BOOK REVIEW: Where Song Began by Tim Low (Review by Justin Cahill)

Way back in 1987, while flicking through New Scientist, an article on birds caught my eye. It was about research that indicated the ancestors of Lyrebirds were among the world’s earliest songbirds. Back then, Australia was thought to be a refuge for species left over after it spit from the supercontinent, Gondwana. Songbirds were generally associated with Europe. The idea they had first evolved here seemed so unlikely that I kept the article, assuming the whole thing would go the way of cold fusion.

In Where Song Began, Tim Low tells how what was once theory became accepted fact. This is an exceptionally important book. High quality, up-to-date works on our natural history written for a general audience for are rare. Low generously stuffs his account of with fresh insights. It turns out the Treecreepers that live in the Blue Gums at the bottom of my street evolved from another ancient song bird. The Magpies that pick their way through the lawn only recently diverged from the local Butcherbirds. Once-mighty theories come crashing down. I was taught New Zealand’s endemic flightless birds, including the Kiwi, only survived as it had split from Gondwana just before mammals big enough to eat them evolved. It turns out that their able-to-fly ancestors probably came from Australia after New Zealand drifted away and were large enough to suppress the development of mammals there.

Author Tim Low

There is much we still don’t know. The eminent archaeologist Colin Renfrew once observed that human DNA, archaeological and literary evidence remain difficult to reconcile. It’s the same with our birds. While it has long been known that Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea had a distinct birdlife, is only now becoming clear just how unique many local species are.

And how have we treated them? As Low recounts, we have destroyed large parts of their habitat, shot them en masseto decorate hats with their tail feathers, killed their young and collected or smashed their eggs. For decades, thousands of muttonbirds were bludgeoned to make a tanning oil, ‘Vita Tan’, sold to unsuspecting bathers at Bondi Beach. In Sydney, habitat destruction has caused the populations of many once-common species to decline sharply. Some face local extinction.

Low also provides fascinating insights into Australia’s economic history. Before the advent of plastics, we had a thriving trade in‘exudes’, the saps and gums that oozed from our native trees. They were used to make an extraordinary range of products, including gramophone records, cosmetics, chewing gum, paint and tooth paste.

Low’s accessible style makes this a very appealing book for those looking for an insight into Australia’s unique flora and fauna. It is a book you can dip into and be assured of learning something new.

Grab a copy of Where Song Began here


Justin Cahill is a historian and solicitor, his university thesis being on the negotiations between the British and Chinese governments over the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

His current projects include completing the first history of European settlement in Australia and New Zealand told from the perspective of ordinary people and a study of the extinction of Sydney’s native birds.

He is a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Heckler’ column.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Michael Robotham, award-winning author of Life or Death, chats to Andrew Cattanach

There seems to be two types of people in this world. Those who love Michael Robotham, and those who haven’t heard of him yet.

Life or Death is for the crime fan who likes a story, not just an account. Brilliantly written, intelligent, funny, sad and meticulously mapped out, it’s easy to understand why there has already been so much interest in a big screen adaptation of the novel.

There is nothing more exciting than an author operating at the peak of their powers. With Life or Death, Robotham is doing just that, further strengthening his hold as one of Australia’s finest crime writers. Find out why Audie is on the run, before it’s too late.

Grab a copy of Life or Death here

Grab a copy of Life or Death here

The State of the Nation? Take Two Books and Call Me in the Morning

The Near Future?

The Near Future?

What the hell has happened to politics in Australia?

Never before have I felt so repulsed by the goings-on in our various parliaments. The last few years have left me feeling completely disenfranchised.

I am certain good work has been done in that time, but how would I know? The coverage of politics has been less about the ideas being debated and more about the personalities debating them. Corruption, lies, broken promises and slogans.

If you, like me, feel completely out of the loop, the only way left open to us is something called ‘the book’. A book is nothing like a tweet, does not resemble a headline on the SMH app, but is a bit like a long article in a magazine – the kind few people read to the very end – only more considered and thoughtful because they are often carefully researched and written and rewritten over a long period of time. Books also give those who have lived interesting, productive and public lives the opportunity to expand upon the subject of their life and to argue more fully the ideas which mean and meant most to them.

And this year is officially the year of the political bestseller. Don’t believe me? Take a look below. (Oh, and expect the unexpected, too. No one is talking about a Kevin Rudd memoir, which suggests there’ll be a Kevin Rudd memoir. Probably released the day before Julia Gillard’s much anticipated and publicised memoir. That would be the likely plan, wouldn’t it?)


