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Viewing Blog: Perpetually Adolescent, dated 8/2012
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1. Adventures in bread baking

In my last post I related my bread baking past and told you about Peter Reinhart’s amazing book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (see “Give us this day, our daily bread”). In today’s post, I thought I would share with you some of the things I learnt from this book.

Mixing and kneading is not the first step. I had always throught that it was. You get your ingredients, mix ‘em together and start kneading. No! According to Reinhart, the flavour of a bread will be greatly improved with an earlier step called a pre-ferment. There are a number of different pre-fermenting options, ranging in complexity. In the most basic version you mix together your yeast, some of your flour and some of your water. Then you leave it to ferment for an hour or so, until you start to see a little bubbling. This releases the flavours locked in the complex wheat molecules within the flour. After you’ve done this, you can add the rest of your ingredients and continue with mixing and kneading.

The pre-ferment.

Reinhart reckons that any loaf of bread, no matter the recipe, can be improved by adding this step. And you know what? He’s right! I’ve now taken several of my favourite bread recipes and added this step and the difference is definitely there. Much tastier bread!

The finished product.

I never realised that shaping was important… but it is. There is a section in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice about shaping, taking you through the steps for various different types of loaves and rolls. It’s all about surface tension. This is so important, not just to the look of a loaf or roll, but to the texture of the crust.

French bread. It is so distinctive, with its crusty crust and the uneven holes in the crumb (that’s the technical term for the inside part of the bread). The crusty crust is created with steam. In a commercial kitchen this is achieved by pressing a button on the oven, which releases jets of steam. Of course, domestic ovens don’t come with this option. But Reinhart tells you how to achieve the same effect with a tray of water and a spray bottle. Yes, it’s a little fiddly… but so worth the effort. Take a look at this…

Mind you, although my crust was absolute perfection, my crumb was far from ideal. It had the small even holes of a sandwich loaf instead of the large variable holes of traditional French bread. I know what I did wrong… too much degassing. I will be more careful the next time.

In addition to the techniques I’ve mentions, this book also has lots of practical little hints. For example, as much as I like corn bread, I’ve always been a little disappointed with the too-firm texture the corn meal (polenta) gives the bread. Reinhart’s solution — soak the corn meal overnight before making the bread. Simple! Genius! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

Here are a few more of my breads…

Whether you’re wanting to learn about the bread making process or simply looking for some great recipes, this is the book for you. And it doesn’t matter what stage you’re at with your baking. There is a lot in there for the beginner as well as the accomplished home baker.

As my bread baking experience increases and my loaves improve, I feel that I may actually be approaching the status of Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Catch ya later,  George

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2. Ned Kelly Award winners for 2012 announced

The winners of this year’s Ned Kelly Awards for Australian Crime Writing have been announced in Melbourne.

Pig Boy by J C Burke (Woolshed Press) was selected as the winner of the best fiction category.

The Cartographer by Peter Twohig (Fourth Estate) won the best first fiction category.

Sins of the Father by Eamonn Duff (A&U) was the winner of the true crime prize.

The S D Harvey Short Story Award went to A J Clifford for ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Poll’.

Congrats to all the winners.

More information about the Ned Kelly Awards can be found here…

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3. First time novelist wins Ned Kelly Award

Veteran first time novelist, Peter Twohig wins Ned Kelly Award for THE CARTOGRAPHER

Fourth Estate Australia is delighted to announce that Peter Twohig’s The Cartographer has been awarded the Ned Kelly Award for First Fiction 2012, from a very strong field.

Peter Twohig has enjoyed many surprises in his life but having his first novel published at 62 years of age is up there with the biggest of all. He wrote The Cartographer in just a few weeks and sent it to legendary literary agent, Lyn Tranter who remarkably rescued it from the large pile of unsolicited manuscripts on her desk and immediately recognised its rare quality. The team at Fourth Estate fought hard to win the fierce bidding war and jubilantly released the novel in February this year. It has become a bestseller and received extensive critical acclaim and now Peter has won his first Award. What’s next for this maverick writer?

Harper Collins Publishing Director Shona Martyn says: “Peter Twohig’s The Cartographer is a deserved winner of the Ned Kelly for First Fiction.  This is an extraordinary debut and proof that it is never too late to write your first novel!   Right from the first inventive pages when an 11-year-old Melbourne boy spies a murder being committed through the window of a strange house, this book has you gripped. The lane ways and drains of Melbourne have never seemed so foreboding. We are proud to have Peter Twohig on the Fourth Estate list.

Lyn Tranter says: “When this manuscript arrived I knew after reading the first page that here was a unique voice. And that is what we are all looking for.”

Strap yourself in for a ripper ride on and under the streets of Melbourne in 1959. … It’s an Aussie odyssey in the spirit of Huckleberry Finn and Oliver Twist. – Melbourne Herald Sun

The Cartographer is a remarkable first novel whose vivid descriptions, original, engaging voice and surprising hero-in-the rough draws the reader into a labyrinth of danger and discovery. – The Canberra Times

About the author

As a boy growing up in Melbourne, Peter Twohig became one of Australia’s youngest Queen Scouts, and in his mid-teens took up guitar, which led to him joining a rock band. Peter had a long career in various government departments and as a management consultant before training in Naturopathy and Homoeopathy and setting up Sydney’s largest natural-medicine practice in 1995. He has degrees in Professional Writing and Philosophy. He now lives on the Central Coast of NSW and is a full-time writer. This is his first novel.

About the ‘The Cartographer’

In order to get a ten [on the smell scale], ‘a smell must have a certain something about it, so that you can’t just say: Oh yeah, that’s because it’s got whatsaname in it — vanilla or something — if you know what I mean. It has to have a lovely strangeness to it.’

