July Reads...

Imagine me gone/ Adam Haslett
When Margaret's handsome English fiancé is hospitalized for depression, she faces a choice: go ahead with their planned marriage or back away. She decides to marry him.

The newlyweds move back to Boston to start a family: first Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic, then savvy, responsible Celia, and finally sensitive, meticulous Alec. But over the span of decades, the golden haze of early childhood recedes and Michael spirals down an increasingly troubled and precarious existence.

How much can any family give to save one of its own? Weaving together the voices of its five central characters, Imagine Me Gone captures the ferocious love that binds parent to child, brother to sister, and asks what this love does to those who give or receive it.

Everyone brave is forgiven/ Chris Cleave
When war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up. Tom Shaw decides to give it a miss - until his flatmate Alistair unexpectedly enlists, and the conflict can no longer be avoided. Young, bright and brave, Mary is certain she'd be a marvelous spy. When she is - bewilderingly - made a teacher, she instead finds herself defying prejudice to protect the children her country would rather forget. Tom, meanwhile, finds that he will do anything for Mary. And when Mary and Alistair meet, it is love, as well as war, that will test them in ways they could not have imagined, entangling three lives in violence and passion, friendship and deception, inexorably shaping their hopes and dreams. In a powerful combination of both humour and heartbreak, this dazzling novel weaves little-known history, and a perfect love story, through the vast sweep of the Second World War - daring us to understand that, against the great theatre of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs, that change us most.

 My Italian Bulldozer/ Alexander McCall- Smith
A brand new stand alone novel from best-selling Alexander McCall Smith, based on an immensely popular short story.

When writer Paul Stewart heads to the idyllic Italian town of Montalcino to finish his already late book, it seems like the perfect escape from stressful city life. Upon landing, however, things quickly take a turn for the worse when he discovers his hired car is nowhere to be found. With no record of any reservation and no other cars available it looks like Paul is stuck at the airport. That is, until an enterprising stranger offers him an unexpected alternative. While there may be no cars available there is something else on offer: a bulldozer.

With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts and so begins a series of laugh out loud adventures through the Italian countryside, following in the wake of Paul and his Italian Bulldozer. A story of unexpected circumstance and lesson in making the best of what you have, My Italian Bulldozer is a warm holiday read guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

When I was invisible/ Dorothy Koomson
‘Do you ever wonder if you've lived the life you were meant to?' I ask her.
She sighs, and dips her head. ‘Even if I do, what difference will it make?'
In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible' lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?

How to Find Love in a Bookshop / Veronica Henry
Nightingale Books, nestled on the high street in the idyllic Cotswold town of Peasebrook, is a dream come true for booklovers.

But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open. The temptation to sell up is proving enormous - but what about the promise she made to her father? Not to mention the loyalty she owes to her customers.
Sarah Basildon, owner of stately pile Peasebrook Manor, has used the bookshop as an escape from all her problems in the past few years. But is there more to her visits than meets the eye?

Since messing up his marriage, Jackson asks Emilia for advice on books to read to the son he misses so much. But Jackson has a secret, and is not all he seems...

Modern lovers/ Emma Straub
Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.

The healing party/Micheline Lee
Estranged from her family, Natasha is making a life for herself in Darwin when her sister calls with bad news. Their mother is ill, and has only a few months to live. Confused and conflicted, Natasha returns to the home she fled many years before. But her father, an evangelical Christian, has not changed –he is still the domineering yet magnetic man she ran from, and her sisters and mother are still in his thrall.

One night her father makes an astonishing announcement: he has received a message from God that his wife is to be healed, and they must hold a party to celebrate. As Natasha and her sisters prepare for the big event – and the miracle – she struggles to reconcile her family’s faith with her sense that they are pretending. Is she a traitor or the only one who can see the truth? And what use is truth anyway, in the face of death?

The curious charms of Arthur Pepper/ Phaedra Patrick
Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.

