tbyl book club

Colour and Dance: The Pagoda Tree

This month’s TBYL Book Club book has been the stunningly crafted The Pagoda Tree by Claire Scobie (Penguin). I’m very much looking forward to chatting with Claire this evening (join in here) but in the meantime I thought I’d share with you my review of this beautiful novel…

pagodaThere are a many adjectives that I could use to describe Claire’s novel – it is rich, complex, exotic and erotic, bloody and beautiful. Each individual word can be used to describe a particular scene in The Pagoda Tree, but it is only when these elements combine that you experience the true intensity of this story. Its rich colours and aromas leap from the page, the horrors visited upon the characters that you grow to love tear you apart, and of course, the complexity of relationships, traditions and cultures draw you completely into Maya’s story…

Maya dances like no other. She becomes the dance . . . Her dance can steal a man’s soul.

Tanjore, 1765. Maya plays among the towering granite temples of this ancient city in the heart of southern India. Like her mother before her, she is destined to become adevadasi, a dancer for the temple. She is instructed in dance, the mystical arts and lovemaking. It is expected she will be chosen as a courtesan for the prince himself.
 
But as Maya comes of age, India is on the cusp of change and British dominance has risen to new heights. The prince is losing his power and the city is sliding into war. Maya is forced to flee her ancestral home, and heads to the bustling port city of Madras, where East and West collide. 
 
Maya captivates all who watch her dance. Thomas Pearce, an ambitious young Englishman who has travelled to India to make his fortune, is entranced from the moment he first sees her. But their love is forbidden, and comes at enormous cost.

Maya as protagonist is a beauty, destined from birth for great things. But, as is foretold, her path is unclear and all throughout this novel neither she nor the reader is entirely sure where the future will lead her. She is lead, with little say in her own life, to what would seem a chosen position in favour with the Prince. She is honoured but unsure, and is left shaken when the path that had been laid out for her is destroyed by politics and conflicts well outside of her control.

The women in Maya’s life are complex, her mother Lakshmi loves her but is committed unerringly to her role in the temple, and in turn to the role which Maya must play – she bears the signs of the goddess . She is caring but harsh. Interestingly, this harshness makes Maya love her no less, as if she is aware in some way of the protection that her mother is to her…

She began to wash her daughter. She ground dried turmeric root and mixed it into a paste with gram flour, sandalwood, milk and honey. She smeared the mixture over Maya’s back and neck, rubbing it hard under the ears and down across her narrow frame, her roughed hands scratching her most tender parts. By the end Maya glowed deep yellow.

Palani, mentor to Maya and once courtesan to the King is enlivened by Maya’s presence, draws great satisfaction from her ability to teach her apprentice the art of dance (and service) and shares a deep connection with the young girl. That does not stop her from lashing out with great vitriol at times, as Maya represents in no uncertain terms the fact that Palani must relinquish her position to this younger, more virile royal companion. Still, as Palani struggles to accept her own progression from court to cave, she seems to take comfort in the transference of her skills and duties to Maya.

For me, these complicated female relationships are by far the most compelling element of this story.

Further to this though, The Pagoda Tree bears undeniable evidence of meticulous research. No detail has been left unconsidered, from the colour, the sound, the smell of the landscape and homes, courts and people. The emotions, conversations and reactions of the characters appear incredibly authentic, as does the history woven throughout this tale. It was honestly transporting, ensuring that I closed the book wanting to find out more about this time and place.

I hope you’ll read this novel, it is an incredible experience. Likewise, I hope you’ll join us on Facebook this evening (Monday, 28 Oct 7:30pm EST) for a chat with the author, Claire Scobie.

If you’d like to find out more about Claire Scobie’s The Pagoda Tree, visit the Penguin website here…

October TBYL Book Club and a Chat with Claire

Oh my god, it’s ten days into October!! How did that happen?

Were you wondering what book we’re reading for this month’s TBYL Book Club? Well if you were, it’s a beautiful book that I’m sure you’ll love! This month we’re going to be reading Claire Scobie’s The Pagoda Tree (Penguin)…

pagodaMaya dances like no other. She becomes the dance . . . Her dance can steal a man’s soul.

Tanjore, 1765. Maya plays among the towering granite temples of this ancient city in the heart of southern India. Like her mother before her, she is destined to become adevadasi, a dancer for the temple. She is instructed in dance, the mystical arts and lovemaking. It is expected she will be chosen as a courtesan for the prince himself.
 
But as Maya comes of age, India is on the cusp of change and British dominance has risen to new heights. The prince is losing his power and the city is sliding into war. Maya is forced to flee her ancestral home, and heads to the bustling port city of Madras, where East and West collide. 
 
Maya captivates all who watch her dance. Thomas Pearce, an ambitious young Englishman who has travelled to India to make his fortune, is entranced from the moment he first sees her. But their love is forbidden, and comes at enormous cost.

