Review: The Journey: A Big Panda and Tiny Dragon Adventure – James Norbury

The Journey: Big Panda Tiny Dragon Adventure

James Norbury

Michael Joseph

Penguin Random House


RRP $35.00


The beautifully illustrated new adventure from cherished friends and Sunday Times bestsellers BIG PANDA AND TINY DRAGON

‘James has a way to speak to your soul. This book is nothing short of comforting and heartwarming’ VEX KING
‘While the drawings have the charm of Winnie-the-Pooh, the captions have the depth of ancient proverbs’ GUARDIAN
‘A beautifully illustrated book which draws on tender moments. Exquisite’ DR RANGAN CHATTERJEE

‘We shall go on a journey, across the river . . .’

Join Big Panda and Tiny Dragon as they set off on an extraordinary adventure in this companion to the global bestselling phenomenon Big Panda and Tiny Dragon.

Although content in their temple high up in the mountains, Tiny Dragon realises that something feels incomplete. So it is that they decide to make a journey together, to new and distant lands.

As they encounter dangers and challenges, they learn that everything they need is already inside them and that change, though sometimes scary, is possible and, with patience, can lead to better things.

Inspired by Buddhist philosophy and spirituality, the story of these whimsical characters makes the perfect gift for anyone looking for a little hope and comfort.

‘If we have to be lost,’ said Big Panda, ‘I am glad it is with you . . .’ 

My View:

Absolutely beautiful- in every way! The narrative so calm and honest and true, the illustrations – divine.

Buy this for yourself – you will so enjoy! Buy as a gift for anyone needing a bit of a boost, buy for you creative friends – they will love the art within these pages.

5 stars

Review: The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida – Clarissa Goenawan

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

Clarissa Goenawan

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781922310286



A bewitching novel set in contemporary Japan about the mysterious suicide of a young woman.

Miwako Sumida is dead.

Now those closest to her try to piece together the fragments of her life. Ryusei, who has always loved her, follows Miwako’s trail to a remote Japanese village. Chie, Miwako’s best friend, was the only person to know her true identity — but is now the time to reveal it? Meanwhile, Fumi, Ryusei’s sister, is harbouring her own haunting secret.

Together, they realise that the young woman they thought they knew had more going on behind her seemingly perfect façade than they could ever have dreamed.




Hi, I’m Clarissa.

Thank you for picking up The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida.

I’m fascinated with the idea that often, we thought that we know a person really well, but actually, we don’t. How far would you go to uncover the truth? And what if the truth is more painful than the lies?

Those questions eventually led me to write The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida. It’s a story of how a young woman’s unexplained suicide shapes and transforms the lives of those she left behind. I usually describe the book as a literary mystery with elements of magical realism set in Japan, and a coming-of-age story masquerading as a murder mystery.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida is my second novel. The book has been five years in the making and I couldn’t be more proud. Just like my debut novel, Rainbirds, this book features a collection of my favourite things. You’ll find a second-hand bookstore with no signage, beloved classic books, a whimsical cat that resembles maneki-neko, delicious Japanese comfort food, convenience stores, melancholic rainy days, and amidst them, small, everyday moments that dazzle me. In a way, I’m turning them into words with the hope of capturing these precious memories forever.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. And if you do, I’d be grateful if you could share it with others.


Warm regards,

Clarissa Goenawan.



My View:

A compelling read.

At the heart this is book about secrets and friendships.  There is something about an unexpected death that leaves those in the circle of friends and relations seeking to understand, seeking answers, seeking clues as to the “why?”.  Goenawan tackles this subject delicately and quietly – I like the voice in this narrative. It is a sad story yet not morose. The back story is one …well that’s another secret and I won’t reveal that😊 But I will say it is very contemporary social issue that is sensitively illuminated and discussed.


To me this is a book in two parts. The before the trip the friends take to the village and the after. The “after” is a little mystical, or perhaps spiritual…depending on your outlook. Traditions and culture form the strength of the second part of the narrative and help resolve some areas of the story arc.


There is something about the quiet voice in this narrative that is so powerful and compelling. I did enjoy this read and hope you will too.

#FridayFreebie : Max – Alex Miller

#FridayFreebie : Max – Alex Miller


Alex Miller

Allen & UNwin

ISBN: 9781760878160

RRP $29.99


An astonishing, moving tribute to Alex’s friend, Max Blatt, that is at once a meditation on memory itself, on friendship and a reminder to the reader that history belongs to humanity.

