Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ is coming to life!

If (like me) you’re a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander‘ books, you need to sit down. Now. Because I have news for you. Christmas has come early this year, folks: the new 16 part TV series ‘Outlander’ is due to start filming in Scotland this month. Even more exciting? The production team are dedicated to staying true to the books – to realising them, rather than reinventing them. And the best part? Well, obviously that would be Scottish actor Sam Heughan, who will be playing Jamie Fraser.

Sam Heughan will play Jamie Fraser.

Sam Heughan will play Jamie Fraser.

tobias_menzies_p_2013

Tobias Menzies will play Black Jack Randall/ Frank

Tobias Menzies (of HBO’s Game of Thrones) will be playing the dual roles of Black Jack Randall and Claire’s husband Frank.

The only question remaining now is who will play Claire…

Kelly

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Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies takes out the Costa Book Award for 2012

ImageBring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel has been named 2012 Costa Book of the Year by a panel of nine judges who voted unanimously and in less than an hour. The win has solidified  Mantel’s place in literary history: Bring Up the Bodies is the first book to have been named both Costa Book of the Year and Man Booker Prize winner in the same year, while Mantel is also the only living author to have won the Man Booker Prize twice, for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Yowzers!

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012- Review- Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens is a beautiful mish-mash of history, fiction and fairytale. Based on the fairy tale Rapunzel, it weaves together the stories of three characters  related to the tale: Margharita, sold by her parents for a ‘handful of bitter greens’ and imprisoned in a faraway tower, the sorceress Selena Leonelli, whose tale takes the reader into sixteenth century Venice and the paintings of Titian, and Charlotte Rose de la Force, French courtier and relative of the Sun King Louis XIV, who first penned ‘Rapunzel’ in the late 1600’s.  

I think Goodreads sums the novel up nicely: “Three women, three lives, three stories, braided together to create a compelling story of desire, obsession, black magic, and the redemptive power of love.” Hear, hear.

I have been meaning to try something of Kate Forsyth’s for quite some time and am so glad I did! It’s truly a book to get lost in; I couldn’t put it down.

I was lucky enough to hear Kate Forsyth speak about both Bitter Greens and ‘Rapunzel’ at the recent Fairy Tales Re-Imagined symposium held at the University of Technology in Sydney.  It was fantastic to hear how Kate first became interested in Rapunzel and how she used history to shape Bitter Greens. If you’re interested too, you can read more about Charlotte-Rose de la Force and the beginnings of Bitter Greens at Kate’s blog.

Kelly : )

Bring Up the Winner: Hilary Mantel Wins the Man Booker Prize- Again!

This week, Bring up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel was announced as the winner of the 2012 Man Booker Prize for 2012.  The novel is sequel to Mantel’s brilliant historical work Wolf Hall, which won the same prestigious prize in 2009.

The Man Booker Prize website announced Mantel’s win earlier this week: ‘The whittling has finished. The judges of this year’s Man Booker Prize started with a daunting 145 novels and have winnowed, sifted, culled, and in some cases hurled, until there was only one left: Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies.’

With the win, Mantel joins Peter Carey and J.M Coetzee as the only authors in Man Booker history to win the prize more than once. She is also the first writer ever to win the Prize for a sequel and the first to win within such a short time between books.

Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies will eventually be joined by a third book, forming a trilogy. Depicting the life and times of historical figure Thomas Cromwell, the books have been praised as ‘one of the great achievements of modern literature’ and for ‘resuscitating historical fiction’ (www.themanbookerprize.com).

As for whether or not Mantel will take the Prize a third time with the final installment of the trilogy, only time will tell…

Hilary Mantel with Bring Up the Bodies
Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images http://www.guardian.co.uk

Australian Women Writers Challenge Review- The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett takes up the story of the Bennet sisters some 20 years on from the events of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride & Prejudice. It centres on Mary, the sister destined to be a spinster and tend to their obnoxious mother.

However after Mrs. Bennet’s demise Mary craves independence and through the influences  of editorial letters written by a mystery author, Argus, she embarks on an investigative adventure to discover the reasons for the social conditions of the age. While Mary is on this path certain developments lead her into danger when she meets Father Dominius and the Children of Jesus,  with surprising revelations…

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet is very easy reading with the customary theme of leaving and the continuation of the lives of the Bennet family with romance being found no matter how late in life. It’s  funny, tragic and engaging at times with the ever present theme that every woman yearns to leave her mark upon the world.

