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.

June 2020 Wrap Up

 

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12

AWW2020 – 67/25

Book Bingo – 12/12

The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52

Dymocks Reading Challenge 23/25

Books and Bites Bingo 15/25

STFU Reading Challenge: 9/12

General Goal –110/165

 

In June, I managed to read eighteen books in total, fourteen by Australian authors, and all but one of those were Australian women authors. Fifteen of the eighteen were by women authors from Australia and the United Kingdom, and my reading crossed all kinds of genres and audiences this month as I work towards my yearly reading goals.

Towards the end of the month, I participated in an Emma versus Pride and Prejudice read-along with some blogger friends – it seemed several of us went with Emma- perhaps because we had not read it yet and had already read Pride and Prejudice – and two of us found we could use it for a classics book bingo square.

I’m moving slowly through my stacks of books to read, and will hopefully be on top of all of them soon.

June – 18

Book Author Challenge
Elementals: Battle Born Amie Kaufman Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Lilies, Lies and Love Jackie French Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kid Normal and the Final Five Greg James and Chris Smith Reading Challenge
Toffle Towers: Fully Booked Tim Harris and James Foley Reading Challenge
Monty’s Island: Scary Mary and the Stripey Spell Emily Rodda and Lucinda Gifford Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Wonderscape Jennifer Bell Reading Challenge
When Rain Turns to Snow Jane Godwin Reading Challenge, AWW2020
League of Llamas: Undercover Llama Aleesah Darlison Reading Challenge, AWW2020
League of Llamas: Rogue Llama Aleesah Darlison Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Kensy and Max: Freefall Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Silk House 

 

Kayte Nunn Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle

 

Pamela Rushby and Nellé May Pierce Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairy Tale Cover Up Angela Woolfe Reading Challenge
Alexandra-Rose and Her Icy Cold Toes by

 

Monique Mulligan and Kate Fox (Illustrator) Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Meet Mia by the Jetty Janeen Brian and Danny Snell Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek Paul Seden and Brenton McKenna Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts  Kathryn Harkup Reading Challenge
Edie’s Experiments: How to Be the Best Charlotte Barkla Reading Challenge, AWW2020

 

 

 

 

 

Isolation Publicity with K.M. Kruimink, Vogel Award winner 2020

image001 

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.

image001

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 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.

 

A Treacherous Country

 Katherine is the winner of the 2020 Vogel Award with A Treacherous Country, which I am really looking forward to reading and reviewing. This is one book that due to its secrecy due to the prize announcement, did not have much publicity planned, so this is one interview that is helping to get it out there. Katrina had some fun with these questions as all my participants have, and I enjoyed finding out about her book, and her reading  and writing life.

 

Hi Katherine, and welcome to The Book Muse

 

  1. First, congratulations on winning the Allen and Unwin Vogel’s Literary Award. Where did you hear about it, and what made you decide to enter?

 

Thank you very much, and thank you for including me in The Book Muse!

I’m not sure exactly where I heard about the Vogel’s; I’ve known about it for years. Every year I’ve thought to myself ‘Is this the year I enter?’ and last year was it. I had an infant daughter, and I was so exhausted I was hallucinating. I’d be sitting up in bed, holding the baby, and getting annoyed with my husband that he wouldn’t take her so I could sleep. He’d say, ‘Darling, the baby you’re holding is imaginary. I’ve got our baby. You can sleep.’ I really needed something to do with my mind, so I googled the Vogel’s and saw that I had about eight months until the deadline. I felt the value for me in entering would be in the deadline and the wordcount: it would really compel me to complete something. So I did! I needed a bit of structure in my life.

 

  1. Your winning manuscript, A Treacherous Country, was published this year – can you tell my readers about your book, and the history and people behind the story?

 

A Treacherous Country is set in Van Diemen’s Land in 1842. The narrator is a young Englishman who has been sent to find a woman called Maryanne Maginn, who was transported there decades before. He’s very pliable, though, and easily led, and has won a distracting pair of newfangled harpoons in a card game. Through the harpoons, he gets caught up in the world of shore-based whaling. On his journey, he reflects on the situation he left behind at home – the young woman he proposed to, and his family of origin – and comes to the point where he realises he has to adjust his perception of things, and make a decision. I like an air of mystery, and keeping some facts back, so the young man’s motivations are revealed slowly.

The whaling industry was in decline around the time I set my novel, because the species was being hunted out. Nowadays, however, southern right whales are being seen with increasing frequency in Tasmanian waters. I remember standing on a friend’s verandah and watching a whale and her calf slowly swim north. It spurred me to think about how long their memories are. They almost became metaphorical for me.

