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Making Soapies in Kabul

Trudi-Ann Tierney used to work on Home & Away, before taking a leap of faith and moving to Afghanistan to work on the country’s most popular soap opera ‘Secrets of the House’.  Trudi’s is a fascinating, inspiring story which she shares in her book Making Soapies in Kabul.

This is an edited extract from MAKING SOAPIES IN KABUL, published by Allen &Unwin, RRP $29.99, out now.

The whistling dog woke me up again, for the sixth morning running.

Despite having not hit my pillow until 2am, I smiled when I heard his

feeble toot-tooting just after five. My mangy Labrador alarm clock

didn’t exactly belt out a tune (although I had picked out a solitary

bar of ‘Sweet Caroline’ two mornings before), and as I watched him

sitting alone under my window, serenading the first signs of sun,

I couldn’t discern any actual lip-pursing or puckering-up. But he

was most definitely whistling.

I had never encountered a whistling dog before, but then the past

month had been a rollcall of phenomenal firsts; my entrée into life in

Afghanistan in April 2009 had been nothing short of mind-blowing.

Hundreds and thousands of expats had made this journey before me.

Soldiers ordered here to fight the bloody war; aid workers

committed to cleaning up the mess; doctors and diplomats; moneyhungry

entrepreneurs who’d sniffed out the scent of a quick buck

to be made in the battle zone. Amongst them, I felt uniquely out of

place in my mission to Afghanistan; I had come to Kabul to manage

a bar and restaurant—‘The Den’.

I spent my entire three-hour flight from Dubai into Kabul pressed

up against the plane’s window, marvelling at the alien new world

below. I gazed in wonderment as the plane cruised over chocolatebrown

mountains, their tops sugared with snow, and then dipped into

barren valleys where the only hints of habitation were tiny perfect

grids of crude mud fencing. I was an unabashed, window-licking,

mouth-breather, and I was not even particularly disconcerted when

the turbaned fellow in front spent minutes at a time staring back at

me through the gap in the seats. As we skimmed over the NATO base

next to the airport and landed alongside military choppers standing

to attention on the tarmac, I fumbled for my headscarf and recalled

the extraordinarily easy journey that had brought me to this place.

It all began late in 2008 over dinner with my brother Adam, one

of my life-long friends, Paul, and his partner, Jose. Paul had just been

appointed as the head of production for Afghanistan’s largest and

most successful television broadcaster and was back in Australia

trying to assure his family that moving to Afghanistan was a sane

and sensible life choice. My TV career in Australia was kind of at a

standstill. My business partner, Muffy, and I had recently had a comedy

show optioned by an international production house and an Australian

network was showing genuine interest in funding the series in the new

financial year. Muffy also had a documentary in early development

with another company. We were playing the waiting game and I was

in need of a new adventure. Much to Adam’s horror, I farewelled Paul

that night with a commitment that, if ever there was an opportunity

for me to join him in Afghanistan, I wanted in.

March 22, 2014

December’s New Romance Books

December is the perfect month to catch up one of these new romance books, whether you’re taking some time for yourself before the relatives take over your house for Christmas, or you need a new read for your summer holidays. Here are 5 of our favourite romance novels to lose yourself in this month.

 

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Catch of the Day, by Carla Caruso. Published by Penguin Books, RRP $15.99
After a regrettable incident at the office Christmas party, up-and-coming fashion editor, Winnie Cherry, is banished to coastal South Australia to set up a beach lifestyle magazine – 300km from nowhere.

Her friends joke that she’ll marry a rich cray fisherman and stay there for good, but Winnie has other ideas. Determined to get back to Sydney within two months, she gets to work and starts counting down the days. Until she meets handsome freelance photographer Alex Bass, and sparks begin to fly.

As Winnie is increasingly drawn into the close-knit local community, she starts to question whether city life is really what she wants.  That is, until Alex drops a bombshell that casts dark storm clouds over all her coastal dreams…

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Southern Star, by J. C. Grey. Published by Penguin Books, RRP $15.99
Her reputation and career in tatters, Hollywood siren Blaze Gillespie escapes the scandal by fleeing to the Queensland property she still calls home.