The Cartographer also has a ‘lovely strangeness’ to it. The writing and the story are delightfully eccentric, filled with dry wit and super funny characters and events.

The cocky and devilish yet innocent and beautiful voice of the unnamed narrator belies all the loss and trauma he has recently experienced. To survive, he reinvents himself as a superhero and maps his journeys through the landmarks and smells of Richmond to be sure he never crosses paths with the people he has upset, including a vengeful murderer. The story is full of cultural references to comics, superheroes and TV shows that will strike chord after chord with readers.

Set in the dark, dangerous lanes and underground drains of grimy 1959 Richmond, The Cartographer bristles with outrageous wit and irony. Peopled with a rich cast of shifty bastards, a father who deserts his wife and son, a depressed mother, a modicum of pseudo-aunts, astonishing superheroes, and a few coincidentally loving characters, some of whom are found in the most unlikely places, ultimately it champions innocence and tenacity.

Buy the book here…

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4. Five Very Bookish Questions with author Sophie Masson

1. Which genre of children’s books do you like most and why?

I can’t just pick one genre: my top four are fantasy, adventure, history and mystery – and if these can be combined in the one book, that’s the best of all! I also love a little tingle of romance in the blend.

So here are some titles as example: the Harry Potter series; Northern Lights, (Philip Pullman – this is my top favourite of His Dark Materials series – the other two fall off considerably), The Hunger Games; Leon Garfield’s novels (especially Black Jack and Devil in the Fog), Alan Garner’s books, especially The Owl Service, the Narnia series, the Moomintroll books, Allan Campbell McLean’s The Hill of the Red Fox, Nicholas Stuart Gray’s The Stone Cage. And more. Lots more!

2. Which books did you love to read as a young child?

All the above (of course, excluding the modern titles), plus books of fairytales and myths: Roger Lancelyn Green’s Tales of the Greek Heroes, the Hamish Hamilton collections of stories of  fairies, dragons, mermaids, giants, etc, stories of King Arthur; all the Tintin books in English and French, plus heaps of French titles in abridged form, such as Michel Strogoff by Jules Verne, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and Capitaine Fracasse by Theophile Gautier.

Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven were big favourites (but I didn’t much like her school or fantasy series, for some reason.) I also loved Nancy Drew and Donna Parker mystery series.  I loved ghost stories too and scared myself silly reading them till late at night!

I also remember reading also lots and lots of random books I loved, such as James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks, Cynthia Harnett’s The Wool-Pack, Mary Mapes Dodge’s Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates.

3. Which three attributes make for a great children’s book?

All these books I’ve quoted have the right attributes: gripping stories, vivid characters, memorable voice. Pretty much the same attributes as for any great book full stop!

4. What is your number one tip for encouraging children to read?

Let them read what they want but don’t be afraid to introduce them to new things. And show them by example rather than lecture how exciting reading is!

5. Name three books you wish you’d written.

You mean, apart from Harry Potter? Black Jack by Leon Garfield. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. The Seven Crystal Balls, by Herge.

About Sophie

Born in Indonesia of French parents, Sophie Masson came to Australia at the age of 5 and spent most of her childhood shuttling between France and Australia, an experience which underlies much of her work. She is the author of more than 50 books, mainly for children and young adults, published in Australia and internationally. Her recent historical novel for children, The Hunt for Ned Kelly, won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature in the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary awards. Her most recent novels are The Boggle Hunters (Scholastic), Moonlight and Ashes (Random House) and Ned Kelly’s Secret (Scholastic).



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5. Review: Buddhaland Brooklyn by Richard C. Morais

Buddhaland Brooklyn is the story of a middle-aged, Japanese Buddhist priest, Seido Oda, who, after a quiet life creating and teaching art in his mountainside monastery in Japan, is suddenly sent to New York to lead a group of American believers and to manage the construction of a new Buddhist temple there.

Seido Oda tells his own story and it is soon apparent that he is not a man who will adapt to change easily. Culture shock is, of course, inevitable. He has to learn to cope with the boldness, variety and energy of Americans, and there is confusion and humour to be found in misunderstandings of language and situations, but that is not unusual. What is more unusual are his encounters with the various members of his new ‘flock’. Often their behaviour offends his Japanese sensibilities but he must also learn to cope with their idiosyncratic interpretations of Buddhism.

Richard Morais set himself a difficult challenge when, as an American with no Japanese ancestry, he chose to write as a Japanese Buddhist priest. Not only does he try to convey the family life and the cultural milieu in which Seido Oda grew up, he also writes an insider’s view of the Buddhist Headwaters Sect in which  his priest lives from the age of eleven. It helps that the sect is Morais’ own invention and that modern life has impinged on it in many ways, but I did not always find his interpretation of either of these two cultures convincing. Even the frequent use of Japanese words and phrases, references to famous Japanese art works and a scattering of haiku by Basho and Issa, seemed to me to be contrived, rather than a natural part of Seido Oda’s life. Nevertheless, Morais tells a good story and his many American characters are vividly drawn and often funny.

Reverend Oda is a likeable character, even in his stolid acceptance of the foibles of his American ‘Believers’. “How could I explain”, he comments after meeting Arthur Symes, an elevator-sales magnate, “that increased elevator sales were not proof that Buddhist prayers worked”.  He faces a variety of predicaments, including the suicide of a mentally disturbed young man he had tried to help, and he learns much about America and about himself in the process.

