The Courier-Mail People's Choice Queensland Book of the Year Award

The Courier-Mail 2015 People's Choice Queensland Book of the Year Award

Voting for The Courier-Mail People's Choice Queensland Book of the Year Award has now closed.

Burning Down - cover

Burning Down

Venero Armanno

UQP

About the book:
Charlie Smoke is living out his early retirement from the boxing ring as a bricklayer. It is the mid-1970s and he believes his best days are behind him. He’s lost his wife and daughter to his questionable past, but when he meets Holly Banks and her teenage son, Ricky, he has a chance to do things differently. As an unlikely friendship develops with Ricky, Charlie is unwittingly pulled back into the gambling underworld he thought he’d left behind. In order to make a new future, first he must help settle some old scores. Burning Down is a searing new novel from acclaimed storyteller Venero Armanno about family, regret, love, and the promise of salvation.

About the author:
Venero (Veny) Armanno the author of two short story collections, Jumping at the Moon and Travel Under Any Star, and nine critically acclaimed novels. These include Black Mountain, The Dirty Beat, Romeo of the Underworld, and Candle Life. His novel Firehead was shortlisted in the 1999 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award; in 2002 The Volcano won the award with Best Fiction Book of the year. His works have been published in the United States, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, Israel, and South Korea. Veny is a trained screenwriter and currently teaches creative writing at The University of Queensland.

Judges' comments:
This is tough fiction about a boxer-cum-bricklayer. Boxing has had something of a revival in recent years and the nefarious world of boxing and its connections with the underworld is explored by one of Queensland’s finest writers.

Read more about the book 

Danger Music - cover

Danger Music

Eddie Ayres

Allen & Unwin

About the book:
Eddie Ayres has a lifetime of musical experience—from learning the viola as a child, to playing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and moving to Australia to present an extremely successful ABC Classic FM morning radio show. In 2014 Eddie was spiralling into a deep depression—he quit the radio, travelled, and decided on a surprising path to salvation. Eddie applied for a position at Dr Sarmast's renowned Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul, teaching cello to orphans and street kids in a war zone. In Danger Music, Eddie takes us through the bombs and chaos of Kabul, into the lives of the Afghan children who are transported by Bach, Abba, Beethoven, and their own exhilarating Afghan music. Alongside these epic experiences, Eddie determines to take the final steps to secure his own peace; he allows himself to become the man he always knew was waiting for him.

About the author
Eddie Ayres learnt the viola as a child in England, studying in Berlin and London before playing the viola for eight years with the Hong Kong Philharmonic. As Emma Ayres, she moved from Hong Kong to Australia to present a long-running and extremely popular radio program on ABC Classic FM, while teaching music privately and professionally. When Emma hung up her headphones at the end of 2014, there was a public outpouring of emotion. This tattooed, intelligent, warm, and witty woman had made her way into the hearts of many Australians. What the devoted audience didn't see, however, was Emma's daily struggle to live within her woman's body. For 16 years, she knew that she was transgender but to take any action seemed impossible. Emma believed there was too much to lose—family, friends, and her career. In 2016, Emma accepted a position teaching cello, viola, and double bass to Afghanistan's children at the world-renowned Afghanistan National Institute of Music. Amid the chaos and unpredictability of life in war-savaged Kabul, Emma realised she had to accept her future and returned to Australia to begin transitioning from female to male. In 2016, Emma became Eddie. Danger Music, Eddie's second book was published in September 2017. His children's book, Sonam and the Silence, was published in 2018. Cadence: Travels with Music, published in 2014, was his first book.

Judges' comments:
Danger Musictakes us through the bombs and chaos of Kabul through the experience of music teacher Emma Ayres. She introduces us to the Afghan children who find joy in the music of the Western canon, along with their own beautiful music. As the ancient land and its children seep into her heart and soul, Emma realises she has to commit to the ultimate act of courage and become the man she has always believed herself to be—Eddie.