Biographies

COMING SOON:
The Menzies Era by John Howard

menzies eraAn assessment of Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister by Australia’s second-longest serving Prime Minister – a significant, unique and fascinating history of the Menzies era. Fresh from the success of his phenomenal bestselling memoir, Lazarus Rising, which has sold over 100,000 copies, John Howard now turns his attention to one of the most extraordinary periods in Australian history, the Menzies era, canvassing the longest unbroken more…

 

 

OUT NOW:

hockeyHockey: Not your Average by Madonna King
While thousands of viewers watched Joe Hockey’s approachable persona each week on Channel 7’s Sunrise, there is a lot more to the Australian Treasurer than meets the eye. After embarking on his political career as a student, Hockey worked tirelessly to rise through the ranks of the Liberal Party – learning some pivotal lessons along the way and earning himself more…

 

 

gravityGravity by Mary Delahunty 

Julia Gillard, Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, defied political gravity. From the start she walked a political tightrope. As Australia’s first female Prime Minister, leading a minority government corroded by internal treachery, Julia Gillard juggled this trifecta defying political gravity for 3 years and 3 days. How did she do it? Why did she fascinate an international audience? Then Julia Gillard PM vanished, before we really knew her. Who is this woman more…

 

Tony Windsor by Ruth Rae

tony-windsor

Tony Windsor’s childhood was disrupted by the tragic death of his father, but the fortitude of his widowed mother, Ruth, as she battled to maintain the family farm while bringing up three sons, was to remain an inspiration to him throughout his life.

As an adult, Windsor’s understanding of the issues facing his rural constituency motivated him to become a political voice for those who love the land, from farmers to environmentalists, from rich to poor.

After failing to gain pre-selection as a National Party candidate, Windsor decided to run as an independent, whereupon he won more…


Memoirs

COMING SOON:

the-fights-of-my-lifeThe Fights of my Life by Greg Combet and Mark Davis

A call to arms in the fight for fairness and justice

Greg Combet has been at the centre of some of the biggest battles of our time—the waterfront dispute, the collapse of an airline, compensation for asbestos victims, the campaign against unfair workplace laws and then climate change. From an isolated childhood on the Minchinbury estate west of Sydney, Combet’s world changed dramatically with the early death of his father, a wine-maker.

Facing many challenges, he rose to lead the Australian trade union movement and become a senior minister in the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments. Along the way he has struggled with more…

Optimism: Reflections on a life of action by Bob Brown

optimism

“It is a fortunate life if a person feels more optimistic than ever before. That’s me.” – Bob Brown.

Bob Brown, former Senator and Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens, is one of Australia’s most thoughtful and recognized public figures. Since his retirement from public life in 2012, Bob has had time to consider the things that are truly important. One is the power of human thought to influence change and this book, the first time that Bob has spoken about his life since retirement, illustrates through his stories why more…

my-storyMy Story by Julia Gillard

‘I was Prime Minister for three years and three days.Three years and three days of resilience.Three years and three days of changing the nation.Three years and three days for you to judge.’

On Wednesday 23rd June 2010, with the government in turmoil, Julia Gillard asked then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for a leadership ballot.

The next day, Julia Gillard became Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, and our first female leader. Australia was alive to the historic possibilities. Here was a new approach for a new time.

It was to last three extraordinary years.

This is Julia Gillard’s chronicle of that turbulent time more…

The Good Fight by Wayne Swan

the-good-fight

A highly personal account of the Rudd and Gillard governments from the heart of the Cabinet and the real story of how Australia avoided the Great Recession from the man recognised as the best treasurer in the world

This is Wayne Swan’s very personal account of an extraordinary period in Australian politics.

Despite the divisions within the Labor Party as the Rudd government fell into disunity and as Julia Gillard was undermined by disloyalty from within, Wayne Swan steered the Australian economy through a time of unprecedented international economic challenges.

He tells how he nurtured an economy that more…

inside the hawke keatingInside the Hawke-Keating Government by Gareth Evans

As good as it gets in Australian politics.

As good as it gets in Australian politics. That’s how the Hawke-Keating Government is now widely regarded. But how did this highly able, ambitious, strong-willed group work through its crises and rivalries, and achieve what it did?

Gareth Evans’ diary, written in the mid-1980s and published now for the first time, is the consummate insider’s account. It not only adds much new material to the historical record, but is perceptive, sharp and unvarnished in its judgments, lucidly written, and often highly entertaining.

