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Gabe Feathers McGee

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‘not looking back to wave’: A Book Review (Poetry)

‘not looking back to wave’ by Karen Price

cover

We’ve all been waiting a long time for the release of Australian blogger beeblu’s debut poetry collection and now that time has arrived.

Don’t tell anyone but we now know that beeblu has another name – Karen Price! I told her not to disclose her real name but did she listen? There’s even a lovely photo of her in the book – the cloak of invisibility has forever been thrown into the laundry basket.

Anyway, they’ll soon forget 😉

Those who follow beeblu’s blog (those discerning readers) will be familiar with many of the poems in her collection. I love it when poetry bloggers collate their poems into a book – blog’s can disappear but a printed book can sit snugly in one of my bookshelves without fear of banishment.

Beeblu’s collection is very beeblu! The cover is black with white lower case letters floating towards the roof – the light sits hesitantly as if it shouldn’t exist in all that darkness (a visualisation of mindfulness therapy comes to my mind).

Beeblu is a traveller, linguist, and philosophical/scientific thinker and this is reflected in her poetry which deals with life and death, the universe, existential angst, beauty and horror, love and hatred. Some poems will have you reaching for the whiskey to drown out the despair but others will have you laughing out loud. They may have an autobiographical bent but if you are human you will relate to these vignettes.

Here is one of my favourite poems from the collection:

Meld

Sultry African nights

we’d drink Dutch
play Chinese
smoke American
talk Japanese
(the odd bit of French thrown in)

Brightly hungover days
we’d work
with throwback English stoicism

~

Congratulations beeblu on a wonderful first collection. You can pop over here to purchase the printed or ebook version.

ps. It should also be noted that the splendiferous Linda Cosgriff of The Laughing Housewife infamy provided the editorial expertise.

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Book Review: ‘Cracked’ by Clare Strahan

9781743316030

Do you remember Clare Strahan from Literary Rats infamy? Well this wonderful lady has published a damned fine YA novel called Cracked and yes, it is everything it’s cracked up to be 😉 and I am nowhere near the age of the target audience #sigh

Cracked is a coming of age novel about a girl called Clover (the name says it all) traversing those treacherous roads from ages 15 to 17. Clover considers herself a bit of a ‘freak’ (and so do her friends) because of her unusual upbringing. She has been raised by her single mother (result of a one night stand with a man who then quickly disappeared) with some unconventional ideas. They live in a household with no computers (and no facebook!) and as Clover says: ‘I was a Steiner-freak who ate home-baked bread and brown rice and didn’t have a television’.

Continue reading “Book Review: ‘Cracked’ by Clare Strahan”

Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ (and the Budget Blues)

Misery

The ruling coalition in Australia (the LNP) is bringing down a tough budget today, so I thought, what better time to write a few lines about Stephen King’s Misery. Author John Birmingham summation of the LNP on twitter says it all – ‘It’s not really a very conservative government is it? More like a mob of bugshit crazy fucking radicals.’

But enough of politics, let’s talk movies and books.

I watched the movie Misery by accident 😉 – My husband and I were staying at a hotel on the Gold Coast for a holiday (with our son who was about 6 months old) and started flicking channels on foxtel while the boy was catching a nap. Before I knew it I was sucked into the vortex of suspense which is Misery. I wasn’t happy about it but I couldn’t escape.

Now I’ve read the book and had a similar experience. There is no escape until the end and the end will grab you by the throat with a steely hand and a killer voice.

The main character Paul Sheldon is a writer and the creator of Misery Chastain, the heroine in a series of bestselling novels. Paul has joyously killed off Misery in the last book of the series. He’s had enough of Misery Chastain and is moving on to more serious writing. In fact he has just completed the draft of what he hopes is an award winning novel. In a celebratory mood Paul jumps in his car, carrying the draft novel in his brief case, swigging on champagne, and hits the road for a break.

And a break is sort of what he gets!

Paul wakes up in a strange bed, in a strange place with a strange woman attending him, mangled legs and much pain. Annie Wilkes has saved him from the wreck of his crashed car. Annie Wilkes is Paul Sheldon’s Number One Fan, and she is going to put him back together with the help of some heavy duty painkillers and her nursing knowledge.

But Annie gets angry when she finds out that Paul has killed off her favourite character – Misery Chastain. As they say, you wouldn’t like Annie when she’s angry.

My favourite scene is when the lovely Annie decides to cut off Paul’s foot with an axe and stop the bleeding with the flame of a propane torch.

Paul is screaming:

‘ANNIE OH PLEASE PLEASE DON’T HURT ME!’

Her eyes were mild and drifting. ‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘I’m a trained nurse.’

