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

 

 

 

 

 

Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Kathryn Harkup

death by shakespeareTitle: Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts
Author: Kathryn Harkup
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma
Published: 2nd July 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: William Shakespeare found dozens of different ways to kill off his characters, and audiences today still enjoy the same reactions – shock, sadness, fear – that they did more than 400 years ago when these plays were first performed. But how realistic are these deaths, and did Shakespeare have the knowledge to back them up?

In the Bard’s day death was a part of everyday life. Plague, pestilence and public executions were a common occurrence, and the chances of seeing a dead or dying body on the way home from the theatre were high. It was also a time of important scientific progress. Shakespeare kept pace with anatomical and medical advances, and he included the latest scientific discoveries in his work, from blood circulation to treatments for syphilis. He certainly didn’t shy away from portraying the reality of death on stage, from the brutal to the mundane, and the spectacular to the silly.

Elizabethan London provides the backdrop for Death by Shakespeare, as Kathryn Harkup turns her discerning scientific eye to the Bard and the varied and creative ways his characters die. Was death by snakebite as serene as Shakespeare makes out? Could lack of sleep have killed Lady Macbeth? Can you really murder someone by pouring poison in their ear? Kathryn investigates what actual events may have inspired Shakespeare, what the accepted scientific knowledge of the time was, and how Elizabethan audiences would have responded to these death scenes. Death by Shakespeare will tell you all this and more in a rollercoaster of Elizabethan carnage, poison, swordplay and bloodshed, with an occasional death by bear-mauling for good measure.
~*~

Shakespeare probably has the most deaths of any author – over 250, as Kathryn Harkup states – at least the in-play ones whether they happen onstage or offstage behind the scenes or between scenes. In Death by Shakespeare, using history, science and the brad’s own plays, Harkup looks at the various ways the characters died, and the creative licence Shakespeare took with some of them in light of what he was likely to have known when he was writing, and what we know now of poisons and physiology.

With each method of death, Kathryn illustrates how it played out in the text of the play and how actors in the plays, especially in Elizabethan and Jacobean times, portrayed these deaths to avoid harm to them but make it look realistic for the play and the audience. It is filled with incredible attention to detail in this way, and in the way that the plague years affected Shakespeare and his writing, and the always present spectre of death that was around his life in an ever-present way. Much like our current situation with COVID-19, the plague years throughout Shakespeare’s life shut everything down and this was when Shakespeare would write some of his works. It touched him personally too – killing his eleven-year-old son, Hamnet.

The book divides each method into its own chapter, with an appendix that divides Shakespeare’s works into Comedies, Histories, Tragedies and Poems and outlines who died and how into tables – a good quick reference. In looking at the deaths, and how likely they would have been, or how they might have been, or should have been, executed, Kathryn Harkup has pulled so many things together to create an informative and intriguing book, on deaths and how realistic they are. The plays will be enriched by this knowledge and give depth to further discussion and analysis and interpretations. It was a fascinating read that gave the literary, historical and scientific aspects equal weighting, and made it easy to understand for all readers. I came to this book from a historical and literary stance but found that the author explained the scientific information in an easy to access and understand way. It is also good as a reference for writers in their own writing, and filled with random facts that might be useful for a trivia night – if you can remember them all!

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.

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

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King by Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft (illustrator)

anzac girlTitle: Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King
Author: Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft (illustrator)
Genre: Historical
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: March 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Price: $24.99
Synopsis: The true story of Anzac girl Sister Alice Ross-King, who sailed to war in December 1914 and became the most decorated woman in Australia.
It was 1914 when Sister Alice Ross-King left Australia for the war. Nursing was her passion – all she had ever wanted to do. But Alice couldn’t have imagined what she would see. She served four long years and was brave, humble and endlessly compassionate.

Using extracts from Alice’s actual diaries kept in the Australian War Memorial, this true story captures the danger, the heartache and the history of the young nurse who would one day become the most decorated woman in Australia.

~*~

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King is a picture book, based on the war diaries of the WW1 nurse, written by her great-granddaughter, author Kate Simpson, who is also the co-host of kids lit podcast, One More Page with Liz Leddon and Nat Amoore. This has been a book that has been on my shelf for a few weeks – and I thought Anzac Day was the perfect time to read it.