OUT NOW:

the-independent-member-for-lyneThe Independent Member for Lyne by Rob Oakeshhot

From his apprenticeship in the NSW Parliament to the last days of the Gillard government, this is the honest and real story of life in Australian politics. Passionate, vivid and immediate, full of insights and anecdotes, Rob Oakeshott tells it as it was.

When the results of the 2010 federal elections became known, no party had a majority in the House of Representatives – it was the first hung parliament for 40 years. So both the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, set about wooing the independents – Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie, and Adam Bandt of the Greens. In the end more…

Diary of a Foreign Minister by Bob Carr

diary-of-a-foreign-minister

Six years after vacating his position as the longest-serving Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr returned to politics in his dream job: as Foreign Minister of Australia and a senior federal cabinet minister.

For 18 months he kept a diary documenting a whirl of high-stakes events on the world stage – the election of Australia to the UN Security Council, the war in Syria and meetings with the most powerful people on the planet. And they all unfold against the gripping, uncertain domestic backdrop of more…


Commentary

COMING SOON:

9780522862102Triumph and Demise: The Broken Promise of a Labour Generation by Paul Kelly

Triumph and Demise is the inside account of the hopes, achievements and bitter failures of the Labor Government from 2007 to 2013. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard came together, defeated John Howard, formed a brilliant partnership and raised the hopes of a nation, yet fell into disagreements, tensions and then hostilities under the pressures of politics and policy.

Veteran journalist Paul Kelly probes the dynamics of the Rudd-Gillard alliance and dissects what tore them apart. He shows that the tragedy of Rudd and Gillard is that both should have been better Prime Ministers, yet more…

OUT NOW:

the-political-bubbleThe Political Bubble: Why Australians don’t trust politics by Mark Latham

Australians once trusted the democratic process. While we got on with our lives, we assumed our politicians had our best interests at heart. Not anymore. That trust has collapsed. Mark Latham joined the Labor Party in the late 1970s hoping to improve people’s lives through parliamentary service. Twenty-five years later, the Opposition Leader ended up as disillusioned as the rest of us. The scorching honesty of The Latham Diaries ensured he’d burned his political bridges, but ostracism from the Canberra Club has more…

the-rise-and-fall-of-australiaThe Rise and Fall of Australia by Nick Bryant

A forensic look at the Lucky Country, from the inside and outside.

Never before has Australia enjoyed such economic, commercial, diplomatic and cultural clout. Its recession-proof economy is the envy of the world. It’s the planet’s great lifestyle superpower. Its artistic exports win unprecedented acclaim. But never before has its politics been so brutal, narrow and facile, as well as being such a global laughing stock. A positive national story is at odds with a deeply unattractive Canberra story.

The country should be enjoying The Australian Moment, so vividly described by more…


Fiction

OUT NOW:

the-mandarin-code-pre-order-now-for-a-signed-copy-The Mandarin Code by Steve Lewis, Chris Uhlmann

*For a limited time only, Pre-order The Mandarin Code and you will receive a signed copy. Hurry, stocks won’t last!

Politics peeled bare. The second darkly satirical thriller from the authors of The Marmalade Files.

POLITICS JUST GOT DEADLY. A body pulled from the murky waters of Lake Burley Griffin links Canberra, Beijing and Washington in a titanic struggle where war is just a mouse click away. Veteran reporter Harry Dunkley is chasing the scoop of his career, hunting for his best friend’s killer. Navigating treacherous political waters where a desperate minority government edges ever closer to more…

Georgia Clark, author of Parched, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Georgia Clark

author of Parched and She’s with the Band

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 Manly, which is ironic because I certainly am not. Raised in Hornsby Heights where I shunned the bush to keep my nose in a book. I went to school at Gosford High School, which I commuted 2 hours each way to! Had a great time at school: I loved my friends and I was pretty good at the learning.

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

I have a very early memory of wanting to be a policewoman, but I think that was more about being in charge than upholding the will of the state. Eighteen I was dead-set on becoming a film director, which is what I went to uni for. By 30, that had changed into novelist, mostly because it was easier and cheaper, and I could do it in my pajamas.

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

Author: Georgia Clark

I strongly believed there would be a revolution in Australia. After starting at uni, I quickly fell into the left wing movement, and learnt about anarchism and socialism and all sorts of wonderful trouble-making. I really believed there would be an uprising, and that I would be a part of it! I also believed in cutting my own hair and dying it blue. I was fun.

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?

