‘Early Riser’ Jasper Fforde Book Review

A winter nightmare in snow-bound Wales.

Imagine a world where human inhabitants must bulk-up and hibernate through brutally cold winters, watched over by armed Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently guard the susceptible sleeping citizens.  Or do they?

“Early Riser” is the latest novel from bestselling author Jasper Fforde.

A unique and inventive writer, Welsh resident Jasper Fforde creates a mystery novel with skewed social values, high level corruption, bureaucratic cover-ups, bad dreams, mindlessness and the ever-present fear of freezing to death, all set in a bleak yet frighteningly droll otherworld in Wales.

Perfect for the cold northern hemisphere and a cool read for the hot southern hemisphere.

SPOILER ALERT – Jasper Fforde should have his own genre, writing a review is difficult!  Please note the book contains references to real food brand names.

Jasper Fforde is known for creating strong female characters and in “Early Riser” he does not disappoint.  Aurora and Toccata immediately spring to mind but I won’t go into details.  Let’s just say they are not related to Thursday Next, although there are a couple of fan-fic moments.

In this speculative postmodern standalone, the protagonist is Charlie Worthing, a novice Winter Consul who has been trained to stay alive through the bleakest of winters.

Although rather young and innocent, Charlie is chosen to accompany notable Winter Consul and hero, Jack Logan, to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of snow-covered Wales.  It’s an honour but Charlie is not at all prepared for what awaits in frigid Sector Twelve.

Part of Charlie’s job is to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation and, first up, there’s the care and delivery of a vacant Nightwalker Mrs Tiffen which causes an unexpected disaster.

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With a facial deformity which quickly earns him a nickname, poor Charlie learns dreaming is not encouraged.  Especially not about a mysterious blue Buick or a large beach parasol, part of the main “Early Riser” plot.  He floats in and out of another Charlie’s dream, and also has problems with a young woman, Jonesy, who takes a fancy to him and decides to create their own backstory as if they are an old married couple.

Winter Consuls carry a Thumper and a Bambi which are deadly guns or, for extra grunt, a Vortex Canon is deployed when necessary to blast snow and anything in it.  Thus Deputy Charlie begins Pantry Duty, guarding the winter pantry, under the tutelage of seasoned campaigner Fodder – and things get even weirder!

 

"Dark humour and entertaining pseudo geek-speak punctuate an otherwise intense novel which touches on community issues relevant today" GBW.

In “Early Riser” prominent themes are human relationships, mental health, bad coffee and sugary food as the isolated enclave carbo-load in preparation for the enforced SlumberDown.  Certain behaviour, although legal in this story, is reprehensible by our standards.  In Sector Twelve nothing is wasted, so-called Vacants become unpaid workers or body-farmed for those who have lost limbs due to rat gnawing or frost bite.

In most of Jasper Fforde’s tales, the world is run by an evil corporation and here we have HiberTech which supplies Morphenox drugs and encourages the growing of a winter “coat” for hibernation.  Charlie encounters The Notable Goodnight, shivers hearing the maybe-less-than-mythical Gronk, and has a shock meeting with posh Villains.  Snowy dangers abound, like WinterVolk and Campaigners For Real Sleep.  Classic Fforde!

I listened to the “Early Riser” audio book and narrator Thomas Hunt does a variety of accents which keep the pacing levels high.  His Attenborough-like chapter introductions are hilarious, a blend of hushed tones and Fforde’s dry wit.  Wales comes across as a kind of decimated never-never land, and I’m sure it’s not, but thankfully snow is a rare commodity in Australia otherwise I’d be shaking in my shoes.

+ PLUS Innovative story with a world in a world, the snowbound and the dream-state.
– MINUS Some repetition and some chapters are heavy with world-building.

Book rating 4-Star and recommended for readers who can handle comprehensively quirky writing.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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“Jasper Fforde writes…authentic tales of metafictional mystery and murder most horrid lashed with literary wit and a generous helping of humour.” by Niall Alexander of tor.com Fri Aug 3, 2018 1:30pm
https://www.tor.com/2018/08/03/book-reviews-early-riser-by-jasper-fforde/

Yes, Margaret Atwood Has Written Children’s Books

Who’d have thought it?  Margaret Eleanor Atwood (1939- ) author of The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and more than forty other books of fiction, poetry, critical essays and a graphic novel has written children’s books.

Margaret Atwood also wears various hats, from activist through literary critic, inventor, environmentalist and award-winner with honours and degrees, yet for me this news was surprising.  Not so surprising is the quirky nature of her children’s stories!


