The Esme Trilogy: Esme’s Gift, by Elizabeth Foster

A parade of craft cruised the lagoon: gilt-edged ferries and gondolas in jewel-like colours – dazzling blues, crimsons, emerald greens. Sea dragons looped above the rooftops, twisting their sinuous forms … . Esme’s Gift Ch. 3.’

Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear says: Oh dear, our world is not in its finest shape right now, is it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be elsewhere. Fortunately, I have to hand Esme’s Gift, the sequel to Esme’s Wish (see my review here and my re-visit here) and I can plunge once more into another world and see again the towers of the city of Esperance and the siren islands of Aeolia.

Esme returns to Aeolia after her failed attempt to convince her father to join her. The evil Nathan Mare is at large and intent on finding the secret knowledge entrusted to her. But high-school waits for no teenager, and in the classrooms and library of Pierpont school she can find friends and allies. And what a library it is.

(Ancient gondalas) repurposed into shelves, lined the library’s walls … No longer fit to carry passengers, they now carried books to the shores of the readers’ minds. Esme’s Gift Ch. 12.’

Esme must gather the strange ingredients of the only elixir that can save her mother. To obtain these elements takes all her courage and all the combined gifts and powers of her friends. But some people are not who they seem to be, and the tension never lets up.

Esme’s Wish and Esme’s Gift are written by Elizabeth Foster with the ‘Young Adult’ audience in mind. But if you happen to be older (after all, some of us have yet to find a potion to wind back the years – and if the high risk alchemical experiments in Esperance are anything to go by, we should stay well away from any such potions or concoctions, or who knows what could happen!) .. if you are an older reader who loves beguiling fantasy worlds and tales of ghosts and of quests into caverns guarded by monsters and ghouls, and if you also don’t object to dragons .. The books of the Esme trilogy will be a treat for you.

Reading of Esperance in Aeolia, a realm of seas, islands, lagoons, oh – and dragons.

Where to find this other world: Esme’s Gift is published by Odyssey Books, a small press where ‘books are an adventure’. You can immerse yourself in this trilogy by looking at Amazon Australia, at Amazon USA, at Book Depository , at Barnes and Noble, and more. You can see more about Esme’s search for her mother and about the author, Elizabeth Foster, on her web den.

You have wandered into Mark’s blog. I am guardian and photographer for Mawson Bear, one of this bright world’s very few Writer-Bears. Mawson wrote She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright world To Feel Lost In.
Reviews about Mawson’s books: ‘Great book, well written and extremely engaging. Bonus it is all about bears!!!! Marvellous !!!!!!!’  Reviewer Navaron on Amazon. ‘ A magical little grand tour into the meaning of happiness’ Sharrie Williams, author, on Amazon.

Return to Aeolia: Refresh your soul in the realm of Esme’s Wish

Tears pricked Esme’s eyes. Her mother had vanished, without trace, when she was eight. No one know what had really happened to her- or so they said. Esme’s Wish. Ch. 1.’

Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear says:
Another dreary Monday. I popped my head out from the pillows and saw that my Grownup ‘real’ world was not in it’s finest state. Longing to immerse myself in another realm, I picked up Esme’s Wish (which I reviewed here), to read once again on the commuter ride to work.

Esperance appearing to be drifting on the lagoon’s surface, as if its hold on existence was so tenuous that it could slip back into the depths at any moment. High above the city, sinuous shapes pinwheeled across the sky … Dragons. Esme’s Wish Ch.3.’

Not that Aeolia is trouble free either, far from it. Evil characters disrupt the harmony and the city of Esperance is crumbling from earthquakes. The mystery of her lost mother just gets deeper no matter how far Esme investigates nor how many dangers she faces.

A loud cry derailed Esme’s train of thought. Her head whipped up. A rush of feathers filled her vision. The sea eagle was streaking down toward her, it’s sharp talons poised, ready to strike. Esme’s Wish Ch.3.’

Aeolia, even so, was a welcome haven for me from Year of The Covid for a week of train rides and lunch breaks. All too soon, I turned the last page. The wind-played harps and song spells faded, and the horrible upsets of Grownup Reality shoved themselves again into my mind.

