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Friday, January 27, 2012

Author Interview - Tim Flannery

Tim Flannery is one of Australia’s leading thinkers and writers. An internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist, he has published more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers. His books include the landmark works The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers. He was kind enough to let us interview him and ask him some questions about his books and work. 

What drew you to study and love ecological history and evolution? 

I grew up on the outskirts of Melbourne, and when I was young wildlife was abundant. I hated the way it disappeared as the suburb grew. And I was very fortunate to live near a fossil deposit. It was on the edge of Port Phillip Bay, and by diving you could find the remains of whales, sharks and penguins that had swum in an ancestral bay 7 million years ago. That really turned me on to evolution.
How do you think we can change as a species to reduce our carbon footprint? 

I am confident that we can reduce our carbon footprint, and do so quickly. Australia's clean energy legislation gives the nation the means to honour its pledge of reducing its emissions by 5% by 2020. This doesn't sound like a lot, but it will be the first time in history that emissions have been intentionally reduced. Greater reductions will follow. 

What is the world’s most functioning ecosystem? 

That is a tricky question. I'd guess the Antarctic, but even there fishing is damaging its seas. And they are extremely fragile. 

In the ‘Weather Makers’ you talk about climate change, can you give a brief rundown of what makes climate change happen? 

Basically, human pollution in the form of greenhouse gases is trapping heat close to the surface of the Earth. 

What do you enjoy the most when you immerse yourself in a so called ‘primitive’ culture? 

I love seeing the world through somebody else's eyes, so when someone in a village makes an observation about the world that makes me think, I consider it a great gift. 

In ‘Among the Islands’ you went in search of new mammals to document. How many species do you think is still out there we haven’t managed to find yet? Also there are a lot of people who think that we have basically found all there is to find – what do you say to that? 

We've barely begun to explore the remote regions of our world. We've been to the Moon more often than to the depths of the sea. In elanesia alone, I think that dozens of mammals remain to be discovered. I know where at least half a dozen are - just awaiting an adventurous biologist. 

If you could have a cuppa with anyone from history, who would it be and why? 

The first person to see a Diprotodon. I'd love to ask them about what Australia looked like when people first arrived. 

In the ‘Future Eaters’ we find out how the Aborigines, Maoris and other native peoples changed the world, then how the Europeans changed it again. How do you think we will change it for future generations? 

That is THE great question. And we answer it with our actions every day. Do we conserve and enrich, or destroy? 

Do you think there are new unknown Dinosaur bones to be found in Australia? 

There are many. 

How unique is Australia’s flora and fauna to the rest of the world? How did we get such strange and deadly creatures to evolve only here? 

Take our snakes, for example. Why are they so venomous? Our spoils are poor, so prey is thin on the ground. When you encounter some, you can't risk it getting away. 

What is next for Tim Flannery? What new adventures will you embark on? 

I'm not sure. There's a lot of work to be done, so adventures might have to wait a while yet.

If you would like to find out more on any of Tim Flannery's books then head over to his website here.

As a field biologist Tim has discovered and named more than thirty new species of mammals (including two tree-kangaroos) and at 34 he was awarded the Edgeworth David Medal for outstanding research in zoology.  His pioneering work in New Guinea prompted David Attenborough to put him in the league of the world’s great explorers, and Redmond O’Hanlon to remark, “He’s discovered more new species than Charles Darwin.” 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review - I've Got Your Number - Sophie Kinsella

I've Got Your NumberI've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sophie Kinsella has done it again!

Her novel ‘I’ve Got Your Number’ is well written, fun, zainy, and completely enthralling. I finished this book in a few hours as I couldn’t put it down. Poppy Wyatt is a girl who is about to get married in a few days to a man she loves. The only downside is that she has just lost her heirloom engagement ring...

