Review ‘The Elsinore Vanish’ by Joanna Baker Book Two

Joanna Baker The Elsinore Vanish Bookcover 2019

The prologue is dramatic.  A slightly unhinged magician Tim Williams is on stage at the Remember November Charity Cabaret in the local town hall, unaware of what his next trick will unleash.  Tim has just finished Year Twelve, ready for a big future, when he dies in front of a roomful of people under decidedly suspicious circumstances.

Matt Tingle and Chess Febey are youthful amateur detectives.  Like two high school students hungry for lunch, they embark on a serious yet magical mystery tour to unmask a murderer.  The setting is Beechworth, a country town renowned for its tourist attractions rather than murder.  The time is contemporary, give or take a decade for the way Chess talks, and her endearing dress sense.  Matt is solid and sensible to a point, but he does get into some hazardous situations.

Joanna Baker Australian Author Dappled Light Through Leaves 02
Sunshine dappled leaves

The opening chapter has some seriously ethereal vibes.  Matt tries to concentrate on the sunshine dappled leaves as he sits in the manicured gardens of old Langton House.  It’s an Open Garden, visitors stroll around the lawns talking in hushed whispers, and Matt sees a boy magician and a tough-looking man which makes him feel uncomfortable.  Chess turns up with a mug of coffee and when she explains why she brought them to this place, he snaps.

Chess has accepted an invitation from Jacob Langton, the son of the owners of Langton House, to investigate the murder of his magician friend Tim, and Matt’s not keen on the idea.

Beechworth Shire Town Hall Victoria
Beechworth Town Hall

The story is a classic locked-room mystery.  Tim was poisoned by his own stage prop and nobody can figure out how the poison got there when it was under lock and key.  Our dynamic duo investigate inside the hall, talk with colourful locals and Tim’s bereft family, and receive massive interference from a thug who roughs up Chess to warn her off.  The story twists and turns with red herrings galore until the final reveal.

This is where I start to get cagey because I don’t know how much to tell you without ruining the plot.

My new favourite is young magician Paz, quite a character, who speaks with a lisp and is seemingly more mature than he looks.  The Elsinore Vanish is a card trick (think Hamlet and ghosts) and Paz says ‘Magic is about the impossible.  That’s what makes it beautiful’.  He definitely knows something but flutters between the book’s pages refusing to be drawn into their investigation.

There are adults around but they loiter just long enough not to be annoying.

Sometimes Matt and Chess are determined, other times they have self-doubt, ultimately they are teenagers mature enough to handle the ramifications of their actions.  Almost.  Matt is thoughtful and his emotions are strong but he can misread people.  Chess is a socially awkward analyst, prone to unusual outbursts.  She has a troubled family background (there is a revealing vignette with her father) and although Matt and Chess would deny it, they are good friends.

Beechworth MayDayHills Mental Asylum Victoria 01
Mayday Hills Asylum

I enjoy a clever whodunit and was frequently stumped by author Joanna’s clues; mirror reflections anyone?  At times I thought there were perhaps a tad too many suspicious individuals because I had to think ‘Who was she again?’ but on the whole they were interrelated.

‘The Elsinore Vanish’ is the second book in Joanna Baker’s Beechworth trilogy set in the picturesque area of rural north-east Victoria.  The settings are wonderful, like old Mayday Hills mental asylum, well, the atmosphere anyway, and they are written with such clarity that I typed Beechworth Victoria into my search engine and had a look around the historic town.

Not a crash ’em smash ’em YA story—put your thinking cap on.

Definitely a great book for those who like to think about what they read.  There is one small point in the story where the ah-ha moment clicked for me and I enjoyed finding out if I was right.  See if you can work it out before the dramatic reveal!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

Joanna Baker Australian Author 2019Joanna Baker is an award-winning Australian mystery writer.  Her novel Devastation Road won the Sisters-in-Crime Davitt Award for Best Young Adult Novel and was described by The Age newspaper as ‘an outstanding first novel’.

Born in Hobart Tasmania, Joanna was educated at The Friends’ School, the Australian National University and RMIT in Victoria.

Joanna sets her novels in the two places she loves: Tasmania and the high country of north eastern Victoria.  She also writes and speaks about murder mysteries – why they are so enduring, and why they are not trivial.

Her current mysteries are The Slipping Place, Devastation Road and The Elsinore Vanish with Evermore coming soon.

Review ‘Devastation Road’ by Joanna Baker Book One

Joanna Baker Devastation Road Bookcover 2019

Author Joanna Baker knows how to start her books with a gripping first chapter.  Matt Tingle had fallen asleep in front of Mr Roland’s computer in the office of Craft Gallery and Tea Shoppe, where supposedly he was doing his history assignment, when a noise wakes him . . .

. . . things get very dangerous very quickly.

Next day, in the small rural gold-mining town of Yackandandah, our protagonist Matt is sitting in the Yackandandah Bakery trying to steady his jangling nerves.  He has a headache from inhaling toxic fumes during his misadventures the night before.  In walks his friend Chess who says ‘Golly Matty.  You look awful’.  Chess’ dialogue is not always contemporary and it’s tricky to pinpoint an exact decade but it gives the story an enduring feel.

Yackandandah Bakery Victoria
Yackandandah Bakery

Then to make matters worse for sickly Matt, pretty Tara Roland walks into the bakery, a vision of shiny-haired loveliness.  Tara is accompanied by her cousin Wando who gets a bit twitchy with the bakery assistant Debbie Wilson over her necklace and the drama escalates from there.

Egyptology comes into play in the form of an amber necklace named The Eye of Ra

At this stage, Matt and Chess are two teenagers who are unknowingly about to become amateur detectives and embark on solving two local mysteries.  One is a cold case, a baffling hit-and-run road accident which turns Chess into the queen of concentration and Matt the emperor of emotions; they bounce ideas off each other . . .

. . . and the second mystery?

This one is more personal.  Going for a walk, Matt and Chess find the drowned body of someone they knew well.  After the initial shock, they begin to investigate, slowly unravelling the mystery to discover a horrible crime.

In both cases, our intrepid pair find anomalies in the witness stories, items gone missing, half-remembered half-overheard conversations and scraps of notes.  They talk to a grieving fiancé and parents, chat to the mechanic at Yackandandah Motor Garage, join an apprehensive gathering at the Yackandandah Christmas Picnic, and Matt witnesses a hair-raising moment with Wando at Burrie Falls, the local swimming hole.

Yackandandah Creek Victoria
Yackandandah Creek

Their trial and error investigations are beautifully woven through the story with real clues and false leads.

At one stage Matt gets badly pummelled by the deceased’s brother Craig for inferring.  Matt is limping around putting on a brave face when Chess arrives.  ‘You get too carried away by things…you’re too theatrical’ she says, before getting embroiled in her own thoughts and hazardous hypotheses.  I had difficulty in picturing them at first; Matt seems solid enough but Chess has family problems, making her seem wise beyond her years.