ANZAC Day 2020 Lest We Forget

 

Like many authors who have released or will be releasing books in the next few months, Kate had the launch of her book cancelled. I hope my review can bring some publicity for this special book alongside my other reviews and Isolation Publicity series.

When Alice Ross-King sets off for war as a nurse, she isn’t prepared for what she will see and who she will meet. Kate has used extracts from her great-grandmother’s diary to tell the story, and the illustrations by Jess are combined with photos of the actual documents from the war and Alice’s time spent as a nurse across Gallipoli and Europe. Told simply for kids aged six and older, it is still very evocative and encapsulates the sense of what the war was like for Alice. It captures what the war was like in a time of war in a way that isn’t too confronting for younger readers. Readers feel Alice’s heartache, hope and despondence throughout. It is one of the most engrossing picture books I have read recently. It is a great book to read for history lessons or ANZAC Day or both. I would have loved to have had a story like this to study during history at school, and hopefully, it finds its way into future curriculums for all levels and ages.

An excellent picture book that captures the ANZAC spirit.

Lest We Forget

Continue reading “Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King by Kate Simpson and Jess Racklyeft (illustrator)”

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.

Isolation Publicity with Tanya Bretherton

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.

However, even the authors without new releases, anniversary releases or events need our love and appreciation during this crisis, and Tanya reached out to me to appear on the blog. So far, as you may have seen, I have tried to have as many different interviews, authors and genres as possible – it all comes down to who wishes to appear in this series. I still have slots open, and will be going for as long as I can during these hard times.

Hi Tanya, and welcome back to The Book Muse!

  1. Where did your interest in researching and writing about true crime, particularly historical crimes, come from?

Like many people, I enjoy reading true crime, listening to crime podcasts and watching documentaries.  I didn’t initially set out to write in this field though.  My background is sociology, but not criminology.  My first book, The Suitcase Baby, emerged from my day job.  I am a research consultant, and when tracing the history of child protection legislation in NSW I stumbled across an article about a murdered child, cast off into the waters of Port Jackson in the early 1920s.  My interest in true crime as a writer began with that article.  The harbour is such an iconic place in Sydney.  The crime was just so horrible.  I needed to know why it happened – who could kill a child?

  1. So far, your three books – The Suitcase Baby, The Suicide Bride and The Killing Streets have covered crimes that people may have never heard about in today’s society. What is it about these crimes that one could say have disappeared from wider knowledge?

I am really interested in forgotten history or hidden history – overlooked crimes, but also overlooked people.  My books aren’t about wealthy people.  The people I write about don’t bequeath grand estates.  The private letters they wrote were not kept by anyone, and any diaries they may have written are long gone.  They weren’t perceived to be significant historical figures, so you won’t find remnants of their lives held in a private collection or in a museum somewhere.  My field is labelled true crime, but I focus a lot on family history.  I write about death, but I also write about those things that matter most in life: family, love, relationships, tragedy and healing.  True crime is fascinating to me, not because it exists at the extremes, but because there is always a family drama surrounding it in some way or other.

True crime also presents a rich terrain for us to explore heroism.  I write about perpetrators and victims, but I also write about forgotten heroes who try to humbly and quietly work to make the lives of those around them better.  There is villainy in crime, but there are also acts of heroism to be found as well.  I think of the grizzled old police officer in 19th century Newtown who bravely tried to save a young boy drowning in a flooded brick pit, despite the fact that the officer couldn’t swim.  I think of the farm worker in the 1950s who fought to save the life of his work mate dying of a heart attack, out on a remote and dusty plain of the Australian outback.  I think of the single Dad in the 1930s who fought to keep his daughters, at a time when the state deemed the unmarried unfit to parent.  Tragedy creates victims, but it also creates heroes.

 

  1. True crime is a genre that has seemed to gain traction in the last five or so years with books, shows and podcasts. What is it about true crime stories that people find fascinating?

I wonder about this too.  It is often said that the growing interest in true crime is being driven by the dark parts of the human psyche.  Some people believe that we delight in reading about those things that we cannot do, and perhaps even wish we could do.  I think it is also possible that the interest is true crime is driven by an inherent goodness in people.  The vast majority of the more recent true crime writings and documentaries deal with the miscarriage of justice – those who are imprisoned unfairly or trials that go awry.  People tune in because they are interested in the discovery of truth, and there is a genuine interest in the pursuit of fairness and equity.  True crime is about much more than violence, or gore, or delighting in misery.