Marie

For more information on the Australian Women Writers Reading and Reviewing Challenge click here

Exciting news for Wolf Hall fans!

Cover image Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel Well, this is exciting news! Fans of Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies are everywhere performing back flips of glee right about now, as the good news breaks: the BBC will be producing a 6 part drama adaptation of the novels.

Thomas Cromwell

Mantel’s novels tell the story of Henry VIII’s secretary Thomas Cromwell and  his rise to power. The King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and her fall from grace are seen through the eyes of the fictionalised secretary, lending a fresh perspective to a fascinating period of England’s history. Wildly successful, the books were both nominated for the Man Booker Prize, which Wolf Hall won in 2009; Bring Up the Bodies is currently part of the prize’s 2012 longlist.

The novels will be adapted into screenplays by Peter Straughan, who wrote the recent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy movie.

The mini-series is set to air in late 2013 and the cast has yet to be announced. Kenneth Williams, Donald Pleasence, Iain Mitchell and James Frain have all played Cromwell. Who do you think would suit the role?

James Frain played Thomas Cromwell in Showtime’s The Tudors. (And what do you know? The only pic we could find of him also happens to feature the hideously ugly Henry Cavill. What are the odds, huh?)

Australian Women Writers Challenge Review- ‘The Forgotten Garden’ by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

What a great book. I would never have picked it up if it wasn’t for the Australian Women Writers Challenge (you know the old judging a book by its cover thing!) I loved the fact it was modern yet old and the chapters moved through time. I really couldn’t put it down. I had sort of worked out the ending but needed to keep reading to find how it all got put together. I would recommend this to anyone who likes mysteries or historical novels. I have heard that Morton’s first novel ‘The Shifting Fog’ is also good and I’m looking forward to reading that too. 

          –  Nicole

                                                                 

                                                www.australianwomenwriters.com

 

Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge Review- ‘The Precipice’ by Virginia Duigan

I loved this book.  It wasn’t one of your fast paced thrillers, but I thought it was a well crafted and beautifully written story.  Perhaps I loved it so much because I related to the old, childless, cantankerous dog owner, Thea, who takes the central role! There are wonderful descriptions of the Blue Mountains and an intriguing story, that leads you to try and work out what happened in Thea’s past that provokes her responses.  Beautiful conversations and character descriptions, it was a book that I couldn’t put down.  Even after finishing the book I want to know more – what happened to Wombat and the baby, will anyone ever work it out …?

                                                                                     – Sarah

        http://www.australianwomenwriters.com 

Historical Fiction: New & Noteworthy

  The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott 

 The Little Shadows revolves around three sisters in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. We follow the lives of all three in turn: Aurora, the eldest and most beautiful, who is sixteen when the book opens; thoughtful Clover, a year younger; and the youngest sister, joyous headstrong sprite Bella, who is thirteen. The girls, overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama, are forced to make their living as a singing act after the untimely death of their father. They begin with little besides youth and hope, but Marina Endicott’s genius is to show how the three girls slowly and steadily evolve into true artists even as they navigate their way to adulthood among a cast of extraordinary characters – some of them charming charlatans, some of them unpredictable eccentrics, and some of them just ordinary-seeming humans with magical gifts.

Using her gorgeous prose and extraordinary insight, Endicott lures us onto the brightly lit stage and then into the little shadows that lurk behind the curtain, and reveals how the art of vaudeville — in all its variety, madness, melodrama, hilarity and sorrow — echoes the art of life itself. (from www.goodreads.com)

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

The author of such iconic bestsellers as Illumination Night, Practical Magic, Fortune’s Daughter, and Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, Alice Hoffman is one of the most popular and memorable writers of her generation. Now, in The Dovekeepers, Hoffman delivers her most masterful work yet—one that draws on her passion for mythology, magic, and archaeology and her inimitable understanding of women.

In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic historical event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinary, bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. (from www.goodreads.com).

