Christie Nieman, author of As Stars Fall, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Christie Nieman

author of As Stars Fall

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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 Greensborough, Melbourne, grew up in Osbornes Flat, which is near Yackandandah, which is near Wodonga, which is on the Victorian side of the Murray, and was schooled there and in Melbourne. For the past 20 years I’ve been a Melbournite (what a great city!), but just recently I moved to central Victoria, so now I’m a Goldfields girl. Every day I’m visited by a billion beautiful tiny woodland birds. It’s lovely.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be an environmental scientist, because they are the best and most important people on Earth. When I was eighteen I was going to be a pianist, and was even enrolled in a terrifying Bachelor of Music. When I was thirty I wanted to be happy: I stopped trying so hard to achieve and just relaxed into being what I was being and had been for the past twelve years – a writer-in-progress. Your thirties are magic like that.

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

Christie Nieman

Author: Christie Nieman

That love conquers all, and that life is ultimately fair. Now I know more about circumstance, and the way in which it can provide hurdles and boundaries in a person’s life. I was quite an innocent at eighteen: I didn’t know I was very lucky and I thought everyone’s experience was the same as mine. It’s embarrassing to remember.

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?

At the age of sixteen I read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye. I have never had an experience like it before or since. A light bulb flicked on in my head. It was very much as the great woman herself wrote in Negotiating With The Dead: ‘When I found I was a writer at the age of sixteen…’ I don’t know why I ran about trying to be a musician after that – I guess at that age I wanted the company that music gives, but which writing doesn’t.

The works of Debussy and Bach grabbed me as a young pianist – Debussy’s beautiful imagistic impressions, using music to paint mood, not worrying too much about finishing a phrase, or creating a full melody; and Bach’s incredible escalation of form and structure and motif, weaving them and varying them, without ever fundamentally changing them, to create something that sounds nearly avant-garde and which bewilders you and leads you off a cliff edge, and then instantly, and so satisfyingly, takes you back to the simple forms again – I learned so much from both of them about how linear artforms like music and literature can work.

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

I chose to write a novel because I’d already written a play, because I can’t paint to save my life, and because my stint as a songwriter is best forgotten, and also, because when I was eighteen, music and I had a terrible break-up and it took us a while to get back on speaking terms. Whereas the written word and I have always been dear and faithful friends.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

As Stars Fall is young adult novel for older readers. It begins with a bushfire and a death, and from that moment on the emotional and ecological traumas run parallel and interact. It looks at the way people recover from grief, and the way ecosystems recover from disturbance. It reminds us we are all part of the one big living, breathing organism. And it has a little supernatural/metaphysical kick in there too.

Grab a copy of As Stars Fall here

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

I sincerely hope that people come away with a sense of the smaller and bigger worlds. Of lives other than their own, of lives other than human. I hope it gives them a sense that there can be belonging in that, even when in pain and loneliness. It’s possibly high-falutin of me, but there you have it.

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

As I’ve said, Margaret Atwood had me at hello. Her language – my lord, every word is working hard, every word is a little machine, every sentence. And yet it reads effortlessly. I’m also a fan of Sonya Hartnett, the way she can set up an unusual, often almost abstract scenario, and present it with such clarity that you don’t question it – it gives her enormous scope as a writer: once she has you there, she can do what she wants with you. I also love David Malouf and Colm Toibin, for their narrative-invading landscapes; Margaret Mahy and Simmone Howell, for their beautifully original characters and home-lives;  Helen Garner for her perfect use of language to capture, well, everything really; and Philip Pullman, for showing me the glorious magnitude of what you can do with writing for young people – the themes, people, the themes!

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

To write as many good things as I can before I die. Being humble but also very ambitious. I believe many if not most writers are essentially lazy creatures; they’d so often prefer to read than write. Yet they are also cursed by drive. It’s a difficult thing, to be both lazy and driven.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Spend a year getting a trade you can live with. I’m not being facetious. Even if you are one of the rare few that can make a living from your writing, it will probably take you a few years to get there, and you don’t want to be spending all that time stressing about rent and food, because you need that time to be honing your craft. And work gives you an avenue to engage with the world around you, which is priceless for a writer. Unless of course you’re published at fifteen (I’m looking at you, Sonya Hartnett), and then by all means, devote your life!

