Ice Breaker – The Hidden Series by Lian Tanner, reviewed by Jill Smith

ice-breaker-aust-coverI was in a session at Somerset Literary Festival in March 2016, and attended a session presented by Lian Tanner. I shook her hand and introduced myself. She got ready for her meeting with the students who attended by running on the spot.

The kids came in and she had the kids give her story ideas. They giggled and joked while she helped ask the important what if questions. They answered and a very bad story started to come together. At the end of this exercise, she said ‘funnily enough I didn’t write that’.

Then she read the prologue to Ice Breaker. The kids were gobsmacked. It is so good, such a hook. You long to know what happened to the metal child. So, I had to buy the book.

Three hundred years after the initial escape from the anti-machinists, Petrel is ‘a nothing lian-tannergirl’ barely living aboard the Ice Breaker Oyster. Her friends the rats Mister Smoke and Missus Slink are the only people she trusts. She had no idea that everything was about to change when she alerted the crew to a frozen boy on the ice. They rescued the boy then bad things started to happen. Petrel finds out who her parents were, and that she is not a nothing girl. The boy, Fin, had been left on the ice as a trap, the anti-machinists lure. Will the crew of the Oyster, now working against each other as separate factions come together? Will they be able to wake the sleeping Captain?

This book is wonderfully written and the first of three books in The Hidden Series, and I’m looking forward to reading the others.

Somerset – all booked in for my writing fix 2017 –

Somerset Celebration of Literature 2017

I have managed to get one precious day to indulge in inspirational doses of new authors and books to talk about.

Lately, I’ve been writing quite a bit for The Ten Penners new Adventure anthology. I get huge doses of inspiration from the ladies in this group and from reading children’s stories and YA’s books. It’s always great to be able to see different writers I wouldn’t normally get to meet and hear about their journey into writing.

March is fast approaching and I’ve booked myself one full day of sessions, this is who I’ll be seeing on Wednesday 15th March.

newton-robert-bio-picRobert Newton works as a full-time firefighter with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. His first novel, My Name is Will Thompson, was published in 2001. Since then he has written six other novels for young people, including Runner, The Black Dog Gang and When We Were Two, which won the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction.

His latest novel is Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky, published February 2017. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and three daughters.

The role of Professor Francesca Falconette, Harry Potter Enthusiast, is played by award-sunde-nadia-bio-picwinning children’s entertainer Nadia Sunde. Nadia Sunde is one of Australia’s most celebrated and highly acclaimed children’s theatre writers and performers.

An internationally and nationally awarded singer/songwriter she is also the author of two children’s books, an experienced music educator, actress, comedienne and ABC radio presenter. Nadia has written four children’s theatre shows and also works as a freelance creative consultant / producer / director / performer on adult and children’s theatre. Nadia uses her skills as a professional performer to engage children in a vibrant and interactive presentation, using drama and comedy to activate children’s imagination and creative curiosity.

kane-kim-bio-picKim Kane was born in London and went on to practise law. Her picture book, Family Forest, was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Awards, and The Vegetable Ark and Esther’s Rainbow were both CBCA Notable Books.

Her junior fiction novel, Pip: The Story of Olive, won the Barbara Ramsden Award and was shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) and Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards. Kim lives with her family in Melbourne. She writes whenever and wherever she can.

Rachael Craw is the award-winning author of the YA speculative fiction trilogy Spark, Stray and Shield, with book one being recently optioned for the big screen by Miss Conception craw-rachael-bio-picFilms. Her early years studying drama developed her passion for snappy dialogue and vivid characterisation.

This, combined with her love of classical heroes, teen angst and popular culture, informs much of her creative process. Rachael writes, teaches and enjoys small town life at the sunny top of New Zealand’s South Island.

nicholas-soraya-bio-picAs a horse-crazy girl, Soraya Nicholas dreamt of owning her own pony and riding every day. There were plenty of adventures on horseback throughout her childhood, and lots of stories scribbled in notebooks, which eventually became inspiration for Soraya’s very own pony series, Starlight Stables.

Soraya lives with her husband and children on a small farm in New Zealand, surrounded by four-legged friends and still vividly recalling what it felt like to be 10 years old and head over heels in love with horses. The Starlight Stables series includes Pony Detectives, Gymkhana Hijinks, Bush Bolts and Saving Starlight.

