Tigers on the Beach, by Doug MacLeod

‘Ah, but I know the funniest joke in the world. Anyone who hears you tell it will fall in love with you. But maybe you should avoid jokes so early in a relationship. You might tell the wrong one.’
‘But telling jokes is all I can do. Tell me the best one in the world.’
‘It’s very powerful. I will tell you when you are old enough not to misuse it the seductive power of the joke.’

Adam and his Grandpa have lots of things in common – not least their sense of humour. Adam loves to tell jokes, and he loves the ones Grandpa shares with him. But when Grandpa dies suddenly Adam is left wondering about the untold joke Grandpa promised to tell him one day. As he struggles with the loss of his grandfather, he is also confronted by other problems, including his parents’ troubled marriage, his pesky little brother, and accidental displays of public nudity. Te biggest problem of all is his new girlfriend Samantha, and trying to figure out how relationships work.

Tigers on the Beach is both funny and poignant, cracking along through the highs and lows of teenage Adam’s world, populated by larger than life characters often in ridiculous situations. In one scene, Adam discovers he is infested with his brother’s beetle collection and his attempts to remove them result in him mooning a cafe full of diners. Other scenes are tough, including Adam and his family’s attempts to come to terms with losing Grandpa. Macleod’s deft touch means that the whole is an uplifting, smile-inducing read.

Tigers on the Beach

Tigers on the Beach, by Doug MacLeod
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9780143568520

Available from good bookstores or online.

Meet My Book: Almost Dead, by Kaz Delaney

A guest! We have a guest! It’s always wonderful when an author drops by to chat, and today I’m happy to welcome Kaz Delaney, here to talk about Almost Dead, her latest book-baby. Welcome Kaz!


Hi Sally! Thank you for having me here – I’ve been really looking forward to it!

  1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

Oooh I love an easy question first…

Title: Almost Dead

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Released: January 2nd, 2014.

So, as you can see, it’s still a newborn! And typically I’m still clucking and oohing and ahhing over it. And stroking it and telling it how beautiful it is…

 2. Why did you write the book?

It was my publisher’s suggestion. She thought Macey’s story would be a great one to tell, because in her words, “Everybody Loves Macey.” (Macey, if your readers don’t know, was the witty, fast-talking side-kick from ‘Dead, Actually’.) I was keen to get onto the next project, but it took a little bit of soul-searching on my part to take that particular step.

3. How long from idea to publication?

Over two and a half years. Maybe more. A long time.  But it couldn’t be helped, and I’ll be forever grateful for sympathetic publishers who could see clearly when I couldn’t.  You see, my beautiful Mum became ill and subsequently passed away during the creation of this book. Initially, I was upset when my agent told me the pub date had been pushed back. Because of what was happening with Mum, I was distressed and hurting and to my befuddled brain it seems like a vote of no confidence.  I’ve always been diligent about deadlines and I was convinced I could still make this one.  But they were right and I was wrong. The structural edits were due back a week after my mum passed away. Of course I wouldn’t have been able to get them done and in fact I couldn’t look at them for three months afterwards.   So, it was much longer than was probably ideal. Allen & Unwin, though, were brilliant and supported me though in not just being so understanding, but by re-releasing Dead, Actually to coincide with the new release: Almost Dead.  Happy dancing!

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Aside from the obvious above, the hardest part was my fear of losing the essence of Macey.  That was my initial concern. You see, Macey is a big personality, she takes no prisoners and says what many of us would (sometimes) like to say but aren’t quite able to.  But, are those the traits of a character the reader can relate to and cheer for? I wasn’t sure. Yet, I knew there was a whole lot more to Macey than met the eye. To make her more sympathetic, I knew we were going to have to dig deep, to rattle her self-assured cage and take away the few visible support systems she allowed herself. And I had to do all that without losing the quintessential essence that was Macey. That uniqueness that made her awesome (in the true sense of the word ). So the tricky bit was to have her evolve and yet remain true to who she really is. Phew. Lots of deletions and rewrites! (But I was delighted with the result, and so far the reviews are agreeing so it’s making it a teeny bit easier to sleep at night. Double phew...)  

