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The one, the original Book Expo Australia! Just for your delictation there will be a book expo focussing on so many bookish type things. 30th - 31st August 2014 at the Sydney Showgrounds. Go to their website for more details Book Expo Australia

The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson

Jenna Fox wakes from a coma following a devastating accident, her memory a blank. One day she can’t walk; the next she can. One day her right eyelid droops; the next it doesn’t. Her parents call her recovery a miracle – but at what cost has it come? What are they hiding from her? And why does her grandmother, Lily, hate her so?Who is Jenna Fox?

I picked this book up at random noting only that it looked interesting and that I hoped I’d be able to get a Mondayitis from it. I was blown away, totally. What a book this is! Set in the future when we have a product that can be used to make appendages look completely real and work almost perfectly, not just limbs but also organs such as livers and kidneys. But how do we know when this is to be used and when not? How do we know when a person has lost too much? As it turns out there’s a points system.

‘Well, one way is point values,’ she says. ‘Everyone gets a lifetime maximum of one hundred points. My limbs, for instance. The implanted digital technology to work with the prosthetics is very low point value. Sixteen points for all of them. But a heart – that’s worth thirty-five alone. Throw in lungs and kidneys and you’re at ninety-five points.’ Says Allys.

Jenna’s accident was very severe and she was left with 10% of her, she was expected to die as she had too many points to use this product, Bio Gel. But, her father is the inventor of Bio Gel and managed to pull enough strings to get her revived. It’s not what you know but who, in this case.

There are some extremely big ethical questions in this book. Should Jenna have been revived? If we have the technology should we use it? What is the cut off point of humanity?

There are so many ethical questions in this book, all raised in such a way that they’re mostly easy to understand. It’s an excellent jumping off point for teens or young adults, easy to read but packing a huge punch.

Mondayitis – Jeff

They were plucky, I have to say that for them. They walked miles and miles with just the track to guide them. If the rains had come a day earlier the track would have been washed out and they’d be lost. Plucky.

They turned up one day looking rather bedraggled, Sylvie looked far younger than I but Mum soon took her in hand making her a dress and helping with her hair. She scrubbed up well. I certainly enjoyed having her around after they’d been to the police station. I like my brothers but seeing a friendly girl around was nice.

Reg was a little different. He had a feel for the animals, never having worked with sheep before he watched me carefully and got them out of the mud well. Wasn’t happy when he lied about his age so he could shoot but at least his aim was straight. Despite all of that none of us were happy when he was sent to reformatory school, there was good in him especially with animals.

The Min-Min by Mavis Thorpe Clark

The Min-Min by Mavis Thorpe Clark

Double Take – Annette Siketa

I have been sitting on this book for a few days, not literally but metaphorically. I was caught by the extra commas in the first few paragraphs and that held me back, much concentration was required in order to get past them and into the book. Even then I struggled. I think the author shows promise, by the time I was through the book I had rethought whether I could actually write anything about it several times, the plot wasn’t entirely clear which I thought good but there were no loose ends everything was tidied up completely and thoroughly.

Anyway, here’s the synopsis.

Who is killing little old ladies at a quaint seaside hotel – and why?  Enigmatic grandma Mrs Ada Harris investigates, but watch out nana, not everyone is who they claim to be.


Mrs Ada Harris and Mrs Florence Brown have been friends for over 65 years.  For the majority of that time, Ada has been keeping a secret that only the ‘Clean 4U Agency’ – which somewhat curiously, is not listed in any phone book, knows about. Ada is advised to take a holiday.  She arrives at The Sea Bridge Hotel only to find that the recent deaths of solicitor Alistair Walsh and spinster Mirabelle Davenport, remain unsolved. Using well-practised techniques and a few ‘tricks’ of her own, Ada questions the main players, but can she get to the truth?

I’m not quite sure whether Ada Harris is a secret spy or a secret detective. With the information in the synopsis she should be a spy but in this book she does things a spy doesn’t do and then why does she need to be so secretive? It’s a combination of a spy book and a detective book and I’m not sure it works for me.

