December 2011

His Dream of the Skyland: Walled City Trilogy, Book 1 Anne Opotowsky & Aya Morton (Gestalt Publishing, 312pp $49.50)

His Dream of the Skyland is deserving the moniker of "graphic novel" for Anne Opotowsky's writing is in character and narrative a major work of prose. Though the first part of a trilogy, this volume is a saga on its own hinting of the epic even though its main thrust is the daily struggles of a young man in colonial Hong Kong. But this place we visit, like spies in alleyways, is intricate and labyrinthine, a harsh place where reality is tempered by dreams of an individual and the dreams of culture at the juncture of a traditional past and a modern future. A place and people depicted by Aya Morton as inspired by traditional woodcuts filtered through a modern sense of design. A beautiful achievement.

Smoking Monkeys, Drilling Rigs, Bio-Diesel Bikes and other Stories, The Complete Paul Carter, Paul Carter (Allen & Unwin, $29.99, 588 pp)

Paul Carter is a man with a story. Lots of stories, actually. Now you can enjoy them all in this convenient compilation volume . Tracking his many adventures working on oil rigs in far flung corners of the globe, to his highly unlikely lap of Australia on a bio-diesel bike, Carter's original, unpretentious and entirely engaging memoirs aren't just for the blokes. This compendium of three Paul Carter books is the literary equivalent of great slapstick, with all the precision timing, lunacy, and personal exposure that involves. Guaranteed to make you laugh out loud - and possibly even shed a tear - this is an ideal book to keep you entertained throughout the summer.

The River, Brian Simmonds (Fremantle Press, $35.00, 104 pp)

Award-winning artist Brian Simmonds' recently released book, The River, contains more than ninety beautiful illustrations of life on Perth's Swan River. These paintings, sketches and mixed media artworks are presented alongside selected extracts of prose and poetry from well-known local writers such as T.A.G. Hungerford and Elizabeth Jolley. Together, these images and words perfectly capture riverside views of racing yachts, moored boats and active birdlife as well as the expansive views that we only occasionally notice as we drive by. The River is a delightful gift or souvenir for anyone with a connection to ‘The Swan'.

The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots, Loretta Hill (Bantam, 345 pp, $32.95)

Lena Todd, fashionista, party girl and a new engineering graduate, is sent by her firm to work on a construction project at Cape Lambert, in the ‘harsh, unforgiving and seemingly barren Pilbara'. In a male-dominated environment (350 men and four ‘ladies'), Lena has a lot to prove-and a secret that, if discovered, threatens to undermine everything for ‘Madame E', as the men call her. Part chick lit, part romance, The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots turns its author's experience as an engineer in outback Australia into a fun, fast-paced story of friendship, overcoming preconceptions, and unexpected love.

The Nyoongar Legacy: the naming of the Land and the Language of its People, Bernard Rooney (Batchelor Press, $7.00).

After his retirement as a superior of the Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Rooney undertook research at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University and gained a PhD in Indigenous Anthropology. This book is also a result of many years working with a Nyoongar language project and endorsed by elders of that group. A comprehensive introduction to the socio-linguistic groups of South-Western Australia and the complexities of work of this nature, is followed by a south-west WA place names listing, a Noongyar-English dictionary and an English-Noongyar one. As a work of reference it is intended as a complement to other existing dictionaries.

Mammon JB Thomas (Random House, $18.95)

Teenage siblings Joe and Grace have a lot to deal with. Shortly before their parents are killed, they discover they are descendants of the Sarsareh - mercenaries whose job it is to rid the world of demons. If that isn't enough, Joe is a Ferryman able to open dimensional rifts, and Grace's telepathic powers surpass anything the Sarsareh have ever seen. With help from their aunt they must learn how to use their powers to help bring down the forces of evil. A story of good and evil, love, loss and revenge, this is an excellent first novel from WA author Thomas, who successfully builds the narrative to a point that leaves you wanting more and waiting for Book 2.

November 2011

Inherited, Amanda Curtin (UWA Publishing $26.95)

The stories in this first collection are pitch-perfect. They are infused with a generous understanding of their numerous situations and people. Often poignant and sometimes tragic, there is also wry humour and occasional whimsicality. Curtin's interest in history and personal pasts is important: so too is a recognition of the indignities of ageing, the disturbances of youth, the distortions and reconciliations among family and other relationships. To illustrate, in ‘The Prospect of Grace', about well-known suicides, C Y O'Connor's wife is given the final commendation: the ‘grace of her survival - [is] less dramatic, more heroic, than despair, than grief, than honour'.

BIG Kids Magazine, Jo Pollit and Lilly Blue, eds, Maree Oaten graphics, (B.I.G. Kids Magazine, $12.95)

This first edition of a biannual kids' magazine is, as its name suggests, brave, imaginative and generous. Give it to your kids for Christmas, and take out a subscription. It's bursting with ideas and is visually and intellectually exciting for small children working with an adult and older kids, maybe to twelve or even fourteen. There are a range of activities, artistic and scientific, to do with learning by doing and fostering childrens' curiosity and creativity. It's also just good fun. Kids contribute and the big format, solid, 63 page format is visually exciting. BIG deserves to fly forever.

