December 2012

Shallow Breath, Sara Foster (Random House, $32.95)

How far would you go to save someone you love?  This question provokes us throughout a narrative that is gripping and yet familiar, especially to those of us who love the coast. Shallow Breath is a work of fiction woven through West Australian places and history, including the Atlantis Marine Park and its inhabitants. There is a strong theme of conservation throughout the story whose central characters harbour secrets that slowly unfurl, providing drama and suspense. This novel is beautifully researched and written with enormous passion, making it the perfect holiday companion for those wanting to lose themselves in a good story.

Changing Ways Book 2, Justin Randall (Gestalt, $29.95)

 Time has passed since the otherworldly horror that infiltrated our world and young survivors Jessie and Alex hide in the desert.  Changing Ways Book 2 is a land of atmosphere and character where Justin Randall has masterful control of the fearful and the cryptic. He creates a world where participation is more than intellectual. You have to feel your way through this dark, twisted saga and let the revelations flow over you. As in all arts the horror graphic novel can be difficult to master. With this second volume artist/author Justin Randall confirms his continuing opus is not a fluke.

Two with Nature,
Ellen Hickman & John Ryan, (Fremantle Press, $35.00)

Ellen Hickman has been making her taxonomically exact, exquisitely rendered coloured drawings of the enormous range of plants that flourish in the south-west of Western Australia for many years. This beautiful book brings a wide range of those drawings into a fascinating relationship with John Ryan’s equally meticulous botanical poetry. Both artist and poet are fascinated by the flora of this internationally recognised biodiversity ‘hotspot’; a fascination they describe in interesting statements at the front of the volume. Together, drawings and poems make up an unusual and intriguing book to pore over and delight in.

Dark Star - The Rosie Black Chronicles Book 3, Lara Morgan (Walker Books, $$22.95)

It is not essential to have read the first two books in the Chronicles trilogy to enjoy this final instalment which sees Rosie, Dalton and Pip persevering in their fight against Helios.  The pace continues to keep the reader engaged in the action as Rosie shows her development into an independent person still torn by conflicting relationships with her father, guardians, allies and enemies.  New alliances are formed and broken.  Set against the futuristic Newperth where there is no water, little food and disease, survival is a constant fight. The Dark Star is the ultimate solution to the struggle.  Another great read from Lara Morgan.

November 2012

An Unknown Sky and Other Stories   Susan Midalia  (UWA Publishing, $24.95)

This selection of beautifully-crafted stories presents a broad array of characters and situations. Midalia is a champion of the short story format and her skill at presenting big ideas through the everyday experience demonstrates how powerful good writing can be. The tenderness and empathy of these stories will resonate long after the last word has been read and one can’t help but feel that as we briefly get to know these characters, we know ourselves just a little better. As seasonal business takes over our lives in coming weeks, a story a day from this collection is prescribed – it is pure reading enjoyment!

Tree, A little Story about big things, Danny Parker, Illustrated by Matt Ottley  (Hardie Grant, $24.95)

Tree is a sapling that has grown in the shelter of a larger tree where it has always been safe and protected from harm.  When large tree is destroyed during a violent storm, little tree feels lost and alone.  He soon discovers that, as with many things, an end can also mean the beginning of something new. Tree is a beautiful book of few words that manages to tell the story of change and growth.  It is a book to be shared and enjoyed.  The rich and beautiful illustrations by Matt Ottley are a wonderful background adding to this ‘little story about big things’.

The Trader's Dream, Anna Jacobs (Hodder and Stoughton, $29.99)

Book three in the Trader's Series, by acclaimed local author Anna Jacobs, continues the story of Bram Deagan and his family and the early years of the Swan River Colony. Jacobs' vivid descriptions bring to life her characters and their experiences.  Her extensive historical research portrays mid-19th century Ireland, England, and Australia and the sea voyage in particular, via P&O steam ship SS Delta, is fascinating and eye-opening. Lovers of history will be entranced by this book, and whilst it's the third book in the series, if you haven't read the others, it stands on its own as a great read and leaves you hungry for more. Oh, and there's a little bit of romance too!

Six Seasons and The Woman River, Glen Phillips (ICLL Press, $15.00)

We now have a White Paper about “the Asian Century” but some culturally active Australians have been involved in Asia for years.  One such is Glen Phillips who has just published two collections of poems translated into Chinese: Six Seasons and a chapbook, The Woman River. Phillips is a close observer of nature, a central feature of the Chinese poetic tradition, and the landscapes he observes are in Western Australia, China and Italy. The books include drawings (Phillips’ own in Six Seasons) or photographs (by Hongbo Du in The Woman River). Galahs: “Over the swales and saltpans, mobs/And mobs of pink and greys/Cluster and flutter, seethe and settle”.

Whisky Charlie Foxtrot   Annabel Smith (Fremantle Press, $24.99)

When his twin brother has an accident resulting in coma, the self-effacing, judgmental and insecure Charlie Ferns is jolted into reflecting on the relationship he has with him and others close to him. Are there wrongs to be righted and is there time enough for second chances? Is there reason for Charlie’s discontent or is he simply being a fool? In this warm, insightful and subtly wry novel, Annabel Smith comments on family, rivalry, commitment and forgiveness. Her fresh, well-written and uniquely constructed novel provides an entertaining read while reminding us to step out and see the bigger picture.