Esme’s Wish and Esme’s Gift are written by Elizabeth Foster with the ‘Young Adult’ audience in mind, and as Esme and her friends are aged about 15, it is rightly finding a wide readership there. Why then, do I recommend these books to those of us older than fifteen (in my case far older). Why, that is, apart from your certain appreciation of this well crafted fantasy world with its own myths, history and songs, the believable characters, the well paced plot, the fine literary language and, oh, the dragons? Didn’t Tolkein say that he longed for a world in which there were dragons? Don’t we all.

We read, in the end, to not be entirely stuck in the ordinariness or the troubles of our own lives, and I have found Young Adult books and even some children’s books (think of the Narnia Chronicles) to do this as well for me, and often better, than Adult books can do. Oh, I still appreciate the novels written with the mature, sophisticated, world weary and somewhat cynical reader in mind (ie me); but another world entirely, like Aeolia, suits me very much these days. Perhaps many of you feel the same.

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The island of Esperance in Aeolia, a realm of seas, islands, lagoons, oh- and dragons.

Fortunately, I have to hand Esme’s Gift, the sequel to Esme’s Wish, and I can soon plunge down once more into other far places where I would rather be, the towers of the city of Esperance and the siren islands of Aeolia. Why not get your copies now and join me there.

Where to find this other world: Esme’s Wish is published by Odyssey Books, a small press where ‘books are an adventure’. You can immerse yourself too in the world of Aeolia by looking at Amazon here, at Book Depository and at Barnes and Noble. You can see more about Esme’ search for her mother and about the author, Elizabeth Foster, on her web den.

You have wandered into Mark’s blog. I am guardian and photographer for Mawson Bear, one of this bright world’s very few Writer-Bears. Mawson wrote She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright world To Feel Lost In.
Reviews about Mawson’s books: ‘Great book, well written and extremely engaging. Bonus it is all about bears!!!! Marvellous !!!!!!!’  Reviewer Navaron on Amazon. ‘ A magical little grand tour into the meaning of happiness’ Sharrie Williams, author, on Amazon.

Cassandra, by Kathryn Gossow: Shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel 2017 in Aurealis Awards

Shortlisted for the Best Fantasy Novel 2017 in the Australian Aurealis Awards.

She dreams of plane crashes, earthquakes, tsunamis, bloody coups. She dreams of the stallion sweeping down the hill … . P. 197

Foreboding. Everything in the early chapters of Cassandra author Kathryn Gossow instills a sense of ‘foreboding’. Possibilities thicken of dark changes to come. Would they concern Paulo, or Athena, or a secret in this family? Or would they thunder down on Cassie herself like the ominous horse in her nightmares?

Cassandra: A princess of Troy and priestess of Apollo. She was cursed to utter true prophecies but to never be believed. (Wiki)

What if you could foresee people’s futures, for instance, that one kid on the school bus will die of bowel cancer, another will briefly shine on the stage but never become famous? A wonderful ability, yes? But what if you fill with dread and cannot make out why. Then Something happens. If you had warned people, and if they had believed you, could you have diverted that accident or mistake from happening? In the old legend, of course, Cassie’s namesake Cassandra felt cursed.

The Snake: Some versions of the legend have Cassandra falling asleep in a temple, where the snakes licked her ears so that she could hear the future. (Wiki.)

Cassie seems like an ordinary girl who gets bitten by a snake on a farm in Queensland. Her little brother predicts a drought, she grows to be a grumpy teenager troubled by visions, she scowls at her mother in the ordinary teenage way, she worries about her great-aunt and her Poppy .. Wait a minute. Bitten by a snake? Visions? Her brother foretells a drought? Wasn’t there a legend …?

The Brother: Some versions of the legend give Cassandra a brother, Helenus. Like her, he was always correct in his predictions. Unlike her, he was believed. (Wiki.)

She tries to make one true friend, Athena, who introduces her to the Tarot. (‘Her thoughts swirl with colour and the patterns and the meanings of the cards’. P. 77). She clumsily attempts to fit in with the cool kids, she experiments with alcohol and dope, her visions worsen, she is keen on a boy named Paulo .. Wait, wait. Athena? ‘Paulo’ .. or ‘Apollo’? Didn’t Apollo’s priestesses take hallucinogens to enhance their visions?

