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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge: Q Is For Quest Of The Sunfish And Quentaris

Today’s post is about series titles rather than author names.  Q is for Quest of the Sunfish   and Quentaris Chronicles. 

Quest Of The Sunfish is a trilogy by Mardi McConnochie. It begins with Escape To The Moon Islands. It is set in a post climate-change future where the planet has become a water world, after efforts to fix the problem artificially went horribly wrong. 

Twins Will and Annalie live with their inventor father Spinner in a grubby part of town, although Annalie has been attending a boarding school for a while, so isn’t there when their father disappears suddenly, leaving them only with a parrot, Graham, who has a chip allowing him to think as well as talk, and a highly advanced boat, the Sunfish. Annalie has been visited in her boarding school by an agent of the ruling Admiralty, trying to find out where her father is. The twins, a schoolfriend of Annalie’s and a boy they find stranded on a rock at sea set off on a quest to find Spinner, followed by the Admiralty agent, who was once a colleague of Spinner in a team of scientists, now scattered and hidden. What they invented could cause disaster to the world - already has, in fact - but some vital bits of information are missing, and the Admiralty wants them. Wants Spinner...

 I have read and reviewed two of the trilogy, but not yet had the chance to read the final volume. However, the two I have read are thoroughly entertaining and exciting. It’s an old-style adventure with modern technology. The covers are very Enid Blyton in style, but thankfully the stories are missing the odious Julian(Famous Five) and the girls don’t have to want to be boys to be accepted as equal. Annalie’s schoolfriend does do the cooking, but mainly because at the time this is all she can contribute, as the twins have the skills to run the boat. In the second book, she does find another skill she can use. Graham the parrot is the closest we get to the dogs in Enid Blyton’s adventures. 

The Quentaris Chronicles are a shared world fantasy series for children published by Lothian, before it was taken over by Hachette, edited by Paul Collins and Michael Pryor. Alas, the series was scrapped after the takeover, though three more books were published by Ford Street Publishing, although these had the fantastical city of Quentaris whisked off into space Space 1999-style. I hate to say this, but I didn’t enjoy those as much as the originals, though the authors were excellent - the idea of Quentaris in space just didn’t appeal to me. I was very annoyed when the series ended, by the way, because I had just been commissioned to write a Quentaris novel and I had such a great idea for it! And hard as I tried, I just couldn’t fit it into my own universe, so, until I do think of a way, that novel will not be seeing the light of day. 

However, the good news is that you can still buy them, in ebook, audiobook and, if you’re quick, paperback, from  all the usual sites - Amazon, Booktopia, Book Depository... 

So, what is Quentaris? It’s a city a bit like Renaissance Florence, ruled over by a man sort of like Terry Pratchett’s Patrician. Actually, there is something very Ankh-Morpork about Quentaris. There are guilds, though not, as far as I recall, an Assassin’s Guild. There are feuding upper class families. There is a woman, Storm, running the City Watch. She rides a big black stallion and has fun and games keeping the peace. The heroes and heroines of these books are usually kids who are apprentices or, in one case, a street sweeper. And there is a thing called the Rift, which can take you to and from other worlds, requiring guides(one of our young heroes is an apprentice in that profession). Pretty much anything can come out of that Rift, including leprechauns(Anna Ciddor’s Prisoner of Quentaris). 

The series was fun and light-hearted and written by some of Australia’s top children’s writers. Some of them have been mentioned in this A to Z series of post. Others included Isobelle Carmody, author of the Obernewtyn series, Jenny Pausacker(now moved to England), Lucy Sussex(who created my favourite character, Storm the police chief), Sean McMullen(better known for his adult SF books, but a wonderful children’s writer as well)... 

It did well in my library, boys and girls alike enjoying it. If only it had lasted long enough for me to be a part of it...

Check out all of these on Amazon, Booktopia and Book Depository. Quest of the Sunfish is also available on the Allen and Unwin web site.

A To Z Blogging Challenge P is for Park, Phommavanh and Pryor

Today, four fabulous Aussie children’s writers, two of them with the surname Pryor! 