  1. Tasmania seems to be getting a lot of attention lately – what do you think it is about Tasmania that is sparking so many different stories?

 

I feel like there are probably many elements to this! A significant aspect of it, I think, is that being from a small place has a kind of distinction to it, just because it’s something you share with relatively few other people. If you add to that the fact that we’re on an island, this becomes intensified. The isolation is both physical and conceptual. That tends to make its mark on your identity, for better or worse.

Another is that Tasmania, in many ways, feels like a microcosm of a larger place: we have big stories, and deep, dark histories, but it’s all condensed into a small place, so it feels more immediate.

As for why it’s getting more attention lately…I do think that people are increasingly drawn to the relative seclusion and safety Tasmania seems to offer. There is a kind of comfort in being on a little island off a bigger island, tucked away in the Tasman Sea.

 

  1. The Vogel’s announcement had to be made online due to the COVID-19 pandemic – what other events did you have to cancel or put on hold surrounding publicity for your book?

 

It’s hard to say, because the secret nature of my book meant that we didn’t have much publicity lined up. The party was definitely the big one!

 

  1. Prior to entering the Vogel’s, did you think about submitting to other prizes or publishers?

 

Not this manuscript, because I wrote it specifically for the Vogel’s. But I have certainly submitted other (shorter) works for consideration elsewhere.

 

  1. What drew you into the genre of historical fiction, and is the story in A Treacherous Country based on known facts and stories, or did you go searching for these facts to craft your story?

 

I’m drawn to strong stories, rather than a particular genre. I love a story with resonance. I love it when things clunk into place, and you think ‘Ah, of course!’. It’s just that this story was necessarily grounded in the past.

It really did unfold organically for me. It’s not based on known stories, but I tried to be as factual as possible. I allowed myself great scope for invention, but checked up on every invention so that it would be rooted in plausibility – was it possible? How would it have looked? How would it have been explained?

 

  1. How important is authenticity of the voice of your story and characters to you, and by extension, the reader?

 

It’s pretty important. I wanted to create a natural-feeling world, inhabited by real and likely people. I wanted my narrator to feel familiar: like a tangible person who happens to be living at a certain point in time.

 

  1. When not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

 

I love walking, reading, and creative pursuits like knitting and drawing. I quite like cooking, but really only because I like eating and sharing food. I love a glass of wine, and movies. But listing all these things feels a bit like I’m pretending my life is this slow and elegant series of quiet pursuits. Mostly I’m playing froggies with my daughter – or horsies – or doggies…and enjoying the cognitive dissonance of eating golden syrup dumplings while wearing tummy trimmer jeans.

 

  1. Do you also read historical fiction, or do you prefer reading a different genre to the one you write in?

 

Yes, I love historical fiction! I don’t limit it to that, though. I love a compelling mystery. I love a good classic, or sci fi, or the kind of contemporary drama that inevitably gets described as ‘searing’ or ‘luminous’ or ‘searingly luminous’. Whatever’s good.

 

  1. Prior to entering this prize, had you written anything else, worked in the arts in another capacity, or is this novel completely different from what you had been doing previously?

 

Yes, I’ve had a couple of publications with the excellent Going Down Swinging, and a couple of other publications too long ago to mention. Both pieces I’ve published with GDS are set in the future, actually. One is set in a post-apocalyptic Hobart, and the other in an imagined sort of neo-noir neon city. This novel is different in genre, but similar in that I’m interested in the challenge of telling human stories within a context that creates a degree of remove – like the future or the past. I love anything with a sense of the strange.

 

  1. Do you have a preferred writing method?

 

I started typing ‘Half-drunk and at 3 am,’ but only out of habit. My twenties are over. I write on my laptop, and I’m good for short bursts. I might do forty-five minutes, go and make a cup of tea, and do another forty-five. Or an hour, and then a walk, and then another hour, and then binge-watch a whole season of Buffy. That kind of thing.

 

  1. How much research do you like to, or feel you need to do before putting the first words of the story onto paper?

 

I do it as I go. I tend to get the spark of inspiration from something, find the voice, and find the fabric of the story, and that leads me to the research I need to do. I love the different directions the research takes me. For instance, I did a lot of reading about language for this novel. There was a great deal of delving through quotations in the OED to check the use and age of various words and phrases. And then I found myself looking through old newspapers on Trove looking for advertisements to work out the prices of things, and what people found useful. Next I’d be looking at diagrams of rowing boats and sketches of different kinds of harpoons. And in between, always, writing.