Apollo: Many versions of the myth relate that Cassandra incurred the god Apollo’s wrath by refusing him sex, after promising herself to him in exchange for the power of prophecy. (Wiki.)

Cassandra can be read is a ‘coming of age’ novel in that it concerns teenage insecurities and self-doubts, the cruel cut and thrust of cliques and friendships, and the tensions within families. But I think you will also soon be reading it, as I did, mindful of the big questions about fate and destiny, and mulling over the extent to which every one of one’s own decisions cuts away previous possibilities and opens up lines of new ones.

Kathryn Gossow is also the author of The Dark Poet. An older Cassie, the central character of Cassandra features in the stories in The Dark Poet. As you can see from my review in this blog, the connection is intriguing. The Dark Poet is also published by Odyssey Books.

(The images of the book in this post are courtesy of Odyssey Books and the author.)

Mark, your reviewer here at Baffled Bear Books, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

‘Chekov’s Three Sisters Would Have Got To Moscow’. Notes on Georgette Heyer

The Tedettes Jane Austen Book Club are now engrossed in the novels of the Queen of Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer. They have learned more about their heroine from Jane Aiken Hodges biography. It’s called The Private World of Georgette Heyer (Quotes from the Chivers 1984 edition).

Hodge’s Foreword: “She was .. an immensely skilled and meticulous craftswoman. She did her best to conceal her high standards and stern moral code behind the mask of romantic comedy.”

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Engrossed in the regency novels of Georgette Heyer

Plots and technique

(From Hodges, Chapter 2). Heyer once said, “My plots are abysmal and I think of them with blood and tears”. Her family confirm she did indeed work at her plots with blood and tears .. plunged in black gloom when things went badly, prowling restlessly about the house until she had her plan worked out, when she would sit down and write … at high speed, often late into the night. Heyer said of her own work in one letter to her publisher:

“ … The Unknown Ajax and Venetia are the best of my later works. My style is really a mixture of Johnson and Austen – what I rely on is a certain gift for the farcial … I know its useless to talk about technique in these degenerate days – but no less a technician than Noel Coward reads me because he thinks my technique is so good. I’m proud of that.”

(From Chapter 8) She kept a single fan letter, received in 1963 from former political prisoner in Romania. The writer spoke of how she had read Friday’s Child before her arrest, and for 12 long years had told and retold the story, committed to memory, of “what Kitten did next” to her fellow inmates.

“Truly, your characters managed to awaken smiles, even when hearts were heavy, stomachs empty and the future dark indeed”.

Praise that would astonish any writer.

Much in Hodge’s biography is of technical interest to writers: Heyer’s dealing with her several publishers and agents, and her views about the blurbs and jackets. There is a lesson too in reading about Heyer’s decades-long tax problems. Even though she always earned a lot she had cash flow problems. These mangled finances were caused by herself and her husband simply not taking a business-like approach to her income.

The Tedettes leave you with their favourite observation from Hodge’s biography:

“She had no patience for .. Russian gloom. If she had been one of Chekhov’s three sisters they would have got to Moscow.”

The Tedettes first looked at Hodge’s biography here, and then they read about Heyer’s hero’s here.

The Private World of Georgette Heyer and more about Miss Heyer the writer can be found at Amazon, and BookDepository. Thanks for joining the Teddettes as they explore the Regency world of Georgette Heyer.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Often A Bounder: The Tedette’s Jane Austen Book Club reads about Georgette Heyer’s Heroes

Thrilled by Jane Austen’s novels, the Tedettes Jane Austen Book Club looked about for more books on the Regency. Their house (like every house, surely) turned out to be a treasure trove of novels by Georgette Heyer.  They also got their paws on Jane Aiken Hodges biography,  The Private World of Georgette Heyer  (Chivers 1984 edition). Read about their discovery here.

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The Tedettes get their paws on a trove of Georgette Heyer Novels

Heroes

Georgette Heyer created her heroes very deliberately.  In correspondence with her publishers she gleefully refers to them in a private shorthand by Type, explaining for instance that a particular character is the “The Heyer Mark I” and another is “The Heyer Mark II” and so on.  She’d skilfully build up such a Type, and the readers’ conceptions of such a man,  and then two or three novels later, turn around the readers’ assumption by changing the decisions and actions of the Hero.

