2018 Reviews


November

Kathleen O'Connor of Paris by Amanda CurtinKathleen O'Connor of Paris, Amanda Curtin (Fremantle Press)
Part travel narrative and part biography, this stunning book resurrects the famous daughter of a famous father as an artist, iconoclast and visionary in her own right. When Kathleen O’Connor left Perth for Paris in 1906, she had little support, money or understanding from family of her desire to live and paint in Paris. Her father, C.Y. O’Connor, had recently committed suicide caused possibly by overwork and depression over financial worries. Kathleen O'Connor's career as an artist in Paris lasted more than forty years, punctuated by two visits back to Perth, where she eventually died in August 1968. This is a brilliantly researched book with beautiful illustrations and footnotes. It is also quiet, restrained, philosophical and reflexive. It asks questions of us as readers, voyeurs and consumers.


Stories of PerthStories of Perth, various contributors, ed. Alice Grundy (Brio Books)
This short fiction collection by twelve local emerging and established writers is a cleverly juxtaposed and well-written treat. Each piece highlights a different aspect of  Perth: an Indigenous woman reflects deeply as she walks the city; a meth addict struggles; an Ethiopian man endeavours to settle; a high-school teacher comes off anti-depressants on the last day of term; an expectant mother loses her baby. Add a wicked tale of graffiti artists, an Indian birthday party, peacocks, and a same-sex love affair and you have a kaleidoscopic insight into what makes us in this place.


The Happiness Box by Mark GreenwoodThe Happiness Box, Mark Greenwood, illust. Andrew McLean (Walker Books)
A beautiful tale about the power of words, The Happiness Box is the inspirational true story of a book that survived the ravages of WWII to become a National Treasure. Mark Greenwood’s sparse, eloquent text is accompanied by detailed pen and watercolour images from Andrew McLean outlining the treatment of the prisoners of war and their determination to improve the lives of the children interned in Changi prison in Singapore. It is a story of courage and hope versus adversity. After the plethora of books published for the centenary of the First World War, this uplifting tale is a welcome change. Biographical information about the original author and illustrator (Sir David Griffin CBE and Captain (Herbert) Leslie Greener) plus a list of sources will be much appreciated by history teachers and this book will be a useful addition to school and public libraries.


Zeroes and Ones by Cristy BurneZeroes & Ones, Cristy Burne (Brio Books)
Take a trip through technology’s history, starting with old friends like Ada Lovelace and moving through to CAPTCHA tests and the high achievers of more recent times. Zeroes and Ones is visually arresting in black, white, and pops of yellow. Information in small chunks of text is rounded out with graphics-style illustrations, amusing historical anecdotes, quotes and weird facts, and historical photographs with humorous captions. At the end of each chapter readers are offered a set of philosophical questions and activity challenges. Readers are also asked to consider the negatives that arise from advancements in technology − think advertising, privacy issues … and a possible robot apocalypse. Whether they dip in or read through chronologically, upper primary students will find this an entertaining and informative tour of the milestones of technology. (Bring pizza.)


Every family is differentEvery Family is Different, Maureen Eppen, illust. Veronica Rooke (Serenity Press)
This book outlines the various combinations which may constitute a modern-day family, from the traditional mum and dad with kids through to blended or extended families and everything in between − including a single person with a beloved pet. The main message is that regardless of the composition of the family unit there is always love present, with the phrase Every Family is Different accentuated with a stylised heart replacing the diacritic dot above the “i”. This book is positive and upbeat and offers a simple, effective way of opening up discussion on what makes a family, especially with very young children.


Monster PartyMonster Party, The children from Rawa with Alison Lester and Jane Godwin (Magabala Books)
A group of monsters come out of the ground and start a party at Dora Lake. Eating chips and cake, galumphing, hopping, prowling and growling, these monsters get up to all kind of mischief.  But when they decide to come to school the next day, that’s the last straw! Monster Party was written by Alison Lester and Jane Godwin, in collaboration with the children from Rawa Community School. This fun-filled narrative, filled with colourful and creative monsters, is wonderful to read aloud. It is sure to make your own little “monster” want to get up to stomp, prowl, growl and howl along with the story.


October

The Children's House by Alice NelsonThe Children's House, Alice Nelson (Random House)
A wealthy Jewish couple moves into a brownstone house in Harlem once occupied by a community of elderly nuns. The couple, Marina and Jacob, arrive at the house with complex and troubling personal histories, each escaping a past that neither wants to recollect or resolve. Jacob’s young son Ben is dealing with his own abandonment, and Rwandan refugee Constance and her child Gabriel, are drawn into this family’s circle of uneasy hope. This novel is as much about families dealing with their collective pasts as it is about the larger issues of homelessness caused by violence, genocide and social experimentation. Beautifully written in a gentle, reflective style, The Children’s House is also intelligent and fierce as it tackles the tricky terrain of religion, culture, parenthood and privilege. Alice Nelson is a thoughtful and lyrical writer, and this is a shining, generous novel that responds to questions of appropriation with beauty and wisdom.


