Extract from After the Blast: An Australian Officer in Iraq and Afghanistan

after-the-blastSince the first IED strikes on US soldiers in mid-2003, the insur­gents had been learning from their successes and failures, targeting both Coalition troops and Iraqi security forces. We said, even back then, that there were only clever IED makers left, as the stupid ones had blown themselves up long ago.

The IEDs were getting more and more sophisticated. Radio-controlled switches, using remote-control garage-door technology or remote-control toy parts, were common. These were used to complete the circuit that would send a current from the battery pack to the detonator, which exploded, igniting the main charge – an explosive reaction that could blast air and fragments at up to 8000 metres per second and instantaneously create overpressure in the confined space of an armoured vehicle, which could break down the cellular structure of tissue in the human lungs and brain. After IED strikes, armoured crewmen were regularly found dead without a scratch on them, their brains and lungs a mash.

The succession of wars fought in Iraq had left a supply of muni­tions, referred to as ‘explosive remnants of war’, that could be easily adapted for use as main charges. Artillery rounds, mortar bombs, grenades and rockets were the most common. There were stories of the Americans and Iraqis alike abandoning huge stockpiles of munitions. So the insurgents had an ample supply of explosives.

And when we found ways to jam the radio-controlled switches, they would just change back to a ‘command wire’ switch. In this case, the bomb was detonated in a concealed location by a triggerman who would physically press a button, or, even more crudely, join two bare wires, thus completing a circuit. The current would run from a battery pack down the wire to the explosives.

While this had its limitations, with the triggerman having to be within 100 metres of the bomb, it was still a very effective way of targeting conveys.

Garth Callender publicity

Garth Callender

There was talk of the insurgents using Russian anti-armour charges, which would explosively fire ball bearings that could penetrate the hull of a vehicle, particularly the light armour of our ASLAVs. The insurgents were constantly looking for new ways to defeat whatever we tried to do to protect ourselves.

Then there were the suicide bombers. What can you do to protect yourself against someone who has decided to die in order to take you with him? We would get daily threat reports from the intelligence blokes: ‘Look out for a yellow taxi with mixed panels, sagging on its suspension, driven by a male between twenty and forty years of age, cleanly shaven and sweating.’ Which came close to describing a third of the cars on the road. There were heaps of yellow taxis with shitty panel-beating jobs. They all sagged on their suspensions, whether they had bombs in the back or not. As for twenty-to forty-year-olds, cleanly shaven and sweating: most men in Baghdad didn’t wear beards and it was fucking hot – so they sweated – probably about as much as if they were about to blow themselves to Allah.

There was always talk of snipers, and a lot of the boys thought they had been fired on at one time or another, particularly on Route Irish. On one occasion, a patrol commander came back swearing that he had been shot at and showed us the indent in the smoke-grenade discharger on the side of his turret. Something didn’t smell quite right, and this commander had been known to fire off his pistol as he drove down Route Irish. We looked at the angle of the indent. It was all wrong for sniper fire; it was the perfect size of a 9-mm round – the same as our Browning pistols. He must have shot his own smoke-grenade discharger with his pistol. He was about to rotate back to Australia, so we let it slide. But it left a bad taste in our mouths to think that our blokes could be driving around firing off rounds with such careless neglect that they could strike their own vehicle – what else were they inadvertently hitting?

Extract from After the Blast: An Australian Officer in Iraq and Afghanistan by Garth Callender

after-the-blastAfter the Blast

by Garth Calllender

A very Australian story of heroism and healing.

In 2004 Garth Callender, a junior cavalry officer, was deployed to Iraq. He quickly found his feet leading convoys of armoured vehicles through the streets of Baghdad and into the desert beyond. But one morning his crew was targeted in a roadside bomb attack. Garth became Australia’s first serious casualty in the war.

After recovering from his injuries, Garth returned to Iraq in 2006 as second-in-command of the Australian Army’s security detachment in Baghdad. He found a city in the grip of a rising insurgency. His unit had to contend with missile attacks, suicide bombers and the death by misadventure of one of their own, Private Jake Kovco.