Mr Rochester: the prototype.

Jane Aiken Hodge found unpublished articles by Heyer, one of which will fascinate her readers (see Ch. 5 of the bio) as it concerns Mr Rochester, from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. This is Heyer’s own view of Mr Rochester:

“It is a accepted fact that women form the bulk of the novel reading public and what woman with romantic leanings wants to read novels which have as their heroes the sort of men she meets every day of her mundane life. (Mr Rochester) is rude, overbearing, and often a bounder, but these blemishes, however repulsive they may be in real life, can be made in the hands of a skilled novelist extremely attractive to many women.”

How ‘Fluffy’ was the Romance, really?

Hodge makes the case that underneath the entertaining friction and tension of her heroes and heroines lies an abiding principle: the protagonists are maturing through the pages into a rich and full relationship .

 Heyer’s idea of romance never ends with “happily married”.  Many of her characters get married off early in the book.  It is the story of their growing mutual respect and understanding afterwards that interests the writer,  and this must be the feature that kept – and still keeps – millions of readers coming back for more.

Antonia Byatt, in an article in Nova, stated,

” (Heyer) is playing romantic games with the novel of manners. In her world of romanticised anti romanticism … men and women really talk to each other … and plan to spend the rest of their lives together developing the relationships”.

In the Tedettes next post they will look at Georgette Heyer’s writing style.

The Private World of Georgette Heyer and more about Georgette Heyer are at Amazon, and BookDepository. Thanks for joining the Teddettes as they explore the Regency world of Georgette Heyer. Next they consider points about Heyer’s methods and style.

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You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

The Tedette’s Jane Austen Book Club reads: The Private World of Georgette Heyer, by Jane Aiken Hodge

Considered queen of the Regency romance, Georgette Heyer is one of the most beloved historical novelists of our time. As Hodge states in the Foreword of her biography: “She gave her name to a recognisable genre of fiction”.

Thrilled by Jane Austen’s books, the Tedettes looked about for more Regency novels. They’ve now got their paws on Chivers 1984 edition of The Private World of Georgette Heyer

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(From Hodges’ Foreword) “From none of the 51 titles in print when she died would you guess (Heyer) spent the early years of her married life (to Ronald Rougier) in rough camps first in Tanganyika then in Macedonia. But she recognised this for experience she could not use. No heroine of hers would ever sit in a grass hut writing a novel”.

“A best seller all her life without the aid of publicity, Heyer never gave an interview and only answered fan letters herself it they had made an interesting historical point.”

The biographer had access to private papers, correspondence and family archives. Hodge details the research Heyer applied to her period and the skill and craft that went into her characters.  Yet for most of her career, she was dismissed as a light romantic.

Hodge’s overriding theme is well expressed, I think, in this observation: ” If anyone could make the romantic novel respectable it should have been G. Heyer, unacknowledged moralist and stylist extraordinary. It did not happen in her lifetime and she minded, silently .. (yet) .. She gave an immense amount of pleasure to all kinds of people, and must have known she did.”

The Private World of Georgette Heyer is at Amazon, and BookDepository. Thanks for joining the Teddettes as they explore the Regency world of Georgette Heyer. Our next post is about the Heyer Heroes.   And you might also like to read about Heyer’s style, researches and writing.

The Tedettes have also read up on Jane Austen of course. You might like to read about Lady Susan and Two Hundred Years of Reading Pleasure.  You can see more of the Tedettes over at Mawson Bear’s own blob, umm, blog.
AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Stars in the Night, by Clare Rhoden: A story of enduring love

1970 in suburban Melbourne: ‘That was how it happened, thought Harry, feeling the memories rise; they were never far away .. Trusting you to remember, trusting you to do something about it. As if you could fix things, mend the dead, put the world back the way it was.’

And so we go back into Harry’s memories, into the seared experiences that gave him nightmares for decades, back to the day in 1917 when Harry cannot find his foster brother Eddie. Harry searches. He crawls out of the Passchendaele mud in no-man’s land searching for him. He looks into dugouts and stumbles down communication trenches and he asks at Casualty Clearing Stations. Fifty years later his granddaughter comes upon an old notebook in the attic and asks him,”Who is Eddie?”

