Phew, that was a quick one…

I don’t know about you, but 2012 seems to have passed by in a blink of an eye. It’s been fun, but phew, I’ve barely kept up…

Of course, when I stop and think about it, 2012 has brought with it some amazing achievements – I’ve read a bundle of brilliant books and ‘recruited’ some amazing TBYL Reviewers. I’ve made lots and lots of new bookish friends, and seen a wonderful community grow around That Book You Like…

Screen shot 2012-12-31 at 10.50.06 AMThe TBYL Store has grown, moving from strength to strength and promises to keep getting bigger and better, whilst the TBYL Book Club has taken shape as an amazing place to share reading experiences.

On a personal note, I’ve managed to see one child through kindergarten and another through his final year of primary school. I’ve had my fair share of health ‘interventions’ again this year, but despite this, finish the year feeling the strongest and healthiest I have in three years. I’ve got my eyes firmly set on ‘getting back to go‘ in the year to come.

In short, it’s been a great year!

Heading into New Year’s Eve, I find myself making a mental list of what 2013 might hold…

I’d say that more books, reading and reviewing is an absolute certainty, I’ve already got some great titles on the Reading Pile for January. Hopefully 2013 will bring loads more friends to TBYL – once we get to 1500 likers on Facebook, there’ll be a big book give-away, and we’re not far off now.

TBYL stallI’ve got lots of great ideas for new goodies in the TBYL Store, and the Store will be making a few ‘public appearances’ throughout the year at markets and pop-up shops – I can’t wait! Also, I’ve got some great book ideas for the TBYL Book Club so that we can keep reading together.

Setting my sights a high – I’m hoping to start running some literary events in 2013. There’s a little planning work left to do on this one, but with your help I’m sure we can get this new idea of the ground!

Finally, and most excitingly, the TBYL website will have had a major facelift. Check in on the 1 January and you’ll see a brand-new, easy to use website. The site is the easiest way to make sure that you don’t miss out on anything that is going on with TBYL. With all that I’ve got planned for the new year, you’re not going to want to miss a thing!

Thank-you so much for your involvement in, and support of That Book You LIke… It’s my pride and joy and it just thrills me that other people are getting enjoyment out of what’s going on here. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy our reviews, activities and give-aways for another bookish year.

All the best for 2013, best wishes to you all, and of course, happy reading!

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Merry Christmas from TBYL

With the fuss and bother of end of school activities safely behind us, the family and I are already breathing a sigh of relief…

The tree is overflowing with tinsel and stars and its base is being kept warm by a huge bundle of gifts ready and wrapped for family and friends. We’ve one day left on our advent calendar, and Oscar is just about ready to burst with excitement in anticipation of Santa’s visit tonight.

Screen shot 2012-11-26 at 1.12.46 PMPinterest is brimming with photos of Christmas trim, #christmas is trending on Twitter and Facebook is starting to gleam and glisten with Seasons Greeting to fans, kin and colleagues.

And so, with no further ado, we here at TBYL would like to wish all of you wonderful, wonderful bookish people a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Whether your celebrations are big, small or in between; whether you take the day easy, or rush madly between dishes and dinners; whether you asked Santa for books or toys or tech; we hope you have a most fantastic day with your loved ones!

On this special day, take a moment, have a chat, share a drink, read a book… enjoy your day, and those around you.

Lots of love from the crew at That Book You Like…

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On a magical note: The Lost Prince

Did you know that Christmas is only a couple of days away? You did? Well it must not have snuck up on you quite as badly as it’s snuck up on me! As ill-prepared as I feel, I am quietly pleased that it’s nearly here, as the merry day will mean that I have a few days to put my feet up, sleep in, and do some extra reading. I might even avoid turning the computer on for a couple of days!!

But, before that, I’ve got one more fantastic author interview to share with you. What better way to finish off a year of amazing reading?!

