AWW2014 Crime Roundup #5

As your humble correspondent regarding all things crime and mystery related I have been woefully neglectful of the latter half of this year’s challenge. Thankfully reviews rolled in without me. I thought for this final round up of the year I’d focus on some new titles to this corner of the challenge, including this delightful, if rare, review. It’s from one of the challenge’s minority group (i.e. male) participant and is of one of the very few true crime books to receive attention. Helen Garner’s THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF tells the sad and sadly real-life tale of an Australian bloke who drove into a dam with his three young children in the car. They died. He didn’t.  In his review Jonathan at Me Fail? I Fly! encapsulates all that is good about non-fiction (which are all the reasons I stay well-clear of it most of the time):

thishouseofgrief-garnerThe book is beautifully written. It’s subtle, sharp and unremitting. It conveys brilliantly the theatre of the court. It’s brave too: Helen Garner doesn’t back off from offering her own readings, her own judgments, of the many courtroom participants – witnesses, lawyers, judges, journalists, family members of the accused and of the dead children, her own young companion Louise, a bumptious school student drop-in, and at the centre of it all the man himself. I found it gruelling, and ultimately very satisfying, even while it pins a huge question mark on the tail of the whole legal system: so much raking through people’s lives and relationships, so many people put through the horrendous ordeal of cross-examination (much worse here, it seems, than in standard TV fare) – surely there must be a better way than this single-minded quest to find where to apportion blame?

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BrigidDelaneyWildThingsBrigid Delaney’s debut novel WILD THINGS, which concerns a hazing carried out by well-off university students upon a hapless foreign student, came to the attention of Angie Holst at Projected Happiness. Among her observations are the novel’s contemporary feel

I thought her reading of contemporary culture, her incorporation of social media into the plot line, and her dialogue of the Gen Y characters was spot on. Her description of a university ball was painfully sharp:

‘The boys would sit at the tables in their teams and packs and talk about girls and football and their older brothers. They’d get drunk and get pulled onto the dance floor before they remembered they didn’t know how to dance. So a girl with too-tanned skin dressed like a butterfly would dance around them while they stood swaying and shuffling, unsure where to place their hands’.

and the sensibility it displays over and above plot

And while I would say that this is a very plot driven book, the writing is beautifully atmospheric and at times when Delaney is describing the ethereal landscape of the students lounging around the lovely college grounds…

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a morbid habit - annie hauxwellAt Write Note Reviews Monique discovered Annie Hauxwell’s A MORBID HABIT which sends its normally London-based investigator protagonist, Catherine, to Russia. As is often the case with modern crime novels, whodunit is not necessarily what attracts readers’ attention

Like most other investigator-protagonists in this genre, Berlin carries heavy baggage. In her case it’s a serious drug addiction, something she’s managed for years with replacement therapy, and hidden from most. No time is wasted on giving backstory, and I can’t comment about the first two books about the addiction’s source, but what is clear is that Berlin’s addiction has affected her career, lifestyle and relationships significantly (not unexpected). Hauxwell briefly raises the variance of therapeutic treatments for such addictions by contrasting replacement therapy (used in the UK) with abstinence (used in Russia), highlighting this in more depth with an insight into the underground drug culture in Moscow. It’s a frightening glimpse at the lengths people will go to get their fix. Hauxwell also gives a sad and sobering insight into the addict’s mind, through Berlin and some secondary characters.

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Drowned VanillaFellow AWW correspondent Tsana at Tsana’s Reads is normally a reader of speculative fiction but she ventured into cosy crime territory with Livia Day’s DROWNED VANILLA, which sees an amateur detective-and fledgling-ice-cream maker become involved in the investigation of a disappearance in Tasmania. Tsana found it gripping and entertaining and recommended it to those readers who like banter.

Another AWW co-host, Shelleyrae at Book’d Out, highlighted a different cosy crime novel in Ilsa Evans’ FORBIDDEN FRUIT. The series heroine discovers human remains buried in her new home’s backyard and so reactivates an investigation into the disappearance of a woman in the 1970’s. Shelleyrae wrote glowingly of this well-plotted mystery but ended her review on a sad note for series fans

Forbidden Fruit, like the entire series, is a delightful blend of mystery, humour and domestic drama. Sadly this will be the final installment in the Nell Forrest Mystery series unless Nell finds a stronger audience. I implore readers whose interest is piqued to purchase a copy from your favourite ebook retailer

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Perhaps it’s too late for you to add any of these titles to your reading list for 2014 but the AWW challenge will return next year so why not pick up one (or more) of these now. If you’re after more ideas of crime/mystery/thriller or true crime books to read then head over to the genre’s reviews page for this year’s challenge to see what else is being discussed or check out the previous roundups for this review category

About Me

I’m Bernadette Bean. I’ve been reading avidly for as long as I can remember, blogging about reading since late 2008 at Reactions to Reading and co-hosting Fair Dinkum Crime, a site devoted to promoting and discussing Australian crime fiction, for the past couple of years. I read and reviewed 18 books as part of my own participation in the 2012 challenge. Some of them weren’t even crime novels!

Childrens and Young Adult (Non-Speculative) : Round Up Six

As a special treat, just in time for the holidays, I’m rounding up the children’s and non-speculative YA books together. There wasn’t a lot of reviews since the last round ups, but those reviews are pretty amazing and cover a wide range of interesting books.

