The Great Book Swap is a fantastic way to celebrate reading, and raise much-needed funds for remote communities. Schools, workplaces, libraries, universities, book clubs, individuals and all kinds of organisations can host one. The idea is to swap a favourite book in exchange for a gold coin donation.
Here’s a letter from Executive Director Karen Williams—-
“The Great Book Swap is back and registrations for 2021 are now open. Register your school, library or organisation to hold a Great Book Swap anytime throughout the year. Last year the pandemic stopped many individuals, schools and organisations from hosting a Great Book Swap, but we’re hoping 2021 will be our biggest year yet.
“We are aiming to raise $350,000 to gift 35,000 culturally relevant books to children in remote Australia and we need your help! Visit our new-look website, and access some great features and resources to help make fundraising easier, fun and more successful than ever.
“Why not check to see if a Great Book Swap aligns to your organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan, or you can ask your employer to match donations? It is also a great conversation starter to get teams talking and sharing their reading interests and passions.
“Get ready to celebrate reading, hold your business or organisation to their social responsibilities, and raise funds for an excellent cause.”
After reading two of Debbie Young’s Sophie Sayers mystery novels out of order, I decided to savour the series and start from the beginning with ‘Best Murder in Show’. Debbie also writes St Brides, a British girls’ boarding school series for grown-ups, and in that vein she has interviewed award-winning historical and fantasy novelist Helen Hollick about her favourite childhood books.
It is time to attack my bookberg. Book sorting! Only another book lover will know this task is emotional, dusty work with frequent trips back and forth to the reject box to retrieve a volume you just can’t live without.
I did not factor in the impact of nostalgia. As I sifted and culled, I was overwhelmed by the memories which came flooding back.
Relating to the photograph above, here’s a small sample of the tip of my bookberg:
Those aching muscles as I tried to emulate actress and fitness guru Jane Fonda using her inspiring 1981 ‘Workout Book’. The less said about the front cover the better.
My 1986 major motion picture tie-in ‘Out Of Africa’ by Karen von Blixen was purchased after I saw the movie because I wanted to see how much the movie had altered the book. Well, let’s just say it was movie mush.
‘Finest Moments’ the hilarious 1975 antics of Norman Gunston (Australian TV comedian Garry McDonald) were clever but now make me cringe. Gunston dared to go where no journo had gone before. McDonald was a good scriptwriter but.
I tried and tried to read this 1984 paperback of Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’. Even now as I look at its yellowing pages (it cost me $4.50 back then) I don’t think I will ever read it. Most of it has come true, right?
The small yet 383-page book ‘Angels & Fairies’ written 2005 by Iain Zaczek was a surprise. A gift, seemingly unread, it contains works of art from famous British painters in 1800s Victorian era. Such luminous illustrations, if ever there was a misnamed book, it’s this one! Nothing cutesy about it. A serious study for art aficionados.
During re-reading and culling, three things struck me immediately.
The smallness of the paperbacks.
The density of the print.
The amount of information.
I guess smaller books meant cheaper to print, easier to handle.
Because I now need reading glasses, the print looks tiny to me.
Does excessive screen time influence the way we read off screen?
We read less content, larger font and wider spaces today, because of what?
Several of my earlier paperbacks have bios, dedications, illo plates, notes, etc.
Or a pull-out page so you could fill in your details and mail to the publisher to receive the author’s complete booklist.
Fortunately the only thing which hasn’t changed is real bookshops.
They may be fewer in certain countries but they are alive and well where I live.
Getting back to those rejected books, I have cardboard boxes (ah, that smell of cardboard) to pack them in and send off to University of Queensland for their Book Fair.
I was mightily impressed with UQ book wrangling skills, particularly after I visited their Book Auction and saw frantic bidders making the value of old books rise higher and higher until the final bid, the hammer fall, the cry of delight from the successful bidder.
My three-part series of UQ Book Fair visits last year—brilliant photos—
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
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…”
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
The 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.
There you have it! Separate reviews will follow—eventually—on my blog as well as Goodreads. Joy to the world!
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.
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.
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.
A change of pace.
Four vastly different books.
A mixed bunch of authors.
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!
HISTORICAL NOTE—One post in three parts “Reading Looking Thinking” a neat idea started by blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley.
