November


Sack, John Kinsella (Fremantle Press, $24.99)
This is a lovely book, from one of Australia’s most celebrated poets. Kinsella’s distinctive voice and ease with poetic forms, both narrative and personal, and more formal – here he plays in the second section with an old Welsh stanza form, the penillion - are at their height. ‘Sleeping with a Southern Carpet Python’ is an example of the pleasures of this collection. The poet has run over the snake on a long country drive, then put the body into his sleeping bag. He awakes to find the snake gone: ‘… sliding/alongside the walls, rounding the square room, full of my body-warmth and raring to go.’


Time and Time Again, Ben Elton
If you could go back in time and change one thing that would make the world a better place what would that be? Hugh ‘Guts ‘ Stanton is a soldier and a man in mourning. He agrees to undertake a mission that lands him back in 1914, presenting the opportunity to change history for the better…perhaps? Elton’s reflection on the Great War, its ramifications and the nature of change is compelling and in true Elton style, the action-packed storytelling is deeply entertaining. Long after the story  ends, I guarantee readers will be contemplating its deeper themes. A great read!


Westerly 59:2, Ed. Delys Bird and Tony Hughes-d’Aeth (Westerly Centre, $19.95)
This sixtieth anniversary edition of Westerly, the final from co-editors Delys Bird and Tony Hughes-d’Aeth, will certainly blow a ‘fresh breeze’ across our literary landscape. With edgy and evocative contemporary writing from over sixty Australian and Asian writers, amongst the many highlights is David Whish-Wilson’s The Cook; “He smiles and caps the fit, lights a Styvie, slumps in his chair. I can’t take my eyes off him. My youngest boy, grown into a man.” Also of special significance are the “Histories” – essays reflecting on six decades of this iconic journal.  A milestone publication certain to satisfy readers of wide literary tastes and interests.


When War Came to Fremantle 1899-1945, Deborah Gare and Madison Lloyd-Jones (Fremantle Press, $45.00)
This is a fascinating local history tracking the evolution of a community against the backdrop of several decades of international conflict.  Fremantle’s role as a ’port of departure and return’ is documented in accessible and engaging text and via a selection of captivating archival photographs.  Images of crowds gathered on the dock to farewell troops during WWI and of Australian war brides leaving for the United States in 1945 give individual faces and stories to momentous events in history.  Many Western Australians will no doubt connect with this book via their own family histories.


September


Counting Aussie Animals in My Backyard, Bronwyn Houston (Magabala, $19.95)
There are a few surprises in store for young readers as they count their way from one to ten through a menagerie of tropical wildlife in this Broome backyard.   From one ochre-hued slithering python to a misery of ten menacing mosquitoes, young children can count along with the simple, clear text and pore over the full-bleed double page spreads to discover tiny bugs hidden in the background.  Indigenous author/illustrator, Bronwyn Houston, has captured the colours and beauty of the surrounding environment in her vibrant collage-style illustrations with their vivid hues, dazzling patterns and textures.


Lucky Thamu, Cheryl Kickett-Tucker & Jaylon Tucker (Fremantle Press, $9.99)
This eleventh book in Fremantle Press’ Waarda series of early chapter books, which are written and illustrated by Aboriginal creators, is a gentle telling of ten-year-old Eli’s love and respect for his Thamu (grandfather) and his eagerness to learn from him and to impress. Perfectly pitched for the transitional reader, with a compelling plot (camping and prospecting in the goldfields), plenty of action, while using familiar relationships and simple language. As with all the books in this series, the introduction of some Aboriginal language and simple concepts supports both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal literacy – something too rare in children’s publishing.


Thicker Than Water, Richard Rossiter (UWA Publishing, $22.99)
Beautifully written, Thicker Than Water journeys with Marie D’Anger as she returns from London to her family home in the South West.  Running from the pain of a recently ended all-consuming love affair, Marie re-enters her family sphere.  The reunion with her angry father, her passive mother and estranged brother plunge Marie into an intense exploration of her family story.  Readers will find this novella hard to put down. The language is poetic and Rossiter has an uncanny ability to connect his readers with a deep truth that seldom reaches the surface in most of us.  This novella is psychological drama at its very best.