Determined to prevent the kinds of bomb attacks that left him scarred, Garth volunteered once more in 2009 – to lead a weapons intelligence team in Afghanistan. He was helicoptered to blast zones in the aftermath of attacks, and worked to identify the insurgent bomb-makers responsible.

Revealing, moving, funny and full of drama, Garth Callender’s story is one of a kind.

About the Author
Garth Callender left the regular Australian Army in 2013 after a distinguished seventeen-year career, during which he served in Iraq and Afghanistan and rose to the rank of major. He left an enduring legacy in weapons technical intelligence, and trained many hundreds of soldiers from raw recruits through to deployment. He now works for an Australian technology company that is developing new ways to detect concealed explosives.

Grab your copy of After the Blast here

Rochelle Siemienowicz, author of Fallen, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rochelle Siemienowicz

author of Fallen

Ten Terrifying Questions

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Geelong, Victoria, but my family moved so quickly and so often that I have no memory of it. My parents were Seventh-day Adventist missionaries and we lived in various parts of New Guinea and Fiji until I was 14 and then we moved to Perth where I finished High School. I moved to Melbourne to start University in the early 1990s and have been here ever since.

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

Twelve: A schoolteacher because although I really wanted to be a writer I didn’t think it was possible.
Eighteen: A journalist because it seemed the likeliest way of making a living as a writer. Or an academic, because I was good at writing essays and this seemed a continuation of that.
Thirty: A film journalist and sometime novelist as this combined all my passions – cinema, literature and connecting with communities of likeminded creative people.

Author: Rochelle Siemienowicz

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

I was raised in a strict religious household and believed that the end of the world was imminent – that Jesus Christ was going to return in the clouds and rescue his chosen people while the rest of the earth burned. These days I’m an atheist, though I still harbour apocalyptic fears – now related to environmental destruction.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

1. The huge changes in Australian Higher Education during the late 1990s and early 2000s meant that an academic career seemed too hard and too precarious to pursue. I was surrounded by bitter academics and underpaid sessional staff, so I finished my PhD on Australian cinema and fled academe, never to return.

2. Becoming involved in The Big Issue magazine’s family of writers and editors from 1997 until the present has been life changing. The Big Ish was the first publication to pay me for my words and so many of my closest friends and associates are people I met there.

3. Reading Andrew McGahan’s searingly honest, funny and distinctively Australian Vogel-winning debut novel Praise (1991) changed my life. I fell in love with McGahan’s candor, courage, and skilful blending of autobiography and fiction. This was controlled confessional writing at its most deceptively simple – unafraid to get dirty, but also able to rise above the grime into pure poetry and wry philosophical reflection.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

I was raised on books, especially the Bible, and I always wanted to have my name on the cover of one. I love to hold the physical objects and there’s nothing quite as immersive as a really good book. Also, you can read them during take-off and landing when flying on an aeroplane.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Fallen is my first book. It’s a memoir about sex, religion and marrying too young, and it traces a crucial period in my early twenties when I broke away from everything I’d been raised to believe. Raised as devout Seventh-day Adventists, who believe that the end of the world is near and premarital sex is a terrible sin, my husband and I married at twenty while still at University. But after leaving the parental nest, we started experimenting with all the things that were forbidden to us – alcohol, meat, rock and roll, cinema and literature that stretched the boundaries of ‘decency’. We loved each other sincerely and took our marriage vows very seriously, but part of this experimentation involved having an open marriage. My book is about three weeks at the end of that marriage when I revisited my hometown of Perth and broke the rules of our agreement. It’s a sexual coming of age story, a tale of first love and innocence lost.

