Opulence: Torn

I’ve said it before, but once again – I love it when one book’s theme follows sweetly on from another…

Last month I enjoyed Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl and in doing so, learnt a lot more about the politics, hardships and bloodshed of the Napoleonic era. I was neck-deep in the early 1800s and loving it.

tornAnd so, you can imagine my delight when I received Torn by Karen Turner (Palmer Higgs Books)…

1808. When 14 year old Alexandra meets Patrick, her handsome and notorious step-brother, she is confused and resentful as he shakes the foundations of everything she has ever known. Driving a wedge between Alex and her brother Simon, he tears apart the fabric of her quiet world. Yet she is intrigued by the enigmatic Patrick and finds herself increasingly drawn to him.

These are the years between childhood and womanhood, during which Alex begins to realise that her growing affection for Patrick owes nothing to sibling fondness.

But these are turbulent times for England and Patrick and Simon, answering the call of adventure, join the fight against Napoleon with devastating consequences.

In a family ravaged by war and deceit Alex finds herself betrayed in the worst possible way.

This is the story of one woman’s passionate struggle for love and hope against all the constraints of her time.

The bookish universe is a funny thing and so I followed its trail into a brand new period adventure.

Torn is set in London’s high society, an opulent setting where each family estate is more impressive than the last. The story’s main character, Alexandra, is a tomboy, but no less a part of her fine surroundings. She may resist, but as she grows, she finds herself drawn into the dance the same as everyone else.

Her occasional, unconventional boyish attire does little to discourage her admirers, and she finds herself betrothed, again her will…

“Oh heavens, Alexandra, what is there to understand? Lord Elginbury approached me several summers ago. Nothing was ever formally agreed, but recently our communications resumed, and yesterday a mutually favourable arrangement was achieved. You ought to consider yourself fortunate – it’s an enviable position, a perfect match that will benefit both families.”

“He has seen me?”

“Yes. The boy visited with his parents several years ago and attended the solstice ball. He thought you… suitable enough, even if you were in the garden wearing a pair of Simon’s breeches when he arrived.”

Despite being promised and her reluctance to behave in an entirely ladylike manner, Alex does find herself growing into her womanhood and in turn feeling herself fall for the bittersweet charms of her step-brother Patrick.

From this point, the story revolves around a ‘will-they-wont-they’ plot. Their relationship is feisty, heated and eventually passionate. Still, I was questioning all the way though – is this really a happily-ever-after story? Will Alexandra’s hard-headness push Patrick away, or will his good looks lead him into temptation?

Karen Turner has a great story to tell, and even though I was a little unsure about the authenticity of some of the language used, I was sufficiently drawn in by the beautiful descriptions of landscapes, gowns, riches and love triangles.

It’s an enjoyable story and one that’ll be thoroughly appreciated by fans of period dramas.

If you’d like go into the running to win a copy for yourself, all you need to do is email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line TORN. Include your name and address and I’ll draw a winner on the evening of 31/08/13.

Plus, you can find out more about Karen Turner’s Torn here…

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Green equals Classic Crime

Of course, I love all my books, my book collection is my pride and joy, but I’ll admit to having a some favourites…

I love Popular Penguins, and I have shelves of the orange lovelies. It’s been a fantastic way to add some must-haves to my library and they look fantastic all shelved together. I have recently added a sweet little collection of Pink Popular Penguins too, released earlier in the year to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation.

This week I added a new colour – classic green penguins, full of classic crime tales…

The Green Popular Penguins are a new generation of iconic, instantly recognisable Popular Penguin books. With a nod to the design for Penguin’s original ‘Mystery and Crime’ series, these new titles have been dressed to kill with a sharp price of $9.95 and a bold green cover twist on the iconic Penguin triband.

green popular penguinsWith fifty collectable crime classics available from 38 acclaimed crime writers, the Green Popular Penguins collection features classic stories from favourite authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle as well as the gritty detective fiction of Raymond Chandler and the hard boiled work of Dashiell Hammett.

Victorian era writer Mary Elizabeth Braddon (the sister of an ex-Premier of Tasmania) features in this collection, as does British Spy novel specialist Eric Ambler and the contemporary husband and wife crime writing duo Nicci French. Much loved characters make a return including Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason, a defence attorney and Francis Durbridge’s ever gentlemanly Paul Temple.