Sweet Springs has been deserted for years and Blaze focuses all her energy on restoring the run-down homestead. Faced with hostile locals who have never forgiven her for flitting off to Hollywood, Blaze turns to her neighbour, handsome cattle farmer, Macauley Black, for help.

As Sweet Springs returns to its former glory, Blaze and Mac can’t resist their growing attraction. But when Blaze becomes the target of some serious threats, it looks like trouble has followed her home to Sweet Springs.

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Small Town Storm, by Elise K. Ackers. Published by Penguin Books, RRP $15.99
Nineteen years after a devastating crime almost killed her, Erica Lawrence has returned home. In the small town of Olinda, her story is legend. And now everyone knows she’s back, including top cop and her childhood friend, Jordan Hill, the only person to ever touch her guarded heart.

When a woman’s body is found brutally murdered, suspicion soon falls on Olinda’s newest resident and even Jordan must admit that the evidence is stacking up against the woman he swore to protect.   While Jordan and Erica struggle with their feelings for each other, the murders continue and the tension in town grows. Together, they must find a way to prove Erica’s innocence – before she becomes the killer’s next victim.

Brilliantly capturing the intense range of emotions felt when trust breaks down, Small Town Storm is a startling Australian debut and 2013 Romantic Book of the Year Finalist.

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Sweet Seduction, by Jennifer St George. Published by Penguin Books, RRP $15.99
Together for the first time in one heartwarming volume.

The Convenient Bride: Sienna De Luca will do anything to save her family’s hotel, and ruthless Italian businessman Antonio Moretti knows it. With problems of his own, he proposes a marriage of convenience that will secure his next business deal and save Sienna’s hotel.   In keeping with her part of the bargain, Sienna travels to Venice with Antonio, who introduces her to a life of luxury and opulence. Antonio soon realizes he has vastly underestimated Sienna.  Unexpectedly, she gets too close, and when she discovers his dark secret, Antonio’s perfectly planned life begins to unravel…

Seducing the Secret Heiress: Diamond heiress, Charlotte Wentworth, is passionate about two things – cooking and her  fiancée, Paul. Until the day she finds out Paul has been unfaithful.    Charlotte flees to Europe, determined to build her own life without her family’s fortune. When she meets gorgeous TV producer, Gabe Grenville, she keeps her connections secret and soon finds herself the star of his new cooking show. But how will he react when he discovers Charlotte’s true identity?

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Summer at the Lake, by Erica James. Published by Hachette Australia, RRP $29.99
It was a wedding invitation that changed everything for Floriana…  If she hadn’t been so distracted at the thought of having to witness the one true love of her life get married, she would have seen the car coming.   If she’d seen the car coming, there would have been no need for elderly spinster Esme Silcox and local property developer Adam Strong to rush to her aid.   And if Floriana hadn’t met Adam and Esme she would never have had the courage to agree to attend Seb’s wedding in beautiful Lake Como.

For Esme, Lake Como awakens memories of when she stayed at the lake as a nineteen-year-old girl and fell in love for the first time. So often she’s wondered what happened to the man who stole her heart all those years ago, a man who changed the course of her life.

Now it’s time for both Esme and Floriana to face the past – and the future – on the shores of this most romantic and enchanting of lakes.

What are your favourite romance books?

December 10, 2013

Jackie Collins Confessions of a Wild Child Book Review

Lucky Santangelo – a name many Jackie Collins fans would know and love. Being the daughter of infamous former gangster Gino Santangelo, Lucky is the fierce heroine of several of Collins’ best-selling novels.

In Confessions of a Wild Child, we are transported back to the wild teenage years of Lucky and learn how she first set out on her rebellious path to success. Lucky is fifteen; smart, sassy and strong-minded, striving to one day follow in her fathers’ footsteps and rule an empire. Her father however has other plans, wanting nothing more than for Lucky to become a lady, get married and settle down. In this prequel and ninth novel in the Lucky Series, we get a glimpse into how Lucky challenged her father and forged her way to independence.

After tragically witnessing her mothers’ death at the age of five, Lucky and her brother Dario spend all of their time at their secluded Bel Air estate. That is until Lucky is sent away to a strict all-girls boarding school. It is here Lucky meets Olympia Stanislopolous and the two become an unstoppable pair, taking you on a crazy ride of fun, friendship and wild nights.