A brilliant book that has it all (if you like psychological thrillers/horror) – awesome writing from the king of storytelling, suspense, horror, and humour in the horror (I felt a bit guilty with all the laughing I was doing while poor Paul was being held captive by this psychopathic horror-head Annie).

In Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft he describes how with Misery he is writing about himself and his struggle with addiction to drugs and alcohol, ‘Annie was coke, Annie was booze, and I decided I was tired of being Annie’s pet writer.’

Who knew.

Now let’s see what horror the budget will bring for all of us Aussies #eek

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Some thoughts on Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’

The King

I remember buying Stephen King’s On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft in 2002 when my son was two and a bit. Having a child is a crazy busy time with little sleep but there is also a lot of sitting around thinking time (while the child does kiddie stuff which, let me whisper, is sometimes less than inspiring). I spent a lot of time developing, in my head, story lines about the misdeeds of arsonists and wayward plumbers – but was frustrated with the absence of large blocks of time to put words to paper in any substantial way.

I did spend time reading non-fiction books about how to look after babies and small children (my child seemed to have a lot of difficulties and I was looking for some answers – I didn’t know he had autism at this stage). The Stephen King book on writing was left on the shelf with nary a page turned.

Sorry Stephen.

Well now it is 2014 and I had some spare time to read On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft (bit slow I know). It was worth the wait.

Best Book Eva (as they say) 😍

I am definitely late to the party because this book created quite the stir when it was released – spectacular reviews and best selling status, as is to be expected from the king of writing.

I must admit I am more familiar with the movie versions of King’s books than most of his written works (this will be rectified). Think Carrie, The Shining, Misery, The Green Mile and more. I knew the man was brilliant but after reading this book (half biography, half writing master class) I realise he is so much more.

Wow, he is such a grounded and likeable human being who has overcome many painful hurdles including a slightly strange childhood, alcohol and drug addiction, and a life changing accident where he was almost killed by a misfit driver of a runaway vehicle (during the writing of this book). He continues to publish book after book.

Stephen King is such a wonderful story teller that I couldn’t put this book down, especially the laugh out loud descriptions of some of the awful things that happened to him in his childhood. That is one of Stephen King’s specialties – inserting the humour into horror (read Misery for examples of what Mr King calls the ‘laff riot’).

The sections that deal with the craft of writing are quite short but they get to the essence of the thing. He is not a great believer in learning how to be a great writer – rather that some people already have the tools for the job and that they need to get their act together, work their asses off and produce the goods.

What did stand out was some awesome advice on adverbs:

Get rid of the adverbs (delete, delete, delete).

and from the king himself:

‘Some writers try to evade the no-adverb rule by shooting the attribution verb full of steroids. The result is familiar to any readers of pulp fiction or paperback originals:

“Put down the gun, Utterson!” Jekyll grated.
“Never stop kissing me!” Shana gasped.
“You damned tease!” Bill jerked out.

Don’t do these things. Please oh please.”

Too funny 😂

He reckons the best form of dialogue attribution is said (eg., ‘he said’ and ‘she said’). Simple.

I’ve been checking my adverbs ever since I put down the book and yes, I’ve spotted a few (my apologies) and in the future they will be exterminated like a Dalek enemy.

I’m 99 percent sure this book will motivate you if you are a writer. If I’m wrong than you must be in the 1 percent #nevermind

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 “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot” Stephen King

 

 

‘The Panicosaurus’ – A Book Review

‘The Panicosaurus: Managing Anxiety in Children Including Those with Asperger Syndrome’

by K.I. Al-Ghani (and illustrations by Haitham Al-Ghani)

Panicosaurus

Anxiety is a common issue among young children, but almost guaranteed to be an issue for children who have Asperger Syndrome or who lie further along the spectrum of autism conditions.

It is very important to get a handle on anxiety and to develop strategies to lessen feelings of anxiety at an early stage, or the anxiety can build into a chronic condition that is very difficult to treat.

Enter stage right The Panicosaurus: Managing Anxiety in Children Including Those with Asperger Syndrome by K.I. Al-Ghani. This is a terrific children’s picture book (published in 2013 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers) that will help children who experience high levels of anxiety. The book can be read by the child or by a teacher or parent to one or more children (it would benefit the whole classroom).

There is an introduction that explains anxiety in children and which lists techniques that have been found to be helpful for reducing anxiety. There are also further strategies outlined at the end of the book. The picture story about a girl called Mabel and her struggle with anxiety is the main section of the book.

The story starts when we are told about a little dinosaur called the Panicosaurus who lives in a part of our brain called the amygdala. This little dinosaur was very useful in the very olden days when cavemen were out and about fighting sabre tooth tigers and the like. The Panicosaurus would help the cavemen to prepare their bodies for fighting or escaping from predators. This would involve the heart beating faster and pumping extra oxygen to our muscles.

