Review: Myths and Legends of the World, Retold by Alli Brydon, Illustrated by Julia Iredale

Lonely Planet Kids is putting out some gorgeous illustrated books about the world, and Myths and Legends of the World is another beautiful example.

Julia Iredale’s sumptuously coloured artwork is a marvellous match for Alli Brydon’s smart retelling of this collection of world mythologies, using a nicely judged balanced of traditional storytelling rhythms with some fresh, modern turns of phrase that invite young readers to connect with the folklore of different parts of the world.

The creators and editor, Rhoda Belleza, have done an excellent job of curating a representative sample of global myths. Some are more familiar – the African trickster Anansi, Scottish Selkies, the origin of the elephant-headed Ganesh and Maui are all among the better known deities, demi-gods and supernatural beings.

The Anangu People’s tale of how Uluru was formed offers insight into why it is a place of spiritual significance – a lovely inclusion in this book, particularly in light of the recent ban on climbing the rock.

Myths and Legends of the World is for readers aged 9 to 12, but it isn’t just for kids – it’d be a beautiful coffee table book to dip into. It’s also available as an ebook if you want to take the pretty with you!

Buy Myths and legends of the World

Short Film: All Bite and no Bark

The inaugural Bendigo International Short Film Festival was held on 23 November 2019 – and I was part of it!

I knew about the festival because I know John Richards, who was running it. At a different event (in October, in Castlemaine), he commented that not many people had sent in films for the competition element – a short film under 15 minutes in which the word Bendigo had to either be spoken or appear during the film.

“It’s so easy, though!” said John. “You can make a film on a phone these days!”

Well, who can resist a challenge like that? Not me, obviously. On the train back to Melbourne that afternoon I came up with a Twilight-zone-ish plot, and by late that evening, after five attempts, I’d ad libbed my way through a Found Footage story. (Ad libbed because I wanted to give it a fresh, just-telling-a-yarn quality, for ‘Kate’ to tell a story in exactly the way I would.)

The production values aren’t great so I wasn’t convinced I should enter it. I shared it with John anyway, for a laugh, and he convinced me it was good enough to be submitted.

So, All Bite and No Bark was entered into the 2019 Bendigo International Short Film Competition, and was screened on Saturday 23 November with a gratifying amount of laughter at the right moments, and gratifying hush at the end.

I’ve shared the film on some other social media, but here it is in all its ad libbed, iPhone quality glory!

The festival was fantastic, by the way – some truly inventive and wonderful films in both the International Shorts and the Competition Shorts (and if you ever get an opportunity to see The Starey Bampire, don’t miss it!)

This isn’t all about me showing off my first short film. Oh no! This, dear readers, is an opportunity for you to see how easy it can be, and to encourage you to prepare your own entry to next year’s Bendigo International Short Film Festival Competition!

You have a year to prepare! (I’ve already got a new idea, with a script this time!)

Visit Bendigo Short Film Fest or their Facebook page to keep an eye on what’s happening during the year and when entries open for next year’s film event!

I hope to be competing with you in it!

Xmas 2019 Gift Recs for Readers and Writers

If you’re hunting for last minute gifts for the lovelies in your life (or your lovely self) I’ve brought together some recommendations of books I’ve reviewed throughout the year.

Crime for all tastes

Emma Viskic’s Caleb Zelic trilogy began with Resurrection Bay then And Fire Came Down, and the fabulous Darkness for Light came out in December this year. It’s a great triple-hit for the crime lover in your life.

Another set of trilogies for crime lovers that are also suitable for YA readers are Ellie Marney’s “Every” series (Every Breath, Every Word and Every Move) which are a kind of Holmesian YA reworking set in Australia, and the “Circus Hearts” books (All the Little Bones, All Fall Down and All Aces).

I love a cosy crime set in a place I know, especially when it’s full of delicious recipes and delicious Scottish men, so let me throw confetti over Livia Day’s whole Cafe La Femme series. One short (The Blackmail Blend) is an ebook but the rest: A Trifle Dead, Drowned Vanilla and the latest, Keep Calm and Kill the Chef, are all available in paperback!

Science Fiction

I remain delighted that LynC’s superb Nil By Mouth was re-released this year, and even though it’s harrowing in places it’s also filled with compassion.

Alison Evans’ Highway Bodies is the zombie apocalypse for today’s diverse YA reader (and I’m very excited to have their latest, Euphoria Kids, on my review pile – it comes out in February).