Screen shot 2012-12-20 at 11.48.45 PMLast month I had a read of Julie Kagawa’s latest instalment in her Iron Fey series, The Lost Prince (Harlequin). I enjoyed Julie’s The Immortal Rules earlier in the year but this is the first of the Iron Fey books that I’ve read. It was magical, action packed and filled with goblins and fey of all shapes and sizes…

Don’t look at them. Never let them know you can see them. That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs – including his reputation – begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family and to save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan is used to dealing with faeries, but this is a whole different situation – a puzzle he has to solve with brain and brawn, even if it means making contact with his absent fey-royal sister…

“Shivering, I gazed stonily at the thing hovering a few feet away. It was unlike any faery I’d seen before. Not a nymph, a sidhe, a boggart, a dryad, anything that I recognised. Not to say I was an expert on the different types of faeries, but I’d seen more than most people, and this one was just…weird.”

“It was shorter than me by a nearly a foot, and so thin it didn’t seem possible that its legs could hold it up. In fact, its legs ended in needle-sharp tips, so it looked like it was walking on toothpicks instead of feet. Its face was hatchet thin, and its fingers were those same thin points, like it could poke its nail right through your skull. The skeletons of what used to be wings protruded from its bony shoulders, broken and shattered, and it hovered a few inches off the ground, as if the earth itself didn’t want to touch it.”

Julie has created a stunning world of likeable characters, surreal scenery and classical magic that will draw you into the story. You’ll be sure to enjoy the beautiful mystery of Nevernever and the gentle romance of the Ethan and Kenzie’s story.

Last week I asked Julie a few questions about her latest novel…

The last book of your’s which I read was The Immortal Rules and I was wondering, is it difficult to move out of one series, one scenario to another? How do you shift from vampires to faeries?
It helps that the books are so different.  In the Iron Fey series, the setting itself was surreal, magical, beautiful, and a little bit creepy.  In The Immortal Rules, the setting is much darker.  In Immortal, Allison had to be tough, gritty, and hardened to survive her world, unlike Meghan Chase in the Iron Fey series, whose upbringing was fairly normal.

In this latest Iron Fey installment, Ethan takes on the lead role. In each book, how do you decide whose story you’re going to tell?
It made sense to continue the Iron Fey series with Ethan.  Meghan’s story is done; she fulfilled her destiny and became who she was meant to be all along.  But what about the family and brother she left behind?  His story is just beginning.  He has a lifetime of resentment built up from hating the fey, what happens when he is forced into their world once more?  The Lost Prince answers that.

You book is fabulously visual, any tricks that you use to create such a real faery world? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Oh, thank you!  When I created the Nevernever, I wanted it to have that surreal, dreamlike quality, so when writing a scene in Faeryland, one of my tricks is to write the landscape as normal, but to include something that is just slightly off about it.  Just enough to give it a disconcerting feeling, like you’re really not sure if you’re dreaming or not.

You’ve included a lot of references to Shakespeare and other classics (for obvious reasons) Are you a big fan of Shakespeare’s plays? Do you have any tips for kids reading Shakespeare for the first time?
I love Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I think cultivating a love of books and stories in kids is the most important thing for getting them to read anything.  When I was younger, I was a total bookworm.  That hasn’t changed, except now I make up my own stories.

What’s next? More vampires or more fey, or something completely different?
Well, after I finish the Blood of Eden series and the Call of the Forgotten series, I do have something very different in mind.  Sadly, I can’t say anything about it, yet.  But hopefully I’ll be able to share soon.

***

Oh… how intriguing! A big thanks to Julie (and Harlequin) for helping to see out the year in such a magical fashion! If you or your teens are into paranormal or fantasy reading, I’d suggest that you take a look at The Lost Prince, and the Iron Fey series.

And with that, we’re almost done for 2012. Keep an eye out on Monday for a special TBYL Chrissy message before we sign out…

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Give-away: Send us a Christmas Card!

I love Christmas cards! It’s one of my favourite things about Christmas, and I try as to get my cards out each year, even if I have to do it a little last minute (like this year, phew!)

My obsession is with sending cards, but I also get a little thrill when I receive one in return. And so, I thought I’d do a little something different for this give-away…

I’m asking you to send That Book You Like a Christmas card!!

Black Frame 3

 

If you do, you’ll go into the running to win one of the gorgeous hand-made book covers now in store at the TBYL Store. They’re exclusive to our store, made with love and make beautiful gifts for bookish friends and family.