In the Children’s books, Shannon from Giraffe Days reviewed I’m Green and I’m Grumpy by Alison Lester. This is a ‘guessing’ book, with clues on one page and a half page flap which reveals the ‘answer’. Shannon discusses how it’s a great book for reading aloud – either as a day time or a bedtime story.

green_grumpy_lesterThe rhymes are fun, with enough repetition to get a rhythm going and enough variation to make it continuously interesting and engaging. You can have a lot of fun, reading this book out loud, and doing voices and tones and pitch. Also, if you happen to be stuck for costume ideas, there’s some good inspiration here and more than a few home-made costumes in the illustrations.

Zac and Mia BettsMoving into the YA books, Melissa reviewed Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts. Zac and Mia is the story of teenagers going through cancer treatment and has often been compared to the very popular The Fault In Our Stars, however the review points out that these comparisons can be unfair:

. . . it is the story of different teenagers suffering from different forms of cancer in a completely different place. The experience of teenage cancer treatment is far from universal or singular – as shown by the entirely different reactions of Zac and Mia to their treatment. . .

Melissa points out that, for her, the insider references and observations felt particularly powerful, as did the feeling of a gap with peers when returning to normality. She also talks about how much rang true to her own experience:

Betts explores in this way a central problem for teenagers who have been diagnosed with cancer: the fact that it is so far removed from ‘normal’ teenage experiences that it is almost impossible to discuss . . . I wish these characters had been around for me to listen to when I was going through treatment, and I’m glad they exist now for current and future patients, and anyone who wants a realistic insight into the disease, beyond the statistics, and to be part of the growing conversation about teenage cancer.

girl-defectiveMaree took a look at Girl Defective by Simmone Howell, which is described as “the literary soundtrack to Skylark Martin’s strange, mysterious, and extraordinary summer“. She talks about how she loved the book from the first line, particularly enjoying the authenticity of voice which drew her in.

Howell writes with a deft touch that shines with honesty, and this is what makes her characters real enough to imagine them stepping off the page and into the St Kilda streets.

Every Word by Ellie Marnie is the follow up to the popular Every Breath and was reviewed by Shaheen this month. It sends the troubled sleuthing duo into a new adventure when news comes from London, continuing the excitement and engagement from the first book.

every word - ellie marneyEvery Word is certainly a stronger novel than Every Breath. As you’d expect, the writing style has matured, the plotting is tighter, and everything just flows slightly better than Every Breath. I am in no way implying that Marney’s début was bad, but rather that I am happy (as always) to see when authors continue to hone their skills at their craft.

protected-zornLisa from Welcome to My Library reviewed The Protected by Claire Zorn. This book explores the aftermath of a terrible car accident in which the main character’s sister died. Through a series of flashbacks, the reader learns about the story before the accident and the struggle to return to normal life after.

I really enjoyed The Protected, it was beautifully written, raw and real – and I can see it being nominated for a few awards. Although marketed as Young Adult, I would recommend this novel for adults as well. It was heartbreaking and achingly sad, it tapped into the harsh issues of bullying, grief, shattered families and what it takes to heal.

on-jellicoeIf you have read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, I thoroughly recommend going and reading Kaetrin’s amazing (and spoiler filled) response. Kaetrin finished the book and was left feeling a little nonplussed. She left it overnight to ponder it, then woke up with an extremely emotional response. I can’t do justice to it in a round up – plus it is really full of spoilers – but I completely recommend going and reading it yourself. She sums up her final thoughts at the end:

I don’t feel that my time was wasted by reading it.  I can’t say that I liked the book either.  I don’t think it will be one I re-read (but then, I don’t do much of that anyway so I’m not sure of the relative value of that statement).  It moved me and it made me angry . . . I thought the snapshot of rural Australia was authentic and I got a Cold Chisel earworm as well as a Kenny Rogers one. It made me think. It made me react.   How do you grade that?

I have to thank the reviewers so much for their enjoyable reviews – and the new additions to my ‘must read’ list. I hope we see them all back reviewing next year!

About Me

I’ve had a strong interest in children’s fiction since Grade 1 when a fabulous teacher bribed me with Famous Five novels. I continued reading Melina Dchildren’s and YA books  long after I was supposed to ‘grow up’ – something which served me very well when I became a teacher and was known all over the school as ‘the teacher with the books’. I’m currently on maternity leave, enjoying the rich world of picture books with my toddler and sporadically blogging over at Adventures of a Subversive Reader

Who has completed the AWW 2014 challenge?

With the year drawing to a close, a few of us have been tallying up our reading of books by Australian women and writing wrap-up posts for the AWW challenge.

I thought I’d take a look at the “Challenge Completed” page to see who has finished already. It turns out I’m the 17th person to add my name. As 304 signed up to do the 2014 challenge, I’m sure there are more to come. Some might be waiting till they’ve finished reading and reviewing for the year before adding their names and links.

