Stephen King to release Detective Novel – new book called Mr Mercedes

MrMERCEDES_hbk-animatedA retired cop and a couple of unlikely allies race against time to stop a psycho-loner intent on blowing up thousands… Stephen King is on a roll, this time with the heart-pounding suspense that he does best.

A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring a retired homicide detective who’s haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular – the pre-dawn slaughter of eight people among hundreds gathered in line for the opening of a jobs fair when the economy was guttering out. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes.

The plot is kicked into gear when Bill Hodges receives a letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. He taunts Hodges with the notion that he will strike again. Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing that from happening.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. And he’s preparing to kill again. Only Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, can apprehend the killer in this high-stakes race against time.

Because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands…

For more about Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes click here

Win a double pass to see The Monuments Men starring Matt Damon and George Clooney

Attention Booktopians! For a limited time win a double pass to see The Monuments Men (in cinemas March 13) when you buy a copy of the book.

Be quick before stock runs out!

Grab a copy of The Monuments Men here

The Monuments Men

Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

What if I told you that there was an epic story about World War II that has not been told, involving the most unlikely group of heroes?

What if I told you there was a group of men on the front lines who didn’t carry machine guns or drive tanks; a new kind of soldier, one charged with saving, not destroying.

From caves to castles in a thrilling race against time, these men risked their lives daily to save hundreds of thousands of the world’s greatest works of art. THEY were the Monuments Men, and THIS is their extraordinary true story.

Grab a copy of The Monuments Men here

Helene Young, author of Safe Harbour, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Helene Young

author of Safe Harbour, Burning Lies and many more

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Thank you! It’s lovely to visit Booktopia again.

Safe Harbour is set in a small coastal Australian town called Banksia Cove. I fiddled with the topography around The Town of 1770 and Agnes Waters for this story so Google Earth won’t help pinpoint the location!

Darcy, an up and coming chef, has reluctantly returned home to support her mother through ovarian cancer treatment. After she’s involved in the rescue of a stricken yacht, the past she thought she’d put behind her crashes back into her life. This time there’s danger everywhere she turns. Should she follow her heart or listen to reason? As the weather closes in she finds herself stranded in an old whaling station and only one thing is certain, by morning not everyone will survive.

Safe Harbour has back story themes of drugs in sport along with the challenges that young people living in rural and remote areas face every day. Flying in and out of those communities has given me an appreciation for the role that sport has to play in giving them golden opportunities. Sadly, sometimes it’s dross beneath the gold…

Grab a copy of Helene Young’s Safe Harbour here

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The worst moment was developing vertigo and being grounded from flying until I find a solution. There’s nothing so sulky as a pilot with clipped wings…

The best moments? Too many to list – being surrounded by whales in the Whitsunday Islands without another boat in sight. Bringing my ninety-one year old mother home from hospital with a huge smile on her face. Stepping off the plane in Beziers in France to see my sister again. Life’s full of magical moments.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ARISTOTLE

In both flying and writing I really think that saying holds true, but it also applies to life. Striving to do the best every time you do something will build a lifetime habit and that means you’ll just keep getting better.

I reckon it even applies to smiling.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I’d definitely say I’m not easy to live with. Capt G and Zeus are often in competition with the characters filling my head. And if it’s not stories, then it’s probably issues with the 250 pilots I manage that gives me selective hearing…

Our day starts early with a walk for Zeus and breakfast then I head off to my day job around 6.30. When I get home at around 5.30, 6 pm there’s time for another walk, dinner, and then it’s writing time. Weekends I write when I can.

And if an idea strikes at 4 am then I’ll get out of bed and start tapping away on the computer so I think that definitely makes me difficult to live with!!

5. Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

Ha, the fickle market place… I think the nightly news has a greater impact on me as my stories are always topical.

But I do have lovely loyal readers who support me and wait anxiously for each new book and, if I’m going to have a sustainable career doing what I love best, then I need to listen to my readers and, to a degree, the market.

I don’t mean that I write by committee or that the market changes the stories I write, but I definitely consider it in the way I approach the promotion of a book.

Who knows what the next big thing will be? If you find out can you let me know in case it’s a story I’d like to write?

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

Wow! That’s a tough assignment, but here goes!

Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden – it teaches resilience and the worth of standing up for what you believe in.

Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan – great values, but also puts an empowering spin on perceived weaknesses ie kids who are dyslexic and attention deficit are actually the sons and daughters of gods.  It also has a cleverly packaged message about the strengths of outsiders and what happens to bullies.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – with its clear message about fighting for your beliefs and persevering. (They’ll all have seen the movies so that will help too!)

Animal Farm by George Orwell – on oldie but a goodie with its message that people can be easily manipulated (and what can start with the best intentions in the world, can go so radically wrong…)

Ice Station by Matthew Reilly – because it’s a ripping good yarn and those adolescents will need to unwind after all that learning!!

