Isolation Publicity with Oliver Phommavanh 

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 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.

brain freeze

Oliver writes funny books for middle grade readers, drawing on his comedic and Thai background. Like many authors, he has had many launches and events cancelled in the wake of the pandemic, and his new book – Brain Freeze – is a collection of short stories and is out in September with Penguin. Many of the events surrounding this book have been cancelled, so Oliver agreed to answer my questions, and hopefully, people will pick up this book and enjoy it and his other work.

Hi Oliver, and welcome to The Book Muse! Thanks!

  1. Your website says you’re both and author and a comedian – which career came first, and do you find that they complement each other?

I was a comedian first! I started doing stand-up comedy during my uni and teacher days. As a funny writer, the two jobs go hand-in-hand. I only became a comedian to test out my comedy writing, and there’s no better feedback than a live audience. Even when I do school visits, a few of my ‘routines’ have become stories.

  1. Your books feature multicultural Australia and many Thai characters – which is awesome – how much of your own experiences, your family, your friends and yourself do you find seep into these stories and characters?

I would say about 80.6 percent of my stories are based on my life haha. Especially in my first few titles, Thai-riffic! covered my Thai heritage, Con-nerd was a reflection on my parents’ pressure to succeed academically and Punchlines was a snapshot of me in high school, cracking jokes and trying to be a comedian.

  1. You call your fans Chewy Gum Gums – which sounds like fun – where did this originate?

Before Thai-riffic! came out, I was already hand-writing books, cards and stories, giving them to my friends as presents. I had a fake publishing company called cHEwY creations, which was a logo that I put on all my things.

cHEwY gum gums comes from the thought that imagination is like bubble gum, which you chew and chew on, and when you blow out a bubble, a story pops out!

  1. Your first book in 2010 was Thai-riffic, and it was shortlisted for a YABBA and a KOALA – what was it like hearing about these shortlists that your novel appeared on?

It was surreal, not only because it was my first book, but also because YABBA/KOALAs are kid-choice awards. I felt validated knowing that kids were enjoying my stories.

  1. Your next release – The Odd Bunch – is out in September – what will that be about?

OOPS I DIDN’T UPDATE MY WEBPAGE HAHA

The new title is called Brain Freeze! It’s my first collection of short stories where I get to delve into all kind of weird and what-if scenarios such as a kid with a 1000 names, two kids daring each other to drink slurpees until someone gets a brain freeze and more!

  1. Following on, have you had to cancel or postpone any events, appearances or launches of any kind – general or book related – due to the pandemic?

Yes, every school visit and festival since mid-March has been cancelled or postponed until October onwards. Fingers crossed for Term 4 (or even Term 3)

  1. What is the one thing you would absolutely love to write about that you haven’t written about yet?

I’ve been toying around with fantasy for the last few years, but just haven’t nailed the idea yet. Watch this space!

  1. Where did your interest in dinosaurs come from, and have you written a story about the Oliversaurus yet?

 

When I was a kid, Jurassic Park came out and it took a plate-size bite out of me. I became a walking dinopedia. I wrote plenty of Oliversaurus stories as a kid but haven’t published a story about Oliversaurus…you never know, someday one day.

  1. What kind of dinosaur would the Oliversaurus be?

A T-Rex for sure, King of all the Dinosaurs!

  1. You love burgers – have burgers featured in any of your books in a significant way, and where did your love of burgers come from?

As a kid, I remember going to McDonalds and getting a Happy Meal. I was more excited for the cheeseburger than the toy haha. I guess you always want what you don’t have, and after a daily diet of Thai-food, burgers and fries always stood out for me hehe.

So since then, I always try burgers wherever I go, and then Instagram came along and I haven’t looked back as a part time Burger Grammer.

 

  1. Favourite burger (other than Maccas)?

Best burger in the world is Fergburgers in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Closer to home, BL Burgers in Parramatta (and there’s also stores in Newtown and City too) are pretty awesome.

  1. You say you loved Paul Jennings, Morris Gleitzman and Roald Dahl – if you could choose any of their books to turn into a movie, which ones would they be and why?

I think Blabber Mouth and Sticky Beak combined would be an excellent movie, they were my favourite Gleitzman books and showed his skills as a masterful situation comedy writer. The backdrop of the country town, and all the social issues that it could touch upon, it would be a well-rounded Aussie story.

  1. Do you have any other favourite books and authors, either current or from your childhood, and what drew you to these books and authors?