So who has finished so far? In order of completion:

  1. Mindy from Hoyden About Town
  2. Jennifer Cameron-Smith on Goodreads
  3. Whispering Gums
  4. Shelleyrae from Book’d Out
  5. Cassandra Page
  6. Candice Writes
  7. Wayward Fancy
  8. Lynxie/Coffee2Words
  9. Orange Peko Reviews
  10. Maja @ Tempest Thoughts
  11. Kate @ Books Are My Favourite and Best
  12. Maree Kimberley
  13. Tien’s Blurb
  14. Maureen Helen
  15. Faith
  16. Jane Rawson
  17. Elizabeth Lhuede/Lizzy Chandler

Most of the above reviewers describe their reading as “mixed”, though there are some whose reading has been more focused on genres including romance, speculative fiction and suspense. One reviewer suggested we have a special category for The Stella Prize long- or short-listed books next year.

Have you finished the AWW 2014 challenge? If so, please enter your name and suggestions for the 2015 challenge here (even if you haven’t written a wrap-up post or have only read, rather than reviewed).

Are you planning on joining the AWW challenge in 2015?


About me: With help from members of the Aussie book-blogging community, I founded the AWW challenge in late 2011, aiming to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. Since then one of my novels, Snowy River Man – a rural romance with suspense elements – has been accepted for publication by Escape Publishing and will be released on 22 February 2015 under my pen-name, Lizzy Chandler. In between writing, I read (mostly suspense) and post reviews at Devoted Eclectic. I also tweet via @elizabethlhuede, @auswomenwriters and @Lizzy_Chandler.

Interview with Paddy O’Reilly, Author of The Wonders


Paddy O’Reilly won the Age Short Story Award in 2002, and has since published three novels and a short story collection in Australia, Europe and the USA. Heart of Pearl, a short film for which she wrote the screenplay, was nominated for an Australian Film Institute award. Her latest novel is The Wonders.

Did you grow up in a bookish house? What was your early relationship with books?

We had books in our house but, more importantly, we were regular library borrowers. As the youngest of the family I first read all the hand-me-downs, which were old and musty because I was a late arrival, and which my older sisters and brother scorned because they had outgrown them. So the biggest thrill for me was discovering books at the library. Every week we would go to the library and get new books, and the closer I got to being able to borrow from the adult library the more excited I became. In preparation, I read books from the bookshelf in our lounge room: From Here to Eternity, The Vivisector, Agatha Christie mysteries, The Grapes of Wrath. At 11 or 12 years of age I was too young to understand them properly, but I was fascinated by them all the same. This was the adult world and it was dark and I was longing to get there.

Your screenplay for the short film Heart of Pearl was nominated for an AFI award. How did writing for the screen compare to writing short stories/novels?

Writing for film was an extraordinary experience, utterly different to writing fiction. The process was long and involved all sorts of constraints fiction writers need never worry about. If a novelist wants to have an Arabian desert scene in her book, she writes it in. If a screenwriter wants the same in a film, the cost of filming that scene will add millions to the budget. If the budget is limited, you have to write your way around such things. Heart of Pearl was set on a Pacific Island. It was filmed on some vacant land in Sydney but you would never know, thanks to the extraordinary photography by Andrew Taylor. Aside from budgetary constraints, you have a director and a producer who want to have a say, and in a full length feature you might have many more people involved in vetting and changing the script. Then when the film is made, all kinds of things can happen: scenes can’t be shot; filmed scenes turn out badly; in the editing room it becomes clear that the ending doesn’t work; etc. And at that point, you are no longer involved in the project. So what you end up seeing on the screen may not be what you thought you had written. (In the case of Heart of Pearl, I have to say that wasn’t the case, but I have worked on another project where the film turned out quite differently to what was on the page.) You have to learn to let go.
Apparently there are a number of screenwriters in Hollywood who make a good living yet have never had a film produced. That would be depressing.

wonders-cover-usa-webWhat do you do when you feel creatively stuck?

Unfortunately, I eat. That, of course, doesn’t help at all. Walking helps. Mundane tasks help. At a certain point, bloated and still stuck, I’ll try ways to trick myself. I might change tack and start something different, something that I tell myself is simply playing around. I might decide that the work I’m stuck on is no good and try to find one paragraph or one line that has some life and start over from there. If I am desperate, I might force myself to sit down at the computer with the screen blacked out and write for fifteen minutes. I’ll walk again or pull some weeds or take a shower. I think swimming would be great – that delicious and freeing immersion in water – but I don’t like swimming pools and I’m too far from the sea.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing the final edits for a short story collection that will be out in the middle of 2015. It’s called Peripheral Vision and will be published by UQP. I’m thrilled to be published in UQP’s loose series of short story collections that includes writers like Jennifer Mills, Abbas El-Zein and Josephine Rowe. Most of the stories in Peripheral Vision have already been published in literary magazines or anthologies.

We are lucky to have such a vibrant culture of small magazines and literary enterprises here. Each time I get a new issue of a magazine I find exciting work by new writers and I keep an eye out for more of their writing. It’s fantastic to watch them coming out into the world.

What’s your favourite book by an Australian female author?

The trouble with a question like this, and I’m sure we all feel this way, is that I love so many books by Australian women writers it feels like a betrayal to pick one. So I’ll talk about one of the books that inspired me when I was starting to write. Lillian’s Story by Kate Grenville is a book with huge energy. It is often funny despite the darkness of the character’s early life, and it gives voice and power to a character who broke out of all the strictures of her time about ‘being a woman’ in a way that is both tragic and oddly uplifting. The prose is rich and clean, the imagery is sumptuous, the narrative proceeds and coheres beautifully in titled fragments. Lillian’s Story is one of the books that made me feel I could write whatever, and in whatever way, I wanted. If you haven’t read it, you have a treat awaiting you.