Hello From Nowhere, Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair (Penguin, $24.99)
This is a children’s book that makes you want to live within its pages!  Hello from Nowhere is about Eve, a little girl who lives in the country. Her home is a place that some adults write off as being dull, specifically her Nan, who won’t visit. Eve finds joy in the simplest of things – lying on a warm flat rock, a bobtail lizard and just having the time to run! When Nan does visit she is rather surprised by what she learns.  Sometimes the perspective of a child reminds us of what is precious in our lives. Highly recommended bedtime reading!


August


I, Migrant, Sami Shah (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)

Sami Shah is a funny guy, so it’s no surprise that a great deal of his memoir, I, Migrant is laugh-out-loud material. What is surprising is the vivid portrait he paints of his home town, its lawlessness, “everyone gets held up at gunpoint in Karachi”, political upheaval and resilience. Shah’s journey with his young family from Pakistan to outback Australia is equally the story of his transition from journalist to comedian, motivated by his need to process the strangeness of everyday life through the filter of comedy. Honest, witty, insightful and highly recommended.


Marble Bar, Robert Schofield (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)

Robert Schofield’s Marble Bar, the follow-on from Heist, changes location from the goldfields to the north-west and in so doing turns up the heat, figuratively and literally. In the bush that surrounds Australia’s hottest town; Gareth Ford and DC Rose Kavanagh do battle with a cast of villains sent to do them harm, for reasons not immediately apparent to either. Marked by Schofield’s characteristic wit and some terrific landscape writing, the toughness of the land and its people, and the tenderness of the relationships between the main characters are brought into sharp relief.


Crashing Down, Kate McCaffrey (Fremantle Press, $19.99)

Lucy feels bad about breaking up with her boyfriend at the year 12 ball, but nothing prepares her for what happens when he speeds off with his best friend and loses control of his car. Kate McCaffrey blends her proven ability to tune into teenage concerns with a nuanced exploration of big issues, including responsibility of the self toward others and abortion. This is a gripping, thought-provoking story, well-paced and well told. McCaffrey fans will not be disappointed.


Riddle Gully Runaway, Jen Banyard (Fremantle Press, $14.99)
Jen Banyard takes us back to Riddle Gully where our heroine Pollo di Nozi, ably assisted by Shorn (the sheep) Connery, teams up with her mate Will to uncover a thief in their small rural community. Suspicions run high with a strange newcomer in town and before too long, Pollo is making progress…or is she?  Riddle Gully Runaway is a robust and adventuresome yarn that is well paced and enjoyable.  Banyard deftly explores themes around self-esteem, perceptions of others and forgiveness, giving depth to the plot and providing opportunities for young readers to think more deeply around these subjects.   


Family Secrets, Liz Byrski (Macmillan, $29.99)
Aptly titled, Family Secrets delves into the lives of a Tasmanian family after the death of its patriarch, Gerald. Having nursed Gerald through his illness for the past ten years, the story starts with his family who are dealing with their grief, feelings of relief, guilt and anger. The narrative takes the reader on a journey into each person’s life as they struggle to regain their identity and purpose and, in doing so variously unravel with some long held secrets and their consequences coming to light. Family Secrets is compelling reading. It is great drama with strong and complex characters.


Roses are Blue, Sally Murphy (Walker Books, $16.95)
Amber Rose is dealing with big changes following a car accident that has left her mum in a wheelchair, unable to do anything for herself.  Amber’s teacher has decided to hold a special high tea for Mother’s Day, but Amber isn’t sure she wants her school friends to meet her ‘new mum’.
Sally Murphy’s verse novel tugs at the heart strings and is a gentle and empathetic exploration of how families and children cope with and adapt to a change in family circumstances.  Hope, love and resilience shine through, with the possibility of better times ahead.


July


Boom Town, Peter Kennedy (UWA Publishing, $29.99)
Peter Kennedy's astute observational skills honed over a 40 year career as a political journalist in print and television come to the fore with this tale about the Boom Times in Boom Town. Kennedy combines extensive forensic research with personal interviews with the key players, former colleagues and family members, to unravel the tale of each State Premier from Brand to Barnett.  He weaves into this his own recollections and not so insignificant role as both observer and at times player in the unfolding tale of how Perth became Boom Town and, as much historic analysis shows, it is often the unintended consequences of the most innocuous event that changes the course of history. Part memoir, part historic reconstruction, part rollicking good yarn. Kennedy is above all a great storyteller.


