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

One of Australia’s favourite novelists Kate Forsyth, author of The Impossible Quest, Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl and now The Beast’s Garden, continues her monthly blog with us, giving her verdict on the books she read in January.

Summer holidays! For me, a time to relax and read for pleasure. I took a stack of books away with me to the beach shack and read my way through them in complete and utter happiness – Kate Forsyth


The Observations

by Jane Harris

The ObservationsThe Observations is such a delightful read! It tells the story of a girl named Bessy who takes a job as a maid-of-all-work in a gloomy country house in Scotland in the mid 1860s. Bessy has a past she would rather forget, and so is grateful for the refuge her mistress Arabella offers her. However, she soon comes to realise that not is all as it seems in the house, and that an earlier maid has died in rather mysterious circumstances. With naïve optimism, Bessie sets out to find out what happened, and finds herself getting rather more than she bargained for.

The true pleasure of the book is Bessy’s voice – gutsy, wry, and vulnerable – and the clever way Jane Harris weaves her narrative threads together.

Learn more about The Observations here!


Wild Wood

by Posie Graeme-Evans

xwild-woodWild Wood is a dual timeline narrative that moves between the Scottish Borderlands in the 14th century and an unhappy young woman in the 1980s who finds herself compelled to draw the same Scottish castle over and over again. I love stories with parallel timelines, particularly with a good dash of romance, history and magic added in. And I also love books set in Scotland, so all the ingredients were in place for a really wonderful read.

I must admit I loved the scenes set in the past more – the story of the mute fairy wife, the battle-hardened warrior and the medieval castle were all so intriguing. The contemporary scenes did not work quite so well for me, perhaps because the 1980s is not a decade that really inspires me. However, the story of Jesse and her eerie connection with the past eventually drew me in, and the story really began to gallop along.

Learn more about Wild Wood here!


Writers’ Block

by Judith Flanders

xwriters-block.Judith Flanders is best known as the author of brilliantly researched historical non-fiction about the Victorian era. I have quite a few of her books, and return to them again and again for my own research.

Writers’ Block could not be more different. It’s a darkly funny contemporary murder mystery set in a London publishing house. It made me laugh out loud once or twice, and I roared through it in a single sitting.

Learn more about Writers’ Block here!


The Sunne In Splendour

by Sharon Penman

the-sunne-in-splendourThis book has been on my shelf for a very long time, but its sheer heft and weight meant I kept postponing picking it up. Its 880 pages long! However, so many people kept naming it as one of the best historical novels ever written, so eventually I took the plunge. I’m very glad I did. It’s quite brilliant.

Sharon Penman effortlessly weaves together an epic story of love, war, and revenge, bringing to life the enigmatic king, Richard III. Most people know Richard III from the Shakespeare play, and from the murder of the Princes in the Tower.

Sharon Penman believes him unjustly maligned and she does a very convincing job of making her readers think so too. Well worth the wrist strain!

Learn more about The Sunne In Splendour here!


The Lure of the Moonflower

by Lauren Willig

the-lure-of-the-moonflowerThe last in the utterly delightful series that began with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

These books are a really clever mix of chick lit & Regency romance-spy-adventure. They are clever, funny, romantic and full of suspense, packing an awful lot of frivolous fun into their pages. I’m very sad to see the series end.

Learn about The Lure of the Moonflower here!


Two Fearsome Fairy Tales from France

Retold by Adele Geras and illustrated by Fiona McDonald

two-fearsome-fairy-tales-from-franceChristmas Press has been quietly producing a range of exquisite fairy tale retellings with gorgeous illustrations for the last couple of years. This beautiful edition has the Jerusalem-born author Adele Geras retelling Beauty & the Beast and Bluebeard with illustrations by Fiona McDonald (who also illustrated my own contribution to the series Two Selkie Tales from Scotland).

The stories are simply and elegantly retold, and are carefully pitched to appeal to a younger reading age – no need to fear for a sensitive child’s sensibilities here! So far the series has included tales retold by Sophie Masson, Ursula Dubosarky, and me, with one coming soon from Duncan Ball. Other titles are in the pipeline. Together they will build to a library of some of the world’s most beloved fairy tales, with stories from Russia, Japan, Ancient Greece, Rome, and Ireland, as well as Scotland and France. A perfect gift for any fairy-tale-loving child!