Birdlife, Nyanda Smith and Perdita Phillips, eds, (Lethologica Press, $25.00) 

This beautiful bird book contains poetry and poetic prose by Nandi Chinna, Michael Farrell, Graeme Miles and Nyanda Smith, and Perdita Phillips' appealing line drawings and striking photographs. If you're fascinated by birds, or looking for a lovely gift, get this book. The fabulous final poem, ‘Tempest' by Chinna, plays with Shakespearean ideas. Its first verse sums up many of the delights of Birdlife: ‘There is a drama unfolding/down at Tempest Park: the cricket players/have laid down their bats,/the junkies have exited stage left,/leaving their discarded syringes on the ground./In the trees the wattle birds' rasping cries/warn of treachery, and defeat'.

Expatriates: Contemporary Australian Tales, Vasso Kalamaras (Owl Publishing, $20.00)

‘The world is so small, you can drink it in a glass.' The world shrinks and expands for the immigrants whose experiences are brought to life in Vasso Kalamaras's collection of short fiction. These are stories of love and desire, ageing and yearning, childhood and families. Aspects of rural Western Australian life-sleeper cutting, tobacco growing and timber milling-provide the backdrop for many; others are set against twentieth-century world events such as World War II and the Vietnam War. Kalamaras casts a compassionate eye on the migrant experience, as well as on the Indigenous population of the new country.

The Eye of Re, Patricia L. O'Neill (New Holland Publishers, $29.95)

This is a fascinating portrayal of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut circa 1476 BC. The novel revels in the familiar struggle of rulers between politics and religion, trying to find the balance between the skills and rivalries of trusted supporters against a background of jealous gods and rebellious lords. The historical basis for the book is sound, and there are many associated links for those keen on Egyptology. Although this is the final part of a trilogy it can easily be read alone. The book is a skilled portrayal of the difficulties of leadership amidst bitter wars, obelisks, tombs, horses and hidden love made all the more enjoyable by being written from Hatshepsut's perspective.

Invisible Me, Wendy Binks (Stunned Emu Designs, $15.00)

This is the third book by Fremantle artist, illustrator and author Wendy Binks about the adventures of a curious cross-eyed emu chick called Stripey. In his latest adventure he sets out on a quest to become invisible. All his friends seem to be able to camouflage themselves but Stripey can't seem to manage it. You are invited to join him as Stripey travels from Dingbat Ditch to Fair Dinkum Flats asking his friends along the way how to become invisible. Children will surely delight in trying to find the Australian animals hiding in Binks' beautiful, vivid illustrations. This is a wonderful book to share with young readers from 2-12 years.

October 2011

The Rosie Black Chronicles Book 2: Equinox Lara Morgan (Walker Books $24.95, 384pp)

As good as Genesis, the first book in the series,  Equinox sees further development of the characters set in futuristic Newperth. Who can Rosie trust as she runs from one crisis to another as the struggle continues to find a cure for the deadly MalX disease? There is greater immediacy with the writing of this volume, pain and angst mixed with the complexity of growing relationships with peers, guardians and allies. The tale continues in a well sustained saga as the reality of splinter groups and factions reflect a sophisticated struggle for power and domination. The reader will delight in the futuristic technology, pacy narrative and the reminder of our dependence on limited resources.

Hal Junior - The Secret Signal Simon Haynes (Bowman Press 180pp $16.95)

Hal Junior is Just William set on a space station. The book both amuses and intrigues as the reader is swept out into the starry world of Hal, his friend Stinky and his family. While Hal isn't the best of chemistry students - his definition of heavy metals includes thrash and heavy guitar work! - he is generally well meaning. The narrative swooshes along at light speed with robots, automation, and e-readers, into a world that depends on artificial gravity and air scrubbers. There's treachery, treasures and chess, as we see Hal use his creative thinking and imagination to good effect. A thoroughly enjoyable read for 10 years and adults alike.

Jake's Great Game Ken Spillman, illus Chris Nixon (Fremantle Press 48pp $10.95).

The Jake series are terrific stories for boys and girls from five to ten. Funny, wise and beautifully told, the moral of Jake's Great Game - that if you keep trying you'll be rewarded - is subtly delivered through the tale of Jake trying to play soccer. His initial failure despite his new silver boots is compounded by his Dad's equal ineptitude, much as he tries to help Jake. However, Jake's coach recognises his ability as a goalie, his Nana gives him practice and his first game is a triumph. Kids will love this story and its very appealing illustrations.

Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck Michelle Gillespie, illus Sonia Martinez (Fremantle Press, 32pp $24.95)

This richly illustrated book tells of the wreck of the Georgette. Near Christmas in 1876, the ship got into trouble near the mouth of the Margaret River off the south-west coast of Australia while on its way to Adelaide. This is the true story of Grace Bussell and Aboriginal stockman Sam Isaacs' who rescued the passengers from the Georgette as it was battered against the coast. Together they took their horses into the surf again and again and both were awarded medals for their teamwork and bravery. The marvellous illustrations complement the story in such a way that you can almost feel yourself in the storm. A wonderful read aloud book.