 

  1. Do you have any favourite authors who have inspired you?

 

Oh god yes. For a while I was quite a derivative writer; I’d read something that got me so excited I’d race off and start writing in that style. That’s OK, that was just part of the process of finding my own voice. But writers like Hilary Mantel and Kazuo Ishiguro will always make me want to write like them!

 

  1. Now that you’re working in the arts, what is it like to be in this industry?

 

It’s wonderful, but I don’t think I can answer with any real depth because apart from small forays into publishing, this is new to me.

 

  1. Do you have a favourite bookseller and which books have they recommended to you that you have loved?

 

Hobart has some really great bookshops! There’s the Hobart Bookshop, Fullers, Cracked and Spineless, the State Bookstore…all favourites. I’m pretty self-directing when it comes to reading, so I can’t recall any specific recommendations, although I’m sure there have been!

 

  1. The cover of your book is amazing – what was it like the first time you saw it, and do you feel that it captures the essence of your story?

 

It was wonderful! I felt quite awestruck at the skill and style of Sandy Cull, the designer. It made the book feel more tangible. It was at a time when we were discussing changing the title, and seeing the new title in all its glory like that made me really feel like it was the right choice.

 

  1. You reference Greek mythology at the beginning of the novel – and Homer’s Odyssey – what bearing does this have on the novel?

 

There’s the obvious correlation of a person on a quest, and I’m sure other similarities could be drawn. But I’m not very fond of Odysseus! I don’t mean to downplay the importance of Homer (that would be silly), or the wonderfulness of the Odyssey and the Iliad, but I wouldn’t want to write about Odysseus. My narrator references the Odyssey because he has the scraps of classical knowledge that have come from being a well-brought-up but not particularly well-educated 19th century gent, and he doesn’t have much life experience of his own to rely on.

 

  1. Following on from the previous question, would you say this element suggests this is an Australian retelling of the Odyssey?

 

I wouldn’t say that, although I suppose any story of a journey might invite comparison to Homer. I suppose a key difference between my book and the Odyssey – apart from personality and stage of life – is that Odysseus is actively journeying home, and my narrator is journeying towards a less tangible end.

 

  1. How long did it take you to write this novel, from germination of the idea to the finished product?

 

About eight months, from when I googled the Vogel’s award to about twenty minutes before midnight on the final day it was open.

When I first started working on something to submit, I looked at a manuscript I’ve been working on for years. For my state of mind at the time, I actually found it too difficult – just not the thing that was really working for me. I found a little, unimportant side character I’d written about in that original manuscript, and expanded and developed his story into A Treacherous Country. So while it was new, the idea did grow from an older idea.

 

  1. Do you have more novels planned for the future?

 

I do! I’m working on that older manuscript I mentioned in the previous question. It means a lot to me, and I think about it a great deal. I just wasn’t in the right headspace for it last year. And there are other things on the go – it would never do to have everything finished and be able to get a good night’s sleep, after all.

 

Any comments about anything I may have missed?

 

 

Thank you Katherine, and best of luck with future writing,

 

 

 

May 2020 Round Up

In May, we seemed to settle into a lockdown routine, so I got a bit more reading done. This month, I read 20 books – the vast majority of those – seventeen – were by Australian women writers – some for review, some my own reads and one or two that I read alongside Isolation Publicity interviews. Below is a breakdown of my current numbers, and a table with each read and the challenge they worked for. Some categories are easier to fill, as always, and some have multiple entries. I’ve got plenty to read – the books keep coming so I’m trying to keep on top of everything as best I can.

The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
AWW2020 -53/25
Book Bingo – 11/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 22/25
Books and Bites Bingo 15/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –89/165

May – 20

Book Author Challenge
The Monstrous Devices Damien Love Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, AWW2020
An Alice Girl Tanya Heaslip Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Daisy Runs Wild Caz Goodwin and Ashley King Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal Anna Whateley Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Her Perilous Mansion Sean Williams Reading Challenge
What Zola did on Monday

 