I’m looking forward to writing a blog post about the day!

Happy Australia Day 2017

cooyar-coverWe’ve had a sleep in and now getting ready for an Australia Dayimg_1543 party at friend Sandra Rogers who is launching her book Cooyar. I’ve read and reviewed this already, check out 2nd January post.

The car and house are decorated, flags abound. We’re ready for sausages on the BBQ, lamingtons, Anzac biscuits and everything Australian.

Have a great day everyone!  Stay safe! Enjoy the celebrations!

Interview with Belinda Murrell

Courtesy of The English Tour blog

No prizes for guessing I love good Australian authors, and when this popped into my inbox I had to share it. Particularly, as I was so engrossed with a speaker at Somerset Literary Festival last year, that I didn’t realise the person next to me was Belinda Murrell! It was only when some children came up to her after the session and asked her to sign some books that I realised I missed an opportunity.

Author interview with Belinda Murrell

Belinda Murrell writes children’s fiction – both junior readers and for older children. Belinda kindly offered some insights into her writing:


1.    What does your workspace look like?

I live in an on old Victorian house near the sea with my husband Rob and three children. I am lucky enough to have a beautiful office at home, which is lined with hundreds of books, has a fireplace and looks out over my garden. My dog Asha keeps me company, sleeping in front of the fire. It is a gorgeous place to work – sunny, calm and quiet.

2.    Who or what inspires your work?

As a children’s author, perhaps it’s not surprising that kids are my greatest inspiration. Initially it was my own three children Nick, Emily and Lachie who inspired me to write books for them. Now however I am also inspired by readers who love my books and children I meet. One of the greatest inspirations is receiving hundreds of emails, drawings and letters from children who love my books. They tell me what they love about each book, and beg me to write more. I also spend several weeks each year on tour – speaking at literary festivals, schools, bookstores and Book Week events. Each year I meet thousands of children and I love talking with them, discussing what they enjoy about books, what interests them and intrigues them. Many of my ideas for books are triggered by conversations or experiences I’ve had with children.

3.    What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

I have four tips which all begin with P! They are:

Passion – write what you love. Write from your heart. Don’t try to follow trends. Write for yourself.

Persistence – there are so many writers with talent, who write extremely well. But to succeed as a writer you need bucketloads of determination and tenacity. Succeeding as a writer can only be achieved through lots of hard work over many years!

Practise – write constantly. Write every day. Take a notebook with you everywhere and fill it.

Pack your bags – travel the world and have amazing adventures. Work at various jobs, volunteer, experience life, fill your notebooks with sights, people and experiences.

4.    What was your reaction when you found out that your first manuscript was going to be published?

Utter joy! I screamed and cried and laughed. It was definitely one of the most exciting days in my life. My agent rang to tell me the news. My family all came running to find out what was going on. Then I rang my sister Kate (who is also an author). She was as thrilled as I was and we celebrated with French champagne. Despite all the excitement, I couldn’t really believe it was true until I first saw my name on the cover of a book in a bookstore.

5.    What dreams do you have for your writing career?

To keep writing books which kids love. To stretch myself and keep getting better as a writer. To challenge myself and try different genres and styles.  I have been incredibly lucky to have a career as a writer doing something I love so much. I work with a fantastic team at Random House who are so talented and supportive. I get to spend time with lots of extremely gifted and inspirational authors. I am now writing my twenty-first book, yet I still get very anxious when I finish a new book and am waiting for my publisher to read it. Will she like it? Is it any good? Writing can be a solitary and often difficult job. Yet opening that package with your book straight from the printer is still one of the best feelings in the world.

And a quick biography:

Belinda Murrell is an internationally published, bestselling children’s author. Her 21 books include The Sun Sword Trilogy, a fantasy-adventure series for boys and girls aged 8 to 12. Her time-slip books – The Locket of Dreams, The Ruby Talisman, The Forgotten Pearl, and The Ivory Rose – have been shortlisted for various awards, including KOALAs (2013, 2012 and 2011), CBCA Notable List and highly commended in the PM’s Literary Awards. Her new book, The River Charm, is based on the thrilling adventures of her ancestors. For younger readers (aged 6 to 9) Belinda has a new Lulu Bell series, about friends, family, animals and adventures growing up in a vet hospital. <;

The Ten Penners inspiration..

shock-horror-gasp-cover.jpgLast Saturday The Ten Penners had a wonderful and busy meeting.