  1. Do you think there is a correlation between the interest in crime fiction – Sherlock Holmes, Rowland Sinclair, Phryne Fisher, crime shows – Blue Heelers, Criminal Minds, the Law and Order franchise – and an interest in true crime amongst readers and viewers, and podcast listeners?

I have drawn a conclusion about this, and it may be entirely wrong as it isn’t based on any marketing knowledge or demographic data.  I have always got the impression that there are two very distinct camps.  There are those that like crime fiction, and those that like true crime.  There are fence sitters, but most people tend to fall on one side of the fence or the other.  I feel this in a very real way because I feel the wrath of readers who mistake my work for fiction (eg “I didn’t like the book because I didn’t like the ending”) and those that believe non-fiction must conform to some very set rules and can only be written without emotion (eg “history isn’t a novella”).

  1. Your stories always have an element of social and economic aspects to what happened and who committed the crimes. Can you briefly outline how this was a feature in each crime you have looked into in your books, and what makes these aspects important when considering any crime?

You have absolutely hit the nail on the head!  I like to write about crimes that can tell a big story and a little story at the same time.  My books start with a true crime event and that creates momentum for the story to be told, but in truth, my books are social histories.

There is a dark side to crime writing, of course, and issues of gender in this context are of particular interest to me.  The Suitcase Baby explores friendship and loyalty.  The bond between the two women in that story is remarkable and deserving of a thorough exploration.  The relationship between Jean and Sarah was dangerous, and some very conflicted choices were made by both women.  The Suicide Bride looks at the institution of marriage at the turn of the twentieth century, and the challenges of mental illness in a society which had little compassion nor understanding for those suffering from it.  The Killing Streets examines women as victims and considers one of the most elusive criminal archetypes: the serial killer.  They are all true stories, driven by facts, but they are also family dramas.  True crime often places greatest emphasis on pathology or the psychological profile of a criminal.  I place more emphasis on the relationship profile.  The people in my stories do not have money nor power, and they find themselves in very difficult circumstances.  Any judgements we might make about their decisions need to be made with that in mind.  I am not an apologist for crime, but choice is a loaded term, it’s a relative term.

  1. When you begin your research journey, where do you start – with primary sources or secondary sources?

I start with both.  I go back and forth between the two, checking facts as I gradually build a narrative and decide which characters I am going to focus most closely on.  I only select a criminal case if it can provide a platform to tell a bigger social history story.

  1. How many historical crimes that are potentially unsolved or that have gone largely ignored do you think there are in the archives?

Too many to count, and very few of these will ever be solved.  The historical periods I write about were a looong time ago.  Police had to work with very limited forensics, so it isn’t like there are blood samples stored in cabinets just waiting to be re-discovered and tested.  Many records have also been destroyed over the years as well.  The methodologies used to build cases were also often quite skewed.  Suspects were often profiled with very racist, and classist overtones and this means it would be impossible to try and solve many of these crimes now.  The records are simply too tainted by the biases of the era in which they were created.

  1. From what I can remember about The Killing Streets, the real killer was never identified – do you think this case will ever be solved?

The murders of women that occurred in parks across Sydney from the 1920s to the 1940s won’t ever be solved.  I can understand that some people might find reading a book about that infuriating, but I must admit I find the mystery of it fascinating.

  1. Are there any other cases that have caught your eye that you would like to write about?

I am writing my fourth book at the moment – on poison in post-war Sydney.  I also have three other manuscripts at a slow simmer point on the stovetop as well.  My books involve a huge amount of research, and it takes time to prove the dough, so to speak, to see if a fully formed book can emerge.  When I find a story that has some great twists and turns, and surprises, that becomes my next book.

  1. Can you tell the readers a bit about your publishing journey with Hachette Australia, and how you got started with submitting to publishers?

Like everyone, I have experienced rejections by both agents and publishers.  I can only say to people who are genuinely interested in writing – keep going.  My journey into publishing has been a long one, and I think that apprenticeship has been important.  The more you write the more you learn, and the more you learn the better prepared you will be when an opportunity to publish presents itself. It will happen when it is meant to happen, and chances are that won’t be overnight.