Bubbay: A Christmas Adventure, Josie Wowolla Boyle, illustrated by Fern Martins (Magabala Books, $19.95)

This is a Christmas story with a difference, for 5-9 year olds, to read and be read to. Bubbay lives alone ‘in the Australian outback’ looking after his herd of goats, his only friend an equally lonely lady, Mrs Timms. On Christmas Eve, Bubbay longs for a home and family, even a Christmas tree.  A starry tree appears and gives him a quest to complete before dawn to fulfil his Christmas wish; then it brings his old grandma to him to help do this. The quest and its outcome changes Bubbay’s life. Beautifully told and illustrated, this book would be a perfect gift.

October 2012

Creepy and Maud, Dianne Touchell  (Fremantle Press, $19.99)

Creepy is a social misfit with a pair of binoculars; Maud is his girl-next-door who suffers from trichotillomania, the urge to pull out one’s hair. They watch each other through their bedroom windows, and the love story that develops is one of the most elegant, eloquent and poignant you’re ever likely to read. Dianne Touchell has taken the usual elements of teen angst and taken them to a new level. The writing is beautiful, the story unforgettable. Buy this book for the angsty teen in your life, or for yourself: it’s a rare treat of a novel, and a highly impressive debut.

The Amber Amulet, Craig Silvey  (Allen & Unwin, $16.99) 

Craig Silvey's latest offering The Amber Amulet, is simply stunning! The central character, the Masked Avenger is tenderly drawn, voicing the innermost dreams, fears and ambitions of an earnest little boy. The toughest person would be challenged not to find some of his or her own truth in this character. The story is elegant and powerful, yet deeply resonant with everyday life. Best of all, it's a real book; beautifully textured in its creation, so forget downloading it, and the illustrations by Sonia Martinez are clever and delightful. The Amber Amulet is a must-read for anyone over the age of nine.

The Corpse-Rat King,
  Lee Battersby  (Angry Robot Books, ebook £5.49)

This is a rollicking and macabre journey into a world that is oddly familiar.  A corpse-rat is an ancient recycler ensuring the valuables belonging to the dead are not buried forever with them!  Marius is a king amongst corpse-rats but his unexpected journey to the other side takes the reader across mountains and under seas to an hilarious end.  Battersby’s use of language ensures the reader is enthralled and amused as the rascally Marius uses his wits and wiles to achieve his holy grail.  Hopefully it won’t be too long until readers can catch up with another adventure with this flawed and fascinating fellow.

A Youth Not Wasted,
Ian Parkes  (Harper Collins $32.99)

This is a quintessential Western Australian story about a seminal period in author Ian Parkes’ life working on sheep stations in the 1950s. Parkes left home at sixteen to become a jackeroo on a merino stud in South Australia. He spent a year on a remote property near Broken Hill, before returning to Western Australia, where he worked near Mt Augustus inland from Carnarvon. His love of Western Australia and the Gascoyne region in particular, emerge through rich writing that not only captures station life of the era, but shows a deep understanding of the bush and its lure.


Undefeated: The story of Bali Bombing survivor Phil Britten, Phil Britten, Rebecca Britten & Malcolm Quekett, (UWA Publishing,  $24.95)

Phil Britten’s story is an impressive one. Told in his own voice, it moves between his experience of the bombing of the Sari Club in Bali a decade ago, his childhood and growing up, and the slow struggle to recover from his horrific injuries, both physical and mental, after the bombing.  More than just a survivor story, Britten’s is a lesson in ordinary courage. As well as being great reading, the book stands as a testimony to the spirit of the Balinese people as well as to Britten’s, whose positive response to terrible adversity is an inspiration.

Finding Jasper,
Lynne Leonhardt (Margaret River Press, $24.00)

Four strong women from different generations are profoundly affected by war in distinct ways. The person who connects mother, sister, wife and daughter is Jasper, a World War II RAF pilot. Predominantly set in Perth and the southwest between 1945 and 1965, Finding Jasper examines the day-to-day lives of these women alongside global and local historic events. Through this apposition, author Lynne Leonhardt demonstrates how shifting culture and context impacts on familial and romantic relationships and shows how the innocence of people and place can be so easily altered. It is a book about love and connection and finding strength from within.

September 2012

That Untravelled World, Ian Reid (UWA Publishing, $24.95)

That Untravelled World tells the story of Harry Hopewell, a young engineer who came to Perth to oversee the installation of the wireless station. There is an irony in the name Hopewell as Harry often finds himself without much hope throughout his life. Hope is also explored as a broader theme with the explosion of new technologies pitted against the realities of the post-war depression. Reid has deftly woven some fascinating WA history into the narrative, giving a very vivid and familiar sense of Perth in days gone by. This history provides a fitting backdrop to a story that is compelling and satisfyingly unpredictable.

If I should lose you, Natasha Lester (Fremantle Press, $27.99)

Camille pounds the pavements to find some reprieve in her days. It is a convergent time in her life; her marriage is stale and her child is critically ill. At the same time, she is curating an art show that uncovers her mother’s diaries. Her mother was a transplant surgeon, Camille is an organ donor coordinator and her daughter needs a liver transplant. Natasha Lester connects these events and coincidences as she weaves themes of art, morality and reality into Camille’s story, discovering meanings and finding truths. It is a subtle and sensitive work that eloquently tackles loss, love and life.