Poppy gets herself into a world of trouble trying to hide this fact as her in-laws to be are arriving home and her mobile phone has just been stolen. When she finds a phone in the bin she takes it – not knowing that by doing this, her life will change when she meets Sam Roxton who doesn’t like having his personal details read by a stranger.

The author has written these two people really well. Poppy needs some of the qualities Sam has and vice versa. We meet Magnus (Poppy’s FiancĂ©) and his family, also a cast of characters who are mad, friendly, odd and genius’s.

I really enjoyed reading about Poppy’s struggle to plan a wedding, hijack a man’s life, hide the fact she lost her ring and still find time to go to the Savoy and drink cocktails. Another great novel by Sophie and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

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Author Interview - Robin Hobb

The awesome Robin Hobb AKA Megan Lindholm kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us.  

Why do you think people love the Farseer and Tawny Man series so much?

                 I continue to be astonished by it.  If I could quantify it exactly and tell you why people have been so receptive of that story, I’m sure I’d be a very wise person.  As a writer, it has been an amazing and humbling experience to have readers enjoy the characters that I myself love so much. 

         Is it hard to switch from Robin Hobb to Megan Lindholm?

                  Not at all, strange to say.  When I get a story idea, I immediately know which voice can best tell it.  It’s not that all Hobb stories must be epic fantasy or medieval; I think it has to do with pacing and voice.  There are some stories that demand a more contemporary sound and a vernacular vocabulary.  Others want to be told in a leisurely and detailed way. 

         Can you explain a little the premise of the Rain Wild Chronicles, the third book in that series City of Dragons is due to be released in Australia in March. 

                  That’s hard to do while avoiding spoilers, but I’ll try.  In the writings of the Elderlings there were mentions of a city called Kelsingra.  The dragons that hatched in Dragon Keeper have partial memories of such a city.  But if it ever existed as a place where dragons and Elderlings dwelt side by side, does it still stand or is it, like the other Elderling cities, buried deep in the soggy soil of the Rain Wilds. The Chronicles tell the tale of the dragons that hatched and the outcast Rain Wild youngsters who became their keepers as they make a journey which may not even have a real destination.  Along the way, both hatchlings and their keepers will find that their destinies are much different from what they imagined.  

How different is your writing style when you write as Megan or Robin?
I believe the two styles are substantially different, definitely enough to justify having two different names! I think that Robin writes in a way that is more detailed and more emotional than Megan’s style.  It’s a leisurely telling of a tale that has lots of incident and perhaps subplots.  Megan tends to write shorter, in a more head-long style.  That’s why there are a lot more Megan Lindholm short stories than Robin Hobb has.  Give Robin a 10,000 word limit and she takes 40,000.

         If you could have a cup of tea/coffee with someone from history who would it be and why?

                  That’s an easy one.  Julius Caesar.  Can I say I’d like to meet him at the time of the Gallic campaigns?  When he was an ambitious soldier clawing his way up and keeping such a fascinating journal of his observations.  I first encountered his writing when I was given passages to translate back in high school.  That’s when my fascination with him began.  In some ways, he is writing a military report, and other times it sounds like an anthropologist or sociologist. It’s interesting to wonder what direction the Roman Empire would have gone if he had not been assassinated. 

        Have you got a name for your computer?

                  Not one that is printable.   Seriously, no.  I have silly passwords for various places I go online, but I’m not sharing those here!  I guess I don’t really name things.  Cats, dogs, yes.  All my kids and grandkids have odd nicknames.  But I just don’t give objects names.

         Is it harder to start out writing fantasy overseas being a woman? Is that why you choose the moniker Robin Hobb to write the Farseer books?  

      There were a lot of reasons to take a new name for the Farseer Trilogy and the books that followed. The main one was that I was writing in a very different voice, and in a different slice of the fantasy genre.  That said, I did deliberately choose a name that could be either male or female.  Assassin’s Apprentice was written in first person young male, so having a possibly male name as author lowered the threshold of disbelief for some readers.  But I think that most fantasy readers don’t really care that much about the author’s name or age or gender or age; they just want a good story.  Fantasy readers seem to be rather adventurous in what they’ll pick up and read. 
       What do you love most about writing?