 

♦  With grateful thanks to online friend and blogger BookJotter Paula Bardell-Hedley for alerting me to these little gems within a comprehensive list of Margaret Atwood’s literary output—

Up in the Tree (1978)
Anna’s Pet (with Joyce Barkhouse) (1980)
For the Birds (1990)
Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995)
Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003)
Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2004)
Up in the Tree (facsimile reprint) (2006)
Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery (2011)
A Trio of Tolerable Tales (illustrator Dušan Petričić) (2017)

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Being a kidlit fan, I immediately wanted to read several of those earlier Atwood books but found they (like this non-fiction For The Birds) were no longer in print, or libraries, but may be available through state archives or second-hand book merchants.  I will track down her first children’s book Up in the Tree (with her own illustrations and hand-lettering, quite possibly written for her young daughter) because the story intrigues me.

 

Along the way, Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery was adapted into the children’s television series The Wide World of Wandering Wenda aimed at early readers with different adventures using words, sounds, and language.

Happily, in 2017, three of Atwood’s books were re-published, printed and bound in Canada into one compilation A Trio of Tolerable Tales.  I was able to buy a new copy with Serbian Dušan Petričić gorgeous drawings.  Atwood’s alliteration is absolutely awesome!

  Here are my reviews of these alliteration-filled, tongue-twisting tales…read on….

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  Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes

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The reader follows the adventures of Ramsay and Ralph the red-nosed rat as they traverse various repulsive obstacles to find a round, Roman-vaulted rat hole leading to food nirvana – round red radishes ready to be devoured.  The radishes revolt and start to attack but thankfully owner Rillah comes on the scene.  She forgives their trespass and shows them around her romantic rectory, rotunda, rococo artworks and rumpus room.  There’s a bit of a ruckus with Rillah’s relatives Ron, Rollo and Ruby, so Ramsay & Co beat a hasty retreat back outside and romp rapturously under a radiant rainbow.  There is a very clever twist regarding the radishes and how they repel intruders!  A fun story which needs patience on the part of the reader, especially reading it out aloud for small children.  Laughs are guaranteed and you will marvel at how many ‘R’ words exist in the English language.  GBW.

 

 

  Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda

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Bashful Bob was abandoned in a basket outside a beauty parlour and nobody claimed him.  There is a neglected dog park across the street and the resident dogs are Bob’s best buddies.  There is a beagle, a boxer and a borzoi who believe “We must be benevolent” and they look after young Bob.  On the next block lives Doleful Dorinda.  She’d been dumped with despicable relatives who say “Dorinda is a dope” and make her sleep beside biohazard material.  Her food is awful and she is treated like a slave.  Finally Doleful Dorinda runs away and meets Bashful Bob on the vacant block.  You will have to read this story to find out how their names were turned into Brave Bob and Daring Dorinda but it makes a jolly rollicking tale especially if you like dogs!  The plot and resolution are more conventional, even with the proliferation of ‘B’ words.  A flowing, tangible fairytale and I found it easy to absorb.  GBW.

 

 

  Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery

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Wenda is a willowy child with wispy hair and wistful eyes.  Her parents are whisked away by a weird whirlwind and thereafter Wenda wanders aimlessly.  She makes friends with Wesley woodchuck and they share food scraps and wodges of wieners until one day they are kidnapped by Widow Wallop.  She takes them to her Wunderground Washery to “wash whites whiter than white” every day.  Between the drudgery, they feel sorry for Widow Wallop’s white Welsh ponies and three other waifs, Wilkinson, Wu and Wanapitai.  Together they plot their daring escape, only to encounter wolves along the way.  How will they evade Widow Wallop’s clutches now?  There is an unexpected reveal at the end!  I think some of the scenes may disturb younger children, particularly those with separation anxiety.  Older readers will chortle at the profuse ‘W’ words and idiosyncratic wordplay.  GBW.

 

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 


QUOTATION:  “Comfort with reading begins in childhood, when parents or other loving adults read to children.  It creates a ‘safe’ place where — nevertheless — dangers can be explored (and, in children’s books, hopefully, overcome)…. I think my children’s books function as protected spaces for me.  I look at darker things quite a lot, but the kind of children’s books I write are light, and have happy endings…. That’s a relief, when I can manage it.”
—Margaret Atwood, author.


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♦  The interior of this book is printed on paper that contains 100% post-consumer recycled fibres, is acid-free and is processed chlorine-free so there’s nothing to worry about, Wenda.

‘Wakestone Hall’ A Magical Finale

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Stella Montgomery is in disgrace.
The awful aunts, Aunt Condolence, Aunt Temperance and Aunt Deliverance, have sent her to Wakestone Hall, a grim boarding school where the disobedient are tamed and the wilful are made meek.
But when a friend disappears, Stella is determined to find her – no matter what danger she encounters.
Soon Stella is thrown headlong into the mysteries surrounding Wakestone Hall.
Will Stella save her friend in time? And will she discover – at long last – where she truly belongs?

Stella Montgomery and Wakestone Hall – the intrigue draws to an exciting close!

Wakestone Hall is Book 3 in the Stella Montgomery Intrigues and this series has captured my imagination.  My inner child responded to the mysterious and creepy goings-on in the first two books, beautifully complemented by author Judith Rossell’s own illustrations of the Victorian era.  The third book is out now with a book launch due in a couple of days.  I can’t wait to read it!  GBW.