Learn more about Two Fearsome Fairy Tales from France here!


Midnight is a Place

by Joan Aiken

xmidnight-is-a-placeJoan Aiken is one of my all-time favourite children’s writers. Her books were out-of-print for a while and I haunted second-hand bookshops in the hopes of building up my collection. My copy of this wonderful book was bought from the Glebe Library years ago, and still has its yellow cardboard filing card in an envelope glued inside the front cover. Happily, her books have all recently been re-issued with fabulous new covers and so are easy to get hold of now.

It’s difficult to exactly categorise Joan Aiken’s work. It’s historical fiction, with a Dickensian feel thanks to its brilliantly drawn characters (both comic and villainous), unusual names, and dark atmospheric settings. Her stories are fabulously inventive, and often have surprising elements in them (like pink whales). Some of the books have an alternative historical setting, with Good King James III on the throne of England, and the wicked Hanoverians trying to blow up Parliament House.

Midnight is a Place is the most realist of her novels, and quite possibly her darkest. It tells the story of a lonely boy named Lucas, who lives at Midnight Court, next to a smoggy industrial town called Blastburn. His guardian is a foul-tempered, brandy-drinking eccentric who won the great house in a card-game many years before. One day the orphaned daughter of the previous owner comes to live at Midnight Court. Soon Lucas and Anna-Marie are left destitute, and must fend for themselves in the tough streets of Blackburn.

There is one particular scene set in the carpet-making factory that I shall never forget – as a child, it burnt itself deep into my imagination. It is also striking for its refusal to restore the children’s lost wealth – instead they find happiness by making their own way in the world. Joan Aiken is one of the great children’s writers, and deserves to be much more widely celebrated.

Learn more about Midnight is a Place here!


Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, KateKate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

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

Visit Kate Forsyth’s Booktopia author page


The Beast’s Garden

by Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, Kate - The Beast's GardenA retelling of Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany.

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called The Singing, Springing Lark in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom.

In The Singing, Springing Lark, the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from … Read more

Grab your copy of The Beast’s Garden here

GUEST BLOG: What Katie Read – The 2015 Round Up (by award-winning author Kate Forsyth)

One of Australia’s favourite novelists Kate Forsyth, author of The Impossible Quest, Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl and now The Beast’s Garden, continues her monthly blog with us, giving her verdict on the books she read in November and December.

NOVEMBER

I spent quite a lot of time on planes this month, which meant I had plenty of time for reading (the best thing about spending so much time in airports and hotels!) I read eight books in total, with my usual mix of fiction and non-fiction (not counting research tomes!) – Kate Forsyth

The Light Between Us

by Laura Lynne Jackson

the-light-between-usA fascinating memoir from a young American woman who first began to realise she had psychic talents when she was a child. Her story chronicles her struggle to understand her gift, her search to learn to use it wisely, and some anecdotes of the many people who she has helped along the way.

Simply and beautifully told, Laura Lynne Jackson has tried hard to find a new vocabulary for her strange and uncanny experiences (though the book is, of course, laden with phrases such as ‘the Other Side’ and ‘spirits crossing’, which may set off sceptics’ alarm bells).

Some of the most fascinating chapters are on the scientific tests she has submitted to in order to better understand and validate her gifts … and the book is filled with a quiet wisdom that will resonate even with those who do not believe in an afterlife.

Grab your copy of The Light Between Us here!


The Goddess and the Thief

by Essie Fox

the-goddess-and-the-thiefAlice was born and raised in India during the time of the British Raj, and so when she is sent to live with an aunt in England, she is uprooted from all she knows and loves. Her aunt is cold and unkind – much like the weather – and scratches out a living by holding séances.

When Queen Victoria’s beloved prince-consort dies, she consults with Alice’s aunt in a desperate bid to connect with her dead husband. Alice finds herself drawn into a conspiracy to steal the priceless – and cursed – Koh-i-Noor diamond. As the coils of obsession, desire, and murder tighten inexorably around her, Alice finds it impossible to know who to trust, or even what is real.

Dark, suspenseful, and lushly written, The Goddess and the Thief is an utterly compelling and uncanny Victorian mystery.

Grab your copy of The Goddess and the Thief here!


Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger

by Fiona Wright

small-acts-of-disappearanceSmall Acts of Disappearance is a series of interlinked essays inspired by the author’s struggle with an eating disorder.

