Oliver Sacks, inspirational neurologist and author, dies aged 82

From The Guardian:

Oliver Sacks, the eminent neurologist and writer, has died at his home in New York City. He was 82.

the-man-who-mistook-his-wife-for-a-hatThe cause of death was the cancer, Kate Edgar, his longtime personal assistant, told the New York Times, which had published an essay by Sacks in February revealing that an earlier melanoma in his eye had spread to his liver and that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer.

The London-born academic, whose book Awakenings inspired the Oscar-nominated film of the same name, wrote: “A month ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out – a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver.”

Sacks was the author of several books about unusual medical conditions, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat and The Island of the Colourblind. Awakenings was based on his work with patients treated with a drug that woke them up after years in a catatonic state. The 1990 film version, starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, was nominated for three Oscars including best picture.

on-the-move-order-now-for-your-chance-to-win-On the Move

by Oliver Sacks

When Oliver Sacks was twelve years old, a perceptive schoolmaster wrote in his report: ‘Sacks will go far, if he does not go too far.’ It is now abundantly clear that Sacks has never stopped going.

From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. As he recounts his experiences as a young neurologist in the early 1960s, first in California and then in New York, where he discovered a long forgotten illness in the back wards of a chronic hospital, as well as with a group of patients who would define his life, it becomes clear that Sacks’ earnest desire for engagement has occasioned unexpected encounters and travels – sending him through bars and alleys, over oceans, and across continents.

With unbridled honesty and humour, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions – bodybuilding, weightlifting, and swimming – also drives his cerebral passions. He writes about his love affairs, both romantic and intellectual, his guilt over leaving his family to come to America, his bond with his schizophrenic brother, and the writers and scientists – A.R. Luria, W.H. Auden, Francis Crick – who influenced him.

5 Must See Events at the 2015 Sydney Jewish Writers Festival


My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: In Conversation with Jennifer Teege

avatar.jpg.320x320pxAccidentally discovering she was the granddaughter of Amon Goeth, the brutal Nazi commandant depicted in Schindler’s List, shook German-Nigerian author Jennifer Teege to the core.

Grappling with the haunted past of a perpetrator, the secrets and denial, she embarked on an extraordinary journey of soul-searching to Poland and Israel. She shares her astounding true story and eventual ‘liberation’.

Sunday, August 30 • 5:45pm – 6:45pm

Main Hall (Waverley Library, Bondi Junction)


TV espionage: In Conversation with the creator of Homeland, Prisoners of War & Dig

avatar.jpg.320x320px (1)Gideon Raff wowed audiences worldwide with the gripping and gritty realism of his acclaimed series, the Israeli Prisoners of War (Hatufim) and US adaptation Homeland.

As art eerily imitated life, millions of viewers were confronted for the first time with a messy, brutal and honest representation of the Middle East and America’s war on terror. He brought Israel to mainstream television again with his recent production, Dig. He shares his insights and the story behind his success.

Sunday, August 30 • 3:15pm – 4:15pm

Main Hall (Waverley Library, Bondi Junction)


I love a complex country: Views on Israel

avatar.jpg.320x320px (4)Israel excites, inspires, and vexes. As their hearts beat for Israel, Gideon Raff, Jennifer Teege and one of the world’s foremost experts on Hebrew and Israeli literature Dr Dvir Abramovich, offer their unique vantage points of a country filled with love and loss.

Their distinctive journeys take us over the noise of start-ups, felafel and conflict, to illuminate Israel’s complexities. Three writers reflect on ‘her beauty and her terror’ of a country that stirs our soul.

Saturday, August 29 • 8:30pm – 10:00pm

Main Hall (Waverley Library, Bondi Junction)


The silence of injustice

avatar.jpg.320x320px (3)In Iran, a doctor is considered a criminal for saving lives, and a woman who falls in love is breaking the rules. In Australia, a young Somali man is incarcerated for a terrible crime he did not commit. What hope is there in the face of such prejudice?

Award-winning writers Dr Kooshyar Karimi and Julie Szego discuss how the power of culture and the perils of silence perpetuate injustice.