James Blomberg the son of our Lorraine Blomberg who created the covers of both ‘Shock, Horror, Gasp’ and ‘Fan-tas-tic-al Tales’. She contributed stories including ‘The Big Squeeze’, a novella, and the memorable ‘Tree of Trolls’ a rhyming story with illustrations to mafan-tas-tic-al-tales-covertch.


James brought in a large art folder of works she created during her lifetime. Several ready to be put into production as children’s picture books. We suggested ways James might be able to get her work published and that we would certainly hold her memory dear.

We intend to dedicate our next anthology to Lorraine.

Here is one of the intricate and memorable illustrations she created. I have a story idea that might go with this and be added to our next book.

lorraine b drawing king ted.jpg

Happy New Year 2017 here we go…

032Happy New Year!

I have big plans for 2017 not the least of which is a trip to go overseas for a double celebration of my 60th Birthday and my lovely husband and I being married for 40 years.

Naturally, I will continue to read and review books. Write more, read more, edit more all the while learning. I believe a writer is on a continual learning curve. Meanwhile, I work to earn the money to be able to travel.

The following is a book review of ‘Cooyar’ by Sandra L Rogers, another talented Australian Author who has published many other books in quite different genres including Beyond Armageddon, It Begins But Never Ends, An Unbelievable Life – Authorised Biography of Lynn Santer.

cooyar-coverBook Review by Jill Smith©Dec16

Title: Cooyar

Author: Sandra Rogers

Publisher: Zeus Publications

I loved this book. I had to re-read the first chapter after I got to the end.

It’s a beautiful story about the joys and hardships of living on a property in central Queensland. Cooyar is vividly brought to life, the dust and the flys, the rough life and the love that develops on the soil.

Frances is the property owners head-strong daughter. She loves Cooyar and going to boarding school to make her a young lady is Jess and Malcolm’s only sacrifice. They are pleased with the result when she comes home for her fourteenth birthday party. The head stockman Will is her best friend. He understands the connection Frances has with the land.

Their link with each other becomes heightened as they grow older. They kiss just once when Frances delivers the evening meal for the stockmen. Granny sees them kiss. Disapproving she sends Will on a holiday to Darwin to be with his Aboriginal family.

The drought that cripples the country breaks with a flood. As often happens in Australia the extreme conditions dictate the lives of those choosing to live on the land. Frances returns to the farm to find Will has returned to help. They consummate their love for one another.

Frances returns to her city life and Will joins up to fight in the WWII. When sandra-rogers-piche is reported missing and believed dead, she impulsively marries a sailor, Arnold Smith who is deployed on the HMAS Vampire which is sunk. Arnold is rescued and returns to Australia where they settle down on their own cattle property Wongadoo and raise their son Barry. But they are not destined to live a happy life.

I loved the real life feel to this story, particularly the end which is very fitting.

Sandra has returned to writing with a book that is memorable and a joy to read. I hope she will continue to write more heartrending Australian tales.

My Year in books 2016 Goodreads

The following list does not include unpublished manuscripts I’ve read for writing friends.the-ten-penners-nov-16

I’m now reflecting on the year and how much I have accomplished and how much more I hope to have done. It’s been one of those learning curve years. Most of the books I’ve read have been for my own enjoyment, a couple because they were recommended to me and are in a genre to my usual choices. I’ve come a long way in 2016 and learned to protect my heart along the way. I’m enjoying re-editing Dual Visions to make it the book it always should have been. My mentor Robyn Burrows is a wonderful help.

The Ten Penners Aug16 Writing has always been my passion and I’m enjoying writing new stories for the next Ten Penners Anthology.

My New Years plan is:

1 To see the publication of The Ten Penners anthology

2 To re-release Dual Visions with it’s follow up book Vashla’s World

3 To work on Microworld the 2015 book I wrote during NaNoWriMo

4 To do NaNoWriMo in 2017

Now it’s in writing I have to fulfil these aims. (don’t I)

Whoops, almost forgot. My wonderful hubby and I are going overseas mid-year so there will be a travel journal too.

