Review - Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge

Monday, 9 December 2019

Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge
Released: 15th October 2018
Published by: Penguin
Genre: Non-fiction
Source: Bought
Pages: 160
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the Norwegian explorer, a stunning meditation on the power of silence and how to shut out the world.

Behind a cacophony of traffic noise, iPhone alerts and our ever-spinning thoughts, an elusive notion - silence - lies in wait. But what really is silence? Where can it be found? And why is it more important now than ever?

Erling Kagge, the Norwegian adventurer and polymath, once spent fifty days walking solo in Antarctica with a broken radio. In this meditative, charming and surprisingly powerful book, he explores the power of silence and the importance of shutting out the world. Whether you're in deep wilderness, taking a shower or on the dance floor, you can experience perfect stillness if you know where to look. And from it grows self-knowledge, gratitude, wonder and much more.

Take a deep breath, and prepare to submerge yourself in Silence. Your own South Pole is out there, somewhere.
Silence is about rediscovering, through pausing, the things that bring us joy.

Reading this book was a breath of fresh air in a world that never stands still. This unassuming title was a serendipitous find in the art gallery shop, and since I can't say I've ever read anything by a Norwegian explorer I thought it would be a good place to start. What I didn't know then was that it would turn into one of my absolute favourite books of the year. What Kagge proves through these mini-essays and insights is that it doesn't always have to take a weighty tome to explore deep reflections on life - just a few fitting references to philosophers, a scattering of personal anecdotes and a warm tone that brings its own sense of calm to the whole piece.

Is it possible to both be present in the world and not present at the same time? I think it is. To me, those brief moments when I dwell on the horizon and am captivated by my surroundings, or when I do nothing more than study a rock with green moss and find myself unable to pull away, or else when I simply hold a child in my arms, are the greatest. Time suddenly stops and I am simultaneously present and completely distant. All at once, a brief moment can seem like an eternity. 

As Kagge himself remarks at one point, who would have thought there would be so much to say about something as basic as 'silence'? What I got out of the book in its entirety, from reflections on the author's explorations in the stark desolation of the Antarctic, to life around the dinner table with his three daughters, is the importance of appreciating the small things. It sounds easy enough, and maybe even somewhat trite; yet when you think about it, it's the 'timeless' moments which can bring the greatest joy and wonder. Simply put, 'Life is long, if we listen to ourselves often enough, and look up.' It's amazing to reflect on how little time we make to truly block out all the other distractions, notifications and chatter and just sit quietly with our own thoughts - or get outside in nature and appreciate the beauty of it all.

Allow the world to vanish when you go into it.
To listen is to search for new opportunities, to seek fresh challenges. The most important book you can read is the one about yourself. It is open. I've started to understand why I was so fascinated as a small boy by the snail who carries his house on his back. We can also carry our houses - everything we have - within us. 

I tabbed so many sections of this book as I was reading, but the quote above has to be my favourite..."The most important book you can read is the one about yourself." Being the author of your own life story is a gift we all have, and maybe it takes reading something like this to realise just how significant that is. One thing's for sure, this book is both thought provoking and memorable - perfect for revisiting when you're looking for a slice of solitude amidst an ever-evolving hectic schedule.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Almost anyone will find something to relate to in Silence. Erling Kagge is definitely onto something with this eloquent work that allows for the reader to experience moments where 'the world is shut out for a moment, and an inner peace and silence takes over.' For me, it's moments like that which make everything worthwhile. 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Long Distance Playlist

Wednesday, 27 November 2019


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly prompt hosted by Breaking the Spine where the participants tell their readers about an upcoming release they are looking forward to. This week I've picked The Long Distance Playlist by Tara Eglington.


Told primarily in instant messenger conversations, Skype, emails and texts, this is Jaclyn Moriarty's Feeling Sorry for Celia for the modern teen.

Taylor and Isolde used to be best friends - before THAT FIGHT, 18 months ago. It's been radio silence ever since - until Taylor contacts Isolde to sympathise with her breakup: the breakup that she never saw coming; the breakup that destroyed her confidence and ended her dreams of joining the National Ballet School.

Taylor's had his own share of challenges, including a life-altering accident that has brought his hopes of competing at the Winter Olympics to a halt. Isolde responds to Taylor, to be polite. But what starts out as heartbreak-themed Spotify playlists and shared stories of exes quickly becomes something more. And as Taylor and Isolde start to lean on each other, the distance between them begins to feel not so distant after all ...

A boy. A girl. A one-of-a-kind friendship. Cross-country convos and middle-of-the-night playlists. With big dreams come even bigger challenges. 

I've been following Tara Eglington's books since she first got published with the fun and witty release of How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You (followed by its fitting sequel How to Convince a Boy to Kiss You). Then came the brilliant exploration of female friendship in My Best Friend is a Goddess, so I can't wait to see how this latest novel goes. If her track record so far is anything to go by, this is going to be something special - I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

Releasing 16th December 2019 from HarperCollins Australia

Review: The Innocent Reader: Reflections on Reading and Writing by Debra Adelaide

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The Innocent Reader by Debra Adelaide
Released: 24th September 2019
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pages: 257
Books are impractical companions and housemates: they are heavy when you are travelling, and in the home take up a lot of space, are hard to keep clean, and harbour insects. It is not a matter of the physical book, it is the deep emotional connection that stretches back to my early years. Living without them is unimaginable. 

These collected essays share a joyous and plaintive glimpse into the reading and writing life of novelist, editor and teacher of creative writing Debra Adelaide.