Regime Magazine 01 (Regime Books, $15.00)

Anyone rash enough to start a literary magazine, especially a print one, deserves commendation, and Regime is the latest such act of courage. Produced, in fine style, from WA under the aegis of the indefatigable Peter Jeffrey, it includes poetry, fiction and a vampire film script (yes, that’s right!) from around Australia. The virtue of new magazines is their freshness and variety, and their fault is uneven quality. All are evident here, but Regime includes standout pieces in poems by Virginia Jealous, Andrew Bifield, Aaron Furnell, Helga Jermy, Flora Smith, and Ian Smith, and stories by Julia Osborne and Rebecca Raisin.

In the Company of Strangers, Liz Byrski (Macmillan, $32.99)

Ruby and Cat met as children, sent to Western Australia with the child migrant scheme. Now Cat has died, and Ruby must leave her comfortable and distinguished life in London. She returns to Australia to confront what happened all those years ago, and sort out the inheritance Cat left her, Benson's Reach. Liz Byrski's latest novel explores familiar themes of ageing, past choices and events and how they affect the present, relationships and the strength of friendship, and the search for people, places and work to give our lives meaning and purpose. Ultimately, it shows that sometimes it is among strangers that support and hope can be found for the future.

Wreck the Halls, Meg McKinlay (Walker Books, $12.95)

Wreck the Halls is an Australian Christmas romp ideal for primary school boys!  Take an average boy full of ingenuity, creativity and imagination unable to express himself to his family.  Add a street full of characters, upcoming long summer holidays and a fallen-through caravan park stay, and you have the ingredients for an amusing look at the struggle to find a modern community through the surplus of fairy lights, blow-up reindeer and musical Santas that is the build up to Australian Christmas.  This is an engaging and amusing read bound to appeal to readers both young and young at heart; an excellent stocking filler.

A Concise History of Western Australia, Russell Earls Davis (Woodslane Press, $24.95)

There is much fascinating information within A Concise History of Western Australia by Russell Earls Davis (for 28 years Chaplain at Hale School), organised into 23 chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of WA’s history.  The early travails of the British settlers of the Swan River colony, particularly such colourful characters as Thomas Peel and Moondyne Joe, are described in fair detail and also those of a more recent era, such as Lang Hancock, Alan Bond, Brian Burke and Joseph Hardy. Another aspect of the State’s history dealt with in sympathetic detail is the story of unhappy conflict between the white settlers and the original Aboriginal inhabitants and the many aspects of discrimination suffered by the Indigenous people in Western Australia.

August 2012

Dark Diamonds, eds Graham Kershaw (Hallowell Press, $100.00)

The exceptional quality of Dark Diamonds, made using traditional letterpress and copper place printing techniques, hand binding, and archival quality material, is matched by the poetry it contains, beautifully illustrated by Alison Kershaw’s art-work. All poems of WA’s south coast, they are sparked in multiple ways by its uniqueness. Annamaria Weldon finds her ‘South West lyric’ in the ‘Nullaki peninsula/folded like a hinge between twin skies’; in John Kinsella’s long, shifting poem there is a ‘Place where phenomena/shape themselves like/the vertebrae of whales’, while Yann Toussaint cautions leaving persimmons to ‘ripen in the winter sun/across slow afternoons:’.  Published in a limited edition, Dark Diamonds is truly a book to treasure.

Domestic Archaeology,
Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne (Grand Parade Poets, $21.95)

This lovely collection of poetry mined from the poet’s life weaves its spell with wit and precision. Three sections explore the variety of Pilgrim-Byrne’s experience. In ‘Excavation’ the longing for motherhood – ‘I have wanted to snatch babies’ – is thwarted until the final triumph of ‘the little girl who giggles by the shore’. ‘Fauna’ celebrates the creatures that are part of this poet’s world; ‘a few cows’ down the road, a snake in the laundry (at 4 am), birds calling or sitting, ‘sodden … on the overhead wire’; while in the last, ‘Cataloguing’, Pilgrim-Byrne’s insights and observations range widely and pleasurably. 

the rutting season, scott-patrick Mitchell (Mulla Mulla Press, $15.00)

If, like Andy Warhol, quoted along with Pablo Neruda and Miranda Gray at the beginning of this book, you ‘like a rut’ then you’ll love this poetry, best read aloud. It’s edgy, performance work that jumps off the page, driven by its rhythms and exclamations, its arresting metaphors and – sometimes bad – word jokes.  ‘happiness’ pounds to an ecstatic end: ‘:I’m not stopping until we fall off the/map, together … screaming, …, while in ‘2wo stags (the rutting season)’, ‘…our/instincts carry out the pro/-cess. there are no more/northern lights …’. Endlessly inventive and brilliantly evocative, these poems are also a lot of fun.


In the Lion, James Foley (Walker Books, $27.95)

In the city there’s a zoo. In the zoo there’s a lion. And in the lion there’s …  
Author/illustrator James Foley’s new picture book follows the familiar pattern of cumulative storytelling much-loved by children and parents alike. When the king of beasts decides to swallow some unexpected items, it’s the smallest of bystanders who must gather his courage (and a toothbrush!) and save everyone’s day. With vibrant cartoonish illustrations and a repetitive text whose tension builds and builds until young readers will be ready to pop right along with the titular beast, In the Lion is sure to delight.