Stella Montgomery Three Book Series
On Sunday 28 October 2018 at 3pm The Little Bookroom, Melbourne, is proud to launch WAKESTONE HALL the third book in the Stella Montgomery trilogy by author and illustrator Judith Rossell.

InformationHarperCollins Publisher
Published:  22 October 2018
ISBN:  9780733338205
Imprint:  ABC Books – AU
Number Of Pages:  280
For Ages:  8+ years old
Children’s, Teenage & educational / Fantasy & magical realism (Children’s – Teenage)


SUGGESTION : READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS BEFORE YOU SNEAK-A-PEEK AT THE CONCLUSION––read some Wakestone Hall pages here––
https://www.booktopia.com.au/wakestone-hall-judith-rossell/prod9780733338205.html

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Stella Montgomery Book Banner

Ready to Read ‘Lethal White’

Just received a brand new copy of ‘Lethal White’ the fourth volume in Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike detective series.  We all know that J K Rowling actually writes it but what I didn’t know was that this hardback edition is large and heavy!

The cover has a nice grungy look and, no, I did not skid it across the tarmac.

It was difficult to photograph because the bronze lettering flared but I wanted to illustrate the interesting trend of books getting bigger again.

I can’t help wondering how it will compare to previous adventures.  The book blurb reads “The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, ‘Lethal White’ is both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.”

I will post a review when I’ve ploughed my way through 647 pages.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Link to my book review https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/11/09/review-lethal-white-by-robert-galbraith/

Miniature Works of Art

After browsing the magazines at our local newsagent, I head for the greeting card section, well-stocked with original, colourful and varied cards, all shapes and sizes for all occasions.

My eye is always caught by a card which I think would suit the receiver.  Even if there’s no occasion on the horizon, I’ll buy the greeting card so I’m prepared.

This bookcase artwork is my latest purchase which came with a shiny gold envelope – I love it so much I don’t think I’ll mail it to anyone!


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Title M137 Bookshelves
Designed by Jane Crowther © 2016
Published by Bug Art Ltd, Nottingham, England UK
Website http://www.bugart.co.uk

 


Another newsagent and stationery shop is undergoing renovations.  The dog paintings make a nice change from blatant fashion store hoardings.  Balloons or thought bubbles?

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Top 10 Cool Quirky Authors with a Difference

When I discover an author with a quirky style, a neo-noir writing streak, I rejoice in their words.  It’s a delight to get away from mundane formats, tired classics and generic phrases so overworked in today’s writing scene.

I can remember when ‘dust motes’ were all the rage, not mere dust, it had to be motes floating in the sunlight.  Goodness knows why, padding perhaps.  I think it’s beneficial for both writer and reader to veer off in another direction occasionally.  Leave those tropes behind!

For bookish readers, I will list some of the absurdist fiction writers who have given me a literary lift and added a bit of sparkle to my jaded memory banks.  These 10 books impressed me with their originality and unique take on adult life, some with remarkable page layouts.

Numbered but NOT rated in order of preference:


Kelly Link Bookcover 04

1    Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Quote “Richly imagined, intellectually teasing: these are not so much small fictions as windows on to entire worlds. A brilliant, giddying read” said Sarah Waters and I definitely agree.


Zane Lovitt The Midnight Promise

2    The Midnight Promise by Zane Lovitt

John Dorn is a private investigator solving human puzzles.  Complex and beautifully observed characters lead John towards his moment of truth as he strives to keep his promise.


An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

3    An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

Speculative erotica showing the best and worst of human nature through Liv as she ages alongside high technology innovation.  The transition to a state beyond age, to transcend the corporeal…


Jasper Fforde The Ayre Affair

4    The Eyre Affair Series by Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next, a fearless woman who traverses a parallel universe inside books.  Created with breathtaking ingenuity, her literary world is more believable than most peregrinations.


A Visit From The Goon Squad

5    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Self-destruction with music in the background.  Intimate lives of several characters who reconnect again and again trying to escape the past, delay the future and defy their fate.


Don't Tell Mum I Work On Oil Rigs

6    Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs…She Thinks I’m a Piano Player in a Whorehouse by Paul Carter

Gritty, masculine and rather shocking true story of working on oil rigs in the ocean.  Horrible, humorous happenings written down in easily digestible form so that you can’t stop reading.


Atomic City by Sally Breen

7    Atomic City by Sally Breen

A stylised contemporary story set on the glittering Gold Coast, Queensland.  Chameleon Jade gets a new identity and with her grifting partner she dares to swindle the Casino swindlers. 


The Godson by Robert G Barrett

8    Les Norton Series by Robert G. Barrett

Les Norton, a red-headed country lad, works in the big city, fights men, wows women, loves the beach, is either an Aussie icon or a yobbo but each adventure guarantees a twist.


