BOOK REVIEW: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (Review by Caroline Baum)

how-to-build-a-girlI’ve been a fan of Moran’s ever since I read her hilarious story in the British press about trying to learn Beyonce’s All the Single Ladies dance routine. She is a one-of-a-kind talent, untamed by success, outspoken, mouthy, with a wild and brilliant voice on just about everything. And now she’s tackled fiction. Despite an author’s note at the front of the book it does seem that she is using her own life story as material: she is, like her heroine Johanna, a girl raised on a housing estate in Wolverhampton with ambitions to write about music and go to London.

In the novel, Johanna leaves behind a sarcastically sharp-tongued mother and a hopeless father who is just a demo tape away from success and fails to recognise her brother is gay. She also has sex with a man with an overly large member and makes inept attempts at self-harm.

It’s a roller coaster ride of chaos, insecurity, longing and drugs in I’m-with-the- band land. This is rock ‘n’ roll meets Jeanette Winterson. Julie Burchill without the vitriol. Or as Moran herself puts it, The Bell Jar written by Adrian Mole. Raw, rude, irresistible and very funny.

Grab a copy of How to Build a Girl

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Caroline Baum has worked as founding editor of Good Reading magazine, features editor for Vogue, presenter of ABC TV’s popular bookshow, Between the Lines, and Foxtel’s Talking Books, and as an executive producer with ABC Radio National. She is currently Booktopia’s Editorial Director.

how-to-build-a-girlHow to Build a Girl

by Caitlin Moran

What do you do in your teenage years when you realise what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes – and build yourself. It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde – fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer – like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes – but without the dying young bit. By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper.

She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less. But what happens when Johanna realises she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all? Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease, with a soundtrack by My Bloody Valentine and Happy Mondays. As beautiful as it is funny, How To Build a Girl is a brilliant coming-of-age novel in DMs and ripped tights, that captures perfectly the terror and joy of trying to discover exactly who it is you are going to be.

Grab a copy of How to Build a Girl

Poe Ballantine, author of Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Poe Ballantine

author of Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere and more…

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

Born in Denver, raised in San Diego, schooled in public institutions.  Many colleges but no degree.

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

Writer, writer, and writer.  It was the only thing I did that got me notice among my peers.

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

That you had to be self-destructive to be an artist.

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?

Reading The Grapes of Wrath at age eleven and realizing you could use words to change lives, working at a convalescent hospital at age seventeen and seeing those who’d watched the system and the model and the “dream” they’d trusted all their lives fail them, hopping a freight train to New Orleans at age eighteen with no money.

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?

This is truly a terrifying question, but I’ll say that I’m rather like a blacksmith who’s shoed horses all his life and one day looks up to see the streets filled with automobiles.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere is about my neighbor, the brilliant and good-natured math professor at our local college, who disappeared one winter day shortly after he arrived and was found three months later burned beyond recognition and bound to a tree in the hinterland south of the campus where he taught.

Grab a copy of Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere here

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

The speed of human evolution.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

George Orwell, who took tremendous risks and wrote about these experiences with depth, wisdom, humor, and style.

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

My happiness has always been grounded in simplicity, which is a very complicated thing to achieve.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Don’t forget to live.

Poe, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere here


Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere

by Poe Ballantine

At age forty six years US author Poe Ballantine ends his nomadic lifestyle and brings his beautiful wife from Mexico to Chadron, Nebraska, and becomes a father to a son who may be autistic. His neighbor, a math professor at Chadron State College, disappears and three months later is found burned to death and tied to a tree in the woods. What happened to him? Was it murder? Suicide? Poe and a cast of memorable characters from Chadron aim to find out.

Grab a copy of Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere here

Julia Gillard talks to Booktopia TV about her memoir My Story

Julia Gillard’s memoir My Story is one of the most anticipated books of 2014. She chats with Booktopia TV about her political battles, writing her memoir, and what the future holds.