Grab a copy of Rochelle’s new book Fallen here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

Telling the truth about the variety and detail of female sexual experience is still a radical act – even in our supposedly liberated and highly sexualised culture. If my book could counter some of the shame around sexual desire, and make readers feel less alone, less dysfunctional, and less ‘sinful’, then that would be a huge achievement.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Right now I’m full of admiration for the people close to me who are enduring heartbreak, divorce, unemployment and depression. These are the supposedly ordinary people who keep on doing what they have to do, with kindness and generosity, even when getting out bed in the morning feels like the most courageous and impossible act. Life is tough a lot of the time and there’s a lot of everyday heroism. Being human is hard.

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

I want to be as honest as I can be, in both my life and my work. I also want to spread pleasure. There’s really no higher achievement than writing something people enjoy reading for the pure pleasure of the language, the characters and the rich, beautiful world you’ve created. Pleasure should be an end in itself.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read. Read all the time. Stay off social media long enough to become absorbed in the words of others. Read the great books. Read them aloud. Hear how they work, or don’t work. Read your own work aloud. Feel where it gets boring or sticky. It’s not just that you’re tired of it. The writing is bad when that happens. Good writing is good even when you’ve read it fifty times.

Rochelle, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Fallen here

Fallen: A Memoir About Sex, Religion and Marrying Too Young

by Rochelle Siemienowicz

“Call me Eve. It’s the name I call myself when I think back to that time when I was a young wife – so very young, so very hungry. I picked the fruit and ate and drank until I was drunk with freedom and covered in juice and guilt.”

In this frank, compelling and beautifully written memoir, Rochelle Siemienowicz provides an intimate portrait of the last days of an open marriage.

Raised as devout Seventh-day Adventists, who believe that the end of the world is near and that premarital sex is a terrible sin, Eve and her husband marry young. Rebelling against their upbringing, and in an attempt to overcome problems in their relationship, they enter an agreement that has its own strict rules. But when Eve holidays alone in her hometown of Perth during a hot West Australian summer, she finds her body and heart floating free. Fallen is a true tale of sex, love, religion and getting married too young – and about what it feels like when you can’t keep the promises you once sincerely made.

About the Author

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a writer, film critic and former editor at the AFI | AACTA. She has a PhD in Australian cinema and was the long-time film editor for The Big Issue. She currently reports for Screen Hub, reviews for SBS Film and is Film Columnist for Kill Your Darlings. She very occasionally blogs at It’s Better in the Dark, and is currently working on her first novel, which has nothing at all to do with movies.

Grab a copy of Fallen here

Fiona McArthur, author of The Homestead Girls, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Fiona McArthur

author of The Homestead Girls

Six Sharp Questions


1.    Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does this book mean to you?

Five women, a sheep station in drought and the 22-year-old granddaughter’s last ditch measure to keep the farm after her grandad is seriously injured. A flying doctor, a flight nurse, an 80-year-old ex-bush nurse and 16-year-old diva meld into The Homestead Girls and become a family in the harshness of a desolately beautiful landscape.

2.    Time passes. Things change. What would be the best and worst moments you’ve experienced in the past year or so?

We’re talking books and writing here –right?
So the best had to be seeing Red Sand Sunrise up on the shelves and selling well. Crazy fabulous reviews, people telling me that was just how it was, and the fun of getting out there to research in an area I knew too little about.

My worst is nothing compared to some people. I’m just happy to be here.

3.    Do you have a favourite quote or passage you’d be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

It was raining in Adelaide, they’d called off the cricket, and that was only four hours away. It looked promising all day but the dry electrical storms set everyone’s teeth on edge.

An hour and half across the boarder they had a deluge. None at Blue Hills. The heat increased the pall of anxiety in the homestead and the air palpated with tension.

Soretta chewed her nails as she watched the sky because the house water tank was almost empty. Lachlan had gone into town to order another tank just in case the heavens opened and Klaus had started up the old bulldozer and scraped the empty dam another few feet deeper in case they had a downpour they could capture.

Billie had offered to pay the water carrier to bring a load for the house, but it wasn’t just the house that needed water. Soretta was praying the water table they were using from the bores to keep the stock alive would hold up. Everyone felt it so close to rain that the waiting was torture, made worse by hearing of rain everywhere else. It had passed them by before.