Melina Marchetta and illustrated by Deb Hudson Reading Challenge, AWW2020, The Nerd Daily Challenge
Henrie’s Hero Hunt (House of Heroes) Petra Hunt Reading Challenge, AWW2020,
The Power of Positive Pranking Nat Amoore Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Edie’s Experiments: How to Make Friends Charlotte Barkla Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Alice-Miranda at School Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily, AWW2020
Alice-Miranda in the Outback Jacqueline Harvey Reading Challenge, AWW2020
The Giant and the Sea Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai Reading Challenge, Book Bingo, STFU Reading Challenge
Shoestring: The Boy Who Walks on Air by Julie Hunt and Dale Newman Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Orla and the Serpent’s Curse C.J. Halsam Reading Challenge
Elephant Me Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily Challenge
A Treacherous Country K.M. Kruimink Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Eloise and the Bucket of Stars Janine Brian Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women  Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Books and Bites Book Bingo
Tashi: 25th Anniversary Edition Anna Fienberg, Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble Reading Challenge, AWW2020
On A Barbarous Coast Craig Cormick and Harold Ludwick Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

In June I am hoping to read more and get further on top of all my reviews – look for more great books by Australians and especially kids and young adult books to come in the next few weeks.

Peta Lyre

An Alice Girl by Tanya Heaslip

an alice girlTitle: An Alice Girl

Author: Tanya Heaslip

Genre: Biography

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 19th May 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 344

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: From the bestselling author of Alice to Prague, for fans of Toni Tapp Coutts’ A Sunburnt Childhood and Mary Groves’ An Outback Life, comes Tanya Heaslip’s extraordinary story of growing up with her sister and brothers in the late 1960s and early 70s on an outback cattle property just north of Alice Springs.

An Alice Girl is Tanya Heaslip’s extraordinary story of growing up in the late 1960s and early 70s on a vast and isolated outback cattle property just north of Alice Springs.

Tanya’s parents, Janice and Grant ‘the Boss’, were pioneers. They developed the cattle station where water was scarce, where all power was dependent on generators and where a trip to town for supplies usually meant a full day’s journey. Grant was determined to teach his children how to survive in this severe and isolated environment and his lessons were often harsh.

Tanya and her siblings led a childhood unimaginable to many Australians. Whether working the mobs of cattle with the stockmen, playing cattle-duffing on horseback or singing and doing lessons at their School of the Air desks, the children were always aware of the demands of the land.

But while her sister and brothers loved riding and working stock, Tanya’s heart longed to be back at the homestead with her books and stories.

In a childhood that many would consider very tough, Tanya tells of this precious time with raw honesty, humour, love and kindness. This is the story of an Alice girl.

~*~

Tanya Heaslip grew up in the outback near Alice Springs with her brothers, sister and parents, working with cattle or playing games once their work had finished. For Tanya, this was a precious time but also a time of isolation – where her only connection with the outside world at first was with her School of the Air friends and Correspondence School teacher. Yet through School of the Air and her friend Jane, she discovered a world beyond her family’s home and beyond spending every day with her family and nobody else.

This biography tells the story of Tanya’s first eleven to twelve years, before she headed off to boarding school in Adelaide, as the rest of her family did in the following years. This is a story of isolation and a life that seemed tough – as Tanya tried to please her father but also, found solace in writing and books – in a world of words.

These stories precede Alice to Prague, and show readers where Tanya came from and how she found herself on the journey and in the career she has now. Reading both is a great experience – two periods in her life, both as fascinating and as intriguing as the other. From one extreme to another across both books – isolation in Alice and the Northern Territory to surveillance under a Communist regime in Prague. Both are fascinating stories.

AWW2020In An Alice Girl, we get a glimpse of what life is like on a remote cattle station, how everything they did differs from what most of us know, and the way of life they led, what was most precious to them and how they managed – the tough exteriors Tanya and her siblings built up, and the way they learned to cope with what they had and accept it.

Tanya explores why this is, and how her parents, who were born on the cusp of World War Two, were impacted by living through war, and how it made them who they were. Vastly different from her family, Tanya was still very close to her siblings – for much of their lives, just about every day – they could only interact and play with each other – there were times when there were other children around, but this was often temporary and short lived.

The Northern Territory came to life in this book, and was as big a character as Tanya’s family, evoking a sense of place that feels familiar yet at the same time new and unfamiliar to many readers who live in cities or suburbs. For those who lived in regional or remote areas, some things might be relatable, others might have been experienced differently. It is part of Australia’s story – one person’s experience of the world around them and how they navigated it through childhood and learned things along the way and in adulthood that they hadn’t realised or noticed at the time.

It is honest, at times brutal, and also has many heart-warming moments. Combined, this makes it an engaging personal and family story of childhood, and what having an isolated childhood is like, up to the feeling of being ripped away from all you know to a boarding school in another city, another state. An Alice Girl is the story of a childhood where what she had was loved, yet Tanya also wanted more. It explores her love of words and books, of school – of friends she had never met until she was able to attend a country show where she watched her friend compete.