The Valley by Steve HawkeThe Valley, Steve Hawke (Fremantle Press)
The Valley is Steve Hawke’s stunning first novel for adults. Set in the Kimberley, mostly in Bunuba country, the novel charts four generations of a family whose secretive lives are centred on a hidden valley that once sheltered frontier war hero Jandamarra. As the descendants trickle from the valley to work the nearby cattle stations, an incident in Broome brings a father and son home to country, seeking answers. The narrative skilfully moves backward and forward through time, as well as laterally, resulting in a circular storytelling style that deftly gathers all the strands of history together as the novel veers toward its startling conclusion. The Valley is a generous and heartwarming story that is beautifully written, bringing the characters and country to vivid life.


The Palace of Angels by MorsiThe Palace of Angels, Mohammed Massoud Morsi (Mohammed Hussein Miheasen)
During this period in history, when this month’s Australian Prime Minister considers it may be ‘sensible’ to relocate Australia’s Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem, it may also be timely to consider the point of view of someone who has first-hand and personal knowledge of the conflict between Palestinians and Jews. The Palace of Angels is the third novel in a trilogy in which the author attempts to make sense of this conflict from the point of view of individuals – the individuals for whom it is their daily experience.  As in his previous two novels, Morsi has distilled the political into the very, very personal. For Linah and Adnan, their story is a version of the Romeo and Juliet story – two people denied the freedom to love whom they choose because of the constructs of others. Ultimately, what is Morsi’s “Palace of Angels”? It is a place of peace.


Sisters and Brothers by Fiona PalmerSisters and Brothers, Fiona Palmer (Hachette)
For readers who love a bit of family intrigue, Fiona Palmer’s latest novel will appeal. Set in Perth, this evocative and joyful story focuses on the lives of five characters. The central character, Bill, is grieving and feels like he has little to live for. We then meet Sarah, Emma, Michelle and Adam and follow the threads of their lives as each one struggles to find happiness in their respective worlds. Palmer deftly weaves this often poignant and compelling narrative between these characters, connecting their stories into a larger, more meaningful narrative.  No spoilers here, though – you’ll need to grab a copy!


Black Cockatoo by Carl Merrison and Hakea HustlerBlack Cockatoo, Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler (Magabala Books)
When Jy uses his shanghai to knock a dirran black cockatoo from a tree, his sister Mia’s instinct to rescue the bird takes over. She soon finds that standing up to her brother is the least of her concerns as she cares for the dirran, her totem animal. Set in the remote Kimberley, this beautifully written vignette explores the fragility of relationships with family, culture and country. Where do I belong?  How far can I fly and if I go will I still have somewhere to come back to? Subtle and touching, Black Cockatoo reaches into the heart and will speak to anyone’s need to find their place in this world and the freedom to do so.


Gastronauts by James FoleyGastronauts, James Foley (Fremantle Press)
Twelve-year-old Sally Tinker is back with her latest invention! But calamity strikes when her baby brother swallows the contents of a test tube containing the invention and the army of smartbots programmed to protect it, along with a shrinkified Sally and her friend Charli. Sally and Charli must journey inside Joe’s body, outsmart the smartbots, and shut down the invention before Joe is turned into a superbaby supervillain. Primary-aged readers will love this third instalment in Foley’s hilarious S. Tinker Inc. series of graphic novels. In keeping with the shrinkification theme, observant eyes will find bonus jokes and visual gags in miniature. Adventure, young scientists, endless fart jokes, tiny attack bots, and a comic book format – this book has it all!


More and More and More by Ian MutchMore and More and More, Ian Mutch (Fremantle Press)
A timely tale in this modern era of rampant consumerism, More and More and More by Ian Mutch introduces us to Henry and Kate, two delightful characters who love collecting stuff. As they amass more and more treasures the frenetic rhyming text also gathers momentum and the story hurtles breathlessly towards its conclusion. A quirky, clever exploration of what happens when more becomes too much and the question of just how much is enough, this picture book simply begs to be read aloud and will become a firm favourite at bedtime and library story time sessions. The book is beautifully produced and young readers will particularly delight in identifying many of the objects in the detailed endpapers as well as the colourful spreads.


September

Meet Me at the IntersectionMeet Me at the Intersection, edited by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina (Fremantle Press)
This powerful anthology of short stories, memoir and poetry is an important and compelling contribution to the ‘Own Voices’ literary movement in Australia. This collection showcases stories by First Nations people, people living with a disability, People of Colour, and LGBTIQA+ individuals. Authenticity is on every page: Kyle Lynch’s voice is raw and real in Dear Mate, the story of an Aboriginal man looking for work; while Amra Pajalic’s Bosnian migrant tries and fails to negotiate suburban Melbourne with devastating honesty in School of Hard Knocks. The urgency of youth permeates: many writers revisit childhood trauma, as Yvette Walker does in her gripping Telephone, a conversation with her thirteen-year-old closeted lesbian self. Olivia Muscat’s memoir Harry Potter and the Disappearing Pages is emblematic of this anthology: as the narrator loses her sight, her need to be seen – and understood – only increases.


