Sneak Peak – The Book of Tree Spells and The Book of Faerie Spells – Cheralyn Darcey

The Book of Tree Spells

The Book of Faerie Spells 

Cheralyn Darcey

Rockpool Publishing

Fexibound PB RRP $19.99 each

 

What a delight these two books are to hold in your hand. I love the flexibound covers – and the images and magik between the pages are inspiring.

Welcome:

 

Extracts from The Book of Tree Spells and The Book of Faerie Spells by Cheralyn Darcey (Rockpool, June 2019) Available flexibound paperback at $19.99 each

Post Script: Understory: A Life With Trees – Inga Simpson

A unique and special memoir.Understory

Understory

A Life with Trees

Inga Simpson

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733635960

 

Description:

A journey of staying in once place, told through trees.

 

Each chapter of this nature-writing memoir explores a particular species of tree, layering description, anecdote, and natural history to tell the story of a scrap of forest in the Sunshine Coast hinterland – how the author came to be there and the ways it has shaped her life.

 

In many ways, it’s the story of a tree change, of escaping suburban Brisbane for a cottage on ten acres in search of a quiet life. Of establishing a writers retreat shortly before the Global Financial Crisis, and losing just about everything.

It is also the story of what the author found there: the literature of nature and her own path as a writer.

 

“I see the world through trees. Every window and doorway frames trunks, limbs, and leaves. My light is their light, filtered green. My air is their exhalation.”

 

 

My View:

I am a fan of the Inga Simpson’s previous works – Nest and Where the Trees Were (I have yet to read Mr Wigg – a book which has garnered much praise). I now have a little understanding of where those narratives came from, yet I was surprised to discover the depth of passion that Inga Simpson has for the environment. I don’t think I have ever met anyone with such passionate views, with such determination, with such a strong bond with the landscape they live in, a landscape that has determined so much of Inga Simpson’s life and lifestyle; quite amazing!

 

Every chapter of this engaging memoir connects the reader to a particular species of tree, the memories it evokes, personal anecdotes shared, the chaotic life of a writer juxtaposed against the solidness, the strength and longevity of the tree… what a unique way of looking at and presenting, Inga’s world to her readers.

 

A unique and special memoir.

 

Post Script: The Last Crocodile Hunter – Bob Irwin with Amanda French – Guest Reviewer

“Anyone who has ever heard of Steve Irwin should read (this).”

the-last-crocodile-hunter

The Last Crocodile Hunter: A Father & Son Legacy

Bob Irwin with Amanda French

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781760292379

 

Description:

‘When the world lost Steve, the animals lost the best friend they ever had, and so did I. But he’s still here with me and knowing that means that I am able to gain strength from him, and harness the same passion and drive that he and I both had together. There are so many people who have been inspired and are still being inspired by Steve Irwin and that makes me feel really, really proud.’ – Bob Irwin

Bob Irwin grew up in the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, Australia, where his passion for wildlife and its environment was born. A near-death experience while working as a plumber made Bob realise he needed to follow his dreams, so he and his wife Lyn uprooted their young family and moved to Queensland where they opened a Reptile and Fauna Park on the Sunshine Coast.

Bob’s passion for reptiles grew with his ever expanding collection and he soon became involved with various venom labs, for which he would catch the snakes that were later milked for the production of life-saving anti-venom. Growing up within the Beerwah Reptile & Wildlife Park, and with Lyn caring for orphaned wildlife at home, passion for the environment and all animals was a way of life for the Irwin children. This unique upbringing had a profound impact on his son Steve, who followed in his father’s footsteps and along the way became famous around the world as educator and wildlife warrior, the Crocodile Hunter.

Bob nearly didn’t survive the sudden death of his adored wife Lyn, and could have gone under again when a routine filming session for Steve’s TV show ended in his tragic death in 2006 at the age of 44. In each instance was the natural world and the animals within it which helped Bob to keep going, and since then he has continued to fight for his beloved Steve’s legacy of protecting the wildlife, environment and planet on which our own survival depends.

Entertaining, moving, impassioned and inspiring, The Last Crocodile Hunter goes to the heart and soul of a great Australian character, father and fighter, and raises issues that are crucial to us all.

