Top stories this week

wbnimage2013mar15This week’s top stories from the Weekly Book Newsletter include:

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BOOK REVIEW: Twitcher (Cherise Saywell, Vintage)

TwitcherTwitcher is Cherise Saywell’s second novel after her impressive debut, Desert Fish. Sixteen-year-old Kenno lives with his parents and sister in a popular coastal town in Scotland. Real estate is booming as developers are buying up, subdividing and selling off land packages to tourists and wealthy townsfolk. But for Kenno and his family, life is tough as they struggle to make ends meet following a tragedy many years ago. Kenno works at the local supermarket and helps out at his father’s cleaning business, but when he learns of the family’s imminent eviction from their rental property, he comes up with a plan to help them out. Convinced his fail-safe scheme will not only bring financial security but also heal the rifts in the family, Kenno is soon drawn into a complicated web of half-truths, deception and misunderstandings. Saywell has captured beautifully the nuances of sibling relationships as well as the psychological complexity of adolescence, as Kenno negotiates his morality, loyalty and sexuality. The portrayal of a broken family still trying to function is extremely well done. This is intelligent, powerful fiction about family and the burden of guilt, loss and grief.

Sarina Gale is a freelance writer and bookseller at the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in February. View more pre-publication reviews here.

BOOK REVIEW: Fractured (Dawn Barker, Hachette)

FracturedTony and Anna Patton seem to be the perfect couple: good-looking, hard-working, happily married and new parents to gorgeous baby Jack. Six weeks after Jack is born, however, something goes terribly wrong. Anna and Jack disappear from the family home, where everything still looks normal—food in the fridge, baby bottles of milk still warm. As Tony frantically tries to work out where they’ve gone, the reader is swept into the horror of what has actually happened. In a cleverly devised structure that divides between before and after the disappearance, it is slowly revealed that Anna is sinking into a depression that will lead her to unspeakable actions. As Tony tries to piece together the tragedy, he starts to question everything about his wife’s behaviour leading up to that day. Moving at a cracking pace, Fractured is part psychological thriller, part family drama. The two main characters are somewhat emotionally opaque, however, it is the terrific supporting cast of Tony and Anna’s mothers that hold the moral centre of this book. As the two mothers try to understand what has happened to their grown-up children, they begin to say what no one else is willing to. This novel will be a great book club read as it ends with more questions than answers.

Sarina Gale is a freelance writer and bookseller at the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

APA Book Design Awards 2013

The shortlisted titles for this year’s Australian Publishers Association (APA) Book Design Awards have been announced.

Here’s a look at the covers for the shortlisted titles in the categories of Literary Fiction, Nonfiction and Children’s Picture Books.

Literary fiction

 The Best 100 Poems of Les Murray  Cloudstreet
The Best 100 Poems of Les Murray (Les Murray, Black Inc.), designed by Peter Long Cloudstreet the 21st Anniversary Edition (Tim Winton, Hamish Hamilton), designed by John Canty
 lola_bensky1  Sufficient Grace

Lola Bensky (Lily Brett, Hamish Hamilton) designed by Laura Thomas

Sufficient Grace (Amy Espeseth, Scribe), designed by Allison Colpoys and Miriam Rosenbloom

 the-vivisector  The Voyage

The Vivisector (Patrick White, Vintage), designed by Luciana Arrighi and Midland Typesetters

The Voyage (Murray Bail, Text), designed by W H Chong

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Top stories this week

wbnimage2013mar7

This week’s top stories from the Weekly Book Newsletter include:

For details on these stories and many more, subscribe to www.booksandpublishing.com.au.

BOOK REVIEW: All This Could End (Steph Bowe, Text)

All This Could EndI am in awe of Steph Bowe. Her second novel, All This Could End, is so confident and perceptive that it is difficult to believe its author is only 18 years old. Her outstanding evocation of what it is like to be ‘on the verge’ of adulthood demonstrates a degree of self-awareness that most writers achieve only with the benefit of hindsight. All This Could End is an adolescent romance with a twist: the girl, Nina Pretty, is part of a family of serial bank robbers. While Nina longs to be completely honest with Spencer, she knows that she must remain detached to protect her criminal family. Without diminishing the humour of this absurd scenario, Bowe makes it resonate with pathos. Her style has an introspective streak that emerges a little too strongly in the final 50 pages to spoil what might otherwise have been a tense and satisfying climax. By this stage, however, most readers will have become so attached to the characters that they won’t care. Sophia Pretty is a particular highlight; a pathological mother figure with a flair for emotional blackmail who, while exaggerated, is sure to have teenage readers everywhere nodding in recognition.