Crime as a genre has always been a specialty of Penguin Books. In fact, on that fateful day in 1935 when Allen Lane stood on a British railway platform looking for something good to read on his journey (consequently creating Penguin and the Popular Penguins books), he was returning from a visit with the doyenne of crime fiction herself, Agatha Christie.

The Green Popular Penguins will reintroduce a whole new generation of readers to the magical world of crime fiction throughout the ages with their suspenseful, compelling plots and captivating characters.

You can find out details of all 50 titles here…

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to start my collection!

Screen shot 2013-07-26 at 1.30.34 PMOn the release of this new collection, I was lucky to receive three titles in the mail, hot off the press. I’m going to read and review one of them, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but the other two are up for grabs for two lucky readers!

Screen shot 2013-07-26 at 1.31.01 PM

If you’d like to go into the running to win a copy of Blood and Judgement by Michael Gilbert or Edgar Wallace’s The Door with Seven Locks all you need to do is email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au and let me know which of the 50 titles you would pick as your favourite. Include your name and address, and use the subject line CRIME THRILLERS. I’ll draw two winners at random next Friday, 2 August 2013. Please note, this competition is open to those with an Australian postal address and that each winner will win one title, which will be allocated at random.

Good luck, and happy reading!

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Tragedy: The Son-in-Law

Today’s post is a true triple-threat! One part review, one part author-interview and a give-away to sweeten the deal. Here’s what Carolyn thought of Charity Norman’s The Son-In-Law (Allen and Unwin)…

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“My mother used to say her wedding day was like a fairytale. It was a blue and gold morning, and a million daffodils rippled beneath the city walls. She and my father were young, beautiful and crazy about each other. 

Son-in-Law‘Don’t let people tell you love isn’t like in the films, Scarlet,’ she said. It was one of those moments when she seemed to be surfing right on top of a foaming, frothing wave of happiness…

She gave a little laugh, humming along to the jazz music she had playing on the stereo… For some reason, that evening is one of my clearest memories of Mum. She smelled of well, of Mum; her special sandalwood scent, and coffee and maybe wine. I’ve got one of her soft cardigans under my bed, and it still smells like her. If I press my face into it and shut my eyes, I can pretend it is her.”

The Son-In-Law is the latest novel by rising-star Charity Norman, and it tells the story of a family torn apart by a tragic episode, changing the course of the lives of three very young children.  The transcript of a 999 call made by a ten year old girl opens the book – the account is very real and immediately had the hairs on my arm standing on end. I read the transcript again because I couldn’t believe where I was about to taken by this beautiful and powerful novel, a story that will stay with me for a very long time.

This is a story told from three points of view. The first being Joseph who kills his wife in the presence of his three young children; his oldest child Scarlet and their Grandmother Hannah who, with her husband become the primary caregivers to their grandchildren after this tragic event.  Each narrator gives the reader a different perspective on the death of Zoe, a beautiful and charismatic wife, mother and daughter and on how they manage to carry on after such a sudden loss in their lives.

“I didn’t sleep that night. Not until three in the morning, anyway. I didn’t sleep the next night either, or the one after that, or any night in the days leading up to the court hearing. I felt more and more tired, but at the same time twitchy and tangled up.”

Before turning her skills to writing, Charity Norman practised as a high-powered barrister specialising in family law.  This, combined with a colourful upbringing, has allowed her to draw on personal experiences, delving into issues of mental health, domestic violence and the devastating results these factors can have on families.

From the very outset of the story you know that you will be faced with difficult dilemmas when deciding what is right for each character. I found myself loving each person no matter how self-centred their motives seemed to be.  The adult narrators in the story are at opposite ends of the argument, pulling Scarlet and her younger brothers from one side to the other.  This pull naturally causes guilt in the young characters thus leading to disturbed behaviours and actions which made me, the reader feel incredibly sad for them.  As much as I loved the adult characters, their selfishness is blinding and gets in the way, making them forget about what is right for the children. This is a central theme throughout this book, asking questions about what is the right and best outcome for this family?

“I wasn’t in a cheerful mood as we drove away. Far from it.  I looked back as we turned out of Faith Lane, and I could see two lost souls standing on the pavement. They were holding hands, which was something they never used to do in public. I felt so guilty. I wanted Dad to turn the car around and take us back.”

