Shona Innes, author of Life is Like the Wind and Friendship is Like a Seesaw, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

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The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Shona Innes

author of Life is Like the Wind and Friendship is Like a Seesaw

Ten Terrifying Questions

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

I was born and raised in sunny Queensland. I was born in Toowoomba, but grew up living in Buderim on the Sunshine Coast. I went to primary school at Buderim Mountain Primary School and then I went to High School in Maroochydore – I was school captain at Maroochy High for the class of ’83.

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

When I was 12, I’m pretty sure I wanted to be one of Charlie’s Angels. I could help people out and chase down bad guys all while wearing high heels and having glamorous hair.

At 18, I wanted to be a school teacher. I got a really good tertiary entrance score and all of my teachers tried to talk me out of it, but I stuck to my guns….for a good two weeks… before changing unis and starting a psychology degree. I was interested in understanding more about people and their behaviour. I ended up doing a science degree in Psychology, but did all of my electives in education and then did a Grad Dip in Child Psychology.

At 30, I was totally in love with psychology, but I still wanted to know more. I was working at a custodial Youth Justice Centre and I enrolled in a Masters of Clinical Psychology.

Shona2 (2)

Author Shona Innes

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

That happiness would always be a glorious mix of Wham!, shoulder pads and a perm.

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?

My mum was a working Mum in an era when not many mums had a job outside the home. I was definitely going to have a career.

I won five dollars in a poetry competition at primary school. My poem was about a spider’s web after the rain. Maybe I was good at writing?

In high school, I borrowed the Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling. I’m not sure that I fully understood it all or if I ever finished it, but I re-borrowed it multiple times. It made me feel intelligent.

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 have great memories of books in my childhood. I would often get books as gifts and my sister and I created a little library in the cupboard under the household telephone. My grandmother and my great aunt would read aloud to me and they always bought books for me that they knew I would love. It was something that meant someone was sharing their time and the joy or excitement of whatever was happening on the pages. Being read to while sharing the pages was definitely a comfort thing. It’s hard to imagine that you could evoke those same feelings electronically. The children I write to love getting mail instead of an email. I think it shows effort and a preparedness to share – ingredients of important relationships.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Life is Like the Wind” and “Friendship is Like a Seesaw” were both developed from letters I had written to my young clients after our sessions. I write to young clients to help them remember what we talked about, but also to give their parents, carers or teachers an idea about how to talk with the child about the things that are on their mind. The Big Hug series will target some of the more frequent issues children bring with them to our psychology practice. The aim is to assist children (and grownups) to understand their feelings and then to accept the feelings or think about some ideas that might make them feel better.

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Grab a copy Life is Like the Wind or Friendship is Like a Seesaw here

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

All lives have their ups and downs. I’d hope that the Big Hug books can help children and grownups ease through the tough times and appreciate all that is good.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I admire people who put in an effort – whether the effort be the hard work that comes with facing fear or battling depression, the sacrifices people make because they care, or the dedication people have to their work or craft. Some people are really shiny, have the “gift of the gab” and a lot of charisma, but their efforts are shallow. I value hard work, but really struggle with those who take credit where it is not due.

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

This year I’d like to run 10km in under 55 minutes, visit friends in faraway places and have all my favourite music artists make it to the top 10 in the Triple J Hottest 100.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Know about what you do. Apply effort. Be genuinely grateful for shared knowledge and learn from tough times.

Shona, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy Life is Like the Wind or Friendship is Like a Seesaw here

Gabrielle Tozer, author of The Intern, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Gabrielle Tozer

author of The Intern

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 and raised in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, a wonderful regional town where I completed both primary and high school, and ate chicken-salted potato gems by the bagful.

Next stop, three years studying journalism and creative writing at the University of Canberra (and perfecting the art of staying up ’til 3am and sleeping ’til midday). I’ve been a city-slicker in Sydney since early 2006 but still have soft spots for Wagga and Canberra and visit both as often as possible.

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

Twelve: A journalist, author, actress or psychologist. Eighteen: A journalist, author or a newsreader like Ann Sanders (I used to go into older women’s shops to try on power suits. Yes, I’m strange). Thirty: Yet to crack the big 3-0, but I predict I will still want to be a – shock horror – author! And maybe a professional pizza reviewer. Is that a thing? That should be a thing.

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

That I would have my driver’s licence by now. Oops. It has not eventuated yet, much to the dismay of my family and friends (and every second person I meet). Eighteen-year-old me was such a glass-half-full kind of gal.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Sorry, I am going to cheat by ignoring that you said ‘three’ and also by saying writers have influenced me the most. Without a doubt: Stephen King’s On Writing (I read it once a year whenever I need a creative reboot); anything by John Marsden, Roald Dahl, Nick Hornby, Margaret Clark and Morris Gleitzman; and brilliant female screenwriters such as Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Because I sing like a hyena, haven’t pirouetted in years, get too nervous to act anymore and can only draw stick figures. Luckily, I can wrangle words into shape from time to time and, since I have always been a voracious reader, I thought it would be pleasurable to see things from the other side (and hopefully entertain a new generation!). Besides, this sounds naff, but I could always picture myself doing it…and now, I’m hooked!

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Intern is a YA novel that follows the crazy, awkward adventures of seventeen-year-old Josie Browning, a country girl who scores herself an internship at the glamorous magazine, Sash. While it all sounds amazing, there’s a catch: she’s battling for a coveted cash prize and column, and at the mercy of the whip-cracking editor-in-chief Rae Swanson. Throw in family dramas, slipping uni grades and a hot guy or two, and Josie’s having herself quite the year!

Grab a copy of The Intern here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I want readers to be entertained! I hope they giggle, smirk or snort while reading the awkward moments (oh, I love putting my characters through cringe-worthy scenarios!), and enjoy the warmer interludes between Josie and her family. Readers are quite taken with Josie’s dorky but loveable way and often ask me about her next adventure, so I’m glad I’m working on the sequel at the moment (it’s due out early 2015).

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

John Marsden, J.K. Rowling, Kylie Ladd, Rebecca Sparrow, John Green, Nick Hornby, Suzanne Collins, Lena Dunham, just to name a few. They’re damn good writers and I want to devour every word they write.

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

Keep finding the joy in writing, keep getting books published, keep pushing myself creatively. If I could do all three, while juggling real-life responsibilities and relationships with aplomb, then I will be incredibly fulfilled and happy. Oh, and I might look into the whole professional pizza reviewer gig, too… (A girl’s gotta have goals, right?)

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just start. Put pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard and get writing. Don’t worry about asking for advice, or waiting for inspiration to strike, or for the ‘perfect moment’ to begin. If you are a writer, then you will write. It won’t always be easy, in fact, sometimes it’s extraordinarily challenging, so be gentle with yourself and remember to enjoy the ride.

Gabrielle, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Intern here

The Monday Morning Cooking Club, authors of The Feast Goes On, answer Ten Terrifying Questions

Click here to grab a copyThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

The Monday Morning Cooking Club

authors of The Feast Goes On

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

We all live in Sydney, Australia but we have come from all over: Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, South Africa. And our family backgrounds are even more diverse, reflecting the Jewish community’s melting pot: Hungary, Poland, Russia via China, South Africa, England.

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

When we were twelve we were all consumed with what was in our lunch boxes and pantries. Some of us were getting schnitzel on rye and really wanted Vegemite on white bread.  Some of our pantries were stocked with kosher salami, dill pickles and poppyseed cake and all we really wanted were biscuits from a packet and bought jam swiss rolls. What did we want to be? Like everybody else!

When we were eighteen we were discovering our passion for food. Learning and loving to cook, throwing our first dinner parties and searching for good food. What did we want to be? Grown up and accomplished. mmcc_slider_girlswhite

When we were thirty we were all consumed with motherhood, trying to find the time for a cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake and striving to find the right life/work balance. What did we want to be? Less sleep deprived than we were!

