BOOK REVIEW: Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

And as the boys crowd at the door catching their breath in amazement, Colt sees it all, suddenly, for what it is. His father spends money not merely on making his sons envied, but on making them – and the word seems to tip the floor – enticing.

golden-boysWith Golden Boys, Sonya Hartnett has surely established herself as one of the finest Australian novelists of her generation, nearly twenty years after making her name as one of our most celebrated children’s authors.

It is her skills as a children’s writer that makes her latest novel so penetrating. Her understanding of a child’s psyche, their motivations and how they interact with one another.

Golden Boys is told through several children’s eyes with an adult tongue, a small group of children whose lives are shaken when a wealthy new family moves into their working class suburb. The family’s two young boys, Colt and Bastian, have spent their lives inexplicably moving from place to place, school to school. As Colt grows older, he begins to realise why.

This is an Australia we all know, from the searing asphalt to the prickly nature strips. The only thing more unsettling than the things that lurk behind closed doors are the things that are out in the open we can see, yet choose to do nothing about. Perhaps out of politeness or because we have problems we feel are more pressing, the ramifications of these decisions are often widespread and can be felt for years.

Sonya HartnettHartnett explores a central theme that has run throughout children’s literature for centuries – freedom. From Huckleberry Finn to Jasper Jones, a child’s development and growth is usually the result of freedom. But as Hartnett argues, often this freedom is a result of neglect, not savvy parenting. Freedom from neglect has become a prominent phrase in society, but since the publication of Golden Boys, the danger of the freedom of neglect might now become an important topic when tackling problems children are forced to face.

Without a doubt, Golden Boys is one of the finest novels I’ve read in 2014, and perhaps the best Australian novel of the year so far. Don’t be put off by the heavy territory Hartnett explores. This is an Australian classic in the making, full of rich, diverse characters, strong central themes and masterful prose. Get in early before the awards season rolls around and everyone is talking about this extraordinary work.

Grab a copy of Sonia Hartnett’s Golden Boys here

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Shake It Up For National Dog Day

Yesterday was National Dog Day in Australia, with our American cousins celebrating their Dog Day today.

Let’s be honest, we just wanted to post this awesome Shake video we found.

So here it is. Enjoy.

Shake

by Carli Davidson

Original, amusing, and brilliantly documented, Shake is a heartwarming collection of sixty-one beguiling dogs caught in the most candid of moments: mid-shake. This glorious, graphic volume will stop you dead in your tracks as you are presented with images of man’s best friend caught in contortion: hair wild, eyes darting, ears and jowls flopping every which way.

With Shake, photographer Carli Davidson proves how eager and elated we are to see our pets in new ways. The result is a one-of-a-kind book: a colorful assemblage of photographs that are simultaneously startling and endearing, consistently hard to look away from, and revealing.

Grab a copy of Shake here

But wait, there’s another one coming…

Shake Puppies

by Carli Davidson

The highly anticipated follow-up to the bestselling book Shake, Shake Puppies also features 61 dogs caught mid-shake-only this time they’re even more adorable and laughter inducing.

Shake Puppies features two images of each dog placed side by side to capture the action of the shake-the tousled hair, the distorted expression, the flying water droplets. The photographs capture the dogs in the most candid of moments and were shot against brightly colored backdrops to make them fresh, lively, and inviting.

Shake Puppies includes a roster listing the names, ages, and breeds of the dogs, as well as behind-the-scenes images that take readers into the studio with Carli Davidson and the smiling, playful pups. In the accompanying text, she offers never-before-shared insight into her creative process and reminds readers of the importance of animal adoption and quality pet care.

Funny and heartwarming Shake Puppies is a colorful assemblage of photographs that are startling and endearing, revealing and irresistible.

Grab a copy of Shake Puppies here

And the World’s Best Diet is…. World’s Best Diet

world-s-best-dietWorld’s Best Diet is not a ‘diet’, it’s a lifestyle change designed for real people.