Joanna Baker Yackandandah Motor Garage
Yackandandah Motor Garage

The settings for this novel do exist, for example the Yackandandah motor garage, bakery, the creek and Falls.  I think it’s clever how Devastation Road was named but I am not sure it exists with that name.  Here’s the link if you are interested in reading more about north-east Victoria https://www.exploreyackandandah.com.au/

This is the first book in Joanna Baker’s Beechworth Trilogy.  I did a bit of swiping back-and-forth to see if I had missed anything vital.  Concentration is needed!  There is more to this story than meets the eye.  The ending is a chilling and substantial psychological twist I bet you won’t see coming.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward    


AUTHOR PROFILE

Joanna Baker Australian Author 2019

Joanna Baker is an award-winning Australian mystery writer.  Devastation Road won the Sisters-in-Crime Davitt Award for Best Young Adult Novel and was described by The Age newspaper as ‘an outstanding first novel’.

Born in Hobart Tasmania, Joanna was educated at The Friends’ School, the Australian National University and RMIT in Victoria.

Joanna sets her novels in the two places she loves: Tasmania and the high country of north eastern Victoria.  She also writes and speaks about murder mysteries – why they are so enduring, and why they are not trivial.

Her current mysteries are The Slipping Place, Devastation Road and The Elsinore Vanish with Evermore coming soon.

Christmas Reading in a Shoebox

In the tried and true method of storing items of a precious nature, I have used a shoebox to delineate my important Christmas reading.  Methinks this bundle of books will take me into the New Year!

IN ORDER OF SHOEBOX CONTENT

Bloody-Bastard-Beautiful-Mocco-Wollert SWWQ

I just love the front cover of Mocco’s book. That yellow dress pops!  Back cover reads: “Adventurous, lovable and laughable, Mocco captures the heat and vibrancy of Darwin, in the 1950s rugged unruly Northern Territory of Australia.”  And “I am on my way to Darwin to find a job.  I have no money…”

 

 

Maybe The Horse Will Talk by Elliot Perlman

Another front cover I love!  You just know this will be quirky and Elliot’s Stephen Maserov has problems.  A onetime teacher, married to fellow teacher Eleanor, he is a second-year lawyer working in imminent danger of being downsized.  The back cover reads “I am absolutely terrified of losing a job I absolutely hate.”

 

 

In My Fathers House by Indrani Ganguly

Such a tranquil front cover.  It reminds me of my own father reading the newspaper every morning.  Many will remember my review of Indrani Ganguly’s “The Rose and The Thorn”, well, this is the book which precedes it.  Indrani has included her poetry, art work, short stories, photographs of her travels and more.

 

 

Toni Risson Greek Cafe Malted Milks Bookcover

Another beautiful front cover.  Must be viewed in person to appreciate the qualities!  You may recall my post about the opening of Queensland State Library’s exhibition “Meet Me At The Paragon” a Greek Cafés retrospective.  Toni’s companion book bulges with photos and historic information.

 

 

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The front cover certainly sets the tone.  The back cover reads “A city girl stranded in the middle of the desert.  A circus performer with haunted wings.  A rebellious fighter with a kangaroo heart.  A boy who dreams of holding his home in his heart.  A house made of flesh and bone.”  Maree writes unexpected stories!

 

 

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Almost last but never least, “Dewey” with photos inside, and “Miss Read”.  My own photograph of these two front covers is larger than the others because—

(A)  I worked, lived and breathed libraries for years but never read Vicki Myron’s series about “The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World” and

(B)  Miss Read, aka school teacher Dora Jessie Saint, had a particular cosy-village style and a huge following in the UK in 1960s when I wasn’t interested in that sort of stuff.  A slim little volume chosen because of the title “Village Christmas” far removed from my dry hot Aussie festive season.

HONOURABLE MENTION

Joanna Baker Devastation Road Bookcover 2019The final two books are on my iPad.  Written by Joanna Baker they are set in country-town Victoria, Australia.  I can whisper that I have already dipped into “Devastation Road” and it’s gripping.

Joanna Baker The Elsinore Vanish Bookcover 2019

There you have it!  Separate reviews will follow—eventually—on my blog as well as Goodreads.  Joy to the world!

Holly Christmas 02          ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Retrospective: The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling 2012

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The Casual Vacancy, First edition worldwide cover, Author J. K. Rowling, Publisher Little Brown and Company, Publication date 27 September 2012, Pages 503. The illustration denotes a square and cross marked on a voting ballot paper.

Who read The Casual Vacancy by famed British author J K Rowling?  I certainly did!  It was her first post-Harry Potter novel and caused quite a stir.  I worked in library services at the time so I helped shelve this hardback hundreds of times.  Fortunately the cover was so bright (and the original publication rather big) it was always easy to locate for prospective readers.  Actually the book did not stay shelved for long, there were so many on the waiting list clambering to read it.

The Casual Vacancy was written under Rowling’s real name prior to publication of her Cormoran Strike detective series written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.  Don’t ask me why, it didn’t fool anyone.  I do remember penning a scathing review of Lethal White the fourth book in that series.

Anyway…

In 2015, The Casual Vacancy was made into a British TV three-part miniseries.  Directed by Jonny Campbell, scripted by Sarah Phelps, and starred Michael Gambon, Julia McKenzie, Emelia Fox, and others I recognised from sit-coms, but unfortunately never got to see.  Actually this production may not have reached Australian television screens.  By all accounts, viewers were outraged by the changed ending, giving rise to the old saying ‘the book is always better’.

Now, without further ado, I present—

my original book review (previously published on a now-defunct book readers website) hopefully without spoilers—

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling 2012
Reviewed by Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2013

Quote “It was a brilliant piece of marketing strategy to publish this J K Rowling book prior to her (subsequently more popular) detective novel ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’.  What better way to heighten interest and arouse social consciousness than her very first post-Potter novel.  A long-awaited book, The Casual Vacancy is liked and loathed in equal measure but disliked more for the content than the writing – even though we’ve probably read similar books and met people similar to those in Pagford.  I think the pace is well-crafted, the voice and sense-of-place are beautifully brought to life, tinged with the graveness of a modern-day Dickens.

“The characters are an inglorious burst of humanity, almost, but not quite, edging towards insanity.  Indeed, most of the characters appear average but through various twists and turns the families in Pagford and the Fields are slowly stripped of their protective veneers and laid bare, exposing their ugliness beneath.  Nothing is sacred and all manner of collective disorders appear from young and old alike as their every move is documented, every word faithfully recorded.  We see the truths and witness the unveiling of secrets, motivated by revenge via website hacking.

“As we know from the blurb, the book kicks in with the death of Barry Fairbrother who arrives at the golf club for dinner with his wife on their wedding anniversary and keels over in the carpark.  By all accounts, he’s a nice man and liked by many people considering he was a local Councillor on Pagford’s wheeling-dealing Parish Council.  His demise leaves a casual vacancy on the Council board and the fight over his seat begins.  The reader learns there’s a war going on between the communities of Pagford and Yarvil over maintenance of the Fields, a decrepit housing estate, and the closure of a methadone clinic.  Not much political correctness goes on in council chambers.

“There you have it, henceforth The Casual Vacancy seethes with social snobbery, underage excess, racism, drug addiction and the ever-present spectres of greed, selfishness, ignorance and cruelty.  But, hey, don’t let that put you off.  This story hooked me like a continually unfolding TV saga or radio play.  I’d put it down and then have to pick it up just to see what happens to Krystal Weedon and her dissipated mother Terri, or Howard Mollison and his new café, or the ill-fated relationship of Gavin Hughes and Kay Bawden.

