GUEST BLOG: Caroline Baum on judging the Stella Prize

CaroJudging a literary prize is the one thing that no algorithm, no matter how sophisticated, can do. It is an intensely human and subjective endeavour. Now that the winner of this year’s Stella prize has been announced, I can say with complete honesty that this was the hardest prize I have ever judged: partly because of the sheer volume of books that we five judges had to read, in a relatively tight time frame, and partly because the quality of the books made it such a difficult process.

I spent a lot of this summer reading so intensely that on some days, I simply never got dressed. I taped the three criteria to my bedside table -original, excellent and engaging- and repeated them to myself like a mantra whenever I was unsure.

Some books snuck up on me unexpectedly, including a couple I had missed when they came out. One or two had completely failed to appear on my radar, causing me genuine concern: how could it be that I had overlooked them, when my role at Booktopia gives me the opportunity to see everything that’s out there? Answer: I’m human. An algorithm could come up with a formula that suggests what I might like based on previous preferences, but it won’t necessarily spot the book I failed to notice.

Judging for the Stella introduced me to some voices I will now follow with acute and sustained interest: Sofie Laguna and Biff Ward, I await your next books keenly.

As the process and the summer wore on, emails trickled through in the heat, becoming more urgent as deadlines neared. Oh the relief of realising some of my most fervently held enthusiasms were shared!

I thought of what it takes to do this as a kind of fitness, requiring muscle tone like a long distance athletic challenge. You need reading stamina to stay the course as well as lots of uninterrupted time.

When it came to whittling the longlist down to the shortlist, I read all twelve books again to get to six. There was no way round it. The revelations on re-reading were astounding and sometimes conviction-shaking – which just goes to show how much you miss when you are binge-reading, swallowing a book down without digesting it properly.

Our deliberations, when we finally came together on a warm day in Melbourne, were respectful, polite, fair but intense. Navigating towards the shore of consensus, we avoided the rocks of heated argument, all equally keen to avoid boiling it down to the simple, bald maths of a vote.

Being the first cab off the rank in the sequence of the year’s literary prizes is interesting: when the lists appear for prizes like the Miles Franklin it is surprising to see where you overlap and where you don’t.

I think it’s great for the vigour of the culture if one book does not scoop all the prizes, but it was surprising to see that our winner this year was not even longlisted for The Miles Franklin, given that The Strays certainly ticks the box when it comes to the vexed criterion of depicting an aspect of Australian life.

If Joan London wins it for The Golden Age, that would mean a pair of prestigious wins by two fine women writers who use language with similar precision, delicacy and maturity, despite the fact that one is making her debut, and the other is arguably one of our finest midcareer novelists. Both books about outsiders with heightened sensibilities, and which bring a fresh perspective to complex aspects of our past.

Caroline Baum is Booktopia’s Editorial Director, for which she produces The Booktopia Buzz. She also writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, Qantas in flight magazine, Slow Magazine, SBS Feast and other publications about books, food, travel, the arts, and aspects of contemporary life.

230914carolinebaumbuzzheader616+x123Check out Caroline’s Books of the Month in The Booktopia Buzz

GUEST BLOG: A farewell to Sir Terry Pratchett – by Karen Miller

TerryWhat’s that saying in showbiz? Always leave ‘em wanting more? Well, I guess then it’s mission accomplished. Because I know I’m not the only one who will forever more be wanting more Sam Vimes, more Granny Weatherwax, more Captain Carrot and Lord Vetinari and Susan and Death of Rats and Nanny Ogg and Magrat and … and … and …

When we learned in 2007 that the man who created the Discworld was afflicted with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s disease, we knew we’d been given advance warning that we’d be losing him sooner rather than later. But that doesn’t make this moment any easier to bear. Sometimes being forewarned isn’t being forearmed. Sometimes it’s a really mean trick.