 

All you have to do to go into the running is to send TBYL a Christmas card, to P.O. Box 2074, Hampton East, Vic, 3188. Make sure you include your name, email and postal address in the card.

I’ll draw one winner at random on Thursday 27 December 2012, after 5pm. I’ll announce a winner on the blog and email the winner as well. The winner will be able to choose from the range of book cover designs in store at the time of the winner being drawn.

I hope you’ll join the fun! It’d be great to hear from you!

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Watch out, he’s back! Hunter…

At the beginning of 2012 I was lucky enough to be introduced to Defender, the first in the Intrepid series by author, Chris Allen. I was immediately drawn into the world of Intrepid agent, Alex Morgan, hard-hitting and action packed, I enjoyed every page. You can read my original review here, but let me just say, I’ve been hanging out ever since for the release of the second instalment, Hunter: Intrepid 2.

A lot has happened for Chris and his crew since his first release, not the least of which was the building of an exciting relationship between Chris and Pan Macmillan’s digital-only publishing arm, Momentum. A match made in heaven, this pairing has meant that Hunter has been brought to us with great gusto and in a fantastic digital format.

HunterI’ve been reading Hunter over the last couple of days, and I’ve found it hard to put it down. Right from the get-go it’s firing on all cylinders…

His orders are simple: ‘The safety catch is off. Return that girl to her family and drag those bastards back to justice. Dead or alive. It makes no difference to me.’

Alex Morgan – policeman, soldier and spy for Intrepid, the black ops division of Interpol – is on the hunt for Serbian war criminals. But these guys were never going to let it be that simple. An assassination attempt is made on the presiding judge of the international tribunal. Days later, the judge’s daughter, the famous and beautiful classical pianist Charlotte Rose, vanishes in mysterious circumstances.

The girl is not just a pretty face and the daughter of a judge, however. She’s also the goddaughter of Intrepid’s veteran commander, General Davenport. It’s up to Morgan and the Intrepid team to track the kidnappers and the missing woman before the very fabric of international justice is picked apart at its fraying edges.

Part James Bond and part Jason Bourne, Alex Morgan must walk the line between doing the right thing and getting the job done. And this time he’s got permission to make it personal.

It’s fantastically international, intricate in its detail and cast with a range of beautifully developed characters, all with their own missions and methods of achieving them.

One of the things that strikes me the most about Chris’ work is that it is incredibly authentic, clearly very well researched, but at the same time avoids the trap of tedium that some highly detailed ‘action’ titles can fall into. At all times, the balance between fact and adventure is maintained superbly meaning that the story is punchy, compelling and always entertaining.

I’ve only one problem now…

I have to wait until next year for Intrepid 3!

***

Chris Allen, author of the Intrepid series has been having a browse at the TBYL Store and put together a shopping list!

5 things I like from the TBYL Store, who I’d give them to and why!

Curses and Blessings for All Occasions, by Bradley Trevor Greive… I admit to being very biased here because I know the author well and he is a great fella. However, despite my bias, this is an incredibly funny book. It is a must for anybody you know who deserves the escape and immense enjoyment of this page-by-page indulgence. This one is particularly suited to my wife Sarah who I’ve often found, on many occasions, giggling mischievously to herself as she discovers yet another favourite among BTG’s plethora of hilarious anecdotes.  In addition, there’s an incredible history behind each and every illustration. Not to be missed.

Haunted Pendant Small2pm Haunted Small Pendant (1″)… There’s something very dark about this.  I don’t know what it is that drew me to this piece but whatever it was it has succeeded in piquing my interest.  There are a couple of people I have in mind for this. Suffice to say I think this gift would be more suited to a fan of, say, ‘A turn of the screw’ than the Twilight series.

Happythoughts are Everywhere by Nicky Johnston… The thing that attracted me immediately to this book for kids was title followed immediately by the cover. We have a couple of great friends who are parents to three incredible little boys. I can say this now because Sarah and I have two little boys and boys are an absolute handful. When I saw this cover I immediately pictured the dad sneaking away for a quiet moment of solace under one of his boys’ beds having commandeered some toys. Although, in reality it is in fact the mum who would be in much greater need – and much more deserving – of the escape!

