffle – battles with blizzards, rioting guests and hostile takeover attempts!
Join Chegwin Toffle for more fun and frolics as Toffle Towers gets snowed in. Amid the snowball fights, things start to go wrong when guests’ precious belongings go missing and Brontessa Braxton launches yet another assault to take over the hotel.
Will Chegwin catch the culprit? Will he be able to beat Brontessa in court to save his beloved hotel and staff? And will he ever find the missing room 50 and the hotel’s mystery guest?

Chegwin is back, and he has had several successes since the Great River Race in running the hotel and keeping Brontessa Braxton out of the hotel. Until now. Brontessa is determined to get Toffle Towers, But when items start going missing, Chegwin must find out who is behind it, and also, find a way to save the hotel and its staff from the evil clutches of Brontessa Braxton. Nothing is ever boring at Toffle Towers!

Each book in the series builds and follows on from the other – it is much more fun to read from the beginning, and the history of the towers and the Toffle family is threaded throughout. The series so far has been a rollicking and adventurous daydreamy joy to read, filled with family, friends, humour and mystery. Whilst battling Brontessa Braxton’s bamboozling bad behaviour, and coming up with a trial strategy to save the hotel, in the most Chegwin way ever.

I’ve been loving these books – Dani Vee at Words and Nerds Podcast got me onto them, and I am very glad I read the first two books before reading the third one. Given they follow on almost immediately from each other, it made sense to read them in this way. I prefer reading a series in order, as it delivers an enriched and vibrant experience of Toffle Towers, Chegwin, his family and the staff of Toffle Towers, who each bring something unique and vibrant to the setting and story.

I’m sure there is more to come from this fabulously funny and fantastical series, where Chegwin will have to solve another problem with his imagination and daydreaming to defeat Brontessa or another threat to Toffle Towers.

Another wonderfully funny book, and I look forward to book four – thanks for the new obsession, Dani!


A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner

a clue for claraTitle: A Clue for Clara
Author: Lian Tanner
Genre: Mystery, Humour, Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 4th August 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Price: $16.99
Synopsis: Can a scruffy chicken crack a crime? Perhaps, if she’s a genius like Clara. An egg-cellent novel about a small chook and a big crime by the highly acclaimed author of Ella and the Ocean

Clara wants to be a famous detective with her own TV show. She can read claw marks, find missing feathers and knows Morse code and semaphore.

There’s just one problem. She’s a small scruffy chook, and no one takes her seriously.

But when she teams up with Olive, the daughter of the local policeman, they might just be able to solve the crimes that have been troubling the town of Little Dismal.

A puzzling and hilarious mystery from bestselling author, Lian Tanner.


Scruffy-looking chook Clara loves solving mysteries and watching detectives on television. The rest of the chooks at the farm she lives on with the Boss aren’t very impressed with Clara or her eggs, so when the local police constable and his daughter stop by to talk about a rash of stock thefts, Clara hops into their car, and heads home with them, where she begins to investigate with Olive’s help, to save their town, Little Dismal. But as Clara and Olive investigate, they will discover that there is more to the case than everyone can see.

Told in alternating perspectives through diary entries by Clara – a day-by-day run down using certain times of the day, and letters from Olive to her mother, the novel is fun and engaging, and gives as much joy and story as a traditional narrative – and for these characters, it works very well to get across who they are, and how they operate in the world, with each other and with everyone around them.

Clara’s diary entries are entertaining – the human world seen through the eyes of a chicken, who needs to find a way to get the humans to believe her. But how can Clara communicate with Olive and Digby, and get them to believe her?

As the story reveals clues and ideas, Clara has her mind set on one suspect – Jubilee Crystal Simpson – and using a phone to communicate with Olive, is determined to solve the case for Olive and her father, and prove her theory correct, whilst Olive finds a way to deal with her mother’s death, and the way she is now treated around town and at school.



A Clue for Clara explores crime in an entertaining and light-hearted way for younger readers whilst still managing to communicate how serious the stock thefts are in a small country town. It is a fun read that explores friendship, death, acceptance and secrets in an accessible way through the eyes of a most unlikely hero and her human sidekick. Animals as main characters in books for younger readers is something, I have been noticing a lot of, especially in Australian middle grade and junior fiction – llamas, chickens, pigeons and many more, and others to come. I don’t know what they will be, but the opportunities are endless, and I look forward to seeing what comes up next. Animals make for fun characters, and Clara is no exception.

We mostly heard from Clara, but through her observations that take place hour to hour, and Olive’s letters, we learn about the town, and the people who live there, and what they do to get by. It is a funny, and charming book that is filled with great lines such as ‘You are not a duck,’ (read the book to understand this), and Clara’s love of Inspector Garcia and Amelia X, and many other things that make this a lot of fun, and a joy to read for all ages and readers.