GUEST BLOG: What Katie Read – The August Round Up (by award-winning author Kate Forsyth)

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

August is always one of the busiest times of the year for me and so I gave myself the month off writing and researching, allowing myself to catch up on my reading. It was lovely!

9780091893828The Snow Goose

by Paul Gallico (illustrated by Angela Barrett)

I remember reading this beautiful book when I was a child. It’s the story of a young crippled man, a girl, and a snow goose in 1940s Essex, in the lead-up to World War II. It’s a story of kindness and friendship, of the beauty of nature and our need to protect it, and of the importance of not judging by appearances. It is also a love story. Philip Rhavader is a hunchback, shunned by all, who looks after hurt and injured animals. He makes friends with a young girl named Fritha who brings him a snow goose to tend. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, he falls in love with her but cannot speak of what is in his heart. Then the Second World War breaks out, and Philip sails across to France to help rescue the thousands of soldiers stranded at Dunkirk. As a child, the book made a strong impression on me, but I had not read it in years. When I saw this lovely new edition, with exquisite illustrations by Angela Barrett, I had to buy it for my daughter.

Grab a copy of The Snow Goose here


The Chateau on the Lakethe-chateau-on-the-lake

by Charlotte Betts

I love books set in France, and have had a particular fascination with the French Revolution since reading my grandmother’s ancient copies of The Scarlet Pimpernel by the Baroness Orczy when I was a teenager.

I settled down with this novel and a cup of tea, hoping for a great swashbuckling romantic adventure. I was not at all disappointed. The voice of the heroine Madeleine is pitch-perfect – intelligent, highly educated and argumentative, she is the daughter of a French nobleman and an English lady. Fallen on hard times, they have opened a school for rich and well-bred young ladies, where Madeleine teaches. There are secrets in her parents’ life, however, and when they die tragically, Madeleine sets out to discover her hidden heritage. Her search takes her to France, and she witnesses the execution of the French king, Louis XVI, which shakes her understanding of the world to the core.

Trapped in a France gone mad with bloodlust, Madeleine finds herself falling in love …

The Chateau on the Lake is one of the best historical romances I have read for a while, and I was pleased to realise that I had previously read and enjoyed one of Charlotte’s earlier books, The Apothecary’s Daughter … and she has a few other books in her back list. I’ll be hunting them down forthwith!

Grab a copy of The Chateau on the Lake here


isbn9780751549256The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cormoran Strike Series : Book 1

by Robert Galbraith

I really enjoyed The Silkworm when I read it earlier this year, and so I grabbed The Cuckoo’s Calling when I saw it. It is the first in the series of Robert Galbraith’s contemporary crime novels (Robert Galbraith being, of course, the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling). I enjoyed this one even more. It introduced Cormoran Strike, one-legged private detective, and his pretty red-headed sidekick Robin, in a compelling and surprising murder mystery that shines a spotlight on the murky world of modelling. The victim is Lula Landry, a young black model, who died after plummeting from her apartment one bitter winter night. Her adopted brother refuses to believe it is suicide, and hires Cormoran to investigate. I love murder mysteries in which the reader pits their wits against the detective and tries to guess the murderer, and I also love murder mysteries with strong and interesting characters, so this series is right up my alley. I have already pre-ordered the third in the series!

Grab a copy of The Cuckoo’s Calling here



by Angus Donald

This novel of Robin Hood has a tagline ‘Meet the Godfather of Sherwood Forest’, promising lots of gore and violence. The book delivers, with an unflinching look at how the famous Robin of Locksley may have ruled his criminal empire. It has a lot more to it, however. The book sweeps along with an unrelenting pace, filled with sharply drawn chase-and-battle scenes. The narrator is a young man, Alan Dale, who swears allegiance to Robin after he is condemned to death for stealing a pie. The historical setting is fabulously well done, and the characters all complex and well-drawn. I can really recommend it for anyone who loves a gripping, fast-paced historical thriller.

Grab a copy of Outlaw here


713C2HeV6dLChildren of War

by Martin Walker

I’ve really been enjoying this series of contemporary murder mysteries set in the Dordogne in the south-west of France. The first few books were gentle, warm and character-driven with lots of descriptions of Bruno cooking delicious meals and looking for truffles in the forest with his dog. The later books have become more like hard-edged thrillers, with a bit of sex and a lot of political intrigue thrown in. I am still enjoying them, but not as much. Bruno was such a lovable character to begin with, but now he’s bed-hopping a little too much for my taste. I’d like less torture and more romance and feasting. Ah, well! Still a very enjoyable read.

