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Sunday, April 29, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2018: Z Is For Claire Zorn And Markus Zusak

For my final post in this series, I’d like to write a bit about Claire Zorn and Markus Zusak, two writers whose books have been shortlisted more than once by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. One of them has done very well within Australia, the other has been a huge success overseas as well and if you don’t live here, you probably don’t even know he’s an Aussie. You may have seen the Hollywood film based on one of his books. And I have to confess that I have only read one book by each of them, though I have gotten halfway through Claire Zorn’s award-winner One Would Think The Deep, which won last year’s CBCA Award, older readers category, with its story of surfing and mourning and the music of the 1990s... she’s only written three books anyway, so I have sort of read half of her works. 

Let’s start with the Claire Zorn book I have read, though. It’s the only one of the three that is speculative fiction. The Sky So Heavy is set in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. One day Fin is going to school and thinking about ordinary things, like homework and the girl he likes, and hearing news about some nuclear test happening on the other side of the world, the next he’s waking up to a nuclear winter, left to look after his little brother and cope as best he can, because their parents are missing and things are going horribly wrong. The Internet is gone. Communications are gone. Food is going. It’s snowing. The residents of his town don’t even know if help is coming from outside.

What is important in this novel is how people treat each other when there’s a catastrophe and no way to know if it will ever be over. You get the feeling that this is how life will be from now on, but what can you do when you can’t even grow things? And are you going to get sick? Die? 

It’s true science fiction, not in the “sense of wonder” style, but in the dystopian “what if...?” sense. What if suddenly all the things you took for granted were gone? How would you treat other people and how would they treat you, when there was a limited amount of resources? 

I rather think it might all happen the way things go in this novel. It hasn’t been made into a film, Hollywood or otherwise, but I believe it would make a good one, or at least a TV mini-series. It was read by a few of our students, not many - I think that grey, depressing cover might have put kids off. A pity!

Her other book, One Would Think The Deep starts with the young hero’s mother’s funeral and his being sent to stay with relatives. Markus Zusak’s historical novel The Book Thief  also begins with a funeral, that of the heroine’s little brother and she, too, goes to stay with foster parents, but that’s where the similarities end. 

The book thief of the title is Liesel, who lives under the Nazi regime. The first book she steals is at her brother’s funeral. It’s a gravedigger’s manual that has been left lying around in the cemetery. It’s the only book she has at the time and she can’t actually read yet. In her new home, she meets her kindly foster parents, Hans and Rosa - who, incidentally, are hiding a Jew, Max, from the Nazis in their basement. Liesel learns to read so that she can read her book. She also befriends the neighbour boy, Rudy. Together, they rescue books from a Hitler Youth book burning. Rudy is smart and athletic, but no Nazi, which is likely to get him into trouble some time. 

She reads and shares the joy of reading and writing with Max in his basement. The rest I won’t tell you because of spoilers, but I loved it! And there is an Australian connection, but again, spoilers! (Actually, it's been a while since I saw the film, so I can't remember, but I see from a blurb about it that the small Aussie connection was removed, dammit!)

The unusual thing about this book is that it’s narrated, in first person, by Death. “Death as in the Grim Reaper?” asked a girl who was borrowing it from my library. Yes, I agreed, Death as in the Grim Reaper. He encounters Liesel at various times in her life and finds her fascinating. He tells her story compassionately and well. This is not a Death to fear. He’s just doing what he has to. (Can't help thinking of Terry Pratchett's Discworld Death)

I did start reading one of his other novels, The Messenger, which I picked up at a library conference, because the author looked about sixteen and I wanted to support a young emerging writer, but I never got around to finishing it. Don’t miss out on it because of me - the book has won plenty of awards, including the CBCA Award! I’ll probably get back into it at some stage; bestselling author as he is, Markus Zusak has only written a few books, five at this stage, so if I want more Zusak I’ll have to try his other work. 

But The Book Thief, I suspect, will be his classic, the one for which he is remembered.  It's certainly the one which is mentioned when people speak of him. "Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief".And the film, which starred Aussie actor Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as the kindly, decent Hans and Rosa, with music by John Williams, was fairly faithful to the novel and lovely to watch, both visually and as a story. 

Here’s the film trailer from YouTube.

If you read nothing else among the books I’ve mentioned, do get a hold of this one!  

If you want to buy these books at Booktopia, here's the link to Claire Zorn's page and Markus Zusak's page. Please note, Markus has a new book coming out in October, so you can pre-order on Booktopia.

