Indonesia has a Lady Terminator? Turkey remade E.T? Marc Fennell spills the beans on the weird and wonderful world of cinema in his new book, Planet According to the Movies

Australia’s most listened-to film critic, Marc Fennell, tells the hidden stories behind the movies you know and love whilst also introducing you to a (bizarre) world of cinema you never knew existed.

Did you know that there are messed up filmic versions of fairytales? Take for example the ancient Russian version of Beauty and the Beast which shows that all it takes to marry a prince is non-consensual sex with a drunken (from vodka, naturally) reptile. A Scottish interpretation of Snow White culminates in an erotic three-way. Ahhh Disney …

Also … did you know that North Korea’s very own Kim Jong-il executive-produced his own version of Godzilla? Or that Japan has The Calamari Wrestler which follows the life of a professional wrestler who becomes a giant squid like creature after developing a terminal illness. Interesting, right? This book is jam-packed with these gems of information!



Planet According to the Movies

Marc Fennell

Awesome, weird and wonderful flicks from four corners of the globe.

Which nation is best equipped to survive a zombie apocalypse? Why do obese moustachioed Tamil action stars make the best politicians? What fictional country links Predator, Commando and Die Hard 2?

Planet According to the Movies is your official armchair guide to our tiny, weird planet as projected on cinema screens. It’s 30% travel guide, 30% film reviews, 10% racial profiling handbook and 45% testament to the fact that maths is hard.

Australia’s most listened-to film critic, Marc Fennell (triple j, SBS TV, That Movie Book), tells the hidden stories behind the movies you know and love – from the Wizard of Oz to Life of Pi – and introduces you to a world of cinema you never knew existed. Discover Japan’s Calamari Wrestler, Indonesia’s Lady Terminator, Turkey’s remake of E.T. and North Korea’s answer to Godzilla, which was executive-produced by Kim Jong-Il himself. Who needs a plane to travel the world when you can do it all from your couch, you shameful slob!

Grab your  signed copy of Planet According to the Movies here!

GUEST BLOG: What Katie Read – The October Roundup (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 read in October.

My son – like so many others his age – sat his HSC last month, and so I spent lots of time waiting for him outside exam halls and libraries. This meant lots of lovely reading for me! – Kate Forsyth

Newt’s Emerald

Garth Nix

newt-s-emeraldGarth Nix is one of my favourite Young Adult fantasy writers, and Regency romances are one of my favourite genres to read – put the two together and you get the wonderful, light-hearted, and utterly magical Newt’s Emerald.

Set in a world very much like Georgette Heyer’s Regency (a place that is in itself a fantasy), the book mixes together a stolen emerald with secret powers, a young lady who disguises herself as a man, a young nobleman who is really a spy, an evil enchantress, and a host of comic minor characters, plus an ill-fated ball in Brighton.

I raced through it with great eagerness, and am now hoping that Garth plans to write many, many more. An utter delight!

Grab your copy of Newt’s Emerald here

India Black

Carol K. Carr

india-blackIndia Black is the name of the central character in this rather charming Victorian murder mystery. She is a madam, in the sense that she runs a brothel, and she is only reluctantly drawn into the investigation of the murder of Sir Archibald Latham, an important official in the War Office, because he dies in the bed of one of her tarts.

The foggy underworld of Victorian London is vividly if a little wildly drawn, and the pace rarely falters.

The chief enjoyment of the book is the acerbic and witty voice of India herself – whip-smart, amoral, and always ready to see the humour in a situation.

Grab your copy of India Black here

Picnic in Provence

Elizabeth Bard

picnic-in-provencePicnic In Provence is a memoir of a Jewish American princess who marries a Frenchman, and moves to Provence to make honey & thyme ice-cream, among other wonderful dishes.

Charming , romantic and poignant, this book is full of delicious-sounding recipes and lots of wry observations on the cultural differences between the two countries (fast food, wearing sweatpants in public, and the like).

It made me want to move to Provence and cook stuffed zucchini flowers and fig tarts drizzled with lavender honey, always the sign of a good food memoir.