Adventures with a Glass Eye Julie Anita Raymond (Julie Raymond, 192 pp $18.00)

Graham Laycock was Western Australia's first blind physiotherapist. Born in 1937, he was nine when he lost his right eye in an accident. His left eye rapidly deteriorated over time until he became completely blind. Raymond's well-written book describes how Laycock overcame many difficulties to study in London, and later returned home to open his own business. With a passion for reading and music, Graham was a champion of equal opportunities for the disabled until his death. In telling the story of Graham Laycock, Raymond also paints a picture of what it was like growing up in Perth at the time, and provides West Australian readers with a glimpse into our shared past.

The Tricking Post  Scott-Patrick Mitchell  (Black Rider Press $1.99 ebook)

Perth poet Scott-Patrick Mitchell's new chapbook is a sequence of unsent love-letters, bitter and sweet. A great strength is the ways in which these poems mix old with new; high with low culture; and flippancy with a disarming tenderness. Such contrariness keeps a reader alert as does the ruffling of its commendably plain style by disruptive syntax and punctuation. At best, these elements force us to reapproach meanings and they heighten the emotional ground. Though often playful, there can sometimes be a 'cutesiness' that too easily tidies up what is at stake. When these poems approach a dark tone they are strongest. Gothic images such as mirrors, transparency, ghosts, and the dead are memorable.

September 2011

The Deep, Tom Taylor & James Brouwer   (Gestalt Publishing, $9.95)

There's a thrill with a slick, well-made, animated adventure. To have that captured so successfully in a graphic novel is not just impressive but a delight. *The Deep: Here Be Dragons* introduces the Nekton family - cool mum, smart dad, crazy brother, canny sister (and Jeffrey the fish) - who explore the deep, dark sea in their futuristic submarine. Their adventure is absorbing and intriguing (especially the dark bits) but what we really follow is this cool multi-racial family and the bonds that keep them together and alive. They are involving and charming, subtle but quick-witted and all captured equally well in Tom Taylor's tight writing and James Brouwer's superb draftsmanship. This adventure ends with the promise of more, making the ending even better.

Have you seen Ally Queen?  Deb Fitzpatrick (Fremantle Press $19.95)

Although it may be some time since you were a teenager you'll still find the characters in this book engaging and delightful. Have you seen Ally Queen?  evokes real teenage angst, the helplessness of becoming a responsible person but without the information or techniques required. The desire to find one's own space and place in the world, the ability to run away to the beach, and the wholesome delight of the fresh Killer Python; the difficulty of dealing with parents with problems without the comfort of familiar, childish pleasures. Highly recommended for young adults and adults alike, and a great reminder of how bad life can seem be as a teenager.

Mamang, Kim Scott, Iris Woods, Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project (UWA Publishing $24.95)

Mamang is an ancient Noongar story, recovered and retold, suitable for young children and early readers. It will also intrigue their parents, especially through the fascinating back story of the work the Wirlomin Language and Stories Project is doing, which is included in the book. The project's hope that Mamang ‘will help you feel the human, cultural pulse of this part (the South-West of WA) of the oldest continent on earth' is indeed realised. Beautifully illustrated in a large, clear format, the tale of the man who dives into a whale and travels with it is truly fabulous, satisfying on many levels.

The Not-so-Goblin Boy Ezekiel Kwaymullina (Walker Books, $16.95)

Samuel Bottlebum is a human in a world of goblins. All he wants is to get into the Goblin Academy so he can prove that he's just as good as everyone else. But when he is kidnapped by a scary girl-dragon called Jet and taken to an airborne pirate ship, Sam discovers that there are greater - and more terrifying - things in store for him than even goblins could dream of. This is a fast-paced, gross-out, fun offering by Ezekiel Kwaymullina - and one that has a load of heart to boot. Recommended for kids with short attention spans and a love of adventure.

My Dog Gave Me the Clap Adam Morris (Fremantle Press $22.95)

This is an amusing collection of short stories about Saul, a professional musician who works (sometimes) in a clerical capacity. Although Saul's relationship with music is a fundamental part of his life his most enduring and fulfilling relationship long-term is with booze. You may think you know where this book is going, but you don't. Saul's life is somewhat chaotic, and he has long-suffering friends who support him from time to time. He's not someone you'd like as a friend but I was fascinated to read what he did next, and I certainly found his predicaments funny. Morris' phraseology is lovely, my favourite being "If this wasn't Pat's real house, he had created one hell of an installation".

My Father's Pigs  Roland Leach (New Work Series, Picador Press, $15.00)

In this collection, varied in subject matter and poetic structure, Roland Leach's reflective voice is both accessible and assured. His ability to interrupt the surface of a poem with a shift in register is striking. ‘Behind the Gardens' presents a suburban idyll shockingly interrupted as ‘One morning/very quietly/two young girls with everything//hanged themselves/from a tree in a vacant block/worth two million dollars/'. ‘Bodies' joyously evokes young bodies in summer ‘careless and impulsive,' but drawn, when winter comes, to ‘...Our first glimpse/of mortality,' while the demented father of the title poem ‘brightens up,/as happy as a pig in shit,' as the son enters into his memory world.

August 2011

No Kind of Superman, Danny Parker & Matt Ottley (Windy Hollow Books, $27.95)

Appealingly illustrated, this large format book depicts a rather unheroic father, definitely not a superman, and his small boy. It relates the father's clumsy attempts to convey his love to his child, though his ‘words are [sometimes] just too crumbly', and the ways he ‘messes and muddles' through the day to day things of their life. But what he can do is what really matters; provide unquestioning support, encouragement and protection for his child. It's good to have a children's book that both plays around with and endorses the father/son relationship, and does it so unsentimentally and well. Suitable for 4-8 yr olds.