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

At eighteen, we were all so sure we knew more than our mothers. As we grow older and wiser, and have 18 year old daughters ourselves, we have learned the adage is true: ‘mother is always right.’

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?

Growing up, more so than any one event, the continual celebrations that went on in all our homes each and every year for Jewish festivals (passover, Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur) and weekly Friday night feasts for Sabbath eve together with mothers who were committed and passionate about cooking and feeding their families.  2: On a larger scale, the immigration to Australia from countries as far and wide as Vietnam, Greece, Hungary, Russia and South Africa has given our lives in Australia a cultural and culinary diversity which has enriched our national makeup and palate. 3: The creation of our first book Monday Morning Cooking Club – the food the stories the sisterhood’. The years we spent collecting, testing and preserving family heirloom recipes filled us with a great joy, and taught us so much along the way.

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?

Printed cookbooks will never be obsolete. Some of us think that there is nothing more enjoyable than taking your latest cookbook to bed and reading it cover to cover, ogling the beautiful photos and feeling the pages between your fingers.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…Click here to grab a copy

The Feast Goes On features the best loved and most delicious stories from the heart and soul of our community right across Australia. It is not a book of Jewish food per se, it’s a book of recipes from Jewish kitchens, collected from countries far and wide. The book speaks of a community drawn together by food, with intimate and moving stories of sharing and survival, love and hope, friendship and family. It is full of precious family recipes passed down from past generations through to recipes that will become instant family favourites.The book has recipes for every occasion – from every day eating to feasting, light lunches to fressing, comfort food to traditional dishes – which will nurture, nourish and inspire.

Grab a copy of The Feast Goes On here

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

To find, collect, recreate and publish all those wonderful heirloom recipes from the older generation before they are lost forever. We believe the old recipes still fit so well into our contemporary world.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?
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As a group, without a doubt, we place our grandmothers on the highest pedestal. We look back with wonder on how they managed to nurture and feed their families the most exquisite dishes without any of today’s mod-cons; plucking chickens to produce golden roasts, pickling and preserving anything and everything to get though the winter, home baked bread made from scratch, the lightest of chiffon cakes, flaky pastries crammed with dried fruit and nuts.

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

Our goal is to create a contemporary face for Australian Jewish cuisine. One important part of this is to preserve those treasured recipes from the older generation for our generation, and from our generation for the future. The other important aspect is that we are a not-for-profit company and will continue to raise substantial funds for charity.

10.      What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Always follow your dream, don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be dissuaded by the ’NO’s’. Doors open at the most unexpected times!

Monday Morning Cooking Club, thank you for playing!

Grab a copy of The Feast Goes On here

Silvia Kwon, author of The Return, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Silvia Kwon

author of The Return

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 Seoul, South Korea and arrived in Perth, Western Australia aged nine. I spent the first few years in country towns and found the transition from a bustling city to rural Australia fairly traumatic. It was compounded by the fact that I couldn’t speak any English and being a fairly outgoing, social girl, it made me determined to learn the language as quickly as possible.

I went to a girls’ Catholic high school, St Joachim’s High School in Perth and spent a few years trying to figure out what to do with my life. I ended up falling in love with art and decided to pursue an art history degree at the University of Western Australia. Then in my late twenties I thought it was time I did something about my love of books and words and moved to Melbourne to try and work in publishing, which I did for a number of years before having a child and starting my own writing.

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

Twelve – no idea
Eighteen – Filmmaker: I loved the way films – images with music – could move you. I try to this with words. But I found that I wasn’t any good with a camera.
Thirty – Editor: I loved words so the idea of working with words as a profession was very attractive to me. I am doing that now, as a writer.