Every book I have read becomes part of me, and discarding any is like tearing out a page from my own life. 

With immediate wit and intimacy, Adelaide explores what shapes us as readers, how books inform, console and broaden our senses of self, and the constant conversation of authors and readers with the rest of their libraries. Drawing from her experiences in the publishing industry, the academic world, her own life and the literary and critical communities, she paints a vibrant portrait of a life lived in and by books, perfect for any student, bibliophile, editor, or simply: reader.
Thanks to Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

There is something comforting about coming back to reading essays from fellow bookworms about just what makes reading such a major part of their lives. A few years ago I had the pleasure of eagerly flipping the pages of The Simple Act of Reading, edited by Debra Adelaide, which so eloquently described the joy and wonder which these words on a page can inspire. In The Innocent Reader we have a glimpse into Adelaide's own reading and writing habits, alongside how books had shaped her life from her early years, to raising a family and becoming an academic. 

I don't know how you cope. People would say this constantly over the months that followed. What with the other children, your work...There was no mystery. I told people I coped because I had to, as any other parent would do the circumstances. I coped because there was no question of not coping, there was quite simply no alternative...But there was another reason I could cope, which was one I could never articulate, seeing as it sounded so simple-minded at times, even callous. I coped because I read. My diary of that first year or so of the treatment is also a diary of my reading, haphazard and arbitrary, literary and highbrow.

It may seem easy to dismiss taking the time to pick up a book and escape for a little while into another world as something frivolous when we could always be doing something else - or if you are reading, for it to be at least something 'literary' or 'highbrow'. But what I love about Adelaide's voice which comes through so clearly here is that literary 'snobbery' doesn't need to have a place at the table in our everyday lives. After all, where is there room for that kind of ego when you are facing some of the biggest challenges of your life? The chapters detailing reading both for her son and herself at his bedside at Sydney Children's Hospital after he was diagnosed with cancer made clear just what a difference these simple moments with a book can make.

Everyone has a story in them. Everyone has a novel in them, or so it is frequently said. And humans tell stories...so it makes sense that people everywhere, from cocktail parties to wedding receptions and the signing queues in bookshops, lean forward confidentially and offer you a story, if only you are prepared to write it. 

While it was so interesting to read about the author's personal life in this book, The Innocent Reader also offers some really useful insights into the writing process and how to go about reviewing too. Now being a 'literary critic' is a whole other world from this land of book blogging, but the process of filtering your thoughts on a written work through both a subjective and objective lens is similar. It's definitely made me reflect on how I look at the books I read, and what that special something is that draws me to a particular author or writing style. With a balanced and measured approach of someone who is well within the literary scene, Adelaide offers her own advice and reflections in a way which all readers should be able to take something away from. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

As one of my favourite quotes from this book states, "There can never be too many books, or too many writers. Or too many readers, or too much reading." When it comes down to it, I couldn't have said it better myself.

Review: The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre - a snappy piece of French noir

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre
Released: 3rd September 2019
Published by: Black Inc Books
Genre: Crime Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 197
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
The French bestseller La Daronne 
Now a major film starring Isabelle Huppert 

Meet Patience Portefeux, fifty-three, an underpaid French-Arabic translator who specialises in police phone taps. Widowed after the sudden death of her husband, Patience is wedged between the costs of raising her daughters and the nursing home fees for her ageing mother. She’s laboured for twenty-five years to keep everyone’s heads above water. Happening upon an especially revealing set of wiretaps ahead of all other authorities, Patience makes a life-altering decision that sees her intervening in – and infiltrating – the machinations of a massive drug deal. She thus embarks on an entirely new career path: Patience becomes ‘the Godmother’.

With a gallery of traffickers, dealers, police officers and politicians more real than life itself, and an unforgettable woman at its centre, Hannelore Cayre’s bestselling novel shines a torchlight on a European criminal underworld that has rarely been seen, casting a piercing and darkly humorous gaze on everyday survival in contemporary France.
Thank you to Black Inc Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

It's not too often that a crime novel like The Godmother comes along. Coming in at just shy of 200 pages, you may at first think that in such a short span it would be impossible to create a plausible and meaty plot-line with the right balance of action, mystery and character development that this genre demands. But therein lies Cayre's genius - the whip-smart narration from our protagonist Patience Portefeux and her scheming in playing both sides of the law provides just the right atmosphere for a piece of French noir that is entirely compelling.

Dark humour, as the blurb suggests, is rife here - alongside the corruption within the ranks of the justice system and shady line between who has the upper hand in world of organised crime. Patience, once a straight-laced court translator turned trafficker, provides a sardonic insight into her career and the many faces of the drug trade. The writing style and character development is where The Godmother shines - as while the content itself is serious, dealing with large-scale money laundering, the experiences of immigrants assimilating in Europe and all the while trying to find some moral ground, the narrative voice cuts through all of this with a sharply pragmatic tone. 

...Frankly, you could devise a better system, couldn't you, in terms of incorruptibility. Well, I find it pretty disturbing, And I have been corrupted. At first I thought it was funny, then one day I wasn't laughing any more. 

In one instance it's almost surreal to have a scene depicting an armed robbery with shocking results relayed with a sense of detached calm; the mania of the entire situation construed through a completely unemotional lens. It's this writing style that I'll remember most from The Godmother, and draws the readers focus towards the greater themes at play about how the main character justifies her actions - both within her own mind and in the dialogue she has with the reader themselves throughout. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

While there is no shortage of crime fiction to choose from, The Godmother comfortably holds its own. The most memorable books are often those with a distinct voice and a main character facing some sort of moral dilemma. This one executes both exceptionally well.