It was a different world to today. Tanya only knew her friend’s voice, whereas these days, we know how our friends who live far away from us write, what they look like but not always what they sound like. We’d recognise their faces, but maybe not their voices. For so long, this was the opposite for Tanya. But she shone through and her life is fascinating. Reading about it showed there was a whole world out there beyond what we know in the cities and suburbs along the coast.

I enjoyed reading this book about Tanya’s early years, seeing how she grew up and what initiated her taste for writing, and the outside world, which is further explored in Alice to Prague. For readers of that book and new readers, this is a fantastic read that everyone will get something out of.

Books and Bites Bingo Progress Report One – First Bingo

I should be doing this for each bingo line I hit – with the regular book bingo, it is being included in the relevant post. For this one with Monique, I am trying to update as I complete a line.

books and bites game card

 

My first BINGO of the sheet is the top lime – which I actually completed last month but have only just managed to find time to write this brief post. This was possibly the easiest line – some squares I am still finding books, or waiting for a release, or am, not sure what I will use. Luckily, these are fairly broad categories and I can go with anything for many of them, so when I find something that fits, that is what I will use. This is my overall challenge strategy and I am finding it less stressful as it allows me to read what I have and if it fits, that’s a good thing.

This was a challenge I signed up for later than the others, but am having fun with it nonetheless. Of the books I used in this challenge, I loved them all and there were so many others that could have worked here. I admit to stretching the travel memoir category – using a fictional book with travel that felt like it could be a travel memoir – I expand on this more in the post, however.

I look forward to filling the rest of the squares and reporting on them in the coming months.

Books and Bites Bingo
Set in Europe:Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)

Travel Memoir: The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski

Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

April 2020 Round Up

In April, we found ourselves amidst a pandemic – and I found myself with an influx of review books, some quite long, and some not so long. As I usually do, I aim to read ahead in my review stack, to get things cleared, and posted or scheduled to save time. I’m still a bit behind, reading some books that should be on this list on the day of writing and posting. However, this is the case due to the fact that the books may have arrived after or a day before publication date due to the current overload of deliveries due to the COVID-19 crisis we’re facing.

I’ve also been doing an Isolation Publicity series with Australian authors – which by the looks of things will take me into mid – late August at this stage, a month short of the planned lockdown. Some of these interviews are really exciting and make me wish I could share them now, but the schedule means everyone gets a special day for their interview. Many authors have had launches cancelled, festivals and appearance cancelled or moved online – which has meant a loss of income and has been detrimental to the arts sector. These authors need the love and publicity the book blogging community can give them so their work can get into the hands of readers.

I read 19 books this month, and all except The Austen Girls and The Unadoptables have a live review at this stage. The Austen Girls will be appearing around the 19th of May with several other reviews and posts. The latter is appearing in June. I also ticked off a few challenge categories – not as many as I had hoped, however, I am getting there and should hopefully have filled them all in by the end of the year.

April – 19

Book Author Challenge
The Deceptions Suzanne Leal AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Puppy Diary: The Great Toy Rescue Yvette Poshoglian AWW2020, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge
The Octopus and I Erin Hortle AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: Big Trouble R.A. Spratt AWW2020, Reading Challenge, The Modern Mrs Darcy
The Strangeworlds Travel Agency

 

L.D. Lapinski Reading Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo
Inheritance of Secrets Sonya Bates Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire Nat Amoore Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Jane in Love Rachel Givney Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge, The Nerd Daily
Persuasion Jane Austen Reading Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo
The Austen Girls Lucy Worsley Reading Challenge
The Unadoptables Hana Tooke Reading Challenge
Friday Barnes: No Rules R.A. Spratt Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King Kate Simpson and Hess Racklyeft Reading Challenge, AWW2020
Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery Renée Treml Reading Challenge, AWW2020, The Modern Mrs Darcy (Nominated for the 2020 Readings Children’s Prize)
Shortlisted Readings Children’s Book Prize 2020 AU; Shortlisted Speech Pathology Award, Eight to Ten Years 2019 AU 
Nim’s Island Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge
Ribbit Rabbit Robot Victoria MacKinlay and Sofya Karmazina AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Nim at Sea Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge
Rescue on Nim’s Island Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge
The Complete Adventures on Nim’s Island Wendy Orr AWW2020, Reading Challenge, STFU Reading Challenge

World Book Day 2020

Happy WORLD BOOK DAY

Today, the 23rd of April, we celebrate World Book Day, and William Shakespeare’s birthday. It is the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day, and the National Library of Australia notes that it also marks the deaths of William Shakespeare (I know, he died the same day he was born, about fifty-two years later), and Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and I’ve done the tour of three of the historic houses linked to the playwright.