The Lucky Galah Bookcover

9    The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen

Lucky, a galah in a remote coastal town, receives transmissions from a satellite dish beaming messages between Apollo 11 and Houston, Texas, which co-mingle with the community psyche.


Dead Writers in Rehab by Paul B Davies

10    Dead Writers in Rehab by Paul Bassett Davies

Foster James is supposedly in rehab but he’s probably dead.  A dystopian must-read, loaded with satire, dark humour, sexual tension and famous writers like Coleridge and Hemingway.


I think my Top 10 list will suffice . . . oops, I just have to add ‘A Dirty Job’ by Christopher Moore and ‘Insomniac City: New York, Oliver Sachs and Me’ by Bill Hayes and ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders and ‘Human Croquet’ by Kate Atkinson.  I love any book by Terry Pratchett and DBC Pierre and there are further ingenious authors I could name (and so could you!) but I will stop here.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Reading Hour – One Lousy Hour!

How pathetic!  We have 24 glorious hours in a day and only one is chosen!  And it’s not even held simultaneously around the country!  Have you read your one hour today?

Australian Reading Hour Bookshop Logo

This year Australian Reading Hour falls on Thursday 20 September 2018 and the nominal time in the evening is 6pm to 7pm.  But individual reading and group reads will be happening all day to avoid important sporting fixtures, special events and venue opening hours, and to accommodate the different time zones in Australia.

Fair enough, however, it’s still one lousy hour!  What is the Australian Reading Hour committee thinking?  There are 8760 hours in one year, so use some more of them.

If more hours aren’t forthcoming next year, why not (1) disrupt your sporting fixtures (2) put the special event on hold (3) pause during venue opening hours (4) delay that visit to the gym and (5) forget a few things to stop and READ for ONE lousy hour!

Meanwhile, find a really quiet, cosy place and settle down alone.  Betcha read for longer than an hour!

Or gather a group together at school, work, bookshops like Avid Reader, the library, the park or get the family together in your own home and read, read, read for one lousy hour.

One hour isn’t going to kill you, the world won’t crumble around you – but you and the adults and children of Australia will visit another place through the pages of a book.  For one lousy hour…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linked to my other post https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/09/16/your-reading-hour-countdown/

What the World needs now. . .writers who care

An illuminating review of Trent Dalton author of ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ and his discussion with Matthew Condon during the Brisbane Writers Festival 2018.  June Perkins does justice to the subject and pays tribute to Trent, her own parents and the value of education.  Read on… Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Pearlz Dreaming

So the absolute highlight of the Brisbane Writers Festival for me was the talk I attended by Trent Dalton.

I saw Trent a few weeks ago on Q and A, on the ABC, as well as Sofie Laguna, and was so impressed by the way they both conducted themselves on the panel I set out to look up their books.

When I heard Trent would be attending and presenting at the Brisbane writer’s festival he went right to the top of my must-attend sessions.

When Trent entered the room there were huge cheers.  He pumped the air with his fist, and yet there was no ego in that fist pump.  It was more like a boxer, who has triumphed over a huge battle in his life, and is now saying thank you to an appreciative crowd.  A Rocky moment, part of a montage.  He thanked us for choosing to attend…

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What is Dads Read?

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This post will bore anyone without children in their lives.

Dads Read recognises that fathers reading to their children strengthens literacy, models positive reading behaviour and builds children’s self-esteem around reading, especially for boys.

Dads Read is an early childhood literacy initiative, developed by State Library of Queensland in 2010 and launched statewide in 2012 as part of the National Year of Reading, to promote family literacy.  The program continues to expand and is now being delivered throughout Queensland and South Australia and plans are underway in Tasmania.

You can host your own event with their resources.  I’ve seen this program in action with a dedicated group.  Children choose a book, a slice of pizza and sit with their fathers to read.

Discrimination doesn’t apply, the Dads Read message is based on the simple but true premise that reading 10 minutes a day to your children is not only quick but also essential.

Dads Read aims to:
  • Raise awareness of the important role fathers play in their children’s development.
  • Inform fathers of the importance and benefits of reading to children from their early years, even before they start school.
  • Promote reading as a family.
  • Encourage fathers to read to their children and promote the value of reading.
  • Provide fathers with the tools to give them the confidence to read with their children.

My father was my reading mentor, instilling interest in books, and Dads Read program follows research which highlights the importance of dads reading to their children during their early developmental years.  As little as 10 minutes a day improves children’s literacy levels and stimulates creative and critical thinking.

‘Investment in early childhood is the most powerful investment a country can make’.
World Health Organization, 2007.

The Dads Read program has helped:
  • Address a real and significant issue which is at the core of our wellbeing as individuals, families, employers and communities: the need to be literate.
  • Support literacy development and help to develop the skills of Australia’s future workforce by building everyday skills for sustainable communities.
  • Build literacy levels among our younger generation while promoting family literacy and boosting the ability of reading in adults.
  • Connect families and communities in a cost effective and invaluable way.