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls

red-sand-sunrise4.    Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life…

I write when everyone else is asleep. So I get up at 4am to write before I get ready for work at 6. Nobody talks to me then. Please don’t talk to me when I’m writing. On writing-at-home days I’m vague, my eyes are constantly flicking from place to place as my brain lives in two worlds. My husband just shakes his head. I guess that would be interesting to live with – or not.

5.   Some writer’s claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I love writing stories of ordinary women doing extraordinary things. It’s my theme. The upsurge of  interest in rural romance and rural comtempory fiction allowed me to write my medical version of the big books I put off writing. Current marketplace is an incredibly exciting time for someone like me so it influenced me to take a gamble, stop my three small books a year of steady income, and write one big book. Great satisfaction in that.

6.   Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?tomorrow-when-the-war-began

Tomorrow When The War Began. Because I want them to actually read and if they are ill-educated they probably need to be enticed into falling in love with reading. The Tomorrow series started one of my son’s reading.

Harry Potter for the same reason. And Harry was out of his comfort zone and had to make friends.

The Old Man and The Sea – because simple can be incredible.

Pride and Prejudice – because we don’t need that much civilising and other people had to do it harder.

Kings In Grass Castles – because some people did it really tough and we need to honour them. I think of the women in this book.

Fiona, thanks for playing!

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls

The Homestead Girls

by Fiona McArthur

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and in desperation has opened her station house to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.

The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test . . .

About the Author

Fiona McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for many years. She is a clinical midwifery educator, mentors midwifery students, and is involved with obstetric emergency education for midwives and doctors from all over Australia. Fiona’s love of writing has seen her sell over two million books in twelve languages. She’s been a midwifery expert for Mother&Baby magazine and is the author of the nonfiction works The Don’t Panic Guide to Birth and Breech Baby: A Guide for Parents. She lives on an often swampy farm in northern New South Wales with her husband, some livestock, and a blue heeler named Reg. She’s constantly taking photographs of sunrise and sunset and loves that researching her books allows her to travel to remote places.

Click here to grab a copy of The Homestead Girls


What Cathryn Read – Bestselling author Cathryn Hein on her May reading

Australian novelist Cathryn Hein, author of The FallsThe French Prize, Heartland and much more gives her verdict on the books she’s been reading.

Lyrebird Hill

by Anna Romer

I thoroughly enjoyed Romer’s debut novel Thornwood House and her follow up, Lyrebird Hill, didn’t disappoint. The story unfolded beautifully, slipping between the present and colonial times, and held me captivated throughout. As with Thornwood house, the story had a wonderful gothic feel which made the suspense part of the novel even more intense, and Romer is a master at bringing the Australian bush to vivid life.

Lyrebird Hill unfolds with Ruby Cardel discovering that her sister Jamie’s death – an event she’s managed to blank from her memory – may have a sinister connection. When Ruby journeys back to her childhood home, the vault of her memory begins to open, bringing with it uncertainty and danger.

Highly recommended.

Grab a copy of Lyrebird Hill here

Already Dead 

by Jaye Ford

The suspense and action begin almost immediately in this gripping thriller from Jaye Ford and barely lets up until the final page. When an armed stranger jumps into her car, journalist Miranda Jack is forced on a terrifying ride. Her abductor, Brendan Walsh, seems a madman, but as her ordeal progresses and Miranda listens to his paranoid rants, Miranda is left with doubts. Doubts that force her to seek answers even when it appears doing so might place her in danger.

As with Jaye Ford’s previous novels, Already Dead was a page-turner so compelling all I wanted was to gobble it down in one sitting. I loved the thrill ride, loved the touch of romance and loved the landscape. She’s an auto-buy author. Next please!

