Tam loved it! Saving Grace

I think TBYL Reviewer Tam J might have liked Saving Grace, by Fiona McCallum (Harlequin) just a little bit…

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Well, I have to start by saying I loved this book!! I loved the characters, the friendships and the intrigue, the imagery of the beautiful countryside and of course, the touch of romance.

saving-graceWhen Emily Oliphant married John Stratten, she thought it was the beginning of an exciting new adventure — standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the most eligible farmer in the district and pitching in to build a thriving agricultural business. Three years later, however, Emily sees her marriage for what it is — a loveless tie to a callous man.

When John’s cruelty reaches new heights, Emily is forced to move out, braving both her husband’s wrath and her mother’s glaring disapproval. With the encouragement of her new friend Barbara, Emily moves into an abandoned property and takes on the mammoth task of turning the unloved house into a home. In the process she discovers a new business venture, meets new friends and finds an inner strength she never knew she had.

Emily’s fragile confidence is soon tested, though, when the owners of the property make her a tempting offer. Will she risk everything and invest in the ramshackle house that has finally given her a sense of purpose? Or will Emily listen to the views of the community — and the voice of her mother — and go back to her life with John?

Emily is the leading lady in this beautiful book of great sadness and great courage. After discovering that she has made a terrible mistake marrying John Stratten she endures the abuse for three long years, until one day she can bear no more and raises the courage to finally stand on her own and leave him.

Emily adopts a dog of her own, Grace, who becomes her greatest companion. Grace was Emily’s attempt at comfort, in the hope of helping her cope with the cruelty of John and the long hours that she was forced to spend alone in the house while her husband worked on the land (which he forbid Emily from helping with) or while he drank at the pub and did God knows what else.

It’s through Grace that Emily comes to meet Barbara, a woman who has married a local but who was originally from out of town. Barbara is looking for friendship just as much as Emily, and as such, develop a fast friendship. It’s wonderful to watch the bond between them grow, and see just how must they help each other through life’s challenges.

This novel is very relatable and the pictures that Fiona McCallum paints with her words are just stunning. I felt as though I was living right alongside Emily in the old abandoned house which she moves into and does up. I was right alongside her as she picked apricots for her jam, I felt like I was alongside her as she spent dinners with her cold and disapproving mother, and I felt her grief as she mourned her Gran, a much-loved Grandmother who passes away at the beginning of the story.

This was a book I found difficult to put down and as it become obvious toward the end of the novel that this story was far from over, I became even more immersed. As the book draws to a close, Emily is only just starting to develop a new relationship with the handsome Jake from Melbourne, her jam is starting to sell at the markets and perhaps the most intriguing story left unfinished – what is left to find out about Gran and Prince Ali and what happened to the gift of “seven of Golconda’s finest”. Will Emily accept the offer to own the property she has moved into? Will she make her dreams of a B&B come true? Will she see Jake again? And will she solve Gran’s mystery?

I can barely wait for the conclusion of this story as I have been left feeling like Emily was a dear friend and want to see what her next moves will be! Hoping that the sequel to this story is not too long a wait!!

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So I guess if the next instalment comes my way, I’d better send it on to Tam, don’t you think?

If you’d like to find out more about Saving Grace, by Fiona McCallum you can do so here…

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TBYL Book Club, so much on!

The May TBYL Book Club kicks off today and I’d love to hear what you think on our theme for the month.

Of course, normally we read and discuss a single book, but this month I thought in keeping with the month of Mothers’ Day that we could have a conversation about Mums and Books. About our favourite storybook mums and about books that remind us of our mum, or other significant women in our lives.

20130527-094434.jpgI’m going to post our first conversation-starter on Facebook NOW! Pop on over, like us, and join in the conversation. You’ll be able to recognise the book club conversations, as they’ll be proceeded with {TBYL Book Club}.

I’ll keep asking questions until Wednesday evening, and hopefully the conversations will grow from there. Please feel free to contribute your answers and questions as you’d like.