Manhattan by Woody Allen. I grew up watching this movie. From my lounge chair in suburban NSW, Woody’s New York was impossibly smart and cool and complex. I loved his intellectual points of reference and his characters’ shifting morality. I’m sure this early obsession led me to New York and a love of clever, modern characters from my socio-economic world.

The Dark is Rising series, by Susan Cooper. This series fanned the flame of my love for fantasy and adventure. I still remember inhaling these books when I was 12, 13, 14… I grew up without the internet or TV, so books were my everything. When I finished the fifth book in the series, I immediately started re-reading it again. Set in Cornwall, England, in the 1950s (when it was first published) this is a story about a group of plucky young kids, Barney, Simon, and Jane, who embark an ancient quest in an underworld that exists alongside out own. It’s ambitious, exciting, and original, I was riveted the entire time. Think Narnia meets Harry Potter. Yes, that good.

Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. It’s no accident that Parched has been compared to this handbook for dystopic action: I’ve read the book, listened to the audiobook and seen the movie many times. I set out to create something as tense, political and exciting as this fantastic book.

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

Writing a marathon is a bit like what I imagine running a marathon is like: so hard to do your first one, but then you’re hooked. I love creating fictional worlds and imagining dialogue and scenes. I tried TV writing and directing, but couldn’t break into it. I found my niche with books.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Parched is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Tess Rockwood, who joins an underground rebel group called Kudzu to help stop the development of an ‘artilect’; an artificial intelligence prototype. It’s set in a future world without much water, and features robots and kickass girls and a cute/mysterious guy. Some reviews have compared it to Divergent and Hunger Games, which of course I’m totally thrilled about!

Grab a copy of Parched here

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

I hope Parched takes them on a rollercoaster ride, complete with sweaty palms and racing hearts. I hope they swoon and sigh over the romance, cheer on Kudzu, and root for Tess. And I hope they think about climate change and sustainability, and ponder the ethical issues of artificial intelligence.

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

Anyone who speaks their truth and maintains a healthy output. YA authors I love include Maggie Steifvater, David Leviathan, Rainbow Rowell, Cassandra Clare, and Lauren Oliver.

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

I’d love to get a six-figure advance to write a No. 1 New York Times-best selling novel that gets turned into a fantastic movie, thus entering the pop culture Hall of Fame forever. I’d also like to write something that concretely affects people’s lives, and gives them a greater sense of hope and self-worth.  

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write stories in genres you read, and that you personally, would love to pick up in a bookstore. Commit to a regular writing schedule, ideally in a space away from home. Try the app Freedom if the internet distracts you. Don’t worry about the lacklustre first chapter; you’ll find your writing gathers steam later and you’ll go back and rewrite it anyway. Remember that talent is persistence: most writers don’t sell their first book, they sell their third or fourth. Writing is the long game: stick at it. Live a life worth writing about: take risks, say yes, follow your heart, and me, on Twitter: @georgialouclark

Georgia, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Parched here

GUEST BLOG: Oh, What Fun! By Anna Campbell

Anna Campbell has been one of Australia’s favourite romance writers for a long time now, charming readers everywhere with her unforgettable characters and turn of phrase.

In this exclusive blog, Anna talks about the F word. Fun.

Recently there has been a spate of very earnest articles about how reading romance can improve your mind, your health, your fine motor skills, and your love life, not to mention help you win the lottery and give you a free mowing service for the next twenty years. I’ve even written one, “Romance Mythbusting”, which appeared in the Queensland Writers Centre newsletter and is now available on my website here.

Anna Campbell 43970006

Author Anna Campbell

While all these articles (including, I hope, mine!) make a lot of sense, I think in many ways they miss the point. Do people read romance because it makes a feminist statement or because it helps people to understand the intricacies of a Regency wardrobe? Well, partly, I’m sure. I have to say I personally love the clothes in a historical romance, but that’s by the by.

However I suspect the most honest answer to that question would be no.

I think people read romance because it’s fun! Even when it’s packed with angst, as some are.

the-wickedest-lord-aliveThere’s the delicious thrill of watching two people who are perfect for each other slowly wake up to the fact – or wake up at the start of the story and struggle past whatever barriers are keeping them apart. Any good romance involves that lovely simmer of sexual tension that frequently blazes out into a full-scale inferno. There’s watching the characters make mistakes and try and correct them, often by making bigger mistakes. There’s great dialogue! Read a Georgette Heyer or a Christina Brooke or a Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and you’ll find yourself chortling away at the way the prickly dialogue goes nowhere near hiding how deeply drawn the hero and heroine are to each other. There’s the chance to go through a profound emotional journey with these people.

