Authors’ pick 13: Narrelle M. Harris

THRIVE cover_0Today’s Authors’ pick has been chosen by Narelle M. Harris.

I nominate Thrive, by Mary Borsellino. Full disclosure – I did the edit on this book and launched it, in part because I’ve been a huge fan of Mary’s work for years and Lindy Cameron, the publisher at Clan Destine Press, knew that I would know how to approach the edit on it.

Thrive follows a privileged girl named Olivia, who at the outset is being held by kidnappers but befriends one of the teenagers holding her, Hannah, who introduced Olivia to the world of banned books. Olivia is rescued (and rescues Hannah) but the way she sees the world is fractured. Her new knowledge of the greater world, its unfairness and its suffering, leads her to abandon the comforting lie of her life and to some dark and dangerous places on the fringes – with the misfits, the queers, the rejects, the ones society has labelled as ‘a failure to thrive’.

Thrive is as compelling as Mary’s work usually is. It is filled with horror, violence, cruelty and loss but from that desolate ground, Thrive gives us a rich soil from which grows beauty, love, hope and ways to use ideas to fight for better times without destruction. Thrive is also a very smart book, literate and funny while cracking along with wonderful characters and huge energy. Delightfully, a re-read is guaranteed to add extra depth to your appreciation, as you realise how cleverly plotted it is, and how so many ideas are intricately woven into the cloth of the whole.

Narrelle M Harris writes crime, horror, fantasy, romance and erotica – find out more at www.mortalwords.com.au

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Authors’ pick 12: Natalie Jane Prior

all fall downToday’s authors’ pick has been chosen by Natalie Jane Prior.

My book of the year, and certainly the one I was hanging out to see published, is Matthew Condon’s All Fall Down, the third in his series about police and political corruption in Queensland (the others are Three Crooked Kings and Jacks and Jokers). To be blunt, anyone who grew up in Queensland in the sixties, seventies and eighties should read these books. They are meticulously researched, incredibly readable, and notable (I think) for being very fair and even handed in their assessment of the events.

Natalie Jane Prior is the author of numerous books for children and young adults.

 

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Authors’ pick 11: Kathy Creamer

motherlandReaders of this blog might remember an interview I did with writer, illustrator and publisher Kathy Creamer a few weeks ago. Today, it’s time for her to choose her favourite book of 2015, one she’s read several times!

My favourite book of the year: Mother Land by Dmetri Kakmi

 I first read this book a few years ago and loved it for its amusing characterization of people and their eccentricities, its search for personal identity, its strong sense of place and rich descriptive writing.

Mother Land is a memoir of a young boy’s childhood, set in the 1960’s, on the Turkish island of Bozcaada (formerly Tenedos). Born in Turkey of Greek parentage, Dmetri Kakmi reveals the deeply emotional battle with the two different cultures that dwell within him, and of the ever-increasing hostility of Turkish rule, and the raw injustices of adult authority.

What I loved most about Mother Land was the evocation of an idealistic isle of childhood, where bare-footed, sun-kissed children run free to roam through the summer countryside and the villages, experiencing all of its delights and horrors. A place where time is unhurried, and where everyone knows everyone else’s business in a community where people look out for each other – and gossip, whether out of genuine concern, or pure mischievousness. I adored the erratic episodes of unrequited love between the hirsute Ephigenia and the brooding fisherman, Zotico, which were deliciously amusing, and it is exactly those wonderfully fresh and descriptive elements about the intriguing human condition that keep me coming back to read this book again and again.

 

Kathy Creamer is a writer, illustrator and publisher. Her website is at http://kathycreamer.com/

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Authors’ pick 10: Jason Nahrung

Jamieson_DayBoy2Today’s authors’ pick has been chosen by Jason Nahrung.
Day Boy (Text, 2015), by Brisbane writer Trent Jamieson.
Set in an isolated Australian country town, the story is told by adolescent Mark, entering his final period as Day Boy to the vampire Master Dain. This is in the time after the war, when the vampires rule what’s left of humanity: the Council of Teeth lurks in the bowels of a mountain fortress, casting a long, terrible shadow over Masters and humans alike. There are elements of Jamieson’s Roil in this, in the flitting, elemental vampires, the evocative descriptions of this place of light and dark and intrigue. Against this backdrop, what comes next for Mark as his tenure as Day Boy approaches its end?
Mark’s relationship with Dain that is key here, a paternal exploration, a coming of age story. It is affecting stuff. There are women here, but a few, primarily Mary and her daughter Anne, but this is a book about boys and men, their rivalries and cruelties, and the love of fathers and sons.
The larger story unfolds through episodic chapters with some events feeling almost as asides, others showing Mark’s maturation, all illustrating life under vampire rule, the wildness outside of town, that favourite Aussie trope of dangers lurking in the bush.
This lyrical exploration of an intriguing, at times monstrous world marks a fine addition to the canon of Australian vampire fiction.
Jason Nahrung’s most recent long fiction is the Outback vampire duology Blood and Dust and its sequel The Big Smoke. www.jasonnahrung.com
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Authors’ pick 9: Adele Geras