Ruth Park is not actually known as a children’s writer, but as the author of a lot of classic novels for adults, set in Sydney in the early twentieth century. However, there are some children’s books and two YA novels I’ve read with her name on them, both fantasy. My Sister Sif  involves two sisters living in Sydney, at boarding school. They aren’t quite human. They are sea people - pretty much mermaids, without the fish tails. It’s not as good as the next one I’m going to mention, but worth a read.

Playing Beatie Bow is a beautiful time-slip story you might enjoy if you like Kate Constable’s time-slip novels. It became a delightful film. 

Abigail is a girl living in Sydney with her mother. She can’t understand why her mother might be willing to take back the father who left them. And then she time travels, via a piece of lace she finds in the sewing basket of her neighbours. 

Her neighbours’ ancestors are a Scottish immigrant family living in the Rocks, a seaside area of Sydney that, nowadays, is populated by the well-off, but in the nineteenth century was very different, filled with all sorts of people, rich and poor alike. The Bows have a sweet shop. The father is a former soldier who has PTSD issues and needs constant looking after. Beatie Bow, whose name was used in a scary skipping rhyme, is the young daughter of the family who has herself been time travelling to modern Sydney. The grandmother has the Sight, and recognises Abigail as a prophesied one who will save a member of the family. And Abigail falls in love... When she returns to her own time, she has come to understand her mother better because of that. 

Oliver Phommavanh is a Thai Australian writer and performer. He started life as a primary teacher, so is able to understand what children enjoy. In fact, in his novel Thai-Riffic! the young hero’s whacky, over-the-top teacher is very much the author. I saw him performing at the State Library once and couldn’t stop laughing. 

Albert Leng is a Thai boy whose parents run the local Thai restaurant. He wants to eat Australian food, dammit, and be Aussie. Pizza, not Thai food. This multicultural business sucks! However, everyone else thinks  being Thai is cool, and loves his parents’ food. What’s a boy to do? There was a short story in Growing Up Asian In Australia in which the school orders Thai food from the restaurant for a school multicultural day and Albert makes sure it’s very hot and spicy in hopes that his friends will be put off. No such luck - everyone loved it! 

There are other novels about Albert, and other children, all funny. Oliver Phommavanh's books all did very well in my school library.

Boori Monty Pryor is an Indigenous Australian writer, the first Australian Children’s Laureate. He has one picture story book to his credit, Shake A Leg, (illustrated by Jan Ormerod)in which some boys get hungry on a hot summer night and go to a pizza parlour run by an Indigenous man who looks suspiciously like the author. The pizzas are unusual shapes, connected to Australian myths and legends. The shop owner tells them stories and there is a lot of dancing. A beautiful, joyous book! It won a well-deserved Prime Minister’s Literary Award. 

His novels are co-written with Meme McDonald. They are My Girragundji, The Binna Binna Man, Njunjul The Sun, Flytrap, plus an autobiography, Maybe Tomorrow. I’ve read them all except for Flytrap, but that sounds like it might be enjoyable. The first three are different times in the life of a young Indigenous boy. As he grows up, the books change from children’s to YA. The first one is about a boy and his frog spirit. It is funny and charming. The Binna Binna Man has the family driving to a funeral. Sad as the funeral might be, the story is not without gentle humour - and the authors sneak themselves into the story as characters! 

In Njunjul The Sun, Mr Pryor also appears as a character. The young hero is sent to stay with his wise and likeable uncle in Sydney after having a run-in with racist police. His family feel that he will heal from his stress with some time away. The uncle, like Boori Monty Pryor himself, makes his living through school visits and working with children to help them understand Indigenous culture better. He performs for them, with music and dance, and takes his nephew along, to heal... Even in this story there is gentle humour, as in all his books. 

