Book Review: Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

This is an amazing book and is a must read. If you haven’t heard about it, I predict you will because I’m fairly confident this will be winning prizes in 2019. There I’ve said it, but why?

The book is written from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old boy, Eli growing up in Brisbane whose best friend Slim is his babysitter who just happens to be a notorious ex-crim, his stepfather is a drug dealer, his mother ends up in jail and his older brother, August is mute. If that doesn’t get you going, then throw in the boy’s philosophical yearning to know if a man can ever be good as he takes a long hard look at the role models of adult men around him.

The writing is sublime.

Still night air and two boys smoking on a gutter. Stars up there. A cane toad down here has been flattened by a car tyre on the bitumen road a metre from my right foot. Its pink tongue has exploded from its mouth so it looks like the toad was flattened halfway through eating a raspberry lolly snake.

‘Sucks, doesn’t it?’ Darren says.
‘What?’
‘Growing up thinking you were with the good guys, when all along you were running with the bad guys.’

The cover is incredible.

I’ll almost bet that you’ll turn back if you walk past a bookshop with this cover in the window, just to take a look.

The splat of pink and orange with a small bird sitting on a statement, ‘your end is a dead blue wren’ is intriguing. That statement will mean a lot and by the time you finish the book you will understand why.

The descriptions are exquisite.

Slim coughs, chokes up brown tobacco spit that he missiles out the driver’s window to our sun-baked and potholed bitumen street running past fourteen low-set sprawling fibro houses, ours and everybody else’s in shades of cream, aquamarine and sky blue. Sandakan Street, Darra, my little suburb of Polish and Vietnamese refugees and the Bad Old Days refugees like Mum and August and me, exiled here for the past eight years, hiding out from the rest of the world, marooned survivors of the great ship hauling Australia’s lower- class shitheap, separated from America and Europe and Jane Seymour by oceans and darn pretty Great Barrier Reef and another 7000 kilometres of Queensland coastline and then an overpass taking cars to Brisbane city, and separated a bit more still by the nearby Queensland Cement and Lime Company factory that blows cement powder across Darra on windy days and covers our rambling home’s sky-blue fibro walls with dust…

The plot and characters are well-developed.

From the first page you’ll be put into the rollercoaster’s front seat which barely lets up until close to the end when you’ll wonder why you have palpitations in your chest. At times, you’re unsure whether you should laugh or cry or merely gasp at the almost farcical nature of the boy’s life, where you wonder if he can survive another distressing obstacle. Eli makes us see a different side to people we’d automatically dismiss.

“I love Slim because he truly loves August and me… I love him so much for convincing us that when Mum and Lyle are out for so long like they are at the movies and not, in fact, dealing heroin purchased from Vietnamese restaurateurs.

You just can’t help but fall in love with Eli and his brother, August. You’ll despise their arch enemies and hope like hell that there can be a better life for them both.

It is a wondrous book full of heart and soul. Get a copy, anyway you can.

Do you judge a book by its cover?



When I was flying back to Melbourne a few weeks ago from Sydney, I sat next to a bookseller. We chatted about all sorts of books and found our opinions rarely differed on books we’d read. I was interested to know how she chose books to read. In a lowered voice she admitted to often choosing a book because of its cover. Gasp!!

It made me think about my own choices. I  tend to choose books because of reviews or word of mouth recommendations or the back cover blurb. However, I admit that I do like the look of a cover and while I sit here contemplating my book shelf my eye unashamedly drifts to the spine with the brightest cover which happens to be the Museum of Modern Love. I didn’t buy it because I loved the cover, I chose it because it had won the Stella Prize in 2017. Yet it’s cover is hypnotically enticing. The geometric shapes and dominant red colour draws the eye. I probably would have bought it without the award because it stood out.

Let’s face it. A good cover is a sales tool, like the dress in the window of a shop. If it looks good, you’re enticed to check it out. So all the hype and advice around getting yourself a good cover is correct.

When looking at my own publications I confess to agonising over the cover but as a writer careful with her newborn, I can’t always see if the cover is actually any good. Feedback is always positive because no-one wants to tell you that your baby is ugly, do they?