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Also, I’m thrilled to be able to announce details about our June TBYL Book Club!

June at That Book You Like… will be Intrepid Month, during which we’ll enjoy the first two instalments in Chris Allen’s Intrepid Series, Defender and Hunter.

Who’s up for some action?!

At the beginning of 2012 I was lucky enough to read 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. It was followed up by Hunter (Momentum), a new Alex Morgan story which was 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.

HunterAlex 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.

I’m very excited to announce that this month’s book club will discuss both Defender and Hunter. You’re invited to read one or both, and join in the conversation in the week starting 24 June 2013.

To purchase copies of the books, you can click here for Defender (an ebook) or shop here at the TBYL Store for Hunter. Don’t miss out on this incredible adventure.

To make Intrepid Month even more immersive, I’m excited to be able to holding our next TBYL Event online. “Meet Chris and Alex” will be an online chat with Intrepid author, Chris Allen. Chris will be chatting on the TBYL Facebook page on the evening of Monday, 24 June 2013. Join us at 7:30pm to ask Chris questions, and get involved in what’s bound to be a fascinating discussion.

It’s free, online and a great opportunity to find out a little more about Chris, about his character Alex Morgan, and maybe even a few secrets about what’s next for the Intrepid series. You don’t have to book, but if you’d like to RSVP please do so here…

I hope you’ll join us!

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Bravery: Forged with Flames

A couple of weeks ago I read Forged with Flames (Wild Dingo Press), the painful and inspiring memoirs of Ann Fogarty (co-written with Anne Crawford.)

Forged with FlamesAnn’s story is both traumatic and heroic…

As the Ash Wednesday bushfires raged around her in a small Victorian town in February 1983, a young mother stood between her two young daughters and the massive fireball heading straight for them…

Ann tells her dramatic story with candour and disarming humour beginning with her working-class childhood growing up in a village in Lancashire, England. Her fateful decision to marry the young Australian from Melbourne took her to the other side of the world for the adventure of a life time. Twelve years later, her peaceful family life was shattered.

This story takes us far beyond the drama of Ash Wednesday. Her reflections and insights are profoundly illuminating and inspirational. This is a story about living and loving, about hope and determination, about facing your worst demons and staring them down.

Ann’s story is well told and sensitively handled, sharing her account of suffering horrific burns in the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, facing countless months of recovery and rehabilitation, and many years learning to deal with the psychological damage such trauma causes. Ann’s battle with anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder continued over the years to follow and she shares many valuable insights with her readers, on how to acknowledge and work to overcome PTSD and anxiety.

I had allowed Ash Wednesday and all that came after it to rule my life and define my existence. I saw now that I had unknowingly refined suffering to a great art. It had become my identity. But what was at the core of me? Soon after that evening, I took up meditating, joining evening classes taken by a woman who held them in her home. I learned to breathe in a calm, controlled way, gradually learning to still my thoughts and listen to my heart, which led to a feeling of contentment. I didn’t need to fill the holes in my life with anything from outside. I started to find joy in  small things. The cheerful little faces of pansies I had planted brought on a wave of happiness. A breeze with a hint of warmth lifted my spirits as I closed my eyes to it. I had begun to learn how to be alone and happy.

Living in Melbourne, Ann’s story resonated strongly with me. The suburbs she speaks of are familiar, some very close to home. Here battle with breast cancer was also an experience I could easily identify with, it made me feel for her even more than I already did.

Ann’s story really is one of strength and hope. As you would imagine, she has moments of despair, but some how she manages always to rise above them and move on to the next important stage of her life. It’s truly inspirational.

I was incredibly lucky to be able to ask Ann a few questions about her story and about how she’s doing now…


Firstly, thank-you so much for sharing your story. Could you please tell me, what do you hope people will gain from reading ‘Forged with Flames’?

I have always hoped that people reading Forged with Flames might find encouragement there for their own struggles. I know I have drawn strength from other people’s stories myself, and felt like I could keep going, and I would love it if my book would do the same for someone else.