Sunday, August 30 • 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Main Hall (Waverley Library, Bondi Junction)


Schmoozing in the Eastern Suburbs

avatar.jpg.320x320px (2)From the Hungarian cafes of Double Bay to the mansions of Point Piper, two authors expose the inner workings of two unique subcultures in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. They immerse readers in an intimate world of relationships, scandal, gossip and lies, interspersed with champagne and goulash.

Society columnist Ros Reines and novelist Eva Novy will amuse and delight you with the stories of worlds unknown, right at our doorstep.

Sunday, August 30 • 5:45pm – 6:45pm

Theatrette (Waverley Library, Bondi Junction)


For more details about this year’s Sydney Jewish Writers Festival head to www.sjwf.org.au

Mitchell Hogan, author of A Crucible of Souls, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

a-crucible-of-soulsThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Mitchell Hogan

author of A Crucible of Souls

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 and raised in Sydney, Australia, and have lived here all my life. Although I’ve travelled quite a bit, there’s no place like home! I grew up with two sisters, and my mother did a fantastic job in raising us on her own under extremely trying conditions when we were young.

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

When I was twelve I wanted to work with wood in some way. I loved woodwork classes at school and I still think back fondly on those times. At eighteen I was studying Chemical Engineering at university, mainly because I was good at mathematics and science. Then at thirty I was working for a US bank in funds management, although it was just what I’d fallen into for various reasons. To be honest, by then it felt like I’d be in the same career for the rest of my life. There were bills to pay and a mortgage to worry about so I never stopped to think about what I really wanted to with my life until later on.

Mitchell_Hogan3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I was naive at eighteen and thought I’d be able to get by without going to too much extra effort. That was fine until my third year of university when I failed half my subjects! After that I knuckled down and realised that a little extra effort now makes everything so much easier later on, and if you want to be good at something you need to work at it.

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?

When I was eleven a teacher began reading The Hobbit to my class at primary school. I enjoyed it so much my mother bought me The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That opened up a whole new world to me, and it was such a small thing really.

When I was twenty my father took his own life. I coped with the tragedy fairly well at the time, but I think it instilled in me a willingness to be able to stop and examine my own life, what I was doing and where I was going. I’ve had a couple of major career changes since then and deciding to move on in each case was relatively easy.

Which leads to about six years ago when I was burned out with my job. It was getting better but I’d been through a really bad six months of way too much overtime and stress. I stepped back and thought about what I was doing with my life. That’s when I decided to resign from work and finish the book I’d started writing so many years ago. I didn’t want to regret not finishing it – and so far it’s worked out well!

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

I chose to write a book because I love to read, and I had a lot of ideas and wanted to see if I could craft a story out of them. I didn’t consider any other mode of storytelling, it just seemed natural to write. Books are far from obsolete — in fact more people are reading more books than in any other time in history, and there are more books available at lower prices than ever before. With current technology any book that is published will be around, and easily accessible, forever.

a-crucible-of-souls6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

I’d be delighted to! A Crucible of Souls is an epic fantasy novel about a young man raised by monks who is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life, and finds the world he is caught up in has disturbing depths… and the good guys don’t always win. It has sorcery, morally ambivalent characters, and some dark and gritty content. The first review it ever received described it as ‘entertainingly ambiguous’, which I thought was quite a good description.

Grab a copy of A Crucible of Souls here

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

I hope readers feel they’re a part of the world I’ve created. I’d like them to become lost in the story and want to go back and re-read my books again. And of course I want people to feel as if their time and money was well spent.

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

Any author who continually produces books and endeavours to improve on all aspects of writing—both with their craft and the business side.

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

In a relatively short time with my writing career I found myself having achieved more than I ever hoped. That led me to step back and think about where to go from here. My main goal now is to make a living from my writing, and as most other authors can attest that is hard. I also want to make sure my writing appeals to the majority of readers, which means putting a lot of work into improving and making sure I don’t get complacent.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Finish your first book. It’s the hardest one and after that you’ll realise you’ve done it once so you can do it again. Plus, the best advice on editing, promotion, marketing, branding, submissions, agents, the publishing industry, etc, doesn’t mean a thing unless you have a completed manuscript.

And once you have a book finished, work on understanding the business of writing and the industry. This is important stuff. Your intellectual property has an intrinsic value. There is writing and the business of writing, two very different things. Understand the business you’re in if you want to succeed.