“Social worker Kay is new to Pagford and not a big player but she’s hardworking, misguided and gullible and the one I wanted to shout at, tell her to grab her daughter and get out of town fast.  The others, like Simon Price, are set up to be despised with appalling behaviour behind closed doors.  Occasionally I grew tired of the angry men and the gossiping wives and found that the sabotaging teenagers had more diverse demeanours, although young Sukhvinder Jawanda is heart-rending.  Was the ending so predictable?  As this inharmonious story draws to a close, I know it’s all still happening in real life.

“What more can I say?  The Casual Vacancy is an adult novel and anyone who’s been around the block a few times will related to its adult themes.  Whether or not the right people read it and change their social attitudes is another thing.  Sure it’s a tad depressing but I’ll give J K Rowling full marks for moving on from Hogwarts and writing something completely different.”  Unquote.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2019


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Joanne Kathleen Rowling CH, OBE, HonFRSE, FRCPE, FRSL, better known by her pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author, film producer, television producer, screenwriter and philanthropist. She was born 31 July 1965 in Yate, United Kingdom, and at the time of posting has written over 30 books of different genres. https://www.jkrowling.com/

Publishing, Bookselling and a Bus

In November I attended two important events for any emerging writer – publishing and bookselling.  There is a bonus short story at the end of my report.

The first event I attended was “Pathways to Publishing” at Brisbane Square Library CBD hosted by Kylie Kaden, Carolyn Martinez and David Bobis.  Dr Kate Steele was unable to attend but there was much advice to hear and many questions to ask.  No trade secrets here.  The photos (below) show the tilted windows behind the speakers platform but not a clear view of the Victoria Bridge and the ferries going up and down the Brisbane River.

The Discussion Panel

Kylie Kaden is an internationally published author of women’s fiction, Carolyn Martinez is the Director of Hawkeye Publishing and David Bobis writes fiction short stories for newspapers and magazines.  Pantera Press and Alison Green were mentioned and I made a note that editor Lauren Daniels of Brisbane Writers Workshop is an exponent of “show not tell” method.

One hour flew by.  However, I’m too lazy to embrace the promotional rigors of self-publishing.  I did learn that persistence pays off.  Flipside: if you are traditionally published your publisher takes the weight off but the finished product is up to them, cover design and all.  Meanwhile I must try to write a completed manuscript.

BCC Silent Book Club
Just wanted to add this Brisbane City Council library poster. Good idea or bad idea? Uncomfortable or relaxed? Weird or fun? I haven’t made up my mind if this would work for me. I think I’d be too busy watching the other readers. GBW.

Got a load of newly minted books in boxes in your hallway?
Congrats, next comes The Bookselling

The second event I attended was GenreCon Night Market held at State Library of Queensland, South Bank.  The whole event ran for three days but I was there on Friday evening in my brand-new capacity as Secretary for Society of Women Writers Qld Inc sharing a table with two authors Toni Risson and Mocco WollertFurther down the room were Australian Authors, FAWQ, Virginia Miranda, Russell Perry and Indrani GangulyWe were surrounded by authors of every genre hoping to sell their nicely displayed wares.  Yes, cash and I were soon parted.

State Library has many rooms but this room is stunning with a mirrored ceiling and one end open to the balmy night breeze.  The permanent wall display cases are crowded with valuable antique tea cups and saucers.

GenreCon QWC Brisbane Nov 2019 002
GenreCon 2019 featured a smorgasbord of leading names in Australian and international genre fiction. They had a spectacular line up of panels, workshops, author talks and special events where you could join over 200 writers, editors, agents and publishers for three days of celebrating genre plus Night Market, Costume Gala, GenreCon Badge and Conference Pack https://genrecon.com.au/

The venue filled up and was buzzing from 5pm-9pm but unfortunately nobody knew there was a Meet & Greet in another section with food and wine, so by the end of the night we were famished.

Early on, a cup of hot coffee had spilled across our table.  It soaked a lovely tablecloth which had to be discreetly removed.  I scored a beverage-damaged book which I shall enjoy reading even if the aroma of caffeine tingles my tastebuds.

No book sales for our table but it was a night of lively conversation and I handed out several SWWQ membership leaflets.

Your Bonus Reading

Being an exponent of public transport on both occasions I travelled to and from the venues in council buses.  Waiting at a city bus stop on a Friday night can be an interesting experience.

I saw the drunk staggering along the pavement and I hoped he and his wildly waving bottle of spirits would keep going.  No, he lurched to a stop in front of me.  To attract my attention, he bellowed “Hey, hey darlin” and leaned forward.  His voice dropped.  “I jus wanna say that’s a lovely dress ya wearin.”  He let out a cackle and stumbled away, only to stop again.  I refused eye contact but I knew he was looking back at me.  He shouted in triumph “Bet ya didn’t expect that!”  I gave a tiny smile then jumped up and practically ran to my bus.Draw-a-Bus Cartoon 07

Guess what?  The bus driver was new, took a wrong turn and actually got his whole busload of passengers lost!  I didn’t notice until I looked up and had not the foggiest idea where we were.  Neither did the bus driver.  The bus meandered through the night while we muttered to each other.  Thankfully a school teacher-type woman gave him directions on how to get back on route.  Good old human navigation.

I’ve no complaints because it was an almost magical Harry Potter experience being somewhere unrecognisable, going down steep streets, swerving around wide corners, passing twinkling cafes and glittering nightclubs.  The woman who got us back on track left the bus before me.  Eventually I arrived at my stop, none the worse for an unscheduled detour.  As I alighted I experienced a twinge of regret for not raising my voice and saying “Thank you” to the woman for her calm control of the situation.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Three Things #8

Looking Thinking Reading!  Three Things very different this time—Tawny Frogmouths, Blogging Reward plus authors Malcolm Gladwell, Rohan Wilson, Mocco Wollert and Maree Kimberley—mix the sequence, have a sticky-beak. GBW.


LOOKING

On my Home page there was an image of two Tawny Frogmouths which live in my front garden.  If you missed it, for your edification I have re-posted my original “Photo Of The Week” image—I change them every Saturday.  I think this photo shows the unique adaptability of nature. GBW.

A Tawny Frogmouth Couple in Flame Tree Nov2019
CAN YOU SPOT THE TAWNY FROGMOUTH? Actually there are two Tawny Frogmouths in my tree. They are night birds with an owl-like appearance but are actually more closely related to the nightjars and they lack the curved talons of owls. The general plumage of the Tawny Frogmouth is silver-grey, slightly paler below, streaked and mottled with black and rufous. During the day, these Tawny Frogmouths perch in the tree, well camouflaged as part of the branches. At night they hunt nocturnal insects, worms, snails, and often catch moths in the air during flight. They make a soft, deep and continuous ‘oom oom oom’ sound. They live all around Australia in a variety of habitats from city to rural areas. GBW. https://australianmuseum.net.au/learn/animals/birds/tawny-frogmouth/

THINKINGThinking Bubble Thought 01

Quote “I think the pleasure of completed work is what makes blogging so popular.  You have to believe most bloggers have few if any actual readers.  The writers are in it for other reasons.  Blogging is like work, but without co-workers thwarting you at every turn.  All you get is the pleasure of a completed task.” —Scott Adams “Dilbert”.