But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam's death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam's possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he's never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife's secret life before they met—a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

La Rose/ Louise Erdrich
Late summer in North Dakota, 1999: Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence but only when he staggers closer does he realise he has killed his neighbour's son. Dusty Ravich, the deceased boy, was best friends with Landreaux's five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have been close for years and their children played together despite going to different schools. Landreaux is horrified at what he's done; fighting off his longstanding alcoholism, he ensconces himself in a sweat lodge and prays for guidance. And there he discovers an old way of delivering justice for the wrong he's done. The next day he and his wife Emmaline deliver LaRose to the bereaved Ravich parents. Standing on the threshold of the Ravich home, they say, 'Our son will be your son now'. LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Gradually he's allowed visits with his birth family, whose grief for the son and brother they gave away mirrors that of the Raviches. The years pass and LaRose becomes the linchpin that links both families. As the Irons and the Raviches grow ever more entwined, their pain begins to subside. But when a man who nurses a grudge against Landreaux fixates on the idea that there was a cover-up the day Landreaux killed Dusty - and decides to expose this secret - he threatens the fragile peace between the two families...

One/ Patrick Holland
The last bushrangers in Australian history, James and Patrick Kenniff, were at the height at their horse thieving operation at turn of the 20th century. In One, troops cannot pull the Kenniff Gang out of the ranges and plains of Western Queensland - the brothers know the terrain too well, and the locals are sympathetic to their escapades. When a policeman and a station manager go out on patrol from tiny Upper Warrego Station and disappear, Sergeant Nixon makes it his mission to pursue the gang, especially, Jim Kenniff, who becomes for him an emblem of the violence that resides in the heart of the country.

Comic Con-versation with Marcelo Baez!

 Marcelo Baez is a professional illustrator and designer who always have one eye on his first love comics and illustration! He has  worked for international clients such as Marvel, GQ Magazine, Hardie Grant Egmont, Popular Mechanics, Men's Health, National Geographic, Microsoft, Scholastic and Westpac just to name a few.

Could you tell us about your  journey as a comic artist? 

I didn’t think it was possible to be a comic art or illustrator as a young man so I studied graphic design. It opened a whole new world of creative skills and possibilities, which in turn made me realise that if I really focussed, I might still be able to do comics. During my time as a professional graphic designer I kept on practicing my illustration and comic work, which led me to creating my first comic Diabla. The very positive response to my self published comic, persistence, and a lot of luck, gave me many opportunities which have eventually lead me to being a Full-time Freelance illustrator and comic artist. 
What are your tools of the trade? Do you work in traditional media as well as digital?
Pencil, pens, brushes and digital.
All my idea roughs start in my sketchbook (pen and paper) For the sake of speed and meeting deadlines I have trained myself to do my layouts and “tight pencils” in photoshop.
After client approval, I then print out the art on watercolour paper in faint blue and proceed to ink in pen and brush. The last stage, I scan in the final inked art and finish the colours in photoshop.

Tell us about the works you are exhibiting in the Another dimension: More than 2D exhibition this year?
I’m exhibiting, “Gish” comic book cover, An upcoming wrap around cover for “OIOIOI” Comics anthology and one of my Marvel Avengers Woodblock style prints.

On your website it says you are working on a strange Greek myth graphic novel and a post-apocalyptic movie/comics crossover! Can you tell us more about this?
The post-apocalyptic movie/comic cross over is a project named GISH, based on a movie directed and written by Paul Barakat. “Whenever Gish falls asleep, her consciousness travels to the near future, where she finds herself heavily pregnant, missing an eye and struggling to survive in a city overrun by murderous gangs. When she wakes up back in the present, she must confront the fact that she is not yet carrying her future child. Caught between these two realities, Gish must now decide who she truly is and what it is she truly wants.”
My greek myth graphic novel project is about what happen to the Cyclopes after Homer’s Odyssey… I’m currently working on the second draft and it’s over 100 pages.

Any advice for the aspiring comic artist you wish someone had told you?
Draw every day! Practice practice! Draw from life! Draw for fun! Keep a sketch book and draw everyday! Practice practice! Did I mention practice?

Find out more at Marcelo Baez's Website and Facebook pages. 

This event is part of Comic Con-versation 2016. Comic Con-versation is an annual week long festival celebrating the best of local comic culture with events, talks, workshops, panel sessions, readings and exhibitions across Sydney libraries.

You can check out all the amazing upcoming ‪#‎ccv16 events and activities here


Comic Con-versation with Louie Joyce

Louie Joyce is an Australian illustrator and comics creator.