Mitchell, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of A Crucible of Souls here

a-crucible-of-soulsA Crucible of Souls

by Mitchell Hogan

The Aurealis Award-winning e-book bestseller now in print.

An imaginative new talent makes his debut with the acclaimed first installment in the epic Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, a mesmerizing tale of high fantasy that combines magic, malevolence, and mystery.

When young Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, the boy is raised by monks who initiate him into the arcane mysteries of sorcery.

Growing up plagued by questions about his past, Caldan vows to discover who his parents were, and why they were violently killed. The search will take him beyond the walls of the monastery, into the unfamiliar and dangerous chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to become apprenticed to a guild of sorcerers.

But the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths he does not fully understand. As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that will bring the world to the edge of destruction.

Soon, he must choose a side, and face the true cost of uncovering his past.

Grab a copy of A Crucible of Souls here

Five of Five with Aurealis Award-winning author Mitchell Hogan

Mitchell_HoganWe play Five of Five with Aurealis Award-winning author Mitchell Hogan!

1) Name 5 books that inspire you…

Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar 

Surprised? Don’t be, it’s a classic. There’s not just a hungry caterpillar, there’s a very hungry caterpillar and a twist at the end. Good stuff. It always reminds me of a joke which goes something like this — Author: I have a book about a hungry caterpillar, Publisher: Pass, Author: Wait…it’s a very hungry caterpillar, Publisher: Go on…

Stephen King’s The Stand

This book is essentially an epic fantasy adventure about good and evil set in a post apocalyptic America, and it has it all: imagery, great characters and plot, excellent world-building.

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? A gorgeous book, which makes the complexity of the universe comprehensible and palatable.

Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea

Each time I read this book it tells me something different. Compared to today’s fantasy works it’s a short read, but what makes it great is its subtext. Read it early, and read it often.

Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Comes Before

Exquisite world building, the best I’ve ever read. This is a dark, adult fantasy story, and Bakker masterfully combines many different POV’s, literary techniques, plots, religion, sorcery, and philosophy into a great read. An educated, intelligent and talented writer.

2) What are your picks for the 5 “best fantasy books of all time”?

Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice

A complex and action packed fantasy, with flesh and blood characters. Triumphs are bitter sweet and you’ll experience real emotion when reading this book.

Glen Cook’s The Black Company

A world where good and evil are not absolute, following characters who are dark and ugly and somehow likeable, who must navigate the best they can through shades of grey. It’s a little rough around the edges, and some would say it’s primitive, but it’s unique.

C.J. Cherryh’s Chronicles of Morgaine

Stargate meets epic fantasy! A fantastic female lead character who has her own faults, weaknesses and needs. With all of the action and issues the two characters have to face, you don’t realise until deep into reading it what the real story is: the relationship between Morgaine and Vanye.

R. Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Comes Before

Everything I said above plus more.

David Gemmel’s Legend

Fantastic action scenes and an epic story about what it means to be a hero.

3) What are your picks for the “5 best sci-fi books of all time”?

Frank Herbert’s Dune

Complex and vast world building, and people fighting over money, planets and drugs.

Issac Asimov’s Foundation

Epic scope. The fall of the Roman Empire in space. A classic.

Dan Simmons’ Hyperion

Superbly written and crafted. Different tales from different characters, all with a part to play.

William Gibson’s Neuromancer

It can be confusing, but with each re-read you understand more. This book coined the term “cyberspace”. A challenging but electrifying read.

Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Science-fiction-comedy phenomenon. Some find it “too silly”, but they probably put their babel fish in the wrong hole.

4) What are your 5 favourite movies?

Blade Runner

Dark, gritty, superb style and atmosphere.

Seven Samurai

The first of its kind, assemble a team to carry out a mission. Rain drenched action and violence, and yet the movie isn’t about violence, it’s about duty and societal roles.

The Princess Bride

Enchanting fantasy. Yes, it has a few flaws, but it has everything: action, romance, comedy. Heart warming and sardonic.


A sci-fi movie without aliens? What the?

Complex characters, amazing story, do yourself a favour and watch it.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

A great sci-fi adventure capturing the time in childhood when the world is filled with many mysterious possibilities. And E.T. was a jedi, so now you know.