World Book Day celebrates a love of reading, and this year, they are encouraging people to share the love of reading from home – while we’re all in isolation and unable to head out. I’m doing a lot of reading at the moment – mostly for review and working on a series called Isolation Publicity series which is highlighting as many Australian authors as possible, especially those impacted by the cancellation of events, festivals and launches of their upcoming releases – some are debut authors, and some have had many works published. Yet they all need love at the moment and blogging about books and sharing books is a small way we can #StayAtHome during #WorldBookDay and share the love of reading.

So on World Book Day, grab a good book if you can and read!

Today, I have several books on the go:

The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive (out 28th of April 2020)

Friday Barnes: No Rules by R.A. Spratt

The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love (Out 19th May 2020)

The Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna

All four will be reviewed on my blog in the coming days or weeks, and I have many more to get through – the scheduling tool is super helpful here. You can follow progress of readers in this time via the hashtag #AustraliaReadsAtHome as well.

In relation to World Book Day, in September, The Australian Reading Hour with Australia Reads  is coming up in September, but instead of one hour, there are seventeen days of fun leading up to the main event on the 17th of September, where the aim is to have one million people reading the same book at the same time. Each year there is a different book for National Simultaneous Story Time. Your own individual hour can take place whenever and wherever you wish.

I linked these two events in today’s post because they both highlight the importance of books, reading and literacy, and so you can prepare for the September event! More information will come about this event later, about what will be happening during the first two weeks of September.

Blog Tour Review: The Deceptions by Suzanne Leal

9781760875275Title: The Deceptions

Author: Suzanne Leal

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 31st March 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Long-buried family secrets surface in a compelling new novel from the author of The Teacher’s Secret.

Moving from wartime Europe to modern day Australia, The Deceptions is a powerful story of old transgressions, unexpected revelations and the legacy of lives built on lies and deceit.

Prague, 1943. Taken from her home in Prague, Hana Lederova finds herself imprisoned in the Jewish ghetto of Theresienstadt, where she is forced to endure appalling deprivation and the imminent threat of transportation to the east. When she attracts the attention of the Czech gendarme who becomes her guard, Hana reluctantly accepts his advances, hoping for the protection she so desperately needs.

Sydney, 2010. Manipulated into a liaison with her married boss, Tessa knows she needs to end it, but how? Tessa’s grandmother, Irena, also has something to hide. Harkening back to the Second World War, hers is a carefully kept secret that, if revealed, would send shockwaves well beyond her own fractured family.

Inspired by a true story of wartime betrayal, The Deceptions is a searing, compassionate tale of love and duplicity-and family secrets better left buried.

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The Deceptions is a stunning example of the way fiction tells war better than any other form – I could taste its madness, its horror. Saw from the outside, its utter absurdity. For days after reading the novel I found myself wrestling with the price of betrayal, and the value of truth.’ – Sofie Laguna, winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award

‘At what cost can a survivor of hell rebuild a seemingly normal life? The Deceptions is a gripping and tragic story for our times.’ – Leah Kaminsky, author of The Hollow Bones

‘Impossible to put down. Leal is a master storyteller. Mesmerising, heartbreaking, honest-The Deceptions is ferociously good.’ – Nikki Gemmell, author of After

‘Those who grew up in the shadow of the Second World War had Elie Wiesel’s Night to define for them the enormity for the Holocaust. Those who were born later can now rely upon Suzanne Leal’s brilliant and confronting novel The Deceptions to open their eyes to the true horrors of Nazism.’ – Alan Gold, author of Bloodline

~*~

Moving between the war and 2010 using four perspectives, sign posted by the names of the characters – Ruth, Hana, Karel and Tessa – with Hana’s story being told in first person, and the others in third person – The Deceptions is the story of decades long secrets, family and survival, and the sacrifices made to keep family safe. Hana and Tessa tell the majority of the story, with Karel and Ruth making appearances throughout. Hana’s story is woven throughout from the start to the end – her life and death and her time in the ghetto and at Auschwitz. Whilst there, she has her own secrets that she cannot share with anyone – does not share with anyone until one of the women she is trapped with at Auschwitz notices and helps her through the trying months.