Grab a copy of Julia Gillard’s My Story here

my-storyMy Story

by Julia Gillard

‘I was Prime Minister for three years and three days.Three years and three days of resilience.Three years and three days of changing the nation.Three years and three days for you to judge.’

On Wednesday 23rd June 2010, with the government in turmoil, Julia Gillard asked then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for a leadership ballot.

The next day, Julia Gillard became Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, and our first female leader. Australia was alive to the historic possibilities. Here was a new approach for a new time.

It was to last three extraordinary years.

This is Julia Gillard’s chronicle of that turbulent time – a strikingly candid self-portrait of a political leader seeking to realise her ideals. It is her story of what it was like – in the face of government in-fighting and often hostile media – to manage a hung parliament, build a diverse and robust economy, create an equitable and world-class education system, ensure a dignified future for Australians with disabilities, all while attending to our international obligations and building strategic alliances for our future. This is a politician driven by a sense of purpose – from campus days with the Australian Union of Students, to a career in the law, to her often gritty, occasionally glittering rise up the ranks of the Australian Labor Party.

Refreshingly honest, peppered with a wry humour and personal insights, Julia Gillard does not shy away from her mistakes, admitting freely to errors, misjudgements, and policy failures as well as detailing her political successes. Here is an account of what was hidden behind the resilience and dignified courage Gillard showed as prime minister – her view of the vicious hate campaigns directed against her, and a reflection on what it means – and what it takes – to be a woman leader in contemporary politics.

Here, in her own words, Julia Gillard reveals what life was really like as Australia’s first female prime minister.

Grab a copy of Julia Gillard’s My Story here

 

Booktopia’s Book Trailer of the Week

This week’s Booktopia Book Trailer of the Week goes to Adam Liaw’s new cookbook Adam’s Big Pot.

Nice work Adam and the team from Hachette Australia!

Grab a copy of Adam’s Big Pot here

adam-s-big-potAdam’s Big Pot

Easy Meals for Your Family

Want simple, healthy and delicious meals? Quickly? Masterchef winner Adam Liaw is back to help!

Adam’s Big Pot is a cookbook for modern families. In his latest cookbook, Adam Liaw shows you how to prepare easy family meals and gives new answers for that age-old question: ‘What’s for dinner?’ In this beautifully photographed cookbook, Adam takes a practical and creative approach to family cooking, creating new flavours from ingredients you already know, all in just one big wok, pan, dish or pot.

From fresh Vietnamese salads and simple South African curries, to Korean grilled pork belly and one-pot Japanese classics, the dishes in Adam’s Big Pot are basic enough for the novice home cook, affordable enough to feed the whole family, and can all be made from basic supermarket ingredients. Whether you’re after easy classics like shaking beef, mee goreng and lamb vindaloo or looking to add new dishes to your repertoire like tiger-skin chicken, snapper rice and Japanese souffle cheesecake, Adam’s Big Pot is your guide to simple, creative family cooking.

Grab a copy of Adam’s Big Pot here

 

BOOK REVIEW: Where Song Began by Tim Low (Review by Caroline Baum)

You don’t have to be a twitcher to enjoy this book which opens with a fascinating theory: Australian birds sound different because of what they eat! Apparently they are on a sugar high, because there is more nectar available to them from native flora than to other birds elsewhere.

While our marsupials continue to capture the world’s attention (Prince George and the Bilby, Gary Shteyngart’s urgent desire to pat a wombat on his recent author tour), our birds are every bit as unique and get far less attention than they deserve. Many smaller species are threatened as suburbia encroaches on habitat. This accessible, entertaining and compelling portrait of our avian ecosystem makes for essential reading for bushwalkers, gardeners, and nature lovers.

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Caroline Baum has worked as founding editor of Good Reading magazine, features editor for Vogue, presenter of ABC TV’s popular bookshow, Between the Lines, and Foxtel’s Talking Books, and as an executive producer with ABC Radio National. She is currently Booktopia’s Editorial Director.