5) What are 5 things about the art of writing that you didn’t know when you started?

– There is the art of writing, and the business of writing. You need to be good at both. It’s your intellectual property and you need to realise it has intrinsic value.

– Waiting for the “muse” to strike before you write is a good way to not get much writing done.

– There are many ways to learn something, and the best way is for someone more experienced to teach you. Find knowledgeable critiquers or professional editors and take their feedback on board. Strive to constantly improve your writing.

– You don’t need to be an expert, whether it is writing or the business of writing, you just need to have an appetite for learning and to work hard.

– Someone once said: Have the courage to write badly. I think that’s great advice.

Grab your copy of Mitchell Hogan’s A Crucible of Souls here

a-crucible-of-soulsA Crucible of Souls

by Mitchell Hogan

The Aurealis Award-winning e-book bestseller now in print.

An imaginative new talent makes his debut with the acclaimed first installment in the epic Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, a mesmerizing tale of high fantasy that combines magic, malevolence, and mystery.

When young Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, the boy is raised by monks who initiate him into the arcane mysteries of sorcery.

Growing up plagued by questions about his past, Caldan vows to discover who his parents were, and why they were violently killed. The search will take him beyond the walls of the monastery, into the unfamiliar and dangerous chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to become apprenticed to a guild of sorcerers.

But the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths he does not fully understand. As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that will bring the world to the edge of destruction.

Soon, he must choose a side, and face the true cost of uncovering his past.

Grab your copy of Mitchell Hogan’s A Crucible of Souls here

2015 Mudgee Readers’ Festival to kick off this weekend!

The Mudgee Readers’ Festival – now in its sixth year – will welcome a number of big-name authors this weekend.

The line-up includes Don Watson, Ramona Koval, Clare Wright, Steven Carroll, Debra Oswald, Wayne Macauley, Bernard Keane and Emily Rodda.

‘Our aim is to run an event that is warm and friendly, and welcoming to all readers. We are so fortunate to have such an incredible line-up of authors coming to Mudgee this year. Whether you have read the books or not, heard of the authors or not, you will be entertained, inspired and informed. The Mudgee Readers’ Festival brings you some wonderful minds and definitely some of the best talent Australia has to offer.’

Susie Bennett, Chair of MRF said at the program launch

The festival will feature in-depth interviews and panel discussions with authors such as Antonia MurphyRobyn CadwalladerAnna George and Peter Watt. A festival favourite – the Long Lazy Lunch – returns on the Sunday, this year with former host of the ABC Radio National Book Show Ramona Koval.

This year the festival has partnered with literary journal Seizure to host Rant, a dinner event on the Saturday night. Rant will be hosted by Seizure’s David Henley and will feature a stellar collection of authors sharing their thoughts about a topic that really gets their goat. Other feature events – free and open to the public – include a huge second hand book fair on the Saturday, new book sales and signings by the authors across the weekend and a regional author feature, Write Around NSW, on Sunday morning. Young readers will get their own special event with popular author Emily Rodda.

Purchase tickets online through Mudgee Region Tourism.


GUEST BLOG: Bestselling author Fiona Palmer on what she’s been reading

20150629_133200I love book clubs and it’s wonderful to have one out here in tiny Pingaring – my hometown three hours south-east of Perth. It’s amazing how far ladies will travel to talk about books – and chat, drink wine and eat yummy food!! Our group of around ten come from all directions, some travel sixty kilometres to get here. But what a great way to read books outside of your comfort zone. I usually read romance, women’s fiction and YA. But the best thing about being part of our book club has meant pushing me outside of those genres, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

The Girl on The Train was one I never would have picked up to read, yet as it was our book club read I gave it a go. I found it easy going and it had me swiftly turning the pages to find out what was going to happen. I liked the twists and some I didn’t see coming – always a bonus because I can usually guess. It gave us lots to talk about, mainly how the women were all affected by a similar thread. Even though it was slightly disturbing, you still read the story for what it is and where it takes you emotionally. Do give it a try if you’re after something interesting.

the-string-diariesOur next book is The String Diaries, which I’ve only just finished. I thought it was cleverly written, jumping from each generation until they all slotted in like a big puzzle. I found myself enjoying this read too, wanting to see what would happen to Hannah and her family from the ‘curse’ (for want of a better word) that haunted their family. I can’t imagine how you could live your life with the constant fear ‘he’ would turn up but taking the face of someone you love and without you realising it. I don’t want to give too much away but it has a supernatural thread, which is woven in beautifully and is very believable. Do try and persist with it as it all starts to make sense as you connect the dots.