Lucky reveals in her newfound freedom, breaks all the rules and learns the power she holds over boys, love and ultimately, in taking charge of her own life. From sneaking out of boarding school in Switzerland, running away to the South of France and partying it up in Vegas, we share in Luckys’ wild child confessions.

This latest Collins page-turner gives you a deeper insight into Lucky’s character, delving into her innermost thoughts and secrets – including her attraction to an older man, Marco, who works for her father.

Lucky is wild, ambitious, and definitely trouble; far from any ideal sweet and innocent teenager! In Confessions of a Wild Child Jackie Collins does not disappoint – loyal Lucky fans and new readers alike will not be able to put this one down!

Confessions of a Wild Child, by Jackie Collins. Published by Simon & Schuster RRP $29.99

 What are you reading right now?

October 28, 2013

Latest Book Reviews: October’s Best New Books

Spread your wings, open your mind and read something new this Spring!

October is bursting with new release books to entertain you, from Danielle Steel’s latest bestseller to a hilarious novel about the rich and scheming we couldn’t put down…

 

 

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Walking on Trampolines, by Frances Whiting. Published By Macmillan Australia, RRP $29.99
Tallulah de Longland,’ she said slowly, letting all the Ls in my name loll about lazily in her mouth before passing judgement. ‘That,’ she announced, ‘is a serious glamorgeous name.’ From the day Annabelle Andrews sashays into her classroom, Tallulah ‘Lulu’ de Longland is bewitched: by Annabelle, by her family, and their sprawling, crumbling house tumbling down to the river. Their unlikely friendship intensifies through a secret language where they share confidences about their unusual mothers, first loves, and growing up in the small coastal town of Juniper Bay.

Their lives become as entwined as Annabelle’s initials engraved beneath the de Longland kitchen table. But the euphoria of youth rarely lasts, and the implosion that destroys their friendship leaves lasting scars and a legacy of self-doubt that haunts Lulu into adulthood. Years later, Lulu is presented with a choice: remain the perpetual good girl who misses out, or finally step out from the shadows and do something extraordinary.

And possibly unforgivable. It’s not how far you fall, but how high you jump.

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Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Wang. Published By Allen and Unwin, RRP $24.99
Thwarted love, scheming snobs, obscene wealth and haute couture – it’s all here in a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich. An absolutely wicked treat!

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendour beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should – and should not – marry.

Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian jetset; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

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Friendship Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, by Lisa Verge Higgins. Published By Allen and Unwin, RRP $27.99
Lenny left his wife, Monique, a bucket list of things they’d dreamed of doing together before cancer took his life. For four years, she ignored it, too busy raising their daughter to consider the painful task of resurrecting shattered dreams.

But when her next-door neighbour, Judy, starts a slow slide into a personal crisis, and another friend, Becky, receives shocking news about her future, Monique realises that Lenny’s legacy could be a gift to three women in desperate need of a new perspective.

Whisking her friends away on adventures from London to Paris, from Monaco to Milan, she is determined to follow the bucket list to the letter-until one eventful evening knocks the three friends off the beaten path. Caught up in adventures of their own making, they begin to understand: Sometimes getting lost is the only way to find what you’re really looking for.

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Winners, by Danielle Steel. Published By Bantam Press, RRP $32.95
Lily Thomas is as determined as they come. A professional skier who won the bronze medal at the age of fourteen, she’s now seventeen and poised to take the gold at the upcoming Olympic Games. Everything is on track for a successful competition and a celebrated future, until the unforeseeable occurs and her life is changed forever in a horrific accident.

Lily’s wealthy father, Bill, is utterly beside himself in the wake of his daughter’s devastating news. Lily means the world to him, especially since he raised her singlehandedly after her mother’s death. So when he feels the need to pin the blame on someone, it seems only natural that his anger be directed at Jessica Matthews, Lily’s orthopedic surgeon who, though she managed to save his daughter’s life, simply couldn’t prevent the ghastly reality that she would forever be confined to a wheelchair.

In the midst of all this, Jessica receives her own set of dreadful news on the night of Lily’s surgery – her husband was killed in a horrific car accident on his way to take one of their four children bowling; an event she would have accompanied him on had she not been called away for the emergency.   With their worlds collapsing around them, the recovery process is a slow one for these three very different people. But just when it seems things couldn’t get worse, hope, love and redemption reign supreme as they work to turn their personal tragedies into triumphs and spread joy to others.