Gretchen says:  Like many things, e.g. press columns, literary reviews, magazine articles, in the blogging world I am only as good as my latest post.  This idea isn’t new, and it’s debatable, but there’s so much coming along all the time that nobody has two seconds to scroll through my back posts – except spammers looking for a way in.  Accordingly Scott Adams is right, for me it’s the pleasure of completing a task.  Reimbursement?  Pfft… that ain’t on my cards, baby. GBW.

Quote “And it occurred to me that there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing—writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology.”—Simon Dumenco “Media Guy”.

Gretchen says:  Hmm, “just writing” hey?  Each and every blogger is using this individualistic approach to writing.  And they “publish” their little hearts out.  I think blogging is more artistic than “just writing”.  Yet I agree with Dumenco.  All writers have their own agenda, and possibly two or three outlets, regardless of the name.  I accept the term “blogger” because that efficient “publishing technology” supports me as I tread a path of my own making. GBW.


READING

A change of pace.
Four vastly different books.
A mixed bunch of authors. 

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Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.
The #1 New York Times and top ten Sunday Times bestseller quote “I love this book … reading it will actually change not just how you see strangers, but how you look at yourself, the news – the world.”  So far I have found nothing new but I will persevere in the hope that something startling will be uncovered considering “No one shows us who we are like Malcolm Gladwell.”
https://www.gladwellbooks.com/

Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson.
This dystopian novel comes well recommended.  “In its vision of the future, Daughter of Bad Times explores the truth about a growing inhumanity, as profit becomes the priority.  Supposedly dead, Rin’s lover Yamaan survives a natural disaster and turns up in an immigration detention facility in Australia, no ordinary facility, it’s a corrupt private prison company built to exploit the flood of environmental refugees.”
https://www.allenandunwin.com/authors/w/rohan-wilson

Bloody Bastard Beautiful by Mocco Wollert.
“The frank and hilarious account of an immigrant girl who follows her German lover to Darwin.  Adventurous, loveable and laughable, Mocco captures the heat and vibrancy of Darwin and its larrikins, in a decade where the Northern Territory makes its own rules.”  Or as Mocco says “I am on my way to Darwin to find a job.  I have no money to buy petrol or oil, man, I am desperate.”  I met her at GenreCon and she’s quite a lady.
https://www.boolarongpress.com.au/our-authors/authors-w/mocco-wollert/

Never the Tracked: And other Stories by Maree Kimberley.
At GenreCon, I signed up for Maree’s newsletter and she gave me this booklet of outstanding short stories with a twist.  I will be buying her forthcoming book because I love a bit of surrealism.  “Coming in late 2020 from Text Publishing, Dirt Circus League is set in modern-day remote Queensland, a YA genre-bending slice of Australian paranormal fantasy and surrealism.”
https://mareekimberley.com.au/

Did I mention that I am a thorough reader?  Don’t wait up!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Wales Readathon Dewithon 2019 08

HISTORICAL NOTE—One post in three parts “Reading Looking Thinking” a neat idea started by blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley.

Check out Book Jotter her informative, interesting and totally book-related website!

Review ‘The Dreamers’ by Karen Thompson Walker

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The pretty embossed bookcover hides a dark and disturbing story and I would not recommend it to immature readers, or people I know with sleep disorders.

I think the apocalyptic nature of the book could have a tendency to induce fear and possibly depression in anyone sensitive to a crisis situation with unstoppable consequences.

If I was watching this as a disaster movie about a virus starting in a school dormitory, causing people to fall asleep and may never wake up, I bet most of the theatre-goers around me would be shallow breathing, wondering if it were true.

Lesser books have been known to cause restless sleep, or bad dreams.

Of course, the virulent virus comes from the fertile imagination of Karen Thompson Walker who said in a BWF 2019 panel discussion “Why we dream is unknown” although she puts forward some interesting theories in this story.

‘The Dreamers’ could just as easily die from any airborne disease and here lies the crux of the matter.

The author does an excellent job in researching and creating botched medical care, civil unrest, mass panic, and then bringing it right back down to the most helpless, two young girls and their kittens, alone in an old house.

In a clipped journalistic writing style, there are heroes, references to new life, new love and parental devotion striving against all odds yet feeling strangely hollow and disjointed.  For me, the ending is unresolved.

This type of plotting is not my preferred reading, however, I respect the level of apprehension Karen Thompson Walker has created even while I think ‘The Dreamers’ could unsettle vulnerable readers.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

AUTHOR PROFILE—Karen Thompson Walker was born and raised in San Diego, California, where her first book ‘The Age of Miracles’ is set.  She studied English and creative writing at UCLA, where she wrote for the UCLA Daily Bruin.  An assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon, she lives in Portland with her husband, the novelist Casey Walker, and their two daughters.
http://karenthompsonwalker.com/

Book Perfect – Virago

Virago is an international publisher of books by women for all readers, everywhere.  Established in 1973, their mission has been to champion women’s voices and bring them to the widest possible readership around the world.  They found me!  From fiction and politics to history and classic children’s stories, their writers continue to win acclaim, break new ground and enrich the lives of readers.  That’s me!  Read on…

IMG_20191013_111253Book For You 01Book For You 02Book For You 03Book For You 04

My Goodreads Book Review

Superb anthology of the last forty years of Virago Modern Classics with a gorgeous bookcover illustration. Great for readers who appreciate women writers and also for students studying literature. Each contemporary author writes a sincere and thoughtful introduction from their own perspective as a reader. They cover the classics, from fiction and comedy to famous diaries and autobiographies. For example, Margaret Drabble discusses Jane Austen ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and further on Jilly Cooper talks about E. M. Delafield ‘The Diary of a Provincial Lady’. Although I’ve not read ‘Strangers on a Train’ by Patricia Highsmith, I think Claire Messud has convinced me to read it. At the end of Amanda Craig’s introduction on Rebecca West ‘The Fountain Overflows’ she says ‘The novel is one of those rare books that leaves the reader feeling happier and more hopeful than before.” And that’s exactly what this Virago Modern Classics makes me feel https://www.goodreads.com/gretchenbernetward

Virago Publisher of Women Writers

Virago celebrated their fortieth anniversary of Virago Modern Classics, Virago Press published the book I so eagerly purchased ‘Writers as Readers’, an anthology of forty introductions from the last four decades…books that deserve once again to be read and loved.  Virago also reintroduced the iconic green spines across their whole booklist.

Virago has a huge booklist, I’m sure you’ve read several of their titles, and rather than me listing every book available, you can visit their beautiful website:
https://www.virago.co.uk/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Review ‘Too Much Lip’ by Melissa Lucashenko

The incessant fights in the Salter family are too real, their plight is real, every word is real and that’s what damaged me the most.  I took long walks due to the serious and unrelenting nature of the content.  Loaded with the troubles of the Salter family, cruel sarcasm, too much drink, too many smokes, I was getting worn down right along with them.  It took me a month to read this book in fits and starts but I’m glad I did.

Abrasive characters are well portrayed which makes them doubly annoying, they need to be accepted warts and all, like ‘mouthy’ Kerry Salter and her unlikable brother Ken who argue every minute of the day.  I’m sure I’d have put Ken in hospital at about Chapter Three.

Maybe take the pressure off young Donny.

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Bad things are happening, but as long as Kerry’s Harley Softail is safe.