For something a little different, I’m going to introduce you to a favourite series of mine that I stumbled across. It’s probably classed as YA and written by Brigid Kemmerer. They are called the Elementals and the first book is called Storm. It’s about Becca Chandler who saves Chris Merrick from being beaten up in the school car park and how it changes her life. The Merrick boys are Elementals. And through each book that follows, Spark and Spirit etc. we get to meet each of the four brothers. I found this series a great read, turning pages late into the night. The thing I like about YA is it’s fast-paced and has lots of dialogue and they are fun to read.


Fiona Palmer lives in the tiny rural town of Pingaring in Western Australia, three and a half hours south-east of Perth. She discovered Danielle Steel at the age of eleven, and has now written her own brand of rural romance. She has attended romance writers’ groups and received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm. She has extensive farming experience, does the local mail run, and was a speedway-racing driver for seven years. She spends her days writing, helping out in the community and looking after her two children.

Pre-order your copy of Fiona’s The Saddler Boys here

the-saddler-boysThe Saddler Boys

by Fiona Palmer

Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the swarm of inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew.

As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her life in Perth and the new community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she’s really made of – and where she truly belongs.


‘Fiona Palmer just keeps getting better.’ Rachael Johns

‘Palmer’s passion for the land bleeds into the story, and her scenes are vivid and genuine, just as her characters are.’ Book’d Out

‘Fiona Palmer has well and truly earned her place as a leading writer of one of Australia’s much-loved genres.’ Countryman

Pre-order your copy of Fiona’s The Saddler Boys here

BOOK REVIEW: The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (Review from Hayley Shephard)

Simply put, The Invasion of the Tearling was an awesome read.

the-invasion-of-the-tearlingThe book is one giant social commentary and while Erika Johansen’s world is dystopian, it doesn’t follow the standard model. It’s also a must-read novel for all the feminists out there.

Following the standard dystopian model I truly believed the following: this world either exists on an uncharted island or this “better world” is actually a government experiment, and the inhabitants have been made to think otherwise. It never once occurred to me when reading the first book that Kelsea’s sapphires made the journey to this world, which is referred to as ‘the Crossing’, possible. Cheers to Erika Johnson for thinking of something like this. No matter how unusual, I just need something new from time to time.

the-queen-of-the-tearlingI loved how Erika Johansen used the connection between the sapphires and ‘the Crossing’ to convey the importance of our current fight against issues such as like violence against women, equal rights, the power of the privileged and the right not to be persecuted because of who you are and what you believe in. If we don’t look at what is bad in our world now, it continues until it becomes nearly impossible to fix.

And let’s face it, if we could alter time, we would fix parts of the past that still have a destructive presence. No matter how much you try and escape it, time has a way on creeping up on us, even if you have the ability to cross through into a more primitive era. If you’ve read the first book, you know the Tearling isn’t exactly all that crash-hot.

There are a lot of double meanings and hidden messages in The Invasion of the Tearling. But I’ve come to enjoy trying to find out what Erika’s trying to hide. I’ve already come up with theories of my own. I really need the 3rd book to confirm my theories and finally discover who Kelsea’s father is (yes, we still don’t know).

But then again, maybe I am not the only reader who needs answers…

Grab your copy of The Invasion of the Tearling here

the-invasion-of-the-tearlingThe Invasion of the Tearling

The Tearling Trilogy : Book 2

The breathtaking sequel to the international bestseller The Queen Of The Tearling – that was hailed by the Daily Mail as ‘like Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games meets Pulp Fiction’ . . .

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighbouring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling – and that of Kelsea’s own soul – may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

In this dazzling sequel to her bestselling debut The Queen Of The Tearling, Erika Johansen brings back favourite characters, including the Mace and the Red Queen, and introduces unforgettable new players, adding exciting layers to her multidimensional tale of magic, mystery and a fierce young heroine.

Grab your copy of The Invasion of the Tearling here


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