My final Aussie children’s writer for today is Michael Pryor. Michael is the author of around twenty-five speculative fiction novels for children and teens. The most recent one, which I’m reading now, is Gap Year In Ghost Town, set in Melbourne, where the author lives. So far, very funny! And that’s the thing about Michael Pryor - he’s funny! The last book of his I read was Machine Wars, a hilarious novel about a boy on the run from a web-based being that has become self-aware after some work by his vanished scientist mother. It reminded me of the Jon Pertwee Dr Who story “Terror Of The Autons”. In those days, the most common thing was plastic and there was a character who was swallowed up by an armchair! In this era, what’s the most common thing? The internet. Pretty much everything has internet connections, so our hero is pursued by everything from a photocopier to a pool cleaner. That one was a stand-alone book. Mostly, he writes series.

My favourite Michael Pryor series was the delightful YA steampunk “Laws of Magic”. These six novels are set in an alternative  universe Edwardian era, where you can study magic at school, there is a Sorcerer Royal and women may not have the vote yet, but they can be scientists, artists and many other things they had trouble doing in our world. The female characters in this series are all strong, including Aubrey’s mother and grandmother. The hero, Aubrey Fitzwilliam, and his two friends,  sensible George and kick-ass Caroline, are working hard to prevent the Great War(World War I) which is being set up by the villain so he can use the energy from all those deaths for his power. In one of the novels, our heroes are fighting dinosaurs in Paris! (Paris is Lutetia in this universe) Oh, and Aubrey, a brilliant magic practitioner, is dead. Technically, anyway. He played around with death magic before the first novel began, while at school, and as a result is having to literally hold body and soul together till the problem can be sorted out. 

How can you resist a book that begins “Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead. It made things much harder than they needed to be”?

Any P authors I have missed? 

With four authors on this list I will leave you to look up where to buy their books. They are all available on Amazon, Booktopia and Book Depository on the authors' name pages - go check them out! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge: O is for Wendy Orr

Today's Aussie children's writer is the wonderful Wendy Orr!

Okay, Wendy Orr is Canadian. However, she has lived here for a very long time, since she was twenty-one, and long enough to have spent twenty years raising dairy cattle with her husband here, so I’m going to consider her an Aussie. 

Wendy Orr has written a lot of books for children, but is probably best known for her middle grade Nim novels, two of which have been made into Hollywood movies. 

In Nim’s Island, the heroine is a girl who lives on a peaceful island with her scientist father and some animal friends, using a satellite dish for her internet connection. When her father disappears on his boat, Nim must get help. She contacts her friend Alex Rover, a travel writer. In the next book, Nim At Sea, the problems begin with a tourist ship... The two films were not quite like the books,  but were good fun anyway. The travel writer, played by Jodie Foster,  became the author of Indiana Jones-style adventures, in which the hero was played by the same actor who played as Nim’s father. And she was agoraphobic, so travelling to help Nim was terrifying to her. 

Read the books or watch the films - you’ll enjoy both. Or buy them for your middle grade children. They will certainly enjoy them! 

I remember finding the Nim books quite a change from her first book, a YA novel called Peeling The Onion, which was published in 1996. I think I read that when it came out because it was on the CBCA shortlist in the Older Readers category. It was about a girl who had been an athlete and found herself badly crippled after an accident, learning to deal with the fact that she would never walk again, let alone compete in athletics. I liked Peeling The Onion, but have liked her later books better. However, I see it has won or been shortlisted for quite a few awards. 

And just as I was getting used to her quirky stuff, she went and wrote Dragonfly Song, a beautiful novel set in the Minoan era, in which a girl who is suffering from elective mutism becomes a bull dancer in Crete. It moves between prose and verse, strange but beautiful anyway. I won’t go into too much detail now, because I have interviewed the author. Check it out here

However, it was an Honour Book in the CBCA shortlist(Younger Readers) and won the Prime Minister’s Award for Literature, plus being shortlisted for several other awards - deservedly so. 

I’ve only recently discovered something else while rereading Trust Me Too!, a Ford Street anthology in which I too had a story: there was a story in it, “The Snake Singer”, which must have been the basis for this one. It has a heroine, Aysha ,who, like Aissa of Dragonfly Song, doesn’t realise she can “sing” snakes until she has to do it. There are other bits of this story that make it feel like a basic outline for the novel. 

