Summer Lovin’, Various authors with Introduction by Liz Byrski (Fremantle Press, $19.99)
Summer Lovin’ is a collection of fourteen short stories broadly themed around love. In fact mostly it is a series of excerpts taken from various novels written by some of our favourite Australian authors including Craig Silvey, Joan London and Elizabeth Jolley presenting a fantastic opportunity for readers to dip into several writing styles. The stories are vastly different in settings, time and context but all are beautifully written. From the delightful account of lifelong love and loss from A.B. Facey to exploration of love through art and music - there is a lot to love about this collection!
Ubby's Underdogs: Heroes Beginnings, Brenton McKenna (Magabala Books, $24.95)
The smart and tough Ubby returns with her Underdogs in this second volume and straight off the bat we go into the adventure where Aboriginal and Chinese cultures come together, both in harsh realities of a post-WW2 Broome and in their respective mythologies. Brenton McKenna shows his developing confidence as a storyteller mixing it up to appeal not just evenly but totally with teen girls and boys. He uses his organic manga style to emphasize colour and a freewheeling speed to the narrative wanting the reader to move through the text as fast and free-flowing as possible making the action run less on the page and more in the mind like a clever action film. Indeed, Mckenna’s expression of lives growing up hard and becoming heroes in struggling times is the stuff of good animated movies as well as of legend.
Inadvertent Things, Andrew Lansdown (Walleah Press, $20.00)
Andrew Lansdown’s Inadvertent Things gathers together his poems in Japanese forms, particularly haiku and tanka. In an alphabetic rather than an ideogrammatic language, with non-Asian philosophical traditions, these short poetic forms can easily be either trite or pretentious. Lansdown, though, uses these forms skilfully, aided by his clear diction, direct approach and implicit belief in serving the reader. The unselfconscious purity of creatures in their environment is set against the self-consciousness of humans: a Sacred Kingfisher “without knowledge of self… / enacts itself precisely”. However, the idealisation of nature is always beset by its lack of awareness; humans, not kingfishers, write haiku.
The Vision of Error: A Sextet of Activist Poems, John Kinsella (5 Islands Press, $27.95)
In this remarkable set of six long, complex, many-sectioned poems, Kinsella rails against human despoilation of the planet’s resources, working from a local perspective. While ‘Mining companies rule Australia’, in ‘Western Australia’ it’s ‘all extrusion and removal.’ The seasons falter; in ‘November. Shiny green growth / …[but] little moisture around –‘. Harsh hakea survives while massive York gums die and ‘the locals’ spend their time ‘killing, poisoning, clearing, bush-bashing, / spraying’. Recalling The Waste Land he asks ‘after the warnings and the facts, what will be left?’ This is not ‘poetry for entertainment’ he writes, but it is poetry that demands to be read.
Perth, David Whish-Wilson (New South Books, $29.99)
The eighth book in a series in which leading Australian authors have been invited to write about their hometowns, Perth is a rewarding read on many levels. Moving fluidly between eras and across decades, interweaving memoir with local history, and quoting generously from the works of other great Western Australian writers and historians, David Whish-Wilson’s Perth is a beautifully written “reminder that the truest, if most intangible, heritage of our city exists in our memories”. The cover’s golden, ghosty image of the Perth skyline echoes this, suggesting a place of both substance and ephemera to be discovered within the text.
The Outback Heart, Fiona Palmer (Penguin, $29.99)
Set in WA’s wheatbelt, The Outback Heart is a love story. Central character, Indi is beautifully portrayed as a salt-of-the-earth country girl and pillar of the local community. The plot centres around the town’s footy team and their handsome new coach Troy Mitchell. Palmer’s characterisation of the town’s many colourful identities is delightful and will bring a smile to those who have experienced country life. The story also gives poignant insight into the lives and feelings of organ transplant recipients and their loved ones. With holiday season approaching, total immersion in The Outback Heart could just be the plan!
Eyrie, Tim Winton (Penguin, $45.00)
Eyrie is breathtaking. It is difficult to simultaneously breathe and read this book; such is the intensity and grit contained within its pages. Tom Keely is trying to recede from the world. He has fallen from grace and lost his purpose. Cocooned high up in his fading Freo apartment block, Eyrie explores Keely’s relationship with neighbour, six year old Kai. For the damaged man, rescuing this troubled small boy potentially offers a path back to life and community whilst challenging long-held childhood notions of heroism. Winton is a master craftsman of words and Eyrie is no exception – honest, provocative and brilliant!
Presumed Guilty, Bret Christian (Hardie Grant Books, $29.95)
This is a fascinating account of the wrongful accusation and often conviction of innocent people in a range of notorious criminal cases in Perth. Bret Christian, well-known Perth journalist, brings years of extensive research to his gripping stories of how such errors occur. The first section of his book is devoted to serial killer Eric Cooke –and to the two other men who were jailed for murders he committed – then he analyses several other famous contemporary cases. Christian demonstrates the ways both flaws in the jury system and a belief in the ‘copper’s instinct’ can lead to gross miscarriages of justice. A compelling read.
