Showing posts from September, 2012

Book review: Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic

I'm not sure Nick Vujicic's Unstoppable ever becomes an unstoppable read but it does steadily and assuredly build in intensity and impact so that when you do put it down on completion, it is with a sense of satisfaction and appreciation. His neat and tidy prose, indeed every single word, is weighed down with added meaning because Nick was born without limbs, other than what he calls his "little foot". It makes even the existence of this his second book seem remarkable, not to mention the spirit of hope and optimism that fill it. The sub-title for the 214 page paperback (Allen and Unwin) is The incredible power of faith in action and he sticks to his theme from cover to cover, utilising a mixture of personal testimony, inspiration, advice and the stories of people who have reached out to him or worked with him. While reading Unstoppable for this review, Nick appeared on 60 Minutes with his new wife, Kanae, and the story of how they met and eventually wed is cont

Book review wrap-up from NZ, India and Japan

Let's check out the books being reviewed by our neighbours around the Asia Pacific region through some of the leading national newspapers - there are a few surprises and hidden treasures. Starting with our Kiwi friends at The New Zealand Herald , The Girl Below by Bianca Zander was reviewed by Paula Green, herself an Auckland poet and children's author. "The central character, Suki Piper, returns to London after a decade in Auckland and for many reasons she occupies a world out-of-kilter." Paula loved the aptly named debut novel saying, “You might think there is a high risk of superficial stereotypes at work here (a cranky stepmother, a selfish father, a distant mother, spiteful friends). Far from it.” Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson was reviewed by John Gardner, also of The New Zealand Herald , who is pleased with the entertainment value of the cast of characters in this story of a novelist surrounded by the collapse of the literary world. “Ableman's (protago

JK Rowling's new book for adults is no Harry Potter

JK Rowling's new novel is the most pre-ordered book of 2012, and it's no Harry Potter either. (Click image to order yours.) A Casual Vacancy is a book for adults and its content is real world not fantasy. Set in the rural English town of Pagford, it's a novel about the death of a man named Barry, a parish council election with class-warfare, addiction and teen sexuality. Writer Ian Parker has read A Casual Vacancy , and has written about it in The New Yorker. He made a point of the fact that it's for adults, quoting this: “leathery skin of her upper cleavage radiated little cracks that no longer vanished when decompressed” and "...with an ache in his heart and in his balls". While these quotes demonstrate the change from writing for children to writing for adults, in some ways the writing – according to Parker – hasn't changed so much. “...but whereas Rowling’s shepherding of readers was, in the Harry Potter series, an essential asset, in The Casu

New book tells the story of the man who invented Vegemite

Vegemite is an Australian cultural icon, and soon a book about the invention of this salty, black paste will be available. The Man Who Invented Vegemite documents the life of Cyril Callister, scientist and director of Fred Walker & Co. Cyril invented the spread during the early 1920s as an alternative to the British Marmite, the import of which was disrupted due to World War I. Jamie Callister – Cyril's grandson – wrote the book. A former advertising executive and builder, Jamie decided to put pen to paper in this his first book after reading through some of his grandfather's letters and documents. He believes his grandfather deserves “to be remembered as a significant and remarkable Australian.” Cyril had an ''an unshakeable belief in Vegemite, that it was good, and he persevered''. While invented as mentioned in the 1920s, Vegemite did not become the legendary icon it is today until the late 30s. Off the back of profits made from Fred Walker &am

Book review: Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

"All over the world, brutal attacks are crippling entire cities." I began reading action novel Zoo within a few hours of reading Sweet Tooth and after a few pages was wondering if I could go on. After the tight, intense characterisation of Ian McEwan's new novel I was feeling unconvinced by the almost clumsy attempts to build the central character of Zoo , Oz. I've had this experience before. A few years ago after being captivated by the prose of Hilary Mantel in Wolf Hall I picked up Ted Dekker's Emmanuel's Veins . To be honest (sorry Ted) I couldn't read past the first few pages. Here I go again, I thought, and this time it involves one of the world's top-selling and most prolific authors, although admittedly, I was a Patterson virgin. But I lay back and thought of the readers of Cread (Creaders?) and turned another page. After a few more pages I began to accept the kind of NCIS approach to characterisation - American individualist

New book: Black Caviar The Horse of a Lifetime

Black Caviar is undefeated from 22 races throughout her career, attaining legend status with a race success record not equalled in over 150 years. A new "authorised" book, Black Caviar: The Horse of  Lifetime , document the career of this thoroughbred racehorse come Australian icon and will be available from October 1 (hardcover, 400 pages, ABC Books). Written by journalist and broadcaster Gerard Whateley, Black Caviar begins with the story of trainer Peter Moody of remote outback Queensland, who eventually came to select and guide Black Caviar to dominance. The book's foreword is written by Peter Moody himself. Black Caviar follows the superstar horse's career through to her victory on one of the most famous race tracks of all. But as for her future, the Black Caviar website reports Peter Moody as saying this week that, "Everything is very positive at this point in time. I'll chat with the owners on Saturday or Sunday week." (Click cover im

Angelic battle novels by Australian author embraced by US network

Australian author Jessica Shirvington's fantasy series - The Violet Eden Chapters (also known as the Embrace series) - has been picked up by the US television network CW, which plans to adapt the series into a TV series in association with Spielberg's Amblin Television. Her first novel, Embrace , was published in October, 2010, by Hachette Australia followed by Entice in March 2011, Emblaze in October 2011 and this month, Endless . Following its release in Australia and New Zealand, the series has been picked up in a number of international markets.  The books have been likened to the Twilight series, but rather than teenage vampires there is a teenage angel at the centre of a battle between light and dark forces. Shirvington says the four books in the series, could potentially be followed by a fifth and sixth. The TV show is said to be in development with release expected for next season in the US. Jessica Shirvington lives in Sydney with her husband of 10 years,