Cape Arid, Philippa Nikulinsky and Alex Nikulinsky (Fremantle Press, $65.00) 

Cape Arid is a book of superb watercolour and pen and ink illustrations that provide the reader, the viewer, with a real insight into Cape Arid country. But it is also a book that gives so much more.  Beyond the sweepingly beautiful and exactingly precise artwork is the story of two artists’ encounters over time with a remarkable landscape.  Beyond this again, Cape Arid indicates something of what it is that artists bring to our understanding of the world.  This is a beautiful book by husband and wife team Philippa and Alex Nikulinsky, revealing the Cape Arid landscape and its diverse inhabitants.

To the Highlands, Jon Doust (Fremantle Press, $27.99) 

To the Highlands is book two of Jon Doust’s trilogy that tracks the inner life and adventures of Jack Muir. Set in the late 1960s, Muir takes up a post as a 'bank johnny' in the highlands of PNG. His story is both gritty and confronting with a seemingly bulletproof cast of young male characters that constantly test the boundaries in a country where the ‘back home’ rules do not apply. Whilst Jack is a flawed character, he engenders some likable yet slightly hopeless characteristics that make us question the values of the world in which he inhabits.


July 2012

The Tribe, Book 1: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, Ambelin Kwaymullina  (Walker Books, $19.95)

Move over Katniss Everdeen - Ashala Wolf has arrived. It is the dystopian future, and the government keeps tight reins on its citizens to conserve 'the Balance'. But young people with special gifts are locked up, deemed Illegal, experimented on by the creepily evil Neville Rose. Enter Ashala - leader of the Tribe, who will risk anything to save her tribe of fellow Illegals. This is a complex novel with a moral question: how far should you go to protect those you love?  Combined with its rich characterisation, cracking chapter cliffhangers and satisfying narrative arc, Ashala Wolf’s story will find a legion of young fans to cheer her on.

Looking out from Bashan: the republic of Og,
Mark Reid (Fremantle Press, $24.99)

What are we to make of 77 poems about an obscure giant in Biblical times? This third volume of Mark Reid’s poetic output is a remarkable resurrection of the ancient character of Og, once king of Bashan. What is all the more remarkable is that Og is amazingly modern as he lives out his life almost like some ponderous next-door neighbour.  The nine prose poems included, variously labelled as choruses, add another dimension to the work.    An interesting dynamic is the parallel worlds of ancient Bashan and present day Australian life, as evidenced in “Domestic: Words fly/ like angry crockery,/ miss, break,/ disturb the neighbours.”


Ten Tiny Things, Meg McKinlay and Kyle Hughes-Odgers (Fremantle Press, $24.99)

Ten Tiny Things is an ode to living mindfully and noticing the "secret somethings and hidden happenings" in the everyday.  When the "clean, green machine" doesn't start one morning, Tessa and Zachary are left with no other choice but to walk to school with their mother.  The children's grumbles and groans soon turn to oohs and ahhs of wonder as they discover tiny treasures on a journey that usually rushes by in a blur.  McKinlay's alliterative, rhythmic text is a pleasure to read aloud and artist Hughes-Odgers' enigmatic, acrylic-on-board paintings in subdued tones resonate with and enhance the story. Literally and figuratively, Tess' and Zachary's eyes are opened in the book's final pages. This is a picture book about and for our times and for all children and adults to read, talk about, and enjoy together, slowly and over and over again.

The Missing Case, Simon Haynes  (Bowman Press,  $6.99)

Hal Junior is annoyed when he discovers that Space Station Oberon is expecting important visitors and he has to entertain some stuck-up kid while the parents hold a meeting. But annoyance soon turns to adventure when the two decide to explore the station. In the secured depths of the recycling centre, Hal discovers something is wrong and he needs to think and act fast. The Missing Case is book two in the Hal Junior series. It features robots and machines, villains and champions, fun and intrigue, and intergalactic speech: ‘Crumble my circuit boards’. Recommended for young science fiction readers aged 9+.

A Stranger in my Street, Deborah Burrows, (Macmillan, $27.99)

A compelling combination of murder mystery and a tender romance, A Stranger in my Street is set in and around Nedlands during the Second World War. This story gives a delightful, almost sensuous sense of Perth at that time. One can almost taste the cocktails and feel the swish of party dresses when the heroine, Meg Eaton attends dances at the Adelphi Club or the Embassy Ballroom. The story is part murder mystery/part love story, juxtaposing the terror and emotional devastation of war against the riotous fun (particularly jitterbugging) that characterised the lives of those at home or on leave passes.


Getting On. Some Thoughts on Woman and Ageing, Liz Byrski (Momentum Books, $1.99)

In ‘Getting On’, an essay for digital only publisher Momentum, Byrski asks us to have a different kind of public conversation about ageing - a conversation not littered with marketing spin and expressions ‘rooted in concepts of control and mastery’ like ‘successful ageing’, but an honest, balanced conversation about what it really means to be an ageing individual in our western society.   While acknowledging that getting old is tough, Byrski also encourages us to consider that ageing may be characterised by ‘acceptance, curiosity, and discovery’ equally as much as by loss or decline.  ‘Getting On’ is wise writing, from a thoughtful writer, and should be read by women, and men, of all ages.  