Check outBook Jotterher informative, interesting and totally book-related website!
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 areso 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 readingmaterial 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?’
“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.
It was a nice surprise to discover an older piece of writing I’d forgotten, particularly when it still holds up.
My overview of Fiona McIntosh’s historical fiction “Tapestry” was penned for Top 40 Book Club Reads 2015, a regular Brisbane City Council Library Service booklet written and compiled by unacknowledged library staff.
The book—billed as timeslip fiction—has a layered plot and it was hard to write a 100 word description without sounding too stilted. McIntosh chose settings in two countries, Australia and Britain, in two different eras of history. I particularly liked the second half in 1715 within the Tower of London.
After visiting the Tower of London to research her book, McIntosh had “An unforgettable day and I attribute much of the story’s atmosphere to that marvellous afternoon and evening in the Tower of London with the Dannatts when the tale of Lady Nithsdale and my own Tapestry came alive in my imagination.”
Author Fiona McIntosh has written quite a stack of books set in many parts of the world, and in different genres: Non-Fiction, Historical Romantic-Adventure, Timeslip, Fantasy – Adult, Fantasy – Children, and Crime.
Check your local library catalogue in person or online.
In order of appearance, the Brisbane Libraries Top 40 book club recommendations for 2015—I have not read Poe Ballantine’s chilling tale “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere” and I may never read it—See how many titles you’ve read!
The Visionist; Moriarty; Tapestry; The Bone Clocks; California; Z – Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald; The Mandarin Code; Merciless Gods; Upstairs at the Party; Friendship; Birdsong; Heat and Light; Time and Time Again; What Was Promised; The Austen Project; The Paying Guests; The Exile – An Outlander Graphic Novel; Lost and Found; Amnesia; Cop Town; Mr Mac and Me; Nora Webster; The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden; Inspector McLean – Dead Men’s Bones; The Soul of Discretion; We Were Liars; Stone Mattress – Nine Tales; Family Secrets; South of Darkness; The Claimant; This House of Grief; She Left Me the Gun; Mona Lisa – A Life Discovered; The Silver Moon; Revolution; Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere; What Days Are For; Mistress; Warning – The Story of Cyclone Tracy; The Birth of Korean Cool.
THAT debate rages on. THAT is an overused, unnecessary word, a redundant filler which bulks out your manuscript and changes just about anything into THAT nothingness.
Increasingly, ambiguous THAT is being used instead of ‘who’ and ‘which’ or more descriptive words to introduce a defining clause. This is happening universally in writing today; THAT is slowing and neutralising sentences.
Seven examples where THAT is incorrect or useless, write your own, you get my drift:
She said that it was in her best interest – delete.
They walked down the stairs that are rather grand – use which.
He visits the koala that he sponsors – delete.
Judy thinks Angela is the sort of woman that enjoys tennis – use who.
He assumed that they all wanted to singalong with him – delete.
It takes a minute to realise that Sue is talking – delete.
Tom has to tell her that her dog has been stolen – OK-ish.
A pronoun is a word taking the place of a noun. THAT is a demonstrative pronoun and used in the right context it has a legitimate reason to exist, e.g. ‘That’s a good idea’.
It is perfectly valid when THAT appears in character dialogue, but when a writer indiscriminately uses THAT in other areas of their work, I find it needlessly clunky.
Of course, you can change a passive voice to an active voice, or use the rule ‘Who is a person, THAT is an object’. Remember ‘Who, what, when, where, why’ to help you decide.
On the other hand, there’s always exceptions. Use your own discretion as to where you like or don’t like THAT, and where THAT actually does fit in your sentence. Once you become aware of THAT, you will probably get rid of it unless you use American English.
Read through text or a draft you have written in the last month.
Check for how many time you use the word THAT.
Are you surprised at your usage?
Could you use a more expressive word than THAT?
Could you condense your word count by omitting THAT?
Read a novel or document and watch for THAT exploitation.
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?
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…
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.
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…
Sign up online to create a fundraising page and receive an empty virtual bookshelf.
Ask family, friends, colleagues to donate a virtual book to your page (in the form of a donation)
Fill your virtual bookshelf!
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!
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation
PO Box 663 Broadway NSW 2007
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.
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’sblog 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…
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!