I’ve since cooked quite a few of the recipes – délicieux!

Grab your copy of Picnic in Provence here

What We See When We Read

Peter Mendelsund

what-we-see-when-we-readA strange, fascinating and totally original book about the relationship between the words on the page and the images seen in the mind’s eye, this is a book to be thought about and re-read again and again.

Peter Mendelsund is the associate art director of Alfred A. Knopf, and spends his days designing book covers and illustrations. Many of the pages in this book have few or no words on them. Instead, they are full of images – photographs, drawings, pop graphics, and scribbles. In a way, it reminded me of the astonishingly beautiful books created by Brian Selznick, in which his intricate black-and-white drawings replace sentences and scenes. Except that What We See When We Read is not creating a narrative – it is instead a meditation on the relationship between the writer’s and the reader’s imagination, partly informed by scientific investigation, but mostly by a certain type of literary criticism.

The book is marred by its literary pretentiousness – lots of references to Tolstoy, Flaubert, Melville, Nabokov, and other dead white males, for example. Virginia Woolf was one of the few female authors to get a mention, and Barthes was quoted quite a few times (something that always sets my alarm bells ringing). However, if you can forgive him for thinking the only writers worth examining are white, male, middle-class and no longer breathing, then the book offers a lot to think about – and some of the passages have their own exquisite and mysterious beauty.

Grab your copy of What We See When We Read here

The Marriage of Opposites

Alice Hoffman

the-marriage-of-oppositesI have loved Alice Hoffman’s writing for a long time, from well before Nicole Kidman starred in the movie of Practical Magic. She has a wonderful way of twisting together the ordinary and the extraordinary, finding magic in the everyday. Many of her earlier books were contemporary magic realism, about lightning struck boys and girls descended from witches, but in recent years she has turned her hand to writing historical fiction, which delights me.

The Marriage of Opposites tells the story of a young Jewish woman growing up on the Caribbean island of St Thomas in the early 1800s. Rachel is married to a widower with three children when she is little more than a girl herself. When her husband dies, she is left as an impoverished young widow with six children. Her dead husband’s nephew arrives from France to take charge of the business … and so begins a passionate love affair that will scandalize the island and, in time, produce the artistic genius that was Camille Pissarro, one of the founders of Impressionism.

Beautiful, romantic, haunting, and alive with sensuality, I cannot recommend The Marriage Of Opposites highly enough. Read it!

Grab your copy of The Marriage of Opposites here

The Folk Keeper

Franny Billingsley


Whenever anyone recommends a book to me that I haven’t read, I write it in the back of my diary and then I hunt the book down. The Folk Keeper was recommended to me by an artist friend, who shares my fascination with selkies and other magical creatures of the sea.

The Folk Keeper is one of those small, perfect books that seem so simple and yet are so hard to create. The first line reads: ‘It is a day of yellow fog, and the Folk are hungry.’ It tells the story of a boy who works as a Folk Keeper in an orphanage, keeping the magical Folk appeased so they will not do harm to the human world. One day a Great Lady arrives, and so the boy’s life is changed forever. He discovers many secrets about himself and his past, uncovers a long-hidden murder and faces death himself, and – in the end – falls in love.

Franny Billingsley won the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Fiction with this beautiful children’s fantasy and it is easy to see why. An utterly unforgettable read.

Grab your copy of The Folk Keeper here


Daphne du Maurier

rebeccaSome time ago, I decided that I wanted to re-read all my favourite books again. I love to re-read; it’s an acute pleasure quite different to that of reading a book for the first time. So each month I choose an old book off my bookshelves. This time it was Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a book I remember devouring in my late teens but have not read again since.

It was even better than I remembered.

Utterly compulsive, the book moves with all the swiftness and inexorability of a Greek tragedy. It begins with the young and nameless narrator (so clever, to never tell the reader her name!) who falls in love and marries with a much older and more sophisticated man, and moves with him to Manderlay, his grand house in Cornwall. Max de Winter’s first wife, Rebecca, had died some months earlier in mysterious circumstances, and her personality is imprinted everywhere in the house.