Christie, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of As Stars Fall here

GUEST BLOG: Author Belinda Neil on her new book Under Siege

under-siegeAs a young nineteen year old, a career in the New South Wales Police Force seemed perfect for me. It was the combination of adventure and being able to help the community that appealed. I had a very different policing career from the norm. I worked in some of the most exciting and challenging areas in the police force — undercover work, homicide investigation and hostage negotiation. Unfortunately, the many horrific situations and crime scenes I investigated became too much to bear. I finally succumbed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My career ended, my marriage broke down leaving me a single mum to two young children, and I seriously considered suicide.

belinda neilWhen I was undergoing therapy for PTSD, I saw a number of hard working police and defense force personnel who had also succumbed to PTSD, some taking their own lives. I felt for them, the pain they and their families go through. This inspired me to write Under Siege. I felt that by telling my story it might make a difference to someone else, their family, their friends. I want to create a greater awareness of PTSD, how it can occur, the symptoms, and what helped me on my road to recovery. I want to create conversation about what measures we can take to minimise the symptoms of PTSD and how to help those persons already subject to the worst symptoms.

In Under Siege, I want to take the reader on a journey showing how I succumbed to PTSD. I warn you, the content of this book can be confronting as I describe the crime scenes in graphic detail. I want you to feel as if you were there. I want to exhaust you as I was exhausted after going from traumatic incident to horrific crime scene. My wish is that you will have a greater understanding of PTSD after you have read Under Siege.

Grab a copy of Under Siege here

MATTHEW REILLY ANNOUNCES HIS NEW BOOK!

THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA

by Matthew Reilly

GreatZooMRIt is a secret the Chinese government
has been keeping for forty years.

They have found a species of
animal no one believed even existed.
It will amaze the world.

Now the Chinese are ready to unveil
their astonishing discovery within the
greatest zoo ever constructed.
A small group of VIPs and journalists
has been brought to the zoo deep within China
to see its fabulous creatures for the first time.
Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron,
a writer for National Geographic and an
expert on reptiles.

The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts
that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts,
that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong…

GET READY FOR ACTION ON A GIGANTIC SCALE

This book is out 10th November 2014.

Grab a copy of The Great Zoo of China here

Evie Wyld wins the 2014 Miles Franklin literary award

Evie Wyld has won the 2014 Miles Franklin Award for her sophomore novel All The Birds, Singing. For a full look at the nominees click here.

“All the Birds, Singing draws the reader into its rhythm and mystery, through wonderfully and beautifully crafted prose, whose deceptive sparseness combines powerfully with an ingenious structure to create a compelling narrative of alienation, decline and finally, perhaps, some form of redemption,” said the state library’s Mitchell Librarian, Richard Neville, on behalf of the judging panel.

“Flight from violence and abuse run through the core of the novel, yet never defeat its central character. All the Birds, Singing, an unusual but compelling novel, explores its themes with an unnervingly consistent clarity and confidence.”

She will take home $60,000 in prize money, awarded by Perpetual’s the Trust Company, which has been the trustee of the award for its 58-year history.

Grab a copy of All the Birds, Singing here

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All the Birds, Singing

by Evie Wyld

Who or what is watching Jake Whyte from the woods?

Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.

It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.

Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.

About the Author

Evie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop London. Her first novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was listed as one of the Culture Show’s Best New British Novelists. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Grab a copy of All the Birds, Singing here

Congratulations to Chris Goopy, who has won a copy of All the Birds, Singing! Please email promos@booktopia with your details and we’ll get your copy to you ASAP!

Congratulations to Evie Wyld : Winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2014 for All the Birds, Singing

milesfranklin

Booktopia would like to congratulate Evie Wyld for winning the 2014 Miles Franklin Literary Award with All the Birds, Singing … Congratulations!


All the Birds, Singing

by Evie Wyld

Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.

It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.

Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.

About the Author

Evie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop in London. Her first novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was listed as one of the Culture Show’s Best New British Novelists. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Grab a copy of All the Birds, Singing here


THE RUNNERS UP:

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

by Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

About the Author

Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. His novels, Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, and Wanting have received numerous honours and are published in twenty-six countries. He directed a feature film version of The Sound of One Hand Clapping. A collection of his essays is published as And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?.

Grab a copy of The Narrow Road to the Deep North here


The Night Guest

by Fiona McFarlane

One morning Ruth wakes thinking a tiger has been in her seaside house. Later that day a formidable woman called Frida arrives, looking as if she’s blown in from the sea. In fact she’s come to care for Ruth. Frida and the tiger: both are here to stay, and neither is what they seem.

