Books in Print

independent Australian bookselling since 1988

20 Jan 2015

BiP eNews - New Fiction

BiP staff review by Leonie

Volcano Street
David Rain
Jan 2015 | Allen & Unwin | $27.99pb

Volcano Street is set in a small country town in South Australia called Crater Lakes, during the 1960’s. Two sisters, Marlo and Skip Wells, are sent to live with their aunt and uncle when their single mother is committed after she takes an overdose. Leaving behind their life in Adelaide was always going to be difficult, but they could not have foreseen just how different their lives would be. Auntie Noreen is loud, overbearing and a voracious eater, while Uncle Doug is thin and quiet. The first shock for Marlo is that she is sent to work in the family hardware store instead of finishing her last four months of school. Skip is off to the local high school to finish Year 7. Her first day is a disaster from the start. She is caught fighting with a boy at the bus stop and arrives at school covered in dirt. To her horror she discovers that the boy is in her class and that he is her next-door neighbour. Honza’s friends in the class are a small group of bullies who find Skip at lunchtime and rough her up. She finds herself in all sorts of trouble as each day passes. Skip is a wonderful character, feisty and smart. She fights first and asks questions later. Eventually she and Honza become friends and her life becomes easier. Crater Lakes is a normal country town on the surface, with an undercurrent of secrets, bigotry and racism. Marlo and Skip soon become involved in town life and discover some things they would rather not have known. Volcano Street reaches a very dramatic climax. I really enjoyed it. The book has everything that makes for a good read: drama, sadness, laughter and memorable characters.

BiP staff review by Christine

Nicholas Shakespeare
Jan 2015 | Random House | $14.99pb

Who amongst us has heard of the Battle of Broken Hill? Shamefully, I had not and I read Nicholas Shakespeare’s evocation of this extraordinary event in amazement. An enemy attack and a race riot on Australian soil during World War I? It was in 1915, on the 1st January, the annual picnic day in Broken Hill, with a thousand citizens dressed for fun, when the enemy attack took place. Four citizens were killed and seven were wounded. It sounds horribly familiar........ Excellent.

BiP eNews - Children's and Young Adult

Twisted Tales: 6 Far Out Stories
Beastly Tales: 6 Crazy Stories
Richard Tulloch and Terry Denton
Dec 2014 | Random House | $14.99pb (ea)

Two old favourite collections were reissued this week, each with an interesting, funny twist and hilarious illustrations by the wonderful Terry Denton. In Twisted Tales, Tulloch takes six well-known, well-loved fairytales and gives them something fresh: "Why are wolves in fairytales always bad, and witches always ugly?...If wolves and witches wrote books, they'd make themselves good, beautiful heroes, and the villains would be horrible little children and wicked princes and ugly princesses."  Hilarity, naturally, ensues.

Beastly Tales introduces us to six extraordinary (silly!) stories which will turn your view of animals upside down. Should you make friends with a boa constrictor? Can Naomi the skunk hold down a job without losing her, ahem, nerve? Both books are great fun and highly recommended for fans of the Andy Griffiths-Terry Denton combo.   

The Pied Piper of Hamelin    Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales

Russell Brand and Chris Riddell
Oct 2014 | Canongate | $19.99hb

With this first book in Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales series, the famed comedian, actor, and bestselling author delivers a hilarious retelling of an old fairytale favourite that will appeal to adults and children alike.

Once upon a time, long ago, in a time that seemed, to those present, exactly like now except their teeth weren't so clean and more things were wooden, there was a town called Hamelin. The people of Hamelin were a pompous bunch who loved themselves and their town so much that if it were possible they would have spent all day zipped up in a space suit smelling their own farts. But space suits hadn't been invented yet so they couldn't.

Then one day without warning a gang of rats bowled into the town and began causing a right rumpus… So begins Brand’s wildly funny and surprisingly wise retelling of the classic tale The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Whether you’re a child or a grown-up, you’ll be chuckling the whole way through this zany story that bypasses Brand’s more adult humour for the outrageous, the madcap, and the just plain silly.

Young Adult readers 15+

Girl Online 
Zoe Sugg
Nov 2014 | Penguin | $19.99pb

The internet offers rich pickings for the publishing world. Many books and ideas that may have, previously, been ignored by traditional publishing houses are being snapped up because a proven online audience is a solid bet. YouTube sensation Zoe Sugg, AKA Zoella, is the latest and has written a young adult novel we can hardly keep from flying out the door. Writing anonymously, 15-year-old Penny starts a blog in which she explores how friends, family and boys really make her feel. When her family moves to New York she meets the musically-gifted Noah and falls deeply - madly - in love. But Noah, like Penny, has a secret... The Guardian described Girl Online as a young adult version of the film Notting Hill, a perfect description!