If you'd rather buy from Book Depository or Amazon, just type in the author names. These guys are well and truly in print! Or you can buy them from iBooks.

And so, another A to Z Challenge has finished. I hope you have enjoyed reading my posts as much as I have enjoyed sharing the books and writers I love with you. Thank you to those who have stopped by to comment! Please do hang around for more, perhaps follow - I post regularly about books and writers, though not every day - more like twice a week. I’ll be posting my reflections in the next week. Look out for it!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Book Blogger Hop : Would you write a respectful but angry letter...

This weeks Book Blogger Hop question is as follows: Have you ever thought of writing a respectful, but angry letter to an author to ask them WHY they killed off one of your favorite characters in a novel?

That can be answered in one word: No.

And because this is a blog post, I'll add more words. Never. No way. Nope!

If a writer creates a character you care about, just remember, he or she cares even more about them. They thought about them and developed them and if they decide it's important to the novel for that character to go, it's up to them.

Think about it: if Sydney Carton had suddenly been rescued by, say, the Scarlet Pimpernel at the end of A Tale Of Two Cities, what would that have done for his sacrifice? Would we value it as much? Carton started off with a fairly meaningless life. He ended it with something that gave it meaning. What if Dickens had given in to fan demand and let him live?

Walter Scott mentioned in an introduction that he had been pressured into letting his Ivanhoe character Athelstane survive when he had intended to kill him off. But Athelstane was a comical character whose survival wasn't going to affect the novel anyway. His only purpose was to be the guy Lady Rowena's guardian wanted her to marry, for political reasons. No point in killing him off when Rowena had got the guy she wanted anyway.

Tolkien was going to kill off Eowyn, then have Aragorn mourn her all his life. Probably just as well he didn't do that, but as far as I know, that was his own decision, not fan pressure. He decided to let her live and marry Faramir because it worked better, not because of some "respectful but angry letter"!

Not that authors always get it right. For example, I have never been able to work out why J.K Rowling decided to kill off Colin Creevey in the Battle of Hogwarts. If you have read the series, you'll know Colin was a huge Harry fan who first appeared in Chamber of Secrets, toting a camera and begging for autographs. If asked, no doubt she would say that this was a war and in war people die, including those you care about. And that's fair enough and no doubt she chose Colin because it added a touch of pathos to the story. But, apart from the fact that she had already killed off some major characters we cared about, Colin hadn't appeared for some time - and suddenly, he appears and gets killed? Also, he was a Muggleborn student who would not have been at Hogwarts in that last year anyway, more likely he would have been in hiding, so what was he doing there? 

Then there's that major killer-off of good guys, George R.R Martin. I should say at this point that I've only seen a few episodes of Season 1 of the TV series Game Of Thrones, so I'm talking here about the novels. I have followed the newspaper accounts, so I have some idea of how it has been going, but not seen - or, to be honest, cared - that characters who survived in the books were killed off on TV.

Fact: when I was reading the first book, I was shocked at the first death, Ned Stark. Then he killed off some more characters and I was rather impressed with the fact that nobody, but nobody, was safe in this universe! It kept me on my toes.

Then I stopped caring. When Mr Martin had killed off enough of his characters, I just began rolling my eyes. "Not again!" 

So no, he won't be getting a "respectful but angry" letter from me. His universe, his business! But he has lost this particular reader, for now at least, not because he killed off characters I liked, but because there has just been too much of it for my taste.  I'm waiting for a film or miniseries of Fevre Dream, a book of his I liked much better.

So, what do you think, O my readers? Would YOU be writing even a polite letter complaining about a character death?

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2018: Y is for Erica Yurken

Erica Yurken - unhappily stuck with the nickname Yuk - is the heroine of Robin Klein’s very funny middle grade novel Hating Alison Ashley. If you’ve seen the film(in which I was an extra!)you may be confused to hear it called a middle grade novel, but it is. The primary school children in the book were upped to their teens for the purposes of the film and Delta Goodrem got to be the title character. Never mind, it’s fun, however old the kids are. 

Erica Yurken is a student at Barringa  East Primary School. She wants desperately to be a famous actress, and considers herself a cut above her classmates. The only problem is, this is not suggested by her embarrassing family - a little sister who plays at being a pony, a couple of positively vulgar older siblings and her mother’s embarrassing truck driver partner, Lenny. 