Which of them can Ruth trust? And as memories of her childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency, can she even trust herself?

The Night Guest is a mesmerising novel about love, dependence, and the fear that the things you know best can become the things you’re least certain about. It introduces a writer who comes to us fully formed, working wonders with language, renewing our faith in the power of fiction to tap the mysterious workings of our minds, and keeping us spellbound.

About the Author

Fiona McFarlane was born in Sydney, and has degrees in English from Sydney University and Cambridge University, and an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Michener Fellow. Her work has been published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Southerly, the Best Australian Stories and the New Yorker, and she has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Phillips Exeter Academy and the Australia Council for the Arts. The Night Guest, her debut novel, has sold into fifteen territories around the world. She lives in Sydney.

Grab a copy of The Night Guest here


My Beautiful Enemy

by Cory Taylor

Arthur Wheeler is haunted by his infatuation with a Japanese youth he encountered in the enemy alien camp where he worked as a guard during WW2. Abandoning his wife and baby son, Arthur sets out on a doomed mission to rescue his lover from forced deportation back to Japan, a country in ruins. Thus begins the secret history of a soldier at war with his own sexuality and dangerously at odds with the racism that underpins the crumbling British Empire.

Four decades later Arthur is still obsessed with the traumatic events of his youth. He proposes a last reunion with his lost lover, in the hope of laying his ghosts to rest, but this mission too seems doomed to failure. Like Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Snow Falling On Cedars, My Beautiful Enemy explores questions of desire and redemption against the background of a savage racial war. In this context, Arthur’s private battles against his own nature, and against the conventions of his time, can only end in heartache.

About the Author

Cory Taylor is an award-winning screenwriter who has also published short fiction and children’s books. Her first novel, Me and Mr Booker, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Pacific Region). She lives in Brisbane.

Grab a copy of My Beautiful Enemy here


Eyrie

by Tim Winton

Divorced and unemployed, he’s lost faith in everything precious to him. Holed up in a grim highrise, cultivating his newfound isolation, Keely looks down at a society from which he’s retired hurt and angry. He’s done fighting the good fight, and well past caring.

But even in his seedy flat, ducking the neighbours, he’s not safe from entanglement. All it takes is an awkward encounter in the lobby. A woman from his past, a boy the likes of which he’s never met before. Two strangers leading a life beyond his experience and into whose orbit he falls despite himself.

What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting. Inhabited by unforgettable characters, Eyrie asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

About the Author

Tim Winton has published twenty-one books for adults and children, and his work has been translated into twenty-five languages. Since his first novel, An Open Swimmer, won the Australian/Vogel Award in 1981, he has won the Miles Franklin Award four times (for Shallows, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and Breath) and twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize (for The Riders and Dirt Music). He lives in Western Australia.

Grab a copy of Eyrie here


The Swan Book

by Alexis Wright

The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city.

The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning bestseller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.

 

About the Author

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her books include Grog War , a study of alcohol abuse in Tennant Creek , and the novels Plains of Promise , and Carpentaria , which won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Victorian and Queensland Premiers’ Awards and the ALS Gold Medal, and was published in the US, UK, China, Italy, France, Spain and Poland. She is a Distinguished Fellow in the University of Western Sydney’s Writing and Society Research Centre.

Grab a copy of The Swan Book here


Runners-up from the Longlist:

The Railwayman’s Wife

by Ashley Hay

In a small town on the land’s edge, in the strange space at a war’s end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story.

In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway’s library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank McKinnon is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive.

Written in clear, shining prose and with an eloquent understanding of the human heart, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can be sometimes to tell them apart. It’s a story of life, loss and what comes after; of connection and separation, longing and acceptance. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

A story that will break your heart with hope.

About the Author

Ashley Hay is the author of four books of non-fiction – The Secret: The strange marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron, Gum: The story of eucalypts and their champions, and Herbarium and Museum with the visual artist Robyn Stacey. A former literary editor of The Bulletin, her essays and short stories have also appeared in anthologies and journals including Brothers and Sisters, The Monthly, Heat and The Griffith Review. Ashley’s first novel, The Body in the Clouds was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize ‘Best First Book’ (South-East Asia and Pacific region) and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Grab a copy of The Railwayman’s Wife here


mullumbimbyMullumbimby

by Melissa Lucashenko

When Jo Breen uses her divorce settlement to buy a neglected property in the Byron Bay hinterland, she is hoping for a tree change, and a blossoming connection to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. What she discovers instead is sharp dissent from her teenage daughter Ellen, trouble brewing from unimpressed white neighbours, and a looming Native Title war among the local Bundjalung families. When Jo stumbles into love on one side of the Native Title divide she quickly learns that living on country is only part of the recipe for the Good Life.