Weaving together the uneasy meeting of two cultures, The Pagoda Tree is a captivating story of love, loss and fate.

If you’d like to join in, the discussion will be happening on our Facebook page, starting Monday 28 October through to 30 October. Plus I’m really excited about the fact that we’ll be chatting with Claire too!

Our next TBYL Event is a live Facebook chat with Claire herself. I can’t wait, it’s happening on Monday 28 October, 7:30pm (EST) and you can RSVP here…

I hope you’ll join us!

Pick up a copy of Claire’s book here, and click here to get a reminder when we start chatting about this wonderful novel.

September TBYL Book Club

It’s that time again when I pick a book that I think we’ll all enjoy talking about…

This month’s book will have you guessing from cover to cover. What is real? Who is Frida? Where did that tiger come from?

the night guestI’d like to invite you to read Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest (Penguin) during September, ready for us to chat about on Facebook starting Monday, 30 September 2013.

One morning Ruth wakes thinking a tiger has been in her seaside house. Later that day a formidable woman called Frida arrives, looking as if she’s blown in from the sea. In fact she’s come to care for Ruth. Frida and the tiger: both are here to stay, and neither is what they seem.

Which of them can Ruth trust? And as memories of her childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency, can she even trust herself?

If you’d like to know more about the book, I’ll be posting my review of The Night Guest on Monday next week, along with an author interview with Fiona.

To join in make sure you like us on Facebook. To find out more about the TBYL Book Club visit here.

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Out Now! TBYL News: All Things Bookish August 2013

This month’s edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… is now out, complete with give-aways, new reviews and upcoming events at That Book You Like…

honey brown and cover 2This month we’re enjoying conversations with two talented Australian authors – Kate Forsyth and Honey Brown. It’s a fantastic chance to get to know these authors a little better, and to find out more about how they write, about their titles and a little of what’s next for them! Online author chats are a new addition to TBYL and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.

Also, there’s lots of new reviews to be read on the TBYL Blog, a chance to win a copy of the intriguing novel Torn, by Karen Turner, and also great new items in the TBYL Store.

Happy reading, enjoy our August edition!

Click here to read TBYL News: All Things Bookish… August 2013

If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can click here.

This’ll mean that you get our monthly news by email, on the first Monday of the month. Perfect!

 

August TBYL Book Club

Today we begin our conversation for the July TBYL Book Club, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl (Random House). Personally, I’m loving it, so much so that I dreamt about it last night!

If you’d like to join in, the discussion is happening now on our Facebook page.

Also, don’t forget that our next TBYL Event is a live Facebook chat with Kate herself. I can’t wait, it’s happening on Monday 5 August, 7:30pm (EST) and you can RSVP here…

And that brings me to our book for August. I’ve been wondering what we should read for the August TBYL Book Club, and I’ve decided on something quick, suspenseful and a little bit scary!

dark horseFor August, I’m inviting you to read with us, Honey Brown’s Dark Horse (Penguin)

“It’s Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.



Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman’s Hut.

 She settles in to wait out Christmas.



A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn’t ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What’s driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.



But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger’s dangerous game of intimacy”

I read this book last month and absolutely love it, it had me delightfully on edge the entire time I read it (in two sittings, I might add) and I’d love for you to share it with me.

Now, I can’t say too much more about the mystery that unfolds as Sarah and Heath wait for rescue, I’d hate to spoil the ending for you. It twists and turns with nightmarish frequency and will probably have you worried for Sarah, falling for Heath and waiting for the sky to clear so both rescue and resolution can come.

What I will say is that I’d most definitely recommend Dark Horse as a great winter read, the sound of the rain on the roof will only add to the atmosphere of the novel. Don’t be scared, it’s a fascinating read. You can read my full review here if you’d like to find out more.

I hope you’ll join us on Facebook to discuss Dark Horse. We’ll start the conversation on Monday, 26 August 2013 and carry it through to the Wednesday. If you’d like a reminder, you can RSVP to the TBYL Book Club here…

I can’t wait to hear what you think of this thriller! Happy reading!

Buy from TBYL

 

TBYL Events: Meet Kate Forsyth

Don’t you love it when the stars align?

During July, the TBYL Book Club has been reading Kate Forsyth’s latest novel The Wild Girl (Random House), a fantastical new take on the brothers Grimm. I’m really looking forward to chatting about the book on the TBYL Facebook page next Monday, 29 July.

kate forsythEven more exciting though, is that since we decided to read The Wild Girl, I’ve been in touch with the lovely Kate and we’ve been able to arrange an online chat on the evening of Monday, 5 August 2013!

That means that the next TBYL Event will be a free, interactive, online chat with Kate Forsyth!