After spending his childhood dreaming of becoming an astronaut, superhero, futuristic bikie punk, enchanted mermaid or something cool like that, Louie realised he'd been dreaming a little too long and most that stuff was impossible anyway. Luckily he can draw pretty well so he's able to experience all those things and more by putting pencil to paper.

Can you tell us about your journey as a comic artist/ creator? 
I think I've always dreamed of becoming a comic book artist. My Dad collects comics, a really great diverse range of them too, so I was exposed to all this different stuff as a kid and I just completely fell in love with the medium. The fact that all these amazing stories and worlds could essentially be created with pencil and paper was mind blowing! I've been drawing as long as I can remember and used to copy from my favourite comics and animated movies. I started trying to create my own comics or adapt movies I loved into comics, I created mini comics and would go to zine fairs to trade and sell with other artists. As I got older I always kept drawing to some degree, but it feel by the wayside for a time. Eventually after working in Graphic Design for awhile my passion for drawing reignited. I knew that was what I wanted to be doing, I wanted to be an illustrator. I studied illustration at the Enmore Design Centre, during which time the quality of my work progressed and I started focusing on creating comics. Now I work as a professional illustrator and comics creator, it's not the dream job I imagined as a kid, but I'm incredibly lucky to be doing something I love every day.

Your  work focuses strongly on narratives and experimenting with different techniques of graphic storytelling.Can you elaborate? 
I'm always trying to convey a story or narrative with my work. I think it makes for the most interesting images, the ones you come back to. With comics I like to experiment with different approaches to layout, style and format. I tailor my comics for reading on digital or traditional platforms, playing to their individual storytelling strengths (For example my comic 'A Life in the City' which was originally printed as a handmade concertina booklet, as well and online continuous scroller comic). There's so many possibilities in how you tell a story and it's inspiring and exciting to experiment with different ways to do it.

Do you have a favourite character or piece you have worked on? 
My self published books MISHMASH & HODGEPODGE are probably my favourite. MISHMASH collects short comics that I've illustrated, some collaborating with other writers and others that I've written myself, while HODGEPODGE collects drawings, sketches, process work and more. They form nice companion books and i try to get a new issue out each year. I have complete creative control and they feel like a pure expression of my work which is nice.

What's next?
Right now I'm working on a sci-fi series with Neville Howard called Sugar & Space, which I'm having an absolute blast drawing! I also recently finished a one shot with Alex Chung called Astral. It's about a relationship between two star-crossed lovers, literally! It will be available from my online store and at events/cons very soon. Other than that I'm working on a few new short comics for my book MISHMASH, and developing a longer form story which I hope to make some good headway on soon.

Do you have any advice for aspiring comic artists that you wish someone had told you?
Draw what you love, what you're passionate about. Whatever you're working on, find what excites you and focus on that. Comics especially take an immense amount of work and time to create and it can be incredibly challenging. But if you're excited about what you're drawing your passion will drive you forward and it will show in your work. Always be learning and challenging yourself, but make it fun too!

Find out more at Louie Joyce's Website and Facebook pages. 

This event is part of Comic Con-versation 2016. Comic Con-versation is an annual week long festival celebrating the best of local comic culture with events, talks, workshops, panel sessions, readings and exhibitions across Sydney libraries.

You can check out all the amazing upcoming ‪#‎ccv16 events and activities here

Shh quiet reads....

Quiet reads... introspective, character driven, with a focus on feelings and emotions. Understated. No great surprises,  no car chases, no unexpected twists and turns and no unbearable suspense.

Grief is a thing with feathers by Max Porter
Once upon a time there was a crow, a fairly famous Crow, who wanted nothing more than to care for a pair of motherless children.

In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother's sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.
In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow - antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This self-described sentimental bird is attracted to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.

The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Stevens, the long-serving butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside, but also into his own past. Reflecting on his years of service, he must re-examine his life in the face of changing Britain, and question whether his dignity and properness have come at a greater cost to himself.