Grab a copy of Where Song Began here

Grab a copy of Where Song Began here

K.A. Barker, author of The Book of Days, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

K.A. Barker

author of The Book of Days

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

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

This feels very Dickensian: “To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born on a Wednesday, at eleven o’clock in the morning”. I grew up in Brisbane, left for almost a year to try living in places where it actually snowed, and am now back again to enjoy its two-day winters and its mosquitos.

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

When I was twelve, I was deep in the grip of disaster movie mania. I wanted to be a smart-mouthed, always right, looks-good-when-running-away-from-danger vulcanologist/seismologist/archaeologist.

At eighteen I wanted to be a writer. So I could write smart-mouthed vulcanologists.

I haven’t reached thirty yet, but when it comes around we’ll see if I still enjoy this writing lark.

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

Author: K.A. Barker

I was certain that at twenty-six I would have found Prince Charming, had a couple of adorable children, and been at the peak of my career.  Not so much.

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?

Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson and the other great classic adventure stories. There was always a deplorable lack of girls. Wanting to remedy this led me to first become interested in writing.

It sounds silly, but I had a maze book as a kid that had the most fantastical illustrations. I used to want to write about all the settings – lost temple, islands connected by bridges, a burrow filled with cosy rooms.

The soundtrack to the 2002 The Time Machine movie. I think most writers like to write while listening to music, and this soundtrack got me through three drafts of The Book of Days.

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

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been drawn to telling stories. Believe me, if there was an avenue for selling abandoned stories written on post-it notes, I’d be rich. As there isn’t, I turned to the next best thing: novel-writing.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Book of Days is about a girl who:
a) wakes up with no memory of who she is and
b) finds out that a bunch of not-very-nice people are trying to kill her.

It’s a little steampunk, a little adventure, and hopefully a lot of fun.

Grab a copy of K.A. Barker’s novel The Book of Days here

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

I hope that they come away from it having enjoyed the ride, and hopefully wanting more!

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

I admire a lot of speculative fiction writers who create their own worlds: Tolkien, Martin, McKinley.  World building is a passion of mine, but it’s only since I started writing The Book of Days that I realised just how difficult it can be.

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

To take over the world and move to Mars.  Maybe a tad too ambitious, but realistically I’d like to be able to write full-time.  

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

It may be clichéd, but never give up.  The best writers don’t necessarily get published.  The ones that do have talent, perseverance, a little luck, and far too much stubbornness for their own good.

Kirilee, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The Book of Days here


The Book of Days

by K.A. Barker

Most people believe the best way to forget someone is to throw them down a well. Or lock them in a room with eight keys, or bury them at a crossroad in the thirteenth hour. But they’re wrong. The best way to forget someone is for them never to have existed in the first place.

Madame Marisol’s Unreality House was where you brought people to make that happen.

When Tuesday wakes from sleep for the first time when she is sixteen, she opens her eyes to a world filled with wonder – and peril. Left with only a letter from the person she once was, Tuesday sets out to discover her past with the help of her charming and self-serving guide, Quintalion. Along the way she runs into a one-legged mercenary, flying cities, airships, and a blind librarian. But danger shadows her every move. The leader of the merciless daybreakers is hunting her, convinced that she killed the only woman he ever loved. Tuesday will need all her wits to survive long enough to find out who she is and her connection with the mysterious Book of Days: a book that holds untold power…

 Grab a copy of The Book of Days here

Win a signed copy of Gone Girl!

Gone Girl, one of the biggest books for years, is coming to the big screen. To celebrate we’re giving you the chance to win a copy signed by the author Gillian Flynn!

All you have to do to enter is buy the film tie-in edition before September 30 and you could walk away with an exclusive signed copy!

Whether you’re one of millions of fans, or only hearing about Gone Girl for the first time, this something you don’t want to miss out on.

Gone_Girl_Promobanner_Medium

Grab a copy of Gone Girl here

gone-girl-order-now-for-your-chance-to-win-THE ADDICTIVE No.1 BESTSELLER THAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT

Who are you? What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?

Grab a copy of Gone Girl here

Gone_Girl_Promobanner_Medium

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