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

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

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

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

Here’s what I’ve read this month:

The Sequin Star

by Belinda Murrell

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

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

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

Grab a copy of The Sequin Star here

Gift from the Sea

by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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

Grab a copy of Gift from the Sea here

The Unlikely Spy

by Daniel Silva

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

 Grab a copy of The Unlikely Spy here


by Helen Dunmore

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

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

Grab a copy of Ingo here

The Winter Bride

by Anne Gracie

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

Grab a copy of The Winter Bride here

The Chalet School in Exile

by Elinor Brent-Dyer

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

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

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


Between Dignity & Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany

by Marion A Kaplan

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

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

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

by Wendy Lower

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

Grab a copy of Hitler’s Furies here

Hitler’s Spy Chief: the Wilhelm Canaris Mystery

by Richard Bassett

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

Grab a copy of Hitler’s Spy Chief here

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

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

Click here to see Kate’s author page

Three Authors Offer Advice for Writers: Tara Moss, Michael Robotham, Paul Merrill

I interview writers every week here on the Booktopia Blog.

My Ten Terrifying Questions have been answered by over 250 published authors ranging from mega selling global stars like Jackie Collins and Lee Child to brilliant, relatively unknown debut authors such as Miles Franklin shortlisted Favel Parret and Rebecca James.

In each of these interviews I ask the following question:

Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Now, for the edification of aspiring writers everywhere, I will pull together answers to this question from three very different writers and post them here once week. Some will inspire, some will confound but all will be interesting and helpful in their own way…


“Write. Start writing today. Start writing right now. Don’t write it right, just write it – and then make it right later. Give yourself the mental freedom to enjoy the process, because the process of writing is a long one. Be wary of ‘writing rules’ and advice. Do it your way.

Writing is a gift.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to pre-order your signed copy of Assassin (with a FREE copy of SIREN) from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

*While stocks last


“Write, write and when you’re sick of writing, write some more. It’s the only way to get better.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Say You’re Sorry from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


“Give up now – there are enough books already. But if you absolutely have to write, go for mummy porn.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy A Polar Bear Ate My Head from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

For more advice from published writers go here

The 20 Best Fantasy Titles To Help You Escape The Christmas Mayhem – Part Two (A Personal Selection By Guest Blogger Mark Timmony)

Follow on from part one…

Still Life with Shape-Shifter

by Sharon Shinn

With her beautifully wrought prose, Shinn has crafted worlds of grace and beauty in both genres of science fiction and fantasy. Now she turns her talents to our world and presents a treasure of urban fantasy chronicling the relationship between two sisters and the need to keep a life changing secret that is not your own when revealing it may save the life of the person it belongs to.

Click here for more details or to buy

Emperor’s Soul

by Brandon Sanderson

Mega-seller Brandson Sanderson has managed to find some time whilst finishing off Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time to bring us this novella set in the same world as his very first published work Elantris. Crafted with his characteristic flare for inventive magic systems and strong characterisation this standalone novella is the perfect place for anyone new to his work to wade in – or even for those of us desperate for the next book in the Stormlight Archives to find a quick fix while we (im)patiently wait.

Click here for more details or to buy

Crown of Vengeance

by Mercedes Lackey, James Mallory

One of the fantasy genre’s most beloved authors, Mercedes Lackey teamed up with James Mallory in 2003 to create the bestselling fantasy trilogies Obsidian and Enduring Flame. Now they return to that world to tell the tale of one of its greatest heroes. Moving Lackey into a world that is markedly more ‘high fantasy’ than her Valdemar novels, these trilogies have cultivated a legion of fans and offer the best traditions of epic fantasy while remaining inventive and filled with passion and lush prose. Perfect for those readers who are fans of David Eddings and Terry Brooks, the team of Lackey and Mallory dig deep to bring adventure and life to a setting that leaps off the pages and stays with you long after you’ve finished the books.

Click here for more details or to buy

Knife Sworn

by Mazarkis Williams

Abandoning the ‘medieval European’ setting for his series Williams takes the reader to the more exotic climes of deserts and silks, where battles of fire and water and political alliances shift like the dunes that surround glittering cities. With economic yet vivid prose, Williams moves forward with a confidence that astounds for a newcomer and amply demonstrates to many more established authors how to write a fantasy like a master. Beautifully atmospheric in feel Williams shy’s away from full-throttle action relying instead on political intrigue and the slow reveal to pull the reader in and keep the pages turning. Knife Sworn picks up where The Emperor’s Knife left off and we are thrust once more into the deadly world of Prince Sarmin, his wife and ally Mesema, and his struggle to hold the throne that is rightfully his.