 

Brenda’s View:

The Dandenong Ranges in Victoria was where Bob Irwin grew up, and his love of the Australian wildlife and surrounding bush was in him from a very young age. As the years passed, Bob became a plumber and worked with his father. But eventually Bob knew he was no longer happy in his job, so after much discussion with his wife Lyn, in late 1972 they headed for Queensland with the children. The Beerwah Reptile and Fauna Park began on just three and a half acres of land; the hard work was done by the family as they slowly built it to where it could be opened to the public. The family survived on the bare minimum as neither Lyn nor Bob had an income, but they had a passionate vision of the future.

Bob and Lyn’s three children, Joy, Steve and Mandy, all shared their parents’ love of wildlife and conservation, but Steve was a sponge, soaking up everything his father taught him and always wanting more. Bob took Steve on his camping trips when they were contracted to remove crocodiles from particular creeks and rivers – Steve loved it. The two of them had a unique relationship; not just father and son, they were best mates as well.

As the Park expanded Australia Zoo was born – Steve’s famous Crocoseum became a world-wide attraction. But all the while, the animals were the top priority – teaching humans about the lives and habitats of the wild animals we live with was Steve and Bob’s ultimate goal. And they made a difference…

The Last Crocodile Hunter is the most comprehensive, interesting and heart wrenching memoir I have ever read. Emotional, profound and deeply moving, Bob Irwin’s words and memories have come to life with the help of Amanda French, who travelled with Bob throughout the outback, visiting old sites he had been to with Steve, chatting and imparting it all around the campfire. A quiet man, never one for the spotlight, son Steve was the complete opposite – they complemented each other well. Now seventy seven years of age, Bob Irwin continues his fight to preserve the legacy left by Steve for the well-being of our planet, the environment but mostly for the animals on it. The Last Crocodile Hunter is a memoir I highly recommend, and one I feel anyone who has ever heard of Steve Irwin should read. I very much enjoyed this 5 star read.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for this copy to read in exchange for my honest review.

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Jennifer Scoullar

 

Journey's End

Journey’s End

Jennifer Scoullar

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143797005

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennifer has always harboured a deep appreciation and respect for the natural world. Her house, which was left to her by her father, is on a hilltop overlooking valleys of messmate and mountain ash. She lives there with her family. A pair of old eagles live there too. Black-tailed wallabies graze by the creek. Eastern spinebills hover among the callistemon. Horses have always been her passion. She grew up on the books of Elyne Mitchell, and all her life she’s ridden and bred horses, in particular Australian stock horses.

 

I have read three books by Jennifer; Billabong Bend, Turtle Reef and her latest Journey’s End.   I have been impressed by all three. I love the connections to the land; the flora, the fauna and amazing Australian rural settings. The narratives are engaging, the social and environmental issues add considerable weight to these contemporary reads.  A favourite read you ask?  I think Jennifer’s writing is becoming more and more special and appealing with each release, Journey’s End is outstanding… but I loved the cover of Billabong Bend (and the narrative which took me to a landscape I have yet to witness first hand).

 

Please welcome Jennifer to my blog.

 

Jennifer Scoullar

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jennifer Scoullar

Let’s talk childhood. What aspirations did you have as a child?

As a child I was an avid reader, and felt a very special, secret connection with animals and plants. I wrote stories, poems and began my first novel when I was eleven. I think it was some sort of a plagiarised version of The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell. I wrote three chapters before I lost the manuscript, but I knew I’d grow up to be a writer.

 

Let’s talk early careers; studying law… and the paths to the road of writer and… foster carer.

My childhood ambition may have been to write novels, but things soon changed. I think every one of us has something important, deep down inside, that we always meant to do. Then life takes over and you don’t do it. That was how it was for me.

I went to University and studied law. I worked as a prosecutor with the National Crime Authority and as a defender with Legal Aid. I got married, had kids, got divorced, became a foster mother to many more children … and all the while a little, annoying, nagging voice – the voice of me as a child – reminded me that I was supposed to be a writer. I’m very grateful for that voice. In his wonderful essay ‘Why I Write’, George Orwell says, ‘If a writer escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write.’ He also said ‘never use two words when one will do’. More good advice.

Anyway, one day I saw a little wasp buzz past, and it struck me as amazing that for one moment, that insect and I shared the same time, the same place, the same space. I wondered what else we shared. This got me thinking about unlikely connections. I sat down and wrote my first novel, Wasp Season.