Early on, Bundjalung woman Kerry has returned to her home town of Durrongo, and grieves the loss of her girlfriend Allie, her Pop and her stolen blue backpack.  She does a B&E, part retribution, part spirit world, and the universe turns a notch.  Fair move, but repercussions come later.  Then there’s romance in the form of her hot eye-candy boyfriend Steve Abarco who’s the flagship for level-headed, rock-solid men.

Kerry’s tarot card-reading mother Pretty Mary celebrates a birthday and those volatile chapters are my favourites.  At the party is another brother, gay Black Superman, maybe long-dead sister Donna, plus assorted Aunts (called Mary) Uncles and children who gust through the pages like eucalyptus smoke.  But forget about opening old family wounds, I’d say a lump the size of police headquarters sits in the pit of their stomachs, continually irritating their every move.

The battle against a new prison, to be built on sacred ground where Salter ancestors are laid to rest, ramps up with a land rights campaign.  Enter cops like Senior Sergeant Trevor Nunne and money-hungry Mayor Jim Buckley.  Ken’s flamboyant gesture on a piece of Buckley’s property was not appreciated and leads to disastrous retaliation.

You will have noticed that I am not giving too much away.

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Two Aboriginal kingplates I photographed in a display cabinet at Ipswich Art Galley, Queensland.

Writing style-wise, I did wondered why Kerry wasn’t written in first person.  Some events are seeded in advance while others appear to be inserted later to up-the-ante.  Every so often the voice changes, doubt creeps in, there’s a lull.  Or a change in atmosphere with The Doctor.  Occasionally things become omnipotent and POVs jump in and out of people’s heads but that can be overlooked for scary brave writing.

If you are not Australian, you WILL become lost in the slang and cultural references.

Try anyway.

Read this rude, gutsy book if you ARE offended by swearing, truisms close to the bone, and the struggles of Indigenous people.  As Ken says in Chapter 15 ‘How to invade other people’s countries and murder ‘em, and call it civilisation’.

It’s a strong insight into the modern world and an ancient culture, one which doesn’t need skyscrapers because Country is a place of belonging and a way of believing.

Good onya, Melissa, for audaciously holding your nerve*

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


* REFERENCE : Sydney Morning Herald interview insights into the writing of ‘Too Much Lip’
https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/melissa-lucashenko-too-much-lip-was-a-frightening-book-to-write-20180724-h1326h.html

AUTHOR PROFILE : Melissa Lucashenko is an acclaimed Aboriginal writer of Goorie and European heritage.  Since 1997 Melissa has been widely published as an award-winning novelist, essayist and short story writer.

AUTHOR WEBSITE : https://www.melissa-lucashenko.com/

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Fear of Joining Goodreads

Yes, fear that I will become addicted.  Fear that I will push myself to read a gazillion books a year so I can frantically, faithfully rate and review them.  Fear that I will get hooked on groups, authors, discussions, surveys and polls—or even worse, a bestseller—and thus lose my individuality.

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What if I was swamped by a wave of literary-ness which swept away my identity and I became a book character, never able to reach the shores of reality,  adrift in a choppy sea of font and words, desperately swimming towards the final chapter so I could beach myself on that last blessed page?

It didn’t happen.

I know this because I have finally joined the ranks of Goodreads readers.

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Why did I join?  Because I was caught, hook, line and sinker by a single author and her book ‘The Rose and The Thorn’.

In August 2019, I posted my very first Goodreads review on Indrani Ganguly’s historical novel (also here on my blog) and the Hallelujah choir sang.  That was it!

I think I shelved about twenty books in one hit.  Then about thirty, then more, and before I knew it I was writing reviews; albeit after I sussed out their (ssshh, whisper here) rather archaic system.

Without fear, without favour!  I am part of Goodreads for better or worse!

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So far I have followed a couple of authors I enjoy, and a couple of groups which seem relevant to my reading tastes.  I encompass miscellany, similar to my blog, so I am open to your book reading suggestions.

Take a peek, you may find the same book we both have read . . . but will our rating or review be the same?

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/101014600-gretchen-bernet-ward

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Brisbane Writers Festival Notes Part 1

Hi there, a diary entry to say that I am locked into five events over four days at the Brisbane Writers Festival and have attended session ‘Workshop: Writing Futures’ with UK author Jasper Fforde in QWC rooms which I thought ran for one hour, instead it turned out to be three hours.  Value for money!

Jasper Fforde’s takeaway tip for writers: Plausibility Not Believability.  There ain’t nuthin’ that bloke don’t know about writing parallel worlds and alternate futures.

Luckily I had tucked a muesli bar and bottle of water into my bag which helped stave off hunger as I listened avidly to every enlightening word.  Jasper Fforde is humorous, full of helpful advice and open to questions.  I was bold enough to asked a question or two about his ‘The Last Dragonslayer’ trilogy—although Spec-Ops and Thursday Next will always be my favourite.  During the Festival there will be plenty of time for book signings.

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https://bwf.org.au/

Roll on Saturday and a panel discussion ‘Dream Worlds’ in Cinema B Gallery of Modern Art, being recorded by ABC Radio National, with Australian author Krissy Kneen, American author Karen Thompson Walker and UK author Jasper Fforde.  They are followed by ‘Early Riser’ Conversation at The Edge, State Library of Queensland, South Bank, then Sunday ‘Book Club’ chat with Jasper Fforde on SLQ River Deck.  There is a closing address on Sunday evening ‘This Way Humanity’ and in the meantime I can avail myself of a Festival freebie or two.

Springtime here, it’s dry and unseasonably hot in Brisbane followed by bushfire smoke and dusty high winds so I’ve had to rework my wardrobe.  My bus GoCard is topped up, I have the BWF tickets printed, I am good to go.  Hopefully I will post more in-depth snippets next week.  In the meantime, type Jasper Fforde into my search bar to view my past posts.

The photograph (below) shows the way I walk to State Library of Queensland, underneath the singing whales in the roof outside the Queensland Museum.  Always reminds me of the whale in Douglas Adams ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’.

Bye for now . . . to be continued.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Life-size whale calf in the roof outside Queensland Museum, Brisbane.

Book Backlog and Being ‘Beswitched’

Every reader has book backlog.  If we didn’t, there would be no such thing as the TBR, or stacks of unread ARCs, neither shelves groaning with books nor e-readers crammed with downloads.  My bedside table is piled high with enticing yet unread novels and, well, you get the idea.  You have book backlog, too.

There are so many excellent books in the world that I know I will never catch up—so I’m being choosy and will read what I want, when I want.  And taking the sinful route of skipping pages if it’s not up to scratch.

My reading material may not be literary, it may not be controversial, it may not be popular, it may not be the latest or greatest, however, it will be a book I’m interested in from cover-to-cover.  An occasional blog post is sure to come out of it, no matter how fluffy or deep the content.

‘Okay, okay, enough!’ I hear you cry.  ‘When does time travel come into this?’


Beswitched by Kate Saunders 01“A ripping English boarding-school story with a perceptive heroine and time-travel twist guaranteed to appeal to modern schoolgirls.”—Kirkus Reviews



BESWITCHED BY KATE SAUNDERS
is the kind of story which I would have loved when I was a girl.  Well paced and absorbing, it is eerily accurate of all those Famous Five and Girls Own Annual stories I read yonks ago.  Saunders tight writing style easily pulled me into the dilemma which rather spoilt young schoolgirl Flora Fox finds herself, viz, she gets fobbed off to boarding school and never arrives.