Click here for more details or to buy

The Dead of Winter

by Lee Collins

Gunslingers and demons, this is not one of the Western’s you’ve heard tell of, nor indeed read or even watch (on DVD if not the Silver screen).  The Dead of Winter twists the grit and tough-as-saddle-leather frontier and brings it to a bloody and dark fantasy in a page-turning ride of thrills and heart-stopping action that will scorch new meaning into the ‘wild’ west forever. Lee Collins has written a vivid, gripping tale of human survival and the battle against the monsters at the door that can only be won when those of the past have been defeated.

Click here for more details or to buy

Days of Blood and Starlight

by Laini Taylor

A wonderful fairy-tale-like story that sweeps you off your feet with lyrical prose and graceful imagery, this is Taylor’s follow up to the brilliant Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Following star-crossed lovers, the blue haired Karou and her soul mate Akiva, this is a tale of love, hope and honor and betrayal, passion and grief, and is so far beyond the norm for urban fantasy as to deserve a category all its own. If you are tired of sparkly vampires and things that go bump in the night then step in to Taylors world and get caught up in a vibrant novel that reads like the love child of Neil Gaiman and Guillermo del Toro.  Days of Blood and Starlight, along with its predecessor, is simply stunning.

Click here for more details or to buy


by Kevin Hearne

Urban fantasy mixed with ancient mythology and a liberal does of modern attitude, Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series has been flying off the shelves since day one, and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.  A strong storyteller with a snappy wit, Hearne’s work has been compared to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Butcher’s Dresden Files – but he tends to reach a little further than both and has found an audience with readers who have never picked up either. Page-turning and humorous, Hearne – a self-professed comic-book nerd – has turned his love of ‘larger-than-life’ heroes facing evil villains into an awesome, fresh and adventure filled urban fantasy series.

Click here for more details or to buy

Steel’s Edge

by Ilona Andrews

A gem that takes a step outside the box and blends our world of electricity and modern conveniences with a fantasy world of pure magic and sets a series of tales in the space that borders both, the Edge. Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife writing team who specialize in brilliant world building and compelling characterisation thrust right into heart thumping action with a strong underpinning of believable romance. The Edge novels are stand-alone stories with interconnected characters and a really good place to give one of the big names in Paranormal Romance a try.

Click here for more details or to buy

Red Country

by Joe Abercrombie

Arguably one of the most popular writers of ‘noir’ fantasy Abercrombie has cut a bloody swathe through the ranks of genre mainstays to be the herald of a new and different style of fantasy fiction. Red Country is the eagerly awaited new stand-alone in his First Law universe. Bursting with Abercrombie’s savoir-faire this new novel is a no-holds barred frontier epic meshing the feel of a western with sword and sorcery (although admittedly he is every light on the sorcery part).  Pushing his characters to the limits Abercrombie doesn’t shy away from the more base of the human characteristics yet brilliantly builds his world and fleshes out his characters to keep you riveted to the page and coming back for more. If you haven’t read any of Abercrombie’s work in the past and are looking for something a bit different to your normal fantasy fair, Red Country is a great place to start.

Click here for more details or to buy

Angel’s Ink

by Jocelynn Drake

Never judge a book by its cover. Please. Judging this cover you would imagine that Angels Ink does indeed belong in Paranormal Romance rather than the Urban Fantasy field, but such things are sent to try and test us.  Having read some of her work that is indeed Para-rom in nature I to thought this would be the same. It is far from it. Picking up the e-novella prequel to this book (more a ‘taste-test’ than a ‘need-to-read’) I was blown away by the direction Drake has taken. More Jim Butcher than Sherrilyn Kenyon, Drake has created a whole new world to lay over our own and offer an alternate reality rather than an urban fantasy. Brothers Grimm eat your heart out, your stories ain’t got nothing on the Asylum Tales.

