Review: Japan- Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh

Japan: A curated guide to the best sights, food, culture & art

Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh

Pan Macmillan Australia



RRP $44.99


There is something about Japan that works its way into every fibre of your being. No matter how many times you visit, you’ll always uncover new experiences and life-altering adventures.

Pack your bags and travel with us to a country rich in cultural history and full of fascinating contrasts, from the frantic pace of Tokyo and Osaka, to the wintry soul of Hokkaido in the north and the natural wonders of Kyushu in the south. Navigate the dynamic cities, walk the roads of old Japan in Kyoto, Nara, Kanazawa and Nikko, or go off-grid to smaller, far-flung towns, each with their own unique traditions, crafts, sights, food and art.

Packed with cultural insights and stunning photography, this experiential and eclectic guide takes you on a deeper journey into Japan. Read up on history and local knowledge before you go, learn how to navigate the Shinkansen (bullet train), contemplate modern art and architecture, lose yourself in gardens, shrines and temples, and indulge in the best food tourism of your life. This tightly curated list of must-see places and experiences is for people who want to get an up close and personal look at the real Japan.

My View:

When I opened this book and started to examine some of the wonderful images ( presented more like a coffee travel book than a travel book) I felt an immediate urge to travel – something I have not felt at all during these years of COVID 19 uncertainty and restrictions.

This book has it all; glorious scenery, arts, history, food, beer, culture….I want to visit Japan 🙂

Review- What Do You Call Your Grandma? Ashleigh Barton & Martina Heiduczek

What Do You Call Your Grandma?

Ashleigh Barton

Illustrated by Martina Heiduczek

ABC Books

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

ISBN: 9780733340840

RRP $19.99



An inclusive picture book for grandparents everywhere.


In every country around the world are grandmas short and tall.


Though they go by different names, we love them one and all.


From talented duo Ashleigh Barton and Martina Heiduczek, comes a charming and heart-warming book that celebrates the many different ways we say grandma.


What Do You Call Your Grandma? is a love letter to grandmothers and families from every corner of the globe.



My View:

Another great read to share with your pre-schooler. A great follow up to What Do You Call Your Grandpa. A book that fosters inclusivity, language development and cultural understanding. A great addition to any preschool’s library.





Spotlight On The Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival – Madelaine Dickie

Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival

Welcome to my blog, Margaret River and to the festival Madelaine Dickie author of Troppo, a book about ” big waves, black magic and mad Aussie expats.”  Madelaine won the TAG Hungerford award in 2014 for an unpublished manuscript which the judges described as  ‘A beautifully observed novel with a strong sense of place about a young Australian abroad witnessing a culture and caught up in events she only half understands.’ 2014 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Judges’ Report.  Looks like I have discovered another great Australian writer!

Madelaine Dickie

Madelaine shares her writing journey with us.


On writing a surfing novel in Indonesia

The idea for Troppo came about on a surf trip to mainland Sumatra, Indonesia, during my mid-year university holidays in 2009. I was twenty-three, and had already travelled quite extensively through Indonesia. I’d nearly drowned surfing Racetracks at Uluwatu—my leg jammed stuck between two bits of coral; I’d got malaria on Pulau Lembata, in a village where the people still hunt whales in strict accordance with ancient taboos; I’d had a gun pointed at my face crossing the border between West Timor and Timor Leste. On all the islands I visited, I had this tingling feeling that there was magic, danger, and stories to be found. This trip to Sumatra on my uni break was no different, only I found something extra—a setting for Troppo, a village half-real and half-imagined, with its back to a chain mountains and its face to the sea.

I started writing.

In 2012, I was awarded a Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Endeavour Award to move to Indonesia for a year and finish the first draft of Troppo. I didn’t move to Sumatra, but to a small fishing village in West Java, where my partner and I rented a local house a street back from the sea. It was difficult living in earshot of the ocean—the ocean has this energy that tends to amp you, call you to it. At night, we could hear the tide rise, feel the earth shudder with the impact of the waves. During the day, we could see the offshore wind in the palms, the swell lines curving around the point. Sometimes it was really hard finding the discipline to write. Surfing is easier than writing—everything is easier than writing! When my partner announced strike missions with the boys to some of the big-ticket Indo surf spots like G-Land, Lakey Peak and Panaitan, I had to grit my teeth and say no, I couldn’t come. My target was five hundred words a day. Sometimes I knocked it over in an hour, sometimes it took eight. Always I bribed myself—you can’t go for a second surf, or to Ibu Cici’s beauty salon, or drink any mojitos until you’re done.

Skip ahead several years, from West Java, to Jakarta, to Broome, and finally Troppo was done. I submitted the manuscript for the 2014 City of Fremantle T.A.G Hungerford Award and it won!!! Fremantle Press are launching the book in August this year, and pre-orders are available through the Margaret River Bookshop now. I’m also excited to be heading south for the Margaret River Writers’ Festival on the 3rd-5th June to talk about Troppo. If you’re keen to read a book about big waves, black magic and mad Aussie expats … a story that tingles with the danger and thrill of living somewhere as extraordinary as Indonesia … then I’d love to meet you there.