Siketa does have some writing skills, I’d suggest she take more lessons in how to get the information across to the reader without huge dumps of information. In the first half of the book she had Ada Harris thinking a lot and we got the benefit of her thoughts but it felt like too much at once. At least I was able to finish this book, it reminded me of another book I couldn’t finish partly due to the large amounts of descriptive text, Double Take was better in that respect, more sophisticated.

I could have stopped at any time and chosen not to review it but there was something there keeping me going. Did she really die of knitting needles to the heart? And if not, how? I’ve actually forgotten the answer to that so I’m not going to reveal any spoilers. Who was really who and why…? The one thing I should have asked myself is why the odd behaviour? I’m kicking myself about that one but at least I was right about the pranks.

I’ve been told her other books are better so it’d be interesting to see if they were right. It’s possible this isn’t the genre for her and that other genres suit her better.

You can buy this book here, ebooks can be shipped anywhere in the world (funnily enough) but paperbacks onto to the UK. Yes, they gave me a copy to read and review.

Friday Photos

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I thought this bumper sticker was cute. I didn’t want to try it out though.

I went into an op shop yesterday. They expanded their bookshelves some months ago so it’s an exciting place to walk into. I didn’t take photos but they have lots of science fiction and fantasy including a goodly number of Anne McCaffrey which I didn’t buy.


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This looked fascinating. I should have looked closer and taken a better photo than through the window.

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I did look closer at this and even bought it so you’ll hear more about it at some later stage.

Cookbook Collector

Just a random photo with an interesting selection of books. Not sure why the word interesting comes up so much when I’m looking at books.


Around about the time I went to Sydney for the National Book Bloggers Forum at Penguin Random House I was thinking we really needed a group for book bloggers. If they could get 50 people there in the space of a few weeks then how many book bloggers are there in Australia? I don’t know the answer to that one but the figures I’m looking at are 300 and growing, at present I have 287.

How can you be so precise?

Yes, I can hear you. I’ve ended up as part of the administration of a new website in Australia. It consists of a directory of book bloggers and a forum with whatever resources we consider useful, one of those is a calendar of bookish events and I’ll be uploading some of the data I collected when I first got into blogging five years ago.

We haven’t reinvented the wheel when it comes to the directory. My friend, Marg, very kindly handed me over the keys to her Australian Book Bloggers Directory website and I imported 288 records from that, one person emailed me in return to say he wasn’t doing that blog any more so I deleted it and there are 51 which didn’t import as they were missing data in key fields. There’s still a lot of work to do with the directory, checking and importing those 51 blogs, emailing everyone to ask them to update their details and put in a photo and going through the gmail email to deal with any emails that have accumulated over the years.

As for the forum?

That needs more Australian book bloggers to register and join the conversations. We have more admin discussions at present and plenty of scope for other threads. There’s so much to talk about: social media; finding the time to write; finding inspiration and; the ever present…much more!

Who else can join?

I have thoughts but I need to run them past the rest of the team. I’d like to have authors and publishers as well so we can match up authors and reviewers. Publishers should be able to post about any events they’re holding so the right bloggers get a chance to attend.


What a strange thought, that I should give you links so you can go check it out. If you’re addicted to books I suggest you check out the directory as that’s a fabulous starting point for you. If you’re a book blogger try the forum here.

Anyway, enough about this for the moment. I’m sure you’ll hear more from me about this in the future.

Libraries, awesome!

Libraries are awesome, they’ve changed dramatically over the years and this is going to be a few random words thrown together about libraries.

Last month I was at Limmud Oz, a weekend of Jewish learning and found myself paying attention to a panel about growing up in Carlton prior to World War II. It was a fascinating panel with all sorts of details I would never have thought to ask about. One of the panellists was June Factor (author of Unreal Banana Peel!) and she spoke a little about libraries. Apparently there was no lending library in Carlton, there were little shops which provided books for lending but none of those were in Carlton. The State Library of Victoria was available having opened in 1856 but you could only read there and not borrow to take home. Factor mentioned Myer Emporium had a lending library so she used to go in there to borrow her books which never lasted as she was a voracious reader. She also mentioned Alan Marshall (I Can Jump Puddles) was commissioned to write a history of the Myer Emporium and this includes some information about the library. Published in 1962 with the rather interesting title of The Gay Provider, I plan on telling you more about this when I can get hold of a copy.