These days, the story continues, the Panicosaurus is quite bored and there are not many dangerous creatures around. But in some people, particularly children, the Panicosaurus is quite naughty and makes them believe there are dangerous things all around them.

Mabel’s Panicosaurus is one of the naughty ones and is constantly trying to trick Mabel into panicking about things like a dog off a lead or a change in school schedule. Luckily Mabel gets some help from Smartosaurus (another little dinosaur who lives in the neocortex) and she manages to defeat the dreaded Panicosaurus with the help of her mother and friends.

This story is easy-to-read and full of great advice for children who are struggling with anxiety. The story is particularly relevant for those with Asperger Syndrome as Mabel is exhibiting some classic Asperger traits such as an aversion to changes in routine and a very strong special interest (jigsaw puzzles).

I found this book enjoyable to read and very useful. I was quite moved by Mabel’s situation and really loved the way the classroom was set up to help her in every way. The book is describing an ideal setting and strategies to implement in a classroom which has one or more children with Autism Spectrum Conditions. The depiction of anxiety in a child with Asperger’s in this book is very convincing.

I would recommend this book to any parent or carer with a child experiencing anxiety. In fact it would useful for all children (and quite a few adults). Everyone experiences anxiety throughout their life at some time and a thorough understanding of the underlying mechanisms such as the flight and fight phenomenon is essential.

I asked my son who has Asperger’s to read and rate this book and he gave it a 5/5. I agree with his assessment 😀

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Book Review (Rick Daddario’s new collection of Haiga)

 this is not that haiga book cover 1 sml 6x

You may remember Rick Daddario the wonderful photographer, artist and poet from Hawaii who has been a guest on my blog previously.

Today I am writing about Rick’s new (2012) book of art and poetry in the form of Haiga called This is Not That – They are Just Connected (Becoming Haiga ~ Haiku within Image).

Haiga is a haiku placed within an image to create one work. The image and the haiku can individually stand alone, but there is an added magic when taken together. Ideally an interaction of sorts where the sum is greater than the parts.

©12+stree..

Rick talks about the process in the introduction:

… a process of discovering relationships between image and words. Ideally the end result will engage the mind. I enjoy creating haiga. I learn by doing, as well as by seeing what others do. It’s also fun to simply play – which to me is an intensely focused way to create.

What better person to produce Haiga than Rick who is not only a talented artist but an experienced and skilled writer of haiku. Each page in the book is a sumptuous combination of art (or photography) with one haiku.

©12+empty..

Reading the collection is akin to experiencing exquisite moments where one is suddenly awakened to the now; a meditative excursion in time and space through the eyes of an aesthete, eyes which are attuned to capturing the essence of life’s ups and downs, beauty and sadness. A  book of Aha moments where there is sudden clarity in the mist.

©12+locke..

I love this book 😀

It is a pleasure to have this collection of Haiga on my bookshelf and to be able to leaf through the pages when in need of inspiration and hope. If you want to see more examples of Rick’s work or to find out about the availability of his new book just pop over to his 19planets blog.

A Christmas Tail (book review)

My blogging friend Helen Ross (who lives in my old stomping ground of Brisbane) has a wonderful children’s book out for Christmas.

Let me tell you about this mousey story.

christmastail

A Christmas Tail

story by Donna Smith and Helen Ross

illustrated by Aaron Pocock

Spider Ink Press

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A Christmas Tail is a charming story written by Donna Smith and Helen Ross about a mouse family living in a doll’s house in an attic.

Melanie, Monty and baby mouse Peter are preparing for the Christmas festivities and a visit by Santa Paws, but when Santa loses his pants you know things aren’t going quite to plan.

This is a traditional Christmas story with a few twists involving unlikely friendships and bumps in the night. The characters are adorable, even the mischievous rat and the accomplice cat.

The illustrations by Aaron Pocock are divine and reveal a first-class talent. He lives in Brisbane too (the place is chock full of talent 😉 ).

Donna Smith is from Victoria – but that can’t be helped. It appears there are good writers in other States of Australia! 😂

This book targets pre-school age children and I am sure they will love this tale of mice and mayhem. My kids loved the story and they are 10 and 13.

Congrats Helen (and Donna and Aaron).

You can pop over to Helen Ross’s blog for more details about where to get this book (which is available as a hard copy or eBook).

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of A Christmas Tail through Helen Ross from iTunes for review; and I love children’s Christmas books (so there – hahaha) 😎

Note: I don’t as a general rule accept freebies, because my slackness and general laziness prevents me from getting the job of reviewing done – but I have made an exception for the wonderful Helen (as she took me by surprise – hehehe).