Between a wolf and a dog by Georgia Blain
 "Outside, the rain continues unceasing; silver sheets sluicing down, the trees and shrubs soaking and bedraggled, the earth sodden, puddles overflowing, torrents coursing onwards, as the darkness slowly softens with the dawn." Ester is a family therapist with an appointment book that catalogues the anxieties of the middle class: loneliness, relationships, death. She spends her days helping others find happiness, but her own family relationships are tense and frayed. Estranged from both her sister, April, and her ex-husband, Lawrence, Ester wants to fall in love again. Meanwhile, April is struggling through her own directionless life; Lawrence's reckless past decisions are catching up with him; and Ester and April's mother, Hilary, is about to make a choice that will profoundly affect them all. Taking place largely over one rainy day in Sydney, and rendered with the evocative and powerful prose Blain is known for, Between a Wolf and a Dog is a celebration of the best in all of us - our capacity to live in the face of ordinary sorrows, and to draw strength from the transformative power of art. Ultimately, it is a joyous tribute to the beauty of being alive.

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
A luminous, intensely moving tale that begins with a secret lovers’ assignation in the spring of 1924, then unfolds to reveal the whole of a remarkable life. 
            Twenty-two-year-old Jane Fairchild has worked as a maid at an English country house since she was sixteen. For almost all of those years she has been the clandestine lover to Paul Sheringham, young heir of a neighboring house. The two now meet on an unseasonably warm March day—Mothering Sunday—a day that will change Jane’s life forever. 
            As the narrative moves back and forth from 1924 to the end of the century, what we know and understand about Jane—about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees, remembers—expands with every vividly captured moment. 

The woman upstairs by Claire Messud
Nora Eldridge is a reliable, but unremarkable, friend and neighbor, always on the fringe of other people’s achievements. But the arrival of the Shahid family—dashing Skandar, a Lebanese scholar, glamorous Sirena, an Italian artist, and their son, Reza—draws her into a complex and exciting new world. Nora’s happiness pushes her beyond her boundaries, until Sirena’s careless ambition leads to a shattering betrayal. Told with urgency, intimacy, and piercing emotion, this New York Times bestselling novel is the riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed, and abandoned by a desire for a world beyond her own.

Our magic hour by Jennifer Down
Audrey, Katy and Adam have been friends since high school—a decade of sneaky cigarettes, drunken misadventures on Melbourne backstreets, heart-to-hearts, in-jokes.
But now Katy has gone. And without her, Audrey is thrown off balance: everything she thought she knew, everything she believed was true, is bent out of shape.
Audrey’s family—her neurotic mother, her wayward teenage brother, her uptight suburban sister—are likely to fall apart. Her boyfriend, Nick, tries to hold their relationship together. And Audrey, caught in the middle, needs to find a reason to keep going when everything around her suddenly seems wrong.
Evocative and exquisitely written, Our Magic Hour is a story of love, loss and discovery. Jennifer Down’s remarkable debut novel captures that moment when being young and invincible gives way to being open and vulnerable, when one terrible act changes a life forever.

Stoner by John Williams
William Stoner enters the University of Missouri at nineteen to study agriculture. A seminar on English literature changes his life, and he never returns to work on his father's farm. Stoner becomes a teacher. He marries the wrong woman. His life is quiet, and after his death his colleagues remember him rarely.
Yet with truthfulness, compassion and intense power, this novel uncovers a story of universal value. Stoner tells of the conflicts, defeats and victories of the human race that pass unrecorded by history, and reclaims the significance of an individual life. A reading experience like no other, itself a paean to the power of literature, it is a novel to be savoured.

A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be." In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who's lived more than a century. A diary is Nao's only solace--and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox--possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao's drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. Full of Ozeki's signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home

 In the quiet by Eliza Henry- Jones 
A moving, sweet and uplifting novel of love, grief and the heartache of letting go, from a wonderful new Australian author. Cate Carlton has recently died, yet she is able to linger on, watching her three young children and her husband as they come to terms with their life without her on their rural horse property. As the months pass and her children grow, they cope in different ways, drawn closer and pulled apart by their shared loss. And all Cate can do is watch on helplessly, seeing their grief, how much they miss her and how - heartbreakingly - they begin to heal. Gradually unfolding to reveal Cate's life, her marriage, and the unhappy secret she shared with one of her children, In the Quiet is compelling, simple, tender, true - heartbreaking and uplifting in 
equal measure.