R.A Spratt’s Nanny Piggins is my favourite modern comedy series. There is so much satire and tongue-in-cheek humour in those irrelevant books, and I wish I would have written them haha.

I am also a huge fan of Nova Weetman, from the Secrets We Share/Keep and more recently with Sick Bay, she nails Grade 6/7 girls and their friendships. A huge inspiration for Don’t Follow Vee’s voice.

  1. You’ve been writing in the arts industry since Growing Up Asian in Australia appeared in 2008 – what do you enjoy about working in the arts industry?

 

A humble and helpful community. You get a sense that nobody is in it for the fame or money, but for a genuine desire for voices and stories to be heard.

  1. The arts are becoming more important in these times, and always will be – what would you like to see done to support local Australian artists in all areas of the arts?

A more sustainable income-stream and support for artists. While artists and the arts get recognition during festivals and awards, outside of those, it can be an everyday struggle to make ends meet. Artists’ livelihood is so fragile, and the pandemic has exposed this.

 

  1. What kind of research have you done for your books in the past?

Most of it is through Google and own life experiences like holidays. For example, when I was writing The Other Christy, I went to Cambodia to the war memorial and various muesums to gain a deeper understanding for Christy’s Grandpa who survived the Pol Pot regime.

  1. Diversity is becoming big in literature – in terms of authors, stories and characters. What do you think is still missing in terms of diversity in literature, especially literature for children?

I’d like to read more about characters with disabilities of all kinds. YA has come a long way in addressing this, but I’d like the other genres to follow suit.

  1. If you weren’t an author, what do you think you would be doing?

I would have been content being a teacher or stand-up comedian, but I’d love to give YouTube a go, with a slant on gaming and plush toys 😊

  1. Do you have any pets or writing companions, and do they make the job harder or easier?

Speaking of plush toys, I have my favourite teddies and toys around me when I write in my writers studio. I’m staring at Grumpy Bear on my desk as I write this haha.

  1. Finally, what is your next project that is in the works?

I’m working on my next novel, What About Thao, which is about an Asian kid moving a country town. I’ve also been inspired by recent events and have started to write some ideas down for a short-story collection about kids during this pandemic.

Anything I may have missed?

Not that I can think of haha

Thanks for participating Oliver!

No probs, thanks for invite, as well as spreading the joy of books and reading across the social waves

 

Pop Sugar Challenge Wrap Up 2019

In 2019 I also participated in the Pop Sugar Challenge. I missed out on completing this by one, mainly because time just ran out and I never got to it. Below is my list of categories that I completed. I am thinking of trying a different one this year, as I feel the categories are getting too specific and I may struggle to find books to fit some of them, if not many, and whilst it is meant to help expand my reading, I’d be too worried about finding something to enjoy the process. So all of these have been read, and many reviewed in 2019.

Pop Sugar Challenge

  1. A book becoming a movie in 2019: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. A book that makes you nostalgic: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
  3. A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  4. A book you think should be turned into a movie: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  5. A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – 20th Anniversary House Editions
  6. A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes, Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  7. A reread of a favourite book: Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  8. A book about a hobby: The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  9. A book you meant to read in 2018: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  10. A book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title: Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo, Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
  11. A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore: Mermaid Holidays: The Magic Pearl by Delphine Davis and Adele K Thomas
  13. A book published posthumously: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  14. A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  15. A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  16. A book with a question in the title: Is It Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman
  17. A book set on college or university campus: Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel by Devin Grayson, Ryan North and Willow Wilson
  18. A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  19. A book told from multiple POVs: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  20. A book set in space: Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  21. A book by two female authors: The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins, While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus
  22. A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  23. A book set in Scandinavia: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  24. A book that takes place in a single day: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  25. A debut novel: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  26. A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  27. A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  28. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire: Split edited by Lee Kofman – recommended by Myf Warhurst
  29. A book with LOVE in the title: With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French (short story)
  30. A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  31. A book about a family: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  32. A book by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  33. A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in title: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  34. A book that includes a wedding: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  35. A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter: Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas, The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl, Explorer’s Academy: Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
  36. A ghost story: The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay
  37. A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  38. A novel based on a true story: The Familiars by Stacey Halls – The Pendle Witches
  39. A book revolving around a puzzle or game: Deltora Quest #1 by Emily Rodda
  40. Your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading challenge:

2016 – A book based on a fairy tale: The Blue Rose by Kate Forsyth – based on Chinese fairy tale, The Blue Rose

