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This is a book review and science fiction blog, for the most part, with the odd convention report and travel notes. And maybe the occasional Celtic goddess, such as the Great Raven...
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1. An Interview With Anna Ciddor



Early in 2016, I wrote an informal review of The Family With Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor, a novel based on the childhood of the author's grandmother, who appears as the ten year old heroine of this book. It's set in the 1920s, but it certainly appealed to my mother, who was growing up in Poland in the 1930s, and she is currently re-reading the book, which she says takes her right back to her own childhood. She did quite a lot of things little Nomi does, although her family wasn't a rabbi's family, and the small-town flavour was very similar. 

But I've read all of Anna Ciddor's fiction, so when she kindly agreed to be interviewed for The Zgreat Raven, I couldn't resist adding questions about her other work. 

Anna, welcome to The Great Raven! 

SB: 

What was your first book? The first one I read was your history of toilets in Allen and Unwin's True Stories series, but I think you were writing education books before that. Anything before the education books

AC: 

My first book was a picture book called ‘Take Me Back’ which was published in 1988. It was inspired by Australia’s bicentenary celebrations (for the arrival of white settlers). I realised these celebrations would be meaningless to children unless they could see how life in Australia had changed over those 200 years so I created a book that gave a snapshot of home life for each generation from 1788 to 1988. 

SB: 

The Viking Magic books were delightful, set in a small Scandinavian community with two children who had been exchanged at birth. Would you like to tell us a bit about it and how you got the idea for it?




AC: 

When I did some research about Vikings for a little non-fiction reader, I discovered there was a lot more to these horned-helmet wearers than dragonships and raiders (and I found out that they didn’t really wear horned helmets at all!) Viking lives were dominated by a belief in magic. They thought there were little folk who lived underground and had to be appeased with gifts of food. They feared neighbours might be witches who could cast spells on them. And then, I discovered that if a Viking family didn’t want a newborn baby, they were allowed to dispose of it by leaving it for the wolves! Well, that was it. The idea for the series was born! I came up with the idea of a midwife secretly swapping an unwanted girl-baby for a boy born at the same time. This then set up the wonderful storyline of two children, Oddo and Thora, growing up in families where they didn’t fit in. 
It was great fun writing Runestone, Wolfspell and Stormriders, because every time I got stuck, I researched more about Vikings, and discovered some other wonderful truth I could use in the stories. 



SB: 

You wrote a book in the Quentaris series, Prisoner of Quentaris, in which your leprechauns formed a small copy of heroic Irish society instead of the cliched cutesy leprechauns of most fiction - what gave you that idea?





AC: 

When I was approached to contribute to the Quentaris series, I was immersed in research for Night of the Fifth Moon, a novel set in Ireland during the fifth century – in the time of druids, kings and battles. I decided to write a variation on an old Irish folktale from that period. In Prisoner of Quentaris, the king of the leprechauns is captured by humans and the little leprechauns have to work out how to free him. I asked students in schools I visited to give me ideas how they might achieve this, and I actually used some of their suggestions in the novel. 



SB: 

There is a gentle humour in all your fiction,  even in The Family With Two Front Doors, which is based on the true story of your grandmother's childhood - is this deliberate on your part or is it just you?

AC: 

A bit of both. I am always alert for humour in any setting or situation I am writing about. As a reader, I appreciate humour and the way it brightens a book, so I always want to include it in my writing.

SB: 

You mentioned at the Jewish Writers' Festival that this novel took you five years to research and write. Can you tell us a bit about what was involved? Mostly, my research involves reading lots of books and following up anything I can't find by going online. I suspect your process was a lot more complex!
AC: 

The book was inspired by interviews with my grandmother from twenty-five years ago. However, when I sat down to write it in 2011, I discovered some crucial holes in my information, and sadly, Nana Nomi was no longer around to answer my questions. That was what set me off on my five-year quest. Like you, I researched as much as I could in books and on-line, but these were not enough. I wanted to bring back to life the intimate everyday details of a lost lifestyle from 1920s Poland and also the characters of the eleven members of Nana’s family. 

I pored over the half dozen family photos that had come down to me, trying to guess personalities from solemn sepia images taken so long ago. I reread over and over again the little anecdotes my Nana had told me – each time noticing some nuance or particular I had overlooked before. I interviewed other elderly people who had lived in Poland at that time, and I asked rabbis for details of Jewish rituals and customs. Finally, I travelled across the world to Poland. I hunted in museums, I searched old archives for family documents, but most importantly of all, I found the apartment block where my Nana’s family lived. I opened the big wrought iron gate and ventured into the courtyard. I walked the street outside, following the footpath they must have trodden, and bought a banana in the market where they shopped. By the time I had finished all my research and written the book, I felt I really had known that long-ago family. 

And by the time I'd read the book, I felt that I, too, had known that family! 

Thanks for answering, Anna! 

If you'd like to get hold of this book or any of the others here are some places where you can get them: 



 https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_3_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=anna+ciddor&sprefix=Anna+Ciddor%2Caps%2C494

Or there's Booktopia, where I've put in a link to the ebook versions:

http://www.booktopia.com.au/search.ep?pn=1&productType=917504&keywords=anna+ciddor&suggested=L&list=8

Book Depository has some and for others suggests AbeBooks, as they're out of print.

https://www.bookdepository.com/search?searchTerm=Anna+Ciddor&search=Find+book





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2. And The Award Goes To... Hugo Awards 2016








Aussiecon 4 Hugo, created by Nick Stathopoulos, etched by Lewis Morley, logo by Grant Gittus, who designed my favourite book cover, for Crime Time. Fair use, but I know the boys won't mind.

This list of nominees/winners is pinched from the TOR website. Alas, I haven't read any of the nominated titles let alone the winners! It tends to be the case with these awards - so much American stuff on the list, so harder to get in local bookshops, and at a time of year when I am busy reading for the CBCA  Awards, which are, after all, for our local books - and who knows how long those will be published if the Productivity Commission gets its way? Maybe next year I'll join as a supporting member. It's not too expensive and you get to read the nominated works in ebook, at least, quite good value! And then you get to vote. 

I see that Mike Glyer has won yet again, both for best fanzine and best fan writer. He and Dave Langford between them have  racked up quite a lot of Hugo wins! 

I see also, looking down the list, that the Puppies have been up to their old tricks yet again, slating. I mean, why? They must know it won't work, and last year was a particularly nasty year, in which both sides were horrible. If I'd been a member of the Puppy committee I would have made sure that the loudest-mouthed people on the other side were on this year's slate... and sat back and grinned while they denied frantically any connection... They would have refused their nominations, of course, but there would have been a lot of fun meanwhile. 

And frankly, some of them would have  deserved it, IMO. The whole business caused a lot of disagreement and unpleasantness in the committee of my lovely ASIM. I'm out of it now, except as a slush reader, but it was a bad year for me, and spoiled somewhat my pride in my first ASIM editing.

Anyway, why not just set up their own awards? It can be done. It has been done to a certain extent with the Prometheus Awards for libertarian SF. I was horrified to find a Poul Anderson novel among the winners of that award, but then I read it and said, "Oh. I get it."

The awards could even be presented at Worldcon, if they asked nicely. 

Still, there's no reasoning with some people.

Anyway, as a service, here's the list, with winners in bold. Congratulations to everyone who made it this far. Remember, someone cared enough to nominate your work. You're all winners! I see Ann Leckie was shortlisted again and would like to remind anyone who sneered at ASIM last year that she made one of her earliest sales to us, as did plenty of others, eg off the top of my head, Jim C Hines. 


BEST NOVEL 

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (Roc)
Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

BEST NOVELLA

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)
Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)
Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)

BEST NOVELETTE 

“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan‐Feb 2015)
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015)
“Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
“Obits” by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
“What Price Humanity?” by David Van Dyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)

BEST SHORT STORY 

“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)
“Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
“If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and Harris (voxday.blogspot.com, Jun 2015)
“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be WarVolume X, Castalia House)
Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)

BEST RELATED WORK 

No Award - (presumably because everything here was on a Puppies slate?)

Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini (Castalia House)
“The First Draft of My Appendix N Book” by Jeffro Johnson (wordpress.com)
“Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness (castcom)
SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day (Castalia House)
“The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland (com)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY 

The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)
The Divine written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka (First Second)
Erin Dies Alone written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell (dynet)
Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams (nodwick.com)
Invisible Republic Vol 1 written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman (Image Comics)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM) 

The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox)
Avengers: Age of Ultron written and directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Ex Machina written and directed by Alex Garland (Film4; DNA Films; Universal Pictures)
Mad Max: Fury Road written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris, directed by George Miller (Village Roadshow Pictures; Kennedy Miller Mitchell; RatPac‐ Dune Entertainment; Warner Bros. Pictures)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, directed by J.J. Abrams (Lucasfilm Ltd.; Bad Robot Productions; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM

Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Productions; Netflix)
Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Television)
Grimm: “Headache” written by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, directed by Jim Kouf (Universal Television; GK Productions; Hazy Mills Productions; Open 4 Business Productions; NBCUniversal Television Distribution)
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1 and 2 written by Scott Sonneborn, A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy, directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller (DHX Media/Vancouver; Hasbro Studios)
Supernatural: “Just My Imagination” written by Jenny Klein, directed by Richard Speight (Kripke Enterprises; Wonderland Sound and Vision; Warner Bros. Television)

BEST EDITOR ‐ SHORT FORM

Ellen Datlow
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Jerry Pournelle
Sheila Williams

BEST EDITOR ‐ LONG FORM 

Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Jim Minz
Toni Weisskopf
Vox Day

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST 

Abigail Larson
Lars Braad Andersen
Larry Elmore
Michal Karcz
Larry Rostant

BEST SEMIPROZINE

Uncanny Magazine edited by Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott Andrews, Nicole Lavigne, and Kate Marshall
Daily Science Fiction edited by Michele‐Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden
Sci Phi Journal edited by Jason Rennie
Strange Horizons edited by Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and theStrange Horizons staff

BEST FANZINE 

“File 770” edited by Mike Glyer
“Castalia House Blog” edited by Jeffro Johnson
“Lady Business” edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
“Superversive SF” edited by Jason Rennie
“Tangent Online” edited by Dave Truesdale

BEST FANCAST 

No Award
8‐4 Play, Mark MacDonald, John Ricciardi, Hiroko Minamoto, and Justin Epperson
Cane and Rinse, Cane and Rinse
HelloGreedo, HelloGreedo
The Rageaholic, RazörFist
Tales to Terrify, Stephen Kilpatrick

BEST FAN WRITER

Mike Glyer
Douglas Ernst
Morgan Holmes
Jeffro Johnson
Shamus Young

BEST FAN ARTIST 

Steve Stiles
Matthew Callahan
disse86
Kukuruyo
Christian Quinot

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER 

Andy Weir *
Pierce Brown *
Sebastien de Castell *
Brian Niemeier
Alyssa Wong *
* Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

FOREST J. ACKERMAN AWARD

Joe Siclari & Evie Stern



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3. And The Award Goes To... Hugo Awards 2016








Aussiecon 4 Hugo, created by Nick Stathopoulos, etched by Lewis Morley, logo by Grant Gittus, who designed my favourite book cover, for Crime Time. Fair use, but I know the boys won't mind.

This list of nominees/winners is pinched from the TOR website. Alas, I haven't read any of the nominated titles let alone the winners! It tends to be the case with these awards - so much American stuff on the list, so harder to get in local bookshops, and at a time of year when I am busy reading for the CBCA  Awards, which are, after all, for our local books - and who knows how long those will be published if the Productivity Commission gets its way? Maybe next year I'll join as a supporting member. It's not too expensive and you get to read the nominated works in ebook, at least, quite good value! And then you get to vote. 

I see that Mike Glyer has won yet again, both for best fanzine and best fan writer. He and Dave Langford between them have  racked up quite a lot of Hugo wins! 

I see also, looking down the list, that the Puppies have been up to their old tricks yet again, slating. I mean, why? They must know it won't work, and last year was a particularly nasty year, in which both sides were horrible. If I'd been a member of the Puppy committee I would have made sure that the loudest-mouthed people on the other side were on this year's slate... and sat back and grinned while they denied frantically any connection... They would have refused their nominations, of course, but there would have been a lot of fun meanwhile. 

And frankly, some of them would have  deserved it, IMO. The whole business caused a lot of disagreement and unpleasantness in the committee of my lovely ASIM. I'm out of it now, except as a slush reader, but it was a bad year for me, and spoiled somewhat my pride in my first ASIM editing.

Anyway, why not just set up their own awards? It can be done. It has been done to a certain extent with the Prometheus Awards for libertarian SF. I was horrified to find a Poul Anderson novel among the winners of that award, but then I read it and said, "Oh. I get it."

The awards could even be presented at Worldcon, if they asked nicely. 

Still, there's no reasoning with some people.

Anyway, as a service, here's the list, with winners in bold. Congratulations to everyone who made it this far. Remember, someone cared enough to nominate your work. You're all winners! I see Ann Leckie was shortlisted again and would like to remind anyone who sneered at ASIM last year that she made one of her earliest sales to us, as did plenty of others, eg off the top of my head, Jim C Hines. 


BEST NOVEL 

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (Roc)
Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

BEST NOVELLA

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)
Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)
Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)

BEST NOVELETTE 

“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan‐Feb 2015)
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015)
“Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
“Obits” by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
“What Price Humanity?” by David Van Dyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)

BEST SHORT STORY 

“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)
“Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
“If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and Harris (voxday.blogspot.com, Jun 2015)
“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be WarVolume X, Castalia House)
Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)

BEST RELATED WORK 

No Award - (presumably because everything here was on a Puppies slate?)

Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini (Castalia House)
“The First Draft of My Appendix N Book” by Jeffro Johnson (wordpress.com)
“Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness (castcom)
SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day (Castalia House)
“The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland (com)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY 

The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)
The Divine written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka (First Second)
Erin Dies Alone written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell (dynet)
Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams (nodwick.com)
Invisible Republic Vol 1 written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman (Image Comics)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM) 

The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox)
Avengers: Age of Ultron written and directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Ex Machina written and directed by Alex Garland (Film4; DNA Films; Universal Pictures)
Mad Max: Fury Road written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris, directed by George Miller (Village Roadshow Pictures; Kennedy Miller Mitchell; RatPac‐ Dune Entertainment; Warner Bros. Pictures)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, directed by J.J. Abrams (Lucasfilm Ltd.; Bad Robot Productions; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM

Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Productions; Netflix)
Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Television)
Grimm: “Headache” written by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, directed by Jim Kouf (Universal Television; GK Productions; Hazy Mills Productions; Open 4 Business Productions; NBCUniversal Television Distribution)
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1 and 2 written by Scott Sonneborn, A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy, directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller (DHX Media/Vancouver; Hasbro Studios)
Supernatural: “Just My Imagination” written by Jenny Klein, directed by Richard Speight (Kripke Enterprises; Wonderland Sound and Vision; Warner Bros. Television)

BEST EDITOR ‐ SHORT FORM

Ellen Datlow
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Jerry Pournelle
Sheila Williams

BEST EDITOR ‐ LONG FORM 

Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Jim Minz
Toni Weisskopf
Vox Day

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST 

Abigail Larson
Lars Braad Andersen
Larry Elmore
Michal Karcz
Larry Rostant

BEST SEMIPROZINE

Uncanny Magazine edited by Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott Andrews, Nicole Lavigne, and Kate Marshall
Daily Science Fiction edited by Michele‐Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden
Sci Phi Journal edited by Jason Rennie
Strange Horizons edited by Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and theStrange Horizons staff

BEST FANZINE 

“File 770” edited by Mike Glyer
“Castalia House Blog” edited by Jeffro Johnson
“Lady Business” edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
“Superversive SF” edited by Jason Rennie
“Tangent Online” edited by Dave Truesdale

BEST FANCAST 

No Award
8‐4 Play, Mark MacDonald, John Ricciardi, Hiroko Minamoto, and Justin Epperson
Cane and Rinse, Cane and Rinse
HelloGreedo, HelloGreedo
The Rageaholic, RazörFist
Tales to Terrify, Stephen Kilpatrick

BEST FAN WRITER

Mike Glyer
Douglas Ernst
Morgan Holmes
Jeffro Johnson
Shamus Young

BEST FAN ARTIST 

Steve Stiles
Matthew Callahan
disse86
Kukuruyo
Christian Quinot

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER 

Andy Weir *
Pierce Brown *
Sebastien de Castell *
Brian Niemeier
Alyssa Wong *
* Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

FOREST J. ACKERMAN AWARD

Joe Siclari & Evie Stern



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4. Of Productivity Commissions And Parallel Import Laws


On National Bookshop Day, I went to my local bookshop and bought yet another cookbook! I wished the staff a happy National Bookshop Day and they gave me this.


If you haven't seen it, it's a collection of articles by our best known writers on the subject of something that is going on now, an attempt to destroy our local publishing industry.  Don't believe me? 

Here's a quote by Richard Flanagan, author of Booker-winning novel Narrow Road To The Deep North, from the Productivity Commission's report.


Okay, a bit blurry, but what it says is that the local publishing industry is wasting all those people who could be better employed in other industries, and is thus doing horrible things to the economy. Huh? It's successful, it's employing lots of people(25,000 at this stage) who are paying taxes, unlike some billionaires, buying things, building homes, thus employing more people, and this is wrong? I don't get it. 

When you think of all those manufacturing industries moved offshore because this government and the ones before it let them go, what do they have against an industry they don't subsidise and don't support, which is still doing nicely, here and overseas? Because they don't subsidise it, apart from a few grants via the Australia Council and even those have been slashed by the current government. 

"Productivity" basically means "do more with less." In this case, it's "do nothing. Overseas books are better and we can get the readers onside by telling them they will get cheaper books." 