The Deceptions is based on stories Suzanne heard from her landlords, Fred and Eva Perger, and Suzanne has managed to seamlessly separate fact from fiction and allow the fictional counterparts to interact with the real life experiences in a way that feels so real, it is almost overpowering and allows the reader to explore this part of history that has been retold in a new way. Most people will only think of the faceless mass of numbers – yet assigning a name and identity to those affected, the victims and their families, shows the enormity of what actually happened. These were real people, with homes and families, and lives. Yet in stripping them of these, the Nazis were able to carry out their atrocities. When we think of the victims, we must try to remember that they had names, and I think this is where books like Suzanne’s and Fred and Eva’s stories come in – they allow us to see the people behind the numbers.

AWW2020

Hana is the Jewish narrator, whose story is told in first person. Karel, the Czech gendarme from Theresienstadt and his granddaughter Tessa tell their stories – a story of reflection and a story of an affair that ends abruptly. Finally, Ruth, the minister – whose story is interwoven throughout in regard to her relationship with her father and Tessa and Karel. Each are connected by the Holocaust and the way it touched and continues to touch many interconnected lives – there is no end to the trauma. It never goes away.

Suzanne doesn’t meander or waffle, the story is clear and crisp – direct, you could say, in the way her characters relate their stories. It seems there is no beating around the bush with what is happening and what has happened. She questions morality and truth and allows the reader and characters to make up their own minds. Some stories were wrapped up, others were not tied up so neatly and that is okay – that is what real life is like. It is a thought-provoking novel about what we do in certain circumstances, how we are challenged and how we face what we have done. I thoroughly enjoyed it and think it adds something special  to the current lot of Holocaust stories that are available.

 

Isolation Publicity: Suzanne Leal Blog Tour, Author of The Deceptions

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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.

Leal, Suzanne - credit Kelly Barlow

The third in my Isolation Publicity Series is part of a blog tour for a book called The Deceptions by Suzanne Leal, which is based on stories she heard from her landlords who had lived through the Holocaust. It’s a riveting and moving read, exploring the Holocaust and hidden stories and secrets and how these can affect generations of a family. My review is more expansive. Enjoy this interview and the review.

9781760875275

Hi Suzanne, and welcome to The Book Muse

  1. Novels and books about hidden stories like The Deceptions are some of my favourites, and often very powerful narratives. What has led you to writing these stories as an author?

Hi Ashleigh, and thanks so much for having me.  You’re absolutely right: in my new novel The Deceptions everyone has something to hide or a secret they don’t want revealed.  I’m very interested in what people try to hide or what they simply leave unsaid.  Often the things we don’t know about a person – and what they don’t wish to discuss –  are the very things that are most interesting about them: the trauma they have had to overcome, the country they were forced to leave, the loss they have experienced.   It is these hidden stories that, once known, give us a new insight into people we may have thought we knew well.

  1. Did your experiences as a lawyer help you understand how people in unimaginable situations, like your characters in The Deceptions, make decisions that we may think are immoral or dangerous?

I started my legal career in criminal law, then moved into refugee and immigration law and now child protection. In each of these areas, I deal with people in crisis, whether this is because they risk going to jail or have fled their homeland or have lost their career.  My work has taught me a lot about the difficulties people face in their lives, the mistakes they make and how they might try to make up for them.  When I read about the difficulties facing people during the Second World War I often wonder how I would have behaved.  Would I have behaved as admirably as I might hope I would?

  1. Some people think all war novels are the same. Yet as someone who reads a lot of these sorts of novels, I find each one tells of a unique aspect. Is this something you think novelists in general aim to do?

I’ve never really thought all war novels are the same for truly no two writers will ever tell a story in exactly the same way.  Writing a novel takes time and, for me at least, is a difficult thing to do.  I have to be absolutely taken by the story I have to tell to enable me to keep going with it.  That involves discovering the essence of each of my characters: who they really are and why they behave the way they do.  This is what many most writers do – they really drill down into their characters – and in so doing, make each work unique.

  1. You credit your landlord, Fred, for starting your career as a writer – can you expand on how you feel he helped you enter this career?

For seven years, Fred and Eva Perger were both my neighbours and my landlords.   They were also Czech and Jewish and had both survived the Holocaust.  As we became closer, Fred started to confide in me about his experiences during the war. These confidences became regular interviews and in the space of a year, I had five hundred pages of transcript describing events and places with an honesty and photographic recall that still astound me. These interviews formed the basis for my first novel, Border Street, which opened my career as a writer.