June 2012

Politics, Society, Self: occasional writings, Geoff Gallop (UWA Publishing, $29.95)

Among the many contemporary publications by ex-politicians, this collection of talks and articles by Geoff Gallop, written since his resignation as Premier of Western Australia, stands out. Covering a range of areas and ideas, the generous selection is always readable, down-to-earth and engaging. Gallop has the capacity to render complex issues accessible. His writing is characterised by his democratic sensibility and a kind of pragmatic socialism; by the questions asked as well as the positions arrived at through reasonable argument.  His central concern is ‘how we can best contribute to the community’, one that could well guide many political parties and organisations in today’s world. 

Me Time, Glennys Marsdon (Glennys Marsdon, $22.95)

Ever found yourself saying that if you could just have ten minutes to yourself you would be able to catch your breath and get on with the next thing – whatever that may be?  Research shows that it is important to have a balanced life.  Research has also shown that guilt is the main barrier to including timeout for yourself. Me Time may be a little book but it is big on tips for finding those extra few minutes in your day just for you.  Marsden take everyday happenings such as going to the bathroom and driving in your car, and finds a way to turn them in to ‘Me Time’.  Start your Me Time by reading over 100 strategies for gaining guilt-free time just for you.

Silent Memories Traumatic Lives, Lesa Melnyczuk (Western Australian Museum, $36.00)

Unlike the Holocaust, the events of the Holodomor (an enforced famine that caused death by starvation) have not been etched into global consciousness.  In 1932-33 Ukraine’s largest single non-Russian national group within the Soviet Union underwent this event.   Through interviews and research the author demonstrates the strong impact that the Holodomor, and subsequent invasion by Germany during World War II, had on the Ukraine. From the displaced persons camps of Europe some Ukrainian families found a new safe, life in Western Australia.  Melnyczuk traces the emotional and sometimes harrowing stories of some of the post war migrants, and contends that they have remained largely silent about the horrors they faced through repressed fear.  This important book opens a door on a period of history that has largely been forgotten.

Two Mates, Melanie Prewett, illustrated by Maggie Prewett (Magabala Books $17.95)

The two mates are Jack and Raf, two young boys with big smiles and a shared sense of fun, growing up together in Broome.  Mother and daughter creators Maggie and Melanie Prewett take us on a journey into Jack and Raf’s colourful, seemingly idyllic lives, filled with fishing, swimming and other good things.  Gradually we come to realise that while the boys differ from each other in some ways, in many other and perhaps far more important ways, they are just the same.  Inspired by a true story, this delightful picture book is a joyous, warm-hearted celebration of true mateship.  Readers of all ages will enjoy meeting these Two Mates.

When we remember they call us liars, Suzanne Covich (Fremantle Press, $24.95)

Suzanne grew up in a small rural town in the sixties. Her childhood life might have appeared almost idyllic at first sight – a large family, carefree adventures in the valley, a good academic record – but her reality was far from it. Covich writes in a youthful, innocent and clear voice that lies in stark contrast to the abuse and torment she endured over the years. Hers is a brave memoir. It is an important contribution to our understanding of sexual abuse and a stark reminder of our responsibility as a society.  

Kimberley Stories, edited by Sandy Toussaint (Fremantle Press, $24.95)

Kimberley Stories charts connections between people, place and community from a variety of perspectives.  Combining poetry, prose and even a short play, these stories are a reflection of experiences that are unique to the Kimberley. The subject matter is eclectic, sometimes gritty, often highlighting the elegance of simple activities and the exquisite moments of grace in daily lives.  Other stories document the ‘extraordinary’ – particularly the vastness, scale and beauty of the environment. For readers who love the Kimberley, this book will feed your yearning to return. Book your flight, and then grab a copy of this book!

May 2012

Wild Card, Dorothy Hewett  (UWAP, $29.95)

Remarkably it has been a decade since the death of the poet Dorothy Hewett. This makes the re-release of Hewett’s autobiography Wild Card, by UWA Publishing, a significant marker in her posthumous life. This extraordinary autobiography is not just the elucidation of the life of a talented poet and playwright, but it is also a celebration and evocation of Australia between and during the wars and life after 1945. Dorothy’s powerful and ebullient personality is writ large on every page. This is a significant autobiography of a strong, creative woman who was both complex and funny. A must read.

A Simple Rain, Vivienne Glance and Perdita Phillips, (limited edition, Lethologica Press, $25.00)

Together, Vivienne Glance’s abstract, evocative short poems and Perdita Phillips’s equally evocative photographs create a shifting, unfolding narrative of the connections between place and mind. The photographs, taken at the moraine of a glacier, present a zone where the immutable grandeur of the environment might make the transience of human existence acceptable. As the final poem, from which the book’s title comes, says: ‘Our presence here has no more meaning/than a melting crystal of ice/or a shadow on shattered mountain parts.’ Images and words speak to each other in this gorgeous book, suggesting sets of ideas which extend beyond its covers.