2017 – A steampunk book: The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Prompt:

Advanced

  1. A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) book: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
  2. A “choose-your-own-adventure” book: Choose Your Own Adventure #2: Journey Under the Sea by R.A. Montgomery
  3. An “own voices” book: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  4. Read a book during the season it is set in: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson (Easter Season), The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green (parts are set during Autumn), While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus (Winter), The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel (Winter)
  5. A LitRPG book:
  6. A book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters: Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey (Ciphers used to give the chapter headings)
  7. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  8. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  9. A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom: Aladdin and the Arabian Nights – Open Sesame
  10. A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Book Bingo 2019 Round Up and Intro to 2020

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As 2019 comes to an end, I am starting to wrap up my reading challenges and getting my wrap-up posts done. First cab off the rank is for #BookBingo with Amanda and Theresa, wrapping up just before Christmas, with the rest to follow shortly or early in the new year.

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This year, I completed the following Bingo Card by September – where we had to double up a few times to make the card fit the year – some categories proved to be tougher than others, and there were a few I stretched for my needs but in the end it all worked. Next year, in 2020, we’re back with a glittery card with fewer squares and less restrictive categories to make finding books easier – something we all struggled with this year in various ways. Chances are, we may pick the same books again, as so often we do, but this is half the fun, and we get a good laugh out of it. Below is my text bingo card, with all the reviews linked.

Book Bingo 2020 clean.jpg

A link to this post itself will be included in my year-round round-up as well, which will hopefully capture all my links and roundups neatly. As for the 2020 card, I already have a few ideas but will also be hoping to find some new reads as the year goes on, so I will not be choosing any yet, but will still have these ideas in the back of my mind just in case I need them.

Book Bingo

Rows Across:

Row One: BINGO

 

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

 

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three: BINGO

 

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Themes of Culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Four: – BINGO

 

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

 

Row Five: BINGO

 

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Row Six: BINGO

 

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

Row One:  – BINGO

 

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019,

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

 

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Row three: BINGO

 

Novel that has 500 pages or more: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Row Four: – BINGO

 

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Row Five: BINGO

 

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

I have provided the links once, but the images twice as they appear in different rows and columns, and hopefully, this has captured it all as a snapshot of what I have done this year for my Book Bingo challenge. Until next year, when my book bingo posts will appear on the second Saturday of each month.

The Silver Well by Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins

the silver well.jpegTitle: The Silver Well

Author: Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins

Genre: Historical Fiction/Short Stories/Fantasy

Publisher: Ticonderoga Press

Published: 22nd November 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 263

Price: $30.00

Synopsis: The Silver Well marks a milestone achievement for two best-selling legends of Australian fantasy, having both published their first novels in 1997. Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins have teamed up in this collection of 7 incredible stories, all original and never-before published.

One English village. Two thousand years of stories.
People have always come to make wishes at the Silver Well: in Pagan times and Christian, during revolution and war. When Rosie arrives in the tiny village of Cerne Abbas with a broken heart, she becomes connected across the centuries with others who have yearned for something. Seven stories, set in seven time periods, reveal the deepest longings of the human heart.

  • Prologue – The Wishing Tree
  • The Blessing
  • My Sister’s Ghost
  • The True Confession of Obedience-to-God Ashe
  • The Cunning Woman’s Daughter
  • The End of Everything
  • The Giant
  • Epilogue – The Past is Not Dead

“One tale at a time, Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins immerse us in the fabled waters of Cerne Abbas, plunging us deeper and deeper into the lore of this village, further and further into its past. Here we meet a cast of characters whose lives span two millennia–charming artists and shopkeepers, forsaken lovers, cunning-women, severe Puritans, proud warriors, shell-shocked soldiers, bereft parents, fierce and fragile children, and many generations of Brightwells. Across the ages we hear their carefully hidden thoughts. Their worries and fears. Their hopes and losses.” — From the introduction by Lisa L. Hannett

~*~

2019 Badge

In 2017, Rosie Brightwell arrives in Cerne Abbas following being left at the altar. Here, she meets Isobel at the markets, and a young man, who begins to tell her a series of stories going back through the years and centuries, back two thousand years, going backwards in time from the Second World War to 44 AD, all centred around the same village and well.