Told with humour and a sharp satirical eye, Mullumbimby is a modern novel set against an ancient land.

0002041About the Author

Melissa Lucashenko is an Australian writer of mixed European and Murri (Aboriginal) heritage. She was born in Brisbane in 1967, and attended public primary and secondary schools there. Melissa received an honours degree in public policy from Griffith University, graduating in 1990. She lives between Brisbane and the Bundjalung nation.

Grab a copy of Mullumbimby here


Game

by Trevor Shearston

It is 1865. For three years Ben Hall and the men riding with him have been lords of every road in mid-western New South Wales from Bathurst to Goulburn, Lambing Flat to Forbes. But with the Harbourers’ Act made law, coach escorts armed now with the new Colt revolving rifle, and mailbags more often containing cheques than banknotes, being game is no longer enough.

The road of negotiated surrender is closed. Jack Gilbert has shot dead a police sergeant at Jugiong. Constable Nelson, father of eight, lies buried at Collector, killed by John Dunn. Neither time did Ben pull the fatal trigger, but he too will hang if ever the three are taken. Harry Hall is seven. Ben has not seen the boy since his wife Biddy left to live with another man, taking Harry with her.

The need to see his son, to be in some way a father again, has grown urgent. But how much time is left before the need to give the game away and disappear becomes the greater urgency?

About the Author

Trevor Shearston is the author of Something in the Blood, Sticks That Kill, White Lies, Concertinas, A Straight Young Back and Dead Birds. He lives in Katoomba, NSW with his family.

Grab a copy of Game here


Belomor

by Nicolas Rothwell

Elegiac and seductive, Belomor is the frontier where truth and invention meet—where fragments from distant lives intermingle, and cohere. A man seeks out the father figure who shaped his picture of the past. A painter seeks redemption after the disasters of his years in northern Australia. A student of history travels into the depths of religion, the better to escape the demons in his mind. A filmmaker seeks out freedom and open space, and looks into the murk and sediment of herself.

Four chapters: four journeys through life, separate, yet interwoven as the narrative unfolds.

In this entrancing new book from one of our most original writers, we meet European dissidents from the age of postwar communism, artists in remote Australia, snake hunters, opal miners and desert magic healers. Belomor is a meditation on time, and loss: on how the most bitter recollections bring happiness, and the meaning of a secret rests in the thoughts surrounding it.

About the Author

Nicolas Rothwell is the award-winning author of Heaven and Earth, Wings of the Kite-Hawk , Another Country , The Red Highway and Journeys to the Interior . He lives in Darwin, and is the Australian’s roving northern correspondent.

Grab a copy of Belomor here


The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt

by Tracy Farr

The debut novel from a wonderful new talent.

This is the story of Dame Lena Gaunt: musician, octogenarian, junkie.

Lena is Music’s Most Modern Musician; the first theremin player of the twentieth century.

From the obscurity of a Perth boarding school to a glittering career on the world stage, Lena Gaunt’s life will be made and torn apart by those she gives her heart to.

About the Author

Australian-born author Tracy Farr has lived in Wellington, New Zealand since 1996. Her debut novel, The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, is published by Fremantle Press.

Grab a copy of The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt here


What Cathryn Read – The June Round Up (by bestselling author Cathryn Hein)

Popular Australian novelist Cathryn Hein, author of Rocking Horse Hill, Heartland and more gives her verdict on the books she’s been reading.

What a great reading month! From a literary award winner to a labyrinthine thriller to a frolic with a rock god, plus some lovely romances to get gooey over. I’d love to say my to-be-read pile was lowered a little but, as usual, I ended up buying more than I read. Oh well, I’ll just have to read even more in July.


Mariana

by Susanna Kearsley

I’ve been hooked on Kearsley since reading The Shadowy Horses. It, The Winter Sea (aka Sophia’s Secret) and The Splendour Falls are my favourite Kearsleys. In Mariana, the heroine, Julie, buys Greywethers, a house she’s been drawn to since childhood, only to find it acts as portal between times. As Julie explores the past she uncovers the mystery of her historical predecessor Mariana. It’s a popular novel among fans but I didn’t warm to it the way I have her other books. Not in the beginning. Then came the last 100 pages and OH! Now I understand why it’s so adored. The ending was completely sigh-worthy. I cried. Love it when that happens. The Shadowy Horses remains my most cherished though. That book was stunning.