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The Next Time You See Me, by Holly Goddard Jones. Published by Corvus, RRP $29.99
In The Next Time You See Me, the disappearance of one woman, the hard-drinking and unpredictable Ronnie Eastman, reveals the ambitions, prejudices, and anxieties of a small southern town and its residents. There’s Ronnie’s sister Susanna, a dutiful but dissatisfied schoolteacher, mother, and wife; Tony, a failed baseball star-turned-detective; Emily, a socially awkward thirteen-year-old with a dark secret; and Wyatt, a factory worker tormented by a past he can’t change and by a love he doesn’t think he deserves. Connected in ways they cannot begin to imagine, their stories converge in a violent climax that reveals not just the mystery of what happened to Ronnie but all of their secret selves.

The Next Time You See Me is the “immensely satisfying and skilful debut novel” (Kate Atkinson) by award-winning author Holly Goddard Jones.

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Gone Fishing, by Susan Duncan. Published By Random House, RRP $32.95
Gone Fishing is the sequel to the bestselling The Briny Café, is a heart-warming, inspirational novel about taking a stand against all the odds.   For bargeman Sam Scully, life in Cook’s Basin is nothing short of paradise. A wonderland of golden sand and turquoise waters, battered old tinnies and wonky pontoons, it’s a realm unspoilt by the modern world.

But then a notice goes up in the Square that screams ‘EXCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT!’  Paradise is about to be ripped apart.  With plans underway to build a flash resort in the heart of their community, the residents leap into action – with Sam as their leader, and a twelve-foot papier-mache cockatoo as their mascot . . . But it’s never going to be easy to turn the tide of ‘progress’.   Meanwhile there’s trouble brewing at the Briny Café.   Kate Jackson is struggling to come to terms with the dreadful secret spilled on her mother’s deathbed.   And as for Kate’s co-owner, Ettie Brookbank… Well, what is happening to Ettie?

What books are you reading right now? 

October 8, 2013

Latest Book Reviews: September’s Best New Books

From a hilariously witty new novel about school mums, to a can’t-put-down mystery that will appeal to all book lovers, September’s new release books are five of the best must-read books for spring.

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Kiss me First, by Lottie Moggach. Published by Picador, RRP $29.99

Leila has never met Tess, but she now knows more about Tess than anyone in the world. She’s read all of her emails, researched her past and asked Tess for every detail about her friends and family.

Tess has never met Leila. But if she wants to slip away from the world unnoticed, she needs to trust Leila with her life.

At first, Leila finds it easy to assume Tess’s identity, and no one has any reason to distrust her. But as Leila is soon to discover, there is much more to a person than the facts and there are things about life you can learn only by living it . . .

Original, haunting and utterly gripping, Kiss Me First is an electrifying debut from a phenomenally gifted storyteller.

Picador won the rights for Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach in a hotly-contested eleven-publisher auction.

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Mr Wigg, by Inga Simpson. Published by Hachette Australia, RRP $26.99

A novel that celebrates the small things in life by a fresh Australian voice.

It s the summer of 1971, not far from the stone-fruit capital of New South Wales, where Mr Wigg lives on what is left of his family farm. Mrs Wigg has been gone a few years now and he thinks about her every day. He misses his daughter, too, and wonders when he ll see her again.  He spends his time working in the orchard, cooking and preserving his produce and, when it s on, watching the cricket. It s a full life. Things are changing though, with Australia and England playing a one-day match, and his new neighbours planting grapes for wine. His son is on at him to move into town but Mr Wigg has his fruit trees and his chooks to look after. His grandchildren visit often: to cook, eat and hear his stories. And there s a special project he has to finish …

It’s a lot of work for an old man with shaking hands, but he’ll give it a go, as he always has.

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The Hive, by Gill Hornsby. Published by Hachette Australia, RRP $29.99

Welcome to St Ambrose Primary School. A world of friendships, fights and feuding. And that’s just the mothers. . .

It’s the start of another school year at St Ambrose. But while the children are in the classroom colouring in, their mothers are learning sharper lessons on the other side of the school gates. Lessons in friendship. Lessons in betrayal. Lessons in the laws of community, the transience of power. . . and how to get invited to lunch.

