Peter Allison, author of How to Walk a Puma, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Peter Allison

author of Whatever You Do, Don’t RunDon’t Look Behind You, But…  and now How to Walk a Puma

Six Sharp Questions

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1.    Congratulations, you’ve a new book – How to Walk a Puma – what is it about and what does this book mean to you?

This book shakes me out of my comfort zone (the frequently uncomfortable wilds of Africa) and recounts my travels in South America. I really believed that as I am now in my thirties I wouldn’t have the same spirit of adventure that led to so many misadventures in my teens and twenties. I was convinced that in South America I would be a dullard. A week after arriving I was in Bolivia running 16 to 25kms a day through the jungle, tied to a puma who bit me if I ran too slow. I thought “Hmm, maybe there is a Continue reading

Lose weight quickly and safely – guest blogger, Susie Burrell, shows you how…

Lose Weight Fast. Could there be a better title for a book? Who doesn’t want to lose weight fast? It may take us months if not years of eating too much and not moving our bodies enough to gain weight but once we finally get so sick of it that we want to do something about it, we want the extra weight gone as quickly as possible. And this is the reason that the various detox programs and any quirky, new weight loss regime, tablet, book or pill sell so well and make so much money – we want results, we want them now and we are willing to pay to get them.

Now trust me, if there really was an easy way to drop a few kg and keep them off with a minimum of fuss and effort, I would be first in line. The truth is though that while the scales may show a drop of a few kg if you are willing to drink juice, or a lemon drink or just shakes for a number of days in a row, we all know that these programs are just non sustainable. You follow them for a short period of time, get short term results and are inevitably back where you Continue reading

M. J. Rose, author of The Book of Lost Fragrances, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

M. J. Rose

author of The Book of Lost Fragrances

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in New York City – on the upper east side – and raised there. In the shadow of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park. I went to an all girl school – the Lenox School from 1st to 12th grade – including an extra year when I was in 7th grade and got left back. (I was very dyslexic and they felt that if I had an extra year in there I could catch up. I Continue reading

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany: Review by Toni Whitmont

Warrumbungle ranges - The Breadknife

Many years back, when I was new to the bush, I was standing in the top paddock of a mixed grazing and cropping property backing onto to the Warrumbumble Mountains in north western New South Wales and waxing lyrical about the dramatic horizon all broken into vertical planes by weird ancient dry lava plugs.

The tart response from the farmer – an intimidatingly crusty and independent woman in her 70s – was sobering. “Good views don’t make a farm”, she said in her witheringly succinct crack of a voice.

I was reminded of that day over and over again while reading Carrie Tiffany’s luminous Mateship with Birds, which strips Australian rural life of pastiche and sentimentality, leaving us with something that is beautiful and raw with its own  living, breathing energy.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Mateship with Birds is the kind of book that you just don’t want to end. I was left with a feeling of great sadness and loss – not because of the way the story finished, but because I was suddenly cast out of the world into which she transported me. I simply didn’t want to be cut adrift from the gentle dairy farmer, Harry, the purposeful single woman next door Betty, with her two children Michael, on the brink of sexual awakening, and Little Hazel the younger sister dealing with her own initiation into the world of nature.

Tiffany sets her novel in the sexually repressed 1950s of Victoria but her story has a universality about it that transcends time and place. It is a story about love, lust, loneliness, family, animals and the rhythms of nature. She writes with lucid clarity, bringing as much beauty to descriptions of the daily ministrations to lactating cows, to those of Harry’s observations of the viciousness of the birds that patrol the boundaries of his paddock, to the surprising and unexpected yearnings of the human heart. And let’s not forget that despite the strictures of society at the time, growing up in the country meant be surrounded by fecundity and a lot of rutting – the cycle of sex, birth, decay, death is simply an observable fact.

This is a particularly sensual novel, and in that respect, it fits very well into that bush setting. The reader feels the ooze of the soil under hoof, smells the diesel of the red Fergy in the shed, hears the plop of the milk in the pail. And when it comes to longings of a more human kind, Tiffany’s sparse and unsentimental style is both deft and poetic.

Tiffany must have done an enormous amount of research about dairying and bird life, and considering her age and background, has done an incredible job of rendering so palpable a life that she herself could never have experienced and yet lives on the memories of a great many people.  She breathes air into this world with authenticity and sensitivity and I am certainly the richer for experiencing it through her imagination.

This is an exceptional novel. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Order Mateship with Birds here through Booktopia.

Read Carrie Tiffany’s responses to Booktopia’s Ten Terrifying Questions here.

REVIEW: Miles off Course by Sulari Gentill (Guest Reviewer: Booktopia’s Sarah McDuling)

There are few things more gratifying than discovering an author whose books seem so perfectly suited to your tastes as a reader that it feels as though they may have been written especially for you.