Author Interview: Under the Stars by Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith

Monday, 30 September 2019

Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime by Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith
Released: 1st October 2019
Published by: Melbourne University Press
Genre: Kids Non-Fiction
Source: Publisher
Pages: 277
Under the Stars- Bedtime Astrophysics transports curious kids and inquisitive adults on an incredible journey through the night sky. Explore our solar system from the comfort of your cosy bedroom.

Find out why the sky is blue. Fly around a black hole and peer inside! Learn why Jupiter has stripes.

When astrophysicist Lisa Harvey-Smith isn't looking skyward, she is answering the smart questions of school kids. Her engaging storytelling in this colourfully illustrated book brings the night sky to life, giving amazing new perspectives to young explorers who are always asking, 'Why?'
Author Interview with Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith

What was your motivation for writing Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime?

I have always had a fascination with the night sky, which blossomed into a wonderful career in astronomy. Aside from my research though, one of the most energising parts of my job has always been visiting schools and talking to kids about space. They are always so excited and enthusiastic and the questions they ask are so creative! I knew that I needed to create a book just for them. 

When you were a kid, what interested you about space?

When I was a child, it was really the beauty of the stars that first captured my imagination. My Dad and I used to go out somewhere really dark and just take it all in. After a while though, I had questions running though my head like, “How many stars are there?”, “How big is the universe?”, “Is there other life out there?”... and the list goes on. So, I began reading books about astronomy and I was enthralled by this amazing new window on our universe.

What are five things about space that still make you go 'Wow!'?

*Astronauts age more slowly in space than they do on Earth, ever so slightly! That's because the Earth's gravity bends our universe and makes time pass more slowly. It's called 'time dilation'. Weird or what?!

*If you got too close to a black hole, your entire body would be stretched by the enormous gravitational forces and you'd become 'human spaghetti'.

*Ever wondered why the sky is blue? It's because the light from the Sun is made up of all the colours of the rainbow. As the sunlight hits our atmosphere, it is scattered across the sky by tiny particles of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide that make up the air. These particles act as millions of tiny mirrors. Blue light is scattered from these particles more easily than red light, so that is why the sky appears blue. 

*Shooting stars are not stars at all. They are actually tiny specks of space dust that crash through our atmosphere as we orbit the Sun. The bits of space dust rub against the air and heat up, reaching a temperature of 1000 degrees and burn up, creating bright streaks of light in the sky. 

*Our Sun is a gigantic ball of gas. Tiny particles crash together in its middle, creating a nuclear furnace that burns at a temperature of 15 million degrees. Four million tonnes of the Sun's gas is burned into heat and light EVERY SINGLE SECOND!

What has been your career highlight so far?

I would have to say that seeing the first pictures from the gigantic telescope I helped to build in remote Western Australia was a real highlight for me. It's part of a global mega-science project involving more than 10 countries and I had worked on the project for seven years before we got any results. After all that time, seeing those first images of distant galaxies was a real highlight for me. Also, on a personal note, touring Australia with Buzz Aldrin, the Apollo 11 astronaut who first set foot on the Moon with Neil Armstrong in 1969 was a real highlight for me. Talking with someone who has explored another world and sharing their experiences, it's just such an incredible feeling.

If you could travel into space, where would you want to go and why?

Since I was about 15, I have dreamed of being the first Woman to go to the Moon. It won't be me, but I'm very excited that NASA has pledged to send the first woman to the moon by 2024. 

What do you think still needs to be discovered about space, the galaxies or the night sky?

The great thing about our universe is that there is so much still to discover! For example, we only understand what 4% of space is made from. The other 96% is completely out of our grasp. We don't know how the universe will end, or if it will ever end at all. We are yet to learn how life began on Earth and whether we are alone in the universe. So many mysteries are yet to explore. 

Please describe a day in the life of an astrophysicist

Astrophysics is a wonderful pursuit. On a typical day I might work with a team of scientists on a scientific problem or make pictures of the sky from information I have gathered from telescopes. I'd read the latest astronomy research and see what other people are discovering, to get new ideas. I might travel to a conference or a telescope in a far-flung region of the world or share my results by writing a scientific report or speaking to fellow scientists about my latest discovery. Then I might work with students and help the next generation of scientists learn and grow in their discoveries. 

What do you think kids will get most out of reading your new book?


Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime is all about cultivating a sense of wonder and exploration in young children. The illustrations are designed so that every child can see a role model who looks like them. It is so important for girls and boys to engage enthusiastically in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects so that we can build a future designed by everyone that serves the needs of society.

Parents get an opportunity to read fascinating stories about space to their children and help stimulate their curiosity at the same time. As kids get older, they will get a bit of peace and quiet as children get engrossed in reading the book themselves! Older primary-aged kids will love reading the stories again and again, each time learning something new. And don't tell the kids - but this book is also for the grown-ups too! You can have a sneaky read once the littlies have gone to sleep. Learning is a life-long joy after all.  

Please feel free to share any amazing stories or anecdotes about writing this book if you have any!

Writing Under the Stars was a labour of love. Since I work full-time, I did my writing at night, dreaming up stories and crafting the book from my bed. I think that writing at night helped create the dreamy 'astrophysics for bedtime' vibe of the book.  


About the author


Astronomer and Australian Government Women in STEM Ambassador. Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith is an award-winning astrophysicist with a talent for making the secrets of the universe accessible to all. She has spent 15 years conducting astrophysics research at universities and research institutes across the world.