Zoe's Website    The Guardian Review

Young Adult readers 15+

All the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven
Jan 2015 | Penguin | $17.99pb

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it is unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It is only with Violet that Finch can be himself — a weird, funny, clever and endearing guy who’s not such a freak after all, and it is only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. This is an intense, gripping novel with likeable characters and is perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell, John Green, and Gayle Forman from a talented new voice in YA.

9 Jan 2015

BiP eNews

BiP staff review by Leonie
The Torch
Peter Twohig
Feb 2015 | Fourth Estate | *BiP Price $24.95pb

The hero of Peter Twohig’s The Cartographer makes a triumphant return in The Torch. It is 1960 and young Blayney is soon to start secondary school, but meanwhile he is making the most of the holidays. He has moved with his mother into his grandad’s house after their home burnt down. The chief suspect, Keith Kavanaugh, has disappeared. Our young hero is constantly in trouble with his mother, who is finding it hard to cope with everything that has been thrown at her. East Richmond is a hotbed of crime and a fascinating playground for young boys; Blayney and his friends are members of several ‘secret gangs’. Well-taught by his decidedly shady grandpa he finds himself involved in theft, snooping on Russian spies and trying to track down ‘Flame Boy’. In an action-packed summer the Blayney kid gets his first kiss, his first girlfriend and ends up in hospital. Those who loved The Cartographer will enjoy The Torch just as much. It is a wonderful picture of the early 1960’s, and is especially nostalgic for anyone who grew up in this period.

BiP staff review by Christine

Vanessa and Her Sister
Priya Parmar
Feb 2015 | Bloomsbury | $29.99pb

Will fascination with the Bloomsbury Group ever fade? Not so far, it seems, and I for one am happy about that. Vanessa and Her Sister is an imaginative glimpse into the lives of the Stephen children in their Bloomsbury house at the turn of the last century. Freed from parental constraint and careless of current convention Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby and Adrian gather around them a glittering host of artistic cohorts; John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey and Leonard Woolf among them. Within such an eccentric, outrageous, milieu friendships, love affairs and artistic brilliance bubble together, creating an intense tale of fascination and intrigue. I like novelists who write historical fiction: I like them for having a go, prodding our imaginations into wondering what it might have been like.... Vanessa and Her Sister is great fun.

BiP staff review by Christine

Secrets of Midwives
Sally Hepworth
Feb 2015 | Macmillan | $29.99pb

Floss, her daughter Grace and her granddaughter Neva are bound by family lies and their occupations as midwives. When Neva announces her pregnancy and plans to keep secret the identity of the baby’s father, her mother is thrown into confusion and Floss into turmoil as her past resurfaces and looks horribly like Neva’s future. This engaging tale does not have the grit of Call the Midwife but I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the birthing bits!

Review by Christine, who did her midwifery training at the Mercy Hospital in 1977.

BiP staff review by Christine

Ridley Road
Jo Bloom
Feb 2015 | Orion | $29.99pb

Jo Bloom takes the reader back to London in the Swinging Sixties. Manchester hairdresser Vivien Epstein has come to London after the death of her father, seeking excitement and hoping to find Jack Fox, a young man she had a short love affair with at home. Caught up in the whirlwind of London’s hedonism, Vivien finds Jack but is shocked to discover his involvement with the anti-fascist movement the 62 Group. I knew nothing of the unrest and violence in London’s past and I had to find out more. Jo Bloom was inspired to write Ridley Road when she met a Jewish anti-fascist who'd lived in the East End all his life and participated in numerous street battles with the fascists alongside both the 43 Group and the 62 Group. Imaginative re-tellings of historical events are informative as well as entertaining. I liked Ridley Road a lot.

BiP staff review by Leonie

Marilynne Robinson
Oct 2014 | Little, Brown | $29.99pb

Marilynne Robinson has come back to Gilead. Lila arrives in the small town homeless and penniless. To get out of the rain she steps into the church. That one action will change her life and that of Minister John Ames. Deserted by her family when she was a toddler, Lila was taken in by Doll, a tough young itinerant worker. They spent her childhood on the road with a ragtag group of seasonal workers. Though hard, her life also brought laughter and friendship. She had a year at school where she quickly learned to read, write and do simple maths, skills she will need to use in later years. In her usual slow-paced narrative Marilynne Robinson gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of her memorable characters. If you haven’t read Gilead or Home they are well worth reading.