Orphaned Birds, Aleif Ismail, transcreated from Arabic by Vivienne Glance and Afeif Ismail (Prickly Pear Playscripts, $19.95)

A Sudanese poet, playwright, artist and human rights activist, Afeif Ismail has lived in Perth for seven years. Here are poems first in English, then in Arabic. The poems in English are a product of a well established process of transcreation between him and Vivienne Glance. Together, they work with a literal translation of the original Arabic to achieve a new, poetic statement. The metaphor of orphaned birds, adrift in strange territory as are refugees, provides much of the connection between the poems, which move from very short pieces that would work well in performance to one or two longer, more discursive poems.

The weather of tongues, Mags Webster (Sunline Press, $20.00)

Mags' Webster's first collection of poetry, with its sure poetic touch and its varied styles and topics, is endlessly surprising and full of delight. It begins with ‘Ancient Rain', the tragic, mythic story of Telemachus's search for his father Odysseus, advising Telemachus finally to ‘abandon him, as he abandoned you', then ends with an ‘Ode to Manolo', king of shoemakers. The poet here plays with the idea of those contemporary ‘ciphers of desire', wondering initially whether her ‘naughty feet deserve/[their] satin grasp' and ending by being ‘more than ready to strut'. This is another terrific, and collectable, Sunline Press book.

A Break in the Chain - The Early Kozminskys, Tangea Tansley (Affirm Press, $27.95)

Part history and part fiction this book tells the story of the Kozminsky family, Melbourne's jewellery retailing dynasty, as written by Tansley who discovered she was the great granddaughter of Simon Kozminsky. Set in the Victorian gold rush of 1856, and spanning three generations, it is not only the story of a family, but of migrant hardship, the establishment of the Jewish community, of fortune and faith, love and betrayal and the estrangement between father and son. Tansley brings alive the oral stories told to her by her father of the development of Melbourne and a family history of wealth, glamour and sadness. The blend of fact and fiction gives this book its richness.

Seer of Sevenwaters, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan, $32.99)

The Sevenwaters series is set in ancient times and calls on Celtic traditions; each instalment is complete in itself, you don't need to know the back stories. But if you're a Sevenwaters fan, it is hard to imagine that you wouldn't be enthralled by this next instalment. A storm, mysterious strangers, a wonderful man who has lost his memory, and you're sucked in. Is it the Irish Celtic tradition that is evoked so carefully? Is it the wonderfully strong women? Is it the element of mystery and our traditional myths? Is it the great and ancient storytelling tradition? All of these things go to make this "a wonder tale...truer than true" that removes you from your world of problems and concerns to a wonderful world where you can dream a little.

Jandamarra and the Bunuba Resistance, Howard Pederson and Banjo Woorunmurra (Magabala Books, $24.95)

Magabala Books has recently released a new edition of the 1998 WA Premier's Book Award winner, Jandamarra and the Bunuba Resistance, the compelling true story of events around Australia's biggest colonial gun battle which took place in Western Australia's central northern Kimberley region in the 1880s. Since rendered on television and stage, Jandamarra's story highlights the conflict, chaos and hardship between the traditional Bunuba people and the white invaders. Adopted into the whitefella's world, Jandamarra is remembered as a great warrior who led his people into battle in an effort to save their land and their culture.

July 2011

Brothers: Justice, Corruption and the Mickelbergs   Antonio Buti (Fremantle Press, $32.95, 240pp)

The Mickelberg brothers are Western Australia's version of Lindy Chamberlain - everybody over a certain age has an opinion on whether they committed the 1982 Perth Mint swindle or not. Antonio Buti's well researched and detailed book steers carefully away from concluding either way, but it does paint a damning picture of dodgy police practices over decades. The only certainty is that few people in the case come off smelling of roses. Compelling reading, particularly to those with an interest in the legal machinations of our state.

Westerly volume 56, no. 1 (Westerly Centre, University of Western Australia, 234 pp, $29.95)

This issue of Westerly, one of Australia's best known and longest running literary journals, contains a broad range of stories, poems and essays from well-known and emerging writers. Among the impressive poetry offerings is Annamaria Weldon's 2010 Tom Collins Award winner, ‘The memory of earth'. Two particularly fine review essays survey, respectively, Australian poetry and fiction published in the previous twelve months. The issue begins with a collection of poems and essays to mark, and honour, the work of Professor Dennis Haskell, poet, Winthrop Professor of English at UWA and a former Westerly editor, on the occasion of his retirement from academic life.

Fremantle Poets 2, Two Poets   Andrew Lansdown and Kevin Gillam (Fremantle Press, $24.95, 228pp)

Reading Book 2 in the Fremantle Poets Series had me wondering if I were a prospector coming upon not one but two gold nuggets of Australian contemporary poetry. With the younger of the two, Kevin Gillam, I felt I'd struck gold with his inimitable depiction of Australian suburban life, complete with characters, colours, smells and sounds-the background to the lives of most Australians. The sounds and other images have a richness and timbre only equalled on the national poetry scene by his co-author, Andrew Lansdown. We know the latter's brilliance as a poet of family life and suburban bush creatures. This volume continually rewards with words of pure gold.