Visit the SLQ website for some great book ideas and age-appropriate reading:
http://dadsread.org.au/reading-to-your-child/must-reads/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Grandfathers can read too…

Reflections on WAM Writers’ Festival

An enlightening literary look at events on the Victorian/New South Wales border; interesting books and even more interesting authors, and a bookshop with the perfect name.

Life after Sixty-Five

Having written the first draft of my Memoir for my own need to make sense of the estrangement from one of my sons and subsequent personal upheaval, I was in the middle of a couple of years of therapy in 2016 when I attended the WAM Writers’ Festival. There was a focus on Memoir Writing and one of the published authors, Helena Pastor, had experienced this situation with her eldest son. I wanted to hear what she had to say about her book “Wild Boys: A Parent’s Story of Tough Love“, and how she found the words that were past the raw pain and confusion, which no-one would want to read. I came to realise at that time, I was still too immersed in my own recovery.

It was the previous year when Jessie Cole was featured in an interview by Jason Steger, formerly of the ABC’s long-running…

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Elly Griffiths Forensic Archaeology Series

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Sample of this 10-book series with book 11 The Stone Circle due 2019.

I love binge-reading!  When I discover a good author like Elly Griffiths who has ten books in her crime oeuvre, I am ready, willing and able to read all.  The archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway mystery series fits the bill nicely.  To quote the Independent ‘The perfect ratio of anticipation, shock and surprise’.

Elly Griffiths is the pen name of Domenica de Rosa; she has written other novels under her real name.  I like the historical and archaeological authenticity of this series which could be due to the fact that she’s married to Andrew Maxted, curator of archaeology at Brighton Museum.

I enjoyed the earlier books and then the later ones shown above.  I loved ‘The Ghost Fields’ WWII story and found award-winning ‘The Chalk Pit’ quite fascinating.  I struggled with ‘The Outcast Dead’ subject matter although it is fitting.  I must mention the clever yet sneaky outcome of ‘The Dying Fall’ which has a touch of Hollywood about it.

The stories mainly revolve around Norfolk UK, tidal marshlands, excavations (with an occasional nod to ‘Time Team’) coastal regions and fictional University of North Norfolk where Ruth Galloway works.  She is also a police adviser.  The relationships of the key players are intriguingly tricky because of love triangles, children, 21st century parenting, murder and mystical goings-on.

Rather than a review, I thought I’d do a quick character overview:

  • Dr Ruth Galloway, who lives on the Saltmarsh, lectures in forensic archeology, makes ground-breaking discoveries and likes old bones and her cat Flint.
  • Fast-driving policeman DCI Harry Nelson moved with his family from Blackpool to Norfolk and doesn’t really like the place but he’s a born copper.
  • Two glamorous women, Michelle Nelson is wife of DCI Nelson, and Shona MacLean is Ruth’s BFF.
  • Michael Malone (aka Cathbad) brings enjoyable highlights to each plot with his spiritual insights, Druid instincts and flowing cloak.
  • Part of Nelson’s team are police officers DS David Clough ‘old school’ and DS Judy Johnson ‘graduate’ who don’t always share the same views.
  • Phil Trent, professor of archaeology at UNN, worries about funding but loves TV cameras, publicity and himself.

As I dug and sifted through the series, I noticed less archeology and gradual changes to the main characters but that’s the grit which makes these books human and relatable.  There’s drama in their lives; a rocky layer or two over a conspiracy waiting to be uncovered.

Elly Griffiths has a nice knack of getting you up-to-speed with each book while revealing a ‘fresh’ crime involving the living and the desiccated.  At one stage I quibbled over her use of Anglo male names like Max, Dan, Tim, Tom, Ted, Bob, well, you get my drift…but this has improved and the VIP reviews keep on coming:

"I refuse to apologise for being in love with Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson, one of my favourite current crime series . . . a pleasure from start to finish"
Val McDermid.

"I adore the Elly Griffiths series and have eagerly read each book. I love seeing how the recurring characters are living and working out their relationships"
Joyce of joycesmysteryandfictionbookreviews

I’m waiting for book 11 ‘The Stone Circle’ but don’t you hang around, start reading!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Elly Griffiths UK Author
Elly Griffiths ‘The Chalk Pit’ and something evil is waiting in the dark tunnels under Norwich – forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway had better watch her step https://www.hachette.com.au/elly-griffiths/the-chalk-pit

Indigenous Literacy Day


Indigenous Literacy Day 2018


You have the month of September to sign up to the new Indigenous Literacy Day fundraising campaign and fill your virtual shelf with books for children in remote communities.  Participate in the launch on Wednesday 5 September and discover how to fill a bookshelf for children in the remote Australian outback.

It’s something new, something a little different, something the Indigenous Literacy Foundation believes you’ll enjoy sharing with your friends and family, and something that gives you the opportunity of ensuring kids in remote communities have access to quality, new books.