The Stars In The Night is a story of love. Nora waits for Harry but he harbours fears whether she can accept him after what he has been through. Eddie hopes for a life with Claudelle. It is a story too of love between men, brothers-in-arms, Harry and Eddie, Wallis, Hartigan, Alex. From Gallipoli to Flanders the war thunders over all of them like the endless numbing artillery barrages. But it does not end for them when the guns fall silent.

We only recently have begun to speak openly of PTSD and try to understand that it messes people up for a long time. Harry survives wounds and sickness and comes home, but in dreams he returns to no-mans’ land, still trying to rescue mates. The women have their losses too, made harder to bear by Harry’s inability to speak of things he simply does not want to bring to mind. Harry’s mother Ellen, for instance, cannot connect with him any more.

The mines and the shelling is like the end of the world. The worst we have seen, and we have seen some bad ones. Harry and me are fine but it makes you cry. There are so many dead you cant help but walk on them’. Eddies notebook.

Clare Rhoden takes us into this vast arena of events, from the debate in Australia about the rightness of the war, into terrible battles, and on through into the waves of pyschological effects upon those who survived and their families. These 220 pages hold material for a 1000 page book. But the author has brought large and complicated things down to the personal level by revealing them in the way that we all ordinarily talk to each other: through a household argument, the queries of a nosy neighbour, the grumbles of soldiers about the food and the cold, the guarded talk about Gallipoli by a sergeant to a fresh officer as they weigh each other up, and through diaries and letters home. This makes The Stars In The Night deeply personal and emotional. I got so caught up in it that I paused reading several times so as to absorb it. I cannot praise this novel highly enough both for its story and it’s technical execution.

Although it is about the experiences of Australian soldiers, this novel could really be about the horror of any war, not just the one that millions prayed would be ‘The War To End All Wars.’ The character Harry Fletcher, like many veterans, could not bring himself to attend Anzac Day ceremonies but stayed quietly at home. Yet for anyone interested in the scars left by the Great War and thus the origin of the ‘Anzac legend’, the facts of it, and sometimes the mythology of it, this is a must-read.

Lest We Forget.

Note about ‘Anzac’ to readers unfamiliar with the term: The first units of Australians shipped out in 1915 were merged with the first New Zealanders into the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Their losses in Gallipoli and later in France shocked both young countries. Australia, population four million in 1914, sent 417,000 volunteers to the conflict. 62,000 died. Both Australia and New Zealand suffered casualty rates of over 55% – killed, wounded, gassed, captured, marked as ‘missing’. The term ‘ANZAC’ endures.

Personal note 2020: As I began this book, Australia was dealing with the Black Summer and the whole world was attuned to news about some sort of virus. There was tension in the air, and for the first time I think I had an inkling of what it might have felt like in late 1914 in the households across nations as they readied for conflict, not knowing what lay ahead. On the day that I thoughtfully laid down The Stars in the Night, Anzac Day services were cancelled for the first time due to the menace of Covid-19.

Where to find The Stars in the Night: From publisher Odyssey Books , from BookDepository (with free shipping worldwide) and from Amazon in softcover and Kindle, Barnes and Noble in soft cover Nook, Chapters Indigo, Booktopia, and Waterstones. Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you.

Clare Rhoden has also written a dsytopian series called The Chronicles of the Pale. See more about the series at her website here. My review of the first book, The Pale, is here.

Another novel I have reviewed here on this blog about WWI is ‘Nursing Fox‘ by Jim Ditchfield which focuses on the nurses. You can read about it here.

Acknowledgement: The graphics shown here are by courtesy of Clare Rhoden and Odyssey Books.

Mark, your reviewer here, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

When No One Is Watching, by Linathi Makanda: Aching poems of love and hurt

The poetry of Linathi Makanda is both universal and about searing personal experiences. I think each reader will find something here that particularly resonates for themselves. Often poems can each be read as stand alone experiences whether or not they are linked with others. This compilation cries out to be read as one poem and journey.

‘Love Rising’

The four parts begin with ‘Love Rising’ and here the poet’s thoughts may at first seem to concern the common enough subject of poems, looking for love and yearning to be wanted for oneself. The poet is young and confident. She trusts in her love and her lover.

