What Katie Read – The June Round Up (by award-winning author Kate Forsyth)

One of Australia’s favourite novelists Kate Forsyth, author of Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl, continues her monthly blog with us, giving her verdict on the books she’s been reading.

I came home from the ANZ Festival of Literature & the Arts in London with a whole bag of books and am slowly reading my way through them. Quite a few of them are by Australian writers who were speakers at the festival – it seems ironic that I had to travel 17,000 kilometres to discover books I could have bought at my local bookstore!

Here’s what I’ve read this month:


Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy

by Karen Foxlee

I really loved Karen’s mysterious and beautiful novel The Midnight Dress, and once I heard Karen speak about her new book Ophelia & the Marvellous Boy I knew at once that it sounded like my kind of book. I bought the gorgeous hard-back in London, and am glad that I did as the production is just exquisite.

The story revolves around eleven-year-old Ophelia who is smart and scientifically minded. She and her sister and father have moved to a city where it never stops snowing, as her father – who is an expert on swords – has taken up a position in a huge, dark, gothic museum filled with secrets and strange things. Ophelia sets out to explore, and finds a locked room hidden away in the depths of the museum. She puts her eyes to the keyhole … and sees a boy’s blue eyes looking out at her. He tells her that he has been a prisoner for three-hundred-and-three-years by an evil Snow Queen and her clock is ticking down towards the end of the world. Only he can stop her … but first he must escape.

A gorgeously written and delicate fairy tale, Ophelia & the Marvellous Boy reminded me of some of my favourite children’s writers such as Cassandra Golds and Laura Amy Schlitz, who are themselves inspired by Nicholas Stuart Grey and George Macdonald.

Grab a copy of Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy here


Dotter of Her Father’s Eye

by Mary Talbot & Bryan Talbot

Another book I bought in London was what I can best describe as a graphic memoir/biography. Told in comic book form, the story compares the life stories of Lucia Joyce, the daughter of the famous writer James Joyce, and that of the book’s author Mary Talbot, daughter of the foremost Joycean scholar, James S. Atherton.

Both narratives begin with the girls’ childhood and show their struggles to grow up in the shadows of difficult and demanding fathers. Lucia wants to dance, but is confined by the petty societal rules of her time. She ends up confined in a madhouse.  Mary rebels against her father, and forges a life for herself. The book shows how she fell in love with a young artist and married him – he is, of course, Bryan Talbot, the illustrator whose incredible artwork adorns every page.The book is acutely intelligent but highly readable, illuminating both the heartbreakingly sad story of Lucia James and the work of two exceptional contemporary artists. Not surpisingly, Dotter of My Father’s  Eyes won the 2012 Costa biography award.

Grab a copy of Dotter of Her Father’s Eye here


The Spare Room

by Helen Garner

I heard Helen speak in London and thought she was warm and funny and beautifully articulate, so I was very pleased to have her sign my copy of her first novel in sixteen years, The Spare Room. Published in 2008, the novel won a swathe of awards including the Barbara Jefferis Award. It reads more like a memoir, being told from the first person point of view of a writer named Helen living in Melbourne and being inspired by events that actually happened in Helen Garner’s life. However, no doubt many of the people and incidents have been changed during the writing process.

The story is driven by the narrator Helen’s fear and distress, after a dear friend who is dying of cancer comes to stay with her for three weeks while undertaking some kind of quack treatment. The writing is crisp and strong and poised, and the characters spring to life on the page with only a few deft strokes. I loved it.

 Grab a copy of The Spare Room here


Goddess 

by Kelly Gardiner

I’m been a big admirer of Kelly Gardiner’s gorgeous historical novels for young adults, Act of Faith and The Sultan’s Eyes, both of which are set in the mid-17th century, one of my favourite historical periods for fiction. Goddess is Kelly’s first novel for adults, based on the fascinating true life story of Julie d’Aubigny, a woman out of step with her own time (The court of the Sun King, Louise XIV, in Paris during the 1680s).