 Grab a copy of Already Dead here

You’re Just Too Good To Be True

by Sofija Stefanovic

This short book looks at online romance scams, how they operate and the devastating impact they can have on those caught up in them. Triggered by her eighty-year-old friend Bill’s experiences, Stefanovic sympathetically reveals how Bill’s search for online love took him from hope to bankruptcy. It’s sad and frustrating and I feel desperately sorry for Bill and others caught up in these scams. To have the human need for love exploited so badly is horrible.

The story gets even more interesting when Stefanovic decides to lure a scammer into talking to her about their operations, and finds herself in turn being drawn into this morally murky world.

Fascinating. And an eye-opener on how easily people can be manipulated, regardless of background.

Grab a copy of You’re Just Too Good To Be True here

The Diabolical Miss Hyde

by Viola Carr

This book is brilliantly cross-genre, spanning romance, steampunk, horror and crime, and probably a few others, and, as the title indicates, takes more than a little bit of inspiration from classics such as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Frankenstein and more. It’s dark, no question and certainly not a typical romance, but it worked thanks to an intriguing plot and great characters, and some seriously lush world building.

Crime scene investigator Eliza Jekyll is daughter of the famous Dr Henry Jekyll (from the classic novel) and suffers his same condition. Her “evil twin” is Lizzie, and she’s a blast compared to straight-laced Eliza, if a tad violent-minded. The two are in a constant battle for domination, a battle that becomes more fraught when the Royal Society’s enforcer, Captain Lafayette, comes to assist in the hunt for the bizarre new serial killer stalking London’s streets. For this is the man who could see Eliza’s career and life destroyed. Except Lafayette may not be all he seems either, and Lizzie is on the trail. So perhaps is someone even more dangerous.

Great fun!

Grab a copy of The Diabolical Miss Hyde here

Hein, CathrynThanks Cathryn Hein, we look forward to seeing what you have read next month!

Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned.

Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests, and published in Woman’s Day.

 Click here to see Cathryn’s author page

The Falls

by Cathryn Hein

For as long as she can remember, Teagan Bliss has wanted to manage her family’s property. She’s invested everything in the farm, knowing that when her parents retire she’ll be ready to take the reins. But when a family betrayal leaves her reeling, Teagan is forced to rethink her entire future.

Heartbroken, Teagan flees to her aunt’s property in the idyllic Falls Valley. Vanessa is warm and welcoming and a favourite of the locals who drop in regularly for cocktail hour. Teagan soon catches the attention of sexy local farrier Lucas Knight, and with a new job, new friends and the prospect of a new relationship, she slowly begins to open up again.

But the village is a hotbed of gossip and division and when Teagan gets caught up in town politics, Lucas and Vanessa become concerned. As the tension in town escalates, Teagan must decide who to trust. But when she realises those close to her have been keeping secrets, the fallout may split Teagan apart forever.

Grab a copy of The Falls here

BOOK REVIEW: The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop (Review by John Purcell)

Booktopia’s John Purcell finally sat down to write a review about the book he’s been talking about all year, The Other Side of the World.

The Other Side of the World is a very, very good book.

Let that statement stand there a bit and I will start from the beginning.

It may seem strange to say but I started reading The Other Side of the World on the day it was handed to me because it felt like a good book even before I had read a page. The first few passages confirmed the feeling – I was reading a writer at the top of their game, a writer who could teach me something, a writer who could shake me around emotionally, a writer who could drag me into their story against my will if they so wanted.

Stephanie Bishop

Stephanie Bishop

I always dance around the subject matter in my reviews. A writer takes thousands of words to say what their book is about. It can’t be satisfactorily reduced. I could say that Stephanie Bishop’s The Other Side of the World is about a couple who immigrate to Australia from England in the 1960s. I could also say it is about motherhood. Or about identity. Or equality. But these don’t quite do.

I can say The Other Side of the World is tense, evocative, emotionally exact, surprising and that it will get people talking. Especially the ending, which we really have to talk about when you’re done.

This is the pick for your book club or reading group. Here is your chance to be ahead of the crowd.

