BOOK REVIEW: Here Come the Dogs by Omar Musa (Review by Caroline Baum)

here-come-the-dogs-order-your-signed-copy-The energy of this debut novel just leaps off the page. Musa, a charismatic rapper, has successfully translated the idiom and pulse of performance to the page with its syncopated rhythms and hard-edged beats.

Inevitably, he is being compared with his mate Christos Tsiolkas for his full-frontal engagement with contemporary Australian society: in this case, multicultural masculinity with its surges of often misdirected testosterone.

In small town suburbia during a tinder-dry summer, anything could happen. Booze, drugs, violence and a racing dog all help pass the time.

At the centre of this compelling mash up of poetry and prose are three iconic young men: Solomon, a charming Samoan, who has broken up with his girlfriend and is fascinated by Scarlett, a free spirited tattooist; his half-brother Jimmy, who has got himself into trouble, and their Macedonian childhood friend, Aleks.

Musa manipulates language with raw, bracing vitality, offering up a picture of Australia that is not pretty but feels authentic.

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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 signed copy of Here Come the Dogs here

Grab a signed copy of Here Come the Dogs here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Writer and journalist Sian Prior, author of Shy, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Shy

by Sian Prior

Shy. It’s a shy word, a timid little word that begs to remain unnoticed. Only three letters long, and it begins with an exhortation to silence. Shhh. Reserved is different. It’s for tall men with jutting jaws. Prime ministers can appear reserved: never shy. Restrained carries itself with dignity.

Even introvert has a whiff of authority about it: these people have been tested; Myers and Briggs have awarded them an impressive three-syllable psychological label. But with shy there’s no authority, no control. It’s a blushing, hunching word; a nervous, knock-kneed, wallflower word. A word for children, not grown-ups, because surely grown-ups grow out of shyness. Don’t they? Sian Prior has maintained a career in the public eye, as a broadcaster and performer, for more than twenty years.

For far longer than that she has suffered from excruciating shyness. Eventually, after bolting from a party in a state of near-panic, she decides to investigate her condition. What is it, shyness? Where did hers come from? Why does it create such distressing turmoil beneath her assured professional front? As Sian begins to research the science of social anxiety, other factors present themselves as facets of the problem. Family, intimate friendships, self-perception and fear and longing and the consequences of love…While, in counterpoint, there is the security, the sense of belonging, she finds in the life she shares with Tom, her famous partner. Until he tells her he is leaving.

Shy: A Memoir – frank, provocative, remarkable in its clarity and beautifully written – is a book about unease: about questioning who you are and evading the answer. It is about grief, and abandonment and loss. It is about how the simple word shy belies the complex reality of what that really means.

About the Author

Sian Prior is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in the arts and popular culture, a media consultant, and a teacher at universities and writers centres. She has a second career as a musician and recording artist. Sian lives in Melbourne. Shy: A Memoir is her first book.

Grab a copy of Shy here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Writer Fiona Wood, author of Wildlife, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Wildlife

by Fiona Wood

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

“In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.

A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard. And I kissed Ben Capaldi.”

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

A story about first love, friendship and NOT fitting in.

About the Author

Fiona Wood has been writing television for ten years. During that time she has written for Something in the Air, Marshall Law, Always Greener, Life, MDA, The Secret Life of Us, Home & Away and Neighbours, the children’s dramas Sleepover Club and Silver Sun, and been a story consultant on Dirt Game. She has also worked as a freelance journalist for The Age, The Sunday Age and an interior design magazine. She lives in Melbourne with her husband, teenage children, and a very bad dog. This is her first novel.

Grab a copy of Wildlife here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Little Failure

A Memoir

by Gary Shteyngart

Gary Shteyngart‘s loving but mismatched parents dreamed that he would become a lawyer, or at least an accountant, something their distracted son was simply not cut out to do. Fusing English and Russian, his mother created the term Failurchka-‘Little Failure’-which she applied to her son. With love. Mostly.