The Fine Colour of Rust, reviewed by Katie Keys

The Wonders, reviewed by Michelle McLaren

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Interview with Amanda Curtin, author of Elemental

Books that stand their ground: Spotlight on Wild Dingo Press

Founded in 2010 by Catherine Lewis, Wild Dingo Press is committed to publishing the stories of individuals quietly doing extraordinary things, be it exposure of corruption and systemic flaws or the experiences of the disenfranchised, disempowered and dispossessed. ‘It’s a privilege when someone comes to me with their precious story that needs an airing – not only for their sake but to illuminate issues and themes that, while belonging to their personal experience, have universal relevance and implications,’ Catherine says.

imageShedding light on social issues and sharing the rich cultural output and traditions of those oft-discussed but denied a voice, Wild Dingo Press publishes memoir, narrative non-fiction and investigative journalistic non-fiction that challenge readers and enrich them personally, intellectually and emotionally.

Catherine goes on to say, ‘It’s particularly gratifying when courageous and extraordinary women, so many of whom are unsung and unrecognised, are prepared to share their stories with us – and with you, the reader – as have our three wonderful women writers: Ann Fogarty, Jill Sanguinetti and Julie Szego.’


The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama by Julie Szego

imageIn this fascinating insight into the Victorian legal system, renowned journalist and lawyer Julie Szego shows how the quest for justice can go terribly wrong. When a young Somali man is convicted then acquitted of a rape crime, Szego asks and answers the pertinent question: how did this happen? Touching on issues of migration and cultural taboos, prejudices and gender politics, and the techniques of modern policing with its reliance on DNA, Szego brilliantly pieces together this case.

A must-read.


School Days of a Methodist Lady: a journey through girlhood by Jill Sanguinetti

imageWhen a country girl is uprooted from Kyabram and send to boarding school in Melbourne, her life is turned upside down. As she leaves behind all that is familiar and safe for a strange new world with its own set of rules, the adjustment is tumultuous. In this engaging account of life in the 1950s, Jill shines a light on the difficulties faced by all young people as they grow up: working out when to follow the rules and when to break them. Honest and moving, this is above all a story about growing up.


Forged With Flames by Ann Fogarty and Anne Crawford
Winner: 2013 Australian Christian Book of the Year

imageIn 1983, the Ash Wednesday bushfires left Ann Fogarty with life-threatening burns to 85% of her body. In this incredible account, Ann tells us what happened on that tragic day and how she managed to find the strength to keep living. A moving, inspiring account of survival and the resolve that it takes to keep facing new challenges, even decades on. A book that will make you weep and laugh and encourage you to hope.


To thank the AWW blog for hosting Wild Dingo Press, we’d like to give away two copies of Julie Szego’s book The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama (recently shortlisted for the 2015 Vic Premier’s Literary Award!) to two lucky readers.


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Contest closes December 31, 2014

Danielle Binks is a Melbourne-based blogger, editor and aspiring writer of young adult fiction. She is also publicist for Wild Dingo Press.

November 2014 Roundup: Classics and Literary

After a very slow month for reviews in October, things picked up considerably in November. Thanks everyone!

This will be the last of our monthly roundups for Classics and Literary in 2014, as the next round-up will be an annual report. I’m looking forward to seeing what pops up out of my analysis. It’s been an interesting year for books by women writers – in my area anyhow – but more on that next month.

Numerical November

Thirty-two reviews were posted this month, three more than for November last year.  Here are some highlights:

  • Helen Garner’s book This house of grief continues to bring in reviews since its publication a couple of months ago, garnering four this month. Michelle de Kretser received three reviews across two books, as did Annabel Smith.
  • A quarter of the reviews this month were for non-fiction works, helped along by Helen Garner’s book of course!
  • This month’s most prolific reviewer was one of our small band of male reviewers, Jonathan Shaw (Me fail? I fly), with five reviews. He was closely followed by Angie Holst (Projected Happiness) who posted four.

The Classics

Reviews for classics keep coming in, with two posted this month. Both were for lesser known works by well-known authors. We could question whether lesser known works qualify as “classics” but my policy is to keep the categories broad and flexible. Anyhow, where else would they go?

Eleanor Dark, Return to CoolamiThe first classic is Eleanor Dark’s Return to Coolami (1936), reviewed by Angie Holst. A lot has been made over the last couple of years of Text Publishing’s promotion of Australian classics through their Text Classics series, but other publishers have been quietly going about the same business. Return to Coolami, for example, comes from Allen and Unwin’s House of Books series. Holst likens this book, which explores three marriages, to Harrower’s In certain circles:

Like Harrower, there is a confidence with Dark’s writing, and an intelligent understanding of the inner workings of both women and men. I thought this a very modern feeling novel, which is high praise given its 1930s release. Some of the issues raised in the portrayal of Susan are strongly feminist although of course, this period was a time of monumental change for women.

TurnerParthenonJuveniliaThe other “classic” is a little more ambiguous in categorisation. It was reviewed by me, and is a collection of juvenilia by Ethel Turner, author of one of Australia’s best-loved children’s classics, Seven little Australians. Titled Tales from the “Parthenon”, it contains a selection of works from the journal published by Turner and her sister Lilian immediately post-school. Written over more than 40 years before Dark’s work, Turner’s pieces also address gender issues and make clear their author’s belief that women have a right to independence and intellectually equality.

