About Jamie Ashbird

Jamie Ashbird was born from an egg on a mountain top. At least that's what she keeps telling people. In fact she was born, quite boringly, from a uterus and was raised in Melbourne. It is here, in her native habitat, that she roams about watching the world go by and quietly judging people. She is also a writer... ahem, apologies, typo... she is almost a writer but wastes too much of her time watching other people play video games on YouTube.

Honoured To Be Sure

The Honours Book Cover The Honours
Tim Clare
Allen & Unwin, RRP $27.99
June 2015

Astonishing.

Haunting.

Gripping.

Irresistible.

These are the only four words I read prior to cracking open Tim Clare’s debut novel, The Honours, plastered as they were on the four corners of the truncated dustjacket.
There are those who prefer to screen potential reading material, scouring blurbs and reviews until there is barely a reason left to read the book itself. My advice of the day is to save yourself the time investigating and just read, dammit. Read a book you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. This is a matter of wellbeing and should be done at least as often as taking a stroll through a sun-dappled forest—minimum dose: once every twelve months.

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Over Troubled Water

To Hold the Bridge Book Cover To Hold the Bridge
Garth Nix
Allen & Unwin, RRP $19.99
May 2015

Have you read a Garth Nix before? Have you? Have you?

If you answered yes, you are correct. Well done. There is truly nothing I need to tell you other than – hey, check it out, a book full of short stories by Garth Nix. Huzzah!

If you answered no, then this is me taking you by the shoulders, looking deep into your slightly terrified peepers and trying to convince you to make that positive change in your life.  Continue reading

Quiet Please, We’re Sleeping

The Sleeper and the Spindle Book Cover The Sleeper and the Spindle
Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
Bloomsbury Publishing, RRP $19.99
October 2014

Once upon a time there was a princess who was cursed by a witch, or was it a bad fairy? Whatever she was, she was pretty pissed not to be invited to the princess’s birthing ceremony. And so when the princess turned eighteen she pricked her finger on a spindle and fell asleep forever and the curse was fulfilled.

About one hundred years later, a queen is preparing for her wedding or, as she sees it, the end of her life. The queen dares to think that becoming a royal breeding machine and most likely dying in childbirth isn’t really something she wants in her life right now. Quelle surprise. Luckily the queen finds out about a sleeping plague that seems to be spreading through the queendom. How to stop it? Find the sleeping princess at the centre of it and wake her up of course. So this sweet arse queen tells her fiancé – some prince she deigned to marry – to chill out until she returns and goes off to wake the princess and save her people.

But is everything as it seems in the mysterious castle full of sleeping beings? Well, it’s Neil Gaiman, so probably not. Continue reading

The Dead Lands

THE DEAD LANDS
Benjamin Percythe dead lands
Hachette Australia,  April 2015,  R.R.P. $29.99

It seemed fitting to be reading post-apocalyptic event fiction about a parched city as we move officially into an El Niño event. Thankfully we will have a couple of months of respite thanks to the Indian Ocean Dipole. Not so in the Sanctuary, a fortified city once known as St. Louis. Here water is precious, the city’s wells are guarded and the contents rationed.

In this rather depressing future, most of humanity has been wiped out by what began as a rather vicious strain of influenza and ended in a nuclear missile volleying match. Continue reading

Tricksy Pi-Rats And Slickest Poop Competitions

Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales – THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN

Russell Brand, illustrated by imageChris Riddell

Published 9th November 2014, Canongate (ISBN: 9781782114567)

Coming off the 2015 UK general election last week, it is no difficult task to read The Pied Piper of Hamelin–the first of Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales–and connect all sorts of dot points. From the nasty Fat Bob who bares a passing resemblance to a chubby David Cameron (or possibly a thin Eric Pickles) to the suspiciously Big Ben-like town clock. Though perhaps I am reading my own interpretations into Chris Riddell’s brilliant illustrations. You’ll recognise them, if not from The Edge Chronicles with Paul Stewart, then from Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book and The Sleeper And The Spindle (review coming soon). Continue reading

A Matter Of Style

BETWEEN YOU AND ME: CONFESSIONS OF A COMMA QUEEN Book Cover BETWEEN YOU AND ME: CONFESSIONS OF A COMMA QUEEN
Mary Norris
Text Publishing
April 2015

Between you and me, Between You and Me* may well have made it into my top three favourite not dull books on Modern English grammar and punctuation. Now, I’m not saying the Commonwealth of Australia’s Style Manual is dull but it’s not exactly a rollercoaster made of glitter. Between You and Me is not a style manual but Mary Norris’s autobiographical account of life as a copy editor at The New Yorker. Though the reasons for loving it are numerous, it deserves accolades for making me aware of the existence of a pencil sharpener museum and that a pencil party is a thing that can happen.