Goodreads 2016 –
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Dragon Tales by John Patience

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13 pages
Dragon Tales: A Book of Dragons
by John Patience
1,000 pages
The Stone Key
by Isobelle Carmody
The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody
218 pages

One Christmas Eve by Corinne Fenton
One Christmas Eve
by Corinne Fenton

it was amazing

5.00 average

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The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody
The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody
it was amazing
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
Dragon Harper by Anne McCaffrey
The Blue Day Book by Bradley Trevor Greive
Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord
The Surfer and the Mermaid by Tim   Baker
Ice Breaker by Lian Tanner
Word Hunters by Nick Earls
The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts
really liked it
Alice-Miranda on Holiday by Jacqueline Harvey
Writers On Writing by Joe Mynhardt
Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra by Karen Tyrrell
Check on Me by Andrew Daddo
Exploring Anzac by Southern Short Story Writer...
Bushland Lullaby by Sally Odgers
Kate's Choice by Laura O'Connell
A Simple Mistake by Andrea Grigg
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Ballyhoo and Babble by MS Julie R Baythorpe
Meet The Megafauna by Elaine Ouston
Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle
Captured -The Mystery of Nida Valley by Elaine Ouston
Song Bird Superhero by Karen Tyrrell
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
it was amazing
Heaven Tempers the Wind by Hazel Barker
Dane Swan by Dane Swan
Unmentionable! by Paul Jennings
A DRAGON in the SNOW by Darryl Greer
One Christmas Eve by Corinne Fenton
it was amazing
Cooyar by Sandra L Rogers
Soft on the Devil by Robert Lampros
Ten Apples Up On Top! by Theo LeSieg
There's a Wocket in My Pocket! by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Dragon Tales by John Patience
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
Disney Fairies Storybook Collection by Parragon Publishing
The Pagemaster by David Kirschner
it was amazing
Pony to the Rescue by Jeanne Betancourt
You can easily add books to this list by setting the Date Read for each book to any time in 2016.

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You read 40 out of 40 books.

Congratulations! You’re really good at reading, and probably a lot of other things, too!

Soft on the Devil book review

Another review for The Book Review Directory tab…


AUTHOR: Robert Lampros

Review by Jill Smith©Dec16

soft-on-the-devil-coverIan Phillips is an ordinary kind of guy, at twenty-four he works in the local Earth Way grocery store. He is very keen on promoting the good quality merchandise. He works hard and gets a promotion. Things are looking up when he meets Amy and a relationship blooms.

All this is a backdrop to his deep faith, reading the bible daily, and trying to figure out what happened to Cindy Myran, a woman who lived in his apartment block who disappeared. Everyone thinks she’s was dead. Ian wasn’t so sure. She turns up at his place, afraid of being followed and asking for help to get to Bradson City. She was supposed to be dead already. Was this his robert-lamproshallucination? He had to find out more.

This is an unusual tale, all in the first person. I find it difficult to write in the first person. There is always something I want the reader to see that’s in the next person’s point of view. Robert Lampros has pulled this off admirably. I have to say I expected a different outcome but the ending was fitting.

Goodreads bio:

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis. He earned a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. His books include Fits of Tranquility, Afternoon, Last Year’s Resolution, and Undivided Lines.

Joyful Christmas wishes

christmas-elf-2016-copyThis little Christmas Elf wants to wish all those who’ve helped me on my writing journey through 2016 to have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year Season.

I’ve read and reviewed lots of great books. Discovered that writing groups are fun to be part of but not necessarily if you are on the committee. The Ten Penners are a very big part of this journey. Writing stories for children has been a delight, and our new anthology is coming together nicely for 2017 publication.

I’ve gained a mentor in the wonderful Robyn Burrows and newrobyn_lee_burrows_bio pic insight into my writing perspective.

My husband has been my strength and a rock to cling to when I’ve learned people like me have marshmallow hearts and they are easily squashed. So I have to be stronger and more resilient.

christmas-decos-2016I love Christmas with the lights and goodwill messages and hope that the next year will bring joy and delight to all those I know and love.

The world has become a more frightening place in many ways, but, I truly believe the humanity of the world will overcome the evil and hostility that exists.

So to all my readers and followers I wish you heartfelt joy for Christmas and the New Year. May you enjoy your family and appreciate and love them always.