Kate will be chatting on the TBYL Facebook page on the evening of Monday, 5 August 2013 and you can join us at 7:30pm to ask Kate questions, and get involved in in the conversation.

Kate Forsyth is the internationally bestselling author of more than twenty books, including The Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon’s Ride series for adults, and The Puzzle Ring, The Gypsy Crown, and The Starthorn Tree for children. She has won or been nominated for numerous awards. Her books have been published in 13 different countries, including Japan, Poland, Spain and Turkey, and Kate is currently undertaking a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology and recently published Bitter Greens a retelling of the Rapunzel story.

It’s going to be a great opportunity to find out a little more about Kate, and about her beautiful brand of fantasy!

If you’d like to make sure that you don’t forget to tune in, you can RSVP to the event here…

I hope you’ll join us!

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

Out Now! TBYL News: All Things Bookish July 2013

This month’s edition of TBYL News: All Things Bookish… is now out, complete with give-aways, new reviews and highlights from the last month at That Book You Like…

heart like mineTBYL News is a great way to catch up on recent reviews, upcoming news and words from my lovely special guests. This month you’ll find a chances to win a great book from Allen and Unwin, and find out more about this month’s TBYL Book Club Book.

Click here to read TBYL News: All Things Bookish… July 2013

If you’d like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can click here.

This’ll mean that you get our monthly news by email, on the first Monday of the month. Perfect!

Join us:   Facebook  and  Twitter
Find out more about the TBYL Book Club here

July TBYL Book Club

This month, I’ve had fun encouraging you all to read a little differently and enjoy a couple of action/adventure titles, and Intrepid Month, featuring Defender and Hunter has been fantastic.

We were lucky to hear from author Chris Allen on Monday night, and I’m sure you’ll agree that his insights into writing, publishing and reading were both entertaining and informative. I’ll be posting a summary of the online event ‘Meet Chris Allen’ in the days to come.

If you’d like to find out more about Chris Allen and his books, visit his website here.

the wild girlTonight, as we wrap up the June club, I’m pleased to announce the July TBYL Book Club book. It’s an intriguing title, suggested by a TBYL reader and one that I’ve not read myself. I’m excited to experience it with you.

This month, we’ll be reading Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl (Random House)…

Growing up in the German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in the early nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy-tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm.

It is a time of war, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save the old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.

Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Frog King’ and ‘Six Swans’. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream. 

Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales…

Will you join us? If you’ve read The Wild Girl (or other Kate Forsyth novels), what should we expect?

If you’d like to join in the conversation, it’ll happen at our Facebook page on Monday, 29 July until Wednesday, 31 July 2013. If you’d like to check out a sample of Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl you can do so here…

Buy from TBYL

I can’t wait to read this novel, and I hope you’ll get involved in the July TBYL Book Club!

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

Intrepid Month and the Ten Elements of a Cracking Thriller

As you know, I’m incredibly excited about Intrepid Month being held at TBYL during June. It’s a great chance for us to enjoy some real action-packed reading, from the exciting Chris Allen and his Intrepid series. You can find out more here… but essentially, you’re invited to read either one or both of Chris’ novels Defender, or Hunter and discuss them with us on Facebook, in the last week of June.

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There will also be a chance to chat with Chris on Monday, 24 June 2013, again on Facebook. You’ll find details of the event here… it’s free, online, and promises to be great fun!

As part of Intrepid month, I thought it might be interesting to find out what the man himself thinks goes into the making of a great action/adventure novel, and so today, from the desk of Chris Allen I bring you the Ten Elements of a Cracking Thriller…

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I’ve got to tell you how particularly chuffed I am that it’s Intrepid Month right now at That Book You Like.

The act of writing stories can be less than glamorous – it’s more endless cups of tea and crumbs piling up on the keyboard in a darkened room (aka my writing mancave) than back-to-back launches and book signings with pen poised and a glass of red by my side. So, an entire month that celebrates the fruits of my humble artistic toils through a group Book Club read and Facebook chat is very welcome indeed!

Those days when I am holed up in the mancave, churning out chapters of the latest Alex Morgan espionage adventure as fast as my clumsy two-finger typing skills can manage, I’m not consciously thinking about what makes a cracking thriller. It’s creating my own mix of preferred reading and viewing tastes, past experiences, a reasonable dash of instinct, and an intense need to extract the story from my head and get it onto the page. Then, of course everything is honed during the editing process with my publisher.

Once the books are put out into the world, there does seem – on reflection – to be some shared elements I recognise between my work and those of the other thriller writers I have grown up enjoying.

So, here’s ten elements of a cracking thriller that are important to me when crafting or getting into a new action & adventure yarn. I wonder if you enjoy these or different tactics when you’re getting into a story?