Actually she does arrive, but she’s zapped back in time.  Instead of luxurious Penrice Hall, she arrives at St Winifred’s in pre-war 1935 where all the ‘gels’ are ever-so-British-upper-class, the underwear is scratchy and the food is awful.

As you can imagine this is a personal growth tale, cut through with humorous chronological comparisons, nightmare teachers, ripping seaside hols, scary bonding adventures and a neat twist to the enlightening finale.  Jolly. Good. Fun.

I won’t go into the logistics of time travel but suffice to say the elements meld together well.  Recommended for 8 to 12 year olds, although anybody can read it for a look at life when steely friendships were forged by facing boarding school adversity together.

My kidlit rating soars above five stars!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Kate Saunders Author
Kate Saunders won the Costa Children’s Book Award for ‘Five Children on the Western Front’ published 2014. Photo by Clara Molden. Review https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kate-saunders/beswitched/

Author or Businesswoman? The Story Behind Girl and Duck

Real world experience and advice from a published author with dedication, sincerity and passion for sharing her craft.
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Who is this wonder woman? Read on…

girl and duck

This week at girl and duck, we opened The Scribbles Academy. It’s been super exciting and lots of people have jumped on board.

Thank you!!!! I know you’re going to love your Scribbly experience!

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But how did this all begin?

What’s the real story behind girl and duck?

I wrote about this a couple of years back. But, in those early days, I was more interested in talking about the community. How passionate it was and how it seemed to sprout from nowhere.

More time has passed and now I want to go deeper. I want you, dear reader, to know exactly how I began my online business.

How and why I started it. And who was there to help me.

Ding Ding Ding! Multiple Income Streams!

Back in 2011, it occurred to me that I might NEVER make a liveable income from writing. No matter how many books…

View original post 1,599 more words

Scribbles Masterclass 2019

One of my favourite contemporary children’s writers is Jen Storer.  Wise, warm and wonderful, Jen imparts her wealth of knowledge on Girl and Duck online with Scribbles courses, Questions and Quacks videos, Facebook live sessions and a yearly Masterclass.

Here is a letter from Jen Storer


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Scribbles Masterclass 2019

Dear Children’s Literature Creators,

KidLit Vic is fast approaching and so is the annual Scribbles Masterclass!

  • Scribbles Masterclass
  • 4.1 Hayden Raysmith Room
  • Ross House
  • 247 Flinders Lane (That’s right. Across the street from Brunetti!) Melbourne Australia
  • Friday 24 May 2019
  • 2pm – 5pm

Note: This year we have a SECRET special guest joining us!

If you would like to join me (and my special guest), please CLICK HERE to book your place by Wednesday, 15 May 2019 10pm (AEST).  There are still a few spots left.

IMPORTANT:  You do not have to be attending KidLit Vic Melbourne in order to join the Masterclass.  We are not affiliated, we just time it that way because lots of Scribblers are in town!

Stay scribbly!

Jen Storer
Children’s Author and Chief Inspirationalist at Girl and Duck.com*


Scribbles Masterclass Information 2019*Girl and Duck is a flourishing online community of emerging and established children’s literature creators (authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, designers and enthusiasts) with members from all over Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Europe.

Learn more about Duckies, Scribblers, writers and illustrators:
https://girlandduck.com/

Click to BOOK your Masterclass 2019 place NOW.  I know first-hand it’s a fun learning experience.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Scribbles Masterclass Melbourne May 2019 Panel
Girl and Duck ‘Scribbles’ Masterclass panel featuring Jen Storer, Lucinda Gifford and Judith Rossell, May 2019 Melbourne Australia.

Travel Tribute to H V Morton and Wales

This faded old book jumped out at me.  I believe interconnections exist everywhere in many forms but none so strongly as with books.

I spied this hardback ‘In Search of Wales’ by H.V. Morton, with sixteen illustrations and a map, resting on one of the tables at UQ Alumni Book Fair.  It was published by Methuen & Co. Ltd London in 1932 and purchased by the Parliamentary Library in Queensland, Australia, on 27 July 1932.  My photographs don’t convey the substance of this volume.

Apart from my purchase giving me a tenuous Queensland connection, since I have been blogging I have come to know bloggers from Wales like Book Jotter, and people with ties to Wales, so I guess I was curious to find out some early 20th century history.

There is a city named Ipswich, west of the capital Brisbane, Queensland, and it has Welsh heritage from the founding families, the legacy of coal mines, and street names I can’t pronounce.  It was going to be our capital city but being situated inland away from sea ports (and always hotter in summer) Brisbane took over the coveted position.

When I look at the B&W images in this book, I can’t help but feel strong emotion for those Welsh families, the people who came to Queensland in 1851 and started afresh.  Whether it was out of necessity, assisted passage, general interest or just sheer bravery, it was a long way to come to start a new life in a totally different land.

The three photos (below) are 1. Cornfields, 2. Druid ceremony conducted by the Archdruid at the Gorsedd Stone, 3. Cockle women of Penclawdd on the seashore.  It looks cold!  Throughout there are two-page spreads of dramatic valleys, stoney castles and heartbreaking portraits of mining men and soot-covered boys.

My new old book was deleted from the Old Parliament Library catalogue on 22 October 1996 and I wondered where it had been since then.  ‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘I am enjoying it now on 10 May 2019’.  Then I saw a small pencilled Dewey notation on the back cover map UL914.29 Mor.  It had probably languished in the University Library.

As yet I haven’t tracked down all the details of author, Henry Vollam Morton, and even though he was a well-known journalist and travel writer, the information in the final pages doesn’t give much away.  There is an insightful personal comment (photo below) which ends with three tiny icons, perhaps foreshadowing today’s social media links.

Further material tells me that the author’s book ‘…is more than a travel book, it is a sensitive interpretation of a country’s people and their history.’  He wrote a series called ‘The Search Books’ and further along it reads ‘Since that time Mr Morton’s gay and informative travels…have gained him thousands of readers.’

At this late stage, a book review would be rather tricky—okay, it would be hard for me to get my head around.  H.V. Morton travels far and wide through Wales and writes in depth.  The voice, the style of that era (nicer than brash Bill Bryson) is easy to read and written in a friendly, personal way with warmth in every chapter.  Allowing for the off-key words we don’t use today, there is factual information and humorous stories, and in Chapter Six he asks the usual traveller’s question and receives a great reply—

“The first village, commonly and charitably called Llanfair, provides the stranger with an impossible task among the Welsh place-names.
Its title is: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllandysiliogogogoch

This is no joke.  It is only too true!  The full name, however, is never used but it appears only slightly amputated in the Ordnance Survey maps.
The postal name is Llanfair P.G. or Llanfairpwll.

I entered the first inn and said to those who were drinking in the bar ‘I will buy anyone a drink who can pronounce the full name of this place.’
There was an ominous silence until an old man, finishing his beer, stood up and sang it!

‘And what does it mean?’ I asked.
‘It means,’ I was told, ‘the Church of St Mary in a wood of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and near St Tysilio’s cave close to a red cave’.” 