Grab a copy of Children of War here



The Girl Who Came Home81H61VA4rqL

by Hazel Gaynor

This a bittersweet, delicate novel which moves between Chicago, 1982, and Ireland, 1912. A young American woman Grace discovers that her grandmother Maggie is a survivor of the Titanic, and asks her to tell her story. Maggie was one of fourteen Irish emigrants to leave a single village to sail on the Titanic. They all have hopes and fears for the new life they are sailing towards, and many are leaving behind friends and loved ones. Hazel Gaynor deftly moves back and forth between the two narrative threads, showing how grief and loss can cast its shadow over lives, and how important it is to seize love when you find it.

Grab a copy of The Girl Who Came Home here



9780007267002 (1)Kaspar: Prince of Cats

by Michael Morpurgo, Michael Foreman (Illustrator)

This is my daughter’s favourite book, and she returns to it again and again. I was curious to know why, so I wrested it from her and sat down to read. It really is a delightful book, gorgeously illustrated by Michael Foreman. It tells the story of Johnny Trott, a bellboy at the Savoy, who makes friends with a cat named Kaspar.

‘From his whiskers to his paws he was black all over, jet black and sleek and shiny and beautiful. He knew he was beautiful too. He moved like silk, his head held high, his tail swishing as he went.’

Kaspar belongs to a Russian countess who befriends Johnny, and introduces him to a world of beauty and art and music. When the countess tragically dies, Johnny must keep Kaspar safe from the horrible head housekeeper, called ‘Skullface’ by the hotel staff. He is helped by the daughter of a rich American who is staying at the Savoy. They have all sorts of adventures – including escaping the sinking of the Titanic – before finding happiness and safety in America. I asked my daughter why she loves it so much, and she said, ‘because it’s about a cat, and a boy and a girl who save it, and because it makes you sad one minute, then happy the next.’ Wonderful!

Grab a copy of Kaspar: Prince of Cats here


The Spring Bridethe-spring-bride

by Anne Gracie

Anne Gracie is my favourite living romance author. Her Regency love stories are a perfect blend of romance, humour and pathos, and I never fail to finish with a lump in my throat. The Spring Bride is the third in a series following the romantic entanglements of four young women struggling to make their way in the world. The series began with The Autumn Bride, and continued with The Winter Bride – I would definitely start at the beginning. This one involves a rescued mutt, a gentleman-turned spy, a murder mystery, and a girl who fears to fall in love. Can’t wait for the next in the series!

Grab a copy of The Spring Bride here


91S2AFtIYnLSnow in Summer

by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is a wonderful American children’s author known for her interest in fairy tales and folklore. I have read and enjoyed many of her books, in particular The Devil’s Arithmetic and Briar Rose. Snow in Summer is a reworking of the Snow White fairy tale, set in the hillbilly mountains of West Virginia during the Great Depression. The story is both familiar and unfamiliar, as the best fairy tale retellings are. It is not her finest work, but a must-read for anyone interested in the imaginative use of fairy tales.

Grab a copy of Snow in Summer here


Rodin’s Loverrodin-s-lover

by Heather Webb

I remember watching the movie ‘Camille Claudel’, starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu in the late 1980s, and being stirred by the intensely romantic yet tragic story of this young sculptor as she struggled to make her way as a woman and a creative artist in the male-dominated world of the late 19th century.

Heather Webb has now brought Camille Claudel to life on the page, in this delicate and haunting novel told from her point of view. We see her as a strong-willed and determined young woman, stealing clay from a garden late at night so she can use it for her sculptures. Then we see Camille’s meeting with Auguste Rodin, the controversial sculptor, and the beginning of their tumultuous affair. The tension between Love and Art torments Camille. She breaks off their relationship as her work is dismissed as being copies of his, even as she longs for him. Her emotional and psychological breakdown is deftly and sensitively handled, and the ending brought tears to my eyes. A beautiful novel for anyone who (like me) loves books inspired by real-life artists.

Grab a copy of Rodin’s Lover here


9781845951542-1-edition.default.original-1The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter

by Lucinda Hawksley

In recent months, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction books written by the British biographer Lucinda Hawksley, and enjoyed them all. So I was drawn to read this biography of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters as much by the author as by the promise of the blurb: ‘packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets, (this is) a vivid portrait of a royal desperate to escape her inheritance.’

I was not disappointed. Lucinda Hawksley has a knack for bringing stories alive on the page, and Princess Louise is a wonderful character. Outspoken, creative, and sensual, she smoked cigarettes, rode bicycles, and refused to wear a crinoline. It is rumoured she had an illegitimate baby, smuggled out of the palace by the queen’s doctor, and one of her lovers’ may have died in her arms. It is impossible to know the truth because – nearly 70 years after her death – her archives are stoutly locked away and no-one is permitted to read them. A fascinating mystery, indeed.

Grab a copy of The Mystery of Princess Louise 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. 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

The Beast’s Garden

by Kate Forsyth

the-beast-s-gardenA retelling of The Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom. In ‘The Singing, Springing Lark,’ the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from the sun, the moon, and the four winds. Eventually she battles an evil enchantress and saves her husband, breaking the enchantment and turning him back into a man.