The new Mrs de Winter is shy and painfully awkward. She lives intensely in her imagination, and slowly finds herself obsessed with the former Mrs de Winter and with the mystery around her death. The feeling of dread slowly tightens, and yet there are surprises around every corner. Brilliantly plotted and executed, Rebecca is an absolute tour-de-force. If you haven’t read it before, read it now. If you have, read it again. You won’t be sorry.

Grab your copy of Rebecca here

Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, KateKate 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.’

Kate’s books have been published in 14 countries around the world, including the UK, the US, Russia, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Poland and Slovenia.

Visit Kate Forsyth’s Booktopia author page

The Beast’s Garden

by Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, Kate - The Beast's GardenA retelling of 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 … Read more

Grab your copy of The Beast’s Garden here

A Wuthering Heights inspired tale: Debra Adelaide, author of The Women’s Pages answers Six Sharp Questions

Debra AdelaideThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Debra Adelaide

author of The Women’s Pages

Six Sharp Questions


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

My novel The Women’s Pages is based on a short story of mine that introduced two characters in a multilayered story about loss, silences, relationships between mothers and daughters, and above all about the power of the written word.

It’s based loosely on Wuthering Heights, which presents numerous themes big and small, but particularly for me is very much about storytelling, given the novel’s many intriguing narrative layers. I’ve not rewritten that extraordinary novel by any means, but simply responded to its elements and especially leapt into some of its most compelling imagined spaces, such as the unspoken, untold, age-old story of the mother and daughter dynamic. Wuthering Heights features only absent, silent, missing, dead or dying mothers: The Women’s Pages is partly about finding or restoring mothers to a narrative.

2. Time passes. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

In the past year I have had two books published and as a writer with a full time job (at a university) I can’t hope for better than that. My last book was the collection The Simple Act of Reading, which was done in collaboration and for the Sydney Story Factory. Being able to present essays by authors on the topic of what reading means to them, and with the support of organisations like CA’s cultural fund and Random House publishers, all for the cause of fostering reading and writing in children, was a total pleasure and privilege. It’s been a very satisfying moment of my wDebra Adelaideriting life in every way.

Having a novel come next, especially one that’s so much about the act of reading – I must have a bit of a theme or obsession here! – only consolidates this pleasure. The day your publisher rings and says she loves your manuscript, the one you wrote in desperation, for yourself alone, and wants to publish it, is a unique joy, one you cherish forever.

The worst moments in recent times have involved the serious illness of two friends and the terrible swift death of one and the ongoing illness of one of my closest family members: not being able to help or heal someone you love is just devastating. But on that note, love always offers the very best moments, and I am blessed with an abundance of that in my life.

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

My home email address signature includes this quotation from Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary: ‘Human language is like a cracked kettledrum on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when what we long to do is make music that will move the stars to pity.’

I love this quotation because it reminds me almost every day what my job as a writer is, and how big the challenge is, that is, to take language that is tired and worn out, or lowly, cliched and undistinguished in every way, and turn it into something moving and beautiful and uniquely mine. I don’t achieve this all the time of course, but at least I am reminded to aspire to it.

MB quote

4. 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.

My writing life itself is messy, ad hoc, organic and irregular in every way. However once I am engaged in a writing project, a story, or a novel, once I am ‘in the zone’ I become very disciplined and write to a schedule that I set myself (and deadlines that I always meet).

Despite this I think I am supremely easy to live with! At least, I still do the household tasks and meet my family obligations and certainly never disappear into my study with bottles of whisky or boxes of chocolate biscuits, muttering or ranting when I do emerge. However I know I become distracted when I’m in the zone, and am really thinking deeply only about the work, so perhaps those I live with would differ on this.