Wendy Orr returns to the Minoan era - post Thera explosion - in her next book, Swallow’s Dance, but it won’t be out till June, dammit! 

I’m keeping an eye out for it - what about you? 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Wide Brown Land: Stories of Titan by Simon Petrie. Sydney: Peggy Bright, 2018

Light levels are low. It's killingly cold. These conditions are, it transpires, connected.
The icy landscape around you--hillocks, boulders, ravines, foregrounding a hazy, rumpled horizon beneath an opaque, lowering sky--wears a patina that shades from sepia to umber, puddled with drifts of dark sand. The atmosphere, though thick, would permit only a parody of respiration: there is no succour in it. Were it not for the insulating, carefully-regulated containment of your suit, you would be dead within minutes, frozen solid within an hour.
Welcome to Titan.

Titan is not an easy place to live. The human colonists have become used to all the things you have to do to stay alive, so used to them that unless something goes terribly wrong they have time to think about the things all humans think about - family, friends, lovers, money, hobbies. 

But things do go wrong in these eleven linked stories, often disastrously wrong. Sometimes people work out how to fix them, sometimes they end up dead. But there are no space cadets in these stories, no mad scientists, no lunatics trying to take over the universe, just ordinary people trying to live a normal life in a place that isn’t normal. This is hard science fiction written by a scientist who knows his stuff. If we ever do go to Titan, it will very likely be much like this. The world building is first-class. 

All but four of these stories have appeared before, but it’s good to see them gathered under one cover, making it easier to follow the links between them. This is the same universe as Matters Arising From The Identification Of The Body, Simon Petrie’s hard SF whodunnit which I have reviewed here, and one of the stories is about Guerline Scarfe, the heroine of Matters Arising. 

Throughout the stories there are references to people known as pharmhands, who are usually shown as the baddies, but we don’t find out anything much about them till late in the book. 

Let’s take a look at the individual stories: 

Storm In a T-Suit: A father looks for his daughter, who has been involved in an accident. She was out there in the first place because of a crazy scientific theory a friend had. She survived, he didn’t. The theory was an exciting one, if true, but the story is about other things. 

Hatchway: a coming-of-age story about a dare among kids - but with that poisoned atmosphere out there, consequences could be dire! Especially since one teen has reasons for hatred...

Broadwing: Mum, Dad and  their young son Ake are flying home from a family visit to another arcology when  something goes wrong. After some argument, Dad goes for help. That happens all the time on Earth, right? Car breaks down, no help nearby... But this is Titan

Emptying Roesler: a sweet, sad tale of an almost-abandoned arcology and an old man who refuses to leave in case his daughter returns. I can’t tell you more without spoilers. 

CREVjack: The pharmhands appear and people are killed on both sides in a fight over resources. That ending had me saying, “Ouch!” No spoilers here.sorry! Read it. Some of the characters appear again in other stories. 

Lakeside: We meet again Ake, the boy from Broadwing, now a young man, reluctantly on his way to see a woman he resents for breaking up his parents’ marriage, when he comes across some dead bodies - and suddenly has worse problems than family issues. He uses his technological skills to try to save himself from his pursuers. 

Erebor: A young Guerline Scarfe, not yet solving forensic mysteries, is on a hike with her brother and friends when one of them needs rescuing after a cliff fall. This is a lot less simple than it would be on Earth...

Goldilock: A direct sequel to CREVjack, happening immediately after. Teresa Maria and her nephew Cory are trying to make their way to safety, but find that it isn’t only the landscape that’s after them. 

Fixing a Hole: One of my favourites in the book. A professor and his young assistant are being flown to their location while doing some testing of submersible equipment. Unfortunately for them, their pilot is Junko, Ake’s mother, who seems to be something of a jinx. Not her fault, but both times we see her, something goes wrong with the vessel she is flying! A panel breaks and Portia, the assistant, has to get out to fix it, since a rescue vessel would take way too long. I really enjoyed the use of technology to solve the problem, and I was fond of Portia, who just knows who is going to be sent outside into major danger to do the job, but does it anyway.  