A candid and deeply poignant story of a Soviet family’s trials and tribulations, and of their escape in 1979 to the consumerist promised land of the USA, Little Failure is also an exceptionally funny account of the author’s transformation from asthmatic toddler in Leningrad to 40-something Manhattanite with a receding hairline and a memoir to write.

‘Gary Shteyngard delivers big time with Little Failure. Told with fearlessness, wisdom and the wit that you’d expect from one of America’s funniest novelists.’ Carl Hiaasen

About the Author

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972. In 2007 he was named one of Granta’s Best Young American novelists. His debut The Russian Debutante’s Handbook was widely acclaimed (and won the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction), as were his second, Absurdistan (one of the 10 Best Books of the Year in the New York Times) and Super Sad True Love Story (which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize). He writes regularly for the New Yorker.

Grab a copy of Little Failure here

What Do Women Want? Daniel Bergner thinks he has the answer…

What Do Women Want?

Adventures in the Science of Female Desire

by Daniel Bergner

Women are the monogamous sex.

Women crave intimacy and emotional connection.

Women don’t want sex with strangers.

Right?

Wrong.

Could ‘the fairer sex’ in fact be more sexually aggressive and anarchic than men?

In What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, critically acclaimed journalist Daniel Bergner looks at the evidence. Recent research, he finds, dismantles the myths to reveal an unprecedented portrait of female lust: the triggers, the fantasies, the mind-body connection (and disconnection), the reasons behind the loss of libido and, most revelatory, that this loss is not inevitable.

About the Author

Daniel Bergner is a staff writer for the New York Times and the author of three books of nonfiction, The Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys into the Realms of Lust and Longing, In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, and God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana’s Angola Prison, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Bergner’s writing has also appeared in Granta, Harper’s, Mother Jones, Talk, New York Times Book Review, and on the op-ed page of the New York Times.

Grab a copy of Daniel Bergner’s What Do Women Want here

Don’t miss Booktopia’s Finest at the 2014 Sydney Writer’s Festival

Looking for things to see at The Sydney Writer’s Festival?

Come along and hear some experts from Booktopia chat about the wonderful world of books…

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EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Mandy Sayer, author of The Poet’s Wife, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Grab a copy of The Poet’s Wife here

the-poet-s-wifeThe Poet’s Wife
by Mandy Sayer

In the follow-up to her bestselling memoir, Dreamtime Alice, Mandy Sayer tells the story of the ten years she and Yusef Komunyakaa spent together, first as lovers, then as husband and wife.

Even though we’d grown up in vastly different cultures and countries, we’d both known poverty, domestic violence and the expectation that neither one of us would ever amount to anything. That was probably what united us more than anything: our shared defiance of that prediction.

She tap-danced on street corners for people’s small change. He was an out-of-work university teacher, poet and Vietnam vet. She was white and from Australia. He was black and from the Deep South. They met on Mardi Gras, New Orleans in 1985. She was twenty-two. He was nearly forty.

They fell in love. They married. What happened next will thrill, move, perplex and enrage you. It will break your heart.

The Poet’s Wife tells the story of the ten years that Mandy Sayer and Yusef Komunyakaa spent together, first as lovers, then as husband and wife. During that time he became a famous poet, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the highest honour for poetry in the United States, and a university professor.

At the same time, Mandy became a writer, winning the Vogel Prize for young Australian writers for her first novel, Mood Indigo. She is now an acclaimed author and journalist and has written two award-winning memoirs, Velocity and Dreamtime Alice. The Poet’s Wife traces her life from the end of Dreamtime Alice, and again confirms Sayer’s place as one of our most lyrical and most courageous writers – memoirist like no other.