Athenian Blues by Pol KoutsakisAthenian Blues, Pol Koutsakis (Bitter Lemon Press)
Perth has a new world-class crime writer in its midst and his name is Pol Koutsakis. Greek-born Koutsakis has created a tightly packed mystery that moves between the backstreets and migrant suburbs of post-GFC Athens and the glamorous mansions and film sets populated by the still-rich. Narrated by Stratos Gazis, an ‘ethical’ contract killer and man of few words whose closest friends are a homicide detective and a transgender sex-worker, Athenian Blues is a contemporary crime novel that also owes a stylistic debt to the noir films of 1940s Hollywood. Sharp dialogue and a textured story leading to an unexpectedly dark ending make Athenian Blues an impressive crime debut. Stratos Gazis is an antihero you will want to spend more time with – which means you should probably also grab a copy of Baby Blue, the second novel in the series.


Catching Teller CrowCatching Teller Crow, Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina (Allen & Unwin)
An intriguing and thrilling tale, Catching Teller Crow is part detective mystery novel, part ghost story and will hook readers from the first page. Alternating between deft prose and lyrical verse, the two distinctive voices gradually weave together before merging into a poignant, satisfying conclusion. Themes of grief, survival and justice are skilfully explored as Detective Michael Teller, struggling to adapt after the sudden death of his daughter, attempts to unravel the mystery of a devastating fire in a remote country children’s home. This accomplished tale from respected brother/sister writing duo Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina will resonate with YA readers. Secondary school teachers will find it an ideal starting point for studies of Australian and Aboriginal history and exploration of themes such as feminism, Indigenous identity and culture and the role of women in society.


Vodka and Apple JuiceVodka & Apple Juice, Jay Martin (Fremantle Press)
Jay Martin's memoir takes us from her ordinary life as a senior public servant in Canberra to her experiences as a diplomat's wife in Poland. Although Jay throws herself into her new life with vigour, learning the language and immersing herself in the culture, she is challenged by her daily interactions with shop assistants, fellow expats, and the weather, which take a toll on her relationship. Her witty observations, verbatim translations of her attempts at Polish, and keen eye for human foibles across cultures make this memoir a joy to read. As well, it is an informative view of a Poland most of us in the West know little about, and of the way history shapes national character.


A Question of Belonging by Tangea TansleyA Question of Belonging, Tangea Tansley (Arena Books)
When Ronnie is suddenly widowed and left with little choice but to continue to work the family farm on her own, she must dig deep to fight the emotional isolation of her new life and find the grit and determination to make a success of it - not just for herself but for her young son Rudi and those who work on the farm. Set during the tumultuous 1978 civil war on the border of Rhodesia and Mozambique, A Question of Belonging paints beautifully the juxtaposition of the yearning to belong on a personal level, when surrounded by uncertainty and political unrest. Tangea Tansley’s deeply engaging narrative will have you reflecting on your own sense of belonging.


straight lines by Sanna Pedenstraight lines, Sanna Peden (Mulla Mulla Press)
straight lines is the first poetry collection by Sanna Peden, who has “an activist streak, a background in film studies and cultural history and a chronic interest in the odd, weird, sad and speculative.”  Peden’s work is deceptively simple yet very powerful. It is political, poignant and pointed, abundant with potent lines and provoking ideas. Many of the poems are located in Western Australia, specifically Fremantle, but others are situated in Malaysia, Prague and the British Museum. There is a playful amount of intertextual referencing of other poets, including Bob Dylan and Sylvia Plath.


August

Simply IngSimply Ing, Helen Nellie, as told to Margaret O'Brien (Magabala Books)
NAIDOC Week 2018 celebrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women and the significant roles they have played – and continue to play – in their communities. Helen Ing Nellie is one of those remarkable women, a strong, proud Noongar, and the story she tells in Simply Ing is in part a celebration and recognition of such women’s lives. It is also in part an often tragic recounting of the long-term effects of cultural dispossession, including the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families and communities, and of Ing’s struggle to regain her Noongar identity. It is, however, told with humour and compassion, and despite her often desperate circumstances, Ing sums up her long life as a good one, with many joys.


Off the Track by Cristy BurneOff the Track, Cristy Burne (Fremantle Press)
During a bushwalk on the Bibbulmun Track, Harry and Deepika find themselves separated from their parents, in fading daylight – armed only with what’s in their backpacks and what Deepika already knows about the bush. As they walk the track early in book, Deepika points out local flora and fauna, highlights safety considerations, and wins over a reluctant Harry to the thrill of being independent in the wild. The inclusion of occasional black and white illustrations by Amanda Burnett adds humour and interest, and will appeal to young readers. An engaging junior novel, Off the Track reminds us to look up from our phones and appreciate the world around us. In an age when outdoor activity has to compete with screen time, Burne shines a light on the joys of exploring the Australian bush.


Maximus by Steve HeronMaximus, Steve Heron (Serenity Press)
Who would ever be a teenager again? The inexplicable waves of emotions, confusing social situations, family discord; it’s all awkward and frankly exhausting. As Mitch, our main character, valiantly tries to navigate the pitfalls, it’s no wonder he seeks solace in the company of his backyard magpie mate, Maximus. Steve Heron faithfully recreates the experience of early adolescence in an identifiable Australian setting with a story rich in credible characters and events. Sometimes we read for entertainment and fun and sometimes to learn, or find wise counsel, in Maximus, you’ll find it all.