‘Max tells of Alex Miller’s search — in turns fearful and elated — for the elusive past of Max Blatt, a man he loves, who loved him and who taught him that he must write with love. Miller discovers that he is also searching for a defining part of himself, formed by his relation to Max Blatt, but whose significance will remain obscure until he finds Max, complete, in his history. With Max, Miller the novelist has written a wonderful work of non-fiction, as fine as the best of his novels. Always a truth-seeker, he has rendered himself vulnerable, unprotected by the liberties permitted to fiction. Max is perhaps his most moving book, a poignant expression of piety, true to his mentor’s injunction to write with love.’ Raimond Gaita, award-winning author of Romulus, My Father

I began to see that whatever I might write about Max, discover about him, piece together with those old shards of memory, it would be his influence on the friendships of the living that would frame his story in the present.

According to your 1939 Gestapo file, you adopted the cover names Landau and Maxim. The name your mother and father gave you was Moses. We knew you as Max. You had worked in secret. From an early age you concealed yourself – like the grey box beetle in the final country of your exile, maturing on its journey out of sight beneath the bark of the tree.

You risked death every day. And when at last the struggle became hopeless, you escaped the hell and found a haven in China first, and then Australia, where you became one of those refugees who, in their final place of exile, chose not death but silence and obscurity.

Alex Miller followed the faint trail of Max Blatt’s early life for five years. Max’s story unfolded, slowly at first, from the Melbourne Holocaust Centre’s records then to Berlin’s Federal Archives. From Berlin, Miller travelled to Max’s old home town of Wroclaw in Poland. And finally in Israel with Max’s niece, Liat Shoham, and her brother Yossi Blatt, at Liat’s home in the moshav Shadmot Dvora in the Lower Galilee, the circle of friendship was closed and the mystery of Max’s legendary silence was unmasked.

Max is an astonishing and moving tribute to friendship, a meditation on memory itself, and a reminder to the reader that history belongs to humanity.

 ** Today I have 3 copies of this moving tribute to friendship. If you would like a chance to read this book by the remarkable Alex Miller  simple comment with a title of one of Alex Miler’s previous book.  Australians residents only. I will randomly select winners on 10/10/020  


Post Script:Like I Can Love – Kim Lock

Like I Can Love

Like I Can Love

Kim Lock

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781743538630



On a hot January afternoon, Fairlie Winter receives a phone call. Her best friend has just taken her own life.


Jenna Rudolph, 26 years old, has left behind a devoted husband, an adorable young son and a stunning vineyard. But Fairlie knows she should have seen this coming.


Yet Fairlie doesn’t know what Jenna’s husband Ark is hiding, nor does she know what Jenna’s mother Evelyn did to drive mother and daughter apart all those years ago.


Until Fairlie opens her mail and finds a letter. In Jenna’s handwriting. Along with a key.


Driven to search for answers, Fairlie uncovers a horrifying past, a desperate mother, and a devastating secret kept by those she loves the most.


Heartbreaking and terrifying, Like I Can Love explores love in all its forms – from the most fragile to the most dangerous – and the unthinkable things we do in its name.




My View:

One of the hardest things to do is to review a book you really love without spoilers!  I loved this book!!!


This is a book that will pierce no rip out your heart. It is a book that will have you air pumping shouting YES YES YES I GET IT!   I sincerely hope you do to because that is what we need – more people to understand this issue. (No spoilers here).


So maybe I had better try and articulate my feelings about this book – for it is a book about feelings – and whilst the title may allude to a rosy happy ever after love story – this isn’t. Yet this is a story about love, about relationships; about best friends for ever love, about mothers and daughters, men and women, husbands and wives and soul mates, and children and other stuff that will remain nameless until you to have read the book.


It is also a story of manipulation, intimidation, greed and control and…love.  The psychological suspense is palpable.  The opening begins with Fairlie’s ordinary day imploding after receiving a call to advise her that her best friend has just committed suicide.  What a great opening hook – now we want to know the how, where and why. The why is oh so important!  And slowly a three dimensional picture is revealed.


This is domestic noir at its very best. This book stands proudly next to my favourite book Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. It is not as violent as Elizabeth Haynes’s book but it is as credible, and as compulsive a read and as shocking a read as Into the Darkest Corner.  I don’t think I can give a book any higher praise.


Read this and have your eyes opened. Read this and understand. Read this and be consumed by the emotions that you cannot hold back. Just read it!


PS I can predict an award or two in the future for this book and writer.



Post Script: The Falling Detective – Christoffer Carlsson

The Falling Detective

The Falling Detective

The Leo Junker Series #2

Christoffer Carlsson

Translated by Michael Gallagher


ISBN: 9781925321210



The second instalment in the internationally bestselling Leo Junker series.


Leo Junker is back in the snake pit — aka the homicide unit — after a murder case where he was the intended victim. Still abusing prescription drugs and battling his inner demons, he’s doing his best to appear fit for duty.