Fiona Wright is an award-winning poet currently undertaking a doctorate in writing at University of Western Sydney. Each essay on its own is superbly crafted and exquisitely written. Some are deeply personal and gut-wrenchingly emotional, while others take her obsession with not eating as a springboard to explore other territories, such as issues of anorexia in Australian literature. Together they create an utterly extraordinary collection – intelligent, fierce and deeply informative.

Grab your copy of Small Acts of Disappearance here!


The Lake House

by Kate Morton

Lake HouseA new Kate Morton is always cause for celebration! The Lake House is once again set in Cornwall, and moves between the mysterious disappearance of a child in 1933, and a policewoman’s struggle to overcome her guilt at being unable to solve the mystery of a missing woman in modern times.

Mysteries and secrets have always been at the heart of Kate Morton’s books, but with this one she takes a step closer to the crime genre. The result is as beguiling and suspenseful as always – the book is a massive 591 pages long but I whizzed through, the pages seemingly turning themselves. Now I can only wait in breathless anticipation for the next one!

Grab your copy of The Lake House here!


A Profound Secret

by Josceline Dimbleby

a profound secretJosceline Dimbleby has been one of Britain’s favourite food writers for a long time. A Profound Secret is a departure for her – it is the story of how an old portrait inspired her to dig deeper into her family’s past and its many secrets and mysteries. The portrait was of her great-aunt Amy Gaskell, and it was painted by the Pre-Raphaelite artists Edward Burne-Jones. As a girl, Josceline was told her great-aunt had died young of a broken heart.

Deciding to find out more, Josceline uncovered a box of secret love letters between the famous artist and Amy’s mother, May. Both were married to others. Josceline also discovered the tragic truth of Amy’s early demise.

The book is as much about Josceline’s search as it is about what she discovered, and so it is as much a detective story as it is a story of a secret love affair.

Grab your copy of A Profound Secret here!


Ophelia’s Muse

by Rita Cameron

ophelia-s-museThe tragic love affair of the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his muse and model Lizzie Siddal has been surprisingly under-utilised in fiction. Most people know the basic storyline, however, thanks to numerous films and TV series such as ‘Desperate Romantics’. Lizzie was discovered in a milliner’s shop and became the ‘face’ of early Pre-Raphaelite art, modelling for quite a few of the brotherhood and becoming famous as Ophelia in John Everett Millais’s painting of the same name. She and Rossetti had a tumultuous affair and eventually married, only for Lizzie to die of a laudanum overdose.

Rita Cameron has taken this basic storyline, and built it into a satisfying novel of art, desire and tragedy. The mid-Victorian setting is vividly created, and the inner world of Lizzie Siddal brought touchingly to life. For anyone interested in the story of Lizzie Siddal, this is a good place to start (I should probably say that I’m currently writing a novel about the Pre-Raphaelites too – but that mine will be very different!)

Grab your copy of Ophelia’s Curse here!


The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

by Robert Macfarlane

the-old-waysThe British travel writer Robert Macfarlane has been a new and wondrous discovery for me. He brings an incisive mind, a poet’s feel for language, and a deep knowledge of place and time to his writing. The Old Ways is about journeys he has taken – usually but not always on foot – through landscapes as diverse as Essex, Spain, Palestine and Tibet. Most of his walks are through British landscapes, though, and are rich in folklore, history and fascinating characters. It’s the kind of book where you want to keep underlining passages for their sheer and precise beauty – here’s just on example:

The whole foot is a document of motion, inscribed by repeated action. Babies—from those first foetal footfalls, the kneading of the sole against womb-wall, turning themselves like astronauts in black space—have already creased their soles by the time they emerge into the world.

Grab your copy of The Old Ways here!


Where Angels Fear To Tread

by E. M. Forster

where-angels-fear-to-treadEvery month I try to re-read an old beloved book that I haven’t read in years. Where Angels Fear To Tread was my choice this month. It was E. M. Forster’s first novel, and is so small it is nearly a novella. It’s a quite exquisite work, however, laying bare the snobbery and insularity of the British middle classes before the First World War. It tells the story of how a dashing young widow named Lilia falls in love with a much younger Italian man and marries him, much to the horror of her former husband’s family, who think she has brought scandal and dishonour upon them. When a child is born and Lilia dies, her brother-in-law Philip and former companion Caroline Abbott set out to Italy to try and save the little boy …. only to set tragedy and heartbreak in motion. It is such a sad story, and so surprising too – a perfect little gem of a novel.