Always Another Country by Sisonke MsimangAlways Another Country: a memoir of exile and home, Sisonke Msimang (Text Publishing)
This eloquent, moving and heartfelt memoir will have readers riveted from start to end. Born in exile to ANC freedom fighters, Sisonke lived in various parts of Africa, Canada and the US before settling “home” after the fall of apartheid. Each chapter is a story re-telling that imparts an important life lesson. Sisonke’s passion, idealism and courage beam true from every page, characterising what is often very fragile hope for herself and her family in South Africa. Nevertheless she is in possession of an indomitable spirit that clearly shines through. Readers will love this book for its exquisite and gutsy storytelling. Highly recommended reading.


The moon's reminder by Kevin Gillamthe moon's reminder, Kevin Gillam (Ginninderra Press)
Kevin Gillam’s latest poetry book, the moon’s reminder, published by Ginninderra Press, is a handsome collection of the poet’s recent work. With poems dancing around Mothers (and others), Maps, Masks, Moths and Moons, Gillam again shows himself a master of rhythm. By orchestrating succinct descriptions punctuated by exact phrases, words and silences the poet-cellist lifts the old and wonderful out of the mundane. In this collection in particular Gillam’s musicality is palpable in every line. One should read these poems aloud and be lulled into the lives of lovers and laneways. A collection to be savoured and appreciated for its measure, its music and its meaning.


The Wounded Sinner by Gus HendersonThe Wounded Sinner, Gus Henderson (Magabala Books)
An old man is dying in a grand house in suburban Perth. His son Matthew drives from the small dusty town of Leonora every three weeks to check in on him and give his regular carer a break. Matthew’s de facto wife, Jeanie, is an Aboriginal woman who is trying to find out what happened to her family before she was fostered out to a white pastor who raised her as his daughter. She feels disconnected yet drawn to the small town which holds the secret of her identity; and also closes in on her in ways she cannot understand. Her daughter Jaylene is canny and wise beyond her years while the town’s Mr Fixit, Ben Poulson has his eye on both mother and daughter. This is a story of men who do not behave with honour, and of the women trying to make a go of their lives, despite inattention, betrayal and neglect. In his debut novel, Gus Henderson uses landscape and loss to determine the negotiations his characters make in the chaos of their lives. Tackling misogyny, racism and identity through the “thorny clutter of a wasted life” this novel is an important addition to West Australian literature.


July

How to be Held by Maddie GodfreyHow to Be Held, Maddie Godfrey (Burning Eye Books)
In this debut poetry collection Godfrey explores a variety of issues with grit and grace: relationships, gender politics, the body, friendship, love, trauma, sorrow, delight. The language is not demanding but the subject matter commands attention. The work is by turns poignant, challenging, intimate and tender. It locates itself everywhere: on an aeroplane, in a bed, on the street, in a library book, inside the human heart. Maddie Godfrey is a performance poet who has built a reputation for honesty and strong delivery, and her written voice is equally punchy and powerful.


The Coves by David Whish-WilsonThe Coves, David Whish-Wilson (Fremantle Press)
Fans of David Whish-Wilson’s trilogy of crime novels featuring Frank Swann will recognise his superb storytelling style and elegant prose in this gripping new work of historical fiction that binds the Swan River colony to gold rush era California. San Francisco in 1850 is a frontier town – lawless, corrupt, full of competing gangs, ramshackle buildings, and gold fever. The rough-and-tumble life is vividly portrayed in the quarter called Sydney Cove, which is full of Australians. Into this milieu steps Sam Bellamy, a twelve-year-old in search of his prostitute mother. Keeping a lookout for this wily but sensitive (and vulnerable) boy in this threatening environment are two nefarious members of the Sydney Coves gang, Keane and Clement. Throughout the narrative, connections are established between life in the New World and Sam’s earlier life at the Swan River. This lively, engaging novel, which is based on historical events and characters, will appeal to a wide range of readers and offers many talking points for book clubs.


A Month of Sundays by Liz ByrskiA Month of Sundays, Liz Byrski (Pan Macmillan)
Four women – Ros, Simone, Judy and Adele – are women of a certain age who are members of an online book club. When Adele is offered a house-sit in the Blue Mountains, she invites the others to join her for a month. The idea is to get to know each other better, and to take turns offering a beloved book for a weekly literary discussion. Adele, professionally adept but not always competent in her personal life, suggests the idea with hesitation but to her surprise the others agree. Each of the women is dealing with life issues, and their personal journeys intersect in fruitful ways with the books they discuss. Knitting, bush walks, shared meals, wine, and the odd drama or two make the month a wonderful time. This is a fun read for anyone interested in books, friendship and growing older graciously.


Hive by A.J.BettsHive, A.J. Betts (Pan Macmillan)
A.J. Betts' post-apocalyptic novel depicts a society that lives – architecturally and socially – like bees in a hive. It is a contained world of three hundred people with fixed roles – like beekeeper, gardener, engineer and seeder. At the top is the god-like judge – a woman – who has a son, Will. At first he appears to be the enemy of the heroine, Hayley, but later transforms into the handsome prince.   In spite of the strangeness of the setting, which at times tests the reader’s capacity to conceive of how it works as an entity, the narrative is a more familiar coming-of-age story – where girls are excited by the prospect of marriage and producing a baby, while boys are diffident and awkward about being co-opted into this project. All is well in this controlled socialist society until Hayley begins to ask questions. This is an intriguing, fast-paced novel which raises some big issues; readers will eagerly anticipate the next instalment in the series.