Then a sociologist named Thomas Heber is found murdered. The only clues the police have to work with are Heber’s cryptic research notes, which indicate that someone else’s life is also under threat. But who?


Leo is put on the Heber case with his former nemesis Gabriel Birck, but when the case is abruptly reassigned to the Swedish Security Service, he realises this is no ordinary street mugging. Soon he finds himself entangled in a clash between a racist gang and their rivals, and enters a war that’s being waged on the streets, in the public eye, and in the shadows.




My View:

Clues like these…mean nothing in isolation, without the story that ties them all together. They are like road signs without symbols or letters. (p.39)


An interesting modern police procedural with relevant contemporary references to global social and political issues.  It is also a domestic  story about friendship, trust and betrayal and demonstrates just how easy it is for people to be manipulated by fear – of being exposed (for behaviours they do not wish made public or to be made accountable for) fear of rejection, of not belonging, of not living up to others expectations.


Carlsson offers many astute observations of life and society throughout the book, this one particular observation resonated with me: (of Michael and Christian p. 100) They were fifteen, and both believed that they understood everything. In fact they understood nothing.  


Sociology and crime make for an interesting read, however I feel that as I missed reading the first book in this series I missed the connections between characters and didn’t have the background to understand some of the complicated relationships – I wanted to know what had happened to Leo, why he was taking medication, why he was hallucinating, showing obvious other signs of PTS (I knew it was to do with an incident relating to a shooting but little else). Whilst Carlsson provides some background information in this episode there is not enough for the new reader to be able to pick up the intricacies or nuances of relationships.  I really wanted to know more about Leo and Grim, about Leo and Birck, about Leo and Sam.  Regardless of my lack of history of some of the characters, this was still is an interesting look at some social political groups and situations that could easily become reality.


**The series will shortly be developed into a three season TV drama by StellNova Film.






Post Script: Summer’s Gone – Charles Hall

 Take a journey with me…

Cover Summer's Gone

Summer’s Gone

Charles Hall

Margaret River Press

ISBN: 9780987561541



One short, beautiful summer of love, and then a tragedy – and the Vietnam War – will drive four friends apart.

But nothing is straightforward about what has come between them. And nothing is clear, really, until years later, when Nick goes back to where it all happened and trawls through his memory to put the pieces together.


Charles Hall’s novel tells a very personal story set in Australia in the rebellious days of the 60s, a decade of upheaval, when one’s own journey was intensified by the politics of the world – civil rights, feminism, drugs and, at the heart of the upheaval, the Vietnam War and conscription. It was a time of uproar on every level – families, music, film, relationships and a belief that not only did the world need changing but that ordinary people could change it…



My View:


This reads as an intimate, personal account of life, a coming of age story set in tumultuous times of the late 60’s early 70’s; written in the first person, it feels like the protagonist Nick/Nicko is talking directly to you, sharing his experiences, his personal growth, his relationship ups and downs… and his political thoughts.


Some small part of me identifies very strongly with this era (I missed being part of what became affectionately known as the psychedelic /free love/hippy era by a mere decade or so), I was a teenager challenging my own world as this comets tail was in its death throes. But I had aunts and uncles that grew up in this time and I witnessed some of their “freedoms” enviously. As a teenager with limited experience of the world I thought they were so lucky. I love/d the music, the fashion (the wide, wide legged flairs) peace signs on jeans, necklaces, bracelets, denim was king, bold blue eyeshadows and big eyes, big hair, fun…passion, the beginnings of feminism and the rise of equal opportunity. I was too naïve to appreciate that all this “freedom” came with a cost – the threat of conscription was very real, I found it incredulous that conscientious objectors were thrown in jail, no freedom of expression, personal rights here. The sexual revolution came at a high cost too – for some women the cost of not having freely available, stigma free contraception meant experiencing the backyard abortionists – some did not survive this experience. Attitudes and laws had not caught up with this new culture of freedom the 70’s rushed to embrace. And yet it had an appeal, a romance, an image of youth and freedom that I found intoxicating. Hall’s protagonists’ cleverly lead us through these tumultuous times, showing all sides of this revolution.


Hall’s’ characters are very likable – Nick/Nicko, Helen, Alison and Uncle Clem all demonstrate those wonderful characteristics we as Australians love to identify with; the battlers, the free spirits, the larrikins, the hard workers…people who made their own opportunities…even the “bad guy” Mitch has elements of likeableness that you can’t ignore – he volunteered to serve his country – Australians are big on patriotism, he came back wounded and experiencing Post Traumatic Shock – Australians pride themselves on their empathy. Great casting here.