                  Well, when you write a story, you can make the world in your story make sense!    In this world, so often, things just don’t make any sort of sense.  Fantasy especially gives me a very wide playing field for thinking of how things ‘ought to be’ or considering all those ‘what if’ questions that we all have. 
                  By my nature, I love solitude, and writing allows me to seek a quiet place, to be alone with my characters and to tell my story.  I really like to work alone through that first draft.  I venture out there, exploring unknown territory, not knowing who I’ll meet or where they will carry the story.  There is a lot of ‘writing’ that isn’t done at a keyboard, and I like to be able to work on the story while I’m working on the yard or hanging out laundry.  I get to have all these lives at once.  It’s a bit like making a movie, except I have an unlimited budget for special effects.  I get to journey to the faraway places, imagine the soundtrack, select the wardrobe, and then I get to play every role.  I am so blessed to be able to do what I love and to make a living at it.

         What is your favourite book by Megan and your favourite book by Robin?

                  My favorite Megan Lindholm book has to be Wizard of the Pigeons, a contemporary fantasy set in Seattle.  I had so much fun doing the research for that, and ended up with my own flock of pigeons as a result of it.
                For Robin Hobb, I’ll say Assassin’s Apprentice.  It’s where the tale of the Realm of the Elderlings begins, and it was also the start of my friendship with Fitz.  I’ve known him quite a few years now.  We’ve had some good times together. 

        If you were to give one piece of advice to wanna-be writers, what would it be?

                  Don’t try to be a writer.  The people who say to me, “I want to be a writer!” generally don’t achieve that ambition.  It’s the ones who say, “I want to write!” who get there.  And they get there one keystroke at a time, by beginning right here and right now.  Don’t wait until you are more experienced or older or educated, don’t even wait until you have more time.  You will never have more time than you have right now.  (In fact, the longer you wait, the fewer days you have to write!  How’s that for a scary idea?)  So start now and write what you know, which is who you are and where you are, with a bit of magic tossed in.  Just get busy and hit those keys.  Writing is what makes you a writer.

   City of Dragons is the third book in the Rain Wild Chronicles and is due for release in March 2012. If you want any more information about Robin and her books, then go to her website here.
If you love fantasy and haven't read Robin yet, then do so!! 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Author Interview - Fiona McIntosh

We asked the lovely Fiona McIntosh to answer some questions for us about her writing, recipes and thoughts. Here is what she had to say! 

 What inspires you to write?

I’m inspired in my writing by emotions, particularly the most dramatic ones i.e. rage, revenge, betrayal, love and loss.

In terms of why I’m inspired to write it’s probably because I’m a control freak who loves the escape of stories and by writing I can create the sort of tales that I want to get lost in. I’m a daydreamer and storyteller…I guess that’s a very natural – in fact, genetic - combination that is inherent for a writer of fiction.

Why do you think that you have succeeded in crossing the genres when many other authors have failed?

Oh that’s a tough one. No one really fails if they finish their manuscript. I really believe anyone who does complete their novel is a winner. You are asking me - I think - how come I’ve been able to sell novels across several genres, which perhaps other people find challenging. This is a really tricky question because so many aspects of publishing come into play here. It’s a lot to do with crafting and delivering the right story at the right time. It’s a lot to do with luck of choosing to shift into the right genre at the right time too and coming together with an editor who loves the story. And then it’s about writing exactly what the legion of fans of that genre expect and want from their books. I’m wired very commercially. I’m never trying to write award winners or magnificent prose that make people weep. I am a nuts and bolts storyteller who will guarantee her reader a fast paced, absorbing escape into a story that I try to make very hard to put down. If you read my fantasy, my crime, my historical adventure/romances…even my children’s books – they have identical hallmarks. I tend to write tense, action-packed, strongly character driven pieces. So I never really change my style across genres. What’s happening, I suspect, is that people who read my fantasy for instance, are prepared to read me in other genres simply because they enjoy my storytelling and trust me that I’ll give them that escape whether the book is set in an imaginary world or our own, whether it’s contemporary or historical. I feel very privileged that readers do trust me and I do love being able to shift across such a variety of genres.