Grab a copy of Mariana here


Chocolate Cake For Breakfast

by Danielle Hawkins

Danielle Hawkins has only 2 books out. I wish she’d hurry up and write more because I’ve become a huge fan. Her debut, Dinner At Rose’s, was a wonderful read, heart-warming, romantic and funny. Chocolate Cake For Breakfast didn’t disappoint either. This book is a hoot. Helen McNeil is a rural vet who just happens to trip (literally) into a relationship with an extremely hunky rugby player. And not just any rugby player. A member of New Zealand’s beloved national side, the All Blacks. What follows is a funny and gorgeous romance that will leave you smiling. It even made me feel a little sentimental about the All Blacks. Very unpatriotic!

.

 Grab a copy of Chocolate Cake for Breakfast here


Wolf

by Mo Hayder

Crime and thriller writer Hayder never disappoints. The Devil of Nanking (aka Tokyo) remains one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read. Her Walking Man series, featuring smouldery Detective Inspector Jack Caffery is a favourite. Wolf is the 7th book in the series and a cracker. A wealthy family is being held hostage in their home and tormented in bizarre ways. Meanwhile, Caffery is challenged by the Walking Man to find who attached a ‘help us’ note to the little stray dog he’s found. As the two mysteries unfold, Hayder takes us through a labyrinth of clues, red herrings and twists you won’t see coming. Brilliant.

  Grab a copy of Wolf here


Burial Rites

by Hannah Kent

The book everyone has been raving about and showering with prizes. With good reason. This was a fascinating read, with beautiful writing, an evocative landscape and masterfully drawn characters. Set in the early 1800s, it tells the story of Agnes, an Icelandic woman condemned to death for the murder of her master. The truth of what led her to this predicament is slowly revealed as she waits her execution. I was immediately drawn by Agnes’s voice, the beauty of her observations, her secrecy and the way she rationalised her terrible predicament. Here’s a small sample:
Sometimes, after talking to the Reverend, my mouth aches. My tongue feels so tired; it slumps like a dead bird, all damp feathers, between the stones of my teeth.

As for the ending, wow. That’s still resonating.

Grab a copy of Burial Rites here


Lick

by Kylie Scott

Oh, what fun! It’s like a girly fantasy come true. Good girl Evelyn wakes up in a hotel room in Las Vegas with the hangover from hell only to discover she’s married a tattooed rock god. Awesome. What follows is a romance that will leave you smiling and barracking these two great characters on. No wonder the book has been such a hit. The dialogue is smart, the hero and heroine hugely likeable, there are witty friends and cheeky rock band members, flash cars, private jets and helicopter rides, and plenty of sex to spice things up. Pure escapism. And there are more books to come as Scott works her way through the Stage Dive band members – Play, the ebook of which is out now, and soon Lead. Rock on!

  Grab a copy of Lick here

 


Hein, CathrynThanks Cathryn Hein, we look forward to seeing what you have read next month!

Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned.

Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests, and published in Woman’s Day.

Now living in Melbourne, Cathryn writes full-time.

Click here to see Cathryn’s author page

Rocking Horse Hill

by Cathryn Heinrocking-horse-hill

Who do you trust when a stranger threatens to tear your family apart?

Ever since she was a little girl, Emily Wallace-Jones has loved Rocking Horse Hill. The beautiful family property is steeped in history. Everything important in Em’s life has happened there. And even though Em’s brother Digby has inherited the property, he has promised Em it will be her home for as long as she wishes.

When Digby falls in love with sweet Felicity Townsend, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Em worries about the future. But she is determined not to treat Felicity with the same teenage snobbery that tore apart her relationship with her first love, Josh Sinclair. A man who has now sauntered sexily back into Em’s life and given her a chance for redemption.

But as Felicity settles in, the once tightly knitted Wallace-Jones family begins to fray. Suspicions are raised, Josh voices his distrust, and even Em’s closest friends question where Felicity’s motives lie. Conflicted but determined to make up for the damage caused by her past prejudices, Em sides with her brother and his fiancée until a near tragedy sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

Rocking Horse Hill is a moving family drama and passionate love story from the author of Heartland.