Stroke, Zoe Taylor (Australian Poetry, $12.00)
This tiny book is Zoe Taylor’s first collection, with poems that cover a range of registers and topics. From the gently humorous – lovers dancing cause ‘land-sick sailors [to] howl at the moon’ - to the starkly serious - the title poem explores the thoughts that ‘perhaps’ go through a man’s mind in the seconds before he takes his life - this youthful poetic voice is always fresh and engaging. The occasion of ‘My mother’ recounting a dream she had ‘about her mother’ in ‘Teatowel’, as ‘The tea towel lightly wrings/in her hands’, moves from an evocation of the everyday to that of deep poignancy.
Ride Like Hell and You’ll Get There, Paul Carter (Allen & Unwin, $22.99)
Paul Carter’s latest memoir is a ‘road movie’ in print form. Stories of adventure on the open road - generously adorned with man hugs, several trips to the hospital, and a good deal of alcohol consumption – are contrasted with accounts of his frustrated attempts to break the land speed record on an experimental bike. Top and tailing this collection are two moving stories that in Carter’s direct, ‘uncomplicated’ prose reveal the husband, father, and son lurking behind the larrikin. His ability to achieve tension in his writing between the heartfelt and the downright hilarious are particularly evident in these passages.
Big Honey Dog Mysteries; Curse of the Scarab, H Y Hanna (self-published, $0.99 e-book; $8.85 paperback)
While this book is clearly aimed at a younger market, it has to be said that there are unexpected delights for everyone! Hanna takes her canine characters very seriously so the point of view from those characters makes amusing reading, from ever hungry beagles, Peemail in the park, and pedigree prejudice the reader is immersed in a new world where all is turned on its head. The lead character, a Great Dane called Honey, complete with her own blog and drool problem, leads her local gang into the cemetery and beyond to solve the mystery of the missing puppies with a nice dose of Egyptology in mix.
Shimmer, Jennifer McBride and Lynda Nixon (Fremantle Press, $14.99)
Shimmer takes us into the world of Kora the genie. She is sassy, opinionated and not impressed to be living on Earth with teenager, David. Shimmer takes young readers on a fabulous adventure as David and Kora get to know each other and tackle many issues together. At the heart of this story is the notion that much can be achieved when we take the time to understand each other, no matter what the apparent differences. Shimmer deftly navigates tough emotional territory, offering pause for thought about family relationships, loyalty and loss and yet cleverly maintains its pace as an entertaining adventure.
of Arc & Shadow, Helen Hagemann (Sunline Press, $20.00)
Helen Hagemann's poetry - of family and nature and travelling - is richly evocative of a lifetime of experiences. Her finely tuned observer's eye allows us to see the things of everyday life anew. In a body of work that ranges from an ode to mushrooms, where 'in wide brim hats/they rise from the/crest of earth,' to the ordinary adventure of arriving in a country town, 'where church bells deeply resound/from a gothic tower., to a memory of a 'hilltop house, [where] my Aunt Bea pins a hem/to my knees', Hagemann's poetry opens up that familiar world in often surprising, always pleasurable ways.
Gestures of Love: The Fatherhood Poems, Andrew Lansdown (Wombat Books, $14.95)
Andrew Lansdown's Gestures of Love: The Fatherhood Poems brings together the many poems he has written over the years on the subject of fatherhood. Lansdown writes short, direct, often imagistic poems but they cover the wide range of emotions familiar to any parent, and some convincingly employ a young child's language. A committed Christian, he conceives of the children as born first "in God's mind" but they will still experience loneliness, terror and death - subjects he is too humble to claim to understand. Lansdown accepts that we all must fit ourselves to the world. "for even small things exact a pledge/that we shall do as they would like".
Helping Little Star, Sally Morgan and Blaze Kwaymullina, Illustrated by Sally Morgan (Walker Books, $24.95)
“Do not go near the edge of Night Sky,” warns Moon, “or you will fall off.” When mischievous Little Star refuses to listen to the sage advice of Moon, he tumbles out of the Night Sky and into trouble in Python’s swimming hole! Very young children will delight in Little Star’s misadventures as he eventually finds his way back home with a little help from the combined efforts of his new friends, Python, Kangaroo and Dingo. With vibrant acrylic illustrations and playful text, this award winning mother and son team have created an engaging and gentle cautionary picture book tale.
Trichotomy, Angela Pritchard (Ginninderra Press, $20.00)
An extraordinarily distilled story of love, communication and relationships set in today’s world of complicated modern extended families. Pritchard skilfully manages to portray strong emotions avoiding any sentimentality in this engaging story. Using an extended metaphor of the book as a container for soul and life powerfully underlines the relationship between a step-father, neighbour and step-daughter and engages the reader in the exploration between the characters. This all too short book covers a lifetime of misunderstanding, cooking, love, loss and rediscovery, it is quickly engaging, and plunges into the heart of the story allowing no disengagement or space for the reader to distance themselves - not for the faint hearted.