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, here it is. We currently have a law in place that prevents us from having huge piles of overseas books dumped on us. The deal is that the publisher has to make the books available in an Australian edition within fourteen days of overseas release. Otherwise, the booksellers could buy huge lots of cheap editions from the US or Britain - cheaper for them, anyway - and some of those books are by our local authors, who would get paid less in royalties  for the overseas editions of their own books.  That's while these still exist; overseas publishers don't want to take our books till they've proved  themselves here. 

I remember, early in my writing career, when a friend went to the UK to see overseas publishers, who just weren't interested in anything from the colonies. Looks like that time might come back.

When they did this to the music industry here some years ago, it wreaked havoc. Our musicians have never recovered. 

There is territorial copyright at present. Most countries have it. Check that paperback book in your bag and you'll see a statement about it. Once that's gone, it's gone. The end of territorial copyright all but wiped out the publishing industries of countries, such as New Zealand, which surrendered it. 

Books over there, by the way, have gone up in price, not down. 

And for what? Even if you do resent paying more for your own stories, you can always buy online. 

But this isn't all. They want to scrap the current copyright system, for something they call "fair use". Fair to whom? "Fair use" in this country means that you can photocopy 10% or one chapter of a book, whichever is more, to use in study. The new U.S. version of "fair use" means something else altogether. 

If this happens, the current copyright term of seventy years after the author's death would be reduced to fifteen or twenty years after publication. After that? If you've visited this blog before, you'll know how I feel about piracy. But it would no longer be piracy, it would be legal. 

For those writers who make their living from this, royalties are their pension, their superannuation, and something to leave to their families. Now? The politicians are sneering at the very idea. How DARE these writers want to leave an income to their children! 

What if someone walked into Mr Turnbull's mansion and ordered him to vacate it because he'd had his fifteen years in it, time to give it away to anyone who wanted it? Hey, why not divide it into flats for young families? How would he react to that? 

What if you walked into a furniture workshop and told the carpenter that they shouldn't expect to keep the work of their hands and certainly not expect to leave the business to their children? The furniture should be given away to anyone who walked in? 

Just because writing is made up of ideas you can't touch or hold doesn't mean it should be free to anyone who wants to steal it. 

And so I'm asking you, if you read this, if you care about Australian stories, to do something. 

If you live here, write to your Federal MP. Write to your State Senator. Tell them how you feel and hint, if you feel strongly enough about it, that you're thinking carefully about your next vote. 

Here is a link to help you.


While you're there, sign the petition if you haven't done so already. 

If you don't live here but still care, and want stories from Down Under in your life, publicise the issue. Feel free to embarrass our politicians. Tweet this post or look in Twitter under #saveozstories and retweet. 

And - can you comment below to let me know if you've done any of the above? I get many hits on my posts, but rarely a comment and I never know whether they've had an effect. 

Thank you! 


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5. And The Award Goes To.... The 2016 CBCA Awards


Taken from the CBCA web site. Fair usage.



And here they are, after we've been waiting for such a long time, from the long list onwards. Congratulations to everyone who got even that far. The long list used to be the Notables and I remember one judge saying that for something to get a Notable at least six judges had to think it should be in the short list. That's nice to know, as someone who has had two Notables and a Clayton's short listing. So even if you got no further than the long list, authors, you've done well, just like someone who got into the Olympics, even if they didn't get a medal.

I have said I'm pleased with the winners this year, though I wish The Flywheel had got an Honour book.  But something I've found over the years is that once you've been on the short list you're likely to win another time and this year they had two books to choose from in that respect. So Erin Gough might make it another time, I do hope so. Or maybe she'll be in next year's YABBAs or, more likely, Inkys, for this one. I hope so. 

CBCA Awards 2016 winners -  from the Books And Publishing web site


This year's Children's Book Council of Australia Awards go to the following

The winning titles in each of the categories are:

Older Readers

Winner

Cloudwish (Fiona Wood, Macmillan)

Honour books

A Single Stone (Meg McKinlay, Walker Books)
Inbetween Days (Vikki Wakefield, Text)

Younger Readers

Winner

Soon (Morris Gleitzman, Viking)

Honour books  

Shadows of the Master (Emily Rodda, Omnibus)

Sister Heart (Sally Morgan, Fremantle Press)

Early Childhood

Winner

Mr Huff (Anna Walker, Viking)

Honour books

Perfect (Danny Parker, illus by Freya Blackwood, Little Hare)
The Cow Tripped over the Moon (Tony Wilson, illus by Laura Wood, Scholastic)

Picture Book of the Year

Winner

Flight (Nadia Wheatley, illus by Armin Greder, Windy Hollow)

Honour books

One Step at a Time (Jane Jolly, illus by Sally Heinrich, MidnightSun)
Ride, Ricardo, Ride! (Phil Cummings, illus by Shane Devries, Omnibus)

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Winner

Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony (Stephanie Owen Reeder, NLA Publishing)

Honour books

Ancestry: Stories of Multicultural Anzacs (Robyn Siers & Carlie Walker, Department of Veterans’ Affairs)
Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Rohan Cleave, illus by Coral Tulloch, CSIRO Publishing)


Crichton Award for New Illustrators

The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade (Davina Bell, illus by Allison Colpoys, Scribe)


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6. Finally Finished Reading... Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield


Update! Update! I've looked up the winners and my two favourites won! Cloudwish and Soon, for the Older and Younger Readers respectively. Both of them books our kids, at least, have enjoyed. This one and A Single Stone got the Honour book for Older Readers.


And with it, I've read the entire Older Readers section of this year's CBCA shortlist. I decided I wasn't allowed to find out who the winners were till I'd done this. I just know that once I found out I would never have got around to finishing whatever I was reading at the time, and certainly not anything else I hadn't started. And that would have been a shame. I admit I'm missing the days when I had that wonderful student Selena to read the Older Readers list with me and discuss it. (That was the year we both loved Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon and thought it should have won). There are some great kids in my current book club, but no Selenas. Most of them read only one book at a time! How can a true booklover do that? Unless they read very quickly, of course.

I confess, I have only read one book in the Younger Readers section, Morris Gleitzman's Soon, but it was wonderful! One of the book club students is reading another book in the Younger Readers, can't recall which one, and another is reading and enjoying The Flywheel. She told me so when she came to renew the loan.

So, what did I think of Vikki Wakefield's opus? Well, it was very literary, which probably means it has won. I felt that while I got the whole "heroine develops and grows as a human being" thing, it wasn't really the kind of book I'd normally read. YA fiction is the only area in which I'll read straight contemporary fiction, though I prefer it when it's funny. But funny doesn't win awards. Really. I remember Geoffrey McSkimming complaining about that at a library conference once. I guess he'll just have to comfort himself that the kids read his books.

There were some bits in it I appreciated. I liked the whale rescue scene, although it was really only there to tell us something about the heroine, Jack - and about her mother. I appreciated the whole notion of the Mobius strip town actually called Mobius which nobody ever really leaves. Mind you, there's the ending, but I won't tell you because of spoilers. I quite liked the wisdom of older female mentors, though they didn't take on that role till late in the novel. Before that, we only saw them through Jack's eyes, and I was surprised when they suddenly appeared in a different light to her. Her growth, I suppose. I very much liked the drive-in cinema which Jack and two others are trying to restore, though I don't know how you can show a movie on the big screen using videotapes. There must be some tech stuff I've missed. If the author meant "film reels" - logical, as it turns out the owner used to own the drive-in - she never said that. She said "tapes."

But the whole idea of getting a drive-in going again is very cool.

It's not an easy book to read; it took me a couple of weeks and I'm a fast reader. As far as the kids are concerned, it will take very good readers to enjoy it. Not a book for the reluctant reader or even the average reader. It's one you have to think about as you read.

And I suspect some schools will get class sets and make this a class text, because there's a lot of material for discussion.

Now I'm going to look up the winners of this year's CBCA Awards. I'll post about that later.

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7. Look What I just Bought! The Second Gisburne Novel!


And here it is, complete with deleted scenes. I read and reviewed the first novel, Knight Of Shadows, a couple of years ago

Now the author, Toby Venables, has been interviewed on the Modern Medievalists blog and I learned that there was a second one, so I wandered over to iBooks and bought it. The annoying thing is, the omnibus with both books was cheaper than just this one, but I already had it and this does have those deleted scenes, just like on a DVD...

If you didn't read my first post, just follow the link above. This Gisburne is not a villain or even an anti-hero, he is just the good guy of the novel and he's very much James Bond, with Prince John as M. There's even a Q character! And Robin Hood is the Joker from Batman, as the author says. Not at all a nice man. 

I loved the first book and as Gisburne was wearing a leather coat(just like in the ballads) I imagined him as Richard Armitage. 

If you want a medieval novel with a difference, get them both!

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8. Another Fannish Funeral: Elley Hamlyn-Harris


There are too many fannish funerals these days. Way too many!