Is it strange to cross genres?

Not at all. I welcome it and relish it because it keeps me sharp. After reading a huge fantasy trilogy the last thing I feel like is reading another huge fantasy series. I’m often not ready to let go of the world, the story and especially the characters. I need to let it all settle. So, as a reader after a big fantasy series I’ll often switch over to crime or historical. It’s no different with my writing. After writing a huge half million word trilogy set in a world of my own imagination, I have no desire to leap into another one immediately but I don’t mind the change over to a crime thriller set in contemporary London for instance or a WWll adventure romance.

 In Fields of Gold, it is known that the story is loosely based on your family history. What fascinated you about those characters to make you want to write about them?

Everything about them fascinated me. The setting of India. The era of the 1920s. The inter-racial marriages that created the Anglo Indian community and how they straddled both nations, believing themselves British while remaining entirely sentimental about India, its people, its culture. I was fascinated by both my grandfathers being such adventurers and the backdrops of the goldfields and the dangerous pursuit of mining in those times felt irresistible to write about. And now that I’ve cut my teeth on historical fiction I want to write so much more!

What do you like writing more - Crime, Fantasy, General Fiction?

I am increasingly pursuing more mainstream fiction because it provides me with so much scope to take my writing wherever I please but I honestly don’t love one genre more than the other. Fantasy is a comfort zone – I love it and I won’t let it go. Crime is what I like to read a lot of and so it’s fun to write my own. General fiction gives me the whole world to play in and because I’m a great traveller from childhood days, I tend to make these stories move across nations and exotic settings. I’ve always enjoyed learning about history and so setting my general fiction in decades past makes it fun and enriching because I enjoy the research for these tales. And I actually don’t entirely subscribe to the whole genre thing. When I’m writing fantasy I’m writing general fiction with magic in it. When I’m writing crime I’m writing general fiction with a villain and a detective. When I’m writing general fiction I’m probably writing magic realism because I often introduce ethereal aspects to my stories and there’s always death and mystery in my general fiction so the crime creeps in…as does romance. I prefer to say I write fiction that everyone can enjoy and I ignore that whole boxing up of genres. I firmly believe that if someone loves The Lavender Keeper for instance, they’re going to love Beautiful Death or the Valisar Trilogy.

What was the spark that made you want to write Lavender Keeper, your new book?

The spark was a publisher asking me to give him my next idea for an historical action adventure. I was on my way to France – sitting in Melbourne international terminal. I had just returned from Tasmania, where I’d learned about its amazing lavender farm. I just threw the two together and came up with the idea for The Lavender Keeper, which I scribbled down in two paragraphs of an email and my publisher at Penguin loved it, bought it.

Are you going to be basing any more of your fantasy works in the world of the Trinity series.

I never say never. I’ve returned to the lands of Morgravia and Briavel for the next adult fantasy coming out later this year and while I have no immediate plans to go back to Tallinor, I mention it freely in other series and I see absolutely no reason why I wouldn’t return sometime and see how they’re all getting on. I like the idea of all my fantasy lands being part of one world anyway.

 How much research goes into one book?

Loads! Months of my time! Thousands of dollars worth of travel and hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of research books. It’s easy to get lost in the research because it’s a bottomless abyss, especially for something like The Lavender Keeper that is set in wartorn Europe of WWll. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve read, watched, listened to, travelled to..just in order to set the scenes right in my mind. But it’s worth it – as you’ll see when you read the new novel . No research is ever wasted.