And the best fun of all? The fact that if you pick up a romance, you know there’s going to be a happy ending. Whether it’s in a dramatic, emotion-racked story or a sweet romantic comedy, these people will end up together, better, wiser, happier. There’s something marvelously reassuring about that. And when you’re going through a tough time in your own life, believe me, knowing that somewhere holds a guaranteed happy ending is reward enough on its own!

Is that unrealistic? Personally I don’t think so. I don’t believe that all human effort comes to dust. I think most people have as much chance for happiness as unhappiness. Hmm, perhaps you should call me a cockeyed optimist. Or a romance reader!

what-a-duke-daresThis August, I have got a new historical romance out. What a Duke Dares, book 3 of the award-winning Sons of Sin series, was great fun to write (I hope I’m not overusing the ‘F’ word!). Partly because I love the characters – falling in love with your own creations is an occupational hazard in romance. Even if they don’t start out as people you’d want living next door, they often end up that way. Partly because I got to travel through Italy in the company of my hero and heroine and observe how hard they’re fighting against succumbing to irresistible attraction. Partly because I got to hang out with the great and the good in the London season of 1828, not to mention visit a few extravagant stately homes along the way. I must say I’m a sucker for the glamour elements! Partly because when Cam and Pen from WHAT A DUKE DARES finally get their happy ending. They have really had to battle for it. Watching two people work their way, despite everything ranged against them, toward each other is always a wonderful experience.

And I guess there in a nutshell, you have the secret of why reading romance in any setting is fun!

So why do you read romance? Do you think it’s fun? Why?

My website is: http://www.annacampbell.info
You can read an excerpt of What a Duke Dares here.


Sons of Sin Trilogy Pack – Exclusive to Booktopia

Three Great Books – One Low Price!

by Anna Campbell

Click here for more details

Click here for more details

Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann, authors of The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code, chat to John Purcell

After the runaway success of The Marmalade Files, it was inevitable that Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann would be returning for another healthy dose of political intrigue.

They chat to John Purcell about their latest book The Mandarin Code, the difficulties of co-writing, and how life in Canberra can often be stranger than fiction.

Grab a copy of The Mandarin Code here

Grab a copy of The Mandarin Code here

The Mandarin Code

by Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann

A body pulled from the murky waters of Lake Burley Griffin links Canberra, Beijing and Washington in a titanic struggle where war is just a mouse click away. Veteran reporter Harry Dunkley is chasing the scoop of his career, hunting for his best friend’s killer. Navigating treacherous political waters where a desperate minority government edges ever closer to disaster, he delves into a cyber world where there are no secrets.

Friendship and loyalty give way to betrayal and revenge as Dunkley stumbles into the sights of the mandarins who wield real power – and who’ll stop at nothing to retain it. Political insiders Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann bring biting wit and behind-the-headlines insights to this sharply observed sequel to the bestselling The Marmalade Files, once again lifting the veil on the lust and lies that stain the corridors of power.

Grab a copy of The Mandarin Code here

Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander TV series is nearly here, celebrate with Signed Bookplates!

Finally Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has made it onto the small screen, with the TV series on it’s way. These are books for a reader to obsess over. Hours, days and weeks can be lost in the sheer enjoyment of wonderful storytelling. And now Diana has delivered book eight, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. Whether you’re a fan or a newbie, grab a copy of the special TV tie-in edition OR book eight Written in My Own Heart’s Blood today!

BIG NEWS: we received a very special package from the US – bookplates signed by DIANA GABALDON! Order your copy of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood now and you will receive a signed bookplate… but hurry, stock is limited.


outlander-tv-tie-in-editionOutlander

by Diana Gabaldon

THE FIRST NOVEL IN THE BESTSELLING OUTLANDER SERIES – soon to be a major new TV series.

Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century – and a lover in another.

In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands, and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds.

A wartime nurse, Claire can deal with the bloody wounds that face her. But it is harder to deal with the knowledge that she is in Jacobite Scotland and the carnage of Culloden is looming. Marooned amid the passion and violence, the superstition, the shifting allegiances and the fervent loyalties, Claire is in danger from Jacobites and Redcoats – and from the shock of her own desire for James Fraser, a gallant and courageous young Scots warrior. Jamie shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire, and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.


Thank you for all those who entered the Outlander Preview Screening Tickets Competition. The winners are…

Heidy White (Brisbane)
Stu Turner (Melbourne)
Shelley Napper (Sydney)

Winners, please email us at promos@booktopia.com.au ASAP!

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