Beatrice – undisputed queen bee. Ruler, by Divine Right, of all school fund-raising, this year, last year and, surely, for many years to come.

Heather – desperate to volunteer, desperate to be noticed, desperate just to belong.

Georgie – desperate for a fag.

And Rachel – watching them all, keeping her distance. But soon to discover that the line between amused observer and miserable outcast is a thin one.

The Hive is an irresistible, brilliantly observed novel – warm, witty and true. Wickedly funny, it is also a fascinating and subtle story about group politics and female friendship. From the joys and perils (well, mainly perils) of the Lunch Ladder, to the military operation that is the Car Boot Sale, via the dos and don’ts of dressing your child as a dalek, all human life is here.

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The Bookman’s Tale, by Charlie Lovett. Published by Text Publishing, RRP $29.99

A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search—through time and the works of Shakespeare—for his lost love.

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalising mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolour is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

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The Son-in-Law, by Charity Norman. Published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99

A heart-catching, riveting and extremely engaging family drama for readers who love Joanna Trollope and Jodi Picoult.

For three years Joseph Scott has been haunted by one moment-the moment that changed his life forever. Now he is starting over, and he wants his family back more than anything.

This is the story of Joseph and his wife, Zoe; of their children, Scarlet, Theo and Ben, for whom nothing will be the same; and of Zoe’s parents, who can’t forgive or understand.

A compelling, moving and ultimately optimistic story of one man who will do almost anything to be reunited with his children. And of the grandparents who are determined to stop him.

What are you reading right now? Tell us in the comments!

September 18, 2013

Father’s Day Book Gift Guide

Australia’s largest bookseller Dymocks has Father’s Day gift shopping sorted with their annual Father’s Day book recommendations, covering the best new biography, crime, sport, cooking, history and fiction titles.

Some of Dymocks’ Father’s Day choices include Ugly by Robert Hoge – a remarkable biography of the life journey of Robert Hoge; Never Back Down by Lee Child – the highly anticipated second instalment to the Jack Reacher series; and Accept the Challenge by Leigh Matthews – the life and lessons from the world of Australian Rules Football.

For foodie fathers, Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals is a great choice, whilst history fanatics will love In Great Spirits, the World War I diary of Archie Barwick. For dads looking for escapism, the fictitious world of British government scandal and criminal underworld workings in The English Girl by Daniel Silva, is sure to keep them on the edge of their seats.

Father’s Day book picks for dad:

COOKING

1.      Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver, RRP $49.99
2.      Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals by Jamie Oliver, RRP $49.95
3.      Bill’s Italian Food by Bill Granger, RRP $49.99
4.      The Blue Duck by Darren Robertson and Mark La Brooy, RRP $39.99
5.      Fired Up Vegetarian by Ross Dobson, RRP $34.99

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BIOGRAPHY

1.      Ugly by Robert Hoge, RRP $32.99
2.      A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, RRP $29.99
3.      Clive by Sean Parnell, RRP $39.99
4.      Ian Frazer by Madonna King, RRP $29.95
5.      Stillways by Steve Bisley, RRP $27.99

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CRIME

1.      Never Go Back by Lee Child, RRP $32.95
2.      Watching You by Michael Robotham, RRP $29.99
3.      The Kill List by Frederick Forsyth, RRP 32.95
4.      Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson, RRP $32.99
5.      Mistress by James Patterson, RRP $32.95

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FICTION

1.      The English Girl by Daniel Silva, RRP $29.99
2.      Mayan Secrets by Clive Cussler & Tom Perry, RRP $29.99
3.      Cairo by Chris Womersley, RRP $29.95
4.      The Rule of Knowledge by Scott Baker, RRP $29.99
5.      The Heist by Robert Schofield, RRP $29.99

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HISTORY

1.      In Great Spirits by Archie Barwick, RRP $39.99
2.      Too Bold To Die by Ian McPhedran, RRP $29.99
3.      Tell My Sons by Mark Weber, RRP $32.95
4.      Killing Fairfax by Pamela Williams, RRP $39.99
5.      Eyre: The Forgotten Explorer by Ivan Rudolph, RRP $39.99

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SPORT

1.      Accept the Challenge by Matthew Leigh, RRP $45.00
2.      Home Truths by Craig Bellamy, RRP $39.99
3.      More Important Than Life or Death by Peter FitzSimons, RRP $29.99
4.      Hold The Line by Matthew Scarlet, RRP $34.99
5.      Amen by Will Swanton, RRP $27.99

What are you getting dad for Father’s Day?