Commencing on Indigenous Literacy Day (5 September 2018) the new ‘Fill a Bookshelf’ fundraising campaign aims to raise $300,000 to help ILF gift 30,000 new books to schools and service organisations in remote communities where books are scarce.

How does it work? The idea is simple…

  1. Sign up online to create a fundraising page and receive an empty virtual bookshelf.
  2. Ask family, friends, colleagues to donate a virtual book to your page (in the form of a donation)
  3. Fill your virtual bookshelf!
  4. Change the lives of Indigenous children.

Your donations will help buy new, carefully selected books for children who have none.  To put it quite simply – without your support, in a very real sense – bookshelves in remote Indigenous communities are empty.

All children in Australia deserve the same opportunities – in education, employment, health and wellbeing.  Evidence shows that literacy is the pathway to CHOICE for these opportunities, and BOOKS are the building blocks for literacy.  If you believe this too, sign up today!

I BELIEVE – SIGN ME UP  ‘Fill a Bookshelf’ and celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day!

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation
PO Box 663 Broadway NSW 2007
AustraliaIndigenous Literacy Foundation


Indigenous Literacy Day is a national celebration of Indigenous culture, stories, language and literacy.  Indigenous Literacy Day aims to raise awareness of the need to support literacy in remote and isolated Indigenous communities of Australia.


Indigenous Childrens Book Moli Det BigiBigi
‘Moli det bigibigi’ (Molly the Pig) a new children’s picture book written by Karen Manbulloo, from the remote Binjari community near Katherine in the Northern Territory. Written in Kriol and English, ‘Moli det bigibigi’ is a story based on a real-life pet pig of the Binjari community, found in the bush by Karen’s brother.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Book Tag: Shelfie by Shelfie #1

This fun tag was brought to my attention by productive book blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley of BookJotter fame.  Originally created by Beth of Bibliobeth the idea is to share a picture (aka ‘shelfie’) of your favourite bookshelf and then answer ten questions related to the titles displayed.

Visit Beth’s blog to see more info, the logo and tag and view posts by participating bloggers.  Then launch your own unique Q&A Shelfie by Shelfie.

I think many readers will find these titles unfamiliar…

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Part of Gretchen’s book shelves.

1.  Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Short answer is ‘subliminally shelved’.  Long answer is there are many bookshelves in our home and until I decided to participate in Shelfie by Shelfie I didn’t realise that most of my books are grouped.  Either when they arrived or over a period of time, I’m not sure.  There are clumps like non-fiction, poetry, humour, crime, fantasy and (not all shown) Australian content.

2.  Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you, i.e. how you got it / a memory associated with it, etc.

Hard to pick just one.  I know some of the authors (or received uncorrected bound proofs to review prior to publication) but my all-time special one would have to be ‘My Beachcombing Days: Ninety Sea Sonnets’ by Brisbane poet John Blight.  His daughter, a family friend, gave it to me as a birthday gift in the same year as disastrous flooding hit the city.  The flood waters also coincided with me securing a glam job in a travel agency which had 12 inches of river mud throughout the ground floor office.

3.  Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

No contest!  It would be Tom Keneally’s ‘Shame and the Captives’ a semi-factual diatribe about World War II prisoners-of-war from Italy and Japan who are held in a compound in Gawell, New South Wales, but allowed to work on a local farm.  It does have its altruistic moments but there’s bloodshed aplenty and the ‘uncertainty and chaos’ never worked for me.

4.  Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

‘Withering-by-Sea’ written by children’s author and illustrator Judith Rossell.  Young heroine Stella Montgomery is the epitome of someone I would have loved to have known when I was a child.  I did read a lot of British kids books!  Set in Victorian England, the story is both adventurous and creepy.  Apart from dressing up as a mature-age Stella Montgomery for library Book Week, two years ago I had my copy of the book signed by Judith Rossell when I attended her writers workshop in historic Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne.

5.  Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

Hmm, that would be a toss-up between Nobel Prize for Literature winner Patrick White ‘The Cockatoos’ and Miles Franklin ‘My Brilliant Career’ both yellowing reprints dated 1974 and 1979 respectively.  I guess Mr White wins.

6.  Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

Another toss of the coin.  ‘Truly Tan Hoodwinked!’ (Book 5) kids chapter book written by Jen Storer, and ‘Care of Australian Wildlife: For Gardeners, Landholders and Wildlife Carers’ by Erna Walraven, a 2004 revised edition but in mint condition and recently purchased in a second-hand bookshop.  The most adorable teeny tiny Koala baby is on the front cover.  The Koala wins by a nose.

7.  Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

I have a ‘thing’ for DBC Pierre, expat Aussie writer, and admire his off-kilter books.  I own two of his novels (the rest were loans) and love ‘Breakfast with the Borgias’ which I willingly re-read; and I’m usually not a re-reader.  Perhaps the fact that one of the characters is named Gretchen has something to do with it.