Literary non-fiction

Eight of the reviews posted this month were for non-fiction works. To appear in this round-up, they need to be identified as belonging to what is generally recognised as literary or narrative non-fiction, that is, non-fiction which uses some of the techniques of fiction, such as characterisation, evocative language, and/or dialogue. Helen Garner’s This house of grief uses all of these. Jonathan Shaw, for example, describes Garner as dramatising her personal responses, and Kate (Books are My Favourite and Best) writes that:

there are bits of herself – her knitting, her grandchildren, her friend’s recent divorce – and there’s her sharp focus on the players involved, as opposed to the evidence .

Memoirs are, perhaps, a little more difficult to define as “literary” since they naturally deal with “character”. I have assumed that the reviewers who defined as literary the memoirs they read in November have done so on the basis of the quality of the writing and of the reflections. Kylie Mason reviewed Kristy Chambers’ memoir It’s not you, Geography, it’s me in the Newton Review of Books, and liked her “appealing narrative voice”. There is, she writes, a

certain charm to her willingness to showcase with directness and wit the very worst of her travel experiences, and she does not shy away from the harder aspects of travelling with a mental illness.

Kate Belle (The Ecstasy Files) writes about another travel-related memoir, Sinning across Spain by Ailsa Piper, saying that Piper shares “deeply personal and intimate revelations of her experience”.

Janine Rizzetti (Resident Judge of Port Phillip) reviewed Maggie Mackellar’s When it rains, which falls into the “grief memoir” sub-genre. Rizzetti makes it very clear why she defined this book as “literary”. Mackellar, she says,

has left strict chronological order behind and instead spirals around her story. The book is written as a series of short chapters, mostly in the present tense, that read a bit like newspaper columns in that each one seems self-contained with apparent closure in the final paragraph of each one.  But you turn the page, and still it goes on – just as she must.  As one chapter follows another chapter, she is still circling warily around her pain but gradually stepping away from it as well.

These aren’t all the reviews posted this month for “literary” non-fiction, but they represent some of the variety we find in this loose grouping.

Most Underrated Book Award for 2014 (MUBA)

Jane Rawson, A wrong turn at the office of unmade listsPaula Grunseit, our coordinator for awards, has already posted this month on MUBA, but I wanted to mention it here for two reasons. For those of you who didn’t read her post and haven’t heard, this year’s MUBA was won by Jane Rawson for her novel, A wrong turn at the office of unmade lists. Rawson is one of our generous band of authors who regularly post reviews of other writers’ books for the challenge. So far this year, in this category, she has posted 23 reviews. That’s more than two a month! Well done Jane, and thanks.

The other reason is that her book has received a few reviews this year, including one this month by Angie Holst who liked it. Holst said she could see why it won the award. She concludes her review of this “indefinable” novel with the following assessment:

Rawson is ambitious in her structure and voice, whilst maintaining coherence and pace. I did think the earlier sections in future Melbourne were more confident, less dialogue driven and more purposeful. However, the latter sections no doubt were what captured the attention of the MUBA judges: their scope and imagination make this an unusual and worthy read.

I’ve mentioned only a few of the books reviewed this month. To see all of the Literary/Classic books reviewed this year to date, please check this Weebly page.


About Me

I am Whispering Gums and I read, review and blog about (mostly) literary fiction. It was reading Jane Austen when I was 14 years old that turned me on to reading literary fiction/classics, which is why I am here today doing this round-up! Little did Jane know what she started!

My love of Aussie literature started with Banjo Paterson’s ballads and Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians in my childhood. But, I didn’t really discover Australian women’s writing until the 1980s when I “met” and fell in love with Elizabeth Jolley, Thea Astley, Olga Masters, Helen Garner and Kate Grenville. Ever since then I have been making sure to include a good percentage of Australian (and other) women writers in my reading diet.

Queensland Literary Awards and PM Literary Awards: Winners announced

You can’t be in two places at once as you don’t own a TARDIS …

So, you were probably following the action on Twitter on the evening of Monday 8 December when the winners of the Queensland Literary Awards were being announced at the State Library of Queensland while the winners of the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards were being announced at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

Wins by women writers included titles by: Joan Beaumont, Gabrielle Carey, Felicity Castagna, Ceridan Dovey, Cathy McLennan, Jaclyn Moriarty, Kellee Slater, Melinda Smith, Helen Trinca, Lesley and Tammy Williams.

madeleine moving-among-strangers-carey the incredible here and now - felicity castagna dragdown

Only the Animals Ceridwen Doveybeaumont-broken-nation refugeCracks in the Kingdom Jaclyn Moriarty how-to-do-a-liver-transplant-slater

The Queensland Literary Awards were established and run by volunteers in 2012 after the axing of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. This year is the first time that the Awards were run by the State Library of Queensland. Eleven winning titles were chosen across ten categories from a list of 450 books and manuscripts.