Waiting on Wednesday: New Australian Fiction

Wednesday, 11 September 2019


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly prompt hosted by Breaking the Spine where the participants tell their readers about an upcoming release they are looking forward to. This week I've picked Kill Your Darlings' 2019 anthology of New Australian Fiction. 


A childless couple find an abandoned baby on the beach. A twilight car accident has a man lost in the bush. Two men on the coast share an unspoken love.

A father is prosecuted by his small-town community. A young woman has a threatening first date.

A writer is terrorised by the ghosts of his fiction. Drugs drive childhood friends apart. City folk visit a room for crying.

 New Australian Fiction features brilliant writers with distinct experiences, voices and styles from all corners of Australia.


Together they showcase the strength and diversity of Australian short fiction at its best. These stories will move, entertain and enlighten you.

As a fan of the KYD magazine, I'm excited to see how this short story collection pans out - it's promising to be timely and insightful, hopefully shining the spotlight on some brilliant new talent on the writing scene!

Releasing 1st October 2019 from Kill Your Darlings

{Guest Post} Strong female characters in YA fantasy By Bronwyn Eley

Saturday, 7 September 2019


What do you think of when I say ‘strong female’? Do you think of an overzealous, over-confident, opinionated and harsh-looking female? I guess some would. Because, for some, women will forever be seen as the ones who love, the carers, the ones you go to for comfort. This is not a bad thing. But women being anything more than that – women who are bold with their emotions, confident with their sexuality, ambitious in the workplace – can be seen as going ‘against our true nature’.

But what is so important to me, when writing, is representing reality. I’ve met women who are as above: caring, homely, sweet, there for you when you need them. I have also met women who are cold, cruel, lost, confused, angry, selfish and vapid. I have met women who are intelligent, brave, ambitious and passionate.

What I believe is that ‘strong women’ encompass many – if not all – of these qualities. That a ‘strong woman’ might still be vapid and cruel at times, but she will have the capacity to overcome those petty emotions and be a better person. Representing strong women in YA – in all books – does not mean we present perfect women. Women who are only brave, intelligent, beautiful and ambitious. Because that’s not realistic. Show me one woman who has never made a mistake – who has never been cruel or selfish – and I will fall over from shock.

Having negative qualities does not mean she is not a strong woman. In fact, having the strength and self-awareness to know when she has made a mistake and overcome it...that is strong.

Elizabeth Bennet (or, rather, Jane Austen) said it well in Pride and Prejudice when Darcy is listing the qualities he believes mark an accomplished woman. That she must have thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages. That she must conduct herself in a manner worthy of respect. Basically, he was talking about upper-class women who must be ‘perfect’ at all times.

When Elizabeth says she is not surprised that Darcy has only met six accomplished women in his life, Darcy asks why she is so ‘severe upon her own sex’.

Elizabeth’s response has, to this day, stuck with me. She says ‘I never saw such a woman, I never saw such capacity.’

The fact that Darcy seems to believe it is a slight against women that Elizabeth doubts finding a woman with such qualities is extremely naive. This is perhaps what Austen intended. Women are complex creatures, just as men are. Humans are complex and just because we have flaws and negative qualities does not mean we aren’t good people, that we aren’t strong.

Relic was my first attempt at writing young adult fantasy and I hope that I’ve done it justice. From the beginning, it was extremely important to me that all my characters – women and men – were represented in a true light. I chose to set my novel in a city that – for the most part – did not discriminate based on sex. I wanted to give my female characters every chance to be who and what they wanted to be. This is one reason I made Kaylan a blacksmith. Being traditionally a man’s occupation, it is not uncommon in the city of Edriast for there to be female blacksmiths. Kaylan is not the first and she won’t be the last. In Edriast, there is no gender segregation when it comes to occupation. Women can be blacksmiths. Men can be nannies. There are jobs. These are humans. They do the work; it’s as simple as that.

This is certainly a personal ideal of mine; something I wish was a reality. It might be someday!

YA is an incredibly important genre because of who it is aimed at. That’s not to say people outside the ‘young adult’ age bracket don’t read YA. I am outside that bracket and I write YA, as well as read it. YA is not just for young people. It is for the young at heart, for people who crave adventure, for people who want to remember.

But, of course, YA is read by young adults... by people whose minds are open and still forming, gobbling up anything and everything in their journey to find out who they are. So the characters that they read can have a huge influence on who they become, on what they see as normal, on what they see as right and wrong. Stories have incredible power to shape us.

YA fantasy is an interesting genre too because it is often set in a world that is like our past – in medieval times. During those times, women were treated like property. Women were seen as the weaker sex. Women were seen as mothers, were seen as a means for pleasure for men and were limited in too many ways. So it’s interesting that in YA fantasy, in a setting so similar, that we often lean towards representing these kick-ass, savvy and powerful women. Strong women in this world is not uncommon, right? But take those all qualities that we desire or expect out of a strong woman and chuck them in the past, in a world without technology, without the comfort many of us are used to and what happens? We get women who can fight, women who are not limited, women who are heard. This is not true of all YA fantasy but authors take this unique opportunity and let their female characters embrace it. As a reader myself, I have come to expect this in YA fantasy. I want women saving the world, going on adventures, being bold, being challenged, making mistakes and rectifying them.

There’s still work to be done with how both women and men are represented in literature. For me, with Relic, creating realistic women was one of my top priorities. Showing how women really are, while also showing that it is not just bravery and skills with a sword that make a ‘strong woman’. Strong women still make mistakes, still cause others pain, still suffer themselves and perhaps they are stronger for it.

