Get Reading with Booktopia

Here is a question for you. Is there a scent that you associate with books? I don’t mean the smell of the paper, or the leather when you walk into a room full of old books. I mean, is there a smell that immediately transports you to reading heaven? Do you associate a perfume with a particular memory of reading, or a particular book?

For me, it is an easy ask. The minute I catch even a whiff of jasmine, I am in sensory heaven – jasmine poking through the paling fence, a sprig or two tucked behind one ear, sun on my back, book in my hand, sheltered from the cold early spring wind in a walled courtyard, pot of tea steaming by my Continue reading

Matilda is Missing by Caroline Overington is out in October

Last year Toni Whitmont, editor-in-chief of the Booktopia BUZZ chose Caroline Overington’s I Came to Say Goodbye for her inaugural BUZZ CLUB pick.

Choosing a book club’s first book is difficult. Choosing a book for a club made up of 25,000 picky readers must have been terrifying. But Toni knows her stuff and I don’t think she could have chosen a better book than I Came to Say Goodbye to launch her book club because I Came to Say Goodbye is the kind of book which excites passionate discussion. Such passion is what makes a good book club great. On the back of Toni’s big initial BUZZ CLUB push, independent suburban book clubs all over Australia chose to read it, too, and Booktopia sold box loads of the novel. (Thanks, Caroline!)

Caroline Overington is now justly famed for bringing to life thorny social issues via the drama of her novels. Grittier that Jodi Picoult, Overington’s novels are firmly placed in today’s Australia, an Australia we sometime wish didn’t ring so true. She’ll get you thinking about a subject you thought you knew from an angle you didn’t know existed.

October sees the release of Overington’s latest novel… (we can’t wait) Continue reading

Hardback Vs Paperback – Is this, too, a gender issue?

A complaint has been lodged in the UK and echoed here in Australia – women writers of fiction are not being taken seriously. Case in point: Fewer women than men are published in hardback.

This point may seem meaningless. The economy and ease of the paperback makes it the choice of any sensible consumer, anyway. Why should women care whether they are published in hardback? Especially when we consider that the number of female readers outstrips the number of male readers, that women dominate publishing from the top to the bottom (women are publishers, agents, editors, writers, reviewers, bloggers, judges, booksellers), that women read more often and buy more books than men which means Continue reading

The 50 Must Read Australian Novels (50 to 41) (The Popular Vote 2010)

A while ago now, whilst playing… ahem… doing important and vital Booktopia business on twitter and facebook, I decided to ask Booktopia’s followers and friends what they thought were the ‘must read’ Australian novels.

Many disparage twitter and facebook by suggesting that it is both frivolous and time wasting (I being of their number some few short months ago). Whereas I cannot defend twitter and facebook against these charges, I can say, of those who read the drivel I put out there (tweet), the vast majority are extraordinarily well read (some, frighteningly so).

(Granted, I am the voice of the best online book shop in the universe, Booktopia, and not the voice of a company that makes protein shakes for muscle bound freaks, so finding readers following Booktopia shouldn’t be a surprise, but even so… )

However, we can be proud of something – we’re not wasting ordinary lives on twitter and facebook we are squandering the best minds in Australia!

That’s who created this list, the wonderful and entertaining wasters of life and intellect who happen to follow Booktopia on twitter and facebook. And I am thankful they did because the list is a very fine list.

So, thank you all for taking the time to, first, recommend such wonderful books and, second, take the time to vote in droves, helping me to whittle down the list to a manageable 50 Must Read Australian Novels.

As you’ll see, Australia’s literature is rich and varied and some of it is even in print.

Here are…

The 50 Must Read Australian Novels

This first instalment counts down from 50 to 41 (please note the inclusion of some of my favourite ‘tweeps’ - @kylie_ladd@domknight@overingtonc Yay! Clap, clap, clap!) (Full List of 50 Must Read Australian Novels now available – click here)

last-summer50. Last Summer

Kylie Ladd (@kylie_ladd)

Rory Buchanan has it all: looks, talent, charisma-an all around good-guy, he’s the centre of every party and a loving father and husband. Then one summer’s afternoon, tragedy strikes. Those who are closest to him struggle to come to terms with their loss. Friendships are strained, marriages falter and loyalties are tested in a gripping and brilliantly crafted novel about loss, grief and desire.

Told from the points of view of nine of the people who are mourning Rory, this riveting novel presents a vivid snapshot of contemporary suburban Australia and how we live now. Marriage, friendship, family-all are dissected with great psychological insight as they start to unravel under the pressure of grief. The characters live on the page; their lives are unfolded and their dilemmas are as real as our own.