Meet Captain Cook, Rae Murdie, Illustrated by Chris Nixon (Random House, $16.99)
Meet Captain Cook is the third children’s book to feature in the ‘Meet’ series where we have previously met Mary MacKillop and Ned Kelly. Meet Captain Cook tells the story of Captain Cook’s adventurous voyage to New Zealand and Australia and whilst it pretty much sticks to the facts, Rae Murdie has cleverly included some delightful little snippets of lesser-known facts that adults will also enjoy. The illustrations by Chris Dixon are absolutely delightful and are sure to captivate young readers. This book is thoroughly recommended for both its educational value and the sheer beauty of the illustrations.


Lost & Found, Brooke Davis (Hachette Australia, $27.00)
Seven-year-old Millie Bird has lost her mother and, with the help of 82-year-old Agatha Pantha, 87-year-old Karl the Typist, and Manny the store mannequin, she sets out to find her. These curious characters shine from the pages of Brooke Davis’ enchanting debut novel. As they traverse a barren landscape in search of Millie’s mum, each character also searches for their own truth. Lost & Found is a highly entertaining road trip and much, much more. Told with childlike perspective, and bubbling with warmth and humour, it also explores loss and death while showing comfort in love and trust. Brooke Davis is a fresh new Australian voice on the literary scene.


Sweet One, Peter Docker (Fremantle Press, $29.99)
This gripping crime novel begins with the death of an Aboriginal Elder and war hero at the hands of an inept and racist system in a Western Australian outback town. The Elder’s grandson, who is serving in Pakistan, goes AWOL and returns to WA to fight another kind of war. The reader takes the journey with the main character, Izzy – a ‘hard-boiled’ journo – as she becomes embedded and finds herself wrestling with black and white mythologies around justice, murder and war. You won’t be able to put this book down, and you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.


Westerly 59:1 Ed. (Westerly Centre, $19.95)
Those readers who enjoy contemporary literature will undoubtedly find something to love in the latest edition of Westerly.  As ever, Westerly offers a great selection of short stories, essays, poems and photos. Subject matter covers some gritty family relationships, an imagining of an encounter between asylum seekers and immigration workers at sea and there’s even a story about a farmer who gathered a massive following based upon his ability to tell enchanting tales from his tractor!  There’s also a fine summary of the last year in Australian fiction, and an engaging extract from the biography of WA writer Gerald Glaskin.


Lost River, Simone Lazaroo (UWA Publishing, $24.99)
Set in the southwest of WA, Lost River takes us on the life journey of Ruth Joiner, a young woman who was born in Bali and raised as an orphan by missionaries in the desert. Described as novella, the story is told through the pages of 4 photo albums with each photograph revealing more of the story as the album’s pages are explored. Simone Lazaroo’s writing is lyrical as storylines weave in and out, creating a heart-rending, yet beautiful portrait of a woman who is reflecting on her life as she prepares to die. This is storytelling at its best.


June


Let Her Go, Dawn Barker (Hachette, $29.99)
Based in Perth, Let Her Go is a story about the complexities of voluntary birth surrogacy. When central character Zoe learns that she’ll never bear a child she is devastated. This news weighs heavily on her husband and family until stepsister Nadia offers to carry a child for her.  It sounds like such a simple and loving gift but the arrival of baby Louise brings boundless joy and also great loss.  Tensions arise and lives unravel. Barker is adept in her exploration of the female psyche and the emotional intensity of this novel will have readers gripped from start to finish.


Remembered by Heart, Foreword by Sally Morgan (Fremantle Press, $17.99)
This short anthology of 15 stories told by Aboriginal people, depicts the harsh and alienating experience of growing up in a westernised culture.  Set mostly in WA, these stories describe the experiences of people from the Stolen Generation, including life on missions, in schools and far away from homelands.  Sally Morgan’s wonderful foreword draws out the themes of the collection. These first hand experiences will undoubtedly evoke anger and sadness for many readers.  But in truth, this is a book about hope and resilience of a people who retain their pride and sense of identity in the face of immeasurable hardship, injustice and loss.


The Trouble With Flying and other stories, ed. Richard Rossiter with Susan Midalia (Margaret River Press, $24.00)
The stories in this large, beautifully produced collection come from shortlisted entries to the Margaret River Short Story Competition. The overall strength – and breadth - of the collection attests both to the response to the Competition as well as a new interest among writers and publishers in the short story genre. Here, writers come from across Australia and overseas, and the issues they address are equally wide-ranging. Every story offers a different view of their characters’ lives and relationships and in the best, surprising insights or revelations. This is a great book to pick up and dip into, with many rewards for readers.