Raised like a boy by her swordsman father, Julie likes to dress like a man and will fight a duel with anyone who crosses her. One night she fights three duels back-to-back, winning them all. She elopes with a young nun and is sentenced to be burned at the stake, but escapes and becomes a famous opera star. The story of her adventures seems too incredible to possibly be true. The book is told in Julie’s voice – witty, intelligent and wry – and the whole is pulled off with wit and flair.

Grab a copy of Goddess here


A Stranger Came Ashore

by Mollie Hunter

Mollie Hunter is a wonderful Scottish writer for children who is not nearly as well-known as she deserves to be. I have many of her books – some collected when I was a child and some (including a signed first edition) collected as an adult. I first read A Stranger Came Ashore when I was about eleven, after borrowing it from my school library. I’ve been looking for it ever since, but could not remember its name. Then, a month or so ago, I read a brief review of it on an English book blog and at once remembered how much I had loved it, and orderd a copy straightaway.

It’s a Selkie tale, set in the Highlands of Scotland sometime in the 19th century. The novel begins with a storm, and a shipwreck, and a handsome, young stranger washed ashore. As his sister begins to fall in love with the stranger, forgetting her childhood sweetheart, 12-year old Robbie Henderson finds himself becoming more and more suspicious. He remembers an old tale his grandfather used to tell him about seals that turn into humans, but cannot believe it could be true. Soon he is caught up in a dark and suspenseful adventure as he tries to save his sister. A Stranger Came Ashore was rightly acclaimed when it was published in 1975, winning many awards including the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

Grab a copy of A Stranger Came Ashore here


The Colour Purplethe-color-purple

by Alice Walker

I saw Alice Walker speak at the Sydney Writers Festival in May, and bought The Color Purple which I had read and adored about thirty years ago (it was first published in 1982 – impossible to believe it’s been so long!) I read it all in one gulp and loved it just as much as I did when I was a teenager. I loved the movie too. This book will always be on my list of all-time favourite books.

Blurb:

Set in the deep American south between the wars, this is the classic tale of Celie, a young poor black girl. Raped repeatedly by her father, she loses two children and then is married off to a man who treats her no better than a slave. She is separated from her sister Nettie and dreams of becoming like the glamorous Shug Avery, a singer and rebellious black woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the support of women that enables her to leave the past behind and begin a new life.

Grab a Copy of The Colour Purple here


 Burial Rites

by Hannah Kent

I finally had a chance to read this brilliant historical novel by debut author Hannah Kent. Burial Rites been a critical and a commercial success, and deservedly so. The writing is so precise and vivid, and the story so compelling. I found myself stopping to read certain sentences again, just for the pleasure of the words: ‘it is as though the winter has set up home in my marrow.’ Burial Rites is set in Iceland in 1830, the last year in the life of a woman condemned to be executed for murder. The use of real historical documents as epigraphs at the beginning of each section adds to the sense of truth and awfulness. A clever and truly beautiful book.

Grab a copy of Burial Rites here


Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler

by Wendy Lower

Sifting through a second-hand bookshop in London, an English editor stumbled upon this self-published memoir of a young Jewish woman in Vienna and – enchanted by her romantic love story and vivid writing style – republished the book.

In 1938 Trudi Kanter was a milliner for the best-dressed women in Vienna. She was beautiful and chic and sophisticated, travelling to Paris to see the latest fashions and selling her hats to some of the most wealthy and aristocratic ladies of Europe. She was madly in love with a charming and wealthy businesseman, and had a loving and close-knit family. Then the Nazis marched into Austria, and everything Trudi knew was in ruins. She and her new husband had to try and find some way to escape and make a new life for themselves … and Trudi would need all her wits and panache just to survive.

Grab a copy of Some Girls, Some Hats, and Hitler here


Kate FKate 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, coming in at No 16. 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.’