Phlashback: An immediate sequel to Goldilock, when we finally get some idea of who and what the pharmhands are. Cory and Teresa have to decide whether or not to trust Cory’s former girlfriend, Arum, who might have betrayed them. Again, a trip across Titan’s scary landscape. 

Placenta: another favourite of mine, in which a pregnant woman out on her own is faced with a crisis in her rented T-suit and needs to work out how to save herself and her future baby before the carbon dioxide builds up enough to kill them. This was a sweet story with a simple, yet impressive scientific solution. 

I liked the title. If you aren’t Australian you may not be aware of where it comes from. Two lines of Dorothea Mackellar’s poem My Country go: “Her beauty and her terror/The wide brown land for me.”  And terrifying as Titan is, the inhabitants can’t help seeing beauty in it as well. 

Brown is also the colour of the stunning cover by Shauna O’Meara. 

  Here’s a link to the whole poem if you’re interested. 

If you’d like to buy a copy of Wide Brown Land, it is currently available on Amazon for Kindle, where you will also find his other books in ebook format, or iBooks for ePub. If you prefer a print copy, try Booktopia or Book Depository, or email the author at You can buy them from him by PayPal at that address. Print copies from the author are $20 including postage in Australia(ask him about overseas postage). 

While you are visiting one of those web sites, consider buying his other books, which are all well worth a read!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge: N Is For Garth Nix

Today’s Aussie children’s writer, Garth Nix, writes fantasy and SF both for children and teens. He has even done a very funny Regency romance with magic. I am still making my way through his books, though I had all of them in my school library. I will just talk about those I have read. At the end, you will find a link to his web site with information abut all his books.

His best-known series is The Old Kingdom. I’m still making my way through this because, when I first read it, years ago, it was a trilogy, Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen. Now two more books have been added to the series, Clariel(prequel)and Goldenhand(a sequel to Lirael)and I’m having to reread from the start before I feel up to reading the new books. 

I’ve just started rereading Sabriel and have been pleasantly surprised at how well it stands up to my memories of it. 

Each book has a heroine in the same universe. Sabriel, heroine of the first book, is the daughter of Abhorsen, a necromancer. Unlike what we imagine of necromancers - you know, those scary sorcerers who use the power of death for evil magic - Abhorsen’s job is to make sure the dead stay where they should, beyond the First Gate of a chilly river. When he goes missing, maybe dead, Sabriel must leave her young ladies’ boarding school to find out what is going on, into the Old Kingdom where she was born. She has magical training and knows how to use the bells and sword of a necromancer, which her father sent her via a shadow messenger. She will need them!

In this world, there is Charter magic, which is magic under control, and Wild magic, which...isn’t. Charter Mages aren’t wizards in long robes experimenting in weird laboratories. The magic is something you do as part of your job. Even the soldiers along the Wall between Ancelstierre, a sort of Edwardian/1920s era country, and the Old Kingdom, are all Charter Mages. They have to be because there is so much magic floating across the Wall, and they have to use mediaeval weapons because technology won’t work there. 

I should mention that in my school library, it was the boys who were reading and loving this series, despite the girls whose pictures were on the covers. I never managed to “sell” them to my female library users.  Go figure! 

Newt’s Emerald is a hilarious Regency romance with a magical missing emerald and a teenage girl disguised as a boy, with a magical moustache that helps her actually pass as a young man when she puts it on. I believe it started off as a novel within a novel, written early in Garth Nix’s career. The original book didn’t work out, but this one did. Very silly - deliberately so. 

His books for younger readers includes The Keys To The Kingdom, a series of seven novels, each with a title including a day of the week. I have, I admit, only read the first book, Mister Monday, and that was years ago, so I will just give you the cover blurb here. 

Arthur Penhaligon is not supposed to be a hero. He is, in fact, supposed to die an early death. But then his life is saved by a key shaped like the minute hand of a clock.