The winners are:

University of Queensland Fiction Book Award

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, Vintage

University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award

1914: The Year the World Ended by Paul Ham, William Heinemann

University of Southern Queensland History Book Award

Broken Nation by Joan Beaumont, A & U

University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award

Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey, Penguin

State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award

Earth Hour by David Malouf, UQP

Griffith University Young Adult Book Award

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty, Pan

Griffith University Children’s Book Award

Joint winners:

Refuge by Jackie French, HarperCollins and Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, Lothian

Emerging Queensland Writer Manuscript Award

We Come From Saltwater People by Cathy McLennan

Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award

It’s Not Just Black and White by Lesley & Tammy Williams

The Courier-Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year

How to do a liver transplant: Stories from my surgical life by Kellee Slater, New South.

State Librarian Janette Wright said that the Queensland Literary Awards were “a testament to the passion for writing and literature in our community.” “The Awards have grown out of community support and a great love of literature,” said Ms Wright. “We are grateful for the continued goodwill for the Awards and would like to thank and acknowledge the exceptional support of our key award partners the Copyright Agency Limited Cultural Fund, The Courier-Mail, The University of Queensland, Griffith University, the University of Southern Queensland, Claire Booth, the University of Queensland Press and the Queensland Writers Centre.”

Chair of the Queensland Literary Awards Stuart Glover said the winning and shortlisted books “remind us of the diverse things that books can do and the invention and creativity with which writers undertake their work.” “The awards acknowledge the quality of contemporary writing and point readers towards works that might be of interest to them or important in helping us to think about who we are as a community,” he said.

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards

More than 500 books were entered into the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. The Awards recognise and reward excellence in Australian literature and history. Since their inception in 2008, 137 books have been shortlisted and 24 books have won.

The winner of each award category receives a prize of $80,000 tax free (halved in the case of joint-winners) and each shortlisted title receives $5,000 tax free. This year’s awards saw several joint winners and generous gestures to donate prize money. Richard Flanagan will donate $40,000 to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and Bob Graham will donate $10,000 to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

This year’s Awards also marked the announcement by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott of the formation of a new literary organisation, The Book Council of Australia which will “celebrate good reading and good writing”. Leaving aside the dilemma of what constitutes “good reading and good writing”, a Book Council sounds like a great idea in principle.

The winners in each category are:

Fiction (joint winners)

A World of Other People (Steven Carroll, Fourth Estate)

The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan, Vintage)

Nonfiction (joint winners)

Moving among Strangers (Gabrielle Carey, UQP)

Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John (Helen Trinca, Text)

Australian history (joint winners)

Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War (Joan Beaumont, A&U)

Australia’s Secret War: How Unionists Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II (Hal G P Colebatch, Quadrant Books)


Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call (Melinda Smith, Pitt Street Poetry)

Young adult fiction

The Incredible Here and Now (Felicity Castagna, Giramondo)

Children’s fiction

Silver Buttons (Bob Graham, Walker Books).

What do you think about the Awards and are you currently reading any of the shortlisted or winning titles for your AWW Challenge? Keep sending us your reviews; they are all accessible here.

About Me

I’m a freelance book reviewer, journalist, writer and editor. I blog over at Wordsville and can be found in the library (I work in one) and on Twitter @PaulaGrunseit

YA Speculative Fiction Round-Up: Oct-Nov 2014

Welcome to the October and November round-up of YA Speculative Fiction! The year is coming to a close and the book releases are slowing down, but we’ve still got some great reviews coming in :)

Remember Me Stacey Nsah book coverAnamae Gilbert managed to thwart The Collective and rescue her father, even though his mind is now a shell. Determined to stop Councilor Manvyke hurting her family again, she’s training to become an active resistance member and enjoying a growing romance. But things never sail along smoothly – Manvyke wants retribution. And Anamae’s name is high on his list.

The most popular title has been Remember Me (The Collective #2) by Stacey Nash. Cassandra Page has given it a glowing review, saying “the first book is the discovery story, whereas in this second book we get to peel back additional layers of this interesting world and see what’s underneath.” Rochelle Sharpe also reviewed the book, saying that “Remember Me was a captivating and highly enjoyable read.”

Cassandra Page also got the opportunity to interview Stacey Nash, where they discuss the cool world of the novel, the friendships between the characters, and what Nash is planning to write next.

This Shattered World Amie Kaufman Meagan Spooner book coverJubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met. Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents. Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporate conglomerate that rules Avon with an iron fist.

This Shattered World (Starbound #2) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner has recently been released, and has already gotten a fair bit of attention. Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity thinks it’s an excellent sequel to These Broken Stars, and that “[t]he world building was on-point, as was the storyline.”

And I’m going to cheat a little and share two December reviews for This Shattered World. The first is by Tsana, who comments on the change in protagonists: “I thought I might be disappointed that the character set have changed but this turned out not to be the case as the new characters were just as compelling as the ones in These Broken Stars.” And the second review is mine – “I love both books, but I think This Shattered World, which is more thrilling and has more danger and explosions, is more my speed.”

Also recently released is the novella that bridges These Broken Stars and This Shattered World, called This Night So Dark. It explores the events that made Tarver famous and sets up the grand mystery we encounter in This Shattered World. You can check out my glowing review here. You can buy the e-novella at the Australian Kindle store.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf book coverAshala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose, a man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe — the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured, vulnerable, with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind. And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (The Tribe #1) by Ambelin Kwaymullina has been reviewed by Ju Transcendancing who “adored the story building in this, so many layers, puzzles and … was delighted at every stage of the reveal.”