I hope too, that as bushfires are such a part of Australian life, others might not make the same mistake I did on the night of the fires and realise that getting out early is such a sensible and life saving thing to do.


For me, hearing of your struggle with anxiety and PTSD was most inspiring. What would you say to others who deal with anxiety themselves?
I would say, you are definitely not alone, there are so many of us dealing with the same issues. I hid the depth of my own anxiety for so long, believing it to be a weakness, so I would encourage others not to do that, as it only causes you even more pain and anguish. Seek help and support from people who are able to really hear you and offer you counsel.

Also, I’ve found that life can still be amazing even with anxiety, and if you don’t let fear make the choices in your life, you can do things you never imagined you could ( I am still a novice at this myself because it’s terrifying to do, but so worthwhile ). I know people with anxiety will understand what I mean when I say that sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning can be a great act of courage in itself, so I think we all have to be so proud of that.


It sounds as though you’ve a wonderful family around you. Do you have any advice for loved ones helping a family member or friend through tough times and illness.
Ann Fogarty
You certainly do not recover from tough times alone and friends and family play a huge part in getting you through. For me, just having people beside me to share the journey and ease the sense of loneliness I felt in my struggles, meant everything. I valued people’s loving presence far more than their advice, which I was not ready to hear or take for a long time.

When someone is by your side in whatever way it is possible for them to be, a sense of trust develops and you are then able to open up and share how it really is for you. But this can’t be forced and comes as a result of willingness on their part to just accept the hurting person exactly as they are. That being said, the friend who knows just when to give you a friendly push along is an invaluable ally.


We left you at the end of the book doing well, and continuing to work through your challenges. How are you doing now?
That’s exactly how I am still – doing well, but needing every day to work on my challenges. Most days now, I can manage my anxieties, but there are still times when I think, will this never end, and wonder how I will actually be able to keep going. I am still hopefully looking for a break through anxiety wise, but until then I’ll keep hanging in there!!


What’s next for you? Any more plans to write…?
Life since the book’s publication has been very exciting and just when I think the excitement is finishing something else pops up. I made a promise to myself  before the book came out that I would not say no to anything out of fear, and so far I haven’t. This has meant I’ve done things I never imagined I could and been to places I never thought I could go. I am determined to keep following this plan and see where it leads me. As for another book – well, I certainly don’t want a sequel to this one, but perhaps something with a sickeningly happy ending ?!!

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If you’d like to find out more about Forged with Flames, you can do so here…

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TBYL Events finds out how to take “The Next Step”

One of the things that I like to try and do with TBYL is to help take the guess-work out of bookish things for bookish people. Our book reviews try and help take the blind-punt out of choosing your next book and our online store is about making it easier for you to pick up your next read once you’ve chosen it.

Last night’s TBYL Event, “The Next Step” was largely about taking some of the guess out of getting published, demystifying the writing game. I really hoped that we’d be able to help people make their writing dreams a reality.

I was thrilled to be joined by Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor from Escape Publishing (the exciting new digital publishing arm of Harlequin) and two current Escape authors Rhian Cahill and Charmaine Ross.

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I wanted to find out a little more about what’s involved in getting published. What should a story look like? What are editors looking for and where do writers find themselves coming undone?

Luckily, Kate was both willing and able to answer these questions for us. She very kindly gave us a run-down on what Escape Publishing was all about, and how digital publishing works, including what digital publishing requires of authors. Whilst digital publishing is fast-paced, requiring pretty well-structured submissions and quick turn-arounds, it also affords a great deal of flexibility. This flexibility is unprecedented, allowing for the entry into the market of new authors, new genres (and genre mash-ups) and the thing that I like most, a wonderful variety of story lengths; “Escape Publishing accepts stories from anywhere between 5000 words and 500,000.” Hence we’re seeing an amazing range of short stories, novellas and tomes all on the market, ready for us to download onto our e-readers.