 

  1. When not investigating these crimes, what do you enjoy reading or doing?

I have a day job, as bills need to be paid.  I spend time with family and friends – they matter more to me than anything else.  The rest of my spare time is consumed by writing.  My books involve a lot of research and endless hours of labour go into them.

  1. Are there any authors or books, or podcasts you recommend people interested look into, apart from your books, of course?

I listen to so many! I tend to be drawn to podcasts with a history focus.  The State Library of NSW produces some great ones.  I have just listened to The Burial Files on the history of the Devonshire st cemetery – it was brilliant.

  1. Have you had any events cancelled, and if so, what were they, or were you planning on attending any events as a visitor rather than hosting something this year?

The Killing Streets is definitely a Covid-19 casualty.  The pandemic struck just after the book launch so all of the events we had planned for the book have been cancelled.  This is of course, a small disappointment in the scheme of what we are all facing right now.  I feel for the entire world at the moment.

  1. Which booksellers are your favourites to frequent, and do you hope to be able to support them as much as possible during this time?

I guess I can only say – buy local wherever you are.  I try to buy from my local booksellers.  I also love secondhand bookstores, and libraries.  I know that the internet is increasingly playing a role in the way we share and celebrate books.  It is also wonderful to have the big chains involved, as they play such an important role in selling, but our local stores and libraries are the heart and soul of book-life and we should support them.

Is there anything you’d like to say that I may have missed?

Thank you, Tanya, for reaching out and helping me with this venture

Book Bingo Four 2020 – Themes of Inequality

Book bingo 2020

Welcome back to book bingo with Theresa, Amanda and myself. And now we are well into April, and I am ticking off my fourth square, Themes of Inequality with The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz. Here, inequality is shown it all its forms, depicting one of the most horrific events of inequality. The first official transport discussed in this book, that was well-researched by the author in collaboration with survivors of that transport, their descendants and relevant Jewish and Holocaust organisations, shows that there are gaps in our knowledge about the Holocaust.

 

the 900

Here is an untold story beyond the numbers, beyond the tattoos. It is made up of extensive research, interviews and collaboration with those from the first transport who survived, and the author acknowledges in her introduction and throughout, where there are gaps, and where she has had to infer what was said based on descriptions of what happened where testimony is lacking. I have said more in my review about this, so won’t repeat it too much here, but this book fits this square nicely, and without knowing what else I’ll come across this year, I’m electing books for squares as I read, and writing these up as I go.

2020 ABIAs

Every year, the Australian Book Industry Awards are presented to various books published the year before. In the past week, the long list has gone up, and I have taken the following list from the Readings blog. Some of these I have read, and some I am hoping to read. I will not be able to get to them all, but it is nice to see a bit more diversity in titles this year, allowing more books to get some well-deserved attention on this list.

Of the books on this list, some I reviewed – and most I enjoyed, and some didn’t catch my interest, or I ran out of time last year to get to them. A panel of judges has decided on this longlist, and will from here, decide on a shortlist, which will be released on the 9th of April, with the winners in each category announced on the 29th of April. A couple of books are nominated in more than one category, which often happens, yet being able to see that there’s much more diversity in the titles chosen gives a better view of Australian literature, rather than what is just the “it” book of the year. This isn’t always a bad thing, but often there are other books in the category that are just as deserving and when they have more of a chance to win, that makes it more exciting.

The titles in each category are…
General fiction book of the year

 

Wide-General-Fiction-Book-of-the-Year
• Bruny by Heather Rose
• Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
• Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris
• Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham
• Peace by Garry Disher
• Silver by Chris Hammer
• The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan
• The Wife and the Widow by Christian White
Literary fiction book of the year

Wide-Literary-Fiction
• Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas
• Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany
• Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng
• The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell
• The Weekend by Charlotte Wood
• The Yield by Tara June Winch
There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
• Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar
General nonfiction book of the year

Wide-General-Non-fiction-Book-of-the-Year• Accidental Feminists by Jane Caro
• Against All Odds by Craig Challen & Richard Harris with Ellis Henican
• Banking Bad by Adele Ferguson
• Fake by Stephanie Wood
Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan
• See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill
• The Yellow Notebook by Helen Garner
• Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman
Biography book of the year