Arthur is safe–but his world is not. Along with the key comes a plague brought by bizarre creatures from another realm. A stranger named Mister Monday, his avenging messengers with bloodstained wings, and an army of dog-faced Fetchers will stop at nothing to get the key back–even if it means destroying Arthur and everything around him.

Desperate, Arthur ventures into a mysterious house– a house that only he can see. It is in this house that Arthur must unravel the secrets of the key–and discover his true fate.

I bought them all on the insistence of a Year 7 boy who simply loved the series. I really need to get back to them, once I have finished the Old Kingdom books.

So, a writer who can write about, and for, boys and girls alike! 

What I love about his books is how very readable they are, how comfortably I have slipped back into Sabriel, like a pair of old slippers - and I am very picky about my fantasy fiction! 

Here is a link to his web site, which tells you about all his books and where you can buy them. They are certainly available outside Australia; the first thing we are told in the heading on his site is that he is a New York Times bestselling author. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Book Blogger Hop: Fictional Towns

This week’s question is “Is there a fictitious town in a book where you would love to live? What makes it appealing?”

I have pretty much dropped this for the moment while I get on with A to Z, but I can’t resist this question and my next post on Aussie children’s writers is tomorrow(N is for Garth Nix).

So, yes, there is a place I would move tomorrow if it was real. The place is Charles De Lint’s Newford.

Charles de Lint is a Canadian writer of urban fantasy. His novels and short stories are set either in Canada or somewhere in the US, in this small town Newford. His stories use both Celtic Faerie and Native American spirits. In Moonheart, my favourite of his novels, there is a house on the border of this world and the other one. The heroine is a writer who listens to folk music and discovers that the  Native American spirits were turfed out by the Celtic ones when they came to North America from Europe and now live in the Otherworld. I did wonder why she was such a chain smoker till she visited the Otherworld and offered a cigarette to a Native American spirit, who was pleased to “share sacred smoke” with her! (I’ve met Charles De Lint at a science fiction convention and I don’t recall seeing him smoke, even when we all went out for dinner, so I assume it was just for the novel.). That book introduced me to some folk bands I’d never heard of, including Silly Wizard. Of course, I had to buy the CDs!

 That was not a Newford story, but it had the same flavour.

Newford is a small town somewhere in the US. It has fairies of the Celtic variety in the local park. We meet a forester who looks after the “forest” of the park. You just need to step in the right direction to be in the Otherworld. Native American spirits are around the place too. But that’s only a small part of why I would love to live in Newford.

Newford is an artist colony. It is overflowing with artists of various kinds, musicians, handcrafters  and writers. There is a cafe where you can go every week to hear folk bands play. Chances are that your neighbour is an artist of one kind or another(if they’re not a fairy or a native spirit). The protagonists of the Newford stories are all artists! Why would I not want to live there?

And by the way, this fiction inspired me to get into bead looming so I could make things with Native American designs. I took one of my belts to that convention where the De Lints were appearing(they are musicians themselves and performed for us). His wife, Maryann Harris, saw and admired my belt. I told her I’d got the idea from reading her husband’s work.

Here is a link to his page on SF Site, which describes his books and links you to where you can buy them.

Friday, April 13, 2018

A To Z Blogging Challenge: M Is For Elyne Mitchell, Sophie Masson and Geoffrey McSkimming

Today’s Aussie children’s writers are very different from each other. Elyne Mitchell writes about wild horses. Sophie Masson does fantasy, especially fairytales.Geoffrey McSkimming entertains younger readers with humorous archaeological adventures. 

Elyne Mitchell was the author of the Silver Brumby series of children’s novels. They are set in Australia’s Snowy Mountains, and about wild horses. The title character, Thowra, is a stallion described as “creamy” in colour. When I read these stories as a child, I imagined Thowra and his offspring as - well, creamy. Almost white. And you can see by the cover that the artist thought so too. After all, \Thowra is said to blend in with the snow during the winter. But when the film came out in 1993(with Russell Crowe as the unnamed character, known only as The Man, chasing him) Thowra was shown as a(light) palomino and it’s entirely possible that’s what the author had in mind. Brumby is the Australian word for a wild horse. The title character is hunted by humans for his unusual colouring, but he and his herd live in the Secret Valley, where they are unlikely ever to be found.