threadsToday’s authors’ pick has been chosen by Adèle Geras. 
Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske, by Julia Blackburn
I read much more fiction than non-fiction but this book was a memorably brilliant highlight of 2015.
It’s the story of a most unusual artist called John Craske and I’ve written about it in a post I put up on the HISTORY GIRLS blog.  The link to that article is here.
The best thing about this book is that it’s as much  a story about the writer as about the subject she’s writing about. Julia Blackburn is a poet and she follows all kinds of fascinating trails to discover the truth about this man. So: a very interesting and unusual subject, a marvellous writer to tell his story and very importantly, too, an absolutely beautiful piece of publishing for which Jonathan Cape are to be congratulated. If ever a book had to be bought in its paper version rather than as a e-book, this is it. It would make a most magnificent Christmas present!
Adèle Geras has written over a hundred books, most of them for children and young adults. Her 6th adult novel, LOVE OR NEAREST OFFER will be published by Quercus in 2016.
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Authors’ pick 8: Kim Kelly

koombanaToday’s authors’ pick was chosen by Kim Kelly.

Koombana Days by Annie Boyd was my fantastic find for 2015. I was idly surfing Goodreads – I can’t even remember what rabbit hole I’d fallen down – when the cover of this maritime history jumped out at me. A glance at the blurb had me soon adding to car

The elegant, ultra-modern SS “Koombana” arrived in Western Australia in March 1909; after only three years of service in the North West of Australia, the ship and her entire complement disappeared in a late-summer cyclone off the Pilbara coast in 1912. All 156 lives were lost but the wreck was never found.It was our own mini Titanic and yet I’d never heard of it before. Irresistible! I devoured not only the amazing tale of glamour entwined with tragedy but Annie Boyd’s wonderful wrangling of vast research into a compelling narrative. She does something here that few historians manage do, too, and that is to bring to life her characters from the past – especially the character of the ship itself – and she does so with great love for her subject.

I was so inspired by the story of the Koombana, it sent me down a whole Edwardian steamships research rabbit hole of my own, and I’ve just finished the draft of a novel based in part on the wreck. Thank you, Annie Boyd!

Kim Kelly is the author of four novels, all lorikeet-coloured tales about Australia, our history and who we are. Her latest work is the novella Wild Chicory.

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Authors’ pick 7: Alan Baxter

2187560Today’s authors’ pick has been chosen by Alan Baxter.

I read a lot of great books in 2015, some old, some new, some fresh, some rereads. It was pretty hard to pick one that I would consider the best, as that’s likely to change on any given day. So I thought about picking one that maybe deserved more attention than it had previously received, at least to my knowledge. So for that reason, I’m picking Tom Piccirilli’s noir masterpiece, The Cold Spot. Sadly, Tom died this year after a bitter fight with cancer, and that’s a massive loss not only to his family and friends, but to the literary world in general. He’s an amazing writer.

The Cold Spot is a book that showcases Piccirilli’s incredible ability to paint with language. It’s a powerful, character-driven noir that hits hard and low, and just keeps coming at you, relentless. There’s a sequel, equally good, called The Coldest Mile, and there was clearly supposed to be a third that we’ll sadly never see now. All of Piccirilli’s work is worth checking out and this is a great place to start.

Alan Baxter writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook.

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Authors’ pick 6: Beattie Alvarez

Annalie+child_2_Ivy+Cottage-1Readers of my blog will know that a couple of weeks ago I interviewed Beattie Alvarez, a multi-talented creator, and today she is talking about favourite books of 2015.

Favourite reading, by Beattie Alvarez

Two books have really stuck in my mind this year, neither of them written or published in 2015.

Last week I was exhausted. It was only 6:30pm and my eyes were drooping. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep until the next year.

But I couldn’t. My eleven-going-on-sixteen year old was fine.

‘You go to bed Mummy. I promise I’ll go to bed at the right time and not watch bad things on TV,’ she said. What a lovely child!

My three-going-on-eleven year old was another matter. She’s not old enough to put herself to bed, or to let her big sister put her to bed.

So I resorted to a bribe.

‘I’ll read you a Really Long Book if you go to bed now,’ I cajoled, begged, pleaded. ‘You can sleep in your dress!’

That worked. The mere thought of sleeping in my clothes makes me feel icky and grungy, but whatever! I just needed her in bed.

I pulled out the Really Long Book from my shelf and started to read. It was a book that my mum read me when I was a little girl, filled with cosiness and food and ivy covered houses.

‘Ivy Cottage’ by E.J. Taylor is the story of Violet Pickles and her maker Miss Biscuit. When Miss Biscuit retires they move from the lovely, busy, bright city to the country, spending a wet night under an umbrella on their way because they couldn’t find their new house.

In the morning they search under the enormous mound of ivy that blocked their way only to find that the cottage was beneath it!