Silvia Kwon3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I was very much a romantic, so I believed in the idea of a soulmate, but now I’m much more pragmatic and believe that love and relationships happen through coincidence, luck and chance as much as compatibility.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

1) The art of Mark Rothko
2) The films of Terrence Malick
3) Books by James Joyce

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

The simplicity and freedom associated with the act of putting ideas down on paper has always been attractive to me. There’s no complicated equipment like cameras or messy paintbrushes etc.

I also love words. I could sit and read the dictionary quite happily for an entire day.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

It’s about a family coming to terms with the son’s decision to bring home a Japanese wife during 1960s Australia. The father is deeply traumatised by his war experiences and still hates the former enemy.

The novel is told from the mother’s point of view and follows her struggle, caught between her husband and son, to hold the fractured family together.

Grab a copy of The Return here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

That they took a journey with the main protagonist through the emotional landscape of the novel.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I really admire Toni Morrison for the power of her language.

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

To try and write a better book than the last.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

It’s actually something I heard Neil Gaiman say: There will always be better writers and smarter people than you. Just try to write something which only you could have written.

Silvia, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Return here

Naomi Wood, author of Mrs. Hemingway, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Naomi Wood

author of Mrs. Hemingway

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 grew up in York in the north of England. When I was eight my parents announced we were moving to Hong Kong. We’d never been to the continent of Asia, nevertheless China, and we’d certainly never been to Hong Kong. My dad worked for the international schools, and my sister and I had most of our schooling out there. Now she’s in Sydney, I’m in London and my parents are in Italy. We’re spread out like butter on the toast of the globe.

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

At twelve I told people I wanted to be “a bloodsucking lawyer”. It was a brattish answer that I stole from The Addams Family movie (my favourite, at that age; for a year I watched it every afternoon over a bowl of noodles, and can still remember most of the lines.) At eighteen I was getting vibes that I wanted to be a writer. I’m thirty now, and I write and teach Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University in London, which is a pretty good combination.

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

That writing would build me a big house and swimming pool. The economics of my dreams have shrunk a little.

4.     What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

Reading The Old Man and the Sea made me interested in Hemingway and made me want to find out everything about him – that powerful sense of loss in all of its pages made me want to write about a troubled soul and his relationships with women.  My first novel, The Godless Boys, emerged after I set about writing a short-story based on what I saw in Lucian Freud’s painting The Village Boys. If I could produce something tonally close to the cascading elegy that is Anthony and the Jonson’s ‘Hope There’s Someone’ – I’d be very happy.

5.     Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

No good at painting. Can’t sing. Can dance, but only like an idiot. I love books – short-stories, novels and poetry, and I love language, so writing seemed the obvious artistic avenue.

6.     Please tell us about your latest novel…

Mrs. Hemingway is historical fiction, set between 1921-61 in France and America. It tells the story of Hemingway’s four marriages from the perspective of each wife (and former mistress) – Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pfeiffer, Martha Gellhorn and Mary Welsh.

7.     What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

It’s definitely written for people who’ve never read any Hemingway before, so I hope people take away a portrait of him, as well as a portrait of his four incredible wives. And maybe they’ll go away and read some of Martha Gellhorn’s war reportage – or maybe some fiction of Hemingway’s.

8.     Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

I’ll choose a living writer here. I really love Marilynne Robinson’s work. I think she is a very robust, very beautiful writer. Gilead is one of my favourite novels.

the-old-man-and-the-sea9.     Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I set myself achievable rather than ambitious goals.  My current goal is to write a first draft of my third novel.

10.   What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Not to worry too much about early drafts. They’re exploratory and first stabs in the dark. I must admit this is advice I find very difficult to accept myself. I’d like things to be perfect right from the get-go. Maybe I’m quite like Wednesday Addams in this as well!