5. Coolest thing about your book?

Wow – great question. Hmmnnn… Maybe the gorgeous, warm, semi-tropical setting would be one very cool factor? But probably it’s Macey. She’s very cool and very sharp – in the witty, quick-thinking-on-her-feet sense. She makes me laugh and wish I could be her. I know she’s the lead character, and so she should take the limelight, but this is definitely her book in every sense. Also, the interaction between her and Flick, the unhappy surprise who falls into her life, is such fun.  And not one, but two, cute guys?  Oh but wait! The mystery! The stalker!  Not sure if this is something I’d term ‘cool’, but it is very engaging and sometimes downright scary. I loved creating the mystery – it’s one of my genre first-loves. So, is it the humour or the mystery? Maybe it’s both…

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Another great question. I think we learn, or have something reinforced with every book we write. With Almost Dead is was: To not get carried away with plot; to maintain control of the story.  I got so caught up in the drama that I took the story to a place that was completely out of left field. It was shocking (in the sense that no one would ever have seen it coming) and it was big. But it was wrong for this story. It was a complete story on its own, really. It was a novice mistake I shouldn’t have made and cost me a lot of unnecessary wasted time.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

The release was just eight days after Christmas, and kind of crept up on us. We had family staying and I was knee deep in looking after them and frantic plans for the launch which happened on the 11th, so it was almost a non event! Amazingly we had a big family get together that night (2nd),  but with my attention elsewhere, we forgot to even toast the release until there just the hub and I still up and awake late into the night. The launch however was amazing and I was humbled and grateful to all those who came out to help us celebrate and give this baby a great welcome. There are some photos of that day on my blog The Ditzy Diva if anyone would like to take a peek.  http://kazdelaney.wordpress.com/  Scroll down to the January 17th entry.

8. And how will you promote the book?

As much and as often as I can until people scream at me to stop or maybe until the death threats start arriving. J Seriously, promoting is such a big, and important, part of being an author these days, and with the dearth of bookshops it’s getting harder and harder for people to find our books, let along buy.  I’m in the midst of an amazing blog tour now with fabulous hosts – thank you very much Ms Sally! J – and fingers crossed that’s helping to spread the word. I have several appearances scheduled for throughout the year and we’re the early stages of planning mini launches in Brisbane and on the South Coast and Sydney.  It’s going to be a big, busy year where I hope to connect with as many readers as I possibly can.

9. What are you working on next?

I’ve just completed a mid grade novel that I hope will turn into a series. Not even my agent has seen it yet – through she’s about to –  so I’m at that very nervous stage.  Is it good? Does it work? Is the pacing right for that age bracket? From there I will go back to the next YA in what I loosely term my Dead Series. After that, I hope to have another two YA’s written by the end of 2014 and perhaps I’ll get to that series for boys that keeps screaming at me. Well, that’s the plan, right? Reality will probably deliver something entirely different, just to remind me I’m not in charge J, but until then, that’s what I’m working towards.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

I’d love people to meander along to my website: kazdelaney.com

It will list all the places you’re likely to find me this year – so far!

My blog – http://kazdelaney.wordpress.com/   –  has been a bit sadly neglected, but I’m trying to rectify that so there’ll usually be the latest happenings and always photos.  I’ve made a concerted effort this year. So come along and visit and keep me honest! J The latest is the exciting news about my book being immortalised in clay which is totally one of the most exciting things to happen in a long time – besides having a new book out, of course. 

And the book itself?  Almost Dead is available at Booktopia.com.au and Bookworld –or through your local bricks and mortar bookshop. If they don’t have it yet, order it! Actually puleese order it! J

Thank you so much Sally! You’ve been a gracious hostess and it’s been loads of fun chatting to you about Almost Dead. xxx


And thank you for coming, Kaz. Enjoy that new baby 🙂

The Nim Stories, by Wendy Orr

In a palm tree, on an island, in the middle of the wide blue sea, was a girl.