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
Janette Turner Hospital
Jill Ker Conway
Leonie Judith Kramer
John Dunmore Lang
James Phillip McAuley
Bernard Patrick O’Dowd
Katherine Susannah Prichard
Henry Handel Richardson
Alfred George Stephens
Arthur William Upfield
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
Read a story which is thousands of years old. I’d like to share the email I received from Mr Miller on National Sorry Day and to commemorate National Reconciliation Week––
“My name is Glen Miller, I am a Board Director of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and a descendant of the Butchulla people of the Fraser coast (Queensland). Today we acknowledge the 10th anniversary of National Sorry Day, a milestone in Australia’s history. This National Day of Healing is at the heart of our steps towards reconciliation. Tomorrow marks the beginning of National Reconciliation Week and we reflect on this year’s theme: ‘LEARN, SHARE, GROW – DON’T KEEP HISTORY A MYSTERY’. Here, we are invited to explore our past as a country; learn, share and acknowledge the rich histories and cultures of the First Australians; and develop a deeper understanding of our national story.
“Today I would like to share a story that is thousands of years old, that has been passed on from one generation to the next, and nearly came to be lost…
“For many thousands of years the Butchulla people have been travelling between Queensland’s K’Gari (Fraser Island) and the mainland; catching winter mullet in stone fish traps set along Hervey Bay and trading with the mob up around the Bunya mountains. There are three laws that the Butchulla people live by: 1) What’s best for the land comes first, 2) If you have plenty, you must share, and 3) Do not touch or take anything that does not belong to you.
“While these were the laws that were taught to the children, they were also told stories that describe the origin of the land: The Legends of Moonie Jarl. These stories tell how the wallaby got its pouch, how the boomerang was invented, and how the little firebird came to have that bright scarlet spot on its back. These stories were told to me as a boy by my uncle Wilfy in the The Legends of Moonie Jarl. The year was 1964 and it was the first Aboriginal children’s book published and authored by Aboriginal people.
“Three years after its publication, Indigenous people were finally recognised as Australian citizens and 50 years on the stories continue to be shared among the Butchulla people. In 2014, our Foundation re-published The Legends of Moonie Jarl so now the stories are available to share with all Australian children.
“A book isn’t just for reading; it’s more powerful than the information it provides. Reconciliation Week is an opportunity to look at the truths that need to be told and celebrate our stories. This National Reconciliation Week I invite you to learn and share these rich histories and cultures of Indigenous people, and develop a deeper understanding of our national story. Please support the work of our Foundation by purchasing a copy of The Legends of Moonie Jarl or making a donation.”
Excited beyond belief when I found out Jasper Fforde, my all-time favourite post-modern author, has some cool events coming up! Including another book. And the eponymous Fforde Ffiesta rolls around again next year.
If any reader attended a US event, or may be attending a future UK event, I’m jealous but hoping I will read your WordPress review. Of course, I will be writing about Jasper Fforde’s Brisbane Writers Festival 2019 special guest appearances in September! See itinerary below—
Photos by Mari Fforde (hover to see date) Information from Jasper Fforde website (see below)
Feb 21st-22nd, Casper, Wyoming:
Wyoming Humanities Festival 2018
Book signing and lectures. I’ve never been to Wyoming, and the frightfully pleasant people at Casper have been asking me for a while. Talk and Book Signing Courtesy of Windy City Books, and a lecture plus Q&A the following day. Full details at the Humanities Festival website.
1-2nd March 2018, Cardiff Library:
Crime & Coffee Festival, Cardiff
First Crime and Coffee Festival at Cardiff Library. More details to follow, but I am assured the coffee is the crime, and there will be no actual murders of crimes taking place. Either days, or both, details to follow. Cardiff Library Website.
24th May-3rd June 2018
Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales:
“May or may not be attending this year––One of the UK’s most imaginative and entertaining authors creates hilarious, often absurd but always compelling adventures within bizarre and zany worlds. Jasper Fforde’s hugely popular The Last Dragonslayer series is packed with trademark magic and invention.”
Information brochure Hay Festival, Wales.
Gretchen’s book review The Last Dragonslayer.
Launch of Early Riser in the UK:
About bloody time too, say I. Likely 1st to 12th August. More details to follow.