If I really like a book I have no problems with putting up the dosh for the good authors involved.

Time is of the Essence

Gouldian Finch

Time is of the Essence

What do the following animals have in common:

Estuarine Crocodile
Loggerhead Turtle
Gulbaru Gecko
Retro Slider
Southern Cassowary
Northern Giant Petrel
Glossy Black-Cockatoo
Eclectus Parrot
Powerful Owl
Gouldian Finch
Greater Bilby
Koala
Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat
Mahogany Glider
Grey-headed Flying Fox
Dugong
Humpback Whale

They are included in the 226 species, sub-species or populations of animals in Queensland that are considered threatened in the newly released book ‘Queensland’s Threatened Animals’ (CSIRO Publishing, 2012).

The definition of ‘a species listed as threatened is one that is at risk of becoming extinct in a short time frame.’

Gily Llewellyn from the WWF states in the foreword that ‘this book is a sobering reflection of the state of our natural environment.

More than 1300 native Queensland plant and animal species face extinction, with at least 30 already gone forever. We have modified almost the entire landscape, clearing forests and starving entire natural food chains. Not even our reefs or marine life have escaped unscathed from the activities of land-based development, agriculture and over-fishing.

Yet this book is also a symbol of hope.

Queenslanders have shown overwhelmingly that they want more action to save their native wildlife, with a vast majority in favour of the state government buying up new national partks and identifying and protecting threatened and native species.’

My friend Lee K. Curtis is the main editor of the book, along with Andrew Dennis, Keith McDonald, Peter Kyne and Stephen Debus. She is a freelance journalist, author and copywriter who is an active member of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. Her enthusiasm for conservation and positive outlook are infectious.

Her goal for the book was to provide a comprehensive resource guide to ‘who was doing what, when, where, how and why with threatened animals in Queensland’. The resultant thick door stopper reference book certainly goes a long way to achieving that goal and is a significant contribution to the field. Congratulations Lee et al’, I am beyond impressed with the effort that must have gone into the creation of the book and the value of the book. I now understand why you were getting a little stressed 😉 with the project.

Recently there has been a lot of hissy fit ranting from a certain side of politics about the horrors of so-called green tape. Well, without green tape we will soon be sitting not so pretty on a barren wasteland with only Cane Toads for company.

Anyone who makes blanket negative assessments of green tape would benefit from a read of this book.

And if they don’t want to educate themselves on the pros and cons of green tape, I can think of another use for such a thick book 😉

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Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

‘Storm Boy’ by Colin Thiele is listed in Jane Gleeson White’s ‘Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works‘ and it is one of my favourite books.

I read ‘Storm Boy’ again this week and it had as much impact on me as when I read it as a child. I cried now as I cried then. I may have cried more as an adult.

This classic Australian children’s book has, like ‘The Magic Pudding‘, never been out of print since its publication in 1964.

It is a story about a boy known as Storm Boy and his friend Mr Percival, a pelican raised by Storm Boy when it was orphaned (like the boy was also orphaned). Storm Boy lives with his father Hideaway Tom in a rough hut of wood and iron, a humpy, in the Coorong.

The Coorong is a region in South Australia of ocean, estuary and sand. Storm Boy and his father live along a thin strip of sand hills and scrub:

‘A wild strip it is, windswept and tussocky, with the flat shallow water of the South Australian Coorong on one side and the endless slam of the Southern Ocean on the other’. 

Their only neighbour for miles is Fingerbone Bill, an aboriginal man who teaches Storm Boy about the wildlife and land that surrounds them.

Storm Boy lives a carefree existence roaming the sand hills and beach every day, in every type of weather, beachcombing and watching the birds and the ocean. He doesn’t go to school. He is very happy.

The story is a story about growing up and the heartbreak that comes with life. As he gets older Storm Boy’s idyllic life becomes increasingly threatened by the outside world.

Hunters arrive in the ‘open season’ to shoot the wild ducks and one day Storm Boy finds two dead adult pelicans and their trashed nest. He also finds three baby pelicans and takes them back to the humpy to care for them.

All three pelicans survive and two are returned to the wild. Mr Percival (the weakest) is released but returns to Storm Boy and remains his faithful companion. The relationship between the boy and the pelican is at the heart of the story.

The book ends with a shipwreck and the rescue of six fishermen (with the help of Mr Percival) and the realisation that nothing in this life can stay the same forever.

Storm Boy is a wonderful and shattering book filled with the most evocative, poetic descriptions of the wild Australian Coorong region and wildlife. Colin Thiele is a masterful storyteller who grips his readers with an emotional intensity that is hard to shift. If you read this book you will never forget it.

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