Click here to see Kate’s author page

Jenny Bond, author of The President’s Lunch and Perfect North, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jenny Bond

author of The President’s Lunch and Perfect North

Six Sharp Questions
___________

1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

The President’s Lunch was an absolute joy to research and write. I began researching the novel at the same time I discovered I was pregnant with my second child. He celebrated his first birthday when I delivered the first draft of the manuscript. I came to know the characters so intimately during that time and it was extremely difficult saying goodbye once the manuscript and editing process were completed. In fact, it took some urging from my husband to press ‘Send’ on the day the first draft was due. In a weird melodramatic way, it was like giving up a child.

So what’s it all about? Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and World War II, The President’s Lunch tells the story of Iris McIntosh, an enigmatic young woman rendered homeless by the Depression. When she has a random encounter with Eleanor Roosevelt in a rural gas station her life veers in a remarkable and unexpected direction. A First Lady with a social conscience, the tireless and fiercely compassionate Mrs Roosevelt employs Iris as her secretary. Under Eleanor’s guidance Iris, a woman of natural wit, beauty and intelligence, is introduced to the dynamic and complex inner world of the President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Along the way, for better or for worse, she wins the heart of more than one man. But as she recreates herself into a woman of the modern world, a world that has America at its centre, Iris comes to understand that nothing is ever simple – not affairs of state, not matters of the heart and certainly not the hankerings of a person’s appetite.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The best and worst moments came during a research trip I took to the US with my family. I had researched the Roosevelts from afar for nine months and to find myself walking around their homes and chatting with people who knew them was thrilling. But spending thirty hours travelling from Canberra to Washington DC in order to do that, with an energetic but frustrated six-month-old and a mildly grumpy seven-year-old, was absolutely soul destroying.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

My favourite passage from a novel has been the same throughout my life. It is the final paragraph from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird:

‘He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.’

When I was a younger I viewed the paragraph from a child’s perspective. It filled me with a great feeling of comfort and safety. Now I am a parent, I read the lines from Atticus’s viewpoint and I understand his motivations clearly.

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

I can be difficult to live with when I’m in the process of editing a book. Becoming angered at cuts and criticisms from editors, I tend to take my frustration out on my husband. However, while I am in the process of writing a novel I am extremely content and agreeable.

My writing week revolves around my children. I work three days a week (school hours) when my two-year-old is in child care and at other times when I can fit it in. However, because I have such an abbreviated work week, I find I have to use my time judiciously to meet deadlines. Fortunately, I can write anywhere and at any time.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I write books that I would love to read and, as a 43-year-old woman, I am probably representative of much of the marketplace. So that’s lucky!

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:  I taught this novel for many years to unruly teenagers. I have not met any adolescent this book has not failed to move.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Such a unique and perceptive critique on society. It shows children how meaningful and relevant literature can be.

The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver: Everyone should know how to cook and the recipes in Jamie’s first cook book are upbeat, fast and simple. Following a recipe teaches people discipline and patience, and it’s fun and tasty!

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen: They might not want to read it, but when they get to the end of P&P those twenty uncouth youths will know how to behave in civilised society!

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux:  This is a powerful allegorical novel, heavy with symbolism, that criticises society. In my teaching experience I have found it resonates strongly with teenagers. It’s an anti coming-of-age tale in a way, and is told from the viewpoint of fourteen-year-old Charlie Fox.

Jenny, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of The President’s Lunch here

 

 


jenny bond (2)The President’s Lunch
by Jenny Bond

Set in Roosevelt’s White House, this is a compelling story of politics, personalities and love that spans one of the most turbulent decades of the twentieth century.

Robbed of her home and job by the Great Depression, the future looks bleak for Iris McIntosh – until a chance encounter with America’s indefatigable First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Propelled into the White House’s brilliant inner circle, Iris finds herself at the centre of momentous change … and her heart torn between two men. But her loyalty lies with a third: the complicated and charismatic President Roosevelt, who will ultimately force her to question everything she believes in. A compelling story of politics and power, love and loss, set in one of the most exciting and cataclysmic periods of history.

Grab a copy of The President’s Lunch here

REVIEW: Life or Death by Michael Robotham (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

There seems to be two types of people in this world. Those who love Michael Robotham, and those who haven’t heard of him yet.