But Erica has always thought of herself as doing fine at school until the arrival of Alison Ashley. Alison Ashley... rich, beautiful, talented and, dammit, a nice person! How could Erica not hate her? She is everything Erica would like to be. 

But Erica has one thing Alison doesn’t: whatever she thinks of them, she has a loving family. Erica may not be much of an actress, but she can write a play, as she discovers, and her family are so very proud.

And somehow, in the course of the novel, leading up to the school camp and the performance of Erica’s play, the two girls become friends... 

Robin Klein, as you’ll see if you check out her list, has written a lot of books over the years, some funny, some serious, but I believe this one is her classic, despite being snubbed by the CBCA judges, who promptly gave her a prize for a serious book later on. And that was a great book too, but this one is warm and gentle and puts a smile on the reader’s face. 

You can buy this book very easily on line - Amazon, Book Depository and Booktopia all have it, in print, ebook, audiobook and I see there is even a play version of it! And by the way, the film is a delight, despite the changes. If you get a copy of that, you will see the school where I worked from 2006 till last year, though it has been dirtied up. It’s very much a working-class disadvantaged school. It was knocked down and is in the process of being rebuilt, so the film of Hating Alison Ashley is the only way you can see it now.  

Here's the film trailer - you'll see my school in the middle of it. I promise it was never that messy!

Friday, April 27, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge: X Is For Xylophones Over Zarundi

Xylophones Above Zarundi is a novel by Aussie children’s writer Geoffrey McSkimming, one of his Jocelyn Osgood stories, in the Cairo Jim series I mentioned in my M post. I chose it because it starts with X, but I will be talking about Jocelyn and her novels in general. 

This book, which I read years ago and am currently enjoying in audiobook, is an adventure of Valkyrian Airways flight attendant Jocelyn Osgood, a “good friend” of Cairo Jim, and her not-too-bright, gum-chewing friend Joan Twilight, a fellow flight attendant. While they are in the African nation of Zarundi, enjoying the coronation of Princess Ariadne, a priceless royal tiara is stolen and Jocelyn and Joan find themselves on a quest to get it back. The  xylophones of the title are played by a trio of musicians, the Tropical Xylophonists, who have come to Zarundi to perform in the Royal Command Performance. 

The Cairo Jim and Jocelyn Osgood adventures are unusual in that they are children’s books with adult protagonists. In the case of archaeologist Jim, he is a somewhat childlike adult - one who never even notices when a woman throws him strong hints that she would like to date him. One of them, a Turkish colleague, uses love song ringtones on her phone to hint, unsuccessfully. Jocelyn is the other woman in his life who fancies him, but to no avail. In Xylophones she is rather annoyed with Jim for a newspaper article that mentions he is hanging out with a female colleague on a dig going on in Upper Egypt. 

Let’s talk about Jocelyn. Her stories are very much “Girls’ Own Adventures”. She is more mature and probably smarter than Jim. Her adventures are just a little less over-the-top than his, but if there was a female Indiana Jones it would be her. 

Jocelyn works for Valkyrian Airways, as a flight attendant, but has a pilot’s licence. She keeps a pet axolotl called Zsa Zsa. Apparently she looks like Dorothy Lamour, as we discover in Cairo Jim On The Trail To Chacha Muchos. In that novel, she arrives to rescue Jim in a hot air balloon accompanied by a dance band who think she is Dorothy Lamour. 

And that’s the thing - she does come to the rescue. She is a good strong character, with a brain. Jocelyn makes a good role model for young female readers. Making her a flight attendant gives the author the excuse to send her on adventures in various countries. 

The characters in this one are what makes the story so deliciously over-the-top. The xylophonists are Americans, who quarrel over the craziest things and  dress like Carmen Miranda for their act(See the picture at left!). Two brothers who are performing are, of all things, whistlers. There is a child passenger who keeps asking for alcohol and, when refused, recites verses from “The Green Eye Of The Little Yellow God”, unnerving Joan Twilight. The captain of this flight is scared to meet the two flight attendants. The welcoming band who play when the Valkyrian plane arrives have been given the wrong music and are playing “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” instead of the national anthem. Everywhere the young women go, there are people selling whirligigs they claim will fix everything including leprosy! 

Adventure and humour combine to make any Jocelyn Osgood novel a treat for young readers, not to mention old ones like me!

You may have trouble getting the books new, due to the original publisher being taken over and most stock dumped, but they are easily available in audiobook, all of which  are beautifully read by the author. Booktopia has them on CD, while you can download them on Amazon, some of them free to Prime subscribers or free with an Audible trial. I bought mine from iBooks. Its Bolinda Audio, which is always good.