Diary of a Penguin-Napper by Sally Harris… I absolutely love the premise of this book especially the fact that the young hero would do anything to impress the girl of his dreams. I want this book for my two boys! Enough said!

Casino-Royale-200Casino Royale by Ian Fleming… It is absolutely no secret that I am a huge fan of Ian Fleming. With the recent release of Skyfall there’s been more than enough discussion of James Bond of late. However, I am duty bound to explain my reason for jumping on the bandwagon. It’s a sad fact that only truly die-hard Fleming fans or those who have read at least one if not some of his books can genuinely attest to his incredible mastery of story telling within the modern thriller context. I would offer this book as a gift to any reader of action thrillers whose only experience of 007 is via the movies. Casino Royale is a timeless classic of the genre, evidenced by the superb cinematic realisation in 2006 of the story first published in 1953. My love of reading was ignited by Fleming’s writing and he left such an impression on me that I can also unequivocally trace my determination to become a successful published author back to his books. 

Feel free to have a browse around the TBYL Store yourself… you can shop here!
***
You can pick up a copy of Hunter: Intrepid 2 at the Intrepid website, and if you’d like to check out some other exciting Momentum titles, take a look at their website here.  

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Just a few friends away from a massive book give-away

A little while back, I promised to hold a big give-away when we hit 1500 likers on Facebook. Since then we’ve been creeping towards the magic number, but we’re not quite there yet. I need your help so that I can send some book prizes to some lucky readers!

Once we hit 1500 on our Facebook page, which you’ll find here… I’ll open up entries to win one of three prize packs!

First prize
A bookish bundle consisting of three great titles… Wild, by Cheryl Strayed (Allen and Unwin), Alice in Zombieland, by Gena Showalter (Harlequin Teen) and Produce to Platter: Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, Ballarat and the Pyrenees, by Jonette George and Daniele Wilton (Smudge Publishing).

Prize 1

Second prize
More great titles… The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Joanasson (Allen and Unwin) and Produce to Platter: Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges, Ballarat and the Pyrenees, by Jonette George and Daniele Wilton (Smudge Publishing).

Third prize
A copy of the very funny Curses and Blessing for All Occasions, by Bradley Trevor Greive (Allen and Unwin)

Prize 2 and 3

You like?

So, once we hit the big one-five-oh-oh I’ll open the competition for entries – let’s see what we can do!

The ticket – That Book You Like on Facebook – spread the word!

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Escape with Chaos Born

Yesterday, we had a chance to meet editor Kate Cuthbert, from Escape Publishing and so today, I thought it fitting that we have a bit of a chat with one of Escape’s talented authors, Rebekah Turner.

Chaos BornRebekah’s novel, Chaos Born is one Escape’s first releases and offers up a teasing romance against a dark, gas-lit setting:

A fresh and exciting debut novel introducing the Chronicles of the Applecross. Lora Blackgoat, smuggler and mercenary, has been lying low after a job gone bad made her a laughing stock in the industry. When a childhood friend turns to her for help, Lora leaps to restore her reputation and starts hunting a killer who is stalking the gas-lit streets. She never expects that her path will lead her to the Order of Guides, a sadistic militant religious organisation – or to Roman, a deadly and dangerously attractive half-angel warrior who also hunts the killer. When Lora discovers that the killer has broken fundamental laws of magic to enter the city, she also uncovers a conspiracy that leads back into her own dark past.

I had a chance to ask a few questions of Rebekah, and got to know her and her writing a little bit better…

Would you like to introduce yourself a little?
I live in Brisbane with my husband, two kids and a nervous Boston Terrier. In my past I’ve worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world. I now work part-time and spend rest of the week being a child-wrangler.

How did you get involved with Escape Publishing?
I attended the 2012 Romance Writers Convention at the Gold Coast. A panel of different publishers pitched to the conference attendees on why they should submit their manuscripts to them. After hearing the Escape editor say they had a two week response time, I jumped at the chance to submit. I got a request for a full very quickly, then an offer of publication after three weeks.

What does the establishment of Escape Publishing mean to you?
I think Escape Publishing is an exciting publishing model, with a fast response time and supportive editors. Being part of Harlequin Australia also means they have a well recognised brand name already in place.

