Forthcoming adult book reviews: October and November 2014

» Fiction

Nightingale (Fiona McIntosh, Michael Joseph, November), 3 stars, reviewed by Joanne Shiells


Australia on Horseback (Cameron Forbes, Macmillan, November), 3 stars, reviewed by Dave Martus
Bibliodiversity (Susan Hawthorne, Spinifex Press, November), 3 stars, reviewed by Nathan Hollier
Kerry Stokes (Andrew Rule, HarperCollins, November), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Chris Saliba
Peacemongers (Barry Hill, UQP, November), 5 stars, reviewed by Chris Harrington
Something Quite Peculiar (Steve Kilbey, Hardie Grant, November), 3.5 stars, reviewed by Gerard Elson

Awards round-up: August

Among the local awards announcements in the past month are: the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards; the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Awards, known as the ‘Rubys’; the National Biography Award; and the Australian Christian Book of the Year Award.

Shortlists have also been announced for the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards; the New South Wales Premier’s History Awards; the Ned Kelly Awards for Australian crime writing; the Davitt Awards for crime writing by Australian women; and the Ngaio Marsh Award for New Zealand crime fiction.

Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Vintage) has been longlisted for the Booker Prize; Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries (Granta) has been longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize; Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest (Hamish Hamilton) has been longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award; and Leah Ashton’s Why Resist A Rebel? (Harlequin) has won the award for Short Contemporary Romance at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) RITA Awards.

The winners of the Hugo Awards for science-fiction and fantasy have also been announced.

Fancy Goods questionnaire: Hilary Simmons

hilaryHilary Simmons is the new assistant editor at Books+Publishing. We asked her to share her reading fancies.

What are you reading right now?

I just started reading Various Pets Alive and Dead on the commute to work this morning (Marina Lewycka, Fig Tree). She’s the one who wrote A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (Penguin). I’m hooked already—she has this brilliant ability to combine farce, irony and compassion.

What book do you always recommend?

Under the Skin by Michel Faber (Canongate). I know nothing about the film adaptation with Scarlett Johansson—although I’m planning on checking it out—but the book is excellent.

What book are you most looking forward to?

Helen Garner’s new nonfiction book, This House of Grief (Text). I think Garner does nonfiction best; I can vividly recall reading Joe Cinque’s Consolation (Picador) for the first time. Also, the new short-story collection by Margaret Atwood that’s out in a couple of months and Dress, Memory by Lorelei Vashti (A&U).

What book made you wonder what all the fuss was about?

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (A&U), who always writes the same parental-trauma-porn where whatever the worst case scenario you can conceive of for a family comes to pass. Or The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini, Bloomsbury)that was a story that held me right up until the end when everything got tied up in an infuriatingly neat package which felt like it was pre-destined for Hollywood.

What’s the best book you’ve read that no-one’s ever heard of?

This Is How by M J Hyland (Text). I wouldn’t go so far as to say no one’s ever heard of it as she’s got a cult following, but she deserves a wider readership. It’s a masterful study in claustrophobia, loneliness and possibly madness—but you can’t quite tell.

Obligatory desert island question—which book would you want with you?

Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes (Faber).

Is there a book you’ve bought for the cover?

Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables from the Penguin Clothbound Classics series, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith. It’s all inky blue binding and entwined red birds.

Hardback, paperback or digital?

Paperback. Nothing compares to the weight, feel and smell of a real book. I learnt that from years working in a bookshop—you see customers covertly stroke books and sniff their pages. I think ebooks are well-suited to travel because of their transportability and they’re amazing for academic texts or research purposes. But I prefer to have a real book in my hands that I can drop without fear and/or spill coffee on. I never know what to do with the paper jackets from hardback books, so paperback all the way.

If I were a literary character I’d be…

Anna Karenina crossed with Jo March with a little bit of Nancy Drew thrown in for mystery factor.

The best thing about books is…

They don’t mind when you forget their names.

Stella Prize 2014 longlist announced

The longlist for the second Stella Prize has been announced.

This year’s longlist features six works of fiction and six works of nonfiction. The longlisted titles are:

Letter to George Clooney Moving Among Strangers Burial Rites

Letter to George Clooney by Debra Adelaide (Picador)

Moving Among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey (UQP)

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Picador)

Night Games Mullumbimby The Night Guest

Night Games by Anna Krien (Black Inc)

Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko (UQP)

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane (Penguin)

Boy Lost The Misogyny Factor Madeleine

Boy, Lost: A Family Memoir by Kristina Olsson (UQP)

The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers (NewSouth)

Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John by Helen Trinca (Text)

The Swan Book Forgotten Rebels of Eureka All the Birds Singing

The Swan Book by Alexis Wright (Giramondo)

The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright (Text)

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (Random House).