August 13th – 18th, 2018, Wales:
Ty Newydd writing retreat, Wales
With Belinda Bauer, the course is called: Crime Fiction: A Twist in the Tale and from their website: “This course is designed for those who would like to write best-selling crime fiction – with a twist. Whether you’re writing your first novel, are switching from another genre, or have only dreamed of being a published author, we hope you’ll enjoy this down-to-earth, fun, and practical course. In workshops and one-to-one mentoring sessions, we will be sharing our tried and tested methods of creating character, plot and tension, while helping you to avoid some common pitfalls. We’ll offer advice on a range of issues, from writer’s block and the art of pitching, to how to cope with bad reviews!”
For more details, please mouse you way to the Ty Newydd Website.
25th-26th May 2019, Swindon, UK:
Fforde Ffiesta VIII, Swindon, UK
These Festivals are held biannually and oh, what ffun we have – and hopefully a lot more to talk about this year as I will have at least one more book published… Their website is here.
NEWS FLASH !!
THURS 5 SEPTEMBER TO SUN 8 SEPTEMBER 2019, BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA
Event 1 – Workshop ‘Writing Futures’ with Jasper Fforde at QWC: Learning Centre, State Library of Queensland.
Event 2 – Panel ‘Dream Worlds’ at Cinema B, Gallery of Modern Art, South Bank.
Event 3 – Conversation ‘Early Riser’ at The Edge, State Library of Queensland.
Event 4 – Book Club ‘Meet Jasper Fforde’ River Decks, State Library of Queensland.
Event 5 – Lecture / Special Closing Address by Jasper Fforde, The Edge, State Library of Queensland.
March 02031: Asteroid belt and Saturn (technology permitting) More details TBA.
October 02042: 81-year-old Fforde talks to other members of old people’s home: “I used to be a novelist, no really, I did. Is it lunchtime?” More details TBA.
July 02175: Semi-lifelike cloned Ffordesque replicant to tour Gamma Quadrant in the Cygnus Cluster. More details TBA.
Setember 03431: Much improved Fforde cloned back to life to face execution for sedition; all works consigned to erasure.
Janfebry 008910: Last evidence of Fforde’s books vanish forever with the removal of the ‘Formerly Thursday Street’ plaque from what is now W23-61 Rd in the conurbation known as EuroWest-79.
00012972: Visiting archaeologists from Thraal-7 discover incomplete copy of Well of Lost Plots from excavation in landfill. Deciphering takes seven hundred years and a further four hundred years of academic scrutiny before being accepted as historical fact.
“Dark Reading Matter” Bookworld and Thursday Next – adult
“Dragonslayer IV” Ununited Kingdom and Jennifer Strange – young adult
“Shades of Grey II” Colours and Eddie Russett – adult
“The Constant Rabbit” Racism and Mrs Constance Rabbit – adult – available now
Can you tell a book by its cover? Sure you can! Just the same as an individual’s personality and clothing can tell something about them, a book lures the reader with an enticing cover image. That visual reveal, a hint of what’s hidden within the book is a very important marketing tool.
A contemporary bookcover, no matter what the genre or category, has to be identifiable. It has to look good on publicity material, it has to create a mood and it has to appeal to its target audience. The font style, back cover blurb and all-important artwork join together to get you interested enough to part with your money. Unless you are borrowing the book from your local library. Nevertheless, you will still be interested in that lurid hardback in your hand because it promises so much…just look at that out-of-context quote from a famous author who said “chilling depth” and “sizzling romance” from a “writer with imagination”.
Millions of modern eye-catching bookcovers are perfectly serviceable and practicable and sensible and don’t mislead the intended reader. It can be argued that bookcover images only hint at a small portion of the entire book. But, as a person who reads books very closely, I disagree. I like to make my own assumptions and not be misled by skewed artistry.
Thus I start my LONG bookcover show-and-tell, documenting that which has annoyed me for some time – the all-to-obvious artwork on bookcovers, those illustrations which give the game away.
The reveal: I loathe it when the crime bookcover shows the pivotal moment in the book. A dead giveaway! Is that the graphic artist’s fault for reading the front and back page? Is it the publisher’s fault for handing out the last chapter?
Bookcover clue giveaway: I have just finished a police procedural and the creepy black-and-white cover photo with a rundown house on the hill encircled by barbed wire is actually where the bodies are buried. No kidding, I knew every time the detective went up that hill, he was darn stupid. Or the one with the sketch of a child on a rocking horse holding a scythe over her shoulder – storyline crumbles before it starts. Worth mentioning that a rocking horse was not even in the story.