The words she actually used led me to understand there were no public lending libraries anywhere in Melbourne except in little shops or in Myer and that made me stop and think. Back in 1978 I did my best work at school, a project about the city of Hawthorn, and I turned to that but couldn’t find anything about the age of the library in Hawthorn. Hello google and let my fingers do the walking. Melbourne as a whole was first settled in 1835 with Carlton being settled in the 1850s and Hawthorn much earlier in 1838. I find it interesting that around 80 years after settlement Carlton still didn’t have a library, however a public lending library was built post October 1953. Hawthorn had a public lending library as far back as 1861 and you can check the Trove data base for proof.

I don’t know the policies of public lending libraries at that time, but you probably couldn’t borrow if you lived or worked outside the area making it challenging for children such as Factor who lived in Carlton. I’m also wondering how much people knew about the facilities available in areas outside their suburb and whether they would have known about libraries in different suburbs. The one in Myer Emporium would have been different as that was in the CBD and Myer’s was one of those shops where you went for so many things. I believe my grandmother worked there for some years, possibly prior to her getting married.

To do this topic real justice I should have looked at lending libraries throughout Melbourne but with over 800 words just on Carlton and Hawthorn alone I suspect this topic is too big for one article. Sound much more like a book! I wonder who’s going to write that.

This article from The Guardian tells us that School Libraries must be fit for the purpose they are created. That purpose has changed an incredible amount. When I was young libraries were quiet, they were only for quiet reading and studying, getting any child to do anything that might possibly be noisy was anathema. If you visit a public library during school holidays you might find a different experience, I was at the Bentleigh Library a couple of weeks ago, the tots reading programme had finished as that’s in the morning but instead they had a school holiday programme with young attendees making things out of Loom Bands, it was buzzing. I should have actually taken my iPad there and done some writing, I tend to do my best writing when there’s lots of noise around.

I found so much more while googling and I’ll finish up with a few more words about Trove. It’s the website of the National Library of Australia and such a wonderful resource. The staff have spent a lot of time and angst scanning in many magazines and newspapers from across the country. If you’re doing historical research this is a fantastic place to be. I spent a bit of time there looking up many things about Carlton and Hawthorn finding many useful and/or interesting articles in now defunct newspapers such as The Argus. I happen to have an account and every time I’m there I spend a few minutes correcting some of the errors that creep in when you scan with OCR. To make it easy they have the original PDF on the right and the text from OCR on the left. While you don’t have to have an account it helps if you want to keep track of the number of lines you’ve fixed. I’m only up to about 100 while others have fixed thousands of lines.

Mondayitis – Sebastien

I listen to the radio today, the news is very hard to hear. What I hear about about Palestine and Israel, Syria and Iraq takes me back to my war, my work with La Résistance française in my home in Normandy.

We started early in the war, Patrice organised us but Sophie was considered too young. I knew she had the sense to join La Résistance française and insisted she join, after all, it was she who made me realise how hard it must have been for our father when his brothers didn’t return from the first world war. Sophie made me proud. She took messages to our contact in Veules les Roses and when the war really came to our area while she was there she watched as much as she could from Aunty Régine’s house and reported back to us.

It was Sophie who insisted we hide Angus, the Scottish soldier. I could not look at his wounds while she bathed them. Sophie is much stronger than I, it was good for the movement that I made sure she joined, she would have been a good soldier.

I look at the news today with a different eye to most people as I’ve lived through war. We helped refugees, made certain they had food and a place to rest before they moved on to find some other place. Again, it was Sophie who pushed our village into helping these people. Grandma made the biggest pot of soup for them. Someone should help the current refugees, I am too old to do more than write these few words. I am much older than Grandma was when she made that soup for our refugees.

Sophie's Secret War by Jill Atkins

Sophie’s Secret War by Jill Atkins

Jonathan Strahan

If you’ve been paying attention you will have read my gushing review of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol 8 edited by Jonathan Strahan. I’m not certain gushing quite covers my feelings on this book. I was delighted when the editor agreed to answer a few questions for me. After reading his thoughts you should buy the book.

