BOOK REVIEW: The Awakening by Kate Chopin (Review by John Purcell)

A friend put me onto The Awakening. He had read it at university and was surprised that I had never taken the time to read it.the-awakening

To me, The Awakening was a revelation. That American Kate Chopin wrote this kind of novel in the last days of the nineteenth century seemed incredible. Her voice and the subjects of isolation, dissatisfaction, boredom and rebellion seem not of the past but of today.

The great women of nineteenth century fiction had been given complex inner lives, but none, to my knowledge had veered so confidently from the path of accepted behaviour.

None offered an alternative which suggested positive change.

I can only imagine the relief Chopin’s story offered thousands of bright women caught in the claustrophobic world of their day. That the novel can still offer relief now is an indication that we still have far to go on our road to equality.

Grab your copy of The Awakening here

The Awakening

Kate Chopin

the-awakeningFirst published in 1899 and widely regarded as one of the forerunners of feminist literature, alongside Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary.

Over one long, languid summer Edna Pontellier, fettered by marriage and motherhood, becomes acquainted with Robert Lebrun. As the days shorten and the temperature begins to drop Edna succumbs to Robert’s devotion. But in the thrall of this ever-strengthening desire Edna begins to realise the true extent of her psychological, social and sexual confinement and its devastating consequences for her future. This tender, brilliant … Read More

Grab your copy of The Awakening here

Martyna Angell, author of The Wholesome Cook answers Ten Terrifying Questions

 The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Martyna Angell

author of The Wholesome Cook

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

Martyna Angell Cover

I was born and raised in Poland and real food was always part of my upbringing. I grew up in and around Warsaw, the capital, and the city’s food scene was an interesting mixture of the old and the new. So you would have daily fresh produce markets, neighbourhood grocers selling veggies (I loved buying fermented pickles as snacks after school) as well as the modern fast food chains opening outlets in the city for the first time and big supermarkets setting up shop. It was a very interesting time in terms of exposure to the new but culturally we were still respecting traditions and cooking from scratch. Indeed, it was in one of my fifth-grade home economics classes that I learnt to make sauerkraut (recipe page 69).

I completed my high school studies here in Sydney, then dabbled in law and business administration studies before realising I needed a more creative outlet, so I completed a communications degree. Food, however, has always remained my true passion  and styling and photography followed suit naturally and are a big part of what I do now.

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

I was around twelve years old when I first discovered my passion for cooking and the joy it could bring to others as well as me. On weekends, I’d rummage through the fridge, pantry and freezer then write up a dinner menu for my parents to order from. Then I’d get cooking.

Most of my fondest childhood memories revolve around food, family celebrations and meals enjoyed together. When I turned eighteen cooking was not really considered a career choice so I went off to do a whole range of things but none of them made me truly happy. It wasn’t until I got closer to thirty that I realised where my heart lay, and food became the main focus for me again. This time, having recovered from a junk food past that put me on the edge of obesity, I wanted to share my story and make sure that my cooking, the recipes I shared with my friends, family and readers were all about real food, (and an occasional indulgence).

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

That life begins at 18. Martyna Angell 1Now I think it really begins at 30, but if you ask me the same question in ten years’ time I have a feeling I know what the answer might be…40?

4.What were three big events in your life or the world around you that had a great effect on you and influenced your cooking?

Moving to Australia definitely opened my taste buds to a whole new world of food — fresh seafood and South East Asian flavour influences and ingredient availability — which I absolutely adored. However, it also introduced me to a whole new range of processed and fast foods. Despite a short-term infatuation with junk food in my early twenties, real food has been one of the most grounding forces in my cooking. I’ve realised it is the easiest single choice we can make for our health and well-being. Cooking from scratch and eating real food that’s best for our bodies with an occasional indulgence is a philosophy I’ve adopted after completing studies with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition — another game changer for me. It’s also a philosophy I now live with my family and share in The Wholesome Cook.

5.What are some dishes you wouldn’t eat as a child that you love now?

I was never a fussy eater: I thoroughly enjoyed tripe and liver and had fermented pickles as a snack almost every day. However, and I think many might agree with me here, Brussels sprouts were not really my thing. Our school diner used to serve soup filled with overcooked mushy Brussels sprouts that sent the pungent aroma permeating through the entire school. It was nauseating. No one was a big fan. I’ve since learnt to prepare them in a more palatable way. They are fantastic shredded into a raw slaw or gently charred, roasted or stir-fried (see page 111 for recipe). They are sweet, slightly nutty and delicious that way.