Do you have any suggestions for other writers who think that Escape might be a good option for their manuscript?
Escape is focused on Australian writers, with a world-wide audience. So, it’s a great opportunity to get your novel out into the world and you don’t have to wait six months for a response.

Your novel is wonderfully visual, very cinematic in many ways – it reminded me quite a bit of films such as Bladerunner and Underworld. Where did you draw your inspiration from when writing ‘Chaos Born’?
My characters came first, then the world crystallised around them in the re-writes. I used a few techniques I found online to flesh the world out and also compiled a very detailed scrapbook to help me visualise what Harken City looked like. I wanted the world to be dark, moody and fantastic, but with a realistic baseline.

What do you hope your readers will enjoy most about your new novel?
I hope readers will have some fun reading Chaos Born and enjoy Lora’s misadventures as much as I did writing them.

What’s next for you? More Lora or something different?
I’ve been writing book 2 in The Chronicles of Applecross series, with a focus on Lora’s deepening relationship with the half-angel, Roman. I’ve also working on a sexy paranormal romance. The working title is Biker Werewolves in Tasmania and involves a burnt out, ex-homicide detective and a disgraced werewolf pack enforcer.

***
If you’d like to check out this title and many others pop on over to the Escape Publishing website today!
What would you pick from the Escape Publishing offering?

Welcome to Escape Publishing

When I was studying writing at University, my lecturers went to great lengths to inform us that getting published was, to put it politely, challenging. They made a point of making it quite clear that having a great idea, putting together a great story with a wonderful cast of characters was only one small part of the process of becoming a published author.

EscapeBlogTour3This year, new possibilities became available to a group of new emerging authors, with the launch of Escape Publishing.

Harlequin Books already have a reputation for listening to their readers and giving them plenty of accessible titles for them to join. In 2013, they turned their ear to new authors, hearing their cry for an easier, fairer manuscript submission, review and consideration process. And from this, Escape Publishing was born…

Escape Publishing takes a novel approach. Firstly, we are dedicated to our authors. If you’re an author with us… it’s all about you! Our promise to you is a personalised service with a fast turn-around of 3 months, supported by an integrated marketing campaign.

“We’re nimble – we are big enough to take the time to help you craft your manuscript and provide the marketing support to help create a bestseller, but small enough to adapt to, and move with, the market. We have built an unparalleled connection to the reader and with over 78% market share, we know romance!” Managing Director of Harlequin Enterprises Asia-Pacific, Michelle Laforest, explains.

I’m not the best to tell you all about this new publishing house though, rather, I’m pleased to be able to share with you, my Q&A with Escape editor, Kate Cuthbert…

Kate, would you like to introduce yourself a little?
Sure! Hi, I’m Kate. I’m the Managing Editor of Escape Publishing, Harlequin Australia’s new digital-first imprint. I’ve been reading romance since I was about 11, and my first ever romance was a little Mills&Boon novel by Charlotte Lamb, called Dreaming.

And, could you tell us a little bit about Escape Publishing? What sets it apart from other Publishers?
Escape Publishing is the digital-first arm of Harlequin Australia, with the goal of bringing Australian and New Zealand voices to a global audience. We’re flexible, free, and fast – our digital-first model means we can take more risks, fill niche, explore new ground, as well as celebrate fabulous romance traditions. We have a small team, which makes us responsive, but we have the Harlequin team at our back. And we can have you published within 6 months.

Why is Escape so important to you?
As with all romance readers, I’ve seen the market shrink, and then shrink, and then shrink some more – the financial climate has meant that, in a lot of cases, publishers have had to bypass risks and stick to trends. This has lessened our diverse and wide-ranging genre. With Escape, we can start filling in some of the gaps, taking those risks, and catering to what readers want. Further, as an Australian-based imprint, we’re well-placed to really promote Australian voices, which is something we’re really passionate about.

Escape team

The Escape Publishing team!

Do you have Three Top Tips for people out there who might be thinking of putting a manuscript together, and see Escape Publishing as just the ticket?