Duck! by Meg McKinlayDuck!, Meg McKinlay, Illust. Nathaniel Eckstrom (Walker Books)
Duck may not have much to say, other than his/her name, apparently but the other farmyard creatures ignore it at their peril. Young readers will revel in turning the pages in this hilarious tale and tracking the progress towards inevitable disaster as the poor misunderstood duck shouts increasingly loudly only to be accused of attention-seeking, rudeness and prejudice. The exuberant illustrations by Nathaniel Eckstrom cheekily convey the increasing bewilderment, frustration and impotence Duck feels as his public service message is ignored to the detriment of the previously quiet farmyard. An ideal read-aloud, this delightful book invites audience participation and reminds adults that even little folk, as author Meg McKinlay pertinently notes in her dedication, may have important things to say!


Benny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean-UpBenny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean-Up, Sally Morgan, Illust. Ambelin Kwaymullina (Magabala Books)
Mother-daughter duo Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina continue their creative collaboration in this environmentally themed picture book, which has much to offer young readers. Vibrant illustrations and rhythmic, onomatopoeic language tell the tale of Benny Bungarra, a goanna whose fun in the sun is interrupted when he finds his bush friends endangered by waste left behind by humans. Ingenuity and teamwork are front and centre as Benny first rescues his friends, then enlists their help to tackle the bigger picture. Packed with child appeal, this timely story gently underscores the crucial “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” message, emphasising the importance – and fun! – of the whole community working together for change.


June

We are Not Most People by Tracy Ryan

We Are Not Most People, Tracy Ryan (Transit Lounge)
This engrossing novel charts the relationship between Terry Riley, a sensitive young woman once drawn to convent life who did not continue on this path, and Kurt Stocker, an older man who was formerly her high-school teacher. A divorced Swiss emigre, Kurt spent time in a seminary and also wrestles with issues of faith. The relationship between these two very different people is an unusual one. Although emotionally complex and sensual, it is never fully consummated in the usual way. Although We Are Not Most People is a page-turner, it plumbs depths of meaning and provides food for wider contemplation. Tracy Ryan is a prize-winning poet whose prose is spare and graceful. This is a beautifully written book: frank, intriguing and tender.


Finding my Place by Anne AlyFinding My Place: From Cairo to Canberra - the irresistible story of an irrepressible woman, Anne Aly (ABC Books)
The subtitle of Anne Aly’s autobiography scopes out the shape of her narrative and offers insight into Aly’s character. But it’s the events of her turbulent life – from her birth in Egypt, her growing up in Australia, her academic life, her marriages and the birth of her two sons, her gaining a doctorate, and an international reputation through her research work on global terrorism and her recent election to the seat of Curtin as a Labor member in the Federal Parliament – that make this book so memorable. Aly’s narrative voice is as strong and indomitable as she is. While she encounters many setbacks, her energy, intelligence and absolute determination to find her place in all the areas of her life make for fascinating reading.


The Happy Bowel by Michael LevittThe Happy Bowel, Michael Levitt (Fremantle Press)
Dr Michael Levitt is a specialist colorectal surgeon with a particular interest in the management of ‘functional’ bowel disorders such as constipation, incontinence and irritable bowel syndrome. His remarkable book will give readers an understanding of what a healthy bowel is and how to keep it that way. Written in a jaunty, no-nonsense style, Levitt's book draws on a lifetime of experience in restoring patients to regularity. With his four key characteristics of a satisfactory bowel action, three Golden Rules of happy rectal evacuation, and three Ds (defer, desist and distinguish), Levitt has mapped out a pathway to an outstanding bowel habit, no matter your starting point.


The All New Must Have Orange 430The All New Must Have Orange 430, Michael Speechley (Viking)
“Yes! The all new ORANGE 430 was finally here! Harvey had to have it.” Who wouldn’t want this “must have” item that has everything: thingies, whatsits, dooverlackies, and even a silly thing? After searching, scrounging and digging into the last of his savings Harvey finally gets his beloved ORANGE 430 only to realise it is of no use to him whatsoever. Michael Speechley’s debut picture book speaks to young and old in this tale of mass consumerism and its effect on the world. The illustrations are beautifully detailed and packed with humour, but are also dark on multiple levels. This is a story that you get more from on every read and with a message that truly packs a punch. Yes! The All New Must Have Orange 430 IS finally here!  YOU have to have it.


True Blue by Sasha WasleyTrue Blue, Sasha Wasley (Penguin)
Fans of rural romance will be delighted with True Blue, Sasha Wasley’s sequel to her popular first novel, Dear Banjo. The story centres around artist Free (Freya) Paterson upon her return to the Kimberley where her family owns a cattle station. Embarking on her dream project at the local high school, Free is both excited and nervous. In a short time though, complications arise with a proposed development in the region. Throw into the mix an encounter with a gorgeous cop, an interfering sister, a devious co-artist, and a very quirky cat and you’ll soon discover that True Blue is just brimming with heart. Dive in and enjoy!