Helene, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Helene Young’s Safe Harbour here

REVIEW: Half Bad by Sally Green (review by Sarah McDuling)

half-badEvery so often you hear about a book that’s being touted as a “global sensation”. Usually in such cases the film rights have been bought, the author is being labelled “the next J.K Rowling” and the general consensus seems to be OMG this is it! The New Craze! The Next Big Thing! And so on, and so forth. We’ve heard it all before, right?

And yet it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear it, whenever a book like this comes along I get caught up in the hype. My expectations soar to dizzying heights. I find myself thinking, “This book is going to change my life! It will blow my mind and rock my world. It will save the rainforests and end world poverty! God bless this miraculous book!”

Of course, I’m nearly always disappointed.

It’s not the book’s fault. It’s just that sometimes hype can be dangerous. Too much hype can kill a good book, purely because it can’t possibly measure up to the high expectations of the reader. However, Half Bad by Sally Green might just be the exception to this rule

(NB: Half Bad by Sally Green is probably not going save any rainforests or end world poverty.  I mean it might. But probably not. I just want to be upfront about that, before we go any further.)

Sally Green, author of the upcoming Half Life trilogy, really doesn’t have all that much in common with J. K. Rowling. Well … except that they are both British. And female. Also, both are blonde and have children. Does this qualify Sally Green as the next J.K Rowling?  I’m not sure about that. What I am sure of are the following facts:

1). Sally Green is a first time author.Sally Green

2). Her Half Life trilogy has been sold into 42 countries.

3) There was a massive bidding war between major studios in order to secure the film rights.

4) All of this happened before the first book in the trilogy had even been published.

Now that’s a lot of hype to live up to.

In terms of what the book is about, I’m almost reluctant to say. Any kind of synopsis I give is probably going to make it sound like a Harry Potter rip-off. The truth is, comparisons to Harry Potter are unavoidable here. Both books are about teenaged boys with magical powers –  boys who must navigate their way through an intricate world of witches/wizards, burdened by tragic pasts and unwanted notoriety.

Still, despite these superficial similarities, Half Bad is actually a very fresh and imaginative take on a well known theme. At no point does it come off feeling clichéd or unoriginal which (let’s be honest) is an impressive feat for a Young Adult novel about witches. This is not new territory, after all. And yet, somehow Sally Green has managed to put a whole new spin on a familiar tune. Whereas Harry Potter is very much a fanstasy, Half Bad is more of a gritty, comptemporary coming-of-age story … that just happens to include witches. More importantly, it’s an enthralling page turner starring a complex and compelling protagonist. All up, a riveting first act in what promises to be an impressive show.

So. Will Half Bad live up to the hype and become the next big publishing phenomenon? I certainly hope so, but I can’t say for sure. These things can be hard to predict.  All I can say is that I completely understand why people are so excited about this new trilogy. Even handicapped by my ridiculously high expectations, Half Bad did not disappoint.

This is a series I’ll be very glad to see capture the hearts and minds of a new generation of teens.

Spoiler Alert: Despite what you may have heard, Half Bad  does not contain a map to the lost city of Atlantis or the secret to eternal youth. It is, however, a very good book that you will  have difficulty putting down.

__________________

Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiaster fibber. You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Grab a copy of Half Bad here

half-badIn modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both.

Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

Jennifer Smart, author of The Wardrobe Girl, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

the-wardrobe-girl-jennifer-smartThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jennifer Smart

author of The Wardrobe Girl

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 Blayney, a small country town near Bathurst in NSW. But I grew up in Sydney, after a few years in Newcastle. I attended an all girls’ school on Sydney’s North Shore and am still haunted by the trauma of bottle green socks and Blackwatch tartan. Eventually, I escaped to Sydney University.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At the age of 12, I had grand schemes of being an architect, until someone mentioned some skill in maths was required. By 18, the idea of being Madonna a la Desperately Seeking Susan, was most appealing. My first timid scratchings of pen across blank pages started when I was about 30 and the idea that one day I could be a writer began to take hold.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?jennifersmart

At 18, when I wasn’t singing ‘Get Into The Groove’, I was convinced the world would end in a nuclear winter after the USSR sent missiles slamming into Pine Gap.

4.  What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?  

It’s so hard to narrow this down to 3 works of art, but this is my pick, Olympia by Edouard Manet; The Weeping Song by Nick Cave and Swan Lake by Graham Murphy for The Australian Ballet.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

As my 7 year old daughter is a better artist than me and my pirouettes aren’t what they used to be, I turned to writing. I love the freedom a novel allows to explore the inner musings of the characters, to write descriptively and discover the world created by your imagination.

the-wardrobe-girl-jennifer-smart6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Wardrobe Girl follows the story of Tess Appleby, the new standby assistant on long-running Australian soap – Pretty Beach Rescue. It’s not quite the BBC, where until recently Tess has been working, but it should be an uncomplicated return to Sydney life after 8 years in London and a humiliating end to a relationship.

But, just like a soap opera plot, Tess’s life is soon anything but uncomplicated when the cast of characters, including the soap’s leading man, her retired actress mother and aspiring actress sister, the paparazzi, even her pet dog, Eric, all seem to conspire to create chaos.