NEOMAD: Books one and two, Sutu and the Yijala Yala Project (Gestalt Publishing with big hART, $9.95)
Join the Love Punks and Satellite Sisters as they fight to save the Earth and the cosmos from angry gods, spaceships and aliens! The Love Punks are 14 warriors who, along with the 7 space-dwelling Satellite Sisters, begin an epic adventure across the universe to uncover the mystery behind the mysterious petroglyph discovered on a crashed rocket booster in the Pilbara… Set in post-apocalyptic Roebourne, NEOMAD are vibrant and colourful graphic novels which effortlessly combine traditional cultural elements, science fiction tropes and contemporary perspectives into a bright and hilarious whole! This special series was created by the children of Murujuga with artist Sutu.
Getting Warmer, Alan Carter (Fremantle Press, $27.99)
This action-packed novel sees the return of Cato Kwong, whom many will recognise from Carter’s first novel, Prime Cut. Set in contemporary Perth, Cato gets embroiled in the case of a missing teenage girl, a murder at a Fremantle nightclub and turf wars between rival gangs, amid a cast of bent coppers, psychopathic criminals, colourful locals and no-nonsense detectives. The pace of the story never flags and Carter deftly maintains the suspense throughout. Laugh-out loud phrases add black humour and Cato’s personal dramas are entertaining. Getting Warmer is a great read and locals will enjoy the references to localities, identities and recent events.
Elephants in the Bush and other Yamatji Yarns, Clarrie Cameron (Magabala Books, $19.95)
Clarrie Cameron gives us this wonderful collection of Yamatji stories gathered from many people over his lifetime. Some stories hark back to times past on stations, droving cattle and others give voice to spiritual encounters. A common thread throughout the collection is the use of gentle and laconic humour. Cameron’s voice is wise and whilst he doesn’t shy away from deeper issues such as alcohol abuse, his focus always returns to the humanity in each situation, giving us pause for reflection. I swear I could smell campfire smoke when reading this book and now I long to hear more Yamatji yarns!
Internal Monologues, Danijela Kambaskovic (Fremantle Press; $24.99)
Danijela Kambaskovic's Internal Monologues, subtitled "a romance" is an unusual book of poems since it comprises 33 dramatic meditations projected towards a lover by literary or mythological figures. Prime sources are Graeco-Roman myth and Shakespeare but we also eavesdrop on Mary 'speaking' to Joseph, both Abelard and Heloise, and a "Letter to Santa". The last points to an element of playfulness, although some of the poems are violent and many are very sexual. Ophelia becomes Plath-like, Circe thinks of love's heart as "a sedan/in a one-way street", while Mary warns Joseph that she "comes with baggage/which you must believe is divine".
Zero at the Bone, David Whish-Wilson (Penguin, $29.99)
Following on from Whish-Wilson’s gripping novel Line of Sight, former detective and anti-hero, Frank Swann returns to investigate the suicide of an eminent geologist. The plot is unexpected and intriguing, the action intense, but best of all is Whish-Wilson’s ability to draw characters so familiar, they could be your next door neighbour! Beautifully written, Zero at the Bone captures the essence of 1970’s Perth from its mining mavericks and shady dealers to its leafy suburbs. An absorbing read and thoroughly recommended if you love a great story –guaranteed you won’t put this one down until the very last page.
Unearthed, Tracy Ryan (Fremantle Press, $24.99)
The poetry in this major new volume by one of Australia’s finest poets is informed, earthed, in the everyday and the personal. Yet these familiar realms are haunted, ‘unearthed’ by memories; ineffably moving, but also often witty and celebratory. It’s anchored by a short initial poem, ‘The Thousand Goodbyes’ which displays all those qualities in its remembering ‘Dad who’d always/sit in the car and wait/... as Mum from the window/continued her spiel’, and a complex final one, a translation from Rilke, ‘Requiem for a Woman Friend’, addressing the friend’s unquiet spirit through a long meditative conversation on the meanings of grief and death. This book will repay many re-readings.
Zac and Mia, AJ Betts (Text Publishing, $26.00)
It's hard to say exactly what makes this book so utterly compelling, so impossible to put down. It could be the sharp, witty dialogue, the sympathetic, original characters, the deeply satisfying story arc, the recognisable settings, or some combination of all of those. Zac and Mia is a book about teenagers with cancer, and there is a risk the novel could be pigeonholed because of this. But the subject matter allows Betts to canvass everything to do with the human condition, and she does it with a light touch without flinching from the details. Zac and Mia is a must for every teenager, well or otherwise, and for every adult who loves to read. Nobody who picks up this book will be disappointed.
The Andy Flegg Survival Guide to Losing your Dog, Your Dad and Your Dignity in 138 Days, Mark Pardoe (Penguin, $16.99)
This book is written diary-style and records 138 days in the life of Andy Flegg. Upon first impression, one is reminded of the Adrian Mole series but that’s where the comparisons must end. This book is really funny and very enjoyable, but goes much further than being light entertainment. Through Andy Flegg, Pardoe draws an insightful and at times heart-aching picture of the life of a teenage boy. Andy grapples with some of life’s big challenges including parental marriage difficulties, the loss of a family pet and navigating relationships with friends…and girls! Thoroughly recommended reading for teenagers and parents alike.
