2017 Reviews


November

Free Diving, Lorrae Coffin (Magabala Books)
This deceptively simple book, aimed at young readers aged 7 -10 years, is a tribute to the men and women who worked in the pearling industry in the late nineteenth century in Western Australia. Written by Lorrae Coffin, a descendant of the Nyiyaparli and Yindijibarndi people, it’s a fictionalised lyrical narrative based on her song 'Free Diving' - the story of an indigenous young man who leaves family and country for dangerous work as a free diver. Illustrator Bronwyn Houston has Wunna Nyiyaparli ancestry, along with English and Scottish blood, and her beautiful artwork adds richness and depth.


A is for Australian Animals, Frané Lessac (Walker Books)
A is for Australian Animals: a factastic tour uses the alphabet to celebrate Australia’s remarkable fauna. Each letter highlights animals that are shown in their native habitat, alongside bite-sized snippets of information. Do you know which animal has square poo? Or why a bilby’s pouch opens backwards? Maps of Australia on the final page show where the animals can be found. From cockatoos and wombats to the lesser known Irukandji jellyfish and oblong turtles, this attractive combination of vibrant illustrations and fascinating facts is sure to prove a winner with kids from Australia and around the world.


Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros, Meg McKinlay (Walker Books)
Can a rhinoceros build a boat and sail it around the world? Of course she can! When a small rhino dreams of exploring the world, the adult rhinoceroses respond with discouragement. But undeterred, the small rhino quietly and persistently goes about turning her dream into a reality. In this delightful picture book, author Meg McKinlay delivers a powerful message with her gentle, reassuring text - that all things are possible if you dare to dream! Leila Rudge’s beautiful mixed media illustrations complement the text perfectly, bringing the small rhino's journey vividly to life. Young readers will be inspired by this small rhinoceros who remains true to herself by challenging expectations.


Bree's Forest Adventure, Miriam Wei Wei Lo, illust. Emily-Rose Lochore (Margaret River Press)
This gorgeous book is the first children’s title by Margaret River Press. Written by a mother and illustrated by her teenage daughter, it tells of a girl named Bree and her family hunting for a special orchid in the Boranup Forest. The text is rhythmic and gentle, the art work is splendid, and it’s great to see a title so beautifully located in WA. This book would be a fabulous gift for a younger child and make an excellent resource for classroom discussion and activities set in the natural world.


At the Beach I See, Kamsani Bin Salleh, and At the Zoo I See, Robyn Wells, illust. Joshua Button (Magabala Books)
It's never too early to share the magic of books with your children.These two new baby board books from Magabala are certain to stimulate and engage young minds with their strong colours, clear outlines, and interesting mix of creatures and objects from the natural world. With lyrical text supporting the strong imagery, these are also books that parents will enjoy reading aloud.
At the Beach I See and At the Zoo I See are the first two releases in the ‘Young Art’ Board Book series showcasing young Indigenous artists.


 

October

Joiner Bay & Other Stories, ed. Ellen van Neerven (Margaret River Press)
This is the sixth annual collection of stories chosen from the best of those submitted for the Margaret River Short Story Competition, itself initiated and sponsored by Margaret River Press. These seventeen stories, from writers across Australia, are varied in form and content and offer many delights. The volume is bookended by two very powerful stories. The first, the futuristic ‘Sheen’, centres around a group of humanoid replicants walking through an alien, devastated landscape. Finally, and movingly, one destroys the others and is left to ‘just wait’. The last, ‘Joiner Bay’, is the compelling winning story. Beautifully structured, it captures the voice of its adolescent male narrator perfectly. His confusion at the suicide of his best friend, his relationship with his father, and the environment of his small, remote town are all consummately rendered. Many of these stories are ones readers will return to again and again.


Swimming on the Lawn, Yasmin Hamid (Fremantle Press)
Swimming on the Lawn is a pre-teen novel set in the 1960s in Khartoum, Sudan. The narrator, Farida, is widely read in British literature of the period. (Her mother is English). This is an episodic work in which there is no attempt to insert a reflective adult voice, and so there is an immediacy in the storytelling where the everyday world is registered without judgement or context. The adult reader is likely to pick up on the occasional references to soldiers or gunfire and to be aware that this is a privileged life being unveiled. Race and class issues are yet to trouble Farida’s life. At the end the reader has no more knowledge than the narrator as to why her father has been arrested, but the childhood bubble has burst and one wonders: What next?