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Kate shared some really practical tips for writers, such as the importance of editing… edit, edit, edit, structural edits and copy as well. She suggested that writers always have others read their work prior to submission, and that they take the time to step away from their story before trying to edit it. A little time and space between yourself and your work works wonders for the editing process. Kate also stressed the importance of not including too much backstory, presenting believable characters who live up to their description, and developing stories with strong, compelling (and propelling?) pacing.

And with romance, don’t ever forget the happy ending!

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It was also really interesting to hear from Rhian and Charmaine, particularly considering that they both had quite different experiences of writing – their genres were different, their methods were different, the challenges they faced were different – but still, essentially, they both had to write, it was a compulsion and something they’ve been doing since they were quite young. Being published was a dream come true, and seeing copies of their digital books sell steadily was a real affirmation of their craft.

I asked them what it meant to become published, and they both agreed that as exciting as it is, it’s also a lot of work. It would seem that both Rhian and Charmaine set themselves writing goals, daily and weekly, in order to get their stories to come to life. Once manuscript has been accepted a new kind of work begins… editing, editing, editing, cover-art, promotion. It’s a job, but nice work, if you can get it.

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Personally, I found this session incredibly insightful and from feedback I’ve received, so did the audience – they’re questions were fantastic too, really getting to the heart of romance-writing as a career.

A huge thank-you to Kate, Rhian and Charmaine, as well as to Escape Publishing. Thanks so much for making the evening so entertaining and informative.

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Our next TBYL Event will be an online one, so our friends across the country (and the globe?) will be able to get involved. Stay tuned also for announcements regarding our next real-life event coming soon.

And hey, happy writing!

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Get Scrapping: Enter to Win

I have two scrapbook-crazy ladies in my life, my Mum and my sister – they love it! The photos, the embellishments, the buttons and twine. The other day when I was on a shopping trip with them, they started chatting away about ‘gesso’ and ‘mod podge’ and I was lost. I had to ask them exactly what language they were speaking. Their answer? Scrap, of course.

the avalon ladies scrapbooking societyBecause Tam is such an avid scrapbooker, I thought it only sensible to have her review the book I’ve just received from Allen and Unwin, The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee.

At Madeline’s Tea Salon, the cozy hub of the Avalon community, six women find their memories are shaping their future.

Young Connie Colls, fiercely independent and full of promise longs for a past she never had. Isabel Kidd is anxious to move forward but is still paralysed by the consequences of her late husband’s love affair. After spending many years living a life on her own terms, Yvonne Tate finds that she can’t outwit her past. For Ava Catalina, reaching out to hold on to precious memories means rekindling old hurts while Frances Latham sees her dream for a daughter dashed when tragedy strikes. And then there’s irascible Bettie Shelton, founder and president of the Avalon Scrapbooking Society, who helps others create lasting memories of their past but finds the pages of her own albums empty. As the women gather to scrapbook the details of their lives, they discover that things are not always as they seem.

By turns humorous, wise, and deeply moving, The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society is a luminous reminder that the things we hold most dear will last a lifetime.

She’s reading it as we speak, but guess what else?! I’ve got three copies of the book to give-away!

To enter… all you need to do is to email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line SCRAPBOOK and tell us why you’d like to win a copy of Darien’s book. Don’t forget to include your name and postal address in your email and let me know if you’d mind me sharing your response on Facebook.

Competition will close midnight Tuesday, 4 June 2013

I’ll draw three winners at random and announce them when I post Tam’s review on Wednesday, 5 June 2013.

If you’d like to find out more about The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society you can visit here…

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Fifteen Realms: Scent of Magic

Today’s review is from TBYL Reviewer, Kathy P. She’s been visiting the Fifteen Realms…

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At my age, I don’t read a lot of books aimed at the teen market.  After my most recent read, Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder (Harlequin) this is something I’d like to change.