6.Please tell us about your latest book…

The Wholesome Cook is not a diet book or an eat-that-but-not-this book. It’s all about making a lifestyle change for the long term that suits you; it focuses on eating clean, real food that’s best for you, most of the time. It contains over 170 refined sugar-free recipes for how we eat now — theMartyna Angell 3 bioindividual way. What it means is that every recipe has a gluten-free option and many come with options for other dietary needs such as diary-free, paleo, vegetarian and vegan. Many are also egg- and nut-free. They are all delicious.

As mentioned earlier, I was brought up with wholesome food — packets and processed food weren’t allowed in our house — but when I hit my twenties, I fell in love with junk food. The result? Within a year I had piled on 20 kilograms and when I stopped fitting into my favourite work suits that ran out at size 14, I knew I had to make a change. It wasn’t the size or particular numbers on the scales that scared me, although they helped make it real, it was the threat of being technically and truly obese that made me decide enough was enough. I needed to take back control of my cravings, my weight and my life.  But I wanted this change to be permanent. And so, I went back to basics: the basics of eating real food.

7.If you had to create one dish to show off your repertoire, what would it be?

It would most likely be Pulled Lamb Nachos (page 240) because they are a simple slow cooker number that uses deboned shoulder — a secondary meat cut from pasture-raised animals. Both have become fashionable terms, but having grown up with a grandfather who was a butcher and uncle who had a cattle farm, this kind of sustainable nose-to-tail eating was commonplace in our family. It is something that had, perhaps, waned in popularity but is now starting to see a comeback.

The dish is a favourite with the kids and most of our guests who have tried it are really pleasantly surprised with the use of lamb and a few additional tricks I’ve learned over the years to make the junk food to wholefood makeover easier. It’s served with a good choice of fresh salads, good fats from the avocado and probiotic-rich yoghurt instead of sour cream. Even the corn chips are plain — Martyna Angell 5a little indulgence without the junk.

8.Whom do you most admire and why?

I always find stories of those who have made a sea change inspiring, especially those who have done so to grow real food. I admire the courage it takes to drop everything for a simpler (if not necessarily easier) and happier life.

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

My goal is to create a ripple effect by highlighting the merits of eating real, wholefood while at the same time acknowledging that we are all a little different and no single diet fits everyone the same, no matter how fashionable it may be. My goal is also to teach our kids that being able to cook real food from scratch and listening to their body is not hard, nor does it have to be super expensive or time consuming. I believe it’s a skill that will set them up for life of real nourishment. While I will continue to share recipes on the blog, I would love to write another cookbook/wellness guide focused on the benefits of eating well seasonally.

10.What advice do you give aspiring chefs?

Never stop exploring and learning. Practical experience is invaluable, whether it’s through travel, eating out, working in a restaurant kitchen or a farmer’s market or by helping out with animal-rearing. And always keep an open mind to fuel your creativity.

Thank you for playing, Martyna.

Grab your copy of The Wholesome Cook here

The Wholesome Cook

Martyna Angell

Martyna Angell profileThese days we all want to eat the kind of food that doesn’t compromise on flavour or health: clean wholefoods, fresh fruit and vegetables, pasture-raised meat. But it’s also true that what works in your diet for you, may not work for someone else. In The Wholesome Cook, talented cook and award-winning blogger Martyna Angell offers 170 nutritious and delicious recipes that are endlessly adaptable, cater to dietary restrictions and inspire lifestyle changes.

Every recipe is gluten – and processed sugar – free with an emphasis on wholefoods, and many also accommodate dairy-free, nut-free, paleo, vegan and vegetarian diets. These recipes are all about options …  Read more


Grab your copy of The Wholesome Cook here



Fiona Palmer talks to Booktopia TV about her new book, The Saddler Boys!

Bestselling Australian rural author Fiona Palmer talks to us about her new novel The Saddler Boys. And for the lucky that get in quick, they’ll receive a signed copy!

For a limited time only, order The Saddler Boys and you will receive a signed copy. Offer available while stocks last.

The Saddler Boys

Fiona Palmer

the-saddler-boysSchool teacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew.

As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her society … Read more

For a limited time only, order The Saddler Boys and you will receive a signed copy. Offer available while stocks last.