My new novel, The Deceptions, was inspired one of the stories Fred and Eva had each told me.  As teenagers, they’d been sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto outside Prague.  Whilst there, they got to know a Czech gendarme whose job was to guard the camp but who was also having a clandestine relationship with one of the young Jewish women detained there.  Some months later, the gendarme and the young woman disappeared from the camp.  After the war, he returned home but her fate remained unknown.  Over the years, I found myself wondering what had happened to her.  I didn’t have enough information to research her actual life – I didn’t even know her name – but at the same time, I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  In the end, I gave in and, using my imagination, I recreated her instead.  From there, The Deceptions emerged.

  1. Which do you prefer – being a writer, or fighting for justice in a court room?

I like the combination.  As a lawyer, I sit on a tribunal where I make decisions about people who come before me.  I might be called on to decide whether a person should have a taxi licence or a building licence or a tattooing licence or a firearms licence.  I might also be asked to decide whether a person should have the right to work with children.  To make decisions like this, I need to know a lot about a person’s background, behaviour and motivation. This makes my work fascinating.

As a writer, I love to sit alone and to try to put into words those things in life that puzzle me or shock me or surprise me.  I love sitting down to get out on paper all the thoughts that would otherwise clog up my head.

  1. What is it about World War Two and its stories in particular that you are interested in?

I am interested in World War Two because of the unbelievable horror of the Holocaust.  I find it absolutely impossible to contemplate what it must have been like to have been part of it.  Because I became so close to my neighbours, Fred and Eva Perger, who were both Holocaust survivors, I found myself thinking about World War Two a lot.  I found myself wondering how I would have behaved had I been part of the war: would I have behaved well, would I have been altruistic or would I have simply focused on myself?

  1. What is it about dual timeline narratives in historical fiction that you think is an effective and powerful means to tell the story?

I’ve always liked reading dual timeline narratives.  Last year at Storyfest – the Milton-based festival directed by Meredith Jaffé- I interviewed Natasha Lester and I love the way she intertwines her stories of contemporary life and historical fiction.  A dual timeline narrative was important for my novel The Deceptions because it is very much an exploration of the legacy of war through the years and through generations.

  1. What do you prefer writing – historical fiction, or another genre? Why?

I like writing both historical and contemporary fiction, although I find writing historical fiction more difficult because of the all the research required.  More than anything, I’m interested in how we live now, how we manage our relationships, our work, our losses and how we find the strength to get through hard times.

  1. Have you shared your story with Fred and Eva’s family?

Since Fred and Eva’s death, I have stayed in contact with their daughters, Helena and Renata, to whom I have dedicated The Deceptions.  Helena and Renata read the manuscript early on because I wanted to make sure there was nothing in the book that might upset them.  For although the character of Hana is in no way based on their mother, the places Hana is taken during the war are the same as the places Eva was taken.  Helena and Renata checked my Czech for me and have been incredibly supportive of me.

  1. When did Fred and Eva start telling you their stories about the Holocaust?

I lived beside Fred and Eva for seven years.  After a year or so, they began to tell me about their wartime experiences.  It wasn’t until I’d moved away from them that Fred and I met each week to record his life experiences.

  1. For many people, the Holocaust is a distant event, that’s sometimes just a number. Yet it affected millions of people, has millions of names attached. How important do you think it is to continue teaching it and letting the world know about stories like Eva and Fred’s story?

I think it is fundamental to keep telling stories of the Holocaust so that the horror of it might never be forgotten and never repeated.  It is difficult to comprehend the deaths of millions of people, so difficult it can lose its impact.  More confronting can be the story of one or two or three people whose stories we follow so closely we can immerse ourselves in their lives and get an insight into their experiences. This, I think, is the particular power of fiction.

  1. What impact do you think stories with named victims will have on the teaching of the Holocaust, beyond the usual names such as Anne Frank that we all know? Is it your hope that more stories like this will not only expand knowledge, but expand understanding and empathy?

There are so much Holocaust stories of so many people from so many different backgrounds.  To expand these stories is fundamental to an understanding of the horror and reach of the Holocaust. I think it is also important not to forget that the damage war causes has a long reach: it stretches through time and down the generations.

  1. Finally, what are you planning for your next book, if there are any plans?

I’ve just finished the first draft of my new novel, which continues the theme that so interests me: how do we find hope and resilience in the midst of troubled times?

Thank you Suzanne, and good luck with future endeavours.