Scent of MagicScent of Magic is the second book in a trilogy.  It follows two main characters – Avry of Kazan, a healer with magical healing powers who is thought to have died, and her boyfriend (for want of a better term) Kerrick, a Prince who has yet to accept his father’s legacy as King of Alga but has forest magic.

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists.

Despite her need to prevent the megalomaniacal King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. 

Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to oppose King Tohon. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and stopping Tohon’s most horrible creations; and army of the walking dead – human and amimal alike.

War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible… again.”

The world of the Fifteen Realms is well laid out.  It is complicated but well explained.  Maria V. Snyder has thought about distance and travelling time, as well as the layout of the landscape.

The use of magic is very interesting.  People who have magical ability develop the ability close to puberty, but it is an intensification of the world around them.  Healers heal by removing the injury or disease from the patient and drawing it into themselves.  This leaves the Healer with the scars of the injury or illness and the recipient of magic without mark.  The Healers heal much faster than ordinary people, but still it is fascinating to see how Snyder has given the use of magic unique consequences.

The characters are very complex and their relationships are even more complex.  As this is the second book in the series and because I have not read the first book, Touch of Power, I found the complexity of the relationships and characters a little difficult to catch up on, and as a result I had a little trouble getting into the story in the beginning.  There was no short explanation as to what has come before this book – it started at the next moment after conclusion of Touch of Power.  Some explanation of the intricacies of the story were  provided later in the book but to begin with I found myself looking for a bit more information, and unfortunately even at the end I was left wondering how some characters really fitted in. I think this would have been different had I read the first book.

In saying that – what a read!  An edge-of-seat ending and I absolutely did not want to leave the book alone to do anything else while I was reading. It well and truly delivered.  I’d like to back track a little and read the first book to fill in a few gaps, but I also can’t wait for the sequel to be released.

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You can find out more about Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder here…

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Countdown is on: ABIA this week

The countdown is on this week to find out who’ll win the Australian Book Industry Awards on Friday! I’m waiting with baited breath, as a number of my recent favourites can be found on the short list!

The Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) which will be presented at a gala dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel on Friday May 24 as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Known as the ‘Academy Awards’ for books, the 2013 ABIAs celebrate the very best of Australian writing, publishing and bookselling.

The 2013 nominees showcase the exceptional quality and diversity that the Australian Publishing Industry presents. These awards, which acknowledge the country’s most talented authors, publishers and booksellers, are unique as they are the only awards voted on by the entire publishing industry. The winners are chosen by a panel of 100 booksellers and publishers.

The shortlisted authors are:

jim stynesBiography of the Year 2013
On Warne by Gideon Haigh (Penguin Group Australia)

True North: The Story of Mary and Elizabeth Durack by Brenda Niall (The Text Publishing Company)

Jim Stynes: My Journey by Jim Stynes and Warwick Green (Penguin Group Australia)

Exit Wounds: One Australian’s War on Terror by John Cantwell and Greg Bearup (Melbourne University Press)

Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbot: Quarterly Essay by David Marr (Black Inc.)

Eugenia: A True Story of Adversity, Tragedy, Crime and Courage by Mark Tedeschi (Simon and Schuster Australia)

Gina Rinehart: The Untold Story of the Richest Person in Australia by Adele Ferguson (Pan Macmillan Australia)


Children of the kingBook of the Year for Older Children (8 – 14 years) 2013

Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin Group Australia)

After by Morris Gleitzman (Penguin Group Australia)

The Curious Dictionary: Word Hunters by Nick Earls and Terry Windborne (University of Queensland Press)

Alice-Miranda in New York by Jacqueline Harvey (Random House Australia)

The 26-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths (Pan Macmillan Australia)


owl know howBook of the Year for Younger Children (0 – 8 years) 2013

Owl Know How by Cat Rabbit and Isobel Knowles (Thames and Hudson Australia)

Today We Have No Plans by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker (Penguin)

The Gobbledygook is Eating a Book by Justine Clarke and Arthur Baysting (Penguin Group Australia)

Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester (Penguin Group Australia)