Samuel Williams is a creative writing graduate and a part-time bookseller at Mostly Books in South Australia. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

BOOK REVIEW: Things I Didn’t Expect (When I Was Expecting) (Monica Dux, MUP)

Things I didn t expectThings I Didn’t Expect combines Monica Dux’s own bravely honest, warts-and-all pregnancy and birth stories with anecdotes, statistics and expert opinion on issues surrounding childbearing. It is sometimes very funny in a snort-out-loud kind of way. Mixing these styles of writing can’t have been easy to pull off, but it flows well. Dux deals with mostly modern maternal neuroses, the obsessions and anxieties that overwhelm us in our information-laden, hi-tech, perfection-striving worlds, and shines a light on the realities behind the labour ward curtain. The target market for this book is a bit unclear. The book’s frankness may have a somewhat terrifying effect on the yet-to-be pregnant. The been-there-done-that crowd may be losing interest in the topic (as Dux discusses, the strong emotion about pregnancy fades over time). That leaves the in-the-thick-of-it group, who could be the most engaged, but may be hard to target, and possibly too sleep-deprived to take much in. Some of the chapters are stronger than others; the one on miscarriage was particularly moving. The book is passionate, broadly researched and gets bonus points for references and a rare bibliography. Importantly, it contributes to much-needed open discussion of pregnancy and birth, plus humour is a great way to deal with the emotional and physical upheaval that comes with creating humans. Dux’s strong opinions may cause controversy. I didn’t always agree with it, but I definitely enjoyed reading it.

Joanne Shiells is a former bookseller, editor and parent of two. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

BOOK REVIEW: Mullumbimby (Melissa Lucashenko, UQP)

mullumbimbyWhen Jo Breen buys a property in the Byron Bay hinterland her motives are clear—to be closer to her ancestral land and to distance herself from city life. She has her longed-for property and horse, but Ellen, her teenage daughter, does not share her vision, nor do some of her neighbours, to say the least. Enter Twoboy, a charismatic young Aboriginal man intent on pursuing a Native Title case over the entire valley, despite competing claims. Jo and Twoboy become an item and the stage is set for a moving, contemporary rollercoaster of a tale set in an ancient land. The author moves the story along at a fast clip, except for occasional sermonising from Twoboy. She describes the land and its moods with affection and skill and persuades the reader to warm to most of the characters, including the infuriating Uncle Humbug and indomitable Granny Nurrung. Incidents abound, some very amusing and some chokingly poignant—I defy anyone to read the account of the death of Jo’s beautiful young colt, Comet, with dry eyes. Mullumbimby is a modern tale of the clash between cultures, of the importance of belonging, and, surprisingly, of the pitfalls of making assumptions about other people and their background. It deserves the widest readership.

Max Oliver is a veteran Sydney bookseller. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

Top stories this week

wbnimage2013feb28This week’s top stories from the Weekly Book Newsletter include:

For details on these stories and many more, subscribe to www.booksandpublishing.com.au.

BOOK REVIEW: Amber Road (Boyd Anderson, Bantam)

amber roadIn Europe World War II rages, but in Singapore 17-year-old Victoria Khoo is preoccupied with her plans to marry Sebastian Boustead, the son of a great British merchant family, despite the fact that he is engaged to Elizabeth Nightingale. When the Japanese invade, Sebastian and his Australian friend Joe Spencer join the army to defend Singapore, and Victoria, refusing to flee the city with her family, goes to live with her father’s second wife, where she finds herself entertaining the Japanese troops and protecting Elizabeth from the soldiers. When Victoria runs into Joe, who knows where Sebastian is, she is as determined as ever to become Sebastian’s wife, but also finds herself drawn to Joe’s charms. The end of the war brings numerous complications, not the least of which is Victoria’s divided love interests. While Victoria starts off as a naïve and selfish young girl, she soon shows admirable resourcefulness and courage when her world is turned upside down. Her obsession with Sebastian and her lack of concern for her family is harder to understand. This refreshingly not-so-perfect love story, combined with a well-researched depiction of Singapore during World War II, will appeal to fans of historical fiction who don’t mind a love triangle thrown in. Amber Road is Boyd Anderson’s fourth novel and his third historical fiction novel.

Sanna Nyblad is studying editing and publishing at RMIT and is the co-founder of Possibly the best book club you’ll ever join*. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.