 

Let’s talk writing. Tell us about your family influences…

I grew up in a house full of books, and in a family of story-tellers. My father told fascinating stories about his time as a jackaroo in Queensland. My mother didn’t only read to me and my brother. She was a frustrated writer herself. Mum could invent wonderful tales on the spot, with recurring characters and highly original plots. The Magic Professor series was my favourite. A little girl (me) went for a walk in the bush and fell down a wombat hole where she found a science laboratory complete with a magic professor. They became friends, and he’d invent potions to help her with problems. Trouble was, they always backfired hilariously.

My grandfather was the editor of a country newspaper, and would secretly write letters to the editor to encourage engagement with readers. Sometimes he had fiery arguments with himself. My great aunt, the writer Mary Fullerton, died before I was born, but I have her novels and poems. My mother was very proud of Mary’s friendship with Miles Franklin, and her involvement in the women’s suffrage movement.

 

What do you love about writing?

I love the writing process – the rhythm of the prose and the pleasure of getting a sentence just right. I love that everything happens the way I want it to in my imaginary world. And as an introvert, I love the seclusion.

People often ask me about the solitary nature of writing. It can be no other way and fortunately I embrace solitude. If you don’t, you probably have no business being a writer. Many writers are loners. I’m a complete hermit. Some people ask me how I put up with being on my own so much, but I ask them how they put up with all the interruptions.

 

In any case, I’m not really alone. I have my characters, and I have the ghosts of readers. I feel an uneasy intimacy with future readers through my written words. It’s an uneasy intimacy because writers gently impress themselves onto readers’ private space. Even though writers are invited by readers to do so, it sometimes still feels like an imposition.

 

Let’s talk books and influences. Who is your favourite author?

I can’t choose one. Elyne Mitchell, author of the Silver Brumby books, is still one of my favourites. I adore Charles Dickens. What a master story-teller! Nobody draws characters better or with more humanity. I love his warmth of feeling, his sentimentality and his ability to draw the reader in emotionally. I love the way he sets a scene, painting a vibrant picture by evoking the sights, sounds and smells of a place. But most of all I love the courage he shows by engaging with social issues, attacking and exposing injustice wherever he sees it. I love Barbara Kingsolver for the same reason. Her work often focuses on biodiversity and the interaction between people and their environment. She inspires me to do the same.

 

Do you have a favourite book?

It changes all the time. Currently it would be a tie between Where The Trees Were by Inga Simpson (my former writing mentor) and Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver.

 

Let’s talk about the characters in your booksyour novels are character driven narratives – how do you construct a character?  Fully formed before you begin writing? Influenced by people you know?

For me, the possibilities of place always come first.  My stories are always inspired by some natural place that particularly interests me. I try to write animals and landscapes not as mere background or setting, but as essential parts of the narrative. So once I’ve decided on where, the characters evolve organically from there.

Sometimes they are influenced by people I know. This is particularly true of the main character in Journey’s End, Kim Sullivan. She was inspired by my old school friend, Kim Gollan, a real-life bush regenerator. Currently she’s on remote Lord Howe Island, restoring habitat for the Lord Howe Island Giant Phasmid, the world’s rarest insect.

 

Let’s talk about themes in your work. Conservation and nature are themes that feature in your novels. Can you talk to us about rewilding and how dingoes feature in this landscape?

I’m fascinated by the notion of rewilding – restoring flora and fauna to their historical range. The theory has gained popularity after conservation success stories such as bringing wolves back to Yellowstone, and the large-scale return of Europe’s apex predators like lynx, bears and wolverines.

 

Australia is beginning to embrace rewilding. Quolls, bilbies, bandicoots and bettongs are being returned to parts of their natural range. Plans are afoot to bring Tasmanian devils back to the mainland after a four-hundred-year absence. Many ecologists advocate reintroducing dingoes to control introduced pests like rabbits, cats and foxes – a concept I explore in Journey’s End. Yet rewilding isn’t just for our land. It’s a concept for our minds and spirits as well.

 

Let’s talk about research for your books – you obviously have a great deal of knowledge about your settings and the flora and fauna of the region –  how do you research for your books?

For Journey’s End the research trip was particularly simple. Twenty years ago, my real-life friend Kim established the Dingo Creek Rainforest Nursery at Bobin on the edge of Tapin Tops National Park. I had the great privilege of staying at their nursery, and having a guided tour of Tapin Tops by two passionate botanists who love and understand the sub-tropical rainforest found there.  