This morning I attended the funeral of my old friend Elley Michaelson, married name Hamlyn-Harris, who passed away last week of cancer. I admit I hadn't seen her in years, and her sons had grown from little boys in primary school to young men since I saw them last. But that's life for you. Once she was married and moving around I only saw her at the occasional party.

Still, I felt that I ought to go, because I had enjoyed her hospitality many times in my early years of fandom, including birthday celebrations, mine and others'. Her home in Port Melbourne was our clubhouse, when I was in Austrek. I went there often in Friday nights, long before Friday became my family's gathering night. We watched Star Trek and some episodes of Dr Who. I tended to doze off after a long day at work. I missed most of the first episode of Blake's 7, of which we all later became great fans, but what I did see was in Elley's living-room. 

I remember how everyone used to dance the Time Warp around her tiny living room and have to work to make sure they didn't step on each other's toes. I remember going out for fish and chips to curl up on the couch with. 

And I remember Elley, large and jolly and hospitable. She will be much missed. 

I took the day off work and went to St Peter and Paul's Catholic Church in South Melbourne, a large, beautiful old church surrounded by gardens, where Elley had her confirmation many years ago. There, I met my friends who had known her. I only knew about it because someone had sent me a text message; I believe it was on Facebook, but I don't have an account and refuse to get one as long as I'm a teacher and have three blogs and a Twitter account; it's more than enough. But fandom is a great tree; when one knows, it's passed on and in a short time everyone knows. That's how I knew to go to some other fannish farewells. Once it was by email. When I mentioned it to some students sitting near me in the computer room, they were shocked that I'd heard by email instead of by phone. But it was the best way for that event; it meant that the emailer could contact a lot of people at once and we could contact anyone she might have forgotten. 

Fandom is still around, but we're an older generation. There was no Internet in those days and if you wanted to make a phone call it was landline. No mobiles! Fanzines? Printed, not online. I remember going to Star Trek marathons, where they were laid out on tables for sale. Then we'd all curl up at home or at our "clubhouse" and share them, along with the catalogues from Lincoln Enterprises, which sold posters, badges, photos and knock-knacks connected with Star Trek, and send in joint orders. And then distribute the goodies when they arrived...

Now? You just go online, whip out your credit card and order what you want from a website that sells it. Fan fiction is freely available online, in whichever universe you like, and artists can upload their work for everyone to admire. Mind you, when we were getting printed fanzines, there was a filter via the editor, meaning  a better chance of reading decent quality fiction; online you just have to take your chances. 

There  are fan-made films on YouTube, some of them with members of the original cast joining in the fun. And we can not only communicate by smart phone, we can do it the way they did in Star Trek, seeing each other's faces! Wonderful! 

Elley certainly thought so. Among the pictures shown at her funeral were some of her on her laptop, merrily going on the WWW. I think we all get more out of the Internet than the "digital natives" who have never known what it was like before. We appreciate it more, instead of taking it for granted. 

Speaking of the younger generation, most of the faces I saw today were my own age, but some brought their children, young men and women now, including my friend Greg, who brought his children Sean and Mary, whose births I remember. Now Sean is about to start life as a student counsellor and Mary, always the artist, is at uni, studying games creation. They knew Elley, though.  Their parents never lost contact, unlike me. 

Elley's son Freddy told me, after the service, over tea and cake, that his mother had inspired him to have his friends over regularly, though he always asks them to bring a plate! He also mentioned tat when they were looking for photos to use, he found the picture of her with Star Trek actor George Takei, so that now he can believe she actually met him.

"Oh, yes," I assured him, "she met him all right! I was there." It was at a con in Sydney, where we all shared a room, because fans did that in those days. We had very little money. I'm sure the hotel staff were suspicious, but they didn't check on us - and we were a lot quieter and better-behaved than, say, businessmen there for a conference. But, as I told Freddy, it was a case of whoever got there in time to use the bed. The rest of us slept in sleeping-bags on the floor. One of us - not Elley, but someone among the fifteen - persuaded George to come along to a room party, where he asked us to sing "Waltzing Matilda" but we had to keep stopping to explain, because the song sounds like another language if you don't know  Australian English. A very nice man, by the way. 

I could go on for thousands more words with the memories, but enough. To her family, I say, "Long life!" as we do after Jewish funerals. And "Peace and long life", as the Vulcans do. 

Another part of my life has fallen away, alas! But the memories will stay. 

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9. ANOTHER Ben-Hur Movie!

Silent movie version. Public Domain.


I stumbled across the trailer when I was reading a newspaper article on-line - about Donald Trump, of all things! It was the advertising added to the video footage about Trump.

I never thought it could be done, considering how expensive the first one was, but ... I guess that in this day and age, you can do an awful lot with CGI, making it less expensive.

The movie hasn't had much of a rating in IMDB, but how can I let it go, when it comes out?

I've seen the original, made in 1907, one day in the city. It was Easter and they showed the 1907 version, the 1925 version and the chariot race from the Charlton Heston version.

The original movie was only ten minutes long. I vaguely recall, it had a cast of dozens and ended with the (two-chariot) chariot race. It's actually played a part in history by having gotten its makers into trouble for copyright breach,  so they created a law to make sure it didn't happen again.

And it was hilarious, by our standards. I don't know if it's on YouTube, but worth looking.

The 1925 version, with Ramon Navarro, was actually not bad. I think it went for about two hours, quite impressive for that day and age.

Francis X Bushman played Messala. I read somewhere that he went for advice to Will S Hart, who'd played the role in the Broadway play(and who later became a well-known cowboy star in silent movies). Hart advised him to take the role, saying something along the lines of, "It's the best part in the play! They made me play Ben-Hur once and it made me sick - I couldn't wait to get back to playing Messala again!"

Carmel Myers, who played the vamp, Iras the Egyptian(left out of the later movie) was a rabbi's daughter. Iras is the daughter of Balthasar, one of the Three Wise Men. He has come back looking for the child he once gave presents in that stable, and brought his daughter with him. She falls in love with Messala, abandons her Dad and later regrets her choice.

I remember that from the book, which I read as a child, because it had all that spectacle in it and lots of horses and I was, after all, a little girl longing for a pony... In the novel, as I recall, Ben-Hur's chariot team were bays, not white. But white does look more spectacular in a film - wonder what they'll do in this version? From the looks of the trailer they may be white again, or maybe dapple-grey?

The 1950s version was amazingly beautiful to watch, and that chariot race was breathtaking. It's also the version where, so we heard in The Celluloid Closet, Stephen Boyd, the Irish actor playing Messala, asked how he should handle the scene where he and Ben-Hur first meet again after all those years and was told, "Play it like he's your lover - but don't tell Chuck!"

Is it apocryphal? I don't know, but it makes a good story, and it was told in the film by one of the script-writers. And every time I've watched that scene again, I can't help noticing it - Stephen Boyd really does look as if he's gazing at his lover!

The thing is, I had been enjoying it for the spectacle and for the distinguished cast members such as Jack Hawkins and Frank Thring. Sorry, I know he got an Oscar for the lead role, but Charlton Heston, in my opinion, was very pretty, but not the best actor in the world. His Moses was just as awful. Just my personal opinion, so please, any Heston fans out there, don't kill me! But oh, he was pretty! In all fairness, the lines he got were not that good; he actually did well in Planet Of The Apes, where he had a decent script. And yes, he did make quite a good Michelangelo in The Agony And The Ecstasy, although I'm remembering it from a long time ago.

I went to see the movie one day at the wonderful Astor Cinema, which has the biggest screen in Victoria, and took along my friend Bart, a Catholic, who had never seen it before. Afterwards, discussing it with him, I realised that in his eyes, it was just a Sunday school lesson, not one of the great epics of cinema history.

It hasn't had quite the same feel for me ever since.

The novel was indeed a Sunday school story.  I think it could probably do with some pruning, beginning with the opening scene, where the shepherds see a great light, etc. and the Wise Men come along looking for that stable. It began with a long description of the territory where the shepherds were watching their flocks by night, then the shepherds themselves, then the Wise Men's camels...

It was also interesting in that it's the first time I read the word "voluptuous" applied to a young man, Ben-Hur as a teenager (oh, yes, in the novel he and Messala were teenagers in the early chapters). I asked my English teacher the meaning of the word and she described it as being big, perhaps a little bit too big, ie overweight. So I tend to snicker when slush stories I read describe a character as being "slim but voluptuous."

Nevertheless, it does have a lot of dramatic set pieces. There's the fight at sea. The chariot race. The drama of the Crucifixion. Even reading it, I could almost hear the music, see the crowds...

Hey, I was a child who loved ancient history - anything to read a historical novel!

Just saying, by the way, there weren't any galley slaves in ancient Rome - as I discovered in my reading. The rowers were free sailors, though one of the lower ranks in the Roman navy.

So much for one of the most famous scenes in Ben-Hur!