Take my word for it. The Other Side of the World is a very, very good book.

Order your copy of Stephanie Bishop’s The Other Side of the World here

the-other-side-of-the-worldThe Other Side of the World

by Stephanie Bishop

A story of melancholy beauty that proves the only thing harder than losing home is trying to find it again.

Cambridge, 1963.

Charlotte is struggling. With motherhood, with the changes marriage and parenthood bring, with losing the time and the energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, wants things to be as they were and can’t face the thought of another English winter.

A brochure slipped through the letterbox slot brings him the answer: ‘Australia brings out the best in you’.

Despite wanting to stay in the place that she knows, Charlotte is too worn out to fight. Before she has a chance to realise what it will mean, she is travelling to the other side of the world. Arriving in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light on both Henry and Charlotte and slowly reveals that their new life is not the answer either was hoping for. Charlotte is left wondering if there is anywhere she belongs and how far she’ll go to find her way home . . .

Order your copy of Stephanie Bishop’s The Other Side of the World here

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

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

Having at last delivered my novel THE BEAST’S GARDEN, which is set in World War II and so predicated my reading for many months, I have caught up with some books I’ve been wanting to read for a while. A lovely mix of fantasy, crime, historical fiction and non-fiction, I’m hoping to read a lot more for pleasure in the coming month (before I get engrossed in research for the next book!)

For All the Tea in China

by Sarah Rose

A fascinating account of the man who stole the secret of tea-making from the Chinese in the mid 19th century.

Robert Fortune was a Scottish gardener and botanist who was employed by the East India Company in 1848 to make a clandestine trip into the interior of China, territory that was at that time forbidden to foreigners. His mission: to steal the closely guarded secrets of tea.

China had been the sole producer of tea for centuries, and the Emperor of China was determined to maintain its lucrative monopoly. To outwit the mandarins who controlled the tea trade, Robert Fortune disguised himself in silk robes and slippers and attached a long black pigtail. He hired Chinese interpreters to speak on his behalf, and travelled through remote landscapes where Westerners had never before trodden. His quest was complicated by the problem of smuggling the tea plants out and by the fact that Britain was waging a war with China over its opium imports. A truly remarkable unknown story, well worth a read.

Grab a copy of For All the Tea in China here

Return to Fourwinds

by Elizabeth Gifford

I really enjoyed Elizabeth Gifford’s first book, Secrets of the Sea House, and was interested to see what her next book would be like. It’s a parallel story, moving from the present time to the 1930s in Spain and Great Britain. The contemporary story is a mystery about a runaway bride, while the sections set in the past untangle the knotted stories of her parents and soon-to-be parents-in-law.

My favourite sections were those set in the war years, but the whole book is very readable, being both swift-moving and lyrical.

Grab a copy of Return to Fourwinds here

Madame Picasso

by Anne Girard

I have always been interested in the lives and loves of great artists, and have read many a biography of Picasso. So I wanted to read this novel as soon as I saw its very gorgeous cover. It tells the story of Eva Gouel, a young French woman who had a tumultuous affair with Picasso while he was still a young man living in Paris and just beginning to make his name.

Eva works as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and meets Pablo while he is still in a relationship with one of his first models, Fernande Oliver. Picasso fell madly in love with Eva (whose real name was Marcelle) and painted “I love Eva” on many of his paintings of the time. I knew before I began the book that it could not have a happy ending, since I knew Picasso had had two wives and numerous mistresses. However, I was surprised by just how sad this story is. Poignant and beautiful.

 Grab a copy of Madame Picasso here

The Solider’s Wife

by Pamela Hart

A beautifully told story of a young woman fighting to make her way after her husband is sent to fight in Gallipoli only weeks after their marriage. Living in fear of the telegraph boy, taking on a job in a man’s world, and trying to help those around her as the full horror of the war takes its toll, Ruby is an appealing and believable heroine. I also loved the Sydney setting, recognizing many local landmarks.

