Today’s Authors’ Pick has been chosen by Wendy J.Dunn.
2015 has been a very good reading year – even if Goodreads keeps reminding me that I better hurry up if I am ever to reach my goal of reading 25 new novels this year. My problem is I like going back to old friends – those magical novels on my bookshelves to be re-read and re-read. Amongst the old friends I re-read this year were Winston Graham’s Poldark novels. That resulted from watching the new Poldark television series, when I yielded to the temptation to pull out the first Poldark novel from my home library. The first novel was followed by the second, until weeks later I closed the last page of the thirteenth novel, feeling sad again that Graham has left us. No more novels from his pen – novels demonstrating the power of a true storyteller.
This year, I also discovered novels I couldn’t put down by another great storyteller. Written by Barbara Gaskell Denvil, the first of these novels was Sumerford’s Autumn. Set at the beginning of the Tudor period, this gripping and richly researched novel kept me turning its pages until I reached the end. By then, Barbara Gaskell Denvil had gained a new fan and I couldn’t wait to read her other novels. What I loved about Sumerford’s Autumn was not only that it took me back to a period I love passionately and inspires my own fiction, but also how much Denvil’s wonderfully told story and well drawn fictional characters engaged me as a reader. The novel opening the door to a very lively and believable Tudor world, Sumerfold’s Autumn is pure escapism. Dialogue was another plus; perfectly pitched, evoking Shakespeare at times with its use of dark humour to help get the reader through those many tragic, poignant moments in the story, the dialogue powerfully made all the characters step off the page and into my imagination. Sumerfold’s Autumn doesn’t shy away from the violence and harshness of the Tudor period – or how death then was faced as a daily proposition. But it is also a novel of romance and adventure told through unforgettable characters.
Wendy J. Dunn is the author of two Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel.
Today’s Authors’ Pick has been chosen by Emma Viskic.
One of my favourite reads of the year was Jane Rawson’s A Wrong Turn At The Office of Unmade Lists. It’s a charming, disturbing, wonderful book, set partially in post-environmental collapse Melbourne. The novel begins with the day-to-day struggles of Caddy, then steps neatly sideways and deposits you into a world where stories can come true, and magical maps are portals to other places. A Wrong Turn won the 2014 Most Underrated Book Award and it’s easy to see why: it’s one of those novels that defies categorization, but stays with you. There are places in Melbourne I still can’t go without remembering it.
Emma Viskic is the author of the critically acclaimed crime novel, Resurrection Bay. She has won both the Ned Kelly SJ Harvey Award and the New England Thunderbolt Prize for her short form writing.
Today’s Authors’ pick has been chosen by Sherryl Clark.
The Singing Bones
I always look forward to seeing what Shaun Tan will do next, and this book is amazing, even if you don’t have a special interest in fairy tales like me. What was even better – I was able to go and see the exhibition of sculptures/artworks that Shaun created for the book.
It’s a collection of photographs of the sculptures, along with short excerpts from the fairy tales they represent. Just when you thought you could guess what Tan might create for a certain tale, he will surprise you.
He initially created some of them to illustrate the German edition of Philip Pullman’s collection of tales, and there are now 75 of them in this book. Pullman wrote the foreword, and uses words such as “uncanny”, “strange” and “brilliant and grotesque weirdness” to describe the sculptures. Everyone I know who has seen the exhibition and/or read this book have their favourites. Mine include The Turnip, The Singing, Springing Lark, All Fur, Foundling, The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About Fear and Hansel and Gretel.
The photographs are brilliant, using light and shadow to make the sculptures feel almost alive, about to jump off the page. Every time I go back to this book, it amazes me all over again.
Sherryl Clark writes children’s and YA books and poetry, and is currently undertaking a creative writing PhD focusing on fairy tales.
Today’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
Today’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.
Readers 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/
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