The Grumpy Lighthouse Keeper, Terrizita Corpus and Maggie Prewett (Magabala Books, $17.95, 32pp)

Another delightful book for young children, The Grumpy Lighthouse Keeper tells the story of a series of sea creatures who seek refuge from a storm in the lighthouse keeper's deserted, warm bed. When he returns from checking the light, the lighthouse keeper sends them packing, but his bed is now too slimy to sleep in! Its audience will find this tale both amusing and educational, while the gorgeously colourful illustrations bring the story, and its creatures, wonderfully alive. Magabala's books for young listeners and readers are truly wonderful and eminently collectible, bringing with them insights into our local environments.

Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers Briony Stewart (UQP, $14.95, 108pp)

As a descendant of the dragon king, Kumiko is guarded day and night by Tomodo to keep her safe from the Shadow Catchers - sorcerers who want to get rid of magic at any cost. To help save her family and the magical dragons, Kumiko sets out on a journey to defeat the Shadow Catchers once and for all. In this, the third and final book in the Kumiko and the Dragon series, Kumiko has grown from a young girl afraid of the dragon outside her window to one who has discovered her courage and strengths. In each book Stewart engages her readers with just the right amount of suspense and surprise.

The Last Viking  Norman Jorgensen, illus. James Foley  (Fremantle Press, $24.95, 32pp)

One of WA' s most diverse authors for young people, Norman Jorgensen's love of comedy, history, and adventure are evident in this, his tenth book. Little Josh wants to be brave like the Vikings his Pop tells him about, but he can't help worrying about boy-eating dinosaurs and noises in the dark. One day, after sharing stories with his Pop about fierce Viking warriors, Josh declares he will become Kan-ute, Prince of the Vikings, and finds courage to defend himself when local bullies threaten. This clever story about childhood fears and overcoming them, by award-winning author Jorgensen, is perfectly complemented by James Foley's colourful and humorous illustrations.

June 2011

No Bears, Meg McKinlay, illustrated by Leila Rudge (Walker Books, 32pp, $27.95)

Fremantle author Meg McKinlay's No Bears has been attracting praise and epithets like ‘instant classic', and no wonder. The text is narrated by Ruby, who wants to tell a story without bears in it. What's happening in the illustrations, however, is another story - literally. This is a book that will delight children and adults alike, and will doubtless become a storytime staple in libraries and pre-schools everywhere. Meg McKinlay's Duck for A Day is on the Children's Book Council of Australia shortlist this year, and you would expect that No Bears will follow in its footsteps next year.

My Country, Ezekiel Kwaymullina & Sally Morgan, (Fremantle Press, 24pp, $24.95.)

A beautiful book, mainly for young children, My Country is gorgeously illustrated by renowned WA artist Sally Morgan, and is the first picture book she has done in over a decade. The simply told story celebrates the Country in the north-west of WA where writer, Ezekiel Kwaymullina's Nana and Gran grew up, playing and learning about its richness as they played. The integration of story and image is perfectly realised in My Country and will provide hours of pleasure to all readers. It would be a perfect gift, for your own child or another.

The Moving World Poems, Michael Heald, (Fremantle Press, 92 pp, $24.95)

Limpid and direct, the poetry in The Moving World draws readers into that world, informed as it is, Michael Heald tells us in a note at the beginning, by ‘experience arising from the practice of Vipassana (insight) meditation'. The poet observes himself and the world around him, where ‘[A] furry spider is folded/high on the bedroom wall ...' and ‘[R]ocks, too, are alive' in the initial poems of the book's final section. In ‘Balance', he is aware of ‘the internal weather of my balance:' as he makes ‘minute adjustments, molecular steps,' and ‘the earth rolls hugely.'

the argument (poems), Tracy Ryan (Fremantle Press, 88 pp, $24.95)

Tracy Ryan's poetry is demanding of itself and its readers, yet enormously rewarding too as it includes us in its arguments: internal wrestlings with ideas and incidents, from the abstractions and realities of birthing and parenting, loving and dying, as well as ordinary things of everyday life. The familiarity of an other in ‘One Flesh', the final poem, is captured in several images which create a ‘[P]attern/we have wilfully become, where/nothing provokes disgust, ...'. These ‘little things [are] momentous for/their continual evidence/a sacramental insurance/against the enormous wager,' of a life together. This is a memorable collection from one of our finest poets.

Bridging Foods, Sally Scott & Nicole Sjarden (Distributed by Fremantle Press, 192pp $35.00)

If you have family and friends whose dietary requirements vary, then this recipe book is a useful one to have on the shelf. As the title suggests, the recipes are a bridge to learning that eating and cooking gluten, diary and yeast free can be easy and tasty. Encouraging us to think about what we eat and the effect it has on our bodies, the authors have created over 140 uncomplicated and easy to follow recipes. Different gluten free flours are also helpfully explained, and the suggested pantry list is another useful resource. Bridging Foods offers recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. The beetroot dip is a favourite.

The Wonder of Seldom Seen, J.D. Cregan (UWA Publishing, 288pp $32.95)

Love, lust, loss, murder, mayhem and possible aliens: there is a lot going on in this novel. Cregan presents two storylines which he eventually draws together in the book's final act. Miles Jordon, an author struggling with both his second book and a relationship break-up, heads off to find a new start to his life, eventually landing in Seldom Seen, in Victoria's high country. The second storyline revolves around corrupt police, gangs and a hit man and also ends up in Seldom Seen. This is a hectic, ambitious second novel. A good ‘rainy weekend' read.