Violet gets very bored (she’s quite a spoilt doll who needs to be told ‘no’ a little more often) when it rains all day and she can’t play outside. So Miss Biscuit makes her a friend called Ruby Buttons.

This book is cosy reading at its finest.

When I had finished reading it I was instantly worried. It was still obviously light outside and how had I ever thought that Charlotte (Miss three-going-on-eleven) would agree to sleep?

Simple. She didn’t. She asked if she could read the book until it got dark.

I left her sitting bolt upright in bed, carefully turning the pages and telling her own handmade doll what was going on. I didn’t hear a peep from her until the morning when I went in and the book was carefully hidden under her pillow.

Now, the other book I’m going to talk about is completely different, and it starts with a confession: I read in the shower.

Yes, really. It’s simple really, just hold the book in one hand and turn the pages with the pinky of that hand — hold it out of the water of course.

The shower is the only place that I get any peace. So I have very long showers (yes, I know, I should save water).

This particular morning was a BAD morning. Everything was going wrong, everyone was running late and everyone was in bad moods.

It was freezing cold, the toilet was backing up again and I wasn’t wearing my glasses when I grabbed my shower book.latest

It was ‘Judgement of the Judoon’ by Colin Brake, a Doctor Who novel. I love Doctor Who, but I had been reading a different one and wanted to find out what happened. It took me a few pages to realise that I had the wrong one, but as I was already in the shower I was stuck with it.

And I did!

It was a beautiful medley of science fiction, adventure and nods to some of my other favourite shows. Specifically Veronica Mars.

Veronica Mars was the show that got me writing, oh so many years ago.

Doctor Who is the show that kept me alive when I was in the dark depths of post-natal depression, even more years ago.

So to have ‘Nikki Neptune’ solving mysteries with rhino-headed police and the Tenth (and best) Doctor in a galaxy far, far away was a very welcome surprise to start my morning!

When I got out of the shower — finally — the kids were fed, dressed and ready to go. The sky had clouded over, making it the perfect writing day. And I ended up writing almost 6000 words.

Judgement of the Judoon is a fun and easy book to read — in the shower or anywhere really!

Beattie Alvarez is an escape artist. She writes worlds that she wants to live in, but if she doesn’t ever get to be Queen of the Universe, she will settle for escaping to a pretty little cottage in lovely, damp England.

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Authors’ pick 5: Goldie Alexander

plainsongToday’s authors’ pick has been chosen by Goldie Alexander.

Plainsong, by Kent Haruf

Plainsong is the most perfectly named book imaginable. A simple story of individual struggle with human problems dealt with in a very human way. There is no clattering crescendo for the triumph of good over evil. Rather, the struggles we see detailed are wonderfully real and simply drawn with a story that hinges on homely challenges that the reading is a soothing passage to a quiet place.  The real triumph for Plainsong is not for the characters, but for their creator. Author Kent Haruf hones the feeling of simplicity with simple language — well used — and a sharp focus on character rather than place or even action Alternating chapters focus on eight compassionately imagined characters whose lives undergo radical change during the course of one year. High school teacher Tom Guthrie’s depressed wife moves out of their house, leaving him to care for their young sons. Ike, 10, and Bobby, nine, are polite, sensitive boys who mature as they observe the puzzling behaviour of adults they love. At school, Guthrie must deal with a vicious student bully  in a scene that will leave readers with palpitating hearts. Meanwhile, pregnant teenager Victoria Roubideaux, evicted by her mother, seeks help from kind-hearted, pragmatic teacher Maggie Jones, who convinces the elderly McPheron brothers, Raymond and Harold, to let Victoria live with them in their old farmhouse.

Goldie Alexander writes novels for both adults and youngsters of all ages. Her work covers many genres, though she is mostly known  for her historical fiction.

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Authors’ pick 4: Michael Pryor

Seveneves_Book_CoverToday’s authors’ pick has been chosen by Michael Pryor.

Seveneves, By Neal Stephenson

Of all the books I read in 2015, I only gave five stars to one: ‘Seveneves’ by Neal Stephenson. I am an unashamed Stephenson fan – he’s one of the few authors that I will buy their next book sight unseen. ‘Seveneves’ is hard SF and is a book of two parts. It begins with the end of the world and ramps up from there … The human race is reduced to seven women and after a substantial time gap the second half of the book explores how these seven women – aided by technology – have managed to resurrect and preserve the human race. Absolutely fascinating, full of the hugest ideas, the sort of book that goes where mainstream titles wouldn’t even think of. And at nearly a thousand pages, it’s a great read for the holidays!

Michael Pryor writes fantasy and science fiction, mostly for teenagers. He has published more than thirty novels and 50 something short stories. He is one of the co-publishers of Aurealis, Australia’s longest running Fantasy and SF magazine. He has been shortlisted for the Aurealis Award six times, and seven of his books have been CBCA Notable books. His website is www.michaelpryor.com.au.

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