 Crome yellow by Aldous Huxley
Denis Stone, a naive young poet, is invited to stay at Crome, a country house renowned for its gatherings of 'bright young things'. His hosts, Henry Wimbush and his exotic wife Priscilla, are joined by a party of colourful guests whose intrigues and opinions ensure Denis's stay is a memorable one. First published in 1921, Crome Yellow was Aldous Huxley's much-acclaimed debut novel.

Comic Con-versation with Shane W. Smith!

Shane W. Smith is the creator of seven full-length graphic novels, and a number of shorter pieces. His latest work is the graphic novel Undad, which was shortlisted in the Australian Shadows Awards and tells the tale of a vegetarian family man who unexpectedly turns undead.  His oddest achievement is getting a comic published in a refereed academic journal.

Could you describe your journey as an artist/creator ?

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Ever since I could hold a pencil, I’ve been writing stories. I got my first rejection letter when I was seven and accumulated something like a dozen more for my first novel.
I guess it probably all started when my parents encouraged a deep love of books when I was little, and that’s never left me. I learned everything I ever needed to know from fiction - it’s the prism through which I understand the world. To me, it seems natural that writing stories would help me to understand myself and grow as a person.

This crazy obsession has been all-consuming for my whole life, and it's the only life goal I've ever set for myself. My leisure time was spent writing stories and drawing pictures, often at the expense of a social life. I’ve always taken it pretty seriously and been devoted to it as a vocation. But ever since I got married and had kids and landed a full-time job and basically became extremely busy, I’ve descended into a kind of desperate mania about my writing. It’s no longer an option to use leisure time to write, because by and large, leisure time doesn’t really exist anymore in meaningful quantities.

Why did you choose to use the format of a graphic novel?

I went through a bit of a Joss Whedon fanboy stage in 2004-2005 that led me to pick up Fray, the first comic I’d read since I was a little boy. There was something about the way it flowed, the way it read, that made me feel like perhaps this was something I could branch out into.

And since then, I've come to appreciate the immense, immeasurable power of the graphic novel.
One of the most interesting things about using images in conjunction with text is the effect that it has upon a reader’s brain. One thing that cropped up consistently in the research for my Honours year is that people tend to trust words more if they’re accompanied by pictures, symbols or pictographs. There’s something about an image that is inherently authoritative. Like it taps directly into that part of our brain that says “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Comics can tell stories that no other medium can. And because of that, they offer a unique perspective on the world, a brand new window we can peek through to glimpse our humanity, or a fresh twist on a lesson that we can take with us back into the real world.

Could you tell us about the three art works included in the exhibition Another Dimension: Comic Art beyond 2D? 

1. "Oops" is an original piece produced for this exhibit. I'm not generally a fan of making light of violence, but I find nonchalance like this charming in any context. It - like all my artwork - is entirely digital.

2. "Executioner" is a print of some concept art I produced a couple of years ago. The project never really got off the ground, but I was really pleased with how the art turned out. This dude is a god called Ranye, and he's capable of wiping people from existence if they displease him. Not someone you want to cross.

3. "The Game" is a fun page of artwork from one of my books, The Game. There aren't too many pages in my books that present a self-contained vignette as neatly as this one does. Plus, this exchange amuses me. It's one of the very few conversations in the book that wasn't rewritten several times during the book's production.

Can you tell us about your work in progress, All The Kings Men?

I'd love to! All The King's Men is an anthology of science-fiction prose and comic short stories, featuring two dozen brilliant writers from around the world. I'm dazzled by the amount of amazing talent this book attracted.

The book itself is an ode to the disenfranchised, the people on the periphery, the people that it seems too easy to either demonise or forget about these days. Just ordinary people struggling to make sense of their lives and dreams in a galaxy torn apart by civil war. Each of them is fleeing something different, but they've all come to the same place. When their ship is marooned in deep space, they pass the time by sharing stories. Things that have happened to them, events they've witnessed, rumours they've heard. An uncertain future lies ahead, and they have nothing to rely on except each other...

We're hoping to launch the book at the end of the year, and might (hopefully) be taking it on the road for a few events.

What does the W in your name stand for?

My grandfather is the artist in the family, and has painted several gorgeous landscapes. His name, my middle name, is William. It seemed particularly apropos to include my creative genesis in my pen-name; while it does break up the humdrum between Shane and Smith and bring a little cadence to the proceedings, it's also a familial tribute.

Find out more about Shane W. Smith on Facebook and check out his website!