BiographyBookWide
• Australia Day by Stan Grant
• Jack Charles: Born-again Blakfella by Jack Charles
• Gulpilil by Derek Rielly
• Penny Wong: Passion and Principle by Margaret Simons
• Tell Me Why by Archie Roach
• The Prettiest Horse In The Glue Factory by Corey White
• When All is Said & Done by Neale Daniher with Warwick Green
• Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch

Book of the year for older children (ages 13+)

Wide-Book-of-the-Year-for-Older-Children-(ages-13+)
• Detention by Tristan Bancks
• How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox
• It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
• Kindred edited by Michael Earp
• The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
• This Is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield
• Welcome to Country: Youth Edition by Marcia Langton
• Welcome To Your Period by Yumi Stynes & Dr Melissa Kang
Book of the year for younger children (ages 7-13)

Wide-Book-of-the-Year-for-Younger-Children-(ages-7-12)
• Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing! by Tim Flannery
• Funny Bones edited by Kate Temple, Jol Temple & Oliver Phommavanh
• How to Make a Movie in 12 Days by Fiona Hardy
• Real Pigeons Nest Hard by Andrew McDonald & Ben Wood
• The 117-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton
• The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals Sami Bayly
• Under the Stars by Lisa Harvey-Smith & Mel Matthews
• Young Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
Children’s picture book of the year (ages 0-6)

Wide-Children_s-Picture-Book-of-the-Year-(ages-0-6)
• All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors by Davina Bell & Jenny Løvlie
• Bluey: The Beach
• Kindness Makes Us Strong by Sophie Beer
• Lottie and Walter by Anna Walker
• Mr Chicken All Over Australia by Leigh Hobbs
• The Painted Ponies by Alison Lester
• The Tiny Star by Mem Fox & Freya Blackwood
• Tilly by Jane Godwin & Anna Walker
• Wilam by Andrew Kelly, Aunty Joy Murphy & Lisa Kennedy
Illustrated book of the year

wide-Illustrated-Book-of-the-Year
• Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape & Design 1925–1975 by Hannah Lewi & Philip Goad
• Ben Quilty by Ben Quilty
• Finding the Heart of the Nation by Thomas Mayor
• Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia: Second Edition Bill Arthur by Frances Morphy (eds.)
• Olive Cotton by Helen Ennis
• Step into Paradise by Jenny Kee & Linda Jackson
• The Lost Boys: The untold stories of the under-age soldiers who fought in the First World War by Paul Byrnes
• The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland
• Three Birds Renovations by Erin Cayless, Bonnie Hindmarsh & Lana Taylor
International book of the year

Wide-International-Book-International-Book-of-the-Year
• Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
• Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
• Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
• Lanny by Max Porter
• The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
• The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
• Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
• Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Small publishers’ adult book of the year

wide-Small-Publishers’-Adult-Book-of-the-Year_01
• Cosmic Chronicles by Fred Watson
• Feeding the Birds at Your Table: A guide for Australia by Darryl Jones
• Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith
• Kindred by Kirli Saunders
• Paris Savages by Katherine Johnson
• Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
• Split by Lee Kofman
• The White Girl by Tony Birch
Small publishers’ children’s book of the year

wide-Small-Publishers_-Children_s-Book-of-the-Year
• Baby Business by Jasmine Seymour
• Cooee Mittigar by Jasmine Seymour & Leanne Mulgo Watson
• Little Bird’s Day by Sally Morgan & Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr
• Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders & Carol Rossetti
• Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street by Felicita Sala
• Sick Bay by Nova Weetman
• Summer Time by Hilary Bell & Antonia Pesenti
• You Can Change the World: The Kids’ Guide to a Better Planet by Lucy Bell
The Matt Richell award for new writer of the year

Wide-The-Matt-Richell-Award-for-New-Writer-of-the-Year
• Being Black ‘n Chicken, and Chips by Matt Okine
• Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
• It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
• Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
• The Prettiest Horse In The Glue Factory by Corey White
• The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland
• Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman
• Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch

Good luck to all the nominees – looks like an interesting list this year!