About Me

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Victoria, Australia
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Among the Islands by Tim Flannery

I've been waiting for months for this book to come out, chiefly because it is about two things I find fascinating: the Pacific Islands and biology. Tim Flannery is a scientist and author who has written extensively on prehistoric Australia, mammals of Australia and New Guinea, Climate change and Australian explorers. Among the Islands follows his work as a young field scientist gathering specimens and data in the islands of Melanesia. 
Among the Islands (2011, Text Publishing)
   He travels to islands in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Caledonia searching for bats, rats, wallabies and possums. I was amazed to read that Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands was once home to three large rats, one as big as a cat even. I remember well the rats that lived in my house in Guadalcanal, gnawing through the walls and electrical cabling almost every night. I was pretty sure they were only regular sized rats. I think I would have totally freaked if they were as big as cats!
A cuscus from Woodlark Island in
PNG. Source: Tim Flannery.
   I was really thrilled to see he had also been to Makira, (another island where I lived for a while), looking for bats.  There are certainly lots of them there! (Each October night I remember the fruit bats squealed in the mango tree outside my bedroom.)  Among the Islands is filled with funny stories of Flannery's travels. Flannery manages to present unfamiliar island customs to the Western reader with sensitivity and understanding. Apart from his muddling east and west in one paragraph about Guadalcanal, I felt totally at home with his descriptions of the Solomon Islands.
   If you are interested in zoology this book is a treasure, and for our Pacific Island friends, this book gives a good account of some of your disappearing wildlife. Maybe this is a good one for a Christmas stocking!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Heart of Danger by Fleur Beale

Heart of Danger
(2011, Random House)
It was great to read the last installment of the Juno of Taris series. As a character Juno has always been feisty, interesting and genuine. Although there was nothing really of 'island' interest in this book, it's still important for me to review it as the first book was such an 'island' classic.
   In this third book, Heart of Danger, Juno returns to once again save the day but I have to admit that this novel wasn't as compelling as the first two. The story is written with an easy style and Juno's voice is friendly and at times hopelessly and endearingly in love, but for all this I felt that the book dragged on too long.
   The action centres around the disappearance of Juno's younger sister Hera. Juno discovers Hera at a bush settlement, a captive of a strange cult-like group.  The girls have to fight their way home and then a court case follows. For me all the action was over once Hera was rescued, but there was still over a hundred pages to go. Despite being disappointed with the tension I felt that the book resolved issues from the first two books well and gave the reader a real sense of optimism about the future of the people of Taris.
    It's well worth reading if you enjoyed the first two books, but I'm not sure that it would stand alone as well as they did. The second half of the book relies a lot on the history of the original novel, Juno of Taris, and there are so many characters that someone new to the series is bound to become confused. Nevertheless this is still a terrific series for teenage readers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Author Interview: Fleur Beale

Fleur Beale is a kiwi author who has written the terrific Juno of Taris series. The first book in the series, Juno of Taris, won the 2010 Esther Glen Award. The follow up, Fierce September, won the Young Adult Fiction Award in the 2011 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. The final volume, Heart of Danger is available now and published by Random House. I'm reading it right now, so I'll post a review as soon as I finish it. Below is an interview I conducted with Fleur Beale this week.

1                     You are a prolific children’s writer. What is it that you like most about your job?
What I like about being a writer is the freedom. I can work when I want to, and if it's a sunny day I can go to the beach. It's fun too to be in charge of a world that's your own creation. I can also daydream and call it work!
        Can you take us through your typical writing day?
I've got a little office in town in an old building. I go in on the bus in the mornings and write till about 1 or two. Sometimes I'll start again when I get home, or I'll catch up on paperwork. If it's raining, I stay home and write.
     How long did it take you to write the Juno of Taris series and was it originally devised as a series?
When I wrote Juno of Taris I had no thought of writing a series. The idea for that only popped up once the book was published. I wrote the book several years before it was published, but the manuscript got lost on the way to an agent in the US. I printed it out again and when I read it I could see that it needed more work. I threw the manuscript in the cupboard and went off to live in the UK for a year. I didn't look at the story again till some time after I got back home. I read it and still liked the story but by leaving so much time between writing it and revisiting it, I could see clearly where it needed to be worked on. I had to completely rewrite it because the computer the document was on got stolen three days before I was due to leave London and all I had was the discarded manuscript in the cupboard.
       A bio-dome in the Pacific Ocean is an interesting take on speculative fiction. What inspired your idea?
I wanted a remote area where it would be feasible that all communication with the outside world could be cut off. I'd been to the Eden Project in Devon and seen the bio-domes there so I just made the Taris one bigger.
       So far the books in the Juno of Taris series have won some prestigious prizes. Are you surprised by the series’ success so far?
Yes, but very, very delighted!
6                     The blogs you set up were an interesting adjunct to this series. What took you down this path?
I heard a young woman say she could never resist looking up any website address she saw and the blog idea developed from there.

       What are your three favourite island stories?
I'm probably not intrigued by island stories as such, it's more the constraints such an environment places on its inhabitants. I like stories where there are boundaries for the characters to push and struggle against. I enjoyed Mandy Hager's Blood of the Lamb series though, and Anna Mackenzie's Seawreck Stranger trilogy - both of which involve islands.

      If you had to live in an island bio-dome for a year what would your major duties be?
I'd probably be a spinner and weaver. I wouldn't like people to have to depend on my gardening skills!
Thanks Fleur and all the best with your future writing.