Having achieved your goal weight, this is how you eat for the rest of your life. The program is based on one of the world’s largest dietary studies and combines a higher protein intake with low-GI carbs, which has been proven to prevent weight regain ‘creep’.

With delicious, satisfying recipes and easy-to-follow guidelines, this book is the ultimate solution to your weight problems.

The World’s Best Diet may sound like an extravagant claim. However, unlike many grandiose claims made in the weight loss industry, this book is backed by solid scientific evidence.

Grab a copy of World’s Best Diet here

world's best diet_1 world's best diet_2 world's best diet_3 world's best diet_4 world's best diet_5 world's best diet_6 world's best diet_7Grab a copy of World’s Best Diet here

BOOK REVIEW: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

Haruki Murakami’s quest to honour his literary hero Franz Kafka has resulted in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, one of his most moving and accessible novels in years.

While Franz Kafka remains best known for his genre-bending novella The Metamorphosis, most will point to his 1925 novel The Trial as his opus, a deeply personal meditation on sex, society and isolation.

Murakami’s latest offering navigates similar waters. A young male protagonist slowly driven to breaking point by, what he perceives to be, an unjust judgement handed down upon him by the people he most cares about.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is as down to earth as Murakami has been for a long time. Talking cats, and vanishing elephants give way to musings on Arnold Wesker, The Pet Shop Boys and Barry Manilow.

When Tsukuru Tazaki is cut off without reason by his circle of high school friends during his sophomore year in college, his world spirals out of control, craving no human interaction and little appetite for food or life, pure hopelessness.

Fast forward twenty years and, despite halting his downward spiral, he is still haunted by those inexplicable events. At his girlfriend’s urging, he tracks down his former friends to get the answer for himself. The journeys he takes turn out to be as much inward as out of town. And as is often the case in Murakami’s fiction, his characters are all about introspection.

murakamiMurakami’s prose has always enthralled me, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is no exception. His overall tone remains one of the most difficult to pin down in literature, with gorgeous flourishes routinely intercepted by the sort of stark language that belongs in an IKEA catalogue. That, however, is his gift. His words pull you this way and that, tenderising you to feel the full weight of a knockout blow.

One passage in particular took my eye, “The branches of a nearby willow tree were laden with lush foliage and drooping heavily, almost to the ground, though they were still, as if lost in deep thought. Occasionally a small bird landed unsteadily on a branch, but soon gave up and fluttered away. Like a distraught mind, the branch quivered slightly, then returned to stillness.”

Is it beautiful, concise simplicity, or simple, concise beauty? That question is itself an allegory for much of Murakami’s body of work.

Taking his devotion for Kafka further in the final pages, Murakami prefers to leave some of the novel’s biggest questions unanswered, a rarity for a writer who so often neglects characters and prose in preference for themes and plot. Perhaps these are questions he can’t answer, or maybe these are questions that should stay with us, lingering, until we journey towards discovery as Tsukuru does.

Many of the questions in The Trial were never answered as Kafka died before the final edits of the book. It still remains a masterpiece, one which Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage will constantly be compared to, in itself the highest of praise.

It has become tradition that, on the eve of the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Japanese bookstores burst at the seams, champagne on ice, fans hoping that Murakami finally gets the nod. The big question is will Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, having already sold millions of copies worldwide, be enough to tip him over the edge?

Another question that, for the moment anyway, remains unanswered.

Grab a copy of Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage here

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was recently shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

REVIEW: Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

your-fathers-where-are-they-and-the-prophets-do-they-live-forever-The irony of Dave Eggers’ somewhat pretentiously named new novel Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? is that it is a decidedly unpretentious work. But Dave Eggers knows that. He has more fun with his titles than most, from his breakout memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius to his 2004 novel The Unforbidden is Compulsory; or, Optimism.

Your Fathers is a compelling meditation on the world we now live in. I say now because things are changing too fast for many of us, particularly for Eggers and his scatterbrained protagonist Thomas. His world is spinning out of control and the only way to halt it is to bunker down and ask the big questions. Not just of himself, but of the people who have ‘helped’ shape his life. His college hero, his mother, an old teacher, a politician, his soulmate. But he can’t just walk up to them in the street and grill them. He has a better idea.