Each story is linked by the village, the well, and the women of the Brightwell family. From artists, to warriors, shopkeepers, and lovers. To a Puritanical story where the family is hauled into the world of the witch trials. Throughout the stories, the village grows, but as they cleverly move backwards throughout time, it feels like as a reader, you are an archaeologist, peeling back the layers of time, century by century, and across one thousand years. It is as though with each layer of the archaeological site, such as at Knossos or Troy, new secrets are revealed and linked to what is already known, until the origins look as though they might be discovered, and they are each told in first person as the ancestors and layers are uncovered and revealed, and Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins have brilliantly crafted this selection of short stories, invoking history, magic and fantasy, linked together by one family, and it is Rosie’s opening and concluding stories that connect the centuries and years together, solving a mystery she never thought she had as she talks with the mysterious young man who tells her about the Brightwell family.

The one story not told from a female perspective, but still linking the village of Cerne Abbas with the other stories is My Sister’s Ghost, narrated by Joseph. This one is a little less clear on the Brightwell connection, but it is still there, in the background as Rosie digs and finds out about the village. My Sister’s Ghost has a larger paranormal element than the other stories and revolves around a family tragedy that eventually connects to the Brightwells, but in a less obvious way than the other stories. Nonetheless, they are all connected by people and place, and this is what makes them work together as each historical layer is revealed, as though through a time machine or archaeological dig.

This is Kate Forsyth’s fortieth book, and the thirtieth book for Kim Wilkins. I’m more familiar with Kate’s work, but the seamlessness of the stories shows that Kate and Kim work well together and have carefully crafted each story so they not only flow into and towards each other but are also their own worlds and stories within a larger one. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and the magic within the stories. It is a wonderful addition to my Kate Forsyth collection, and one that I definitely hope to revisit sometime.

Zebra and Other Short Stories by Debra Adelaide

Zebra.jpgTitle: Zebra and Other Short Stories

Author: Debra Adelaide

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Picador

Published: 29th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 326

Price: $29.99

Synopsis:A body buried in a suburban backyard.

A suicide pact worthy of Chekhov.

A love affair born in a bookshop.

The last days of Bennelong.

And a very strange gift for a most unusual Prime Minister…

Tantalising, poignant, wry, and just a little fantastical, this subversive collection of short fiction – and one singular novella – from bestselling author Debra Adelaide reminds us what twists of fate may be lurking just beneath the surface of the everyday.

~*~

In this series of short stories, Debra Adelaide explores the spectrum of humanity and the human condition, from a dream about a murder, and the suburban lives it almost disrupts, to stories about love affairs that start in a bookshop, and suicide pacts, and an interesting story about the last days of Bennelong – a man who was captured and served the governor of New South Wales and travelled back to England, told from the perspective of Governor Phillips’ wife. Finally, the novella-length story Zebra is about an unnamed female Prime Minister in Australia who is gifted a zebra – and how this changes her and her life, and her relationships with those around her in government and her neighbours.

Each story encapsulates a different aspect of the human condition, and how we respond to the world and people around us, and how we handle ourselves. They are subversive, touching on the things we do not speak about, or the things about ourselves that we have to hide from the public, or the public persona versus the private persona and how we reconcile these. Or, the lengths humans go to in order to ensure their quirkier, fantastical aspects of their lives are kept private, and hopefully not released. This is what made me enjoy it – that each story was so different, and each perspective has been told from a unique perspective in first, second or third person. To make this connection, the book is divided into three parts – one, two and three – that represent which stories are told through which perspective. Doing this was brave, and unique – it is something I have never seen before and where some might think it takes away, I think it makes each story, each section and finally, the entire anthology more powerful because it shows the world through so many different perspectives, you always find yourself engrossed wholly in one story, and then pulled wholly into another.

If I had to choose a favourite story, it would have to be the novella, Zebra – about a female PM. What was striking about it, and indeed the rest of the anthology, was the tight, and varying imagery used throughout to convey what the characters were doing. Zebra was my favourite because I enjoyed the way the PM dealt with her neighbour, her staff members and everything in her life – too many to quote, I think. I liked that she was allowed to be human in her own world – we were allowed to see the vulnerabilities of politicians we never see in the media, such as when she was contemplating whether she should call Malcolm on a work pretence, but really, she just wanted to tell him how she felt.

Each character can represent people at different stages of life, or at various times and spaces in our lives – whether it is the culmination of many things, or a single instance where we cross paths with a like-minded person in a bookstore and start an affair. The subtlety in each story is excellent and enjoyable. It allows the reader to imagine some of what happened without completely explaining it, and this is the power of the stories in this anthology – that anyone can see themselves in these characters and situations. The subtlety also allows the reader to imagine how they might handle things, and what happens in the story.