Post Script: Where The Trees Were – Inga Simpson

Where The Trees Were

Where the Trees Were

Inga Simpson

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733634536



A beautiful new novel about the innocence of childhood and the scars that stay with you for life, from the award winning author of MR WIGG and NEST.


‘All in?’ Kieran pulled me up, and the others followed. We gathered around the bigger tree. No one asked Matty – he just reached up and put his right hand on the trunk with ours.


Kieran cleared his throat. ‘We swear, on these trees, to always be friends. To protect each other – and this place.’


Finding those carved trees forged a bond between Jay and her four childhood friends and opened their eyes to a wider world. But their attempt to protect the grove ends in disaster, and that one day on the river changes their lives forever.


Seventeen years later, Jay finally has her chance to make amends. But at what cost? Not every wrong can be put right, but sometimes looking the other way is no longer an option.




My View:

Another great read from Inga Simpson – her passion for nature and her wonderful ability to transport the reader to any location she chooses to write about is to be commended.  And Inga Simpson artfully captures the innocence of childhood perfectly! Children accept everyone, it is not till later they learn to discriminate by gender, race, by socio economic borders, by ability…


Whilst at first glance this narrative seems to be quite simple, straight forward; a coming of age story with a thread that deals with remorse and justice, look a little closer, listen to the words, there is much more to be heard here.


The dual time zones (childhood 1980’s and current 2000’s) allows Simpson to explore such issues as the conservation/preservation of art and cultural objects/return of significant cultural artefacts to original owners, Indigenous rights, Land Rights, drugs in sport, the difficulties facing Australian farmers today, facing country towns, Australian foreign affairs and terrorism, illegal fishing …There is so much in this book!  Yet it doesn’t feel cramped or that lessons are being given, all these elements form the miasma of issues that cloak our day to day modern Australian lives; they inform, or are ignored or give meaning to our individual lives.


This is an exceptional book that can be read on many levels; a coming of age story of the children in this book, the coming of age of Australia.




Post Script: Lost Boy and Other Stories- Estelle Tang Ed.

Cover Lost Boy and Other Short Stories

Lost Boy and Other Stories

Edited by Estelle Tang

Margaret River Press

ISBN: 9780987561589




This anthology edited by Estelle Tang is a collection of stories submitted to the annual Margaret River Short Story Competition. The competition attracts both emerging and established short story writers, some of who have won local, national and international awards or have been published in The Best Australian Stories, and in journals such as Overland, Southerly, Island and Griffith Review.

We live in the world. But how that world manifests for each of us is different—utterly dependent on circumstances. The people we are born to know and the places we are born to see fix us in their sights, and that’s it. That’s where our stories come from. The stories here are all charged with a human affinity that reaches through the page.

Of these worlds, we might note how geography shapes them, and so heed the callous colonialism of mid twentieth-century Sri Lanka, as seen in Michelle Wright’s ‘To Call Things by Their Right Name’, or note the different kinds of mystery Australian visitors to Laos might find, as Beverley Lello evokes in ‘Scenes from a Disappearance’. Other stories are circumscribed by the strictures and saving graces of family, which can create such specific, affecting universes. Take the child narrator of Rosemary Allen’s ‘What Has to Be Done’, whose observations unwittingly create rents in the fabric of her familial life. And while the bizarre behaviour of a lost man in Susan McCreery’s ‘The Uninvited’ alienates and frightens us, his understanding of parenthood humanises him once more.

We’re guided to still smaller spheres elsewhere in the collection: think of the atmosphere that produces its own pull between two people in conversation, as in Jeannie Haughton’s ‘Weight-Bearing Exercise’, or a girl communing with such an elemental force as the weather, which we witness in Cassie Hamer’s ‘Glory Season’.



My View:

Such a diverse and interesting collection of short stories that are destined to make you think; some will prick at your conscience, some will make you nod your head in agreement and some will make you smile.


The first story, which is the winner of this year’s Margaret River Short Story Prize, Lost Boy by Melanie Napthine is intense and will leave you contemplating the society we live in where children/the childlike, are at still at great risk…This is a story that stayed with me long after I turned the page. Eva Lomski’s The Trapper evoked so many feelings; the trauma and consequences of domestic/family violence has not diminished with time and with the education of the greater population, this story leaves me enraged and saddened. Greater change is needed. More support is needed for the survivors.


Michelle Wright’s To Call Things By Their Name transported me to a time and place that is firmly implanted in my memory, a time when we worked overseas– in Sri Lanka. And though we lived in Colombo in the mid 1990’s, a time of turmoil and domestic terrorism, the landscape – physical, economical and hierarchical had not changed a great deal from that in this narrative –perhaps the cities were bigger, the traffic more congested, the towns more populated but traditions and values largely unchanged. Again a different time but such a familiar story.


Carol McDowall, the winner of the Southwest Prize injected lightness and humour into this collection with her short story, Bringing Home the Ashes (which, by the way is not about cricket). Hope and a feeling of solidarity came from others in this collection.


This collection of short stores will touch you and certainly make you think and that I think is the strength of the short story – the ability to evoke feelings, memories and responses and perhaps more questions?