The Son-In-Law has secondary characters who through kindness and wisdom offer support to this family. Their opinions are put forward in the form of letters and court transcripts providing a depth to this story. I personally have not had to deal with a tragedy of this magnitude and it only made me more grateful to the people who dedicate their lives to helping others through the family courts.

I can highly recommend this book to you.  It had me sitting up until early hours of the morning because I needed to know the outcome for these powerful characters.  Whilst I cried for three quarters of the book (something that I secretly enjoy) Charity Norman gave me hope that life can take a different course and carry on beautifully for people who encounter such a traumatic road block in their early lives.

I was fortunate enough to be able to ask a few questions of Charity Norman…

Before you wrote The Son-In-Law, I understand that you practised as a barrister, specialising in family law.  ‘The Son-In-Law’ delves deeply into issues of domestic violence, family and mental health.  Is your book based on one specific incident?
I think the short answer is no. Years ago I did act for the children in a case where the father had murdered the mother and was asking for them to have contact with him while he was in prison. His case was utterly different to Joseph’s – as I recall he had killed her in cold blood and was going to be in prison for a very long time – but I remember sitting there in court while he was in the dock at the back, and thinking about the rights and wrongs of contact for such a man. That may have sown the idea in my mind, but no more than that. The book is entirely fictional, and influenced by numerous experiences rather than just the one.     

Charity NormanWas this a story that you wanted to tell for a while? Do you have more stories you wish to tell?
This story had been bubbling in a pot on my mental stove for a while, and seemed the right one to choose when I was thinking about what to write next. Yes, I have lots more stories that I’d like to tell! 

Your novel often had me in tears as I sympathised with each character.  How do you create such real emotion throughout the story?
Thank you – though sorry to make anyone cry! I don’t really have a conscious technique, but it helps me to take time to get to know my characters. I try to listen very carefully to each and walk in their shoes, really be that person in my head. It’s very like using empathy when you have a friend who’s in trouble – you listen to what they say – and also to what they don’t say – and you try to understand exactly what they are feeling. I do that with the characters. Then I write it down.   

Scarlet showed considerable maturity for a thirteen year old?  In your experience is this maturity normal for such a young person who has been through the life changing events that Scarlet had to go through?
Yes, I believe it is. To a degree, she’s taken on the role of carer for her younger brothers and found depths of maturity that she wouldn’t have had to otherwise. Of course, there are plenty of young children looking after even younger ones, for example in areas of the world where HIV has ravaged the population. They lose their childhoods even more than Scarlet has.

I do have a daughter who was Scarlet’s age as I was writing the book. She is definitely not Scarlet of course, but quite similar in terms of maturity, and I found it really helpful to know what a switched-on girl of that age might be thinking, saying and doing. At the launch of the book here in New Zealand, she read out the part of the panicking Scarlet in the prologue and I read the part of the emergency operator. I felt quite moved to hear her!

Why is it told through the first person for Scarlet and Hannah but not for Joseph?
Ah. I am so glad you asked me that! I spent weeks agonising about this. I wanted to make it very personal, so chose the first person for Scarlet and Hannah which I felt worked for them. Yet when I tried to give Joseph a first person voice, I found it just was not his voice. I think that’s because of who he is. He was always a more self-effacing type, not the sort who starts many sentences with the word ‘I’ – even more so after causing Zoe’s death, and the years in prison. He feels awful guilt and hides away on the moors. I just don’t think he wants to talk about himself. Oddly, I found this slight distance helped me to see him more clearly, rather than just seeing him as he sees himself.  

Have you had much correspondence from readers who have identified with some of the major themes in this book? If so were they positive or negative?
Not so far, though I am very grateful to those readers who have written to tell me that they like it. So far nothing negative, but I know there will be some who feel I was too generous to Joseph. I had lots of interesting feedback after ‘Freeing Grace’, which was about adoption; and again after ‘Second Chances’, which was about emigration, drug addiction and a teenager who is in deep trouble. Many people have said they identified with those themes, especially adoption.

I loved this book. Thank you for writing it and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I will be singing its praises for quite a while I think.
Thank you very much for that, and for your thoughtful questions –much appreciated!