Jenna's Truth by N.L.KingJenna's Truth, N.L. King (Serenity Press)
The author was inspired to write this YA novella after finding out about a tragic real life case of cyberbullying – one that resulted in the victim committing suicide. Jenna’s Truth tells the heartbreaking story of a fifteen-year-old girl who desperately wants to be popular with the cool kids at school. They show her the attention she craves but everything goes terribly wrong when her supposed new friends conspire to humiliate her, first at a party and then through a nasty ongoing campaign including via social media. This ghastly situation and Jenna’s resulting trauma and anguish will unfortunately be familiar to many young readers. This is an affecting story about distressing topical issues – one with important messages for perpetrators of bullying as well as victims. The author has prefaced her ultimately hopeful story with a content and trigger warning and supplemented it with teaching notes, support contact information and other resources, thus making the book ideal for classroom use.


May

Afternoons with Harvey Beam bu Carrie Cox

Afternoons with Harvey Beam, Carrie Cox (Fremantle Press)
Readers will feel as though they already know Harvey Beam. He’s pretty much every middle-aged white male talkback radio host we’ve ever encountered on air! Harvey travels to his home town to be with his dying father, navigating fraught family relationships, old wounds, landmarks, and the chasm between his present life and what he left behind as a young man. On the face of it, this novel is a ripping good yarn with well-drawn characters, strong narrative and highly relatable experiences, and these factors alone will provide much enjoyment for readers. But Afternoons with Harvey Beam is so much more! The characters are rich and layered and whilst this may be Cox’s first novel, her career as a writer (journalism) is highly evident. The writing is exquisite – with a snappy, succinct and often hilarious turn of phrase, Carrie Cox will have lovers of literature in her thrall.


How to Win a Nobel PrizeHow to How to Win a Nobel Prize, Barry Marshall and Lorna Hendry, Illust. Bernard Caleo (Piccolo Nero)
When Mary stumbles across a secret club of time-travelling Nobel Prize winners, the stage is set for a whirlwind tour of history’s most exciting scientists. With co-author Professor Barry Marshall (one of WA’s real-life Nobel Laureates) by her side, Mary travels space and time to meet the ordinary people behind twelve of the world’s most important discoveries. This is a great read for 8–12-year-olds who are keen on history, science or adventure. Plus there’s humour, hands-on activities, and some really decent advice on how to win a Nobel Prize (which is also applicable to getting the most out of life).


Bush and Beyond Bush and Beyond: Stories from Country, Tjalaminu Mia, Jessica Lister, Jaylow Tucker and Cheryl Kickett-Tucker (Fremantle Press) 
These beautifully narrated and uniquely Western Australian stories have universal appeal. Genuine and heartfelt, they represent an opportunity to hear from voices not often heard. Readers will find reflections on culture distinctive to Aboriginal people in Western Australia, as well as common experiences: dealing with siblings, special times with grandparents, and toasting marshmallows. Brimming with humour and charm, Bush and Beyond captures a deep connection with natural surroundings and introduces Nyungar words relating to Western Australian wildlife. A great book for young readers, or families to share – mooditj! (good!)


Joao by John MateerJoão, John Mateer (Giramondo)
John Mateer is a poet who has travelled widely to work and play. In this series of sixty-two sonnets, he constructs an alter- ego, João, whose travels through literary and actual landscapes are abundant with eros, humour, disappointment, festivals, friends, and encounters with well-known writers. Although these sonnets contain fourteen lines, they are not classical. Instead they read as prose poetry, a form well suited to the sprawling exotic travels they describe. The final section of the book – Memories of Capetown – describing Mateer’s love of his birth land and his father, is particularly moving.


A Fortunate Life for Younger ReadersA Fortunate Life For Younger Readers, A.B. Facey (Fremantle Press)
Albert Barnett Facey’s memoir was first published in 1981, when he was aged 87 and just nine months before his death. It has since gone on to become a best-selling and award-winning Australian classic. Facey was born in 1894, started work at age eight, and by fourteen was out on his own working the first of many jobs in rural Western Australia. He survived Gallipoli and endured much hardship, adversity and loss throughout his life. Facey is a natural storyteller though he uses the simple language of a man who had no formal education and only became literate as an adult. The optimism and positivity that made him deem his life fortunate is evident throughout the narrative. Facey is often described as “an ordinary man” but his life story will be far from ordinary for contemporary children and it contains numerous talking points for discussions with their parents and teachers.


Lillian Armfield by Leigh StrawLillian Armfield: How Australia's First Female Detective Took on Tilly Devine and the Razor Gangs and Changed the Face of the Force, Leigh Straw (Hachette)
Meticulously researched and compellingly written, Leigh Straw’s Lillian Armfield: How Australia's First Female Detective Took on Tilly Devine and the Razor Gangs and Changed the Face of the Force must have one of the longest titles in Australian publishing history.  But it lets you know what you’re in for – and quite a ride it is too, with young Lillian pioneering the role of women in Australian policing and facing formidable female foes in the heady days of Sydney’s crime wars during the roaring ’20s and depressed ’30s. From runaway girls to fraudulent fortune-tellers to the seriously dangerous Kate Leigh, a sly grog and cocaine queen, Straw takes us on a genuinely fascinating and often surprising journey through Armfield’s long and ground-breaking career.  And what’s most satisfying is how Straw backgrounds each ‘episode’, providing social and political context, allowing the reader to more fully gauge Armfield’s significance. Recommended.