Crooked Vows, John Watt (Wild Dingo Press)
John Watt’s Crooked Vows starts with the funeral of a Catholic priest, although the novel’s protagonist, Thomas Riordan, an ex-trainee priest himself, is reluctant to attend. Told through a series of memories retrieved in the company of a psychologist, Crooked Vows describes in clear, gentle prose, the circumstances that brought Thomas to this point. When a plane crashes on a flight from Perth to Albany, the only survivors are Thomas and a young woman, who goes missing. What Thomas remembers is beautifully described, both tragic and life-changing as he begins his journey towards better understanding his nature and his faith.


It's OK to Feel the Way You Do, Josh Langley (Big Sky Publishing)
Author-illustrator Josh Langley has created “a little book with a BIG message” to help children come to terms with their feelings. It’s OK to Feel the Way You Do traverses the myriad of emotions a person feels, explaining them, providing simple and practical approaches for dealing with them when they become too overwhelming, and reassuring the reader that feeling these emotions is normal and okay. The life-affirming, positive text is supported with simple, colourful illustrations that are designed to help you see the positive in every situation. It’s OK to Feel the Way You Do is a wonderful tool to help foster self-esteem in a child. Reading it is like receiving a warm, nurturing hug! You will be happy that you did.


Fergus the Farting Dragon, Monique Mulligan (Serendipity Press)
Ever feel like you don’t fit in? That others are all in on a joke and that joke is you? Well Fergus the Farting Dragon is definitely different and yes, the other dragons are laughing at him. Children and adults alike will crack up into giggles and snickers as Fergus farts his way to recognition in this charmingly vulgar story. Mulligan uses rhyme to introduce vocabulary such as ‘sulphurous’, ‘scrawny’, ‘mammoth’, and ‘corpse-like’, partnering Rooke’s fittingly bold, cartoon-like illustrations. This book will stimulate all sorts of important discussion, while reminding us not to take life too seriously.


September

Taboo, Kim Scott (Picador)
Taboo starts with an out-of-control semi-trailer freewheeling down a street, a hillside, spilling wheat, two humans and a skeleton as it crests to a stop in ‘massacre place.’ It is a powerful beginning tempered with a warning from its author – ‘this is no fairy tale, it is drawn from real life’. In his Afterword, Scott concedes that his fiction touches on ‘real events, people and landscape’. Storytelling, particularly in the hands of someone as accomplished as Kim Scott, will always be a political act, and this story is no exception. As a work of fiction, it is incomparable; as a work of fiction based loosely on real life, it is devastating. The novel ends as it begins, reminding the reader of the circularity of stories, how beginnings and endings are shaped by intent and weighed by landscape. It is a story of dispossession, abuse, colonialism, addiction and racism.


Bad to Worse, Robert Edeson (Fremantle Press)
Bad to Worse – in a similar vein to Robert Edeson’s first novel, The Weaver Fish – defies easy definition. It could, however, be described as a genre-bending novel located somewhere between a spaghetti western and high-tech crime fiction. Beyond its familiar postmodern credentials – designed to simultaneously assert the work’s truth-telling capacity and to undermine it – there is an entertaining, engaging, playful narrative that challenges the reader to ask: Could this really happen? In the post-truth world, loudly inhabited by figures like Donald Trump, questions of veracity are ignored at our peril. Edeson begins, slyly, with, ‘Before you lies a book of truths.’



Colour Me,
Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illust. Moira Court (Fremantle Press)
Colour Me
is a charming celebration of difference. Using the rainbow as a metaphor, Kwaymullina shapes his gentle and harmonious prose around the individual colours, using alliteration to create a rhythmic text that calls to be read aloud. Court’s bold screen print illustrations are a beautiful complement to the prose and are imbued with a tenderness that will attract children. At the book's conclusion the individual colours are brought together to demonstrate this key message: ‘But together we colour our world amazing.’ Tender and joyful, this picture book will teach children to appreciate the beauty of our vibrant diversity.