Ah, well, I guess I'll go see the new one anyway. Morgan Freeman plays Sheik Ilderim and I gather he gets to do a lot more than Hugh Griffith did in the Heston version, though guess what? He got Best Supporting Actor in the Oscars that year and he was delightful in the role. But if Morgan Freeman is playing it, it's going to be dignified, as the trailer seems to suggest. Anything with Morgan Freeman!

I'll see if I can get someone other than Bart to come along, unless, as usual, he's read some interesting things about it. I couldn't put him through another Sunday school story.

Anyone else thinking of going?






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10. National Bookshop Day! August 13

I'm lying in bed posting to the world on my little iPad. And it's early on the morning of August 13 and it's also Nation Left-hander Day, so I win on both counts. Go southpaws!

Famous lefthanders? Off the top of my head, Leonardo Da Vinci, though he may have been ambidextrous.  Also, looking it up, I see so many others that I need to choose just a few. President Barack Obama. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Albert Einstein. Bill Gates. Charlie Chaplin. Michelangelo. Marilyn Monroe. Angelina Jolie. Two of the Apollo 11 astronauts - Armstrong and Aldrin. Joan of Arc. Benjamin Franklin... I can't find any writers so far, let me know if you know of one. You notice how many creative people are on that list? I think it's to do with the right-hand side of the brain, the creative side, which is linked with left-handedness.

On this day was born Cecil B DeMille, who gave us so many spectacular films. I believe his crowd scenes were the best, because he was known to stop an extra and say things like, "So, why are you crossing this marketplace in such a hurry? Maybe you're going to get your sandal fixed and are in a hurry because you need to get home to cook dinner for your little boy..." He treated them as actors, in other words. Individùals. 

On this day died the amazing Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix. He did some of my favourite paintings of the Romantic era. Scenes from history. Scenes from fiction. Horses! Oh, wow, those horses! And one cheeky bit where he slotted himself into the painting "Liberty Leading The People." He's the young man with the tall hat, carrying a gun, next to Lady Liberty. 

Liberty Leading The People by Eugene Delacroix. Public Domain.


And now, to the book shops. In no special order, some of my favourites over the years. To keep it simple, I'll mainly stick to Melbourne. 

Cosmos bookshop, where I went as a child and a teen, in Acland Street, St Kilda. Still there, though now it's on the other side of the road and has become a Reading's. I remember taking up skating as my sport in high school, though I never did get the hang of it, just so I could walk home through Acland Street, buy a gelato and browse in Cosmos. It was a small family business, though these days I don't recall seeing the same staff twice in a row. But I don't go as often. And it us much bigger in its current location. 

Sunflower Bookshop, in Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick. That, too, had two locations within a few shops of each other. The owners, Brian and Noreen Ormsby, were my favourite booksellers when I was in my early twenties. Brian would show me a book, exclaiming, "You've got to read this!" And he had good taste - he introduced me to the works of Tanith Lee, among others. In later years, the shop was bought by a mother and daughter - the daughter once showed me one of my own books when I was shopping for the library - and thereafter, promoted them all. They moved out and the shop was repainted in dull charcoal grey. It lasted a long time and one of the staff was a teacher-librarian who did a great job with the children's books, probably just as well, as the shop itself was too depressing in colour for my taste. However, it specialised in Judaica, which made it handy when I needed a new Bible, my mother having appropriated the old one I was given as a child, and I even got one with Hebrew in one side, English on the other, very useful for looking up what the Bible really said in any specific passage! How disappointed all those YA fantasy novelists would be to find out that their half-angel heroes/heroines were not based on a word in the Bible that actually means ,"distinguished men." 
Anyway, the shop is still there, but has become another of my favourites- 

The Avenue bookshop. It was renovated, the depressing charcoal grey is gone and there's some wood panelling among the shelves. The place is full of air and light and once more a bookshop to enjoy browsing in. And the loyalty card is great - you can even get points for a gift voucher, something other shops don't do. They actually gift wrap  the gift vouchers in boxes! The window still has a children's section, which is nice. 

During my teens, I had a favourite secondhand shop, way up in Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD. Penn's bookshop is long gone. It was one of those bookshops right out of The Neverending Story,  where you could buy 19th century editions of the classics, some of which I still have. And they were cheap! How else could a schoolgirl on only a little pocket money afford them? 

The closest I can think of now is Syber's. Actually, there are two Syber's bookshops, run by a husband and wife, David and Penny, but since David moved his out of St Kilda, I haven't seen it again; you have to go there, you can't just wander in, and I don't have the time. So I'm thinking of Penny's shop, right opposite Windsor Railway Station, just down the road from the classic Art Deco Astor Cinema. I can browse, buy and catch a tram home. There's usually a cat in the window or near it, as Penny keeps her pets with her. I must admit, I'm more likely to browse the SF and fantasy paperbacks, but there are quite a lot of traditional secondhand bookshop books on the other shelves. Not quite Penn's, but as close to it as you can get these days. 

There's all those science fiction bookshops I used to love - gone, gone, gone! Minotaur is still there, bigger than ever, in the Melbourne CBD, but it now makes its money mostly from pop culture stuff and comics. It feels too commercial to me and I mostly only go there now for something specific I can't find elsewhere. It did start as a smaller, more personal shop in an arcade. No longer! 

There was a wonderful shop called Space Age Books, where fans used to gather every Friday before the Melbourne SF Club meetings. Unfortunately, too many of them were just there to socialise, not to buy. But I bought. And it was the place where famous writers would come for book signings and to meet their fans after appearing at a convention. I met Frank Herbert of Dune fame there, and it arranged a one-day con with Harry Harrison as the guest. 

It died, eventually. The elderly owner is still around, retired, attending the occasional convention. He was one of a bunch of young men who started local fandom in the 1950s; one of that group went into politics and became our Arts Minister in the 80s. He was still doing a fanzine! 

After a few years of being something else, the site became Slow Glass Books, also a wonderful SF bookshop. It didn't last long; the owner, Justin, did open a shop in the suburbs for a while, but now only works online and at conventions. 

Another SF bookshop in the city was Of Science And Swords - small and delightful, it was in an arcade. The owners were brothers. They knew their stuff. I'd wander into the shop in the mood for hard SF or space opera and get good advice. One of the staff, Christopher Ruz, is a writer. We follow each other on Twitter.  The shop moved to bigger premises, but didn't last long there. It's gone too. The last time I entered, there was a pop culture shop that didn't sell books at all. 

Fan and writer Chuck McKenzie started a fabulous bookshop, Notions Unlimited, out in the seaside suburbs. It was so very like Slow Glass, I made time to go there. There were comfy chairs and tables, and a regular game playing group. There was a bay for small press books, which form much of Australia's local SF publishing scene. Everything else you can buy is either from overseas or Fat Fantasy Trilogies. 

Gone, alas! I think it lasted two or three years. I bought a lot of related non-fiction there. 

Finally, for today, my favourite bookshop of all: Collected Works, in the Art Deco Nicholas Building in the Melbourne CBD. It's run by a poet. It sells classics and books on everything from architecture to anthropology, but there's a spec fic bay, where I discovered how many writers famous for other things wrote horror fiction and ghost stories - Rudyard Kipling, D.K Broster, even sweet Edith Nesbit,who wrote those charming children's books, such as Five Children And It. Who'd have thought it? I've found a collection of Louisa May Alcott stories, the kind of blood-and-thunder ones she had Jo write in Little Women, and books of mythology and several bios of the Inklings and even Alice B Toklas's book about her adventures in France, complete with recipes, including the one for hash brownies. (The owner admits he tried that once, in his youth, out of curiosity). 

So, do you have a favourite bookshop,you'd like to share?

And happy Bookshop Day! 

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11. In My Bag At The Moment...Kerry Greenwood


The Greenwood book - not the author, of course! - is Death By Water, a Phryne Fisher mystery. It's kind of fun living Phryne's glamorous life vicariously. She has a nice house opposite St Kilda beach, a smart maid who helps in her detecting, a very good houseman and his wife, an excellent cook, working for her, two delightful adopted daughters, great clothes and, of course, a gorgeous, intelligent lover. What's not to enjoy?

In this one, Phryne and her maid Dot go on a cruise, but not just for fun. They're there to catch whoever has been stealing the wealthy passengers' gems.  And naturally, there's a murder, though it happens late in the book. Like all her other novels, each chapter ends with a letter from someone who isn't actually a character in the story, but you need to read it, because it throws you hints about something that will play out in the novel itself. In this case the letters are from various people about to go on the Titanic. The Phryne Fisher novels are set in 1928, sixteen years after the Titanic disaster. Here, we learn that for once Dot knows something in the news that Phryne doesn't; while that ship was sinking, she was with her family on another ship, on its way to England. 

But it's now 1928, the good ship Hinemoa is on its way to New Zealand and the passengers - first class, of course! - are eating and drinking gourmet stuff and dancing under the Tiffany lamps of the Grand Salon, which is decorated with stained glass depictions of Australian and New Zealand critters and there's an all-girl dance band which includes a trumpeter whose Uncle Cec is one of Phryne's minions, under orders to be helpful to Miss Fisher. 