Sounds magical to me.  Daith yn hapus!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Another beautiful coincidence – it is not springtime in Australia, it is cool autumn weather. Yet these daffodils, a Welsh symbol, were outside my local supermarket the day after I purchased the book at UQ Alumni Book Fair.

Further reading from Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, England, and HVM Society
https://hvmorton.wordpress.com/2019/02/17/great-british-car-journeys/

Rare Book Auction and Alumni Book Fair PART THREE

On your marks, get set…

The University of Queensland Alumni Book Fair 2019 at St Lucia, Brisbane, had been in full swing for a couple of days before I arrived on the third day.  One more day to go with no sign of running out of keen customers or brilliant book bargains.

The Exhibition Hall is huge!

The whole area was filled with tables covered in books of every shape, size, colour and genre.  I couldn’t name every section without going cross-eyed but there were technical books, reference books, fiction, non-fiction, and fun stuff like mixed media (including old vinyl records) and cool kids books.

I could say romance novels jostled for position with items such as travel guides and political biographies but everything was grouped in an orderly manner, well marked and easy to access.  I was surprised to see numerous large old dictionaries for sale, however, the eclectic poetry section caught my eye.  Ooh, Bruce Dawe.

Total absorption

The whole area was spacious, clean and civilised.  I expected a few gasps or cries of joy when The One, that perfect addition to a series or a special edition was found and held aloft.  But no, basically the customers had their own agendas and moved calmly from book table to book table with carry bags, totally absorbed.  By my estimation, I think you could expect to spend about two hours scanning and sifting through the books, more if you wanted to read pages here and there.

Stacks of boxes

In the first photo (above) in the distance you can see a stack of book boxes, then in the second photo you see the book boxes up close.  That opened box was about head-height and a volunteer told me those boxes had stretched along the walls, and every day they were emptied.  Volunteers in purple t-shirts worked tirelessly the whole time I was there, unpacking, shelving, answering queries, and working at the payment points.

Afternoon tea

In the adjacent cafeteria (delicious homemade strawberry cake) I displayed some of the haul.  You will spy a small red book in the left-hand photo which I have opened in the right-hand photo.  The dust-jacket is missing and the previous owner had not liked naughty boy Pierre and scribbled on him in pencil but I love it.  After a bit of searching, I found out this little Maurice Sendak volume is one of four, a Nutshell Library boxed set published in 1962 by HarperCollins.

Time to go

On display in the foyer of the Exhibition Hall were enlarged travel images and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the duck and ducklings.  Overall, the synchronicity of UQ Alumni Friends, Members and volunteers created an exceptional event.

Walking back to the bus stop, weighed down with my treasure, the water bubbling through the pipes of this fountain made a relaxing sound so I stopped to admire it.

As I stood there, I thought about the massive amount of books on every subject imaginable which showed how far we have come, and how much of value we have left behind.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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My previous posts:

Part One
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/04/28/rare-book-auction-and-alumni-book-fair/
Part Two
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/05/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-two/

Review ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ by Maria Donovan

The plot twists and turns over many months as I follow the lives of three families jolted sideways after two untimely deaths.

Michael’s friend Janey has lost her dad to cancer and Michael understands this, but the other person who died?  Nextdoor neighbour and dear friend Irma.  Was it a heart condition, an accident or murder?

The safe, cosy world of young Michael and his Nan changes dramatically.  Michael also has to cope with George, a bully, who moves into Irma’s house with his father Shawn prior to her death.

IMG_20190427_151647The sudden loss of Irma is deeply felt by Michael.  As the saying goes he has “an old head on young shoulders” but is confused over what actually happened and gets no help from the adults.  Strong opinions and conflicting advice are tossed his way.

Deep down Michael believes Irma was murdered and is determined to convince Nan and the gatekeepers.  There are complexities to face and he over-reaches in the hope of finding justice.  Anxiety joins his grief, he challenges his homelife and raises old questions.  Why does he live with his grandmother?  Where are his parents?

During a bad night, Michael’s old teddy bear comes down off the shelf for support as he works on his theory of Irma’s demise.  He thinks she may have been poisoned.  The chicken soup in question was homemade by Irma and well loved by Michael, his favourite panacea for cold symptoms.  In fact, he is sniffling when she goes off to make him chicken soup and disaster strikes.

At one stage, Michael suspects his Nan – she’s my favourite character! – and while out walking he dashes away and hides.  Quote “Michael?” calls Nan.  I don’t move.  “Michael”.  “He’s fallen in the bloody moat,” says the man who isn’t Grandad.  “Good job there’s no water in it.”  “Feeder canal,” says Nan.  “This is no time to be right about everything,” he growls.  I’ve never heard anyone tell Nan off like that before. Unquote.

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Real clue? Fake clue?

Author Maria Donovan portrays well-rounded, believable characters and each brings small yet highly significant details to the story.  Bully and his father are thorns in Michael’s side but nothing distracts him from the hunt for clues.  Janey has her own family problems.  To relieve her frustration she gets a box of golf balls and stands in The Middle, a green opposite the houses, and slogs each white ball as hard as she can…

Being of a nosey disposition myself, I empathise with Michael’s underlying emotions and the need for resolution.  Unfortunately this drive consumes him to the point of performing an ill-advised concert song.  Tension escalates and stoic Nan marches towards a showdown.  Maria Donovan’s tightly written finale comes at a penultimate time of year for everyone.

IMG_20190427_152828Skillfully woven through the story are school holidays, the seaside, and events on telly like Wimbledon, Test Cricket and 2012 Paralympics.  Halloween high jinks are followed by a traditional Guy Fawkes bonfire night.  Occasionally the zeitgeist side-tracks Michael’s quest yet adds a kaleidoscope of nostalgia for me.

Michael’s journey isn’t for children although young adult readers would identify with the youthful side.  Part mystery, part coming-of-age, I think adults will enjoy the unique elements of the plot, and appreciate less gore than currently found in mystery novels.

Maria Donovan’s book walks a fine line between innocence and adult behaviour and succeeds in capturing the mood beautifully.  It demands to be read again.  Seek out those clever clues!

My star rating star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY:

Maria Donovan Book Launch

‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ is Maria Donovan’s debut novel and was a finalist for the Dundee International Book Prize.  Apart from this book, Maria has many literary credits to her name including her flash fiction story ‘Chess’ which won the Dorset Award in the Bridport Prize 2015.

Maria is a native of Dorset UK and has strong connections with Wales (also in the book) and Holland.  Her past careers include training as a nurse in the Netherlands, busking with music and fire around Europe and nine years lecturing in Creative Writing at the University of Glamorgan, South Wales.

Visit Maria Donovan online www.mariadonovan.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/mariadonovanwri
Facebook http://facebook.com/mariadonovanauthor

I can highly recommend the informative Chicken Soup Murder Q&A with Maria Donovan and Shauna Gilligan.

Rare Book Auction and Alumni Book Fair PART TWO

What a blast!

On arrival, drinks and nibbles were a nice surprise after travelling by bus along winding streets to UQ Alumni Rare Book Auction.  From then onward it was non-stop action from 6pm until 9pm in Fryer Library.

Twilight sky

Beforehand, I walked not the ‘hallowed halls’ but the beautiful arched sandstone walkways of the Great Court to the Fryer Library entrance.  I caught the lift to the fourth floor where several people were mingling in the foyer beside the bidding registration table.  On receiving Number 30, I hoped it was a lucky number.