Can you describe The Lavender Keeper and what it means to you?

This is essentially the story of three people set against the enormous and traumatic landscape of WWll – particularly Occupied Paris - and how their lives connect. It’s action packed, full of tension and heartbreak. It’s about survival, enduring love and loyalty.

It is my favourite story that I’ve written. I loved everything about crafting this tale – the era is perfect for me, the setting of Provence and Paris is delicious, the characters are each so strong that they made the challenge of writing them a lot of fun. The emotions run very high in this story and that really appealed. The heartbreak and helplessness of the war made me cry, not only while I researched but even as I put together scenes. That’s powerful stuff. I feel energised through this book and definitely enriched for all that I’ve learned about World War ll in order to understand what I was writing.

If I’ve ever dreamed of a movie being made about one of my novels, it’s this one!

If you were to have a cuppa with any person from history, who would it be and why?

Right now that would be Adolf Hitler. I want to ask him what the hell was in his head?

What is your favourite recipe?

Oh Tarran. So many! I think it has to be the coffee ice cream I’ve perfected (very hard to get a rich and real coffee flavour into anything) which I’d serve with my favourite hot chocolate fondants, collapsing beneath my fork into a volcano of dark chocolate lava.

 Thank you Fiona!! I must say that coffee ice cream sounds delicious!! I have been experimenting with ice creams lately myself and really enjoyed making them.
Fiona's new book The Lavender Keeper will be on shelves 28/03/2012 and I for one am looking forward to reading it!! 

If you want to find out more about Fiona, then go to her webiste here and start reading all the books this wonderful author has written for us.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Review - KGI #4 Whispers in the Dark - Maya Banks

Whispers in the Dark (KGI, #4)Whispers in the Dark by Maya Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the get go Maya drew me into this world. Only thing that confused me was the fact this series is not a paranormal one, yet this heroine has telepathy. It was fast paced and there was never a dull moment.

This series is really enjoyable to read, on parr with Lora Leigh's SEALS and Black Ops books. The main characters Nathan and Shae are well written and you see another side to the Kelly Brothers and their families.

The sex scenes were just right, not to long, yet enough to make it realistic.
Very highly recommended if you like military style romances, Lora Leigh, Jaci Burton, Shayla Black, Gena Showalter.

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Book Review - Amelia Peabody #11 Falcon at the Portal - Elizabeth Peters

The Falcon at the Portal (An Amelia Peabody Mystery, #11)The Falcon at the Portal by Elizabeth Peters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another fantastic installment in the Amelia Peabody series. This time we see more of Ramases and Nefert who take active roles in the story. I didn't agree with some of Nefert's actions, but I understood them. David is being framed for forging antiques and the Emersons must clear his name, but with murders, shootings and misunderstandings happening, it is hard going.

The writing style is still great, Elizabeth Peters hasn't told the same story in a different book yet. I can't wait to read the next one in the series as there is something that happens that I want to find out about. Elizabeth left a huge plot hook at the end of the book.

All the usual characters are back and I love how you watch these people getting older and changing.

If you haven't started reading this series - the do so!

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Review - Sister Pact - Ali Ahearn & Ros Baxter

Sister PactSister Pact by Ali Ahearn & Ros Baxter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a good light read. Well paced, the story keeps you going to the end. The characters were interesting and well suited for the plot. We follow the story of two sisters who have not spoken to each other in 7 years. Joni is a recovering drug addict and Frances is undergoing marital problems. Both have issues and both are required by the will of their grandmother to enter ENDURANCE ISLAND and survive to the finals so they can inherit.
Joni and Frances are meant to hail from England, but I found for me that there were too many Aussie phrases and behaviours for me to picture them there. The two main characters get a little more real when they reach the Island, but I felt some things about the storyline didn’t make sense in parts.
All in all a very good book and apart from the few things that didn’t mesh for me, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. A must have for fans of Paige Toon and Jane Green.

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