Harry Brandt’s THE WHITES

9781408864586It has been seven years since Richard Price last published a novel and it has been worth the wait. Writing under the transparent pseudonym Harry Brandt, Richard Price again demonstrates he truly is a master when it comes to crime and American life. Price delivers a multi-layered, slow-burning portrayal of friendship, justice and revenge and how easily the three of them can be incompatible.

Billy Graves was a member of The Wild Geese, the WGs. A group of cops in the early 90s fresh into uniform and looking to make a difference on the wild streets of New York. Twenty years later he’s the only one still carry a badge. The rest of his crew have successfully and unsuccessfully carved out new careers, all for different reasons and under different circumstances. But all of them are still haunted by their ‘Whites’. The cases that got away from them, where justice for one reason or many was never served. The cases they just can’t let go of, for the families of the victims and their own sense of right and wrong.

Billy Graves is in charge of the Night Watch. The unit that responds to calls during the never glamorous night shift. He’s given the dregs of the department. The misfits and washouts, the cops nobody else wants to work with. He does his shifts and rushes home to get his two boys off to school before sleeping through the rest of the day. It’s life and it has it’s rhythm. Until he’s called to the scene of a stabbing where the victim is one of the WG’s ‘Whites’. When another ‘White’ is reported missing it is too much of a coincidence. As Billy picks around the edges suspicions quickly turn to betrayals. And when his wife and kids are targeted by a stalker it all suddenly gets too much for Billy. Operating on a severe lack of sleep and trust he grapples with what is the right thing to do while events slowly escalate around him.

Richard Price not only has one of the best ears for authentic dialogue but also for the street. It’s noises and rhythms that ebb and flow around those whom inhabit it.

“THE SOUND of tires rolling over a side street full of shattered light bulbs was like the sound of Jiffy Pop achieving climax”

He brings all his characters and their turmoils vividly to life with sublime nuance and empathy. Ultimately this is a story about the mistakes we make and how those mistakes and their consequences haunt us constantly. About how justice can be blind but vengeance can be all-consuming. If you let it.

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ISBN: 9781408864586
ISBN-10: 1408864584
Classification: Crime & mystery
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 12-Feb-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

HarperCollins Trials Print and Ebook Bundling with Pages & Pages Booksellers and Boomerang Books

Pages & Pages Booksellers & Boomerang Books, in partnership with Harper Collins Australia and Kobo, are trialling the bundling together of print books and ebooks.

From today until the end of January customers of either  independent bookshop Pages & Pages or online bookshop Boomerang Books will have the opportunity to buy a selection of bestselling Harper Collins titles that will include a copy of the ebook.

The bundled books contain a unique code that customers can use to download the ebook from Kobo.

Bundling is a great idea when it comes to books. Unlike music and DVD, it is next to impossible to digitize a print book. Given some of the limitations that surround eBooks giving readers the opportunity to buy both formats together adds to readers’ convenience and gives them a handy backup for their digital library.The bundling of print books and ebooks opens a lot of doors currently closed by ebooks. People can easily gift a bundled book without fear of what device (if any) someone reads on. The rise of ebooks has eroded to some extent the art of sharing a book with friends and loved ones, bundling print books and ebooks overcomes this and reaffirms the physical book as the premier book format. An ebook reader can also have a physical copy to get signed by the author or to put on their shelf and a print book reader has a digital copy easily accessible from a computer, tablet, smartphone or ereader.

The books part of the bundling trial are:

Cleanskin Cowgirls by Rachael Treasure
Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetti
Kerry Stokes: The Boy from Nowhere by Andrew Rule
Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington
The Menzies Era by John Howard

The books are available now in store at Pages & Pages Booksellers and online from Boomerang Books

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My Top 5 Reads of 2014

What another outstanding year of great books. My book of the year was a real stand-out but there was a very close second. Sorting out the rest was nearly impossible. My biggest discovery was David Mitchell. I devoured all his books and loved them all and could have include all them in my top 10 but instead I just chose The Bone Clocks which just missed my Top 5.  So here it is my top 5 reads of 2014 (plus 5 more).