‘.. I am liberated.
Let us join hands on arrival, let us celebrate.’

But even in early pages there are suggestion that this is not going to be about starry-eyed love somehow resolving itself. The poet is already thinking beyond her situation to that of other women.

‘My mother never talks about love
Only about the men she’s lost.’

I was also intrigued that next to a joyous poem about her lover she places memories of her grandfather, good memories, which will be a contrast to her later bitter thoughts on men.

‘Love Lost’

Now the story evolves into one well known to too many, one of hurt, betrayal and self doubt while struggling to put on a brave front. The poet offers lines about thoughts people hide tightly within and do not share even with those they trust ( … ‘My mother doesn’t know’..). The poems are not complex, the language is the easy rhythm of spoken English, yet time and again Makanda can express the universal feelings of self doubt and insecurity in a few plain words.  This question, for instance, asked by all wounded souls, will inform the rest of the book.

Why can’t you see me?

‘Internal Uprising’

In the bitter lines of ‘Internal Uprising’, we see doubt and hurt rise to anger, anger directed to oneself as much as anyone. As the narrator curls up into depression, her thoughts turn again to where she could surely seek support, her mother. But she cannot ask:

‘How do I tell my mother I attract men who do not stay?
How do I tell her I attract men like my father?’

In the midst of lines about blaming all on men, she can still see that they are not the whole crux of her turmoil.

‘Sometimes these men do not hurt us.
We hurt ourselves.’

And then she is taken down and taken very low.

It smells like it wasn’t my fault but it feels like it was.

At this point, I just stopped reading.  I felt I had seen something too private and raw for some reader or other like me to stumble over even in a published book. I picked it up again because the poet has chosen to express the dark hour known to far too many women, and so it is for knowing.

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Hope Rising

 Because within this book each reader will find lines that resonate with their own memories, experiences and dark hours, I think it is important to know that the last part concerns Hope.  The narrator thrashes her way back above chasms of suicidal thoughts by caring about herself and expressing hope through art and poetry for fellow women. She is writing now:

‘ .. A letter to all the mothers who have daughters that hurt when on-one is watching.’

When No One Is Watching is an emotional journey for the reader and one well worth taking.

Linathi Thabang Makanda is a twenty-two-year-old South African-based writer of poetry and prose. A Communications and Marketing student and self-taught photographer, she strives to portray genuine emotion through her writing and photographic art. She believes in creating a home, through her crafts, for people trying to find their voices. Her website also offers work beyond her poems such as the videos Letters To The Ones We Miss. (Please be mindful of the trigger warnings.)

Where to find When No One is Watching, by Linathi Makanda, in soft cover. As well as from links on Linathi’s website you can PRE-ORDER from publisher Odyssey Books, from BookDepository (free shipping worldwide) and from Amazon  and Barnes and Noble .  Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you. 

The images here are courtesy of the author and the publisher.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Books With Pictures In Them: Of course they are for Grownups

Everyone loves pictures. Seen the ‘motion pictures’ lately? Watched the telly? Got prints up on your walls? Of course! We crave pictures. Why then the bizarre notion that Books With Pictures In Them are only for little people?

Illustrated books are for GROWNUPS too. And when you buy such a book you get to enjoy the skill and craft of the writer and also of the artist. It’s a two for the price of one sort of purchase when you look at it that way.

In this post I present such books that have made their way into my shelves. Call them what you will: Picture books, Pictorial books, Illustrated Books, Graphic Books, Comics, Managa. There are books where the pictures themselves are almost the whole of the story, and books where the pictures supplement the story.

Makeshift Galaxy is an illustrated story about love, sacrifice and survival, and published by Odyssey Books. The lush full page illustrations perhaps supplement this sparely told story, or perhaps are the story. Here is my review. Stocked at Abebooks.com, and Book Depository, and Amazon .

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Octopus and Family by Annabell Lee, also from Odyssey Books, has a lot of fun with octopi, as you can see from my review here, and moreover it is one to hide from your little ones rather than give to them.

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Octopus and Family by Annabelle Lee

Now Only Freaks Turn Things Into Bones by Steff Green and Bree Roldan is indeed intended for little ones and contains a strong message about bullying. Still, why not enjoy these illustrations yourself as well. More about it in my review here.