5. Some writers 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!).

The only time I have tried to think about and respond to the marketplace the writing has failed. The marketplace is a terrible distraction: if I were a genre writer, say of crime or speculative fiction, this probably wouldn’t be the case. But for me I have learned I cannot hope to second guess the market or my readers. I write for myself first: everything I write I have assumed no one else in the world would want to read (but of course at the same time have secretly hoped that millions would). the-household-guide-to-dying

When I completed my last novel, The Household Guide to Dying, I gave the manuscript to my agent and without a trace of irony told her that if she didn’t like it I would just go away and bury it because I had another novel underway. Perhaps I am always preparing myself for rejection: that might imply some bleakness in my background, but in fact I think this is healthy for a writer. You need rejection, and you need failure, so confronting it yourself right from the start is helpful.

The market is far too protean and slippery to grasp with confidence: it can make you unconsciously censor the work, or stop you from concentrating on what the story might need.

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?

Wuthering Heights, of course: this is a no-brainer given the context of my new book, but also because it is one of those novels that can bear endless re-readings, and one that for all its mysteries and even frustrations, has the capacity to speak across the generations. And then the characters are so bold and wild and wilful and out there, which I imagine might strike a chord. And finally because it can and should be read aloud, so I imagine sitting down reading this novel to commence the civilising process with some sense of community and even ritual.

The Little PrinWuthering Heightsce, because it is exquisitely beautiful and wise and clever and delightful, and would remind adolescents, who are always pretending to be so much more grown up than they are, of the importance of child-like wonder and imagination.

If the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy is cheating (three novels) then definitely The Hobbit, mainly because I loved it when I was a child but have loved it and re-read it forever since; but also because it was a real breakthrough for so-called children’s literature, coming from that vast and intricate and complete fantasy world that Tolkien created.

Thea Astley’s A Descant for Gossips, which I have recently re-read, because it demonstrates the terrible consequences of prejudice and alienation in the way a vulnerable schoolgirl is picked on and ostracised. I think it would touch these readers in sensitive emotional spots. And because readers always learn a new word or two reading an Astley novel.

Definitely cheating, but The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which of course would be read aloud and performed with plenty of roles for the 20 adolescents; it would be marvellously civilising in every way. And they would also learn many new words.

Debra, thank you for playing!

Grab your copy of The Women’s Pages here!

The Women’s Pages

Debra Adelaide

Debra AdelaideEllis, an ordinary suburban young woman of the 1960s, is troubled by secrets and gaps in her past that become more puzzling as her creator, Dove, writes her story fifty years later. Having read Wuthering Heights to her dying mother, Dove finds she cannot shake off the influence of that singular novel: it has infected her like a disease. Instead of returning to her normal life she follows the story it has inspired to discover more about Ellis, who has emerged from the pages of fiction herself – or has she? – to become a modern successful career woman.

The Women’s Pages is about the choices and compromises women must make, their griefs and losses, and their need to fill in the absent spaces where other women … Read More.

Grab your copy of The Women’s Pages here!


BOOK REVIEW: The Obernwytn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody (Review by Sarah McDuling)

xthe-red-queen.jpg.pagespeed.ic.IO8CV4RPXNIt’s (almost) here!

At long last, it has (nearly) arrived!

All hail The Red Queen.

Like so many others, I’ve been a fan of The Obernewtyn Chronicles since I was kid. I have read and re-read these books so many times, my copies have grown battered and torn and the characters have come to feel like old friends.

But alas, all good things must come to an end! With The Red Queen, Isobelle Carmody is finishing a story that has been captivating readers for many years. And I cannot wait to see how she does it. Really, I cannot wait. If I don’t get my hands on a copy soon, there is a very distinct possibility that my head is going to explode …

I’m very much looking forward to reading this book, is what I’m saying.

In case you’re not familiar with this highly acclaimed and much beloved series, allow me to explain. The first book in The Obernewtyn Chronicles was published nearly 30 years ago. (Well … 28 years to be precise.) Since then it has been a consistent bestseller, collecting new generations of fans with each passing year. In fact, the first book has been published as a Popular Penguin title (a true sign of greatness). In editions both pink and orange – how cool is that?!

Way before Dystopian Fiction became a whole big craze, literally decades before anyone had ever heard of The Hunger Games or Divergent, Isobelle Carmody was writing about a distant future in which the world has been ravaged by a nuclear holocaust. In other words, when it comes to Dystopian YA, Isobelle Carmody did it first. And more importantly, she did it better.