Naomi, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Mrs. Hemingway here

And the winner of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC signed poster is…

ac-dcThe Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC Prize Winner:

L. Heinrich, Chatswood, NSW

The prize:

A laminated poster of THE YOUNGS signed by

- Author Jesse Fink
- AC/DC bass player Mark Evans (Let There Be Rock, TNT, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap)
- AC/DC drummer Tony Currenti (High Voltage, ’74 Jailbreak, Bonfire, Backtracks)

the-youngsThe Youngs

by Jesse Fink

With sales of over 200 million albums, AC/DC is not just the biggest rock band in the world. It’s a family business built by three brothers: George, Malcolm and Angus Young. And, as with any business, some people prospered while others got hurt along the way.

The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC is unlike any AC/DC book you’ve read before. Less a biography, more a critical appreciation, it tells the story of the trio through 11 classic songs and reveals some of the personal and creative secrets that went into their making. Important figures from AC/DC’s long way to the top open up for the very first time, while unsung heroes behind the band’s success are given the credit they are due.

Accepted accounts of events are challenged while sensational new details emerge to cast a whole new light on the band’s history – especially their early years with Atlantic Records in the United States. Former AC/DC members and musicians from bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Dropkick Murphys, Airbourne and Rose Tattoo also give their perspectives on the Youngs’ brand of magic.

Their music has never pulled its punches. Neither does The Youngs. After 40 years, AC/DC might just have got the serious book it deserves.

Grab a copy of The Youngs here


Congratulations to the winner!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

REVIEW: Half Bad by Sally Green (review by Sarah McDuling)

half-badEvery so often you hear about a book that’s being touted as a “global sensation”. Usually in such cases the film rights have been bought, the author is being labelled “the next J.K Rowling” and the general consensus seems to be OMG this is it! The New Craze! The Next Big Thing! And so on, and so forth. We’ve heard it all before, right?

And yet it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear it, whenever a book like this comes along I get caught up in the hype. My expectations soar to dizzying heights. I find myself thinking, “This book is going to change my life! It will blow my mind and rock my world. It will save the rainforests and end world poverty! God bless this miraculous book!”

Of course, I’m nearly always disappointed.

It’s not the book’s fault. It’s just that sometimes hype can be dangerous. Too much hype can kill a good book, purely because it can’t possibly measure up to the high expectations of the reader. However, Half Bad by Sally Green might just be the exception to this rule

(NB: Half Bad by Sally Green is probably not going save any rainforests or end world poverty.  I mean it might. But probably not. I just want to be upfront about that, before we go any further.)

Sally Green, author of the upcoming Half Life trilogy, really doesn’t have all that much in common with J. K. Rowling. Well … except that they are both British. And female. Also, both are blonde and have children. Does this qualify Sally Green as the next J.K Rowling?  I’m not sure about that. What I am sure of are the following facts:

1). Sally Green is a first time author.Sally Green

2). Her Half Life trilogy has been sold into 42 countries.

3) There was a massive bidding war between major studios in order to secure the film rights.

4) All of this happened before the first book in the trilogy had even been published.

Now that’s a lot of hype to live up to.

In terms of what the book is about, I’m almost reluctant to say. Any kind of synopsis I give is probably going to make it sound like a Harry Potter rip-off. The truth is, comparisons to Harry Potter are unavoidable here. Both books are about teenaged boys with magical powers –  boys who must navigate their way through an intricate world of witches/wizards, burdened by tragic pasts and unwanted notoriety.

Still, despite these superficial similarities, Half Bad is actually a very fresh and imaginative take on a well known theme. At no point does it come off feeling clichéd or unoriginal which (let’s be honest) is an impressive feat for a Young Adult novel about witches. This is not new territory, after all. And yet, somehow Sally Green has managed to put a whole new spin on a familiar tune. Whereas Harry Potter is very much a fanstasy, Half Bad is more of a gritty, comptemporary coming-of-age story … that just happens to include witches. More importantly, it’s an enthralling page turner starring a complex and compelling protagonist. All up, a riveting first act in what promises to be an impressive show.