How did you get into editing anthologies?

I started editing back in the early 1990s. I had been co-editing and co-publishing a small press magazine, Eidolon, with some friends which involved keeping up with everything that was happening in Australian SF at the time. When a major publisher decided to start up a new SF imprint, Voyager, my friend and co-editor Jeremy Byrne and I pitched the idea of editing an Australian “best of the year” series for them, and they went for it.  We did it for a of couple years, before moving on to other things.  My real big break, though, came when I was having dinner one evening with Karen and Bob Silverberg. They were editing two best of the year series for Byron Preiss’s iBooks, but Bob was looking to focus his energies elsewhere. Somewhere over dinner they asked if I’d like to do co-edit the books, and everything snowballed from there.

Do you need to be an accomplished author in order to edit anthologies or will any type of writing experience (or inexperience) do?

While some of our greatest editors have been writers, many haven’t. Certainly there are different kinds of editing and different kinds of editors, and while I can see that writing experience can help, I don’t think it’s essential. A number of our major editors aren’t writers, like Ellen Datlow and Ann VanderMeer. The most important thing, to me, is being an analytical and informed reader. You need to be able to read a story and look at how it might be improved or enhanced in a way that supports what the author is trying to do with the story.

Jonathan Strahan editor extraordinaire

Where do you source the short stories from? Do people send them to you unasked or are they already published elsewhere?

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year series reprints science fiction and fantasy stories that were published anywhere in the world in the preceding year in the English language.  I source the stories from websites, magazines, anthologies, short story collections, gift cards – just about anywhere that they might appear. A lot of time goes into searching for stories, as you can imagine, and I put out a call each year inviting anyone to send me stories they’ve published, written or read that they think I should consider for the book.

How many would you read in a year?

I don’t keep track of the exact number, but I would look at several thousand stories every year, slowly winnowing them down to the final group that end up in the book.

When do you find the time to read that many?

I try to be organized about it. I read every day, and try to fit it in around everything else I have to do. I also have found that over time I can pick up pretty early when a story is or isn’t going to work for me.  Sometimes it only takes a page or two, so while I start to read several thousand stories, I don’t necessarily finish all of them. That helps with managing the time involved.

Do you ever have the problem of being so stuck in a short story that you can’t read another one immediately? If so, how do you manage to move onto the next one?

I find I sometimes need to take a little break at the end of a story, just so I can approach the next one fresh, but mostly I don’t have a problem. The real issue is that every few months I just yearn to read something longer, so I stop to read a novel or watch some TV, just to freshen my mental palate, but I’m usually ready to get back to the next story pretty quickly.

Do you have a favourite author? If so, please spill the beans.

I always say no to this because I have different authors I go to for different reasons. For a chunk of my childhood Robert Heinlein was my favourite writer, mostly because I loved his characters and the sense of adventure in his stories. I find his books more problematic looking back at them from the perspective of adulthood, but at the time they were the thing.  In my late 20s and early 30s Howard Waldrop and Lucius Shepard were my favourites, and I devoured everything they wrote.  You haven’t lived till you’ve read Howard Who? or The Jaguar Hunter. I’m less sure of the answer these days, though.  I read so much more widely, and there’s so much to choose from.

Do you have a favourite story? If so, why?

The greatest reading experience I can remember is when I first read Lucius Shepard’s novella “R n R”, which appeared in an issue of Asimov’s in the mid-80s. Shepard was on a streak at the time, producing a string of brilliant stories that were setting the field on fire, and this hallucinogenic, immersive masterpiece just hypnotized me. I can remember reading the opening of the story and being left almost shaking at the end of it. I’ve not re-read the story in 20 years, and I still remember it like I read it yesterday.

Are you ever tempted to edit a short story before you anthologise it? Is this appropriate or should you just leave it as it was previously published complete with typos?

Every story I included in the Best of the Year is copyedited to make sure there aren’t any typographical or other errors. Sometimes that simply involves correcting a typo or two, or making sure something’s consistent, but occasionally it involves some minor editing. Sometimes there are changes between the original published work and the version I reprint, but usually those come from authors who want to take the opportunity to fix something that’s been bothering them or that they’ve noticed since the original publication of the story.