After devouring Sulari Gentill’s Miles Off Course in a whirlwind reading session – a reading session interrupted only by a quick break to jump online and purchase A Few Right Thinking Men and A Decline in Prophets (being the previous two installments in the Rowland Sinclair series), I knew that Sulari Gentill had made it onto my list of top ten crime writers.

Set in Australia in 1933, Miles Off Course is a lively and consistently action-packed Historical Crime novel. It could also be classified as a rollicking Outback Adventure or thrilling Spy Drama, or even a witty “fish-out-of-water” comedy, plucking a set of fashionable dilettantes from a bohemian art scene and dropping them in the rugged, rural countryside of the Snowy Mountains.

Gentill opens with the line, “Norman Lindsay is a complete and utter bastard!” and things only get better from there on in. The plot dances inventively around actual historical events and there is more than one cameo appearance made by famous Australian historical figures, one of which remains cleverly incognito until their true identity is revealed in the epilogue. Meanwhile, the historical Australian setting makes for a fascinating backdrop and will appeal to fans of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels.

Like all the best crime writers, Gentill has created a brilliantly idiosyncratic protagonist in Rowland Sinclair. Fans of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn will be bound to appreciate a character like Rowland Sinclair.

A well-bred and wealthy Australian gent from a privileged background, Sinclair is somewhat the black sheep of his family.  A renowned painter of naked ladies (gasp!), considered by some as a protégé of Norman Lindsay, he has an unfailing talent for causing scandals and landing himself in life-threatening situations. It is this delightful combination of different roles – Gentleman, Artist, Amateur-Detective and Adventurer – that makes Rowland Sinclair such an entertaining leading man.

Like any self-respecting, wealthy eccentric, Sinclair is accompanied wherever he goes by his very own entourage of equally eccentric fellow artists – condemned by Sinclair’s older brother as a “troupe of unemployed hangers-on.”

Sinclair’s entourage is made up of three companions. Milton Isaacs – a flamboyant poet and arbiter of fashion, Edna Higgins – a beautiful and independent sculptress and Clyde Watson Jones – a painter who honed his craft as something of a wandering vagabond.

The aforementioned older brother, Wilfred Sinclair, is an influential businessman with conservative, right-wing sensibilities who cannot help but disapprove of his younger brother’s less-than-respectable lifestyle. The relationship between the two brothers is rather touching in that while they continually disagree and disappoint each other they are nevertheless very loyal and protective towards each other.

The plot opens with the disappearance of Harry Simpson, an aboriginal stock-hand who has been employed by the Sinclair family since he was a child. Both the Sinclair brothers are convinced that there is something sinister about Harry’s sudden disappearance, despite the fact that his co-workers believe he has simply gone “walkabout”. Harry is more than just an employee to the Sinclair brothers, however, and they are determined to find out what really happened to him. And so Sinclair and his entourage pile into his beloved yellow Mercedes Benz and head for the Snowy Mountains to investigate.

What follows is a madcap adventure of murder, betrayal, abduction, theft, political intrigue and a dash of romance. And just in case that doesn’t sound exciting enough to capture your interest, there is also a Communist spy conspiracy and a hunt for bushranger’s treasure.

The plot of Miles Off Course is a brightly splashed canvas, one that Gentill takes obvious delight in painting. This is the kind of book that is so fun to read that one can’t help but feel that the author must have gotten a real kick out of writing it.  Little wonder then that she should write so quickly. Between the Rowland Sinclair series and her YA fantasy/adventure series, The Hero Trilogy, Gentill is releasing an average of two books a year. Which means that by far the best part about having read Miles Off Course and discovering a new favorite author is that I can now go and devour her earlier novels, safe in the knowledge that there will be many more Rowland Sinclair adventures to come.

Guest Reviewer: Booktopia’s Sarah McDuling

Click here to order a copy of Miles Off Course from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Carrie Tiffany, author of Mateship with Birds, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Carrie Tiffany

author of Mateship with Birds and
Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Halifax, England. My family migrated to Western Australia when I was six. At eighteen I went to the Northern Territory and worked as a park ranger for a few years. I now live in Victoria where I work as an agricultural Continue reading

Marina Endicott, author of The Little Shadows, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Marina Endicott

author of The Little Shadows, Good to a Fault and more…

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in the west of Canada, high in the Rocky Mountains, in Golden, British Columbia. My father was an Anglican priest, but returned to graduate school to become first a psychologist, and then a lawyer, so we moved all over Canada following him from university to university. I went to thirteen schools, finishing at a girls’ school, the Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, Canada’s largest city; I went on to studying acting at Continue reading

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