The shortlist for this year’s prize will be announced on 20 March, ahead of the winner announcement in Sydney on 29 April. The winner of this year’s prize will receive a cash prize of $50,000.

For more information about the Stella Prize, visit the website here.

Top ‘Books+Publishing’ junior reviews of 2013

In 2013 Books+Publishing reviewed 99 children’s and YA books. Here are some of our reviewers’ favourites:

Picture books

Only one picture book scored five stars from Books+Publishing’s reviewers this year and that was Bird & Bear by Ann James (The Five Mile Press, May). Natalie Crawford described it as a story about ‘the small moments of understanding that can change a young child’s life’.


Young readers
Once Upon a Slime: 45 Fun Ways to Get Writing … Fast! by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (Pan Macmillan, April) received five stars from Meredith Lewin, who said that while the book is aimed at junior readers, ‘aspiring writers of all ages take note—this is one of the most useful books on the market’.

Lewin also gave four and a half stars to Rosanne Hawke’s Shahana (A&U, June), which she described as ‘an outstanding first entry in the “Through My Eyes” series for readers aged 11-14, which aims to increase awareness of the devastating effects of war on children’.

Jarrah Moore was impressed with the ‘exceptionally rich’ world-building in Julie Hunt’s Song for a Scarlet Runner (A&U, April) and the ‘wonderfully realised’ world of Lian Tanner’s Ice Breaker (A&U, November), awarding them both four and a half stars.

Hannah Cartmel also gave The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie by Kirsty Murray (A&U, August) four and a half stars. She described the book as ‘a lovely and heart-warming story for pre-teen girls, especially those who live a rich fantasy life’.

Once_Upon_a_SlimeshahanaFour SeasonsSong for a Scarlet RunnerIce Breaker Book Cover

Young adult

Natalie Crawford gave five stars to Zac & Mia by A J Betts (Text, August), the winner of the 2012 Text Prize for young adult and children’s writing. ‘Zac & Mia should be mandatory reading for anyone dealing with cancer in their family. It is definitely a stand-out novel for 2013,’ writes Crawford.

Allyse Near’s Fairytales for Wilde Girls (Random House, June) scored five stars and comparisons with Neil Gaiman and Angela Carter from Bec Kavanagh. ‘This is a brilliant debut that will appeal to both adult and young-adult fantasy lovers,’ writes Kavanagh.

Meredith Lewin described Margaret Wild’s The Vanishing Moment (A&U, September) as a ‘riveting exploration of the measure of human life and happiness’ and said reading Kate Hendrick’s The Accident (Text, July) ‘brought back the raw sting of familiarity of reading John Marsden for the first time’. She gave them both four and a half stars.

zac and miaFairytalesThe accidentvanishing moment

Miles Franklin Literary Award 2013 shortlist

The shortlist for the 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Award has been announced, and this year it’s an all-female affair. Our reviewers were impressed with all five nominated titles, three of which are debut novels.

FlounderingReviewer Carody Culver describes Floundering as ‘a dark and lyrical tale of a family reunion that unfolds against a bleak rural Australian backdrop’, and says that the novel ‘deftly captures the fading innocence of a boy who witnesses more than he understands; what he leaves unsaid is as revealing as what he articulates’. … read more.

Beloved‘The Beloved is a vivid bildungsroman with believable characters and intense dramatic events’, writes reviewer Angela Meyer. Set in Papua New Guinea in 1955, the novel is ‘about two strong identities coming up against one another, the way passion (and art) can overtake a person’s very being, and the damaging effects of “wanting the best” for a child who already knows who they are and what they want’. … read more.

Questions of TravelQuestions of Travel combines the ambitious themes of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom with the poetic details of Gail Jones’ Five Bells. And the prose will knock your socks off,’ writes reviewer Andrea Hanke. ‘Essentially this is a story about two common, but very different, experiences of modern travel—an Australian backpacker exploring the world and a Sri Lankan refugee adjusting to Australia—and de Kretser unpicks her characters’ experiences, motivations and emotions with great insight and skill.’ … read more.

‘Dutch photographer, Rika, and her English ethnologist husband Leonard arrive in Papua New Guinea at the end of the 1960s, when the Melanesian country is still under Australian colonial rule. He is to study the remote tribal community of the mountain, and she is along for the ride,’ writes reviewer Andrew Wilkins. ‘The Mountain is a book about the enduring relationship between European and Melanesian in all its complexity: the ties that can bring people together and the mysteries that can confound them on both sides.’ … read more.

Mateship with Birds follows the lives of Harry, ‘a divorced dairy farmer, living alone’, and his next-door neighbour Betty in post-WWII Victoria. Reviewer David Gaunt writes, ‘This is a splendidly poised and wryly funny novel: human nature and relationships are as beautifully observed as the rich, circadian rhythms (I’ve not read better prose about the intimate intricacy of dairy farming) of country life. It is clever, original and richly rewarding.’ … read more.

Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2013

Wild Dog Books publisher Andrew Kelly attended this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which ran from 25-28 March. You can read his report of the fair here. Australian children’s book illustrations were once again on display, with Ann James and Owen Swan attracting the crowds with their live demonstrations.

Pro-book sticker spotted on the streets of Bologna
Owen Swan
Ann James
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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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BOOK REVIEW: The Holiday Murders (Robert Gott, Scribe)

The Holiday Murders is a new crime novel from Robert Gott, author of the ‘William Power’ crime novels as well as many children’s books. I hope it will be the first of many. The story takes place during Christmas 1943. Inspector Titus Lambert is head of the newly formed homicide section of the Melbourne police force. Two brutal murders have occurred and Titus, along with his young, inexperienced offsider Joe Sable and up-and-coming constable Helen Lord, are on the hunt for the killer. Featuring brownouts, war rations and the black market, The Holiday Murders brings to life a world not often written about by Australian fiction writers. Drawing on the political and social milieu of the time and name-checking some of Melbourne’s landmark streets and hotels, Gott’s story rings true—as well as being a real page-turner. It’s also a little grisly in parts. Fans of Kerry Greenwood, Sulari Gentill and any readers who like a little history with their crime will love The Holiday Murders.

Pip Newling is a freelance writer and former bookseller. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in October. View more pre-publication reviews here.

INTERVIEW: Katherine Dorrington, program manager of the Perth Writers Festival

With the Perth Writers Festival just around the corner (21-24 February), Bookseller+Publisher spoke to program manager Katherine Dorrington about the festival’s highlights, its focus on literary writing, politics and journalism, and her favourite sessions.

What do you anticipate will be the highlights of this year’s Perth Writers Festival?
There are almost too many to mention, but I’ll give it my best shot! Without a doubt my number one highlight would be Margaret Atwood. She is such an influential writer and brilliant storyteller. I’m also really looking forward to hearing China Miéville speak. I’m a huge fan of his writing and I’ve never had the opportunity to hear him live.

I think Kevin Powers will be a big hit with our audiences. His book The Yellow Birds (Hodder) was on numerous ‘best of’ lists for 2012, and I’m looking forward to hearing him speak about his remarkable novel. Lawrence Norfolk is also high on my ‘must see’ list; his brilliant depiction of 17th-century England, John Saturnall’s Feast (Bloomsbury), astonished me with the amount of historical research he undertook.

The other major highlight for me is a series of events called ‘Out of the Box’, which focuses on television drama as serious form of storytelling rivalling cinema and literature.

What sessions or which authors do you think will attract the big crowds?
Margaret Atwood, China Miéville, Anna Funder and Phillip Adams are the authors I think will attract the biggest crowds, but I also think some of our events such as the Poets VS Novelists Debate, The Stella Prize Trivia Night, and the Family Day will also be really popular.

What about your personal picks? Which authors are you most looking forward to hearing talk about their work?
From our international line-up I loved Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars (Headline), so I’m really looking forward to hearing him speak, and also Steven Poole whose new book, You Aren’t What You Eat (Scribe), should generate lots of debate, which is always great for a festival. I’m really excited about our opening address, On Art and Politics with Ahdaf Soueif—it’s a great way to start a writers’ festival and epitomises what the festival is about, the place where storytelling and art inform and examine real life. The other international author I’ll be making sure I’m in the front row to listen to is Edward St Aubyn as I find his prose very polished and witty.

Australian authors I’m keen to listen to include Andrew Croome, Graeme Simsion, Benjamin Law, Anna Funder and Michelle de Kretser among many others.

What is the theme or inspiration for this year’s festival?
This year some of the threads running throughout the festival include a return and focus on literary writing with authors such as Edward St Aubyn, James Meek, Michelle de Kretser, Kevin Powers and Anna Funder. There is also a strong focus on politics and journalism with writers such as David Marr, Laura Tingle, Maxine McKew, James Button, Phillip Adams, David Uren, Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis. I’m also interested in exploring the changing nature of the modern soldier with Chris Masters, Kevin Powers and Major General John Cantwell.

Australian literature is often dominated by the Eastern states. How do you plan to highlight talent from the West?
To be honest I don’t think of it in those terms. We have a wealth of talent here in the West that includes authors who are recognised internationally as well as nationally. I would imagine that most book lovers appreciate good writing no matter where it’s from. However, I’d like to highlight just one key partnership we have with writingWA and Wines of Western Australia. This year we are featuring a number of WA writers in an event called ‘A Glass of Wine and a Good Book’, involving two of life’s great pleasures, reading a book and drinking wine!

Will the festival be using digital programming to reach audiences online?
While we are very active online in the way we interact with our audience, we don’t have any specific digital programming planned for this year. However, the festival is planning on employing a digital producer for 2014 and I think there could be some exciting developments in this area for future festivals.