The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, Tracy Farr (Fremantle Press, $26.99)
When celebrated musician Dame Lena Gaunt agrees to give a one-off theremin performance, her first in twenty years, she also opens the door to her secluded seaside life. Filmmaker Mo Patterson wants her as the subject of a new documentary. With each visit to the Cottesloe house, memories unfurl, slowly piecing together Lena’s story. Tracy Farr’s beautifully written and well-crafted novel combines music and art as she moves the reader around the globe through the dazzling 30s and 40s. This rich novel not only paints an enticing portrait of Lena and her loves but also pays tribute to the life of an artist in all its varying forms.
Hatched: Celebrating 20 years of the Tim Winton Award for Young Writers (Fremantle Press, $14.99)
This volume of 23 stories written over 20 years is a great read and testament to the health of Western Australia’s literary scene. The stories, written by children ranging from lower primary to upper secondary school age, cover a diverse array of themes including schoolyard angst, family tensions, fantasy, war, adventure and love. Perhaps the most outstanding attribute that unites all of the stories is the honesty and clarity the shines through in these young voices alongside some delightful laugh out loud moments, pathos and wry observation. Hatched is a really enjoyable book for all ages.
Parachute, Danny Parker and Matt Ottley (Little Hare, $24.95)
Through a small child's eyes, the world can be a scary place. Everything seems to be higher, taller, steeper, bigger and harder to reach for little Toby. So when he has to negotiate the heady heights of the bunk bed or his bike's new trainer wheels, Toby wears a parachute. Parker and Ottley's third picture book collaboration provides an empathetic and perceptive insight into a child's fears and resilience. Exquisite oil paint, pencil and digitally-rendered illustrations perfectly capture Toby's perspective and vivid imagination. An added bonus is the stunning fold-out dust jacket that opens out into a poster of the book's finest double page spread.
Lemon Oil, Jackson (Mulla Mulla Press, $20.00)
Not for the faint-hearted, the poetry in Jackson’s second collection is tough and direct, dealing with sex and pain and losing love; with the natural world too, birds and the bush. Many of the poems would work well in performance. A typically wry humour is captured in ‘Both Syllables’, where the poet imagines two possible lives. In one she has a job ‘in the Post Shop’ and finds a ‘plain-packaged husband’, Dave, who calls her ‘Jan’. In the other she keeps ‘trying to live as an artist’ with ‘David’ and he and all his friends ‘pronounce my name/to rhyme with “pet”’.
Westerley 58.1, Eds. Delys Bird, Tony Hughes-D’Aeth (Westerly Centre, $19.95)
The latest edition of Westerly presents a diverse collection of contemporary poetry, review essays, short stories, and articles from around the world, with a special focus on Western Australia. Some pieces are experimental; some are very accessible and provide an excellent snapshot of the latest writing from contemporary authors. The curious reader will find much here to ponder and enjoy. A particular highlight is an essay by Nigel Krauth. This essay explores exciting new directions being taken by Australian writers, providing valuable insight into new writing and shining a light upon the fascinating world of Australian literary fiction.
Heist, Robert Schofield (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)
Set in the West Australian Goldfields and Perth, Robert Schofield’s Heist is a page turner of the highest order. Central character, Gareth Ford finds himself in the middle of a gold heist at a mine site outside Leonora. There are twists and turns aplenty, shoot outs and convenient alliances as the plot unfurls. This is a particularly rewarding book for West Australians as it features landscapes and real places, not to mention several beautifully-drawn characters who resemble some of the real life bikies, fat cats and cops who have appeared in our news bulletins over the years. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
Now Showing, Ron Elliott (Fremantle Press, $29.99)
Ron Elliott is a writer, director and film lecturer with a clear passion for all elements of film and writing. Now Showing is his latest work featuring five mini-novels that he describes as ‘movies’ or ‘entertainments’. Noir, romance, comedy, heist, and road, the presented work is celluloid on paper. Elliott’s stories roll with fast-paced dialogue, enigmatic characters, film references, soundtrack and mise en scène that drop the reader right into the story. His precise prose evokes film noir while keeping up the momentum. So recline, grab the popcorn and let his collection of offbeat characters take you on an enjoyable cinematic ride.
Coaching Children: Sport science essentials, Kelly Sumich (ACER Press, $29.95)
Coaching kids in sport is by no means an easy task. An upbringing based on sport can provide for a positive start to life, but at the same time, it can wreak havoc on some kids’ mental wellbeing. On top of love, blood, sweat and tears, Kelly Sumich, the Sports Science Education Institute Director WA, adds science to the way we should guide our children through sport. Addressing subjects ranging from motor skill development through to the psychology of coaching: such as motivational techniques, goal setting and minimising anxiety, this book also caters for differences in age and gender. The 110 page resource is easy to consume and could become the perfect companion to the 1.7 million volunteers in kids sport across Australia.