Many of the world's biggest authors join avalanche of new books

There's no doubt the world of publishing is in turmoil with no-one quite sure where the future lies so perhaps that's why so many big name authors have all come out with new books this Spring. JK Rowling, Tom Wolfe, Salman Rushdie, Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon are just some of the award winning, best selling authors to compete for shelf space while Australian authors such as Bryce Courtenay and Kate Grenville are also in the mix but perhaps in danger of being somewhat overwhelmed. Then there are the celebrity releases such as Justin Bieber's Just Getting Started and Kylie Minogue's new book Fashion . And let's not forget the Navy SEAL's first hand account of the killing of Osama bin Laden. So let's hope electricity bills aren't too high and we've all got plenty of reading money. In no particular order, here's a (partial) wrap-up of a particularly literary spring... Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe is due for release in Australia

New school library but hardly any books: can you help?

The ABC reports that the new school library in the remote north-west Queensland, mainly indigenous community of Doomadgee has "hardly any books". Resident Peta Jenkins is using social media to encourage people to donate books in an effort to make school more interesting for students and to boost literacy rates. She says despite the opening of the state school's new library earlier this year, books remain a rare sight. "Well you just can't buy books in Doomadgee," she said. "It would be a matter of buying them online - if what you're after could be purchased online - or going to a major centre like Cairns or Townsville or Mount Isa, all of which are of course hundreds of kilometres away. "With a bit of luck ... we'll be able to build up the school library with some good quality second-hand books but there's also a keen interest in the community in getting adult books out there ... you just don't see books here in

Book review: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan has the kind of ending that immediately sends you to the front of the book to re-examine the voice, the perspective and decide who is actually telling the story. It feels at times more like a book of short stories as McEwan delves into his literary origins and even attributes one of his own stories to a novelist in his book. At one stage, Serena is reading a short story written by her lover which is about a novel written by an ape and... well, it's like standing in front of a television with a camera attached, creating video feedback that disappears into nothingness. It also feels like a memoir, especially after McEwan has revealed how closely biographical some of the material is, all except for the part about a spy. But then who knows? His re-creation of 70s Britain is almost as dystopian as the dystopia written by his character Tom Haley in Sweet Tooth , and may be a surprise for those of us who grew up through those times in Australia and did n

Harper Voyager open the stargates to unsolicited novels, briefly

If the stars are your companions and new forms of space travel are coursing through your imagination then go to warp speed 7 because you've got about a month to write at least 70,000 words and submit your spectacular novel directly to a major publisher. Don't despair if ogres eating elves who are on long contemplative journeys through uncharted lands are more your bowl of ale, the offer is open to all new, unpublished speculative fiction. Forbes magazine The Guardian are reporting today that science fiction imprint of Harper Collins, Harper Voyager, will accept manuscript submissions directly from authors from October 1 to 14 with the goal of finding 12 undiscovered authors that they will digitally publish monthly for the next year. The Harper Voyager submission portal is advertising the opportunity as a joint effort between Voyager Australia, US and the UK: "We’re seeking all kinds of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particu

And in case you missed it... the Man Booker Prize shortlist

The Man Booker Prize is one of the world's most important literary awards, with a very straight forward goal– to honour the very best book of the year by a British, Irish or Commonwealth author. Beginning in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is now in its 44th year and today the shortlist of six books was announced, cutting in half the longlist announced in July. The panel of judges is chaired by Peter Stothard, Editor of the Times Literary Supplement, the six authors/titles to be shortlisted are: Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books)
 Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories/Faber & Faber) Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)
 Alison Moore, The Lighthouse (Salt) Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury)
 Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber & Faber) Check out an examination of the shortlisted books Peter Stothard commented: “After re-reading an extraordinary longlist of twelve, it was the pure power of prose that settled most debates

Final novel, masterclass for Bryce Courtenay

A new Bryce Courtenay novel and writing masterclass have taken special significance after the celebrated author's revelation last week that he may only have months to live. The South African born Australian made public the news that he is suffering from terminal gastric cancer  in an interview with Channel 9's A Current Affair . Courtenay told Tracy Grimshaw that his novel Jack of Diamonds – to be released in November this year – will be his last. He also discussed the impact of his prognosis on his own state of mind and that of his family. The sometimes controversial Courtenay has written 21 books in his impressive career, but when asked what he was most proud of his answer was “having a family.” He also gave some insight into his writing and critics' claims he had not always been straight-forward with the facts of his own life. “ bet I exaggerate!... I do a Fred Astaire with a fact, but I never ruin a fact... I just give it life.” The last hands-on masterc

Book reviews covering war, violence and the blurry line between romance and the ridiculous

Today's cReview departs from newspaper literary sections and samples book reviews and literary articles from popular book review blogs and a think-tank site. Toby's Room by Pat Barker was reviewed by Jon Page at Bite The Book (also of Pages & Pages bookshop, Mosman) who thought the book paled in comparison to Barker's Regeneration trilogy, which was also First World War fiction. Page found it difficult to connect to the characters and wrote, “you don’t feel satisfied or engaged with what the novel was attempting to achieve.” Sharp Objects by Gllian Flynn was also reviewed by Bite The Book's Jon Page who was inspired to read Flynn's earlier work after enjoying the new release, Gone Girl .  Page found Sharp Objects, a crime mystery novel, to be disturbing, “but disturbing in an interesting way.” It was mostly the psychological and self-inflicted violence that got to him, Page reveals, with the novel set in small Missouri town which it is festering in gen