Grab your copy of Where Angels Fear To Tread here!


DECEMBER

A lot of my reading time in the past month has been taken up with research for the new novel I am working on, but I always make time for reading for pleasure as well. This month my reading list includes some fascinating non-fiction, some tattered old favourites, and a few new books hot off the presses. Oh, and some poetry! I hope you find something here to inspire and entertain you.
– Kate Forsyth

Girl In Hyacinth Blue

by Susan Vreeland

girl in hbOne of my all-time favourite books by one of my all-time favourite authors, Girl In Hyacinth Blue tells the story of a painting in a series of interlinked vignettes moving backwards in time. The first is set in contemporary times, telling the story of a middle-aged man who has in his possession an extraordinary painting of a young girl which he believes is a lost Vermeer. He cannot prove it, however, for the painting has no provenance. And he cannot show it to any specialists, because the painting was, he believes, stolen by his father from a Jewish family in the Second World War.

The next vignette is told from the point of view of a young Jewish girl in Amsterdam, bewildered as her world is destroyed around her by the invasion of the Nazis.

Backwards in time each story goes, connected only by the silent presence of the painting, until we reach the 17th century and the story of the girl who sat as the model for the painting. Each story is told with a marvellous economy of style, giving us just enough to understand what has happened before the scene shifts to the next point of view, yet the overall effect is almost unbearably moving. A wonderful book.

Grab your copy of Girl In Hyacinth Blue here!


Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa

by Joan Jacobs Brumberg

fasting girlsMany people think of anorexia nervosa as a modern-day problem, but as Dr Brumberg shows in this biography of the disease, young women have been starving themselves to death from at least the 13th century onwards. The reasons that drive such an obsession change from century to century, but the tragic results are the same. Fasting Girls looks at cases from medieval martyrs to contemporary celebrities, always searching to illuminate the complex reasons that led to such self-destructive behaviour. Although Dr Brumberg is a historian, she draws upon medical and psychiatric studies of the times in her research, to create a truly illuminating look at the emotional disorder that has destroyed so many lives.

Grab your copy of Fasting Girls here!


Career of Evil

by Robert Galbraith

careerThe third in the series of detective novels written by J.K. Rowling under the pen-name Robert Galbraith, Career of Evil is a gripping and atmospheric page-turner.

It begins with the delivery of a severed leg to the office of private detective Cormoran Strike, addressed to his pretty and about-to-be-married sidekick Robin. What follows is a desperate race against time to find the murderer before he kills again … with Robin as his next target.

I’ve just been loving this series, which has the perfect mix of mystery, suspense, and character development.

 

 

Grab your copy of Career of Evil here!


Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia & Bulimia

by Marya Hornbacher

wastedFirst published in 1998, Wasted has recently been reissued with a new Afterword by the author Marya Hornbacher. Her eating disorder began at the age of eight and dominated her life from that point onwards, leading her to ever more destructive behaviours until it almost claimed her life. She was hospitalised and institutionalised, got better and relapsed, fought new battles, and relapsed again, and slowly and painfully inched her way back to health.

This is not an easy read – it is raw, brutal, honest, and frightening – but also brilliant, poetic, illuminating and very brave.

 

Grab your copy of Wasted here!


Charity Girl and Sylvester

by Georgette Heyer

charity girlMy copies of Georgette Heyer’s novels are so tattered that they are in danger of falling apart, for they are the books I turn to whenever I am feeling particularly tired or unwell. They never fail to delight me, no matter how often I read them. Her touch is so light, her characters so deftly drawn, her situations so absurd and yet somehow so poignant too. I first read them as a teenager at my grandmother’s house, and must have read many of them twenty times or more.

Sylvester is one of my personal favourites – perhaps because the heroine Phoebe has written a book, which pitches her into all sorts of Scrapes and Scandals … and Charity Girl is almost as good, with its array of laugh-out-loud minor characters. If you love light-hearted Regency romances, then you’ll already be a Georgette Heyer fan … but if you’ve never read one of her books, please do so, now! You will not regret it.