Read more about the book 

To Become a whale- cover

To Become a Whale

Ben Hobson

Allen & Unwin

About the book:
To Become a Whale tells the story of 13-year-old Sam Keogh, whose mother has died. Sam has to learn how to live with his silent, hitherto absent father, who decides to make a man out of his son by taking him to work at Tangalooma, then the largest whaling station in the southern hemisphere. What follows is the devastatingly beautiful story of a gentle boy trying to make sense of the terrible reality of whaling and the cruelty and alienation of his new world, the world of men. Set around Moreton Island and Noosa in 1961, To Become a Whale is an extraordinarily vivid and haunting novel that reads like an instant classic of Australian literature. There are echoes of Craig Silvey, Favel Parrett, Tim Winton, and Randolph Stow in this moving, transformative and very Australian novel.

About the author:
Ben Hobson lives in Brisbane and is entirely keen on his wife, Lena, and their two small boys, Charlie and Henry. He currently teaches English and Music at Bribie Island State High School. In 2014 his novella, If the Saddle Breaks My Spine, was shortlisted for the Viva La Novella prize, run by Seizureonline. To Become a Whale is his first novel.

Judges' comments:
A fascinating coming-of-age tale set around the whaling industry in Moreton Bay. A little-known slice of history bought to life in a compelling fashion.

Read more about the book 

 - cover

The Yellow House

Emily O'Grady

Allen & Unwin

About the book:
Ten-year-old Cub lives with her parents, older brother Cassie, and twin brother Wally on a lonely property bordering an abandoned cattle farm and knackery. Their lives are shadowed by the infamous actions of her Granddad Les in his yellow weatherboard house, just over the fence. Although Les died 12 years ago, his notoriety has grown in Cub's lifetime and the local community have ostracised the whole family. When Cub's estranged aunt Helena and cousin Tilly move next door into the yellow house, the secrets the family want to keep buried begin to bubble to the surface. And having been kept in the dark about her grandfather's crimes, Cub is now forced to come to terms with her family's murky history. The Yellow House is a powerful novel about loyalty and betrayal; about the legacies of violence and the possibilities of redemption. Winner of the 2018 The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award

About the author:
Emily O'Grady was born in 1991 in Brisbane. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in, or are forthcoming in Review of Australian Fiction, Westerly, Australian Poetry Journal, The Lifted Brow, Kill Your Darlings, The Big Issue Fiction Edition, and Award Winning Australian Writing. In 2012 she won the QUT Undergraduate Writing Prize, and in 2013 she won the QUT Postgraduate Writing Prize. In 2017 she placed second in the Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction, was shortlisted for the Queensland Premiers Young Publishers and Writers Award, and was longlisted for the Elizabeth Jolley Prize for Fiction. She co-edits Stilts Journal, and is currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing at Queensland University of Technology, where she also works as a Sessional Academic.

Judges' comments:
A powerful novel about family secrets and life in country Australia. For all the darkness it is an endearing portrait of the Australia that most Australians don’t know.

Read more about the book 

cover

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Holly Ringland

HarperCollins

About the book:
After a family tragedy, young Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. As she grows older, family secrecy, a devastating betrayal and a man who’s not all he seems combines to make Alice realise there are some stories that flowers alone cannot tell.

About the author:
Holly Ringland grew up wild and barefoot in her mother's tropical garden in Northern Australia. When she was nine years old, her family lived in a camper van for two years in North America, travelling from one national park to another, an experience that sparked Holly's lifelong interest in cultures and stories. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. She now lives between the UK and Australia. http://www.hollyringland.com/

Judges' comments:
The setting is fragrant—an Australian native flower farm that gives refuge to Alice Hart, who goes to live with her grandmother on the farm after a family tragedy. Family secrets and betrayal rock her world and she struggles to cope and to claim her own story in the world at large.

Read more about the book 

 - cover

We'll Show the World: Expo 88

Jackie Ryan

UQP

About the book:
World Expo 88 was the largest, longest, and loudest of Australia’s bicentennial events. A shiny 1980s amalgam of cultural precinct, shopping mall, theme park, travelogue, and rock concert, Expo 88 is commonly credited as the catalyst for Brisbane’s ‘coming of age’. So how did an elaborate and expensive party change a city forever? We’ll Show the World explores the shifting social and political environment of Expo 88, shaped as much by Queensland’s controversial premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen as it was by those who reacted against him. It shows how something initially greeted with outrage, scepticism, and indifference came to mean so much to so many, how a state better known for eliciting insults enchanted much of the nation, and how, to Brisbane, Expo was personal.

About the author:
Jackie Ryan holds a PhD in history and political science from The University of Queensland, where she was an Honorary Research Fellow. She wrote the didactic text for the Museum of Brisbane’s ‘Light Fantastic’ exhibition on Expo 88 in 2013, and has devised audiovisual material on Expo for the Southbank Corporation and the Queensland Museum. She produces the Aurealis Award-winning Burger Force comic series and founded comedy writing collective the Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary; the websites for both of these projects have been archived by the National Library of Australia as sites of cultural significance. Jackie is the programs manager at the Queensland Writers Centre. She still has her Expo season pass.

Judges' comments:
Who can forget the exhilaration of Expo 88? Jackie Ryan is determined to bring back those days with this insightful account of the triumphs and controversies of Brisbane’s biggest party. Much more than just a romp through the glory days, Ryan situates Expo within the shifting social and political environment of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s then Queensland. The result is lively and compelling.

Read more about the book 

 - cover

A Life Underwater

Charlie Veron

Penguin Random House

About the book:
A Life Underwater is the extraordinary memoir of marine biologist Charlie Veron, a maverick Australian who transformed our understanding of coral reefs. Charlie has dived most of the world’s coral reefs, revelling in their beauty. Here he explains what they say about our planet’s past and future, and why it’s critical they be protected. And also why it’s critical that scholarly independence be safeguarded, for it was the freedom Charlie had as a young scientist—to be wayward, to take risks—that allowed his astonishing breakthroughs.

About the author:
Charlie Veron has three higher degrees in different fields of science and was the first full-time researcher on the Great Barrier Reef. He was the first scientist to be employed by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, becoming Chief Scientist of that organisation in 1997. His many awards include the Darwin Medal, the Australian Marine Sciences Association Jubilee Pin, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Underwater Science. Charlie has been diving since the age of 18, and has participated in 67 expeditions to most of the world’s key reef regions.

Judges' comments:
Veron is a self-taught coral specialist who has taken on the world of marine biology through his love of all things marine which started when he was six. He is a great advocate for scholarly independence, as it was the freedom that he had as a young scientist which allowed him to take risks and make his astonishing discoveries about coral species. Now when our coral reef is fighting for its life, this man’s breakthroughs are vitally important.

Read more about the book 

 - cover

Brisbane Houses with Gardens

Beth Wilson

About the book:
For decades now, Beth Wilson has been collecting material for her book Brisbane Houses with Gardens ... an unprecedented history of the Brisbane domestic landscape from pre-1823 to the present day. Drawing on her extraordinary knowledge of horticulture, her 50 years’ experience as a landscape architect working on some of Brisbane’s leading projects, a lifetime’s interest in historic gardens, and the extensive 120-year-old archives of Wilson Architects, Beth has brought together a fascinating and revealing history of the city through the evolution of its homes and gardens.

About the author:
Beth Wilson, the author of Brisbane Houses With Gardens, has worked as a landscape architect for almost 50 years on projects such as the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, Queen Street Mall, the Suncorp Stadium, Cathedral Square, and countless private gardens. She was the first landscape architect to be awarded an honorary fellowship of the Australian Institute of Architects, Queensland chapter, cited for her 'depth of understanding of history and place making, her unrivalled knowledge of plants and vegetation and her ability to read a site ... and for pioneering landscape as part of interior architecture'.

Judges' comments:
This book is beautifully researched by Wilson, a renowned landscape architect, who began her love affair with Brisbane gardens as a child in the late 1930s. Later in the 1960s she viewed them with the fresh eyes of a young mother. But it is also the people behind the gardens who inspire her and who she has captured so elegantly. She has poured a lifetime of her thoughts and scholarship into this book, and used valuable archival material and photographs. This is a pleasure for anyone even remotely interested in gardens.

Vote now!