It can be difficult for a crime writer to receive critical acclaim and popularity. Books by design are denser than any cop drama on TV, asking questions designed for reflection rather than ratings. Formulas are examined and broken down, cliches noted, thin characters ridiculed.

What sets Michael Robotham apart? A simple, but often neglected factor.

He’s just a wonderful writer.

Life or Death starts with an intriguing premise. Audie Palmer is on the run, having escaped from jail. 10 years of beatings and torture are behind him. But what’s the twist?

He has escaped just one day before he was due to be released.

RoboIn Audie Palmer, Robotham has created a character we can all root for. Lucky in his unluckiness, stoic, brave, principled. He is haunted by the ghosts of the past and by a crime he swears he didn’t commit. But can we trust him? Can we really trust anyone?

While Audie is the heart of the story,  there is plenty of meat around him, an ensemble cast of crooked politicians, kind-hearted criminals and shady FBI agents, not to mention a missing seven million dollars. The waters are murky, and Robotham revels in it.

Life or Death is for the crime fan who likes a story, not just an account. Brilliantly written, intelligent, funny, sad and meticulously mapped out, it’s easy to understand why there has already been so much interest in a big screen adaptation of the novel.

There is nothing more exciting than an author operating at the peak of their powers. With Life or Death, Robotham is doing just that, further strengthening his hold as one of Australia’s finest crime writers. Find out why Audie is on the run, before it’s too late.

Grab a copy of Michael Robotham’s Life or Death here

___________________________________

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Booktopia’s HUGE Housewarming SALE is on NOW!

Housewarming Sale Newsletter Banner
It’s been a big few weeks, but the boxes are unpacked, the trucks are empty, and the fridge is stocked. We’ve finally moved into our new Headquarters, 10,000 square metres of bookish heaven!

To celebrate we’re having a huge Housewarming Sale. Over half a million books at prices that will make you as excited as us!

We have massive discounts on worldwide bestsellers like Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, Australian favourites like Black Caviar, crowd favourites like Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, along with thousands of titles on anything and everything.

Step on in and join in the party.

Housewarming Sale Newsletter Banner

 

Buy a copy of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies and you could win a Girls Night In Prize Pack worth $299!

Books!

Chocolates!

Now that I have your attention… oh wait… no, that’s what I needed to tell you.

You could win a pile of books and chocolate!

To celebrate the upcoming release of Liane Moriarty’s new book, Big Little Lies, the good folks at Pan MacMillan are giving you the chance to win 1 of 3 awesome prize packs valued at $299.

All you need to do is buy a copy of Big Little Lies before the 8th of August to enter the draw.

The pack contains The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey, Mad Men, Bad Girls by Maggie Groff, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, The Summer Without You by Karen Swan, Family Secrets by Liz Byrski, The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, Currawong Manor by Josephine Pennicott, as well as chocolates and a blanket.

Grab a copy of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies here

Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty

‘I guess it started with the mothers.’

‘It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.’

‘I’ll tell you exactly why it happened.’

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead.

Liane Moriarty’s new novel is funny and heartbreaking, challenging and compassionate.

The No. 1 New York Times bestselling author turns her unique gaze on parenting and playground politics, showing us what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

‘Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.’

About the Author

Liane Moriarty is the author of five adult novels, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and The Husband’s Secret. The Husband’s Secret reached no. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, sold well over a million copies worldwide, been optioned for a film and will be translated into over 35 languages. Liane lives in Sydney with her husband, son and daughter.

Grab a copy of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies here

Congratulations to the winners of our Big Little Lies Facebook Comp. They are:

Katy Trimmer Ewer, Karen Finch, and Kathleen Harper.

Well done K’s! Please email us at promos@booktopia.com.au with your details!