Grab a copy of Rocking Horse Hill Here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Hannah Kent, author of Burial Rites, talks to John Purcell from the Sydney Writer’s Festival

Grab a copy of Burial Rites here

Burial Rites

by Hannah Kent

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.

Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids speaking with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’ spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her, as he attempts to salvage her soul. As the summer months fall away to winter and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’ ill-fated tale of longing and betrayal begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn’t she?

Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about personal freedom: who we are seen to be versus who we believe ourselves to be, and the ways in which we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, where every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Grab a copy of Burial Rites here

What Katie Read – The May Round Up (by award-winning author Kate Forsyth)

One of Australia’s favourite novelists Kate Forsyth, author of Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl, continues her monthly blog with us, giving her verdict on the books she’s been reading.

May is festival time in Sydney, and so I spent a lot of time talking about, and listening to other writers talk about, books and writing. It was wonderful to see the festival precinct at the wharves so alive and buzzing with book-lovers, and I bought a great pile of books that I shall be slowly working my way though in the upcoming weeks.

A lot of my reading time is still being taken up by research, but I managed to read a few other lovely books as well.

Here’s what I’ve read this month:


The Sequin Star

by Belinda Murrell

Many of you may know that Belinda Murrell is my elder sister, and so I have to admit to a strong partiality to any book I read of hers. The Sequin Star is the latest in her very popular timeslip series for teenage girls.

The action follows a modern-day Australian girl named Claire who finds herself thrown back in time to a Great Depression-era circus in 1932. She is rescued by a warm-hearted girl named Rosina who is riding on the back of an elephant. Claire has no way of getting back to her own time, and so begins to work in the circus. As well as Rosina and her pet monkey, Claire makes friends with two boys from very different backgrounds. Jem’s family is dirt-poor and living in a shanty town, while Kit has a chauffeur and lives in a mansion. Kit comes to the circus night after night to watch Rosina ride her beautiful dancing horses, not realising he is putting himself in danger. When Kit is kidnaped, Claire and her friends have to try and work out the mystery in order to save him.

The Sequin Star is exactly the sort of book I would have loved to have read in my early teens (in fact, any time!), and is gives a really vivid look at life in Sydney in the early 1930s. Loved it!

Grab a copy of The Sequin Star here


Gift from the Sea

by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

After reading and enjoying Melanie Benjamin’s wonderful novel about the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh in The Aviator’s Wife, I was inspired to go back and read Gift from the Sea, the most famous of Lindbergh’s numerous books. It’s a small, delicate and wise book, full of meditations on the life of women. I first read it when I was sixteen, and am now thinking I shall pass it on to my daughter at the same age.

Grab a copy of Gift from the Sea here


The Unlikely Spy

by Daniel Silva

I love a good spy thriller, particularly when its set during World War II, and Daniel Silva did not disappoint. The unlikely spy of the title is an amiable history professor and he is on the track of a ruthless Nazi spy working undercover in Great Britain in the lead-up to D-Day. This is more a novel of psychological suspense than an action-packed page-turner, but I enjoyed seeing the action from all sides, and found the historical details fascinating.

 Grab a copy of The Unlikely Spy here


Ingo 

by Helen Dunmore

I’ve been meaning to read this book for so long, but only picked it up this month because I was doing a talk on retellings of mermaid tales, and thought I should catch up on recent additions to the genre. I am so glad I did – I loved this book! It’s a very simple story – after a girl’s father disappears and is believed drowned, she finds her brother beginning to be drawn irresistibly to the sea as well. In time, the girl (whose name is Sapphire) learns of the mysterious realm of Ingo, the world of the mermaids that lies in the depths of the ocean. Its enchanting siren song is dangerous, however, and Sapphire will find it hard to escape its spell.

What lifts this novel out of the ordinary, however, is the beauty of the writing. Helen Dunmore is a poet as well as an Orange Prize-winning novelist for adults. Her writing is both lyrical and deft, and I’m looking forward to the rest in the series.

Grab a copy of Ingo here


The Winter Bride

by Anne Gracie

Anne Gracie is my favourite living romance novelist; she never disappoints. The Winter Bride is the second in a Regency-times series featuring four plucky young women trying to make their own way in the world, and finding all sorts of trouble along the path towards true love. Read The Autumn Bride first, but have this one close to hand as once you’ve read one, you’ll want more. I’m just hanging out for the next in the series now.