If you really want them in print, try ABEbooks which has plenty of them secondhand. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A to Z Blogging Challenge: W Is For Gabrielle Wang and the Wilkinsons

Today I will be telling you about three Melbourne children’s writers whose work I enjoy and whose books I have had trouble keeping on the shelves over the years. They are Gabrielle Wang and Carole and Lili  Wilkinson. Carole and Lili are mother and daughter, though they don’t collaborate on their books, which are very different, although Carole writes a variety, while Lili mostly writes YA novels. 

Let’s start with Gabrielle Wang, who draws as beautifully as she writes and illustrates all her own books. Most of her books are for younger readers. They are all gentle, mainly Chinese-themed stories. They aren’t all set in Melbourne, though, or even in Australia. Some are set in China, one, The Beast Of Hushing Wood, is set somewhere in the US because the publisher suggested that the ambience just didn’t work in an Aussie setting. We don’t have local woods here, we have eucalyptus forests. 

The first of her books I read was The Pearl of Tiger Bay. Tiger Bay was inspired by the Victorian coastal town Lorne. The Pearl of the title is the name of an old hotel, which used to host celebrities, movie stars and royalty. Now the only person rattling around it is the elderly owner, but it’s her home and it’s beautiful - and developers want to tear it down. To the rescue come a bunch of local kids. There are also fantasy elements, including ghosts and a ghost-busting Chinese grandmother who turns up again in a prequel written later, A Ghost In My Suitcase, which is set in China. In fact, I believe the author liked this character so much she thought she deserved a book of her own. 

A Ghost In My Suitcase is one I used for Literature Circles, and the kids got a lot out of it. The author kindly agreed to be interviewed by a group of my students who had read the book. Here it is. One of them, a fine artist, even turned a bit of it into a page of graphic novel, which the author put up on her web site. 

What is it about? A Chinese-Australian girl whose Chinese born mother has died takes her ashes home for burial. While there, she finds out that her grandmother is a real dyed-in-the wool ghostbuster, who even has an apprentice, and some strange and scary things are going on in the neighbourhood... There is a sequel coming out in September, about the adventures of the girl apprentice. I can’t wait! In fact, it’s coming out on my birthday, so I’ll go to the launch and spoil myself. 

Her very first novel, The Garden Of Empress Cassia, already set the gentle flavour of the rest. A Chinese-Australian girl, Mimi, is given a box of magic pastels which she is warned never to let anyone else use. There is good reason for this. Remember the pavement pictures in Mary Poppins? Well, it’s sort of like that, but not quite. Centuries ago, the Empress Cassia saved her people from invaders by taking them all into a garden, drawn in pastels. Now, Mimi finds herself drawing pictures of the garden on the footpath. People with problems and stress are drawn into the picture, where they stay as long as it takes to heal. When they return, they don’t remember where they have been, but they feel better. However, there was a very good reason for the warning not to let anyone else use the pastels, as Mimi finds when they are stolen...

I’ve read most of her books, but if I keep writing about her, there won’t be time or space to tell you about the Wilkinsons, so - just buy her books! Here is a link to her web site, where she will tell you what she had in mind with each book.

Carole Wilkinson has written books for teens and younger readers as well as non-fiction. Today I will focus on one series, Dragonkeeper. It is simply amazing! I believe there are plans for an animated movie of the first book for next year. 

Dragonkeeper begins in ancient China with a girl slave, unnamed until later in the book, because slaves aren’t named. Ping, as she is later called, looks after the last of the Imperial dragons. There were a pair, but the female died. The male dragon turns out to be intelligent and able to have telepathic communication with his young keeper. When Ping finds out that a dragonslayer is on his way to kill her charge and make money selling his bits and pieces, girl and dragon escape on a journey to the sea, followed by the dragonslayer, heading for an island where he will be safe. He insists on carrying with them a strange stone(yeah, I guessed quickly what it was, as did the students who studied the book for Literature Circles. But it takes a while for Ping to work it out).
There are historical figures in it, including the young Emperor, the one who built the Great Wall of China. He had an obsession with immortality, which made him try all sorts of potions and remedies. 

The series goes over several centuries, because dragons live a lot longer than humans, so each novel has a different protagonist, descended from Ping. I read one of them, Shadow Sister, for the Aurealis Awards, and it won hands down, though there were some wonderful books on the short list. 