Debra Adelaide has created a series of stories and a novella that are engulfing and subversive, that allow the depths of human nature to be explored and the reality, so to speak, is shown here in an unusual and intriguing way.

Short story collections are often hard to review, because they don’t always necessarily always link through a theme. In Zebra, the only discernible link is the subversiveness of the stories and characters, and the fantastical elements and quirkiness that feels uniquely Australian that connects these stories. I found this to be very effective, and it allows for the stories to be read in isolation, or as whole, seeing the progression of human nature and tearing ourselves away from our normal, everyday lives that might feel suffocating or claustrophobic. Debra Adelaide allows readers to feel like they were in that enclosed space with the characters until that final release of what constrains the characters, the narrators of the stories, and this release is like a weight lifting off the reader’s chest.

I quite enjoyed these stories and their uniqueness that showed another side of human life. Each story is tightly plotted and tells the whole story succinctly in a way that feels like a novel or epic story.

An excellent read if you enjoy short stories.

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A Very Murderous Christmas by Cecily Gayford (editor), Various

murderous christmas.jpgTitle: A Very Murderous Christmas

Author: Cecily Gayford (editor), Various

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Profile Books/Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th November 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: We wish you a very murderous Christmas…

The Christmas season is one of comfort and joy, sparkling lights and steam rising from cups of mulled wine at frosty carol services. A season of goodwill to all men, as families and friends come together to forget their differences and celebrate the year together.

Unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring a grudge. Or hiding a guilty secret. Or you want something so much you just have to have it – whatever the cost. In A Very Murderous Christmas, ten of the best classic crime writers come together to unleash festive havoc, with murder, mayhem and twists aplenty.

Following Murder on Christmas Eve and Murder under the Christmas Tree, this is the perfect accompaniment to a mince pie. Just make sure you’re really, truly alone …

~*~

Christmas is usually a time for merriment and cheer, family and friends. The last thing one might associate with Christmas, and Christmas stories, is murder. Yet here we have ten short stories by some of Britain’s most well-known crime writers throughout the years. Instead of the ghosts visiting Scrooge, or magical stories about Santa Claus and his reindeer, here are ten stories about murder and crime that take place during the festive season, delving into the darker side of the holiday, whilst trying to keep it a little light, and with references to the well-known stories we read and watch every year.

From Margery Allingham, to Anthony Horowitz, and Arthur Conan Doyle, the stories utilise well-known characters in shorter stories than the novels the characters appear in, or as in the case of Sherlock, a snippet from one of the longer stories written in the nineteenth century. The stories traverse town, city and countryside, and various decades, but all have one thing in common: they all take place at Christmas, or near Christmas, and revolve around a murder – which doesn’t always have a link to Christmas, though some feel like they might, others are more based around the human fallacies and reasons that lead to murder — they are more about thy how, and who than the why in these stories – and they lead to all kinds of conclusions and methods of finding out whodunnit – one story even delivers the clues to the reader to work out who is guilty, and then provides the explanation at the end – handy if you didn’t realise this was the aim of the writer – A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake. This was a very clever way of telling the story, and I wish I had realised when I started the story – it would have been fun to solve the crime as I read.

Part of a series of Christmas mystery anthologies, A Very Murderous Christmas is an exciting and intriguing series of stories exploring a darker side of the festive season in cosy mysteries that also celebrate the festive season in a different way to we have come to expect from the many Christmas stories and movies that are available to us to read and watch during the festive season.

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Check in #5: Australian Women #60 to #78

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn what is likely my final Check in for 2018 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I’m making my list a little longer as it did not make sense to make another post for one or two books, given I did this in blocks of fifteen – and am debating whether to do monthly, or blocks of ten for next year to increase my content output. Most books are already out, but the seventy-sixth book is only out in January, and based on challenge rules and discussions with a fellow participant, counts in both years – as the review goes up in 2019. This is one of my wrap up posts for the year – still to come, my overall challenge, my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, my overall reading log and number books read over the past twelve months, and my wrap up post for book bingo, which in theory, should include the intro for next year and that means I need to pick a book to read for the first square I’ll be marking off on the fifth of January, 2019 for book bingo with Theresa and Amanda.