August 16, 2013

Latest Book Releases: 6 Winter Murder Mysteries

Need something to read by the heater curled up against the winter rain and wind? We have six new books including Stephen King’s latest to keep you enthralled all winter.

Six thrilling tales of love, loss, murder and betrayal to keep you turning those pages all night long…

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The Kill Room (The Lincoln Rhyme Series) by Jeffery Deaver. Published By Hachette Australia,  RRP $32.99

In what marks Number One bestselling author Jeffery Deaver’s thirtieth suspense novel, brilliant criminalist and quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme returns in his tenth electrifying adventure.

Robert Moreno, an American citizen living in South America, is shot in the Bahamas by a sniper. The killing was commissioned by the U.S. government, who received a tip-off that Moreno was planning a terrorist attack on a U.S. oil company headquarters. But this intelligence was fatally incorrect: anti-American Moreno ordered a protest at the oil company, not an attack.

Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are drafted in to investigate. While Sachs traces Moreno’s steps in New York, Rhyme travels to the scene of the crime in Nassau, where he finds himself on a dangerous path trailed by the sniper himself. As details of the case start to emerge, the pair discover that not all is what it seemed. Can they achieve justice and escape with their lives intact?

    book2Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews. Published By Simon and Schuster, RRP $24.99

In the grand spy-tale tradition of John le Carré…comes this shocking thriller written with insider detail known only to a veteran CIA officer.

In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency’s most important Russian mole.

Spies have long relied on the “honey trap,” whereby vulnerable men and women are intimately compromised. Dominika learns these techniques of “sexpionage” in Russia’s secret “Sparrow School,” hidden outside of Moscow. As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, tradecraft, and—inevitably—forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate’s game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC.

Page by page, veteran CIA officer Jason Matthews’s Red Sparrow delights and terrifies and fascinates, all while delivering an unforgettable cast, from a sadistic Spetsnaz “mechanic” who carries out Putin’s murderous schemes to the weary CIA Station Chief who resists Washington “cake-eaters” to MARBLE, the priceless Russian mole. Packed with insider detail and written with brio, this tour-de-force novel brims with Matthews’s life experience, including his knowledge of espionage, counterintelligence, surveillance tradecraft, spy recruitment, cyber-warfare, the Russian use of “spy dust,” and covert communications. Brilliantly composed and elegantly constructed, Red Sparrow is a masterful spy tale lifted from the dossiers of intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Authentic, tense, and entertaining, this novel introduces Jason Matthews as a major new American talent.

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A Bitter Taste by Annie Hauxwell. Published By Penguin Australia, RRP $29.99

Treachery becomes a habit.   London is in the grip of a stifling heatwave. The city has slowed to a claustrophobic shuffle. Heroin-addicted investigator Catherine Berlin suffers while working the lowest of investigations: matrimonial.

The city’s junkies are in the grip of a drought of a different kind. Sonja Kvist a strung-out ghost from Berlin’s past, turns up on her doorstep. Sonja daughter is missing. An unpaid debt leaves Berlin no choice but to take the case of the missing ten-year-old.

Berlin is back. And soon the hunter becomes the hunted: corrupt detectives are on Berlin’s tail chasing drugs she doesn’t have, a young girl is murdered and the matrimonial case unravels.

And the temperature keeps rising.  A Bitter Taste is addictive, fast-paced crime fiction spiked with grit and grunge.

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Under the Dome by Stephen King. Published by Hachette Australia, RRP $19.99

One of the masterly Stephen King’s most riveting novels – every chapter ends on a cliffhanger – a Maine town and its inhabitants are isolated from the world by an invisible, impenetrable dome.

Celebrated storyteller Stephen King returns to his roots in this tour de force featuring more than 100 characters – some heroic, some diabolical – and a supernatural element as baffling and chilling as any he s ever conjured.

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener s hand is severed as the dome comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. Dale Barbara, Iraq vet, teams up with a few intrepid citizens against the town s corrupt politician. But time, under the dome, is running out….