May 2011

Ubby's Underdogs: The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon, Brenton E KcKenna, (Magabala Books 160pp $24.95)

Brenton E KcKenna has taken his dream movie, an adventure epic you know he's dying to see and laid it out in a dynamic freeform, though still disciplined, quasi-manga style, graphic novel. It has all the pathos, action and humour of a grand Hollywood actioner, but what gives it that unique edge is the setting of a 1940s Broome and the point of view of a gang of Aboriginal kids.
McKenna creates a multi-cultural, richly charactered tale that intertwines both Chinese and Aboriginal mythologies. His understanding of Aboriginal culture and his meticulous research, combined with a bodacious sense of fun, achieves a spectacular originality that makes this first volume hard to miss.

Sex Poems, Dosh Luckwell, (Audio CD, $24.95 available on itunes)

Dosh Luckwell's Sex Poems is out and proud. Featuring tracks with titles such as Heterosexuality (It's No Good For Me) and Big Girl Porn Music, the debut offering from the self-professed "local flirt and dirty talker" is a seductive fusion of highly charged performance poetry and the eclectic musical stylings of 14 WA musicians. Luckwell's smooth baritone leads the listener through a landscape where erotic possibility awaits at every turn, each poem narrating an encounter with an alluring other. The soundscape is rich and diverse, by turns funky and smooth, blues and pop, and poured through it all is the compelling instrument that is the poet's voice. Luckwell's masterful manipulation of modulation, rhythm and pacing teases and titillates through track after track. This is spoken word that knows how to deliver.

Allsorts, Andrew Lansdown, (Wombat Books, 278 pp, $24.95)

Allsorts offers all sorts of poetic treats, for adults and children, including haikus, limericks, short and longer poems in a variety of forms, all in Lansdown's inimitable style; often amusing and always celebratory of the natural world. There are delightful black and white illustrations by Susan Lansdown and a major final section including a q and a where Lansdown discusses his ‘poetry ideas', and a list of definitions of poetic techniques and forms. As an introduction to the pleasures as well as the discipline of reading and writing poetry for young and older readers this book could not be bettered.

The Kid on the Karaoke Stage & Other Stories, Edited by Georgia Richter (Fremantle Press, $27.95, 272pp)

Sometimes you can only read one or two short stories at a time because the experience is so rich, much like a really great chocolate as distinct from a whole box! This collection is a very rich box indeed and is sure to take you all the way from extreme distaste and discomfort - and yet it's impossible to stop reading Goldie Goldbloom's The Road to Katherine - to the sheer delight and joy of My Scallywag Suit by Erin Pearce. A favourite story is John Stubley's The Light of Home, which captures a great Perth quality, creating with words images I see with my mind's eye together with the emotion of being at home. How can I convey the rollercoaster nature of this collection - other than say - Enjoy the ride!

Raparapa: Stories from the Fitzroy River Drovers, Edited by Paul Marshall, (Magabala Books $29.95 304pp)

Raparapa is a history of the Aboriginal drovers and stockmen of the Kimberley, told by them in their own words. This is the real story of the outback and includes sometimes painful recollections from the1940s and 50s when Aboriginal drovers were treated little better than the dogs that ran alongside their horses, to stories from more modern times. Each chapter is a personal story. Some are heartbreaking, some are of comradeship, many express hope for a better future. The stories are of long days and long nights in the saddle, of back breaking work for little or no pay, of displacement and of the clash of cultures as graziers struggled to tame land and their stock, whilst Aboriginal people struggled to hold onto their culture and their land. First published by Magabala in 1988, Raparapa is more than deserving of this reissue - every Australian should read this book.

Dress Rehearsal, Zoe Thurner, (Fremantle Press, $19.95 320pp)

I know Lara Pearlman. I have met her many times. She is not perfect. She loves acting yet is self-conscious, she's young, in love, confused, funny, not sure of herself, loves vintage clothes and is at odds with the world. Because she is all these things, teenage readers will know where she is coming from as Lara tries to find where she fits in. While a lot happens in this book - including a bank robbery and abduction, and a school drama production - the events are not overly dramatised, with each of the characters dealing with events in their own way, and growing in maturity along the way. This is a good story, written well.

April 2011

Wildflower Country: Discovering Biodiversity in Australia's Southwest, Stanley and Kaisa Breeden (Fremantle Press, 224pp, $70.00)

This is a beautiful, beautiful book. With Wildflower Country Stanley and Kaisa Breeden have made a valuable contribution to both Western Australia's botanical literature and the art of photography. The masterful photography is both accurate and illustrative, making this book a valuable asset to the scientist and the scientifically inclined. On the other hand, if you have little interest in the science of botany but appreciate and enjoy the abstraction of rich colour and wonderful patterns, then this book deserves a place on your shelf as well. The superb photography presents many of Western Australia's wildflowers as you may not have seen them before; as pure, wonderful artistry. Beautiful.