 
The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

   Life would be so much better, Moth knows, if fortune had gone the other way – if only she’d had the luxury of a good family and some station in life. The young Moth spends her days wandering the streets of her own and better neighbourhoods, imagining what days are like for the wealthy women whose grand yet forbidding gardens she slips through when no one’s looking. Yet every night Moth must return to the disease- and grief-ridden tenements she calls home.

The summer Moth turns twelve, her mother puts a halt to her explorations by selling her boots to a local vendor, convinced that Moth was planning to run away. Wanting to make the most of her every asset, she also sells Moth to a wealthy woman as a servant, with no intention of ever seeing her again.

These betrayals lead Moth to the wild, murky world of the Bowery, filled with house-thieves, pickpockets, beggars, sideshow freaks and prostitutes, but also a locale frequented by New York’s social elite. Their patronage supports the shadowy undersphere, where businesses can flourish if they truly understand the importance of wealth and social standing – and of keeping secrets. In that world Moth meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as an “infant school.” There Moth finds the orderly solace she has always wanted, and begins to imagine herself embarking upon a new path.

Yet salvation does not come without its price: Miss Everett caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions who are “willing and clean,” and the most desirable of them all are young virgins like Moth. That’s not the worst of the situation, though. In a time and place where mysterious illnesses ravage those who haven’t been cautious, no matter their social station, diseased men yearn for a “virgin cure” – thinking that deflowering a “fresh maid” can heal the incurable and tainted. (from www.goodreads.com).

Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore by Stella Duffy

 Roman historian Procopius publicly praised Theodora of Constantinople for her piety-while secretly detailing her salacious stage act and maligning her as ruthless and power hungry. So who was this woman who rose from humble beginnings as a dancer to become the empress of Rome and a saint in the Orthodox Church? Award-winning novelist Stella Duffy vividly recreates the life and times of a woman who left her mark on one of the ancient world’s most powerful empires. Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore is a sexy, captivating novel that resurrects an extraordinary, little-known figure from the dusty pages of history. (from www.goodreads.com)  

 

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James

 A rare meeting of literary genius: P. D. James, long among the most admired mystery writers of our time, draws the characters of Jane Austen’s beloved novel Pride and Prejudice into a tale of murder and emotional mayhem.

It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy’s magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth’s sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy’s sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball.

Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a frightening mystery.

Inspired by a lifelong passion for Austen, P. D. James masterfully re-creates the world of Pride and Prejudice, electrifying it with the excitement and suspense of a brilliantly crafted crime story, as only she can write it.

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

 This is where it all started! The first classic Phryne Fisher mystery, featuring our delectable heroine, cocaine, communism and adventure. Phryne leaves the tedium of English high society for Melbourne, Australia, and never looks back. The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honorable Phryne Fisher–she of the green-grey eyes, diamant garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions–is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia. Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops and communism–not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse–until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street. (from www.goodreads.com)

Dissolution by C.J Sansom

It is 1537, a time of revolution that sees the greatest changes in England since 1066. Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church. The country is waking up to savage new laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers it has ever seen. And under the orders of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent throughout the country to investigate the monasteries. There can only be one outcome: dissolution. But on the Sussex coast, at the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control. Cromwell’s commissioner, Robin Singleton, has been found dead, his head severed from his body. His horrific murder is accompanied by equally sinister acts of sacrilege. Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, has been sent by Cromwell to uncover the truth behind the dark happenings at Scarnsea. But investigation soon forces Shardlake to question everything that he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes… (from www.goodreads.com).

The Harlot’s Press by Helen Pike
 
 “And what was I, a mere printer, doing sweeping up my skirts on Jermyn-street, you might ask? If you know anything about our city, I’m sure you can guess – ” London, 1820: the city is in turmoil over the King’s plans for divorce…Plucky printeress Nell Wingfield is turning tricks to survive at one of the ‘Houses of the Quality’ on St James’s. When one of her clients is found dead in her bed, it is time for Nell to flee. She has had more than a commercial relationship with this man, and knows that his enemies will exploit this for their own ends. Back home on Cheapside, however, Nell’s past soon catches up with her. Caught between the double ill of radical politics and royalist intrigue, she must decide whether to hand over her conscience in return for her life… (from www.amazon.com).