Under the Dome is King at his epic best and will capture a brand new readership as well as thrilling his existing fans.

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Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. Published by Allen and Unwin, RRP $24.99

A stunning psychological thriller about a respected female scientist and the single reckless decision that leads to her standing trial for murder.

‘Safety and security are commodities you can sell in return for excitement, but you can never buy them back.’

Yvonne Carmichael is a geneticist, a scientist renowned in her field but one day, she makes the most irrational of decisions. While she is giving evidence to a Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament, she meets a man and has sex with him in the secluded Chapel in the Crypt beneath the Great Hall of Westminster. It’s the beginning of a reckless liaison, but there is more to her lover than is at first apparent – as Yvonne discovers when the affair spins out of control and leads inexorably to violence.

Apple Tree Yard is about a woman who makes one rash choice that ends up putting her on trial at the Old Bailey for the most serious of crimes. Like the highly acclaimed Whatever You Love, it is part literary investigation of personal morality, part psychological thriller. Both a courtroom drama and an exploration of the values we live by, it is the gripping seventh novel from an author who has been acclaimed as a ‘courageous writer, willing to explore deeper territory with each book’ (Independent) and ‘terrifically compelling’ (Daily Mail).

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Hunting Eve by Iris Johansen. Published by Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $29.99

The stakes are raised even higher in Hunting Eve as Eve battles the man who is holding her prisoner. Secrets about why Eve has been targeted come into the light, bringing Eve even closer to danger. With its cliffhanger ending, Hunting Eve sets up perfectly for the finale, Silencing Eve which we will be publishing in November 2013.

Iris Johansen is a no.1 New York Times bestselling author. She began writing after her children left home for college. She first achieved success in the early 1980s writing category romances. In 1991, Johansen began writing suspense historical romance novels, starting with the publication of The Wind Dancer. In 1996 Johansen switched genres, turning to crime fiction, with which she has had great success. Johansen lives near Atlanta, Georgia and is married. Her son, Roy Johansen, is an Edgar Award-winning screenwriter and novelist. Her daughter, Tamara, serves as her research assistant.

What new books are you reading right now?

August 8, 2013

Latest Books: Warrior Princess

Warrior Princess, by Mindy Budgor. Published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99

This is the story of a young woman – passionate, fearless and dangerously curious (with a set of ferocious Jewish parents breathing fire down her neck) – who turned her back on the safety of her suburban life to face probable death in an effort to become the world’s first female Maasai warrior.

Warrior Princess is the hilarious and inspirational memoir of Mindy Budgor, a young entrepreneur tired of corporate life, who decides to make changes in her life. While waiting for her Business School applications to go through, she decides to volunteer – first in India with Muhammad Yunus (Banker to the Poor), and then in Africa building schools and hospitals in the Maasai Mara. While living and working with the Maasai, Mindy talks to the chief and asks him why there are no women Maasai warriors. The chief responds simply and derisively – because women are not strong enough, or brave enough to be warriors. Mindy immediately realises her calling – she gets the chief to agree to train her (and her fellow volunteer) to become Maasai warriors when they return to Africa, and thus begins Mindy’s amazing adventure.

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Mindy is now one of the first female Maasai warriors and an official member of the tribe. As a result of their training and advocacy, law in Africa will be changed in 2016 to allow women the right to become Maasai warriors, and Mindy as a tribe member is ready to return to stand with her fellow-warriors against whatever opposition they might face – be it lions, or elephants, or Western-influence.

In her junior year at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Mindy started her first business, CollegeButler, a concierge service for undergrads. She sold the company several years later and worked at a small sports marketing agency. She also managed early-stage investments for the agency’s CEO. In 2009, after leaving her marketing job, Mindy’s career was at a standstill. Unsure what she wanted to do next, she simultaneously applied to business school and bought a multi-stop plane ticket to Bangladesh and Kenya to explore her interests in social enterprises in developing countries. After completing a two-month microfinance internship in Dhaka, Mindy traveled to Kenya. While volunteering to build a clinic in the Maasai Mara, she met several members of the Maasai, a semi-nomadic tribe, which led to the journey detailed in Warrior Princess. She currently attends the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and is a 2012 MBA candidate.

What’s your favourite new book?

July 28, 2013