This series is a beautifully written and painstakingly imagined, with the kind of detailed world-building and intricate plotting that has ensured each new book is better than the last. It also boasts the most iron-willed, big-hearted and strong-minded heroine I have ever encountered. No kidding. Elspeth Gordie is pretty much my role model in life. In times of hardship, I frequently ask myself, “What would Elspeth do?” and the answer is invariably, “Elspeth would do the most difficult, awe-inspiring and heroic thing imaginable. And she would do it alone. And she would do it without hesitation and without complaining.”

So yeah. I think it’s safe to say that The Red Queen is my favourite YA book of 2015. And I say this with the utmost confidence, despite the fact that I haven’t read it yet. Such is my unwavering faith in Isobelle Carmody.

Long live the Queen!

Grab your copy of The Red Queen here.

xthe-red-queen.jpg.pagespeed.ic.IO8CV4RPXNThe Red Queen

by Isobelle Carmody

The time has come at last for Elspeth Gordie to leave the Land on her quest to find and stop the computermachine Sentinel from unleashing the deadly Balance of Terror arsenal.

But before she can embark on her quest, she must find a lost key; and although she has long prepared for this day, nothing is as she imagined.

This is the final, dramatic volume in series of books that undoubtedly shines as one of the most fantastic, and fantastical, tapestries ever woven.

 Grab your copy of The Red Queen here.

GUEST BLOG: What Katie Read – The September Roundup (by award-winning author Kate Forsyth)

Kate Forsyth
What Katie Read…

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.


The Quality of Silence

by Rosamund Lupton

The Quality of SilenceThis is one of the most beautiful and haunting psychological thrillers I have ever read. It breaks so many rules, and yet does so with such cleverness and such confidence. Set in Alaska, the novel is mostly told from the point of view of a ten-year-old deaf girl. She and her mother have arrived in the vast, icy darkness that is subarctic Alaska in winter.

To Ruby’s surprise, her father is not there to meet them at the airport. Instead, a policeman tells her mother that there has been a terrible accident. Ruby’s father is dead.

Refusing to believe the news, Ruby and her mother set out across the black, wind-scoured ice to find the truth. They soon become aware that someone is following them, hunting them. From this simple premise, Rosamund Lupton weaves an extraordinary spine-chilling tale of love, guilt, sorrow, survival … and silence. At times, the bitter cold and darkness and terror were so vivid, so real, that I could not stop shaking. Absolutely riveting.

Grab your copy of The Quality of Silence here


The House of Silk

by Anthony Horowitz

The House of SilkAnthony Horowitz is a big favourite in our family. My sons love his Diamond Brothers and Alex Rider books, my husband read and enjoyed his James Bond novel, and I am madly in love with the TV series he’s worked on, particularly Foyle’s War.

And I’ve read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries. So of course I grabbed this book as soon as I saw it on the shelves. I enjoyed it immensely.

I really liked how faithful Anthony Horowitz was to the original feel and flavor of the books. “Pitch-perfect” was how I described it on twitter.

Grab your copy of The House of Silk here


by C.J. Sansom

LamentationLamentation is the latest in a series of utterly brilliant, devious and evocative Tudor murder mysteries by C. J. Sansom.

The series features a hunchbacked young lawyer called Matthew Shardlake, in the final years of Henry VIII’s rule. The novel begins with the burning of heretics, one of them a young woman named Ann Askew. She is a true historical figure, and the only woman known to have been tortured in the Tower.

Henry’s last wife, Catherine Parr, is under suspicion for sympathizing with the heretics, who are all Protestant. Matthew is called in to help her solve the mystery of a missing book, and the string of unexplained murders that follow. As always, the world of Tudor England is brought to vivid and putrid life, with the obese and malevolent figure of the king brooding over all.

This is historical crime at its best. Start with Dissolution, the first book in the series, and read in order.