Morais’ descriptive writing is often evocative and beautiful, and his extensive study of Buddhist texts is apparent from his acknowledgements pages, but this is not a serious novel about religion or culture. It is a simple, very human story of Seido Oda’s life and experiences. If Morais does have any message for us, it is in Seido Oda’s own acceptance of his fate. “The life of man is like a ball in the river”, he tells us at the beginning of the book, “the Buddhist texts state – no matter what our will wants or desires, we are swept along by an invisible current that finally delivers us to the limitless expanse of the black sea”.  And at the end of the book, as an elderly man looking back over the life he has just described for us and musing on his struggles, he concludes: “I now believe enlightenment is a simple state: it is the ability to suffer what there is to suffer; it is the ability to enjoy what there is to enjoy. To understand that, truly, is enlightenment.

Buy the book here…

Copyright © Ann Skea 2012
Website and Ted Hughes pages: http://ann.skea.com/

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6. Give us this day, our daily bread

Bread! One of the most basic and ubiquitous of foods. Not your mass-produced, supermarket sandwich loaf… but real bread. Fresh out of your own oven. Is there anything better? If you just answered NO, then you need to get a copy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

I love fresh bread. I rarely buy bread from the supermarket. If I’m buying bread, even a simple sandwich loaf, I’ll buy it from our local baker’s shop, content in the knowledge that it was baked that very morning — because bread is at its best when it’s fresh. But homemade bread is even better. My Mum has made her own bread for as long as I can remember. Not every day, but on a regular basis. It used to be at least once a week, when I was younger. These days, with arthritis in her hands, she finds the kneading difficult and only bakes it occasionally.

I had baked bread on only a few occasions, mostly because of the time involved. Then, a few years ago, my wife got me a bread machine for Christmas. Brilliant! Fresh bread without all the work. I enjoyed the bread maker for a couple of years and then, just as the warranty expired, it began to develop problems with its baking cycle. That’s okay. I decided to use it to mix, knead and rise the dough, then bake it in the oven. Wow! I was amazed with how much better the bread was. And so I continued making my bread in this way.

I like all sorts of bread — standard white bread, French bread, corn bread, buckwheat loaf and my personal favourite… beer bread. You use beer instead of water — and you can modify the taste by the beer you use. I find that a honey beer (something like Bees Knees) works best, although Guinness is also pretty damn good.

I was enjoying experimenting with different types of bread, so my wife suggested that I should get a book of bread recipes. She did a bit of research and found Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

This is an amazing book. It is so much more than just a book of recipes. In fact, only two thirds of the book contains recipes. The first third is about bread making in general. Reinhart tells you about his personal bread baking philosophy and then takes you through all the steps in the process, explaining the importance of each step, going into great detail about what each of those steps adds to the process. Understanding those steps and what they mean to the finished product has changed the way I look at bread.

I had never really understood why dough needed to be kneaded, or why it was important for it to rise, and then why it needed to rest after shaping, before being baked. This book explained all of this and so much more. I discovered the importance of shaping, and found out there is an important step that is completely ignored when using a bread making machine.

One of my loaves — a standard sandwich loaf.

I still use my breach machine, but to a much lesser extent. It is now used purely for kneading… and even then, not with all breads. Yes, I now spend more time on a loaf of bread… but it is a much better loaf for it.

Tune in next time for some more adventures in bread making.

Catch ya later,  George

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7. Review: Londoners by Craig Taylor

Craig Taylor is Canadian, but after living for several years in London and growing attached to the place he began to ask “What is a Londoner?”. It seems that there are almost as many answers to that question as there are people living in London but my favourite is that ” a real Londoner would never, ever,ever eat at one of those bloody Angus bloody Steak Houses in the West End”. I like it, firstly, because I grew up in London before there ever was an Angus Steak House in the West End; and secondly, because I have never, ever, ever eaten in one. However, I am sure there must be some Londoners who have.

In search of an answer, Craig Taylor interviewed some 200 people all over London and even some who had left London to live elsewhere. He interviewed anyone and everyone, from those in high places (and not just workers in the office towers at Canary Wharf but also high office holders like the Under-Sheriff and Secondary of London), to a street sweeper, a manicurist, and, of course, one or two taxi drivers. Tourists, immigrants, those who love London and those who hate it; teacher, squatter, Wiccan priestess, hedge-fund manager, currency trader, a couple who live in the Tower of London (try ordering a take-away Pizza from that address!), people in the arts, market traders, nurses, all have a voice in this book. We hear their language, their opinions, their likes and dislikes.

Even as a Londoner, I learned things I didn’t know before and had glimpses of life in London which I hardly knew existed. I learned, for example, that around the back of the Planetarium, just off Baker Street, there is a block of flats with a whole set of train parts stuck into the top of the building. And I learned that according to Mistress Absolute, a dominatrix, London is one of the kinkiest cities in the world. I was fascinated by the funeral director’s account of the changes in his profession which immigrants to his local area have caused; and by the career change which brought London its only black, dread-locked, female plumber. I was also intrigued to hear from fast-talking, fashion conscious “Smartie”, an East-Ender who conned his way onto the bank’s market trading floor by making up his c.v. and who reckons that half the traders in the futures market (the best ones, of course) were originally barrow boys who “came from market stalls…were rough and ready…edgy…streetwise, and “who could add up numbers easily”.

There is such variety and so much interest in the eighty accounts in this book that it is hard to pick out favourites. It is, in fact, just like London: full of life and spirit, full of the varied people who generate energy and excitement, and full of ordinary people who keep the whole city running. The sub-title of the book says it all: The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long For It – Londoners.

Buy the book here…

Copyright © Ann Skea 2012
Website and Ted Hughes pages: http://ann.skea.com/

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8. Father’s Day Gifts: 3 of the weirdest Sport Books

The Olympics are over and many sport-loving Dads from all over the world are feeling a little flat, my own father included.