Vignettes snipped from a chapter: Like historical fiction “Golden Hill”, where a sketch of the hero is seen on the bookcover leaping across a roof top in true Hollywood style, no doubt aimed at action-loving readers, when the bulk of the story revolves around cruel social hierarchy.
A mystery novel: Well, murder actually because several people end up getting killed. This illustration managed to ruin the first three punchlines in the first three chapters. Not to mention the good guy is seen working in the downstairs office window when his office is upstairs. Plus the red motorbike heading up the road outside is meant to be him, at the same time. Lovely drawing but couldn’t they have chosen something more accurate?
Overcooked Clones: There’s the hand frozen in ice (guess how the victim dies) there’s the bridge across the river (guess how the victim dies) there’s the threat (a big dark old building) there’s a corrupt political serial killer millionaire mowing his way through rich widowed neurotic socialites on board his yacht (guess how the victims die) or bones poking out of the earth…black crow…wolf in snow…lonely highway…stark tree…dropped gun…body part…the train racing through the underground station…all overdone crime tropes.
To quote Tim Kreider, essayist: “The main principles of design—in books…is your product must be bold and eye-catching and conspicuously different from everyone else’s, but not too much! Which is why the covers of most contemporary books all look disturbingly the same, as if inbred.” Which leads into––
Dark silhouette: I, for one, thoroughly dislike the brooding male or female silhouette in a heavy coat, head down, walking toward a menacing city skyline/bridge on a rain-soaked evening. Boring! The stock standard photo silhouette has been on countless bookcovers for years. Think of Lee Child.
Expected bookcovers or Clone II: Why does (1) Romance have the obligatory well-developed over-muscled man and well-developed bust-overflowing woman, and (2) Literary fiction has a sedate, toned, almost elegant layout with a design which purrs good taste? (3) Non-fiction is so varied it usually has just a colour photo with a word overlay. (4) Historical fiction will have a woman in period costume gazing at house or hillside. (5) Children’s books, fantasy and science fiction have a place all their own. Renegades breaking up the predictable.
Flip side: An irrelevant illustration. There are obscure bookcovers like “The Midnight Promise” with two hands shaking as though in agreement when the Promise is nothing like that image. At least it gave me something to ponder.
World-wide: I’m commenting on English language publications and referring to p-books and e-books. I’ve mentioned arbitrary books I have read and tried not to name them. However, the same book published in different countries gets a different bookcover. This is where designers and image stock can become tricksy. I have seen translated children’s books looking very adult, young adult books looking too adult, and adult books looking sugary sweet, e.g. cosy mystery covers with blood-thirsty content between the pages.
BONUS: Terry Pratchett’s bookcovers by artists Josh Kirby and Paul Kidby tell a detailed story. With fiction, decide how closely you should look. Decide if you want to undermine the plot. You may not even notice pictorial clues! Ask yourself if you are exercising your own freewill, or are you conditioned by a generic bookcover image.
Today, the mass market book illustrators, the image makers, appear to acquire design inspiration from their clinical, perfectly sculptured computer programs. Perhaps they should visit an art gallery, or see what’s shakin’ in the real world, then tell that miserable silhouette model to get lost.
Never stop reading!
Postscript : A Tiny Bit of History : Literature has changed in more ways than one over the centuries. Illuminated manuscripts gave way to smaller volumes with dust covers/jackets in 1820s Regency, then refined in 1920s to make hardback books more attractive. Before this the majority of bookcovers were a plain single colour with gold embossed wording and little adornment. Swanky ones did have lithographs or a portrait frontispiece. It is considered that 1930s paperback printing changed the course of bookcover art.
London winter 1880, Limehouse, and chorus girls are disappearing from music halls in Paradise, the criminal precinct run with ruthless efficiency by the ferocious and opium addicted Lady Ginger aka The Lady.
Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders Published 2013 (First book in the Kitty Peck series) A novel by Kate Griffin
Seventeen-year-old Kitty Peck, a seamstress at The Gaudy, is summoned by The Lady and blackmailed to perform a hair-raising act every night to uncover vital information about the missing girls. Kitty is taunted by The Lady who withholds the truth about her family, particularly her beloved brother Joey. Before long Kitty becomes the talk of London with her daring show and the plan begins to work. Gradually she’s drawn into the world of high society ‘toffs’ and embroiled in depravity and murder. With only her two friends Peggy and set painter Lucca for support, Kitty is shocked to find herself facing an adversary more horrifying than The Lady crime baron.
First of all, the pace and atmosphere is superb throughout the books. Immediately I was right in the action and swept along on a very dark ride. The characters evolve nicely and flesh out into interesting and tortured human beings who find themselves in rather bizarre circumstances. They have subplots with much to hide, emotions seesaw as their personal history gradually unfolds.
There’s a heavy dose of Cockney slang which, due to an Anglophile father, I picked up quickly enough. Some reveals are to be expected but one took me by surprise! The novels have adult content. However, don’t expect true romance. It’s the Queen Victoria version of an action movie. Grim, grimy, cold, damp London of the 19th century is a backdrop to dirty deeds done by black-hearted people and Kitty must keep her wits about her to survive. The endings are cliff-hangers which lead into each book.
Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill-Fortune Published 2015 (Second book in the Kitty Peck series) A novel by Kate Griffin
Due to spoilers, I cannot reveal too much about Book Two or Three. Certain text in the following review has been taken from the book blurb:
London’s East End, March 1881 and Kitty Peck, a spirited but vulnerable young woman, is the reluctant heiress to Paradise, the criminal empire previously overseen by the formidable Lady Ginger aka The Lady. Kitty is now The Lady, with all that entails; servants, buildings, stock, music halls and vicious crime barons. Far from the colour and camaraderie of the music hall where Kitty had been working, this newfound power brings isolation and uncertainty, and a disdainful lawyer Telferman.
Desperate to reconnect with Joey, her estranged brother, Kitty travels to Paris with Lucca. She is unable to refuse the request of a handsome stranger to take a child back to London. Within days of their return, it’s clear she has been followed by someone, and this someone is determined to kill the child and anyone who stands in their way…starting with Kitty.
There are mesmerizing and harrowing scenes throughout this book which serve to shape Kitty and her world. More of the secondary characters emerge and betrayal rears its ugly head. Tension builds as Kitty nears the deadline to meet the other Barons of London, merchants, jewellers, bankers, the controlling elite who are rotten to the core. Will they break her and destroy the Paradise she has inherited?
Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow Published 2017 (Third book in the Kitty Peck series) A novel by Kate Griffin
London, the hot summer of 1881, and the streets of Limehouse are thick with coal smoke and opium; and Kitty Peck is choking on the ever-present bitterness of evil. At eighteen Kitty has inherited Paradise, she is The Lady of a sprawling criminal empire on the banks of the Thames. Determined to do things differently from the fearsome Lady Ginger, she now realises that the past casts a menacing and treacherous shadow.
Plagued by city heat, haunted by a terrible secret and facing more deaths, Kitty is stalked by a criminal league intent on humiliation and destruction; she should never go out alone. But she’s ready to fight for the future of everyone she cares for and more. Including journalist Sam Collins?
Always difficult to review books with clever twists and turns one cannot expose. ‘Descriptive’ and ‘gripping’ hardly does them justice. Sense of place, POV and clothing are beautifully transcribed. There is one minor point I noticed when reading––there is little mention of food. Tea and gin are drunk habitually, and champagne is used as a lever, but food is not often consumed. No matter, they are gritty stories which had me on the edge of my seat. While it is not an era I would like to inhabit, I can highly recommend this series with a shiny five star rating.
To be concluded in Book Four – Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows – Coming July 2019
“Even though Paradise was riddled with rot, I reckoned I could make it a cleaner place for the poor types who came with the dirty trades. I could make them all love me, I thought. I was wrong about that. I’ve been wrong about so much.” My book review to be advised.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kate Griffin was born within the sound of Bow bells, making her a true-born Cockney. She has worked as an assistant to an antiques dealer, a journalist for local newspapers and now works for The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. “Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders”, Kate’s first book, won the Stylist / Faber crime writing competition and she has written other genres. Kate’s maternal family lived in Victorian Limehouse and her grandmother told her many stories of life around the docks. Kate lives in St Albans, north of London.