April

False Claims of Colonial Thieves

False Claims of Colonial Thieves, Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella (Magabala Books)
This is a powerful and heart-wrenching book that deserves a wide readership. In this dialogue of beautiful, strong poems, two accomplished poets share their ecological concerns about the devastation of land and culture in Western Australia due to colonisation, capitalism and the mining industry. A duet of voices, speaking with both tenderness and outrage, about the crimes against the Yamaji people, against the salmon gums and the salt-parched earth. Both Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella were raised in the Wheatbelt, and their personal histories about country create a commanding discourse that demands to be heard.


In the lamplightIn the Lamplight, Dianne Wolfer, Illust. Brian Simmonds (Fremantle Press)
A wonderful stand-alone story in its own right, this beautifully produced book from Fremantle Press is also the perfect conclusion to the war trilogy which began with Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy. An excellent resource for history teachers, it covers major events in WWI history including the rise of the suffragette movement, the Spanish influenza pandemic and the close ties between British and Australian troops, all viewed through the eyes of young Rose O’Reilly. Rose describes the horrors and deprivations of wartime and admires the courage and tenacity of the wounded soldiers and the nurses who care for them. Interspersed with her poignant tale are diary entries embellished with actual photographs, historical documents, pressed flowers, letters, postcards and telegrams. Threads from the previous two books are seamlessly interwoven through the story and Brian Simmonds’ evocative charcoal sketches add depth and emotion alongside the historical artefacts. Highly recommended.


Alfred's WarAlfred's War, Rachel Bin Salleh, Illust. Samantha Fry (Magabala Books)
As a young Indigenous man with a thirst for adventure, Alfred George enlisted to fight in the Great War. Wounded in battle, Alfred was shipped home from France and went on to live as a homeless, itinerant worker. Despite having fought for the freedom of others, he was not afforded those same freedoms on his return – not classed as a citizen in his own country and unable to march with his comrades on ANZAC Day. This poignant debut picture book highlights the lack of recognition afforded our Indigenous servicemen on their return. Text and muted illustration convey the trauma of war gently for young readers while opening up the well overdue conversation about why it has taken so long for the bravery and sacrifice of our Indigenous servicemen to be honoured.


The Art of PersuasionThe Art of Persuasion, Susan Midalia (Fremantle Press)
Hazel is twenty five years old, unemployed, and has made ‘an ethical decision not to reproduce.’ Ethics are important to Hazel; she was raised by card-carrying leftist parents and door knocks for the Greens in Perth’s leafy Western suburbs. She also wishes the kind, dishy, and much older Adam would return her affections. Hazel’s best friend and flatmate, Beth, has found another girl she’d rather hang out with, and Hazel’s pedantry and love of Jane Austen cannot sustain her forever. In this smart, funny novel, Susan Midalia engages the reader with warmth and wit while never losing sight of the uncomfortable truths that haunt us as Western Australians. She writes about complicity and complacency, isolation and attachment, privilege and poverty, challenging us to consider what it means to live in our world as we do.


The Paris SeamstressThe Paris Seamstress, Natasha Lester (Hachette)
Switching between 1940s Paris and New York and the current day, The Paris Seamstress is both a mystery and a love story. Following seamstress Estella Bissette from Paris to New York, the story explores the empowerment of women during the war as designers, models and customers of a new kind of ready-to-wear fashion that reflects their liberation from old constraints and expectations. Estella’s Sydney-based granddaughter Fabienne begins to unravel her grandmother’s past, uncovering the sacrifices and determination that were needed to achieve her success as a leading designer ─ revelations that keep the reader engrossed until the end. Fans of Lester’s previous historical romances will recognise familiar hallmarks in this novel: meticulous research, beautiful descriptions, and passionate, independent women challenging the social conventions of their times to achieve their dreams. This is a satisfying and captivating story to lose yourself in.


March

You Belong Here by Laurie Steed

You Belong Here, Laurie Steed (Margaret River Press)
Jen and Steven meet at sixteen, marry at eighteen, and start a shared life. Initially their three children help glue a shaky relationship together but when the marriage finally disintegrates the siblings must face their adult lives in the shadow of family fracture. Laurie Steed’s wit, honesty and compassion shine through in this original, well-crafted first novel. Set mainly in Perth, this is a book about brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, trust, connection, disconnection, place, friendship, resilience,  and hope. It is funny, sad, sensual and deeply real.

 


Women of a Certain AgeWomen of a Certain Age, edited by Jodie Moffat, Maria Scoda and Susan Laura Sullivan (Fremantle Press)
This collection is lively, wise, and sometimes intensely emotional. With no discernible difference between previously published and unpublished contributors, readers embark on a journey starting with Charlotte Roseby – she was never meant to live this long, but now in her forties is "Still Here Still". Travelling through the decades, these women, our companions, offer varied perspectives including: the downshifting of gears from a big career; the experience of being a female Muslim politician in Australia; and Brigid Lowry’s funny and insightful account of navigating romance in your sixties. "Black Boxes" by Jeanine Leane is deeply affecting and compelling.The journey concludes with Liz Byrski’s moving reflection upon sadness in our daily lives. Grab a cuppa (or something stronger if you are so inclined) and settle in for a great read!