And we have vicarious fun imagining ourselves on that gorgeous ship. I'm betting that modern cruise liners aren't quite that classy. 

In the middle of the school year, with a lot of work things hanging over me, I need the comfort of a Phryne Fisher glamorous experience to keep me going just that bit longer...

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12. Census Is Coming - But Not Yet...

Well, after all the discussion about doing the census on-line, I find I can't. We were assured the up-to-date browser requirement was only for officials. Not true. I went to the web site because apparently it will let you through early, and it seemed simpler than waiting till everyone else in the country was doing it, and tried to log in.

The message I got was that my browser - and my operating system - were out of date and could I please try another device? If I can't do that, give them a call to order a paper form. I called. I got an automated message asking for the login number, then it thanked me for my call and hung up. I assume this means they will send me the paper form now, but I didn't speak to a human being. My sister did, when she rang to order one for our mother, and was assured that the census was due in September, whatever she had been told, and didn't have to be handed in immediately. Assuming that my login will go to a human being somewhere, the form will arrive within 7 working days. (Apart from the fact that the new Aussiepost is now slow and more expensive. So maybe 9 working days?)

For those of you who don't live in Australia and may not have heard, there has been a lot of anger over the government's decision to keep our names  for four years instead of the 18 months they need to process the data. Four years - in other words, till the next census. And as it's being done on-line, there is the danger of having our details stolen. Not to mention the danger of the government using them for things we won't be happy about.

"Oh, but it's so easy for them to find you anyway!" we hear. "You're on social media. They know about you!" Yes. But not neatly arranged for whenever they want to look up, say, all the Jews in Australia, or all the Muslims, etc. And with the recent election there are a number of truly crazy Senators, including one who thinks we should be teaching climate denial in the schools(he used to work in the coal industry); if he doesn't believe the Earth is flat, he comes close to it. And he is one of those who want the Racial Discrimination Act altered in the name of "freedom of speech", ie "we should be able to be horrible to anyone we want, but we'll sue the pants off them if the shoe is ever on the other foot."  By the way, he got in with just 77 votes(family and friends?) - the rest was above-the-line preferences. The nut-cases may have the balance of power in this government.

A lot of people are going to be Jedi Knights this year, and the information in general will not be accurate. And the web site will crash tomorrow night, with millions of people trying to log in.

Hopefully, they will get the idea soon enough.


I'm going back to my books. A book isn't going to look up information about your health or your religion or sell your information to private companies.

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13. Brother Cadfael Re-Read: The Confession Of Brother Haluin

I first read this some years ago, when it first came out. It's fifteen books into the series of twenty, so near the end. The last book, Brother Cadfael's Penance, felt like a last book, although it didn't have to be, only the author died not long after. Brother Cadfael had disobeyed his Abbot to go to the rescue of his son and was riding home, expecting trouble but thinking it worthwhile. That, I remember.

But this one, I read again yesterday at my mother's home, where I spend Friday nights, and remembered nothing.

I really wasn't in the mood for Vikki Wakefield's latest at the time - I prefer to read something familiar and comforting at bed time and curled up in bed on a weekend, when I don't have to get up at 6.00 am. And whatever I may have to say of Inbetween Days when I've finished, it's neither familiar(first time) nor comforting. And not meant to be comforting!

But I really didn't remember anything, it has been such a long time since I first read it. It did have some of the usual elements - Brother Cadfael accompanies someone on a journey, there's a sweet young couple who aren't allowed to marry for one reason or another(at least, not till the end of the book) and although there's a murder, the killer doesn't actually get executed.

And, as usual, Ellis Peters doesn't cheat her readers with last-minute information they couldn't possibly have known - more than can be said for Agatha Christie, who usually has Poirot announcing in his gather-all-the suspects meeting that he has received a telegram in answer to an inquiry he sent and his suspicions were confirmed! If you read any Brother Cadfael mystery carefully enough, you can usually work out whodunnit. You do need to read carefully and not take any character for granted as a minor character. At least you know it won't be any of the regulars(again - unlike Agatha Christie, who doesn't give you that comfort). That helps.

Anyway, it was a pleasure to re-enter the world of twelfth century England with our favourite herbalist monk!


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14. CBCA Shortlist: Currently Reading... Inbetween Days By Vikki Wakefield

Probably a bit early to be commenting, but this isn't really a review. I'm up to page 130. It's the last book of the Older Readers section for me - I've read the rest. I don't think it's exactly contemporary fiction, as nobody in the novel so much as mentions the Internet and the heroine, Jack, doesn't have a phone, apart from the one in the home she shares with her sister Trudy, and that one is disconnected for non-payment of the bill, so she has to go to the phone booth to try calling her boyfriend Luke(well, I say boyfriend, but they're not actually dating - all they do is meet weekly to have sex; she says she loves him, he doesn't return her feelings). Having a mobile would allow her to make contact without having to go through his family. In one scene the phone rings out - no message bank. In another, she mentions her video recorder. So, is it set in the 1980s? The 1990s? Certainly not in the here and now.

Jack seems to have a bit of obsessive compulsive disorder, taking the form of  counting the diamond-patterned tiles in the shop where she works.  She also keeps moving her bed around in her room, for no special reason, and setting up a display of toilet rolls at work, angrily shifting them back when they have been moved by the other shop worker. Definitely some OCD there!

The small town where she lives is dying, getting smaller and smaller, and has the appropriate name of  Mobius - you know, like the strip that has only one side. It also has a forest where people go to commit suicide. Very odd place!

I expect I'll finish it on time for Book Week, though, to be honest, I don't know what the students will think of it. It's a strange book...

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15. CBCA Shortlist: Just Finished The Pause by John Larkin



I finished this yesterday and bought a copy for the library.

Oh, my, this is a deadly serious book, not the slightly humorous, or at least whimsical one I had expected from the blurb. It is about depression. The hero, Declan O'Malley, throws himself under a train in a fit of depression after his girlfriend is sent to live with her aunt in Hong Kong by her abusive mother and doesn't send a text to confirm she has arrived okay. It turns out that her mother had confiscated her phone before she left.

But Declan's depression isn't just about that, it's about something truly horrible that happened when he was six. This is hinted at several times in the course of the book, before you finally learn just what it was his great-aunt Mary did to him when he was a child.

After a gruesome and detailed description of his being dismantled by the train, he speaks to the reader from "non-space", where he gets to see what would have happened if he had hesitated before jumping. It isn't all positive but it's a lot better than being killed and thinking of what it has done to his family, his girl and even the train driver. This takes up most of the novel - and, interestingly, goes over nine years; the Declan of the later part of the novel is well into his twenties.

I found it very readable and you might have noticed I finished it quickly. It might work for some of our students who feel like reading a deadly serious book, but today I only had three Year 7 girls, a Year 9 and a Year 10 with me at book club. And there were only two borrowings from the shortlisted books - The Flywheel and Soon.

I've started reading Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield and when that's done I will have read all the Older Readers books. I think, of those I've read so far, I'd give the award to Cloudwish.

And speaking of books that turn out to be deadly serious, I've just begun reading Lili Wilkinson's newest novel, The Boundless Sublime, and I don't think this is going to be the usual romantic comedy which my students enjoy so much. It starts with a thoroughly depressed mother and daughter sitting in the living room watching TV and doing very little else after a family tragedy. Oh, dear. I'm sure it will be a great book, but, I must admit, I like those romantic comedies as much as the kids do, and this is beginning to remind me of the time Paul Jennings, so beloved by so many children for his hilarious stories, decided to write a serious YA novel. It was good, don't get me wrong - in fact, very good! It just didn't feel like Paul Jennings. If it's still in print I'll be very surprised. 

It may be that the author  needed to get this book out of her system. 

Or it may be that funny books just don't win the Children's Book Council Awards. Some of them make  it to the shortlist, but I can't recall one ever winning. Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths are hugely popular with their readers, but not with awards judges. They just aren't literary enough. Ah, well. 

Anyone else out there reading the list? What do you think?

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16. CBCA Shortlist Older Readers: Just Started Reading... In Between Days and Pause

Inbetween Days is by Vikki Wakefield. I've met Vikki. She was part of a group of writers who once visited my school when the State Library couldn't get enough bookings to run one of their Teen Booktalkers sessions and rang me to ask if I wanted to have them come to my school. It seemed a shame to waste the already-organised session. 

She spoke to the kids about her new novel - her first - and showed them some of the art she had done while writing it. It was a very good talk and the kids were borrowing that book for weeks afterwards.

Now she's on her third and I've just started reading it. I haven't read enough yet to know if I'll like it; I never did get past the first couple of chapters of her second novel, maybe I'd better try again. Sometimes - as I said in another post - there are books it takes ages to get into and then suddenly you finish them in an evening. 

I do like the way she has described a hot summer evening in a way that I recognise. And unlike another award-winning author I won't name here, she hasn't resorted to purple prose. 