Grab your copy of Lamentation here

Put Out All The Stops

by Geraldine McCaughrean

Pull out all the StopsGeraldine McCaughrean is one of Great Britain’s most celebrated children’s authors.

She is probably best-known for Peter Pan in Scarlet, the brilliant “official” sequel to J.M. Barrie’s famous story of the Boy Who Won’t Grow Up.

I love her work, and am trying to slowly read my way through all 150 of her books. This one is a rambunctious adventure story set in a steamboat on the Missouri River. It features a cast of lovable, oddball characters, a lot of slapstick humour, a dash of poignancy, and a whole lot of heart.

Grab your copy of Pull Out All The Stops here


by Robert Macfarlane

HollowayIt is difficult to know how to describe this exquisite little book. It is only 33 pages long, and some of those pages are filled with delicate black-and-white drawings of trees.

It’s a memoir of a camping trip inspired by a book I’ve never heard of; it’s a extended poem about the sunken holloways of Dorset – those deep, mysterious tunnels between tree-roots that were once roads, goat-tracks, and field-paths – and it’s a celebration of nature, friendship, and language.

I’ve read it three times now, and find new delights each time. It was so beautiful, so marvellous, I have gone and bought several more of Robert Macfarlane’s books since, hoping for more enchantment.

Grab your copy of Holloway here


by A.S. Byatt

PossessionThis novel has been on my shelf for more than twenty years, and yet somehow I have never before read it. So at last I picked it up and began. Of course, I utterly adored it! For those of you who have not read it, I can really recommend it.

It’s a story about two English academics in the late 1980s, who get caught up in a literary mystery about the secret love affair of two Victorian writers. Their poems and stories are woven through the narrative, in one of the most dazzling ventriloquist acts I have ever seen in fiction. The pastiches are utterly pitch-perfect. The story is driven by the hunt for the truth of the Victorian love affair, which mirrors the slowly developing romance of our modern-day literary detectives.

I particularly loved all the clever fairy tale allusions!

Grab your copy of Possession here

Kate Forsyth

Kate 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.’

Kate Forsyth

Click here to see Kate’s Booktopia author page

The Beast’s Garden

by Kate Forsyth

The Beast's GardenA retelling of 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 … Read more

Grab your copy of The Beast’s Garden here

BOOK REVIEW: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (review by Sarah McDuling)

illuminaeWhen I first heard about Illuminae, it was described to me as “Battlestar Galatica meets 10 Things I Hate About You”. This obviously sounded like the best idea ever to me. I figured I was probably going to adore the hell out of it. And I was right!

With a story that has been carefully constructed using a collection of emails, IM chats, descriptions of video footage, classified documents, diary entries, interview transcripts, pictures and poetry – Illuminae is a wildly imaginative, constantly surprisingly and often visually stunning reading experience.

This is creative storytelling at its best. In fact, the book reads almost like watching a movie or playing a video game … except for being way better than either of those things because it’s a BOOK!

From the combined imaginations of Amie Kaufman (The Starbound Trilogy) and Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War Trilogy) – Illuminae is the first book in a new trilogy that is best categorized as a Young-Adult-Space-Opera-slash-Romantic-Comedy-slash-Psychological-Thriller. This book shimmers with playful humour and burns bright with raw emotion. It’s exactly the kind of addictive read that will keep you up all night frantically flipping pages and mentally casting the movie adaptation in the back of your mind. (For the record, I settled on Miles Teller to play Ezra and Zoey Deutch to play Kady.)

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

A gloriously bold, genre-mashing masterpiece, Illuminae will take you on a madcap joy-ride through space, spinning a story that involves a fleet of refugees on the run from certain death, a highly contagious zombie disease, an evil planet-destroying corporation and a possibly deranged, definitely eccentric super computer called AIDAN, (Artificial Intelligence Defense Analytics Network).

It also features a wonderful cast of endearing characters that will capture your heart (and then crush it into space dust) and an utterly adorable love/hate relationship between a wise-cracking hero and a pink-haired astro-princess with mad computer skills.

In short, Illuminae is a crazy-amazing rollercoaster ride!