***

You’ve got a chance to win a copy of Charity’s book, courtesy of Allen and Unwin. All that you need to do to enter is email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au with the subject line ‘SON IN LAW’ and include your name and postal details. A winner will be chosen at random on 31.07.13 and notified by email.

Good luck!

If you’d like to find out more about The Son-in-Law, you can do so here…

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Heart Like Mine

Thank goodness for the TBYL Reviewers – without them, I’d never be able to tell you about so many amazing books! I’m so lucky to have some wonderful people reading and reviewing for us, and today’s review is from the wonderful Carolyn Jones. Read on to find out more about Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (Allen and Unwin) and about how you can enter to win a copy of your own…

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Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (Allen and Unwin) shares the story of three woman, all very different from each other but connected nonetheless. There is Grace, 36 years old, a successful CEO and a woman comfortable in her decision to never have children of her own. Then there’s Kelli, a young single mother of two and the ex-wife of Grace’s fiancé. Finally, there is Kelli’s beloved daughter, Ava. Thirteen years old and completely devoted to her mother, Ava is desperate not to form a relationship with her father’s new partner. Very early in the story Kelli sadly and unexpectedly dies, meaning that Ava and her younger brother must live with their father and in turn, Grace. As you might expect, this sudden upheaval complicates the already strained relationship between Ava and her step-mother Grace.

Heart Like Mine alternates between narrating around the relationships shared by the three women and their overlapping stories, giving the reader a chance to see all sides of the difficult situation.

heart like mineI loved this book. I found it very easy to read but more importantly, I did not want to put it down. Amy Hatvany distinguishes the different narrators very clearly, with chapter headings and distinctive tones, whilst ensuring that the story flowed smoothly and never confusing the reader as to whose turn it was to tell their story. I don’t want to give too much away about what happens in the book as I enjoyed not knowing which way the story was going to take me. However, this is a book review, so I do need to provide something more to entice you to read this book…

There are some strong themes throughout the novel about womanhood, love and family. The age of thirteen is when a child becomes an adolescent and should be a time for greater independence, boyfriends and girlfriends, and discovering oneself. However, the three leading ladies in Heart Like Mine all encounter a life-changing event when they are thirteen. These individual events force these girls from early adolescence into adulthood much too young.

The main theme that Amy Hatvany explores is that of motherhood, from all perspectives; choosing to become a mother or having it thrust upon you unexpectedly…

She paused and gave me a dreamy smile. “But you really don’t know what love is until you’re a mother. You can’t understand it until you’ve had a baby yourself, but it’s the most intense feeling in the world.

I winced a little when she said this, as though she meant that a heart like mine was somehow defective because I hadn’t had children. I didn’t think of myself as less able to feel love. But her comments made me question myself and wonder if by missing out on motherhood, I was missing out on something that would make me a better person.

Grace, Kelli and Ava are incredibly strong women in their own right and through their narration we, the readers, feel their insecurities and share in their personal struggles to keep going through very tough times. I loved how Amy Hatvany developed these characters and didn’t dwell too much on clichés about stepmothers and daughters. I really believed their story. I highly recommend Heart Like Mine, whether you can identify with elements of it or reflect on your own growing up this book will stay with you for days. It’s a wonderful story, a drama of the challenges that comes with losing something too soon. If you take pleasure in a meaningful tale, or like me, love to weep in a book then I think you will enjoy Heart Like Mine.

***

This month, a lucky reader will win a copy of Heart Like Mine courtesy of Allen & Unwin Books.

To enter, email info@thatbookyoulike.com.au, subject line ‘HEART’ and include your name and postal details. A winner will be chosen at random on 30.06.13 and notified by email.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany shop now at the TBYL Store…

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Good company: The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society

As I said last week, because Tam is such an avid scrapbooker, I thought it only sensible to have her review The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee (Allen and Unwin) I figured she’d understand the language, the comradery of this book and of course, she did. By all accounts, Tam really enjoyed this novel and interestingly, it sounds like scrapbooking was simply the catalyst for gathering. It was the woman, and their strengths and struggles that keep bringing them back into each others company.

Here’s what Tam thought of this novel…

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The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee is an extremely busy book, with loads of characters introduced all at once, all of whom are living their separate lives with their separate dramas and troubles. It’s this large cast of characters that makes this such a clever book, in how it brings all these individuals together, to get to know each other in the small town of Avalon.