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The Ashes of Olympus Trilogy by Julian Barr is an example of Books With Some Pictures In Them. The line drawings help create the mood of early times and fear of the gods.

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The Way Home, Ashes of Olympus, by Julian Barr, takes place in the dawn of western history, among the early Greeks and peoples of Italy

The Last Hero is a discworld novel collaboration by Paul Kidby with Terry Pratchett. While most of Sir Terry’s novels became a delight to artists to work with after their first publication, only this one as far as I know, that was created as a collaboration.

The Truth is a Cave in The Black Mountains is another collaboration, this one between Neil Gaiman, who began the story as a verbal presentation – to Grownups- and then, with Eddie Campbell, expanded it. Personally, I would not give this to a little person; it’s as dark as the mountain it refers to.

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More about Eric by Shaun Tan in a future post. And as for It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In , well this is a story of longing, loss and hope, told through images of teddy bears. It was pondered by Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published writer-bears.

Mark is guardian for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears. He is the writer-bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In

Twilight, Dusk, Mirrors, Dreams: Tales by Dan Djurdjevic

‘To sleep, perchance to dream- ay, there’s the rub.’ Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)

For when you are dreaming, you will wake. You assume. But what sort of waking will it be? I think we have all experienced at some time that dread, dripping, crushing sense of fighting our way back up from .. something .. out from .. something. And to emerge as though breaking through an ocean surface, taking great gulps of waking reality, and to realise that the place or something you have fled from was not really there, and must have ‘only’ been a nightmare.

“He dreams of blackness: an endless blackness, darker than the crow and more inscrutable. There is a solidary light far in the distance, a dull yellow pinpoint swallowed into the void, and he stumbles towards it on his phantom legs.” The Crow. 

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But what if, as you sit up taking in your surrounds, another realisation crashes in – that perhaps you have just woken from someone else’s nightmare?

The calm prose of Dan Djurdjevic’s Hazy Shade of Twilight stories (new edition issued as The Shadow of Dusk) belies the growing consternation of his characters as their personalities and identities shift and change. Frequently their perceived realities seem distorted.

“It took a while to realise that I was now in a different place altogether: a blank, featureless room of cold white … empty save for the bleached glare. There were no shapes, no corners, no lines. No shadows”.

They reassure themselves: it was only a dream, a nightmare, it’s because I’m exhausted, it’s what happens out in space, it’s the drugs I took for the pain. But again and again these ‘explanations’ don’t hold up. The characters sometimes seem to be changing places. Their loves and romances, fears, jealousies, start to seem to belong to other selves, as if they are seeing them through distorted memories. Or they might be seeing mirror images of themselves – which of course are similar but reversed, and perhaps distorted and warped too. Such a possibility is explored in The Mirror Image of Sound. (My review here.)

Dan MIOS 2744

Dan’s stories, to different degrees, float in half lights and shadows where things may not be what they seem. In the modern romantic drama Nights of the Moon to which The Shadow of Dusk collection serves as a kind of “sequel”, we met the same characters (or are they) who apparently have a very definite existence in the harsh geographical reality of a mining camp in Western Australia. But they are presented to us only through the memories of one person’s point of view. Are we reading what has ‘really happened’?Dan moon 2745

Perhaps somewhere in the obscurities of moon light, twilight, dusk, and shadows all of us are able to become more acutely aware of alternative lives that we could be living had we made other choices. Perhaps those alternative ‘I’s sometimes merge with and partially morph into the “I’ that we think we own.

To dream. Ah there indeed is the rub. For how can we know if we ever wake fully?

My review of The Mirror Image Of Sound is here. And of The Girl in the Attic here.

Where to find Dan’s books: Book Depository (also with free shipping):
A Hazy Shade of Twilight – and other nightmares, The Mirror Image of Sound, Nights of The Moon , The Shadow of Dusk , Essential Jo and, suitable for Young Adults, The Girl In The Attic.

On Amazon: The Mirror Image of Sound, Essential Jo, The Girl In The Attic, Nights of The Moon, The Shadow of Dusk   (first edition titled Hazy Shade of Twilight). You can also find them at AbeBooks.com: there is a general link below.