Staircase to the Moon, Bronwyn Houston (Magabala Books, 32pp, $19.9)

This is a delightful book, centred around the Broome phenomenon of the Staircase to the Moon - a magical event that should be on everyone's bucket list. The book evokes that wonderful intimacy between grandchild and grandparent, and the special moments that will never be forgotten, often experienced unknown to one's parents - secrets, adventures, presents and allies against the ruling parent party. Mosquitoes, Boab trees, bats, frangipanis and mud make this evocative book a great West Australian read. The illustrations create great atmosphere and successfully enhance the storyline. I would encourage you to take your children on a walk on the Staircase to the Moon.

Southern Barbarians, John Mateer (Giramondo Publishing, 96pp, $24.00)

This beautiful book offers a very fine selection of John Mateer's recent poetry, and an equally fine introduction by Brian Castro. Growing up in South Africa, coming to Australia but travelling for a large part of each year, Mateer's poetic voice, as Castro describes it, is ‘cosmopolitan ... multifaceted, divided ... strong, yet self-ironic'. His southern barbarians inhabit the places of the Portuguese Empire, including Macau and Timor. The last line of the opening poem is spoken by Xanana, in Melbourne, to his translator, and sets the tone of the memorable whole: ‘What is another English word, he mused, that rhymes with sadness?'.

dotdotdash 06, Jukebox (dotdotdash Magazine $12.00)

Edited and published by a group of West Australian humanities graduates, dotdotdash is an eclectic, elegant tri-annual journal of written and visual creative work. This sixth issue is as smart and innovative as its beginnings promised. Jukebox also features music - inspired by some of the work in the journal - and a poetry reading on a couple of CDs that come with the issue. dotdotdash has much appeal, especially for the younger market it's produced for, and provides a professional publishing space for its mostly youthful creative artists. It provides plenty of challenging and rewarding reading and listening.

Jake's Balloon Blast, Ken Spillman, Illustrated by Chris Nixon (Fremantle Press 48pp $10.95)

I think we all know a ‘Jake'. He is likeable, has a huge imagination and is always trying different things. In this, the third Jake book, he wants to fly and sets out to make it happen. After a couple of failed attempts he has an idea that just might work. With the help of his friend Jonah, he has a plan, makes a list and gets everything in place to give it a go. This is a fun book that children are certain to relate to, with Nixon's black and white illustrations enhancing the story and revealing all Jake's emotions. Does Jake realise his dream and fly? You will have to read the book to find out.

Nightsiders, Sue Isle (Twelfth Planet Press, 141pp, $20.00)

I do enjoy taking a walk into hypothetical scenarios, and this book fills the bill. It's 2050, everything that was green is now brown, walking in sunlight is fatal, Perth has been bombed and there are only 2,000 people left living in the read on! Nightsiders comprises four distinct and totally engaging stories, all set in this same scenario. While each story is complete in itself, the characters develop through the four stories. Reflecting the extreme of climate change, seeing humanity again faced with the struggle of survival against impossible odds, Nightsiders is intriguing reading. Over the next two years the Twelve Planet series will produce 12 separate collections of stories written by different authors. I look forward to reading the next eleven.

March 2011

Last Chance Café Liz Byrski (Macmillan, 381 pp, $32.99)

Margot and Dot, activists in the 1960s, discover there's still a place for the sisterhood today when they become involved in a campaign against the sexualisation of little girls in the name of consumerism. Personal stories-family crises, friendships, secrets, lost dreams-intersect with the political in this novel by bestselling author Liz Byrski. Byrski invokes tenderness, humour, insight-at times, even rage-as she writes of the burdens and liberations that come with ageing, the invisibility and devaluation of older women in society, the false assumptions made about them, and the renewal of energy and new directions possible from the ‘last chance cafe'.

Triple Ripple Brigid Lowry (Allen & Unwin, 252pp, $17.99)

A writer struggling with the realities of modern life and searching for a good idea for a new book, a reader trying to find refuge from the everyday difficulties of teenage life, and a fairy tale with a bad-tempered princess and a red-haired heroine - these are the themes of a new YA fiction book, all cleverly inter-woven in a three-layered text by author Brigid Lowry. Triple Ripple will immediately captivate readers aged 12 years and over - it explores some complex themes such as conflict resolution and loss but, most importantly, it is entertaining and seriously funny! An exceptional book for both classroom and home reading.

Surface Tension Meg McKinlay (Walker Books, $15.95, 240pp)

New Lower Grange is a town full of secrets, and when Cassie and Liam start swimming at the lake instead of the bandaid-infested swimming pool, they soon discover that ‘things have a way of floating to the surface' when you least expect it. This well-plotted and engaging novel covers terrain not usually in junior fiction, and will appeal to readers wanting something different, deep and satisfying. As well as writing for children, Meg McKinlay is a fine poet, and this is evident in the lyrical and accessible images that make Surface Tension such a pleasure to read.

Stolen Girl Trina Saffioti and Norma MacDonald (Magabala Books, 36pp $19.95)

This simple yet powerful story of a young Aboriginal girl, taken away from her mother and sent to a children's home, is prefaced by a clear summary of the history of the so-called Stolen Generations. Stolen Girl is very effectively told through the girl's present-tense bleak experience in the home and her memories and dreams of her former rich and happy life. It is beautifully and tellingly illustrated by Norma MacDonald and would be suitable to read to young children or as an early reading book. Educative without being didactic, Stolen Girl will reach out to young readers as well as to their parents and teachers.