And what a girl she is. Nim is adventurous, funny, loving, brave – the list goes on. Being bought up on an island with only her father, Jack and animal friends for company doesn’t stop her. In fact, perhaps it is the very thing that makes her so resourceful and such fun to read about.

The Nim Stories brings together two books featuring Nim and her friends Fred (a marine iguana), Selkie (a sea lion) and Chica (a turtle) as well as human friends including Alex Rover, a reclusive author of adventure stories. The first book, Nim’s Island was first published in 1999 and follows Nim’s adventures after she is left alone on the island when her father is trapped at sea. The second Nim at Sea was published in 2007 and once again sees Nim and her father separated, this time when Nim leaves the island to rescue Selkie when she is kidnapped by a smuggler. Both books have now been made into feature films, with this new edition of the books released to coincide with the second film.

Full of fun, adventure and love, The Nim Stories are a suitable for readers of all ages.

The Nim Stories

The Nim Stories, by Wendy Orr, illustrated by Kerry Millard
ISBN 9781743316498

Available from good bookstores or online.

A Very Unusual Pursuit, by Catherine Jinks

When the bogle hissed, she knew it was caught. She knew she was safe. And she turned just in time to see Alfred strike his blow.
He speared the monster from behind, while it was still intent on reaching Birdie. But it couldn’t. The salt was stopping it. And before it could even try to retreat, Alfred thrust his staff into its flank.

Birdie’s has a beautiful voice – which is good, because it is this voice which allows her to make a living. But she’s not onstage, nor even singing on street corners or in public houses. Instead, Birdie makes her living singing for bogles. When Alfred Bunce, the bogler, needs to lure a bogle out from hiding so it can be destroyed, Birdie is the bait, singing it out of hiding. It’s dangerous work, but Birdie is happy.

But two very different women threaten Birdie – and Alfred’s – way of life. Miss Eames is a well to do lady who is intrigued by the study of bogles, and wants to learn more – but also wants to remove Birdie from the danger of the bogles’ path. Sarah Pickles is not a lady. She runs a gang of pickpockets and wants Alfred to destroy the bogle that has taken three of her best boys. But when he’s done that, she may destroy Alfred, too. Bridie soon finds that she may need Miss Eames’ help to save Alfred.

A Very Unusual Pursuit is the first in a fabulous new fantasy series from Catherine Jinks. Setting the story in Victorian London, Jinks does a superb job of bringing the time period to life, with poor houses, sewers, a grubby underworld and the contrast between rich and poor, combined with the fantastical element of gruesome, truly frightening bogles.

Whilst suitable for younger readers, the execution and subject matter mean the story will appeal to teens and adults, too.

A brilliant start to an exciting new series.

A Very Unusual Pursuit (City of Orphans)

A Very Unusual Pursuit (City of Orphans), by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2013
ISBN 9781743313060

Available from good bookstores or online.

Hannah & Emil, by Belinda Castles

A few things happened within the space of a moment. Rupert reached the end of his introduction, to which I had barely listened, though I did hear for the first time in my life this man’s name: Emil Becker. As though startled by the sound of it, the man looked up to see hat I was comparing our shoes and appeared to do the same…
‘Herr Becker,’ I said, my first words to him, ‘we must find you some shoes, and then supper.’

When he returns home to Germany from fighting in the Great War, Emil is disturbed by the path his country is on. Unemployment and inflation are high, and support for the Nazi cause is growing. As a member of the Resistance, it is eventually unsafe for him to stay with his family, and he flees.

In London, Hannah, a Russian Jew, grows up learning many languages. As a young adult she is determined to do two things – to write, and to make a difference. She travels to Europe where her skill with language makes her useful in dealing with refugees. There she meets Emil and knows instantly that he will be a part of her life.