Soap, Charlotte Guest (Recent Work Press)
Soap is the debut collection of West Australian poet Charlotte Guest, written between the ages of 19-25. These poems explore the mysterious territory between girlhood and womanhood, and question notions of femininity, with all the complexity implied. As Guest writes, “The lodgings at the end of girlhood are not as advertised.” Some of the poems are immediately accessible, while others require deeper examination. Here you will meet barnacles, oceans, lovers, bodies, kitchens, nightclubs, and a dying grandmother. You will discover laughter, honesty, sadness and truth. Guest’s eye is keen. Her language is elegant and spare. This is  a wonderful book.


August

Undersummer, Graham Kershaw (Sunline Press)
In his book Undersummer Graham Kershaw considers how “all that time and tides … set apart/only simple words can hope to reconnect”. Critically aware of time’s swift passing and “how frail the scaffolding of the day”, he presents clear-sighted reconnections, especially apparent in evocative poems about revisiting the Lancashire of his birth. Now resident near Denmark, WA, he reflects how he and his family have built “by southern seas the home we never left”. He is a poet of honesty and vulnerability, not one “to wear the world lightly” – which is tough on him but marvellous for poetry readers everywhere.


Cyclones and Shadows, Pat Dudgeon, Sabrina Dudgeon, Darlene Oxenham, and Laura Dudgeon (Fremantle Press)
This wonderful little collection from Fremantle Press celebrates the trinity of family, home and the environment in an endearing prose that is sure to delight young readers. Through simple language and charming black-and-white line drawings, young readers follow the stories of Lilli and Annie as they deal with the transitional nature of home and the environment, with the support of their loving families. From magical creatures and a haunted mango tree to an awesome sports car and a terrifying cyclone, young readers are sure to be gripped by the charming world of contemporary Indigenous story-telling.


Nanna's Button Tin, Dianne Wolfer (Walker Books)
When teddy loses his button eye, Nanna comes to the rescue with her special button tin. While sorting through the buttons of various shapes and colours, Nanna shares the stories that each button holds. This leads to one other story being created, that of a very brave and special bear that loses his eye. Dianne Wolfer’s exquisite storytelling and Heather Potter’s soft, warm illustrations combine to create a gentle and loving moment between Grandmother and Grandchild. Nanna’s Button Tin reminds us that something as small, and seemingly insignificant, as a button can hold some big and significant memories.


Lintang and the Pirate Queen, Tamara Moss (Penguin)
Lintang has always dreamed of adventure, and now it has come looking for her in the shape of Shafira the Pirate Queen and her crew. But Lintang’s friend Bayani stows away on the ship, bringing with him some dangerous secrets. The pirate crew in this book is charming and unique, particularly the magnetic Shafira – and the gentle inclusion of LGBT characters is particularly exciting in a book for younger readers. Lintang and the Pirate Queen is a bright and original debut by Tamara Moss, packed with diverse characters and clever world-building.


July

Reconciliation for the Dead, Paul E. Hardisty (Affirm Press)
Reconciliation for the Dead is the third instalment in Perth-based Paul E. Hardisty’s Claymore Straker series, following on from the award-winning and best-selling The Abrupt Physics of Dying and The Evolution of Fear. Each are beautifully written, intelligent thrillers that deal with topical international issues. Both a prequel and a sequel to the other novels, Reconciliation for the Dead might just be the best yet – a powerfully imagined story set in the lawless borderlands of Angola and South Africa, where the latter government is fighting a bloody war to destabilise its neighbours. Gripping, searing and perfect in its poise and clarity, this novel lifts Hardisty to the highest rank of international thriller writers.


The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, Shokoofeh Azar (Wild Dingo Press)
Living in the 21st Century is not for the faint hearted, so it’s no surprise that writers of literary fiction are looking clear-eyed at schisms of times past and the capacity of humans for brutality. Stylistically similar to Eka Kurniawan’s acclaimed Beauty is a Wound, this novel is set in the aftermath of Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. Many scenes, most memorably Azar’s handling of Beeta’s fate, blend heavy darkness with allegorical flights of imagination, marking the author as an assured fabulist. She brings to colourful life an extended family replete with beauty, humour and tragedy.