About the book


Relic by Bronwyn Eley
Released: 12th September 2019
Published by: Talem Press
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 497
In the city of Edriast, there is no deadlier duty than to serve as the Shadow. As the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard, the Shadow's life is all but forfeit. Rennard possesses one of five rare and dangerous Relics – a jewel that protects his bloodline, but slowly poisons everyone else in its proximity.

When the current Shadow succumbs to its magic, nineteen-year-old blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to take his place. It's an appointment that will kill her. As the time Kaylan has left ebbs away, hope begins to fade...

That is, until she discovers a plot to destroy all five bloodlines in possession of the Relics. A rebel force plans to put an end to Rennard's rule and Kaylan suddenly finds herself embroiled in a cause that might just be worth fighting for. But no cause is without its costs.

As her life hangs in the balance and rebellion bears down on Edriast, Kaylan must decide where her loyalties lie – and how she'll leave her mark on the world. Relic is the absorbing first novel in The Relic Trilogy, a thrillingly dark YA fantasy series.

About the author


Bronwyn joined the military right out of high school, where she learnt (among other things) to disassemble and reassemble a rifle blindfolded. After that she spent a lot of her time travelling around the world. Her favourite places (so far) are Scotland, Mongolia, Iceland and Ireland. Bronwyn finally found her natural habitat when she landed her first job in the publishing industry. While she has always been a writer, it was only when surrounding herself with books that she realised her life’s dream was to become an author. Relic is her first novel. Bronwyn lives in Sydney and spends her time eating chocolate, reading and practicing her martial arts.

{Guest Post} Global writing for the next generation of authors By E.J. Miranda

Sunday, 1 September 2019


Today author E.J. Miranda has stopped by on the blog to discuss an important issue for writers - how do you help readers on a global scale connect with your story? Read on to find out more!

How do you, as an author, connect people around the world through your writing? We live in a time where the internet allows us to know what is happening in other countries in just a couple of seconds. We are all connected as a big online community where, with just a couple of clicks, we have information readily available to us. But, how can you take this sense of connection to the next level as a global writer? How do you build a community and generate awareness of other cultures through your stories and characters?

It all comes down to having a real message to the world and educating yourself on how to transmit to create the biggest impact. To be a writer, you must be a good reader. This is a given. You must be curious. You must ask questions and be willing to seek the answers for yourself. You must connect to the people you are intending to write about. It is only when you understand something, when you do your research, when you seek both sides of a situation, that you will truly gain a good sense of what you will be writing about. Otherwise, you will be blindly writing about a subject that you only have superficial knowledge about and this reflects on the writing.

My personal take on global writing is that it allows you to create a sense of cultural awareness, encourage respect to other countries’ cultures, and connect readers of different backgrounds by giving them information and allowing them to make their own conclusions on how different or similar their cultures are. I strongly believe that when people have information and a true understanding of other cultures, they are able to make more educated decisions on their words and actions. We live in a time where it has never been more important to be respectful and aware of the world’s cultural diversity. We can only grow together and evolve as a society if we encourage respect, tolerance, and an open-minded approach to others.

As a writer, each book represents an opportunity to impact your readers and move them emotionally. As an example for you, when I was outlining my first book “Julian Fox, The Dream Guardian”, I knew that I wanted to leave a bigger message to the world. I wanted my book to be more than just an entertaining story, and I wanted to make the readers actually think. My personal way of connecting people around the world is through history and cultural awareness. I wrote about locations and historic events I have spent years researching about.

My take on global writing was creating different characters of diverse cultural backgrounds, aiming to be as accurate and respectful as I could be. I also wrote about characters that not only are from different countries, but they lived through very difficult historic events, such as the Black Plague, the Spanish Inquisition, the construction of the Great Wall of China, among others. I personally chose history as a way to connect people by giving them information on the events that happened and let them make their own conclusion on how these “past” circumstances are still occurring today. These events may have taken place in another country, but learning about them could actually allow the readers to see just how similar we all are and even encourage conversations on global solutions.

As you can see, this is only one approach to global writing, but there are many others you can choose to pursue. The main idea is to always connect your readers to the rest of the world, leave an emotional impact on them, and encourage a positive change through your writing.

About the author



E. J. MIRANDA is an avid reader, an enthusiastic traveler, and a passionate author. Her great sense of humor and love for nature have granted her a rebellious writing style: her approach describes the adventures of life, but in such a way that each reader can have an individual take on the matter. Her inspiration comes from her curiosity about other countries’ cultures and peculiarities. A few countries in particular which spark her curiosity are Colombia, Italy, Costa Rica, England, Belgium, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. 

 Her favorite places to visit are historical sites and museums, locations that allow her to explore important and even overlooked details. She currently lives with her husband in Colombia, but frequently travels to Houston to visit her daughter and son. E.J. Miranda has a degree in tax accounting, but she prefers interacting with people to calculating their taxes. To learn more about her life and work, visit www.ejmiranda.com.

A glimpse into the life of an illustrator - Interview with Kathleen Jennings

Friday, 30 August 2019


Yesterday I posted about two new historical crime novels coming out from Corella Press - don't forget to check out the giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Millwood Mystery or Bridget's Locket! One thing which fascinated me about both covers was the detail in the illustrations, so today Kathleen Jennings is here to share some insights about her creative process (and a few book recommendations too!)

How did you first get into becoming a book illustrator?

I always planned to be a writer, but I was working as a lawyer and a translator and had a lot of hobbies, so made myself pick the ones I could do, would do, and wanted to do every day. Drawing made the cut, because I could at least draw a smiley face. I started doing a weekly illustration challenge and putting it on my blog, and Small Beer Press found it. The first book cover I did was for them, for Greer Gilman’s Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales.