Before reading this, Mary Norris’s first book, I had a vague notion that someone called the Comma Queen existed†. Of course, being so far removed from any stimulus that might encourage reading of The New Yorker, I have managed to remain unfamiliar with her work. Thus my only attraction to the book was its contents, which promised fabulous giblets of juicy punctuation fun. I have since discovered the Comma Queen has begun a wonderful video series, on The New Yorker’s website, which I will be following from now on. Continue reading

Lest We Forget

IN FLANDERS FIELDS
In Flanders Fields Norman Jorgensen, illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever
Fremantle Press, 2004

A cold morning light breaks over the muddy expanse. A deathly silence reigns but the sounds of battle linger in the ears of battle-scarred—battle-scared—men huddled around a small cheering fire in the trenches, opening their Christmas mail. Letters and parcels are distributed to a fortunate few. Some are returned to the sack to begin the race home against the official telegram to kin. Continue reading

Come, Ye Children, Come Along; With Your Music, Dance and Song

THE SECRET WORLD OF POLLY FLINTThe Secret World of Polly Flint

Helen Cresswell

Published 1st January 1982

Once upon a time in the 80s, in a small public primary school in the north-western suburbs of Melbourne, I was chatting with my favourite teacher about a TV show I was watching after school—The Secret World of Polly Flint*. She went on to blow my tiny little mind when she told me that the show was based on a book, one of her daughter’s favourites, and would I like to borrow it. Hell yes I wanted to borrow it.

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Snatch A Little Dream

THE DREAMSNATCHER

DreamsnatcherAbi Elphinstone

ISBN: 9781471122682

Published 1st March 2015, Simon & Schuster

As far as I’ve been able to determine (i.e. in the 2 minutes I spent searching on Google Scholar before my suspicions were vaguely confirmed and I got bored) cats don’t really sweat. I mean, they sweat but the majority of their sweat glands are in their paws. On those cute little squooshy pink jelly beans. So, if it’s really hot or if you and your cat have been doing a bit of cardio, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll reach down and feel the sweaty fur on the back of your cat, wild or domestic. And if you do, it’s probably a good idea to make your way to a vet quick smart.

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The Wet and The Dry

The WellTHE WELL

Catherine Chanter  

ISBN: 9781922182685

Published 11th March 2015, Text Publishing

Ever heard the call of nature? No, I don’t mean the loo for crying out loud – trees, the countryside, that sort of thing. I’ve always wanted a little cottage with a parlour and a lavender garden and bees and enough land for a cow and a donkey and chickens and a couple of pigs. It’s not too much to ask is it? The difficulty of course is deciding what colour to paint the donkey cart for riding into town with. Have I said too much? I’ve said too much. Let’s get on with it.

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Dystopia Me, Dystopia You

HAVOCHavoc

Jane Higgins   

ISBN: 9781922148339

Published February 2014, Text Publishing

The rise and rise of the YA dystopian novel seems to come at a time in our history when there is a conglomeration of so many real and perceived threats to our future. How do you pick which is the most frightening when there are so many to choose from: climate change and its consequences, war, disease, social catastrophe stemming from widening economic class rifts, sentient technology, velociraptors. Right here, right now – from an increase in extreme weather events, to the Crimea, Nigeria, the Levant, to ebola, to the 1%, to velociraptors, we are on the brink of something.* And maybe that’s why we are eating up dystopias like never before. Maybe those futures seem closer than ever.

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From Little Things Big Things Grow

The Miniaturist

THE MINIATURIST

Jessie Burton    ISBN: 9781447250920     Published July 2014

Never judge a book by its cover – that’s the old saying, right? I’ll let you into a little secret… shh… come closer… I judge books by their covers. I know, I know, it’s terrible. It’s atrocious. It’s unforgiveable. But come now, you do too, don’t you? Just a little? Surely some of you must, otherwise why else would publishers go so out of their way to replicate the “feel” of a successful book cover to sell similar books? I don’t blame them. I’m a sucker for aesthetics and if I’ve associated a cover with a story I’ve enjoyed, of course I’ll be attracted to a similar looking book. I’ve veered slightly from where I was going with this, suffice to say The Miniaturist has a pretty cover and I fell for it. Mainly it was the ruff. I mean, who hasn’t spent their formative years wishing the full-sized ruff would come back into vogue one day? No? Just me then.

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      STRAVINSKY’S LUNCH Drusilla Modjeska ISBN 0 330 36186 4 Amongst ordinary things, among cups and saucers, couples chatting in a courtyard, trees, the expression on a face, there may also be questions about what one sees, and what it means. For the artist, these questions might be about Life, they might … Continue reading