One Thousand Trees, Kyle Hughes-Odgers (Fremantle Press)
Deep in the heart of the city, Frankie dreams of a thousand trees.
This thought-provoking picture book by Kyle Hughes-Odgers takes the reader on a journey of contemplation with illustrations contrasting the dark, grey urban environment with that of the lush, calm, and almost ethereal quality of the forest. Sparse in words but rich in meaning, One Thousand Trees evokes questions about our connection with nature, conservation, and sustainability, but ultimately the role of art and nature in the urban environment. One Thousand Trees is an exquisitely illustrated book that could be treasured by both young and old. From one read it seems a simple tale but it will stay with you and keep you pondering until you realise the complexities it tackles and the beauty it inspires.


The Spectacular Spencer Gray, Deb Fitzpatrick (Fremantle Press)
“Why does crazy stuff always happen to me?”
How can it be that one day you are just playing football with your mates and the next thing you know you are involved in the most dangerous adventure? For Spencer Gray, an ordinary boy, the extraordinary seems to always find him. The Spectacular Spencer Gray is the follow up to Deb Fitzpatrick’s successful junior fiction novel The Amazing Spencer Gray. It takes the reader on yet another exciting escapade whereby Spencer accidentally finds himself in the middle of an animal smuggling operation. Relying on his best problem-solving skills, Spencer must find a way to not only rescue the endangered animals but save himself!  Deb Fitzpatrick’s Spencer Gray books are engaging and full of adventure, with a protagonist who uses courage and ingenuity to get out of the most extraordinary of situations in a spectacular fashion!


On the Way to Nana's, Frances Haji-Ali and Lindsay Haji-Ali, illustrated by David Hardy (Magabala Books)
Francis and Lindsay Haji-Ali invite you to come with them on a road trip to Nana’s house. On The Way To Nana’s has you counting backwards while you take in the incredible scenery and the unique wildlife of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The beautiful and entertaining illustrations by David Hardy truly capture the essence of the Kimberley, but also the feeling of being on a family car ride and taking in the sights along the way. On The Way To Nana’s is jam-packed full of counting, rhymes and repetition. And although it is great to see Nana at the end story, you have that immediate feeling that you need to get back in the car and take the journey over and over again!


Dear Banjo, Sasha Wasley (Penguin)
Debut WA author Sasha Wasley has created a heartfelt love story set against the vibrant backdrop of WA’s Kimberley region. On neighbouring cattle stations, childhood friends Willow Paterson and Tom Forrest share goals and ideals about the future of the farms they are set to take over one day. But when Tom breaks an adolescent pact made by Willow, she is not prepared to forgive him. Ten years on, Willow ‘Banjo’ Paterson, is forced to return to take over Patterson Downs Station and must come to terms with Tom and the unread letters he sent to her long ago. Lovers of rural romance, add this to your must-read list and prepare to have your heartstrings plucked.

 
June

Marlborough Man, Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)
Meet Nick Chester, recently arrived copper from Sunderland and the new sergeant at the Havelock Police Station in New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. He’s a man with some serious criminals after him and a lot to lose, namely his wife and son. They live on a glorious bush block but the spectre of past enemies is never far away and dark and terrible murders are terrifying the locals. Marlborough Man weaves local politics, culture and crime into a story that is gripping and at times brimming with Kiwi humour. The scenery, so beautifully described, could almost be a character in the story. Grab a copy of this book, but don’t expect to get anything done until it's finished - it is fast-paced and its wonderful characters will leave you wanting more!



To the Lighthouse, Cristy Burne (Fremantle Press)
To the Lighthouse is a cautionary tale about … caution. Whether you have too much or too little, either way it can be a problem. Isaac and his new bestie Emmy discover this for themselves when they decide to accept the biggest dare of their young lives. This book could easily have become didactic in less skillful hands, but Burne avoids this. Instead she demonstrates a lightness of touch and great empathy for both a child’s desire to expand his horizons and a parent’s desire to keep her child safe. The result is a beaut adventure story that will keep young readers engaged to the very end. As with anything, Burne demonstrates that when it comes to exercising caution, it’s all about finding the right balance.