Grab a copy of The Winter Bride here


The Chalet School in Exile

by Elinor Brent-Dyer

Elinor Brent-Dyer was an extraordinarily prolific author who wrote more than 100 books in total, many of them in the famous Chalet School series about a 1930s girls’ school set in the Austrian Tyrol. I’ve been collecting them for years and had been searching for this one in particular – the rare The Chalet School in Exile, set during the Nazis’ Anschluss of Austria. The girls of the school fall foul of the Gestapo after trying to save an old Jewish man from being beaten to death, and have to escape Austria on foot through the Alps.

It’s an extraordinarily vivid snapshot of a time and a place, and one of the few children’s books of the era to deal directly with the terror of the Nazis. I read it when I was about 10, and it made a deep impression on me at the time. An original first edition hardback with the original dust-jacket showing a SS officer confronting the girls is worth over $1,000 (though this is cheap compared to the almost $4,000 you need to fork out for a first edition copy of the first book in the series, The School at the Chalet). I however bought my copy from Girls Gone By publishers which re-issue the rarer editions at a much more affordable price (and feature the famous dustjacket as well).

Meanwhile, I’ve continued with my own research into the Nazi era. I’ve read another half-a-dozen non-fiction books on the subject. Here are three of the best I’ve read this month:


 

Between Dignity & Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany

by Marion A Kaplan

This powerful and heart-rending book draws on many different memoirs, diaries, letters and post-war interviews to give us an extraordinary insight into what it was like to be a Jew in Germany during the Nazi years. It shows how the many small humiliations and unkindnesses of the early years gradually began to drag the Jewish community inexorably towards the horror of the Holocaust, and gives a sense of how that horror continues to shadow those that survived.

Grab a copy of Between Dignity & Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany here


Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields

by Wendy Lower

This book was so chilling that I could only read it in parts. It tells the stories of the active role played by Nazi women in the Third Reich: nurses and secretaries and wives, as much as the already well-known horrors of the female camp guards. Some of the events seem impossible to believe, except that they have been documented in the Nuremberg court of law.

Grab a copy of Hitler’s Furies here


Hitler’s Spy Chief: the Wilhelm Canaris Mystery

by Richard Bassett

Wilhelm Canaris was the enigmatic head of the Abwehr, the German secret service. He was executed for treason in a Bavarian concentration camp only days before the Allies’ reached the camp and liberated it. He had been involved in the failed assassination of Hitler immortalised in the movie Valkyrie, but many researchers believe that he had been working to undermine the Third Reich from before the beginning of the war.  This detailed and in-depth examination of his life and work is not for the casual reader (it assumes a wide knowledge of the Nazi era and the Valkyrie plot), but it is utterly fascinating and convincingly argues that Canaris had been feeding secrets to the British for many years and was in fact protected to some extent by them.

Grab a copy of Hitler’s Spy Chief here


Kate FKate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists, coming in at No 16. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

Click here to see Kate’s author page

Ber Carroll, author of Worlds Apart, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Ber Carroll

author of Worlds Apart, Less Than Perfect, The Better Woman and more…

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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 Blarney, famous for the Blarney Castle, the Blarney Stone and the ‘gift of the gab’. So you won’t be surprised to hear I like to talk a lot. I’m the third child of six and, as with all big families, it was a bit chaotic. You had to be the fastest, loudest, strongest – otherwise you’d miss out. Not surprising either then that I’m pretty competitive. I went to primary school in Blarney, but for secondary my parents sent me to the ‘city’ to North Presentation Convent School – which was only five miles away, but could have been another planet it was so different. The principal was Sister Stanislaus, a ferocious nun who had quite an impact on my early career (see below). In 1995, after being heavily influenced by the blue skies and stunning beaches on Home and Away, I moved permanently to Sydney.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to be a music teacher. I loved playing the piano (despite my brothers and sisters screeching at me to stop because they couldn’t hear the TV properly).

When I was eighteen I wanted to be an accountant. This was due to a very one-sided career counselling session in Sr Stanislaus’s office when she told me I’d make a good accountant, and I wasn’t inclined to risk my life by disagreeing.

When I was thirty, I had written my first novel and even though I actually enjoyed my job as a Finance Director (Sr Stanislaus was right – I did make a good accountant), all I could think about was being published, and ideas for other novels.

It was such a delicious treat to read Worlds Apart! Ber Carroll has given us a cast of warm, engaging characters in a sparkling story that effortlessly crosses the globe between Ireland and Australia. I enjoyed every page of this touching, authentic, contemporary novel.