When is your next book being published? Either an anthology or your own work.

Next up is Fearsome Magics, an original fantasy anthology I’ve edited for Solaris. It’s a sequel of sorts to my World Fantasy Award nominated anthology Fearsome Journeys, and includes some great stories. I’m also working on volume nine of the Best of the Year series and a new “Infinity” anthology.

Can you do the Safety Dance while reading short stories or is that something you reserve for long fiction?

I can dance the safety dance while reading a short story or a novel, and if I can’t, I leave them behind, because if I couldn’t dance when reading a story or novel it’d be no friend of mine.


Friday Photos

Things are crook in Tallarook as the old saying goes. I know there’s some nice rhyming there but other than that I don’t know why they chose Tallarook. It’s a town in central Victoria with a population of 789 as at 2011. If you believe everything you read on the internet the phrase comes from the Great Depression and became the basis of a song by Jack O’Hagan. In the 1800s Tallarook had a recluse living in the ranges nearby, Robert Hollingworth wrote a book about him They Called Me The Wildman – the prison diary of Henricke Nelsen which apparently has fictionised the recluse but has good history of the area.

I mention Tallarook as my health has not been so good and I missed writing yesterday due to a migraine. They’re not very exciting and I couldn’t get my act together to do more than the shopping and cooking dinner, writing just didn’t happen until quite late last night when I was finally feeling more human. As I have more medical appointments on the horizon I foresee more days when I can’t get my writing mojo together.

Today I’ll give you an op shop photo and continue the Australian theme with Nevil Shute and one of my absolute favourite authors of all time, Patricia Wrightson.

Just a few books about war I found at the op shop in Ormond this week.

Just a few books about war I found at the op shop in Ormond this week.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

A Little Fear by Patricia Wrightons

A Little Fear by Patricia Wrightson

Looking for Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta

I’m giving you a lot of book reviews recently only because I’ve been a little distracted. I had a tooth out last week, I have this feeling there’s a little fallout from that but I won’t find out until my appointment this afternoon. I also have various other medical appointments over the next few days which all lead me to not really being able to concentrate to actually write about the topics I have in mind. The good news is my GP tells me I’m alive, or at least I was last week.

Onto the book.

Looking for Alibrandi has been out for a while and I’m going to assume that most people have read it and not really going to tell you much about the plot. All I’ll say is that it’s about a young Italian girl who doesn’t fit the norms, she’s going through year 12 and just as the exams hit a very good friend commits suicide.

I always thought this book was about love and so I’d never read it, I did have a copy to sell at one stage so I had the chance but romance bores me so I made that assumption and didn’t. Bad. Move. This copy was one of the swag I picked up at the National Book Bloggers Forum in Sydney in May and I thank Random House for giving it to me. It’s also the third book in my Women Writers Challenge. I still have three more books to write about, one is not being published until next month so you’ll get that in a week or two, I’m still in the middle of John Safran’s book and the last book I may not read as I suspect it’s romance.

Anyway, I loved this book. I cried lots and am very annoyed for not reading it earlier. Marchetta tells the story from the point of view of a 17 year-old Italian girl also giving the story of her Italian grandmother when she was new to the country. This story is not a new one but it’s an important one to know as it’s happened in so many cultures and is probably still happening now. It’s the story of a new immigrant who doesn’t know the language and is isolated from society around her. It’s the story of a new immigrant who is ‘abandoned’ by her new husband in their house while he goes to work, sometimes for days and weeks at a time as he works away from home.

By chance, I happen to have spoken to Italian immigrants to this country and they’ve spoken about the isolation and the names people have called them. How hard it’s been setting up in a new country and how the population uses derogatory words about them. When I read the book all of these conversations came back to me and I found that what I was reading mirrored what I’d been told. It was very interesting. The stories I’d been told probably predated Alibrandi’s grandmother’s by a few years and happened in an inner suburb of Melbourne but the isolation and lack of integration into the pre-existing society was the same.

If there is a moral here then it should be that if you’re a current resident in the area and new immigrants move in you should make them welcome, talk to them and not use derogatory words about them. They are, after all, just people like you.

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

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