Of course, Twelfth Planet Press continues to bring amazing work to the world, and their Mother of Invention anthology, edited by Rivqa Rafael & Tansy Rayner Roberts, is something special for the SF reader in your life.

Sherlock Holmes

Improbable Press is settling in to its new home with Clan Destine Press, but has put out a few books this year: Tessa Barding’s The Case of the Misplaced Models and another of its 221b series (short stories of exactly 221 words, the last of which starts with the letter B) in A Question of Time by Jamie Ashbird with illustrations by Janet Anderton.

And, while it’s a few years old, Joe Ide’s interpretation of what a Holmes and Watson might be like if they were born in a tough black LA neighbourhood, IQ, is fantastic and I’ll be looking up the rest in the series in the new year.

Travel

For armchair travellers, Lonely Planet has some lovely books for both adults and children. You can explore the monsters of the world in The Atlas of Monsters and Ghosts or travel to the stars in The Universe: A Travel Guide. Two more Lonely Planet Kids books have recently arrived for review (Wild in the City and Myths and Legends of the World), so I’m looking forward to reading more sumptuously illustrated and quirky travel books this month.

Support your local blogger

If you’d like to support this writer, there are of course the books I released this year: paperbacks Kitty and Cadaver and Scar Tissue and Other Stories, and the anthology War of the Worlds: Battleground Australia.

Ebooks

I have a other recommendations for your summer reading, but as many of these are ebooks and so not as well designed for gifting, I’ll cover those in my next post.

Review: Darkness For Light by Emma Viskic

When review copies of Emma Viskic’s third Caleb Zelic crime novel became available, you can bet I leapt right on that review train and shouted PICK ME PICK ME PICK ME.

I loved the first two in this series – Resurrection Bay and And Fire Came Down – so hard that I compulsively live tweeted my feelz as I went.

Does Darkness for Light live up to the promise of the first two?

Reader, I compulsively live tweeted my (spoiler-free) feelz again. Spare a thought for Emma Viskic, who, when I wailed about Caleb’s terrible life choices, replied:

Darkness for Light is a fantastic crime thriller, drawing on thematic and plot threads from the first two. Caleb, the deaf security consultant protagonist, really is trying very, very hard to make good life decisions this time around, but with the detritus from previous the past clinging on, life is conspiring maliciously against him.

The blurb:

After a lifetime of bad decisions troubled PI Caleb Zelic is finally making good ones. He’s in therapy, reconnecting with the Deaf community, and reconciling with his beloved wife.

But he can’t escape his past.

A violent confrontation forces Caleb back into contact with his double-crossing partner, Frankie. When her niece is kidnapped, Frankie and Caleb must work together to save the child’s life. But their efforts will risk everything, including their own lives.

The title comes from a bible quote: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for better.” ~ Isaiah 5:20

Without giving away any of the key twists, turns, back flips and I-never-saw-it-comings, Darkness for Light not only matches the crisp writing and superbly crafted professional and personal tensions of the first two books, it ramps up the stakes.

The possibility of a better life is haunting Caleb, with his estranged wife Kat in the early stages of a pregnancy which they hope she can carry to term, this time. When Frankie’s niece Tilda is kidnapped in relation to a case he’s been reluctantly dragged into, Caleb is desperate to save the girl. (Narratively, it feels like Caleb’s instinct is that the fates of Kat’s developing child and Tilda are linked.)

For all his faults, Caleb remains likeable and you really want him to sort out his life, deal with all his issues and live the life he longs for with the woman he loves. And, as Emma Viskic points out, he really is trying, but old enemies, old frenemies and even old and new friends present such a deep blend of motivations and agendas that he has little hope of sorting out what choices constitute ‘good’.

Viskic is immensely clever and satisfying in the ways she weaves together the strengths and vulnerabilities of Caleb’s deafness, the textures of his complex relationships, and the weight of his past against the pull of a future he longs for.

All of this growth and pain plays out as Caleb first of all stumbles onto a dead body where he expected a rendezvous, is blackmailed into helping a Federal Police Officer into a job he’d rather not do, and finally gets horribly tangled up with money laundering, corruption, assault, and murder.

Oh, and he’s also trying to assist a friend from his community unravel a case of vandalism.

The story is engrossing from start to end. The key characters are textured and often sympathetic even when you doubt their motives and decisions. The plotting is clever and all the pieces fit together without being predictable.

In short, Darkness for Light is a thoroughly satisfying read, which adds to the flow and depth of its thoroughly satisfying predecessors. All the stars for Emma Viskic!

Buy Darkness for Light

Words are like oxygen