Sunday, April 26, 2009

The writing book

In 1990 Kate Grenville wrote, the writing book: a workbook for fiction writers. This is a resource book for potential writers of fiction to read examples from Australian authors and to undertake a series of exercises designed to help them understand the fundamentals of writing either a book or a short story. Chapters include Getting started, Sorting through, Character, Point of view, Voice, Dialogue, Description, Design and Revision. Examples in early chapters are reworked into a completed short story at the end of the book as an example of how a few ideas can be worked and reworked into a finished product. The book is a practical starting point for would be writers though the age of the book is apparent in many of the examples used.

Illegal action

Liz Carlyle and Peggy Kinsolving are transferred to the Counter-Espionage Unit of MI5 when Charles Wetherby takes leave to look after his sick wife. Liz works undercover as an art student in the home of Nikita Brunovsky, a Russian oligarch now living in London, whose life is thought to be under threat. When the secret services discover that there is possibly an Illegal Russian agent in London the race is on to discover who this threat is and if there is a connection with the threat to kill a prominent Russian in the UK. Who attacked Liz near the 'safe' house where she is staying and who murdered Brunovsky's art dealer? Stella Rimington writes another easy to read account of intrigue in the secret services of the UK.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A collector's year

Adrian Franklin, one of the panellists on the the ABC1 television program, The Collectors, has written a book relating to collecting adventures undertaken during a year. Each chapter covers a month in the life of this collector and the sections within each chapter provide a brief introduction to collecting on a wide range of themes. Travel souvenirs, postcards, Australiana, major sporting events, recipe books, snow domes, tiles, fishing books, cricket memorabilia, barometers, watches, Tupperware, baranalia and perfume bottles are some of the topics covered as well as St Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas. A visit to the Antiques Roadshow in England is also described. Adrian Franklin also looks at the difference between hoarding and collecting, as well as the bargains to be discovered op shopping and at car boot sales. Well illustrated, this a book to dip into if you are interested in collecting anything.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Modern times

From 21 March to 12 July an exhibition, Modern times: the untold story of modernism in Australia, produced by the Powerhouse Museum is being held at the Heide Museum of Modern Art. Powerhouse Museum produced a book on topic edited by Ann Stephen, Philip Goad and Andrew McNamara in 2008. The book and the exhibition looked at how modernism transformed design in Australia from 1917 to 1967 and the cultural changes that were impacted on by modernism. The affects of modernism on art, advertising, photography, film, fashion, furniture and architecture are discussed.

The book consists of a series of 25 articles arranged in five broad topics - Abstract in Australia; Bodies & bathers; City living; Designs on the space age and Electric signs and spectacles. The book is well illustrated with photographs and just browsing through the photographs brings back many memories of what became everyday objects that looked modern and challenging when first designed. The design of swimwear and swimming pools, milk bars and bars in pubs, furniture by Featherston and major buildings such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Myer Music Bowl as well as electric signs such as the Skipping Girl sign are some of the legacies of modernism in Australian design.

The Heide website - - contains information about the exhibition and also a podtour for those interested in additional information.

Art Deco in Australia is another book on this topic.

Dead line

Stella Rimington, former Director General of MI5, has written a series of books about MI5 agent, Liz Carlyle, the most recent being Dead line.
When a conference to discuss peace in the Middle East is to be held at Gleneagles in Scotland all the security services are called in to ensure that nothing disrupts the proceedings. MI6 are alerted to a plan to cause trouble and have the Syrians blamed. A former employee of MI5 contacts Liz as she is concerned about a staff member from the Israeli Embassy who has shown interest in her mother - in - law. Shortly afterwards an attempt is made on the life of Liz Carlyle causing her to spend time in hospital. As investigations continue questions are raised as to possible under handed methods occurring in security services of other countries.

The action centres in London, Scotland, Cyprus, USA and the Middle East as Liz and her colleagues strive to find out what the possible danger is, who is responsible and how to stop it from happening.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dracula alive!

The Historian a novel by Elizabeth Kostova. An old book and a mysterious letter lead to the quest to discover the truth about Vlad the Impaler - is it possible that Vlad the Impaler never died? - and the myth of Dracula. How do events occuring centuries ago affect the modern world? Investigating research undertaken by her father and her own research in many libraries result in a quest full of suspense and danger as the story unravels.

The girl who played with fire

The sequel by Steig Larrson to his book, The girl with the dragon tattoo. Mikael Blomvist and the staff of Millennium magazine are approached with the offer to publish a book exposing the sex trafficking industry. Dag Svensson, the author, was prepared to have the book thoroughly edited and investigated by Blomvist and was also to write articles for Millennnium. His partner, Mia Johansson, had recently completed a thesis on the topic.

Lisbeth Salander had been overseas for a year but when she returned to Sweden she decided to settle old scores with people who had tormented her in the past, especially her guardian, Nils Bjuman. When the gun used to shoot Bjurman, Svensson and Johansson is discovered with her fingerprints on it, she becomes a major suspect in three murders. Lisabeth is determined to find the truth and also discover the whereabouts of the elusive Zalachenko and Niedermann. She insists on working alone but her friends including Blomvist, Armansky and Palmgren all attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the life of Lisabeth.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tea time for the traditionally built

At the conclusion of the book Mma Precious Ramotswe and Mma Grace Makutsi enjoy tea time at the President Hotel where they reflected on their recent cases and experiences - the invstigation into why the local football team kept losing, the woman who had problems with two 'husbands' and Violet Sephotho's attempt to win the affections of Phuti Radiphuti (Grace's finance). This is a continuation of a series of books set in Botswana recording events in the life of Precious Ramotswe, her family, colleagues and friends. At book talks, the author, Alexander McCall Smith, states that not a lot of action occurs in the books but the description of the characters and their surroundings as they face the daily challenges of living has a loyal following of readers.

The other books in the series are The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, The Kalahari Typing School for Men, The Full Cupboard of Life, In the Comapny of Cheerful Ladies, Blue Shoes and Happiness, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive and The Miracle at Speedy Motors.

The BBC has recently made a television series based on stories from the books which is yet to be viewed in Australia.