8.  If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There is a small cardboard cut-out figure of Lisa Simpson from TV series The Simpsons which probably came with a McDonalds meal deal.  Lisa is holding an armload of books and in the show she is the lone advocate of literacy and learning.  I always like to think she influenced a generation of TV viewers to read.  And that she’s happy on this shelf.

9.  What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

It doesn’t tell you that I borrow hugely from my local library; or that I read too many e-books; nor that my current audio book is, ironically, ‘The Book Case’ by Dave Shelton narrated by Colleen Prendergast.  It does shout that I’m an Australian reader.

I read most genres and most writers regardless of nationality (translated helps!) but I keep coming back to Australian authors.  In an online book forum, I recall an American reader saying he only read American books because he understood them.  He didn’t mean the language, he meant emotional ties, recognition, connection.  That’s what I get from Australian books, nevertheless, I do think we have to step outside our comfort zone.

10.  Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

A free question I can make up sounds good.  NOTE I do not activate Comments, you will have to answer it in your own Shelfie by Shelfie blog post.

BONUS QUESTION:  Do you discuss the books you read in a face-to-face situation, online book reviews, or clutch your latest read to your chest saying ‘my precious, my precious’?

Happy reading, blog stars!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


For modern Australian book reviews I can recommend blogger and bookseller Simon McDonald https://writtenbysime.com/ while this list contains notably mature Australian authors:
Thea Astley
Bruce Beaver
Geoffrey Blainey
Martin Boyd
Christopher Brennan
David Campbell
Peter Carey
Marcus Clarke
James Clavell
Bryce Courtenay
Geoffrey Dutton
Len Evans
John Farrow
R.D. FitzGerald
Miles Franklin
Joseph Furphy
Helen Garner
Germaine Greer
Kate Grenville
Charles Harpur
Alexander Harris
Shirley Hazzard
Xavier Herbert
Dorothy Hewett
A.D. Hope
Janette Turner Hospital
Robert Hughes
Joseph Jacobs
Colin Johnson
Elizabeth Jolley
Henry Kendall
Thomas Keneally
Jill Ker Conway
Henry Kingsley
C.J. Koch
Leonie Judith Kramer
John Dunmore Lang
Ray Lawler
Henry Lawson
Norman Lindsay
Ern Malley
David Malouf
Furnley Maurice
James Phillip McAuley
Hugh McCrae
Colleen McCullough
Les Murray
Oodgeroo Noonuccal
Bernard Patrick O’Dowd
Vance Palmer
Eric Partridge
Hal Porter
Peter Porter
Katherine Susannah Prichard
Henry Handel Richardson
Steele Rudd
Nevil Shute
Peter Singer
Kenneth Slessor
Christina Stead
Alfred George Stephens
Douglas Stewart
Kylie Tennant
P.L. Travers
Ethel Turner
Arthur William Upfield
Morris West
Patrick White
David Williamson
Tim Winton
Judith Wright
Markus Zusak

Revisiting Adult Colouring Books

IMG_20180817_145416

Remember when adult colouring between the lines was all the rage?  Pages and pages of black and white sketches bound in bright covers which swept the world and swamped book retailers.

Themes were many and varied from new age, retro, zen, buildings, abstracts, swirls, flora and fauna, all cleverly pitched at adults without the 'adults only' content.  It was certainly a fad and the biggest publishing push since Harry Potter hit the shelves.

The idea was that it should calm and relax anyone over 30 but it seemed to be a bigger hit with the over 60s especially those with grandchildren.  In the library during craft time, youngsters would often wander off as one or two monopolists relived their kindergarten days with intense concentration.  So, perhaps there was logic behind the publication frenzy.

In 2015, I was given the pocket-size publication ‘The Little Book of Calm Colouring – Portable Relaxation‘ which has beautiful quotes to accompany each drawing.  I dug out a variety of pencils and doodled when the mood took me.  I must admit that I can’t finish a full picture in one sitting so I return later to give it an abstract expressionist tweak here and there.

This kit travels with me on long weekends and the odd holiday but I’m not sure if I will ever complete the book.  What I have completed was very enjoyable – here’s a small selection of my pencil handiwork.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Tropical Romance Writer Annie Seaton

Annie Seaton Whitsunday Book Launch 02

Don’t you love being on the verge of discovering a new author, that feeling of anticipating!  Look at the beautiful location where romance writer Annie Seaton is holding the book launch for her latest release Whitsunday Dawn––in the Whitsunday Islands at beautiful Coral Sea Resort.

“Ecological impact, divided loyalties and the pristine beauty of the Whitsundays under threat, can mining spokesperson Olivia Sheridan expose the truth in time?”  Author Annie Seaton brings to life a new era of romance and eco-adventure.  Perfect for fans of Di Morrissey and a sun-kissed tropical lifestyle.