After several weeks with an excuse to always have the channel set to Sport he’s had to relinquish the remote. It’s not that he’s deprived normally; my Mum and I also like a good game played well but we can’t match my father’s dedication to all things sporting. If there’s a ball or puck involved, he’ll watch it. If there’s not, he watch it in the hope that there might be a ball or puck involved soon. (I once came home at 2am to find him trying to take an interest in curling. He’ll watch anything.)

Luckily for him, it’s Father’s Day soon, and Sunday September 2nd offers the opportunity not just to buy him a book about sport but a chance to introduce him to a while new bunch of sports so incredibly strange that even he doesn’t already know about them.

1.  Insatiable - Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream by Jason Fagone

How many hot dogs could you eat in 10 minutes? 10? 20? If it’s over 25, you could be the next big star of one of the world’s most controversial sports – competitive eating.

(Don’t get into practicing unless you are also a fitness freak, as the world record holder can eat 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. At 290 calories that’s as much as a normal person on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet would need for ten days.)

From pie-cramming competitions at county fairs to the spectacle that is the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, author Jason Fagone spends a year traveling, eating and even competing with the biggest names in the business trying to find just out just what compels a ‘gurgitator’ to force down forty-six dozen oysters in ten minutes – and what makes us want to watch them. Filled with drama, conflict and larger-than-life stars, this book is well worth taking the time to digest even if thinking about the food they are cramming makes that difficult.

(I should probably point out that typing “Insatiable” into Boomerang’s search box brings up over 20 results, only one of which involve food instead of semi-naked people cavorting. Be warned.)

2. Lucha Loco by Malcolm Venville

From the eating highs of America we go south to Mexico where the Lucha Libre – “free wrestling” – is a cultural phenomenon, renowned not only for the wrestler’s moves for the masks they wear, and the mythology that has grown around the masked wrestlers or luchadors.

I was lucky enough to make it to the Lucha Libre while in Mexico and had the time of my life – it’s part sport, part soap opera, and all drama. In modern lucha libre, masks are designed to create a persona for the luchador to takes on during a performance. Putting your mask – or your hair – on the line against a foe is the ultimate challenge in this sport. During their careers, masked luchadores will often be seen in public wearing their masks interacting with the public and press normally, and concealing their true identities. One of Lucha Libre’s most famous figures,

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9. Nine Days Hath September

Toni Jordan’s much-anticipated third novel hit stores this week and the response has been sensational. Peter Pierce called Nine Days ’a triumph’, comparing it to the work of Charles Dickens and Patrick White, and this epic story of love, folly and heartbreak has already won over many readers.

Nine Days was inspired by the beautiful photograph displayed on its cover, an image of a woman hoisted on the shoulders of two soldiers and farewelling another as he is shipped off to war. The picture is a mystery: dated 14 August 1940 and found by Publisher Michael Heyward on the State Library of Victoria website, the photograph has no caption and the identity of the lovers (siblings? friends?) is unknown. If you recognise anyone in the picture or can give any more information, email the Age. We’d love to get to the bottom of it!

From Text Publishing

The book blurb:

It is 1939 and although Australia is about to go to war, it doesn’t quite realise yet that the situation is serious. Deep in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Richmond it is business – your own and everyone else’s – as usual. And young Kip Westaway, failed scholar and stablehand, is living the most important day of his life. Kip’s momentous day is one of nine that will set the course for each member of the Westaway clan in the years that follow. Kip’s mother, his brother Francis and, eventually, Kip’s wife Annabel and their daughters and grandson: all find their own turning points, their triumphs and catastrophes, in days to come. But at the heart of all their stories is Kip, and at the centre of Kip’s fifteen-year-old heart is his adored sister Connie. They hold the threads that will weave a family. In Nine Days Toni Jordan has harnessed all the spiky wit, compassion and lust for life that drew readers in droves to Addition and Fall Girl. Ambitious in scope and structure, triumphantly realised, this is a novel about one family and every family. It is about dreams and fights and sacrifices. And finally, of course, it is – as it must be – about love. 

Buy the book here…

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10. The Age Book of the Year Awards 2012 announced

The winners of this year’s Age Book of the Year Awards were announced on 23 August at the opening of the Melbourne Writers Festival at Melbourne Town Hall.

1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia by James Boyce won the overall Age Book of the Year Award, worth $10,000.  The book also won the Non-Fiction Prize, worth $2,500.

Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears was selected as this year’s Age Book of the Year fiction prize and the poetry prize was presented to Mal McKimmie for The Brokenness Sonnets I-III and Other Poems. Both prizes are worth $2,500.

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11. Review – Belonging

Next to Mirror, this is possibly my favourite of Jeannie Baker’s incredibly beautiful picture books. Not only is the imagery stunning, but the power of its wordless form is something Jeannie does with consummate style.

Belonging is deceptive in its simplicity. It features repeat double page spreads of a square window, showing an outdoor scene that truly affects the heart.

In the first double page spread, we see a young couple in the backyard with a new baby. There are lacy knickers on the line and a neighbour is planting in his garden next door. Behind the fence line of the house, we see an inner city scene, complete with a Smash Repair and a Pizza Hut.

As time goes by, the grass grows and so does the child and so does the city skyline behind the house. The weather changes, the toys in the window change. The hand-drawn height chart on the wall next to the window gets higher and higher as our young baby turns into a fine girl and then young woman, who one day has a child of her own.

So much changes over time – and our emotions change, too. We grow and feel and move with each and every page.