A Town is Born: The Fitzroy Crossing Story, Steve Hawke (Magabala Books, $35.00)
Photographs of Aboriginal interviewees and the melding of their voices with words from official documents is an extremely effective way to demonstrate the circumstances which led to the establishment of modern day Fitzroy Crossing in the far North of Western Australia. The book succinctly evokes the changing lives of Aboriginal people as they moved onto and then away from the pastoral stations established on their traditional country. Powerful historical forces and complex interactions are revealed as Aboriginal people consolidated their lives, established relationships and allegiances to accommodate their new circumstances in the Fitzroy Valley. An excellent and illuminating book.
Silver Clouds, Fleur McDonald (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)
Need to escape for a while? Then let Fleur McDonald whisk you off for an adventure in the Nullarbor with her novel, Silver Clouds. Central character, Tessa Mathison returns to the family station from London where she discovers some intriguing family history, an array of interesting characters and does a whole lot of growing up. There’s a dash of romance, some mystery, action scenes and beautifully drawn landscapes intertwined with some more serious topics such as alcoholism and self-esteem issues in young women. Silver Clouds is an engaging and delightful rite-of-passage story with a distinctly WA flavour.
Letters to the End of Love, Yvette Walker (UQP, $22.95)
Letters to the End of Love is a beautiful ode to love told through letters exchanged by three couples living in different times. In this age of instant electronic communication, the power of written word on a page stands out: “I love your emails but this letter of yours, it breathes. I’d forgotten that letters could do that.” In fact, the novel itself breathes as it wrestles with grief, sadness and the expression of our deepest emotions through words. Beautifully written, this first novel by Yvette Walker uncovers an outstanding talent whose words will move many readers to write letters of their own.
Descended From Thieves, Coral Carter (Mulla Mulla Press, $20.00)
For her debut collection of poetry Coral Carter has chosen an epigraph from How to Make an American Quilt which warns that in quilt making ‘you have to go by instinct and you have to be brave.’ Carter’s poetry adopts this edict. It’s raw and direct; often driven by a tough, self-mocking persona. More varied in form than tone, this is poetry that leaps off the page and begs for performance. An example is the penultimate poem, ‘Restorative Kiss’: ‘Her arms slapped around me/a straightjacket to my pain./ … When push comes to shove/in the stakes of love/I have better luck with girls.’
Elemental, Amanda Curtin, (UWA Publishing, $29.99)
Amanda Curtin’s second novel, Elemental, is both demanding and utterly engrossing. As an old woman, Meggie Tulloch records her life story for her granddaughter. Born into the harsh environment of a small fishing village in north-east Scotland, where women’s lives are ruled by men and men’s by the sea, she escapes to the Shetland Isles to become a ‘gutting girl’, then marries and emigrates to Fremantle. The sweep of this narrative, organised in three parts, ‘Water 1891-1905’, ‘Air 1905-1909’, and ‘Earth 1910-1932’, with a Coda, ‘Fire 2011’, is impressive and the historical detail fascinating. Absolutely not to be missed.
The Amazing Spencer Gray, Deb Fitzpatrick (Fremantle Press, $14.99)
Spencer Gray is an ordinary kid. He lives with his family in Albany and like most teenagers, winces at his Dad’s cheesy jokes, loves skateboarding with his mate Leon, and longs for adventure. His Dad owns a glider and finally the day arrives when Spencer is allowed to go up with him. Soaring in the thermals is the most wonderful adventure until a trip over Bluff Knoll runs into strife. The action is tense and compelling as Spencer finds himself in a life or death situation and he has to draw upon every ounce of courage and determination to survive.
Reunion, Bruce Russell (Vivid Publishing, $25.95)
An engrossing and well-crafted tale of mystery and suspense set in contemporary Sydney. Bette, one of award-winning novelist Bruce Russell’s trademark strong and engaging female protagonists, sets out to discover what really happened when her husband is reported missing, presumed dead. All leads seeming to lead to kidnapping, murder and the Tagary Surf Club. The real puzzle at the heart of this story is the strange male world of mateship; as much a world of jealousy and betrayal as it is friendship, great laughs and heavy drinking. But in the end Reunion is also a story of marriage, love and belonging.
Fractured, Dawn Barker (Hachette, $ 29.99)
Fractured is a gripping novel that charts the daily lives of a family in turmoil. New Mum, Anna has not been coping, leading to a devastating sequence of events. Recounted from a range of perspectives, as the truth unfurls we shift from initial shock/disbelief to an uncomfortable understanding of how quickly lives can change. Barker has a phenomenal talent for getting inside the minds of her characters. It is rare to empathise with every character, yet the insights offered afford a real understanding of the complexities surrounding mental illness and its impacts on the lives of sufferers and their families.