Grab your copy of Charity Girl here! / Grab your copy of Sylvester here!


Mademoiselle Chanel

by C.W. Gortner

mademoiselle-chanelLike many people, I have long been fascinated by the life of Coco Chanel, the famous French designer, and have read a number of biographies about her life. Christopher Gortner is one of my favourite contemporary historical novelists and – with his background in the fashion world – is ideally suited to bringing this enigmatic woman to life.

The first person voice rings startlingly true, revealing her steely determination to escape her childhood of poverty and abandonment, her passionate and impetuous nature, her loneliness and longing. Gortner does not shy away from the more troubling aspects of her life, such as her involvement with the Nazis in German-occupied France, and her hard-heartedness towards many around her. This clear-sightedness makes the book feel much more true than some of the biographies I have read – this is a must-read for anyone who has ever longed to know the story behind the creation of the iconic Chanel No 5. Perfume and the famous little black dress.

Grab your copy of Mademoiselle Chanel here!


Why Kings Confess

by C.S Harris

xwhy-kings-confess.jpg.pagespeed.ic.6FipmUa9RVWhy Kings Confess is the latest in a series of historical murder mysteries set in Regency England, featuring as its amateur detectives a lynx-eyed viscount with a troubled past and a strong-willed bluestocking noblewoman, the daughter of the viscount’s greatest enemy. The plots are always devious and surprising, the setting is suitably dark and foggy, and the interplay between the characters is fascinating.

As always, if this series is new to you, start with the first, called What Angels Fear.

 

 

 

 

Grab your copy of Why Kings Confess here!


A Year With Rilke:
Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated & edited by Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows

xa-year-with-rilke.jpg.pagespeed.ic.cChCZHF9rNI first encountered Rainer Maria Rilke when a friend gave me a copy of Letters to a Young Poet when I was in my early twenties. It spoke to me very powerfully, and I went on to read many of Rilke’s poems and letters.

I re-discovered Rilke again when I was writing my latest novel The Beast’s Garden, which is a retelling of Beauty & the Beast set in Nazi Germany. I was drawn to read his work again because I remembered that Rilke was obsessed with roses, (a potent motif in the fairy tale) and wrote many poems about them.

As part of my journey of rediscovery, I bought A Year With Rilke. It brings together a collection of his writings – excerpts from poetry (both published and unpublished), letters, and diaries – each chosen to match a certain day of the year. The idea is to read one page a day, every day, for the full year. I have kept the book next to my bed to read, and did so most evenings. Occasionally I had to read two or three – or even ten – pages to catch up. It didn’t matter. The excerpts are each so small and so easily read, and sometimes I would read the same poem over and over again, trying to let it soak into my soul. Occasionally the reading for the day was so uncannily prescient, so necessary to what I needed to read just then, it seemed fore-ordained.

It’s a beautiful way to read his work – and a perfect way to be introduced to him.

The only complaint I have to make is that it is designed for an audience in the northern hemisphere and so some of the seasonal pieces (like the poem for March 21, which was ‘Spring!’) are out-of-whack for an Australian reader. But it’s a minor complaint – and I simply went back and read them again at the tight time.

Grab your copy of A Year With Rilke here!


Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, KateKate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

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

Visit Kate Forsyth’s Booktopia author page


The Beast’s Garden

by Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, Kate - The Beast's GardenA retelling of Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany.

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called The Singing, Springing Lark in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom.

In The Singing, Springing Lark, the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from … Read more

Grab your copy of The Beast’s Garden here

GUEST BLOG: Ben Sanders on his upcoming novel American Blood

Ben Sanders AuthorPhotoIn Ben Sanders’s American Blood, a former undercover cop now in witness protection finds himself pulled into the search for a missing woman; film rights sold to Warner Bros with Bradley Cooper attached to star and produce.

As the title no doubt implies, American Blood is an American novel, but the opportunity to write it came as something of a surprise. My first three books are police procedurals set in Auckland, and follow a detective called Sean Devereaux. I was interested in developing an ongoing series, and saw him as a long-term source of fiction. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might need a different protagonist or setting, at least for the next few years.