Tip No. 1
Get someone else to read your manuscript. Digital-first publishing has some ramifications. We move very fast – at the moment we’re about 2 weeks from submission to first response, and just over three months from acceptance to publication. So the initial barrier to acceptance is probably a little higher. We don’t have time for a prolonged editing process, so your manuscript has to be in the absolute best shape it can be. Find someone you trust to read your story – someone who will be completely honest with you. Probably not your mum. You need to know where the holes are, the leaps of logic, the uncharacteristic actions. And edit, edit, edit. Proofread, proofread, proofread.

Tip No. 2
Make sure you have a website and have thought about your online presence. Digital-first readers live online, which means authors have to as well.

Tip No. 3
Hit that submit button. There are so many writers out there who just polish, polish, polish, but never work up the courage to take the final step. But if I don’t read it, I can’t publish it. So take the chance.

What can people expect to see from Escape Publishing in 2013?
So much good stuff! I wish I could tell you all about everything, but I’ll focus on some of our upcoming titles: I’m calling January ‘SF month’, because we kick off our Science Fiction romance section with two great titles: one is Legend Beyond the Stars, which is a very hot adult romance, and we also have Rayessa and the Space Pirates, which is a YA space opera and is a whole lot of fun.

Also, just to celebrate ourselves, we have a lovely little Australia Day story, set on the beach, about a very serious doctor and a not-so-serious surfer.

Do you have any reading recommendations for our bookish readers? 
Do I?! Well apart from the titles I’ve recommended above, we also have our December titles, which are now available:

New Year’s Kisses by Rhian Cahill is a very romantic, surprisingly sweet, subtly sexy sequel to Rhian’s Christmas Wishes, one of our launch titles.

Short Soup by Coleen Kwan is about best friends, mistakes, dreams, and the healing power of Chinese food.

Summer Fling by Serenity Woods is our first New Zealand story, a contemporary romance about a chocolatier and a sky-dive instructor.

Drawing Closer by Jenny Schwartz proves that short stories can still sizzle!

No Strings Attached by Bridget Gray is sweet, funny, surprising, and set against the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsunami.

The Danger Game by Caitlyn Nicholas is a quick-paced, breath-taking techno-thriller.

***

If you’d like to find out more about Escape Publishing, please visit their website here.

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Rock and Roll Aura: Stage Fright

Sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s just a little bit left of centre. I enjoy being taken by surprise by a book, especially when I’m thinking I’m heading into one genre and I find myself in quite a different one all together…

Stage FrightStage Fright, by Marianne Delacourt (Allen and Unwin) is very much like this. Having not read either of the previous Tara Sharp stories, when I started to read this most recent instalment, I was expecting a detective novel. I was prepared for a little rock and roll and some hot Queensland weather, but not quite so ready for the particular ‘skills’ that Tara possesses and uses to her great advantage.

It starts off simply enough of course…

Things are a bit hot for Tara Sharp in Perth, so she jumps at the chance to leave her home town when a music promoter offers her a gig looking after a difficult musician who’s touring Brisbane.

Though minding musicians isn’t Tara’s usual line of work, the money is good and she’s a sucker for a backstage pass. Respite from her mother – with her not-so-subtle hints about ‘eligible young men’ and ‘suitable jobs’ – is also a plus, as is the time and distance to try and resolve her mixed up romantic live.

Arriving in ‘BrisVegas’, Tara find her hands full dealing with the bizarre habits of the ‘artist’, not to mention his crazy fans. And it’s not long before she discovers that the music industry can be more cut-throat than she imagined, and it can be very dangerous messing with the big boys…

Tara is happy with her job, but not so much with her bank balance. Her choice of occupation sees Tara living in a bungalow in her parent’s backyard, an arrangement that makes neither Tara or her parents particularly happy. She’s the first to admit that saying yes to the next big job to come along is a very good idea. Not only that, but Tara’s being asked to use her unique skills to help out a mate’s mate – she just can’t say no. And so, leaving her Monaro and her almost-boyfriend behind, she hops a plane to Brisbane.

Tara’s job is to find out information. To ask the right questions, to follow her nose and to use her special sight to unpick mysterious situations…

“Paolo’s aura took on a light brown tint. I guessed that if he was healthier then the colour would normally be a deep tan. People in the tan spectrum tended to be practical and hard-nosed. You don’t push people with tan auras too much because they push back tenfold. I had to head this off at the pass before Stuart lost him on pure stubbornness.”