Back in England the pair make a life together, in spite of Emil missing home and the young son he left behind, but when war strikes once again Emil is sent to Australia to be interned. Left behind, Hannah is determined to follow Emil and bring him home.

Hannah and Emil is a beautiful story of love and courage told through the alternating viewpoints of the two characters, with Hannah speaking in first person and Emil’s perspective in third person. The backgrounds of the two – a German who must eave his country because of his resistance to the Nazis, who nonetheless is interned during the war, and an English Jew – provide a unique perspective of the events up to and during the second world war.

Based on the lives of the author’s grandparents, this is a moving, absorbing tale.

Hannah and Emil

Hannah and Emil, by Belinda Castles
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781741755169

Available from good bookstores or online.

Too Cold for a Tutu, by Mini Goss

‘Wake up, Stella, let’s go out and play!’ said Barry.
He put on his new Nanna-knitted cardigan and Stella put on her new made-by-Nanna tutu.

‘It’s way too cold for a tutu!’ said Barry.
‘It’s never too cold for a tutu!’ said Stella.

When Barry and Stella get dressed for play on a chilly morning, they both put on the new clothes Nanna has made them. Barry has a new cardigan, and Stella a tutu. But Barry says it’s too cold for a tutu. Outside it is indeed cold, and the siblings find it hard to play together – until Stella discovers there’s room in Barry’s cardigan for two, and the dress-up fun begins.

Too Cold for a Tutu is a joyous celebration of imaginative play, siblings and even grandmothers (though Nannna doesn’t appear in the story – it is her creations that inspire the play). Stella and Barry are divinely cute characters and the text and its layout are vibrant and filled with fun.

The illustrations, too, are a delight. Barry and Stella are knitted toys – both dogs with big eyes and droopy ears – and their adventures are captured using photography. Goss’s knitting and handcraft skills are amazing, with the characters coming to life on the page.

Too Cold for a Tutu is charming.

Too Cold for a Tutu

Too Cold for a Tutu, by Mini Goss
Allen & wi, 2012
ISBN 9781743313787

Available from good bookstores or online.

Go Jojo Go! by Tessa Bickford & Jennifer Castles

Go Jojo Go!: A Little Penguin on a Big Swim

On Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean, half way between Australia and Antarctica, a gentoo penguin named Jojo is born. From the moment she first peeps out of the nest she can’t wait to go to sea, but every time she asks Daddoo or Mummoo ‘Am I ready yet?’ they tell her ‘Not yet, little Jojo, not yet’. First she has to get bigger, grow feathers and learn to swim. When at last she is old enough for her first swim, she finds a whole new world just waiting to explore. Now she’s ready for anything.

Go Jojo Go! is the delightful fictionalised story of a young penguin’s early life, told in first person narrative and supported with beautiful photography supplied by the author from her own time on Macquarie Island.

Go Jojo Go! is well balanced between entertainment and education.

Go Jojo Go!: A Little Penguin on a Big Swim, by Tess Bickford & Jennifer Castles

Allen & Unwin, 2012

ISBN 9781743310175

The Perfect Flower Girl, by Taghred Chandab & Binny Talib

‘Oh, Tayta,’ said Amani. ‘I can’t wait for the wedding! I’m going to have a special dress and wear make-up-‘
‘And throw rose petals,’ added Mariam.
‘You will be the most adorable flower girls, and Sarah will be the most beautiful bride.’

The Perfect Flower Girl

Amani is going to be a flower girl, and she is going to do it perfectly. She practices stepping exactly one, two, three, and makes sure that her dress is just perfect. With her little sister Mariam, also a flower girl, she counts down the dasy to the wedding. But when the time comes to walk into the room full of guests, she feels suddenly shy. With some loving encouragement from Aunty Sarah, Amani is the perfect flower girl.