Pause is by John Larkin, who is best known for his humorous books. It certainly starts off humorously enough, with Declan O'Malley, a teenager in a selective high school, with good friends, falling in love with Lisa Leong, a girl  he sees regularly on the train to school and being dared to approach her. And it is love, and she has a dragon of a mother who absolutely won't allow boys into her daughter's life and makes her attend a Christisn youth group without allowing any hanging around before or after her father drops her off and picks her up. Quite a challenge! 

But the mother is physically and emotionally abusive and when she catches the young lovers dating instead of her daughter attending Christian youth group, it's off to the old country to live with her aunt and Declan becomes a victim of depression and there's a sort of Sliding Doors story where he either does or doesn't throw himself under a train. There's even a bit of wry humour as he experiences his teeth being smashed and feels guilty because his parents paid so much for his braces. But there's nothing humorous about the depression that follows in the side of the story where he didn't throw himself to his death and the description of how it feels to be torn apart by a train is pretty gruesome. 

I've read about a quarter of the book. I do like it so far. If I can finish these two books soon enough, I will be in time for Book Week, at least for the Older Readers. 

Pity I won't be on time to finish the Younger Readers category, but I do love Soon and will be disappointed if it doesn't win. 

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17. And Then Again... A Glitch?

I decided to try one more time, after having reserved the book at my local library. This time it worked. What do you think, readers? An electronic glitch? Too many people downloading The Cursed Child at once?

Maybe I'm too cynical. Then again, if I was, I wouldn't have tried again.

But I've just finished the first part, up to Intermission. I'd love to see how they got all the effects on stage, but a review in the Age says they did. Will the play ever be performed here? Well, it took The Mousetrap a long, long time to get out of London. I wasn't born when it started. I might have to be taken to the theatre in a wheelchair if this play takes as long!

So for now, the script only.

Back to my read!

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18. Harry Potter And The Cursed Child - No Longer Available On iBooks!

Okay, I didn't pre-order. I don't do that. Not for an ebook. Even when I was buying the print books I'd turn up on the day at Dymock's and there would be copies available.

But these days I buy mostly ebooks. You can simply log into your  account and buy. It downloads for you. You have a new book to enjoy! Why would you need to pre-order? It's electronic, right? They don't need to reprint, send them to the warehouses, send them to the shops.

And now, about an hour after this book became available to buy in ebook, I received the message,"This item is no longer availabłe."

Maybe it's my baby boomer ignorance of the technology others my age invented. How on earth can you run out of e-copies?

Or maybe I'm just a cynical person who thinks that this is a marketing thing. Allow so many downloads, then withdraw it. Keep them hungry. Then put it back, perhaps for a higher price. That'll learn 'em for not pre-ordering!

I'd very much like to read this book. I loved all the novels and I've heard good things about the play. I have the highest respect for the author, who deserves her high income.

But at this stage I may just add my name to the reserve queue at the local library and wait for my turn. Even if it takes months. I used to do that for new Terry Pratchett books - borrow, read, then buy in paperback. If it's good enough for Terry Pratchett, it's good enough for Ms Rowling.

Sorry, Joanne! And happy birthday.

Happy birthday also to my former student Dylan Cohen, now at university! And to young Natasha, my book clubber now in Year 12. It will be her eighteenth birthday? 

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19. Finally Reading... The Janna Chronicles by Felicity Pulman

I've had all the Janna books in my library for some time, including the last two, which the author had to self publish after her original publisher dropped them. But I've never got around to reading them before; I bought them for some of the students, who had requested them.

However, having a browse through the crime section on iBooks, I found to my delight that they are now available in ebook, published again by Momentum, the digital imprint of Pan Macmillan, which also does print on demand. The covers are new too. And it was only $4.99 and not too large a download, so I bought the first of the series, Blood Oath. I think I'll be reading the rest now.

In case you're not familiar with the series, it's a series of YA historical mysteries set during the time of  Stephen and Matilda's fight over the English throne. The heroine is a young woman who is a herbalist trained by her mother. I haven't yet read far enough for the mystery bit to start, but I'm feeling comfortable in this world, which was so well described in the Brother Cadfael novels.

Actually, the author says in her note that she was inspired by the Brother Cadfael mysteries to make her heroine a herbalist, though her sympathies lie on the side of Matilda, while the characters in the Ellis Peters books prefer Stephen.

Well, must get back to it - Chapter 5 beckons!


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20. Reading The CBCA Shortlist

I now have most - not all - of the Older and Younger Readers books for this year in my library and I've decided to make my way through them and comment as I go.

I've already read and commented on Soon by Morris Gleitzman and Cloudwish by Fiona Wood.

I'm nearly finished reading Sue Lawson's piece of historical fiction set in a small NSW town in 1965, Freedom Ride. It is, of course, about the Australian Freedom Ride led by Charles Perkins, who makes a brief appearance in the novel.

The hero is a white boy, Robbie, who lives with his father and his grandmother. He is not very happy in this life, which includes a school bully, an unpleasant grandmother and a father who goes to the RSL every Friday night and has some secrets her has never shared with Robbie.

And, of course, there's the small-town racism and ignorance and a local policeman who isn't interested in looking after the rights of the local indigenous people, even when one is killed, let alone when they're bashed up.

When Barry Gregory, a young man who has been in London, returns to his hometown to help his mother run the caravan park, things improve for Robbie, who takes a job with him and learns about the outside world and the fact that racism isn't nearly as bad in London as in his town.

I'm enjoying the 1960s references, including to OZ Magazine, which Barry reads.

It does take most of the book to actually get around to the Freedom Riders arriving in Walgaree, Robbie's home, though they're mentioned earlier - and abused by Robbie's father and grandmother.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what else is available on this year's shortlist. There are some good books so far.

Anyone else reading them?

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21. CBCA Shortlist: The Flywheel by Erin Gough. Ampersand Prize Winner


I bought this in ebook while listening to the author at Reading Matters last year, as well as a copy for the library. I never got past the first few pages, for no special reason. 

And today I read the lot, finishing a few minutes ago. It's one of those "just one more chapter" books. It was a Saturday and the book was on the CBCA shortlist, so... 

It has a lot of charm and humour. It reminds me, oddly, of one of Will Kostakis's novels, without the Greek family or the gay boy. This one is about being a gay girl and trying to run the family restaurant to give her Dad a chance to have a break and an overseas holiday after years of no holidays and a wife who left him for another man and moved from Sydney to Melbourne. But Del(short for Delilah)has troubles when the manager is deported over visa issues and she can't find another one.

 Like the vengeful barista she had to sack when he was lazy and stole money. Like the franchise cafe competing with hers. And then there's her friend Charlie who has moved in to hide from the police after he punched out the father of a young woman he had a crush on. And the beautiful flamenco dancer Rosa whom she watches performing at the tapas bar across the road every night from her window. And the bullying at school for being gay and having had a romance with a girl who is now denying it and telling everyone who will listen that Del had the wrong idea about her. 

Somehow, despite all the disasters, and a case of insta-love, the book is funny, the voice delightful. 

I'll be interested to see how the book will go over with our students. They don't seem to mind the gay boy books - Will Kostakis and David Levithan's books go over quite well in our library, though usually after a teacher recommendation. One of our boys is currently reading and enjoying The Sidekicks, but then, he's a Kostakis fan in general. It was so nice to be able to introduce them last year at Reading Matters when Will came over to say hi. 

I'm sure there are some girls out there not admitting to their sexuality, but I don't know. Even if they aren't around at my school, there's plenty for everyone. 

Interestingly, if Cloudwish was a love letter to Melbourne, this novel is a tribute to Sydney. I've been in Glebe, where it's set, in the YHA, probably the hostel mentioned in it. It's a fairly posh suburb near the sea. I haven't been to the library which the characters campaign to save, but you can check it out in Google Images. It has tourists wanting a bus to Bondi beach, Rose Bay, where two of my nieces live, Central Station and Redfern. You don't have to live there to be able to picture it. 

This novel won the Ampersand Prize given annually by Hardie Grant Egmont for a debut novel.

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22. CBCA Shortlist. Now Reading: A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

I'm around 70 pages in since last night. This one has already won some awards, including the Aurealis, and been shortlisted in another. It's a dystopian novel in which a small village is located in a valley formed after a rockslide long ago. It's run by the Mothers and girls are valued more than boys because they can be sent, if good enough, into the mountain to harvest mica, which, in this world, is useful for heat and light. They need an alternative to wood fires because in the winter the snow comes right up to the top of the houses and smoke can't escape theough the chimneys, though they do have escape pipes.

I must admit I never knew mica could be used for that! Must look it up. 

So, these girls have to be small in order to squeeze into the tunnels. They're swaddled for their first few years, they eat as little as possible and if they're not quite small enough, well, bones can be broken and rearranged... The chosen girls receive training and are formed into teams to go harvest mica. Then they do something else for the rest of their lives, including having babies, preferably females - the whole village parties when a girl is born. 