Little Elephants by Graeme Base (Penguin Group Australia)

Good Night Sleep Tight by Mem Fox illustrated by Judy Horacek (Scholastic Australia)

The Very Hungry Bear by Nick Bland (Scholastic Australia)


Mothers' GroupGeneral Fiction Book of the Year 2013

Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell (Hachette Australia)

Jack of Diamonds by Bryce Courtenay (Penguin Group Australia)

Nine Days by Toni Jordan (The Text Publishing Company)

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (Allen & Unwin)

The Mother’s Group by Fiona Higgins (Allen & Unwin)

The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey (Allen & Unwin)


what katie ateIllustrated Book of the Year 2013

Australian War Memorial: Treasures from A Century of Collecting by Australian War Memorial (Allen & Unwin)

Luke Nguyen’s Greater Mekong: A Culinary Journey from China to Vietnam by Luke Nguyen (Hardie Grant Publishing)

The Lost Diggers by Ross Coulthart (HarperCollins Australia)

Lake Eyre: A Journey through the Heart of the Continent by Paul Lockyer (HarperCollins Australia)

What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies (Penguin Group Australia)

The Little Veggie Patch Co’s Guide to Backyard Farming by Fabian Capomolla and Mat Pember (Pan Macmillan Australia)


Lola BenskyLiterary Fiction Book of the Year 2013

Question of Travel by Michelle De Kretser (Allen & Unwin)

Floundering by Romy Ash (The Text Publishing Company)

The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (Random House Australia)

Lola Bensky by Lily Brett (Penguin Group Australia)

The Daughters of Mars by Tom Keneally (Random House Australia)

The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska (Random House Australia)


light between oceansThe Book of the Year

The 26-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths (Pan Macmillan Australia)

The Lost Diggers by Ross Coulthart (HarperCollins Australia)

Speechless: A Year in My Father’s Business by James Button (Melbourne University Publishing)

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (Random House Australia)

Jim Stynes: My Journey by Jim Stynes and Warwick Green (Penguin Group Australia)

QF32: The Captain’s Extraordinary Account How One of the World’s Worst Air Disasters Was Averted by Richard De Crespigny (Pan Macmillan Australia)

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Who are you barracking for? Stay tuned on Friday for the ABIA winners for 2013.

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A NY Scrapbook: A Bite of the Big Apple

I was feeling a bit bushed last weekend. I knew that I had things that I needed to get done, but just couldn’t seem to get myself moving. Every time I thought of doing something, it seemed a little too hard. As a result, I spent more than my fair share of time sitting on the couch, watching TV and nattering away to the kids.

Bite of the big appleI know it’s not a bad thing to have a little downtime on the weekends, but I do feel a little remiss if I don’t get any reading done, so I allowed myself a middle ground. I took a nice leisurely look at Monica Trapaga and Lil Tulloch’s A Bite of the Big Apple (Penguin).

As many of you know by now, I’m a massive fan of all things New York, so this reading task was no chore. The fascinating images, recipes and descriptions of NY neighbourhoods made it no effort at all to spend a good hour strolling through Monica and Lil’s compilation…

It’s Ella and Louis. It’s Seinfeld and Woody Allen. It’s the bright lights of Broadway, it’s hot dogs at 2 a.m., it’s bagels and doughnuts and pastrami on rye. It’s also Mexican, Jamaican, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Chinese food, all thrown together in a cultural cacophony quite unlike anywhere else in the world. All of these influences come together when Monica Trápaga, one of Australia’s most-loved entertainers, escapes to New York – and realises she has come home. 

A Bite of the Big Apple is a bit like a hipster’s scrapbook, its collages are childlike but edgy, at times even a little bit gritty. Monica spends her time in the less-than-glamorous neighbourhood of Bedford Stuyversant, melting into the close-knit, slightly volatile community.