My past check-ins have each had fifteen books – but given how close to the end of the year we are, I did the final seventeen in one post. Over the year, I have read a wide variety of books by Australian Women, but mainly Young Adult, Fantasy, Kids, and Historical Fiction or Crime. Of these books, Graevale, We Three Heroes, Lenny’s Book of Everything and Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls have been amongst my favourites, for various reasons.

Graevaleis the fourth book in the Medoran Chronicles and sees Alex and her friends trying to prevent their visions of the future coming true, now that Aven Dalmarta sits on the Meyarin throne. He is a threat to all Medora, and Alex must find a way to unite all the kingdoms and species. Despite resistance, for the most part, she succeeds. Until it comes to Graevale and the Shadow Walkers – whose indifference to the message she has been delivering around Medora will lead to a series of catastrophic events with devastating consequences.

In the same series, is We Three Heroes – a trio of novellas told from the perspectives of D.C., Bear and Jordan across the series, based around key events that affected them as well as Alex. Chronicling their lives before, and after they met Alex and became the group of friends we love, as they navigate Akarnae and the ups and downs of life as their world heads into a war that they may not be able to win.

Taking quite a different turn, is Lenny’s Book of Everything.  A story about a family, a brother and sister whose lives revolve around building an encyclopedia letter by letter, and a rare genetic disease that makes Lenny’s brother Davey keep growing. With a bittersweet storyline told through Lenny’s eyes about these years and her search for her father and his family, this book will make you laugh and cry in equal amounts and stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Finally, for everyone who always wanted to be the princess but be more than the girl waiting to be rescued – the girl who can take care of herself and where sometimes, the prince changes his fate for her, we have Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls. Filled with four fairy tales where the girl traditionally must wait for the male to come, these tales show Rapunzel, Thumbelina, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood taking charge of their own fate, as inventors and activists, adventurers and scientists within a fairy tale word frame. A wonderful addition to a growing fairy tale collection of traditional and reimagined ones.

The Final Seventeen:

My stats and final comments will appear in my wrap up post in the coming days – but to finish off the year, I am looking forward heading into the 2019 challenge as the YA editor for the AWW blog as well as everything else. This has been a great challenge and I have had some excellent crossover with other challenges, that I hope to continue into next year.

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Book Bingo Twenty-two – a prize winning book, a book by someone over sixty, and a book with a yellow cover.

Book bingo take 2

With 2018 rushing towards its busy, and warm conclusion, and in consultation with my fellow book bingo players, I have assigned some previously read books to the following categories, and have assigned my prize-winning category is taken up this time by 2007 Aurealis Best Children’s Book winning series, The Chain of Charms by Kate Forsyth, and have utilised other books in different squares from last time for others this time.

Book bingo take 2 .jpg

Rows Across – update:

Row #2 –

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book by an author you’ve never read before: If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

A non-fiction book:

 A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

 

Row #3:  – BINGO

A book written by an Australian woman:Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – AWW2018

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

 

Row #5

A book that became a movie:

A book based on a true story:

A book everyone is talking about:

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

 Rows Down update:

Row #1 –

A book set more than 100 years ago: The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #1) – AWW2018

A book with a yellow cover: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018

A forgotten classic:

A book that became a movie:

Row #3: –

 A memoir: No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – AWW2018

A non-fiction book:

A prize-winning book: Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth – 2007 Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction – AWW2018

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book everyone is talking about:

Row #5 – BINGO

 A Foreign Translated Novel: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1)

A book with a number in the title:

A book written by someone over sixty: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – AWW2018

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Row three across and row five down are my bingo rows this time around!

Australia DayLast time, Australia Day by Melanie Cheng slotted into the short story square, and yet this time, it fits into the yellow cover category this time. A series of short stories about life in Australia, and the varying experiences within society, aiming to capture the breadth of society and the different ways people react to, and deal with how they are perceived, and what is expected from the Australian experience, or perhaps in some cases, Melanie plays on the conflict between what is expected and who her characters are – varying between race, gender, class and sexuality to try and give a well-thought look at how Australia and Australia Day, isn’t the same for everyone, whatever their identity, and that it never will be. By revealing uncomfortable truths about Australian society in a way many people can relate to and understand.