I love the cyclical nature of this book. I love the iconic detail which is truly astonishing in its variety, from a Picnic chocolate bar wrapper on the windowsill to the updated buses on the street. This 2008 version of the book – originally published in 2004 – has even been updated with some sky writing . . . the word SORRY appears in the sky on one page.

I most especially love the fact that as the story goes along, the streetscapes become more and more ‘green’.

This is a book of change, growth and hope. It is a wordless book but it speaks volumes about life and all its idiosyncratic beauty. It is a celebration of Australian life, of all life  – and it can be viewed and reviewed over and over – and each time the eyes are filled with more.

If you haven’t Jeannie-Bakered your life yet, start with this book. You won’t regret it.

Belonging is published by Walker Books.

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12. Inky Awards for Young Adult literature 2012 – shortlists released

The shortlist for the 2012 Inky Awards for young adult literature has been announced.

The shortlisted Australian titles for the Gold Inky are:

  • Shift (Em Bailey, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  • Night Beach (Kirsty Eagar, Penguin)
  • Act of Faith (Kelly Gardiner, HarperCollins)
  • Queen of the Night (Leanne Hall, Text)
  • The Reluctant Hallelujah (Gabrielle Williams, Penguin).

The shortlisted international titles for the Silver Inky are:

  • BZRK (Michael Grant, Egmont Books)
  • The Fault in Our Stars (John Green, Penguin)
  • Why We Broke Up (Daniel Handler, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  • A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness, Walker Books)
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor, Hodder).

The winners will be announced on 23 October at the State Library of Victoria. Readers aged between 12 and 20 have until 14 October to vote for their favourite titles on the Inside A Dog website.

More information about the Inky Awards…

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13. New Release: Red Dirt Diary 3 by Katrina Nannestad

Blue Weston is back! Another authentically Australian and laugh-out-loud funny tale in the Red Dirt Diary series for young readers aged 8–12 

Katrina Nannestad has spent most of her life living and working in small rural communities, so communicating the joys and sorrows of rural life to children in a fun and accessible tone was at the forefront of her mind when writing her Red Dirt Diary series.

Farming families and rural communities are a vital part of our Australian identity, yet most children live in cities,’ Katrina explains. ‘The Red Dirt Diary series is a great way for children to learn about Australian country life – the beauty and joy of life on the land, the hardships that farmers and their families are faced with, and the great way that rural communities work together in both good times and tough times. The stories are also lots of fun and quite naughty, and that always seems to appeal to children!’

Written in a first-person diary format, Blue’s News follows the tradition of Robin Klein’s Penny Pollard’s Diary series for its joyful and humorous rendering of farm girl protagonist Blue Weston’s life and the cast of zany yet lovable characters that inhabit it. In this latest instalment, Blue’s News, Blue starts Hardbake Plain’s first ever newspaper with her friends, heads off to school camp, and big changes happen at Hardbake Plains Public school when a new teacher arrives.

About the author

Katrina Nannestad grew up in central-western NSW. After studying arts and education at university, she worked as a primary school teacher. Her first teaching job was at a tiny two-teacher school in the bush.  Katrina now lives near Bendigo with her husband and two sons. Her first book, Bungaloo Creek, was published by ABC Books in 2001. Red Dirt Diary was published in 2010, and Red Dirt Diary 2: Blue About Love was published in 2012.

Buy the book here…

The Red Dirt Diary series…

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14. Aussie crime book Bereft nominated for UK Gold Dagger Award

Bereft, by Australian author Chris Womersley, is one of four titles shortlisted for this year’s Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Gold Dagger Award.

The British award is presented every year for the best crime novel and carries a prize of £2500.

The Crime Writers’ Association Daggers have been synonymous with quality crime writing for over fifty years. These prestigious awards started in 1955.

Also shortlisted for the award are The Flight by M R Hall, The Rage by Gene Kerrigan and Vengeance in Mind by N J Cooper.

The winners of this year’s awards will be announced in London on 18 October 2012.

More information about the CWA Awards can be found here…

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15. Queensland Literary Awards 2012 shortlists announced

The shortlists for the Queensland Literary Awards for 2012 have been announced.  Here are the nominees!

Fiction book award

  • The Chemistry of Tears (Peter Carey, Penguin)
  • All That I Am (Anna Funder, Penguin)
  • Sarah Thornhill (Kate Grenville, Text)
  • Autumn Laing (Alex Miller, A&U)
  • Cold Light (Frank Moorhouse, Random House)

Science writer award

  • Seduced by Logic (Robyn Arianrhod, UQP)
  • Gone Viral (Frank Bowden, UNSW Press)
  • Sex, Genes & Rock ‘n’ Roll (Rob Brooks, UNSW Press)
  • Australia: The Time Traveller’s Guide (Richard Smith, ABC Books)

Nonfiction book award

  • The People Smuggler (Robin De Crespigny, Penguin)
  • Double Entry (Jane Gleeson-White, A&U)
  • Riding the Trains in Japan (Patrick Holland, Transit Lounge)
  • Worse Things Happen at Sea (William McInnes & Sarah Watt, Hachette)
  • Her Father’s Daughter (Alice Pung, Black Inc.)