Terry Pratchett wrote extraordinary books. I’d go so far as to say that his was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of imagination and intellect. I’d go so far as to say that in Pratchett we had our own William Shakespeare. Terry Pratchett never wrote comedy, although so much of his work was witty and amusing and often made his readers laugh aloud. No. Terry Pratchett wrote deeply, passionately, sometimes angrily, sometimes kindly, but always with wisdom and keen insight, about the infinitely complicated truths of human nature and human society, about the need for and lack of simple human compassion – and the astonishing impact both the need and lack of it could have on both a single life and the world.

a-slip-of-the-keyboardSince being asked to collect some thoughts on his work, and his passing, of course I’ve been revisiting his books, and my favourites among them. Inevitably there are some I love more than others, some I’ve re-read until the covers are in danger of falling off and others I’ve honestly only read once or twice. Far and away my two favourite subsets are the City Watch series, and the Witches series. No lie, I must be up to at least fifteen re-reads of those books and they never get boring or commonplace or over-familiar. I love them with all my heart and soul and as I think about them I’m overwhelmed by moments I adore: Magrat facing down the elves … Vimes and his egg-and-toast soldiers in Uberwald … Susan and her poker … Nobby Nobbs and Fred Colon and Lord Vetinari in the submarine … Nanny Ogg’s Joy of Snacks … Death and his cats and his curries and his bad fake beard … Granny Weatherwax the chiropractor … Greebo and the vampyres … Lady Sybil and her dragons …

So many wonderful moments and memories. So many characters who became dear friends.

small-godsBefore I became a full-time novelist, I had my own speculative fiction bookshop. That’s why I was given the incredible opportunity to host Terry Pratchett, David Gemmell and Sara Douglass (and I can’t believe they’ve all left us now) at a weekend-long literary convention in Parramatta. Not surprisingly, the event was sold out and standing room only. It was fantastic, in every sense of the word. Three very different writers, three great talents, three gracious guests who gave of themselves without hesitation.

But what I remember best about that weekend is dinner on the Friday night before the convention officially began. It was just me, David Gemmell and Terry Pratchett at a table (Sara was coming in on the Sunday), and over our meal I was entertained by a lively debate between David and Terry on the various merits and pitfalls of Christianity. David was a committed Christian and Terry … wasn’t. He’d been raised in a religious family, though, and as a result he’d formed certain opinions. The Terry Pratchett I listened to and learned from that night was the Pratchett who’d written Small Gods just a few years earlier in 1992. As withering critiques of organised religion and its inherent flaws go, I think that book is the gold standard. I still think it’s one of the best books Pratchett ever wrote. Certainly it should be required reading for theological students everywhere.

the-truthBut oddly enough, at the end of the day it’s not Small Gods that remains with me, lighting a fire in my heart. It’s the ending of another book, written some eight years later: The Truth. That’s the book about journalism, and lies – although perhaps I’m repeating myself. In it we meet two of Terry’s most amazing characters, Mr Tulip and Mr Pin. They’re not nice men. They’re killers for hire. But in taking us on their journey, Terry gives us a uniquely nuanced experience. Tulip and Pin might both be killers, but under that cruel veneer they’re quite different men. As always it’s the humanity of his characters that drives his exploration of them, leading his readers to think hard about the nature of good and evil and What If and, profoundly, the notion of There But For the Grace of God … and second –ing chances.

Terry Pratchett was many things: a philosopher, an historian, a theologian, a social analyst, a raconteur, a wit, an angry man and a humanist. But above all else he was a brilliant entertainer.

Thank you, Terry. You made our world a better place. You showed us humanity in all its different colours and flavours. You made us laugh, you made us cry, and best of all you made us think. And for as long as your books remain in print, you’ll go on doing that

The Turtle moves!

————————-

karen-millar_portthumb1

Karen Miller writes speculative fiction. Mostly of the epic historical kind, but she’s also written Star Wars and Stargate novels and under the pen-name K.E. Mills writes the Rogue Agent series, about a wizard with special skills who works for his government under unusual circumstances.

You can hear more from Karen at her blog The Talkative Writer.

 

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Adrian d’Hage, author of The Alexandria Connection

dhageI’m a keen reader of non-fiction including authors such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which provided an early warning of the coming environmental crisis; Samuel Huntingdon’s The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order; and The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, including an analysis of hidden Christian texts such as the Gospels of Thomas and Mary Magdalene, challenging long-held dogma of the place of women in Christ’s circle and throwing a new light on Mary’s relationship with the Christ.