So. Will Half Bad live up to the hype and become the next big publishing phenomenon? I certainly hope so, but I can’t say for sure. These things can be hard to predict.  All I can say is that I completely understand why people are so excited about this new trilogy. Even handicapped by my ridiculously high expectations, Half Bad did not disappoint.

This is a series I’ll be very glad to see capture the hearts and minds of a new generation of teens.

Spoiler Alert: Despite what you may have heard, Half Bad  does not contain a map to the lost city of Atlantis or the secret to eternal youth. It is, however, a very good book that you will  have difficulty putting down.

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Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiaster fibber. You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Grab a copy of Half Bad here

half-badIn modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both.

Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

REVIEW: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris (review by Sarah McDuling)

LokiHere’s what I knew about Norse mythology when I first picked up The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris.

a)     Norse gods live in a place called Asgard.

b)    Loki is the coolest god . Sure he’s evil, but he’s also played by Tom Hiddleston (see left) and therefore his evilness is cancelled out by his perfect male beauty.

c)     Thor is the god of Thunder. He has very large muscles and a magic hammer.

So yeah. As you can see I had some major gaps in my knowledge. Gaps that have now been filled with Joanne M. Harris’ spellbinding recounting of Norse myth and legend, through the eyes of the most instantly engaging narrator I have encountered in a long while.

The Gospel of Loki is a surprising book. For starters, the only other book by Joanne M. Harris that I’ve ever read is Chocolat and The Gospel of Loki is a very different kind of read. I loved Chocolat. It was enchanting, heart-warming and utterly lovely.  The Gospel of Loki is none of these things. It’s dark, quirky, occasionally grim, often hilarious and gloriously bold.

Given the subject matter, I was expecting The Gospel of Loki to be more of a traditional fantasy epic, heavy on world building and probably involving some kind of The Gospel of Lokiheroic journey quest. Instead, I found myself lost in a series of episodic adventures, wicked little parables on how best to lie, cheat, trick and bluff your way to success. In Loki’s case, of course, success means getting revenge against his fellow gods and causing the downfall of Asgard.

By far and away the most wonderful thing about this book is the voice Joanne M. Harris has given her delightfully immoral anti-hero. I’m not always a great fan of first person narrative but I have to make an exception for  The Gospel of Loki because this is how first person narration should be done! Loki’s character shines through in every line, dripping sarcasm, twinkling with mischief and humming with that special kind of unrepentant arrogance so often found in archetypal “trickster” characters like Robin Goodfellow and Peter Pan.

This is a character who, when asked if he can achieve the impossible, routinely replies, “Of course. I’m Loki.” He is gloriously conceited, packed full of swagger and playful cheek. He’s a lovable villain, a mischievous bad-boy, a fiendish puppet master who knows just how to manipulate people. It doesn’t take much. Just whisper into someone’s ear, a well-timed and seemingly offhand comment and voila! Disaster ensues!

And yet, the true genius of Harris’ Loki is that he is so dammed lovable. Despite his inherent wickedness, you just can’t help rooting for him. He’s not malicious, after all. He’s simply a creature of chaos. It’s in his nature to cause trouble.

Now come on. Tell me he doesn’t sound like the coolest god ever?

Joanne m. harrisHarris gives us a Loki who is constantly mistreated by his fellow gods. Always an outsider, always rejected, always everybody’s convenient scapegoat.  This of course makes him the ultimate underdog. No matter how evil his plots become, or what depths of wickedness he sinks to, the reader cannot help cheering him on because … well … he’s Loki.

So thoroughly did I enjoy The Gospel of Loki that I was compelled to check whether Joanne M. Harris has written any other books in a similar vein. To my joy, I found out she has!  Runemarks and Runelight  – two Young Adult fantasies inspired by Norse mythology, both which of I will be reading as soon as possible.

And now excuse me while I go and pray to Odin, Allfather of the gods and ruler of Asgard, to give Loki his very own Marvel movie (with at least two sequels).