The End of Longing Ian Reid (UWAP, $32.95, 304pp)

Framed by the works of Wordsworth and Browning, this is an imaginative story of two people struggling to understand themselves and their relationship to the world around them. Set in the late nineteenth century, this engaging novel travels across New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Canada and the USA, providing a fascinating glimpse of life at that time. The pace of the novel really picks up in the second half as the reader gets closer and closer to the compelling denouement. I was particularly struck by the uncanny depiction of the Japanese having a tense relationship with their land between "those earthquakes and tidal waves - every time the ground shudders under their feet or the ocean rears up over the strand, they'll be reminded yet again".

Indigo, 6, Summer 2011 (Tactile Books, 152pp $25.00)

Indigo was established to publish creative work from West Australian writers, and in its six volumes it has opened up a professional publishing outlet for many new and emerging as well as established writers. That this is the last volume of Indigo is to be regretted - Australian literary culture needs its literary journals. This is a nature writing issue, with some non-WA material, notably from Nicolas Rothwell and Mark Tredennick. Annamaria Weldon's prize winning essay ‘Threshold Country' is a delight and there are stories, poetry, creative non-fiction and reviews. As always, Indigo offers much to its readers, and it will be missed.

February 2011

gilgameshGilgamesh - Joan London (Random House Australia, 2010, $23.95, 272 pp)

This reissue of Joan London's important first novel will entrance a new generation of readers. Using the ancient epic of Gilgamesh as a background to its stories of the movements of its characters - from London after the Great War to a poor block of land in the south-west of Western Australia, back to London, and to Armenia during the Second World War - London uses the quest motif to weave a marvellous tale of love and loss and recuperation. At the end, Edith Clark - whose story provides the heart of the book - farewells her son Jim as he embarks on his own journey.

prime cutPrime Cut - Alan Carter (Fremantle Press, 320pp, $32.95)

A disgraced policeman, a serial killer, despair, distance, mining and murder all collide in this debut novel by Alan Carter. Hopetoun is a small town thriving on the mining boom while the rest of the country is struggling in the economic downturn. A body washes up on the beach starting a chain of events that expose the underbelly of money hungry businessmen and the exploitation of the migrant workers used to work the mines. While investigating the murder new clues to solving a 30 year old murder committed on the other side of the world surface. Carter's characters are far from perfect as he weaves their stories with the gradual unfolding of the circumstances leading to the murders. An excellent read. I hope we get to see more of DSC Cato Kwong.

The Snake and the Boy  -  Azmen Sebastian (Magabala Books, 24pp, $12.95)

This is a short children's story with a lot of punch! The illustrations are very Australian and impressionistic, the story itself simple and compelling, and its good to see that Magabala books has published another fantastic West Australian children's book. The narrative is clear, unambiguous and with a surprising element of tension. One could almost hear the boys playing footy, feel the heat of the day, the texture of the paperbark - and bewildering loss for the solitary boy. A brilliant story from this first time Broome author.

Beneath the shadows

Beneath the Shadows  -  Sara Foster (Bantam, 340 pp, $32.95)

Grace, Adam and baby Millie move from London to a cottage Adam has inherited in a remote, insular village. Twelve months after Adam mysteriously disappears, Grace returns to deal with unfinished business. Beneath the Shadows is a tense, suspenseful story of loss, secrets and ghostly presences. Its characters are convincing and engaging-from the outsiders, Grace, her sister Annabel and friend James, to the inhabitants of Roseby village drawn together by the twisted threads of family and community. The physical setting of the North Yorkshire moors emerges as a character in its own right, threatening and beautiful in equal measure.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe Mark Greenwood illus. Frané Lessac (Walker Classics, 40pp, $16.95)

Readers young and old will enjoy the tale of Moondyne Joe, the wily convict bushranger, and his cunning escapes from prison cells, no cell built secure enough to hold him, and each recapture and subsequent escape more daring than the last. Mark Greenwood's humorous and readable writing style, perfectly accompanied by Frané Lessac's bold and colourful illustrations of Moondyne Joe and the Australian bush, brings history alive, making it engaging and accessible for children. This is a timeless story of courage and the quest for freedom that can be read and enjoyed again and again-the true test of classic storytelling.

coastFrom Coast to Country - Waterwise Garden Design   -  Neil and Jenny Delmage (Fremantle Press 144pp, $49.95)

It is wonderful to find a publication that is written for and about Western Australian gardens. From tiny courtyard spaces to sprawling rural properties, Neil and Jenny Delmage's latest book focuses on environmentally friendly gardens and reducing water consumption. Its rich gallery of magnificent photographs, garden plans, and waterwise tips will be in inspiration for both casual and passionate gardeners. Whether in a city backyard, on a coastal sand dune, or enclosing a private lake or stretch of river, an especially valuable feature is the shared knowledge and rationale behind each design and planting.

January 2011


Barlay! Cheryl Kickett-Tucker (Fremantle Press, 2010, 45 pp, $9.95) Children's fiction

Barlay! is part of the Waarda series (edited by Sally Morgan), which brings Indigenous storytelling to primary school audiences. Cheryl Kickett-Tucker succeeds in telling a cautionary tale for young readers that also informs and