1. A plot that keeps you guessing
The plot has to keep you going at a micro and macro level. I like to write and read stories that keep the narrative moving ahead quickly. Before you know it, you’re well and truly committed to the story because the author has you hooked from the outset.

chris allen new2. Action that compels you to keep reading
You’ve got to need to keep the pages turning. When I hear that someone has missed their train stop or their bus because too busy reading what Alex Morgan is up to, then my job is done. I love to read books that can achieve that for me, too! The idea is to keep the forward movement of the action as relentless as possible. The reader should be almost out of breath at the end of a major action sequence.

3. Characters that you care about
This is something that I am exploring as I immerse myself into the Alex Morgan series. I’d like to let my readers know more about Morgan and other principle characters. There are many writers who are great at this in the action/adventure arena – including my favourites – Fleming, Conan Doyle, Maclean, Higgins, Cussler. Of course, including a little beguiling love interest in each story doesn’t harm the reading experience either.

4. Enough realism to make you wonder, enough escapism to help you forget  
I like stories that make you think, ‘maybe this has really happened’.  For instance, when I created the fictional agency Intrepid, I wanted to give it a sense of real world gravitas but setting it within Interpol, while adding the connection to other major international agencies such as the UN Security Council. In truth the two are not connected but it’s not a stretch to believe that they are, and it also adds a sense of scale to the grand narrative I’m constructing across the series.

5. Enjoyable the second time around
The proof is in the pudding when it comes to great books. You know, the ones that are your favourites because you keep going back to re-read them time and again? I have my favourite stories that I return to and in years to come, I hope to provide that experience for my own readers. Ideally, the aim is to have people enjoy it enough to put a copy on their bookshelf – which is an achievement in an age of eReaders.

6. Classic but contemporary
In my view, the more that an action writer can make something that’s been made a thousand times over seem new and fresh, then the closer you are to achieving that balance between classic and contemporary. Provide the reader with a familiar setting but give them completely new characters and stories to enjoy.

7. Not so much about mass carnage
One thing I’m learning – and it’s a significant lesson – is that readers need more from their characters than their plots. Movies can easily deal with carnage and death on a mass scale, but finding innovative ways for both protagonist and antagonist to outwit each other on the page – in the classic good vs evil struggle – is a complex process. Readers need to be stimulated to be engaged, otherwise they’ll just skipping over the pages until they find a bit that draws them back in. And, if that takes too long, you’ll lose them.

8. An ass-kicking pace
You’ve probably guessed by now, I love action stories. I grew up on them, I’ve read hundreds of them and now I write them. To me, the ultimate adventure is fast paced and furious from beginning to end, but that doesn’t have to just be about the action. The narrative overall must be the literary equivalent pushing a large boulder over the crest of a steep hill. Nothing is going to stop it as it gathers speed and momentum every inch of the way until it comes crashing to a stop at the base of the hill, leaving nothing but anticipation of more to come.

Hunter9. The power to take you places
As a boy my favourite writers transported me from Rossmoyne, our sleepy little corner of Perth, and with the flick of a page landed me on foreign shores in the midst of incredible adventures. I’ve always loved that about books because our imagination drives our experience of the story. It’s up to the author to provide you with the prompts and triggers to enhance that experience.

10. Flawed characters
We can’t all be perfect, and especially not our heroes. There needs to be some level of mystery and uncertainty about our protagonist. We expect the villains to be flawed but writers can focus too much on the baddies while keeping the hero on a pedestal.  I’ve become conscious of this as a writer. Heroes must be at their core, human beings and their lives, attitudes and actions need depth and context. If I can be as objective as possible, sometimes Alex Morgan is so firmly established in my mind’s eye, I have a tendency to allow the baddies live more on the page.  That’s all about to change in Avenger…

What are your thoughts? What’s important when you’re reading a story? I’ll be taking your questions in a live Facebook Chat on Monday 24 June from 7.30pm AEST so would love to get your feedback then. Or leave a comment below and we might reference and discuss it on the night!

Interested to get reading? Here’s how you can also get involved in the Book Club read, Defender & Hunter, for Intrepid month.

About the author:
While penning his Alex Morgan espionage series, Chris saw the world from under a parachute; made a difference in East Timor; protected Sydney’s iconic sails post 9/11; and most recently, held one of the most historic offices in Australia as Sheriff of NSW. Since self-publishing and being signed by Pan Macmillan Australia’s digital imprint Momentum for a two-book deal, Defender and Hunter have wowed readers worldwide, with Avenger due out soon and a film/TV franchise underway.

You can say g’day to Chris at www.facebook.com/intrepidallen or www.twitter.com/intrepidallen, and Chris blogs about all things thriller as well as indulging his love of cult TV shows and movies at www.intrepidallen.com/blog.

Buy Defender eBook on Amazon: http://buff.ly/16PjHQr 
Buy Hunter eBook on Amazon: http://buff.ly/185ZENL 

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Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

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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