What does your creative process usually involve?

The publisher or art director usually tells me the sort of direction they’d like to take. If possible (and it isn’t always) I read the book. Then I make a series of thumbnail (small) sketches to show different ways I could illustrate the cover or internal pictures. The publisher chooses one and I refine it to a more detailed pencil sketch. When that is approved, I do the final piece of art. It could be cut out (as for Corella), or drawn with a dip pen, or another technique. When that final piece is approved, I usually scan it in and clean it up on the computer, and sometimes I add colour then.

If people like seeing that process, I sometimes put posts about it up on my blog: tanaudel.wordpress.com.

Do you have a favourite work that you've made to date?

I do really like this whole design for Corella. It is a circular design, all in one piece, and it feels like lace. 

Small Beer Press published Kij Johnson’s The River Bank, a sequel to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. I had a lot of fun with that project, learning to see through (my favourite Willows illustrator) E. H. Shepard’s eyes, and I am still very proud of it. It’s a great book, quite apart from the illustrations: fun and nuanced and respectful and new. 

I also did a scratchboard illustration of the colour scarlet (with digital colour) for an art exhibition. I can see, now, where I could have improved it, but I enjoyed getting all the references in. But I can’t pick just one work — I love playing in all these books! 

What are the best/most challenging aspects of designing a piece?

Drawing violins and pigs: these are both quite difficult. But mostly the challenge is the best bit: being limited by the book, the genre, the shape, the technique, the deadline, and then climbing around in that frame to make something that pleases me and the publisher and that works as a picture. But because I am a writer and a storyteller and occasionally do academic research, I also really enjoy climbing around someone else’s story and commenting on it, ornamenting it, supplementing the story with hints and allusions. 

I have an Australian Gothic novella, Flyaway, coming out from Tor.com next year. I wrote and illustrated it, and it was quite tricky! I’m used to bouncing off someone else’s thoughts; it was odd being constantly in my own head.

What advice do you have for other people looking to forge a career in illustrating?

Draw a lot. Put it out there regularly. Be professional. Be generous. Make connections outside of just artists: be friends with writers and typographers, publishers, agents and translators. 

And learn and accept criticism and work hard: but also try and find what you like, and do that well — if you do it long enough it could become a new style, and there are some excellent illustrators who just work with stick figures, or dots. If you can learn to communicate and tell a story, you’re more than halfway there. 

Look after your back.

On the bookish front, what have been some of your top reads recently?

I’ve been judging a book award and the winners haven’t been announced, so I can’t tell you! But let me see: 

Oh, I just read Robin Stevens’ Murder Most Unladylike, an enchanting little murder mystery where two friends in a detective club in an English boarding school in the 1930s end up investigating a murder. 

Stevens was one of the keynote speakers at the Diana Wynne Jones convention in Bristol earlier this month, and so I also reread Howl’s Moving Castle so that I could give a talk about contract law in it. If people haven’t read it, or have only seen the (very good) Studio Ghibli movie, it’s a wonderful fairy-tale novel — whip-smart and based on a John Donne poem. 

And I picked up another copy of one of my favourite books in a second-hand store in Bristol before I came home (always have multiple copies, the better to lend them out again!). It is W. Grahame Robertson’s Time Was, a collection of reminiscences of his friendships with people like half the Pre-Raphaelites, and Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt and Ellen Terry! Gentle and wistful and funny and full of artists and actors and Edwardian bohemians.

You can check out more of Kathleen's work on Redbubble and her online portfolio. She also has a Patreon for people wanting her monthly calendar design and other behind-the-scenes content early!



Review & Giveaway - The Millwood Mystery & Bridget's Locket and Other Mysteries

Thursday, 29 August 2019


About the books


Bridget's Locket and Other Mysteries is a triptych, including one novella-length story and two short stories from Mary Helena Fortune, writing as Waif Wander, who is suggested to be the first female crime and mystery writer in the world. Bridget’s Locket tells the story of a migrant dressmaker’s search for justice when her travelling companion meets a terrible fate. Joined by two stories about falling in love with a fugitive from the law and murder and bigamy amid goldfields and through the streets of Melbourne, this volume promises a tour of 19th Century Australian crime.


The Millwood Mystery is a single spellbinding novel by Jeannie Lockett, author, journalist, teacher, and women’s advocate. Alongside Fortune, Lockett wrote phenomenal crime and mystery. The Millwood Mystery is a family tragedy. When Barbara Neill is found dead in her home, the only suspects are also her only relatives. It is the tale of a community’s suspicions and how they have the potential to destroy innocent lives.

I'm excited to share these two new Australian historical crime releases about to come out from Corella Press - a non-profit teaching initiative run predominately by students at the University of Queensland. They've found these 19th century Australian gems and published them for the first time in novel form, as they originally were released in small snippets of newspapers at the time.

Both Bridget's Locket and The Millwood Mystery retain their historical charm and read authentically as they were written all those years ago while still maintaining enough suspense to keep the pages turning. It's a great initiative to see these pieces of writing gain traction and be revived, and it was equally interesting to learn more about the authors' lives as well - which were almost as engrossing as the stories themselves!



Click here to enter the giveaway!