Mrs White and the Red Desert, Josie Boyle, illust. Maggie Prewett (Magabala Books)
The children’s house and garden might be higgledy piggledy but it’s their home. By inviting their teacher, Mrs White to see it for herself, they hope she will finally understand why their homework isn’t always in perfect condition. When the special day arrives Mrs White, in her Daisy Bates helmet, can only be caught in the swirl of events. This charming story is brought vividly to life by Maggie Prewett’s exuberant paintings which perfectly capture the rusty disorder, as well as the delights, of life in the desert. Highly recommended.



Talk of the Town, Rachael Johns (Harlequin)
Author Rachael Johns proves once again why she is Australia’s queen of the rural romance genre. Talk of the Town is the story of Lawson Cooper-Jones and his plight to save his family’s dairy farm. When his young son takes a shine to the mysterious Meg, who has taken up residence in the general store of a nearby abandoned town, Lawson can’t help but be captivated by her too. As the pair set out to solve the mystery behind the old store, a meddler and past misdemeanours come together, unravelling secrets that threaten to destroy the romance developing between them. A great winter-weekend read.


The Orphanarium, S.T. Cartledge (Eraserhead Press)
Daff, Dil and Cyberia live in the Orphanarium, a self-contained habitat ruled over by the Jingo Monitor Lizards. One day, Cyberia leads them to the World Cactus, whose thorns are the keys to unlocking memories of the future, and the truth of the world is revealed: the Orphanarium is at war with the outside, and the Elementals from beyond the habitat are winning. S.T. Cartledge weaves a surreal landscape in this dystopian novel, utilising poetic rhythms and language to create a narrative dissonance that keeps the reader entangled. An ambitious literary experiment that rewards careful reading by fans of slipstream works.


May

Stepping Off: Rewilding and Belonging in the South-West, Thomas M. Wilson (Fremantle Press)
Near the end of this fine book, Wilson states that ‘sedentary and urbanised peoples are more likely to suffer from a deficit of ecological intelligence’. Stepping Off is an informed and articulate plea that, as individuals and as a society, we redress this deficit and engage more meaningfully with our natural environment. Passion shines through in Wilson’s contemplation of metropolitan development and settlement of the south-west, and he advocates ‘personal rewilding’ as we look to ‘ancient realities’ to inform our choices.



The Hidden Hours, Sara Foster (Simon & Schuster)
Sara Foster knows a lot about secrets — and about the damage that can be done when people hold onto them. In The Hidden Hours, secrets are piling up all over the place. Eleanor, who has travelled to London to escape the demons of  her traumatic childhood, is horrified to find herself caught at the centre of a murder investigation. As the narrative progresses, the backstory of Eleanor’s harrowing childhood in Australia is spliced with her present-day quest to discover who has killed Arabella Lane. Foster weaves a tight tale, ratcheting suspense and creating an intense atmosphere of claustrophobia as Eleanor races to uncover what is hidden. Grab a copy of this compelling novel and then settle into a comfortable chair, because once you begin reading you won’t want to get up until you’ve reached the final page.


Derby, David Whish-Wilson and Sean Gorman (Fremantle Press)
Do not dismiss this book as another ‘blokey’ bible on stats and averages, bursting with brawn and boofheads. Yes, it is about football and yes, it does spruik a few stats, but it’s more than that. It’s a homecoming, a history lesson, and an insight into team loyalty in WA. Co-authored by friendly rivals David Whish-Wilson and Sean Gorman, Derby is an intimate collection of WA voices, revealing their devout love for their teams and the stories that led them to choose between West Coast and the Dockers. At the end of this entertaining and modestly revealing book, you’ll feel like you spent time with old friends. A great read and a great gift for any footy fan.