Praise for Dreamtime Alice: ‘A reminder of just how dynamic a memoir can be…spellbinding.’ – Interview

‘A joy to read…tells a story more vivid and unlikely than many modern works of fiction…Sayer tells her story colourfully, humorously and without a skerrick of self-pity…Trees would have died happy for once, if they’d known they would end up as the pages of such a special work of art.’ – The Bulletin

About the Author

Mandy Sayer won the Australian-Vogel Award in 1989 for her novel Mood Indigo. She has written five works of fiction, edited one anthology (with another due for publication later this year), and written two memoirs, Dreamtime Alice, which won the 200) National Biography Award and Velocity, which won the Age Non- Fiction Prize. She lives in Sydney.

Read Caroline Baum’s Review

Mandy Sayer’s third volume of memoir about her marriage to acclaimed black poet Yusef Komunyakaa is like a car crash – you just can’t look away. It begins with a shocking episode of violence that helps prepares the reader for the emotional rollercoaster ahead. Told with raw candour, it documents a passionate, toxic relationship in which jealousy, suspicion and dishonesty wreck the hopes of a couple who should have everything, given their love and their talents. But there is too much baggage here. Loss, mental illness, racism and poverty erode intimacy and corrode what started off as shiny.

Despite this, Sayer begins to write herself into another life. Slowly but surely as Yusef wins the Pulitzer and becomes more and more successful, she too finds her voice, gains recognition and confidence and steps away from the lies and paranoia to emerge from the wreckage strong and determined.

Grab a copy of The Poet’s Wife here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Anita Heiss, author of Tiddas, in conversation with Caroline Baum

9781922052261Tiddas

by Anita Heiss

A story about what it means to be a friend …

Five women, best friends for decades, meet once a month to talk about books … and life, love and the jagged bits in between. Dissecting each other’s lives seems the most natural thing in the world – and honesty, no matter how brutal, is something they treasure. Best friends tell each other everything, don’t they? But each woman harbours a complex secret and one weekend, without warning, everything comes unstuck.

Izzy, soon to be the first Black woman with her own television show, has to make a decision that will change everything. Veronica, recently divorced and dedicated to raising the best sons in the world, has forgotten who she is. Xanthe, desperate for a baby, can think of nothing else, even at the expense of her marriage. Nadine, so successful at writing other people’s stories, is determined to blot out her own. Ellen, footloose by choice, begins to question all that she’s fought for.

When their circle begins to fracture and the old childhood ways don’t work anymore, is their sense of sistahood enough to keep it intact? How well do these tiddas really know each other?

Read Caroline Baum’s Review

In Anita Heiss’ latest, likeable and breezy novel, five women, best friends (Tiddas means friend in northern Koori) for decades, meet to talk about each other’s lives at their book group. Romance and career dilemmas, baby yearnings, all get aired and shared with laughter and tears over chai lattes and in between sessions of retail therapy and Bikram yoga.

The lifestyle is upwardly mobile, the setting is urban Brisbane and the woman are justifiably proud of their status, earning power and confidence while never forgetting that their bonds of sisterhood have been passed down through a culture of strong women.

About the Author

Dr Anita Heiss is the bestselling author of Not Meeting Mr Right and Avoiding Mr Right, both published by Bantam Australia. Anita was recognised for Outstanding Achievement in Literature in the 2010 and 2011 Deadly Awards for her novels Manhattan Dreaming and Paris Dreaming. A writer, satirist, activist, social commentator and occasional academic, Anita is a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales, an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador and a board member of the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy. She lives in Sydney and but dreams of living in New York.

Grab a copy of Tiddas here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Belinda Hawkins, author of Every Parent’s Nightmare, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Grab a copy of Every Parent’s Nightmare here

every-parent-s-nightmare-updated-edition-

The story of Jock Palfreeman has captivated Australia. Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach took a look at award-winning journalist Belinda Hawkins’ account of the harrowing story of a young Australian jailed for murder.

Wrong place, wrong time.

Some phrases are uttered so often in our daily lives that they lose their punch, struggling to convey the real horror behind them.

Sometimes you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and be late for work.

Sometimes you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and get trapped in an awkward conversation.

Jock Palfreeman was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now he’s in a Bulgarian prison cell for murder.