Click here for more details or to buy

The 20 Best Fantasy Titles To Help You Escape The Christmas Mayhem – Part One

Check Mark out on twitter on @MarkTimmony

Swannies Guernsey and Cap Signed by Micky O Up For Grabs!

Swans jersey and cap signed by Micky O up for grabsIn time for AFL Grand Final Day, Booktopia has a Swans guernsey and cap both signed by Micky O to give away.

Just order Micky O: Determination. Hard Work. And a Little Bit of Magic from Booktopia before midnight Tuesday 2nd October 2012 to go into the draw.

How does that sound?

Oh, and may the best team win…

(Go Swannies!)

Click here to order Micky O from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Click here for details or to orderMicky O: Determination. Hard Work. And a Little Bit of Magic

When Michael O’Loughlin was drafted by the Sydney Swans at just 17 years of age, he was the no. 40 selection and the last player picked. Back then he could not have imagined the extraordinary future that awaited him: the numerous awards and accolades, the respect and admiration of fellow players, a huge number of personal supporters, and a record-breaking 303 games in the red and white.

This is the inspiring story of Michael’s life from the childhood lessons of hard work and self-belief imparted to him by his mother, Muriel, to the discovery of the stunning sporting ability which would take him into the elite legions of AFL.

By 2009, Michael had broken the Swans’ games record. He had kicked more goals for the club than anyone except the legendary Bob Pratt. Swans jersey and cap signed by Micky O up for grabsHe played more finals for the Swans than any other, and became one of just three Indigenous players in the history of the sport to reach 300 games.

Micky O is the extraordinary story of a kid who combined his talent with sheer determination to become one of the greatest AFL players of all time.

Click here to order Micky O from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Jennifer Byrne will interview J.K. Rowling!

Mark your diaries! Jennifer Byrne is the only Australian journalist to be granted access to J.K. Rowling to talk about the most hotly anticipated book of the year — her first book for adult readers, The Casual Vacancy. Rowling is only giving a handful of interviews worldwide. Don’t miss this fascinating discussion with one of the world’s most loved authors. J. K. Rowling: Life After Potter will air on ABC1 on Thursday, 27 September at 8pm – just three hours after The Casual Vacancy goes on sale in Australia and around the world.

The Casual Vacancy

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

Click here to order The Casual Vacancy from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

John Purcell: This is the book which is making the bookworld nervous. The publisher is printing truckloads of the thing. Booksellers are playing along. No one knows if the readers will come out to play. JK’s first book for adults… Will it be any good? Because of a strict embargo no one will know until the day of publication when bloggers worldwide will race each other to be first to post a review.

Personally, I think it will be good. I think people will be delighted. And as soon as readers hear that it is good, they will flood into stores. This may not be a pre-order dream but it will be the biggest non-bondage book of the year.

So be one of the cool kids. Get it before everyone else. Your faith will be rewarded.

Did You Watch ‘Call the Midwife’ Last Night?

It’s time to head back to East End London in the 1950s with CALL THE MIDWIFE, the warm and endearing story of Jennifer Worth as she experiences the highs and lows of midwife life back in simpler (or was it really more complicated?) times.

The ratings for this TV series, of which there are 6 hour long episodes, drew more viewers in the UK than the corseted juggernaut of DOWNTON ABBEY – so did you watch it?

Over 1,000,000 copies of this TV tie-in have been sold in the UK to date!

Maybe it’s time you got yourself a copy… huh? Huh?

Call the Midwife

A fascinating slice of social history – Jennifer Worth’s tales of being a midwife in 1950s London

Jennifer Worth came from a sheltered background when she became a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying, not only because of their grimly impoverished surroundings, but also because of what they were expected to endure. But while Jennifer witnessed brutality and tragedy, she also met with amazing kindness and understanding, tempered by a great deal of Cockney humour. She also earned the confidences of some whose lives were truly stranger, more poignant and more terrifying than could ever be recounted in fiction.

Attached to an order of nuns who had been working in the slums since the 1870s, Jennifer tells the story not only of the women she treated, but also of the community of nuns (including one who was accused of stealing jewels from Hatton Garden) and the camaraderie of the midwives with whom she trained. Funny, disturbing and incredibly moving, Jennifer’s stories bring to life the colourful world of the East End in the 1950s.