Kate Forsyth retells this German fairy tale as an historical novel set in Germany during the Nazi regime. A young woman marries a more…

Click here to grab a copy of The Beast’s Garden

Nine Naughty Questions with… Mary Jo Putney, author of Not Always A Saint

9781420127171The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Mary Jo Putney

author of Not Always A Saint and many more…

Nine Naughty Questions


1. Headless washboard abs, a torrid embrace, the sprawling homestead, an elegantly dressed décolletage, or the vaguely kinky object against a dark background – what’s your favourite type of romance cover and why?

I like having people on the cover, preferably a couple in a moment of tenderness and emotion.  Note: tenderness – crazed, stoat-like passion isn’t as interesting. But it can be difficult to get a cover with two really appropriate looking people–male models are often too young and they lack gravitas – so a single appealing person is also good.  My publisher, Kensington, has done some very fine covers of women in gorgeous gowns which may not be historically accurate, but – GORGEOUS!

2. What is the secret life of a romance writer? What goes on between you and your keyboard (or quill) behind closed doors?

I look at my computer, my computer looks at me.  I pause to pet whatever cat is lying in front of the keyboard. I sigh with frustration.  Real progress tends to kick in only when deadline panic looms!

Mary Jo Putney

3. At the heart of a romantic story is the way in which the main characters reveal their true natures to each other. How much of yourself do you put into your characters, and have their stories been affected by your personal experiences?

I think it’s necessary to have empathy with all characters in order to make them believable, so all of mine have some connection with my own experiences.  Sometimes the original experience is transmuted into an event so different that only I understand the connection – but that connection must be there.

4. I’m interested in how you differentiate between romance fiction, erotica and porn. Are romance readers getting naughtier?

The heart of a good romance is the developing relationship.  It’s how two people fall in love, develop trust, overcome challenges, and make a deep, lasting commitment.  There may or may not be graphic sexuality – some of the most wonderful romantic stories I’ve ever read were “sweet” books such as those by Eva Ibbotson and Georgette Heyer.  What matters is the relationship.

In erotica, graphic sexuality is essential.  The erotica that is written for the romance genre has the sexuality, but relationships are an essential part of the mix.   Porn is sex for sex’s sake, and there may be elements of “Sex is dirty and isn’t that great!”

I don’t know if I’d say that romance readers are getting naughtier, but there is a very large market for very hot books.  A well known writer friend of mine speculates that perhaps the genre might split in two, with one part focusing more on the relationships and the other on the sexuality.  I don’t know if it will happen, but it’s an interesting theory!

97814201271715. Please tell us about your latest novel! Did you have a secret alternative title while you were writing it?

Actually, no!  As soon as I started thinking about the characters and the story I thought of that title, and it was so right that I never considered anything else.  Luckily, my editor and publisher agreed with me.

Grab a copy of Not Always A Saint here

6. What’s the most memorable reaction you’ve received after a friend or family member read one of your books?

Mostly they want to know when the next book will be out.

7. Romance writers are sometimes denigrated and asked when they’ll write ‘real’ books – what do you tell the haters?

I’ve never actually been asked that question, but if I was, I’d say something like, “I love what I write and they sure look like real books to me!”  If I was feeling catty, I might ask, “How many romances have you actually read?”  Often the answer would be “none.” But my friends and family are too polite to actually ask such rude questions.

8. Romance readers love discovering new authors. Please tell us about five books you recently read and loved to bits.

1) The Spring Bride by my friend Anne Gracie.  A delicious Regency historical, and third in her Chance Sisters series.the-spring-bride
2) Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs.  She’s a terrific urban fantasy writer who creates wonderful relationships.
3) The Hanged Man by P. N. Elrod.  It’s a Victorian/steampunk/urban fantasy/mystery and the first in a new series.  Pat Elrod is a terrific writer, and the book was a real page turner, with a nice little bit of romance as well.
4) The Year We Fell Down, Book 1 of The Ivy Years by Sarina Bowen.  This is New Adult romance, intelligent and intensely emotional.  In the first book, the heroine was an athlete who had a life changing accident that put her in a wheelchair, and the hero is an athlete who smashed up his leg and is living in the room across the hall. It’s brilliantly done.
5) The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is a fantasy novel, and a finalist for the Hugo for best novel of the year, which is the top award in American science fiction.  The youngest, mixed blood, and most despised son of the elven emperor, Maia is raised far from the court in virtual exile.  Then his father and older brothers die in an airship accident and Maia is suddenly emperor.  But while he is young and under-educated, he is not stupid.  It’s a great story with great worldbuilding.