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

Young Connie Colls, fiercly independant 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 dreams 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 paes 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.

This story centres around Bettie, Isabel, Frances, Yvonne, Ava, Connie and Madeline – all very different people who would have little reason to get along in any other context, but come together to scrapbook.  In fact as this novel begins many of the women don’t actually like each other very much. As this story develops we are introduced to their private and mostly complicated histories and women begin to find strength within each other and form beautiful friendships.

Throughout the novel, Bettie Shelton is the one constant. She is the founder and President of the scrapbooking society and it comes to light that she is also enduring her own private tragedy. Bettie loses all her scrapbooks and it is through this sad event that it comes to light just how integral a part of the community Bettie has become, as they rally together to rebuild her memories.

As an avid scrapbooker myself I found comfort and inspiration in this story. Much of the message behind this story is about embracing your past, treasuring your memories and recording these memories in a way for your loved ones to be able to hold on to for many years to come. They may even be able to learn more about your past and indeed their own past than they would have otherwise. I have always found scrapbooking therapeutic, and there is a great emphasis on this in the book. The craft is a great way to reflect, to realise the positives, heal the negatives and to cope through the hard times. It’s not just about photos (as so often thought) but also about documentation, a collection of brochures, menus, journaling, pictures painted with words. Such a beautiful legacy to leave for your family. This theme of legacy runs throughout  The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society sharing with us a story of trouble, healing and friendship.

***

Thanks to Allen and Unwin, I’ve had three copies of The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society to give away! Entries closed yesterday at midnight and the three winners (chosen at random) are S. Odongo, A. Lee and F. Garrivan.  Congratulations, and keep an eye on your emails for message from me this evening.

To find out more about Darien Gee’s novel, you can do so here…

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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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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.

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

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What are ‘The Rules of Conception’?

Handing over today’s novel to one of the TBYL Reviewers was difficult, I really wanted to read it myself. But alas, in order to be timely I am learning to  share, and to that end, the lovely Steph recently took a look at the hilarious and engaging, The Rules of Conception by Angela Lawrence (Harlequin). She was also able to ask a few questions of Angela, giving us further insight into how this fascinating story made it to the page.

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“Rachel Richards is ready to be a mother. She’s got a great job, a good income, a beautiful inner city apartment and a great group of supportive friends. All she needs is a father to have the child with….”

Rules of ConceptionSingle motherhood is an emotionally charged topic often hotly debated in the media. Angela Lawrence’s The Rules of Conception from Harlequin should be mandatory reading for anyone entering into the debate.

“While I’m watching, the little boy reaches up and gives his mother a big smacking kiss on the cheek. She tickles him and he laughs hysterically before being so tired that he puts his arms around her neck and closes his eyes. And it hits me right then and there, while sitting on the bus, looking at the little boy’s chubby arms and sleeping angel’s face. I am not going to miss out on that.”

Angela Lawrence has written a fantastic story about one woman’s solo journey to become a parent. From the moment we first meet Rachel, as she is being stood up by her boyfriend on her birthday, to the final exciting chapter of her story, we are drawn into the emotional rollercoaster that is pregnancy. Who could begrudge Rachel the chance to experience the unconditional love that she sees between mother and son on the bus.

Rachel is a great character, likeable and easy to relate to. She has a nightmare boss in a job she loves, great friends and a supportive family. Rachel could easily be your sister, cousin or workmate. She explores many options for solo pregnancy and along the way encounters supportive and discouraging people in the most unlikely of situations.

Angela Lawrence shows the ups and downs of pregnancy and going it alone. Rachel’s birthing class experience is hilarious and totally relatable to anyone who has been to one.

I really enjoyed reading The Rules of Conception. It is a funny, engaging book which will appeal to mothers and singles alike. You will love Rachel from the moment you meet her, and will be cheering her on as she embarks on a sometimes turbulent, sometimes hilarious journey.