Emerging Queensland author – manuscript award

  • Scratches on the Surface (Aaron Smibert)
  • Home Mechanics (Luke Thomas)
  • Island of the Unexpected (Catherine Titasey)
  • Hidden Objects (Ariella Van Luyn)

David Unaipon Award for an unpublished Indigenous writer

  • Story (Siv Parker)
  • Hard (Ellen van Neerven-Currie)
  • My Journey that May Never End (Dorothy Williams-Kemp)

The Harry Williams Award for a literary or media work advancing public debate

  • Too Much Luck: The Mining Boom and Australia’s Future (Paul Cleary, Black Inc.)
  • The Australian Moment: How We Were Made for These Times(George Megalogenis, Penguin)
  • There Goes the Neighbourhood (Michael Weley, UNSW Press)

Judith Wright Calanthe Award – poetry collection

  • The Welfare of My Enemy (Anthony Lawrence, Puncher & Wattman)
  • Outside (David McCooey, Salt Publishing)
  • Late Night Shopping (Rhyll McMaster, Brandl & Schlesinger)
  • Crimson Crop (Peter Rose, UWA Publishing)
  • The Yellow Gum’s Conversion (Simon West, Puncher & Wattman)

History book award

  • Seduced by Logic (Robyn Arianrhod, UQP)
  • 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia(James Boyce, Black Inc.)
  • The Biggest Estate on Earth (Bill Gammage, A&U)
  • The Censor’s Library (Nicole Moore, UQP)

Children’s book award

  • The Horses Didn’t Come Home (Pamela Rushby, HarperCollins)
  • Bro

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16. Review: The Food Clock by Fast Ed Halmagyi

Another cookbook made it’s way across my desk this week and this one is just a little bit different from the norm.  “The Food Clock”, by Fast Ed Halmagyi (Harper Collins), takes current fondness for the thoroughly sensible trend of eating seasonally and gives it quite a whimsical little twist that I’ve not really seen before.  Using the device of a fictional story featuring his alter-ego Monseuir Henri Petit-Pois whose discovery of a clock which tells what to eat rather than the time, Fast Ed walks us through the four seasons focusing on the peak produce for each one.

Fast Ed Halmagyi is well known in Australia as a chef, TV presenter, radio host and author, with three previous cookbooks under his belt.  The child of Hungarian parents, Fast Ed grew up on Hungarian cuisine, but is well known for his fondness for fresh, seasonal, produce prepared simply and easily.  This new book of his aims to help those of us who are responsible for the family meals move out of our cooking ruts and away from the same meals that we prepare over and over, encouraging us to take advantage of the bounty of each individual season.  At the same time, he wanted to give the whole cookbook format something of a gee-up, hence the novel approach of using a fanciful narrative format.

I’m not really sure that the story aspect of this book does it for me, although it is a pleasant new approach for the genre.  However, what does do it for me are the gorgeous photo’s, illustrations and styling of the book.  It is beautifully presented from the perfectly composed  and lit cover shot of a dapper and slightly brooding Fast Ed, to the delicate story illustrations and the rustic presentation and styling of the food.  And, let’s be honest, the food is what we’re really after.

Divided into Hot, Cool, Cold and Warm O’Clocks and the quarter-hour graduations, each of the “The Food Clock” sections features a selection of the seasonal produce available, but not quite in the order you might expect.  This can make specific recipes difficult to find, but that is what the index is for.  By setting the book out in this way, the reader (and cook) is encouraged to wander around the sections and is much more likely to be tempted to try something new to them, than if they were to head straight for the dish they wanted.  I think this is a gentle, but clever way to nudge us out of our staid cooking routines, opening our eyes to other meal-time  possibilities.

The recipes themselves are fresh, simple and delicious, featuring dishes such as Pan Roasted Duck  with (dried) Figs, Orange and Dandelion greens, Warm Camembert with Fricassee of  Mushrooms, Crispy Quail with Mandarin Salt and Apricot Stuffing, Cherry Pie and Honey Petit Pots de Creme – all of them just a teensy bit special, but well within the reach of any home cook and not requiring the purchase of ingredients which may never otherwise see the light of day.

There are also quite few baking recipes, including several breads.  I’ve been a little slack with my baking efforts of late so I decided to give one of Fast Ed’s bread recipes a whirl, knowing how much my family loves to come home on a cold evening to house smelling of fresh-baked bread.  I was a little sceptical as to how this recipe for the traditional French fougasse would turn out, but the end result was one of the most delicious and fluffiest breads I ha

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17. New Release: Blood Ties by John Suter Linton

When the bonds of family love and trust are betrayed by murder

What compels a loved one to commit murder?

Chilling accounts of crimes where the victim knew their killer intimately

In Australia an astonishing 80% of homicides are committed by someone related to the victim or within their close family circle. But why do people kill those close to them, and how do these killings affect the family circle — beyond normal trauma and grief? What causes a father or mother to turn on their children, a husband or wife to end the life of someone they once loved?

In Blood Ties, renowned true-crime author John Suter Linton tackles the subject of domestic murders: why they happen, how they happen and the long legacy they leave. Through high-profile cases, such as that of Mark Galante, who was convicted of killing his wife, Jody, and Arthur Freeman, who threw his small daughter off a bridge, Suter Linton examines the stories behind the headlines. He talks to survivors, providing a fascinating glimpse into the ties which bind – and sometimes destroy us.

About John Suter Linton

John Suter Linton has written four true-crime books: The Stranger You Know, An Almost Perfect Murder, Bound by Blood and Murder at Anna Bay. John has also worked extensively in radio, television and print media, and as a writer, journalist, researcher and producer.

Buy the book here…

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18. The Ruby Award Romantic Book of the Year 2012 winners announced

The R*BY Award, affectionately known as The Ruby, is the premier award of the Romance Writer’s of Australia association and the only one of its kind in Australia. Voted on by Australian readers, this contest is open each year to any Australian or New Zealand romance author who has published a long or short romance novel.