9. Please tell us your favourite scene from your latest book, and why it’s particularly delicious!

I was still working on Not Always a Saint when my publisher, Kensington, asked what I’d like for a cover.  I didn’t have much time to think about it, so I said, “The heroine is in a gorgeous red gown sweeping up a staircase and peering mischievously over her shoulder.”  Artist Jon Paul Ferrara did exactly that, and the result is spectacular!   So I wrote the wedding night scene to match the cover. Daniel and Jessie had a lot of fun that night.

Mary, thank you for playing.

9781420127171Not Always A Saint

The Lost Lords Series : Book 7

by Mary Jo Putney

After the death of his sweetheart when he was at university, Daniel Herbert buried his grief in medical studies and his passion for healing. Viewed as a saint by those who know him, in his own mind he never quite manages to live up to his own high standards.

Most men would be thrilled to learn they’ve inherited a title and estate from a distant relative, but Daniel is appalled because the burden of wealth will interfere with his medical calling. Warily he accepts that he must enter society and seek a wife-a sensible woman who can oversee his properties, leaving him free to continue his work. He does not expect to become intoxicated by a woman called the Black Widow, who is as mysterious as she is more…

Grab a copy of Not Always A Saint here

Nine Naughty Questions with… Julie Anne Long, author of The Legend of Lyon Redmond

the-legend-of-lyon-redmondThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Julie Anne Long

author of The Legend of Lyon Redmond and many more…

Nine Naughty Questions


1. Headless washboard abs, a torrid embrace, the sprawling homestead, an elegantly dressed décolletage, or the vaguely kinky object against a dark background – what’s your favourite type of romance cover and why?

Some of those covers are pretty artful and striking (a certain gray necktie against a black background springs to mind), but for my genre I love covers that capture true emotion and kind of tell a story with the visual. Which is why I completely love the cover of The Legend of Lyon Redmond. Not only is there dynamic movement (which we don’t seem to see very often on covers), it’s so…poignant. The emotion, the longing, the joy, the pain, is all there. I think it captures the story PERFECTLY and I was beside myself with happiness when I first saw it.

2. What is the secret life of a romance writer? What goes on between you and your keyboard (or quill) behind closed doors?

Blood sweat and tears! I’ve typed the “e” and “t” letters clean off the keys of my laptop, that’s how impassioned it gets behind closed doors. And by night I don a black unitard and cat ears and fight crime.

3. At the heart of a romantic story is the way in which the main characters reveal their true natures to each other. How much of yourself do you put into your Author: Julie Anne Longcharacters, and have their stories been affected by your personal experiences?

I think all my characters are me and I am all my characters. Very broadly speaking, that is. I think a writer can only only tell a story through the filter of her own view of the world and her own experiences, so my own experiences colour every character I create, and the actions and feelings of those characters. None of my characters or the events in my books have been drawn specifically from real life, but they’ve been shaped by my interpretation of real life, if that makes sense.

Empathy is pretty important, I think. You have to crawl right inside your characters and BE them, feel their feelings, see what they see, in order to make them seem real to the reader.

4. I’m interested in how you differentiate between romance fiction, erotica and porn. Are romance readers getting naughtier?

Nah, readers have always had a naughty streak. I think the genre has…diversified, shall we say? Fragmented? Specialized? E.g., I just read a Faith Baldwin romance written in the 30’s (she was kind of the Nora Roberts of her day—an incredibly prolific, charming writer who wrote into the 70’s, I believe, and a number of her books were made into movies), and it featured two love interests, one of whom was a married man, and she flew a plane because her father owned an airline. And none of this was treated as any big deal in the story —every character was well-rounded and sympathetic. This was a “penny romance,” basically what we consider a typical mass market today. Now today we’d find most of these themes in another genre, maybe—women’s fiction?

I don’t write erotica or porn, so I don’t have definitions of those genres at my fingertips and I don’t consider myself an expert, and would never speak for the writers of those genres. I would imagine it relates to the emphasis in the story—romance fiction might place the emphasis on the emotions, with sex a net result of that; with erotica, the emotions might originate from or result from the physicality; porn seems to be more focused on the physical, with an emotional arc not critical to the genre.

the-legend-of-lyon-redmond5. Please tell us about your latest novel! Did you have a secret alternative title while you were writing it?

I always knew what it was called, truthfully!

Grab a copy of The Legend of Lyon Redmond here

6. What’s the most memorable reaction you’ve received after a friend or family member read one of your books?

One guy friend read my first book (The Runaway Duke) and asked why the heroine didn’t “karate chop in the larynx” a guy who made an untoward pass at her. I had to gently explain that most Regency Romance heroines don’t necessarily default to karate. At least he was indignant on her behalf and wanted her to be able to defend herself.