The Soldier’s Wife is a warm and intimate look at a marriage put under terrible strain by the costs of the First World War, told by a wonderful storyteller.

Grab a copy of The Soldier’s Wife here


by Garth Nix

Clariel is a new book set in the Old Kingdom, the world of Gath Nix’s bestselling YA fantasy, Sabriel, which is one of my all-time favourite books. Before reading Clariel, I read all of the Old Kingdom books again, including Lirael and Abhorsen, and loved them just as much as I did on first reading them so many years ago (it is hard to believe that Sabriel was first published 20 years ago!)

Clariel is set long before the other three books and so it is not necessary to have read all of the series before tackling this one. It has all of Garth Nix’s characteristic imaginative flair and deceptively simple storytelling, making it a book that can be read in a single gulp.

The heroine of the tale, sixteen -year-old Clariel, is unhappy. Her parents have just moved to the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom, but Clariel wants to return to the wild, free life she had in the forests of Estwael. Clariel is a berserker, and finds it hard to control her temper when jostled about by people all day long. She is also aware that she is being used as a pawn in the political machinations of the capital. Murder and mayhem soon ensue, and Clariel finds herself on the run, trying to understand the Free Magic forces that surround her.

With a surprising plot that twists and turns most unexpectedly, Clariel is proof that fantasy for teenagers can be as compelling and moving as any other genre of fiction.

Grab a copy of Clariel here

Gone Girl: Film Tie-In Editiongone-girl

by Gillian Flynn

I was beginning to feel that I was the only person left on earth not to have read this blockbuster psychological thriller, so I picked it up in the airport one day and read it all the way home.

Fiendishly clever, compulsively readable, Gone Girl plays with most readers’ desire to connect and empathise with a novel’s characters. In the end, neither narrator is particularly sympathetic or likeable, but by that time the reader is hooked, wanting to know what happens in the end.

Grab a copy of Gone Girl here

The Strings of Murderthe-strings-of-murder

by Oscar de Muriel

An intriguing Gothic murder mystery set in Edinburgh in 1888, The Strings of Murder tells the story of Ian Frey, a disgraced Scotland Yard detective, who is trying to solve the murder of a renowned violinist. The brutality of the crime causes panic that Jack the Ripper has left London, while there is also a strange supernatural aspect to the case that leads Frey’s new boss, Detective McGray, to suspect witchcraft is in play.

As the corpses pile up, the two mismatched detective must try and hunt down the truth through the dark, fog-bound streets of Edinburgh. A very atmospheric historical thriller filled with strange lore about violins and music.

Grab a copy of The Strings of Murder 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

Drum roll…. the winner of our Avengers pack is…

Because of the awesomeness that is The Avengers: Age of Ultron, we decided to give away an Avengers pack. All you had to do to enter was buy one of our select Avengers titles by May 31st.

avengersAvengers: Rage of Ultron

by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena (Illustrator)

It was another glorious victory for the Mighty Avengers. Good triumphed over evil and Ultron was shot into space, never to be seen again. Or so they thought. Now, years later, the homicidal artificial intelligence – so long devoted to ending life on Earth – has a new world to conquer…one with its own horrific legacy.

When Titan, birthplace of Thanos, falls, Planet Ultron rises in its place! Thanos’ brother Starfox must seek the aid of his former allies – but the Avengers he finds are image1radically different from the ones he once knew.

Among them is Ultron’s creator Giant-Man – and when Hank Pym confronts his now planet-sized “son,” the responsibilities of fatherhood have never loomed so large. Rick Remender (Uncanny Avengers) and Jerome Opena (Avengers) unleash the full robotic rage of Ultron on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!


…and the winner is:

C.Bull, Lesmurdie, WA

Check out our Marvel Avengers: The Age of Ultron series here

Congratulations to the winner!

Missed out on the prize? Hey, turn that frown upside up, we’ve got so much more up for grabs, not to mention limited editions signed copies and 2 for 1 offers!

Head to our Promotions and Competitions page!




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