It’s better if he has some time with them. Time to ask questions.

While they’re tied up in an abandoned military base.

While Your Fathers shines a light in uncomfortable corners, it’s raucously funny in many places, typical of all of Eggers’ work. It goes without saying that a man who, as legend has in, enlists friends to streak and heckle him during book readings would it difficult to hide that subversive humour from his writing. His acid wit works perfectly in tandem with some of the heavy territory Your Fathers explores.

Your Fathers is not a long book, but a dense one. It needs only 224 pages to engulf you. It’s a novel made up of frenzied brushstrokes that, only when you stand back, do you get to see the true genius of.

The brilliant thing about Your Fathers is that, despite his mania, I’m envious of Thomas. I feel like following his lead, although perhaps with less chains. A few days devoted entirely to questions.

But will Thomas get the answers he’s looking for before it’s too late?

Grab a copy of Dave Eggers’ Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? here

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Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

 

The Genius of Dorothy Parker – 10 of her best quotes

Dorothy Parker was born on this day 121 years ago. She was an extraordinary mind and a wonderful writer, capable of eliciting a giggle from absolutely anyone.

To celebrate her genius we’ve put together 10 of our favourite Parkerisms. Enjoy!

“I hate writing, I love having written.”

“Four be the things I’d have been better without: love, curiosity, freckles and doubt.”

“I require three things in a man: he must be handsome, ruthless, and stupid.”

“That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can’t say ‘No’ in any of them.”

“If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end…I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”

Dorothy Parker Quotes

“Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. Clutch it and it darts away.”

“Money cannot buy health, but I’d settle for a diamond-studded
wheelchair.”

“Three be the things I shall never attain: Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.”

Dorothy Parker Quotes

“To me, the most beautiful word in the English language is cellar-door. Isn’t it wonderful? The ones I like, though, are ‘cheque’ and ‘enclosed.'”

“By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying -
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.”

If I Stay – The next Fault in our Stars?

After the runaway success of the Fault in Our Stars movie, which grossed over a quarter of a billion dollars worldwide, everyone seems to be looking for the next book to film adaptation they can really get their feels on with.

Enter If I Stay.

Based on the bestselling novel by Gayle Forman, If I Stay boasts megastar Chloe Grace Moretz and an heartbreaking exploration of that fickle mistress, choice.

Now we’re not saying that the film will be disappointing, in fact we think it’ll be a hit. But you know, the book is always, kind of, possibly, in our opinion, better. So why not grab a copy today…

Grab a copy of If I Stay here

If I Stay

by Gayle Forman

‘Just listen,’ Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.’ I open my eyes wide now. I sit up as much as I can. And I listen. ‘Stay,’ he says.

Everybody has to make choices. Some might break you.

For seventeen-year-old Mia, surrounded by a wonderful family, friends and a gorgeous boyfriend decisions might seem tough, but they’re all about a future full of music and love, a future that’s brimming with hope. But life can change in an instant. A cold February morning …a snowy road …and suddenly all of Mia’s choices are gone. Except one. As alone as she’ll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all.

Haunting, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, If I Stay will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you’ve lost – and all that might be. Includes interviews with the stars of the film, Chloe Moretz and Jamie Blackley.

Grab a copy of If I Stay here

Grab a copy of If I Stay here

If you’re one of the beautiful people who follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you probably entered our competitions to win a double pass to see If I Stay at the movies.

Thanks to everyone for entering. The winners are…

Facebook: Karina Lay, Deanne Fletcher, Belinda Finn, Laura Jones, Nicole Barrah

Instagram: @dmstacey, @cassidyparer, @i_yam_not_a_yam

Twitter: @_nassep, @madison_bauer, @profangirl9

Winners, please email your details to promos@booktopia.com.au and we’ll get your tickets out to you ASAP!

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