7. Romance writers are sometimes denigrated and asked when they’ll write ‘real’ books – what do you tell the haters?

I’ve been fortunate that most people I’ve personally encountered are more intrigued and supportive than anything else. Usually the denigrators are people who’ve never actually read a romance, or 1be45016e9bb2a2e11e845e16cc9963eread one once, say, in 1985, and decided on the basis of that they didn’t like the genre. Would you decided you hated all of, say, Asian cuisine if you tasted a pot sticker and decided you didn’t like it? I use that analogy, frequently: there are a vast number of genres and sub-genres and voices in romance, and there are a near infinite number of ways to tell a love story—and that’s what a romance novel is. Don’t we enjoy romantic films? A romance is similar, in that (if the book is doing its job) you’re immersed in the story and rooting for the hero and heroine to reach a happy ending. What could possible be objectionable about that? Writing quality varies, but quality is subjective. Romance has something for everyone.

One thing I’ve encountered puzzles me: often writers who consider themselves journalists—and are frequently very good ones—feel free to make generalisations or use romance-oriented metaphors (usually involving the words “bodice ripper” or “Fabio”) that are incredibly, jarringly dated and incorrect. I wonder: why would someone who would normally be careful with facts be careless about this kind of thing? Five or ten minutes of googling would probably provide a good quick education about today’s romances.

I think the media helps perpetuate generalisations about the genre, but I’ve found that once you get a chance to patiently explain it, readers are usually intrigued and open.

the-husband-s-secret8. Romance readers love discovering new authors. Please tell us about five books you recently read and loved to bits.

I’ve glommed Liane Moriarty (The Husband’s Secret and all her others—fantastic vibrant voice, a great balance of warmth, wit and depth, great characterisations, the perfect blend of lightness and darkness) and Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher mysteries—fabulous history, very unique heroine who unapologetically takes lovers willy nilly) recently. That’s a lot of books right there :)

9. Please tell us your favourite scene from your latest book, and why it’s particularly delicious!

Oh my goodness….I had such a wonderful time writing It Started with a Scandal that I woke up a little sad the day after I turned it in, because I was sorry I wasn’t going to be spending the day with Lavay and Elise. I had moved in with them for so long, so to speak.

I loved writing every scene, but one of my favourites is between Lavay and Elise after his assembly, where he finally learns the entirety of her secret. A little drunk, full of warring emotions, he rings for her, and manages, with a sort of controlled, tender, ferocity, reveal to her what he knows about her past…and to create a safe place (or as safe as any place that includes a dangerously appealing man can be) for her to tell him more about it…and he also grills her. And this is where they sort of…negotiate…what they’re going to do about their feelings, not to mention their overwhelming desire, for each other. There are a lot of layers of things going on in this scene and it was a bit of a crescendo.

Julie, thank you for playing.

The Legend of Lyon Redmond

the-legend-of-lyon-redmondThe Pennyroyal Green Series : Book 11

by Julie Anne Long

Bound by centuries of bad blood, England’s two most powerful families maintain a veneer of civility . . . until the heir to the staggering Redmond fortune disappears, reviving rumors of an ancient curse: a Redmond and an Eversea are destined to fall disastrously in love once per generation.

An Enduring Legend

Rumor has it she broke Lyon Redmond’s heart. But while many a man has since wooed the dazzling Olivia Eversea, none has ever won her—which is why jaws drop when she suddenly accepts a viscount’s proposal. Now London waits with bated breath for the wedding of a decade . . . and wagers on the more…

Grab a copy of The Legend of Lyon Redmond here

It’s Kids Month at Booktopia and we have lots of goodies!


It’s Kids Month at Booktopia and we have awesome competitions for you to enter and signed promotions for you to enjoy!


old-schoolOld School

Diary of a Wimpy Kid : Book 10

by Jeff Kinney

Buy anything in the Kids Month range and you could win a kids book pack, worth $1000 RRP! Terms and Conditions apply.

The Diary of the Wimpy Kid series of books, by best-selling author Jeff Kinney, charts the highs
and lows of our middle school hero, Greg, as he stumbles and fumbles from childhood to teenhood via school-hood. Sometimes helped by his friends and family, often not helped by himself!

Life was better in the old days. Or was it? That’s the question Greg Heffley is more…

blinky-bill-CGI_banner (3)

blinky-bill-the-movie-a-guide-to-the-extraordinary-Order any title in the Blinky Bill range by September 17th and go in the draw to win a Double Pass to see Blinky Bill: The Movie. Movie is out in cinemas September 17th! Terms and Conditions apply.

Blinky Bill: the Movie is an epic adventure set in the Australian Outback. Blinky’s home town is under threat from a tyrannical goanna (Mayor Cranklepot) and Blinky must find his missing dad to restore peace and harmony to Greenpatch.