Lucky number 30

I wandered in to the library, strolled through all the assembled black chairs, and entered the book viewing area.  Lighting was subdued but it was easy to see the fascinating array of old books waiting patiently for my frenzied bidding.  Not quite frenzied; but to jump ahead, I did offer a bid for a beautiful book, at least I think it is, which started and finished at the same amount, i.e. nobody out-bid me.  Shame really because Smith, A. Croxton ‘Tail-Waggers’ Country Life, London, 1935, 147 pp has superbly rendered B&W mounted etchings by Malcolm Nicholson.

Lights, camera, action

After ascertaining if I could take photos, permission granted, I ended up being so entranced by the bidding that I didn’t take many shots.  The introductions, welcome and Acknowledgement of Country were conducted (first by university librarian Caroline Williams originally from Nottingham UK) and at 6.45pm, auctioneer Jonathan Blocksidge stood behind the lectern.  Game on!

Quickly, keep up

The bidding was fast and Mr Blocksidge kept the pace up, the heat on and the bids rising.  There seemed to be some pretty serious collectors and possibly agents in the audience and at times the bids rose in increments so rapidly it was hard to keep track.

The highest bidder

There were absentee bidders and Lot 27 rose above the reserve price.  As the night progressed – 146 lots were listed – bidding ‘wars’ occurred, particularly between two people behind me.  The jousting for Lot 62, first edition of ‘Human Action: A Treatise on Economics’ made the audience applaud in appreciation.  Same for Lot 66 ‘The Natural History of Man’ and Lot 86 James Cook’s ‘A Voyage Towards the South Pole’ which later culminated in Lot 105 Charles Kingsford-Smith’s personally signed copy of ‘Story of Southern Cross’ going for a huge amount.

Regrettably, the star of the show and expected highlight of the evening Lot 146 Gauss (de Brunswick) book ‘Recherches Arithmetiques’ did not meet the hefty reserve price.

Until tomorrow

The UQ team of staff and volunteers worked tirelessly throughout the evening, quiet yet ready to assist, and I think they did an excellent job.  In fact, I have been reliably informed that all of the auction organisers I had contact with are UQ Alumni Friends, Members and volunteers.  They were supported by the Fryer Library team (led by Manager, Simon Farley) who organised the chairs, allowed use of the library space, and provided the hospitality pre-event.  A success well deserved!

I purchased and collected my precious old book of ‘Tail-Waggers’ and headed out into the cool, calm night.

Stick around for Part Three coming soon, my adventure with books, books and more books.  Or better still, visit the UQ Alumni Book Fair yourself!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Check out my previous post Part One
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/04/28/rare-book-auction-and-alumni-book-fair/
and my final post Part Three
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/08/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-three/

 

Rare Book Auction and Alumni Book Fair PART ONE

So excited, I’ve never been to a rare book auction.  In fact, I have never been to an auction.  It’s not something which cropped up in my everyday life and I must admit from what I’ve seen on television, it can get pretty fast and furious.

There’s always the horror of twitching an eyebrow and accidentally bidding for a hugely expensive volume of poetry, the only book of its kind in the world, which has to stay in a glass case.  Well, not exactly, but you get the idea.

MY COMMENTARY INTERSPERSED WITH IMAGES

The University of Queensland Alumni Book Fair and Rare Book Auction will be held at St Lucia Campus, Brisbane, over four days on the weekend of Friday 3 May to Monday 6 May 2019 – Monday being Labour Day holiday in Queensland – see UQ website for various times.

HOW DID I FIND OUT ABOUT THIS RARE BOOK AUCTION?

Last month, I attended a talk at University of Queensland’s Long Pocket Campus, home of the University of Queensland Press, or UQP as it is fondly known, the oldest independent publishing house in Australia with an illustrious stable of authors.  I browsed some of the newly published books on offer, grabbed a coffee and sat with other attendees to absorb an informative talk from the Publishing Director, right down to choosing bookcovers.

We broke for a tasty lunch then listened to the ins-and-outs of publishing publicity, Selling The Brand.  Another world really but invaluable knowledge for a writer.  Our group participated in a Q&A quiz about books and authors.  I threw up my hand and answered correctly, winning myself a new novel ‘The Geography of Friendship’ by Sally Piper which I will read and review.

DOWN A HILL AND UP A HILL . . .

Afterwards, we all trooped outside, down a hill and up a hill through the lush native gardens to where the Archives live.  Amongst the thousands of new and used books donated every year, there are rare and valuable tomes, well-kept considering their age.  On the shelving, behold every genre, every topic, every format imaginable.  And nearly every item in the Junior Section held nostalgia for me.  It is here I learned about the UQ Alumni Rare Book Auction 6pm on Friday 3 May 2019.

BROWSE AND BUY – TAKE A TROLLEY – BOOK VOLUNTEERS WELCOME

I will have to leave you hanging, dear reader, because I will write Part Two when I’ve actually been to the Rare Book Auction in Fryer Library which itself is full of literary treasures.  See you there?

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Here is MORE tantalising information:
http://books.alumnifriendsuq.com/rare-book-auction/
and http://books.alumnifriendsuq.com/charles-kingsford-smith-at-the-the-uq-alumni-book-fair-and-rare-book-auction/

Plus BONUS extras so you can jump ahead:
Part Two
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/05/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-two/
Part Three https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/08/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-three/


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UQ Duhig Tower Forgan Smith Fryer Library
UQ Forgan Smith Building, Duhig Tower to Fryer Library

Review ‘Squish Rabbit’s Pet’ by Katherine Battersby

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The New York Times says ‘Hopelessly cute…’ and they are right.

Squish is just a small rabbit, but he dreams big.

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Two friends read their favourite book ‘Squish Rabbit’s Pet’.

Squish dreams of many things including having a pet.

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Squish Rabbit is a lively little character.

Squish makes a long list—a puppy would be perfect.

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Squish Rabbit makes a list of many things.

Squish’s best friend Twitch helps him along the way.

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Squish Rabbit’s best friend Twitch helps make an ‘almost’ pet.

Squish thinks important thoughts about friendship and his future pet.

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Squish Rabbit has two other adventures you can read.

Squish waits and waits to meet his new pet—who is more wonderful than he ever dreamed.


REVIEW:  There is an art to creating good children’s books and with her clear illustrations and succinct text, Katherine Battersby has shaped a beautiful story.  ‘Squish Rabbit’s Pet’ is a picture book which combines thoughtfulness, fun and friendship with an eggciting ending.

COMMENT:  I saw this third Squish Rabbit book at a UQP publishing event prior to its release and had to buy it.  I am familiar with Katherine Battersby’s work and have met her professionally when she journeyed from Canada to Queensland.  Happy reading!  🐨 🍁

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Category: Children’s Picture Book, Children’s + Young Adult
Release Date: 3 April 2019
Pages: 32
Publisher: The University Of Queensland Press
ISBN: 978 0 7022 6046 9
Teacher Notes: http://www.uqp.uq.edu.au/store/images/Hi-RES/teachersnotes/1501/4157.pdf
Online: https://www.readings.com.au/products/26387171/squish-rabbits-pet

Printed with a squishy cover perfect for little hands!

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Just gift-wrapped Squish for a new baby, never too young for books!