And the winners of the June YA Buzz Competition and the signed copies of Tim Cope’s book are…

If you bought a feature title in our June Young Adult Buzz you went in the draw to win a special hardcover edition of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

The winners are…the-fault-in-our-stars

C.Dudley, Joyner, QLD
A.Beverley, Nambucca Heads, NSW
S.Mosley, Mundubbera, QLD
T.Lloyd, Swan Hill, VIC
C.McKenzie, Bunbury, WA
C.Birelo, South Yarra, VIC
J.Giaouris, Carss Park, NSW
R.Cullen, Young, NSW
K.Wilson, Dangar Island, NSW
M.Reynolds, Caringbah South, NSW
I.Wishart, Aberfoyle Park, SA
S.Johnson, Earlwood, NSW
K.Buckley, Kallangur, QLD
L.Darby, Quoiba, TAS
K.Lewis, Kalgoorlie, WA
B.Januszkiewicz, Craigieburn, VIC
J.Fagan, Paradise Waters, QLD
H.Maya, Palmerston, ACT
K.Nairn, Paterson, NSW
T.Nollas, Kalgoorlie, WA
M.Taylor, Padbury, WA

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
by John Green

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

John Green is the best-selling author of Looking for Alaska; An Abundance of Katherines; Paper Towns; Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Grab a copy of The Fault in Our Stars here


on-the-trail-of-genghis-khanOur Facebook page recently hosted a competition to win copies of On the Trail of Genghis Khan signed by author Tim Cope and his trusty sidekick Tigon.

The lucky winners are…

Ashley Louise
Gem Gallen
Phil Sutton
Paul Ferguson
Sophie Radams

ON THE TRAIL OF GENGHIS KHAN
by Tim Cope

The personal tale of an Australian adventurer’s tragedy and triumph that is packed with historical insights. On the Trail of Genghis Khan is at once a celebration of and an elegy for an ancient way of life.

Lone-adventurer Tim Cope travelled the entire length of the Eurasian steppe on horseback, from the ancient capital of Mongolia to the Danube River in Hungary. This formidable 6,000-mile journey took three years to complete. It is a journey that has not been completed successfully since the days of Genghis Khan. Trekking through wolf-infested plateaus, down into deep forests and up over glaciers, across sub-zero barren landscapes, scorching deserts and through treacherous mountain passes, Cope travelled deep into the heart of the nomadic way of life that has dominated the Eurasian steppe for thousands of years.

Alone, except for a trusted dog (and a succession of thirteen horses, many stolen along the way), he encountered incredible hospitality from those who welcomed him on his journey – a tradition that is the linchpin of human survival on the steppe. With WC the Kazakh aphorism ‘To understand the wolf, you must put the skin of a wolf on and look through its eyes’ playing constantly in his thoughts, Cope became immersed in the land and its people, moving through both space and time as witness to the rich past and to the often painful complexities of present-day life still recovering from Soviet rule.

On the Trail of Genghis Khan is a tale of survival, adventure and discovery set in a fascinating and politically volatile time.

The Winners of the signed copies can you please email promos@booktopia.com.au with your details and we will get these prizes out as soon as we can.

Grab a copy of On the Trail of Genghis Khan here


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

J.K Rowling publishes new Harry Potter story

J.K Rowling has published a new Harry Potter short story on her Harry Potter fan site Pottermore. The 1,500-word piece released this morning centres on a now 34-year-old Harry Potter with greying hair attending the Quidditch World Cup 2014.

Rowling has also been writing other pieces on the tournament for Pottermore to coincide with the World Cup in Brazil.

Rowling writes that as Harry approaches 34, he has “threads of silver” in his black hair, and also sports a mysterious cut over his cheekbone. Ron’s hair, meanwhile, “appears to be thinning slightly.” Their wives Ginny and Hermione and their children, along with ex-Dumbledore’s Army members Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom, all feature in the sharp-quilled piece that offers updates on their current lives.

J.K Rowling has been as busy as ever since finishing the Harry Potter series with her latest novel (written as Robert Galbraith) The Silkworm enjoying critical acclaim since its release.

For your chance to win a hardcover edition signed by J.K Rowling as Robert Galbraith click here.

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