To be honest, I don’t read many thrillers, because I am wary of unwittingly using other authors’ ideas. The Omega Scroll – a lost biblical scroll hidden in the deserts of Qumran for over 2,000 years contains a terrible warning for humankind (much of which appears to be coming to fruition!) had similarities to Dan Brown‘s The Da Vinci Code – but as I hadn’t read Brown, it was coincidental. In a similar vein, I am told that Daniel Silva and I write on remarkably similar themes and even choose similar locations (his The English Girl is part set on Corsica, as is The Alexandria Connection). This too is coincidental – I haven’t read his books although given our similar but separate thoughts, perhaps one day we should meet.the-inca-prophecy

In my novels, I draw on my time in the military (including as Head Defence Planner for Security at the Sydney Olympics) and my degrees in science and theology to address some of the critical issues facing the world today. The Omega Scroll, The Beijing Conspiracy, The Maya Codex, The Inca Prophecy and The Alexandria Connection, whilst set in fast-moving worlds of Curtis O’Connor and the CIA (along with his attractive and highly intelligent archaeologist accomplice, Aleta Weizman), have warnings embedded. Bike chases in the Alps, diving for hidden artefacts in Lake Como in Italy and Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, and perilous journeys into the jungles of the Amazon are just some of the settings for what we face today: biological terrorism and what might happen if the deadly Ebola virus and the more prevalent smallpox virus are combined; the reality of what is happening at the heavy water reactor and the production of the Iranian nuclear bomb; and closure of the Strait of Hormuz cutting off a major maritime oil trade route, to cite just three.

the-alexandria-connectionThe Alexandria Connection was, in part, inspired by my research into The Bilderberg Group. Until relatively recently, little was known about the secretive annual meetings of the world’s wealthiest CEOs, royalty and political elite. The participants are household names: David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Queen Beatrix, Tony Blair, to name but a few who have attended the heavily guarded meetings. Conspiracy theories abound on the real reason for these gatherings, but whatever the purpose of the Bilderbergers, Alexandria’s Pharos Group contains some of the world’s most powerful individuals and their aim is very clear: nothing less than a New World Order. According to Oxfam, 85 people in the world share a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion – equal to the combined wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population – 3.5 billion people. Sheldon Crowley, a member of Pharos and the world’s wealthiest industrialist, controls massive coal mines; an oil multinational that dwarfs Exxon-Mobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell combined; Brazilian timber mills in the Amazon; and a huge arms conglomerate, from which the latest top secret generation of missiles are mysteriously turning up in Afghanistan. O’Connor is tasked with getting into Afghanistan’s notorious Korengal Valley to find out why. The critical Strait of Hormuz – through which 45% of the world’s maritime oil trade flows from one of the world’s largest oil refineries, Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tenura – is under threat. My research took me into the jungles of the Amazon, where O’Connor has also been tasked with investigating whether or not the missiles are being shipped amongst the timber gained from Crowley’s illegal logging of one of the world’s greatest wildernesses.

My research also took me to the pyramids of Giza and Alexandria where O’Connor’s ‘partner-in-crime’, the acclaimed international archaeologist, Aleta Weizman, is searching for an ancient papyrus. The papyrus, said to be authored by Euclid, the father of geometry, might finally reveal the true purpose of the Great Pyramid of Giza and a long forgotten source of energy. But when thieves break into Cairo’s Museum of Antiquities and make off with the priceless mask of Tutankhamun, the threads surrounding the missiles, the mask and the papyrus start to lead back to the Pharos Group, and Aleta’s life and that of O’Connor are placed in very real danger.

I hope this novel is as enjoyable to read as it was to write.


The Alexandria Connectionthe-alexandria-connection

by Adrian d’Hage

A New World Order is upon us . . .

In the shifting desert sands of Egypt, rumours abound of a lost papyrus that will reveal the true purpose of the Pyramids of Giza. Could these ancient monoliths be the source of a new kind of energy, one that comes at no cost to the planet? CIA agent Curtis O’Connor and archaeologist Aleta Weizman are determined to find out.

Close by, a shadowy and powerful group known as Pharos meets in Alexandria, its membership a closely guarded secret. Its first order of business: to orchestrate chaos on international financial markets with a series of spectacular terrorist attacks on the world’s fossil-fuel supplies.

And in Cairo, amid the anarchy of Tahrir Square, thieves have broken into the famed Museum of Antiquities and stolen one of the world’s priceless artifacts: the mask of Tutankhamun. Is the audacious theft linked to the Pharos Group?