Knitting & other stories, Edited by Richard Rossiter (Margaret River Press, $24.00)
Knitting & other stories is a collection of twenty-four short stories by new, experienced and award-winning writers. In addition to being among the best selected from the Margaret River Short Story Competition 2013, these stories have other commonalities which makes the collection complete. Humorous, sad, observant and reflective, they celebrate Australian lives that might ordinarily go unnoticed. Family, friends, loves and strangers sit among the pages, each of them genuine and each one memorable. This is a rich collection of stories elegantly edited by Richard Rossiter. Add to this the wonderful design, and you have the perfect book that, like a lovingly knitted garment, will bring you warmth on winter nights.
Lighthouse Boy, Dianne Wolfer, Illustrated by Brian Adams (Fremantle Press, 26.99)
The writer/illustrator team that created the delightful "Lighthouse Girl" has collaborated again to bring to life this story of young Jim, who enlists in the army in 1914, lying about his age, to join in a grand adventure and see the world, and instead experiences the horrors of war. His letters home bring to life the story of one young man, his mates and their horses, many of whom don't come home. His sister’s replies contain glimpses of life in Melbourne, a world away. Combining historic photos, wonderful illustrations and traditional story-telling, this is a young adult novel that we all should read in the lead up to the centenary of WWI.
Honey & Hemlock, Julie Watts (Sunline Press, $20.00)
The reputation of Sunline Press as a quality publisher of WA poetry continues to grow with Julie Watts’s Honey & Hemlock. The opening poem, “After the Eye Injury” begins: “After the dark cell/cotton tomb of bandage —/the shock of colour”. This is a poet who sees the world in very physical terms and is enraptured by colour. Watts is a poet after D H Lawrence’s own heart, finding contemporary actions and events aligned with archetypal forces and our beings as genetically determined. The title comes from one of many powerful poems about her mother and father suffering in old age.
Marching Dead, Lee Battersby (Angry Robot Books, £8.99)
This is the second book about the Corpse-Rat King, Marius don Hellespont, and it does not disappoint. There is fast moving action, death, destruction, love, and relationship issues, all with a wry and sardonic undertone. We find Marius in a perfect situation and then suddenly all goes wrong, but not for the reader! Characters from the previous tale, The Corpse-Rat King, reemerge demonstrating their flawed natures, while new characters engage us with their antics. An engaging tale taking readers up and down, round and about, until finally at the end, they will seek the indulgence of the next in the series!
Definitely No Ducks! Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge (Walker Books, $13.95)
Definitely No Ducks! is a delight from start to finish by an author who clearly knows her ducks! There is high drama in the classroom with the unexpected and imminent departure of Max, the much-loved classroom duck and his kind owner and class teacher Mrs Melvino. Max is a spirited creature with a big personality but his apparent scant regard for the most important school assembly project ever made has landed him in deep trouble. This book is a funny and gripping adventure, yet is tender and triumphant in its championing of the goodness in children’s hearts. Kids and grown-ups will love it!
Harmless, Julienne Van Loon (Fremantle Press, $22.99)
In Harmless, Julienne Van Loon weaves lives into stories that will evoke a sense of familiarity for many West Australians through the landscape, the characters and our close ties with South-east Asia. Harmless is bleak, yet compelling and the beautifully drawn characters are at times so real that one can almost hear and see them. Hope is lost over and over again throughout the plot, yet the sense of life running in cycles and the humanity within each character still makes us believe that all is not lost long after the story has ended. Can a book have a soul? This one does.
Taking a Chance, Deborah Burrows (Macmillan, $29.99)
Fans of Deborah Burrows’ highly popular debut, A Stranger in My Street, are certain to enjoy this follow up novel. Covering similar territory – part chic lit, part detective story, part local history - Taking a Chance is packed with historical references and details that evoke images of WWII Perth in vivid 3D. While at heart a romance novel, Taking a Chance also tackles issues around female identity and the role of women in 1940’s Australian society as the character of Nell Fitzgerald struggles to establish herself as a serious journalist while investigating the story of Perth’s ‘lost girls’ during the time of American occupation.
The Mimosa Tree, Antonella Preto (Fremantle Press, $19.99)
Mira is starting university, and she's not happy. Everyone in her Italian family keep telling her how lucky she is, but Mira doesn't feel lucky. She doesn't fit in and she doesn't want to. She hates her drunk father and pities her mother, who is recovering from cancer. Even the new boy she meets lets her down. But Mira's life is about to change - and not in a good way. This is a beautifully written and direct book about identity and the redemptive power of friendship and family. But it is the wonderful and witty characters that will stay with you long after you put the book down. Recommended for all mature readers.
Fire, Ed. Delys Bird (Margaret River Press, $28.00)
Fire is an anthology of short stories, images, and poems. Whilst the 2011 Margaret River fires inspired a number of pieces from WA residents, several contributions are from further afield. At the heart of this anthology is our complex relationship with fire and what it inspires within us - awe, fear, loss, beauty, magic and hope. The photos capture the starkness of burnt landscapes and a sense of renewal in sprigs of green. Fire is beautifully presented and one cannot help but be moved by the sheer rawness of emotion expressed within its pages, juxtaposed against the beauty and might of its subject.