Open internationally, entries close 30 August 2019 (AEST).
1st Prize – A beautiful silhouette pendant (6 pendants available)
2nd Prize – Bridget’s Locket and Other Mysteries eBook
3rd Prize – The Millwood Mystery eBook


Physical books will be available for purchase from 30th August, on the Corella Press website: https://www.austlit.edu.au/corellapress

Watch out for my interview coming out tomorrow with Kathleen Jennings who illustrated the covers for these books!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Divers' Game

Wednesday, 7 August 2019


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly prompt hosted by Breaking the Spine where the participants tell their readers about an upcoming release they are looking forward to. This week I've picked The Divers' Game by Jesse Ball.


From the inimitable mind of award-winning author Jesse Ball, a novel about an unsettlingly familiar society that has renounced the concept of equality—and the devastating consequences of unmitigated power. The old-fashioned struggle for fairness has finally been abandoned. It was a misguided endeavour.

The world is divided into two groups, pats and quads. The pats may kill the quads as they like, and do. The quads have no recourse but to continue with their lives. The Divers’ Gameis a thinly veiled description of our society, an extreme case that demonstrates a truth: we must change or our world will collapse. What is the effect of constant fear on a life, or on a culture?

Brilliantly constructed and achingly tender, The Divers’ Game shatters the notion of common decency as the binding agent between individuals, forcing us to consider whether compassion is intrinsic to the human experience.

With his signature empathy and ingenuity, Jesse Ball’s latest work solidifies his reputation as one of contemporary fiction’s most mesmerising talents.

I've always enjoyed short stories, novels, and even TV dramas that are just that little bit off-kilter, and make you think. I'm looking forward to seeing if this latest novel from Jesse Ball can achieve that!

Releasing 1st October 2019 from Text Publishing

Author Interview: Beau & Bett by Kathryn Berla

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Beau & Bett by Kathryn Berla
Released: 25th June 2019
Published by: Amberjack Publishing
Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling
Source: Publisher
Pages: 256
After Beau LeFrancois's mother wrecks Bett Diaz’s luxury SUV, his family faces an impossibly large bill—with no car insurance to help pay it.

To pay off the debt, Beau spends his weekends working at the Diaz Ranch. Beau’s prepared to work, but he’s definitely not prepared for the infamous temper of Bett Diaz, also known as "The Beast" at school. As Beau learns the secrets behind Bett’s tough exterior, he finds himself falling for her . . . until he catches Bett in a lie.

A contemporary twist on a classic fairy tale, Beau and Bett is a timely story of family, friendship, and the power of speaking out and standing up for yourself.
Author Interview with Kathryn Berla

When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author and publish a novel?

I began seriously writing about seven years ago. It started first with a blog which was more just a series of essays that only my friends and family read. After a while, I decided to try my hand at writing a full-length novel. But ever since I was a young girl, I enjoyed expressing myself through the written word.

What makes Beau and Bett unique compared to other re-tellings of Beauty and the Beast?

I think what makes Beau & Bett unique is that it’s a contemporary story with no attempt to infuse it with fantasy or magic in any way. Also, I was influenced more by versions of the original French fairy tale and the amazing 1946 Jean Cocteau film than the Disney version. Because it’s a dark story with dark themes, I wanted to explore those themes and add a counterbalance to the belief some have that the original intent of this fairy tale was to get young girls comfortable with the idea of an arranged marriage. Last but not least, I think the gender reversal separates Beau & Bett from other retellings.

When you're not writing, what are some recent reads you'd recommend lately?

I just checked my Goodreads account and the last five books I’ve given 5 stars to in the past 4 to 5 months are: DISAPEARING EARTH; I’LL GET THERE. IT BETTER BE WORTH THE TRIP (the 5 stars had something to do with its historical significance); THERE YOU ARE (I read this on NetGalley because it’s not out until October; DAISY JONES AND THE SIX (for its pure entertainment value—listened as an audiobook and it made my daily walks go by so much more quickly); and THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (pure genius).

Without giving too much away, is there a favourite moment or quote from the book you'd like to share?

I don’t know if it’s a favourite but I’m fond of it because of my bittersweet feelings about autumn in California:


“In California where I live, sometimes the hottest days are the ones right before the weather turns cold—Indian summer, they call it, although I’m not sure why. This was one of those days: a heat so ferocious you knew it would expend itself by night, giving way to a shiver-inducing darkness; the air so still, it could annihilate any breeze dumb enough to take it on; and the quiet . . . that’s what always got to me, the quiet that made you feel sad for something you were about to lose. That’s the kind of day it was, and it hung heavy like the wet shirt I’d had on when I climbed out of the pool.” 

If there's one piece of advice you'd give to other aspiring authors out there, what would it be?

Since I consider myself first and foremost a reader and second a writer, my advice would be to read as much as you can and never stop. It’s the best school in the world for an aspiring author, in my opinion. Better than an MFA. And it goes without saying, aim high in your reading choices.

Audiobook Review: Beautiful by Juliet Marillier

Monday, 29 July 2019

Beautiful by Juliet Marillier
Released: 2019
Published by: Audible
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Length: 7h 18mins
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Find it on Audible 
With the Nordic fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon as her inspiration, Juliet Marillier weaves a magical story of a young princess' search for her true self.

Hulde is a queen's daughter and lives in a palace. But her life is lonely. Growing up atop the glass mountain, she knows only her violent and autocratic mother and a household of terrified servants. Then a white bear named Rune comes to visit, and Hulde learns what kindness is. But the queen has a plan for Hulde. When she turns 16, she will wed the most beautiful man in all the world. Hulde has never met her intended husband, and her mother refuses to explain the arrangement.