Nimbly weaving politics, history and science through a rip-roaring plot, from Afghanistan to Washington, Sydney to London, The Alexandria Connection is a spectacular and stylish ride.

About the Author

Adrian d’Hagé was educated at North Sydney Boys High School and the Royal Military College Duntroon (Applied Science). Graduating into the Intelligence Corps, he served as a platoon commander in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Military Cross. His military service included command of an infantry battalion, director of joint operations and head of defence public relations. In 1994 Adrian was made a Member of the Order of Australia. In his last appointment, he headed defence planning for counter terrorism security for the Sydney Olympics, including security against chemical, biological and nuclear threats.

Adrian holds an honours degree in theology, entering as a committed Christian but graduating ‘with no fixed religion’. In 2009 he completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Dean’s Award) in oenology or wine chemistry at Charles Sturt University, and he has successfully sat the Austrian Government exams for ski instructor, ‘Schilehrer Anwärter’. He is presently a research scholar, tutor and part-time lecturer at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (Middle East and Central Asia) at ANU. His doctorate is entitled ‘The Influence of Religion on US Foreign Policy in the Middle East’.

Grab a copy of The Alexandria Connection here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Why I chose the chef life… by Mr Dan Hong, author of Mr Hong

danhongWriting Mr Hong gave me the opportunity to reminisce about the early stages of my career and think about exactly why I chose a life in food. Putting it all down on paper was a lot of fun and gave me the opportunity to think about the significant moments in my food journey that changed everything for me.

Mr Hong is full of recipes, of course, and stories about my life to date – from growing up in my mum’s Vietnamese restaurant in Cabramatta, to experimenting with supermarket staples while left to my own devices at home during high school, and later my culinary training at some of Australia’s most prestigious restaurants.

My first job was at Longrain, a wonderful place to start my journey in food, and included packing away all the fresh produce every morning, making six different curry pastes and deep-frying shallots – a great learning curve for me at that stage – and I’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors throughout my career ever since Longrain.

Thinking about it, David Chang is one of my greatest food heroes because he was one of the first chefs to dare to throw out all the rules focus on one thing: deliciousness. For me, the best food is delicious, easy and fun. Couldn’t live without fish sauce! I love bold, strong flavours, freshness and balance – and most of all, I see food as something that connects people, makes them happy and can be shared with the people I love.


Mr Hong is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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mr-hong

Mr Hong

by Dan Hong

Eat like you never have before, with Dan Hong at the reins it will be an enjoyable ride. Dan’s appetite for rare sneakers, hip-hop and collecting cookbooks is only surpassed by his passion for food: everything from fast food to fine dining. Growing up in the suburbs of Sydney with a food-obsessed family and a mother who fell into owning a Vietnamese restaurant by chance, Dan has gone on to become a critically acclaimed chef, working at some of the most prestigious restaurants in Australia, including Sydney’s Mr Wong, Ms G’s and El Loco.

Dan’s potent mix of proud heritage, technical skill and boundless enthusiasm for experimenting with big, bold, fresh flavours makes his approach to food truly unique. Mr Hong is as much an exploration of Dan’s colourful path through life as it is a beautifully illustrated book of one hundred scintillating recipes – Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, as well as fusions of the three – re-imagined and re-invigorated for a new generation of food obsessives. Feast your eyes and dig in.

About the Author

Dan Hong has worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants in Australia, including Tetsuya’s, Marque and Bentley, and his mentors include Mark Best, Brent Savage and Thomas Johns. He has opened some of Sydney’s most exciting dining destinations, including Ms G’s, El Loco and Mr Wong (honoured with a hat in its first year of business at the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide awards) and most recently Papi Chulo, a smokehouse and grill at Manly Wharf, Sydney.

Mr Hong is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: “Where do you get your ideas?” by Scott Westerfeld, author of Afterworlds

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Author: Scott Westerfeld

The question that writers most hate is the perennial, “Where do you get your ideas?”

We could just answer, “from everywhere,” but even that isn’t big enough to cover it. When deep in the writing process, holding a hundred thousand words in our heads, writers hover half in this world and half in the world of the novel. The edges blur, and ideas roam freely back and forth. Not only do the events in real life influence the story, but the reverse happens too—the travails of those characters leak out to infuse reality around us.