Blinky enters the world outside Greenpatch and sets off on a rollicking, hilarious journey complete with an eccentric wombat, a vengeful cat, two gossiping Emu’s and Blinky’s soon to be more…



chase-your-goalChase Your Goal

The Netball Gems Series : Book 2

by Bernadette Hellard, Lisa Gibbs

Order any book from The Netball Gems series by August 31st and you could win a netball signed by the Diamonds! Terms and Conditions apply.

A junior fiction series written in partnership with Netball Australia

Can shy Phoebe find her place in the Gems?

Phoebe loves to shoot goals, and she’s great at it too. She dreams of being a famous netballer and playing in front of thousands. The problem is that she’s nervous all the time, even around her teammates – and there are only seven of them! Why can’t she make friends as easily as Lily and Sienna? Things don’t get any easier when her overenthusiastic dad starts coaching from the sidelines. Could anything more…


How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury – Order Now For Your Chance to Win!*how-to-fight-a-dragon-s-fury-order-now-for-your-chance-to-win-

How to Train Your Dragon Series : Book 12

by Cressida Cowell

Order How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury by September 7th and you could win every book in the How to Train Your Dragon series! We have 5 packs to give away! Terms and Conditions apply.

Dragons vs Humans: is this the end? Find out in the twelfth book in the How to Train Your Dragon series.

It is the Doomsday of Yule. At the end of this day, either the humans or the dragons will face extinction. Alvin the Treacherous is about to be crowned the King of the Wilderwest on the island of Tomorrow. His reign of terror will begin with the destruction of dragons everywhere. The fate of the dragon world lies in the hands of one young boy as he stands on the nearby isle of Hero’s End with nothing to show, but everything to more…


xthe-65-storey-treehouse-signed-copies-available-.jpg.pagespeed.ic.SH2sT6Of7jThe 65-Storey Treehouse

The Treehouse Series : Book 5

by Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton (Illustrator)

For a limited time only, order The 65-Storey Treehouse and you will receive a signed copy. Please note: offer available while stocks last.

Andy and Terry’s amazing 65-Storey Treehouse now has a pet-grooming salon, a birthday room where it’s always your birthday (even when it’s not), a room full of exploding eyeballs, a lollipop shop, a quicksand pit, an ant farm, a time machine and Tree-NN: a 24-hour-a-day TV news centre keeping you up to date with all the latest treehouse news, current events and gossip. Well, what more…


The Sword of Summer – Pre-order Your Signed Copy!*the-sword-of-summer-pre-order-your-signed-copy-

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Series : Book 1

by Rick Riordan

For a limited time only, pre-order The Sword of Summer and you will receive a signed copy. Please note: offer available while stocks last.

The first book in the incredible new series from the author of Percy Jackson, the Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus.

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he’s never met – a man his mother claimed was dangerous. His uncle tells him more…




Russian Roulette

Alex Rider Series : Book 10

by Anthony Horowitz

Order from the Alex Rider series during Kids Month and you could win 1 of 5 backlist packs signed by author Anthony Horowitz! Terms and Conditions apply.

The deadly prequel to the number one bestselling Alex Rider series.

An international contract killer has been given his orders. His next target is a fourteen-year old spy… Alex Rider. The man’s name is Yassen Gregorovich. He knows Alex well. The two of them share a secret from the past. As he considers his next mission, Yassen remembers the forces that turned him from an ordinary schoolboy into a hired assassin. What is it that makes more…


Just Doomed!

JUST! Series: Book 8

by Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton (Illustrator)

Order from The Just! series during Kids Month and you could win 1 of 3 Just! boxsets. Terms and Conditions apply.just-doomed-order-now-for-your-chance-to-win-

It’s been five long years since Just Shocking! was published.

Just Doomed!, the next fabulous JUST title from the creative genius of Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, is destined to be one of the greatest JUST titles yet. With nine superb stories of mischief and crazy happenings, readers will be hooked instantly.

But is this the right book for you?

Take the DOOMED TEST and find out.

Click here to see all of Booktopia’s competitions and exclusive offers

GUEST BLOG: Robin Bowles, author of Smoke & Mirrors, on the murder of Stuart Rattle.

smoke-and-mirrorsIn December 2013 the whole of Melbourne was buzzing with the details of a most bizarre murder.  The people most intrigued, far from being the criminal element where murder is often discussed, were the bold and beautiful of the socialite set. Someone many of them knew, others who’d relied on the victim, renowned interior designer Stuart Rattle, to transform their houses into enviable homes, could not believe the gruesome story as it unfolded across the Melbourne media.

The details were scanty at first, some journalists believing there had been a ‘typo’ in police media releases. At first, everyone assumed that Stuart had died in bed in a fire in his apartment, whilst his partner of 16 years, Michael O’Neill and their three pet foxies had made a lucky escape.

But the autopsy didn’t support this scenario. Within days of the fire, police arrested Michael for murder. The charge sheet showed a five-day disparity between a date of probable death and the fire. Police confirmed it was not a ‘typo’, but refused to release more details.