Bit of the big apple 2The taxi makes a left into Hancock Avenue and I feel as if we’ve just turned in to Sesame Street. In the pit of my stomach I’m feeling nervous but excited – I wouldn’t be surprised if Oscar the Grouch stuck his head out of a trash can and waved an old sardine in my direction. I pay the cab driver and he is out of there faster than Speedy Gonzales as I hug my luggage and look for the house number.

She and her daughter Lil travel on trains, taking full advantage of the NY subway in order to explore the culinary corners of the Big Apple – Ms Dahlias in Nostrand Avenue, Union Square and its organic markets, Russ and Daughters. What they find in delis and markets across the city is the inspiration for their fresher than fresh food, soulful, rustic combinations of produce and spice. Their Mojitos will knock your socks off and their Potato and Leek Soup will warm your heart.

This is a visually stunning book, and a fabulous story. Monica successfully captures and shares the feeling of New York, the sights and smells of both the high-end of town and the crumbling corners. Once again, I find myself longing to return, to explore New York more fully. But for now, I’ll flick through books like A Bite of the Big Apple and make plans for the future.

If you’d like to find out more about A Bite of the Big Apple you can visit here…

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Lessons Learnt: A Grandmother’s Wisdom

Is there anything better than a cold night, a quiet house and a comfy doona? How about if we added a sweet, single-sitting book? If you ask me, with that combo, you’ve got a pretty perfect evening.

a grandmother's wisdomLast week I decided to turn in early and have a read of Catriona Rowntree’s A Grandmother’s Wisdom: Lessons learnt at my Nan’s knee (Allen and Unwin). An inviting little hard-cover book sharing ‘the beautiful relationship which exists between a grandparent and their grandchild.’

Catriona Rowntree loves her Nan. She grew up in the same household and it was to this wise, loving woman that the young Catriona took all her worries and joys. Always there was a sympathetic ear and advice worth following. And as Catriona grew up, left home, started her media career, found and lost boyfriends, met her future husband, married and fell pregnant – her Nan’s words of encouragement, warmth and love helped to guide Catriona’s behaviour and choices, and they continue to do so.

In A Grandmother’s Wisdom, Catriona shares her Nan’s homespun wisdom, based on the experiences of a lifetime. Heartfelt and funny with a straight-talking edge, this is a book to treasure.

Catriona Rowntree has been a regular on our TVs for years, showing us around gorgeous corners of the globe with her big smile and enthusiastic commentary. More recently, she surprised many by embarking on a more rural life with her farmer husband James – the magazines had a field day!

She’s been such a feature of the Australian television landscape that it was quite interesting to find out a little bit more about what made her tick. As a character, Catriona has always struck me as a little old-fashioned, a little old-school. After reading A Grandmother’s Wisdom I think I better understand why. She was incredibly close to her Nan and took her Grandmother’s advice to heart, living by pearls such as…

‘Be careful who you listen to – surround yourself with positive people and don’t listen to doomsayers.’

‘Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want to see printed on the front page of the newspaper.’

‘Try to avoid being photographed with alcohol in your hand.’

I can understand why she would pay such heed to these words, as her Grandmother Riria was clearly a clever, strong and caring woman, worthy of great respect. This book was a really wonderful reminder of the the importance of maintaining the connections between woman, young and old. There is a great deal to share and learn.

The book itself would make a lovely gift, it’s a quick read, and a really interesting recollection of Catriona’s own career. It’s a sweet way to spark your own memories of mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers… special woman who play an important role in guiding us through life.

If you’d like to find out more about Catriona Rowntree’s A Grandmother’s Wisdom: Lessons learnt at my Nan’s knee you can here…

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More Blood: The Eternity Cure

Last year, I read the first instalment in the ‘Blood of Eden’ series by Julie Kagawa. Full of blood-thirsty vampires, zombie-like rabids and surprisingly resilient humans, The Immortal Rules was exciting to the last (you can read my review here) and I was very much looking forward to the next instalment.