The settings and locations were very real to me. I recognised some of the flats, the shared houses, the op shop furniture and barely going first cars. I am sure that aside from the huge hike in rents some of these places haven’t changed very much at all. The trips across the Nullarbor – a few towns have grown, a few have disappeared but the journey, the excitement of making that crossing to a brave new world is still exhilarating (especially if you live in Perth and travel eastwards rather than the other way).


There is so much in the book to enjoy. There is so much nostalgia; I loved this book with its simple, easy to read style that talks to you like you are a best friend. The narrative is complex yet innocently beguiling at the same time. It is a coming of age and a personal story, an Australian story, spoken in the colloquial; laconic, blokey yet peppered with insight and self-awareness. And it is a tragedy – on some many levels. Read this and take the journey back to a different time, read with your eyes wide open.

Post Script: The Mountain Story – Lori Lansens


Book cover The Mountain Story - Lori Lansens - Simon & Schuster

The Mountain Story

Lori Lansens

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471138003



From New York Times bestselling author Lori Lansens comes a harrowing survival story about four strangers who spend five days lost in the mountain wilderness above Palm Springs.


Four go up the mountain, but only three will come down;

On the morning of Wolf Truly’s eighteenth birthday, he boards the first cable car to head up the mountains just a few miles from his sun-bleached trailer home in the desert community outside of Palm Springs. Armed with nothing but the clothes on his back, Wolf’s intention that morning was to give up on life; specifically at the mountain site of his best friend’s tragic accident one year ago. But on that shaky ride up the mountain, fate intervenes and Wolf meets three women that will leave an indelible imprint on the rest of his life. Through a series of missteps, the four wind up lost and stranded among the forested cliffs; in sight of the desert city below, but unable to find a way down.

As the days pass without rescue, we come to learn how each of them came to be on the mountain that morning. And as their situation shifts from misadventure to nightmare, the lost hikers forge an inextricable bond, pushing themselves, and each other, beyond their limits.

Reminiscent of John Krakauer’s modern classic Into the Wild and Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling Oprah-endorsed Wild, Lori Lansen’s The Mountain Story is a deeply affecting novel that pays homage to the rugged beauty and utterly unforgiving nature of the wilderness, and considers the question: What price are you willing to pay not only for the ones you love, but for a complete stranger?

My View:

I first became acquainted with this novel when I discovered a book trailer on the web – I was intrigued by the story and by the voice of the narrator. Several more “teasers” were released – I loved listening to these, the setting are so realistic, the narrators voice stayed with me as I read the book, the hand held video camera style of shooting are perfect in instilling a sense of mystery and isolation. The final sound – a lonesome bird call – is eerie.

The book was a must to read.

And I was not disappointed! I loved the writing style – effectively a father is writing a letter to his son sharing a story so emotional he cannot voice the words out loud; poignant, effective and times heart breaking such is the back story of Wolf’s upbringing that you cannot help but be affected by this drama. The author jumps between past and present – telling us Wolf’s family history and how he ended up on the mountain blending in scenes from what is happening on the mountain to the stranded hikers. It is an awesome, exciting tale – the Mountain another character cast in this drama. Mystery, fear, sadness, heroism and redemption of sorts…a great mystery set in an awe inspiring location. Listen and you can hear the crows,  look up and you can see the carrion birds flying up above you.



NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.

Post Script: Keep Your Friends Close – Paula Daly

Keep Your Friends Close

Paula Daly

Random House UK, Transworld Publishers

Bantam Press

ISBN: 9780593071991



Natty and Sean Wainwright are happily married. Rock solid in fact. So when Natty’s oldest friend, Eve Dalladay, appears – just as their daughter collapses on a school trip in France – Natty has no qualms about leaving Eve with Sean to help out at home.


Two weeks later and Natty finds Eve has slotted into family life too well. Natty’s husband has fallen in love with Eve. He’s sorry, he tells her, but their marriage is over.


With no option but to put a brave face on things for the sake of the children, Natty embarks on building a new life for herself.


And then she receives the note.


Eve has done this before, more than once, and with fatal consequences…



My View:

This is a remarkable compulsive read – so good in fact I got half way through this and had to  stop – the tension created was enormous and my expectations of what was about to happen meant I could not face reading another word…for a few days…brilliant work Paula Daly, to make mere words so powerful and emotional. I loved every minute of this read.


This narrative is a brilliantly written psychological suspense/mystery that will have you chewing at your nails, begging the protagonist Natty to watch out, to look out- but of course she doesn’t! The tension builds, the drama grows and the flames devour and then …it ends. I would have liked to have had more pages in this book, a few more chapters to unravel all the past crimes and histories and to discover what exactly the future held, but Daly lets the reader make up their own conclusion, the imagination is a powerful tool.