If you love Maeve Binchy and Cathy Kelly, I can guarantee you’ll love Worlds ApartNew York Times, No 1 Bestselling author, Liane Moriarty.

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

carrollber01

Author: Ber Carroll

When I was eighteen, I believed that most human beings are logical, level-headed, and fairly predictable. Now I know that’s not true at all. Even the sanest person I know can be, on occasion, irrational, unpredictable and downright peculiar . . .  Human beings are capable of anything, and this both horrifies and delights me.

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?

I’m one of those people who always has her head stuck in a book, and I could easily pick a hundred books that have influenced me in one way or another. Maeve Binchy’s early novel, Echoes, stands out. I read it when I was about thirteen (I used to steal books from my mother’s bedroom!) and the storytelling had me completely hooked – I read and read and read, until my eyes were red and sore and my stomach rumbling for food. Marian Keyes also had a significant impact in my early twenties. I really admire how she balances comedy with darker themes, and Anybody Out There is an all-time favourite of mine.

Music is such a positive influence too. I love all kinds of music – from classical to rap – and I listen very closely to the lyrics. To me, good lyrics can be like poetry, or a condensed story, and they can change how I feel that moment, and how I write. Right now I love The Script and One Republic.

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

When I was younger, I had three great ambitions: to write a novel, compose a song, and complete a major artwork. Given that my piano playing didn’t progress past my late teens, and my artistic abilities were questionable, I started with the novel. What I didn’t realise is that writing is addictive, and writing one novel would never be enough.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Worlds Apart is a story of belonging, bravery, diversity and love. It has characters from all over the world, but at its heart there is an Irish family, and Erin and Laura who are cousins and best friends. For different reasons, both Erin and Laura feel terribly trapped, and they are desperately trying to find where they belong: in their family, in their careers, and in the wider world. A surly Polish nanny, an elusive Spanish husband, an uneducated Afghan girl, a Nigerian refugee, and a rather hyperactive Australian man all play small but important parts in Erin and Laura’s quest for belonging. But what the cousins don’t know is that someone in their family is keeping a secret. When revealed, this secret will change everything as they know it and ‘belonging’ will take on a totally different meaning.

Grab a copy of Worlds Apart here

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

I hope people come away from my novels with the taste of another country and/or another life. I hope my characters stick around, and don’t leave their heads straight away. Surprise is important, and I hope to have achieved that in some way throughout the novel. Most of all, I hope my readers are satisfied and happy and finish with a smile and the desire to read my other novels.

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

Other than Marian Keyes and Maeve Binchy, who I’ve already mentioned, I absolutely adore Maggie O’ Farrell. I love the rhythm of her writing, how she sketches her characters, her dialogue, her plots, absolutely everything about her novels.

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

My ambitions are pretty modest. I want to continue to write. And I want every book to be better than the last one.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

My advice is to read, read, read  . . . and keep on reading. Because nothing or no-one will teach you to write as effectively as reading does. My second piece of advice is to stop talking about it and get started. It doesn’t have to be perfect, there is plenty of time for editing later on – and this might be stating the obvious, but there will be nothing to edit if you don’t get something down on paper to start with. Lastly, seek out honest feedback, and be brave, strong and committed enough to take the feedback on board.

Ber, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Worlds Apart here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Brooke Davis, author of Lost and Found, chats with Andrew Cattanach

Grab a copy of Lost & Found here

Lost & Found

by Brooke Davis

A heart-warming debut about finding out what love and life is all about.

Millie Bird (aka Captain Funeral), seven-years old and ever hopeful, always wears red gumboots to match her red, curly hair. Her struggling mother leaves Millie in a local department store and never returns.

Agatha Pantha, eighty-two, has not left her house or spoken to another human being since she was widowed seven years ago. She fills the silences by yelling at passers by, watching loud static on the TV and maintaining a strict daily schedule.

Karl the Touch Typist, eighty-seven, once used his fingers to type out love notes on his wife’s skin. Now he types his words out into the air as he speaks. Karl is moved into a nursing home but in a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.

A series of events binds the three together on a road trip that takes them from the south coast of WA to Kalgoorlie and along the Nullarbor to the edge of the continent. Millie wants to find her mum. Karl wants to find out how to be a man. And Agatha just wants everything to go back to how it was.

They will discover that old age is not the same as death, that the young can be wise, and that letting yourself experience sadness just might be the key to life.

Grab a copy of Lost & Found here

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