Emu and the Water Tree Gladys Milroy (Fremantle Press, $9.95)

Emu and the Water Tree is the captivating story of how the emu lost its wings. But it is so much more than that. The stunning black and white illustrations in this little book are bold and impressive, and complement the book’s vivid characters and themes. Serpent, Goanna, Magpie, Kangaroo and Lizard enable Emu to understand the importance of environment and friendship, and to learn that wrongs can be made right. Author Gladys Milroy, whose people are from Palkyu country, has the gift of storytelling. Young readers and listeners will be sure to treasure this book.

Mystery at Riddle Gully  Jen Banyard (Fremantle Press, $14.95) 

 Pollo di Nozi is a girl on a mission! With trusty side-kick, Shorn Connery (that would be a sheep) she sets out to expose a supposed vampire living in her town. Along the way she saves a rare species, befriends Will, a troubled newcomer and uncovers a plot by the greedy Mayor to turn their peaceful little town into a mini Las Vegas! Mystery at Riddle Gully is a really fun read and yet deftly explores some deeper themes around broken families, environmental sustainability and first impressions. Also noteworthy are the fabulous teacher’s notes and activities available on the author’s website.

Purple Roads  Fleur McDonald (Allen & Unwin, $29.99)

With her third novel McDonald has firmly placed herself in what is becoming known as the rural-lit genre.   Purple Roads is set in South Australia, where Anna and Matt have their dream farm and are raising a beautiful daughter.  Finances have been tough after a couple of dry seasons and when Matt is involved in an accident and the fertilizer that was needed to plant their next crop is stolen, they face losing everything.  Obsessed with finding out who stole from them, Matt eventually becomes involved in something bigger than he could have imagined. With believable characters and a page-turning blend of romance and crime, this is an easy book to curl up with and forget about the time.

Watermaker,  NH3  (Eggs Press, $15.00)

 It’s no coincidence that the author’s pseudonym is also the chemical symbol for Ammonia; it flags the now forbidden art of chemistry in the world of this novel.  Watermaker is aimed at tweens and is set in the not-so-distant future Perth, where life is controlled by a dark world authority; The System. Four friends strive to discover the lost Elementaur Hy, and experience all sorts of adventures on the way.  Underlying the adventure is an emphasis on the children becoming aware of the security needed while using any sort of computer, and learning about the Elementaurs themselves.  Watermaker is the first book in a planned series of ‘Elementaurs’ stories, that also link to a popular card game of the same name.  For stockists go to

April 2012

Losing It, Julia Lawrinson (Penguin, $19.95)

Among the many things Julia Lawrinson writes superlatively well is the awkwardness of adolescence. Losing It begins with a provocative challenge: four friends resolve to lose their virginity before schoolies week, keeping their progress secret until ‘the big reveal’ at year’s end. The novel then gives us the experiences of Zoe, Abby, Mala and Bree, and part of the reading pleasure comes from our privileged position of seeing the whole comic trajectory as well as each girl’s account. It’s a funny, surprising, agonising story of friendship and self-discovery, and you don’t have to be a young adult to be hooked.

Marngrook – The long-ago story of Aussie Rules, Titta Secombe. Illustrated by Grace Fielding (Magabala Books, $16.95)

Marngrook brings Australian people together. And whilst Indigenous players are well known for their skill on the field at a national level, the game has a strong heartbeat within Aboriginal communities where hundreds, sometimes thousands of people regularly gather to participate.  It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that what we know as Aussie Rules football has traditional origins in Aboriginal culture. This enchanting children’s book tells the story of Marngrook as passed down to Titta Secombe by her Jardwadjali elders (NW Victoria) and is beautifully illustrated by WA artist, Grace Fielding. 

Reform and Resistance in Aboriginal Education, eds Quentin Beresford, Gary Partington & Graeme Gower, (UWAP, 498pp, $45.00)

As the Preface to this revised edition of a 2003 publication contends, ‘Aboriginal educational disadvantage ranks as one of Australia’s most pressing social issues’. The wide ranging essays in Reform and Resistance, by a number of experts in the area, will be of invaluable assistance to all those within the field, including policy makers. Organised thematically, each chapter presents a critical issue, taking account of the historical, cultural and political as well as the pedagogical influences on Indigenous education. The Conclusion looks forward to ‘dramatic improvement in all outcomes’, and with its extensive and accessible research, this important book will support that future.

The Greatest Liar on Earth, Mark Greenwood, illustrated Frane Lessac (Walker Books, $29.95)

The Greatest Liar on Earth is the true to life story of Louis de Rougemont, who claimed to have been shipwrecked in northwest Australia for thirty years. On arrival in London he told packed theatres of fantastic experiences involving flying wombats, sea monsters, turtle riding and skies that rained fish. But ‘The Most Remarkable Man of the Century’ was soon exposed as a charlatan. Greenwood and Lessac have recreated this incredible rags-to-riches-to-rags tale. Each page brings to life the 19th century adventure and reminds us of the power of storytelling. With thoughtful language and vibrant illustrations, young imaginations are sure to run wild!