BOOK REVIEW + PRE-ORDER TO WIN: The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (Review by Caroline Baum)

Geraldine Brooks is brilliant at taking dusty historical research and bringing it to life by animating obscure figures in flesh and blood. In this case her subject is King David. Outside of his The Secret Chordappearances in the Bible, we know little about him. Yes, he slew (or is that slayed?) the giant Goliath, yes he played the harp and sang divinely, but what else?

Through the eyes of his friend, the courtier and prophet Natan, we get an intimate portrait of David the man and of the era in which he lived: 1000BC, the Second Iron Age.

Just as Brooks herself did as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, when she spent a lot of time talking to the wives of powerful men as a way of understanding local politics, Natan too talks to the women in David’s life to understand his motives and desires: his mother and two wives.

We follow his life’s arc from obscurity to fame, as a king, despot and patriarch in an almost Shakespearean sweep: he is a very flawed human being. In some of the narrative’s most dramatic scenes, he fails as both a father and a ruler, with women paying the price for his decisions. These episodes give the character of David the kind of rich moral complexity which allows Brooks to shine, deploying all her skills as a storyteller and as a chronicler of human folly, vanity and excess.

Order The Secret Chord by October 6th and you could win a Secret Chord hamper, featuring a limited edition copy of the book signed by Geraldine Brooks!
*Terms and Conditions apply.

The Secret Chord

by Geraldine Brooks

The Secret ChordA unique and vivid novel that retells the story of King David’s extraordinary rise to power and fall from grace, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of People of the Book, Year of Wonders and March, Geraldine Brooks.

1000 BC. The Second Iron Age. The time of King David.

Anointed as the chosen one when just a young shepherd boy, David will rise to be king, grasping the throne and establishing his empire. But his journey is a tumultuous one and the consequences of his choices will resound for generations. In a life that arcs from obscurity to fame, he is by turns hero and traitor, glamorous young tyrant and beloved king, murderous despot and remorseful, diminished patriarch. His wives love and fear him, his sons will betray him. It falls to Natan, the courtier and prophet who both counsels and castigates David, to tell the truth about the path he must take.

With stunning originality, acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks offers us a compelling portrait of a morally complex hero from this strange age – part legend, part history. Full of drama and richly drawn detail, The Secret Chord is a vivid story of faith, family, desire and power that brings David magnificently alive.

Order The Secret Chord by October 6th and you could win a Secret Chord hamper, featuring a limited edition copy of the book signed by Geraldine Brooks!
*Terms and Conditions apply.

About the Author

Geraldine Brooks is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning March, Year of Wonders, and the non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Previously, Brooks was a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East.

Born and raised in Australia, she divides her time between Sydney and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. She lives with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their two sons, Nathaniel and Bizuayehu.

Visit Geraldine Brooks’s Booktopia Author Page

Foreign correspondence Nine parts of desire Year of Wonders


George Megalogenis talks to Booktopia TV about his new book, Australia’s Second Chance

The bestselling author of The Australian Moment asks the most important question confronting the country right now – how do we maintain our winning streak?

For a limited time only, order Australia’s Second Chance and you will receive a signed copy. Please note: offer available while stocks last

Australia’s Second Chance

by George Megalogenis

Most nations don’George Megalogenist get a first chance to prosper. Australia is on its second. For the best part of the nineteenth century, Australia was the world’s richest country, a pioneer for democracy and a magnet for migrants. Yet our last big boom was followed by a fifty-year bust as we lost our luck, our riches and our nerve, and shut our doors on the world. Now we’re back on top, in the position where history tells us we made our biggest mistakes. Can we learn from our past and cement our place as one of the world’s great nations?

Showing that our future is in our foundation, Australia’s Second Chance goes back to 1788, the first contact between locals and migrants, to bring us a unique and fascinating view of the key events of our past right through to the present day. With newly available economic data and fresh interviews with former leaders (including the last major interview with Malcolm Fraser), George Megalogenis crunches the numbers and weaves our history into a compelling thesis, brilliantly chronicling our dialogue with the world and bringing fresh insight into the urgent question of who we are, and what we can become.


For a limited time only, order Australia’s Second Chance and you will receive a signed copy. Please note: offer available while stocks last

About the author

george-megalogenisGeorge Megalogenis is a political commentator, author and Australian journalist, including being a senior feature writer for The Australian newspaper. He was a regular guest on the ABC’s political analysis and panel discussion program, Insiders. In 2014, he wrote and presented a documentary series for the ABC, Making Australia Great: Inside Our Longest Boom, which aired in March 2015.