The Perfect Flower Girl is a wonderful celebration of flower girls and of weddings, especially Lebanese Muslim weddings. At the same time, it is about the specialness of playing an important role in a special event – and the challenges that may pose for a young child, including shyness, worry and even excitement.

For those who may not have experienced Muslim practices, the book offers a glimpse into the rites and traditions of a Lebanese Muslim family, making it a useful learning tool, especially showing the family in their home situation, celebrating, having fun and nurturing each other. For Muslim children, The Perfect Flower Girl is a lovely opportunity to see familiar situations brought to life in book form. And, whatever cultural background they come from, who can’t resist a pretty pink wedding story with sparkly stars on the cover?

The Perfect Flower Girl is perfectly lovely.

The Perfect Flower Girl, by Taghred Chandab & Binny Talib
Allen & Uniwn, 2012
ISBN 9781742375731

Available from good bookstores or online.

Watching the Climbers on the Mountain, by Alex Miller

His beauty and aloofness disturbed the equilibrium of the Rankin family…The stockman for a long time offered a resistance to the members of the family to involve him in their lives. He moved about in their familiar world, observing it with unfamiliar eyes; and quietly, industriously he slowly rearranged it

On a remote Queensland station a stockman fresh from England lives side by side with the station owner and his family, but remains apart. He works hard to clear up projects left unfinished by Ward Rankin, the owner, but resists efforts by Rankin to form a closer bond. Rankin is a disappointed man, forced into the role of station owner by the death of his father. He sees in the stockman Robert a possible friend. His wife, Ida, is also disappointed. Married to an older man out of convenience rather than any real connection, she sees in Robert a possible soulmate, and hope for a release from her discontent. Their daughter Janet also wants something from Robert. Only their son Alistair wants nothing. He sees in the stockman a threat, and watches and waits.

Robert Crofts wants nothing from this family. He goes about his work, seemingly unaware of the tension around him, until a growing attraction between him and Ida sets in chain a sequence of events which will change all of their lives.

Watching the Climbers on the Mountain is a tale of passion and reinvention. Set in the steamy height of summer, the oppressiveness of the weather reflects the building tension amongst the characters. The characters are not likable, each flawed in their own way, but they are intriguing, and the reader is drawn to keep wondering where all of this tension will lead.

First published in 1988, Watching the Climbers on the Mountain has been re-released, inviting fresh discovery.

Watching the Climbers on the Mountain

Watching the Climbers on the Mountain, by Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781743311097

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Boy Who Wouldn't Die, by David Nyuol Vincent with Carol Nader

Bodies slick with sweat, we walked in silence. To talk was to waste energy.
I looked at my father’s face, searching for something that would reassure me. But all I saw was fear.
Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die, don’t die. I chanted the words in my head like a mantra.

At an age when Australian youngsters would have been playing with toys or starting school, David Nyual Vincent was trekking across the Sahara Desert with his father, in a desperate attempt to flee war-torn Sudan and stay alive. Sudan was in the grip of a terrible civil war, and his father had taken him away from his mother and sisters, believing they would be safer in neighbouring Ethiopia.

Over the next 17 years David grew up, separated from all of his family – including his father – living in refugee camps, struggling for food, shelter and hygiene, even being trained as a child soldier. Eventually, in 2004, David was granted a humanitarian visa and resettled in Australia. Here his life changed, but he had new battles to face, including the demons of his past and his determination to make a difference for the country of his birth.

The Boy Who Wouldn’t Die is a moving, honest account of a young man’s struggle and growth as he faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles. There are scenes of horror and despair, but also many moments of triumph and even humour.

Written in first person voice by David, with support from journalist Carol Nader, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Die gives a wonderful insight into the life and journey of one person, and at the same time helps readers to a more intimate understanding of the refugee experience.

The Boy Who Wouldn't Die

The Boy Who Wouldn’t Die, by David Nyuol Vincent with Carol Nader
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781743310250

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.