Miss Lily 1Another book I recycled this time was Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French – which fitted into the over 500-page square last time. This time, it fits into a book by someone over sixty – I did this again to make it easier filling the remaining categories with books I am in the middle of, and some I am yet to find. A historical fiction novel set during World War One, Sophie is sent to London to a school to learn how to be a lady – yet it is much more than that – she learns the ways of spying and using her feminine ways to find out about the war, and eventually, play a part in the war on the front line, in a time when the world is in tatters, and where men and women are dying everyday as battles rage across Europe, leaving Sophie’s home relatively untouched by the guns of war. Jackie French has been writing for all age groups for many years, and has been a favourite of mine since I was thirteen, and read Somewhere Around the Corner, which I still have my shelf. Another good book that fit more than one square.

My final square is the prize-winning book square. Ordinarily, this would go to a single book, however, with the flexibility we have given ourselves in this challenge, I have assigned it to a series I read this year within two weeks (had I not been so sick, it would have been a week). The Chain of Charms series by Kate Forsyth won the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction in 2007, for the whole series, comprised of six books, and won for books 2-6, i the long fiction category:

Kate Forsyth, The Silver Horse, The Chain of Charms 2, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Herb of Grace, The Chain of Charms 3, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Cat’s Eye Shell, The Chain of Charms 4, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Lightning Bolt, The Chain of Charms 5, Pan Macmillan
Kate Forsyth, The Butterfly in Amber, The Chain of Charms 6, Pan Macmillan

The series follows Luka and Emilia during the final days of a tyrannical reign during the time of Oliver Cromwell, trying to track down charms from each Roma family in the south regions of England, to reunite them and their families to bring back their good luck and fortune, and also, help stop the violence growing around them, and release their families from prison. It is a charming tail about friendship, and family, tying in historical fact and belief to create a world that children and any other readers can escape to.

Again, all my books are by Australian Women Writers. My aim was for each to be a unique book, but as I am cutting it fine, I’m not sure that will happen, so recycling will happen at times. Onto my next Book Bingo in two weeks time!

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Book Bingo Twenty-one – A funny book, A book that scares you and a book of short stories

Book bingo take 2

This week marks my twenty-first post for the year of my Bok Bingo challenge, which has been chugging along well. So well in fact, I’m whipping through my second card quite rapidly, with a few squares to be decided and written up. For this post, all three books are by Australian women, scoring a hattrick for the post and overall Australian women writers challenge. In fact, many of the books for this year could have ticked off the book by an Australian woman over sixty times. At this stage, I have read and reviewed sixty-four books by Australian women, with more to come.

Book bingo take 2

Rows Across:

Row #2

 A book with a yellow cover:

A book by an author you’ve never read before: If Kisses Cured Cancer by T.S. Hawken

A non-fiction book:

 A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book with themes of culture: Relic of the Blue Dragon (Children of the Dragon #1) by Rebecca Lim – AWW2018

 Row #3:  –

 A book written by an Australian woman: Disappearing Act by Jacqueline Harvey (Kensy and Max #2) – AWW2018, The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A prize-winning book:

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A book with a mystery: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #1

Row #4

 A forgotten classic:

A book with a one-word title:

A book with non-human characters: A Home for Molly by Holly Webb, Beast World by George Ivanoff

A funny book: Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky – AWW2018

A book with a number in the title:

Rows Down:

Row #4 –BINGO

A book more than 500 pages: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – AWW2018

A collection of short stories: Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane – AWW2018

A book that scares you: What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra – AWW2018

A funny book: Archibald, the Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, Illustrated by Ágnes Rokiczky -AWW2018

A book written by someone under thirty: The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady – AWW2018

NJ1802-ETP-Archibald-book-1-pdf-1030x824

First off, is a picture book, and this fills in the square for a funny book. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Goes to the Zoo by Skye Davidson, published by Elephant Tree Publishing, slots into this category nicely. When Archibald decides to go to the local zoo, he is quickly spotted by the zoo keeper selling tickets and is told to behave himself – poor Archibald tries to be good, but he always seems to be getting into trouble – whatever he tries. At the zoo, all he wants is for the animals to be able to play with each other. What happens next is charming, hilarious and so magical, children will delight in reading this with someone or on their own as they learn to read independently. A story well worth trying to get your hands on.