His books have included Faultlines: Race, Work, and the Politics of Changing Australia, The Longest Decade, The Australian Moment and now Australia’s Second Chance.


the-longest-decade the-australian-moment George Megalogenis

For a limited time only, order Australia’s Second Chance and you will receive a signed copy. Please note: offer available while stocks last

COMING SOON: Old School by Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Book 10)

Fans of Jeff Kinney’s The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series: rejoice! Greg’s back and being his hilarious self in Old School, Book 10 of the series.

With a new book comes new obstacles for Greg: he starts a new school and faces a challenge he never could have imagined …

Pre-order your copy of Old School here

Old School

Jeff Kinney

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

Life was better in the old days. Or was it?

That’s the question Greg Heffley is asking as his town voluntarily unplugs and goes electronics-free. But modern life has its conveniences, and Greg isn’t cut out for an old-fashioned world.

With tension building inside and outside the Heffley home, will Greg find a way to survive? Or is going ‘old school’ just too hard for a kid like Greg?

Pre-order your copy of Old School here

About the AuthorJeff Kinney

Jeff Kinney is an online game developer and designer, and a number 1 New York Times bestselling author. In 2009, Jeff was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He spent his childhood in the Washington, D.C., area and moved to New England in 1995. Jeff lives in southern Massachusetts with his wife and their two sons.

Ten Things You Didn’t Know about Jeff Kinney:

  1. He still doesn’t have to shave too often.
  2. His first decent drawing was of a turtle at the age of 3 (Jeff, not the turtle).
  3. He plays the piano “very, very poorly.”
  4. Jeff’s brother Scott has written one of the songs in the movie, Diary of A Wimpy Kid.
  5. He created the kids’ website
  6. His favourite computer games are the Mario Kart series.
  7. His favourite sandwich is peanut butter and jelly (eeeuw).
  8. His favourite song is ‘Brownville Girl’ by Bob Dylan.
  9. He has two brothers and a sister.
  10. At one stage he studied to become a federal law enforcement officer.

Visit Jeff Kinney’s Booktopia Author Page

Jeff Kinney - Hard Luck Jeff Kinney -The Long Haul Jeff Kinney - The third wheel

BOOK REVIEW: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (Review by Caroline Baum)

Canada’s literathe-heart-goes-lastry grande dame, Margaret Atwood, is the high priestess of dystopia. As its ruling authority, she invents plots that are devilish in their scary plausibility and disturbingly accurate in their critique of where today’s extremes will lead to if we are not hyper vigilant.

But she is a hugely entertaining and playful Cassandra, peppering her visions of future doom with witheringly sharp satirical dialogue and observation, making the experience of reading this slim but meaty novel doubly uneasy. One minute you are laughing at the pathetic naivety of Charmaine and Stan, a couple seduced into living in Consilience, a gated community to protect themselves from a ravaged society. The next you are wondering what moral decisions you would make under the circumstances they are faced with on the inside.

The scenario she devises to alert us to future danger hinges on the choice between freedom and security, between desires genuinely or artificially gratified. Yes, there is sex with robots.

Get your copy The Heart Goes Last here

The Heart Goes Last

by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

Charmaine and Stan are young and in love. Victims of a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots, they struggle to keep their relationship alive in the face of increasing poverty. Now living in their car, they survive on tips from Charmaine’s job at filthy dive bar, until the day they see an advertisement for a social experiment offering security, community, and a break from the daily grind of their current existence…

Leaving behind the uncertainty of their former lives, they sign themselves up for the perfectly manicured lawns of Consilience, with its stable jobs and protection from the increasingly unruly and angry population outside its walls. All they have to do in return for this suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – with a voluntary imprisonment. But what seems at first to be a balancing act worth investing in for the safety of a permanent roof over their heads, soon turns into a nightmare of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire…

Brilliantly conceived and executed, with a pace that will leave you breathless, The Heart Goes Last is a powerful satire of life in the twenty-first century, charged throughout with Margaret Atwood’s signature devastating wit, irony and keen perception.

Get your copy The Heart Goes Last here

About the Author

Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto the-handmaid-s-taleand her master’s degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid’s Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood’s dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006.

Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth ­ in the Massey series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009.

Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.

Margaret Atwood currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Visit Margaret Atwood’s Booktopia Author Page


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