I can't help wondering, though, if these people have, as it seems, been stranded in this valley for quite a few generations, wouldn't the gene pool be rather small? Everyone would be related to everyone else. That hasn't been mentioned yet, but still a couple of hundred pages to go. The soil would be rather poor after being farmed all that time, so I can only assume they have a three-field system. 

Anyway, more to come! 

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23. Just Been To See... Star Trek: Beyond

Well, I had to go at some stage, didn't I? I have loved Star Trek since discovering it in my teens. The original cast are either old or have passed away. So it has been wonderful seeing the new young cast who have grown into their roles over the last three movies.

A friend at work suggested we should go together. Weekends are difficult for me nowadays - family commitments on Saturday and some of Sunday, plus Sunday is the only day I can clean the house and make sure my classes are ready for next day. 

We went, instead, after work to the cinema complex nearest the school. We had something to eat beforehand - in my case just scone and tea, in hers a sandwich - and, on an impulse, decided to go Gold Class - small cinema and you get to have ordered food and drink brought to you as you loll in a comfy chair. I keep Gold Class for special films, but it was my friend's first time. She was delighted. We both ordered gourmet pecan pie-flavoured popcorn and mineral water, but we could have ordered a meal or even cocktails if we'd chosen. To be honest, the popcorn was nice, but not worth what we paid for it. Next time I'll have something more substantial. 

The movie was very enjoyable. I couldn't help noticing that the Enterprise was destroyed AGAIN in the third film of the series, as in The Search For Spock. Not a spoiler, as it happens about ten or fifteen minutes into the movie and the characters have a lot on their plates as the film goes on. I must admit, I found the villain's motivation a bit hard to swallow, as was the reveal about his background, but it was a fast-moving action piece and what I loved best about it was the build-up of our heroes. 

Spock and McCoy have their familiar relationship that we all know and love. Kirk has begun to do that quirky little smile at the corners of his mouth and his personality has also begun to be the familiar  cheeky Kirk not-a-boy-scout one. At the same time, he does the usual Kirk lecture to the villain. Oh, yes, this young man may not look like Bill Shatner, but the script is right and he is getting the mannerisms right too. 

Zachary Quinto's Spock voice is beginning to sound a lot like Leonard Nimoy's, while Karl Urban has been McCoy from the very beginning. I believe DeForest Kelley would have been delighted with him - and with the way the character is drawn, from sharing a (stolen from Chekhov)Scotch with Kirk early in the film to protesting, "I'm a doctor, not a..." as he's whisked off on an away mission he really doesn't want. 

The music was good, by Michael Giacchino, a composer who has done the scores for several movies I enjoyed, including the new Trek movies and Up. There was, of course, the Alexander Courage theme at the end. I'm into film music in a big way and have always been. My brother and I used to collect and share the recordings of our favourite films when we were both living at home. I guess I'll have to keep an eye out for the score to this one.

There was a tribute at the end to the two cast members who have gone since the last film was made. Leonard Nimoy' of course, but it was rather sad to see the young Anton Yelchin as Chekhov and know he would never be back. I believe they have decided not to re-cast the character. 

Chekhov did get to do his line about Scotch having been invented by a little old lady(from Leningrad in the original, in Russia here).

Here's a Creative Commons picture of him I found on Wikipedia. 


Sleep well, Anton! 

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24. The Price Of (State) Secondary Education

I've just started my new Western Chances applications for two young women in our Year 10 class. They are being nominated for leadership skills. I think I may have posted about Western Chances before, but not recently.

Western Chances is a scholarship aimed at students in the western suburbs of Melbourne, where a lot of kids have very little money and not much chance of going to university, apart from the TAFE colleges and small local universities. TAFE is fine, but what if you want to do medicine or engineering? At one of the bigger universities? In theory, everyone can go if they're willing to repay some of the debt once they get a job that will have enough income to do so. In practice, there are a lot of expenses you might not have expected, and even if you have a job at McDonald's to help with your share house, it may not be enough... And some have up-front fees; I remember a student of ours who got into nursing, but ended up taking a year off to work up the up-front fees.

And then there's the time before you go to university. This wonderful scholarship was set up some years ago by Terry Bracks, wife of a former Victorian Premier. (That's a state Governor for my US readers). It's not a government thing or it would have been long gone. It relies on donations to pay the staff and help get scholarships out to students who are very good at something but who just can't afford the costs of even a state education. I made a donation this year and last, taken from my inheritance of a few thousand dollars from my late friend jan howard finder(lower-case intended), who passed away a couple of years ago. Businesses do their bit and the staff, who are amazing people, get all sorts of goodies for their Western Chances scholars, as well as the money. I get phone calls from them offering a place in an engineering camp or a free camp of some other kind, and when one of my students said she was interested in events management, the lady I deal with said she knew an events manager who could help to mentor the young lady.

But here's the thing: kids change their minds. These two went for counselling from their teachers and were advised on the subjects best for them. And the girl who had planned on events management changed her mind and decided on teaching. Specifically Foods teaching. For that, she plans on doing a VET subject, Hospitality. Which will cost her $400. And probably a textbook.

And General Maths - $88 for the textbook and $200 for a special calculator.

And Business Management - if she does that as a VET subject, it will cost $200. The VCE version(I hope that's what she's planning) will cost less, but there's certainly a textbook involved.

And Health and Human Development(I'm not sure of how much the textbook for that will cost, but it's bound to be $70-80).

And Psychology? $108 for the text and workbook.

In some cases, second-hand books are possible, but not always. Psychology's textbook has changed, so this year books had to be bought new. Even if they can get them second-hand this year, there's still the workbook, which has to be bought new because you write in them.

How on earth do most kids manage? Not all the kids at my school are from poor families, but that doesn't mean they can afford all the textbooks, not to mention calculators (a good reason not to do maths! And now the Federal government is talking about making maths compulsory all the way through).

And kids who are doing the expensive practical subjects(VET) are quite often kids from poorer families.

The other girl is not as complicated as this one, but she too has some expensive subject choices. Maths alone will cost her $288 and she may need tutoring. I said I'd see if I can get her some money for tutoring - there's an inexpensive tutoring service in the area, but it would still be around $200 altogether for 20 sessions. I'm hoping that there will be free reconditioned laptop computers available this year - there wen't last year, which is why the boys I nominated were given the money and told to arrange their own. It worked out, but they had to agree to make that their scholarship gift for the year. It was too dear for anything else. They already have their special calculators, thank heaven!

I may have to say, "If we can't get a reconditioned computer, you'll have to make a choice."

I know that textbook authors do a lot of work and have to be up-to-date, but really, do textbooks have to be quite that expensive?

Ah, well, I think the young ladies might have to settle for help towards their needs; I just don't think I can get them money for the lot. It will depend on how many applications WC gets this year - and it is very popular.

This is one of those things I do when I'm not being a library and English teacher or writing books or short stories. The kids deserve a hand up! And a few hundred a year can make a huge difference.

I'm off work today after a sleepless night; if you work in an office you can sit at your desk and try to focus, but not when you have kids to teach. It's not a job you can get away with being tired. The kids know when you're faking it.

So, off to rest a bit.


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25. CBCA Shortlist: Finished Reading A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

Wel, I've completed my read of this particular CBCA shortlist book.

Is it good? Yes. And even if it doesn't win this award, it has already won some others, including one for spec fic. I finished the last chapters quickly, which says something about the readability of the story, and the heroine was good, as was her foster sister and a boy she was friendly with(no romance) but ...

There were some questions left unanswered at the end. I can't go into detail here without spoilers. I described the story outline in my last post on this. It's a dystopia set in a small village where everyone has been trapped for several generations after a rockfall(known as The Rockfall) got them stuck in a valley surrounded by mountains. It has become the ritual to send very slim young girls from seven years upwards to mine mica in the narrow natural passages -men aren't allowed into the mountain or allowed to scoop anything out, because the only survivors of the disaster last time, just after the Rockfall, were women - seven of them, so there is a team of seven girls who are trained to go in and get the mica needed badly for heat and light -only seven at a time, because that's the ritual. And no scooping out anything but what the mountain will allow because that's what caused the Rockfall. I totally understand the point the author is making here.

As I said in my last post, there's no comment on how small the gene pool is in a place where there's only one village - no point in naming it when there aren't any others - although there is a bit on the careful harvests and how happy everyone is when they manage to catch a bird the villagers can share.

But I think the ending let it down. Not so much the discovery of the other people on the other side and that there might be a way to reach them - that's more or less indicated in the scenes from the POV  of a girl called Lia, so not a spoiler. Again, I can't tell you, because spoiler. But I was left saying, "Hang on, there's been this flashback going on through the book and it never quite told us what happened to two of the characters and suddenly we find out what happened to one of them, but not how." 

To be honest, of the four Older Readers books I've read so far, I like two equally best, The Flywheel and Cloudwish. Possibly Cloudwish a bit ahead... Freedom Ride was good for the history it brought to life, though there were some familiar tropes in it I've seen before. This novel is, so far, the one I like the least. And I'm a lover of speculative fiction. 

 Sorry! 

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