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Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiaster fibber. You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Grab a copy of The Gospel of Loki here

the-gospel-of-lokiWith his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

But while Loki is planning the downfall of Asgard and the humiliation of his tormentors, greater powers are conspiring against the gods and a battle is brewing that will change the fate of the Worlds.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

 

Best of Booktopia TV – Julie Goodwin & Rick Stein chat to John Purcell

We know that Booktopians have a passion for food, and in these interviews both authors chat about what makes a delicious meal and the way that food can bring people together. Check them out below!

gatherJulie Goodwin – Gather

How to cook delicious recipes for large and small crowds of family and friends, from the bestselling original Australian MasterChef, Julie Goodwin.

Julie Goodwin’s first cookbook, Our Family Table, was loved by many for its combination of simple and delicious recipes, and affectionate family stories. Her second book, The Heart Of The Home, followed on from this, with more quick and easy family recipes and stories to bring together those she loves.

With more than 100 delicious recipes and stunning photography, Julie gives us fast and fresh recipes for the perfect picnic, a warm and cosy dinner party, a bustling street party, a cake stall, pot luck, a family dinner around the pizza oven, a cocktail party and the perfect High Tea.

Grab a copy of Julie Goodwin’s Gather here


rick-stein-s-indiaRick Stein – India

Whenever I hear the word curry, I’m filled with a longing for spicy hot food with the fragrance of cumin, cloves and cinnamon. I see deep red colours from lots of Kashmiri chillis, tinged with a suggestion of yellow from turmeric. I think of the tandoor oven, and slightly scorched naan shining with ghee and garlic.

When Indians talk of their food, they talk about their life. To understand this country, you need to understand curry.

What makes a good curry? Sensual spicy aromas or thick, creamy sauces? Rich, dark dals or crispy fried street snacks? Rick journeys through India to find the answer, searching this colourful, chaotic nation in search of the truths behind our love affair with its food.

Grab a copy of Rick Stein’s India here

REVIEW: The Raider by Monica McCarty (Review by Hayley Shephard)

the-raiderLooking for an historical book to read, where the actions and emotions of the characters involved are realistic? Where passion is always high, and the atmosphere is so sensual it’s bordering on primal? Then look no further than The Highland Guard series by Monica McCarty, and more recently her new novel, The Raider.

Think of The Highland Guard, after which this gripping series is named, as the ancient equivalent of the FBI or the ASIS. Each member must fight for Scotland’s freedom during the War of Independence.

Robert Boyd, whose warrior name is Raider (you can guess why), helps us to remember that warriors can still be vulnerable to their surroundings and make mistakes. So many authors of historical romance forget this and write about figures of the past that barely seem real – go figure!  Monica McCarty’s warriors, however, are human and thus susceptible to love in whatever form that may come in. And falling in love, as Raider learns, means making sacrifices and accepting that some things cannot be changed, otherwise you risk losing the one you love.

Raider comes to realise this after he takes an English woman hostage. Though he might be the strongest man in Scotland, he is just a man when 821in the presence of this woman, aptly named Rosalin. Rosalin, the sister of a powerful Englishman and seemingly his enemy, forces him to see and acknowledge things that he doesn’t want to- both inside and out.

Rosalin thankfully is not a damsel in distress; she pushes and pushes, never giving up.  Unfortunately, most authors give their characters a happy ending after only the slightest of hiccups; they make their “heroines” do anything and everything for the man they love.

More importantly, the constant upheavals in this story are not softened by unrealistic moments of passion. Some historical romances depict moments of “passion” as a turning point in the story, where the characters come to an understanding and realise everything will be alright. In this story sex is depicted as a way for the two main characters to show their love and frustration at the situation they have been dealt with. Not only that, but it helps them to forget for a while and imagine a happier world.

So as I said before, if you want a more realistic read then pick up The Raider or any other book in the series. The tension can be unbearable, but in the end well satisfying.


Grab a copy of The Raider here

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