97808578642391. Redeployment by Phil Klay

Every story packs an emotional intensity not only rare in short stories but rare in longer fiction too. Imagine the emotional wallop of The Yellow Birds with the frank and brutal insight of Matterhorn distilled into a short story and you get close to the impact each of these stories makes on their own. Put together as a collection and you have something very special that will be read (and should be read) by many long into the future. Read more…

97804340227862. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

From the subject matter, to the structure, the characters and the language this is an astonishing debut. Smith Henderson manages to combine the raw intensity and emotion of Philipp Meyer with the haunting descriptions and beautiful language of Kevin Powers while delving into the dark shadows of society in a deeply personal and confrontingly honest way like Jenni Fagan. Read more…

 

97800919561343. The Martian by Andy Weir

This was of the funnest books I can remember reading in a long time. Gripping, funny and told in a totally original and authentic voice you can’t help but be hooked in by this part-Apollo 13, part-Castaway survival story. Read more…

 

4. The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

9780356502847The book opens with 10-year-old Melanie. She is sitting in a cell waiting for the Sergeant who is going to strap her to a wheelchair and take her, under guard, to her classroom where she will learn about the world with the other children. Something has happen to the outside world and Melanie and her classmates might be humanity’s only hope. Read more…

 

5. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

9780356502564This book draws immediate comparisons to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. But where Life After Life was about a character who kept reliving their life over and over without knowing they were doing so, this is about a character who keeps reliving their life over and over and remembers everything. And this difference changes everything. Read more…

Honourable mentions go to The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (all his books a truly amazing and this really just missed my Top 5), We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (reminded me so much of one of all-time favourite novels Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides), The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (seriously this trilogy is Harry Potter for grown ups), Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre (if it wasn’t for Redeployment this would have been Top 5 easily) and Fallout by Sadie Jones (a return to form for one of my favourite writers).

 

Claire North’s TOUCH

9780356504582The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August announced the arrival of a very special talent. Claire North maybe the pseudonym for Catherine Webb (and Kate Griffin), who has already published a number of books, but Harry August was something else entirely. It was bold, intelligent, gripping and mind-blowing. Before the real identity of the pseudonym was revealed I was prepared to believe that Claire North could have been any already majorly established author, the writing was that good. With her follow-up novel, Claire North not only confirms that she is worthy of comparison with established authors, she leaves them all for dust.

The premise alone of Touch is enough to give you goosebumps. Where Claire North takes it is places you couldn’t possibly imagine. The main character, who we become to know as Kepler, is able to transfer their consciousness between bodies with only a touch. Kepler has lived for centuries. Changing bodies at will. Staying for a time in a life they find interesting, others only fleetingly. Kepler has taken over bodies when hired to and has been a facilitator for others with the same ability. But now someone wants Kepler dead and they don’t care how many hosts they kill to achieve the task.

Touch is an intensely gripping cat and mouse game where the mouse inhabits the cat and vice versa. Kepler must work out not only who wants to kill them but why. Kepler does this by inhabiting/kidnapping the would-be assassin across Europe following leads and clues back to a mysterious organization hell-bent on tracking down Kepler’s kind.

Claire North slowly builds the rules of this universe where some people can transfer bodies simply by touch. But where there are rules there are those that wish to break them and where there are people different from the rest there are people who want to eliminate them. Claire North also imagines all the possibilities that go along with this gift which takes on some truly mind-bending situations. North’s imagination is seemingly bottomless as she conjures up ingenious methods of escape, subterfuge and counter-measures. Which means you are not only kept guessing but totally unprepared for where she takes you which makes the book even more entertaining and thrilling.

The tension and stakes slowly build as we slowly get to understand who and what Kepler is. How their life has shaped and tortured them and the mistakes made along the way. The mistakes that are now coming back at every different angle. The intensity builds and by the closing stages of the book you can hardly keep up but Claire North makes sure you do.

Not only is Touch totally addictive it is also totally un-gendered. Kepler could be male or female. In fact throughout the book Kepler is both and has swapped between genders their entire life. The other ‘ghosts’ as they are known do the same thing so become undefinable by gender. They’re not male, they’re not female. They’re both and they are neither. And in the end it doesn’t even matter. Which frankly is perfection and just one example of Claire North’s skill as a writer and storyteller.

Seriously I cannot get over how amazingly good Claire North is. I could have read this book forever. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was so smart, ‪Touch‬ is beyond genius. This will be one of THE books of 2015. Mark my words.