Do Not Forget Australia, Sally Murphy, Illustrated by Sonia Kretschmar (Walker Books, $29.95)

Villers-Bretonneux was the site of a WW1 battle on April 25 1918.  The village was liberated by Australian troops, many of whom lost their lives in the battle, and after the war the school was rebuilt with money raised by Australians.  Murphy uses these real life events as the inspiration for her tale of Henri, a local boy from the French village, and Billy from Australia.  Each experiences the war in his own way, both linked by Billy’s dad, one of the soldiers who liberated the village.  Based on a true story of compassion and kindness, and beautifully illustrated by Sonia Kretschmar, this is an ANZAC story to share with young readers.

Preloved, Shirley Marr  (Walker Books, $18.95)

Amy Lee has got problems.  She plays second fiddle to her impossibly beautiful best friend, Rebecca; doesn’t fit in at school; can recite the ghost warnings her Chinese mother has filled her head with since birth.  So when Logan appears out of a trashy 80s locket, Amy finally has someone who is hers – or does she?  Marr is a witty, inventive writer, and Preloved is full of warmth, humour and retro supernatural.  Will appeal to girls who love Twilight – and especially to those who don’t.

March 2012

Reaching One Thousand, Rachel Robertson, (Black Inc.  $29.95)

Written as a series of personal essays, this is a mother’s memoir of life with a son who is autistic. Ben has a high verbal ability and an extraordinary skill with numbers. Aspects of Ben’s life and her experiences as his mother awaken for Robertson memories of her childhood and past, so that the book offers much more than a story of diagnosis and treatment. Never sentimental, it is moving and also often very funny. Robertson draws on a wide range of reference as she writes, to books on autism as well as many others. Rewarding on many levels, this is an exceptional book.

A Dissection of Murder, Felicity Young (Harper Collins, $24.99)

A Dissection of Murder is Felicity Young’s fifth crime novel, although her first work of historical crime fiction. The novel is set in Edwardian Britain prior to WW1, both in the entertaining rooms of genteel West London and the grime and poverty of East London. A high-profile suffragette has been murdered at a rally, and Britain’s first female autopsy surgeon, Dr Dody McLeland together with Inspector Mathew Pike, must identify her murderer. The elegant writing, pacing and characterisation of the novel reflects the period, although there are some chilling and graphic moments as the story heads to its satisfying conclusion.


Dingo’s Tree, Gladys & Jill Milroy (Magabala Books, $19.95)

Mining is slowly devastating the land upsetting the balance between development and the environment. Dingo, Wombat, Crow and their friends watch as the trees are cut down and the river stops flowing. They all have to find a way to work together to save their home before there is nowhere left for them to live.   Gladys and Jill Milroy, both from the Pilbara, continue a tradition of protecting Country and culture through storytelling.  This engaging and simply written, brightly illustrated environmental story for children delivers an important message.  Gladys believes "You’ve got to tell the children. If you teach children to care for Country and care for animals, maybe they can talk to the adults and tell them it's not all about money…….”    


Ngaanyatjarra Art of the Lands, Tim Acker and John Carty (UWA Publishing, $49.95)

This magnificent book presents thoroughly researched histories of six Aboriginal art centres in Australia's Ngaanyatjarra desert country and fascinating examinations of the distinctive features of the artwork produced by artists in these groups (Maruku Arts, Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Warakurna Artists, Tjarlirli Art, Papulankutja Artists and Kayili Artists). These discussions are contextualised by three essays that explore the social, cultural and artistic histories of the region and are supported by glorious colour plates throughout, short artist biographies and a glossary of Ngaanyatjarra words making this a compulsory addition to the library of anyone who's interested in Australian Indigenous art.


Women of Note, Rosalind Appleby (Fremantle Press, $35.00)

Rosalind Appleby takes us on a journey through the lives of twenty eminent female Australian composers. Thankfully, she has avoided the trap attempting to document an exhaustive list of women composers and thus provides a nice balance of thoughtful commentary, personal stories and biographical information. The book is beautifully written and by placing the biographies in chronological order cleverly tells a bigger story about the role of women in the evolution of contemporary composition in Australia. Women of Note is an enjoyable and informative read and you don't need to be a music aficionado to understand it. The experience is further enhanced if accompanied by the fabulous selected listening list, located in the appendix at the back of the book.



Fire in My Head: Love Poetry 2012, Various contributors (Mulla Mulla Press, $5.00)

This ultra slim volume from Mulla Mulla Press is rich in celebrating love, published in conjunction with the recent St Valentine’s night poetry readings in South Perth. Included are 21 of WA’s finest living poets in a scant 30 pages. The cover illustration by Beba Hall is striking but the glittering prizes are within—in the love poems for lovers of poetry. Poets range from the venerable Andrew Burke (‘Apologia’) to Emeritus Professor Dennis Haskell (‘Counting the Days’) and through the whole panoply to Gail Williams (‘Once You Played Me’). In his Introduction, Shane McCauley reminds that love poets in particular wear their hearts on their sleeves.

February 2012

Baby Animal Farm  Karen Blair  (Walker Books $24.95)

Five bustling toddlers spend a blissful day feeding, cuddling and patting an array of irresistible baby animals in this beautifully designed picture book by first-time WA author-illustrator, Karen Blair.  “Feed the lamb. Baa, baa, baa. Tickle the kid. Blee, blee, blee.” The lively, spare text, complemented by delicate watercolour and crayon illustrations, introduces each baby animal and gently insists we join the fun. Every feature of the book has the very young child in mind, from the comfortable square format to the generous use of white space on each double page spread to the delightful endpapers.  An essential read-aloud for all animal-loving under fives. 