I’ve been published at home in New Zealand since 2010, but prior to American Blood, writing was just a hobby, a nice counterpoint to work and university. I knew a U.S. readership could be the difference between writing by day and writing by night, and I thought Devereaux would help me make the transition. My third novel with him at the helm was published in New Zealand in 2013, and I traveled to New York City in the hope of gaining a deal with a U.S. publisher. My approach was a bit unorthodox – in the interests of stampede prevention, editors don’t tend to accept meetings with prospective, unknown authors. I was lucky though: I was in New York for two weeks, and my agent found me a fifteen-minute window with my now-current editor Brendan Deneen. During a slightly lightheaded quarter-hour, I pitched to him my most recent effort, Only the Dead.american-blood

The good news took its sweet time. I flew home and kept my fingers crossed for six months, and then in October 2013 Brendan emailed to ask if I was interested in writing a U.S.-set mystery series. I’d have to put Devereaux on hold, but yes, I was definitely interested.

A two-book deal followed. American Blood is the first, with a follow-up due for publication toward the end of next year. My new protagonist is a former NYPD officer named Marshall Grade, who’s been put in witness protection in New Mexico after he botches an undercover operation. I love character-driven stories, so I was always going to have a hero cut from Marshall’s kind of cloth – a man capable of dealing with thugs in a very hands-on sense of the phrase. The recurring protagonists in my first three novels were a police detective and an ex-solider, and I wanted Marshall to have similar attributes. Broadly speaking, he does, but his point of difference is that he’s self-taught: a canny and intelligent guy afforded a violent repertoire as a result of undercover work with a New York crime family.

I started the book in January 2014. I didn’t have a plot outline. I operate on the principle that the characters come first, and their motivations in turn define the direction only-the-deadof the story.

My daily routine is to walk the dog for an hour in the morning, during which time I consider the previous day’s progress, and plan how to advance things in a logical manner. If I’m productive, I can write fifteen hundred words by five pm. Occasionally I hit a day when the ideas don’t flow, but with American Blood I was fortunate to never lose momentum. I was helped by the fact the film rights were optioned by Warner Bros. in February 2014, while the manuscript was only fifty pages long. The prospect of a blockbuster was a powerful incentive to get the story told, and I completed the first draft in four months.

American Blood is the first book I’ve been able to work on full-time, and it’s my first book to be published internationally. I’m writing the sequel at the moment, and hopefully I can bring Marshall back for more outings yet. He has a proclivity for violence, but he’s a killer with manners, and his quirks and humor and opinions make me want to spend more time with him. I hope you enjoy American Blood, and I hope you like Marshall as much as I do.

Grab your copy of American Blood here!


American Blood

Ben Sanders

american-bloodAfter a botched undercover operation, ex-NYPD officer Marshall Grade is living in witness protection in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Marshall’s instructions are to keep a low profile: the mob wants him dead, and a contract killer known as the Dallas Man has been hired to track him down. Racked with guilt over wrongs committed during his undercover work, and seeking atonement, Marshall investigates the disappearance of a local woman named Alyce Ra.

Members of a drug ring seem to hold clues to Ray’s whereabouts, but hunting traffickers is no quiet task. Word of Marshall’s efforts spreads, and soon the worst elements of his former life, including the Dallas Man, are … Read more.

Grab your copy of American Blood here!

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

One of Australia’s favourite novelists Kate Forsyth, author of The Impossible Quest, Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl and now The Beast’s Garden, continues her monthly blog with us, giving her verdict on the books she read in October.

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

Newt’s Emerald

Garth Nix

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

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

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

Grab your copy of Newt’s Emerald here


India Black

Carol K. Carr

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

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

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

Grab your copy of India Black here


Picnic in Provence

Elizabeth Bard

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

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

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

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

Grab your copy of Picnic in Provence here


What We See When We Read

Peter Mendelsund

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

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

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

Grab your copy of What We See When We Read here


The Marriage of Opposites

Alice Hoffman

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

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

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

Grab your copy of The Marriage of Opposites here


The Folk Keeper

Franny Billingsley

the-folk-keeper

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

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

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

Grab your copy of The Folk Keeper here


Rebecca

Daphne du Maurier

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

It was even better than I remembered.

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

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

Grab your copy of Rebecca here


Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, KateKate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults.

She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

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

Visit Kate Forsyth’s Booktopia author page


The Beast’s Garden

by Kate Forsyth

Forsyth, Kate - The Beast's GardenA retelling of Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany.