what the woods keep

Second up is a book that scares me. This one is a debut novel by Katya de Becerra – What the Woods Keep, and for those who embrace the macabre, it is perfect. Filled with hints of science fiction, mythology and dark fantasy, it compels you to read on, lulling you into a false sense of safety until you hit Promise, and quite literally, all hell breaks loose. The woods are a terrifying place, where big bad things happen. People go missing or die. They are swallowed up whole by the environment and never heard from again. It is a chilling, intriguing book that will keep you awake at night, wondering what to expect next. Though you’ll want to set it aside to recover from what has just happened, you will also want to continue reading to see how it plays out for Hayden and to finally feel your heart start beating at a normal rate again. Horrifying and intriguing, this is a great book for those in search of a spooky tale.

crepp

fairytales for feisty girls

Finally, we get to what has to be one of my favourite books of the year, because it combines feisty girls and fairy tales, and my little nerd heart couldn’t have been happier, having studied fairy tales at university, and developing a love for them in their raw, unabridged forms, with the lopping off of limbs, dancing in red hot shoes and thorny punishments, to the various retellings that have sanitised them or taken them to the absolute extremes, to the fairy tale retellings that are coming out in abundance these days in various genres, in particular the fairy tale infused historical fiction written by Kate Forsyth. So for the short story square, Susannah McFarlane’s book, Fairytales for Feisty Girls captures this spot. Susannah has taken well known tales – Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Thumbelina – fairy tale girls who have previously been acted upon, and passive in the original oral tales and Brothers Grimm versions – and allows them to act for themselves. Rapunzel is an inventor, using the things Mother Gothel brings her to create things to help around the house, much to Gothel’s horror. Red Riding Hood and her grandmother outwit a wolf, Thumbelina finds her way home and Cinderella makes her own fortunes with the glass slipper. Each girl does something using the key aspects and symbols of the original tales to save herself, showing girls of all ages that they can be who they want, do what they want and that they don’t need to wait for the prince or woodsman (who, funnily enough in this story, has lost his axe), to save them.

 

Wrapping book bingo 21, and moving onto book bingo 22 in a couple weeks.

Booktopia

Total Quack Up by Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

total quack up.jpgTitle: Total Quack Up

Author: Sally Rippin, Deborah Abela, Jacqueline Harvey, Oliver Phommavanh, R.A. Spratt, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Adrian Beck, Tristan  Bancks and Matt Stanton

Genre: Children’s fiction/humour

Publisher:  Penguin Random House/Puffin

Published: 15th October, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: 14.99

Synopsis: Authors Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck have gathered together an awesome line-up of writers and their funniest stories. Not only will the stories make you laugh out loud and feel good, royalties from sales of the book go to Dymocks Children’s Charities – so you can feel extra good!

Total Quack Up! features stories from Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Adrian Beck, Jacqueline Harvey, Paul Jennings, Alex Miles, Oliver Phommavanh, Sally Rippin, R.A. Spratt and Matt Stanton, plus a prize-winning story from a child!

~*~

Total Quack Up is a new anthology of short stories aimed at children, and published by Puffin for the Dymocks Children’s Charities, with royalties going towards these charities to help children learn to read and engage with reading. In these stories, there are superheroes, animals and magic, as well as robots and siblings, and practical jokes – all the things that kids find enjoyable and funny, in stories that they will enjoy and engage with, at all levels.

Each story is a quick read, starting with How to Be A Superhero by Deborah Abela – and ending with a story from a schoolkid, Ella Wallace, who won a competition to be included in the anthology. Each story stars a child as the protagonist, navigating life at school, at sport, or as a superhero, and with family, friends and siblings. Written by some of Australia’s most popular male and female authors, this makes my count for the Australian Women Writers Challenge seventy – with another review to write for a quiz book, and many more reviews to come – I hope. This will be included in my next challenge catch up post.

AWW-2018-badge-roseWith a uniqueness to each story, every reader who picks up this book will find a story and character they will enjoy, love and laugh with. From Arabella von Champion, a superhero who sees herself as extraordinary and is quite daring, to the little brother at the end who blocks up the dunny with everything imaginable, and the soccer team with the pig as a mascot – all other animals are banned from the sports field, to everything in between from some of the best-loved Australian authors, and some new voices to discover between these red covers, all aimed at raising money to help with children’s charities in Australia.

The variety of stories shows just how diverse and eclectic Australian authors are, and how different stories and characters will appeal to different children, and what will hook them into reading. This book offers bite-sized pieces of Australian talent for new readers to discover, and for old readers of these authors who have enjoyed their previous works and books over the years, and for the adults who would have read some as children, now able to pass these authors down.

Another great book aimed at kids, and with stories to enjoy and laugh with, I hope all those who get to read this enjoy it.

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