Sorrow and support for Michael changed to anger and more grief, friends realising that they had lost two close friends inRobin Bowels one week instead of one. Clients and customers were incredulous, uncomprehending about how such an outwardly ideal couple could disintegrate into such a sad and sordid ending.

Gradually the bizarre details emerged. Stuart had been dead for 5 days before the fire. After bludgeoning him on the head with a heavy saucepan and then strangling him with a handy dog lead, Michael had wrapped Stuart’s body in a clear plastic sofa bag and brought him a cup of tea. He sat with him, brought him wine and take-away curry, ‘watched’ TV beside him, all the while carrying on a semblance of their normal lives at work downstairs, pretending to all that Stuart was sick in bed.

Eventually the summer heat and the normal biological process forced him to make a decision. He says he set the fire so that Stuart would not be found in the undignified state of advanced decomposition.

Michael pleaded guilty at his trial and is now serving an 18-year sentence for murder and arson.

People often ask me how I make the decision to write about a particular murder, after all many murder trials take place in all the courts around Australia every week. I like to look at a story with ‘layers’ and if possible some psychological or social significance, rather than the story of A kills B, A arrested, tried and sent to prison—The End. The story behind my latest, 11th  book, Smoke and Mirrors had all the elements of things not appearing as they seem. Even Stuart Rattle, the self-confessed smoke and mirrors design expert, was an enigma. Lots published about his public self, but little known about the ‘real’ Stuart Rattle. Michael O’Neill, for reasons that become apparent in the book, also created a web of fiction about himself, too insecure to tell the truth. Here were these two men, both of whom had spaces in their personalities that the other filled, living a life behind the smoke and mirrors of their counterfeit public personas, struggling emotionally, physically and financially in their every-day unseen lifestyle. It was a perfect storm.

This book was not an easy one to write. With every book I have to struggle with ethics—what to include and what to leave out; trying not to extend the pain of the living victims created by a tragedy such as murder; frustration from the police and in this case, the prison system; reluctance of people to share their hurt or inner feelings; and at times being almost overwhelmed myself by the sadness and waste of it all.

Smoke and Mirrors was not the easiest book I’ve written, but I am already being rewarded by the feedback that it’s a riveting read!

Grab a copy of Smoke and Mirrors here

smoke-and-mirrorsSmoke and Mirrors

by Robin Bowles

Stuart Rattle and Michael O’Neill were the perfect couple. Country boys from working-class backgrounds, they became bon vivants and lovers, the envy of all their friends – until tragedy struck.

Stuart Rattle was at the peak of his design career, feted and entertained by hosts whose invitations were gold. His ‘Rattle’ interiors were his ticket into this exclusive lifestyle.

Michael O’Neill, his loyal and loving partner, employee, dogsbody and whipping boy, was always three steps behind, never in the limelight. In the words of Paul Bangay, the international garden designer and Stuart’s former partner, ‘Michael really had to fit into Stuart’s way of life … Stuart had a more…

Grab a copy of Smoke and Mirrors here

GUEST BLOG: Bestselling author Barbara Hannay on the Writing Process

When I was first published, a wise and experienced author told me, ‘You’re only as good as your last book.’ It was a warning I took to heart and it has led me, inevitably, to taking on new challenges.

Pic-BarbHannay-rurowebAfter writing more than forty contemporary romances, my two most recent books, Moonlight Plains and The Secret Years, are intergenerational stories that combine a contemporary story with a historical thread set during World War 2. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the historical research, as well as trying to capture the speech patterns and atmosphere of another era.

It isn’t just the historical element of dual time lines that excites me, however. These more complex books provide extra opportunities for character development and for deeper themes. I’ve been able, for example, to explore the long-lasting impact of a decision made by a character in the past on his descendants. These “double” plots have also provided extra opportunities for secrets and surprises – devices that make commercial fiction hum.

Probably the biggest challenge of a dual time line is getting the right balance. It’s important to make sure that one story isn’t much more interesting than the other. Both stories need to be compelling. It’s important to create two sets of characters that the reader cares about. Both heroes (or heroines) need to follow an important emotional journey.

Interesting events need to take place in both time lines to move both plots forward. The central character in each story will have separate problems to overcome. Each story will have its own rising action, climax and resolution and there will probably be a significant point where the stories intersect, usually towards the end.

I’ve never been one for strict writing rules, though, and I know each writer will approach this challenge differently. Some authors like to write the two stories separately, so they have complete control over each plot. Then they work out how, where and when to interweave them.

the-secret-yearsThis is fine, but I prefer to do the weaving as I write. I enjoy the organic flow. Whichever way you approach this task, working out how long to stay in one time zone before switching to the other can be tricky. I’ve judged this intuitively, rather than by any hard and fast rule, but I know from my experience as a reader that I’m annoyed if the ‘back-and-forth’ happens too quickly. It’s a bit like watching TV with a channel surfer. You’re just getting interested in a show, when you’re suddenly whisked to a completely different story.