Here is a link to her very good web site

It doesn’t tell you where to buy the books, though, so I’ll suggest you check out the regular bookseller web sites. 

Lili Wilkinson has been writing since her teens. Her early books were non fiction for younger readers . Her later ones have been YA. 

For the most part, her books are very funny romantic comedies for teens. Definitely books I just couldn’t keep on the shelves! When girls asked for a romance I could give them one of our very good Girlfriend Fiction books(written by some of Australia’s top YA writers, including Lili) or I could offer those who were finished with the Girlfriend books one of Lili Wilkinson’s very funny romantic comedies. I haven’t got very far into her recent serious book, The Boundless Sublime, set in a cult, which is winning awards, but is very unlike what her fans in my library expect, so we’ll skip that one for now. 

Let’s talk about some of those I have read and enjoyed and been unable to keep on the library shelves! 

A Pocketful Of Eyes is a murder mystery set in a museum. The heroine, Bee, has landed a holiday job in the taxidermy section of the Museum of Natural History in Melbourne(fictional but sounds rather like the State Library, where the author used to work). While there, she meets a rather cute boy - and her boss’s dead body is found in the Rotunda, with a pocketful of the glass eyes used to put into stuffed animals. Can Bee and her new friend solve the mystery? Can Bee find true love? Will she ever get her mother away from the video games she loves playing? Read and find out! 

Pink is another Melbourne-based story, in a recognisable middle class suburb. The heroine, Ava Simpson, has started at a new selective high school, one very unlike the old one, or her old, terribly cool life. She gets involved with the school show as a member of the backstage crew and finds new friends and a new way of life. Oh, and she observes friends who break up, and get back together at a Star Trek marathon... very funny and entertaining! 

My favourite Lili Wilkinson book, which I’ve found kids love too, is Green Valentine. I’ve reviewed it on this blog, so we’ll keep it simple here. 

Environmental activist Astrid meets Hiro at the local shopping mall, while she is handing out pamphlets and he is working. The thing is, he doesn’t recognise her from school, because she is dressed as a lobster at the time. And she can’t tell him, because he has contempt for people like her. Astrid wants to start a garden at school, but is hopeless at it, though very good at her studies. When Hiro gets into trouble for the umpteenth time, he is assigned to work with her as his detention. As it turns out, he is terrific at gardening, due to learning from his Italian Nona. Soon, the two of them are doing guerrilla gardening around the town, and having to stand up to developers...

There is plenty more, but we’ll stop here. 

Here is Lili’s web site.

A writer I would have liked to include is Fiona Wood, author of a trilogy of linked books you can read standalone, but how many can I fit into one post? And this author has had both reviews and an interview on this site. so just follow the links. 

See you tomorrow for Xylophones Above Zarundi - and other Jocelyn Osgood Adventures!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

2 Stinky by Alex Ratt and Jules Faber. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2017

There was a smell on Stinky Street...and it was awfully, abominably odorous. From smelly sewers to pongy penguins there's always a rotten reek on Stinky Street...

This is the second book in the series Stinky Street Stories. You don't need to have read the first to follow it. Basically, it's a set of linked short stories set in the same street, about the smelly adventures of Brian and his friend Nerf.

In the first story, "The Awfully Abominable Odour", Brian explains that, in fact, Stinky Street is named for inventor Ferdinand Stinky, who invented Stinky's Patented Stench-proof Sewers, which ensure that Stinky Street doesn't stink. When a dreadful odour comes up from the sewer - so bad that Nerf nearly faitnts on Brian's doorstep -Brian and Nerf go to investigate, armed with pickles stuffed up their noses...

In "Stinky Vs Sweet: The House Of Horrors" Brian and Nerf compete with their enemies, the girls from Sweet Street at the school fete to do the best fundraising activity. Needless to say, they end up stinking, with lots of disgusting stuff over them...

"Smelly Birthday To Me" takes the boys into the local zoo as Brian's birthday present, where they get to be zookeepers for a day. Unfortunately, zookeeping is not what they thought it would be, and involves a lot of guano aka poo, especially after Brian's kazoo is snatched by an escaped monkey and they follow it through a very smelly zoo...

"The Super-Stinky Treasure" takes the boys to Great-Uncle McStinky's farm, and a search for treasure, involving - you guessed it! - a lot of smelly stuff...