How I Became the Mr Big of People Smuggling, Martin Chambers, (Fremantle Press, $27.99)
Shortlisted in the 2012 T.A.G. Hungerford Award, this racy and realistic thriller is a terrific read.  When eighteen-year-old Nick Smart travels to a station in the far Northern Territory to spend a year as a jackeroo before going to university, he finds himself embroiled in a people smuggling racket.  An intricate narrative structure, replicating Nick’s gradual discovery of the extent of the operation and the implications of his involvement, is not completely successful. But this book is a fast-moving and engaging crime fiction, which also introduces serious questions about the potential for exploitation among people desperate to settle in Australia.


The Astronomer’s Wife, Dick Alderson (Sunline Press, $20.00)
Dick Alderson’s collection presents a wonderfully accessible poetry that draws on memories and acute observation. “Skein” recalls holding “the soft thread” of wool for his mother “in an almost embrace”. His is a quiet, gentle nature poetry. He listens as a “windmill groans and wheezes”; showing his equal adroitness with simile and metaphor, ibis are “like old aunts doing a chore thoroughly” and lemons are “tart sacs shaped like tears”. When fruit bats fly with “a dull umbrella-opening flop and flap” we become aware of his frequent playfulness, Alderson’s bats an Australian version of Yeats’s wild swans at Coole.


Dreamers, Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illust, Sally Morgan (Fremantle Press, $24.99)
Dreamers is a glorious picture book “for the children of the world”.  Using an evocative, rhythmic text this book celebrates the power that children have to imagine, to place themselves at the centre of the universe, and to immerse themselves without fear in the wonders and delights of the natural world around them.  Sally Morgan’s naïve, colour-saturated illustrations cleverly affirm the positive messages to be experienced in Dreamers.  This is a truly ‘delightful’ book to be enjoyed by dreamers and readers across several age groups.  It is also certain to give even greater pleasure by being read aloud.


May


Spooked, Ed. Daniel Baldino (New South Books, $34.99)
Spooked is compelling reading for those readers interested in current affairs and the 'reframing' of mainstream thinking around the threat of terrorism over the past 12 years. Baldino offers insights from a broad range of prominent thinkers and academics who effectively provide a clear delineation between fact and fiction on a wide range of topics including Wikileaks, the use of torture globally, executive-directed killings, the effectiveness of ASIO, the harsh treatment of asylum-seekers and cyber-terrorism. When one compares current thinking and perceptions with fact, it is astonishing. This book is breathtaking in both its honesty and intensity. Highly recommended reading.


The Lake’s Apprentice, Annamaria Weldon (UWA Publishing, $29.99)
Just a short drive to the south of Perth lays a chain of coastal lakes, conserved as Yalgorup National Park. The Lake’s Apprentice is comprised of a moving set of poems, essays and photographs relating to this area. The author clearly has a deep love and phenomenal knowledge of this landscape, its indigenous people, and the magical thrombolites at Lake Clifton. Weldon’s ability to quietly observe and feel nature, and then capture it in writing is a rare gift. All lovers of landscape will relish this book and feel inspired to discover those little unexplored corners of their own backyard.


To See the World, Elaine Forrestal (NLA Publishing, $17.99)
Drawing on historical records, Elaine Forrestal has created an adventurous yarn based on the voyage of the Uranie, captained by Louis de Freycinet in 1817-20. Jose, a French/Mauritian boy is onboard to learn the ways of the sea and to find his way in the world. The story brings to life some unique history with a particular focus upon the captain’s wife, Rose de Freycinet. An unusual historical figure being at sea with the men, Rose displayed great bravery and stoicism in the face of danger and hardship. To See The World is recommended for young readers who love adventure!


Swamp: Walking the Wetlands of the Swan Coastal Plain, Nandi Chinna (Fremantle Press, $24.99)
In this major project to remap the Swan Coastal Plain by rediscovering the mostly lost wetlands of what was formerly a swampy environment, poet Nandi Chinna undertook regular walks over a period of three years. This ambling engaged both her body and her imagination with the terrain and its hidden waterways, as well as those still struggling to survive. Her notebooks of this journeying provided the basis for this major collection of poems, with their historical and ecological concerns. A fascinating introduction, and black and white photographs, maps and illustrations add to the impact of this important book.