 

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ISBN: 9780356504582
Classification:
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 432
Imprint: Orbit
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 24-Feb-2015
Country of Publication: Australia

Amazon maybe coming to Australia in the Most Underhanded Way

On Friday evening I as lucky enough to be invited to attend a celebration of Richard Flanagan’s Man Booker Prize win. This happened to coincide with the day it was revealed that Amazon, through a complicated tax avoidance structure, claimed that they only made $1.5 million of revenue in Australia for the past year. This is despite them having almost 70% market share for eBooks in Australia.

The Richard Flanagan event was attended by publishers, booksellers, reviewers and writers. As Richard pointed out in the speech he made this wasn’t just a celebration of what his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North had achieved but of the work of everyone at his publisher, Random House Australia, and the support his book had received from booksellers, reviewers and readers.

I was lucky enough to have a brief conversation with Richard at the event. We talked about the whirlwind winning the Booker Prize has brought upon him and how sales of his book have been overseas. Interestingly prior to winning the Booker Prize his book had done much better in the US than the UK (traditionally Australian authors do better in the UK than the US). Richard put this directly down to the fact there are very few bookshops left in the UK which is now dominated by either the Supermarkets or Amazon (who own both Amazon.co.uk and The Book Depository).

At the same time as this celebratory event (and with Amazon publicly called out for their tax avoidance) a rumour was swirling around the room. The Book Depository was apparently in talks with Australian publishers and distributors to establish direct supply into the Australian market.

The Book Depository was started by an ex-Amazon executive in 2004. They embarked upon an aggressive discounting campaign coupled with free worldwide postage. Many in the industry speculated that their aim was to disrupt Amazon’s business enough that they would force Amazon to buy them out, which is what Amazon did in 2011. The Book Depository business model is based on not holding any stock at all (the opposite of Amazon’s numerous warehouse model in multiple cities to speed delivery). The Book Depository instead utilizes distributors and publishers who direct ship orders to customers (in single copy parcels to minimize postage costs).

The Book Depository gained great traction in the Australian market following the open market debate of 2009 but it is unclear what market share they have due to the way they supply books from various sources. While they have made inroads in the Australian marketplace, Australian content like Richard Flanagan’s novel have remained almost exclusive to the local market until publication overseas. This is the same with Amazon and other overseas retailers. Some Australian publishers, like Affirm Press, have even gone as far as to block their books from sale to The Book Depository and Amazon.

Major publishers in Australia (which include the 4 major distributors who supply the Top 12 publishers in Australia) set up a Customer Direct Fulfillment service for local booksellers in 2013. The system has been barely used by local booksellers as the terms of trade offered to booksellers have not been very attractive. I have also heard from bookshops who have used the service that it is unreliable with orders that are supposed to be supplied in 48 hours taking anywhere up to 7 days to be processed.

Despite outcry over The Book Depository’s deep incursions into the industry 5 years ago it now seems some Australian publishers may now make a deal with the devil. Not only is this incredibly short-sighted and a massive shot in the foot of local bookshops (both physical bookshops and online) but any publisher who decides to supply books for The Book Depository will help enable Amazon (the owner of The Book Depository) to sell physical books in Australia without a physical presence. This means Amazon will not collect GST, they will not pay company tax, they won’t create any jobs and they will continue to use their complex tax avoidance structure. All supported by some Australian publishers.

I would warmly welcome Amazon or The Book Depository setting up a warehouse in Australia because it would a fair fight. This is not a fair fight. This is an example of pure greed, cowardice and business without responsibility.

It does not appear that any publishers or distributors have agreed to terms with The Book Depository but they are in talks. In light of not only their blatant tax evasion but also the terrible conditions Amazon workers have around the world and the conditions Amazon already dictate to publishers over terms of trade I find it truly unfathomable that any publisher would wish to get into bed with them. Especially in light of the treatment of Hachette books in terms of trade negotiations in the US where Amazon have effectively blacklisted Hachette print books and won’t take pre-orders on their eBooks.

Amazon is the biggest threat to not only the book industry in Australia but all territories in which they do business. Amazon wants to have a monopoly of not just book sales but the entire supply chain. And in Australia it seems some are prepared to hand this to them on a platter.

I say, not without a big fight.