I wanted to capture some of that dual state in Afterworlds. The odd-numbered chapters of the book are the story of Darcy, a young writer reworking her first novel under the looming pressure of a high-paying book contract. Having just moved out of her parents’ home, she has to balance the practicalities of living on her own with the allure of her shiny new membership in the community of YA authors, all while charging headlong into her first serious love affair. At the same time, Darcy is rewriting her novel from the ground up, applying the lessons of her new adulthood to the draft she wrote as a callow high school student.

The even-numbered chapters are the text of Darcy’s novel, a story about another young girl caught between worlds. On her way home from a visit to her estranged father, Lizzie Scofield is caught up in a terrorist attack at an airport. She plays dead to escape the gunmen, but she plays too well. From that moment on she can see ghosts, like the eleven-year-old Mindy haunting her mother’s home. As Lizzie unravels the mystery of Mindy’s death, she faces the secrets of her own family as well.

Both of these young women are in the process of transformation, and both have the power to transform the other. Darcy the writer, of course, holds Lizzie’s fate in her hands. But Lizzie the character is also the key to Darcy’s future, because Darcy’s publisher wants a happy ending, not the tragic finale of her first draft.

Each story not only influences the other, but also holds the secret of its salvation. That’s how us writers live, half in real life and half in our fictional worlds. Half finished and half rewritten, we are all made of drafts.


Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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afterworlds

Afterworlds

by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld is renowned in the YA fiction market, this is a perfect blend of contemporary love story and fantastical thriller.

Darcy has secured a publishing deal for her three paranormal books. Now she must find the wherewithall to write the second one whilst she has a reprieve from going to college, thanks to her savvy sister. She has enough funds for 3 years in NY… if she eats only noodles every day.

In the story Darcy has written, the character Lizzie survives a traumatic shooting event only to discover that she has become a phsychopomp; a spirit guide to the dead. But she’s not dead.. or is she? With one foot in each world, Lizzie’s challenges are somewhat unique. Then there’s her hot spirit guide… and all those ghosts that keep appearing… and the ‘living’ friend she usually tells everything to…

More than all I’d seen and heard. It was coming back to life that made me believe in the afterworld.

Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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GUEST BLOG: A Week in the Life…by Anna Romer, author of Lyrebird Hill

anna romer

Author: Anna Romer

Monday.
It’s 5 am, pitch black out here in the wilderness. Stars splash across the sky, and the river whispers in the dark. The scent of lilies floods the bungalow; it’s out of place, but I can’t bring myself to discard the flowers. I can’t even look at them.

I’m sitting at my desk. Usually at this hour I write in my notebook, but today I’m at the laptop. A blank page stares back at me. Ideas are simmering, the plot’s got bones – but there’s no spark. I hammer out a paragraph, then press delete. I try not to freak, but the page seems determined to remain blank.

Tuesday.
Just what I need … a bloody bushfire.
While checking the fences, I smell smoke. No visuals, but it seems to be drifting from the east. I rush back to the bungalow, pack the car and collar the dogs, ready to evacuate. Then I connect the Internet. A fire is raging on my neighbour’s property three miles away. Flames have cut across the track, blocking my escape.

I hunch at my desk and try to breathe. The smell of lilies engulfs me. I wish I could cry, but the tears are stuck. I wish Dad was here. He’d know what to do. The world isn’t the same without him.

‘Stay alert, love,’ I hear him say. ‘When the fire front comes, there’s always the river.’

Wednesday.lyrebird-hill
All night I sit at the window, gazing into the trees. I keep imagining I can see flames, but when I go out there’s just the dark starless tranquillity…

And an aftertaste of smoke.

Back inside, I stand before the lilies, forcing myself to look. Forcing myself to inhale their scent. That day flashes back: the cold room, and the stillness of my father’s body; the desolate cry my sister gave when she saw him. And the ache in my soul as I clung to his hand for the last time.

I stand there forever, breathing the lilies.

Then a sound distracts me. It’s faint at first, baby-fingers tapping the tin roof. It grows louder … and suddenly it’s drumming. I run outside and gaze at the sky. Rain.

Soon it’s streaming down my face like tears.

thornwood-houseThursday.
It’s 6 am. Raindrops patter the roof. The smoke-smell has gone; just the lilies linger.