The Blood She Betrayed Cheryse DurrantThrust into the technology-driven Earthlands via magical mists, Shahkara is forced to rely on Max McCalden to help find the ancient Elnara death lantern, her homeworld’s last chance of survival against the heart-devouring Taloners. Max has his own problems, but nothing prepares him for this fugitive warrior’s razor-sharp talons.

Eleni Konstantine reviewed The Blood She Betrayed by Cheryse Durrant, saying “[t]his YA book has action, romance, fantasy, magic and more. The two main characters are teens but not typical ones in any sense of the word. One is from another world, the other a millionaire’s son.”

Other reviews:

  • The Book of Days by K. A. Barker – reviewed by Rochelle Sharpe
  • Lake Ephemeral part 4 by Anya Allyn – reviewed by Brenda
  • Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios – reviewed by Sean the Bookonaut
  • How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier – reviewed by Tsana
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta – reviewed by Lynxie
  • The Caller by Juliet Marillier – reviewed by Helen Venn

That’s it for October and November! I’ll be back early next year with the December round-up, but in the mean time, keep a look out for This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Dec 2014, Science Fiction YA), and Faking It (The Intern #2) by Gabrielle Tozer (Jan 2015, Contemporary YA).

Also, there have been some exciting cover reveals recently: Burn (The Rephaim #4) by Paula Weston and Fearless (The Avena #3) by Marianne Curley both have covers now, and are slated for release in 2015.

Also, I have a very special #OzYAChat planned this week where we will be discussing all 2015 releases by Australian authors, and there will be a very cool PDF checklist to download. All the major publishers have helped to collate this list, so it’ll be very helpful if you’re planning to take part in the challenge next year and read Aussie YA (regardless of genre). Join me on Twitter on Thursday 11 December at 7:30 PM AEDT.


About Me

Hi! I’m Shaheen from Speculating on SpecFic, a book blog dedicated to works of speculative fiction – fantasy, science fiction, magic realism, paranormal romance and much more. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading and use my blog to peddle my love to others. When not reading (rare times indeed), I can be found completing my PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

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November 2014: General Fiction

For the purposes of this challenge ‘general fiction’, is defined as fiction set post mid 1900′s, which does not fit neatly into a specific literary genre.


Rachael’s Gift by Alexandra Cameron

rachaelsgift-cameronRachael is a child prodigy, a talented artist whose maturity and eloquence is far beyond her fourteen years. She’s also energetic, charming and beautiful, beguiling everyone around her. To her mother, Camille, she is perfect. But perfection requires work, as Camille knows all too well.
For Rachael has another extraordinary gift: a murky one that rears its head from time to time, threatening to unbalance all the family has been working towards. When Rachael accuses her art teacher of sexual misconduct, Wolfe and Camille are drawn into a complex web of secrets and lies that pit husband against wife, and have the power to destroy all their lives.
Set in contrasting worlds of Australia and Paris, told from the perspective of husband and wife, Rachael’s Gift is a detective story of the heart, about a mother’s uncompromising love for her daughter and a father’s quest for the truth.

Marcia from Book Muster Down Under writes; “Rachael’s Gift is Alexandra Cameron’s debut novel and she should be commended for drawing so many emotions from this reviewer from incredulity, anger and distress …contempt [and] sympathy…”  Shelleyrae from Book’d Out also notes; “ Cameron explores some of the modern concerns of parenting such as cyber-bullying, sexual predation and the narcissism of youth, and questions the choices parent have in an era where they are expected to protect their children from the consequences of their own behaviour and to support their ambitions without censure.”


Wife on the Run by Fiona Higgins

Wife On Run HigginsA mother’s greatest fear… A wife’s worst nightmare… What would you do?
When two technology-related disasters hit within days of each other, Paula knows her comfortable suburban life has been irrevocably blown apart. One involves the public shaming of her teenage daughter, the other is a discovery about her husband that shocks her to her core. With her world unravelling around her, Paula does the only thing that makes any sense to her: she runs away from it all.
She pulls her children out of school and takes off on a trip across Australia with her elderly father and his caravan. The only rule is No Technology – no phones, no Facebook, no Instagram, no tablets, games or computers. It’s time to get back to basics and learn how to be a family again.
It all sounds so simple – and for a while, it is. But along the way Paula will meet new, exciting complications, and realise that running away is only a temporary solution. The past has to be faced before the future can begin.

“Part cautionary tale, part “finding yourself” yarn, Wife on the Run is full of flawed, believable characters and tackles modern-day issues with candour and compassion.” writes Monique of Write Note Reviews. Bree of All the Books I Can Read says, “…the parts of the story concerning family and marriage and relationships kept me utterly fascinated.”


Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McIerney

hellofromthegillespies-mcierney“For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself–she tells the truth….
The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.
Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together–and pull themselves together–in wonderfully surprising ways…
From the bestselling author of The House of Memories comes a funny and heartfelt novel about miscommunication and mayhem in a family like no other.”

“…this is an exceptionally well crafted story set in a beautiful part of outback South Australia….I loved this novel. ” says Sam Still ReadingCarol @ Reading, Writing and Riesling writes, “This is such a surprising read – glance quickly over it and you will discover a family story with characters that you identify with or have met along your way in life but this novel is so much more than the individuals in it; it is a story about the struggles of modern day Australians whether they live in regional or city communities, for all the issues here affect us all in one way or another.”


Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill

reluctantlycharmed“It’s Kate McDaid’s birthday and she’s hoping to kickstart her rather stagnant love-life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great-great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.
Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Instantly, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye. As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil the final, devastating step of the request . . . or whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t… “

Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out writes,  “Entertaining and light, Reluctantly Charmed is a fanciful story about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic, with appealing touches of humour, intrigue and romance.” Marcia from Book Muster Down Under notes, “Along with these fine characters and her deftly structured narrative, Ellie’s cracking turn of phrase and scenic descriptions are something to be savoured.” Tracey of Carpe Librum finished her review with this statement, “Reluctantly Charmed was the most unexpected and surprising read of the year for me and reinforces the lesson that if you generalise and make snap judgements about a book, you could be missing out on a rewarding reading experience. I’m glad I didn’t miss this one.”


Can You Keep a Secret? by Caroline Overington

canyoukeepasecret-overington“How well do you really know the one you love?  ‘Why do some people decide to get married when everyone around them would seem to agree that marriage, at least for the two people in question, is a terrifically bad idea?’ The year is 1999, and Lachlan Colbert – Colby – has the world at his feet. He’s got a big job on Wall Street and a sleek bachelor pad in the heart of Manhattan. With money no object, he and his friends take a trip to Australia to see in the new millennium. And it’s there, on a hired yacht sailing the Whitsundays, that he meets Caitlin.  Caitlin Hourigan has got wild hair and torn shorts – and has barely ever left the small patch of Queensland where she grew up. But Colby is smitten and for Caitlin, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, a blissful future awaits – marriage, a big house, a beautiful little boy. But nothing is ever as perfect as it seems. And for Lachlan and Caitlin the nightmare is only just beginning.”

” Caroline Overington once again takes a complex topic at large and brings it to light. In Can You Keep A Secret the reader comes to grips with the less heard of realities of international adoption as well as the complex forces that bring and keep some couples together.” writes HelenElizabeth of Devoted Eclectic says; “Overington’s style interests me, as does her boldness in writing the “truth” as she sees it. She is unafraid to polarise, to offend, to invite judgement of behaviour she sees as wrong. She has found a way of doing this, of critiquing aspects of society and human behaviour, while telling a page-turning story.”


You can browse more general fiction titles reviewed by participants on the AWW review site

Cleanskin Cowgirls Treasure isabelleofthemoonstars-joneslola-bensky



About Me

My name is Shelleyrae Cusbert I am a mother of four children, aged 8 to 18, living in the mid north coast of NSW. I am an obsessive reader and publish my thoughts about what I read at my book blog,  Book’d Out.  In 2012 I read and reviewed a total of 109 books for the AWW Challenge and in 2013 a total of 117. I juggle caring for my family with a part time job and volunteer at both the town’s local library and the children’s school library.

November Speculative Fiction Round-up

Hello everyone! It’s been a quieter month this November on the reviewing front. Perhaps people are taking a break after a busy October or perhaps things are just winding up towards the end of the year.

Science Fiction

wrong turn rawsonOur first review was for the book that recently won the Most Underrated Book Award: Jane Rawson’s A Wrong Turn At The Office Of Unmade Lists. Angie Holst reviewed it, writing:

The complexity of material in the novel deserves close attention, and hopefully the publicity surrounding the win will bring Rawson a wider audience.

Rawson paints the future Melbourne evocatively: the environment is ruined, disease is rife, the Internet is still ruling people’s lives but is essentially useless in providing what everyone wants, food and fresh water. Rawson’s vision of the future is depressingly easy to believe but at the same time vividly imaginative

the-arkThe other science fiction novel reviewed this month was Annabel Smith’s The Ark, garnering two reviewed. Monique writes:

The Ark gets my vote for the most interesting and clever book I’ve read this year. It’s not your typical narrative, composed instead of emails, instant messages, memos and other documents, forming an epistolary novel with a difference.

Sean the Bookonaut also enjoyed it, particularly the book design (above and beyond) and the accompanying app/website.


A small handful of quite diverse fantasy books this month. First up we had Ju Transcendancing reviewing Hindsight by AA Bell, the second book in her Mira Chambers trilogy. She enjoyed it but didn’t find it a light read. She also notes that it doesn’t really stand alone, being very much the second part of a trilogy.

On a completely different note, Debbie Robson reviewed Transcendence, a romance with reincarnation, ghosts and two timelines. She particularly found the descriptions of scenery evocative.

PhantazeinFinally, Sean the Bookonaut reviewed Phantazein, an anthology of fairytale and folklore — but not the usual suspects — edited by Tehani Wessely. He writes:

Kudos to Tehani’s eye for talent and story and kudos to the writers who took long raked over material in a lot of cases and breathed life and originality in to them. Phantazein showcases the depth of talent Australia has in the fantasy field and gives us a glimpse at some other international authors who we may not be familiar with.


About Me

I’m Tsana Dolichva and I’ve been reading and enjoying Australian speculative fiction since I first started reading “grown up” books (back before YA was its own genre). More recently, I’ve been blogging my reviews over at the creatively titled Tsana’s Reads. I very irregularly blog about science in science fiction over at the Science Fiction Writers’ Guide to Space. When not reading or writing, I’m probably working towards my PhD in astrophysics.

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