I Remember by Joanne CrawfordI Remember, Joanne Crawford, illust. Kerry Anne Jordinson (Magabala Books)
This poignant tale of an elderly lady recalling the camping holidays of her childhood is a nostalgic look at a simpler time in life. It would make a great discussion starter about “the olden days” especially for grandparents to share with their grandchildren, who are invariably fascinated to hear how they grew up. I Remember is a gentle reflection on a time before modern technology when a family holiday meant packing the car for a camping trip in the bush, sharing wonderful adventures, plus the odd scary moment, with a sibling, the family dog, and Mum and Dad. The softly coloured illustrations complement the sparse text beautifully, expressing the sense of freedom a bush holiday brings and capturing the Australian landscape perfectly.


The Hole Story by Kelly CanbyThe Hole Story, Kelly Canby (Fremantle Press)
One day, Charlie finds a hole. He puts it in his pocket but it doesn’t take him long to realise that this little hole is a big problem. So he sets about trying to find a new owner for it. Who could make good use of a hole? What about an arachnid and reptile salesman, a boat builder, or a seamstress? Poor Charlie doesn’t realise that the answer is right under his nose! The Hole Story, Kelly Canby’s latest offering, is a delight for readers young and old. A charming read-aloud picture book with soft, gentle illustrations that engage and amuse with puns and subplot, The Hole Story will have you discovering more each time you read it.


The Cowgirl by Anthea HodgsonThe Cowgirl, Anthea Hodgson (Penguin Random House)
Teddy’s family farm holds a number of secrets, including some buried underground in an old farmhouse. When Teddy's grandmother, Deirdre, engages an archaeologist to dig the house up, the secrets revealed shock everyone, with readers experiencing the emotional impact via evocative scenes of events from the 1950s. The Cowgirl is a heartwarming cross-generational story about rural women’s resilience, dreams and sacrifices, as well as the relentless labour and responsibility of farming life. In her second novel, Anthea Hodgson delivers on the promise she showed with her popular debut novel The Drifter and cements her place amongst the much-loved writers of contemporary Australian rural fiction.

 


If I Tell You by Alicia TuckermanIf I Tell You, Alicia Tuckerman (Pantera Press)
Alex Summers lives in a country town and she has a secret – she's gay. She has made a deal with herself that she won't tell anyone unless she's asked, but the question never comes. When a confident, out-and-proud new girl comes to town, Alex is forced to confront her desires and her fears, and finds that people don't always react the way she expects. This is a touching and strong first novel about being yourself and being different, and the importance of being true to yourself and those around you. This is a welcome addition to diverse Australian literature for young people.



February

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

The Rúin, Dervla McTiernan (Harper Collins)
Galway detective Cormac Reilly is about to reopen a cold case that has haunted him for twenty years. The image of two neglected children in a decaying mansion, their emaciated mother dead upstairs, has never left him. The cold case has links to the recent death of a young man ─ a case which the police are very quick to claim is suicide. Betrayal is at the heart of this unsettling, fast-paced, intricately plotted debut detective novel. Mystery, intrigue, complex twists and turns, police corruption, and Ireland’s dark history of child abuse ─ this atmospheric, seriously terrific crime novel has it all. The book is the first in a series from this Irish, now West Australian writer. We look forward to the next instalment.


Dustfall by Michelle JohnstonDustfall, Michelle Johnston (UWA Publishing)
Two doctors arrive in Wittenoom, 30 years apart. Raymond Filigree comes to the Pilbara town in 1966, while Lou Fitzgerald comes to it in 1997, when it is a ghost town. Both Raymond and Lou are running from personal and professional disasters that haunt them, in the same way the secretive town haunts its dwindling population. Michelle Johnston’s debut novel tackles themes of negligence, isolation, and corporate greed, all set against a backdrop familiar to most West Australians ─ the red Pilbara dust and the town of Wittenoom. Johnston’s prose is spare, lyrical and haunting, unfolding like the tragedy she describes so beautifully in this important and intelligent novel. The story of asbestos mining and what it did to the men whose lives were destroyed by it would make sobering reading on its own. In the hands of this poetic and gifted storyteller it becomes compelling and luminous.


The Secret Vineyard by Loretta HillThe Secret Vineyard, Loretta Hill (Penguin)
Loretta Hill has assembled a hugely entertaining cast of characters for her latest novel, The Secret Vineyard: harried single mother Grace Middleton; her three rambunctious young sons, Charlie, Alfie and Ryan; a troubled rock star; an enigmatic Frenchman and a square-jawed real estate agent. But not everyone in this frame is what they seem. When Grace unexpectedly inherits a vineyard from her deceased ex-husband, she is unwittingly thrust into intrigue and mysteries that she is increasingly determined to unravel. Grab a copy of this well-paced, highly entertaining novel, settle yourself under a shady tree and prepare to enjoy many hours in the company of Grace and co.


January

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