In 2009, Jock Palfreeman was found guilty of the murder of Andrei Monov, the only son of two people well connected in the Sofia legal fraternity. He claims he went to the defence of gypsies being attacked by Monov and a bunch of soccer hooligans. The Bulgarians claim it was an act of cold-blooded murder.

The first thing that struck me about Belinda Hawkins’ first book Every Parent’s Nightmare was how meticulous it was. So many true crime books can skip merrily over important details in the hope of swaying you towards their side of the argument, but Every Parent’s Nightmare lays everything on the table. It’s a riveting journey of right and wrong, perception and truth. One senses Hawkins is only too aware that the event itself is the selling point, leaving sensationalism at the door and, refreshingly, editorialising to a minimum.

Her own part to play in the Jock Palfreeman saga is as the eye of the storm. Acutely aware of the emotions swirling around her but able to articulate the key moments over the days and months of this harrowing story.

Another engaging element was that, despite the detail of the investigation, Every Parent’s Nightmare retains a near noir quality. It’s an absolute page-turner. It was only after I learnt more about the author that I discovered, and it now comes as no surprise, that while Hawkins has been a Walkley-Award winning journalist for over 30 years, she also has a Master of Arts in English Literature. Her understanding of the subtleties of a deeply human story is wonderful and immensely engaging.

The most frightening aspect of Jock Palfreeman’s story is that he seems like the kind of young man I always wanted to be. Free-spirited, gregarious and passionate about eradicating injustice. Always standing up to bullies, whether it be on the behalf of friends or strangers. And despite all these qualities, he finds himself on the wrong side of the bars. It’s a chilling story I always wanted to know more about, and now I do. And if you were like me, grab a copy, and know more.

Grab a copy of Every Parent’s Nightmare here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Kate Ceberano chats with Caroline Baum about her tell-all memoir, I’m Talking

Grab a copy of I’m Talking here

i-m-talking-order-your-signed-copy-I’m Talking
by Kate Ceberano

For the first time, Kate Ceberano, one of Australia’s best-loved entertainers, shares her story.

In her own unmistakeable voice, Kate Ceberano takes us on a very personal journey from her suburban childhood, her immersion in the Melbourne club scene of the eighties and her rise to stardom at the age of fourteen when she fronted the wildly popular funk band I’m Talking, to the life of a female performer and recording artist in London, Los Angeles and New York.

With parallel careers as a pop and jazz singer and songwriter, Kate has received the highest awards in the Australian music industry including the ARIA for Best Female Artist. She has delighted audiences in Harry M. Miller’s hugely successful ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, won a legion of fans when she won ‘Dancing with the Stars’, and made a triumphant debut for Opera Australia in ‘South Pacific’. Now she reveals, for the first time, just what that was like.

People have been talking about Kate Ceberano since she was a teenager: Hugh Jackman described her as having ‘truly one of the great voices this country has produced'; for Rolling Stone she is ‘pure, soulful and powerful’. Now Kate is talking for herself.

Accompanied by never before published photos.

Read Caroline Baum’s Review

She sure is. Kate Ceberano’s career has had its fair share of ups and down. She disappeared from view for several years leaving fans like myself feeling a little bereft. Was it her crossover repertoire (from pop to jazz and back again) that confused recording labels as some suggested? The truth is more complex and interesting as she reveals in this candid memoir. It really communicates her energy and passion for performance, her positive philosophy of pick yourself up and start over, and her willingness to try anything. There’s also some good stuff about body image and her relationship with her mother when faced with a family secret. It’s great to see her back enjoying the success she deserves.

About the Author

Musician Kate Ceberano has written many of her own songs throughout her career as a performer. In this book she turns her writing talent to telling her own life story.

Co-author Tom Gilling is a respected journalist and acclaimed novelist whose books include The Sooterkin, a New York Times Notable Book, Dreamland and Seven Mile Beach.

Grab a copy of I’m Talking here

 

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