It was wonderful to be able to ask Angela a few questions last week…

You present a well balanced and realistic portrayal of single parenthood. Was it almost cathartic to write about the single mother road as it is one you, yourself have travelled? 
I decided to write The Rules of Conception after seeing a couple of interviews with single mothers by choice and felt that these women were represented by the media as lonely and slightly disappointed. It occurred to me that people are willing to accept a stereotype about single mothers that is increasingly becoming outdated – particularly with reference to those who have children alone by choice, or are happy to fall pregnant even if they are single. So, in that sense that I was pleased with how Rachel’s character and choice developed as the story progressed.

I guess, the main area that was cathartic for me, was writing about being single and pregnant. There are so many great things about it – but at the same time, it is unchartered territory and not without it’s challenges.

How supportive was the donor and planned single parent community when you were researching the book?
In my wider circle, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a small group of men who had become known donors or co-parents. It was great to get their perspective on how they pragmatise their decision. A lot of my perspective however is from observing and talking to men and women on donor forums and some were quite happy to talk about their actions and choices. These people have thought about their decisions and have taken a really bold step in going online to make it happen. Given they’d reached this point, those who I spoke to, could articulate their reasons extremely well.

Rachel is an immediately likeable character – how did you go about putting her on the page in such an endearing way? 
I think that Rachel’s likeability comes from her imperfections. On the whole, she’s very level headed and her plan is well thought out and executed – but she’s still capable of doing dumb things, making bad decisions, and expressing her own human frailty. Plus, she can always see humor in less than ideal scenarios

Initially, when I started writing The Rules of Conception, Rachel was far less flawed and she came across as a little too smug as a result. I remember reading what I’d written and thought to myself: If I don’t like her, who will? So I went back and made her a lot more self deprecating.

Was it important to you to present this quite emotional topic with humour and lightness?
Absolutely. The moment I decided to write The Rules of Conception, my plan was to create something accessible and entertaining. This is a subject that is relevant to a generation of women who have grown up on chick lit and fiction that takes a light approach to their big issues. I really wanted single parenting to be treated in the same way.

What’s next for you Angela? 
It’s a good question. I’ll probably spend some time in the short term, Googling reviews for my book and alternating between being really happy and somewhat mortified as a result. Other than that, I’m in the midst of writing something new, child wrangling and taking each day as it comes.

You can find out more about The Rules of Conception here…

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We’ve got two copies of Angela’s book up for grabs this month at That Book You Like… courtesy of Harlequin. Check out this month’s edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… for details of how to enter to win!

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Find out more about the TBYL Book Club here

Two tickets up for grabs!

As you may already know, TBYL is running is first real-life event this month where we’ll get to hear from a group of talented and passionate authors and illustrators who work to help kids deal with the challenges life has thrown at them…

What's he Reading

 

It’s an intimate event, only 30 seats… and it’s at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne and promises to be pretty incredible. If you’d like to find out more about “Making Tough Times Easier” you can read about it here…

Tonight though, I’ve got two tickets for up for grabs for one lucky winner. All you need to do is…

1. Email TBYL at info@thatbookyoulike.com.au, subject line “Easier”
2. Tell me why you’d like to attend the event.
3. Be available to attend “Making Tough Times Easier” at Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne on 27 March 2013 (7pm – 8pm)

Entries will close 5pm, Wednesday 13 March 2013 and at the close of the competition I’ll use an online random generator to pick one winner. Please note, tickets can’t be exchanged for cash or another event, but you can pass it on to a friend or family member if you’d prefer.

Can’t wait to read your entries!

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Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

Hey guys, you’ve won a bundle of books!

As the TBYL big book give-away draws to a close, I’m a little sad. I’ve so enjoyed reading your competition entries – your favourites, your virtual b’day gifts, your stories. A huge thank-you to everyone who got involved and submitted entries!

I wish I had enough books to give one to everyone, but alas, I must choose (at random) three winners from our bookish crew… and they are:

bundle of books

 

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) has been won by Samantha Thomas.

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) have been won by Barbara McCauley.

Third prize
Finally, a copy of the very funny Curses and Blessing for All Occasions, by Bradley Trevor Greive (Allen and Unwin) has been won by Monique Mulligan.

All winners will be contacted by email today.

***

Again, thanks to everyone who entered the competition and also to Allen and UnwinHarlequin Teen, and Smudge Publishing who kindly provided these prizes. Don’t forget to check out their websites for other amazing titles.

Join us:   Facebook  and  Twitter
Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Subscribe to TBYL News: All Things Bookish… out monthly!

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