The Grimm Brothers published a beautiful version of the Beauty & the Beast tale called The Singing, Springing Lark in 1819. It combines the well-known story of a daughter who marries a beast in order to save her father with another key fairy tale motif, the search for the lost bridegroom.

In The Singing, Springing Lark, the daughter grows to love her beast but unwittingly betrays him and he is turned into a dove. She follows the trail of blood and white feathers he leaves behind him for seven years, and, when she loses the trail, seeks help from … Read more

Grab your copy of The Beast’s Garden here

GUEST BLOG: Bestselling author Fiona Palmer on what she’s been reading

Fiona PalmerHarvest has started over here in the West of Australia but the rain keeps coming and holding up the headers. I’ve been a bit busy with visits to Perth for Monster Jam (with the kids), Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network meetings and related work, then throw in kids’ sports, carnivals, hockey and golf AGM’s, housework, farm work, and writing my next book, which means I haven’t got much time left to read. It’s really sad, but I’ve only managed to read one book in the last month, Rachael John’s The Patterson Girls.

Rachael is a great friend of mine, we have done a few book tours together and support each other in our writing. But that isn’t why I read her work. I pick up Rach’s books because she writes easy to read stories and has an engaging storytelling ability that keeps you turning each page frantic in anticipation. Her books are always full of emotion and The Patterson Girls was definitely that! It follows four different sisters who come home to spend Christmas with their father, six months after their mother has passed away. Each sister has their own journey and while together they learn of a family curse.  Rachael’s stories are going from strength to strength and she’s making a big name for herself.

Even though I haven’t read this next book I’m still recommending it because my mum read it and loved it. Anything my mum has enjoyed I know I will too. The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies is about Gwendolyn, who leaves her home at nineteen to travel across the world to Ceylon where her new husband Laurence owns a large and prosperous tea plantation. I’m keen to read this story because my grandfather was adopted when he came to Australia as a one-year-old from England. On his adoption papers it lists his father’s name, which states that he was in India working on a tea plantation and that is all we know of him. My mum said she couldn’t put it down, it had her intrigued and she said it was a beautifully written drama. I can’t wait to read it myself.

The Patterson Girls The Tea Planter's Wife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s it, just two books from me this time. I am busy trying to write my next book set in Lake Grace, which follows on from The Saddler Boys and includes a Vietnam veteran.  I’m looking forward to including all the little stories I’ve gathered from the vet’s I’ve been talking to. In the meantime, I’ll be spending most of my time on Holly, the New Holland header, and working on my plot as I harvest.

Grab your copy of The Saddler Boys here!


The Saddler Boys

Fiona Palmer The Saddler Boys

School 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

Grab your copy of The Saddler Boys here!

Read an extract of The Saddler Boys

GUEST BLOG: Fiona Palmer, author of The Saddler Boys talks about what books she’s loving.

The Saddler BoysWell I’m back after a busy week and a half of touring, which included a stopover at Booktopia to sign 300 copies of my latest book, The Saddler Boys. I was lucky enough to take a tour through the massive Booktopia warehouse to see how it all operates: amazing. My book club order would have been whizzing around getting processed while I was there.  Because I’ve been so busy with touring and promoting my latest book, I haven’t had a chance to read any books!

It’s a horrible feeling when you just don’t have the time to read the new books sitting in your ‘to read’ pile. And I have some awesome new ones to read: Fiona McIntosh, Rachael Johns, Barbara Hannay, just to name a few.

I have come up with a solution to my reading problem: audio books. In less than a month I’ll be driving a header for days on end and with audio books I’ll be able to tick some off my ‘to read’ pile. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner. I could have got through heaps of books during seeding!

So I thought this month I would mention a few books that I have really enjoyed. The first one is Bronwyn Parry’s Dark Country. I love Bron’s easy to read style that has a touch of romance, country and suspense. Dark Country is set in the small town of Dungirri and follows Morgan ‘Gil’ Gillespie who returns to this town even though the town’s folk consider him a murderer. It doesn’t help that a woman’s tortured body is found in his car. Local police sergeant Kris may be his only help as she is his alibi. This story has a bit of everything that I enjoy in books. You won’t be disappointed.Fiona Palmer

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen may be known from the movie released a few years ago, but I will always love the book. Sara drew me into the world of the circus in the 1930’s straight away. We follow Jacob’s journey to the circus and then working with Rosie, the elephant. But she’s not just any elephant. I loved how she was the heart of the story. Jacob also falls in love with Marlena who is married to the animal trainer, who is charismatic but violent.  The aspects of living in a circus back in the 30’s is described so well, I could picture it clearly and it felt real. I also love how the book ends.