The Dagger of Dresnia, Satima Flavell (Satalyte Publishing, $27.99)
When a Queen sets out to honour the wish of a dying King and divide his Kingdom between her three sons, she is forced to bargain with a Dark Spirit.  Betrayal leads to famine, pestilence, and disaster, and Queen Ellyria is forced to call on both her elvish and human natures in order to save her world from ruin.  Satima Flavell is a debut author with a mature style and confident voice.  The Dagger of Dresnia is traditional fantasy on an epic scale, inviting the reader into a maelstrom of adventure and intrigue, reminiscent of works by Guy Gavriel Kay and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Fantasy with a wide horizon.


Was It Something I Said?: Misadventures in suburbia, Ros Thomas (UWA Publishing, $24.99)
Was it something I said?: misadventures in suburbia is a compilation of Ros Thomas’ columns for The Weekend West magazine of The West Australian newspaper. You can now re-visit or discover afresh these powerful distillations of the human condition, divided into easily readable and quirky chapter headings such as Mating Rituals or The Pursuit of Happiness. Thomas’ columns have struck a chord with a wide cross-section of the community. Readers respond to and identify with her incredibly honest and thoughtful musings about everyday life. They can make you laugh or cry; some columns do both! This collection is a treat.

 


April


No Ordinary Determination: Percy Black and Harry Murray of the first AIF, Jeff Hatwell (Fremantle Press, $24.99)
Hatwell recounts the inspiring stories of two ANZAC diggers whose paths crossed in WA. From the beach at Gallipoli to the trenches on the Western Front, these two highly decorated soldiers demonstrated heroism, strength and loyalty in an unassuming manner. No Ordinary Determination offers descriptions of the battles that are complemented with insight into the characters and lives of these incredible men, both before and after the war. In reading of the horror that was the ‘war to end all wars’, one is reminded of the tremendous sacrifice that earlier generations made and this book certainly augments that narrative.


Crimson Dawn, Fleur McDonald (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)
Fans of McDonald’s novels will once again become immersed in rural life with its indomitable spirit, enduring landscapes and day-to-day farming practice centering on the book’s lead character, Laura Murphy. Having just inherited the family farm, Nambina, Laura‘s recent heartbreak and loss become the backdrop for a tale that is both intriguing and entertaining. A subplot set back in the 1930’s is woven through the narrative leading to the plot’s exciting denouement where history and present day converge. Crimson Dawn has all the elements of a highly entertaining read - great characters, wonderful landscapes, mystery, and liberal dash of old-fashioned romance!


Here in the Garden, Briony Stewart (Penguin, $24.95)
Here in the Garden is a gentle exploration of love and loss. Through the cycle of the seasons, in a beautiful garden, a small boy remembers sharing various activities with a companion, from planting seeds to tracing clouds drifting across the sky. Every few pages, a simple and heartfelt refrain ‘and I wish you were here’ is repeated. The lyrical text evokes different times of year and the detailed watercolour, pencil and gouache illustrations from lots of different perspectives are obviously created by a keen gardener. The end of the story brings acceptance, and the sense of a life remembered and acknowledged with love.


The Scent of Murder, Felicity Young (Harper Collins, $24.99)
A skeleton is uncovered in a dry river bed on the Sussex downs and it quickly becomes clear that a murder has been committed.  But this is by no means the only crime that must eventually be resolved by Young’s bold and capable heroine, Britain’s first autopsy surgeon Dody McCleland.  Once again, in this third novel in the McCleland murder mystery series, Young manages to satisfyingly conjure Edwardian England in all its murky, characterful - and sexually repressed - detail.  With its pervasive images of the extreme class injustice and gender prejudice that exemplify the period, The Scent of Murder is a crime novel that delivers a compelling and thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.


Emptiness: Asian Poems 1998–2012, John Mateer (Fremantle Press, $24.99)
Emptiness, autumnal in tone and intellectually restless, is a wonderful introduction to John Mateer’s meditations on intersections between places, selves and histories that make up his Asian poems. The work is full of surprising conjunctions (‘Coke crates or the shrines of ancestors’) that create a sense of deep time and contemporaneity existing side by side. A diverse experience of place is wedded by the knowledge that acts of speaking and looking are always troubling, and that they entail erasures (‘a poem in anti-mantra…ex-Self’) as much as they do inscriptions of presence: ‘our looking,/despite ourselves, is/a quietude and an effacement,/a turning to the imaginary/wall to see, further’.