However, I’ve always been an amateur naturalist myself, and am fascinated by everything wild. I read a lot of non-fiction. At the moment I’m reading a book called Once and Future Giants – What Ice Age Extinctions Tell Us About the Fate of Earth’s Largest Mammals. Also a book about Australian wildflowers, a book on Tasmanian history, and the 40th anniversary edition of Born Free by Joy Adamson, A Lioness of Two Worlds

Novels with relevant subject matters are also must reads. For example, one of my works in progress has a fair bit of falconry in it. Reading novels such as H is for Hawk and My Side of the Mountain adds to the knowledge bank.

 

Lets’ talk next book?  Are you currently writing a new novel? Where will it be set? What issues do you want to draw our attention to?

I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new contract for a sweeping historical saga that will be out in the first half of next year. I’m very grateful to Penguin Random House for allowing me to explore this new genre.

It’s said that history is written by the winners. I want to write a fresh version of history, giving a voice to the outsiders, and to the animals teetering on the extinction precipice. My new book begins in late 19th century Tasmania, and is the first novel of a trilogy. It’s the story of Luke Tyler, a man unjustly condemned to prison in his youth, and of Isabelle Holmes, the girl he loves. The narrative follows their lives over a twenty-five-year period. It’s a compelling love story.

As in all my novels, animals play an important part. For example, I also tell the story of one of the last Tasmanian tigers, soon to disappear from Earth after a twenty-five-million-year reign. Apart from a little gem, Coorinna, written in 1957, there is no historical fiction concerning the Thylacine. I think it’s time to fill the gap.

My new novel explores the forces that caused the extinction of the greatest marsupial predator since Thylacoleo Carnifex the mighty marsupial lion, vanished forty-five thousand years earlier. What if the ultimate culprits weren’t the men who shot and snared them? What part did xenophobia play? And could the heroic actions of one young fugitive determine the fate of an entire species? I’m having a lot of fun writing this one.

 

 

Keep in touch with Jennifer here:

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJenScoullar

https://twitter.com/JenScoullar

https://jenniferscoullar.com/

Post Script: Where The Trees Were – Inga Simpson

Where The Trees Were

Where the Trees Were

Inga Simpson

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733634536

 

Description:

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: Nest – Inga Simpson

Life affirming, restful and restorative.

Nest

Inga Simpson

Hachette Australia

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733632341

 

Description:

Once an artist and teacher, Jen now spends her time watching the birds around her house and tending her lush sub-tropical garden near the small town where she grew up. The only person she sees regularly is Henry, who comes after school for drawing lessons.

 

When a girl in Henry’s class goes missing, Jen is pulled back into the depths of her own past. When she was Henry’s age she lost her father and her best friend Michael – both within a week. The whole town talked about it then, and now, nearly forty years later, they’re talking about it again.

 

Everyone is waiting – for the girl to be found and the summer rain to arrive. At last, when the answers do come, like the wet, it is in a drenching, revitalising downpour.

 

 

My View:

This is a beautifully painted picture of rich colours, ruffled feathers, about creating a space, a nest; to lie in, to return to, to heal and nurture oneself in or is this more about the empty nest? This is a complicated narrative beautifully told.

 

It was by coincidence I picked up this book just as we were travelling around south east Queensland, here, now, the land is dry and waiting for the rains as is the area and town this book is set in. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the landscape, the flora and the fauna and the deep connection the protagonist has with the land and the rhythms of the seasons.  It is a very relaxing almost meditative style of storytelling that quietly involves the reader in Jen’s the day to day life. There is something pleasing about her ritual baking, her weeding, planting and creation of art, her observation of nature. Jen appears to be leaving in the moment, but realistically she is stuck in the past; in past relationships, in lost lives and absent parents.

 

Slowly we witness Jen’s metamorphosis into a more whole and emotionally healthy individual as the mysteries surrounding her are revealed and she reconnects with the present and the community. We are given hints that she may have let go of last relationship as she scatters mementos to the wind and reconnects with old school friends and rediscovers a friend who may be moving back to the area who shares her interest in birds. She reconnects to her community through her art and her passion for rehabilitating the bush. Nature is a wonderfully healer.

 

Nest and all the permutations of its meaning are discussed and revealed for the reader to reflect upon in this narrative. Cherish the writing in this book, reflect on the peaceful setting and appreciate the healing hands of Mother Nature.