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Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

The Dark Poet, by Kathryn Gossow

The book’s dedication: For all the girls who loved a boy they shouldn’t have, and all the broken boys that heal’.

The Dark Poet

A homeless man gets breakfast. A woman plucks limes in her garden. A student and his girlfriend run into an old school acquaintance. Ordinary days and lives. But these eight interlinked stories soon slide us toward brooding hearts, deceit, addiction, and the shadows of domestic violence. These vulnerable people, hungry for connection, veer toward Paul, the Dark Poet.

‘He is a dark planet and around him circles floundering stars .. People caught in his orbit, lovers as debris caught in his gravitational pull’. P.17.

Paul is that dangerous creature, the charismatic man. The sort of man who can break a woman ‘into a million pieces if he smiled with just the wrong smile followed by just the right sneer’. P. 38.

Kathryn Gossow’s skill is to create this character, who we soon grasp is Bad News, and who yet grimly fascinates. As a reader I got caught in his orbit too.

I particularly admire good short stories, and this collection, moreover, left me thinking about people I have known. I think that it will have that effect on most readers. What will you think about?

For instance, who, really, are the people around us? Could the woman next door be a seer? Could that homeless man pluck a story from our hearts? Will that luminous elven girl one day become a guilt wracked women in the aisles trying to remember to the marmite?

The Dark Poet is published by Odyssey Books and available at Amazon here.

Kathryn Gossow is the author of Cassandra, whose central character, a seer, features in one of the stories in The Dark Poet. Cassandra is also published by Odyssey Books.

Cassandra cover

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

The Girl Under The Olive Tree, and Anzac Fury: Two stories of the Battle of Crete

I read three books concerning Crete this month. First, Swallows Dance by Wendy Orr, set in the Bronze Age. Then I read in tandem both a novel and a history on what happened from 1941 to 1945 to the Cretan population, and to others caught up in the invasion and occupation, including soldiers and resistance fighters of Crete, Greece, Italy, Germany, Britain, Australia and New Zealand (ANZACS).

An innocuous title, thought I, as I selected The Girl Under the Olive Tree, by Leah Flemming for a holiday read. Well, it starts quietly enough with young Penelope George in Scotland mainly concerned to avoid being married off by her status conscious mother. But in her search to find her own identity in life, she takes up nursing training, then accepts a chance to join her sister in Athens.

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An idyllic time follows for Penelope but as Italian and then German forces invade Greece, she is caught up in a malestrom of war. As she turns 21 she makes hard choices, the courage and cost of which not one male in the story seems to appreciate.

Through this fictional story of her endurance and trials, and those of her friend, Yolanda, and of her love for the infuriating Bruce Jardin, we are taken through the horrors endured by this island. But what, thought I, as I read on, totally engrossed, of this olive tree? All becomes clear eventually.

The Girl Under the Olive Tree, by Leah Flemming, published by Simon and Schuster 2013, was inspired in part by Johanna Stavridi, a nurse honoured by the Hellenic Red Cross for her courage and work.

Anzac Fury: The Bloody Battle of Crete 1941, by Peter Thompson, published by William Heinemann 2010, concerns, as you’d expect from the title, the fighting itself during the invasion, particularly that of the ANZACS*. But so we can make sense of it all, Thompson takes in the wider scenario beginning with the fighting in North Africa and the whole Mediterrean.

He describes ordinary fighting men and the astonishing things they did (through use of surviving diaries and letters), and he goes into the personalities and motivations of the commanders and politicians, whose decisions cost so many so much.

*Note for non-Australasian readers:
The term ANZAC was coined in 1915 to denote the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps that fought in the disaster known as Gallipoli, a campaign conceived by Mr Winston Churchill. Turkish, French and British troops died there too in huge numbers, yet the event has a special place in the histories of Australia and New Zealand. Both were small countries that had only been self governing for 13 or 14 years. They suffered losses  that shook their national psyches. The day the troops landed, 25 April, is a day of Remembrance.

When, 26 years later, the troops of these nations were shipped to the hopeless cause of defending Greece, again due to the decisions of Mr Churchill, they were highly conscious that illfated Gallipoli was not far away.

AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.