For A Perfect Stone, I have had a lot of positive feedback about the cover and quite unsolicited so perhaps I am on the right track. I am proud of the cover by Jonny Lynch (https://jonnylynchgraphics.wixsite.com/media) who I think did a great job for his first ever book cover venture. He was extremely patient, understanding and listened to my vision which is particularly important for a cover designer. Hopefully it will be the first of many for him. And if you like it, visit his webpage.

So it’s confession time, do covers make a difference to you?

COVER REVEAL: NEW RELEASE

Announcing New Release: A Perfect Stone by S.C. Karakaltsas

I am so excited to let you know that my novel, A Perfect Stone will be ready for release October 10, 2018. The cover is done, the proof has been examined from front to back and the format double-checked. There is nothing like holding your new book in your hands for the first time.

It might seem as though I’ve churned out another novel in a short time but believe me, this has been a project of more than two years in the making and at times a laborious undertaking. But it’s also been a labour of love and passion as I researched the heartbreaking tale of what happened to children who were forcibly removed from their homes during the Greek Civil War in 1948.

A dual timeline story taking the reader on a journey through the snow-covered mountains of Northern Greece, to Czechoslovakia, Macedonia and Australia, I hope you’ll like reading it as much as I loved writing it.

How do you find a place to belong when there’s nowhere else to go?

Living alone, eighty-year-old Jim Philips potters in his garden feeding his magpies. He doesn’t think much of his nosy neighbours or telemarketers. All he wants to do is live in peace.

Cleaning out a box belonging to his late wife, he finds something which triggers the memories of a childhood he’s hidden, not just from his overprotective middle-aged daughter, Helen, but from himself. When Jim has a stroke and begins speaking another language, Helen is shocked to find out her father is not who she thinks he is.

Jim’s suppressed memories surface in the most unimaginable way when he finally confronts what happened when, as a ten-year-old, he was forced at gunpoint to leave his family and trek barefoot through the mountains to escape the Greek Civil War in 1948.

A Perfect Stone is a sweeping tale of survival, loss and love.

Now available https://www.amazon.com.au/Perfect-Stone-S-C-Karakaltsas/dp/0994503261/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1538698782&sr=1-1

Book Trailer: Out of Nowhere

Presenting my book trailer for Out of Nowhere: A collection of short stories.

A huge thank you to the very talented Jonny Lynch who put the trailer together; to Anthony Guardabascio  from Continue.com.au and to Con Karakaltsas for the  watercolour painting from which the cover art work has been adapted.

Hope you love it as much as I do.

Cover Unveiling Coming Soon

I’ve done this before.

So you’d think I could decide on a cover fairly quickly. It should be an easy process. But it’s not. Anthony, my cover designer has the patience of a saint.

I chew on my fingernails and ponder. Is the art work right? Is the font the right size; is it in the right spot? Does the blurb make any sense to anyone else but me? Is the layout good enough? Is it eye catching enough? Then finally I think it’s nailed and I stuff up the dimensions of the book. And I find out that size really does matter. So many things to think about.
Yes, getting the book cover right is time consuming.

So where is the cover for ‘Out of Nowhere’, you ask? Coming out soon.

What’s in a Cover

How your book is dressed entices the reader to look inside. Never judge a book by it’s cover? Rubbish! We all know that’s simply not true. It’s the greatest marketing tool to have. So how do you decide what the cover should look like? It’s a big question and a hard one to answer.

My book is historical fiction so I knew that I wanted a vintage feel. My book is titled “Climbing the Coconut Tree” so a coconut tree might be a good idea somewhere on the front. I had a working cover photo of an original ink picture that someone had drawn by hand of a coconut tree and native huts. It was on a Christmas card sent by my father in 1948. I was never able to find out who the original artist was. It is beautifully drawn in black and white and I although loved it, I knew it wasn’t strong enough.

Original front cover

Strolling across the internet there are lots of economical do-it-yourself covers. Createspace and Smashwords provide templates. But the problem for me was there was nothing that really grabbed me. Finally, I decided to seek help and found a graphic designer Anthony Guardabascio from http://www.continue.com.au. He designed my perfect cover which is below. I really love it and I hope you do to.

Print