And it works, but not without its fair share of close shaves and bum leads. Whilst standing in the line of fire to protect the bizarre and troubled musician Slim Sledge, and digging around for information where others fear to tread, Tara finds herself wrestling crazed fans and beating off underworld heavies with her fists and a barbequed duck! Her case has no shortage of dramatic episodes and crazy twists.

Delacourt’s novel is fast-paced, witty and fun. It’s jam packed with popular references, creating a really enjoyable sense of time and place. If you know Perth or Queensland at all you’ll feel particularly at home.

Tara is a great character, pragmatic and strong in her work and her self, but she’s also hopelessly conflicted when it comes to love and friendships. This of course creates some really entertaining twists and turns and creates a really likeable character.

If you like female-lead crime and mysteries, Stage Fright will be just the book for you. Great summer reading, it’s a quick, punchy read.

You can pick up a copy from the TBYL Store here, or find out more about the earlier books in the series here...

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Rebuilding: In the Company of Strangers

We’re living in a very fortunate age for friendships. Never has there been so many ways to stay connected with friends – Facebook, Twitter, Skype and FaceTime – all wonderful ways to help us maintain relationships, old and new, near and far.

But, despite all these avenues for conversation, sometimes people still slip away. Best of friends can grow distant, old friends can grow apart and with that, space is left for strangers to become friends.

Company of strangersLiz Byrski’s latest novel In the Company of Strangers (Pan Macmillan) introduces the reader to a cast of strangers, all slightly lost, and unbeknownst to them, ready for friendship…

Ruby and Cat’s friendship was forged on an English dockside sixty years ago when, as terrified children, they were shipped off to Australia. It was a friendship that was supposed to last a lifetime but when news of Cat’s death reaches Ruby in London, it comes after years of estrangement.

Declan too has drifted away from Cat but is forced back to her lavender farm, Benson’s Reach, by the terms of her will. He turns to his troubled friend Alice, who is desperate for a refuge.

Can the magic of Benson’s Reach triumph over the hurt of the past? Or is Cat’s duty-laden legacy simply too much for Ruby and Declan to keep alive?

Central to Byrski’s story are Ruby and Declan, but surrounding them are Alice, Lesley, Todd and Paula. Every character is facing change, struggling with their own demons and in their own ways are ready to make amends with the world and those around them. Ruby is coming to terms with her abusive past, Declan and Alice with their addictions and the harm that they’ve done to others and Lesley, Todd and Paula all feel heartbreakingly disconnected…

“She walks along the little path of irregular shaped, broken slabs back to the kitchen. It’s deadly quiet in the house and the 100 watt bulb in the kitchen makes her feel she’s about to be interrogated by the thought police. She wishes there was someone to call, to talk to. All day, ever day she is surrounded by people who are ringing other people on their posh little phones. Paula has a phone, nice, Samsun, in a shiny pink plastic cover, but nobody ever rings it – well, not for a conversation; work stuff or someone telling her she’s forgotten to make a payment on her credit card, or trying to sell her something, that’s all.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking, given this troubled cast that In the Company of Strangers would be a little bleak. Not so, as Byrski’s novel is about hope, resolution and new-found strength in the company of strangers.

The novel is fairly complex in it’s numerous characters and stories. The author very cleverly gives just enough air-time to each character, exploring their past and present and gradually revealing their hopes for the future. Their stories are moving, and very believable, recognisable.

Interestingly, each character comes from a very different starting point. Their issues are quite unique from each other, but somehow they fit each other perfectly. The author has done well to intertwine these many and various characters into a cohesive unit – each supporting each other to reveal and resolve their troubles.

In the Company of Strangers is beautifully easy to read. Similar to Byrski’s The Last Chance Cafe, the story includes treatment of many serious and important issues – ageing, friendship, addiction and mental illness – but it does so in an accessible way, at times even humorously. It’s a fabulously personable novel.

If you enjoy intelligent storytelling, then I’d recommend In the Company of Strangers for your reading pile this summer.

You’ll find copies of the novel in the TBYL Store now!

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