Annie’s Snails, Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Gabriel Evans  (Walker Books, $11.95)
Annie loves snails, searches for them in the garden and tries to keep them as pets, though her mother is disapproving. This beautifully worked out story, suitable for 3-6 or seven-year-old children and perfect for early readers, extends through three chapters, or sections, and is just as beautifully illustrated in black and white. Written to expand children’s imaginations as well as their vocabularies, it will intrigue as it educates. It will reward endless re-reading and appeal to children across several age groups at different levels, as it introduces new words and ideas. Highly recommended for parents as well as children.


March


Surfing Down South, Discovering Yallingup & Margaret River, Sue-Lyn Aldrian-Moyle (Margaret River Press, $44.00)
Surfing Down South is a social history of one of Australia's defining cultures, surfing, as it was seeded and evolved in the south-west of Western Australia.  It follows the pioneers of surfing down south and their "discoveries": Yals, Farm, Inji, Gallows and the rest.  The portraits of the lives and times of those involved in this adventure are a real anodyne in our increasingly conservatively aspirational society. The pictures are as revealing as the text.  Whether you are a surfer or not this quietly articulated exposition of the beginnings and social evolution of surfing on WA's south-west is a great read.


A Boy’s Short Life: The Story of Warren Braedon/Louis Johnson, Anna Haebich and Steve Mickler (UWA Publishing, $17.99)
This is the story of Louis St John Johnson, born Warren Braedon in Alice Springs, removed from his family aged 3 months and placed into a loving white family. The telling of this story offers a unique perspective on racism and its consequences in our community. Whilst many people would assume that an Aboriginal child raised in a white family might be immune from bullying and violence, Warren’s story indicates otherwise. He was the victim of flawed policy, bureaucracy and a brand of racism that is hateful and widespread. Devastating as it is, this book should be mandatory reading in schools!


The Spotty Dotty Lady, Josie Boyle, Illustrated by Fern Martins (Magabala Books, $17.95)
This story starts out with a lady who is sad. She looks upon a beautiful plant in her garden and its beauty inspires her to paint colorful dots on everything around her, along the way providing a source of joy and inspiration to others. Like all good tales this one carries an important message themed along the lines of finding pleasure in simple things and the transformative powers of helping others find joy in their lives.  Beautifully illustrated, The Spotty Dotty Lady would be a great book to give as a gift, accompanied by a set of paints!


The Weaver Fish, Robert Edeson (Fremantle Press, $27.99)
Cambridge linguist Edvard Tossentern vanishes while on a balloon expedition in search of specimens of an elusive flesh-eating fish. Back at the research station, his colleagues are pursuing sightings of a rare giant bird. Stumbling across an extensive logging operation on the island, they are unexpectedly drawn into the path of an international crime ring, which is cleverly concealed by a successful winery. Part adventure, part crime thriller, part folktale… The Weaver Fish is a clever and intriguing book, that finds the reader pondering what’s real and what may not be real, while navigating the many curious twists and turns, confusing sub-plots and expositions— right through to the truly astonishing climax. An enthralling and cryptic read!


Regime 03 Magazine of New Writing, various contributors (Regime Books $20.00)
Short stories and poetry are often the most innovative and adventurous forms of expression and WA has no shortage of exciting new writers. This collection of poetry, short stories and interviews offers something for everyone. Highlights include a piece about the current exhibition at AGWA “Guy Grey Smith: Art as Life” and a wonderful short story by Katie Lewis entitled “Cicadas“. This edition of Regime also includes some great poems including “My Father” by Marian Dalton about the last hours in hospital of a loved one, and “Gracetown, W.A.” by Michael Farry expressing the fear and beauty of our southwest coastline.


February


Reality, Ray Glickman (Fremantle Press, $26.99)
The old saying “your freedom comes at my expense” has been turned on its head in Ray Glickman’s debut novel Reality.  Narrated by the ‘Master Planner’, the otherwise unnamed manipulator of the events that unfold, Reality brings together six complete strangers - selected at random from the phone book - and gradually reveals what happens when their lives collide as the result of calculated intervention.  Glickman has created a cast of characters you’d probably never want to spend much time with in real life and placed them inside a fast-paced, well-structured and utterly compelling narrative.  Reality is an original and darkly entertaining novel.