The Missing Pieces of Us, Fleur McDonald (Allen & Unwin)
Fleur McDonald fans will be delighted with this latest book, an intergenerational story that explores themes of identity, teenage rites of passage, and personal growth. The central characters, 14-year-old Skye and her mother Lauren, navigate their oft-fraught mother-teenager relationship which is vastly complicated by Lauren’s melanoma diagnosis and Skye’s sense of isolation. The emotional backdrop to this story is Lauren’s knowledge of having been adopted and the sense that she is missing something. Then we meet Tamara, a young woman struggling with self-sabotaging behaviours. Skye and Tamara become friends and that’s where the plot thickens! No spoilers here though; you’ll need to grab yourself a copy to find out how it all ends.




1, 2, Pirate Stew, Kylie Howarth (Five Mile Press)
It’s time to put on your best paper pirate hat, ‘round up the crew’ and take to the high seas on a rollicking adventure in search of the ultimate pirate treasure … carrots?  Kylie Howarth’s latest offering, 1,2, Pirate Stew, taps into the delights of imaginative play: how a cardboard box and the routine of getting ready for dinner can become an adventure and a whole lot of fun for children. Full of counting and rhyme and accompanied by engaging illustrations that create juxtaposition between imagination and reality, 1,2, Pirate Stew will quickly become a firm favourite with your little ones and will inspire them to go on their own adventures.



Looking Up, Sally Murphy (Fremantle Press)
Growing up can be confusing and complicated, especially if your family has history that no-one will discuss. When an unexpected birthday card arrives just before Pete's tenth birthday, he and his best friend Tyler decide to use their initiative to unravel a family mystery. And when Pete discovers that his interest in astronomy has connections he'd never imagined, he also learns something about the unbreakable bonds shared within families. As the title implies, Looking Up is an affirming story, neatly demonstrating that life's lessons can be learnt at any age.


April

Snake Like Charms, Amanda Joy (UWA Publishing)
The word that comes most readily to mind in describing the poetry of Amanda Joy is ‘surprising’. Like the numerous snakes inhabiting this collection, the poet can lie still, camouflaged in verses of natural and sometimes rugged beauty before striking with sudden precision. Her movement within a poem can be exhilarating – and, as with snakes, it isn’t always easy to see how it works. An impressive volume both in stylistic range and the scope of its subject matter, Snake Like Charms shows Joy most at home in nature, observing human relationships and visceral landscapes with the wary eye of one untamed.


Benang, Kim Scott (Fremantle Press)
Republished 2017 in the 'Treasures' series
Following its inital publication, Kim Scott’s second novel Benang was the joint winner of the prestigious Miles Franklin Award in 2000. The novel tells the story of one Aboriginal man’s struggle for meaningful identity in early twentieth-century Western Australia, a society in which racist ideology seeks to dehumanise, indeed eradicate altogether, the indigenous population. Blending fictionalised family history, archival material, magic realism, and a poetic rendering of the indigenous connection to the land, Benang shifts from anger and lament to a celebration of the resilience and sense of community of Aboriginal culture. Beautifully written and profoundly moving, its exploration of the psychosis of racism and its plea for justice and compassion continue to powerfully resonant in contemporary white Australia.


Rubik, Elizabeth Tan (Brio Books)
Elizabeth Tan’s debut novel-in-stories Rubik is a puzzle whose pieces initially appear so disparate that one cannot imagine how they are to meaningfully connect. The death of Elena Rubik. A multi-purpose octopus. A piano teacher’s disappearance. A conspiracy in film, if one looks close enough. Tan soon reveals the astounding cleverness of her narrative, interweaving layers of reality and thoughtful social commentary so deftly, you can almost hear the ‘click’ of a Rubik’s Cube as Jules Valentine – Elena’s best friend – advances on an adventure involving many moving pieces. Contemplative and experimental, Tan’s Perth-based fiction is thoroughly refreshing and reveals a new local talent to be celebrated.


 

Twenty Two Years to Life, Mohammed Massoud Morsi (Mohammed Hussein Miheasen)
Twenty Two Years to Life is the story of a young man and woman who fall in love, get married, and plan a family together. It is perhaps the most ‘normal’ story in the world – a love story. Except that in the life of this deeply devoted couple ‘normal’ is also a harsh world of permits, razor wire, scarcity and fear. The dichotomy between love and oppression echoes through this powerful narrative, taking the reader on a shifting journey between the delicate and the devastating. In Twenty Two Years to Life Morsi, writing with tremendous empathy, has distilled a political conflict into a very human, visceral story. In doing so he asks us all to consider what a person bereft of hope might eventually become capable of.