About the Author

Jennifer Worth trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and was later ward sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in London, then the Marie Curie Hospital, also in London. Music had always been her passion, and in 1973 she left nursing in order to study music intensively, teaching piano and singing for about twenty-five years. Jennifer died in May 2011 after a short illness, leaving her husband Philip, two daughters and three grandchildren. Her books have all been bestsellers.

Click here to order Call the Midwife from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Shadows of the Workhouse

In this follow up to CALL THE MIDWIFE, Jennifer Worth, a midwife working in the docklands area of East London in the 1950s tells more stories about the people she encountered. There’s Jane, who cleaned and generally helped out at Nonnatus House – she was taken to the workhouse as a baby and was allegedly the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat. Peggy and Frank’s parents both died within 6 months of each other and the children were left destitute.

At the time, there was no other option for them but the workhouse. The Reverend Thornton-Appleby-Thorton, a missionary in Africa, visits the Nonnatus nuns and Sister Julienne acts as matchmaker. And Sister Monica Joan, the eccentric ninety-year-old nun, is accused of shoplifting some small items from the local market. She is let off with a warning, but then Jennifer finds stolen jewels from Hatton Garden in the nun’s room. These stories give a fascinating insight into the resilience and spirit that enabled ordinary people to overcome their difficulties.

Click here to order Shadows of the Workhouse from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Farewell to the East End

This final book in Jennifer Worth’s memories of her time as a midwife in London’s East end brings her story full circle. As always there are heartbreaking stories such as the family devastated by tuberculosis and a ship’s woman who ‘serviced’ the entire crew, as well as plenty of humour and warmth, such as the tale of two women who shared the same husband! Other stories cover backstreet abortions, the changing life of the docklands, infanticide, as well as the lives of the inhabitants of Nonnatus House.

We discover what happens with the gauche debutant Chummy and her equally gauche policeman; will Sister Monica Joan continue her life of crime? Will Sister Evangelina ever crack a smile? And what of Jennifer herself? The book not only details the final years of the tenements but also of Jennifer’s journey as she moves on from the close community of nuns, and her life takes a new path.

Click here to order Farewell to the East End from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

In the Midst of Life

Jennifer Worth’s bestselling memoirs of her time as a midwife have inspired and moved readers of all ages.

Now, in IN THE MIDST OF LIFE she documents her experiences as a nurse and ward sister, treating patients who were nearing the end of their lives. Interspersed with these stories from Jennifer’s post-midwife career are the histories of her patients, from the family divided by a decision nobody could bear to make, to the mother who comes to her son’s adopted country and joins his family without being able to speak a word of English.

IN THE MIDST OF LIFE also gives moving insights not just into Jennifer’s life and career, but also of a period of time which seems very different to today’s, fast-paced world.

Click here to order In the Midst of Life from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Shortlist announced – 2012 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards

Premier and Minister for the Arts Ted Baillieu today announced the 21 works that are in the running for the most valuable literary prize in Australia – The Victorian Prize for Literature.

“Now in their 27th year, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards proudly recognise and promote the exceptional work of Australian authors, playwrights and poets. They are a celebration of writing and of reading, both of which play a vital role in the life of this State,” Mr Baillieu said.

The winner of each of the award categories receives $25,000 and goes into the running to win the Victorian Prize for Literature, which carries an additional $100,000 in prize money, making it the richest in the country.

“This year’s shortlist features works by authors at all stages of their careers, covering subjects as diverse as Australian pioneering history and Indian philosophy, political intrigue, youth homelessness, immigration, cookery and the world of country show-jumping.”

Mr Baillieu said readers everywhere now have the chance to have their say, by voting for their favourite work to win the 2012 People’s Choice Award.

The winners will be announced at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards ceremony on Tuesday 16 October 2012.

For further information on the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and to vote for the People’s Choice Award, please visit www.wheelercentre.com.


 Award for Fiction:

· All That I Am by Anna Funder (Penguin Books) – USA

Ruth Becker, defiant and cantankerous, is living out her days in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. She has made an uneasy peace with the ghosts of her past – and a part of history that has been all but forgotten.

Another lifetime away, it’s 1939 and the world is going to war. Ernst Toller, self-doubting revolutionary and poet, sits in a New York hotel room settling up the account of his life.

When Toller’s story arrives on Ruth’s Continue reading


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,966 other followers

%d bloggers like this: