Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Penguin Specials by various authors

You’ve just finished that mammoth five-hundred-page book, or if you are reading Stephen King that one-thousand-page door-stop and you’re not sure whether you can face meeting new characters and building a relationship.  You need a break.  It’s a big commitment starting a book and investing that time and trust with another author.
But you love to read, right?  If you’re like me, you enjoy just laying there at night for half an hour flitting off to another world before you close your eyes to sleep.  Or you want something for that commute to work or the lunch break or to have something so you know where your reading next.
Well for those eReader lovers, Penguin Books Australia has exactly what you need.  They’ve come up with an innovative series entitled “Penguin Specials” and have delved into their formidable treasure trove of essays and stories to provide a growing selection of shorts from “today's best and most exciting writers” at an affordable price and only available in digital format.  All the titles are compatible with a range of handheld reading devices. 
Discover or reacquaint yourself with fabulous Australian authors such as Elizabeth Jolley, Dorothy Hewett, Peter Goldsworth, Robert Drewe and Helen Garner, to name a few. You will never have the time to read books from every author but what a wonderful opportunity to sample the work of some our greatest literary minds.
Do check them out and for the price of coffee feed your reader and your mind.  I’ve already indulged myself with a few titles and here are some of my favourites.

Click here to view more PENGUIN SPECIALS


PRICE:   $2.99
This is an evocative piece, beautifully written by prize winning author Robert Drewe, famous for his highly awarded memoir, "The Shark Net".  Here he has captured the very flavour of Australia.
Haunted by the brutal murder of a local couple, David heads to his weekend shack with his new lover, Lydia, and his children from his recently crumbled marriage. Together they find escape, if only briefly, in the ocean and the bush.
The Bodysurfers, the title story of Robert Drewe's classic first collection, is a vivid evocation of love, passion, terror and the beauty of the beach.
BEAUTY’S SISTER by James Bradley
PRICE:   $3.99

I loved this alternate tale to Rapunzel. It’s dark and imaginative and simply written; a bedtime story for young adults and adults. I hope Mr. Bradley reworks a few more fairy tales.
Juniper, living deep in the forest with her parents, is stunned to discover that the beautiful girl living isolated in a nearby tower is her sister. When the two girls meet, what begins as a fascination and a friendship ultimately develops into something truly sinister.
A story of jealousy, passion and power, Beauty's Sister is a dark and gripping reimagining of one of our oldest tales, Rapunzel...

SIX WOMEN OF LETTERS curated by Michaela McGuire and Marieke Hardy
PRICE:   $3.99

I cannot tell you how much I loved reading these letters.  Whilst I think we are all growing a little weary of the newspaper’s love affairs with a “letter to my sixteen-year-old self”. (Everywhere I turn somebody remotely famous is writing a letter to themselves.) 
However, these letters are of a different nature. They are thoughtful, beautifully conceived and written with heart. I particularly loved Ita Buttrose’s musings on the life she may have had.  Haven’t we all thought if I’d just walked that road instead of this...?  Here one of our most successful icons muses with great insight.
In homage to that most civilised of activities, letter writing, Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire created the literary afternoons of Women of Letters. Some of Australia's finest dames of stage, screen and page have delivered missives on a series of themes.
Published here for the first time are Deborah Conway writing about the ups and downs of being a dog owner in A Letter to the Best Decision I Ever Made; Ita Buttrose imagining an alternative life as an opera singer in A Letter to the Life I Could Have Lived; Tracee Hutchison writing A Complaint Letter to complaint letters; Pip Lincolne describing a magical childhood afternoon in A Letter to the Moment I Knew it Was Time to Go Home; A Love Letter from Kate Miller-Heidke aged twenty-nine to Kate Miller-Heidke aged twelve; and Helen Garner looking back on a teacher both terrifying and inspiring in A Letter to the Person I Misjudged

THE KISS by Peter Goldsworthy 
PRICE:   $2.99

           This story has a twist that bites.  Thank goodness I was reading it on my Kobo because my other hand was free to cover my mouth in horror.  How things can go so terribly wrong so easily. This is the quintessential Australian short story told by a master who knows how to grab you by the throat and squeeze until it hurts.
A short shot of brilliant storytelling – one of the most celebrated modern Australian short stories is now available to read by itself, wherever you are.
 Drunk, restless and excited, Kenny and Tom decide to continue their night with a swim in the local water tank. At first exuberant and elated, the teenagers' adventure takes a terrifying turn when they realise they are trapped in the tank with no way out.
 Dark and gripping, Peter Goldsworthy's The Kiss is a classic Australian short story from one of our masters of the form.
PRICE:   $2.99

Okay, I’m partial to a ghost story and there are ghosts here but handled in such beautiful literary prose I felt like an eavesdropper on a 1920’s Australian family.  Immensely evocative and entertaining, it was a doorway I enjoyed entering and I was sorry when I had to leave.
A classic short story from one Australia's most celebrated writers.  A big old Victorian terrace in Jersey Road, Woollahra, is thought to be haunted by the two Darkling sisters from the 1920s. When a young family moves in, dark images of these sisters, and of relationships closer to home, hang over them.
 Beautifully crafted and keenly observed, this story from Dorothy Hewett's acclaimed collection A Baker's Dozen is a stunning evocation of family, memories and neighbourhood.

PENGUIN SPECIALS:       http://www.penguin.com.au/penguinspecials

          If you have read any of these Penguin Shorts or have some more that you have enjoyed from Penguin Shorts that you would like to recommend, please do leave us a comment.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowlings ★ ★ ★★

It’s as far from Harry Potter as a muggle is from a wizard.  The first book from Harry’s creator J.K. Rowlings certainly contains not a scrap of magic and not a wand in sight.  In fact, within the first two chapters the C-bomb and other choice curse words are dropped enough times that you are left in no doubt that the next five hundred pages are not for the prudish and definitely not for children. 
‘It’s a big book about a small town’, says the publicity blurb and the small town is Pagford where a much loved resident Barry Fairweather has died unexpectedly leaving behind a mourning wife and family, and a town of people who either win or lose from his death.
 You see, Barry was on the Parish council and his death means there is now a ‘Casual Vacancy’ on that council.  There is much at stake. The ‘big’ city of Yarvil has built a slum suburb, the Fields, on the boundaries of the peaceful, quaint Pagford.  Barry was fighting on the council to have the unlovable Fields become part of Pagford which would be a disaster in the minds of many residents.
As several townsfolk vie for his seat, we realise Pagford is a town divided by discrimination, prejudice and just plain nasty gossip.  The teenage characters are no better with drug-taking, casual sex, bullying, cyber-vandalism and even skin-cutting constant past-times.
But is it good? That is the question on everyone’s lips.  This is a literary book written by an author who is undoubtedly the master of characterisation.  The characters, awful as they are, stand up from the pages like holograms sucking you into Rowling's world.  It is a soap-opera of the literary degree and if you enjoy eavesdropping and finding characters that are more life-like than we care to know, then this book is for you.  If you are looking for escapism and a fantasy world where good wins over evil then ‘The Casual Vacancy’ will disappoint. This is a book by an assured author who wrote not for her fans but herself and who loves even the ugliest of her characters. And I found much magic in that.

Review Copy supplied by Hachette Australia.  For more information please visit http://www.hachette.com.au
Release Dates:
Australia and New Zealand: October 2012
U.K.:  October 2012
USA Release:  October 2012

J.K Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, translated into 73 languages and have been turned into eight blockbuster films. She has also written two small volumes, which appear as the titles of Harry's schoolbooks within the novels. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages were published by Bloomsbury Children's Books in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief.
In December 2008, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was published in aid of the Children's High Level Group and quickly became the fastest selling book of the year. As well as an OBE for services to children's literature, J.K Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France's Legion d'Honneur and the Hans Christian Andersen Award and she has been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University USA. She supports a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.