The winners for 2012 are:

  • Short Sweet: Molly Cooper’s Dream Date (Barbara Hannay, Harlequin Mills and Boon)
  • Short Sexy: The Fearless Maverick (Robyn Grady, Harlequin Mills and Boon)
  • Long Romance: Boomerang Bride (Fiona Lowe, Carina Press)
  • Romantic Elements: Shattered Sky (Helene Young, Hachette).

The winners were announced at the Awards Dinner at National Conference on the Gold Coast, last Saturday 18th August 2012.

Check out past winners at the R*BY Hall of Fame!

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19. Review – Too Many Elephants in this House

Author Ursula Dubosarsky? Check. Illustrator Andrew Joyner? Check. Elephants? Check. But not too many at all. In fact, this book wouldn’t be even half way as cool if it didn’t have simply too many elephants, which raises the question: can anyone really have too many elephants?

Eric really likes elephants. He has them everywhere. In the living room, in the kitchen, in the hallway, bathroom and bedroom. There’s an entire herd of rollicking elephants delighting and engaging this young lad from dawn ’til dusk.

BUT his mother doesn’t like it. Not one little bit. ‘There are too many elephants in this house,’ she says. ‘They’ve got to go.’

Naturally, Eric is devastated and will try anything to keep his baggy friends safe, including thinking up a very efficient means of elephant storage.

Dubosarsky’s penchant for childlike fun shines through in this adorable book, with Andy Joyner’s timeless and joy-filled illustrations taking her text to even greater heights. With a deliciously retro feel, this is imaginative, childhood magic at its best.

A must for picture book collectors – and kids.

Too Many Elephants in this House is published by Penguin.

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20. New Release: White Ninja by Tiffiny Hall

‘Dazzlingly different … a novel about transformation that has the power to transform every reader. Tiffiny Hall is the new voice in children’s fiction.’  – JOHN MARSDEN

As legendary children’s author John Marsden suggests, Tiffiny Hall is far from just another TV star-turned author.

Her remarkable first fiction novel in a new trilogy for young readers,White Ninja, is the realisation of a life-long dream for Tiffiny, who was a writer and journalist long before she hit our screens on The Biggest Loser, Gladiators and The Circle. White Ninja is a mystery and adventure story about thirteen-year-old Roxy Ran, who thinks she’s just another ordinary girl until a confrontation with the school bully unleashes her secret ninja powers.

Says Tiffiny, ‘While I have a profile in health and fitness, exercising my creativity has always been my passion. Working on The Biggest Loser, I’d spend all my down time writing and reading in the Green Room instead of exercising with the other trainers. During filming of the long weigh-ins, I would imagine what Roxy would do next, what new ninja powers I could give her and choreograph her fight scenes. I realised on the show that people don’t need to lose weight as much as they need to gain confidence and self-belief. Many of my contestants were starved of self-belief as kids and I was determined to write a story that would empower children to feel invincible; to be warriors in pursuit of their dreams.’

Tiffiny will be embarking on a national book tour in September to promote the book, and will be a special guest at Nickelodeon’s SLIMEFEST shows (formerly the Kids’ Choice Awards) in Sydney on September 15.

About the author:

Fifth Dan Taekwondo black belt, athlete, Logie-nominated television personality, trainer on Channel Ten’s The Biggest Loser – there is no doubt Tiffiny Hall has many titles tucked under her black belt. Tiffiny has a Bachelor of Arts/Media and Communications and a Diploma of Modern Languages in French from the University of Melbourne. She worked as a print journalist before writing her first health books, Weightloss WarriorFatloss for Good and The Lighten Up Cookbook. Tiffiny is a popular speaker at schools and White Ninja is the first book in the Roxy Ran series for younger readers.

Buy the book here…

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21. New Release: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Reflexology by Beryl Crane

Massage your way to Health and Well-Being

With a history rooted in Egypt and spanning thousands of years, this book will teach you about reflexology and how to apply it practically to your everyday life.

The reflex points on the foot represent a ‘map’ of the rest of the body and by applying pressure to different points on the foot, you can positively affect the corresponding organ. Armed with the practical knowledge and illustrations in The Complete Illustrated Guide to Reflexology, you can become your own healer, learning how reflexology works and using it to treat common ailments.

Beryl Crane gives easy-to-access, step-by-step sequences and information on this traditional, healing art form to help users relax and improve their health and well-being.

About the Author:

Beryl Crane is the founder of the Crane School of Reflexology in Essex England. A Fellow of the Reflexologists’ Society since 1989, she has been their Chairperson since 1995 and has held the position of President of the Board of Directors of the International Council of Reflexology since 1999. She has taught and lectured in several countries worldwide and is the only Westerner ever to be asked to attend and partake in every Symposium of the China Reflexology Association.

Buy the book here…

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22. New digital-only imprint to bring MORE romance fiction to the masses

Seems like everybody is getting on the romance bandwagon in the wake of Fifty Shades – and digital publishing seems to be preferred avenue for getting the content out there to the millions of women (and men?) who read these books by the truckload.

Penguin have just announced Australia’s first romance digital imprint:

Penguin Australia is thrilled to announce the launch of Destiny Romance, the first Australian direct-to-digital romance imprint.

This new and exciting publishing endeavour will have a strong emphasis on discovering new Australian voices across the romance genres of contemporary, historical, suspense, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi and erotica.

Destiny Romance will be publishing romance eBooks of all kinds, from novellas to full-length stories. Now readers will be able to enjoy their romance eBooks anywhere – at the coffee shop, on the train ride home from work, during the lunch hour or at home.

Destiny Romance will launch with four great titles and readers will then be delighted with two new eBook romances released every month.

The launch will coincide with the Romance Writers Association Conference, held this year on the Gold Coast from August 16-19, and will be celebrated with a party attended by romance authors and convention guests from Australia and overseas.