Readers, Authors, Publishers. If you truly care about an Australian Book Industry we cannot allow Amazon to do business in this country in this manner. This will gut the industry from the inside out and we will become like the UK market where books must either appease the giant supermarket chains or one retailer’s internet algorithm. And what a boring, stale literary culture that would be. Show your support by lobbying publishers not to do business with Amazon in this manner. It is just not bookshops at stake but our authors, our stories, our culture.

John Birmingham’s EMERGENCE

9781742614045John Birmingham delivers in spades in the first book of his explosive new trilogy.

Dave Hooper is not your typical hero. In fact he is a bit of an arsehole. He works on the oil rigs and blows most of his pay packet on booze, drugs and women much to the ire of his very-soon-to-be ex-wife and two kids. Dave is nursing a particularly nasty hangover on the way to work when all hell literally breaks loose.

Dave’s oil rig has been drilling deeper than anyone ever has before. And they may have just drilled too far. A barrier sealing off our world from another has been broken and creatures that haven’t been seen in millennia have come through and begun feasting on a long-lost delicacy; human meat. And so begins the adventures of Dave Hooper who is inadvertently thrown into this maelstrom and in the process inherits some kind of superpowers to fight these monsters from below. As Dave, the military and the outside world try to come to grips with what is happening more ‘gaps’ in the barrier appear and two worlds who haven’t been in contact for thousands of years will erupt. And an overweight, barely sober, safety engineer appears to be our only hope of survival.

Birmingham mixes up a combination of Middle Earth orcs with a Marvel universe sensibility but with his own trademark humour and insight firmly stamped all over any comparisons. As with Birmingham’s previous books he creeps in a geo-political undertone to the consequences of what he puts in motion which only makes the reading more fun. The next two installments in the trilogy have already been written and will be released throughout 2015. I can hardly wait to see what happens next (especially after the epilogue!!!)

 

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ISBN: 9781742614045
Classification:
Format: Paperback (233mm x 154mm x mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Macmillan
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publish Date: 01-Jan-2015
Country of Publication: Australia

Monthly Blog Round up – October

My blog posts from October

9781444776775Naoki Higashida’s THE REASON I JUMP

Translated by David Mitchell and his wife Keiko Yoshida this is a fascinating look into the world of autism. Written by a 13 year old boy, using an alphabet board, this book is a first hand account of what it is like for somebody with autism. Read more…

9780007550692Jeff VanderMeer’s ANNIHILATION

Annihilation is also the first book in a serial, The Southern Reach Trilogy. So now that the third book has been released (all three were published this year) I finally got the push to start it. And immediately regretted not reading it sooner. Part early Michael Crichton (the good stuff) and part original Alien movie (and part something else but I can’t say because SPOILER!!), I was instantly hooked. Read more…

Peter Stenson’s FIEND9780099558835

I love a good zombie story especially when it is done with a fresh twist. And this zombie thriller certainly comes from a different angle. Read more…

9780007553525 (1)Jeff VanderMeer’s AUTHORITY

The second book in the Southern Reach trilogy turns the story’s perspective around and begins with a couple of awesome twists. The first book, Annihilation, detailed a scientific exploration of Area X where some kind of environmental disaster has occurred. Events took a turn for the worse and now an investigation is underway to try and work out what went wrong and why. Read more…

Karen Joy Fowler’s WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES9781846689666

This book ticks a number of boxes for me. It is about a dysfunctional family, it is predominantly set in a college and does both with a very clever twist. It is also told in a non-linear fashion by an unreliable narrator (whose unreliability is perfectly understandable). Just like Jeffrey Eugenides did with Middlesex this is also a compelling exploration of nature vs nurture told with an originality that is fascinating, entertaining, tragic and endearing. Read more…

9781846689819Adrian McKinty’s GUN STREET GIRL

Sometimes a recurring crime character is brought back and the story feels forced or the attempt feels lame. But then there are those rare times when, despite the series being over, the character comes back and exceeds what has been done before. And that is exactly what Adrian McKinty has done with Sean Duffy. Read more…

Jeff VanderMeer’s ACCEPTANCE9780007553556

The conclusion to The Southern Reach trilogy left with mixed feelings. The first two books were intensely gripping and dream inducing which permeated with a sense of both wonder and foreboding. Each book was told from a single character’s perspective and laid out individual pieces of a much bigger and complex puzzle. Read more…