Guaranteed to blow your mind, tie your heartstrings up in knots and play a frenzied game of ping-pong with your expectations – Illuminae is a must read for science fiction lovers, romance junkies and comedy fans alike.

Grab your copy of Illuminae here!



Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Kady and Ezra thought their break-up was messy until they witnessed their entire world literally falling apart. Now they’re piecing together what’s left of their lives, and their romance, and trying to survive an intergalactic war. An innovatively designed story that’s best described as Battlestar Galactica meets 10 Things I Hate About You.

The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe … Read more.

Grab your copy of Illuminae here!

Warning: This Article Contains Graphic….Novels

Andrew Cattanach has a brand new bag…

It all started when listening to The Grantland Podcast.

Grantland is a US sports/culture website usually frequented by lots of people like me. Young(ish) hipster(ish) sporty(ish) culturally aware(ish) folks who enjoy quality long-form journalism. They also do podcasts (Fun Fact: we do as well) which, along with audiobooks, keep me company on my long drive into work.

This particular evening I found myself listening to an interview with one of Grantland’s great writers Andy Greenwald and Axel Alonso, the current Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics. You can also watch it at the bottom of this article.

watchmenBefore I go on, let me state my feelings on Graphic Novels/Comic Books. It has always been a resounding ‘meh’.

Of course I was aware of them (if you’ve seen a blockbuster film in the last year, chances are you’ve seen a comic book adaptation), and I’d read and loved some of the biggies like Watchmen and Sandman but I never really felt into them. If anything, only having read the ‘Mount Rushmore’ of Graphic Novels made me feel like even more of a tourist, as though I’d flown over the Eiffel Tower and told everyone I’d been to Paris.

I never really had time for them, preferring to eat into my gigantic TBR pile.

So, back to Axel Alonso, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel. Turns out, despite doing a job once occupied by comic book god Stan Lee, Alonso has never really been a hard-core ‘comic book guy’, if such a thing even exists anymore. He was a journalist and author, who found himself unhappy with his job and saw an ad in The New York Times for DC Comics editors. Confident that he would never be hired, he trudged along to the interview out of boredom and was hired by a comic book publisher who knew his work.

Not a comic book guy? And now he’s arguably the most powerful creative force in comic books?


Throughout the interview Alonso speaks passionately but about the creative freedom the form provides writers and artists, and the entrenched progressiveness and diversity on the page. These days The Hulk is a Korean-American Teenager, Thor is a woman, and only last week the brilliant African-American writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was hired to write a new installment of The Black Panther, a series that began in 1966 and featured the first black superhero.

civil-warMore interesting…

All this comes in the wake of some wonderful pieces on this very blog written by comics aficionado Jeremy Vine on Aquaman, video game adaptations, queer characters and great article on simply where to start with comic books. So I thought it was time.

I picked up a copy of Marvel’s The Avengers: Civil War and DC’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, by my reckoning the most celebrated comic storylines of the last 20 years. Civil War pits Captain America against Iron Man and their respective followers in an ideological war against government intervention that threatens to destroy the world, while The Dark Knight Returns is the dark saga of a 55 year-old Bruce Wayne, who returns from retirement to fight crime and faces opposition from the Gotham City police force and the US government.

I’m still getting through them. And you know what? I think I’m converted.

a-little-lifeAt the same time I’ve been reading A Little Life, the acclaimed novel by Hanya Yanagihara that has been widely tipped to take out the Man Booker this year. It’s an amazing novel, but that’s for another day.

The point I’m making is that nearly every day I have been reading these comic books alongside a truly great novel and I haven’t skipped a beat. Sure, there’s less grizzled kung-fu in A Little Life compared to The Dark Knight Returns, and slightly more middle-class angst in A Little Life than The Avengers: Civil War, but with regards to raw, uncompromising and often confronting storytelling, they’re on a par.

I’m still reading them, and still enjoying them, and I’m confident to say there will be more to come. Who knows where this story ends, but for now…

Andrew Cattanach. Comic Book Reader. Signing off.


Andrew Cattanach is the Contributing Editor of The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Australian Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat


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