The dogs are restless but I can’t leave the laptop. I’ve set myself an easy goal this morning, 500 words. I’ve been sitting here for hours, but the page is still blank. Panic grips me. I stare at the screen, willing the words to appear. Weaving stories brings me to life; it’s a glorious feeling when I nail it … but when I bomb, the disappointment feels fatal.

Friday.
The air’s clear today. A solitary heart-shaped cloud drifts over the bungalow. It feels like a sign. Taking advantage of my momentary optimism, I empty the lilies into the compost. Then I open all the windows and let in the sunshine.

Saturday.
A piping hot bath jump-starts my brain. Water always has that effect. One minute I’m towelling dry and climbing into soft pyjamas – the next, ideas are flowing. There’s a funeral, maybe two sisters. The scent of lilies. And heartache that finds resolution one rainy day by the river.

My pulse picks up. Suddenly I’m consumed by a magical rapture, as if the strands of my heart are finally unravelling. I hurry back to my desk. Smiling to myself, I boot the laptop, open the blank page…
And fall head over heels into my story.

Grab a copy of Anna Romer’s Lyrebird Hill here


Lyrebird Hill

by Anna Romer

From the bestselling author of Thornwood House

When all that you know comes crashing down, do you run? Or face the truth?

Ruby Cardel has the semblance of a normal life – a loving boyfriend, a fulfilling career – but in one terrible moment, her life unravels. The discovery that the death of her sister, Jamie, was not an accident makes her question all she’s known about herself and her past.

Travelling back home to Lyrebird Hill, Ruby begins to remember the year that has been forever blocked in her memory . . . Snatches of her childhood with beautiful Jamie, and Ruby’s only friendship with the boy from the next property, a troubled foster kid.

Then Ruby uncovers a cache of ancient letters from a long-lost relative, Brenna Magavin, written from her cell in a Tasmanian gaol where she is imprisoned for murder. As she reads, Ruby discovers that her family line is littered with tragedy and violence.

Slowly, the gaps in Ruby’s memory come to her. And as she pieces together the shards of truth, what she finally discovers will shock her to the core – about what happened to Jamie that fateful day, and how she died.

A thrilling tale about family secrets and trusting yourself

About the Author

Anna Romer spent her wayward youth travelling the globe, working as a graphic artist while she soaked up local histories and folklore from the Australian outback, then Asia, Europe, and America. On returning home to Australia, she began weaving stories of her own and was quickly hooked. A visit to her sister in north Queensland inspired her first novel, Thornwood House, a story that reflects her fascination with old diaries and letters, dark family secrets, rambling old houses, the persistence of the past, and our unique Australian landscape.

Grab a copy of Anna Romer’s Lyrebird Hill here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: If you ever borrow a book from me, give it back! By Ellie O’Neill, author of Reluctantly Charmed

ellioneill

Author: Ellie O’Neill

If you ever borrow a book from me give it back to me. It’s probably a book that I’ve told you about. A book, that I’ve clasped my hands in excitement, and smiled and sighed dreamily trying to explain it to you. It might be a book that I ran my hand across the front cover like I was stroking a pet. It’s probably a book that I held to my chest when I finished reading, lovingly absorbing its’ truth.

When you read it you might find that some pages are close to falling out, that’s where you’ll see a passage I loved so much I had to revisit it again and again, to record it, to feel it, to lose myself once more. It might remind me of a time in my life, a love affair, a sandy beach, a cocktail with an umbrella in it.

When I give you one of my favorite books I’m letting you see a piece of me, a private piece of me. You thought you knew me but you don’t. This book gives me shivers.

This book makes me think.

This book makes me laugh.

This book hurts me.

And if you don’t feel the same way, I will briefly question why we are friends. Then I’ll remember it doesn’t matter, you will have your favorite books too. But please remember if you borrow a book from me give it back to me.


Ellie O’Neill’s Reluctantly Charmed is a featured title in Simon and Schuster’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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reluctantly-charmedReluctantly Charmed

by Ellie O’Neill

Witty, enchanting and utterly addictive, Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of life, love and its possibilities … and a little bit of magic

It’s Kate McDaid’s birthday and she’s hoping to kickstart her rather stagnant love-life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great-great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.

Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Instantly, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye. As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil the final, devastating step of the request . . . or whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t.

Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of family, love and its possibilities… and a little bit of magic.

Ellie O’Neill’s Reluctantly Charmed is a featured title in Simon and Schuster’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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