It is such a very Australian series. The Australian mountains, bush, animals and, when humans appear, way of life, are all there; the reader can almost smell the eucalyptus trees, hear them rustle in the wind... The horses behave like horses, not like cutesy anthropomorphic characters. But there are fantastical elements all the same. Thowra has a best friend, a stallion called Storm, with whom he grew up. He fights other stallions, not Storm. They talk to each other and there is another friend, Benni the kangaroo and his mate Silky, who warn Thowra of danger, whether it’s humans or other forms of danger. But they are not cute! 

In the course of the series, there are three generations of horses, all having their own adventures. And generations of little girls have loved them, including me. This series has joined other Australian classics and is well and truly in print and ebook. I bought  the centenary edition(of the author’s birth) in ebook. I have linked you to Amazon, but it is available everywhere. It is sixty years since the first book was published and it’s still in print! Yep. That sounds like a classic to me. 

Sophie Masson has appeared on this blog so many times, via reviews and a guest post, I will keep this short and link you to some of the other posts. She is the author of many YA fantasies with fairytale backgrounds. Two of them are reviewed on this blog - Moonlight And Ashes(Cinderella) and Hunter’s Moon(Snow White). If you think you know those fairytales, you’ll see them in an entirely new light after reading these books. Both are set in an imaginary European country - the same one - in the nineteenth century, with newspapers and trains and department stores. In the first-mentioned novel, magic is banned unless you’re working for the government, and the Prince is not what he seems. In the second, the heroine’s father is the “King of Elegance”, not of the country, and owns a chain of department stores. The mirror is the Mirror, a newspaper which declares Bianca(Snow White)that year’s Fairest, much to the annoyance of her stepmother, the beautiful and elegant Belladonna. Sophie Masson has also, in recent years, published as well as written, with her small press, Christmas Press. There has been a series of stunningly beautiful books with two folktales  in each, from different countries and eras. I’ve reviewed them on this blog. This one, Two Trickster Tales From Russia,  was written by Sophie herself, but all of them were written by well known children’s authors. You can buy them from the web site, whether you live in Australia or overseas.

Sydney writer Geoffrey McSkimming wrote a series of novels about Cairo Jim, a sort of quirky, over-the-top Indiana Jones for younger readers, boys and girls alike. They have pretty much all been put on to audiobook read by the author, but you can get the ebooks for Kindle.  There is a newer series, Phyllis Wong, about a time travelling girl who inherits the ability to do it from a great grandfather everyone thinks is dead(he’s time travelling)

Cairo Jim is an archaeologist working in Egypt, in the Valley of the Hairdressers. He has two animal friends, a Shakespeare-quoting macaw called Doris and Brenda the Wonder Camel, who is telepathic and enjoys reading Western novels(Melodious Tex). He belongs to the Old Relics Society, run by Gerald Perry Esquire, who is a sort of Marcus Brody figure. The local village, Gurna, has some quirky inhabitants, including Mrs Amun-Ra, who runs the local tea shop. Jim travels overseas, where he doesn’t actually do any digging, but solves a lot of mysteries connected with relics. His antagonist is Neptune Flannelbottom Bone, who studied archaeology with him but has used his knowledge to steal relics. There is a woman in his life also, Jocelyn Osgood, a flight attendant who, it is clear, fancies him, but he never notices, does he? Not even when she comes to his rescue in a hot-air balloon, accompanied by a dance band who think she is Dorothy Lamour. Jocelyn Osgood has several novels of her own - I will tell you more about her in my X post, on her novel Xylophones Above Zarundi

The books are very funny, and have lots of in-jokes that adults can enjoy, a la Asterix, but make a point that the author feels strongly about: we should not be helping ourselves to the heritage of other countries. 

The Cairo Jim novels became hard to get when the author’s original publisher was taken over and most of the original's books scrapped, but I believe they are being reissued in ebook on Amazon, or you can get the audiobooks, which are read by the author.