Unaccountable Hours: three novellas
, Stephen Scourfield, (UWA Publishing, $32.95)

Scourfield knows and writes about the diverse environments of Western Australia in ways that bring those locations alive, as alive as the characters who people them in these three very fine novellas. Each has a central male persona with different and fascinating professions and personalities. One is a maker of violins, one a sometime surfer and one a scientist. Each has a complex family background and their contemporary situations involve each facing a kind of test.  Compelling both in their telling and their effects, these stories are wonderfully told, carry what is often quite esoteric knowledge lightly, and will reward many re-readings.


Fremantle's Italians,
Susanna Iuliano & Maria Gorman, (ANFE Fremantle, $25.00) 

To celebrate their 25th anniversary, and modern Italy's 150th birthday, the ANFE Fremantle has compiled this snapshot of the Italian migrant families who settled in and around Fremantle. The book is a photo album of marvellous memories full of familiar surnames such as Cicerello, D'Orsogna and Orifici.  From the Sicilian fishermen who arrived in the 1880's, to waves of immigration in the early part of the twentieth century, the Italian families established successful businesses.  From bars to coffee shops, fishing boats to market gardens, food is a common theme.  Set against the background of important world events, the stories touch on the Great Depression and the internments of World War 2.   Even if you are not of Italian descent, this is a fascinating glimpse into the personal stories and lives of families who have made an enduring influence on the character of Fremantle.

All Monkeys Love Bananas, Sean E Avery  (Fremantle Press,  $24.95)

Fussy eaters will empathise with blue polka-dotted Lou McGrew, a most unusual monkey, who announces to his unimpressed mother that he has eaten his last banana. “I’ll scream if I eat one, I will, I will!”   His friend Sue’s inspired solution sets the scene for this comical picture book. Executed in a limited colour palette and loose, dynamic line-work, Avery’s illustrations with their subversive, Steadman-esque quality, are full of movement and humour.  The playful rhyming text in variously sized font with bold accents provides useful cues for an energetic read aloud and encourages emerging readers to read along.  The striking flocked cover with its tactile appeal is an added bonus for small hands.


Not Drowning, Reading, Andrew Relph, (Fremantle Press, $24.95)

From being a child who struggled with words and had enormous difficulty learning to read, a struggle which is ongoing for him, Andrew Relph grew to value and identify with a wide range of writers and their works. In this series of essays that loosely relate aspects of Relph’s life, his focus is largely through the ways his reading has informed that life and given it the creative extension that reading imaginative literature offers us. Relph’s profession as a psychotherapist is also significant, and what he identifies as the necessity of reading to his very existence will appeal to many readers.

The Mark of the Wagarl, Lorna Little,   illus. Janice Lyndon, (Magabala Books, $17.95)

This engaging and beautifully illustrated Nyoongar story of the Sacred Water Snake, guardian of rivers and fresh waterways, would be suitable for children from five and for older readers. It tells of a boy who disbelieves the elders’ warning to the children to respect the Wagarl. They must never disturb him or they will be eaten. When that boy, Baardi, disregards those teachings, dives into the river and discovers the Wagarl’s cave, he must negotiate for his life. In return for losing his voice he is released, carrying the mark of the Wagarl, which becomes his totem.

January 2012

Chefs of the Margaret River Region  Sue-Lyn Aldrian-Moyle and Lisa Hanley (Margaret River Press, $55.00, 159pp)


Just like the dishes so beautifully presented within its pages, this book has clearly been prepared with a great deal of love and pride.  Showcasing signature dishes by eighteen leading chefs in the region, and matching each dish to a recommended locally produced wine, “Chefs of the Margaret River Region” is cleverly designed to take you on a journey through a three-course meal.  Between courses, you are invited to get to know your chef, and to take a moment to enjoy the spectacular scenery captured in Sue-Lyn Aldrian-Moyle’s photographs.   If you can’t actually be in Margaret River, then having a copy of this book in your home is probably the next best thing.


The Eldritch Kid : Whisky & Hate  Christian Read and Michael Maier  (Gestalt, $11.95, 112 pp) 

There’s a long history of the horror western, especially in comics. The Eldritch Kid : Whisky & Hate marks a fresh milestone in this iconic and macabre genre. Christian Read has done his research in folklore, mythology, and the Wild West, summoning demons, shamans and gunfighters to weave into a dark and bloody adventure. The core of this grim tale is the partnership of the so-called heroes that do battle with the dark forces. Who they are and where they are heading is as much asked in Michael Maier’s art as it is in Read’s tight writing. Maier’s fine penmanship captures these enigmatic characters amid the grit and desolation of the Western Plains on which they travel.


Sandfire  Rose van Son, Flora Smith and Chris Konrad (Sunline Press, 2012, 137 pp, $25)

Three local poets, all prize-winning writers, have put together 97 poems between them in this recently launched collection. Christopher Konrad is a PhD student at ECU with Austrian origins whereas Rose van Son’s forbears are from southern Italy. Flora Smith is also a prize-winning poet and her 30 poems deal with people’s feelings, hopes and dreams. Rose writes in ‘Olive