978174114566349. Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Kerry Greenwood

The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the green-grey eyes, diamant garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions – is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia.

Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops and communism – not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse – until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street. Continue reading

Caroline Overington, author of I Came to Say Goodbye, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru Asks

Caroline Overington,

author of I Came to Say Goodbye and Ghost Child

Ten Terrifying Questions


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

I was born in the Sunshine maternity hospital, in Victoria. The original building is no longer there but my mother says it was a large timber house with a wide veranda and the expectant Mums would wander around under the gum trees, their big bellies under smocks, smoking Alpine Lights.

I was raised in the town of Melton, between Melbourne and Ballarat, in a white weatherboard house with a corrugated iron roof. We backed onto the railway tracks, and my bedroom window would shiver in its frame when the old Red Rattler came through.

I am one of three children. We played under sprinklers, and ate chops and vegies for dinner at 5pm. We had no money, but nobody else did either, and nobody cared. Continue reading

I Came to Say Goodbye by Caroline Overington

What is the collective term for a group of booksellers? A fatigue of booksellers? A cynic of booksellers? A babble of booksellers? Whatever it is, it does take a lot to shift us from our collective ennui and back into that passion for character, plot and ideas which is, if you dig deep enough, the reason that most of the us are in the game in the first place.

I was at a function recently where there was a babble of booksellers, and they were all babbling about one book. And it wasn’t the one we were there ostensibly to spruik (which shall remain nameless at this present moment). In fact, the book that was the talk of the evening was Caroline Overington’s upcoming I Came to Say Goodbye.

I had resisted the book up until that time. The proof copy has been sitting on my shelf for months. It was covered with too many epithets for my liking – too many “compellings”, “memorables”, “addictives” and “brilliants” . What I had heard was that this story is an Australian, credible addition to the Jodi Picoult school of story writing. In fact, I had heard that Overington had out Picoulted Jodi herself.

Caroline Overington is a columnist for The Australian. She has picked up a couple of Walkley Awards and has written two non-fiction books, Only in New York, and Kickback, which is about the UN oil-for-food scandal in Iraq. Last year she wrote her first novel, a book called Ghost Child. There was a bit of noise around about it – a confident start etc etc. Her second novel, I Came to Say Goodbye, will be released on October 1.

I Came to Say Goodbye is going to place Overington firmly in the sight lines of general fiction readers. It will probably appeal to woman more than men, although it certainly isn’t a classic women’s read. There is a lot to get your teeth into with this one, a lot to discuss, a lot you will want to workshop with others. I am not going to give out any spoilers on this one. Most of the book is narrated by Med Atley, a knock about bloke in his late 60s who lives in Foster on the NSW coast. Med’s wife Pat disappeared in the 70s once she had discovered feminism, and Med ended up bringing up their much younger third child, Donna Faye (known affectionately as Fat) on his own. Fat was an unusual child, and then matured into an unusual woman. As for themes, suffice to say Overington starts with shaken baby syndrome and then covers a huge amount of territory including the family court, rights of children and family members, mental illness, demographics, adoption, immigration, aspirational life style, inter-generational change, child rearing and parenting, drugs, the nanny state, race relations. You name a personal  issue that is on the worry list of contemporary Australians and Overington has somehow woven it into her story.

Despite a bit of a slow start, Overington draws these disparate elements together in a seemingly effortless way, all the while keeping plenty up her sleeve so that the reader is guessing all the way to the end. I get the impression that she must have spent a lot of time in a court room watching the ebb and flow of human endeavour and here she is now putting all those really tricky questions into one very readable story.

For the record, I left the booksellers’ event and dragged out my proof copy. It was an all night read. And while I am not so sure I would say “brilliant”, it certainly was “compelling”, “memorable” and “addictive”. And I can’t get some of those characters out of my mind.

Available from October 1.

I Came to Say Goodbye by Caroline Overington

“Brilliant, original, heart-breaking. I couldn’t put it down.” Mia Freedman

Who is left behind when a family falls apart?

It was four o’clock in the morning.

A young woman pushed through the hospital doors.

Staff would later say they thought the woman was a new mother, returning to her child – and in a way, she was.

She walked into the nursery, where a baby girl lay sleeping. The infant didn’t wake when the woman placed her gently in the shopping bag she had brought with her. There is CCTV footage of what happened next, and most Australians would have seen it, either on the internet or the news.

The woman walked out to the car park, towards an old Corolla. For a moment, she held the child gently against her breast and, with her eyes closed, she smelled her.

She then clipped the infant into the car, got in and Continue reading


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