Shipwrecks of Australia’s West Coast, Ed. M. McCarthy (WA Museum, $35.00)
Skullduggery, heroism, mystery and misadventure bound together with marine archaeology and social history. Histories of perserverance, good detective work and leading edge scientific practice. Quite a book; it makes WA marine archaeology accessible and exciting. It is necessarily condensed but this means that there are gems on every page. It is a fascinating book that both immediately informs and also whets the appetite for further enquiry whether that be by armchair - there are frequent QR codes, for those with the technology, and a good reference section - or by getting out-and-about. Be careful, it could become addictive.
Traditional Healers of Central Australia: Ngangkari, Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjar Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council Aboriginal Corporation (Magabala Books, $49.95)
This beautiful book provides a first hand account through story and images of the ngangkari, traditional healers of the Ngannyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands. The power of the ngnagkari lies in their healing hands, through which they detect and banish the mamu, the harmful spirits which bring disease and sickness. Through the pages of the book, each healer speaks directly to the reader about their life, how they became a healer, their memories of childhood, and some of the ways their healing has helped others. Today they work alongside western health practitioners and their work is recognised and acknowledged. This book is not an ethnographic collection compiled by an anthropologist, but rather a celebration of a strong culture and remarkable individuals sharing most intimate and personal stories.
My Superhero, Chris Owen, Illust. Moira Court (Fremantle Press, $26.99)
What makes a superhero? Is it speed or strength or “leaping in a single bound the tallest office blocks around”? The furry, feathered and four-legged heroes unmasked in this stunning picture book display all these qualities and more and are playfully depicted in exquisite full-bleed acrylic, charcoal, pastel and pencil illustrations. Rhyming stanzas describing super-heroic attributes are punctuated by an infectious refrain that hints at the true hero of the story. Young children will also delight in opening the accompanying double gatefold pages which reveal visual clues to the hero’s identity. A warm and engaging tribute to heroes from the animal world to those closer to home.
The Little Corroboree Frog, Tracey Holton-Ramirez, illust. Angela Ramirez (Magabala Books, $14.95)
Anyone who reads this delightful children’s book will be on a mission to see a real Corroboree Frog! The illustrations are stunning and true to the species in the story. The Little Corroboree Frog charts the lives of a family of Southern Corroboree Frogs in the Alpine Region of NSW whose carefree daily existence is endangered by the regular visits of human campers. Thankfully a thoughtful boy and his dad save the day when they clean up all of the rubbish, thus imparting an important environmental message whilst celebrating the beauty of one of Australia’s loveliest little creatures.
Jandamarra, Mark Greenwood, illust. Terry Denton (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)
Beautifully illustrated, this picture book is a re-telling of the Bunuba story of Jandamarra. The narrative is a sparse and honest account of Jandamarra’s life as a tracker and then ultimately, as a freedom fighter for his people. The writing has clearly been crafted through a thoughtful process of consultation with the local people and the illustrations are evocative and very true to the Kimberley landscape. Importantly, Jandamarra presents a real opportunity to connect our children with Indigenous culture and lore from Western Australia, fostering intercultural understanding and connection with the land. Recommended for 8 years and up and parents too!
Spinifex Mouse, written and illustrated by Norma McDonald (Magabala Books, $21.95)
In the Pilbara region of WA lives Cheeky, the tiny spinifex mouse. As his name suggests, he is naughty. After his family return to their burrow to sleep after a night’s hunting for seeds, he creeps out to play and find more food. When he is first scooped up by an eagle, from whom he wriggles free, then chased by the big brown snake who nearly catches him, he learns that his greed and cheekiness are dangerous. This charming story is entrancingly illustrated. While it will appeal directly to 3-7 year-olds, their parents will also find it captivating. A book to treasure.
As the River Runs, Stephen Scourfield, (UWA Publishing, $26.99)
Set in the Kimberley, this novel features vivid and intoxicating descriptions that perhaps only a travel writer with a deep abiding love of the place could conjure. Central to the plot is the plan to pipe down water to sate the thirst of the southern masses. Sound familiar? The cast includes the morally derelict, ruthless consultant, an altruistic ex-greenie, some rather eccentric pastoralists and a disillusioned political staffer alongside the sometimes comic but wise Aboriginal residents. There’s a dash of romance and danger too. The theme of being true to yourself will resonate with many readers, as will the beautifully depicted landscapes.
The Calling, Dr Susan Prescott (UWA Publishing, $29.99)
The Calling is a masterful account of the lives of two remarkable West Australians, Monica and Stanley Prescott. Told powerfully in the first person through direct transcripts, their story is utterly fascinating. Of particular interest is the recounting of day-to-day life in China under Japanese occupation at Cheeloo Hospital, Monica as a doctor and Stanley as the Hospital Superintendent. There is adventure, true love, hard work, war and ‘mandarin-style diplomacy’. But at the heart of this story is remarkable grace. You can expect to close this book feeling inspired to be a better person and grateful to have known them, if only through its pages.