It struck me as I read that this would be a good book for a teacher or librarian to read, a chapter at a time, to a primary school class. Kids love gross stuff! If it had been produced as a larger volume, the teacher would be able to share Jules Faber's amusingly-drawn  cartoon illustrations.

But it will do very well in the school library too, for children to enjoy themselves. In fact, I am going to donate it to my local primary school library as soon as I have written this review. No point in keeping it in my home when children could be enjoying it!

Recommended for children from about Year 3 upwards.

Buy it from Booktopia.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2018: V Is For... Voicing The Dead

V is a difficult letter for me, on this topic. I couldn’t think of any of our authors with names starting with V or even themes starting with V(violence? Nah!) so I will just mention two books with V in the titles. There are others, eg Jackie French’s Valley Of Gold, but these are ones I have read. 

Gary Crew’s first novel, Strange Objects, was the start of an impressive career in YA fiction. It’s still in print, after twenty five years, so it is definitely being read. His books are...strange. Strange Objects was pretty much horror fiction based on the story of the wreck of the Batavia in 1629, set in the present day, with a boy being taken over by objects from the past belonging to the mutineers. 

But this one, Voicing The Dead, published by Ford Street Publishing in 2015, tops the “strange” list. I won’t go too far into it, because I want to finally do that review I should have done ages ago, but here is what it’s about. 

It’s based on the true story of Jack Ireland, a cabin boy whose ship was wrecked at the entrance to the Torres Strait in 1834. Most of the crew and passengers were killed by headhunters, but for some reason four children were spared and adopted by local tribes. Jack spent several years with a loving family before returning to England. There was an account of it, supposed to have been written by Jack himself. Whether it was his, or ghost written I don’t know, but Gary Crew read it and got ideas. I heard him speak at the Ford Street launch back in 2015, and found it fascinating. He went right into all the Victorian era novels about being shipwrecked on exotic islands and the research he had done. 

What makes the book strange is that it’s not straight historical fiction. It’s something called “lit tripping”. Jack, the narrator, wanders through other books and mentions things that happened well after his death.
Here is how he puts it: 

You ask, 'Can the dead speak?'
I answer, 'Is this blood that runs in my veins, or ink? I ask that you read me. I ask that you hear me. See me. Touch me. Others have, and tasted my blood ...'

Not for reluctant readers, I’m afraid, only for good readers willing to try something different. It comes close to being an adult book, but I’ve seen some even more challenging books win prizes from the CBCA. And if you visit the Ford Street web site you will find teachers’ notes that assume someone is going to use the book in class. 

Catherine Jinks has written so many books, from children’s ghost stories to adult books, that she could have several posts to herself(and has, when I have reviewed her books!), but today I will just talk about one of her books, which has a V in the title. The novel is The Reformed Vampire Support Group.  

Nina is fifteen and living with her mother in Sydney. The thing is, she has been fifteen for a very long time, since she was turned into a vampire in 1973. She makes her living writing paranormal fantasy novels about the adventures of a female vampire. Every week, she goes to a support group of other vampires, run by the local priest, who also does the driving for the group members. Someone has to, because drivers’ licences are hard to get when you’re dead - and, in Nina’s case, permanently under age. 

These vampires don’t drink human blood. One of the members was a doctor during his lifetime and has concocted a brew that mostly allows them to cope without it. When they must fang something, they fang one of the guinea pigs they breed for the purpose. 

I liked the fact that in this book, you’re stuck with the age you were when you died, with whatever problems that involves. One of the group members is permanently in her eighties, with all the aches and pains and health issues she had when she was alive. There is no advantage to becoming a vampire, not even the immortality if you have to put up with all that! 

Our little group of vampires has to find who has killed the man who turned them all before the killer hunts them. In the course of the hunt, they rescue a teenage werewolf boy who has been forced to participate in - not dog fighting, but werewolf fighting! 

The book is great fun and if you like it, there’s a sequel, The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group

Here's a link to Catherine Jinks's web site, where you can check out all her books and which has links to where you can buy them.

You can buy most of Gary Crew's books on Booktopia, including Voicing The Dead(also available on the publisher's web site, link above) Amazon has some, but not many. Book Depository has some more, here. If he has a web site, I have't been able to find it, and he has been published by a lot of publishers, so a Google of his name will help. There are several on iBooks, though not Voicing The Dead.

Tomorrow’s post will be about three terrific Melbourne children’s writers, Gabrielle Wang and mother and daughter writers Carole and Lili Wilkinson. (They don't write together and their types of books are very different!)