For this reason, I think it’s possibly better to give approximately equal weight to each story and to allow a chapter or two in each time period before making a change. You need enough time to develop important action and intrigue in one story and to allow the reader to become immersed in the characters and the setting, before whisking her back to another time zone.

To help the transition, I think it’s also worth dropping a hint, to subtly warn readers that a time switch is coming. This is possibly easier in intergenerational stories, as the contemporary characters usually know the historical characters (often grandparents) and some kind of linking reference can be made. A question, a supposition…

Objects like photographs, diaries and memorabilia also make useful symbolic links. Studying the way movies make similar shifts can also be useful. How many times have we watched a door close on one scene in a movie only to open on a completely different set of characters? One character goes to sleep. Another wakes up…

Despite the risks of dual time lines, I think it’s a challenge worth trying. As your story reveals extra, unexpected layers, you’re in for an exciting ride and your readers will be, too.

Grab a copy of Barbara’s new novel The Secret Years here

the-secret-yearsThe Secret Years

by Barbara Hannay

Some family secrets are best set free.

When Lucy Hunter stumbles upon her grandfather Harry’s World War II memorabilia, she finds a faded photograph of a stunning young woman known simply as ‘George’ and a series of heartfelt letters. They are clues about the secret years, a period of Lucy’s family history that has been kept a mystery . . . until now.

How did a cattleman from north Queensland find forbidden love with the Honourable Georgina Lenton of London and persuade her to move to his isolated outback property? And why are the effects of this encounter still reverberating in the lives of Lucy and her mother, Rose, now?

As the passions of the past trickle down the years, three generations of one family pull together. Each must learn in their own way how true love can conquer the greatest challenges of all.

From the wild beauty of the Australian bush to England’s rugged south coast, this is a deeply moving story of heartbreak, heroism and homecoming by a beloved, multi-award-winning author.

Grab a copy of Barbara’s new novel The Secret Years here

GUEST BLOG: Danny Katz on getting kids to read!

The brilliant Danny Katz writes about the difficulties of getting kids to read in this exclusive Kids Month piece

art-353-DK-300x0You can’t force a non-reading kid to read. You can’t occy-strap a book to their face and hold their eyelids open with alligator clips – they don’t like it, they say it hurts, kids today are so soft. If a non-reading kid ever attempts to read a book, they see it as work, not pleasure – give a preppie a copy of Miffy At The Seaside and they’ll give up after two pages, go online and illegally download the TV show on Pirate Bay (*SPOILER ALERT* Miffy said she wasn’t tired after her big day at the seaside, but she lied, because soon her eyes were shut tight! A shocking climactic twist that no one saw coming.)

At the age of seven years old, our daughter was a hardline, fully-committed non-reader. We tried everything to get her reading: we filled her bedroom with tons of books, all piled up in great teetering stacks, hoping that something there might interest her, or a huge stack might accidentally collapse on her face and she might read something unintentionally. But sadly, neither of those things happened.

We read to her every night to get her into a book-reading habit, but that didn’t work either: my reading voice is drab and monotonous and I can’t do accents. I was reading the first Harry Potter book, and she just looked confused; she’d seen the movie twice, she knew Harry was supposed to be English, so why did he sound like a Mexican who’d spent a bit of time in Tel Aviv?

little-lunch-the-off-limits-fenceOne day I sat down with her and said “Why don’t you like books?” and she said “Because they’re all boring” – she said she didn’t like girly books, she didn’t like boysy books, she didn’t like fantasy books, she didn’t like books about post-apocalyptic vampires named Whitney who win the netball grand final, which is shame because we’d bought the whole set.

I said “So what kind of book do you want to read then?” and she said “A funny book about a kid like me, who has friends like I do, who goes go to a school like mine”. I said “Ahhh, so you want a book about yourself” and she said “Yeah. Buy that”. Unfortunately there was nothing in the bookstores about my daughter and her friends and her school, not even in the independents, which was surprising, they’re usually quite well stocked. Alright then, I thought, I’m going to have to write this book myself. So I did. It was called Little Lunch. My wife Mitch Vane drew the pictures. It got published, my daughter read it, she liked it, she asked for another. We wrote another, it became a whole series, and now it’s a TV show.

My daughter is about to turn 22. She’s a smart, unique and fascinating person who reads voraciously. We just wrote another Little Lunch book for her: it’s called The Off-Limits Fence.

We hope she likes it.

Check out Danny’s Little Lunch series here


Danny Katz is a columnist for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. He writes the Modern Guru column in the Good Weekend magazine. He is also the author of the books Spit the Dummy, Dork Geek Jew and the Little Lunch series for kids.




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