Hulde becomes desperate to find out more, and seeks the help of a magic mirror. Perhaps someone is coming to her rescue. On her wedding day, Hulde's existence is turned upside down. For the first time she leaves the glass mountain behind, setting out to be as brave as the heroines in her beloved storybook. The journey will test Hulde to the limit. Can she overcome her fears and take control of her own life?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

I'm so glad to have finally ventured into audiobooks, and Beautiful has been a wonderful place to start. This three-part novel is inspired by a Norwegian fairytale, and takes a new turn to become about the unassuming princess who would one day reach out of the confines of her mother's rule and become a Queen of her own.

A fantasy novella such as this was rich in detail and narrated beautifully, which made it easy to listen to. The three sections were each distinct and represented different aspects of Hulde's character development, which was explored in detail throughout. While I did miss the feeling of being able to quickly flip back a page if I feel I missed an important detail, the vivid descriptions of the landscape and adventures which the protagonist encounters on her journey did make this something relaxing to listen to. There is something at once comforting and classic about a novel which has been spun from the strands of a fairytale, and Marillier has injected this story with just the right sense of magic to keep you wanting more as the tale progresses.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Beautiful was my first experience listening to an audiobook, and has definitely made me want to read more from Juliet Marillier!

Review: Greek to Me by Mary Norris - a joyful exploration of Greek language and culture

Friday, 26 July 2019

Greek to Me by Mary Norris
Released: 2nd April 2019
Published by: Text Publishing
Genre: Travel memoir
Source: Publisher
Pages: 240
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Comma Queen returns with a buoyant book about language, love, and the wine-dark sea.

In her New York Times bestseller Between You & Me, Mary Norris delighted readers with her irreverent tales of pencils and punctuation in The New Yorker’s celebrated copy department. In Greek to Me, she delivers another wise and funny paean to the art of self-expression, this time filtered through her greatest passion: all things Greek. Greek to Me is a charming account of Norris’s lifelong love affair with words and her solo adventures in the land of olive trees and ouzo.

Along the way, Norris explains how the alphabet originated in Greece, makes the case for Athena as a feminist icon, goes searching for the fabled Baths of Aphrodite, and reveals the surprising ways Greek helped form English. Filled with Norris’s memorable encounters with Greek words, Greek gods, Greek wine—and more than a few Greek men—Greek to Me is the Comma Queen’s fresh take on Greece and the exotic yet strangely familiar language that so deeply influences our own.
Thank you to Text Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

The study of any language - Greek, Latin, Hebrew, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Taino - opens the mind, gives you a window onto another culture, and reminds you that there is a larger world out there and different ways of saying things, hearing things, seeing things. It always distresses me to hear someone say, "I'm no good at foreign languages", or demand "English for me, dear." In learning a foreign language, you have to humble yourself, admit your ignorance, be willing to look stupid. We learn a language by making mistakes. 

For those of us who aren't basking in the Mediterranean glow, out there sailing across the glittering Aegean or taking the short trip across to Cyprus - reading Greek to Me definitely comes close to transporting you there. A passion for language, history and the desire to travel to places which form part of my own heritage are what drew me to this book, and Mary Norris wrote in a way which makes this memoir an absolute joy to read!

That all this speculation on shades of gray and blue and green and yellow and silver, with qualities as various as the moods of the sky and the sea, springs from a single ancient compound adjective, γλαυκῶπις, describing a goddess who has our welfare at heart, seems to me proof of the vitality of words, their adaptability and strength and resilience. Good words never die. They keep on growing. 

As a copy editor for the New Yorker, Mary Norris certainly knows her way around words - and it shows. But far from being a lengthy, convoluted treatise on all-things-Greek, her personal anecdotes from her experiences learning both the modern and ancient versions of the language and travelling to its shores are thoroughly entertaining. It did help that I have some grasp of Greek already and was able to recognise some of the words she mentions throughout, but even readers without any previous exposure will pick things up quickly. Something funny which I know has confused a few non-Greek speakers I've come across is how the words for 'yes' (Ναί) and 'no' (όχι) sound the opposite to what you think they'd be in most of Europe, and English too. There are also many connections to be found between Greek and English, such as the Greek word for newspapers (Εφημερίδες) being related to the English "ephemera": things that last but a day.

One night I dreamed that I was handling shards, pieces of ancient poetry with writing on them. The dream came back to me as I passed a church on the way to rehearsal, and I realized that ancient Greek is like the Bible (from Βίβλος): records of the past that preserve the things that humans most need to know.

There is a mini history, mythological, geography or cultural lesson to be found on every line, which both enchant and inspire. From glimpses into The Odyssey and Iliad to describing the effortless beauty of Cyprus, this book offers a brief but holistic view into the rich ties between time and place which have made me even more keen to visit. I also have a few more books added to my list thanks to her recommendations of Lawrence Durrell's Corfu Trilogy and a biography on Patrick Lee Fermor who played a significant role behind the lines in the Cretan resistance during the Second World War.

I knew a lot of Greek, but I wouldn't say I spoke modern Greek or call myself a classicist, either. I was more in love with the language than it was with me. My mind was like a riverbed and had silted up: it had its own archaeological strata from which an occasional find emerged. I had not mastered the language, ancient or modern, but I got glimpses of its genius, its patterns the way it husbanded the alphabet, stretching those twenty-four letters to record everything one could ever want to say. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

Greek to Me is both educational and entertaining, a book which highlights the joys of solo travel and fully immersing yourself into a place saturated with beauty and a vibrant culture. It's given me the opportunity to reflect on my own heritage and learn more about the places my ancestors originate from, where I hope to go on my own Mediterranean journey one day.