My River Sanctuary, Robin Bower (RB Publishing)
Set by the Swan River in South Perth, My River Sanctuary weaves a heart-warming story around two women. Kim, a Chinese-Australian woman, is yearning for connection with her teenage son and with her own heritage. She enlists the help of Ara, a newly arrived asylum seeker from Afghanistan to re-build her father’s market garden into a modern-day urban farm. The garden’s smells, textures and bounty fill Kim and Ara with memories and connection beyond their own imaginings. Told across a thrity-year time span, My River Sanctuary is a big story of love, rejection, prejudice and identity, and throughout, that big old river, constant as ever, rolls on.


Her Mother's Secret, Natasha Lester (Hachette Australia)
At its heart Her Mother’s Secret is a love story played out against the backdrop of the Roaring Twenties. Ambitious chemist Leonora East leaves her home in England seeking an opportunity to create accessible cosmetics for all women in a time where lipstick and mascara were a taboo, the devil’s tonic of loose women, movie stars and harlots. In this, her second historical fiction novel, Natasha Lester recounts a vibrant depiction of post-war New York and the birth of women’s liberation in a post-war society. This is a captivating tale, eloquently written and engaging to the last page. Her Mothers Secret is yet another reminder of how far women have come, a signature theme which Lester has firmly put her stamp on.


March

The Perth Freight Link: Stranger than Fiction, David Whish-Wilson (The Monthly Essays, March 2017)
In this compelling essay for The Monthly, Whish-Wilson has married his deep knowledge of Perth's social and environmental development with the sensibility that perhaps only a crime writer can bring to the complex, murky story of 'Roe 8' and the Perth Freight Link (PFL). He methodically and eloquently unpacks the history of the contentious project, citing experts' reports and modelling that recommend against the project but have been ignored; pointing to layers of bureaucracy and legislation that have been side-stepped or dealt with simply through retrospective re-writing; and questioning the manner in which private sector contracts have been awarded. While Whish-Wilson's case against the PFL is laid out with surgical precision, a deeply poignant take-away from this essay is the image of large flocks of the endangered Carnaby's black cockatoo endlessly circling the now devastated wetlands ...



Ways of Being Here, Rafeif Ismail, Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes, Tinashe Jakwa and Yuot Alaak (Margaret River Press and Centre for Stories)
Don't let its size fool you - this little volume of four short stories by four Western Australian-based writers of African descent packs a big literary punch. This is a powerful collection of stories that speak of loss, of family and belonging, of identity, of memory, of horrendous acts of brutality and small acts of kindness. Each one is bold, brave, disturbing, and above all beautifully written, and each will reward re-reading. Ways of Being Here is another impressive title in MRP's expanding list, giving voice to alternative experiences and bringing four new writers to well-deserved attention.


Bloodlines, Nicole Sinclair (Margaret River Press)
Interweaving two narratives that shift between a close-knit farming community in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt and village life in the islands of Papua New Guinea, Bloodlines contrasts the story of thirty-year old Beth, struggling to come to terms with a recent tragedy, with the story of her parents, Clem and Rose, and their intense love for each other. Exploring the attachments that we form to those places we call home and the strength – and complexities – of the bonds that grow within families and communities, Bloodlines is a novel about belonging and about recognising your place in the world. This is an ambitious, big-hearted, at times confronting novel from an exciting new voice in Western Australian literature.


Before You Forget, Julia Lawrinson (Penguin Random House)
Established young adult author Lawrinson takes on new ground in this tragi-comic exploration of the impact of early-onset Alzheimer's on a family. Told through the eyes of Year 12 art student Amelia, the story is unflinching in its description of the effects of this heartbreaking disease, but leavened throughout with heart and humour. As Amelia navigates the difficult terrain of adolescence, she must also come to terms with her father's personality change, erratic behaviour, and subsequent diagnosis, and renegotiate her relationship with both parents as