Tess isn’t phased, not until the man who broke her heart 8 years ago arrives at Pretty Beach Rescue as a new Director. The Wardrobe Girl is loosely based on my experience working in the Australian TV industry, including 5 years on Home and Away.

Grab a copy of The Wardrobe Girl here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope people gain insights into the behind –the-scenes workings of a TV show, such as Home and Away. I also hope they are entertained and take pleasure in a world not destroyed by a nuclear winter.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Hilary Mantel for her sheer brilliance. Marion Keyes for extraordinary storytelling ability. Richard Flanagan’s beautiful prose. Jane Austen’s wit, wisdom and ability to capture the ‘universal truth’.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

My most ambitious goal now is to write book 3, which requires me to first finish book 2! I have a children’s book, which is well underway and hankering to attempt a screenplay/TV mini-series.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I still consider myself an aspiring writer and the advice I remind myself of most often is – there is no ‘secret template’ to writing a book. The only way to write is to write. Trust your gut instincts, be careful of whose feedback you seek and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Jennifer, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Wardrobe Girl here

Cover for Jack Reacher’s new book revealed – and this time, it’s Personal

Jack Reacher is back this September for another high octane adventure in Personal, Lee Child’s 19th book in the bestselling series.

Little is known of the plot, with Child writing a short teaser on his Facebook page last week:

Someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president.

Only one man could have done it.

And Reacher is the one man who can find him.

This time, it’s personal.

Even with this small tease, we’re excited. Lee Child seems to compete constantly with himself, trying to top his previous book with each new one and usually does so.

Whispers say that large parts of Personal will be set in Child’s native England, as well as the US and France.

In 2014, will we see the Jack Reacher story get a little more, well, personal?

Click here for more details about Lee Child’s Personal

Harold Ramis – A Literary Tribute

In my household, the late Harold Ramis was a God.

As a director, writer and actor, his CV is a collection of my favourite movies growing up. Caddyshack, Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and National Lampoon’s Vacation. If he had played a wise-cracking jeep driver in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade he would have filled the list.

There is a story in my family that, as an eight year-old, whenever my parents couldn’t find me they would go to the spare room, which had a TV. Without fail I would be sitting in front of it in deep concentration, only willing to use hand signals to explain what I was watching.

Usually it was Caddyshack, which was signalled with a stubby finger reaching for the sky. Occasionally two fingers would appear, to signal the viewing of its poorly-received sequel, a film Ramis regretted but I loved all the same. The viewing of Animal House was usually accompanied with a meek apology, as I turned it off and then waited for the footsteps to distance so I could turn it back on again.

As a tribute to the great Harold Ramis we look at some of the greatest moments from his greatest movies, along with a literary piece that I believe either inspired him or, more likely, he inspired. Even more proof that Ramis’ reach extended far beyond a half naked John Candy in Stripes.


Ghostbusters

Accompanying Piece: The Turn of the Screw

When an inexperienced governess goes to work at Bly, a country house in Essex to look after a young boy Miles and his sister Flora, all manner of strange events begin to occur. The governess begins to spot a ghostly man and woman around the grounds and is told by the housekeeper that they are the ghosts of the valet and the previous governess.

It soon becomes clear that the children are inexplicably connected to these ghosts in some way and the young governess struggles to protect the children, although from exactly what, she is not sure.

Grab a copy of The Turn of the Screw here


Stripes

Accompanying Piece: Catch-22

Explosive, subversive, wild and funny, 50 years on the novel’s strength is undiminished. Reading Joseph Heller’s classic satire is nothing less than a rite of passage.

Set in the closing months of World War II in an American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, Catch-22 is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he has never even met keep trying to kill him.

Joseph Heller’s bestselling novel is a hilarious and tragic satire on military madness, and the tale of one man’s efforts to survive it.

Grab a copy of Catch-22 here


Caddyshack

Accompanying Piece: The Grapes of Wrath

Set against the background of Dust Bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel west in search of the promised land.

Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.

Steinbeck famously said, “I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags,”, with The Grapes of Wrath winning a large following among the working class due to Steinbeck’s sympathy to the workers’ movement and his accessible prose style.

Grab a copy of The Grapes of Wrath here


Animal House

Accompanying Piece: The Adventures of Augie March

A penniless and parentless Chicago boy growing up in the Great Depression, Augie March drifts through life latching on to a wild succession of occupations, including butler, thief, dog-washer, sailor and salesman. He is a ‘born recruit’, easily influenced by others who try to mould his destiny. Not until he tangles with the glamorous Thea, a huntress with a trained eagle, can he attempt to break free.

A modern day everyman on an odyssey in search of reality and identity, Augie March is the star of star performer in a richly observed human variety show, a modern-day Columbus in search of reality and fulfilment.

Grab a copy of The Adventures of Augie March here


Groundhog Day

Accompanying Piece: Life After Life

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life?

Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny?

And would you even want to?

Grab a copy of Life After Life here


Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to the Booktopia Blog. When not reading and writing he enjoys fast food and a slow metabolism.

You can follow Andrew’s ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

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