As WP readers will know, I’m not usually a romance reader but I’m rather taken by the beautiful location of this all-Australian story.  Watch out for my review.

On her website Annie says “I am truly blessed to live by the beach on the east coast of Australia.  I am following my lifelong dream of writing, and discovering that readers love reading my stories as much as I love writing them is awesome.  It’s what keeps me at my desk each day when the garden and the beach are calling to me!

“You can read of the topical human and social issues I explore in Kakadu Sunset, Daintree and Diamond Sky.  My latest release with Harlequin Mira WHITSUNDAY DAWN  (August 2018) is an historical/contemporary story set in the Whitsunday Islands in 1943 and 2017.​

“My inspiration comes from the natural beauty of our Australian landscapes and I’m passionate about raising awareness of the need to preserve the pristine areas that surround us.”

Will you be in the vicinity of the wonderful Whitsundays?  Visit the launch of Annie Seaton’s newest book WHITSUNDAY DAWN being held on Friday 7 September 2018 at Coral Sea Resort Jetty, Airlie Beach, Queensland.  A welcome drink then cash bar will be available with complimentary gourmet nibbles and canapes from the Coral Sea Resort kitchen.  RSVP via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AnnieSeatonAuthor/

https://i.harperapps.com/covers/9781489257802/y648.jpg

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Love Your Bookshop Day!

Love Your Bookshop Day 2018 001

This year bookshops across Australia are throwing a party and you are invited!

Here’s what their invitation says––

Love Your Bookshop Day is a chance to celebrate what makes your local bookshop great.
Whether it’s for their amazing staff, their carefully curated range or specialisation, a book launch or a must-see events program, we encourage you to visit your favourite bookshop on Saturday 11th August 2018 and join in with the celebrations.

Don’t forget to use the tag #loveyourbookshopday and share why your bookshop is special using the hash tag #whyIlovemybookshop

Get ready to party with those things made of paper with squiggles on them...books!
Visit the official website http://www.loveyourbookshopday.com.au/

DESTINATION:  I’m definitely going to visit Where The Wild Things Are, a wonderfully absorbing children’s bookshop in groovy West End, Brisbane.  See ya!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Love Your Bookshop Day 2018 002

Audio Books Read by UK Actors

Fabulous stage and screen actors reading gloriously fun books.  I listened to eight beautifully narrated sound clips by Kate Winslet, Hugh Laurie, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Fry, Andrew Scott, Chris O’Dowd––and I’ve just drooled over Dan Stevens short reading of Roald Dahl’s famous ‘Boy’.  What a selection!

Reviewed by Rachel Smalter Hall for Book Riot way back in 2013 who gushed:

“Rioters, I’m so excited. I just can’t hide it. I’ve been holding my breath to share this with you for weeks! The new upswing in audiobook publishing has sent lots of publishers to their backlist to record beloved classics, and one of my favorite projects in this vein is from Penguin Audio, who just released several Roald Dahl audiobooks in July and will release several more this September.  The series features some of the UK’s best known screen and stage actors. Here are sound clips from eight of the narrations that have got me squealing like a thirteen-year-old at a slumber party.”

I SAY IT’LL MAKE YOUR EARS HAPPY––SMILES GUARANTEED

TAP ON EACH INDIVIDUAL TEASER WHICH I HAVE CAREFULLY SELECTED FOR YOU FROM A LOVINGLY CURATED ROALD DAHL SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLIST

Roald Dahl Audio Book 04

 

Kate Winslet reads excerpt ‘Matilda’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/matilda-by-roald-dahl-read-by

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 03

 

Richard Ayoade reads excerpt ‘The Twits’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/the-twits-by-roald-dahl-read

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 05

 

Chris O’Dowd reads excerpt ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/fantastic-mr-fox-by-roald-dahl

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 06

 

Dan Stevens reads excerpt ‘Boy’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/boy-by-roald-dahl-read-by-dan

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 02

 

Stephen Fry reads excerpt ‘The Enormous Crocodile’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/the-enormous-crocodile-by

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 01

 

Hugh Laurie reads excerpt ‘The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/the-giraffe-and-the-pelly-and

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 08

 

Miriam Margolyes reads excerpt ‘Revolting Rhymes & Dirty Beasts’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/revolting-rhymes-dirty-beasts

 

Roald Dahl Audio Book 07

 

Andrew Scott reads excerpt ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’
https://soundcloud.com/penguin-audio/the-wonderful-story-of-henry

 

I found their voices soothing, hypnotic and hilariously infectious.
What more can be said except ENJOY!
 Gretchen Bernet-Ward 

I do reviews not advertisements but––Thanks to Penguin Books Ltd and Book Riot who say “Sign up for our newsletter to have the best of Book Riot delivered straight to your inbox every two weeks.  No spam.  We promise.  To keep up with Book Riot on a daily basis, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, , subscribe to the Book Riot podcast in iTunes or via RSS.  So much bookish goodness––all day, every day.”