The eternity cureThis month, it arrived, and as I dived head first into the action of The Eternity Cure (Harlequin) I was greeted by starving vampires, territorial mole men and a new, horrifying and bloody plague…

Allison Sekemoto has done the unthinkable: died so that she might continue to live. Cast out of Eden and separated from the boy she dared to love, Allie will follow the call of blood to save her creator, Kanin, from a psychotic vampire. But there’s a new plague on the rise, a strain of the Red Lung virus that wiped out most of humanity generations ago — and this strain is deadly to humans and vampires alike.

Allison thought that immortality was forever. But with eternity itself hanging in the balance, the lines between human and monster will blur even further as Allie faces another choice she could never have imagined having to make…

Allison is on a quest, katana in hand and a pillar of strength while all of those around her fall victim to violence and plague. The Eternity Cure is action-packed and full of unlikely allegiances…

“Why was Jackal here now? The last I’d seen of him, he had been shoved out of a thirty-story window – after, I remembered quite clearly, he’d jammed a wooden stake into my stomach. I didn’t have fond memories of the raider king, and I knew Jackal wasn’t terribly happy with me either. 

Then the implication hit me like a brick in the chest, and I stared at him in horror. Kanin was our sire, having Turned the both of us. The raider king was my “blood brother” and blood called to blood. No wonder there had been two pulls. If Jackal was here, then he was the presence I’d been following. Not Kanin. Not Sarren. I’d chosen to track the wrong lead.”

This volatile partnership keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, wondering if it is in any way workable… surely it’s only a matter of time before Jackal and Allie turn their weapons on each other?

This novel is a fantastic follow up to The Immortal Rules, with just the right amount of narrative, horror, action and romance…

“He froze for a second, before his arms came up to pull me closer. I leaned into him, feeling the Hunger rise up, feeling his lips on mine, his hands sliding over my back. I let myself feel all these things, including the urge to drop my head to his neck and plunge my fangs into his throat. I could control it, I would control it. Because there was no way I was letting Zeke go now.”

I can’t wait for part three.

To find out a little more about what makes this series tick, I asked a few questions of the author Julie Kagawa…

This latest instalment in the Blood of Eden series kicks off at a cracking pace… was it fun to be able to immerse yourself again in Allie’s world?
Yes, and I actually liked writing this book a little more than The Immortal Rules, because Allie’s character has been established, and all the other major characters have been introduced.  I don’t need to spend time setting everything up, I can jump right into the story.

There’s a real horror element to this installment, the new plague is vicious and bloody. Do you like the idea of scaring your readers?
Scaring them, infuriating them, making them laugh, making them sob.  The worst feeling is reading a book and liking it okay, but that’s it.  It becomes forgettable, and I don’t want my books to become forgettable.  I want readers to be terrified, horrified, hysterical and grief stricken.  If a book can bring out such intense emotion, then I’ve done my job as an author.

 Julie 3Allison is an absolute pillar of strength, seemingly unbeatable but still maintaining some of her human vulnerabilities. What do you like most about her character?
I love her extreme stubbornness, which can, at times, get her into trouble, but also becomes her saving grace, as well.  She is completely determined not to become a monster, and she clings to her humanity as tightly as she can.  She also possesses a “never back down” quality which, like her stubbornness, can get her into trouble, but she’s more than willing to fight for what she believes in and usually comes out on top.

You’ve assembled a fantastic cast in ‘The Eternity Cure’; rabids, vampires, humans, pets and mole men… do you have a favourite?
I have to say I like the vampires, because they are savage yet refined, civilized yet monstrous.  They’re not friendly; they’re predators and humans are their food source.  I’ve always enjoyed the darker aspects of vampires, and I wanted to bring back a little of the fear humans once had for the Children of the Night.

I have to ask… what’s next?
Well, the second book of the spin-off Iron Fey series, Call of the Forgotten: The Iron Traitor, is set to be released sometime in the fall, and after that, the third and final book of Allie’s story, The Forever Song.  Beyond that, anything is possible.

***

If you’d like to find out more about The Eternity Cure, you can do so here…

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