The Penguin team behind Destiny Romance, Sarah Fairhall and Carol George, said they were proud to be delivering stories in a genre they both love, in a format that reflects changing tastes and times.

“The appetite for romance has never been stronger,” they said in a jointly worded statement. “And women have never been busier. In a whirlwind life juggling work and family demands, an entertaining, well-written romance available at the press of a button, is the perfect treat.”

The new and innovative Destiny Romance website (destinyromance.com) will be dedicated to sales of exciting romance titles, romance gossip, author chats, writing tips – and fun.

Looks like we can look forward to more Fifty Shades-style literature in the near future…my wife (who read the Fifty Shades series in a weekend) will be happy.


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23. New Release: Great Australian Ute Stories, edited by John Bryant

We invented it. We love it. The ute is a national icon, alongside the pie and sauce. It is the very symbol of our resourceful ingenuity. No matter what you drive, this collection of 80 ute yarns will charm you with its laconic humour and Aussie warmth. Written by everyday Australians in praise of our love affair with the ute, this book unashamedly celebrates the joy of circle work, the improbable allure of feral utes and the ute’s perennial ability to save the day, win the girl and excite the dog. A bumper collection of hilarious and heartwarming Australian stories collected by ute-aficionado John Bryant.

This book also publishes, for the first time, the winner of John’s Number 1 Ute Legend competition.www.utelegend.com

John Bryant’s formal love affair with utes goes back to 1994 when he started Bluey’s Ute World, the country’s first ute-gear store. John’s first book of ute yarns, Real Aussies Drive Utes, was published in 1999, with a second book, Real Aussies Drive Utes II, released in 2001. He has written about utes and their quirky owners in numerous publications, including R.M. Williams OUTBACK magazine. When he’s not mucking about in his own ute, he indulges his other obsession — building medieval towers.

Buy the book here…

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24. Fifty Shades of Grey now the bestselling Australian book of all time

Random House Australia today announced that E L James’s Fifty Shades of Grey has sold well in excess of 1.28 million copies in physical* and ebook combined in Australia, making it the bestselling Australian book since records began. The first book in the trilogy remains in the No.1 slot for the 16th week running and overall sales have overtaken The Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling. The second and third books, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, continue to sell strongly, with Australian sales of 779 000 and 705 000 copies respectively.  Combined Australian sales for the trilogy are in excess of 2.7 million copies.

Commenting on the new record, EL James said: “My main ambition when I signed the deal with Random House was to see my books in the shops. I simply had no idea they would be so successful and this is totally unexpected. The whole process has been amazing and I couldn’t be more pleased that so many people are reading the books and would like to thank everyone involved.”

Brett Osmond, Director of Marketing and Publicity said “Australians have enjoyed reading Fifty Shades of Grey so much they have now made it the biggest selling book in our history. As an avid reader I know that feeling when you discover a book you love and you want to tell everyone about, which Australians have done in their thousands. What’s exciting for readers is it doesn’t have to end here as books two and three are available to keep the story alive.”

*According to Nielsen BookScan Australia Panel which began in 2003

More facts:

  • Foreign rights have been sold in 44 territories and the trilogy will be published in the following languages: Albanian, Arabic (Morocco), Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese complex, Chinese simplified, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Mongolia, Montenegrin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese – 5 million copies of translated editions are now in print
  • In the US and Canada sales of the trilogy are well in excess of 20 million copies
  • Global English language sales for the trilogy approach 40 million copies
  • Film rights to the books are held by Universal Features and Focus Features
  • E L James is a former TV executive, wife, and mother of two based in West London. Fifty Shades of Grey is her first novel.

Buy the book here…

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25. Hot New Junior Fiction Titles

It’s a delight to see a flood of brand new fiction titles for kids in recent months. If your children devour books like mine do, you’ll be thrilled with this line-up of new releases. There’s truly something for everyone. My only problem is trying to wend these copies out of my kids’ clutches. These titles will suit children aged anywhere from 8 to 16. Enjoy!

Fizzlebert Stump: the boy who ran away from the circus and joined the library by A F Harrold (Bloomsbury)

There are many boys in the world, all slightly different from one another, and most of them are referred to by names. These are often John or Jack or Desmond, but sometimes they are James or Philip or Simon. Once, and once only, there was a boy whose name was Fizzlebert.

Fizzlebert Stump lives in a travelling circus. But although he gets to hang around with acrobats, play the fool with clowns, and put his head in a lion’s mouth every night, he’s the only kid there – and he’s bored. But then Fizz decides to join a library, and life suddenly gets a lot more exciting, when a simple library card application leads to him being kidnapped by a pair of crazed pensioners! Will he ever see the circus again?

Girl V the World by Chrissie Keighery (Hardie Grant Egmont)

There’s something wrong with Hazel Athertons he just knows it. She’s not a kid anymore, but she’s not grown-up either. Hazel hasn’t even kissed a boy and she’s not sure she ever will. Although that doesn’t stop her from thinking about Leo in the year above…

Hazel wishes she could talk to her mum about it u but these days her mum is too busy doing hanging out with her new boyfriend. Does anyone understand what’s going on with Hazel?

Part of a four-book series.

Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer (Penguin)

The unbelievable finale to the multi award-winning Artemis Fowl series. Will the thrilling climax to this globally bestselling series end happily ever after?

Eoin Colfer was born and raised in the south-east of Ireland. Artemis Fowl, his first book featuring the young anti-hero, was an immediate international bestseller and won several prestigious awards. It was followed by The Arctic IncidentThe Eternity CodeThe Opal Deception and The Lost Colony.

Phyllis Wong and the Forgo

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