Beautiful Witness in a World of Travel, Stephen Scourfield (UWA Publishing, $26.99)
This book is a global smorgasbord of around 70 vignettes documenting personal travel encounters. From Borneo rainforests to the icy waters of the Yukon, the stories are arranged in themes such as "Crossing Borders" and "The Natural World". Each one offers poignancy and insight into other worlds. Some heartfelt tales reveal Stephen Scourfield's own feelings and musings. They resonate with joy, wonder and the challenges of travel. For seasoned or would-be roamers, Beautiful Witness in a World of Travel beautifully captures the exhilaration of travel. Resistance is pointless, let your feet itch and surrender to the wonder contained in these delightful tales.


The Girl in the Yellow Vest, Loretta Hill (Random House, $32.99)
If you enjoy a good Australian romantic story, The Girl in the Yellow Vest is a real page-turner. Set mostly on an industrial site in Queensland this novel has two romantic heroines, Emily and Charlotte, both of whom are clever high achievers in their own right. Add into the mix Will -  intelligent, gorgeous, devoted best friend, and all-round good guy and the mysterious, seemingly arrogant Project Manager, Mark Crawford and the scene is set for some lively adventures, misunderstandings, heartbreak and romance. Be careful though, this book is addictive and you may lose a day or two of your life!


Baby Beats, Karen Blair (Walker Books, $24.95)
“Let’s play music, make a beat. Clap your hands and stamp your feet.”  Join five inquisitive toddlers as they enjoy making sounds and music and discover that music is all around them. Following on from Baby Animal Farm, the five babies are growing up and are captivated in the everyday world around them. Karen Blair’s expressive and joyful illustrations capture their delight at exploring sounds, rhythm and music in all its forms. This story is perfect for reading aloud and will have little ones bouncing along to the beat.


Midnight, Mark Greenwood, Illustrations by Frane Lessac  (Walker Books, $27.95)
Magnificently illustrated, this is the story of a Midnight, a brave black horse with a white star. He and his rider Guy go to the 1914 war with the Australian Light Horse and take part in the famous cavalry charge at Beersheba. Suitable for quite young children, the book could also be used with older children together with the Author’s Note on horse and rider and on the charge at Beersheba, which elucidate the history it is based on. Its great appeal is in the wonderful pictures; through them an important history is being told and could be explained to children.


January


Stella’s Sea, Sally-Ann Jones, (UWA Publishing, $24.99)
This beautifully written novel, set in Cottesloe, begins with Stella, a middle-aged woman whose formerly conventional married life has been torn apart. Stella’s story gradually opens up to include Ari’s, whose background is very different. Written in short sections, within larger ones that move from one summer to another, Stella’s Sea is interested in the natural world and its conservation as well as the gradually unfolding and unusual relationship between Stella and Ari. The grief, loss and loneliness both characters suffer slowly heals as the seasons turn. A book to savour, to learn from and return to.


Westerly 58:2 The Best in Writing from the West, ed Delys Bird, Tony Hughes-d’Aeth and Dennis Haskell (Westerly Centre, $19.95)
The latest volume of Westerly is a rich feast of creative writing that will undoubtedly appeal to the tastes of all readers. As ever, Westerly’s format is diverse and includes essays, poetry, short stories and interviews. Highlights include Cathryne Saunders’ essay on how the beauty of the Australian house is depicted in fiction and Let’s Dance by Lachlan Prior is a captivating short story with a twist. This edition also includes a delightful exploration of beauty through a series of poetry and essays. Finally, not to be missed is John Barnes’ intriguing reflection on his relationships with Leonard and Elisabeth Jolley.


Salt Story, Sarah Drummond (Fremantle Press, $24.99)
Simply put, Salt Story is a lovely read. The writing is both breathtaking and gritty, effectively capturing the daily lives of a small community of professional southwest fishermen. There are times you can almost feel the small boat bumping against waves and taste the salt spray as they lurch about in storms, navigate netting politics with other fishermen and haul in their catch. Salt Story also offers up a brand of humour, character and perspective that is sadly disappearing with this community of fishermen, making this wonderful book both a celebration and tribute to these tough, yet delightful Western Australian fishermen.