Kayang & Me, Kim Scott and Hazel Brown (Fremantle Press, $24.95)
Although a new edition of a book first published in 2005, this story remains relevant and engaging. The book charts the history of Noongar Elder Hazel Brown’s family as they are born, work and die in the south-west. Multi-textured, the narrative has the energetic and sometimes funny stories of Hazel, the contextualising comments of her nephew Kim Scott, interspersed with his elegiac reflections that represent some of his best writing. This is not a book to elicit white guilt, rather it is an exciting, vigorous and poignant history of an ancient people.
I’ll Get By, Janet Woods (Severn, $28.95)
Set in London against the unfolding background of World War II, this is a story of a young woman’s journey to find love, happiness and the promise of a future amidst the destruction, uncertainty and horror of war. The characters are familiar and endearing, without being too predictable and their efforts to retain some semblance of normality and social standing amidst the chaos and upheaval provides a warm-hearted glimpse of British stoicism in action. There is a well-balanced mix of suspense, intrigue, and passion to suit avid romance readers, all capped off with a happy ending.
Elsewhere in Success, Iris Lavell (Fremantle Press, $24.99)
In today’s literary landscape, novels that chart the contours of the ordinary are rare. Harry and Louisa are people with ordinary desires, living unremarkable suburban lives. But ‘ordinary’ doesn’t mean ‘simple’. There is much below the surface of life in Success, which is what we might expect from a book that begins with a buried lawnmower being dug up. This first novel from Iris Lavell, told with compassion and humour, gives us splintered families, uncertain seduction, random courage and an enigmatic stranger. A novel about grief and hope that will make you question whether there is any such thing as ordinary.
Mattress Actress, Annika Cleeve (Momentum e-book, $4.99)
Mattress Actress is an insightful account of Annika Cleeve’s former life as a sex worker. For many of us who know little of this industry, it makes compelling reading, but perhaps the most striking feature of this story is the way in which it cuts to the heart of our own humanity. Cleeve writes with brutal honesty and a brand of emotional intelligence that is both unexpected and heart-warming. Several key themes emerge that include belonging, trust, prejudice, and the desire to be a good parent. This story will undoubtedly resonate with most people and de-bunk a few myths along the way.
How to be a Good Wife, Emma Chapman (Picador, $29.99)
The title and cover of this novel might suggest pure chick lit – don’t be fooled! How to be a Good Wife is a tight and sparsely-written novel that deftly charts treacherous territory around human rights, identity and mental health. Told in the first person, we encounter the day-to-day existence of Marta and her husband, Hector. Marta is steely, yet fragile and often unhinged. Hector simultaneously elicits suspicion and sympathy as we watch him struggle with his wife’s erratic behaviour. Is he the perpetrator or the victim? This tension is central to a plot that cleverly offers more possibilities than answers.
Sunscreen and Lipstick, Liz Byrski (Fremantle Press, $19.99)
Here’s summer reading at its best – a collection of extracts from longer works by a number of well-known West Australian writers. With its beguiling cover and Liz Bryski’s Introduction, these stories about women’s lives are varied both in their modes of writing and the kinds of lives being told. Women as mothers, lovers, children and adolescents, face situations from the tragic to the comic. A baby daughter dies in a SW town hostile to Aboriginal people; a young woman buys her first black dress; a daughter begs her mother not to leave home. This is a book to buy and savour.
Granny Grommet and Me, Dianne Wolfer, Illustrated by Karen Blair (Walker Books, $27.95)
What a fun book. Inspired by a group of surfing Grannies in Albany, Wolfer captures summer days at the beach so well. Granny takes her grand-daughter to the beach to meet her Granny Grommet friends. Decked out in their wet suits with matching caps and boards, they all love to surf and try to encourage her to have a go. A great book for young readers who may be unsure about getting in the water with a page of Granny Grommet’s Beach Tips to helps them along. The illustrations are fun and bright and capture a day at the beach. The book shows Grannies in a whole new light while still capturing the grandparent relationship so well.
The Drummer Boy of John John, Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frané Lessac (Artbeat Publishers, $24.95)
With a “pong, ping, pang", Winston, a young boy living in John John, a village on the tropical island of Trinidad, is surprised and delighted by the musical sounds created when he tosses a mango pit into the village junkyard. Winston realizes that he and his friends can form a band with “pots and pans, tins and cans” to play at Carnival and possibly win the prize of a feast of roti and mango lemonade. Frané Lessac’s goauche naive style illustrations sing with colour and provide a perfect accompaniment to this rhythmic, exuberant story inspired by the childhood of Winston Smith, the 20th century musician credited with the invention of the steel drum.
Footprints of a Stranger, Barbara Gurney, (Ginninderra Press, $18.00)
This debut collection of short, always accessible poems from Barbara Gurney focuses on life experiences and philosophical musings. These range from the struggle to save a beached whale in ‘The sigh that reaches us all’, to ‘Commitment’, describing the bond between a father and son, to the matter-of-fact exploration of a ‘Morning Tea’, where ‘Moments [are] stolen from an ordinary life.’ The tenor of the poetry is quiet and often mournful; moments of joy are precious and recalled in the midst of loss and the memories of a past life; likened, in the final poem, to ‘a garden that once was’.