This next book is an easy to read story that’s a little saucy. The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines, which is about a girl named Ashton whose heart is torn between two cousins Beau and Sawyer. Sawyer is her boyfriend but with Beau there is this irresistible bad boy she wants to help. But Beau has been in love with her since they were childhood friends so when they start hanging out together to rekindle their old friendship, feelings run wild. I devoured this book in a day. Excitingly, there is a sequel, The Vincent Brothers, which tells Sawyer’s love story, also a great read.

For a limited time only, order your copy of The Saddler Boys
and receive a signed copy!


The Saddler Boys

Fiona Palmer

The Saddler BoysSchoolteacher 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 life in Perth and … Read more.

For a limited time only, order your copy of The Saddler Boys
and receive a signed copy!

GUEST BLOG: Who’s that Knocking at the Door? by Jandy Nelson

Writing is a socially accepted form of schizophrenia.—E.L. Doctorow
Some people say life is the thing, but I prefer reading.—Logan Pearsall Smith

Jandy Nelson

Author: Jandy Nelson

It is essential when writing fiction to enter the world of your characters.
But what if they begin to enter yours?

The first time this happened was with Guillermo Garcia, Jude’s sculpture teacher in I’ll Give You the Sun. Guillermo is a tall, imposing man with over-sized features that all clutter together in a wildly expressive face. He has a booming voice with a strong accent (he’s Colombian), a big heart and bigger personality. He carves abstract giants out of granite, and really, at least in my mind, he’s kind of a giant himself. He was one of the first characters in the story to arrive and he did so fully formed and ready to go.

One day, about two years into the writing of the novel, I was having a desperate moment. I felt uncertain about the direction the story was heading and the themes at play just didn’t feel like the right ones. So I lay down to think (much easier for me to think when I’m horizontal—no idea why). The next thing I knew, there was Guillermo towering before me: hands in the air like he was conducting a symphony, hair in his eyes, sweat dripping down his neck (it was that real). “Jandy! You are an idiot!” he said in his big bang of a voice. “You are thinking about this wrong. This is a book about second chances! Second chances. Understand?” I bolted upright. Because I did understand. He was right. It was the exact revelation I needed in that moment except for the fact that it had come out of the seemingly real mouth of an imaginary person! (Even if I fell asleep—indeed possible—it’s still bizarre to see and hear someone in a dream in such detail, someone you’ve never laid eyes on, someone who does not exist.)

Next, months later, I went by myself to see a Richard Diebenkorn exhibit. I walked in and my heart immediately exploded at the beauty. Like Jude says in Sun, there are paintings that color-flood9781406354386 out of two dimensions into three. These were those kind of paintings and my first thought was: “It’s such a shame Noah and Jude couldn’t come with me today.” In that split-second, I’d forgotten that they weren’t real.

I also remember a strange moment while in the middle of writing The Sky Is Everywhere. I was driving to work and reached for my phone because I was feeling an over-powering urge to call my novel. Then I realized what I’d just thought (!!!) and put the phone down.

I’ve had experiences like this as a reader and filmgoer too, with other people’s characters and stories. And maybe it’s a little nuts, but I don’t care. I love that as writers and readers, as story-lovers and fans, we, at times, immerse ourselves so completely in imaginary worlds that characters from those imaginary worlds come knocking on our very real wooden front doors. I love that the mind is that boundless and mysterious and strange, that the bridge between the real and the imagined is so well-travelled, and in both directions.


i-ll-give-you-the-sunI’ll Give You the Sun

by Jandy Neson

From the critically acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere, a radiant novel that will leave you laughing and crying – all at once. For fans of John Green, Gayle Forman and Lauren Oliver.

Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.

About the Author

Jandy Nelson lives in San Francisco, where she divides her time between her proper tree and running loose through the park. Jandy is a literary agent, published poet and perpetual academic with degrees from Brown, Cornell and Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s a superstitious sort and devout romantic who’s madly in love with California – how it teeters on the edge of a continent.

Grab a copy of I’ll Give You the Sun here

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